Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

life before illness

A Beautiful Day

I had very vivid dreams last night of driving to town and going grocery shopping. For most people this surely would have been a pretty mundane dream and rather boring even. For me, its usually the nearest I come to living normally again because most things like this are beyond me at this time.

But apparently they weren’t beyond me today! What an exciting and wondrous day we have had.

It all started with a good night’s sleep – the first in at least a week. We both slept in well this morning and were pleased to see the first warm day without some rain in weeks. Shortly before we got going on breakfast and everything else that begins our day, Ron (Jeremy’s dad) called to see if we needed anything from town.

While Jeremy was chatting away with him on the phone it just suddenly occurred to me that it would be a lot of fun to go in to town with Ron for some fresh produce. I mentioned it to Jeremy who immediately liked the idea and he asked Ron about it because we’d have to keep the trip short and he had plans for several errands.

In one of those moments that makes me really thankful for how cool Ron is about helping us out, Ron spontaneously changed his plans and in less than half a hour we were all piled in his car and off to town!

It was a beautiful day, warm with a lot of sunshine. We went first to the Farmer’s Market where we turned in some paperwork for purchasing a CSA share at a local farm. This is a program many small farms offer of letting you buy a membership that will provide one box of produce a week throughout the summer of all the fresh stuff they are growing. It supports the local farmers, in this case an organic farm, while also letting us diversify our veggies. I was very pleased to see that the produce stocked at the booth was the best looking stuff compared to several other small farms with stands at the market.

Next we popped over to one of Ron’s favorite burrito joints, a new place that has opened in town. Remembering to go with tacos instead of burritos because of corn vs. flour tortillas with wheat/gluten, we got our food to go. It was the first restaurant we had gone into since Jeremy’s mom took us to lunch on the way home from a long distance drive to see a neurologist in 2003. Seven years went by with an amazing amount of speed.

Steak tacos with extra veggies instead of cheese.
Steak tacos with extra veggies instead of cheese

The trip to the restaurant highlights how odd life has become. It was loud with voices all around me as many people enjoyed their lunches. I found I no longer posses the automatic noise filtering I never knew I had, as it was very hard to focus just on Ron’s speaking – all the voices in the background were just as much in my attention as his was. The air felt very stale and the acoustics of a high ceiling were a bit disorienting.

Even the trip to use their ladies room was strange to me. They share a hallway with a next door cantina and its down this hallway that I found the bathroom. As soon as I stepped into the hallway I was surrounded by familiar smells from just about every bar I’d ever been in and memories of times past flooded in. I found it interesting these odors were comforting and inviting even though usually when suddenly surrounded by strong scents I react with anxiety and concern for my health.

Another thing I’ll share just because of its unusualness. That was the first toilet I had the chance to use since last October. Think about it next time you are using one yourself – months have passed for me without one. Its been seven years since I have used one more than a half dozen times in any give year. As odd as that must seem to you, it was just as odd to me today in using one. This was a first for me as in the past its always still felt normal. Perhaps its the length of time passing or just me having accepted my current state of life more, but it was definitely odd for me.

We made one last stop on the way home – our normal grocery store where Ron buys for us the majority of our organic produce. It was a bit surrealistic there because it was the same store I used to shop at while going to college and working, but it had been heavily remodeled a few years ago and this was my first trip in since. Nothing was recognizable as the old store after I walked through the front doors. The sights and smells were very strange to me as well.

All the soda, candy, chips and just plain junk that I was so used to seeing around me before, it now stood out to me as very odd things to consume. I have eaten quality food for many years. Since going paleo there hasn’t even been anything processed as we cook everything from scratch. None of the brightly colored boxes and giant logos looked like anything editable to me. While in the aisle at the checkout counter I innocently sighed a bit and was revolted by the sweet and cloying taste to the air from all the candy, gum, and mints next to me.

So many things today are so foreign to me now. When I do go into town and am active in normal pursuits there instead of only seeing a doctor, it feels like a different country. Some days a different planet even. I don’t feel entirely the same as everyone around me, in fact I feel fairly different. They all belong to a culture that is not mine now.

I am now part of a tribe of people spread all around the world who share in my hardships and joys, our one joining feature being a deep understanding of living with chronic illness. We are all very different from each other – even our seasons can be completely different with me just going into summer and them going into winter. Yet I feel distinctly more a part of the tribe that has formed on the internet of my fellow chronics than I feel while walking the streets of a town I’ve lived in for most of the last 11 years.

It has been a very interesting day for me and there is only one last thing to share. Today really showed me just how much improvement Jeremy and I have seen since going paleo and starting the b12 shots. We reacted much less to all the stimulus around us regardless of if it was loud sounds (live band at the farmer’s market), crowds of people, scents, perfumes, and lots of walking on cement (normally just on dirt paths in camp). We even had a chance to see improvements in how our bodies handled us skipping breakfast and only grabbing a small, quick snack before leaving. Being active without breakfast would usually have our blood sugar plummeting quickly, but today we did well despite the lack of food until 2 pm.

I am pleased with today and how my body handled it. Its been years since we spontaneously went to town just to have a good time. This speaks volumes for the mental changes taking place along with the physical ones. I deeply believe that part of getting well is mentally wanting to be well and being willing to accept change. It pleases me to see a trip like today because its a very real symbol of how ready we are for change to come to our lives.

I look forwards to taking more trips like today’s as the summer comes upon us!


Of Butterflies and Chaos

Detox.

Most people are familiar with the word, products on store shelves promising to detoxify you from last night’s party or flush the junk food out of your system.

But what does it really mean?

The body has several pathways by which it will detoxify everything from that extra couple of shots last night to the cellular wastes produced by many biological processes which keep us alive. This system is also responsible for making sure the smog you inhale in big cities, the fabric softener used on the person’s coat standing next to you in line, or the remains of some pest spraying in your office over the weekend are all filtered out of your body without causing you to notice anything has occurred.

These substances can be removed or rendered safe by our bodies in many ways. The liver, kidneys, bowels, lymph, and skin are all major contributors in this vital process.

When something goes wrong in these pathways of toxin removal it can have disastrous effects.

Why would something go wrong?

Humans have not evolved around the byproducts of big industry, chemical fertilizer and pest controlled farming, artificial everything, plastics, car exhaust, etc – the list of new things introduced in the last two hundred years would feel endless were I to detail it here. Because we have only been polluting our environment and lives on such a mega scale for a very short amount of time in our evolutionary line, less than even 10 generations, we have not had time to adapt.

Many of us (some studies suggest more than 50% of the population) are born with various genetic divergences that impact in varying degrees just how well our bodies can cope with the 21st century.

If so many people have these gene divergences why aren’t more people ill from living in an industrialized society?

Because just as a butterfly beating its wings in a far off country can lead to a hurricane here at home, so too can it lead to nothing at all. It takes many other factors for that butterfly’s fateful flight to lead all the way to a hurricane and it usually takes more than one event to lead to a person being as ill as I am now due to problems with detoxifying our modern world.

Chaos theory, the butterfly effect.

Chaos theory, the butterfly effect.

In my case, a seemingly random combination of events led to this health and living situation I currently find myself in.

In many ways it could be said to have started with a bathroom exhaust fan that made noise when switched on but did not actually work. It should have removed the steam from many hot baths taken to relieve the stress of a particularly heavy class load while also working part-time. Instead it led to the proper humid conditions for black mold to proliferate behind a wall hanging over my bed and also inside my mattress, out of sight like a predator waiting to strike.

Add in a ten day field trip six months later with my class in which we go to the desert, live outdoors and use lots of mosquito repellent at night while enjoying each others company while sitting around a fire. Yet unknown to me as I added the repellent to the toxic load my body had to cope with, over those intervening six months the mold had been growing, spreading, and slowly poisoning me every night while I slept.

A week after I arrive back home my apartment became enshrouded in toxic fumes. The police thought it likely to be from a next door neighbor starting to produce methamphetamine with fumes that seeped into my home. Our apartment manager did not care so refused to allow us to switch apartments before it was too late. In a very short time, my furniture and everything inside the apartment, carpeting and the walls included, soaked up the fumes and produced a toxic environment every minute of the day.

Just as a butterfly’s flight to the next flower for nectar can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away, so too can a broken bathroom exhaust fan cause a cascading reaction in which the body is continuously overburdened by toxins and finally… loses… the… battle.

Would I be here now had there been no black mold? There is no way to know, that apartment was toxic all on its own. But one thing is a certainty, one of the main things that has kept my health poor is the low volume of toxins my body is able to detoxify on its own.

Many call us canaries of the modern world. I think this is very false.

Unlike real canaries in the coal mines which the miners put their faith into and cared for because their lives depended on them, those of us who are now the would be canaries of our hazardous world are ignored, ridiculed, and left to live outside of life because too few people care to listen to our urgent cries.