“Keto fixed everything that was wrong with me. Forever. I will never tolerate that level of ill health again”.
Or something like that. Over the first two years following the Ketogenic dietary model, I declared some version of that statement to myself, to friends, to family, on my blog, on Facebook, on forums, on Twitter, on a Podcast. Then 2020 happened. And I’m left sitting here, eating my words. Sigh.
Let me start by saying that even after I enter my third year as a Keto convert, I still enjoy the vast majority of my weight loss and my health markers, as recently as the end of last week, are very good. I didn’t fall off the “Keto Wagon” in some spectacular way, although I’ve had some pretty low days and have felt like poo for months.
2020 and the start to 2021 hasn’t been easy on anyone and I am no exception. Keto in itself couldn’t protect me from new emotional trauma. At the beginning of the Corona Virus pandemic, I was doing fairly well. I was (as you’ll recall if you’ve followed me along my journey), getting really involved in growing and preserving foods, raising chickens and turning my mostly ornamental landscape toward suburban, edible permaculture on an island in the Seattle area of Washington state.
As the spring turned into summer though, things started to take a turn, even as I maintained my suburban homesteading activities. Some friends and family members got sick. We didn’t experience any death, but I watched on in helplessness as people I care about did lose those they loved.
I lost people in other ways. Relationships ended. Important ones- the kind that aren’t supposed to end by choice, but sometimes do never the less. With some of them, my husband and I had worked very hard for over a decade to produce a different and better outcome but we couldn’t pull it off. I don’t think we ever could have. I don’t regret trying anyway.
Other relationships just kind of fell be the wayside, as people chose and settled into their own versions of reality, fueled by leaders and media outlets who offered politicized perceptions of society’s ills and hyperbolic fingers pointed in blame. They did it for ratings and for votes. They have not been held accountable and won’t be. And please be assured, I am not accusing one side and not the other. But regardless, they’re not stuck paying the ticket- we are. Our families are. I don’t know whether some or all or any of my broken relationships will heal. I don’t know if I want them to. I really don’t know. I know every single person who reads this will relate to what I’ve just written here. Just think about this for a minute, if it hasn’t already kept you up at night. Families have been torn apart. They don’t know if they even want to mend the breaks. Some days I never want to speak to half of the people I know and love again. On other days, I feel desperate in my desire for them, desperate to stitch together something- not the same- but better. But stronger. But more compassionate. But more forgiving and maybe even more apologetic. More humble at least. At least that.
As the year progressed, just like thousands of families in 2020, my husband and I started talking about selling our house and moving to a different part of the country. We didn’t know where. Hawaii wasn’t really on our short list, even though it’s my mother’s ancestral home and my husband’s home town. It’s expensive in Hawaii after all and in moving to almost anywhere else in the US, we could have purchased a home and land outright with the proceeds from the sale of our house and still had enough money left over to retire in relative comfort. The Seattle area’s housing prices are so far above just about everywhere else, that that circumstance could have been a reality. But as our ties to family unraveled over the summer, we made the decision to not only sell that house, but to move home, to Hawaii. There are people here in Hawaii who love us and missed us. My husband’s parents had wanted us to move home for a very long time and my husband longed to be near his siblings and with his parents again. Suddenly the financial benefit of moving anywhere but Honolulu just wasn’t a contributing factor in our decision anymore. So we set to work.
We worked really, really hard. We sold off and gave away two thirds of our belongings. We set up work transfers, made house repairs, hired a realtor and contractors and stagers. Friends and family came out of the woodwork in masks with vehicles and tools and their skill sets. In two months time, the house was on the market and we were on a plane.
We planned to get a short term rental when we arrived in Hawaii and started searching for a house but couldn’t find one. We stayed with my husband’s parents for three months while we bought our house. It was weird, to sleep in my husband’s childhood bedroom. And by that time, as I’ll explain a little bit more below, I had become really disregulated again. Despite trying really hard to stay Keto, it wasn’t working as it once had. It was a humiliating experience, to have my family see me in the clutches of anxiety and panic. I had never kept my anxiety disorder a secret, but people didn’t just see it. Over the years, I had become so good at managing it that you’d have to live with me to experience it.
But still, I’m glad we couldn’t find that rental for a few reasons. Firstly, our family “pod” was fairly large. We didn’t spend the holidays alone. Of course, there were family members that weren’t with us, many of whom I still haven’t seen, but we did have a core group to celebrate with in safety and health. Secondly, despite the fact that our ideologies and politics differ immensely, we learned that a family with disparate beliefs can indeed honor and respect one another- care for one another’s well being and remain, not just unbroken, but strong. And as for my part in it, my husband’s family came along side me in compassion and love during the worst Christmas I have ever had in my life. I got some pretty terrible news on Christmas day. It was news that I could do nothing with. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t resolve it. I couldn’t even address it, from 2500 miles across the Pacific. My husband’s family embraced me that day in such tenderness, that there could be no doubt that they are my family too. I will never let go the images of those faces, as each of my in-laws, in their own turn, expressed their love for me, their acceptance of me and their gratitude that I was a part of their family.
So, what’s all this about getting all turned about? Well, as of today, I’ve gained 20 of the 100 pounds I had lost back. But to be honest, I’m not too worried about that bit. It all started before we ever moved, with insomnia and some incremental weight gain. For about three months, I wasn’t sleeping for more than three hours a night. If I got four hours, I felt lucky. On an occasion where I passed out for seven or eight, I felt like I’d just won the lottery. That was the first of my recurring issues that hadn’t been visited upon me since I began my Keto journey to health. I was also eating from restaurants just about every day and while I could choose, “no bun”, it was difficult to ensure that sauces had no starch or sugar. It was impossible to not eat seed oils. My standards relaxed- in many ways they had to. As my sleep hygiene and diet suffered, the generalized anxiety followed soon after. It manifested itself as health anxiety and full blown panic attacks, terrified that I had Covid, or cancer, or was having a heart attack. For months I felt sick every single day. My back hurt, I had tension headaches, I developed allergies and GERD. My throat hurt. I got a Candida rash on my skin still hasn’t completely gone away, despite the fact that I’ve been eating clean and taking a medication bomb for it for the last three weeks. I was having chest pains. I was tested for Covid five times. All negative. I went to the emergency room two days after Christmas, convinced I was having a heart attack. I was not. My blood work showed no abnormalities. Chest x-rays showed no sign of illness. An EKG showed no signs of trauma. In fact, it reflected a healthy, happily beating human heart. So, what could be wrong?
The night I returned from the hospital, I had had enough. I searched out a top psychiatrist in Hawaii and requested an appointment. Under her care, I’ve been going to my well visits and ruling out any physical reasons for my illness and pain. I’ve been learning about anxiety and panic, about the body and mind’s programming during early childhood and how trauma can create permanent brain pathways that last a lifetime. I’ve been learning about gabba protein and more about cortisol, endorphins, insulin and appropriate for my age, estrogen. I’ve been learning about let down syndrome. I’ve been learning about the way my stupid monkey brain has refused to acknowledge the recent grief from lost relationships and walking away from the home that my husband and I built together in love, the stress of the move and the anger I feel over not personal injustices, but the injustices happening through the fabric of society world wide. Instead of feeling it all, my monkey brain decided to make me sick instead. Isn’t that swell? And very recently, I tuned into another Keto Woman Podcast episode, where the guest talked about a book and program relating to this very subject, the body-mind connection. I’ll have to dive into that a little more I think.
At this point, my husband, one of our daughters and I have settled into our new home near Honolulu, Hawaii. I am grateful to be here. Despite the fact that it wasn’t our plan and we came here somewhat hastily, I have always dreamt of living here, in my mother’s ancestral home land and my husband’s place in the world. Our house is turning out beautifully. My way of eating is back on track and I’m growing and preserving food again (no chickens allowed though). I’ve arrested the weight gain. I’m sleeping at least seven hours a night, every night. Soon I hope to have my household vaccinated and maybe this summer we can have a housewarming party and see our local family who we’ve not yet seen. Our oldest daughter is coming in August. She got her first round of vaccine last week- I felt such a surge of relief when she did. I hadn’t realized I was holding as much tension about her as I was.
I started a cleaning and organizing business in February but haven’t started taking on clients yet and won’t until I’m vaccinated. But I have started developing recipes and researching Hawaii food tradition for the cookbook I’m writing. I’m looking forward to re-engaging in the conversation about metabolic disease and to making a meaningful contribution toward reversing Type 2 Diabetes within my community.
I’m feeling pretty darn good physically and mentally. I have bad days still- but as I explore my mind and access my feelings with a new goal in mind, they’re occurring less and less. I have the ability to be grateful and open again.
So, I suppose the point of this whole entry, is to tell you all that I’m fine. And I’m happy.
And that I was wrong. Keto is not the answer to everything forever. For me, it was the answer to everything for a time- but it was in ignorance of a time of real trial and in a misunderstanding of how trauma works that I proclaimed myself “fixed for good”. I mean, I knew that in conjunction with Keto, we had to do mental and emotional work as well. I just didn’t understand that grief, sadness and anger could throw me off track from all of it so thoroughly and completely. If I have ever made any of my readers, friends or loved ones feel like they’re not doing it right or have turned anybody away with my absolutism about Keto, I sincerely and deeply apologize for the transgression.
For me personally, it all kind of boils down to this: a ketogenic dietary model is the only way I’ll eat for the rest of my life, because it’s what my body needs to remain in good metabolic health. I’ll tweak it more as my life progresses, as I have consistently over the past three years. But instead of hailing Keto as a permanent solution to all that ails me, I’ll give it the credit it’s due- which is that it allowed me to feel better than I ever had for a time, which in turn allowed me to open up to other roads I can go down to fully potentialize my body and mind. It gave me the knowledge that there are in fact ways, with a lot of hard work, to limit our suffering. It taught me how to utilize my critical thinking skills to ask for help from the appropriate people and how to assess whether I had in fact, found the appropriate people. It gave me the courage to put a stop to the descent, because I knew that I had the power to do so.
Welcome to Metabolize This 2.0. May we all be as healthy and happy in 2021 as we can possibly be. I’m rooting for us.