Dave’s Self-Change Journey

I‘ve hesitated about writing this because, rather than being a true diarist, I generally only write about things when I’ve finished with them — more-or-less completed ideas, reviews, synopses, stories with an ending. I am a restless and impatient artist, so generally once my article is done it’s done, and I’m on to the next thought or idea or story, rarely returning to older articles except to give them passing reference for reader context.

Late last spring some stressful news was the catalyst that, at the end of June, brought on the acute symptoms of a disease called ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune hyperactivity disease (AIHD — my acronym). The family of AIHDs would appear to include many allergies, and an astonishing number of other diseases that have recently reached epidemic levels. AIHDs are the converse of autoimmune deficiency diseases (AIDDs — also my acronym), which are also diverse and at epidemic levels (the family of AIDDs includes AIDS). There is no known cause* and no known cure for AIHDs or AIDDs, which are therefore chronic (once you get them, you have them for life). The health care system is spending more and more time treating the symptoms of these diseases (sometimes taxing the system to the point of crisis) and Big Pharma is making a fortune developing drugs that treat the symptoms. There is neither motivation (for health professionals or health corporations) nor (in my opinion) serious effort being made to prevent or find the cause of these diseases.

Getting one of these diseases is a bit like being given a life sentence for a crime that you didn’t commit. Your first inclination is to shout “unfair”, and your second is to get angry and look to find the real culprit. I have started testing a hypothesis that ulcerative colitis (and perhaps all AIHDs and AIDDs) are actually caused by a combination of

  1. what I am calling “modern malnutrition” (lack of variety of natural micronutrients and non-nutritional microorganisms in what we eat, drink, breathe and otherwise continuously take into our bodies),
  2. overexposure to antibiotic environmental toxins (poisons in our water, food, soil, air, pills, and deliberately sprayed on our gardens, our lawns, and on every surface of our homes), and
  3. endemic musculo-skeletal distress caused by our unnatural lifestyle.

I would not argue with the overwhelming amount of data that suggests that stress is the catalyst, in the presence of these three causes, that actually precipitates the symptoms of AIHDs and AIDDs. In fact, I am amazed that we aren’t all suffering from these diseases already — clearly some people handle stress better than others and have been able to forestall onset of these diseases, to which I think we’re all vulnerable.

Once you get past the self-pity and the anger, and start to take charge of your own health and well-being, you start the phase that I call ‘taking stock’. At one point I was so ill that I thought it quite possible I was going to die (ulcerative colitis, and several other AIHDs/AIDDs, increase your risk of, and may be diagnosed in tandem with, advanced cancer of the affected organs). You review all your priorities in life (what’s really urgent and what’s really important), your lifestyle, what you’ve accomplished and put off, and your plans for the future. Since stress is the catalyst, you also try, with some inevitable skepticism (since we have limited control over the causes of that stress), to assess what you might do to reduce the stress in your life.

In my case, this ‘taking stock’ has precipitated self-changes in me that I’m just beginning to realize and articulate. This has been largely an intuitive and subconscious process (fortunately for me as a slow conscious learner). My body has been signaling its vulnerability and lack of wellness to me for years, and I just ignored it. In recent years, as my anxiety level has risen, chronic neck and shoulder pain has put me in physiotherapy three times, but each time I abandoned the physio’s advice and program as soon as I started feeling better. This spring, when my stress level soared, I instinctively improved my diet and embarked on a rigorous exercise program that I credit with preventing the colitis from doing even worse damage — too late, as it turned out, but at least my body was trying to get me to heal myself. I just wasn’t paying attention.

Now I’m paying conscious attention and listening to my body’s subconscious signals to my brain. And my body has continued to take charge and redirect my life as my mind has slowly started to get with the program. Here are the changes that I have already begun to undergo as a result. Most of these changes, I am convinced, have not been conscious — I’m just doing what I must, to alleviate the symptoms and work to prevent their recurrence. Some of these changes have been at least abetted by my conscious mind (thanks in great part to other people’s kind and caring advice, including my readers’). Some of them may be brought on, in part, by the drugs and nutritionals I am now taking. I’m capturing all the data, self-experimenting methodically but improvisationally, and paying attention as much as my short-attention-span brain is able. I’ll keep reporting on this journey, so expect more diary-like entries on this blog from time to time. My sense is that this is a long and dramatic journey and the self-changes I am undergoing will cascade from here, making me a very different person from who I was two months ago, or even from who I am today.

How I’ve Changed:

  • Paying more attention to, and taking much better care of, my body. More rest, better diet, not overdoing it, managing anger and anxiety more effectively and quickly, pampering, exercise (just resuming gradually).
  • Having more fun. I’m laughing more. I’m more engaged with nature and with other people. I get much more joy out of simple things, and that joy lasts longer. I’m somehow at peace, mellower, more connected. Is this the drugs or have I just learned how to take time and make time for fun and relaxation because I really have no other choice?
  • Caring more about other people. Instead of just focusing unemotionally on actions that could help them (“read this, contact this person, try this process”), I’m actually empathizing with people. At the big annual neighbourhood bash we hosted Saturday, I listened more, cared more, and was more engaged and genuine. I wasn’t ‘browsing the room’ for more interesting conversations. And though I said much less, when I did speak people seemed to listen to me more attentively, and seemed to ‘get’ and value what I was saying much better. I have a sense this is going to change much more in the coming months and years — if you’ll pardon the double entendre, it’s a no-brainer. I still can’t visualize myself as a truly sensitive person, but now I can imagine it, and I think it’s a possibility, perhaps even an inevitability.
  • Letting go faster. I still get stressed, but seem to have found ways to discharge the stress more quickly and effectively. No recent neck and shoulder aches ‘internalizing’ the stress — though that may be due to the anti-inflammatories.
  • Being more physically affectionate. My British background always got in the way of expressing myself physically. Not any more. I’m hugging people, kissing people (politely but genuinely), touching people a lot more. Part of connecting with your body and not living just inside your head, perhaps. I’ve always needed this — why have I never done it?
  • Shifted the ‘sweet spot’ that defines, for me, meaningful work. I’ve given up my innovation consulting practice (underappreciated, not enough fun, too stressful). My next career (I think now) will be coaching people, one-on-one, how to decide what work they want to do and how to create a sustainable business to let them do it. But it will be fully sponsored and funded by an organization that sees the value in this — I’m not going to do any ‘selling’. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll do something else. But never again will I do meaningless or joyless work just because it pays well, or because I don’t think there’s any alternative. Life’s too short (or too long) for that.
  • Identifying new, down-to-earth hobbies. I should have got a clue when I discovered three years ago that I loved cutting my own lawn with the riding mower instead of paying someone else a fortune to do it for me. It’s fun. Now I’m going to take up carpentry and learn how to make desks, tables and chairs. I want to be able to point to something physical and say “I did that!” Suddenly this is important to me.
  • Going slower. I was always a sprinter, metabolically. Fits and starts. Drive through the aches and hassles and get it done. Now I’m taking longer to do everything (even eating — I’m actually tasting what I eat!) but surprisingly, things aren’t taking longer. By going slower I’m doing it right the first time, doing a better job, avoiding rework.
  • Being less anxious. This might be the drugs too, though I hope not. I’m less of a control freak, worrying about everything that might happen and taking charge as soon as something goes wrong. Now I don’t worry as much about what might occur or what might have occurred or what’s already occurred — I focus on adapting, improvising, letting others worry about stuff and do stuff and take charge. My ‘to do’ lists are shorter and the items on them all get done and crossed off much faster.
  • Enjoying the passage of time. The steroid I’m taking (against my better judgement, but I’m stuck with it now until the end of the taper-down period) gives me terrible insomnia, and when I used to get insomnia I was miserable — trying to force sleep, trying tricks, getting impatient and then angry. Now I get by on 3-4 hours sleep a night, and the rest of the night I pass reading, writing, listening to radio, doing crosswords, going for walks, doing small chores, and just thinking. It’s productive, relaxing and fun, and I actually kind of enjoy this extra time I would otherwise spend sleeping. When I’m in line-ups I read or chat with people. When I’m stuck in traffic I think, and scribble notes and ideas on yellow stickies as thoughts come to me. Or I just look out the window. Really look — at scenery, at people’s expressions and what they’re wearing. There I am in gridlock and I’m smiling. And when I’m walking and I run into neighbours I stop and chat for hours, drop in for a drink, where I always used to get restless to finish what I had scheduled and limit each unscheduled conversation to five minutes. Why was I in such a hurry?

How I Haven’t Changed (But Sense I May Yet):

  • Still get pointlessly impatient with stupidity and ignorance.
  • Still get angry, intemperate, unforgiving and even hypercritical with people who are inconsiderate, dishonest, manipulative, exploitative, cruel or insensitive, or who abuse power, badmouth people behind their back or take pleasure in others’ misfortune.
  • Still can’t meditate.
  • Still don’t love enough, without condition — too guarded in my feelings.
  • Still too arrogant about my own beliefs.
  • Still interrupt too much — not generous enough with my time.
  • Still can’t just walk away from deliberate provocation or vexatious people.

I sense a lot more, even profounder changes are still to come. It’s a bit eerie and yet exciting to find yourself changing, letting yourself change, without being in control of it or even knowing quite where it is going. I know it’s a clichÈ to say that a disease may be the best thing that ever happened to you, and I wouldn’t go that far, but just as stress catalyzed my disease, my disease is catalyzing a profound and rapid change in my lifestyle, behaviour, priorities and attitudes. And that’s not bad.
* I have written in previous articles that I believe HIV is a marker for and common symptom of AIDS, but not the cause. There is just too much compelling evidence of AIDDs occurring in the absence of HIV. That’s not to say I don’t believe in the value of anti-viral drugs for those sufferers of AIDDs who do carry the HIV virus. I just don’t believe eradicating HIV (if that’s even possible) will by itself eradicate AIDS or any of the other AIDDs — it’s going to take that, and a lot more. These are complex diseases that will not be cured by simple solutions.

PS: For those who have been asking for a health update, my self-experimentation program is continuing as outlined in my previous article, and I am pain-free and free from bleeding. But I am still severely anemic (though my stamina is steadily improving), still on a heavy dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (which I do not feel ready to taper off), and still suffering from acute insomnia (thanks to the %@$# steroid which I have to taper off over the next 11 weeks — 16 weeks in all — to prevent possible restart failure of the adrenal cortex, the immune system agent that the steroid shuts down to ‘treat’ thedisease).

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16 Responses to Dave’s Self-Change Journey

  1. David Parkinson says:

    It’s such a privilege to get this insight into your ongoing healing process. It’s something that millions of people are living through at all times, but is considered generally too private to be shared with others, except our most intimate friends and family. Thank you.

  2. Kris Grice says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your posts about your condition. I read today’s article, recognised myself in much of your writing, and my own suspicions about my health have finally crystallised. You see, I suffer from chronic major depression, generalised anxiety, an as-yet unidentified immune disorder of some form, and migraines. I’m a very Type A, information-obsessed workaholic. Surprise– it’s all stress-related.So this is a personal thank you– I wish you the best of luck, I look forward to reading more of your blog (on every topic), and I appreciate you sharing this with us all.

  3. Lee Bryant says:

    I really enjoy your thoughtful writing. Sorry to hear about your condition, but delighted you are responding so positively.Thanks for sharing your story

  4. PaulSweeney says:

    Just great to hear you speak so well on this subject. I did not know that you were ill. A trick I have learned from people who tend towards stress, is to learn a long poem, completely off by heart, and then read it to yourself off the page. The rythem can put you into a very relaxing place and seems to still the mind.

  5. David Jones says:

    I relate very well to your successes and failures. Being there and doing that. Interesting David when I read the first bit I was reminded of something I’ve known for a long time. When cars ares ready to retire they start giving us little indications – that most of us ignore. Then – wham! I see the same thing with the human body. There are little signs and signals that we need to make a change but we seem as oblivious to them as we are to our cars’ mental and physical health. (Yes, today cars have mental health. They have more electronics than the first moon mission). Anyway – bottom line is I think listening, hearing, and reacting – in appropriate ways. Did I get it right?

  6. Dave on the things you haven’t changed yet. Could you become a fucking saint sometime soon?? Saint David – he loved the everyone, even the assholes and the people who win the Darwin Awards. Boy could he meditate!Check out this photo for further details:http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/994/593/400/Kennedy2.2.jpgI am just kidding but damn you are so hard on yourself. It is like your mind has you hooked up like a little pony and it is whipping you go faster, go faster.

  7. This is so interesting for me to read! You really have a talent for breaking something down in to understandable components, then reaching new conclusions about the combined components. I am glad you’re delving into this subject, because you’re sure to reach some enlightening new conclusions. As someone with an auto-immune hyperactivity disease (thyroid) I am fascinated to read your progression down this path. Best wishes for healing on all levels!!

  8. I love the new Dave, tattered innards and all!!! Of course, I loved the old Dave, too, but while I’m sorry you got the evil DX, I’m delighted for those of us who already have it to have acquired such a thoughtful, articulate spokesperson.As to the meditating, might I suggest you expand your definition to include a variety of activities to which you can apply thoughtfulness? I don’t meditate, either, but I wash dishes, clean houses, walk, design, draw, etc.

  9. Mariella says:

    Dear Dave, I feel your self changing trip began some time before, when i watch your picture in the beginings of your blog, you have a very different look and expression, compared to the one you are using now…. what is meaninfull to me, is not the picture itself, but who was the person that chose those pictures to represent you in the blog… ¿was it the same person?……..On the other hand, i would suggest you not to make a “belief” out of this “(once you get them, you have them for life)”….. ¿Is the future yours to see?. My respects Dave, for your efforts and for sharing them.

  10. SB says:

    Ah, Dave. Has anyone said the “fibromyalgia” word to you yet?Clearly, I am much better at denial than you are. Or, at least more persistent. I suspect that you are correct — or at least at the edge of it — in your theories about causation. I’ve always thought we may be the mine canaries. But are we singing “Too Late! “Too Late!”?

  11. Daniel says:

    > My next career (I think now) will be coaching people, one-on-one, how to decide what work they want to do and how to create a sustainable business to let them do it.I think you will have lots of interested people.>But it will be fully sponsored and funded by an organization that sees the value in this — I’m not going to do any ‘selling’.Could you please explain more about this business model?. You mean public or private organization (I can only think on a health care organization or a company that needs to reduce personnel and help them get a job)?. The person will not pay?. Also the companies should have “good practices” and there are not a lot of them.This is very important and wish you good luck in this new step.Thanks!.

  12. theresa says:

    Sorry to read about all the heath problems. I am suspicious of drug treatment too. Anyway, I thought of something while reading this just now. The two parts about “self change” and “not being arrogant about my own beliefs” reminded me of how John Lennon was reported to have responded to on the occassion of his first solo album: “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me (on everyone’s lamenting the loss of the so called “Beatles” which were only a concept and not a living thing).

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Great advice and encouraging ideas — thanks, everyone. David — yes you got it right. Chris — you’re right, but I’m getting better at taking it easy and lowering my self-expectations (you can’t change completely overnight). Comm’trix — I’ve discovered power-washing (to get the stains off your decks and steps) is remarkably therapeutic (you can’t rush it, you have to focus attention on that one thing, and you have something tangible to show for it) — meditation for guys? Mariella — excellent advice as always. Daniel — I’m not sure yet about the business model. Rather than the ‘pay only if you get value’ I’m now thinking more of a Generosity Economy model where you ‘pay’ by giving your time and sharing your learning (good and bad) with other entrepreneurs. More on this as it evolves.

  14. Andrew says:

    Thanks Dave – you have inspired me to start my own journey. I have created a list of “I Will’s”. I made a wallet size copy and I read it in the morning before I put the car in drive with the thought

  15. Alvin says:

    Dave, sorry to hear about your condition, happy that you seem to be taking an empowering stance on it instead of a delibitating one.I’ve always loved your writing and your blog has been a source of constant eye-opening info for me. I think you have *a lot* to give and I’m looking forward to your coaching success :) (and the book too!)

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