EMDR Session 5: A Deeper Explanation

I am a full believer that my mind has been playing tricks on me for the last couple decades, with the past 5-6 years containing an over-abundance of trickery. It has wired it self for these tricks. It’s taken traumatic events from my past and connected them to things that are slightly related but not the same. Those connections (“tricks”) have distorted my perception of reality and logic. I’ve acted on these tricks, formed judgments, said irrational things based on irrational thoughts, accumulated anxiety and at times been a straight up asshole. That is what I learned in my fifth EMDR session.

I’ve written a little bit about how EMDR works to create new neural pathways in the brain. As a recap, a thought travels through you brain and into the trauma neural pathway.  It hooks on something from that trauma, then out of your mouth comes something crazy or you have an uncontrollable physical reaction. The EMDR process creates new neural pathways so that crazy mumbling or a racing heart becomes something sensible or ceases all together.

I’ve also written about how my sessions involve what Janet (therapist) calls tappers, small oval devices I place in each of my hands that vibrate during a session. Janet takes me inside a traumatic memory, asks me pointed questions mostly about my feelings at that specific moment in the memory, and the tappers do their thing. Sometimes one hand buzzes, then the other or both at once.

Being inside the memory is a detached pain. I feel the emotions, hurt and sadness. But I’m watching it like a movie so I only absorb just enough to experience surface-level feelings. I’m unsure if it is the same for everyone, but I can link my current behavior to my past pain while inside a memory. I see patterns and make connections from the past to the present somewhat easily. The after-effects of a session can last days, with connections continuing to develop and expand over weeks.

True behavioral change from EMDR takes effort, like any other change. But changing behaviors with EMDR is different because it answers the question of why, why am I reacting/behaving/feeling a certain way. For me, talk therapy put too much effort into fixing something I didn’t fully understand. I had a cognitive behavioral therapist tell me once that the why doesn’t matter and might never be answered. Nah, my brain doesn’t work that way. And I believe a lot of other brains don’t work that way. We crave knowing more about our feelings and reactions. We are natural learners which makes the need to know why ingrained inside us. We learn thousands of whys as we age. It gives us purpose and drives us to learn more. That doesn’t stop just because our feelings are abnormal or irrational.

From that natural, perpetual desire for answers, I believe real change has 2 major keys. The WHY is the first key to changing. Without it you’re just spinning around in the dark without a clear path, hoping one in a million things you try sticks for the long term. That’s the recipe for exhaustion.

Because EMDR has made the “why” connection for me, it has been the primary key to my changes, in addition to behavior modifications. The most interesting part about EMDR is it has slowed my reactions down to the point where I can make the connection in the moment, change my normal reaction to something logical and do something different. Doing something different has created a different outcome rather than keeping me stuck in the same ol’ crazy pain chunnel reactionary pattern that always ends in disappointment, wasted emotions, self-deprecation.

This is the 2nd key to change: doing something different. Without EMDR I don’t think I would have gotten to the place where I could see the possible outcomes of a reaction and chose the least chaotic option. It has given me a level of clarity into the domino effect my reaction has in the moment, so I can make a change immediately, rather than looking back on what I could/should have done.

Can you learn the why and do something different without EMDR? Of course. But pain and trauma are subjective. There are so many levels of physical and emotional abuse, and some people have endured more than others. So when a reaction stems from pain or trauma, it doesn’t matter if someone’s trauma is worse or better. It’s creating havoc in daily activities, relationships, careers regardless of the degree. I didn’t understand that until my doctor suggested EMDR. Hell, I didn’t even think I was abused; I thought I just had extreme or incurable mental health issues. I would have never gotten to the conclusion I had a broken gut unable to make enough serotonin and PTSD from childhood trauma on my own. EMDR has been the missing link for me to make the trauma into something useful for creating a better me. A dozen self-help books, medications, journaling and talk therapy didn’t and couldn’t have gotten me to that place.

For anyone doing the same thing because of the same shitty thoughts, I cannot recommend EMDR enough. It is in itself doing something different—so a different outcome is bound to happen. That’s a law of physics,.

Beyond Thankful

I hit rock bottom a year ago on Thanksgiving. I came home from our family meal, crawled into bed and cried the rest of the night. My family wanted mom to hang out but by then was accustomed to riding the wave of my moods. I had taken to getting in the car alone, like a zombie and driving around in the country until I was lost, pulling out my GPS and coming home a different person. Basically, they were used to my weird shit so bawling all night wasn’t that alarming…. for them.

It actually scared the hell out of me. I realized the next day when the black cloud had passed that I was broken. Seriously broken. And I didn’t want to just feel better; I wanted to know WHY I felt like shit.  Then something crazy happened the following week---the medical practice I had been waiting to get into for two years called out of the blue and asked if I still wanted to be seen. And thus, my journey to heal began. By the time I wrote my first website post, I had been treating for just over two months and so much had changed inside me within that short amount of time I had to share it.

This Thanksgiving, I was getting ready to go to family dinner when it hit me how different I felt a year later. I teared up this time with happy tears at how much I enjoyed life. I no longer felt lost and confused. I felt strong and healing. I say healing instead of healed because I am a work in progress. Every day I learn a little more about me and who I choose to be. It is now both habit and commitment. So the day I stop progressing will be the day I die.

The past year has taught me this: You are a puzzle not a victim. For so long I felt trapped by mental illness, childhood wounds, bad decisions, regret. By sheer force, I learned about my body, especially gut health and the role it plays in making a healthy mind. I’ve created a body that feels amazing 29 days a month, and the other 1-2 days it has the tools to manage any less than optimal feelings. I could have just accepted the shittiness as my forever and almost did. But raw resilience kept me pushing forward into the unknown depths of my broken self. For that, I am a puzzle; I am my own rubrics cube. I am no one’s victim.

This year I am thankful I didn’t let me destroy me. Every bite of cheese and bread I pass up, every workout I get in is a reminder of just how close I came to self-destruction. To stop this journey now would be a step backwards, and I don’t go backwards.

I challenge you to take a year and commit to unlocking your puzzle. Stop settling for humdrum days. Quit thinking a pill, drink or smoke is going to heal you because it won’t. Embrace the reality of your brokenness with child-like wonder. Learn your body and make your way towards to driver’s seat. Gain control of whatever it is that is holding you back and fine-tune your machine for optimal performance. Be thankful for the opportunity to change. Do the work, make the sacrifice, find the willpower. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. And I promise you are worth it.

Dietary Results #4 and Random Chatter

Recently, I realized (inadvertently by going to my own website for a recipe) I hadn’t posted anything in the Results section since August. Interestingly, not writing about any results in the last two months is exactly how I’ve been feeling…lacking results.

My lack of progress has been a nagging feeling I couldn’t put it into words until I read my own site. Frankly, I’ve been in a little funk. The high I felt over the last few months now waxes and wanes. I have no idea why. I just feel like something is missing and can’t put my finger on it. At times lately, I’ve been forgetful or felt like I am half way participating in life or constantly jogging to keep up. It’s like when you watch a strong wind pick up a small pile of leaves and they spin around, eventually scattering in every direction. That’s been me; I’m all over the place. And while I’m concerned, I’ve succumbed to it likely being that I am trying too hard, pushing too much to grow. Relentless overachieving tends to give me a shove back so I am keeping that in my peripheral vision for now.

One observation I’ve had during this period is that personal growth is somewhat lonely. People are happy for your change but don’t want to necessarily change with you. Every motivational piece you read or hear says that people change in their own time, in their own way. Still, wouldn’t it feel really good to change together? I am lucky to have one or two people who have made a few steps with me into the unknown. But of course, me being me, I want more. That fine line between satisfaction and dissatisfaction still stops me from meditation, the end goal. All I can do is hope for a quiet, peaceful mind. Does that come from caring less? How does one care less? Again, I ponder….  

I also hit a wall in an online course I was taking on gratitude.  I made it through three lessons before coming to a dead stop. A portion of the third lesson required fasting from complaining. I wanted to do this so badly I gave myself 10 days. I then failed on both days 1 and 2. Frustrated and unable to half-ass anything, I abandoned the entire course. I realize now I set the bar too high. I should have tried giving up complaining for a singular day. Then building on that day with 2 days and so on until I reached 10. From there, I can then try to take it to 66, as that is the number of days science says your brain needs to make something a habit. I am now back to the goal of a single day. Fingers crossed.

On the dietary front, I got the results of my food test back. It showed a clear sensitivity to all dairy. Unfortunately, it also showed eggs and oats. Breakfast and baking have changed completely. A few other random things showed up: brewer’s and baker’s yeast, clams, malt, cola, grapes, cilantro, asparagus, black pepper and pineapple. My doctor wants me to focus on dairy, eggs, oats and yeast right now and consume the rest in moderation. I miss eggs but am feeling much better. It seems as if eggs are the missing link to my remaining digestive issues.

My supplements also changed a little as I added in ½+ teaspoon of Glutagenics and changed my Estrodim to CDG Estrodim, by Metagenics and Orthomollecular respectively. The Glutagenics helps repair the gut lining and hands down is my favorite supplement thus far. Every day I feel my gut getting stronger. It has a slight licorice taste so I put a scoop of powder in my coffee, and the taste disappears with the acidity of the coffee. While the PMDD is down to a singular day a month, I desperately want it gone completely. The CDG component of the Estrodim flushes horded estrogen in three ways vs. one. It is also twice the price. But sometimes you pay for what you need, so right now it is worth the cost.

EMDR resumes in a couple weeks. In the meantime, I am working on a couple things which weren’t priorities when I began this journey. One is straightening out my bottom teeth which shifted during pregnancy with invisible retainers. Purely cosmetic but something I’ve wanted for a while. The second is my back, which has also been an issue since birthing my son. I finally saw a spine specialist to confirm my SI joints have been the source of my back pain for the past 4 years. While I’ve remained incredibly active and tolerated it, apparently it has caused a significant leg length difference in my right leg. My goal for early 2019 is a series of Pilates physical therapy sessions to realign my spine and strengthen my core. I am excited about the possibility of living pain-free.

As an ending I will leave you with this: I am hella lucky. No, hella isn’t a word but, damn, it really describes how I feel. I am so blessed to be able to explore making myself whole from every angle. I’ve worked hard for the resources to do so, and this website is 100% for others to try things I’ve done without bearing the full cost. I have one body and one mind, and I will be damned if they don’t last me another 40 years. I would love to spend the money on something luxurious, a fancy trip somewhere, a boat, a nicer car. But in the end, my longevity is more important. Yours is too.


As summer rolls into fall I’ve been doing a lot of deep thinking. I want a quieter mind, but there are thoughts which have been stirring for a while in need of an outlet. My food test results aren’t back for a couple weeks, and my EMDR is now winding down to 2-3 remaining sessions targeted on very specific memories. So in the meantime, I will share one of my biggest motivators: the little blue house.

The little blue house is where I consider myself to have ‘grown up’. I actually moved there late in childhood as an escape to heal abuse. The little blue house was slightly little bigger than my current living room. It was in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t have an operable phone, and I walked with a metal bucket to a nearby lake every day for water to wash my blonde hair to avoid the brassiness of well water. Sometimes it had food; sometimes it was slightly empty of furniture which had been sold to buy food. The little blue house held a warm and wonderful parent, a tiny TV with 5 channels that we watched together, great laughs and freedom from judgment. It was the oddest of paradoxes. It was also a time of survival which in retrospect has become my biggest inspiration.



My goal since childhood has been to create a home with the love felt in the little blue house without the financial stress. It took an upward climb for nineteen years to hit a point of comfort. Those years included 7 years of college (which took 8), 16 jobs, 14 moves, 10 shitty cars and 2 marriages. I’ve started completely over from ground-zero broke 4 times.

The weird part is I never once thought it wouldn’t happen. Even in my lowest times, my most destitute moments, times where I was picking up trash for extra money, times where I had no fucking clue what I was going to do next, I never thought once I wouldn’t reach where I am today. And I owe that to the little blue house. See, in the little blue house I was a kid. I had limited control over my circumstances. Once I hit adulthood, I used that helpless feeling as motivation because in any low times that followed I always had more power than I did living in the little blue house. While in the house I was limited by age and resources, as an adult I felt empowered because I could make life whatever I want it to be.

When people talk to me about what I eat, they say things like I could never give up cheese/bread/butter/beer. I reply, ok but don’t expect to feel better. It is harsh but true. You aren’t going to keep eating inflammatory, caloric foods and suddenly feel free of pain or see a lower number on the scale. A new drug isn’t going to come out that fixes all your depression and anxiety. You aren’t going to keep smoking cigarettes and not die quicker. Your body is your machine. The more in tune you become with it, the more you realize just how connected everything is inside you. You aren’t putting water in your gas tank for a reason.

If you really want to feel better, my advice is to find your own little blue house. What in life has frightened you or made you feel helpless? What have been your worst times? Forgoing cheese is never going to be as bad as that. So tell me again why you can’t try it for a month? Explain to me how you have time to watch television with some chips and dip, but you can’t do a few squats or take a walk. Get out of your comfort zone and use those bad times as the motivation they are. Shitty periods in our lives are lessons. Period. You are either making the most of them or you aren’t. It really is that simple.

Every bad moment I compare back to how I felt in the little blue house. It’s my internal check and balance. Life will never be that hard. So not eating a bun with a hamburger is never going to make me feel trapped by circumstance. It’s just a fucking bun.

We all know what willpower means. We just don’t know how to put it into action. I’ve learned over the past 19 years that willpower is a muscle. Muscles need trained. You get one chance that you know of to live each day feeling good. Make something from those bad times by using them as reference. That comparison will strengthen the muscle and get you making better choices, which will eventually lead to habit. Habit comes from practice. It’s a cycle. Every cycle has a start. If you don’t try, nothing will ever change. That’s science, not just my opinion.

So get a little high on the bad times and see what happens...

Summer Sabbatical

I’ve been writing less lately because I’ve simply been doing stuff, physically and mentally. Physically, I’ve been spending time with my son, working on my house, playing with my dogs and basking a bit in my great life. Mentally, I’ve been on a kiddie coaster. It hasn’t been intense enough to go upside down. But at times I’ve found my self throwing my hands up in the air and trying to enjoy the ride.

A short time after my last post, my body ached for days. It felt like a giant charley horse, especially in my arms. I couldn't turn my key in my ignition or brush my teeth without that gripping feeling. It was weird and frustrating since I am ridiculously active so in to the doctor’s office I went. She thought it was just viral which was a relief. Since I was already there, I also used this time to tell her how I keep crashing. Most days feel slow and steady, go, go, go. But then I will have a day that feels like I'm treading water in an ocean with a cinder block tied to my foot. I’ve ruled out just about everything, and it’s no longer hormonal since the Estrodim keeps that in check. I am beyond convinced it is a food, environmental, something in my life is tipping me over the edge. It is beyond mental health. It literally feels like an internal system failure. By now, I know my body so well I can say these things with conviction. I have a mystery trigger that has hooked itself into my emotions, engulfing me like a tidal wave out of nowhere causing me some real shit days. And I am determined to figure out what it is.  

The doctor’s answer was yet another elimination: Nightshades because possibly it is histamine. I took this opportunity to ask for the 184 foods blood test. My garden is in full swing so taking away tomatoes is like taking away an arm. I also opted for eliminating peppers as a compromise. I’ve had a suspicion for a while that peppers are causing digestive issues. To think they might also be causing emotional issues was enough to quit them for a while. Miraculously after over a month of not eating them, I haven’t crashed once.  

As far as therapy goes, I’ve been on hiatus. I hit a point where the original reason I started EMDR has been alleviated but pain still exists. I didn’t know where to go with that so rather than spending money on purposeless therapy sessions I decided to take a break. I’ve used this time to put the tools I’ve built up into practice and go deeper into my issues, exploring their roots. How did this pain build on itself over the past several decades and how did it trick my mind? Yes, I feel tricked by my own mind at times because pain and the feelings it produces is irrational. Catching myself in illogical or irrational thoughts before they produce pain or irrational actions has been the most gratifying part of my journey thus far. It confirms the EMDR is working. I am creating new neural pathways to process thoughts rather than just triggering pain receptors and reacting. It is close to magical for me.

I also ate pizza. Real pizza. And nothing happened. No sickness afterwards, no sickness the next day. This confirms my gut is healing. It’s not something I want to do often. But I won’t lie; it tasted damn good.

This summer sabbatical has been a vacation from pressure that I would normally put on myself to get everything perfect all the time. I’ve instead chose to let things develop naturally, let my path show itself to me, follow my instincts without caring if they are wrong. To know that I can keep trying if I don’t get it right has been a huge comfort and motivator. It’s also produced successes I couldn’t imagine. Plus, peppers—all this time they’ve been making me feel like hell. Who would have guessed?

I continue to be inspired by my body and mind. We have this incredible ability to heal ourselves that blows me away. Once I hit that quiet mind meditative point I’m aiming for, I have decided to commit more to empowering others. I don’t know how yet, but I want to work one on one with people to give this knowledge back. I feel like this journey has been a gift, a hell at times, but also tiny glimpse of how powerful humans are when they want something. I wanted to feel better. Now I want others to feel better too.

Combo Post: EMDR Session #4 and Dietary Results #3

I like writing when things are improving and find it hard to write when I have set backs. Hence, the slow blogging lately. But it dawned on me that not wanting to write when I’m struggling holds myself to an unrealistic standard. This is supposed to be raw and real, not some perfect internet version of a hard journey.

What prompted me to realize the perceptual flaw was a treadmill workout where I set the incline on high and crouch low, thus climbing upwards. I do the same climb on each side, then backwards. Last, I run. Fast. Somewhere between my right side and turning around, it dawned on me this is just like life. You’re in a slow climb from every angle. Sometimes it speeds up and you struggle to keep pace. In the end you’re sore as hell. Afterwards your muscles rebuild, you’re stronger. That’s exactly where I am mentally—somewhere between going backwards, super fast and pain. It will eventually make me stronger. I just need to keep climbing.

A few days before my last EMDR session I wanted to give up. It honestly freaked me out. As a self-proclaimed overachiever, I’ve never wanted to give up on anything. Janet asked whether I wanted to go through with EMDR session number 4. My reply was that I had to. If I didn’t there was a strong possibility I was going to trash all the progress I’d made and retreat.

After session #4, which was full of overwhelming memories of cruelty, I came full circle again: I am on this path so I do not repeat what was done to me. I am doing this primarily for my son. If I stop, the potential that I damage him increases. When faced with that reality, there is only one choice to keep going. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain (and give). I’m pushing forward through the hurt, doubt and occasional lack of self-control in attempt to learn everything I can to recreate my own normal.  Giving up has officially been removed from my mental health vocabulary.

My doctor’s appointment involved a lot less emotions. My vitamin B, D and magnesium tests were back. The D and magnesium were on point. And while my vitamin B was in the 600’s (above normal levels), my doctor wants to see it in the 900’s so I started a B12 dropper in the a.m. I was also having some sluggishness in the morning so I added in another supplement called phosphatidylserine to energize my cell structure. It is a chemical made in your body which has other benefits too—mood, concentration, memory, stress reduction. I’d also been having more stomach issues than normal so my doctor suggested total corn elimination. I rarely eat corn itself, but I love tortilla chips with hot salsa (and Mexican food in general). Since corn can also be used in cooking oil, salad dressing, basically anything at restaurants I am opting for a food sensitivity blood test instead. I’ll get the results and modify as necessary. I’ve fallen back love with cooking so hopefully I can narrow down the aggravating foods to continue building up my GF DF recipe collection.

The only other goal I have now is incorporating more fun into my life. Whether that means little adventures with my son, dinner with close friends or just watching a show I like, I am savoring the good times, bringing me one step closer to the long-term goal of a quieter mind and eventually mediation….baby steps.

Talk Therapy Session 1

It’s been several weeks since I’ve sat down with my thoughts to write. Since then I’ve been across the country a couple times, taken an exam for a professional designation and began studying for another and played mom/wife/chef/maid on rinse-repeat. The hustle gave me time to put some things into action. And once I did, I wanted to talk about them with Janet. (That is the name of my wonderful life guide—a more accurate title than ‘therapist’.)

I don’t enjoy talk therapy because with such a persuasive profession I find myself naturally saying things to please the other person when I run out of concrete things to talk about. I realized this a couple years ago with a different therapist and instantly became too cheap to continue paying them to listen to my bullshit. But I wanted to tell someone about my observations and external changes that was more than a friend, and I already had an appointment scheduled with Janet. So hours after my last plane landed in to her office I went.

Lately I’ve been toying with what I’ll dub ‘the third law of feelings’: how I react has an equal reaction. Feelings are different from the physics of relativity so rather than an opposite reaction occurring, the reaction of feelings typically mirror each other. If you approach something with anger, you get defensiveness or greater anger. If you’re kind, you get gentleness or understanding in return. Again, this isn’t a brilliant revelation on my part. Most people reading this probably already incorporate the law of feelings into their daily lives.

But what I’ve found interesting about my application of the law is how far I’ve been able to take it. The level of self-control I’ve been able to achieve has been something I’ve been working on for years. I don’t know if it is the EMDR, the food, the supplements, a combination of all the lifestyle changes. But what started off as a slow drip has become an intense focus on my own feelings and reactions.

For a while now, I’ve been trying to implement the successes of my job into daily life hoping that there’s a greater connection. My reactions in my career are calculated. Not in a negative way but in a way that is purposeful. Each expression is gauged to achieve a certain outcome. Once I realized I wasn’t applying that to other aspects of my life, I got really serious about the result I was trying to attain when I expressed my feelings. I slowed things way down, sifted through the possible outcomes and weighed any reactive emotions that could follow. Crazy things started happening. First, I got what I wanted a lot more. My voice was larger even at a softer decibel. Second, I had more energy because I wasn’t spending all of it spinning my wheels trying to be heard. Third, I became really comfortable with not agreeing. This one has changed my life the most.

For the first time, I am completely content conveying my perspective and that being that. I don’t need to persuade anyone to agree with me or to make any point in general. I can say my peace, shrug my shoulders and go about my day. And magically, everything is still fine. This level of communication in my day to day life has encouraged me to re-visit meditation. Despite wanting to badly, I have never been able to still my mind on the level it takes to meditate. But I think I am really, really close.

The calm still feels weird sometimes, and I get the urge to destroy it out of fear. But now I can see that coming and predict how it will end to avoid throwing myself a curve ball in what has been a game of perfect pitches lately. EMDR session #4 is in a couple weeks, and I am optimistic that with a few more sessions I will have washed myself free of the barriers I’ve longed to flush. 

EMDR: Session 3

I went into the next EMDR session frustrated. I'd been on somewhat of a high with what I've learned and the progress I was making. But with every few steps forwards is an inevitable step back. By the time I hit the therapy chair it felt like I was doing the moonwalk. 

For people who know me that read these posts, I can guess (hope) they see me as a strong, successful woman. It takes a lot of courage to propel yourself forward for a couple decades. Not many people know about my fears, and those who do only know a fraction of why they exist, how they came to be or how much control they've had over certain aspects of my life. 

I write on this website for a couple reasons: #1 I've been blessed with the resources to try a bunch of treatments, take a zillion supplements, buy high-quality food, etc. Some of these lifestyle changes have been expensive, and I want people to be able to explore things that have worked for me without baring the overall cost of them. #2 I love to cook and need a place to keep my new recipes all in one place. Plus, having to come up with new ones to post keeps me motivated and accountable. And #3, the biggie, I am really terrible at vulnerability. 

Writing on this site scares me. I am a perfectionist, and this site is a place where I could fail, be judged or deemed wrong. I like to joke that I have a B+ personality--type A with a good sense of humor. But that's bullshit. I am type A+++. What's your game--I will win it; What's your score--I will beat it; What's your argument--I will top it. Whew. Striving for external perfection has been somewhat exhausting.  

What I am learning is that I need to be afraid. So much so that if zero people read this, I would still tell myself people are just to hold my own feet to the fire. I am that committed to making myself uncomfortable. If I keep doing the same shit with the same mindset nothing is going to shake loose. But we all know that; it’s not a prolific statement. 

But this is...eventually, keep reading…I sat back down at my work desk after that third session thinking I had a couple hours to recover before a presentation to my company’s department heads, only to learn that the meeting time had been set when I was gone. And I was 7 minutes late. (Holy hell.) A few minutes after I joined the call (I work remotely), it was game time.  I had no clue how I came across, just that I’d made it through the call. The next day my boss called to say I’d received a random bonus sparked by impressing one of the top 3 people in my organization with my presentation. I was externally grateful, yet internally reflective. The kudos and the money are great. But the feeling of accomplishment that I delivered in the middle of an emotional storm sparked a realization: I control my own thoughts. Every single one of them. None of my past baggage was on that conference call. It was still there; it just didn’t have a role because I didn’t let it because it would have hindered my performance.

For far too long, I’ve felt trapped by my memories or lack thereof.  And I’ve been allowing them enough real estate in my mind to control my behavior.  What if I let some of them go? I have no idea, and I’m slightly terrified. Moments of calm tend make me nervous, skeptical to the point where I create waves of comfortable chaos.

To fully heal, craving chaos must stop (THIS is the prolific statement). I’m not exactly sure how. But my reaction in every moment is a choice and a good starting point. Every word, thought, scowl, smile or tear is my chance to change what happens next. I didn’t get to be a master at my job overnight. It took practice, control, patience. I haven’t been applying these things to other areas of my life. So the personal me is listening to the professional me. It’s all I can think of to do right now.

Dietary Results: Round Two

Before I get to the results of my hormone and stool tests, I’m providing the results of a little self-experiment. My second EMDR session fell on day 86 of consciously being gluten and dairy free, limiting corn, soy and sugar. ALL I wanted to do when I walked out of that session was do some good ol’ emotional eating at the Indian buffet by my house. I text a couple people that I was going to emo eat some wheat and dairy (secretly hoping they’d persuade me otherwise). The responses were wish I could meet you there or that sounds delicious. No one said you’ll poop for two days straight, contemplate napping during the workday, ache all over and generally be an unmotivated, pain in the ass. Next time I get the urge to eat my feelings I will drive to the co-op and buy a piece or two of their homemade gluten free, dairy free chocolate cake. Almost the same comfort but without all the unpleasant consequences.

Several days later, I was able to log into Genova Labs and see my test results prior to my doctor’s appointment. The results looked scary with graphs and percentages, but it turns out it wasn’t as bad as my doctor expected. Basically, I have high estrogen and low lipids in my gallbladder. My body isn’t making the right enzymes to carry estrogen out of my system, and my gallbladder isn’t breaking down fats to absorb nutrients in my food. My yeast, cortisol and melatonin were all good, same with the “good” bacteria levels that come from taking a probiotic.

The most interesting part of this appointment was when I asked if the high estrogen was related to having a baby three years ago. My doctor said this too is gut-related. During lows of prior failed treatments, I would occasionally wonder if the best part of my life, my son, was a catalyst for feeling like shit. It is an awkward relief to know I would have suffered an internal breakdown regardless of getting pregnant. My gut had been failing for years and having a baby didn’t make the dominos fall any faster.

To treat the estrogen, I now take a daily supplement called estrodim. It should level out my estrogen and raise my testosterone (because the two work hand in hand). To help with nutrient absorption, I take 1 ox bile pill after eating a few bites of food at each meal. This has been the hardest supplement to remember because stopping mid-meal to take an itty bitty bill is completely foreign. I’ve put a few and in my wallet, kitchen, office… basically everywhere to help me remember.

My updated supplements are:

1.       Thorne Research Basic Nutrients (multi vitamin) 2 pills

2.       Ortho molecular Ortho Biotic (probiotic) 1 pill

3.       Ortho molecular Orthomega (fish oil) 1 pill

4.       Metagenics Mag Glycinate (Magnesium)-went from 1 to 2 pills a day (am and pm)

5.       Now brand Aloe 1 pill

6.       200 mg Gabapentin- went from 100 mg at night to 100 mg am and pm (prescription drug)

7.       10mg Trintellix- increased from 5 mg to 10 mg (head med) 

8.        Ortho molecular Estrodim- 1 pill at night

9.        Allergy Research Group Ox Bile – 1 pill with each meal

This brings my daily pill total to 14. Thus far, the only side effect is the estrodim making me sleep more soundly.  In a couple months, I retest the B and D vitamin levels, along with the magnesium. I hope to add in another magnesium and possibly another aloe, but the magnesium is chalky and the hardest to swallow so I’ll revisit it after the retest. I don’t go back to the doctor until those tests are performed so for a couple months I am focusing on the EMDR. My doctor says the stress of the EMDR is bound to negatively affect my gut. So counteract that, there will be no random gorging of off-limit food, adherence to my supplement schedule and an extra focus on journaling as a release. Staying focused on healing.

EMDR: Session 2

I walked in and sat down in the chair for my second round of brain ping pong, and for the first time in approximately two months of treatment I wanted to be there. Typically, when my therapist asks how I am my response is that I wish I was somewhere else. I follow that up quickly with the classic ‘it’s me, not you’ so it’s not offensive; it’s just honest. But not this time. I genuinely wanted to go back in to my brain to see what I could shake loose. My curiosity had peaked.

I chose to stick with the same memory. I was stressing a bit trying to think of what I wanted to remember for the second session. Then it hit me during a point of journaling that there was more left to explore in the first memory.  After I dumped the outside world in my box and sat on my mental beach for a while, she asked me to pull up the lowest point of the memory. To my surprise, my brain didn’t go to the door I desperately worked to get open and escape through like it did during the first session. It went to when I tried to walk back in through the door. It went to when no one wanted me to come home.

I’m not going to go into how much these sessions hurt. I was a kid. It all hurts. I want to talk about how the pain has changed and the connections I’ve made from the pain. As you can probably guess, I am not in therapy because of one instance with one door. I’m there for a series of things that took place long before and long after. When I compile all of those together, I never considered the damage from not being allowed to come home. I had a new home. I took care of myself. I went on to be a self-sufficient, successful adult. I considered all the things I did in between character building.

Thoughts have flickered from time to time that possibly some of my greatest achievements come from places of hurt. It’s a huge mind fuck so I tend to brush that off as quickly as possible. But there is something there to think about, not in terms of measuring success but in terms of analyzing the motivation stemming from feeling abandoned.

Along with that internal motivation has come a whole host of misguided feelings, misinterpretations, ridiculous standards placed on myself and others. Bad has come from bad, along with a shit ton of good. That’s where I am at in this mental storm. I’m making peace with the fact that motivation from pain worked when life was uncomfortable. It worked when the struggle to eat was a daily battle. It worked when substance abuse was a common environment. It worked when I was trying to achieve a handful of educational and career goals.

But now, it just doesn’t work. My life is beyond comfortable and my goals are smaller, more streamlined to build on things I’ve already achieved. The people in my life are caring and dependable. So why am I still operating from that closed door? And more importantly, how do I stop? Thus, the journey continues….

EMDR: Session 1

Similar to the dietary results, this topic will also be ongoing since it involves a series of treatment sessions. Part of the voluminous paperwork I completed prior to my first doctor’s visit asked a few questions about childhood and certain traumas. When it came to that part of the actual appointment I couldn’t answer many of the questions asked. Frankly, I have very few memories. And the ones I do apparently contained enough PTSD flags to prompt the doctor to recommend a specific kind of therapy called EMDR.

From my bio you’ve learned I tried therapy multiple times. It was mostly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and the Gestalt method. These are known as talk therapy. EMDR doesn’t focus on talking. Developed in the late 1980’s and first used on combat victims, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing focuses on creating new neural pathways. This is called neurogenesis, the brain’s ability to change. Neurons inside the brain strengthen with repetition so if your childhood environment was loving you create a normal neural pathway for processing thoughts. If you suffer a traumatic event or consistent trauma, you create a neural pathway where you store memories that are unhealthy, depressive. Certain situations, topics, events then process through this neural pathway making your behaviors and reactions abnormal, triggering panic, etc.

Since EMDR makes and strengthens new neural pathways, rather than the trauma memory going through the old, panicked neural pathway it goes through the new pathway. This allows for a detached way of thinking about it that is reasonable, restrained, less emotionally charged. All of this takes place internally so the focus during a session isn’t on talking.  Let’s stop and be real for a minute—this is crazy fucked up, right. But remember, I’ve tried everything so I’m game with playing inside my brain.

There are a few methods used in this form of therapy. One is with light and eye movement. My therapist doesn’t use that method. Instead I use hand buzzers which fit into each of my palms and vibrate on the pressure points throughout a session. There is some leadup to a session to learn about your trauma and develop an action plan. The actual session itself involves going inside your worst memory and watching it as if it was a movie. While you’re inside the memory, the buzzers pulse in different patterns. When you’re outside the memory, you’re asked targeted questions about the physical and emotional sensations you’re feeling. Then you go back into the memory again. You do this cycle for approximately an hour.

Without going into too much detail about my specific memory, I want you to know what EMDR feels like during and afterwards because the effects last for days. You prep a bit mentally before you dive in by putting all outside thoughts inside a box and creating a safe place. (Mine is sitting on a beach during a sunset watching waves roll in.) The intervals when you’re inside the memory feel long. I ran through a section of my memory a couple times during each interval, seeing and remembering things I had long forgotten. Some sensations felt real, some didn’t. Panic and guilt were the two most prominent real feelings I had. My memory involves not being able to get a door open to escape. I could feel myself struggle with the doorknob like a pulsing lump in my jugular. At one point, I resorted to my childlike self and verbally expressed self-blame for the situation happening. The physical pain I thankfully couldn’t “feel”, but I was aware that the memory version of myself was hurting.

As I touched on above, you answer questions throughout the intervals so you stay slightly present. One of my answers involved how I vow never to treat my child. You end back in your safe place, then talk a bit about what transpired. During that talk, my therapist said the connection to myself as a mother when I was inside the memory is the first indication of my brain separating itself from the memory and starting to process it logically. This 'separation' continued for the next five days as thoughts would randomly pop into my head connecting my present life to the past.  

Afterwards, I felt raw. I explained it to a friend as if someone had taken a Brillo pad to my insides. That feeling lasted about a day. I was encouraged to write down my feelings and sensations in the days following. When I sat down at the next session (which does involve talking because your brain can’t handle back to back buzz sessions), I was surprised to see the transition in my writing develop from emotional to rational as I began to apply that memory to thoughts in my current life. I could see how the past is shaping things I’m currently doing which is negatively impairing my growth as a person, hurting others and holding me back from enjoying life in general.

Two weeks have passed since the first session, and overall I’ve felt calmer, lighter. I haven’t word-vomited out of anxiety. I’ve been able to separate an irrational thought from a typical response so they don't happen. Situations seem slower, like slow motion, where I now get a choice over my reaction. It’s interesting and somewhat of a relief. Living an increasingly emotionally-based, reactive life has been exhausting and stressful.

EMDR is best described as a wound transformation. You develop an intellectual perspective to your memories, which in turn transforms them into something logical, manageable, applicable. My next buzz session is in a week. I’m oddly looking forward to the internal scrubbing. I haven’t decided if I am going to stay in this memory or focus on another. Either way, I probably have another 3-4 sessions to see the full effects.

While this may sound like voodoo to some, the purported statistics are that 100% of single trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer have PTSD after 6 sessions. Only time will tell whether I become a statistic. And for once, I really hope I do.

Dietary Results: Round One

So you have learned (or haven’t learned) from my bio page that phase one of my path to feeling better was addressing leaky gut and a hormone imbalance. (The PTSD treatment will come later as that is complex and unique.)

Prior to that first doctor’s appointment, I had never heard of leaky gut. I thought my diet was well-balanced and happily filled out the food chart I was asked to take to the appointment. Turns out, the gluten, soy, dairy and corn in my diet were damaging the lining of my small intestine and letting bacteria into my blood stream. The bacteria then produced an autoimmune response in my body by not allowing it to absorb nutrients, screwing up my hormones and stunting the production of serotonin. Basically, the lining of the small intestine is as important as the more popular organs—heart, lungs, liver—yet we’re damaging it daily with delicious food and causing ourselves tons of ailments we treat with pills. It’s a crazy yet completely plausible concept. My doctor told me 80% of the population have it so there is a chance you have some level of it. If you regularly feel tired, foggy, grouchy, joint and back pain, migraines, gas, bloating, insomnia, crave sugar or carbs, have skin rashes, depression or anxiety it’s something to seriously consider. In my case, I had likely damaged my small intestine by slowly letting in more and more bad bacteria with each serious (hospitalization, IV’s) case of food poisoning. Other things like repeated steroid (prednisone, cortisone) use and regularly using OTC pain relievers can irritate the lining of the small intestine enough to trigger leaky gut. Years of poor eating habits can also do the same.

Treating leaky gut is done by rebuilding the gut lining through an elimination diet. The body treats a host of foods as toxic including gluten, dairy, and sugar. Then there are the actual chemical-laden foods, corn and soy, which contain tons of GMO’s, plus peanuts and coffee which are basically mold from being grown in a hot, wet climate. (See the Research page for more info on coffee.) I eliminated gluten, diary and peanuts immediately and limited corn and soy. In a time where everything, including the eggs at IHOP include soy, full soy elimination is nearly impossible. And not all soy is created equal as some organic soy proteins have health benefits. Next I had 7 different blood tests to get a better perspective on what was being absorbed and what wasn’t. One of my favorite parts about my new doctor is medical evidence. I’ve felt bad for so long that knowing why is almost as important to me as feeling better.

Within two weeks on the new diet I stopped feeling generally puffy. I hadn’t realized just how constantly bloated I was or how swollen my entire body felt. After a month, the ache in my lower back had disappeared. After 60 days, my mood on all days besides 2-3 hormonal ones were happier. My energy was higher, my skin was clearer, brighter, and my heart beat only elevated to a paniced level twice. Right now, I am eagerly awaiting the 90 day mark for the full host of improvements. I am at the point where I feel so good I can look at a basket of rolls on the table at Logan’s with disinterest. I have no desire to eat a piece of cake or scoop of ice cream at a birthday party. And as I approach the time where I can add things back into my diet, I probably won’t. I am becoming content with eating like this for the remainder of my life. I miss pizza and Indian food occasionally, but I’d rather feel amazing.

My blood tests showed low-average B and D vitamins, higher than normal yeast, negative for celiac, above-average kidney function and somewhat low magnesium. I now take a shit ton of supplements to aid in healing and address the deficiencies. I’ve made a list for reference:

1.       Thorne Research Basic Nutrients (multi vitamin) 2 pills

2.       Ortho molecular Ortho Biotic (probiotic) 1 pill

3.       Ortho molecular Orthomega (fish oil) 1 pill

4.       Metagenics Mag Glycinate (Magnesium) currently half a pill

5.       Now brand Aloe 1 pill

6.       Gabapentin 100 mg (prescription drug)

7.       Trintellix 5 mg (head med) 

The multivitamin addresses raising the B and D vitamins. The probiotic helps heal the gut, process foods and fights off illness. I cannot stress the importance of a probiotic and will write more on it in a future post. The fish oil and aloe heal the gut lining and promote good gut bacteria. Besides being a needed mineral for over 300 enzyme reactions, the magnesium aids sleep in combination with the Gabapentin. Sleep is also paramount to feeling better; your body must rest to heal and function properly. Gabapentin, traditionally a seizure medication, stimulates my GABA neurotransmitter to help with anxiety, overall calmness. (The development of rapid heart palpitations aka panic attacks and increased OCD are two things that told me something bigger was wrong inside my body these past couple years.) I take some of these supplements in the morning, some after dinner and some at night. It is a commitment.

The leaky gut diet also includes eating 40% non-starchy vegetables, 30% protein, 15% healthy fats and 15% carbs at least 80% of time, plus drinking half your body weight in ounces of clean water a day. This diet doesn’t include much sugar or alcohol. I’ve never been really into sweets, but I do love a microbrew beer every once and a while. Now I have an occasional cider or glass of prosecco. This diet produces weight loss regardless of whether you are trying to. I lost 10 lbs in two months and am already a petite person. The interesting thing is that I lost it from mostly my hips and waist, two places were fat loss tends to be stubborn. I’ve lifted weights for a decade and where I was lifting 4-5 days a week, I am now lifting 3 days a week as I become accustomed to maintaining weight and eating the right kinds of carbohydrates.

As for the hormonal imbalance, I did what is called a rhythm test to measure my estradiol, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. I spit in vials every few days which I stored in the freezer over the course of a month. I learn the results of the spit test, along with a home stool test which will address the high yeast, at the end of this month. I’m oddly excited like a child on Christmas morning to find out what else is broken inside my body because I am super motivated to fix this shit for good.

Since I waited for two years to get in to Parkview Integrative Medicine and felt crappy for even longer, I have been a very compliant patient. I was somewhat desperate to feel better having run out of options, so the lifestyle changes were welcome. Plus I’m cheap as hell, and although I have full coverage insurance the out of pocket expenses for doctor’s appointments, supplements, and labs add up. I want to get my money’s worth out of this treatment.

If you’re interested in making similar lifestyle changes, I recommend not half-assing it so you can experience the full benefits. Small changes are good, but they won’t produce the same results. Take 90 days, go balls out and see what happens. In the big picture of life, it’s not that long to try something that could potentially change everything.