Showing posts with label Disability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disability. Show all posts

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What I Know About Medium Chain Triglyceride Nutrient Dense Ketogenic Diets....and Lupus

I am not a doctor, nor do I hold any special degrees or training in medicine or nutrition. Therefore, the recommendations that I am following could easily change as more information becomes known through study and research. I encourage you to do your own research as I have done. Many of the past studies as well as current ongoing studies are available to read at no cost.
Much of the information I write abut comes from reading Dr. Terry Wahls' book,  The Wahls Protocol. I will also include information from studies I have read and will include a list at of those studies the end of this post. Once again, I am not a professional. My intent is to point you in a particular direction. My hope is that after reading this post, if you think this protocol is something you want to know more about, you will purchase Terry’s book and do your own research.

Please consult with your own doctor before trying this or any nutritional therapies. Attempting this protocol can be harmful if not followed properly. This protocol is not for everyone and should be considered in the same regard as new medication or supplementation. Consideration must be made for how it interacts with current medications as well as ongoing illness.

Terry Wahls used to run marathons, ski the American Birkebeiner and climb the mountains of Nepal. She even won a bronze medal in women’s full contact free sparring at the trials for the 1978 Pan American Games in Washington DC. She was also a doctor when, in 2000, she was diagnosed with MS. By 2007 she was in a tilt wheelchair, barely able to breathe sitting up. She was 52 years old. At this time she was on the same medication that I am currently on. I am also on an additional two chemotherapies that were not on her list.

Prior to this time, in 2002, her neurologist directed her to the website of a doctor who had reported that his son’s MS had improved by changing his diet. As a physician, she was hesitant to look into anything that seemed like “alternative care." Much to her surprise, the website was full of scientific references. She began to read them one by one. And what she found out was that this was not what she called "fringe medical practices", this was a website full of scientific references. It contained peer-reviewed journals written by scientists from the best medical schools. It was legitimate research. And it was in reading these studies that she became very interested in the role excessive carbohydrates and sugars played in the excess of insulin and inflammation.

Knowing that conventional medicine was not stopping the progression of her disease, she decided to change her diet and see if it had any impact while she continued her research. She read every mouse study she could get her hands on. She researched Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and Huntington’s disease. She discovered that,

“... in all four of those conditions, the mitochondria - small subunits within cells that manage the energy supply for that cell - stop working well and lead to early death of brain cells, causing shrinking of the brain. More searching lead to articles in which mouse brains and their mitochondria had been protected using vitamins and supplements …”

She translated those mouse-size nutrient amounts into human-sized ones. She consulted her doctor and they decided that each one was safe to add to her list. She took those amounts in pill form for two months and at the end of two months was so disappointed in the results she quit taking them. Within a few days she could not get out of bed.

It was working!

So she went to the Institute for Functional Medicine to find more information. The goal of this institute is to “provided clinicians with a better way to care for people with complex chronic disease by looking at how the interaction between genetics, diet, hormone balance, toxin exposures, infections and psychological factors contribute to the development of disease or the improvement of one's health and vitality”.  Through educating herself she learned that she could improve the condition of her mitochondria and brain cells. She knew that she had a genetic vulnerability that increased her chances of getting MS, but now she was developing a much better idea of the significance of leaky gut, food allergies, and toxins. And that mitochondria that were not providing enough energy for the cells, neurotransmitter problems and not having inefficient enzymes for the metabolism of B vitamins and sulfur all had a very significant impact on the BRAIN. She worked with doctors, scientists and nutrition experts and came up with a list of foods that would provide all the nutrients she needed without taking one single pill. This was the beginning of the Wahls Diet.

"The old me, who had relied on drugs and procedures to make my patients well, who had been made progressively more feeble by my illness, had been replaced with someone who understood intellectually and physically that disease begins at a cellular level, when cells are starved of the building blocks they need to conduct the chemistry of life properly, and that the root of optimal health begins with taking away the things that harm and confuse our cells while providing the body with the environment in which to thrive. I finally understood what I had to do to provide my cells with all the building blocks of life that they needed to heal. I was doing it, and it was working."

Today, Terry Wahsl still has MS. But she has not only improved her quality of life she has reversed much of her disease. And instead of being bound to a tilt wheelchair with a progressive disease she had no control over, she is once again an active, thriving doctor who rides her bike to work everyday, travels around the world lecturing to the medical community, appears on webinars, interviews, radio shows and talk shows. She has created a website where people can read her newsletters, watch recorded lectures and gain community support. She is also involved in ongoing research and clinical trial as well as written the The Wahls Protocol .

Terry’s overarching message to those with chronic disease is that you don’t have to be a victim .
You can actually repair your broken biochemistry and restore your body's vitality by how you live your life.

That’s huge news for anyone with an autoimmune disease! Instead of taking pills for symptoms, she was living proof that you could eat food to heal your body at a cellular level. Chronic disease is never a deficiency of the drugs you are taking for it, but a deficiency in your own cells and it is the most obvious manifestation of long term mitochondrial dysfunction. When your mitochondria are not fueling your body correctly, entire bodily systems don't work properly and in a negative spiraling chain reaction, eventually lead to organ dysfunction and chronic disease.

"Diabetes, heart failure, hepatitis C, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, mood disorders, epilepsy, strokes, neuropathy, memory problems and autoimmune disease are just a few disease linked to mitochondrial dysfunction."

A little biochemistry.

Most cells in your body contain mitochondria. Some have a lot more than others. The more energy a cell needs to function properly, the more mitochondria it needs to produce the energy it needs. For example, your brain, retina, heart and liver cells all contain a lot more mitochondria that most other cells because thinking, seeing, pumping blood and processing toxins are all things that require high energy.

All cells eventually die and it is the job of mitochondria to send the signal when that time is appropriate. (Not before!)

Mitochondria also produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which stores energy, helps your body to create proteins and antibodies, and it is the FUEL used by our cells for ALL that they do. Without it, cells begin to function improperly and eventually die prematurely.

To produce ATP efficiently, the most important things your mitochondria need are glucose or ketone bodies from fat and oxygen. Your mitochondria can get by for awhile on only those things, but to do the most efficient job and to live they also need vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, sulfur, zinc, magnesium, iron, manganese, antioxidants, L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, creatine and coenzyme Q. They also need to be protected from toxins like arsenic, lead and mercury. If this basic process does not happen your cells will produce less energy and more waste (free radicals).

Dr. Wahls gives a great example of the progressive signs of mitochondrial dysfunction in a person’s life,

I hope you can still remember a day when you felt well. You could work or play all day and you felt happy, or at least normal, in your body. At some point, however, you probably noticed some subtle changes. Perhaps you noticed that you couldn’t move as freely or think as clearly, or you began to experience pain. These very outward symptoms were a signal that your biochemistry was changing. The signaling between your cells was gradually becoming confused.
You could recognize that you didn’t feel well, though you may not have been able to explain precisely what was amiss. You eventually saw your doctor, who performed an examination and conducted blood tests but found nothing wrong. Perhaps you were told to come back in a year. When you did, you felt a little worse than you did the year before, but all your tests still looked okay and the doctor continued to say you were “fine.” Perhaps this dance went on for years, perhaps decades, before your body finally suffered enough damage that a test or two began to come up abnormal. Finally, your doctor began to investigate more seriously. And perhaps, at long last, you were given a diagnosis. Your doctor had not been trained in functional medicine, and so opportunities to recover your vitality were missed, but the inexorable process of biochemical decline was happening all along, through all those years of negative test results and doctors reassuring you. Your body began to produce and accumulate incorrectly made molecules in your cells and your organs. To you, you probably felt like the music of your life slowly began to deteriorate, note by note, losing the melody and harmony, moving from a beautiful symphonic concert to a chaotic noise. That is how it felt to me.

At a cellular level MS, autoimmune disease and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease and some mood disorders like depression, autism and schizophrenia all look pretty much the same - they all share mitochondrial dysfunction.

Health problems begin in the cells.
If your dysfunctional cells produce symptoms of X, Y and Z...they label you with MS. If your dysfunctional cells produce symptoms of A, B and C...they label you with Lupus. If your dysfunctional cells produce symptoms of L, M and N...they label you with heart disease, and so on. Like Terry says, diagnosis are simply "labels doctors put on conditions, based on parts they can actually quantify, like symptoms, test results and which medications improve or worsen symptoms, as well as through a process of elimination." Remember that when giving weight and importance to getting a diagnosis.

When science looks at the cellular level, all autoimmune diseases have six common characteristics according to Dr. Wahls.

  1. Mitochondria are strained, producing energy inefficiently and producing too much waste. This leads to too many free radicals in the body, which damage cells.
  2. The immune cells are too reactive, leading to excessive inflammation throughout the body.
  3. The immune cells specifically attack “self” or cell structures that belong to us.
  4. Toxins such as lead, mercury, and pesticides stored in the body and chronic low-grade infections such as Lyme disease or even periodontal (gum) infection worsen autoimmune-related symptoms.
  5. Low vitamin D and excessive hormone levels are present, both which worsen inflammation.
  6. Deficiencies or excesses of particular vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and antioxidants phytonutrient molecules are common.

Your DNA could very well predispose you to certain diseases. These mutated DNA could effect inflammation control, how toxins are managed, how we absorb nutrients, how effective hormones work and effectiveness of neurotransmitters. But the truth is that scientists believe that it’s epigenetics (your environment and what you eat) that determine about 70-95 percent of your risk of developing those diseases. Very few conditions are caused solely by a single mutation in your DNA. Those mutated DNA can be sitting there causing you no problem whatsoever and then if you have enough cellular dysfunction (caused by the lack of proper nutrients and the presence of toxins, including those the body creates during times of stress), those DNA switches that are turned off can easily be turned on . The simple flip of a genetic switch. You can not only stop that switch from being turned on, you can actually reverse cell damage. Terry Wahls and countless other patients are living proof. My goal is to be part of that growing (and healing) body of evidence!

What is The Wahls Diet?

The development of the Wahls Diet did not happen all at once. As Dr. Wahls learned information from her own experience, from clinical trials and previous studies, various steps of the diet were developed. What exists today is a diet that can be customized in regards to the needs of the individual. For example, is the diet solely for the purpose of eating healthier, is it for someone already suffering from mild chronic illness or is it for the patient already in a specific disease state? Depending on the need, there are three levels,

  1. The Wahls Diet. The most basic level that kick-starts your system by infusing it with intense nutrition and removing dietary elements that could contribute to your decline.
  2. Wahls Paleo. The next level, and the level where many people choose to stay, provides more structure to further eliminate dietary elements that can compromise gut health.
  3. Wahls Paleo Plus. The most difficult level is also the most therapeutic for those with autoimmune conditions and is particularly beneficial for anyone with neurological or psychological issues, whatever the underlying disease state, as well as those with a history of cancer. (Only at this level is a state of ketosis maintained)

There is a long history of the use of various forms of ketogenic diets. Much of that history littered with outcomes that came with a price. Dating back to the early 1900’s, ketogenic diets were used for people with diabetes (people who needed to survive on a diet with no carbohydrates) and epilepsy. And to this day doctors will place children with severe epilepsy on it.

Historically, the studies were successful in stopping seizures, but most children ended up nutritionally starved and suffered from things such as kidney stones, loss of vitamin C, too much uric acid, malnourishment and fractures. As time went on, variations of the diet included increasing fats so that more nutrient dense carbohydrates could be included. As science has learned more about nutrition, outcomes have improved significantly. Ketogenics can be highly effective with certain neurological conditions but can cause serious health issues if not implemented correctly.

Dr. Wahls version of the ketogenic diet is one that includes and is limited to the use of Medium Chain Triglyceride fats only, such as coconut oil and olive oil. When you are on a ketogenic diet, the body is in a state of ketosis. Ketosis is when there are ketones present in the blood. Ketones can replace glucose as an energy source for the cells. They are very small molecules that are soluble by water and can cross cell membranes and diffuse all through the body. Ketones can also get to places without a blood supply, so in cases of heart attack, stroke or TBI, they can help you stay alive. The are a very interesting and extremely powerful macronutrient and have huge applications for healing. They diffuse into the brain and the brain can use them for energy. The brain does not absorb fats very well from the body and relies primarily on glucose (which needs transporters to get around) for an energy source (cells need energy to function properly). Ketones can replace glucose as an energy source in the brain. For people with conditions of the brain, this can be incredibly beneficial.

The difference between the Standard Ketogenic Diet and Dr. Wahls' Medium Chain Triglyceride(MCT) Diet has to do with how long the triglyceride is. The longer the chain the more ketones are produced, and therefore the more carbohydrates can be tolerated (making this  even more nutrient dense than the standard diet.)

At this point in my findings, I had a lot of questions. Some were answered in Terry’s book. Some were answered, but I felt those answers were tailored more towards MS.  Some sent me reading journals, studies and whatever scholarly articles I could find. For me, I need to understand the science before it makes sense to me. And this protocol makes more sense than anything I have ever researched or done. Prior to getting really sick in 2009, I had all the ingredients leading to a perfect storm. I had the hereditary factor. I had indications of chronic illness. I was under tremendous stress. I was running marathons on an almost completely carbohydrate, low nutrient diet. I was literally starving my cells of the minerals and nutrients they needed to survive. For me, knowing how to fix this at a cellular level means understanding the best I can, what cells need to do their job. What causes mitochondrial dysfunction? Literally, what happens to the DNA? What role does oxidative stress have on DNA? And more specifically in the pathology and treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

We also know that with mitochondrial dysfunction there is an inability to rid the body of toxins. In other words, our antioxidant enzyme systems are not working properly and therefore not protecting the body against radical induced cell damage. How do I improve this? These enzymes require cofactors such as selenium, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese for optimum catalytic activity. It has been suggested that a diet lacking in these minerals may compromise the effectiveness of these antioxidant defense mechanisms. So, what if I increase those foods as Dr. Wahls has suggested? And a subject I have not even touched on, but has a lot to do with this protocol is the benefit of fasting. There are studies with proven data on the effectiveness of Diet Mimicking Fasting and how it promotes regeneration and reduces autoimmunity. So many questions I can’t even begin to write them all down. Well, I can, but I’m fairly certain I have lost just about every reader by this time! The moral to this paragraph is this - the more I peel the layers of the onion back, the more I answer my own questions, the more a MCT Nutrient Dense Ketogenic Diet makes sense for me. At least in the short run.

In fact, I will mention before my science/medical friends fall off the deep end, this is not a permanent solution. At this point, there are no studies concluding how long the human body can be in ketosis. Right now, there are huge short term gains with possible long term side effects. Dr. Wahls was in ketosis for two years before she dropped down to a lesser degree of the diet. Now she is in and out of ketosis more consistent with her cultural heritage. (ie, Eskimos are known to be in ketosis more often than Europeans due to climate and the inability to get carbohydrates)

My plan, under the supervision of my doctors is to be in ketosis for seven months and then drop down to the next level for five months, an MCT nutrient dense paleo version. At a minimum I have improved my diet immensely, knocked out all processed foods and sugars and no longer consume gluten or dairy in any form. I am also working hard to rid my life of toxins as well as STRESS. Both which play a big role in epigenetics.

So far...really good! That’s my motto! I am showing consistent improvement every day. Is this a cure? Nope, not yet. There is no research to say anything of the sort. But there is all kinds of good stuff out there from simply reducing pain and fatigue to actually reversing cell damage and increasing cell mitochondria. Yes, healing! Not just taking a pill to cover up a symptom!

Please let me know if you would like more information. I am thrilled to pass on studies, answer questions, send links, let you borrow my book! Whatever I can do, it would be my pleasure. For me, taking control of my health is incredibly empowering. In fact, the placebo effect from that alone is most likely off the charts. But hey, whatever it takes. Thanks for sticking with me and I hope to hear from some of you.


Terry Wahls, M.D.

Terry Wahls, M.D. TEDx Talk, Minding Your Mitochondria


Ketogenic diets, mitochondria, and neurological diseases

A Diet Mimicking Fasting Promotes Regeneration and Reduces Autoimmunity and Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms.

Defective DNA Repair and Chromatin Organization in Patients with Quiescent Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

The Therapeutic Potential of the Ketogenic Diet in Treating Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Oxidative Stress and its Biomarkers in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Oxidative Stress In the Pathology and Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Repair of Oxidative DNA Damage: Mechanisms and Functions.

Role for Oxidized Mitochondrial DNA in Lupus Revealed

Oxidized Mitochondrial DNA Advances Lupus Pathogenesis

Baylor Study Reveals Role for Oxidized Mitochondrial DNA in Lupus

How Can NRF2 Benefit You?

The Nrf2-Antioxidant Response Element Signaling Pathway and Its Activation by Oxidative Stress

The role of antioxidant supplement in immune system, neoplastic, and neurodegenerative disorders: a point of view for an assessment of the risk/benefit profile

Ketogenic Diets as an Adjuvant Cancer Therapy: History and Potential Mechanism

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Defines You? Problem or Possibility...

                                                                                                      Photo Credit, David Ralph Johnson

Not feeling the best today. It was one of those mornings when, rather than to fight against my reality, I decided to let go and just take care of myself. As I type those words, even to me, it seems like no big deal. When you’re feeling well, do things. When you’re not feeling well, don’t do things. Just rest. You’re disabled - you get to do that. But when living with “not well” every day of your life, it can be incredibly hard to make that decision. But... today I did. And after sleeping most of my day away, I woke up and decided to watch a little Netflix…and I am so glad that I did.

To my friends out there suffering with chronic illness, disability or any life changing health condition - there is a new, absolutely fantastic documentary out there called My Beautiful Broken Brain. It’s the self documented story of 34 year old Lotje Sodderlands’s struggles, set backs and eventual break through as she relearns to speak, read and write following a major brain hemorrhage.

Prior to having this very traumatic stroke, Lotje was, in her brother’s words, “extremely dynamic, extremely social, very impassioned” Highly intelligent, Lotje was a London based film maker who loved all things intellectual and had an intense passion for reading. After the stroke, she lost much of her ability to articulate words and all of her ability to read or write. She described it as if it was like becoming a baby again, yet, intellectually and on some deeper internal level, she was still “there”.

What captivated me first, as someone who has had a life changing medical condition and has spent a lot of time in hospitals, was her ability to describe through few words and self documented video, the fear she experienced with being separated from the “real world”. Stuck inside a body she no longer understood and having little to no control over what was happening to her. Yet, if you were to walk by her on the street, she looked completely normal.

As the film progresses you see how she begins to transform that fear into a slow letting go, and eventually into an acceptance of her own vulnerability. A journey all people with life changing health conditions go through, if one is lucky enough. And as old age will have it, eventually all are met with the challenge in some shape or form.

But I think that the most poignant part of the film is where she was addressing a conference room full of therapists at the end of the film. She was speaking to them about what has been most difficult for her in regards to working with doctors. She states,

“You [doctors] have to work with somebody who is being assessed and somebody who is being defined by their limitations because that’s the only way to figure out how to make them better. And I think just the experience of continually being defined by what you can no longer do or how you are sort of limited becomes, I think, devastating. "

It is incredibly devastating. For me, even more so when I was constantly dealing with my long term disability insurance. Not a second of my day was hidden from their scrutiny, either literally or in the form of my own conscience. A constant “proving”…a constant defining. It’s inevitable, and takes tremendous daily work to combat. One cannot go to the doctor weekly for seven years without it having some sort of defining influence.

Without giving the best parts of the movie away, she has a statement at the end that resonated deeply with where I am at these days. A place that still does not come completely natural and takes daily thought and effort, but a place I am so glad that I am at. She says, “I don’t need to return to my old life. This is the new existence, the new dynamic where I am not defined by my limitations, but rather about endless possibilities.”

There’s a lot of grieving that has to go on between day one and the present moment. She made this statement at the end of year one. I’m well into year seven and I’m not completely there yet. I still have intense moments of sadness. I still have those days when I know my goal, consciously or unconsciously, is to feel like I felt before getting sick. Every time I go on some sort of “maybe I’ll try this diet or this supplement” kick, I know what’s behind it for me. A longing to cure myself, to be that person I once was. A dissatisfaction, to the point of not accepting my reality in the present moment. When in reality, no one ever returns to the past. We all move forward from this moment. And in this moment, we ALL have endless possibilities. The healthy, the sick, the old. Until this moment no longer exists for us, the truth is… the sky’s the limit.

Reality is what we take to be true .
What we take to be true is what we believe .
What we believe is based upon our perceptions .
What we perceive depends upon what we look for .
What we look for depends upon what we think .
What we think depends upon what we perceive .
What we perceive determines what we believe .
What we believe determines what we take to be true .
What we take to be true is our reality .”

~ Gary Zukav, Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Soft Whisperings

I've always considered myself someone who adapts fairly well to change. Part of the reason, I think, is because I get bored. I remember as a young girl, loving to rearrange my bedroom and the feeling of things being different or new when it was all done. Same old stuff, just moved around a bit, made my world exciting. I've never been stuck on routine (sometimes to my detriment). Changing plans on the spur of the moment feels like a fun little shot of "possibility" to me. And the quip, "because that's the way it has always been done" is the biggest motivation for change that there is in my mind...until I got sick. Getting sick not only rocked my foundation, it picked it up and moved it somewhere else.

Maybe change has never been easy for you. Keeping things status quo feels safe, brings comfort. It's one of the reasons why holidays are steeped in tradition. Trees adorned in ornaments from the 1960's, green bean casseroles and the smell of cinnamon in the air all tell us we're home. I have a hutch in our dining room that has combination wood and glass shelves. On those shelves are an assortment of old trinkets, my grandmother's dishes and at least three different varieties of incomplete wine glass sets. Our dining room floor slants directly west by about a quarter of an inch, towards the outside wall. When you walk by the hutch there is a distinct rumbling that waxes to a fevered pitch the closer you get and then wanes upon your departure. It used to drive me crazy. About three years ago I had enough. I emptied the hutch and lined all the shelves with a soft rubbery shelf liner and replaced my menagerie of assorted glassware. It worked! I could walk past the hutch in peace. In fact, I could even dance in the dining rumbling! I was so pleased with my accomplishment. My children, on the other hand, were not. They immediately noticed the difference and preceded to tell me that our house did not sound like "home" anymore! Needless to say, they got used to the change. This one I was not going to give in on.

Last July I wrote a piece entitled When Chronic Illness Makes You World Weary. (If you haven't read it, you may want to do so before continuing on.) A lot has happened since July. A lot of change. It was during that period that my long term disability company was putting me through some very challenging times. I had been under review since the previous March, and had since been under video surveillance by their team of private investigators. To put into words how violating that experience was is impossible for me to do. At some point, I plan on writing about it to you. In fact, I plan on writing about it a lot. It's what I need to do in order to do my part in creating change. But until then, let a general synopsis suffice so that I can get to the heart of the matter.

Long term disability companies (of which Hartford is one of the worst) have one very important goal and that is to make money. I say important, because it should be first and foremost in the minds of those insured by such companies. Despite what you read in their propaganda, they are not committed to fulfilling their promise of payment throughout the life of your disability. And, in fact, the longer one is disabled, the higher the bar becomes in regards to disability criteria. I joke, although there is truth to this, that at the two year mark if you can lick envelopes from a hospital bed, you are fit to work. Despite the validation of twelve medical specialists and recognition from Social Security Disability, Hartford has denied me my disability claim. Just like that.

The roller coaster that ensued was quite a ride. In the end, I ended up with two very renowned attorneys from different parts of the United States, both willing to fight for me. Both feeling confident in my ability to not only win an appeal, but if the case would have ended up in court, it would have leaned strongly in my favor. But something odd happened along the way. Something very strange and very unexpected. Something I definitely did not plan on.


And that change was in me.

My case file had arrived - all 2000 pages of it, including video footage. The attorney I had decided to go with had an unexpected death in the family and because it was around Christmas, there was a significant amount of "wait time"before we could get back together. Wait time during which I was officially and legally no longer considered disabled by long term disability. And more importantly, disabled by The Hartford, who had, for the past five years, been harassing me relentlessly. Constantly requiring unjustified paperwork to be filled out by myself and my doctors, showing up at my home for recorded interviews and consequently following me around, unbeknown to me.

It was during this time period that I began to notice a change. Not just the obvious changes, like being able to walk out to my mailbox or stop for lunch on the way home from a doctor's appointment without wondering who was watching me - which is what the video footage was actually of (I guess sitting at Noodles & Co. with your family is not allowed if one is truly sick!). But a more important, more subtle change. I was beginning to feel what it was like to let go of an identity, of my identity as Disabled Person. And this letting go was quite different than the letting go that came along with getting sick.

But this is what I find so interesting. When I first became sick I really struggled with who I was. So much had been taken from me. So much that I strongly identified with, that is. My "type A - marathon running - career women - super mom - outdoors person" image was no longer looking back at me in the mirror. It had been replaced by a very tired, sick looking women I hardly recognized. And she wasn't going to go away.

When I spent the month waiting for my attorney to get back from her family emergency, what I came to realize was that I was gradually letting go of yet another identity and it was the best feeling I have had since becoming sick.

I was letting go of being a Disabled Person.

It doesn't matter what your identity is. It's shaky ground at best. The minute we begin to identify as something, we risk losing part of ourselves when it's gone. What I did not also realize is that the minute we begin to identify as something, we lesson who we truly are and what our full potential is.

As Pema Chodron writes,
"Our identity, which seems so reliable, is in fact very fluid, very dynamic....Your sense of yourself - who you think you are at the relative level - is a very restricted version of who you truly are. But the good news is that you can use your direct experience - who you seem to be a this very moment of time - the sound you are hearing, the smell you are smelling, the pain or comfort you are feeling right now - by being fully present to your experience, you contact the unlimited openness of your being." 
In letting go of my identity as a Disabled Person, I was beginning to feel the enormous expanse of the unlimited possibility which is me .

I'm still sick. Best I can tell, that's not going to change much. My letting go of Disabled Person is not going to miraculously make me well (although I do not underestimate the possibility). And my days are still full of pain. But it has a significant effect on the amount I suffer. I did not realize how limited my thinking had become. Partly because of my fear that Hartford was lurking around every corner and that my actions would be misinterpreted. That's just one of the many ugly facts needing some serious federal legislative changes. But I take full responsibility for taking on an identity and then making sure I stayed well within the confines of it's expectations.

It's funny what started to happen during that month. All of a sudden my world just opened up. Instead of giving into what I can't do, I began to think about options. Ways around things. Modifications. Situations that seemed like "all or nothing" softened. Possibilities started seeping in around the edges and under the doors of my mind. I began to contact the unlimited openness of my being.

How is your identity limiting you? What rumblings are you not listening to? We do all these wonderful things with our lives, and we keep doing them because we believe they somehow reflect who we are or what we think we are suppose to be. I would urge you to find quiet space in your life to listen to the soft whisperings of your heart. So often we are a reflection of an identity and not our authentic selves. By letting go of those identities, if just for a moment, we can peer ever so slightly into our own unlimited openness. It took a couple of really nasty situations that were beyond my control to cause me to take a second, third, fourth... look. I hope that by reading these words you "get it" a bit quicker than I did.

In the end, I chose not to fight The Hartford. I consider myself blessed and extremely fortunate to even have the ability to entertain that option. Some (including my attorney) may think that's just about the dumbest thing I could ever do. Me, well, I'm just learning how to paint again. And it's absolutely wonderful.