As is often said, healing is a journey. There are different steps and decisions that happen along the way. Today I want to share a “bird’s-eye-view” of the different steps I took, and choices I made on my journey. Many of the discoveries that led to a step on my journey seemed insignificant at the time. But some of the direction changes led me to a completely different place. I hope this helps you think about your own health journey, and that you take encouragement to keep going! Let’s begin at the beginning: I have had many symptoms of Gut and Psychology Syndrome since I was small. These include colic as an infant, anger and irritability, ADD, memory problems, frequent sinus infections (and antibiotics), chronic back pain, alternating constipation and diarrhea, bad-smelling flatulence, depression, suicidal idealization, sinus headaches (daily) and migraines (weekly), bags under my eyes, poor energy, sensory overstimulation problems (touch, smell and sound), food intolerances, and increasing memory loss. The first step on my healing journey was when my family practitioner told me to keep a headache journal (after an MRI ruled out an aneurism causing my migraines). I used to scoff at the simplicity of his suggestion until I learned what I know now—that this is the most powerful tool there is! To track progress and the relationship between symptoms and things in our life will give us the clues we need to figure out how to better support our bodies in healing. This is now the foundation of what I teach my patients! The next big step was to discover a link between what I was eating (dairy, and then gluten and sugar) and the frequency of my migraines. In addition to reducing my migraines, I also experienced about a year free of depression (for the first time in my life) when I removed these foods. This proved to me that there are causal links between food and symptoms. Then I took a giant turn! I was following the Paleo diet (which is an elimination diet), but after a while the elimination of certain foods wasn’t enough. I was starting to tolerate fewer foods, and symptoms like migraines and depression came back. Then I discovered the GAPS healing protocol, otherwise known as the GAPS diet, and recognized myself in her description. This is different than an elimination diet (although there is elimination involved) because in the protocol certain healing foods are emphasized, and there are guidelines (and practitioners) to help you navigate toward healing. The science she presented in her book was accurate, and her explanation of disease was not only plausible, but likely. I decided to try it. So February 1, 2013 I began the GAPS healing protocol. I had chosen my path, and I knew which way I was going to travel (for at least the next 2 years). It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was an uphill climb at first. There were steep cliff walls to ascend, and many slips backwards. I experienced die-off symptoms that sometimes scared me. My energy turned inward towards healing and left me with only what was essential to perform my daily tasks (I was still working, I wasn’t laid out on the couch). I would switch between feeling better than I had ever felt in my life, to worse than I remember feeling in my life. As my body grew in strength, it started to address old issues that had been pushed aside (called a healing crisis), which brought up symptoms that I haven’t had for years. Many days I thought I had made a terrible mistake. But deep inside I could tell that I was getting better. I believed that, overall, what my body was doing was good, not bad. This is a feeling I can’t explain scientifically, but I believe it is real as much as I believe that the mouth is made for chewing! Which brings me to another huge step in my journey. I started to address my feelings and emotions. For me this was huge! I have discovered that feelings affect me deeply in emotional AND physical ways. I started with a couple different practitioners (and acupuncturist and a Splankna counselor) who helped me address my emotions—those that were currently affecting me, and past emotions that were being stored in various organs and other areas of my body. I was reluctant to address this area of my emotions, and that was for two reason. First, I come from a stoic background–where it was valued to express little to no emotion, including (and especially) positive ones. (Anger was an allowed emotion, which is why it doesn’t surprise me that I had anger issues.) Although this felt natural, this is NOT a healthy way to deal with emotions, and I had been holding in some emotions for a long time. And, just like some physical issues rose to the surface, as I began to get healthier and stronger some unhealthy, repressed emotions began rising to the surface on their way out. Second, all the information I had previously found about the mind-body-emotion connect was from a religious perspective that I didn’t share. However, as I explored the mind-body-emotion connection further, I found that although a religion perhaps discovered or explained it, this mind-body-emotion connection is observed outside religious teaching. I believe that it is a part of how the body is made, and that we are just starting to understand what it is. Another step and direction change came when I realized that it would take my body many years of nutrient-dense eating to catch up from the years of malnourishment it suffered for the past 20+ years. While I do believe that we should get our nutrition from food, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain foods that contain adequate levels of vitamins and minerals because of farming practices and soil depletion. And even if you can obtain them, it takes a healthy digestive system, good enzyme activity and proper absorption to use all those nutrients. When the digestive system is healing, the enzyme activity is increasing, and absorption is happening, the body still has years of catch-up work to do. So much so that food alone may not be enough to catch up in a timely manner. Synthetic versions of nutrients (no matter how sophisticated) can never match what is provided in nature. But there are companies, like this one, who dehydrate and concentrate biodynamically-grown foods that contain high levels of specific nutrients. Taking some of these has been a welcome help in feeding my body and helping it catch up from what it missed. This brings us to the current location of my health journey. All the time I have invested in the healing of my body, emotions and mind have brought me here. Here I have many improvements in my symptoms. Now my headaches are infrequent (I will sometimes go weeks without even a small one) and my migraines happen once a month or less. I don’t have raging anger anymore, and I am only occasionally unreasonably irritable. I still can have a hard time focusing on a task, but I don’t have the antsy-ness or physical stress that used to accompany problems focusing. I have not needed antibiotics in years, and I no longer have chronic low back pain. I have great energy most days, and I am excited to work and do life. Most days I get up in the morning smiling and excited for the day. Of my three sensory issues, I only occasionally have touch overstimulation problems (usually when my detoxing hasn’t kept up with my toxins). I can eat any food (except I haven’t tried unfermented gluten) and tolerate it fine, although there are some foods I don’t eat regularly. I get irritable and “feel bad” with processed sugar, but I think that’s how everyone reacts to sugar. My memory loss reversed, and my brain feels like it did in high school. I also have the energy for doing more things like Jiu Jitsu, tennis, rollerblading with my dog, and playing volleyball. I sometimes struggle with digestive issues, and I have hit some rocky roads related to my menstrual cycles, but overall I feel strong, steady and consistent. It is something I haven’t felt for years, and I am so thankful! I still have some healing to go. I am currently focusing on trying to form new thought-patterns in the areas of joy and celebration. This is new to me—most of my life I didn’t feel much like celebrating. I was tired, hungry, and in pain, and didn’t feel much like celebrating. But I’m not in pain all the time anymore! I am not always tired! I don’t want to miss the wonderful and empowering feeling of joy just because I’m not used to it! So I am choosing to take yet another step on the path of my journey. And after that I know there will be another step. Because this journey will continue until the day I die. But now I know that there are good places on this journey, and many wonderful things along the way. I’m glad to be on my journey—it’s worth it! Onward!