happiness

SIBO sucks

I swore I would be completely honest about this SIBO journey, but damn it was a lot easier to be honest when things were going well. Things are not going well at the present time.

I haven’t really been sleeping well for the last couple of months, and if you know me then you know that sleep is probably the most important thing I do to look after myself. If I’m not rested I can’t function. And in the last couple of weeks my sleep has been getting sooooo much worse. The last few nights have been maybe an hour or two of shut eye – and not very good rests even during those puny amounts.

I’m a disaster.

I’ve talked with my naturopath and we agreed it was likely that some of my anxiety was seeking attention – because I also had started feeling more and more anxious – something that always happens when I’m not getting enough sleep. However, in the last few days I noticed some of the body aches were back, my head is throbbing, and I basically just felt really unwell.

It’s the SIBO. Something I’ve been eating has to be aggravating it. Which in turn aggravates me because my diet has been SO restricted. So, while I was lying in bed last night at 3am cursing up a storm about how I was never going to sleep again I decided to go back to the basics. For me that means my “hamburger soup” which is essentially ground beef, tomato paste, beef bone broth, and kale made in the instant pot. Yum. But when get discouraged I tell myself that there are literally millions (maybe billions) of people who would love to eat what I’m eating so I shut my mouth and remember to be grateful.

Another thing I am super grateful for is our local butcher shop in Cochrane “The Butchery Block” because that is the place where I have been sourcing all of my beef. I’ve found most grocery store meat makes me feel nauseous, but their stuff is fantastic – it’s like how I remember beef tasting when I was a kid. They know where they get it from (a ranch in southern Alberta) and their prices are pretty decent. I’m really grateful for that little shop.

Further, this time I’m grateful I didn’t just chalk all these symptoms down to mental health issues. SIBO makes me anxious, it bring up trauma like feelings, and leaves me exhausted. But it doesn’t mean that I’m failing at caring for my mental health, it means that there are some physical issues that need to be addressed. I mean, Im always working at my mental health – but sometimes there are physical issues that can be the source of mental health like symptoms, and I think it’s very important that we remember that.

Fingers crossed that things start to get better over the next couple of days while I enjoy my hamburger soup!

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happiness

SIBO and Anxiety

I have always been an anxious sort. I was a kid in the ‘70s and anxiety wasn’t really a thing back then – or if it was I certainly didn’t know about it. I just felt like I was always afraid of doing things – and then pushed myself as hard as I possibly could to prove to myself and the world that I wasn’t a total chicken.

But while I struggled, I didn’t really encounter debilitating anxiety until the beginning of 2007 when I discovered that my husband had been cheating (I found his online dating profile – actually I found the bill while going through our visa and then found the profile). I didn’t handle it well. If I could go back in time that’s the moment I would have walked out of the marriage. It would have saved me and the kids years of trauma and pain. But I didn’t – maybe I didn’t know how to. He dismissed it as nothing and blamed me for overreacting, and we were getting ready to move from Quebec to the States. So I put my feelings on the back burner and carried on.

SIBO can be caused by many things: antibiotics, low stomach acid, food poisoning – but also stress, anxiety and trauma. So being someone who has a history of pushing my feelings waaaay down deep really came back to kick me in the butt (or the small intestine in this case).

I went through the last years of my marriage often barely able to function because of the anxiety I was struggling with (which was also PTSD and trauma – it all kind of got mixed in together). Some days were better, some were terrible. I was not living an authentic life at all, in fact I had become completely disconnected from myself. I used to say that my superpower was my ability to disassociate completely from my body and my life as it was the only way I could handle my marriage. Unfortunately it’s a pretty shitty superpower to have and one that is taking me a long time to retrain myself from.

After I left my marriage, I still battled my anxiety (and trauma) demons on a constant basis. But I didn’t just dance away from an abusive relationship. I returned home to help care for both of my parents as they were dying, I almost lost both of my children to their own traumas, and I found myself in a very nasty divorce situation. So I continued to have reason to feel anxious to say the least.

Then I started studying psychology and slowly I felt my understand of myself beginning to change. I learned that there were ways to train my brain to think differently, and that I could change my perception of who I was. I began working diligently on my mental health and really saw some huge changes.

But that damn anxiety would just pop up out of nowhere. I would work and work, see massive improvements, and then BAM out of nowhere I would literally become debilitated by my anxiety. And for no reason. Nothing had to trigger me, I could be sitting at home happily watching a show on tv, out with friends laughing, or driving down the road singing along with some music. It left me feeling really frustrated. What was the point in working so hard on myself if this anxiety was just going to keep popping up and interfering in my ability to function?

Last summer (2021), I noticed that my joints became much more painful when I ate anything with gluten in it. At that time I had no idea that pretty much everything I liked had gluten in it. I cut out the obvious; bread, pasta, that kind of thing. Then I had sushi and got sick – so the discovery was made that of course gluten is in soy sauce. I slowly learned how to better avoid gluten and started feeling a bit better. I was still anxious, but the joint pain lessening made life a lot easier.

Then around Christmas time (2021) I discovered that certain foods I was eating gave me anxiety. Dairy was a big one (sob), but also weird things like mustard or anything with garlic in it. So I started cutting all of that out too. Essentially I was living on oatmeal, rice, chicken, ghee, and zucchini. Bleh. Still random bouts of anxiety, but not as bad.

So when I went to the naturopath and explained to him how I was feeling after eating certain foods he tested and diagnosed me with SIBO. Holy crap. What a revelation! So my constant battle with anxiety wasn’t just shitty mental health, it was a physical reaction to a physical issue (plus my regular anxiety).

It has been an up and down journey these last 5 months. But in general my anxiety is decreasing all the time. I’m still on a super restricted diet – but nothing like the one I was on before I started with my naturopath. Hardly any carbs, no grains, no dairy, no sugar. Lots of meat and certain vegetables, and egg yolks. Along with all my supplements. Not the most exciting diet, but I’m seeing so much improvement that it’s absolutely worth any sacrifice. Plus the hope is that it’s short term and eventually I’ll be able to enjoy a larger variety of foods.

I went to see my naturopath about a month ago in tears. After a few weeks of much lessened anxiety I was really struggling again. I was really mad at my SIBO, and then even madder at my naturopath when he suggested that we needed to address my trauma so that we could help my body heal. Who wants to hear that? I didn’t want to go there at all. But he was right (he’s been right about everything so far). I’d described to him how when these feelings of intense anxiety bubble up in me from nowhere it reminds me of how afraid I was those last few years in my marriage – where the kids and I lived in constant fear that he’d make good on his threats. And how that would just push me right out of myself. I was really mad at the SIBO for making me feel that way and that’s when the naturopath gently suggested we address some of the trauma. And he was so right.

I’m still on some SIBO stuff. I’m taking iberogast (which some days I swear is nastier than the Tincture of Death, but it’s effective, Allimax, bio-break nasal spray, ashwagandha, and turmeric. But I’m also taking mimulus and oak flower remedy, and gaba-t sap. I noticed a huge change with the gaba I can feel the stress seeping out of my brain after I take it.

It’s funny. I have spent so long really resenting this SIBO condition – even before I knew I had it and could put a name to it I resented it. But in some really weird way it’s a gift. It has forced me to stop and address some really big issues. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life walking around anxious, scared, traumatized and angry. And I now realize that unless I seriously follow this new way of being that I will not only be all of those things but also so freaking sick with SIBO: all the brain fog, upset stomach, bloating, depression, anxiety, joint pain, and whatever else it brings. So I am grateful that I have the opportunity to really dig deep and change some fundamental things about myself and how I see the world.

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happiness

More clutter clearing 

We spent a big chunk of the day today clearing more clutter from the house – and so from our lives. Considering it was something I was pretty resistant to, I’m finding the more clutter I clear the happier I am

Not just the physical stuff, but lots of emotional clutter is being cleared as well. Awesome. 
That is happiness 

And a bonus happiness moment was having my sister and family show up for supper. We don’t get to see them often enough and these times are precious. 

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happiness

Opening the heart 

I had what could very well end up being my last session of transformational acupuncture today – he’s moving from the west to the east and who knows when another Calgary stop will happen. 

But each of the 3 or 4 sessions I’ve had with him have really been transformational. It’s amazing how working the energy lines like he does clears up blocks I’ve been dealing with for years. 

Today was letting go of the fear of being hurt and opening the heart. Drishti had brought a lot of these issues that have been simmering to the surface, but of course as I look around in my life I see them present everywhere. 

We had a few (three!) unsettling, scary episodes this last weekend and it helped put things into perspective for me. I waste a lot of time being scared of nothing. When the really big scary stuff happens I stand up and deal with it just fine. So why so scared of potential unknowns? Seriously. 

It was amazing to feel the energy shift as we worked through the session. I felt the chatter that I’ve struggled to quiet in my mind vanish and my body relax in ways it hasn’t in years. 

That is happiness. Deep, hard core happiness. 

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happiness

Gaping wounds alongside the steel armor 

I had a conversation with someone last night that triggered off an emotional shitstorm I wasn’t even a little bit prepared for. 

In fact, it threw me into emotions I thought I had long ago dealt with. Pain, hurt, sorrow, and worst of all – inceteible anger with myself for ever having accepted staying in that situation and allowing it to continue. 

I was taking with a healer and friend yesterday about how you heal and deal with something on one level and think it’s done. Then WHAM it hits you on another level out of the blue. It was like that conversation prepared me for the one I had that upset me last night. 

And to be clear, the person I was talking to didn’t say anything wrong, had no intention of hurting me, or has any idea of the affect it had on me. It was completely innocent. 

I was describing it to a girlfriend today, complaining that I couldn’t believe I wasn’t healed yet, and she said:

You have every right to have gaping wounds right alongside your steel armor
That’s it exactly. I’m so strong in so many ways and still have so much healing to do. 

But I talked it out with her and another awesome girlfriend and I think that if I haven’t sorted it all out yet, at least I’ve been able to acknowledge the feelings. That’s happiness 

In a pure and simple happiness moment I got to have a wonderful visit with my cousin who is home visiting. I treasure these moments – sometimes you have to maximize the little moments to fully appreciate them. 

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happiness

Feet on the ground

I spent a lot of time today taking about faith and life and other good, deep stuff. First with a cousin/life long friend and then with the boy. It was almost like one conversation flowed into the next one even though they happened hours apart – it was pretty cool. 

I need those kinds of chats that let me explore where I am in my faith and how other people see theirs. 

The boy summed up our anxiety issue well tonight. We were talking about horses and basketball and how they ground us and open our spiritual paths (horses for me, basketball and other sports for him). He said it’s true what they say – depression is worrying about the past, anxiety is worrying about the future. We need to find the  things that help put our feet on the ground right now in the present moment and live in it. 

Wise words from a 15 year old. 

That’s what today did for me, and what I’m working at balancing into – finding the things that keep my feet on the ground and focusing on the present moment. 

My tribe. It’s full of  awesome and wise people. Happiness. 

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happiness

Breathe through it. 

The boy has been dealing with a lot of anxiety issues in the last few days. His coping skills are getting better, but it frustrates me that even after all this time there is still the insecurity there.  He is so good about letting me in and sharing where he’s at. I believe it’s what is going to not only see him through this but make him an even more incredible soul. 

I know exactly the source of the anxiety, and it frustrates the hell out of me that there isn’t anything I seem to be able to do to make it better for him, but we will continue to hold space for each other and be strong. 

After a few panic attacks at school today we spent a few hours just bumming around town before his game tonight. I could see him relaxing and coming back to himself.  The fact that he can do that is pretty impressive. 

We went for his favourite meal before the game and sitting there together gave us a really good opportunity to talk and share where we are at. This relationship we have grown – it is happiness 

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happiness

Sharing meditation

Both the boy and I have had some pretty intense bouts with anxiety. I decided a few years ago that I was willing to do anything I needed to in order to stop the constant panic attacks I was having (ironically that has lead to my living a completely different and happier life now than the one I was trapped in back then, funny how that works). I have had to learn many different coping skills, as has my boy.

One of the greatest things we both do is meditate. I hate it – I love it. Sometimes it is so very difficult to force myself to sit quietly with myself, with my Source for 20 minutes and just be. But after I do it I always feel so much better. And the more consistently I do it, the more it pays off in my every day life.

The boy texted me today that he was having some anxiety triggers come up. Before I could suggest anything he told me he was heading off to meditate. When he was done he not only told me how much better, calmer, more grounded he felt – but he sent me the link of the meditation he did on YouTube and told me that I needed to do it as well. I can’t believe that my 15 year old boy sends me meditation links. I love that. All of the work we have done to learn how to make ourselves feel secure and grounded is paying off. He knows how to identify the feelings of anxiety and is learning how to calm them.

I have been feeling a little anxious the last few days as well, and I have been doing much the same thing  – meditating, calming, grounding, laughing with friends.  It is a world away from the helpless feelings of panic and fear that I felt years ago. I still get fearful, I still want to panic, but I have this deep sense that I am doing exactly the right thing, I am doing what I need to do, following my dharma.

That is happiness.

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happiness

Relaxed 

We were talking today about the fact that these last two weeks of Christmas vacation have seen my little family more relaxed than we have been in years. I consider that a huge success given all the anxiety, fear, panic, stress that seems to have been part of our life for years. I mean, it’s a  really big deal. 

I’m not sure exactly what the shift was but we all seem to have really taken unwinding seriously. Even with regular Christmas stress, some divorce angst, and a death we still managed to chill ourselves to an impressive level of relaxation. I’m pretty grateful for that. 

Happiness moment today was taking the boy to the Italian Centre for what seems to be our weekly grocery shop. I love this time with him. I feel really blessed that we have the kind of relationship where he actually wants to spend time with me and talk with me about his life. It’s something I have worked hard for, but still… the pay off is so much more than I ever imagined. 

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happiness

Stinky Pig Game

I was kind of funky feeling this morning. I had some rather unpleasant interactions with Mr. X, somehow having forgotten that bullying and intimidation seem to be the name of the game. It’s a game I’ll never get used to no matter how many years I have endured it.

Determined to shake it off, I had a short nap which immediately had me in better spirits. I have been so run down over the past few years, all the emotional stress and turmoil of things that have been going on. I feel like I could go away and sleep for weeks just to get caught up. It helped though, rest and a clear head make things so much better.

I took the boy into town and we did some birthday shopping for the girl. That kid is so funny and he brightens my soul and my day in ways I can’t even express. By the end of our time I felt lighter, happier, and filled with love and gratitude.

We came home and played the Stinky Pig Game which is guaranteed for laughs. He said this better be your happiness moment, and it is. I also love that he looks for happiness moments in every day because of my blog.

I feel like we have been able to really stop and focus on our little family this holiday season. The three of us are really tight anyway and we spend a lot of time together, but there has been a lot of bonding, laughter, and really good memories made over the past few weeks. I’m really grateful for that and it brings me much joy and happiness.

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