This is one of those posts that feels risky for me. Sometimes, I’m compelled to write something especially personal, in which I am more vulnerable than in other posts. I choose to do so because I believe absolutely that it is in sharing the most vulnerable aspects of our journeys that we support each other to find grace and strength and healing during equally challenging times. So…
My dad died.
What does this have to do with GAPS? Let me tell you…
When I learned that my dad had had a stroke, days before his 77th birthday (which also happened to be Christmas), I was devastated. I shook, I cried. The highways were dark and icy, so I waited until morning to travel to him. Over the weeks, my son and I travelled back and forth, to spend time with him in the Intensive Care Unit. Upon seeing my dad there the first time, I was immediately relieved, because I saw that, although he was “asleep” and had very little ability to respond to us, he looked quite comfortable and well. The nurse said that upon the arrival of my son, my older sister, and me my dad’s responsiveness improved significantly. I had hope. Regardless, we soon received word that my dad would likely not recover, nor wake in the meantime.
I began to decline. I had sudden crying jags. I became unable to sleep. Perhaps because I was unable to sleep, I developed confusion, difficulty with driving, and more. I was falling apart. Of course, all of these are to be expected, so I accepted them. But when my state deteriorated to the point that my counsellor noted I was displaying dangerous symptoms of sleep deprivation, I realized something needed to shift. I could feel sad, I could grieve, but I could not afford to let myself lapse into serious illness. I said to my counsellor,
If I could just get myself onto GAPS’ Intro… but it feels beyond me right now to get there…
The next day, I was lying in bed in the afternoon, exhausted and sad. A friend visited. I told her,
“You know what? This may sound odd, but if I could do anything at all right now, I would do a cleanse, a detox. That’s really what I feel would most support me right now.”
She had experienced and witnessed the effects of cleanses in herself and others so, as it turns out, she didn’t find this odd at all. She explored options with me. I didn’t feel able to pull off grocery shopping, or even making an Intro soup, so I went with an approach I intuited would be both effective and simple enough for me to manage right away, starting with just what my friend had on hand. Over the course of seven days, I started with just bananas, then I added juices (primarily green), then additional light foods. I did three colonics (brand new to me). I added herbs and liver supports. I took a GAPS detox bath every day.
The morning after I began the cleanse, I felt much better. The first thing I noticed was that I had slept quite well -not perfectly, but much better than I had for some time. When I did wake in the night, I was able to calm myself and give myself peaceful feelings until I eventually slept again. The second thing I noticed was that my mind was very, very clear. I was also able to start seeing positive things again, and the negatives started to fall away. The third thing I noticed was that although I still felt some sadness and grief, I was no longer overwhelmed by crying jags. In fact, I felt a specific emotional strength and peace. I could function, I could parent, I felt well. I could again drive the several hours required to see my dad. Most amazing to me was when I witnessed in myself the synergistic effects of choosing healing foods: upon committing to only healing foods, I became able to spontaneously move toward other self-care approaches as well.
Often, in difficult times, we are offered copious “comfort foods” in the forms of sugar, other starches, and conventional baking. Those had not been serving me. A light, cleansing program, however, supported me very well.
My dad passed away a few days ago, in the most beautiful of circumstances. There were countless blessings in this situation, one being that my dad was healthy, happy, and fully engaged in his favourite things -and his beloved way of life- right up to the moment of stroke, and then transitioned very quickly into what appeared to be a comfortable coma and excellent medical care. All of our large family and many of his friends all got to be with him over the weeks. Everyone brought to him presence, his favourite music, loving words, appreciations, and touch. He died in his own timing, very gently and truly peacefully, and surrounded by family. My dad is a profoundly religious person, and was very excited about the next stage of being. I feel happy for him.
The strength and peace I felt through this process have been huge gifts. I’m grateful that through GAPS my intuition for my healing has become so strong that even in one of the most painful circumstances, my body was able to tell me what it needed to support my mind and spirit.
Today I suddenly remembered that I used to be profoundly “mentally ill”, unable to cope with pretty much anything. How things have changed! Dr. Natasha says that one of the times we might return to Intro is during times of stress. What I really wanted to get across in this post is that through this circumstance, I can attest to the effectiveness of following this wisdom (or doing something equally supportive).
Food affects us.
One more thought: Although my dad doesn’t get all giddy about the food/health connection like I do, my dad has had a lot to do with my food journey. He is extraordinarily talented in a number of areas, including as an amazing cook -much celebrated for this in our family and in his larger community. He loved things many thought were odd: sardines, buttermilk, and so on, so I had this example to serve me when I started eating foods my friends thought were strange. Where my dad grew up, they fermented pretty much everything: even watermelon! My dad was the first person to taste my homemade sauerkraut -after I had left it sitting in the fridge for a month, too terrified to try my first ferment. He pronounced it “perfect!” He had grown up on a farm in a tiny village in Eastern Europe, and such foods were the norm for him, so I trusted his sense implicitly and thus became able to consume these things, too. My making sauerkraut from scratch inspired him to finally start doing likewise again. He had tried to feed me nutrient-dense foods in my childhood, just as he had enjoyed in his native Eastern Europe, and was frustrated when I refused it all and, in my teens, became vegetarian to boot. When I started the SCD, I was too scared to cook meat, and asked him if he would cook and bring me a turkey. He did so, showing up at my door with a lidded roasting pan. I lifted the lid, burst into tears of fear and grief, and ran away. My dad was perplexed. (Part of my odd behaviour was disgust at seeing -and the prospect of eating- a dead animal. Another part was that a very vegetarian sibling happened to be visiting my house at the moment, and I was terrified and ashamed at the possibility of being “caught” venturing off the vegetarian path.) Ultimately, I asked my dad to give me just the white meat and take the rest away. He simply accepted my behaviour and requests and kept on supporting my efforts, driving me to the natural food store while I couldn’t afford a car, or watching my son for me while I walked the many kilometres to get there myself. A year later, I wrote and self-published GAPS Guide. My dad is not a reader, and I don’t think he ever read my book, but he was so proud that I had written and published it. It was he who drove me to the printers in the snow to pick up the first set, and he who helped me carry them from his truck to stack them in my livingroom. It was he that just about fell off his chair in amazement when the first copies moved far faster than I had anticipated -and then helped me move in another stack. He was also the first “bulk purchaser” of the book, giving copies to friends suffering various ailments. Every time we visited, he asked me about the book. I was happy that before he died, I got to tell him (albeit in his coma) that the new version was almost finished. I knew he would be excited for me, and for all the families experiencing healing through GAPS. (He has always been so happy for all of us!)
I feel like my dad, and his mum before him (who died last year at age 97), have everything to do with my GAPS journey. I’m grateful that, although after moving from Eastern Europe they did both incorporate modern processed foods as well, they always maintained their connections with much of their traditional foods. I feel like that not only allowed me to learn and trust these approaches, but that their doing this held a space for me to incorporate these myself when I was finally ready to.
Thank you, Oma. Thank you, Papa! I love you both!