Clean Eating: My “Controversial” Diet

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I gave up booze and drugs at the startling age of 17—the age many (or most?) people are just getting started. Jaws still drop when I mention in passing that I, in fact, do not drink and haven’t in over a decade, but the news doesn’t land with the same deafening impact it did in my early twenties when my peers found such a choice to be blasphemous. I am no stranger to the often judgmental— but sometimes inquisitive— reaction I get from strangers or new friends (or even “friends”) about my lifestyle choices. Choice. If you want to call it that. But I quit drinking because it was destroying me and I really want to live…fully and vibrantly. And in order to LIVE fully, vibrantly, and, ironically, limitlessly—I now follow an extremely strict diet as well, a diet that generates the same jaw-dropping, mind-boggling reaction— “Why do you do that to yourself?  What DO you eat? Do you have any fun, ever? How do you do it?” I’d like to address these questions I am faced with almost daily.

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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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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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Lyme Disease Stripped me Down to Human.

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I felt like I was hitting my stride toward the end of 2013—25 years old, single, sexy, and with a whole world of options in front of me. It seemed like I had absolutely everything I needed to succeed in life. Most importantly, I was young, healthy and pretty. Yes, I had those bonus things like being talented, smart, and ballsy. Blah blah blah. But first and foremost, I was young, healthy and pretty. And living in Los Angeles— just to be cliché. I sat outside of a coffee shop in Franklin Village, LA, drinking coffee with my friend Nick. Franklin and Bronson is a very “Hollywood” corner,  densely populated by improv actors and screenwriters having coffee-shop-meetings about their upcoming “projects.” Nick and I sat rolling our eyes at every opportunity but also. . . entirely fitting in with the crowd.

Clad in a black dress decorated with a gold zipper  running snug down the center , accentuating  my small waist line and coming to an abrupt stop just a couple of inches below my crotch,  drawing attention to my legs which looked extra long thanks to my five- inch- high, colorful, hippie-swag platforms, I giddily listened to Nick’s compliments, “god damn you look hot. My lord. You need to walk around like that all of the time, you’ll get an agent in a second.” I smirked—knowing exactly what kind of sparkle my blue eyes made when I smirked because I had spent way too much time smirking at myself in the mirror. . .for practice, I guess.  I thought I had already swallowed my daily prescription of validation when I noticed a man at the next table looking at me intently. He was smoking, had overly manicured black hair and hopped- up energy. His energy is what exposed him as a James Dean wannabe rather than a James Dean look a like. I had no interest in him romantically, but I was curious to find out what words were sitting on the edges of his eyes, the cliffs of his tongue.  On our way out, as I sauntered past his table, he stopped me. Through a manic lisp, he spoke with a sense of urgency—anxious to get something out of life, to go somewhere he wasn’t, passionate or painfully discontent, I wasn’t sure— he asked if he could photograph me. I could barely get a word in, he lit another cigarette, complimenting me up and down on how “interesting” I was, how perfectly “symmetrical like Charlize Theron,” how “hot my body” was my “legs,” my “hair.” He was sure (something that is amateurish in this town—all the pros know that there’s no such thing as a “done deal” until you get to set or get your check) that if he photographed me *free of charge* he could hook me up with the best agent in town. After he took out his iPad and showcased his truly spectacular fashion and portrait photography, I agreed to take his card and contact him. He complimented me five more times before we finally walked away, and when we were just out of ear shot, Nick laughed, “literally all you need to do is go outside and opportunities meet you. HA! You lucky bitch.” An opportunity met me, alright. That one exchange changed my life forever. That one exchange, that one meeting  was the beginning of my strip poker game with life—the game that stripped me of pretty (and almost everything else I identified myself with) and left me profoundly HUMAN.

Nick was right, it had been a fact—my looks got me stuff. Sure, being an “attractive female” comes with its own set of dilemmas: I’ve had a serious stalker, I’ve been talked AT in demoralizing ways, middle-aged men did shady things to me when I was much too fucking young, my father carried around my headshot telling people I was his wife (YUP), and I often felt like my only  noticed asset was that I was fuckable—like that was my only earned girl-scout badge, if you will. I’m not sure if being “attractive” was the motivator of such treatment or if “female” did the trick on its own. A combination of the two plus the undeniable fact that when I entered a room,my palpable sexual energy preceded me(something we can just blame, if you don’t mind, on the fact that I was born a Scorpio) was sometimes heavily troublesome. But, I’m somewhat ashamed to say, it was never something that really bothered me. We are all so often judged on our physical appearance and if my appearance was one that sparked endless attention, free stuff, and “any guy I wanted to have,” it didn’t seem like something to complain about. For me, being a pretty girl won me my father’s affection, got me through grade school and junior high mildly tormented but NOT completely abused. Being pretty earned me a seat at the “cool kids’ table” like two or three times; “pretty” became synonymous with “enough,” and that’s when being pretty got me into real trouble. When it was the prime definitive quality about me. That “pretty” was something that I relied on— that I needed as my sort of fall-back plan on a daily basis—THAT was a problem. And, I’m blessed/cursed with self-awareness so I knew it was a problem, and I knew that, at some point, I was going to have to learn another way. I was waiting for the day that I would have to learn about self-worth based in something else—like an amazing career, child-bearing, a PhD, or volunteering for countless hours. The day would come when I’d have to earn my space on this planet for reasons other than being print-ad material. What I didn’t know was how and when I would be shown. And, apparently I was way off about what I was going to learn. I didn’t learn that self-worth and meaning was found in a three-piece suit career at an accounting firm with problem acne and a child at home. I didn’t learn that hours of volunteer work earned me a girl-scout badge that said something other than “fuckable.” My “lesson” wasn’t in the form I expected—I mean, is it ever? What I learned is that I don’t have to do or be a damn thing to earn my space here. That I don’t need any badges AT ALL. And just so the Universe could make it interesting and have a laugh, my  lesson started on a photoshoot—a photoshoot where I was trying to prove both my looks and my coolness.

I contacted the photographer from Franklin Village; I knew exactly what I wanted to add to my portfolio: “woodsy elegance.” I wanted to capture my “nature”— both glamorous and adventurous— my simultaneous love affair with the dirt of the mountains that welcomed worn-in hiking boots AND the concrete city streets that welcomed high heels and dresses made of silk and tulle. Capturing my “essence” (not my essence at all—those are just bullshit definitions I attached myself to) meant going to the woods and rolling around in piles of leaves in a short dress. See where I might be going with this?

It was November 17th 2013, four days before my 26th birthday, and a miserable day–I was betraying myself just to get some free photos, willing myself to sit through the discomfort of being objectified on this photo shoot. I don’t want to give the reader the wrong idea. The photographer had good intentions, and he did not physically harm me in any way, but I was extremely uncomfortable with our exchange that day, and I never spoke up about it. I felt dirty and just wanted to get the whole thing over with before dark. I rolled around in leaves, sat in piles of mud, climbed around on trees, and lied on all sorts of precarious terrain to get the shots I wanted all while he said things like, “lick you lips, hot hot hot.” In one milli- second of those two hours, I got bit by a tick—the mother load of ticks. The tick that , ironically,  stripped me of the attachment to my “worn in hiking boots” and the attachment to my “city strut” AND the tick that gave my voice its platform to stand on. I would never stay on a photoshoot that made me that uncomfortable today. NO WAY.  Not to mention the LOL that I paid a high fucking price for those free set of photos—literally like 40,000 dollars of medical bills, I’m not even trying to be figurative.

When those bumpy, itchy, unattractive rashes broke out on my body, leaving me uncomfortable being scantily clad for the first time in my life, I was immediately thrown for a loop—what does one do with physical insecurities? And that was just week two of an *almost* three year long journey. I panicked at the sight of those rashes, frightened that I had psoriasis—god forbid. I was so vain and so scared of losing my “looks” that when the doctor told me I had Lyme disease, I was like, “oh cool, well, at least that won’t SHOW. Sure, it *could potentially* affect my heart and brain and nerves, but, like, you won’t see it. It’s not psoriasis.” Then the antibiotics gave me a really bad yeast infection—next-level yeast, people. So, I didn’t feel my sexiest, and I had a new scar where they biopsied one of my rashes, but whatever. I still recognized myself—or the self I had come to identify with that wasn’t really myself at all—the self that lived riding the coat tails of my looks.

About nine months and 1,000 pills later, something confusing was happening. My energy, vibrance and vitality were shutting down, like one room going dark at a time until the whole house was pitch black and haunting.  I didn’t know how to move through such unknown territory. I didn’t know how to find the door out, and I had lost my most dependable resource: my beauty.

My back slowly grew more and more hunched until I was horizontal, laid out by life. My hair started thinning and stopped growing, my eyes got dark, I dropped to below 100 pounds, my cheeks lost their pink youthful essence and, at one point, went yellow And then, one day, I needed a wheelchair (or piggy back rides) if I was going to be walking for any extended time. The mirror, something that had been almost like a friend to me all of my life (maybe even my best friend), became my enemy. What I saw looking back at me disturbed me. My reflection, once upon a time, offered me an endorsement, and it was suddenly the catalyst for deep self-loathing and fear. I could not stomach taking a selfie— I feared the camera. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want my picture taken, I feared being tagged in photos on Facebook, and I feared walking into rooms of people without my sexual, flirty, fun, and hot armor. I felt like a lightless, somber ghost of myself. I could no longer confidently strut around. I sheepishly hung my head, feeling invisible or worse—like an unwanted burden. Men stopped noticing me, girls stopped looking up to me, and I stopped noticing myself. My flirty, fun, pretty self was like a costume I zippered up tightly every day—it literally held me together, and without it, I was truly naked, vulnerable, and terrified. GUTS were spilling out. And so I did all there was to do if I was going to get well (and I would do anything to get well): I learned to love myself naked, vulnerable and terrified—I learned to love my guts. I learned that I am worthy just because I am. I didn’t have to do or be anything other than human to take up space and receive love.

One day, after two years of self-love affirmations and deep inner-healing, I was walking past my bathroom mirror and I saw something—something I had never seen before. What was meant to be a quick glance at myself  before I turned the light off instead gave me great pause. I stopped abruptly, turning to face the mirror to investigate what I was seeing. It was so new. So different. I didn’t see my face, my eyes, my hair, my weight, my skin, or anything external. I saw something so beyond the shell that I am, I saw into the vastness, the boundless spirit that is my true self, and she was so mother fucking beautiful that I had to just stand there crying and appreciating her for a few more moments. Without thinking,  I put my hand on my heart—my fierce human heart— and said out loud,”I appreciate you.” And I meant it. I felt like I was taking my first fresh breath of air in my whole life—like I had legitimately never taken an unpolluted breath or seen myself so pure. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I was basically reborn. And then that moment passed. . .probably as soon as I went on Facebook and compared myself to someone else.

It ebbs and flows, there still are days when I can’t believe how weathered I look. But, far more often, I feel like a warrior princess queen. The letting go and the surrender to being human—uncool and unpretty—sucked,  but do you know what happens after you shed the old skin? You grow brand new skin! AND you have a say in what it looks like this time around. You get to choose what baggage to keep and what to let go of, you get to choose precisely who you want to be. My skin is radiant. People are commenting on how vibrant I look, how pink my cheeks are, how clear my eyes are, and how it’s nice that I have a little more weight on me. But that’s not the payoff. Well yes it is, it’s certainly part of the payoff that I’m looking good and feeling mostly good again —I wouldn’t do all of this hard work if getting well and FEELING vibrant wasn’t part of the deal. The *other* miracle, for me, is that I don’t need your validation. The payoff is that I see way beyond the boundaries of my shell and into the vastness, the MAGIC that I truly am. I have yet to find any wardrobe or girl-scout badge more sparkly or more interesting than human. 

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

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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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The Phlebotomist and My Body: Who’s in Charge Here?

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I was anxiously waiting for my name to be called in yet another poorly-lit waiting room. Doctor’s offices were once just an occasional means to an end: I went feeling shitty and I’d leave with a script from the omniscient doc to feel better. Now, they’re as common as my trips to the grocery store, and they no longer inspire hope but instead hopelessness. Lyme disease has both blessed and cursed me with a deep connection to my body so I KNOW immediately when something feels bad, and these rooms— they feel fucking bad. I waited, growing more anxious, feeling like I was stuck in a cage, wanting to see the sunlight, jealous of all of my friends enjoying the beautiful day. Call my name, call my name. I got up three times to check the sign-in sheet. Twitch, Check my phone, shift positions, take a sip of water, look at the clock, check my phone, try to focus on something else, and repeat. And one hour later, one second before I developed Trichotillomania, my name was called. However, this is always a false sense of relief since all that happens in this time is that I get to stretch my legs while I’m ushered into the next room where I’m asked to wait just a liiitttttlllee while longer. This particular experience was at Quest Diagnostics, a lab for drawing blood, so I felt extra annoyed that what could take five minutes —IF PEOPLE WERE FUCKING INTELLIGENT— was becoming a full-blown interruption to my evening. The woman who was about to draw my blood directed her stink of apathy at the computer screen, never even looking at me. I hated her for it— she wouldn’t even acknowledge me if we were riding an elevator together yet she was about to wrap a giant rubber band around my bicep so that my veins screamed and then jab a sharp object into the one of her choosing. I sat staring at her. FUCK YOU: ACKNOWLEDGE ME. Acknowledge the person whose information you’re staring at: You know my full name, birthday, weight, height, marital status, physical ailments, and my fucking financial bracket based on insurance so LOOK UP AND SAY HI. I was super moody. When she finally turned around, it was to grab my arm, get a vein, and stick me (I get stuck with needles at least three times a month so it’s not like I’m a stranger to the sensation or super uneasy about it anymore). This one hurt, and the fact that I had been holding my breath in anger for almost 2 hours wasn’t helping. It hurt so much more than I had expected, and it didn’t stop hurting. It throbbed. I squealed which provoked her to unsuccessfully attempt pulling the rubber band off which only made the needle shift in my vein so it was jabbing me harder. “Stop pulling the rubber band,” I pleaded. “Oh my, I’ve never had this happen before, I’m sorry,” she kept saying. I didn’t believe her. She pulled the needle out and the crease in my elbow pulsed with no relief until I passed out.

When I finally came back to full(ish) strength, shivering because I had sweat so much, I started to cry. I felt so violated…again. I was flooded with memories of doctors, hands, and needles meddling with my body. I thought of all of the healthcare providers who treated me like a mere inconvenience. I was overwhelmed. After another few minutes of getting back into the present where there is infinite safety I realized, for the umpteenth time, that my body is so smart, and it was teaching me yet another lesson. I hadn’t been on point with my self-care the previous couple of days, and it was like my body needed a reset. I needed a reminder that self-care comes first — I had been pushing myself both physically and emotionally: I didn’t eat enough that day, I had rushed to the doctor’s office, I had packed my schedule too tightly resulting in anxiety, and I wasn’t giving myself space to process Ian being gone, my Mother being here, and IVIG dose number four starting the very next day. I was being hard on myself about finances and beating myself up for all sorts of things. I had gotten out of my habit of ninja-level self-care, unfairly leaving the weight of my needs on my phlebotomist which resulted in a loss of consciousness. Interesting.

It was a much easier time when I trusted “the doctor.” I was taught to always trust medical professionals. “The doctor” always knew better: “what did the doctor say? did you go to the doctor? The doctor said you need to take this. The doctor said you were fine. The doctor said it’s just anxiety. The blood work came back fine so let it go..” I LOVED the virginal world of trusting people with any sort of medical degree. In 2013, I walked in to see my first lyme literate ND who happens to also be famous for her experience and research in the world of Lyme. I immediately undressed so she could see all of my rashes and, after 30 minutes of face-and ass-time, I left with prescriptions for three different antibiotics. She didn’t order any blood tests or get much of a history on me — she was busy and it was fine. I’m impatient anyway; I’ve always been on board for a quick-fix. Hence, I’ve always loved antibiotics. When the first round didn’t work, I gave over my credit card number freely for 15 minute conversations with this ND, and I took her advice for 10 solid months. I took something like 450 oral antibiotics over that time, prescribed by her. In all fairness, she continued to ask me if my body could handle them and I continued to say, “yes, if YOU think it will get me well then I can handle it.” I took crazy expensive herbs prescribed by her and my acupuncturist, never really researching anything. I didn’t want the responsibility of caring for myself, truth be told. Who does? I need so much —can’t “you” just do it? I was like, “charge my credit card, charge it however much you need, as long as you say what I’m buying will work.”  Then, one day, my body fought back and started screaming at me. I had not had that experience yet — the experience of being in -tune with my SELF. Up until then, ten months into illness, I simply dosed myself as much as possible, blindly letting my doctor do what was actually my job: decide what was right for my body. So when I started experiencing a profound weakness every time I went to grab a bottle of antibiotics, I was confused. I would gag at the thought of swallowing another pill, I could actually feel my muscles weaken when I went to open a bottle. I couldn’t deny that my body was telling me something. It was shouting at me to STOP.

In retrospect, that’s when my recovery truly began: November of 2014. I needed a new treatment plan. It was between getting a PICC line and going the all- natural route(something I had NEVER in my life wanted to touch. I was madly pro quick-fix, and nothing about chewing on celery seemed quick to me). I had two friends in my life, both of whom had recovered from Lyme, one with a PICC line and the other all-naturally. But they gave me the same advice, “listen to your body, only you know what is best for your body. No one can tell you what to do, everyone is different.” This is true especially with elusive illnesses like Lyme disease where there truly is NO ONE WAY to getting better. Each body is different, and listening to my own intuition was the best advice I could have received .It was so clear. I knew, for some reason, that the only hope for my recovery was a natural route— healing from the inside-out. I began seeing certain medical professionals that treated me with kindness and care, and I started treating myself,  researching and listening first and foremost to my body through all different kinds of herbs and treatments. I was improving, but I wasn’t getting nearly as well as I wanted to be. Again, I listened to my body and to what was being shown to me by “the Universe,” if you will, and all signs pointed to Ozone therapy with a Doctor, who treated many Lyme patients  with success (now including me!), in Bali, Indonesia. It was in Bali that I first noticed just how much my relationship to my body had changed.

Lying on a long, flat medical table in a dark room finished with medical equipment that reminded me of a mad-scientists basement, I was waiting anxiously to get stuck with my next needle for round two of Ozone. The previous needle had brought me close to fainting, but after my best friend spooned sweet tea into my mouth, I recovered just fine. My doctor, a warm, light-hearted Balinese man in flip-flops, was leaning over me, his shirt falling on my face, gripping my forearm in search of a juicy vein. Squeeze- nothing there. Squeeze harder ..HARDER… a little something but not enough. Then he shifted to my left arm while his nursing assistant kept hold of my right.Get off of me, get off of me. Tears formed, I grew hot, and my body was shaking. I wanted to be treated with delicacy. That was the first time I realized I was traumatized from all of the doctors who grabbed me, touched me, poked me, dismissed me, misdiagnosed me, and mistreated me. My body, the same body I had abandoned and dismissed, the same body I had betrayed (especially when I went to visit the doctor) the 27 years prior, was now like my own child: I had lost my naivety, and I knew that if I didn’t protect my body then NO ONE would. Treating myself with such delicacy and love has been a major factor in recovery. Ever since I started being my own greatest ally, it’s been an uphill journey—albeit slow as fuck because apparently I needed a lesson in patience, but uphill nonetheless.

My doctor in Bali wasn’t doing anything wrong (he needs to find a vein) and my ND, though over-saturated with patients and a bit careless, was doing what I asked of her: more antibiotics! My phlebotomist, that bitch from last week, wasn’t NECESSARILY doing anything wrong either. My doctors aren’t supposed to act like the parents I never had (which I seem to just expect from EVERYONE). In this confusing world of illness, where I am so powerless over so much, including certain provider’s bedside manners, AND competency, I can focus on the one thing i do have power over: self-care. Am I showing myself the kindness and love that I wish the medical world would show me? Am I eating enough, drinking enough, and resting enough? Am I welcoming joy and wellness into my life? Am I keeping my schedule manageable? Am I turning to my friends for help with doctors appointments and blood-draws and IVIG treatments? If I think I’m not getting the right treatment, it is my job to first listen to what my body needs, second to do the research and see how I can get my needs met, then walk into a doctor’s office and advocate hard for myself. A doctor, like everyone else, is ICING ON THE CAKE. First, I need to bake the cake. I AM IN CHARGE HERE.

With Fun, love, and power,

Jackie

PS: for support on your journey with illness, we are here

 

 

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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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My Top 10 Simple and Affordable Wellness Suggestions

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This week, I’m in my second of twelve IVIG treatments. Five days in a row, six hours a day, I’m receiving IV Immunoglobulin therapy. It’s really hard on my body. I’m writing to you with an IV in my right hand (I was too out of it to take the practical idiocy of this into account- I’m a “righty” and I can’t get my hand wet.So I’m filthy)   an IV in my left arm, and some kind of head, neck, and back pain that has kept me up too many hours of the nights/ early mornings. I am mostly miserable. Considering the circumstances, for this weeks post, I’m going to take my business partner, Eva Fischer’s advice: “It’s OK to Can’t” and keep it simple.

Here is my tailor-made list of simple and affordable healing “musts.” Just to be clear: this is MY list- formed from 2 1/2 years of experience and many wise suggestions from fellow “spoonies” and some doctors. I’m simply sharing my experience. I’m not suggesting it’s the only way…I’m suggesting you create your own list.
But I’m definitely right on all accounts. 🙂

10. Sunshine: Vitamin D is an essential aspect of healing, and, it’s way more powerful to get it from the sun than to take it in supplement form. Fortunately, for those of us located in sunny parts of the world, it’s easy to step into a pool of sunshine and stay there for fifteen-thirty minutes. I understand it’s not that convenient for everyone. Regardless, I urge you to set aside time to let some of your skin touch the sun. It will lift your spirits and enhance your health. It’s important not to wear sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks vitamin D production. You can produce up to 25,000 IU of vitamin D between 15- 30 minutes of sunshine depending on other factors (skin tone, time of day, etc… ). Another quick FYI: glass blocks all UVB so, although it might boost your mood which is great, you will not get vitamin D if you are behind glass (glass= window).

9.Lymphatic Drainage: AKA: Exercise. I don’t use the word “exercise” because, if you’re like me, that word suggests something way more aggressive than what you might be capable of. Whatever it is you’re healing from will likely determine how much and what kind of movement you can do. It’s an individual quest to find the exercise that’s right for you. Regardless, I try to strategically move at some point in the day to assist in draining my lymph system. Light walks are a good call- you can even double fist it and get your sun time this way! Riding a bike (stationary or not) is amazing for draining, and usually really nice for my body. I often lay on my back with my legs up and pedal in the air. That is an effective and gentle way to move without causing too much strain on my body. It also ends up being a core work out which always makes me feel stronger and happier. If you have a trampoline,  use it! JUST MOVE A LITTLE.

8.Probiotics and stuff: Find your necessary supplements. I think it’s safe to say that probiotics are good for everyone. Your immune system starts in your gut and probiotics keep your gut healthy- it’s really simple. Take them in the morning on an empty stomach and at least 30-50 billion flora a day. If you’re on antibiotics wait AT LEAST two hours between abx and probiotics as abx just kill the good flora you’re taking. I also take magnesium, coQ10, Curcumin, esterC, L-lysine, and B complex daily among others. If you do some research you can find out what the best supplements are for you. God knows, I have tried them all , but it gets expensive and, so, I’ve found my most helpful ones and stick to them. It’s also important to give your cells a break as they get over saturated. Sometimes, I just take a day or two completely off.

7.Breathe: That’s right! This annoying word. This can come in the form of meditation, reading, watching TV, doing EMDR (I highly suggest the incredible EMDR anxiety release app- $5.00) or just sitting still and breathing. It’s so important to take deep breaths and avoid stress getting caught in my body. I’m no breathing expert. I forget to breathe  A LOT. I take my own suggestion to breathe usually around 3 or 5 am when I wake up in pain and with overwhelming thoughts about the future. I put a hand on my belly and just keep breathing into it- I keep returning my attention to whether or not I’m breathing until I fall back asleep. Take time, as often as possible, to take deep breaths and move your anxiety through instead of letting it get stuck. Stay present, do one thing at a time, and keep it simple. Stress IS never helpful or worthwhile. Sometimes, the greatest action I can take for my well-being is to breathe. Hint: Kundalini Yoga will keep you breathing 😉

6. Rest- STUPID REST. I have a negative physical reaction to that irritating word. But, alas, it has been made royalty in the well-being courts, and I bow down to it. I avoided rest for far too long, and I blame my restlessness for keeping me sick sometimes- so now, I try to take it very seriously. I turn off for the night, and make sure I have a full 8 hours of being in bed even if I’m not sleeping that whole time. I’ve found, I also need to take time midday. My personal goal is to take an hour every afternoon/ evening where I turn my phone off and do nothing but read, watch tv or lay still and breathe. On top of that, I need one FULL DAY OFF per week. That means, I have one day where I do not put any pressure on myself to accomplish ANYTHING. I understand that not everyone is lucky enough to be in this position (those of you with children). For those who can, I suggest a full day of expecting nothing of yourself but to eat, hydrate, take your supplements, and enjoy a day of rest! I’ve come to LOVE these days. From the girl who had a panic attack every time she was forced to sit still, that’s pretty incredible.

5. Gratitude lists-  I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I can always find PLENTY to be grateful for. That doesn’t mean we’re not all allowed some moments of sadness, anger, and even self-pity. SURE! Go for it! It’s all just practice. I’ve been practicing writing gratitude lists for almost a decade and the result has been profound. I was once such a complainer, and I rarely complain these days without a whole list of positives birthed from the very same place the complaints come from. Being sick can get really dark for me, and I’d say gratitude lists are the flashing lights that keep me moving through the tunnel. Get it? The light is not at the end of the tunnel- it’s here and now…when I’m grateful.

4.Joy- Find SOMETHING that lifts your spirits and do it!  Like gratitude, I can often, if not always, find some moments of joy in my day. Prior to writing this blog (which has been my recent source of joy), I picked up my camera and took a photo a day for 365 days.I can’t tell you how many times the simple act of taking some photos changed the whole of my experience for that day. Now, during the hardest time of my life, I have these photos to look at…something fun and positive came out of that shitty year. Whether it’s watching cartoons, listening to good music, dancing,  singing in the shower, or working on something I believe in, my cells crave joy, and I feel healthier and lighter when I give it to them.

3. Toxic free- I Removed as many toxins as possible. I replace any harsh toxic cleaners (bleach. yuck) with more natural cleaners (better yet just use baking soda and vinegar). I use aluminum free deodorant (try thai crystal- it does work!) I use a natural toothpaste, natural hand wash, dish cleaner, body soap, laundry detergent, and removed all forms of mercury from my life (fish, fish oil supplements, amalgam fillings). There are so many pollutants and harsh chemicals around us (and in our food) so I do my best to control what I can. I never, ever saw myself going this route, I was a bleach using, aluminum using, don’t give a fuck human. But, I’m on that mission for total wellness now 🙂

2.Eat- Unless I’m doing a cleanse of some sort that is good for me, I don’t stop eating nutritious food! Sometimes, our appetites suffer as a result of being sick, and I’ve certainly been there. When I cut all of the crap out of my diet and I was so sick, I had a really hard time staying on top of eating. I suddenly dropped 10 pounds which is a lot on my small frame. I started just force feeding myself three nutritious meals a day. Now I happily consume food. I seem to be hungry all of the time which is great news! My daily menu generally consists of this: Celery juice on an empty stomach, followed by a glass of water with my supplements, followed by coffee,then a smoothies of 2 bananas, 2 dates, a cup of wild blueberries and some sort of protein that I can take my xenostat with. Lunch is a giant (mostly raw) salad: I use two different kinds of greens, cucumber, celery, radish, hemp seeds, a full avocado smashed with raw garlic and lemon, an engine 2 black bean burger and Bragg’s organic olive oil. Dinner is usually a toss-up, but I tend to go for something like rice, beans, sweet potato mash or cauliflower mash with sautéed snap peas and a turkey patty. Obviously, I’m on an extremely strict diet. For snacks, I eat nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, lara bars, go raw Spirulina crackers, and gluten-free toast with coconut oil. I urge you to find the foods that are most important to your well-being and eat them everyday.

1. Stay Hydrated- OH! My favorite. My mother calls me the “hydration bully” for a reason. I average 2.5 liters of rehydrating fluids a day. It’s much harder for infection to live in an alkaline body, and one of the best ways to alkaline is by drinking water with citrus- for me, usually lemon or lime. It’s also super important to have a good filtering system!  Green juices are also hydrating especially straight cucumber juice or celery juice, and then, there’s the beloved coconut water! I make sure to buy organic coconut water with NOTHING ELSE in it and I usually squeeze some lime into it. Then there’s herbal teas, and making your own ginger tea which usually makes me feel really good. I just heat up some filtered water with sliced ginger in it and let it steep. I add lemon or cayenne if I’m feeling extra spicy. It’s SO important, especially if you’re participating in ANY detox methods to drink loads of water.
Speaking of hydration, I’m currently drinking coffee. I’ll be on my couch watching “A Big Fat Greek Wedding” until treatment is over.  We’re all just doing our best.

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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