4.How Trauma Affects us and How to Heal

Jessica Graham
Photo by: http://shayanasgharnia.com

Trauma:

Most of us have it. From childhood trauma to sexual trauma, these experiences get locked in our bodies and affect our immune systems and inflammation responses. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences)  study was performed at Kaiser over a four-year period in the 90’s. The study concluded that childhood trauma resulted in serious medical consequences. Our bodies react to stress as children: Hormones are secreted, neurotransmitters are activated, inflammatory proteins flood the blood stream. This can lead to long-lasting physical changes —early adversity alters the chemicals of DNA in the brain. Personally, I have a score of 7/10,  the higher the score, the worse the outcome. In their findings, with an ACE score over 7, your risk of heart disease is 360 % higher than patients with a 0 score. If you have a 4 or higher, you are twice as likely to smoke, be an alcoholic, and have sex before you’re 15. You’re two times as likely to get heart disease and four times as likely to have chronic bronchitis. Nadine Burke MD looks at childhood trauma as a medical issue. Her view is that these issues are not for sociologists and economists but that they need to be addressed on a molecular level, and not simply with an anti-depressant which can further harm the body.

My guest, Jessica Graham, is passionate about healing trauma. With a 10/10 Ace score, she has dedicated many years of her life to rewiring her brain through meditation. On stable ground, Jessica expanded her mindfulness practice to her sex life deepening her healing and therefore her overall wellness. She is an inspiration, a force, and a reminder that deep healing is possible.

Jessica Graham:

Jessica is a spiritual teacher, sex and intimacy guide, filmmaker, and author of the new book, “Good Sex: Getting Off without Checking Out.”

To work with Jessica and find out more about what she does, please visit:  Www.yourwildawakening.com

To purchase her book (I highly suggest this book for anyone interested in healing old trauma and having a healthy sex life):

Resources mentioned in episode:

  • find out what your ACE score is and more about the study: https://acestoohigh.com
  • A two-week free code from Jessica for Simple Habit meditation app: https://www.simplehabit.com/redeem/meditatewithjessica
  • Article on childhood trauma: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/03/21/the-poverty-clinic

Listen to this episode if you are especially interested in:

  • How your trauma could have affected your health
  • How to start meditating even if you’re in pain
  • How to bring mindfulness into the bedroom
  • How to deepen your sexuality and self-love

 

 

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How I Went From Healer-Phobic to Healer-Friendly

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“I’m so horny! It’s killing me,” I whined, steeped in sexual frustration, in the backseat of a Toyota on Sunday afternoon. Three of us were squeezed in the back seat—two of my closest friends and me— and they had been listening to me have random sexual outbursts all day.  Ian is on his lengthy- as- fuck dream trip, and I feel a little…insane without him. “I barely even masturbate,” I yammered on, “it bores me these days, just makes me more sad.” My friend is a talented energy healer, and we’ve worked really well together in the past so she said, “OOOO, I wonder if I could try some sort of energy work on you where I could get you to an orgasm without even touching you. I’ve never done it, but it’s so fun to work with you because you’re so open.” Me, so open? I thought. “Hah. remember when I was NOT open to any of this nonsense,” I retorted, “And, YES, let’s absolutely do that!” I feel baffled when “healers” of any kind suggest that it’s so wonderful to work with me because I’m so open and available. That was so not me. Pre-illness I had the “luxury” of being  healer-phobic, the “luxury” of judging people, the “luxury” of being closed-mided,  the “luxury” holding onto resentment and anger, and the “luxury” of eating a nightly waffle sundae.”  We piled out of the car to stop in at an organic, over-priced, crystal-decorated Malibu eatery. It was the kind of place that attracts all of the wealthy white people on green-juice fasts who are willing to pay $15.00 for a tube of coconut oil and $175.00 for a beach towel. Did I think it was ridiculous? Yes. Did I love it there? ABSOLUTELY. The wall of supplements made me feel candy-shop-dazzled, the all natural body butter was enticing, and, oh my god, they served vegan, gluten-free and SOY-FREE grilled cheese. Heaven. All I needed was Ian near me, and I would have had an orgasm right then. Yes, all-natural sunscreen and kale wraps turn me up and on. No shame here:  I’m an oil-pulling, green-juicing, meditating, all natural healing… weirdo. It gets worse: Over our new-age grilled cheeses,  we talked astrology. I know very little about astrology, but I love when people talk about it. Let me rephrase: I love when astrology-interested folk want to talk specifically about me and my sign. We were looking at my chart, and our astrology-savvy friend took note that one of my moons was in one of my  houses (blah blah blah) , therefore, I’m a “wounded healer.” My eyes got all big, “wounded, healer,” I squealed, “Oh my god! My distance healer just told me that one of my archetypes is a wounded healer! How cool!”

How cool? What in the ever-loving fuck is this life? 

I grew up eating raisinets for a healthy snack and drinking coca-cola with  meatloaf dinner.  I  suffered from panic attacks and lots of random infections all treated with…you guesssed it…antibiotics. I breathed in smoke and mold all day, was harassed by my father, tried to take care of my mother, and lived in a fantasy land most days because it was safer than reality. By highschool, I  had bronchial infections every couple of months, and I lived on cheez-it’s, salami, funyons, the hangover BLT, and hazelnut iced coffee with tons of half and half. I self-medicated my anxiety with drinking, smoking in excess, and instigating unruly sexual situations that numbed the pain of my missing father. Self-loathing began intruding on every waking moment of my day activating my first major step toward a healthier living.

I cleaned up my act and stopped drinking. I bought a sports bra, got a membership at the 92nd street Y, started drinking some water, and ate some cottage cheese between my late-night waffle sundae binges. I thought I was the healthiest. Only the healthiest people eat cottage cheese and own sports bras.  Then my panic attacks resurfaced with a vengeance. When I was one meltdown away from becoming agoraphobic, I started taking anti-anxiety meds. I thought I oughta also dabble in meditation since I didn’t want to be on meds forever so I attempted a ten-day silent meditation retreat. I made it three days and claimed, as I left,  that I just wasn’t meant to be quiet.  I nearly lost my mind sitting with myself in the darkness and silence—there were too many  painful memories, there was not enough coffee, and no space to exercise. No, thank you.

Those three days validated my experience with holistic approaches to healing—they weren’t for me. I was madly-pro western medicine: Bring on the quick-fixes, the distractions, and the antibiotics! When it was convenient or it was necessary, I was down to be spiritual, but it was always short-lived. I never wanted to be TOO spiritual. A little bit of toxicity felt sort of YUM to me; I brought the FUN to dysfunctional. And I loved me some fatty beef.

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Something about being a sweet, peaceful vegan seemed so stale and virginal to me.If I could stay just a little edgy, a little hardened, I’d be more interesting, I thought. I wanted to be only half in touch with myself, only somewhat open-minded, and the adrenal burn-out version of healthy which looks like too much excercise and distraction while chowing on some kale every once in a while. The mention of eastern and holistic approaches to medicine and healing made me tighten. It was like people were talking about crossing an ocean in a row-boat—haven’t we got better things to do and my god, that sounds like unnecessary labor, hello, there are cruise ships these days! But, Jackie, cruise ships are bad for the environment, you said. “Well, I’d rather ignore that so I can get where I’m going faster, thank you.” It was true, I sort of (gasp) didn’t care about the environment, the toxins in the air, in my food, or in my water bottle. Not to mention my distaste for chakras, angel cards and acupuncture. What a snooze fest! I had already given up booze, drugs and cigarettes, did I really need to go full-on new-agey grandma? My judgments were just a way of covering up my extreme discomfort around “super spiritual.” I wasn’t ready to be seen. I was full of untouched trauma, stuffed to the brim. I felt like “Healers” had some sort of special powers. . .like they were the only people in the world who could see my thick and vast unbecoming wounds. Healers made me feel like my mask was being forcefully ripped off of my face, like all of the grime, sadness, jealousy, and petty resentment that I was hiding from the world— was suddenly visible. So, when I came into contact with one, I either got the hell out of there, or I put a thick wall up—pretending to have no feelings.  I had spent a couple of decades trying to keep my toxicity IN and under control, undetected.

My best efforts to control my humanness got me Lyme disease. And my best efforts to get well from Lyme disease—which included tons of antibiotics and distraction—got me much much sicker. The cruise ship I was on capsized after ten long months of doing it “the fast way”of western medicine.  I was left with that damn rowboat.  And, if I was going to survive, I was gonna have to get in and start rowing—slow and steady —with a shit load of patience. I was afraid of sitting with myself, slowing down, going soft, needing help, being seen, vulnerable and human. But my options were to go “there”—into the darkness of my soul/my truth with love as my main form of protection— and heal from Lyme, or to avoid “there” and probably stay sick. I surrendered completely. I was willing to be seen and to go into the pain so that it could lose it’s power over me became my focus.

I did everything anyone suggested from Ozone therapy, supplements, herbs, and body work. I changed my diet, I took the herbs, I meditated more, acupuncture became a weekly practice accompanied by chinese herbs, and I worked hard on self-love. And then—my biggest challenge— making friends with healers. Opening my mind so much that I could actually believe, for just a second, in something as silly as astrology. GASP.  But it helped! And then, reiki. And that helped. And then water blessings and neuro- feedback, group meditations, yoga, prayer, chakras, crystals, and getting hugged by Amma.   My  body sucked up this new way of life, like I was a plant that hadn’t been watered in a decade. I became a person that craved group meditations, green juices, acupuncture and reiki. Love gave me sunshine and alternative-medicine (in whatever form) gave me water, and some time later, I started to fucking bloom.

Becoming open to any possible form of healing has made me free— my life has become boundless with so many options. Yeah, I’ll talk about the power of crystals with an open mind, yeah I’ll talk about intuitions, heart, and powerful candles. I’ll also talk about all of the western approaches to healing that work—western medicine works when used correctly. I don’t give a shit what we are talking about as long as it’s something that helped someone else get closer to wellness realized. I light candles and I turn on an essential oil diffuser, and I sit on a yoga block while I practice breathing into my belly—INTO MY FIRST CHAKRA. I believe in magic because why not? In my experience and from what I’ve seen, you have to believe a little bit in magic and pixie dust if you want to beat Lyme disease. Beating Lyme disease isn’t even my priority anymore—thriving is my priority, and I won’t let any of my judgments, my resentment or my fear of being seen fully as a human get in the way of my best life. Healing from the inside-out is healing that lasts. I don’t know about you, but I intend to thrive for many many many many years to come.

With fun and love and weird ju ju,

Jackie

PS: Please use your discretion when choosing people to work with! OK? My “team”  came highly recommended to me by people I trust.

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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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How I became High Maintenance: A Top 10 List of how Illness Changed my Life

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10. I wear therapeutic bras: That’s right. One of my bras looks like the bra Robin William’s wore to play Mrs. Doubtfire. Yes, the under garments of my sexy 28 year old body are that of a 50 year old drag queen. I started experiencing regular breast pain just months into my diagnosis. I braced myself before each hug, I couldn’t lay on my belly, and it hurt like hell to take my bra off OR put it on.I had the intuitive thought one day, “what if it’s the underwire?” It did seem like every time I had a longish stint of being braless (YEAH I’m one of those lucky bitches- I don’t need a bra) I’d notice less pain. So, I tried it out. I found a bunch of underwire free yet supportive bras and, within a month, the pain completely went away and has yet to come back. Even DURING PMS, I’m not in much pain. You can hug me, shake me, accidentally bump into me, and, most importantly, SQUEEZE me. I highly suggest both sexy underwire free bras from Free People, sports bras, and SERIOUS therapeutic bras from “True& Co”- I promise, you’re even sexier for taking care of yourself.

9. I stay caught up on current events: This might seem like something I should have been doing for the last decade but, unfortunately, I was not that person. Seven years ago, I actually thought that Newt Gingrich was a town in New England, and I was like, “what’s all the fuss about Newt Gingrich- must be like the Hamptons’ of Maine.” I didn’t even know New England was a part of America until I was like 12 when my father suggested I attend college in “New England” and I cried because I didn’t want to be across the ocean. Geography is not my strong suit. So it’s pretty shocking that, these days, I’m the super annoying person that’s all, “Did you hear about Putin? The shooting? The blizzard? the oscars? Paris? Syria? Isis? Donald fucking Trump. Ted Cruz is a canadian. David Bowie is dead. Theres a new show coming to BBC, BERNIE SANDERS, abortion, immigration….” I often want to talk about the news because it’s the first time in my life I know what’s going on so I’m gonna capitalize on that shit. With illness, came a lot of time on my hands and some extra curiosity. Turns out, it’s VERY simple to stay in the loop. NY Times emails, Twitter, and some NPR, and you are swimming in information. All I really needed was a reason to sit still and Lyme Disease gave me an excess of that.

8. Phone Time: You probably loathe the idea of calling a customer service rep about something- OH just the thought of listening to that atrocious hold music that makes you question whether or not you even want a phone anymore! Yeah, it’s the worst. It’s also a part of my daily life. My speed dial consists of the phone numbers of my medical insurance, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and my assigned case workers at various government- run agencies. It’s exhausting and, at a certain point, these calls are unproductive and actually harmful to my well-being. Therefore, I limit my calls- I can no longer attack these institutions with incessant dialing and yelling. Instead, I balance. I make one call, maybe two , a day and then spend the rest of my day not thinking about my medical “to-do’s.” I’m a lucky MOFO with lots of friends which means that outside of these “hours of operation” calls, my phone buzzes constantly. You know that airplane mode button on your nifty little device- the one that makes you appear off the damn grid. I USE IT- often. I’m an airplane mode PRO. When I need quiet time, decompressing time, or time to just be unavailable, I swipe up, click left, and take a deep breath. My phone is almost never on past 10 pm or before 10 am. Nothing is urgent enough for me- I am not the President…of anything.

7. I breathe (more deeply, and more frequently): I’m a distracted, fidgety, impatient, and excitable human, and that has been my lifelong default setting. Even when I had time to sit still or relax, I couldn’t focus. When I moved to LA at 24, my restlessness reached a new extreme. I stopped reading, watching TV, meditating, writing, or like, just sitting. I had so much extra anxiety which I medicated with work and exercise– I worked about 4 different jobs, and in between shifts went rollerblading, conquered the rings, took hot yoga, went running, and discovered new trails to explore. I did anything that induced emotional numbing via movement. I mean, I was avoiding my wildly painful grief and heartbreak-  my body was incredibly smart. I sit still today. I need to. First, it was forced and felt like torture. Now, it’s voluntary and I often enjoy it.  I need quiet time. I write for about 2 hours every morning. I average about 45 minutes of reading everyday, an hour of TV time, and 10 minutes of meditation. AT some point, every afternoon, I put my phone in airplane mode and nothing is allowed except a book or TV for one hour. I get more done now, too. Who knew?

6. I’m much tidier: About a year into being sick, I got the advice to make my home a serene, healing environment that I loved being in. I hadn’t had a “serene” environment pretty much ever in my life (except for those 2 years I lived on Maui). I grew up in chaos, and, as an adult, I was NEVER home (see number 7) so I didn’t need a nice environment. I was also a total hoarder- a saver of everything that might have the slightest meaning. I lived in survival mode so I was always like, “I might need that one day!” Things were cluttered, confused, and chaotic. Not anymore! I’m creating a peaceful, joyful, and organized living space for myself. I put things away when I’m done with them, hang my jackets up when I get home, I almost always know where my keys are, and I open bills as soon as they come in. I throw things away or GIVE THEM AWAY as soon as I no longer need them, AND..I make my damn bed daily! Marie Kondo, the NYT bestselling author of, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” has been my main source of inspiration. Check her out! I no longer have the luxury of making a mess and being OK with it.

5.What I spend my money on- Gone are the days of reckless spending on that shirt, that trip, and those shoes. Today, almost all of my money gets spent on supplements (hundreds of dollars a month), natural treatments like acupucture, and the most expensive food in the market. It’s hard to hustle which means it’s hard to have an excess of money to spend, and, when there is some extra money, I’m way more excited about that juice cleanse, or spirulina powder than I am about the Jeffrey Campbell shoes. I DO, of course, occasionally buy something for fun, or take a trip, but it’s always well thought out. I buy it because it brings me the kind of joy that will, in fact, enhance my physical, mental or spiritual wellbeing.  It’s unreasonably expensive to keep myself alive which brings us to..

4. FOOD- I grew up with a mother who told me “raisinets” were healthy because “at least they have raisins in them.” I grew up on powdered soups and the occasional steak or meatloaf dinner. I loved creamed spinach and creamed corn, and I considered these excessively healthy options. So, when I entered my late teens and started eating Kale, quinoa, veggie burgers, cottage cheese, almonds, and fruit, by god, I thought I couldn’t get healthier. I mean, I was a pack a day smoker but kale cancels that out, right? I had no idea what the world of wellness and clean eating actually looked like. The exclusions in my diet, today, were strategically made to 1,) starve Lyme and inflammation/ keep my body in an alkaline state and 2.) to rebuild my immune system so it can work it’s magic. I do not consume any eggs, pork, gluten, dairy, sugar, canola oil, MSG, natural flavors, corn, soy, or citric acid. This means that I read every ingredient label detecting for one of these ingredients and, if it’s on there, I don’t eat it. It’s intense. Go try to buy an in store hummus or frozen veggie patty that has no canola oil, citric acid, eggs, or soy in them. It’s hard AND expensive. What I find surprising, though, is the consistent follow-up question I’m posed with, “what DO you eat?” I mean, I eat everything that isn’t on that list which is like more foods than I could possibly fit into this paragraph. I eat organic veggies, fruit, grains, legumes, oils, meats, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and my signature 2 raw cloves of garlic a day. Yeah, I stink. I drink enough water to have earned the nickname, “Hydration bully,” and i also love me some coconut water or celery juice. But let’s get really real: I drink coffee- it’s pretty much the most joyful substance in my life, I eat potato chips that are like organic and made with coconut oil (but still..) and sometimes I cheat BIG: I’ll just say “fuck it,” and house an “In N Out” burger, or pizza, or ramen, or a cupcake, or movie theater popcorn WITH butter. It’s rare that I cheat BIG because it’s totally not worth the follow-up pain, but I don’t want to pretend to do this stuff perfectly..

3. I’m softer : UHM NO- I am not talking about my atrophying muscles, inner critic, but thanks for the reminder. GEEZ, sometimes my head is such an asshole. What I have is a softer heart and outlook- a softer experience around my own humanity and yours. Pre- illness, I could be harsh and judgmental of the human experience. My standards for humanity were irrational, unreasonable, IMMORTAL. I blamed people for their suffering, “they brought it on themselves, that will never happen to me” kind of attitude. For example, a few years back, I was very good friends with a woman who was struggling with an unknown illness, and I suggested that if she simply leave her destructive romantic relationship, she’d probably get better. Sure, I do believe that toxic relationships can do great harm to the body, but, in the end, I was blaming her. I wanted it to be her fault that she was sick. Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY, wants to be sick. I’m not so scared of human experiences today. When people tell me about their divorce, illness, miscarriage, abortion, heartbreak, financial trouble, etc.. I feel for them and hold a loving space for them. Look into Dr. Brene Brown’s talk on empathy vs. sympathy. Being sick taught me a shit load about true empathy. Today, I’m also not as demanding of myself or others. People are allowed to make mistakes in my world today. Even more importantly, I AM allowed to make mistakes today. We really are all just doing the best we can. Here’s to an imperfect practice of this thing called life!

2.Aint Nobody Got Time For That!: AKA: I have a very limited number of fucks to give. OR, the more popular phrase, I have a limited number of “spoons.”  The “spoonie” term and theory was deveoped by Christine Miserandino and is now used worldwide by sick and suffering people to describe the sensation I am calling “a limited number of fucks to give.” When you are a healthy person, each day comes with an unlimited number of possibilities, but when you have something like chronic illness dictating how many possibilities you get that day, you are a “spoonie.” The idea is that we wake up in the morning with just a few spoons to use and each time we use one, we’ve got one less- our energy is a little more depleted. So we have to be strategic every. single. day. My strategy: I do not welcome anything into my life that doesn’t support me emotionally, mentally, or physically. I’m on a mission for total wellness. If it doesn’t enhance my spirit or my health, it GOES. For me, that included a few relationships- those hurt the most. The best advice I ever got around illness is this: “Do what feels good all day long.” It’s amazing how when I started focusing on only the things that feel good, how much more I started saying NO to people, and how much started falling away from my life. When it was life or death and I was forced to put my every action under a magnifying glass, I realized that I was engaging in a lot that didn’t ultimately serve my highest purpose. What an incredible awareness!

1.I’m an insomniac- I have NEVER had sleep issues. I didn’t know jack about how painful insomnia was. My brother, on the other hand, has been suffering from it all of his life. When I was a kid, I’d wake up all casually well rested (like an asshole) and I’d pass by my brother’s room and see him in some sort of rotated, mutated form, looking like a wild animal that had taken a tranquilizer dart to the face mid outburst and finally, with one last squeal, passed out. He could never wake up in time, he was always moody, and I judged him. No wonder he hated me. When I got sick with Lyme, it came on slowly. First, I just couldn’t sleep through the morning sun. Then, I had a hard time falling asleep. And then, nine months later, I STOPPED SLEEPING. First I tried household drugs: Nyquil, benedryl, and dramamine- sometimes, feeling desperation around 3 am, a combination of a few. Nothing worked. I was now not only sick, and on zero sleep but also heavily drugged and emotional. I started crying all of the time- just constantly. My good friend always reminded me that sleep deprivation is a legitimate form of torture used by military systems worldwide. It’s true- watch Zero Dark Thirty, or Homeland- sleep deprivation is the first tactic. Just imagine being more exhausted than you’ve ever been and incapable of sleeping for nights on end. People are always confused, “But if you’re exhausted all of the time, shouldn’t you just be able to sleep?” Jonathan Franzen says in The Corrections, “his tiredness hurt so much it kept him awake..”  That’s what it’s like. My face hurt, my body hurt, my anxiety was unmanageable. When it came time to try to sleep, it felt like Satan was taking control of my body. I’m NOT kidding. To date, I have been prescribed Trazadone, Ambien, Valium, Kolonipin, and tried every natural version of sleep medicine you can name. I have had varying experiences with each drug. Nothing truly worked, guys- not until I started getting healthier. I could be awake for a full 60 hours in terrible flares. I could have walked 5 miles in a day, or done yoga, meditated, stretched, had no caffeine, done an infrared sauna, not eaten for 3 hours before bed, watched something soothing, listened to whale music, classical music, EMDR, focused on my breath, prayed my ass off and/ or done ALL of those in one day AND, STILL, NO SLEEP. Any solution you had for me, I tried. These also came with varying degrees of success rates. I’ve done yoga, taken a hot bath, popped a valium, then had my back rubbed while I was sung to and, GUESS WHAT, NO SLEEP. That shit is rough. Today, I sleep. I don’t sleep well necessarily, but I mostly sleep. Sometimes it’s with the assistance of Valium but more often it’s with “Tranquil Sleep-” the most potent natural sleep aid. I focus on my breathing, I don’t let the negative thoughts take over, BUT, when I’m in super bad shape physically, I still can’t sleep. IT’S PART OF THE ILLNESS, and it sucks. I repeat- the MAIN thing that has made my sleep better was getting healthier. I beg of you, be compassionate and understanding and loving towards people who cannot sleep (whether they are sick or not)- including yourself.
If you stuck with me for this long and read all of those then I have a little gift for you. I have a number “zero” bonus feature. Guess what I talk about now more than ever in my whole damn life? Did you guess Bowel Movements? That’s right. Us sick folk are just CONSTANTLY being asked how our bowel movements are. And then, we start talking about it together or doing things like coffee enemas. My dear friend and business partner for “wellness companions” sent me a coffee enema kit and said, “we can Skype for your first one in case you need help!” NOTHING WEIRD HERE, GUYS… just all of us trying to manage our own shit and stuff.

With Fun and Love,

Jackie.

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