This a long post, but I hope you’ll read it, because it tells of a bit of grace I received at what I thought was the end of my life. This is not expert testimony or scolding but will be, I hope, a source of inspiration to those who are suffering and feeling hopeless. If you are suffering and feeling hopeless, I suggest you skip to the very last line. If it brings you any comfort, read the whole thing. If not, please call on the forum for help. We have all been there. You are not alone.
This is a story about
my recovery from Lyme disease and my rather dramatic and wholly unexpected transition from many years of vegetarianism to eating a traditional animal-based diet. Practically, it's the story of my rediscovery of animal fats and their great dietary importance. Philosophically, it's the story of the graceful light that seems always to accompany suffering. Personally, it's part of my own history and an offering of what I bring back from my journey.
Consuming animal fats, alongside a modest amount of proteins, fermented foods, and other traditional whole foods saved my life. You may find this story a bit unnerving (as even I do all these years later), but it’s a great reminder of the insidiousness of Lyme disease and of how close to death it can bring one. It's also a reminder that the deepest healing often comes from the simplest solutions. I hope it may inspire, at least, some discussion and perhaps some experimentation.
On 9/11 I was near the end of a 25-day fast at a retreat in Texas. Having grown up in Manhattan and not knowing if my friends or family had been killed, I was terribly stressed. Unable to locate my young son, who lived in lower Manhattan, and simultaneously coming to terms with the fact that the fast was not helping, I fell into hopelessness. I decided to stop the fast, and when I did, I weighed a frightening 102 lbs. I had been unable to get above 127 lbs. for many years, but dropping to just shy of 100 lbs. had almost killed me. (I now weigh a healthy, trim 165 lbs.) The fast had been my last hope, and it had failed.
It had done absolutely nothing to relieve my symptoms, which had plagued me so gravely and for so long that I couldn't recall what a healthy me looked or felt like. Upon completing the fast, the MD who oversaw the retreat put me on the raw vegetarian foods he felt were ideally suited for human survival, and for one month I consumed huge amounts of raw fruits, veggies, and a cup or two of nut butter each day. Every night I would sneak into the kitchen and greedily scarf down the remaining nut butters and, strangely, feel better. No other food interested me, and I couldn't get enough of the fatty, protein-laden cashew and almond butters. I had absolutely no idea why they seemed so vital to me, and the staff were continually frustrated by my midnight forays into the kitchen. However, I persisted until they threatened to kick me out. I beat them to the punch and departed, having returned to my “normal” 127 lbs. I was a free skeleton.
I could barely sit upright long enough to drive away. An acupuncturist in Albuquerque tried to help, but he insisted that I avoid all protein and fat. The former me would've agreed with him, but I craved those nut butters. Within a few days, I was begging him to let me eat something substantial. Annoyed to no end by my arguing, he suggested I stay in his underground Kiva and meditate. I agreed and soon found myself 10-feet underground on a high-desert plateau, all alone, broke, and starving. It was completely dark in that hole, and the furniture was cut out of the cold, bare earth. I lit a candle that I had found and decided that my life was over. It seemed impossible that I could survive, and even my son's wonderful presence and need for a father was no longer sufficient to keep me going. So I said some prayers, wept, and fell asleep, sure that it was my final, unceremonious exit. But as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, my life did not end there; in fact, a new life began.
I have no idea how many days I remained underground. I slept and woke, startled each time that I was still alive. Then, one night, I awoke covered in sweat, in agonizing pain. I sat bolt upright on the earthen bench, listening for what I was sure had been a voice speaking to me. Silence. And then, suddenly, as if poked by an electric prod, I launched myself up the ladder, threw
open the boor, and was met with a flood of daylight. I was so shocked by the blinding light that I screamed. I would've retreated down the ladder, but my nerves were so shot that my own scream startled me out of the burrow and onto the bare landscape.
I bound like a crazed, emaciated animal to my car, hopped in, and hit the highway. A mile or so down the road I turned into a gas station that housed a downtrodden market. I ran inside as if on a mission and went straight to the back of the store. I didn't think twice as I grabbed a half-gallon of milk and a roasted chicken and ran to the counter. I recall the look of bewilderment on the cashier’s face as she calculated the price. I wondered if she was going to admonish me for buying animal products, knowing full well, as surely everyone did, that I was a raw vegetarian. But, thankfully, she kept mum. I pulled out my very last dollars and dropped them on the counter, ready to bolt. But as I grabbed my stuff to go, she yelled that I was a nickel short. I checked my pockets, to no avail. Nothing remained: not money, not reason, not myself. I couldn’t buy both items that I somehow knew I needed. I was frozen there, unable to think of what to do.
I looked at her with a pitiful look, and then at the man in line behind me. The only option was to stand there and weep, and I did so without shame. I was uncontrollable and inconsolable. The guy behind me quickly and kindly held out his hand with a bit of change. I screamed "Thanks!" through the tears, plunked it on the counter, and launched out the door and into my car. I still wasn't sure what I was doing: I hadn't eaten meat or drunk milk since I was 19 (I was then 31). I sped back to the kiva, filled with vegetarian shame for what I was about
to do. I lowered myself again into the pit, closing the door overhead. I continued to operate on auto-pilot, or perhaps angel-pilot.
I didn't bother to light the candle in the darkness but proceeded to wolf down the entire half-gallon of milk and the full chicken. I was no longer myself, but a Neanderthal from 10,000 years ago. There was no doubt about
it, I had gone stark raving mad. Yet I was
beside myself with joy. I scraped every last bit of flesh and cartilage off the bones of that chicken and passed out into the most restful sleep I'd experienced in 12 years. I knew, somehow, that I'd just been given a new lease on life—a barbaric and omnivorous life, no doubt, but a life just the same. In fact, I had found my animal self again. Paradoxically for my (then) raw vegetarian self, I had escaped death by way of another animal's death. But I couldn't deny the deep satisfaction of the experience.
I'll never forget that life-changing moment and will likely never know what compelled me to such a mad-capped victory, but I'll always be grateful to whatever saved me. The next day I departed for safe harbor at the home of my very shocked but relieved mother. There I accepted, with a bit of shame, that my body and mind required animal products. Through eating traditional farm foods, I began (and continue) to achieve a deep, soulful satisfaction. No more raw fruit, veggies, or woefully inadequate squirrel food for me.
I now know that it was not the animal protein that had caused me to act like a hyena on clean-up crew, but primarily the animal fats I had consumed. It took a few years to realize this and to accept that my life depended more on fats than on protein.
Whether raw milk or butter; free-range poultry or eggs; grass-fed meats, marrow, or organs; grass-fed tallow or ghee; organic bacon or lard; wild-caught seafood; fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi; sea salt; raw honey; or organic vegetables, these traditional foods have, at least, restored my mind and body. They also inspired me to learn how to farm and, now, to become a food product developer in the hope of helping others avoid my ill-fated dietary strategy. The food that saved my body has also saved my soul, and I now feel devoted to serving others. My vegetarian mind could never have imagined such irony.
I’m still recovering, having yet more rebuilding to do, even after all these years. But I know that no dietary strategy has been more helpful than consuming animal fats. Problems remain, but they are less often the kind that make me feel less than human. I am grounded and hopeful, and I know that I'm on the right dietary path.
Although I hated them when I was a vegetarian, Sally Fallon and her book, Nourishing Traditions, the Weston Price Foundation she runs, and the great work of Weston Price and Francis Pottenger deserve credit for keeping me on track and for leading so many others to sustained health. Thank goodness for Price and Pottenger's work.
For more information see www.westonaprice.org, ppnf.org, and drrons.com. For local sources of these vital foods visit realmilk.com and eatwild.com. Dr Ron sells a great line of desiccated organs and other vital supplements. He himself suffered from Lyme and offers some directly-purposed solutions. In any case, there is a wealth of empirical and scientific support behind what I experienced.
Thank you for reading this. I hope it was helpful, if not a bit entertaining. But please know that my words are based on my own experience, and that they are not necessarily applicable to everyone.
A RAY OF HOPE
I wish everyone swift healing of body, mind, and, especially, soul. If this story proves anything it's that as long as there is breath, there is hope; and as long as there is hope, there is life.
Post Edited (flathead70) : 2/20/2014 2:35:57 PM (GMT-7)