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.

I do this FOR myself  because it is one of the things that saved my life. I do it because I prefer to be in a pain-free body. I do it because I like to have energy and sleep well and because I really really like that I have essentially starved Lyme disease out of my body. I do it because I  love to be alive and I love to feel alive. I do it because I was very sick and willing to do whatever I needed to get better and, as it turned out, I like this way of life a whole lot better. I do not feel deprived—I feel rich and fulfilled.

What do I eat?  I eat fruits,vegetables, all meat (with the exception of pork), rice, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate. That means I am free of alcohol, coffee, gluten, dairy (with the exception of goat dairy and ghee), refined sugar, soy, pork, eggs, corn, MSG, canola oil,  and any weird preservatives like citric acid.  And, yes, I have fun. I actually have much more fun because I’m healthy, which affords me the opportunity to actually go outside, exercise, socialize, work, and play. I have a big full life AND I have a big full menu of delicious foods to choose from. And for the people who earnestly ask me how to do it, for those of you who are also sick and looking to jumpstart your immune system or relieve a little pain or just clean up your act in hopes of a brighter future, below is a practical look at how I do it. But, first, a quick disclaimer: This is the diet that works for me. I deeply believe that we each have an ideal diet—I cannot say what’s best for you, listen to your body.

On an empty stomach every morning, I drink 16 oz of celery juice followed by filtered water and probiotics. Following that, I make a strong green tea blended with coconut oil and cacao powder.

Breakfast: A smoothie of 2 bananas, a cup of wild blueberries and pure hemp protein

Mid morning snack: Apples with almond butter or just apples OR Food for Life exotic black rice bread with sliced tomatos, avocado, and olive oil

Lunch: A big salad with kale, spinach, or arugula base and toppers of radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, hemp seeds, avocado mash, and a Sunshine, Engine 2, or Hillary’s veggie patty on top. Dressing is lemon, olive oil and salt.

Snacks: Carrot sticks, gluten free crackers, nuts, dark chocolate, Lara bars,

Dinner: Brown rice, steamed or sauteed veggies, black beans OR a turkey or beef patty OR a homemade soup and black rice bread OR brown rice pasta with pesto and some raw veggies.

Delicious and mostly clean comfort food: Coconut oil purple heirloom potato chips by Jackson’s Honest, Amy’s gluten free and dairy free mac and cheese, gluten free and vegan desserts (there are so many, be careful with this one—they’re still often full of sugar. Read ingredient labels), goat cheese and Jilz gluten free crackers. If you live in a big city then you would be surprised just how many options are out there of delicious tasting and clean foods. I have eaten many gluten free, dairy free pizzas in Los Angeles and I have MADE the creamist mashed potatoes using only cashews to make them creamy. It IS possible to enjoy this diet.

Favorite resources for cooking this way: Kriscarr.com, Anthony William medicalmedium.com, Soupelina (get the cookbook on amazon!) and my friends that have passed down incredible recipes and gems for superfoods to me.

Also: I cheat! I mean, I really cheat! Every once in awhile, I have the cake or the bread or the—I don’t know—ENTIRE brick of cheese. I love french fries and I love them with mayo and I try my damnest to balance out the fries with leafy greens, but I’m sure I’ve failed. Now, I usually retreat from these choices quickly since they don’t taste as good as they once did AND they don’t make me feel good but I’m telling you that “cheating” IS  a part of clean eating…for me, anyway.

Get your nutrients, enjoy your food, live your best life,  do not beat yourself up, and use this as a resource if you ever need it.

Fun and love,

Jackie

 

I Don’t Want to Lock up my Feelings

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When I was home for the holidays, a basket full of papers and old chachkies was handed to me. I was meant to sort through it and throw stuff out. It was like a grab-bag of old family memories—things that brought a smile to my face, others that made me grimace. I pulled out a purple book, decorated with Esmerelda from the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I immediately recognized it as the first journal I ever kept—I was 11. An age that I was unafraid of my passions, an age that offered a soft FULL heart and a spirt that, as an adult, I can’t quite find. As I read some of the brilliantly sweet things I wrote, I felt sad that I ended up taking such a violent detour, I felt inspired by my young self, and I laughed…hard.

I was a certifiable love addict, dreamer, and  codependent. But I also had the kind of innocent wisdom that we can use today, in this angering time. I can only hope it brings a smile to your face as well, reminding you of the simpler things and inspiring you to love.

“A journal is thoughts and feelings. It’s important. It’s called…MY BOOK OF TRUE FEELINGS.” 

“I’m excited. Did you ever know what you want and then never let go of that feeling of wanting and nervousness if you’re gonna take the right road or not? Well, I want to be an actress. I have that feeling. It’s actually kind of a scary feeling. I’m feeling tired. Goodnight.” 

“Why do I want some dreamy way of getting a boyfriend? Ugh hormones….not really.” 

“I want a baby. Not like every other girl wants a baby.More than that. I feel like I could be the real #1 mom. I dream about that day where I get all sweaty and push so hard and cry and say ‘it’s a girl/boy’ I’m going to love that day and that baby more than anything.” 

“I can’t wait for that moment where I know that I’m falling in love. I want to say I love you to a man and mean it. I don’t know why some people say it when they don’t mean it. I know what love is. And I’m lucky that I know what it feels like and I love the feeling. It feels like nothing could happen. You’re nourished. It’s like sweetness of sugar which always gets you hyper and excited. You close your eyes and dream up this wonderful and clueless feeling and have that feeling every minute of the day. I hear the whistle of the wind and the beat of my heart. And at the same time I hear ‘I love you.’ “

“I’ve been thinking and I’ve decided to look at the way things are better than worse. I want to tell you about this book. I got it from Oma and Opa and used it as a diary. But I wrote stupid things so I ripped those pages out and made it the book of true feelings. I took the lock off because I don’t want to lock up my feelings. I don’t even hide the book!” 

“Mom had to get a tissue sample this morning. I was so nervous. It felt like the world stopped and I had to hold it in my hands until I knew Mom was OK. It was hard for me. It took strength. She’s OK. I was relieved when I came home from school and found out it was just menopause. The world began again and as I opened my sweaty hands and released my breath everything felt like a rose at that moment.” 

“Some people can have so much fun spinning in circles but sometimes you have to watch your step. You could end up falling.” 

“I’ve been unreal lately. I’m not sure exactly what I’m talking about but it’s a feeling that I have. What’s next? The feeling of lateness, cruelness, sadness? If only we could know ahead of time.You have to take a guess and when your guess is wrong it could do damage.”If heaven has ponies and big fluffy clouds then why does earth have to be fighting  and littering. Why must we have wars and death? I wish everyday could be a happy day. I wish that for one day nobody would fire a gun or do anything to hurt themselves or another person. I want to keep writing forever and ever.” 

“I feel sad lately. One day makes no difference all it is, is the day before today and days pass so quickly sometimes. I feel like I’m not even living. I dream of getting married. I used to dream about going into Junior High School. Soon I’ll go to High School. I still remember Kindergarten. I feel like I’m 100 years old.” 

“Why do some people like to be mean and make fun of the handicapped? The answer is they want to fit in. It makes me sad.” 

“I love someone. I feel it. I wish I knew who! I’m beginning to feel cries on the inside like my stomach is bubbling. I think I like Dennis. I THINK. I know I like Nick. I KNOW. As a matter of fact, I think I love him.”

“I started crying but I don’t know why. Something hurts me but I don’t know what.” 

“I’m full of tears lately. Over the silliest things. If everything could be exactly as you waned then it wouldn’t be life. I wish that everyday we could have something to look forward to. Some people have that. What’s going on? I’m changing…almost like Jekyl and Hyde. I wish I could wake up happy every morning, but I can’t. And that’s life.” 

 

3 years later, I wrote one entry:

“I’ve taken a new outlook on life: Fuck the world. It’s working good.” 

Here’s to getting back to our purer hearts.

Fun and love,

Jackie

How I Step Into the New Year

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It was hours before midnight, and I was already wasted. Running around in shredded jeans that put my hip bones on display, a tight red, spaghetti- strap shirt that revealed the push- up- bra- boobs of a teenager, and a pair of red sunglasses just to complete the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” look, I was not making mom and dad proud. The New Years Eve party I attended was at my own house—my parents’ friends, my friends, and my brother’s friends shared the space in one excitable gathering. We had been throwing these parties for years, but that would be our last one—the last time we could pretend to be somewhat functional. Although, I’m not sure we had anyone fooled.  My father was only half present that year, leaving the room every so often to take a hit— an omen for what was to come. The clock was running out on 2003, and I had no resolutions for 2004. I was 15 and lost. All of the vitality I had lived with most of my life was just gone, eaten up by poison. I wanted out, I sought escape every chance I got. Around ten PM, with a red Dixie cup in hand, I sloppily took a stand atop our coffee table. Inspired by the music of The Spice Girls (I had picked out the song), I made a loud, screechy toast, “You know,” I shouted, “people never keep their resolutions… so THIS YEAR, I’m going to make a resolution to drink and be fucked up as much as possible because THAT’S a resolution I know I’ll keep.” Laughing so hard, feeling so clever, I stumbled off the table, found my way to the bathroom and spent the remainder of the night puking my guts up. I missed midnight. Technically, I was off to a good start considering my resolution, right?

While my behavior was graceless and funny/tragic, the statement I think I was trying to make was that I thought resolutions were ineffective. I thought they were silly, I thought we were a bunch of procrastinators, waiting for the symbol of the new year to make changes that we could really make today. Why wait? Once I sobered up—by 18— I woke up everyday with renewed intentions to live my best life, to be my best self, to be brave— to think, speak, and act from my highest self. I fell short often—or always—and started anew the next day. Isn’t life just a series of resolutions in that sense? New year’s resolutions can feel extremely overwhelming and can leave little room for imperfection—they don’t work for me. I do, however,  enjoy the idea of a brand new year, new goals and “starting fresh.” So how could I “start fresh” in a way that worked for me?

In 2011, I was living in Hawaii. I was angry—angry at Hawaii, angry at other people for making shitty decisions in their own lives, angry at myself for falling short. I sat in front of a camp fire on Uluwalu, a beach with cabins and tents set with maybe 50 of us celebrating together, waiting to kick off 2012. The fire burned bright, candles lit up pathways on the sand, the ocean crashed on the shore, and my hair moved with the breeze as I sat deep in thought.  I looked up at a man I had spent most of the year pissed off at. He had insulted me six months earlier and I had yet to let it go. What a waste, I thought “I’ve wasted so much energy being angry at that one man, what if I just make a decision to let go of my resentments from 2011, right here, right now? Do I really want to keep carrying this shit?” I excused myself from the fire and walked over to the ocean and just like that, let it go. I didn’t spend another moment angry at him— no more wasted energy. I stood there, alone, considering my life up to that point, what was lacking, what was fulfilled. And, for some reason, it occurred to me that I was too constricted.  I thought I had missed out on a lot of opportunities because I was trying so hard to control things. I noticed that I said, “no,” a lot in an effort to —I don’t know—save money, get more sleep, or just because I was inflexible. I was 24—too young to be saying no. I thought, “what if.. for one year, I just say yes.” It felt right.  YES. At every opportunity, this year, I will say yes to life. Like a resolution, it was an intention for the year—just one word that resonated, that presented a sort of game I could play with myself. How many times can I say yes? And what will happen if I do?

A couple of days later, January 3rd, I got a phone call from a friend around 9 pm, “Hey I need one more person, we are taking a six man canoe out under the full moon to look for whales.”  I had my pajamas on—it was Hawaii, bed time was approaching. I wanted to say no because what if I didn’t get home until super late and lacked sleep, what if I didn’t like the other people on the canoe, what if I got hungry, and I had dishes to do and blah blah blah..it was so spontaneous, so out of control.  But, it was a perfect time to practice yes. I had to say yes, I had JUST made the intention two days earlier. I said yes: We paddled out to the middle of the pacific ocean around 10 pm, and watched the full moon rise over Haleakala. We listened to the whales, we looked at the bioluminescence. It was quiet, salty, and magical. I got home around 1 or 2 AM, got enough sleep and was high for 24 hours off of the experience and the new people I met.  Yes was my new favorite word.

That was the year that I moved to LA, the year I left behind a relationship that wasn’t working,  the year I went skydiving,  I started horseback riding again, hiked everyday, got new friends, saw new places. In fact, I had become *too* spontaneous, and as 2012 was coming to an end, I got a sense of what I wanted next—the word that came to mind was “discipline.” I wanted discipline desperately. So, as we brought in 2013, that was my intention. And each year forward has gone like that. As the year ends, I take notice of where my life needs work, and I find a word that feels just right, and it becomes my intention. These words have, in a sense, been little building blocks for my life for 5 years. The words leave plenty of space for whatever is MEANT to happen in the new year.

Each year, I also work out some specific goals that compliment my chosen word, but I’ve noticed that something better usually takes the place of what I had planned. For example, this year I decided I wanted to be a part of a specific theater company. It didn’t work out, I hit too many walls, but as the year ended I got handed a *much* better opportunity in the theater—an opportunity I couldn’t have dreamed up. So, I make goals with the intention of staying incredibly flexible to what may come. My word, however, carries me through the year, threading together all of my daily actions.

A couple of years ago, I started using two words because it felt right (there are no rules here!). And this year, I went for a phrase—a string of words, each word holding a dear meaning and vision to me. Are you dying to know? I’m not telling! Not yet. But  I will say that  I’ve come a long way from that 15 year old girl who wanted to get fucked up all year. Fourteen years later, I sit here drinking my green tea and morning smoothie, and I want the exact opposite.

Fun and love and happy new year,

Jackie

Treating Anxiety, Part III: Lyme disease

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“I just have a deep sense, a deep inner-knowing, that I am safe in this world now,” I told my mother one day in early 2013. It was true. For a girl who seriously suffered from panic attacks and PTSD, I had gotten so far in life.  I had worked through my issues very seriously, utilizing everything from medication to meditation, and it was all proving worth it.  Life’s anxiety inducing situations rarely spun me into a panic— deep down I could feel that the Universe was my ally, not my enemy. My risk-taking, fear-facing, and spirit-searching had left me with (what seemed like) an excess of emotional and physical freedom. And I attached to that freedom like it was my identity,  endlessly exploring my options, hopping the fences that said “no entry,”  and following my heart’s desire to go to the parts of the Earth that were untouched. I didn’t want to walk away from this life unscarred, untouched and inexperienced. In an effort to affirm this preconceived notion of myself, I took a camera man and  got my photos taken while rolling around in the dirt as an expression of my free-spirt. This attachment to identity and proving myself…it got me sick. How ironic that, in an attempt to solidify myself into one small box called “free-spirit,”  I got bit by a tick, I contracted Lyme disease from the tick,  and everything I thought I knew about myself violently unraveled.  It was terrifying. That “sense of safety” I had confidently chatted about to my mother months earlier was tested and, as it turns out, fear is a whole different beast when it’s NOT irrational. But it had to be faced and overcome because if I had acted from fear when it came to healing from Lyme disease, I would have died.

A couple of days after my 26th birthday, a mysterious rash began to take up space on my skin. MY skin. Why am I powerless over what happens to my very own protective shell? Why is it my shell, if it’s so vulnerable?  One itchy bump on my thigh, one itchy bump on my elbow, and one itchy bump on my butt later, I realized I might have a little problem. The anxiety set in. I was overly attentive, looking at the newly forming rashes every few minutes, “did it go down, did it go up?” Days passed and the rashes were only expanding. I had one on my calf growing more irritated by the minute and wider by the minute. Like it was alive. I lied  in bed one night on the phone with a free-spirited young man I was loosely dating. I was scantily clad in cotton underwear and a tee- shirt. I was examining the rashes, half invested in our conversation, half obsessed and anxious about my mystery ailment. Slowly, like a hippo’s eyes surfacing on a placid river, a red bump formed on my upper thigh. I watched it come, and I watched it grow. Three more bumps then streaks overtaking the upper part of my thigh—a part of my thigh that was meant to be sexy and welcoming.  And a weighted anxiety began to torture me. “I’ve gotta go,” I quickly hung up the phone, and the googling began.

What in the ever- loving- fuck was happening to my own body? I researched psoriasis, bed bugs, impetigo, poison oak, poison ivy, and spider bites. I was impatient— I tormented myself with questions that I wouldn’t be able to answer unless I was a doctor.  I quit drinking coffee in an effort to magically cure myself. I tried every type of cream and anti-allergy pill. I did everything a young waitress with no insurance could do and nothing worked. I kept naively thinking, “once I work this rash situation out then life can just go back to normal.” I had lived my life that way and with that false idea: get over this obstacle and then I’ll coast. But, in that state,  I was constantly seeking the coast and anxious to get the hurdle over with. When so much of life is an obstacle, well then you’re really just asking to miss a lot of life, right? Part of the reason I HAD such bad anxiety was because I could not tolerate the messiness, the discomfort, of LIFE. Life is messy, hard, and full of detours and if I couldn’t tolerate that… well then life would be …intolerable.

I was desperate to FIGURE IT OUT so after two weeks of no answers,  I took myself to urgent care and was promptly told that I likely had Lyme disease. I was relieved, “cool, I’ll take some antibiotics and then go back to my normal life.” My anxiety dissipated. I was a survivor; I knew how to get my needs met and I knew how to show up for the tough times… Or so I thought.

I was immediately met with a resistance I had never known before. Part of the world seemed to be collectively AGAINST me healing. I felt like I was at war.

I instantly tried to find a doctor. No one would see me on short notice; no one would see me for a manageable price—the beginnings of anxiety, abandonment, and frustration in dealing with the medical community.

I finally saw a doctor, and the cost went directly on an already debited credit card—the beginnings of financial anxiety.

The antibiotics didn’t work—the beginnings of a deep fear that I wouldn’t get well.

My family didn’t show up for me—the beginnings of a loneliness, abandonment and anxiety full of depth. I constantly wondered if I would be cared for.

Lyme disease began affecting me neurologically— Lyme anxiety, a different beast altogether.

Insomnia kicked in and I stopped sleeping for nights on end—My anxiety took me over and I started saying, “it feels like satan is trapped inside of my body.”

I got so sick that working suffered, I had to back out of creative projects, I could barely waitress, and my debt expanded—rational financial panic, rational panic about the potential my future held.

I lost weight, I lost hair, I lost color in my skin—Anxiety about losing my looks, my most used coping mechanism in this life. Also, the “I might actually die” anxiety.

I traveled around the world seeking treatments—I was afraid of needles, afraid the treatments wouldn’t work, afraid I’d disappoint people, never work again, and the list goes on.

I cried all of the time—Anxiety that I would lose my boyfriend to this disease, anxiety that I would end up in the psych ward, that I was actually losing my mind.

I wasn’t sure I’d survive OR, God forbid, what if  I would have to LIVE WITH Lyme disease.

 I would have rather died. In fact, I wanted to die. 

I’m glad I didn’t.

I’m glad that I kept calling the doctors even when they disappointed me.

I’m glad that I put the treatments on a credit card; I’m glad I faced the fear of doing a fundraiser and let my friends and family support alternative treatments.

I’m glad I tried the antibiotics, and I’m glad I was willing to do alternative treatments. I’m glad I faced fears of each new treatments and jumped in with a zest and a need for life.

I’m glad I felt the rage and the heart-break caused by my family’s initial absence, I’m glad I talked about it, I’m glad I took my mother to therapy, and I’m glad I have the option to forgive.

I’m glad I never stopped seeking new solutions to my sleep issues, and I’m glad I found one.

I’m glad I kept my creativity alive by allowing myself to be imperfect. I’m glad I faced the fear of backing out of projects, putting work on hold and resting for a while.

I’m glad I quit waitressing and trusted the universe. The universe provided.

I’m fucking glad that I showed up no matter how I looked or felt. I looked you in the eye when i was pale in the face and 97 lbs and needed a wheelchair, I looked you in the eye and said, “I’m so fucking afraid, but let’s keep going if you don’t mind pushing.”

I’m glad that I stayed in bed when I was afraid I’d miss out on something cool; I’m glad I got out of bed when I was afraid for you to see my face; I’m glad I said “yes” as often as I could and “no” when I knew it would disappoint you.

I’m glad I yelled at doctors and asked for help and risked losing everything— including my own life— in an effort to get well and thrive.

Because now I’m out on the other side and it has all been worth it. And I’m not just saying that because it’s kind of a radical thing to say—I mean it.

Sometimes I think about anxiety: the pumping heart, tingly body, erratic thoughts, paranoid eyes, and I think, “that’s a body that really really wants to live.”

Maybe my anxiety is my desire to live run amuck. Maybe it’s my anxiety that I have to thank for pushing me to fight for life.

I love being alive, I desperately want to live.

Lyme disease, in many ways, birthed my greatest fears into reality. And I faced them head on, sometimes with an army of people behind me and sometimes alone. But I made sure to face each and every one. And I feel like I have a brand new life. I do not have some identity I’ve wrapped myself in, some identity I’m trying to prove. Today, I live more free than I was in the first place: I am deeply in touch with the softness, the fragility and truth, of my humanity (and yours), but also now I  really  know what the fuck I am capable of.

Go show ’em what you’re made of. It’s worth it.

fun and love,

Jackie

Treating Anxiety, Part II

Part I here. 

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My hips led me around a Montauk boutique. My jean skirt was too short, my acrylic nails too long, and my shirt too tight. I drank too much, smoked too many cigarettes and cursed more than a “young lady should.” I was too wild, too antsy, too dishonest, too sexy. I was monitoring my movement around the store, looking for mirrors so I could watch myself sway by. Deeply immersed in the passion of self-obsession, I could hear my mother’s muted voice trying to pull me out of my too-cool-for-you attitude, “Jack, jack, this is cute, isn’t it?” She held up a beige shirt,  “Ugh, no mom,” immediately dismissing her excitement, “I don’t like it.” “Well, it’s not for you, it’s for me,” she said annoyed. “Oh. Well then sure.”  I was 15. My mother and I were vacationing in Montauk and we were killing time shopping. At the register,  I spotted a brown leather bracelet. I picked it up to see what was inscribed in it and read, “feel the fear and do it anyway,” written in italic script.  I was cosmically drawn to the saying. It made me feel like the badass I was determined to be. My life had been so overtaken by mood altering substances and experiences that I was numb to my childhood, numb to my passions, numb to love. SO, when I saw that bracelet, I thought, “yeah, feel the fear of overdosing and take all of the drugs anyway, yeah feel like you’re going to die from the insane adventure and do it anyway, be afraid of drunk driving and do it anyway, feel the fear of mixing all of the booze, of fucking the wrong guy, and DO IT ANYWAY.” It was with that M.O that I begged my mother to buy me the bracelet. Because she was in denial of my M.O, she agreed. I wore it everyday,  I followed its direction, and it got me into trouble. That is, until I learned how to use that saying to my life’s benefit.

By 17, just two years later, crack addiction had devoured my father, my parents divorced, my mother was horribly depressed, my brother was absent in mind and body, and I was… numb—a passionless shell of myself.  Brene Brown brilliantly says, “you can’t selectively numb.” All of the things I used drugs, sex and fantasy to mute—like my anxiety—were muted. But so was everything else.  In an effort to feel alive again and have the future I always imagined for myself, I quit. I quit drinking and doing drugs and I was left with a surge of confusing emotions. I still had that bracelet, but it had no meaning to me if I wasn’t getting high.  I tucked it away in a drawer, and a new wave of panic attacks commenced.

It was the summer of 2006, I had just quit my waitressing job without the safety net of a new job. I thought it would be nice to just “have some time off.” That was a big mistake. My main coping mechanism for anxiety and depression had always been to stay busy, distracted,and/or self-medicated so quitting a job to “just chill”—when I had never once had the experience of “just chilling”—was a recipe for disaster. New York City was hit with a nasty heat wave that summer. It felt like hell was sitting directly below the sidewalk shooting fireballs up to cause a suffocating, torturous heat (Disclaimer: I’m also very dramatic). It’s hot. And sticky. And dirty. Sticky with your own smelly sweat and with the sweat of strangers who keep bumping into you while unpacking both their bodily toxins and the days pollution. The air is so thick it’s like moving through quicksand—quicksand crowded with people.   There were some manageable blackouts happening around the city. Nothing too major. But in the same way that I ran with “Mama Cass choking on a ham sandwich,” I ran with the blackouts. WHAT IF, while I’m on the subway, in the tunnel, there’s a blackout, and we get stuck,and I potentially die,  I thought. That did it. That one thought resulted  in  months of unbearable panic attacks.

First,  I couldn’t get on the subway so I opted for long and inconvenient bus rides.  Before I knew it, I couldn’t get on the bus. So I walked. And soon enough I didn’t want to go outside. I couldn’t take the elevator either because my brilliant anxiety- based -mind was smart enough to know “a blackout would fuck with elevators, too!” I was edging on being agoraphobic. Fortunately, due to my earlier experience with panic, I knew not to give in to the fear. I kept trudging. I cried every time I had to go outside, but I went. I listened to soothing music on the subway when that was my only option for transportation.  I even got a job during this time. A good job. I was late to the interview because I took the bus and got stuck in traffic, but I got the job. It didn’t really help— all of the contrary action didn’t serve the same way it had seven years earlier. It wasn’t as simple and rewarding as my seventh grade field day when I faced my fear and my fear evaporated magically. Nope. This time, the fear was hanging around like a monkey attacking me that I kept trying to fling off.

It was repeatedly suggested that I get on a small dose of a pharmaceutical (SSRI) to help ease the suffering. I rejected the idea until—after many months of useless torture— I realized that I was missing out on my life. I was in so much inner strife that I was missing all of the invitations to joy and freedom that my life had to offer. I wanted to feel alive; I didn’t want to simply survive. After much thought,  I decided to get on a  small dose of an SSRI with the intention of using it as a tool. Not as a way out, but as a way IN. I needed just a little bit of emotional freedom in order to explore the other more holistic options at my disposal:  meditation, therapy, exercise, joyful work, diet, etc. And I did exactly that. And my life opened up completely.

I explored different jobs, paid my way through school, traveled, developed new friendships, played around with romance, and I met every opportunity to learn and grow with passion. I felt fear with every new change. I actually felt fear everyday. It just didn’t control me.  In 2010, when I was packing to move 6,000 miles away from home (yup!), I came across that bracelet, “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I chuckled at my younger self’s interpretation of that saying. I sat down on my floor and reflected on all of life’s scary moments: moving, marriage, following dreams, traveling, loving, having children, taking the big jobs, saying no to the wrong jobs, saying no in general, saying yes in general, and, you know, telling the truth/being vulnerable. And I realized that I possessed such freedom. I COULD do anything BECAUSE I could tolerate fear. In fact, I came to realize that “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” was  a core value of mine.

And it’s a good thing,  because I needed to be extremely brave in order to heal from Lyme disease.

…to be continued.

Fun and love,

Jackie

Treating Anxiety, Part I

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In 1998, at ten years old, I discovered that Mama Cass died choking on a ham sandwich. Maybe I heard it on TV. Or maybe I was eavesdropping on some random adult chatter. Or maybe my mother told me during one of my relentless questioning sessions about all of her favorite musicians.  It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that with that news, I was hit— for no rational reason— with life-changing fear. My brain grabbed onto this idea of “death -by -choking” like a shark grabs its prey: What if I choke in the school lunchroom,  nobody hears me over the chatter and I die? Days passed as that thought flipped and flopped and tossed and turned restlessly—violently—through my brain. Choke and die, choke and die, choke and die.  I sat through school lunches half invested in the innocent adolescent conversations about lipstick and half obsessed with my imminent death. One March day, the thoughts were so overbearing that when I took a sip of my peach flavored Snapple, it went down the wrong pipe, coughing commenced, and I came into contact with my first debilitating panic attack.

“Are you ok? Jackie, are you ok?”  The teacher spoke to me over the microphone, “stand up, stand up.” I stood up. I was overheated from both embarrassment and physical stress. I was already unpopular, but now an entire cafeteria of cruel ten and eleven year olds were staring at me.  I gasped for breath and simultaneously considered my poor wardrobe choice that day. If I had known I was going to be the center of attention, I wouldn’t have worn that stupid pink cardigan and those unbecoming gray sweatpants. “Nod your head, nod your head,” the teacher was saying, “do we have to do the Heimlich?” I knew they didn’t have to do the Heimlich. After all, it was only Snapple that I was “choking” on. But I certainly wasn’t going to admit that, not after the spectacle I was creating. My coughing slowly subsided, and a  breath of relief rippled through the couple hundred kids in the cafeteria…  immediately followed by an outburst laughter. I sat down, wanting to hide, and suddenly—just like that— all of the ease I had previously lived with was gone. Who knew that it was a luxury to be able to interact with your peers, go to school, eat lunch, and exist in the world without a consistent feeling of impending doom holding you back?  I tried to act normal. I walked with the herd to my next class, took my seat, stared at the chalkboard, and wrung my sweaty hands seeking some sort of solace in myself. Something was infinitely unsafe, but I didn’t know what so I couldn’t even protect myself. The walls were closing in on me, my friends looked like enemies, words were muttered, faces were fuzzy, and I burst into tears.

I was sent to the nurse’s office. I could barely speak by the time I got there. Sweating through that stupid fleece cardigan, I was crying so hard that I could only gasp out one  comprehensible word at a time, “I—choked. and. am. —scared.” The nurse looked at me confused and harshly, got me a five ounce dixie cup of water, and led me to a small, poorly lit,  corner room. There was one beige metal folding chair meant for me to collect myself on. “Sit in here and calm down,” she said.  I took the seat thinking I’d rather be anywhere else or maybe nowhere at all. I wanted a hug desperately. That is what I wanted. As the nurse closed the door, I heard her say to her colleague, “I mean, seriously, she should be able to control herself, she’s ten years old. What’s wrong with her? My God.” Did she think I couldn’t hear her? I was so embarrassed, so ashamed.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and if I could have controlled it—like she was suggesting— I certainly would have.

By the time I got home that day, I had decided that I should probably never leave my bedroom again and that I should definitely never eat again. If it was up to me, I would have lived a very small life. My parents got in the way of my ideas.

I cried through dinner one night, trying to spoon a small amount of plain broth into my mouth but every time I looked at the bowl of liquid, I was hit with the memory of “choking” in the lunchroom. I just cried and shook until my father lost his cool, dropped his fork and said, “What’re you gonna do? Never eat again? If you went outside and tripped and fell, would you never go outside again?”  I felt pathetic. What I was experiencing was NOT logical and could not be beaten with logic.

My mother held me in bed that night as i sobbed and sobbed. I said, “I wish I had some physical illness. Even cancer. Anything but this. It’s so scary.” And I meant it. I was in unthinkable pain. Thankfully, my mother understood what I was experiencing due to her own turbulent history with panic attacks and, as a by-product, she pushed me. She wasn’t going to let me become a slave to my anxiety. It was strategic, and it was brilliant. She sent me to school everyday, she denied me medication even though doctor’s suggested it, and I was forced to take part in all daily commitments whether I sobbed through them or not.  To this day, I consider it the greatest gift my mother gave me. To this day, I consider it her shining moment as a parent.

When my seventh grade field day came around, I was hit with a new deepening wave of panic. Who knows why. There was no real why. At 7:30 am, I hid in the closet sobbing, “I’m not going. Please, please, please don’t make me go.” I begged for an hour until the bus came and my mother lovingly pushed me out the door. I went. I mean, I WAS forced.  I went full of terror, but I went. And, as the day went on under the suburban sun, the fearful pangs subsided. The distraction was helping. The sun was helping. Exercise was helping. I was easily able to take part in field day activities, and I even won a flimsy second place ribbon for a short-distance race. By the end of the day, I felt great, and I was deeply proud of myself.  I sprinted through my door that afternoon, impatiently shouting at my mother, “mom, mom. I had the best day ever. Thank you for making me go! Look, I won 2nd place in the sprint!” She was so proud of me. In that one day, I had instanteously grown muscle where there wasn’t any, I had a new life experience that would forever change the way I lived—a reference point for what it felt like to feel the fear and do it anyway which remains a saying I try to live by. Curiously—or not so curiously— I didn’t have another panic attack for seven years.

At nineteen years old, everything I had learned about coping with anxiety was put to the test. My panic attacks came back, and this time they were not so easily defeated.

To be continued….

Love,

Jackie

 

Fall Down, Get Up, Repeat.

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Ideally, I would wake up at 7 am everyday and immediately scoop a fresh wad of coconut oil into my mouth for fifteen minutes of oil pulling. After spitting out the freshly swirled toxins, I’d down 16 oz. of fresh celery juice. Then I’d use green tea to get my caffeine buzz on, journal, pray, and meditate. Around 8:30 am, I’d  start responding to emails and writing. I’d make my morning smoothie around 9:30, do more work, eventually get to a yoga class, make a raw salad for lunch, take an hour to rest, hit an infrared sauna or acupuncture, get some joyful activity in like socializing or dancing, and end my night with a healthy ,balanced meal, my necessary supplements, powdered magnesium, and red root tea. I’d then zap with my TENS machine and be in bed with a delicious story by 10 pm to read for thirty minutes before I passed out, benefitting from a solid 8 or 9 hours of perfect rest. IDEALLY. Sounds overwhelming right? So perfect it’s jarring. That’s why it’s an ideal. Because right now I’m sitting in this cafe writing and eating french fries. I woke up at a lagging 9:30 am,  oil pulled for ten semi-bearable minutes, drank coconut water, drank a couple of cups of coffee (instead of the more advantageous tea), responded to emails, made my smoothie by 11:30 am,and got out of the house— not to do yoga but to work. Also, I forgot my supplements at home. Eh, oh well.

I am imperfect. At everything. Including healing from Lyme disease. A shorter way to get the point across is to say, “I am human.” But I have found that statement to be ineffective; we need specific examples in order to actually believe that other people are just as human as we are. Or I do, anyway. I’ve always felt a little paranoid that I was missing some very important piece of information about this whole life thing— especially the whole healing from illness thing. Like other people had the rules—the user manual, the directions—and I didn’t. I would often get advice from other women—people who had previously suffered from Lyme—and I used their advice as an opportunity to beat myself up. Everyone was doing it better than me! “Your” diet was better than mine (or at least you were more disciplined about it), “you” were a better meditator, you saw the “right” doctors, took the “right” herbs, did the “right” research, spent money on the “right” things, you drank better water, had a better air purifier, did the “right” energy work, etc.  I thought I was bad at being sick (and “you were good at it??)  I cried every single day even though I knew it was harmful to my central nervous system. I cried every single day. And I thought maybe if I could just stop crying, I’d be doing it right.  I looked at people who seemed to hold it together—was that the right way, I wondered? I looked at people who worked serious jobs—was it a more serious job I needed? I looked at people who took two years off of work—did I need to take off? It was an endless mind-fuck. And now people are looking at me through sick eyes and wondering some of the same things: what does she do that I am not doing? She’s better at it than I am. I can’t be as disciplined as her. What’s her diet? Her protocol? on and on.. I’ve heard  you say these things and I’m here to tell you all about how I fuck up.

It’s important for me to write this as a wellness advocate— as a person who preaches a certain diet and lifestyle—to let you know, that I fall short a lot of the time. We cannot all be Kris Carr or Louise Hay. I hold myself to pretty high standards as you saw in my “ideal day.” Some practices have just become habit for me—no questions asked. And other practices—the ones that have less severe consequences— I have to work hard at. And some things, I’m just waiting on the willingness to carry out (like quitting coffee). The most important thing is that when I do fall off of the horse, I get back on. And that I get back on quickly. One of my dear friends once told me, “there’s only one rule. The rule is that you never, under any circumstance, beat yourself up.” That’s the rule I carry with me. It makes it much easier to get back up if I’m not whipping myself into a state of unrelenting weakness, forcing myself to stay down.

Two weeks ago, I was in Hawaii—my first vacation in three years. I took the vacation thing to heart. I ate all wrong, consuming more dairy and gluten than I’ve had in at least a year. I over did it physically, doing long hikes without shoes/water, and I didn’t get enough sleep. Oops. A few days after getting back to LA and trying to get back into my healthy groove, it was my birthday. Again, I bailed on my raw afternoon salad, I ate sweets that night, and instead of prayer and meditation, I spent the whole morning crying. Then it was Thanksgiving and, again, I “cheated” on my diet eating some extra desserts because… it’s the holidays!

It’s true. It’s a very hard time of year to eat a mostly-vegan, gluten-free diet. So, I fucked up a little. Every single day, I fuck up a little. Either I eat something a little off of the perfection I’m going for, I drink too much coffee, I forget to exercise or I don’t rest enough. It is challenging to fit it all into one day and have a job and live with any bit of flexibility. So, I don’t. But I do always wake up with the intention to try. I am always willing to get back on the horse when I fall off. My inner dialogue after whatever poor choice I made is something like this, Ok, that didn’t feel great. What’s next? Should I maybe consider doing it differently next time? Should I drink some detox tea or hit a yoga class? Or do something else that makes me feel good now? It’s OK. It happens.  If I don’t beat myself up then I have the space to compose a solution. So, let’s be real: you’re probably going to slip up this holiday season and abandon some of your custom self-care practices. What do you do then? Keep going, be kind to yourself, allow humanness and try again. And please know that all of us—all of us—are fucking up, too.

With fun and love,

Jackie

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