By Mary Summerbell
Six months ago I found out I have intestinal bacterial parasites due to a weakened immune system from gluten intolerance. The diagnosing doctor told me that given the number and types of organisms, and considering my family history and my personal medical profile, it’s probable I’ve had this problem since I was very young, and possible I was born with this sensitivity.
Oddly, perhaps, I was happy to hear this. Not happy to be so sick for so long, but happy to at last find out why. After struggling for decades with multiple mental and physical health issues, I was relieved to discover what could be the root cause of them. My attitude was, “If this is what’s wrong, and all I have to do to fix it is change my diet, well, I can do that!” I have so deeply longed to feel better all my life that I’m willing to try any sensible method of accomplishing it.
The doctor said she has never seen anyone respond to this news the way I did. Usually people are upset, asking, “Why me?” and “What am I going to do?” Some break down in tears in her office. For me, this information is validation that I’m not crazy. And not a hypochondriac. I haven’t been “wrong” all along.
In fact, I was very right. Very perceptive. Very much in touch with what was going on inside me. What led the doctor to suggest testing for this was my detailed description to her of what I was feeling in my body. Nervous. Anxious. Agitated. Tired. Weak. Depressed. I told her I felt like I had ants crawling under my skin, like little spiky things were moving around all over my insides. In my mind’s eye I could picture them in clear detail.
Some of these things felt imbedded so deep for so long that it’s near impossible to tell what’s them and what’s me. Some look like barbed hooks, presenting the question of whether better to leave them in or rend my self to get them out. Deciding, my dilemma. Either way, no escape from pain and suffering. How nutty and creepy is that? Like I’m living my own twisted science fiction nightmare. Thinking of creatively cruel ways to torture myself.
Awful feelings have been in me since I can remember. Some extreme or obvious enough to confront. Others more dormant. Subtle. Subliminal. Like a constant, dreadful undercurrent I kept fighting against. But, finally, all so much for so long – so continuous, so persistent, so pervasive that I was caving in. My health was deteriorating in a frightening way. I felt I was fading. Going slowly down a drain. Dying, maybe. I couldn’t keep half-living, but I lacked the energy I need to be truly alive.
What I most wanted was to be alone. I felt absolutely driven to hibernation. I wanted people to care about me. Honestly, I would have liked more support. But I was willing to keep only the most necessary social contact. I needed to be alone most of the time, for a long time, to find my way through this.
And it was in isolation, yet connected to Something All Knowing, that answers came to me, that somehow I knew what to do. For months I stayed home as much as possible. I slept away many days. I read books. Watched movies and T.V. Listened to music. Meditated. Prayed. Waited – for I didn’t know what. Cried, sometimes. Other times I just sat for hours and did nothing. I put no pressure on myself to do anything particular.
Most of the time I didn’t feel much like eating or making meals. But I made sure most of what I did eat was really good food. I called friends if I needed to talk. But mostly I sat alone. Let myself feel. Let myself think. I let myself be.
One day I was inspired to write a concise summary of my medical history. One sheet of paper. No sentences. Just lists, as chronological as possible, of illnesses, allergies, injuries, surgeries, medications, and reactions to them. I had the strongest feeling, as I was writing, that if I gave this information, in this way, along with a description of my current symptoms, to my Naturopathic doctor, she, with her medical training, would be able to see something in it, some hidden pattern that I wasn’t able to see.
I felt really, truly strange as I presented it to her. But I was desperate to feel better. My will to thrive overpowered self doubt. She listened. Looked at my scribblings. Looked up at me and said, “Sounds like parasites to me.”
The day I knew the test results confirmed her suspicions, I began changing my diet and taking individualized tinctures to kill the nasty critters.
It’s a weird ride. I go at my own pace, to keep my balance on my way. As I incrementally decrease my gluten intake, and intuitively use the tinctures, I go through ebbs and flows of emotion, feeling the waves of internal change. Some days I feel good. Stable. Optimistic. Other days I break down from the intensity of thoughts and feelings that hit as things shift inside me. Moment to moment I just try to keep coping with whatever happens. Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting better at all, or if this is just some new kind of crazy I’ve never been before. Although this detoxing process is often stressful and/or painful, creating confusing symptoms that are difficult to deal with, for now I trust I’m heading in the right direction, that the roller coaster will end up in a new land, and not back where I got on.
My motivating force is that, in all the inconsistencies, I’m beginning to feel an increasing sense of internal integrity. Not moral integrity, but structural integrity. On a deep, odd, infinitesimal level gaining a gradual, growing sense of a new self. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt it before. It’s so subtle. So fundamental. So different from most of what I’ve ever known. Maybe it’s new. Maybe it’s old, echoing from great beginnings that didn’t have the chance to grow and bloom in the past. Whatever it is, it’s real enough, substantial enough, to keep me going hopefully forward.
What is most amazing in all this, for me, besides the miracle of finally getting this information, is the way I got it. Not from a book, or magazine, or the latest health documentary on T.V., or some renowned expert.
I have to laugh. The hundreds, (yes, hundreds, maybe thousands), of books I own, and the way for me to get well didn’t come from any of them. It came from me, listening. And then acting on what came to me. The doctor helped me, but based on what I told her. It was from Something All Knowing, in me, that I got what I needed.
As spiritual students, we hear it all the time. “Listen to your intuition. Listen to your inner voice. That tiny whisper of wisdom inside you.” I’ve been doing it for years, but this experience has exponentially reinforced my belief in the absolute necessity of this practice. It means survival. Literally.
I’m proud of myself – for toughing it out. And humbled by the complexity of a process in which I am a tiny but important part. I am thankful for past and ongoing support – for my health care team. I am in awe and gratitude of how hard my body must be working right now. I imagine what’s happening – microscopically, metaphysically, metaphorically – inside me. Most of my life I’ve been my own best science project, so this experience is no exception. I observe, with curious detachment, what I am simultaneously deeply, intimately involved in. I wonder how it will turn out. What grade will I get from the universe on this lesson?
While I’m waiting for the results, and working hard to make them happen, I patiently remind myself that even if this shift is a big difference for me, it’s not the answer to everything. Nothing is a panacea. But I do hope, to quote myself, that in my lifelong, self-motivated quest to “overcome my genetic destiny” this is the big nut I’ve been trying to crack all along.
If so, ahead for me is a lifetime challenge of dietary restrictions. Currently a daunting thought. But the possibility of truly good health is great motivation. Odds are it will get easier, over time. And, with help, I’ll figure out the optimum options for me. I feel I am well on my way.