A fashion designer by profession, Ron Finley found his true calling when he tried to buy fresh fruit and vegetables in his South Central Los Angeles neighborhood—and walked away empty-handed. He had his pick of unhealthy fast-food outlets, but a store where he could buy a decent apple? No luck. So in 2010, on a 150-by-10-foot curbside median outside his home, Finley planted mustard greens, carrots, banana and tangerine trees, and more. Friends and strangers came by to gawk, and Finley told them to help themselves. For many, it was the first fresh produce they’d eaten in years.
Just for the fun of it: Moroccan music in a cave. I love it.
I need a miracle.
I will have to jump into the deep ocean
Will you be there to catch me?
I will have to fall back, arms spread wide.
Will you be there to catch me?
Soon I will jump, I will fall.
Please catch me.
I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for a time. I be back soon, I hope.
I knew it would be difficult for me to stay committed to using the Gupta Programme. I focus intently on things and then drop them after a few weeks. That’s just how I roll. But it won’t do in this case. Commitment is key, especially since this program shows promise of letting me out of my Canary cage. (My MCS story: My Story and Behind the Mask )
The Gupta Programme was originally designed to help people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis(ME) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) to heal. It was later adapted for use by people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Ashok Gupta, the creator of the program, based his exercises on the emerging science of neuroplasticity. His hypothesis about the pathogenesis of MCS, ME and CFS, as I understand it, can be summed up this way:
The brain sometimes becomes hyper-aroused due to injury, stress, toxicants, or pathogens. Instead of returning to a normal state of equilibrium after the initial stressor is gone, the amygdala (the part of the brain that alerts us to danger) remains hyper-aroused and perpetuates a constant state of fight or flight. This can cause a whole cascade of debilitating symptoms, as the body does not function well in that state. During fight or flight, all the body’s resources are channeled into supplying the muscles with the energy to run away or fight. The blood sugar goes up, heart rate goes up, the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are released in abundance, and the immune system is temporarily suppressed. We weren’t meant to remain in this state for more than a few minutes. But for some people, it can last for years. Imagine the wear and tear that would cause. This can result in the development of chronic illnesses such as ME/CFS, MCS, Fibromyalgia, and other poorly understood degenerative diseases.
Gupta has demonstrated that these disorders can be healed or at least ameliorated significantly by using brain retraining exercises to pull the body out of the fight or flight state. For some, the results have been nothing short of spectacular.
Success stories using the Gupta Programme:
There are other brain retraining techniques that are being used to heal degenerative illnesses. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing technique (EMDR) are a few of the methods often used.
More success stories using brain retraining techniques:
I’m already seeing improvement from my use of the Gupta Programme. A few weeks ago, I attended my first party in two years. I began to react, but I was able to stop it before it got out of control and I spent a very pleasant afternoon in absolute awe at my ability to tolerate the chemical smells of a large crowd. I was also recently able to attend a large religious conference, an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Again, I was almost in tears at my newfound ability to walk nearly unscathed amidst a crowd of very fragrant people. The feeling of freedom was intoxicating. So intoxicating that I’ve pushed my boundaries a bit too far now.
I’ve had setbacks. This, I believe, is because I’ve become a little lazy about practicing my retraining exercises. It’s also because although I’ve only been using the program for a few weeks, I’m expecting instant results. I get discouraged and upset at signs that I’m not completely well. That’s ridiculous, I know. It takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. So here I am writing about it on my very public blog so that maybe I’ll feel motivated to stay in the saddle and keep working.
When you’re sick, it feels like you’ll never be well again, and when you’re well, it feels like you’ll never be sick again. When I started writing this piece, I was well. So unfamiliarly well that it felt like I was living someone else’s life. But I’ve learned that these windows of normalcy usually end. That’s what’s so maddening about healing – the up and down nature of it. The hopeful thing is this: the general trajectory is up. Setbacks are fewer and farther between. They are also less severe. But when I do have one, I dip into my healing toolkit, which I would like to share with you now.
Please remember that although I’ve found these practices helpful, they may not be for everyone. We are individuals with individual needs. Also, this does not in any way constitute medical advice. If you are worried about symptoms, please see your doctor.
Homeopathy is difficult to explain. Every time I try, I feel that I fail. But there is one thing I know: it works. It’s probably the most powerful healing modality I’ve ever used, and I’ve experienced many.
Although no one knows precisely how homeopathic medicines initiate the healing process, we have more than 200 years of evidence from hundreds of thousands of clinicians and tens of millions of patients that these medicines have powerful effects. One cannot help but anticipate the veritable treasure trove of knowledge that further research in homeopathy and nanopharmacology will bring. – Dana Ullman How Homeopathic Medicines Work: Nanopharmacology at its Best, Huffington Post
There are many philosophies of homeopathic practice. Some practitioners advocate the use of combinations of low potency remedies. Most people won’t seem to come to any harm from this practice, but it’s not very effective and in some cases can bring on new symptoms. I believe that the deepest healing to be had from homeopathy can only be achieved by practicing it according classical principles. For most people, that would require a visit to a classical homeopath to get a prescription for a high potency constitutional remedy. But since I’ve been using and learning about homeopathy since I was a teen, I’ve been able to treat myself with my own constitutional remedy, Phosphorus. I want to emphasize, however, that most people must see an experienced homeopath, as classical homeopathy is a very, very difficult discipline to learn and although it’s use can result in profound healing, misuse can cause serious harm.
For almost a year, I have taken one dose of Phosphorus in the LM potencies once a month. Each time I take a dose, it feels as if I’ve just been turned right-side-up. I go from feeling tired and negative and overly emotional to feeling happy and balanced. My sleep improves dramatically, my pain is reduced, and my chemical and food sensitivities are much less bothersome. I believe that Phosphorus may be the reason I was able to taper off of my sleeping medication without going through long periods of insomnia or succumbing to severe anxiety and depression.
Paleo Diet, Or Close to It
I didn’t find the Paleo diet, it found me. I certainly didn’t read any book on why we should eat like cavemen. I simply discovered by trial and error that the only foods that my body could handle were meats, fruits and vegetables, and some nuts. When I eat this way, I have no indigestion, less depression, less anxiety and more energy.
As well as not harming your gut, a Paleo diet also provides the micronutrients that a healthy, digestive system can absorb and use to support proper brain function. One of the most important of these is cholesterol. Cholesterol is a vitally important nutrient for humans because of the way our brains work. Humans only have a limited number of brain cells. We’re born with a finite number, and they begin to die immediately. Unlike muscle cells, we can’t make more of them. We can, however, maintain our cognitive abilities by making connections between the remaining brain cells. Cholesterol is the key to this process. – Your Brain on Paleo
I take very few supplements. Two actually. Magnesium is one of them. Magnesium is rapidly depleted from the body during periods of high stress, which means that medication withdrawal can cause magnesium deficiency. The beneficial effects of magnesium became very obvious to me during the illness caused by my cold turkey withdrawal from Xanax in 2008. I remember how a big dose of magnesium would take me from feeling like I was about to die to feeling like I had a bit of energy.
In her article Magnificent Magnesium Katherine Czapp said,
Every single cell in the human body demands adequate magnesium to function, or it will perish. Strong bones and teeth, balanced hormones, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, well-functioning detoxification pathways and much more depend upon cellular magnesium sufficiency. Soft tissue containing the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body include the brain and the heart—two organs that produce a large amount of electrical activity, and which can be especially vulnerable to magnesium insufficiency.
Vitamin C is another nutrient that is rapidly depleted during periods of stress. It is necessary for proper immune system function and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It would be difficult to near impossible to get enough vitamin C to replace what is lost from the stress of medication withdrawal, and for that reason and because I suffer from arthritis, it is the only other vitamin supplement that I take daily.
In Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient (Twentieth Anniversary Edition) , Norman Cousins explained how laughter and intravenous vitamin C therapy reversed a horrific arthritic disease. I will never forget his story and I will always make sure I get my vitamin C and plenty of belly laughs.
I began experimenting with Bentonite clay a couple of years ago when I was dealing with severe and painful tooth decay. I knew I would need dental work, but in the interval of time between my discovery of the decay and my dental appointment, I began to use the clay on my teeth to help with the pain and hopefully prevent the infection from burrowing any deeper. Since then, I have found clay to be an almost miraculous remedy for many health problems including indigestion, anxiety, exhaustion, and pain.
Every night I drink between four and six ounces of hydrated clay. This promotes deep relaxation so that I sleep better. I also use clay packs externally to deal with the pain of arthritis and TMJ. It’s better than any anti-inflammatory pill.
The author of The Body Mind blog has this to say about the mental health benefits of clay:
Now when I start experiencing symptoms of anxiety and panic, I mix up a big glass of bentonite clay and I drink it. And it works to relieve my symptoms, fairly quickly.
The author’s explanation for this effect was that the overgrowth of the wrong kinds of micro-organisms in the gut can lead to anxiety and depression:
The co-occurance of IBS, CFS and mental health conditions like anxiety, may all be linked to a common foe; bacterial overgrowth and damage to the gut lining. One way in which overgrown bacteria like streptococcus deliver their effects is through fermentation. Our gut is quite literally an extension of our central nervous system (brain), and we refer to this as the enteric nervous system.
The enteric nervous system communicates with (and in the same way as) the rest of the nervous system; through the action of chemical messengers. In the gut, bacteria both produce chemical messengers and act as messengers through the process of fermentation. Bacteria like streptococcus ferment sugars and produce byproducts like D-lactic acid and Hydrogen sulphide (H2S), substances which are responsible for producing some of the bodily symptoms seen in panic disorders and CFS.
I would like to add my own insight as to why clay helps anxiety. Not only does it absorb toxins when ingested, but it also has an alkalizing effect on the body as a whole, which seems to produce relaxation.
One of the icky things about medication withdrawal is that it suppresses the immune system, which can give rise to all sorts of nasty infections. The mouth seems to be one of the most vulnerable areas of the body to bacterial and fungal overgrowth. During the early part of my medication taper, I noticed that I had developed a bad case of oral thrush. For months I tried treating it with a diluted hydrogen peroxide mouthwash and very low sugar diet. It helped. But when I found out about the benefits of oil pulling, I decided to give that a shot instead of the peroxide, which was very irritating to my sensitive mouth.
Oil pulling is the practice of using vegetable oil, usually sesame or coconut, as a mouthwash. The oil is held in the mouth and swished around for about 20 minutes. It sounds ridiculously simple, and I guess it is in a way. But I’ve noticed profound benefits from doing it.
In the first days after I began oil pulling, I noticed some detox effects such as nausea and increased inflammation. But as I continued, I began to feel better. My mouth felt cleaner and healthier, the swelling and pain in the region of my liver seemed to calm down, and I felt brighter and more alert mentally. I now notice that if I skip a day of oil pulling, pain in my jaw and teeth will flare up.
Thoughts create emotions. They have great power to either heal us or destroy us. If you don’t believe it, do a little experiment. The next time you fall into a really foul mood, try to remember what you had been thinking about. Was it happy and positive? Or was it pessimistic, angry, or fearful? I know what the answer will be.
I know that medication withdrawal, toxic exposures, and food intolerances can cause low mood as well, but why add to our distress with negative thinking?
I began to feel much better during my taper after I began using healing affirmations. Baylissa Johns’ book Recovery & Renewal: Your Essential Guide to Overcoming Dependency and Withdrawal from Sleeping Pills, Other ‘Benzo’ Tranquillisers and Ant was the source for the two main affirmations that I used. Every night, I would say this: “Every day and in every way, I am getting better and better.” When I felt really bad, I would keep reminding myself that “this too shall pass.” When I felt fearful about my health problems, I would say “I am safe and I am healing.” That last one is an affirmation of my own creation, and it seemed very powerful to me.
I said these affirmations over and over. Sometimes I would use them as a way to drown out all the crazy negative thoughts that seemed to assault me as soon as I would lay my head on the pillow.
Sometimes, listening to Bliss’ voice reassuring me that I could heal and hearing her say her calming affirmations was the only thing that would help me. I would look for her videos on YouTube and play them over and over to soothe my frayed nerves. Here is one that I used:
The most recent addition to my healing tool chest are the neuro-linguistic reprogramming exercises taught by Ashok Gupta. The exercises were originally devised to help people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They were later adapted to help people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I’ve found them to be very powerful. I was isolated for a very long time due to my chemical sensitivities. I have recently been able to attend parties, visit friends, and attend a conference, and I believe it’s because of the exercises that I’ve been using.
The Gupta Programme (I am not an affiliate, just a satisfied user of the program)
When we are anxious and tense, our breathing pattern becomes rapid and shallow. Learning to consciously slow and deepen the breath is a powerful way to calm the mind and body. Alternate nostril breathing is one method that I have found to be particularly helpful.
I have a stretching routine that I do every single night. I noticed the relaxing and sleep promoting benefits of doing this as soon as I began. I also noticed that when I became complacent and stopped doing it, I began to suffer more sleep problems. Once I realized how much it had been helping me, I never stopped again.
Walking in Nature
I could have just titled this section exercise, but I thought better of it. All types of exercise are, indeed, beneficial for recovery from chronic illness. But walking in nature provides benefits that cannot be found in the gym. In addition to getting the much-needed exercise that tones and strengthens the body, and optimizes the synthesis of beneficial brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, walking in nature provides all the proven benefits of time spent in a natural setting. The warm and healthful rays of the sun, the fresh breezes, the kaleidoscope of color and sound and smell all contribute to creating a very calming and rejuvenating experience.
We need regular physical contact with the bare earth. I’ve known for a long time that I feel better after a lounge in the grass. It seems there is now some science to back up what I’ve known all along. I’m very excited about this now, as I’ve just discovered some of the research being done in this area.
Dr. Joseph Mercola on grounding:
There is an emerging science documenting how conductive contact with the Earth, which is also known as Earthing or grounding, is highly beneficial to your health and completely safe. Earthing appears to minimize the consequences of exposure to potentially disruptive fields like “electromagnetic pollution” or “dirty electricity.”
It’s now possible to buy a mat or sheet that is specially wired to provide the benefits of grounding. People who use these products are reporting that they experience much deeper sleep, less pain, and much more. Science has a long way to go to catch up to what people are discovering for themselves, but I’m not willing to wait for it. I hope to very soon have my own grounding sheet or mat.
Over the last two years, I have filled almost 6 journals with my scribbles, two of them very thick notebooks. Writing is life. I need it. It’s my way of making sense of all the swirling thoughts and emotions that bombard my hyperactive brain. I find that after I write a page or five about what’s on my mind, I calm down. I begin to think more rationally. I feel more positive.
I believe that journaling has been so beneficial to me because I’ve disciplined myself to write about the things I’m grateful for. Don’t get me wrong, I write all the trash too. I boo hoo or rage for a while into my notebook. Then I look at it differently. I ask myself if it’s really so bad. I remember all the things I enjoyed during the day, all the necessities and all the niceties, all the loving words and little kindnesses. I write about them, and I feel grateful. Writing in this way can often turn a foul mood right on its head.
Spirituality and Prayer
Often I’m simply overwhelmed. Even though I’ve made great progress and I’ve found wonderful ways to promote healing, there are days when I’m just done. I don’t feel that I can take anymore. Those are the days when communion with my Creator is especially necessary. Prayer is the single most powerful thing that I do, and I’m very grateful for it. Reading scripture is vital as well, as it makes me feel that when I speak to God, he speaks back. Power of Prayer
This is not an exhaustive list. I know there are many things that I’m leaving out. I’m also sure that I will learn of other ways to feel better in the future. Those will be for a future post. But for now, my hope is that some may find this helpful in their own healing journeys.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links to products that I’ve found to be helpful to me.