April 21, 2011

[I am most appreciative for permission to post the following essay. To protect her privacy, Serephina is not the author's real name.]


I first came to GAPS because of two particularly worrying problems, but in addition, I had various other things suggesting to me that my body was not really well as a whole.

For many years I had had, with increasing severity, a condition known as Depersonalisation Syndrome. This can be seen on PET scans, which show that one area of the brain is inactive. The experience of DP for me is that I do not feel awake, but as if I am dreaming, and I have the sense that my brain is not properly comprehending my surroundings, even though I am able to be factually accurate about everything, and to respond to my surroundings in ways that other people find appropriate. Relationships are difficult, since the emotional meaning of situations is difficult to interpret. People and places seem unfamiliar, and I cannot remember how things used to feel when I was well. I don't feel the normal range of emotions, and often feel emotions happening in my body without me connecting to them, as if I am a robot. This experience is frightening and bewildering.
More recently I had also developed fatigue. I had become lethargic and apathetic, quite unlike my usual self. Normally I would be very active - instead I only wanted to be allowed to stay in bed, and forcing myself into activity would only increase this feeling. If I caught a cold or stomach bug, it would go on for a long time, and then I would be under par for many weeks.

I decided to try GAPS after reading the book, even though I was not under the supervision of a doctor or naturopath. I began with full GAPS, as an experiment, to see how I would feel after a short time. Within 3 days I was feeling so different that I became more confident that it was the right approach for me. I had begun to take for granted my feelings of “foggy headedness” and the sense of every small task being a struggle to get my brain to focus properly. Inside, I had no trouble focusing – I could write and speak clearly - but my surroundings seemed to be hazy and hard to grasp, and I found it hard to respond to them, even though to others I appeared normal. I have never read anywhere a description of this sensation, yet it was very powerful for me, and made my life difficult as well as distressing. With every day that I was on GAPS I felt this sensation lessening, and was able to be more effective in my work.

Coming from a vegetarian wholefoods diet, it was a difficult transition to make to the GAPS introduction diet. I decided to wean myself off GAPS illegal foods slowly, and in the meantime to try to nourish myself with lots of fat, as well as plenty of vegetables and fermented foods. After six months I had managed to come to terms with eating without dairy, fruit, beans or nuts, and went into the introduction diet. During the preparation time I had already started to become stronger physically. Instead of staying in bed until 10 or 11am unable to get up, I could get up at 7am regularly and not need to sleep again during the day. I began to feel more alive, and more connected to other people - which to a person with DP means a great deal. I also noticed my appetite changing. I no longer craved sweet things, but wanted to eat a lot of meat and fish.

It was important to do the introduction diet, I felt, because I was still unable to do normal things like housework or the lightest form of exercise, and also because I was hopeful that the DP would improve. I found intro very difficult in the beginning. It seemed to release a tide of emotions, and made me feel ill. I was unable to eat much fat, as it would simply make me nauseous, and I felt terribly hungry. Experimenting with broth making was challenging too, as I battled with feelings of revulsion towards some meat I tried. I tried one sip of coconut kefir and it triggered a headache which lasted for 2 days. Over the next three months I noticed these things
Losing weight steadily ( I had been overweight)
A lovely feeling in my stomach after eating, instead of the dull pain I had taken for granted
An awakening of my taste buds so that food tasted the way it had done when I was a child
A heightened sensitivity to smell, making certain chemical smells very offensive
The thumb that always hurt stopped hurting
My periods, which had been irregular and very painful became regular, and pain free.
My anxiety levels reduced dramatically, and my mood was immeasurably more optimistic. These words simply do not begin to describe the change in my mood and outlook.
Feeling connected to other people again, and able to remember more of my life prior to DP.
_Not_ feeling deprived, as I had expected, but grateful for how satisfying I suddenly found food to be, and astonished at the depletion I must have been suffering for so long
Losing strength to the point where it was overwhelmingly exhausting to even go upstairs
Intro was a kind of crisis, as I struggled to learn this new way of shopping, cooking and eating, and decided I was willing to go through all the feelings of hunger and weakness because I wanted so badly to get well. I knew, since I had felt so different on the full GAPS diet, that many of the horrid sensations I was experiencing were because I was detoxifying. Though they were so unpleasant, I felt glad to know that the toxins were coming out of my body and would leave me generally healthier.

There was an unexpected part of this new phase of my life. I had previously shopped at supermarkets. Now I was visiting my local farmers' market every weekend, and shopping at local Turkish supermarkets, fishmongers and butcher's during the week. The experience of shopping in this way was very different, because I felt a connection both to the people who were serving me, and to the food. I was being served by the people who collected the meat from the farms, or placed the orders from the farmers in Turkey, or even by the farmers themselves. They recognised me and were friendly to me, and I started to feel that I was part of a community. I might not have meant much to them personally, but I was contributing to their environment by bringing them my money and my appreciation. I began to have a tangible feeling of how much they were contributing to mine by selling me the food that was making me well. This sense of our interdependence seemed to create a particular atmosphere. My kitchen started to look more homely, too. Suddenly there were jars of fermenting things all over the place, and my fridge was always full of lovely looking vegetables. The smell of broth permeated the house.

Eventually a breakthrough came. I found I had much more energy, and saw this increasing weekly. I felt a sudden difference in my frame of mind as well. I felt angry and impatient, where before I had felt passive and resigned. It was as if I suddenly had enough strength to care about how I was feeling. My immune system seemed to wake up, too. Suddenly I was allergic to everything. My periods also stopped again. I was confused by the mixture of improvement and negative things, and also desperately hungry. I continued to add in more foods, which did help the hunger.

Since that time, I have seen steady improvement in all the physical aspects of my fatigue to the point where I could begin to exercise again. I began to try other things to aid my healing, and saw enormous benefits from doing a liver flush, colon cleansing, and from having treatment for periodontal disease. I also acquired an Earthing sheet, which may have helped, and definitely gave me better sleep and general well-being.

This month I have returned to the introduction diet – this time with no symptoms of die off or detox. In fact, I have felt much better than since before I started the diet at all. I am intending to re-introduce foods more slowly this time. Interestingly, on the second day of this intro, I had a period – my first in five months.

To date, not every one of my problems has been fully resolved, but I can run, dance, do decorating, go for long walks, and carry heavy loads – without tiring. This is a far cry from when a trip to the local shop seemed like a marathon, and exercise was unthinkable. However, my GAPS journey has felt like more than just a journey from illness to health. It has felt like a journey from death to life. I don't like to dwell on how I felt this time a year ago. The way I feel now is another world, where I feel properly alive, and vibrating with it. I also feel more connected to love, and much more able to share love with others. That has meant as much to me as having my bodily functions restored, and I am grateful for it with all my heart. This feels like a secret which, if only people knew how it feels, would be valued the world over.