happiness

Where were you when you heard the news?

I was sitting in Tulip Room 2 with my girl waiting for a doctor appointment. I had left my phone in the car and was just sitting there when her phone buzzed. She looked down and casually said “the Queen is dead” and I promptly burst into tears.

A few minutes later we could hear two women talking about the Queen’s passing. We couldn’t make it all out but they were clearly upset and sharing some of their memories of her. When my doctor came into the room it was the first thing we spoke about and it turned out that it had been her processing the death.

Those of you who know me may remember that I fell madly in love with Lady Diana before she married Charles and my love and respect for the People’s Princess carries on today. I’ve also had a lot of respect and admiration for Queen Elizabeth. No matter the situation, she has always conducted herself like royalty, I’ve never heard anything bad said from her or about her (not saying there isn’t anything – but really if there is it must be fairly uncommon – her children are another matter).

Lately I’ve said that the only thing that would be worse than the Queen dying is him becoming king, and with that her becoming queen consort. Bleh. Mostly it’s just that I don’t like how they were dirty with Diana.

And it was pretty much the same thing my doctor said – she just said it with more kindness than I just did. Really upset about the Queen, but even more upset that she was going to now be called queen. Then we had a long and lovely talk about how much we both loved Princess Diana. Finally my girl understood what I was saying when I said that there were so many of us in my generation who loved the People’s Princess.

I’ve loved the Queen too – for all of my life. And I sure will miss her. I will miss her class and grace. I will miss the way she kind of reminded me of my Auntie Mary who is also gone, and who also made it to a lovely old age (95). I am grateful though that I was given the opportunity to process the information of her passing with an adult whom I trust and admire and respect. It was very meaningful to be able to share our memories of both the Queen and Princess Diana with each other.

God Save the Queen.

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happiness

SIBO: Inflammation

Well the good news is I’m feeling much better than I have been – both during my horrid shake drinking episode and the weeks that preceded that. Unfortunately I’m still feeling pretty crappy – but I’ll take it compared to where I’ve been

I saw my naturopath the other day to assess were we are at and figure out what to do moving ahead. His concern is that I seem to still have a lot of inflammation. I agree- I can feel it throughout my body. And I’m so, so, so tired from all of this.

The inflammation part I am kind of curious about. I think I’ve had inflammation in my body for years- decades. And on a side note, I think I’ve had some pretty intense food intolerances that have periodically created inflammation as well as other things since I was a little kid. But I’ve had a few weird inflammation flare-ups in the last 20 years or so. After I had the boy my tailbone became so sore I couldn’t sit for 2.5 years. It was awful – I sought help everywhere you could think of and had some pretty amazing professionals on my side. But I couldn’t seem to get the pain to go away, until finally it did and I immediately got pregnant with the girl (no tailbone pain with her fortunately). Years later I had plantar fasciitis for almost 2 years – that was awful as I could barely walk. I worked for a long time with my chiropractor and eventually it went away too. Not too long after that, I developed a frozen shoulder and could barely move that arm for almost a year. But then I left my marriage and so many of those issues went away. I figured it was extreme stress that brought on many of my physical issues.

I still think a lot of this is brought on by stress. Life (thank Goodness) has been a lot more quiet the last couple of years, but I’m still processing and recovering from the shitstorm that we walked through and apparently that is also what my body is doing. I’m learning how to have a better relationship with myself, learning kindness, learning to rest (as opposed to sitting and stressing and calling that rest), and deepening my relationship with the Divine.

Whatever this is that I’m going through I feel like I’ll be a happier and much more complete human when I reach the other side- but damn this has been a long journey. I’m really grateful for all the people I’ve got in my life who share their love and support. I haven’t talked recently about my “tribe”, but I continue to feel very blessed and thankful for the people who God has put in my life.

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happiness

SIBO: ElementALL Diet Day 9

I quit! I was hoping to make it until next Monday when I see my naturopath, but this morning after I had my 26th shake in a row I felt like complete crap. Foggy head, massive anxiety, upset stomach, and just gross gross gross.

Is it more die off? Is it a reaction to one of the ingredients? I don’t know. All I did know was that I wasn’t making it for lunch. I went back to my hamburger soup. I was a little worried because it’s been so long since I have had to digest anything I wasn’t sure how it would go.

So far it’s meh. I didn’t get sick from the soup but I wouldn’t say I feel better. I figure if I need to I can do partial elemental diet but at this point I have a fairly strong aversion to the shakes.

What is weird to me is that there’s nothing in the shakes that should be aggravating the sibo. But my aches in my neck, throat, shoulders, other joints, and the general anxiety for no reason tell me something is up. Hopefully I get answers by Monday!

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happiness

SIBO: ElementALL Diet day 7

It’s been a week since I’ve had food I could chew. Or felt full. And I’m very whiny about that.

One thing I’ve realized throughout this process is that I’ve never been really, truly hungry for a prolonged period of time – and that is a privilege that I have totally taken for granted. Even now when I constantly feel so hungry, I’m not really – my nutritional requirements are being met.

Back in the days when I was teaching there were 2 schools I worked at that provided meals for the students and often those meals were the only times those kids ate. Which of course means that holidays and weekends were extra rough on these young souls. I always felt for them, and was so grateful that they were at schools where they were being fed, but I don’t think I really understood how awful it must have been for them having nothing to eat. And honestly, I am aware that even now I don’t have a real understanding of what it must be like for one of these kids because like I said although I’m hungry my nutritional needs are being met. And also I’m fortunate enough that I am getting professional help to deal with this – how many people are living a life where they can barely function because helping with these kinds of illnesses isn’t covered through regular medical care? I’m ashamed to admit I had very little understanding of things I would have lumped into the larger term of IBS. This isn’t just an upset stomach or feeling kind of crappy. It affects my mental health, my ability to digest food, my joints and general pains in the body, brain fog, and so much more. Quite literally it stops me from being able to do the things I want to do, things I need to do. It feels like I’m debilitated by the equivalent of a paper cut – but it’s so much more than that.

I’m still having my existential crisis. Although it now comes with a side order of grief, which makes sense since I’ve stuffed down so much of my grief to “deal with it later” – which I suppose is now. I have stayed committed to staying off social media while I go through this aside from posting on my blog. But yesterday when I opened my ipad I saw a notification from this dog I follow on Facebook. Poor Bradley Bear (BB) is a Pyrenees/beagle cross and is just the cutest little guy. On Friday his 18 year old cat sibling crossed the rainbow bridge and poor BB had been quite distraught. So when I saw the notification I figured I’d just go on fb to see how poor BB was doing. Not well it seems. He had a rough couple of days and on Monday they took him to the vet to find out that his kidneys were in total failure and they made the decision to put him to sleep yesterday.

I spent the whole day crying for this dog. Which kind of shows you where I am at emotionally. So this morning I once again cheated and looked on FB to see how the poor owners were doing. What I discovered was that when they went to go to the vet for his rainbow bridge appointment he was doing so much better – so he’s home on hospice care and being loved for a few more days. You just never know what is around the corner.

I don’t know why I’m sharing BB’s story but it really affected me – and made me realize how much of my own grief I’m holding in and probably need to deal with.

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happiness

SIBO: ElementALL diet day 5

Well, I’m still doing it. Still feeling like crap, but still doing it. I keep thinking “this is the die-off phase and it won’t last long”, but it is still going on. Today has more sibo-like feelings in that I’m quite achy and joints are a bit sore. But I know there’s no way I’m eating anything that is activating sibo so it must be die off.

Although I feel like I’m starving to death I’ve actually gained 3 pounds. Because.. of course I would. So that’s great. I’ve lost about 30 lbs though since I’ve been working at this so I suppose in the bigger picture it’s not the end of the world. It seems as though sibo either causes massive weight loss or weight gain – and my body has always responded like a 17th century peasant heading into a famine: “Oh I must preserve every ounce of fat I have to survive what is coming ahead”.

I have also entered into some kind of existential crisis. Who am I? how do I fit into the world? What is the meaning of life? Who is God? What is the Universe? A lot of these are questions I often ask, but they feel different right now and the answers I’m coming up with are significantly different. A Course In Miracles talks a lot about the willingness to see things differently, and the further I go on this journey the more I understand that phrase. Just when I think I kind of understand things, something inside shifts and once again I see things differently.

My current existential crisis is asking for quiet to absorb and sort things out, so I’ve stepped away from social media (I’ll post this but I’m choosing not to look at or scroll through my social media) so that I can have some quiet time for my brain. I have to say, it’s nice having my phone off and not getting constant notifications about every little thing. Of course that needs to be balanced with some social interaction because we need each other. I keep thinking of Thoreau and his quiet time at Walden Pond – not totally isolated, but living in seclusion – and also his famous quote about leading lives of quiet desperation.

I think about this quote a lot. And I think it is as true now as it was in the 1840s – at least for me. Maybe even it’s this quiet desperation that led me to be sick. For sure it was the anxiety and trauma that surrounded it. Or maybe I’m just hungry.

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happiness

Sibo: ElementALL Biological Diet

I have the best naturopath. I had an appointment on Wednesday to go in and discuss the sibo flare up that I have been struggling with. It had been a good 10 days of pretty intense pain and feeling generally unwell, and while I had been able to go through the notes of past sessions and find a few herbs to help relieve symptoms somewhat I was still in dire need of help.

So when I got the call that my naturopath was sick and couldn’t see me that day I almost cried. I actually did start crying when they said the next available appointment was in 2 weeks. But instead of shutting down, which was my normal behaviour in the past, I told the receptionist exactly what was going on and asked if there was any way she could ask my Dr if he had any advice.

After the call I had a little pity party. Actually, it was like I split into two people – PityPartyMelissa and NewAndImprovedMelissa. PPM was all “see, this is why we never count on anyone for anything, everyone ends up abandoning us, you can never depend on anyone ever”. And NAIM was like “dude! The man is sick. You haven’t been abandoned, you know he will help you out. Something will come through and you will get direction about how to help make things better. Seriously, breathe and chill a bit”.

After about a half hour the phone rang and it was my naturopath, sick as heck, but who gave me thirty minutes of his time to listen and give me some advice about how to feel better. I am so grateful for the amazing people I have in my life who are helping me heal.

We decided that on top of the herbs I was taking he was going to put me back on the tincture of death, ADP (because it works better than the regular oregano oil pills I was taking), and….. start me on the ElementALL Biological Diet by Bioclinic. The idea with the elemental diet is that it’s pre-digested food and gives the digestive system a break as well as not containing anything that would feed the sibo bacteria.

It’s probably a good thing I was feeling so crappy because let me tell you, these shakes are not for the faint of heart. I got the chocolate flavour (and I use the term chocolate – and flavour – loosely) because my Dr said that the other flavour had a strong after taste of vomit. Yum. The smell of the shake just about dropped me to the ground. I have discovered it tastes much better if you can manage not to breathe while drinking. To me the after taste is kind of what horse sweat smells like but like if a horse had been swimming in a stagnant swamp before sweating. So it’s delicious!!

I am now a day and a half – or 5 meals – into my shakes. I cry a little every time it’s “meal” time, but I’ve been sticking to it and not having anything else. It’s easier because literally everything I was eating was making me so sick. Here’s what I’ve found: my headache is almost completely gone, my joint aches have significantly decreased, my stomach is still pretty angry but it has settled down a lot – and I’m apparently in die off mode now which means I’m staying close to the bathroom. But I’m feeling so much better. And best of all – after spending days and weeks not sleeping and feeling so anxious because of being tired and feeling unwell – for the last two nights since starting the shakes I have slept right through the night (which never happens) and my anxiety has dropped from a 7 to a 3. Which makes the fact that I am almost constantly fantasizing about eating piles of mashed potatoes easier to handle. I am feeling more connected to myself again, present in my body, and I am grateful for the fact that I have the resources available to me to be able to seek the help that I need.

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happiness

SIBO: Relapse? Never resolved? Frustrated

Things are not going well in SIBO land for me right now. It’s been at least a couple of weeks of pretty extreme discomfort (achy joints, headache, brain fog, anxiety, not sleeping etc) and I’ve finally decided that perhaps we never got rid of the sibo and with me introducing new foods it’s flared up again.

Now, by new foods I don’t mean things like chocolate cake (sob), or even things like potatoes or grains. It was things like Swiss chard, eggplant, asparagus, and olive oil – all things cleared with or suggested by my naturopath. I kind of blame the olive oil even though it’s supposed to be good for sibo but at this point I have nothing besides a hunch. I was doing well when I was using avocado oil, but when I ran out a month ago I switched to olive oil and it’s been a steady decline since. But there could be other reasons.

Of course it’s not just a weekend but a long weekend so I have to wait for my appointment with my naturopath until Wednesday. But yesterday I kind of snapped and decided to help myself because the pressure building inside me was becoming too much to take. By pressure I mean that it feels like I’m being wired with very uncomfortable electricity that just vibrates through my body giving me a headache and feeling of pressure that makes me feel like I’ll explode. And I’m sharing this in case there are other people out there suffering who have no idea what is going on or feel like they’re alone. Although I would never wish this on anyone, so I kind of hope I’m all alone with it.

I went to our local drug store – Two Pharmacy in Cochrane- and picked up some liver support, berberine, and oil of oregano, all of which I had been on before during the kill off phase. I bought a different oregano oil though and I think I’ll wait on that until I see my dr. So far there’s a lot less pressure but I still feel like crap. I’ve cut out everything besides hamburger meat, because I know meat doesn’t feed the sibo. And while i’m grateful for the cows that are healing me, damn I miss vegetables. But I have a lot of gratitude for those cows, they are healing my insides not to mention that my house and my life here was literally built because of cows, and I am eternally thankful for what they are doing for me. The fact that their lives were given to improve my health is not forgotten and I am constantly in a state of gratitude for that.

So I go Wednesday and find out whether or not becoming my own doctor over the weekend was a good idea. I don’t know what else to do- it’s not like you can go into urgent care and say that you feel like you’re dying because of sibo because it doesn’t show up on regular tests. But damn, it does kind of feel like you’re dying. And that’s not me being dramatic, it’s bloody awful. I can’t believe I ever used to just cram food in my mouth and not worry that it was going to debilitate me.

But this will eventually be resolved and I’ll feel like I’m back on track with my healing journey. Actually even though I feel like crap I still know I’m on my healing journey. I’ve come so far, and so much of this is just using intuition and stepping back and allowing God to be present (that and a lot of crying and trying to bargain with God for my health – but those aren’t probably as helpful as the first two).

Blessings

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happiness

SIBO – Tincture of Death

After getting a positive diagnosis for SIBO using the breath test provided by my naturopath it was time to begin treatment. This was a slow but interesting process.

Phase one was preparing my body for the eradication phase and included lots of liver support. I was prescribed several herbs to help my liver, was drinking lemon infused water (yum), taking Iberia’s, and digestive enzymes. I also began following a SIBO specific diet which was very limited. Mostly I was eating egg yolks and steak for breakfast, and for lunch and supper eating a soup made of ground beef, tomato paste, carrots, and kale. While not cured I certainly noticed I was feeling better. Less head fog, less anxiety – but still at uncomfortable levels for both and still lots of body aches.

I finally got to phase two and started the Tincture of Death. I was so excited because with a name like that it had to be powerful right? Turns out that while it’s a pretty amazing little tincture and does lot of good things, it got its name not because of how it would kill all my wayward bacteria (which it does help do), but because it tastes like death. Or perhaps makes you wish for death while you’re drinking it. I’m pretty used to it now – but damn it took me a minute.

This was combined with some other herbal combinations to help eliminate the bacteria in my small intestine.

I’m now kind of in phase three (the biofilm buster phase) and finishing phase two. It seems there are still some of those buggers persisting.

One thing I’ve discovered about SIBO is that it’s different for everyone. The symptoms can be different, and the recovery as well – some people heal quickly, some struggle for years. I’m hopeful I’ll recover on the quicker side – I’ve got a great naturopath who really understands this issue (and who has experienced and healed from it), and I’m following all the recommendations with precision. But life and stress certainly play a role in this disorder.

I’m discovering how much SIBO has affected my mental health and my ability to function. Next time I’ll delve more into that, but for now I’ll say that when the symptoms are quieted down I feel like I can take on the world. I feel connected to the Divine, and my anxiety is basically gone. I have more energy, sleep better, and feel joyful in ways that I haven’t felt in years. When the SIBO takes over almost immediately I get head fog, body aches, disconnect spiritually and emotionally, and struggle with my anxiety to the point that I can barely handle the day. It sounds so dramatic, but it is so fascinating to me how much my gut health affects my whole way of life.

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happiness

What the Frack is this SIBO stuff?

This year I decided to make a commitment to my physical health. I’ve been dedicated to improving both my mental and spiritual health for a good 10 years now, and had been feeling pretty disappointed because I hadn’t been seeing the improvements I’d been hoping for. Don’t get me wrong, I am a much better version of the person I was 10 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how my brains works. I’ve been studying for my masters degree in counselling psychology and have had the opportunity to understand my brain, my personality, and my traumas in a completely different way. I’ve been studying spirituality and developing a completely new relationship – a healthier and more secure one – with the Divine. And yet I still felt like shit almost all of the time.

By feeling like shit I mean that no matter how hard I worked through therapy, or on my own, my anxiety was still out of control. My depression would come creeping in for no particular reason except to let itself be known. The bloating, omg the bloating. My whole body ached, I had a fuzzy head to the point where it was difficult to think some days. I was exhausted but not sleeping. I felt like a failure because I was working so hard and not seeing any improvements. Worst of all, when the anxiety would come rushing out of nowhere it gave me all of the same trauma type feelings that I felt from my marriage and that made it pretty much impossible to move beyond the feelings of being stuck in an abusive relationship.

So early this year I went to see my family doctor to see if she could refer me to an allergist. In the previous 6 months or so, I had discovered that certain foods were triggering my moods and my joint pain – particularly gluten (giving up gluten was quite the learning process- that shit is in everything). I told her that while giving up gluten had helped me I still wasn’t feeling good.

I am blessed to have an absolutely fantastic doctor who has taken the time to get to know both me and my children, she listens and doesn’t fix problems with medication alone. She told me that she also had been having some food issues and her recommendation was to go see a naturopath. That recommendation changed everything for me.

I booked myself in with a naturopath in town and really had no idea what to expect. I went in with my list of symptoms expecting to be told that I was making horrible diet choices and that would be about it. Instead he listened to me describe how I was feeling and then asked me if I’d ever heard of SIBO.

No, I had not heard of SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth – what in the world is that? So apparently bacteria is not supposed to grow in our small intestines, but sometimes it can creep up in there and cause problems. It can be caused by many things, including antibiotics, unresolved trauma and long term stress. (Hellooooo stress and trauma my old friends). He said that food wise it was particularly triggered by onion and garlic – two of my favourite things to put in my mouth – but that there were many other foods that feed this bacteria.

He gave me a SIBO breath test to take home and use. You have to follow a very restricted diet for a couple of days to prepare, then you drink a nasty lactulose drink and breathe into vials at 20 minute intervals over the next couple of hours. I tested positive for both types of SIBO and my numbers were quite high.

Bingo

I’m about 3 months into my treatment now. I’ve got a long ways to go, but already I feel better than I have in decades. My physical health has improved – I’m slowly getting more energy, I’m sleeping better. My mental health has improved – my anxiety and depression have decreased to mostly manageable levels. My spiritual connection has completely changed and I am developing a much closer connection to Source.

I’ve decided to chronicle my progress – both the challenges and successes – because it seems that SIBO is a new addition to the IBS game and one that there is very little known about and is often misdiagnosed.

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happiness

Thinking of Grandma

It was 18 years ago today that Grandma left us here and returned home to God and to be reunited with all of those who had left before her. I will forever remember her last weeks as some of the most difficult, but also some of the most beautiful moments I’ve had in my life.

It was important to Grandma that she return to the ranch and that she not die in a hospital where nobody knew her. My parents and uncles and aunts arranged for her to come home to her house, and they set up a hospital bed in the living room for her.

Probably what I remember most is how the family gathered. It seemed like the house was full of her children and grandchildren – all of us eating, drinking tea, and sharing stories. I’ve always felt Grandma’s heart in this house, but never more than I did during that time.

There was even a moment – one that I call the “I’ll love you forever moment” where she wanted to join us all in the kitchen but was unable to walk from her bed. My loving cousin Ryan picked her up the same way I’m sure she had picked him up countless times when he was small, and carried her into the kitchen, gently placing her in a chair, so that she could be part of the fun. When I would read “I love you forever” to my kids I always burst into tears when the son carried his mother because of this moment. It was so simple and beautiful.

Dad called me at work when she died. Somehow they let the call go into my classroom so I got the news while standing in front of my students. At the time I was teaching mostly kids who had been labeled with behaviours so extreme they were not allowed into regular classrooms. I can’t think of a better bunch of people to hear the news with – most of these kids knew sorrow. They were so good and kind and all of them said something nice to me as a I grabbed my things and left for the ranch.

When the boy and I got out there (he was almost 3 at the time – I’d grabbed him from his dayhome) the house was much quieter. My uncles and aunts were there, grandma was still there although her soul was already dancing in heaven. My aunt headed out to the field for a quiet moment and returned with crocuses – it’s very early to have them here on April 5th and we don’t really get them here at all anymore. I remember we all just sat there, sharing stores and supporting each other. My other aunt knew Grandma well enough to know that she wouldn’t want to go out with her hair all a mess so she sat down in the living room at the bed and redid that fabulous updo that Grandma sported for as long as I could remember. Another beautiful act of kindness and love.

I have learned a lot about how to love and how to grieve from my family. And a lot about how important it is to have faith. I have faith that Grandma is in a better place that is filled with love and joy. I hope she looks down on us living here in her home and knows how grateful we are for the space, and for the memories that live within these walls.

From Grandma’s Kitchen has been a series of stories and photos that was created here in the kitchen she loved so much, but really it is has been a way for me to honour one of the greatest, fiercest, most loving and faith filled people I have ever known. This home was a place of refuge for me when I was younger, not because of the building but became of the home that Grandma created within these walls. She taught us all the importance of family, of loving each other, and of loving God (and also of cows and to always dress and act like a lady).

Grandma I am so grateful for all the gifts you gave me- I carry that wisdom deep in my soul. You are missed and you are loved.

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