No Inner-Child Gets Left Behind

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Stored trauma is Lyme disease’s best friend. They play off of each other like school yard bullies relentlessly tormenting the mind, body, and spirit. Lyme is an opportunistic disease and tends to jump on those whose systems are already compromised. Personally, I had a weakened immune system from years of infections and antibiotics, I had been breathing in mold and smoke all of my life, I had those heavy -metal- filled amalgams in my mouth, and I had—maybe most importantly—a shitload of stored trauma. Healing the past has been a vital part of  my recovery; I went into the basement and the attic and met the old memories, had a new experience with them, and then went to the freakin’ Materials Recovery Facility where they got recycled into something new and sparkly.  But how to do that? Getting sick stripped me of all of my effective coping mechanisms. I had nothing— no distractions, no booze, cigarettes, cake, no over exercising, and no late-night coquetry (well, Ian got some of that). I had only myself—a self that was ignored for most of my life, a self that I was scared of, a self that I often absued. Caring for myself and healing all of the built up heartache meant getting in touch with my inner-child (yup. deep breath. I am talking inner-child work. It might get weird. But if you’re here to save your life then maybe it’s time to try weird shit?)—that little girl inside who had been shouting out for attention for two decades. The little girl who I just kept hushing, “you want to rest? Well, too bad, I want to party.” We were going to have to team up to fight this thing. I was going to have to pay attention to all of her needs. My parents weren’t showing up for me and I was either going to cry over that every single day or take the power back into my hands and “re-parent” myself. My boyfriend and my friends made an incredible support system, but there were too many times where I was left alone and panicked. It’s frightening to go into the darkness alone—naturally, we want someone to hold our hand through the haunted house tour. And that’s ok. Hold a hand. God knows, I hold so many hands. But, acquiring the art of being my own primary care-taker while everyone else acted as support instead of the other way around enhanced my life, my freedom, and my health.  I needed to find a way to rely on myself, to hold myself through the hard times, have my own back, and thoroughly heal from all of that old nasty trauma.

I was an adult before I ever got to be a kid, and I was pissed off about it. Full of resistance, I sought people out who would care for me the way my parents never did. Collecting father figures and mother figures was my favorite hobby—I had a whole china closet full of them and, yet, no real fulfillment. My collection brought me short-lived comfort; my internal-void remained. I was introduced to inner-child work in 2013  when I was detoxing from a wildly fucked up romance. In an effort to snag what little dignity I had left and not text or call this dude, my friend suggested I start telling myself everything that I wanted him to tell me. When the quick-fix cravings hit, she would say, ” put your hand on your heart and say, ‘I love you. I’ve got you.’Imagine a photo of you as a little girl that is just so cute and precious and start taking care of that girl.” I was down. Anything to get my life back. I found myself picturing my little self and organically saying, “I’m your guardian now and I’m going to take really good care of you.” That became my mantra. I said it all day ,everyday, so that I could make positive choices for myself: like going on a hike instead of calling someone who would inevitably hurt me. I practiced just enough self-love to keep me from getting involved in another demoralizing situation, and (for the skeptics) I’m here to tell you that my practice paid off—I have been blessed with a beautiful relationship. However,  when I got bit by a tick just six months later,  my inner-child got tossed away and quieted again. She suddenly needed way too fucking much from me (sick people are needy as fuck), and I had no idea how to give it to her.

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I spent a long time beating myself up for being sick—maybe a year. It felt like my fault, like I was weak, powerless, or had bad Karma. There were moments where I was so angry at myself for not being able to “pull it together” that I considered physically harming myself. I couldn’t stand the sight of myself in the mirror. Every single day was agony. I couldn’t tell what was worse —the physical symptoms or the way I emotionally tormented myself. My internal dialogue went on repeat, “Get better. Be better. What is wrong with you? You’re disgusting. You’re weak.” Oh hi mom and dad!  That voice started keeping me awake at night. I lied in bed seething in pain and with a monster in my head, “you’re faking it. You’re not even really sick. This is just a ploy to get people to pay attention to you. Stop being so afraid. You’re not dying. You are being SUCH A BABY.” I only got sicker. Shockingly, that cruel self-talk wasn’t doing the trick. I was not “pulling myself up by my boot straps” at all. In fact, I was getting to a point where I could hardly put on my own shoes. As my symptoms ramped up and not a single doctor had a complete answer, I got willing to do whatever it was going to take—to do whatever was in my power— to get well.

I said farewell to the audiobook “A People’s History of the United States” which took up  most of my cell phone space with its 35 hours of “entertainment” and purchased—instead—self-help books like, “SelfCompassion,” by Kristin Neff and “You Can Heal your Life,” by Louise Hay. I listened to those calming voices preaching self-tenderness in the car, in bed, and while I made myself food. I was in research mode, a good student of self-love, entirely teachable. It was one thing to care of myself enough so that I wouldn’t reach out to a toxic dude, but how do I take care of and love a sick person? Like a really sick person?  I went practical—the basics— I started with the 101 course, if you will.  I used to work in childcare—I have looked after hundreds of children of all ages. I used my behavior as a caregiver  as my blueprint for my own self-care.  I would never let a child go hungry or thirsty or without sunscreen. I wouldn’t let a kid fall asleep without brushing their teeth and listening to a calming story in their comfiest PJ’s. If a child woke up afraid, I would comfort them.If they were too hot, I would take layers off and give them some water; too cold, I would give them layers and hold them tight. It seems so simple, but I certainly wasn’t that careful with myself on a daily basis. There’s no “age plateau” where we stop needing those simple things; we just get better at tolerating the discomfort.  I had to learn that it didn’t make me “high-maintenance” to need the basic human comforts. I didn’t let myself go hungry, thirsty,  without a nap, or without my vegetables. That was a tremendous beginning for me, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

My insomnia was a son- of- a- bitch. When hard-drugs weren’t working, I needed to find a way to soothe myself enough into a sleep. That’s how I started a dialogue with “little me.”   I would put one hand on my heart and one on my belly and picture little Jackie. My imagination— which sometimes works like the Beauty and the Beast mirror— showed me a toddler. She sat alone on a metal folding chair in the middle of a dark room. Her shoe laces were untied and she wore grungy sweats. She was so lonely, afraid, and dying for someone to come save her.  And, in my head (because, hello, Ian sleeps next to me and I was still trying to seem *somewhat* normal) I would tell her things like, “you’re OK, I’ve got you. I know this is so so scary. And I know you feel so bad. Yes, I feel that crazy pain all through our body. It’s real. I’ve got you. I will take the best care of you that I can. You’re not making this up. I love you.” It was usually the only thing that would calm me down. And, eventually, I started imagining myself hugging her, and ASKING, “what do you need little Jackie?”  And then I’d listen. This is truly one of the fucking winning practices in healing. My inner-child is smart as fuck. Every single time I ask “what’s up?” she’s like, “this is what’s up! Please fix it!”  Sometimes, she wants things like Advil or a cool cloth and other times, she wants a hug, but A LOT of the time, she really wants to have FUN and be free. It’s my job to give that to her. When a child is sick, parents do the bulk of the work to get them well, right? A Doctor only steps in for prescriptions and a diagnosis. So, it only makes sense, that we need to constantly care for ourselves the same way.

I was getting noticeably better. I had  this direct line of communication to my inner- child.We were having ping-pong conversations before I knew it, and I started knowing exactly how to care for myself at all times. I no longer saw little me in that lonely metal folding chair. She grew up a little bit, wearing bright colors and a high ponytail. She was healing and needed to play and be free more and more. The more I did this, the healthier I got, and the less I needed from others— including my parents. Being able to meet my own needs time and time again left me feeling, ultimately,  free.

Now I’m in the home-stretch and I’ve got this one problem: there’s a wildly hurt teenager in me that i really do not want to commune with. So much damage was done in those years, they were the most dangerous years of my life—because my parents were more unreliable and more destructive than ever, but, on top of their ruination, I was harming myself.  I turned all of my anger inwards and started self-medicating to make the pain stop.  I remember once around 16 when I was so stoned I hadn’t stopped laughing for three hours… or maybe 30 seconds? There was no such thing as time. I said to my best friend, “You know, if I ever met myself, I would absolutely hate her. We would never get along.” We both laughed so hard, knowing it was true. I hated myself. I shudder thinking about those years, between the way I behaved in public and the lunatic man who merely resembled my dad that lurked around corners in my “home.” So, can’t I just put that all to rest? Tie it up in a neat little box, pack it away in the attic, and just forget about it?  Apparently not.

I sat at my shrink’s office confessing how deeply I’m aching for Ian, (who’s Ian? Keep up!) the man I love who I don’t get to join on his big adventure for another 4 weeks. “I don’t know. We are both in so much pain. And it’s sweet, but it also feels just…excruciating,” I said. She suggested, like a good pain in the ass shrink, that it wasn’t just “love” and just “missing” each other, but that it may be something deeper. Something probably relating to my family of origin. ugh I had to open my big mouth about Ian. Here we go again. “Really? I think that’s maybe a psycho-babble stretch. I mean, how many times am I really going to miss my dad?” I retorted. “Exactly,” she said, “I think you miss your dad. That’s not to say that you don’t miss Ian and love Ian and that you guys aren’t yearning for each other. It’s the excruciating pain you’re experiencing that I think might have something to do with your dad.” With the same immediate shock value of a popped balloon, I broke and started to cry. Oh, fuck.

I kept that idea safely on the periphery for the next few days, not letting it quite into or out of my sight. I got on Skype to do a distance-healing with the dazzling, vital, sweet and madly intuitive  Emily, and as I detailed the week, I mentioned the possibility, “My therapist thinks that Ian’s departure has opened up my “dad” wounds and that all of the hollow emptiness I feel in my heart is actually from my father. I mean, whatever, it’s almost too obvious. So obvious I don’t really buy it.” But Emily, bless her,  was intrigued. I had to open my big mouth again. Thankfully, her instict had been precise on earlier occasions so I trust her. In our work together that day, she had me travel back to my past, finding the moment that left me with that hollow emptiness. In my meditation,  I found this one tragic scene from when I was 17—the day I watched everything I knew about my nuclear family collapse in on itself. Emily had me watch the scene play out and then freeze everyone and everything except my younger self and my present self. Everyone was frozen —my father froze mid-stomp on his way to attack me, my mother froze with her head in her hands crying in the car, and our dog froze in a frantic bark. Emily said, “approach your past self and tell her all of the things that she needs to hear right in this moment.” I slowly approached her, feeling very skeptical. I judge her, and I don’t know how to comfort my teenage self. She’s so stabby.  So I started with the basics again. I took her by the hands and brought her to the curb to sit down, I got her some water, and I took her bubble-gum pink leopard coat off. It was a warm day in October and she was covered in sweat from running, screaming, crying, and being dressed in 1,000 awesomely torn up layers. I fanned her off, helped her breathe and got her some food. I parented her. All things that I needed that day, that year, my whole life. Finally, I was able to say some kind things, “I love you. it’s ok. you’re ok. You’re beautiful, and you’re doing the best you can. Don’t worry about your dad. I promise you are loved.” My 17-year-old self was feeling calmer and calmer, and as I walked her back to the car, to finish out this scene, I said, “I really love you, and I promise dad is just high. This isn’t about you.” My past self turned to me with a smirk, totally cool and calm, and said, “thank you, you know, I don’t even like him that much. I think this day is actually the beginning of my freedom.”

I realized, as I came out of this time traveling experience that once I gave myself all the love I needed in that moment, I didn’t need my dad anymore and the experience completely transformed—from one of traumatizing heartbreak, to one of total freedom and joy. I also—wait for it—didn’t feel empty without Ian. With the willingness to heal this part of my life, I’ve had more and more memories surface over the last few days leaving me feelng irrationally unsafe in this world. That’s the risk of doing this work—all the stuff really does fucking surface. But UP AND OUT, BABY, my body has limited storage space and I need room for joy! I know now to go into the darkness, to let it surface, and heal it instead of ignoring it and powering through. Because no matter how much I try to fight it with my mind, there are things that my body will not let me forget.

Two nights ago, I laid awake panicking. Why, I wondered, while tears soaked my pillow, why am I especially panicked in my own home, in my own bed? Why, in my unscathed, sweet home today, do I feel terrified, like someone is lurking around every corner. I thought I’d ask that teenage version of myself what was up since that has worked so well in the past. Again, I was willing to do what it took to fall asleep. I did the ol’ trick: one hand on my heart, one on my belly, and I asked, “what is going on? Why is it at home that you’re so afraid?” In my imagination, we were sitting on the same curb outside of my teenage “home” that I comforted her on in my last meditation.  She said, “Well, it’s not outside that’s scary. It’s in there,” she nodded to the front door, “that’s where I fear for my life.” Ding ding ding.  My home was always the scariest place to be. There was no resting in my house, resting left you vulnerable to god knows what. By high school, I was realistically safer outside of my home. So, of course I feel like enemies are at every window or just outside of my door. Of course. But I am safe now. In this present moment, I have given myself a very safe life. And, so, with the knowledge of why I’m freaking out, I can start comforting myself, “you’re safe. you’re loved. It’s over. It’s OK.” All of that healing in the middle of the night when no one else was around to comfort me? It’s proof that I have everything I need within.

People ask me all of the time if Ian has been my primary caregiver. And, I usually say something like, “it has taken a village to get me well, but, in the end, I have been my own primary caregiver.” I am not a victim today. I can choose how to take care of myself, who takes care of me, and furthermore/even more radically I can give my past self all that she’s been looking. ALL of my past selves. Even the needy, over sexualized, annoying and sweetly confused teenager. I’m calling off the search party! Now, I can get get busy collecting memories instead of mother and father figures.

With fun, and love,

Jackie

 

 

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Finding your G-Spot: On Gratitude

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I was sitting  in a circle of spiritual strangers on a meditation pillow,  my knees resting heavily on the pillow’s surface, my sit bones heavy on my heels, and my head heavily hung— crying. The air was humid—the air was always humid  in Bali. We had just been led through a magical service conducted by the radiant and tender High Priestess of Bang Li— an experience that thawed me out, leaving me in tears. A vibrant woman approached me softly, “I feel moved to speak to you,” she said, “are you sick?” God, it hurt me so bad to know that I didn’t look well, that people could see it,  “I’m getting better but, yes, I have Lyme disease. I’m in Bali doing Ozone therapy,” I said.  She held my hands,  “I had MS, I was about to end up in a wheelchair—in fact I had ordered the wheelchair— and now my lesions are reversing because, in a weird way, I started vibrating above the illness.  You will get well, I can tell.” I cried harder…because I was sad, because I was exhausted, because I hadn’t slept in maybe 2 weeks, because I felt loved in that moment.  We talked for a good while—she was Greek,  a graduate of MIT, and on her way to study mysticism in Thailand and she found her extraordinary story hilarious. She laughed and laughed. I cried. “You just need a few things to heal,” she said,  “one, you need to laugh.” I stopped her, ” I never laugh anymore. My sense of humor is gone.” It was true. I had been suffocating in my own sadness AND lack of sleep for so long. Her lightness was contagious though, and  I softened enough to release an honest smile and chuckle. I felt free in her presence.  She continued, “you need to vibrate above the illness. Do what brings you joy. I think you belong on stage—dancing or acting.” I lit up, my energy coming more forward thinking about the things I loved.  “And, third,” she said, “you need gratitude.” I jumped in, “OH I have that!” She said, “I can tell, you’re actually full of gratitude.” I was so relieved. I was doing something right all of that time. I was/am grateful and she could see it. I wear gratitude like I wear my other glaring personality traits—loud and proud. She hugged me goodbye that night, promising I’d get well, and we never spoke again, but she gave me an incredible gift in that brief exchange. That was the night I welcomed my sense of humor back after an absurdly long intermission, I reinstated myself to the performing arts, AND that was the moment that I realized that my gratitude practice (nine years deep) was having a profound effect on my life. In more exciting words, I’ve done the work, I know where my G-Spot is and—ahem—I  can orgasm whenever I choose.

Now that I AM on the way to a full recovery, I’m here to back her up—an “attitude of gratitude” is indispensable during illness (or at any other time—let’s be real).  It can be the light IN the tunnel—not at the end of it. And if joy and happiness are scientifically proven to support our immune system then making a list of things we are grateful for (which is a verified way to increase joy and satisfaction) seems like a really obvious place to start, right? But how to gratitude!? How does this practice just become part of your life instead of that nagging thing that you HAVE TO DO every night?  And, how can you ALWAYS be grateful no matter what horrifying thing is happening in your life? Like  chronic illness, depression, loneliness, death, divorce, and so on. Gratitude got me out of bed and happy to participate in my life countless times, and how did I get there? Like so many of my stories, it all started  with my personalized cocktail of cocaine and daddy issues. 

My father was in rehab again.  He had been sent once  before under the same Wall Street conditions, “get sober and you can keep your six-figure income and your executive position. Don’t get sober and keep up this behavior— we will have no choice but to fire you.” Eight years earlier that threat worked, but this time, he was frighteningly unaffected by the potential risk. He was wildly against getting sober—putting him in rehab was like caging a lion, he was just waiting to get out and go on a killing frenzy.And I, apparently, wasn’t one to judge.  On February 14th, 2004, while my dad sat on his hands in rehab fighting his cocaine addiction, I ripped my first line off of a mirror in a bedroom on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And I got so high—so staggeringly high. Later that night/early that morning,  back at home, I was experiencing my first miserable come-down while my brother stumbled around freshly wasted. We did what 2 high siblings affected by alcoholism do—we fought an incoherent, mindless fight. He wanted to visit our father in rehab, and I was not invited. In fact, I was forbidden, he said. I squealed in his face, pissed off,  provoking him to throw cautionary punches at me, purposefully grazing past the tip of my nose— just to let me know how mad he was and close he was to losing it. I eventually stormed off to bed. Defeated and exhausted, I fell asleep as the sun came up.

When it turned out that my dad didn’t want visitors, we were given the option to write him a letter. I wrote him a fucking letter, alright— my anger toward the old man had become unhinged. The problem with my “unhinged” letter was that it lacked ANY strategy. If my plan was to shame him into getting sober (which I believed it was), I was failing miserably.  My real motive—that of a 16-year-old girl desperate for her dad’s attention— went undisguised:

“I’m a party girl. I just ripped my first line of coke the other night. I party hard.I’m no goodie                -two- shoes. I drink and smoke and take pills—I measure up to all of the guys, but I don’t get carried away. Not like you. So this isn’t coming from some pussy place. I know what it is to love drugs, and I know     what it looks like when someone needs to stop. You need to stop. I love you.  Jackie”

Ah, the Hallmark greeting card from one dysfunctional family member to another.

He never wrote me back, but in his first few turbulent days back from rehab, he asked to speak to me alone. I was on edge and excited—I hadn’t been alone with him in so long, and I was hoping for some deep connection, a new spark, love reignited. We went into his office, I took my seat at his cherry oak desk and he strutted to the power seat— behind the desk. His office was dark, heavy, and cluttered.  We  lit our respective Marlboro lights. He took a deep drag and as the smoke filled his lungs, he got his thoughts in order. He leaned back, exhaled, smoke filling the room, and said,  “Let me just read your letter aloud…” After he read it in full, he took another drag, put his cigarette out and leaned forward— his elbows on the desk and his piercing narcissistic eyes challenging me.  Yikes. Embarrassing—I could even see that I sounded loco. But I kept my cool, “yeah, well, it’s true. I do drugs, and, as it turns out, I like cocaine.” He grilled me. We must have talked for an hour about my specific experiences with sex and drugs before he challenged me to not drink, smoke or use for two weeks. “Two weeks. that’s all,”  he said. Anxiety coursed through my body. He took note, “you look scared because you’re thinking about the two weeks, but you can do it just one day at a time,” he said.”OK. but how in the fuck will I not use ‘one day at a time’  for TWO WEEKS?” And that’s when he laid out some other tools like journaling, the serenity prayer, and gratitude lists.

When he said “every night, you write down 10 things you’re grateful for,” my immediate response was, “but what if I have nothing to be grateful for?” Sound familiar? Have you scoffed in a similar way the last time someone suggested you write a gratitude list? My dad, totally fucked up in so many ways, came through with a life-long lesson in that moment: “You have nothing to be grateful for? You have ten fingers and ten toes. There, that’s 20 things.” I giggled, a bit ashamed that I had missed something so equally simple AND significant.  He went on, “you have all of your limbs, your senses, you can walk, you have shelter, a bed, and food.” Oh shit— It was jarring that I hadn’t thought of those things myself, but I’m forever grateful for that lesson— even though I didn’t take the suggestion for another couple of years.

Neither of us made it through the two weeks without using.  Instead, we took one last family vacation to the bowels of Hell. Apparently, Satan found the taste of me  unsuitable for his palate. Too feisty or too sweet,  he couldn’t fully digest me so he spat me out. Once I was upchucked from that vile journey, I had a lot of grime to clean off. And so at 18, I started wiping away the debris with spirituality. When a wise woman on the spiritual path suggested that I start writing gratitude lists due to my blinding self-pity,  the lessons my father taught me in his office two years earlier came rushing back.  I picked up a pen and started writing: ten fingers, ten toes, my limbs, and my senses. It was an unbearably painful time— so I kept writing and my lists grew;  I’m grateful for my limbs, my senses, shelter, food, a job, clothes, and my friends. And they kept growing.

In 2009, when my twenties were as fresh as a juicy peach, my treasured friend asked me if I wanted to participate in a gratitude email chain where we would each write our daily lists and “reply all.” “Sure,” I said, not thinking much of it, unconsciously assuming it would fizzle within a few months because most things like that do. How fun it is to be proven wrong sometimes. That email chain has changed my life. There are 11 of us on the exchange, all women,  and we have been writing for —please wait as I access the left side of my brain—seven years! We started as friends in NYC and, in seven years time, we have adventured with one another through big moves, marriage, children, death, divorce, break -ups, new relationships, new jobs  and, in my case, illness—all through gratitude listsWe have had delicious “gratitude brunches,” attended each other’s weddings, been on the other side of the screen when the first  “Introducing: insert new baby picture” got sent, been cheerleaders for each other’s dreams, and every one of those girls donated to my fundraiser. I’m so grateful for them. But because of all of that practice, I never have to do much digging to find my gratitudes, and, as a result, I’m often (not always) one of those “glass half-full” people: often optimistic with moments of pure elation. Let me be super clear as you may now be rolling your eyes at my perkiness. I am madly-pro taking days off from “positive thinking.” This is no time to go beating yourself up for not being “grateful enough.” If you need to lie in bed and steep in self-pity every once in a while, I support that, and I believe it’s also crucial to healing (in small doses). I never suggest you “gratitude list” your way out of feelings, out of humanity, but that you gratitude list yourself into a more balanced view of reality. 

You’re feel -good- G can be equally as accessible (if it isn’t already). Here are some tips:

Make your own email chain! All you need is one other person and access to your own discipline and consistency. It can take as little as 30 seconds to shoot off a gratitude list and  connect with a friend. Most of you know that I’m all about FUN (and love) so give yourself a laugh and a creative outlet as you write your lists. The subject line is where all of the genius is in our group:  We have seven years worth of quirky subject lines:  “G’zzzzzz ma Ladiezzzzzz,” “Gratitat,” “Nothing left to do but gratitude,” “Forever G,” “In Flight Gratitude announcement!” “Saturday Graterday””Guys WHOA I need gratitude,” “Spring Ahead into Sunny Gratitude,” “She’s All Grat.” “Even in Frosty California, Gratitude Survives,” “We so G and so Free,” “Grateful Feet have Got A lot of Rhythm.”  Do you catch my drift? I know, we are *the coolest.*

If your stomach is turning at the idea of being on a gratitude email chain with corny subject lines then simply start writing lists. Write them on your phone as you sit in waiting rooms ( or half-naked on the exam table), pause your stinking thinking and say things out loud when you’re stuck in traffic, write things down in your journal, and on the days when things are just so bad and you’re desperate, text a friend and say, “wanna do the gratitude ABC’s?” All day long, you can go back and forth with that trusted friend stating what you’re grateful for. They say “I’m grateful for my hot Ass,” and you say, “I’m grateful for my Bone Broth.” And they say, “My Cat,” and you say, “My Dog —AND ew you have a cat?” This is so efficient as you’ll be mastering multiple “healing activities” at once: gratitude, laughter, AND companionship. But if you’re still rolling your eyes and you’re a driven person that just needs a challenge then I challenge you to find one thing a day and write it down for the next 365 days.Try and make it as specific to the day as possible.I promise you that if you practice gratitude consistently for just a little while, you, too, will find your G-Spot. You, too, will have gratitude orgasms.

Get writing!

With fun and love,

Jackie

 

 

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Bang for Your Buck: Health Tips on a Budget

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Are you desperately trying to heal and unable to do many of the things suggested to you because you simply don’t have the funds? I feel you. I am well versed on that topic so i compiled a list of a few cheap OR free things you can do daily or weekly that can make massive changes. Caution: PATIENCE NEEDED.

1.) Coconut oil: You can get a jar of organic, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil from Trader Joe’s for about $6.00. Coconut oil is the healthiest oil to cook with as it contains healthy fats called medium chained fatty acids. It works as a natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral when you cook with it, eat it by the tablespoon, spread it on toast, or use it as a mosturizer on your body! You can even use it to detox by oil pulling first thing in the morning—using one tablespoon and gently swishing it around for about 15 minutes, it pulls out toxins and infections AND whitens teeth! Check out all of the ways coconut oil can benefit you here.

2.)Epsom salt baths:  I’m madly- pro infrared saunas for a killer detox sweat, but when you’re sick and your money is going to all sorts of crazy things like doctors and supplements and FOOD, sometimes it’s hard to find the extra 20-50 bucks to sweat it out. Epsom salt baths are not exactly the same, but, in my experience, they work nicely as a powerful alternative. I try to stay in the bath for at least 15 minutes, with a glass of water nearby, a lit candle, and some good tunes playing. When I’ve sweat enough AND hopefully soaked up some of that magnesium from the epsom salt (which technically takes a total of 40 minutes but my body can’t handle that), I get out and rest for a few minutes. Make sure to hydrate a ton. Ideally, you own a dry brush and can do that before you bathe for extra detoxing.

3.) Hydration: Do you have a good water filter? I’m sorry to tell you that the Brita aint gonna cut it. Ideally, you’d get the Berkey, but those are super expensive (I think worth the investment, but we are hypothetically on a super tight budget). Zero water is the one I have—it came recommended through the Hippocrates Health Institue. It’ll cost about $25.00 every 6 weeks or so (filters that work actually have to be replaced a lot) to have very clean water ALL OF THE TIME. Hydrating isn’t enough on its own. If you’re hydrating with tap water in a bad part of the country, you are also ingesting a load of toxic shit like lead and chlorine. So, clean it up. Also, for immune boost, optimal hydration AND detox consider adding  lemons to your water—it’s cheap and it’s effective. Another cheap option (if you have a juicer or a blender) is celery (PURE CELERY) juice every morning on an empty stomach. That’s runs about $2.50 a day and has very powerful effects on restoring your gut health(where your immune system is) and moving your lymphatic system. And, as the day creeps by, a warm cup of tea might be so needed. You can buy organic ginger for next to nothing and make your own ginger tea—ginger is anti-inflammatory and good for digestion. I also consume coconut water, aloe vera in water, and other veggie juices. OH and I drink plenty of coffee, but that’s not a health suggestion 🙂

4.) Movement: You don’t have to pay upwards of 100.00 a month to exercise. Moving your body is effective, necessary, and a powerful action you can take on a daily basis no matter what your checking account looks like. If you have a little money but not much, consider looking on Groupon for some deals in whatever medium of exercise you feel like pursuing. Most yoga studios have a “first month deal” like $40.00 unlimited for a month. Check out the studios in your town, and ask for deals or work-trade. If you have ZERO dollars to spare on exercise then look at free youtube videos of yoga/pilates or again whatever kind of work- out you want to do. And, if all of that is too much then go for a walk. A short walk, a long walk, a fast walk, a meditative walk, however you wanna swing it. Over time, this will be of great benefit to your overall health AND happiness.

5.) Breathe: It’s totally free and it is POWERFUL. Even for the millionaires who can spend on whatever supplement and whatever treatment, the MOST healing thing any of us can do is BREATHE. Check out the Wellness-Companion newsletter this week for some in-depth details on breathing. Panic, anxiety and shallow breaths are poison to your central nervous system and your adrenal glands. Can’t afford the supplements?  Breathing is your adrenal support supplement. There are free meditations all over the damn place, get in on the silence craze! For 5 bucks, you can purchase the anxiety release EMDR app, it comes in handy for those of us that struggle with heavy anxiety, and it happened to be one of my favorite AND cheapest investments.

6.) Vitamin D: Go sit in the sun for 20 minutes without sunscreen. It’s that simple. Your immune system will thank you for it—so will your brain. PS: behind windows/glass it doesn’t count.

7.)Find a support system/go where the love is: Love is healing. Compassion, kindness, empathy, understanding, and affection go a really long way when you don’t feel well. Let people love you. We operate a whole company called wellness-companions around this concept because Eva and I KNOW how important it is to be heard and seen while healing. In my experience, It’s more effective to be loved than to take the “right” supplement. Release the people from your life that no longer serve you on this journey.

8.) Joy: You don’t need to spend $20.00 on popcorn and a movie or $100.00 on a trip to Disneyland to have fun. Find the things that bring you joy and do one of them every single day. Healing is a mind/body/spirit experience. In a desperate attempt to feel physically better, we tend to leave behind the mind and spirit, and healing won’t come without their companionship. So, whether it’s building a fort in your bedroom and watching Disney movies, coloring, taking pictures, writing, drawing, singing, painting, listening to music, audiobooks or reading, find your thing and do a lot of it. Do it especially when you think you should start googling about your condition—that’s your warning to pull out the big guns. . .play time!

9.)Diet: I wanted to stay off of this because it IS expensive to eat well. I get it, trust me. Unfortunately, it was also one of the most important changes I made. First of all, consider swallowing your pride and getting some government assistance—food stamps. GASP, I know. But this is about saving your ass, not your face. Eating fresh requires me to be at the supermarket almost every single day, but I’ve found some cheaper ways to eat nutritious, and fulfilling meals. One of them being to make a big ass batch of soup! Soup chock full of fairly cheap organic veggies. The whole batch could cost about 20 bucks and be your lunch for 5 days. Check out recipes by Kriss Carr and Anthony William. Planning nutritious meals and having them for the week or freezing them is a GREAT way to save money. You’ll rarely have to buy food out because you’re starving and have nothing in the house. Simple and inexpensive changes can  make a world of difference for your overall health: Choose fruit over candy, choose coconut water over soda, choose organic olive oil and lemon instead of bottled dressing, choose cauliflower mash over mashed potatoes, ghee or coconut oil instead of butter, almond milk over cow milk. It will take time to adjust—that’s ok. You don’t have to do it perfectly all at once—all you need to do is make a beginning.

10.) Let go: Stop trying to hold it together. Feel your feelings whether they are sadness or anger or pure elation. Once you stop resisting the experience of being sick, you will land right at the foot of the path to wellness. Some heartbreaking grief may follow, but the payoff is worth it. I promise. You likely have some emotional healing to do—go into it now and know that you will come out at the other side. It’s free, it’s safe, and it’s effective. Make sure you have some sort of support system in place when going through this part. Like a *sliding scale therapist,* support group or good friends.

11.)REST: I almost forgot this one. YIKES! Because I hate it. But it also probably saved/is saving my life so I highly suggest it— rest as often as you need. Give your body many breaks throughout the day to simply lie down and BREATHE. Fall asleep if you can—if not, just lie there doing nothing at all! Be sure you’re in bed for at least 8 hours at night. On your to-do lists every morning (that are probably too long) I urge you to put rest at the top. As Eva Fisher says, “rest is an active verb.”

To sum up: use coconut oil, hydrate with toxic free water all day, sit in the sun, go for a walk, find a feel-good hobby, let your friends love the shit out of you, love the shit out of yourself, make big batches of healthy soup, breathe deeply, take epsom salt baths, let your feelings OUT, REST, and,  my friends, you are on your way to wellness and spending next to nothing.

Fun and love and cheap healing is on the way!

Jackie Shea

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Treasure-Hunting? You Have the Map

314. %22Safe Route%22

If you’re here looking for a quick-fix solution to Lyme disease, I will disappoint you. If you’re here because you’re googling in a desperate search for the way to “get better asap,” I will—sadly—disappoint you. I am a person that has a great deal of recovery from this disease and more to come, but the most important thing I have learned over my two- and- a half-year long struggle with Chronic Lyme disease is that there is no one solution, no one way, no magic trick. What works for my body, likely won’t work for your body and what works for your body would probably need to be modified for mine. Antibiotics do not work for everyone. Nor does The Cowden Protocol, the Buhner protocol, Ozone therapy, infrared saunas, eating raw, high doses of vitamin C, coffee enemas, IVIG, stem cells, reiki, and the list goes on. For most people(including myself), it’s a combination of many things, leaving an uncertainty around what ACTUALLY “did the trick.” But look at that list: yes, it’s scary and confusing that there’s no one remedy, no steadfast solution, but it is also a list that presents bountiful opportunities to heal; there are no real barricades, there’s always a new road to explore. Healing flaunts an abundant landscape. On this site, I can only write about my experience, the paths I went down, which paths led to an opening and a rainbow and which ones led to a moldy cave summoning death. I can only hope that one of the paths I suggest happens to help you. It was frightening when antibiotics — the most commonly known treatment for Lyme — didn’t work for me. It was frightening to look at all of the forks in the road and know that nobody, not a single person, had the exact directions that would lead me out of the woods. That my guidance needed to come completely from within was startling…lonely, but every time I relied on someone else’s map, it didn’t take me where I hoped it would go. It felt so hauntingly desolate to be that much of an individual— I felt I had already done enough work in this area, and I really wasn’t up for the task of a deeper relationship with my internal guidance system (fuck that), but it seemed like I didn’t have a choice. If I wanted to heal I was going to need to become my own greatest ally, advocate, and traveling companion. And I wanted/want to heal.

As a result of how I was raised, I didn’t trust myself for most of my life. My personal instinct and self-trust— something that we are all born with— were stolen from me and replaced with extreme self-doubt. My notably powerful inner-voice was quieted by my father’s outer-voice, force-feeding me the idea that I was wrong… always.  That foundation left me endlessly seeking counsel on what I “should” do, the opinions around me seemed to hold more weight than my own. And then in my early twenties, I was faced with a big decision that no one could make for me, and I was forced to begin the scary descent into self.

I moved to Hawaii from NYC when I was 23, both for a boyfriend that made me feel safe, and because I didn’t want to do the NYC grind anymore. Deciding that I wouldn’t let an acting career control my happiness (I didn’t want to live in NY or LA or London), I moved, thinking, “if I love to act that much then I can act from anywhere.” And I did just that. I landed on Maui and within a couple of months was on stage and signing with an agent on O’ahu. There was one tiny little problem—I HATED it. I was a big fish on dry land. I loved the work I was doing, and I loved a lot of the people (some very talented) I was working with, but, in the end, there was a total disconnect: I did not belong. I didn’t want to talk about the surf, I wanted to talk about George Bernard Shaw, and I didn’t want to look at one more fucking painting of coral, I wanted the MOMA. And I didn’t want to be the best, I wanted to be INSPIRED and challenged by the best. But leaving Hawaii meant leaving my long-term relationship with my sweet boyfriend, it meant leaving a picturesque mountain home essentially on a goat farm. It meant leaving my very  comfortable life that COULD likely satisfy me on some level for a good time to come. I wanted to leave, but what if leaving all of that was a terrible decision? I struggled for over a year. YES, OVER A YEAR. Should I stay or should I go?  Or maybe I should move to O’ahu ? ON REPEAT, for a year, to anyone who would listen. I wished more than anything that someone could just tell me what to do, what the right thing was, or give me the instruction manual on how to live a fulfilling life. I attended Unity Church one Sunday, a non denominational experience of— I don’t know— spirituality, in a desperate attempt at peace. After the service, an announcement was made that there were prayer chaplains, people who pray with you, and I jumped up to be first in line— I was THAT desperate. I was seated opposite a mild-tempered man dressed in pale linens—his demeanor matched the luxurious breeze and lush scenery on the outdoor balcony. I was the thing that didn’t belong, dressed in black, a tea kettle about to scream. He looked at me and said, “what do you need today?” The blue sky and the green grass darkened, the breeze went stale as I shifted out of the present and into the fear of the future, and I burst into tears, “I don’t know…GUIDANCE. I need guidance, desperately.” I closed my eyes to deepen my breath, he gently and lovingly— like he was an old friend— took my hands and… said a bunch of spiritual stuff that I don’t remember. I opened my eyes, now bored and still without an answer, and that’s when he said one last thing, “may you always know that the guidance is inside of you and nowhere else.” DING DING DING. I did know. That deep-knowing that I had been trying to repress for so long came storming through the surface, like a breeching humpback whale, and bellowed, “please leave. You need to go, you need to leave your guy, and you need to go to LA.” Motherfucker. My heart wants the most complicated shit. Plenty of people would have wanted to stay, plenty of people would be happy and thrive doing exactly what I was doing, but I am not plenty of people, and I cannot steal your desires. I cannot rob you of your internal guidance system because I can’t locate my own.

I went— I went terrified, in tears, and with almost no money, but I went, and I claimed for months that it was the hardest decision I had ever made. I don’t know why—I had already chosen to quit drinking, quit doing drugs, move multiple times, cut off my father, welcome him back in, leave multiple relationships, quit college, continue my education as an actor, quit jobs, take jobs, turn down jobs, etc—but something about leaving that relationship and that goat farm on Maui for LA life truly felt like the hardest decision. I turned 25 in Los Angeles a few months later, and I was high on my new life. I had made the right choice, I was thriving.  And then, suddenly, my worst nightmares started to manifest. I went overboard, and the only thing that threw me a life-raft when I was a hot- second away from drowning was my internal voice.

I was profoundly tested in the waves of a destructive romance and a new decision needed to be made that would deeply affect the rest of my life—would I deny myself and submit to his storm in an act of feebleness or trust that the life-raft would lead me safely to shore?  My inner voice was wild and loud. I knew from the moment I met him that he and I would clash so profoundly it could be deadly, and I repressed myself again, manipulating my truth to get what I intellectually wanted—self-betrayal is almost a betrayal of the Universe and, in my experience, it has always led me to the depths of despair. Again, what was my near-death experience is probably someone else’s fantasy life. Someone else could have happily been in that situation, but I wasn’t—I wasn’t just unhappy, I was suicidal.  When the act of not listening to my gut was actually going to kill me, I gave in—I left him, I flew to NYC to recover from what was a traumatic experience, and I vowed to trust myself, to listen to my inner voice from there on out. It knew better than my brain did. I would stop denying myself, betraying myself, abandoning myself, and I would pay attention to what my body wanted instead of shutting it up with some damaged part of my brain.

Again, I thought I had learned enough at that point: there would at least be a couple of years  of smooth sailing. NOPE— I got sick just a couple months later. While all of that previous experience gave me a foundation to grow from, trusting my guidance system when it came to how to treat and heal from an illness—when literally EVERYTHING (my life) was at stake and literally NO ONE had the one answer— that is next-level shit. I actually had no idea just HOW MUCH information my body held. Our bodies are very smart.

When the common treatment of long-term antibiotics didn’t work for me, I was faced with the horrifying task of trial and error. I learned/ am learning to submerge myself in patience and self-care. Slowly, the practice of staying in touch with my body, consistently doing what felt “right” to me, going where the love was, and being my own greatest ally has dropped me here—in a much healthier place. We are each dealing with distinctive chemical structures/illnesses/traumas/brains and therefore, we all heal differently. I found out that the guidance system I hold within my little self is a perfectly detailed map to the treasure, inviting me to use it freely whenever I want. I still turn down the offer sometimes because I’d really rather not walk through the Lion’s den that is sometimes life, but it’s there, and it’s the best tool for healing Lyme disease I’ve got. I am sorry if this disappoints you, but that is what I have to share today: find your own way, trust your body, and learn to love the shit out of yourself. Find a few (or a hundred) loving hands to hold on the journey but you lead the way—the benefits are miraculous and empowering.

With fun, love, and an abundance of healing,

Jackie

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Can I Come Into the Out Now?

into the out

DreamWorks brought us Home, an animated film about an alien race called The Boov and their attempt to take over the planet. One unique Boov, named “Oh,” has no intention of cooperating with his species—he’s lovable, friendly, and kind: nothing can rob Oh of his innocence. I sat on my plane to Bali last year captivated by Oh’s adventure, smiling at his energetic sweetness and his silly speech patterns, glad that cartoons could still put a smile on my face when all else was failing (apparently, cartoons also now give me access to spiritual experiences, deep insights, and entire blog posts). Tip, a young girl taught to be cautious of the Boov, gets frightened by Oh when she runs into him in an imitation 7/11 and, with the swift application of a broom stick, locks him in a foggy fridge full of milk and sodas. My lovable purple friend smears the fog so he can see, tries to convince her of his kindness, stares at her naively and says, “can I come into the out now?” Tip responds, “NO. You CANNOT come into the out now.” Tip was essentially testing Oh— once he proved himself to be an ally, he was allowed into the out. And, immediately, because I have an uncanny ability to relate everything back to myself, I thought: I am Oh, and Tip is Lyme disease. And on my trip to Bali, 32,000 feet above ground, not traveling for adventure or fun but to have all of my blood cleaned with high hopes of returning healthier I thought, yeah i’ve been banging on that cold glass for a long time. Have I learned my lesson? Proved myself? Can I come into the out now?

Like most people, I had lived most of my life taking simple human-being-on- planet-Earth pleasures for granted—like going outside. Running myself around on almost-empty was my permanent state : my fuel light blinking, functioning on the remnants of caffeine and youth. My time was strategically overflowing with things I didn’t care THAT MUCH about, leaving me consistently unfulfilled. I couldn’t sit still and focus— I couldn’t be inside “home.” Home was where the bills were, home was where the trauma happened, home was where my email was and my to-do list was and sitting with myself was, and the mess, the laundry, the audition to prepare, the writing I wanted to attempt—every corner holding space for quiet “me time” and meaningful activity that made me itch like I was having an allergic flare. NO THANK YOU. I’d rather be in flight where I felt free…from self. Home was simply a place for sleep, a shower, and MAYBE a morning cup of coffee.

Living in NYC, I worked three different jobs while also attending school and/or acting class. Leaving my apartment in the morning, multiple bags— the pounds added up equaled my body weight —would hang from my shoulders: my purse, my acting bag, a catering tux, a school bag, a couple of books (one was never enough), my iPod, my journal, my moleskin planner, and a camera. I spent all day, everyday, either in conversation or blasting music through headphones to overpower the thoughts in my head until I turned 20 and abruptly decided that I should PROBABLY be the next Dalai Lama. I know, shocking turn of events. It’s no surprise, that when I decided to go away on a TEN day silent meditation retreat to begin my training to be the next leading authority figure on spirituality and silence, I left eight days early in full-blown-panic deciding that stillness just wasn’t for me. I vowed to get back on track with my lifelong aspirations. And I did… until I got distracted by a man and decided I should probably move to Hawaii.

Hawaii gave me a whole new challenge— how does one make the most serene place in the States excitable and frenzied? I maneuvered, quickly learning that Hawaii was more about staying busy in nature, not so much with jobs and concerts. Hawaii is where I learned to hike, to hike barefoot, and to be the asshole person who scoffed at anyone who wanted to pause and take in the views . Hawaii is where I trained myself to get up 2.5 miles of steep switchbacks barefoot and run back down in less than an hour. Needless to say, I had minimal hiking companions.I found companions elsewhere: I was in a book club, writing class, an artist’s way group, volunteering at the humane society, working a couple of jobs, acting, auditioning, volunteering wherever I could within the theaters, nurturing friendships, half showing up for my relationship, beaching, camping, learning all sorts of new ocean activities that intimidated the fuck out of me, hosting guests as often as possible, developing myself spiritually, and STILL there was time to spare. Too much time. I had to leave.

When i got to Los Angeles, well, fuck man, that was just a nasty combination of NYC and Hawaii: I had never kept SO BUSY in my life. In Los Angeles, I had all of the outside to explore AND all of the city to experience. There were new people to meet by the thousands, so many attractive men that I didn’t want to blink, countless hikes to explore, an acting career to develop, and I had bills to pay in the meantime. The apartment that acted as my home for a year, got no love. Maybe a frame or two hung from the otherwise empty walls, a futon acted as a bed in the living room so my roommate/best friend, Jessica, and I could stop sharing a bed. An unmade bed sat in the bedroom next to the dull Ikea dresser that I hastily put together one night (so hastily that the top was on backwards and I was “too busy” to ever fix it), an out-of-place bookcase (also put together incorrectly) sat in the middle of the living room, the bathroom was filthy, and I think there remained a couple of unpacked boxes in a closet. My turquoise blue work desk that I purchased in an attempt to actually stay home and do work, sat in a dark corner collecting dust, and a bulletin board hung above it. A bulletin board with all of my untouched ambitions attached to it. I didn’t care what my house looked like or felt like because I was never there—it was just a pit stop: pee, shower, shave, change, and bye. Bye Jessica, bye inside, bye ambitions on the bulletin board that I’d rather not face.

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How’s this for symbolic? It wasn’t taken as a joke.

The behaviors I’ve listed are entirely unhealthy, but they are also a testament to how much I love being alive—feeling the sunshine, climbing things, seeing friends, meeting new people, playing games, and even working! I was lucky enough, up to that point, to take it all for granted. It was terrifying for me to get so sick that my well-honed ability to distract and disassociate came to a screeching halt. It was jarring as fuck, I hated the inside so much. The inside of the house and the inside of me.

I spent a year and a half feeling like I was trapped inside of one of those russian stackable dolls, inside of LA, my street, my apartment, my bedroom, my bed, and finally my body. I spent that time staring out of my window memorizing colors and sounds— observing how blue the sky was that day, how green the trees were, how the green would change from forest- green to lime-green as the sun made it’s way through the sky. I listened to the obnoxious blender indicating my neighbors’ breakfast time, the birds indicating the late morning, the people’s doors opening and closing indicating their busy lives, and then I’d hear the musicians across the street indicating their evening band rehearsal. That was the sound I hated the most. They’re a great band —it made me miss feeling alive like nothing else did.

And then there were those days where I got to go outside and take a short walk or something. Those days when people around me would say things like, “doesn’t it feel good to be outside?” Let me tell you what I felt like on those days. I felt like everyone who was breezing passed me on their shirtless afternoon run, showing off their tanned and toned bodies, were MOCKING ME, unfairly and falsely deciding that those people had no ailments of their own. Well-steeped in my own self-pity and fucked up perception, it felt like I alone was living in a post-apocalyptic world only allowed to watch people enjoying the sweetness of planet Earth, but I couldn’t partake in any of the fun. And that thought process often hurt more than staying inside. When I did go to a party at night, I just felt jealous. Jealous and tired and like it wasn’t worth all of the effort just to “get out.” I watched most of my friends continue on, flawlessly complaining about the normal 20-something pain: broken hearts, confused hearts, financial problems, working too much, PMS, career goals or lack thereof, or the flu, and all I could think was “I’d give anything to work too much and have the flu.” I just wanted to be able to get coffee with a friend without feeling like it might kill me, I wanted to be well enough to celebrate my birthday, I wanted to be able to hold my head up without support, to dress myself, climb the stairs, smile, and cook for myself. And if I couldn’t have all of that then what I wanted was to SLEEP, but no matter how tired I was, my emotional and physical anguish was too great to let me sleep. Never mind running, hiking, yoga, and traveling, I just wanted to sleep.

“Life happens for us, not to us.” -said by many.

After much resistance, I did what I was so frightened to do: I changed. I let life happen for me. No matter how hard I tried when I was fully-functional, I couldn’t get into certain healthy habits that I deeply longed for, self-discipline was always just beyond my reach…almost teasing me. Through these awful couple of years, the person I’d always wanted to be started to magically show up. I got my priorities straight, and that bulletin board of untouched ambitions, they’ve been touched. More things have been added, more have been accomplished. My space is getting more and more organized and loved. I do the things that are most important to me instead of avoiding them—less distraction, more production. I had a friend look at me in my frazzled state a few years ago and say, “you really do constantly need adventure, don’t you? I just wonder when you’ll realize that the adventure is right in front of you— you’re on it.”

I feel more authentically alive and adventurous sitting at this cafe, writing this piece, than I ever did while cliff jumping, rollerblading, or driving to Arizona just because. I’m sitting up, feeling the muscles in my neck and how capable they are of holding my head up. I’m drinking coffee, easily able to bring the cup to my lips, feeling the breeze go through my shirt, and I’m crying because it feels SO GOOD. I feel present. I’m not suffering, anxious to get home because I truly CANNOT sit up for one more second. I’m not wondering if I’ll be able to walk to the car, I don’t have a vibrating sensation of anxiety and depression bolting through my body. I don’t want to SCREAM. I’m not in a post-apocalyptic world watching others enjoy the sweetness of Earth. I’m enjoying the sweetness, and since I’ve tasted the other side (which is basically a stick of liver comparatively), I guarantee this is all the more delicious for me. This is definitely adventure enough.

I went to the beach a few days ago to ride a bike. I biked three miles and it was hard. Three years ago, I would rollerblade about ten miles by the beach and then I’d do the rings, using a tremendous amount of upper-body strength, pulling from my bicep, crunching at my core, and swinging free while the skin on my hands rubbed off from the metal. Of course I was performing such intense physical activity while my deeper desires sat at home on my desk, lonely. So, I didn’t only enjoy being outside a few days ago, I also felt so fulfilled knowing that I wasn’t there avoiding anything. I was there to enjoy a day outside. I walked to the rings, and I sat on a ledge to watch the athletes do their thing. I wasn’t jealous, observing the tanned, toned, and topless people walk around on the sand, I felt grateful for my perspective. Most of those people had no idea that in the surrounding area there were likely many trapped inside, looking at the colors of the trees from their window, listening to the birds sing, just wishing they could sit up, wishing they had a happy- enough- thought to crack a smile. I don’t need the rings, or trapeze, or my rollerblades. I get to be in the out now!

I wasn’t ready on my way to Bali last year. I was still too antsy to get back to my “old life.” I hadn’t yet refined the skill of sitting still, resting, self-care, and focusing on reality rather than fantasy. I needed more time to finalize my priorities, my habits, I needed more time to grow accustomed to my new self. I was still shedding. Now I’m beautifying my new skin. It felt, for a long time in this process, like I was sitting at an airport waiting to meet my new updated self, but her plane was like crazy fucking delayed. Some days, now, it feels like she’s arrived.

With fun and love,

Jackie

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When War Makes Art

ON THE BENEFITS OF STAYING CREATIVE THROUGH CHRONIC ILLNESS

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Robert Mapplethorpe, a photographer from the 1970’s well-known for his erotic imagery, nude portraits, and self-portraits, battled AIDS for three years before he died in 1989. He was a fearless photographer, crossing boundaries to create breathtaking prints. I’ve always admired his work, but when I went to The Getty last week to see their Mapplethorpe exhibit, something entirely different stood out to me and inspired me. I am usually inspired by creative risks: vulnerability, boldness, and courage— Mapplethorpe’s photography is “right up my alley.” But, this time, I saw the self-portrait he took in 1988, the year before he died. A self-portrait conveying his resignation to illness and eventual death. I was captivated, moved, and inspired by his dedication to his art AND perfection of his art in the midst of terminal illness. It had such a profound effect on me. I imagine it’s had a similar effect on others —thank god he continued to create through illness, I kept thinking, what an impact that can have on the world. 

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“Diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, Mapplethorpe faced his plight with courage and chose to work more ardently than ever…” 

I imagine Stephen Pressfield, the author of “The War of Art” — a book on overcoming resistance to your art and creating everyday no matter the “excuse” your mind tries to conjure— is out there applauding Robert Mapplethorpe and all of those like him. It’s a triumph and, in my opinion, creativity is indispensable while  healing.

A couple of years ago, I felt like I was failing Mr. Pressfield,  whose instruction I highly regard. I was incapable of showing up for my boiling creative life as I once did.  I sobbed when I confronted my acting coaches with the truth I had been resisting: “I can’t show up for class anymore.” My ever-compassionate coach said something along the lines of, “yes, we know—you’re not up to this right now.” So, it was no secret and/or I wasn’t such a good actress after all. I was missing more classes than I was attending and when I did attend, I’d only last for about an hour before overwhelming fatigue set in and shameful tears bubbled in my eyes. I couldn’t participate in the same energetic, optimistic way I once had, and it was breaking my heart. It felt like Lyme disease was robbing me of my greatest joy —my sometimes only joy in life— my art. I came to a mild version of acceptance around Lyme taking trapeze, trampolining, hiking, dancing, late-night sugar-high-parties, karaoke, traveling, my general sense of adventure, and even the production of a short film I had written, but ACTING, TOO? NO FUCKING WAY.I officially had no space to run free leaving me feeling like a wild animal trapped inside my own body.

When I initially got sick, I was determined to hold onto myself — the self I had grown accustomed to, the labels I had attached to, the box I put myself in: actress, pretty, fun, adventurous, athletic, optimistic, smart, creative, go-getter, “badass motherfucking amazonian queen,” as Cheryl Strayed would say.  I worked hard to be THAT specific person. In fact, I was JUST settling into my sense of security as that specific person, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let Lyme disease get in the way of it. I closed my box and held onto to my precious traits, hoping the tornado of Lyme would just sort of pass me by. The tighter I gripped, the harder things got ripped from my grasp, and the more it hurt. Who was I without all of those labels? A blob, a 4th of July sparkler that was about to go out, a wimp, a bore, a snooze, unlovable, inconvenient, and on and on and on with the self-judgment illness has a way of invoking. Most things went pretty quickly, but my acting career was something I wouldn’t dare give up — I’d go into the eye of the storm with it. In an effort to fill the time that I used to fill with things like hiking, I decided to gorge myself into my career further and spent months wiring my first screenplay.  We performed it in front of a crowd of 50, I wrote and rewrote and rewrote, we shot a trailer, and I started raising funds for the film, but, by that point, I was undeniably suffering on a daily basis and the stress of raising funds wasn’t helping. With much hesitation, I dropped it. I “gave up” and returned everyone’s funds. I was equally relieved and devastated. Ironically,  2014-2015 were the most financially lucrative of my acting career. I was making more money on acting than I ever had, but I was unable to enjoy a penny of it as it went right to supplements or acupuncture or an obscene fee to a mediocre doctor. It was also all very simple commercial work which left me feeling flavorless, vapid, and unimaginative. I needed to get my creative fulfillment from things like theater gigs, theatrical auditions, and class. My fatigue drove me away from each one of those things: first, my theater company, then my drive to audition, and eventually acting class… driving me right to my camera.

I had recently spoken to a woman about the concept of “baby steps” or “slow and steady,” a subject I was not really all that interested in prior to illness. Truth be told, I’m still not necessarily interested in it, I just happen to have a reference point now to how rewarding it is. She said, “I drew a self-portrait everyday for one year. I set my timer for ten minutes and drew. I never went over the ten minutes.” Being a person who feeds off of challenges —though I am getting pretty tired of “obstacles” — I jumped right on this idea of “one thing a day for 365 days.”

I pulled out my beautiful and barely used Leica D-Lux 6. AH, my Leica, the expensive camera I was going to “use all of the time,” resulting in a short bout of determination quickly followed by frustration and an impatience too unfettered to sit still and read the manual. I put it away in a dark drawer for “one day.” Of course, I assumed it would be “one day” like the day I had kids or something— not “one day” because I felt like a wild animal trapped inside of my body, suffering from Lyme disease and needed to remain creative “one day.” Would you believe me if I said that I’m grateful it was actually the latter? That I likely would have never committed to something like that if I wasn’t sick? That all I learned in the process was maybe worth it? I wouldn’t believe me either, but it’s true.

Initially, my “photo 365” project was simply an effort to stay plugged in to my creativity and a way to learn how to use every single button on the camera now that I had time to read the manual. I learned the lay of the camera pretty good, but that’s not really what I learned at all — I learned how to turn what was, up to that point, a bullshit experience that was robbing me of anything and everything I had ever worked for, into a meaningful and fulfilling creative ride. I learned how to use physical strife to my creative advantage, taking my power back. These exact words, written on this page, are a testament to that.

Taking a photo a day was strategic in many ways for me: Photography was something I always loved and had a natural eye for,  and it was something that turned my brain off and forced me to focus on the present moment (in a very literal way, I kept my head UP). It was a low-impact-sport—something that on my worst days, I could even do from bed (MANY of my photos are self-portraits because I was too sick to leave the house) — and it gave me something, at the end of each day, to look at with pride. It was a challenge, a “distraction” from my brain which dropped me right into the present. The effect this had on my daily life was nothing short of fucking magic.

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Self-portrait: one sick day in late 2015

I was collapsing into the darkness one evening. I was already running late for therapy because I couldn’t deal with putting shoes on, and I was having an abandonment- issue- meltdown about Ian leaving me for the night. The dialogue was something like this:

Me; “I can’t get dressed. It’s too hard. Everything’s so hard. I hate my body, I hate my life….”

HYSTERICAL TEARS

Ian: “it’s OK baby.”

Me: “It’s not OK. Nothing is OK in my body!!”

Ian: “You know what? Let’s take a photo. Have you taken one yet today”

Sniffle. sniffle. sniffle.

Me: “No, not yet. OK.”

Within minutes, I was focused on where to put my camera and smiling, even feeling a sense of freedom.

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That day, early 2015

I had countless….COUNTLESS….experiences like that one. My mood, my outlook, could shift from bleak as fuck to an exhilarating  great loopy bundle of optimism. My immune system was directly affected by the joy, I swear.

Chronic illness had felt entirely isolating until my little photography project busted that wall, too. I started taking photos of groups of friends, calling them “chosen family portraits.” Illness had left me feeling so inferior in groups of people: what did I have to offer, what did I have to talk about besides illness? When I started being the “girl with the camera” (nobody calls me that) who took awesome group photos that seemed to bring everyone joy, I felt like I added something. I had something to offer, a way to feel a part-of something instead of separate from everything.

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Chosen Family Portrait: Thanksgiving 2015

I have not given up on acting; I think I’m a better actor than ever, but I also have my little photo project to thank for that as well. I wanted my camera to essentially keep me plugged into  the creative part of myself so that I didn’t feel like I was a stranger to art when I was healthy enough to meet it again. When one of my best friends suggested I write and perform a one-woman show based on my experience with Lyme disease, I was ready for the task. I wasn’t ready to perform; I’m still not quite there, but I was ready to write, and that’s how this blog space came to be. And, today, what I love about my photos, is that I get to put them here. Every time I make a post, that photo that sits at the top is one of mine, and shit do I have fun choosing which one to use every Wednesday. The gifts of my little photo project seem endless.

So when my Mother and I visited the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit last week, I was newly inspired to remain absolutely creative as I finish out this small part of my life’s journey. I know what it is to feel like I’m knocking on death’s door, like I’m just one step away from becoming a skeleton. To create something so stunning that captures the experience of a passing life and the terminal quality we all have, that is still affecting AND inspiring people like me decades later, well THAT is what I call making art out of war.THAT, is a true example of kicking resistance’s ass, Stephen Pressfield, wouldn’t you say?

I saw an old friend last weekend and I gave him the brief and brutal run-down of the last couple years. He was left baffled. “If you don’t mind me asking,” he said, “how the fuck have you been dealing with all of this?” The very  first thought that surfaced in my brain was: I took photos, that’s how.

With fun and love,

Jackie

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Health Tip Tuesday: IVIG Tips

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My particular IVIG dose goes on for 5 days in a row/ 5 hours a day so these suggestions may not be appropriate if that’s not your treatment plan. This list came about after 4 treatments, a few mistakes, and the experience of a couple very smooth treatments:

1. Stay Hydrated – I drink at least 2 liters of water with lemon and 16 oz of coconut water a day. It prevents severe migraines and extra pain/ nausea. I always make sure to have enough coconut water around so I get electrolytes. If you prefer Gatorade, have at it.

2. Stay ahead of the pain– I take ibuprofen 400 mg before treatment and before bed.It seems to be enough to stay ahead of the headaches and body aches (Tylenol doesn’t work for me).  My first 2 rounds of IVIG were more brutal and I had to take extra ibuprofen. It DOES get easier. I’m finished round 4 with minimal headaches

3. Take your prescribed pre meds– I’m prescribed Benadryl pre- drip and I’ve not stopped taking it.

4.Have meals prepared-Hopefully, you have someone taking care of you for the five days of treatment. I try to fill my fridge and cabinets with healthy food the day before and let my care-taker know what I *should* eat. By the time, IVIG starts I want to eat garbage food so it’s important for me to keep up with healthy meals. I’ve experienced both a robust appetite AND no appetite during treatment so I let my caretaker know that I’d like them to force food on me if need be. My body needs the fuel. If you have nausea, try Zofran.

5.Stretch/ walk– Lying on the couch or in bed all day isn’t ideal, but it tends to happen when we’re so tired. My dear friend gave me a stretching routine for before and after treatment. It’s very mellow, but it’s enough to give my body a break from the soft bed. Also, just lying on the floor for a while can do good if you’re too tired to walk/ stretch.

6.Stay calm/breathe– AS ALWAYS, breathe. This is not a time to stress and worry about all of the “to do lists” rolling around in your head. Your body is working really hard. This is a time to rest and welcome healing.

7.Have things to do – 5 hours a day/ 5 days in a row.. inside and immobile can really get to anyone. It gets to me. Try to have plenty to do. I personally like to learn new vocabulary, watch TV, read (if I can), photo shop some photos, etc..

8.Ask for visitors– ASK FOR HELP! It can get lonely, depressing and boring being inside all of that time. Ask your friends/family/feel good people to come hang and don’t hesitate to ask for something from the store if you need it.

9.Massage – If you’re lucky enough to have someone who will massage you for free, then get on it! If not and you can afford someone coming to your house once or twice then get on that! Massage has never felt so good to me.

10.Ice packs/blankets– I seem to be very sensitive to the temperature. Ice packs really help me stay cool and comfortable and relieve my pain. I often fall asleep with them. And blankets obviously do the opposite. I always have both near by. Staying comfortable in mind, body, and spirit is key.

OH, one important extra tip: If you’re having severe side effects, ask your provider to slow the drip down so it goes over a 6 hour period. This can do wonders!!

If you need continued wellness support – we are here.

Fun and love and lots of healing!

Jackie

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Health Tip Tuesday: Omega Supplements

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If you’re like me and terrified of any extra Mercury finding its way into your system then you are probably looking for special ways to introduce omega fatty acids into your diet without also consuming fish.

Omega 3 and 6 are necessary, AND it’s not necessary to consume any kind of fish in order to get them. I consume a ton of hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. These mostly account for your Omega 6 intake and it seems to be overwhelmingly true that you NEED both.

I just found the brand, OmegaZEN which has a vegan omega 3 formula and it’s working beautifully for me. I urge you to look into what would be right for you especially if you are detoxifying from heavy metals but need to find a way to supplement. Anyone who has other helpful tips/suggestions on this topic, please leave a comment!

Fun and love,

Jackie

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Health Tip Tuesday: Eat Garlic

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Consuming raw garlic works as a natural antibiotic! Amazing, right? It fights fungal infections AND yeast which I found so fascinating and exciting AND curious that one time I stuck a clove of garlic up my vagina ..and that’s how I ended up LOSING a whole clove of garlic up my vagina. Apparently you can stick a clove up there if you’re worried about yeast infections so I did just for funnies, and then I LOST IT. Definitely, be sure to attach a thread or cheese cloth to the garlic.

The way I consume garlic these days (everyday, actually- so I ALWAYS smell like garlic) is by crushing it up and putting it on top of salads with olive oil and avocado.

It’s always one of my main suggestions especially for Lyme suffers.

Here is a link to some helpful garlic-consuming-instructions to follow:

Avoid These 6 Common Mistakes When Using Garlic As an Antibiotic

PS: That photo up there is me shouting at my friend Eric, “I lost the garlic!”

Fun and Love,

Jackie

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Just Keep Swimming

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I said, “I am down, lonely and afraid.” To better help you understand how I’ve felt over the last couple years, I used the analogy of a person laid out on the concrete, getting their face bashed in. I asked all of you to meet me down there, hold me, ask me where it hurts, and what you can do to help. Many of you did just that, and it gave me that little bit of strength I needed to get up. I am standing. I may be a little weathered, but I am upright and ready to walk on. Actually, that’s metaphorical because I’m actually horizontal on the couch with two IV’s in my arms, but I’ve eaten today, I’ve rested, I’ve given love and received love, I put some laundry away, and I’m writing this. If you are struggling, if you are obsessing over what the fuck, why the fuck, and how the fuck, the one  piece of tangible advice that never fails me was said by Dory from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.” It was also said by like a bazillion other people in a variation of other words, BUT Dory said it best if you ask me, and I’d like to honor the release of “Finding Dory.” I’ve been practicing this for years though the situation I’m currently in has been the greatest challenge. There have been countless times I’ve wanted to just stop and sink, but I’ve experienced the benefits of  keeping on too many times in my life to give up now.

I was heart-broken (again) a few years ago. I was stuck in bed, restricted by panic. It had been light out recently enough that I still hadn’t turned any lamps on. As it grew darker outside, it grew darker inside, which reflected MY insides. I’m so sensitive during that hour-long adjustment when the light turns to dark. I can do the light and I can do the dark, but the in-between, the purgatory, the new, the gray- THAT I do not like. I laid flat crying, fuck it’s already night-time, he still hasn’t responded to my texts, I can’t get out of bed. I called a woman who was 20 years my senior and sobbed to her, “I can’t get out of bed! He hasn’t responded,” snot filled my shirt, I choked on some phlegm, and I made a whole case supporting my sadness and paralysis. She was so compassionate- this beautiful  woman with 3 children, and a host of her own more threatening struggles, took the time to talk me through the pain of “he hasn’t responded to my texts.” She said, “It’s OK sweetie, listen, I want you to get up and make the bed. That’s all you have to do. Get up and make the bed. Do the dishes, take a shower, come over for dinner. That’s ALL you have to do. Get up and make the bed.” I swung my legs around, I got to a standing position, I turned a lamp on, and I made the bed. It’s easier to keep moving when already in motion – that’s like simple science, I think. I did the dishes, and I took a shower and I went to dinner. I didn’t feel good, but I certainly didn’t feel any worse than when I was laying in bed. That wasn’t my first lesson in “just keep swimming,” but it simplified something I had been hearing/practicing for years.

Both of my parents taught me this lesson- through their words and actions: they made life so fucking hard that I had no choice but to learn to tread water or drown. When I was 12 and made the beautifully stupid decision to be an actress when I grew up, my Father challenged me to study the craft, and I did. I studied it as much as I possibly could for a girl that age. When I got nervous that I wouldn’t succeed, he said, “Doesn’t matter, you never fail if you don’t quit.” I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I didn’t hear that so clearly: Would I have quit after so much rejection? Maybe. Years later, during my first year of college, I called him in an attempt to connect. He had already slipped out of my hands into the world of insane drug use, but this was in my denial phase. I called him very upset- why he was my first phone call is a lesson in psychology 101, but regardless, it worked out because he said something I’ve never forgotten: “There’s only one thing you need to know all through life. ONLY ONE NECESSARY PIECE OF ADVICE. The only rule you ever need to follow is ‘just do the next right thing’.” Just do the next right thing. I’ve found that to be true- it’s all I ever need to do.

My Mother told me a story once that really stuck with me, too. When she was dealing with the true horrors of being married to a violent alcoholic and trying to raise two children, she had many mornings where just  seeing the daylight pained her. She told me that during those times, she started taking out one book at a time from our encyclopedia collection (oh my- I’m showing my age. I grew up with encyclopedias!). She went from A-Z and studied. She learned something new everyday which led to some college courses, which led to meeting a professor that changed her life, which led to TWO Master degrees. Just keep swimming you get places.

I feel lucky to have  the ability to persevere, to persist, to try again, to get up, stand up and TAKE ONE STEP. I comfort myself often by visualizing the path I’m on, and I think “well if I just keep walking forward, I WILL get healthier, I WILL get a job, I WILL grow as a partner and a friend and a human.” It doesn’t  all happen at once. It’s in the small little steps, one foot in front of the other, that we make progress. I know that last week’s post was a hard one to swallow for some people, and I know that it was a binge on comfort food for others. I’ve had a lot of pain in my life; I’ve had plenty of obstacles to surmount- some self-inflicted and others where my part was victim, straight-up. It brings me so much comfort time and time again that, in this world where I’m powerless over so much, the power to keep walking is mine. I always have a choice about whether or not I want to get out of bed, make the bed, do the dishes, feed myself, write, apply for jobs, apply for government assistance, make that next phone call, find that new doctor, go to the next audition. The most freeing part: I don’t have to FEEL LIKE doing any of it, I just have to do it and shit gets done. I keep moving forward, growing, walking the path, and, MY GOD, at some point, you acquire all the tools you need to surpass the weeds, your legs are so strong you can climb any hill, your knees are so strong you can go through any valley and when an earthquake hits, somehow, you’ve developed enough balance to stay standing.

PS: First stop after Iv treatment: FINDING DORY.

WITH FUN AND LOVE,

JACKIE

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