After The Breakdown Comes The Breakthrough
I saw my doctor last week she told me that when I had first come in, she had never seen labs as disturbing as mine were in all her years of practice and schooling.
That was shocking to hear because with a little distance it’s easy to convince yourself that you made the whole thing up, but alas, I was sick AF.
She also said that she has never seen anyone heal the way I have, and that my current numbers are so good they defy logic and reason.
The end is in sight!!
I asked her if she thought all of this happened from a recent tick bite and she confirmed what I have been thinking:
My crisis of health occurred because my body had reached its capacity for stress and my immune system couldn’t fight anything anymore.
Which is to say, a lot of unprocessed (and unacknowledged/fragmented) trauma, pain, grief, fear and heartbreak created a dramatically detrimental internal experience of the external world not being safe.
And while I was distracted by fighting dragons, all the pathogens in my body got together and had a big, explosive (expensive) party.
The irony of thinking the outside world isn’t safe, when what really wasn’t safe was the inside world…
I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, but my body broke down because my nervous system got stuck in sympathetic overdrive (fight/flight/freeze).
So when someone says: “it’s just in your head”, that’s a sign to pay even closer attention to what’s going on.
Because the mind is the most powerful creative force of every individuals earthly experience.
So many “warning shots” were fired before this happened…in fact, I had been pretty convinced that something like this was on the horizon for me for quite some time.
And although I literally do this for a living, when it came to myself, I had no idea how to get into a more regulated, healthy and supportive state.
At the onset of my crisis of health, it became clear to me that my only way out was to do some deep inner work.
As I continue to heal, I have the understanding that this cannot be a transactional exchange (I will do X to achieve Y, and once I achieve Y, I will stop doing X).
The path forward absolutely must be one of exquisite devotion, and the work I do and lifestyle adjustments I make need to be permanent (I will do X, and when I achieve Y, I will continue to do X).
It took me 42 years to break my body with my mind, and the cost of returning to health is a devotion to staying mentally and emotionally well, as that will be what guarantees my physical wellness.
I have to choose my well-being over all else, in every decision I make.
(And the few moments I have chosen otherwise throughout this experience, I have paid dearly.)
Before I dive into the second experiment of Operation Deep Chill, let’s talk about Polyvagal Theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges in 1993.
In my last newsletter, I discussed the autonomic nervous system as being comprised as a two part antagonistic system: the sympathetic system (fight, flight or freeze) and the parasympathetic (rest & digest) system. For a refresher, click here.
Polyvagal theory adds another system into the mix: the ventral system, also known as the “social engagement system”.
The ventral system is created by splitting the parasympathetic system into two branches - rest & digest; and shutdown, and it is what keeps us on the healthy side of our experiences, by allowing us to maintain a feeling of connection.
For the purposes of this newsletter, what’s most important to know is that all of this is controlled by the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain to your large intestine.
So it’s really never “just” in your head.
Operation Deep Chill Experiment #2 is the Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP), a program designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing resilience.
SSP uses music that has been filtered through a specific system that then primes it to strengthen your middle ear, which trains the neural network associated with listening to better interpret the external world as one that is safe, which in turn makes space for emotional resilience and nervous system regulation.
In total, SSP is a 5-hour program broken up in to 30-minute increments to be listened to over a 2 week period of time, followed by a 5-hour “balancing” program that seals it in.
I will be honest with you: the music is absolutely terrible. It’s like a bad cover band turned into elevator music. That was truly the worst part of this experience - otherwise it was innocuous and easy.
I started my program in November and finished in December (I took longer than 2 weeks, as I did it during a time of intense prescriptive cleansing and detoxing and I felt so sick most days that I could hardly move, let alone listen to music).
I am a big fan of stacking habits, so I would spend my 30-minute sessions either in my infrared sauna, or sketching (a hobby I have picked up along the way). It always felt productive, albeit slightly annoying.
There was definitely a window of agitation during the program, especially in the beginning.
Similar to how when we start weight training and our muscles get sore, the vagus nerve creates a sore temperament when strengthening.
But the pros outweighed the cons and I have found myself MUCH less reactive to stress in general.
(Important note: reacting to stress is a good, healthy thing. Reacting to all stress with the same disproportionately intense response is a bad thing that points to potentially very serious problems.)
Here are the shifts I experienced after completing the SSP Program:
My usual triggers stopped being so intense, and I now have the capacity to differentiate myself from my thoughts and feelings.
My sensory processing abilities have improved
I have more control over my emotions (Lyme rage is terrifying, so this was a big one for me)
I feel more capable of being with and having casual conversations with people outside of my inner circle
My rejection sensitivity has massively improved, and I have stopped making EVERYTHING mean something negative about me
I am less nihilistic and am finding the beauty in the world again
And while my physical energy doesn’t quite allow for it yet, I have found myself starting to want to be social.
My feelings on SSP are still a bit underdeveloped, only because it’s subtle and the effects compound over an 8-week period after completing the core program.
What I like about it is that it offers a proven way to mitigate the impact of trauma on the nervous system, and it doesn’t require talk therapy. I personally don’t believe talk therapy is helpful for healing trauma (although I do believe it is helpful for processing trauma).
You work with a practitioner, but there’s no going into the “story”, as that tends to keep us attached to what we think happened instead of allowing for movement and release.
It’s hard to ascertain what was a direct result of the SSP and what came from an understanding and awareness of polyvagal theory and some of the other work I was doing at the same time, but I do believe it helped shift me from what seemed like an intractable freeze state to one that is more open to social interactions, love and safety.
I have decided to do another round in April, as I still have room to go with this.
I would love to return to the version of me that laughs easily, enjoys the company of others, finds strangers interesting, doesn't want to throw people into oncoming traffic, is easily and effortlessly open to love…and also I’d love to be better able to hear and have conversations in restaurants or crowded places.
Putting oneself back together after a crisis of health is a long process that demands looking beyond the crisis itself.
It requires radical honesty with self, and a supreme willingness to be vulnerable with others along the way.
This is not possible if your view of the outside world is one of danger.
That said, I would recommend SSP to clients, but only in certain circumstances.
I would also require them to do it alongside the trigger work I outline in my book, as well as with my Safe & Sound Meditation.
If you’ve already purchased my book and you’d like the meditation, please email me a copy of your receipt and I will give you access.
If you’d like to purchase the meditation alone, please click here.
And if you're curious about SSP and would like the name of my practitioner, reply to this email and I'll be happy to share.
My next Operation Deep Chill post will be more focused on some of the inner work required to have a complete and sustainable recovery from a crisis of health.
Until then, if you are looking for more tips and ideas on how to move your mind, body, heart and nervous system towards a healthy state, you will find so many in my book The Medicinal Wisdom Guide to Healing Lyme & Chronic Illness.
The title of the book is deceiving, as it's really a book on healing in general…I go deep into the psycho-spiritual aspects (which I personally think is the most important part), and I also offer a ton of practical advice and resources.
May we all be happy, healthy and free.