This post has been a long time coming. I kept thinking about it, but then kept figuring… I’ll write it when I get better. Then, as months past, it became, I’ll write it IF I get better. Now that it’s been eleven months, I figure – I’ll just write it. And it will shake out, how it shakes out. Be it good, or be it bad… it’s what’s happening, and I can’t really hide it from everyone anymore. So, regardless of the fact that this is an incredibly hard one to write, it’s what’s happening. It’s the reality of my homestead life these days.
The first week of January 2017, I had VERY big plans. We both did. We issued ourselves a food challenge. We aspired to put more content online. We had a forest garden to finish installing. We had some very big dreams that we were incredibly excited about. And then around the middle of January, I got sick. And I stayed that way.
I seemed to catch every virus or infection I came within spitting distance of. I was more tired than I ever had been in my life. The tiredness paled in comparison to how overwhelmed I felt by the most ordinary, easy things. I was thirsty all the time, no matter how much water I drank. My gut health was a total wreck and that made things unpleasant in a lot of ways that I won’t go into here… other than to say it’s incredibly painful. I couldn’t seem to remember the simplest things or to keep anything straight through some seriously intense brain fog. I was dizzy, my balance was off and I fell down a lot, my head hurt, my body and joints ached. I got scary pale pretty often. My vision was blurry and I saw floaters all the time. My eyes got crazy sensitive to light. And then, my anxiety became completely out of control over the whole thing. I saw my primary care doctor in February. Again in March and again in April. Tests got run, physicals by him and my OBGYN got had. And they couldn’t find anything wrong. In mid spring, we realized we didn’t really have much choice but to slow things down on the homestead plans in the interest of figuring out what the heck was going on. In the interest of lowering my stress levels. But by July, it was much worse. I got so dizzy at work that I almost passed out… and I totally freaked my wife out with the sheet like color of my face. I went back to the doctor. Got 2 rounds of antibiotics for a serious UTI… and then they ran a load more tests over the course of July, August and September. Everything that could come out of my body and get tested, did. For a couple of months, I wrote down what I ate, my blood pressure, my blood sugar, my daily activities to see if anything stuck out as an answer. It was quite frustrating.
What was the most frustrating was that by high summer, I was running out of faith. Running out of the belief that I would in fact get better one day soon. I’d felt so sick, for so long that it was wearing down my spirit. I started getting really depressed over it. Now, folks that know me or have had an experience at eight owls in the past – likely remember a really positive, excited, talkative person. Someone so darn fired up about farming and organic food that it was infectious. But all this feeling crappy had that human running out of steam. It had me feeling absolutely nothing like myself. By the time my family had their annual visit to the homestead in early September, I looked and felt like a ghost of myself. I think I scared the tarnation out of them all, they’d never seen me like this and seemed pretty caught off guard by the whole thing. So was I.
It felt crazy to have put so much focus on making such big changes towards living a healthier life and then to feel like I was falling apart. The not knowing why it was happening was agony.
And, to some degree, it still is making me a little nuts, the not being sure what the deal is. I still don’t have the answers to what exactly it is. All I know, is what it is not… as we did rule a lot of things out this year. I’m not diabetic. I don’t have parasites. It’s not early onset menopause. It’s not a thyroid issue. It’s not pancreatitis. You get the idea… Extensive blood work shows a MUCH healthier human than I was when I started homesteading. There is nothing in that blood work that has made my doctor concerned about cancer or any big bad disease. Well, short of we knew that I have an autoimmune issue already, but so far we’d been able to manage that with the food and by cutting out gluten and grain. My OB appt showed nothing of concern. My blood sugar was a little low (which honestly was kind of awesome since I was pre-diabetic just a few years back) and my blood pressure was a little low (again, an improvement over having insanely high blood pressure when I was overweight). So that all just left a lot of questions… was this all because I had my gallbladder out last fall? Is it my heart giving out or giving up? Was it something in the water making me sick? Something in the house? Was there a nutrient I was lacking somewhere? Was it because I made this huge transition from being so unhealthy to being a homesteader? …. Was it stress? Adrenal fatigue? I didn’t know. I’m still not 100% sure.
By my last doctor’s appointment in early October, I was almost in tears in his office. I was so dang tired of this whole process. I practically begged him for answers. He smiled a little smile, and begged me for something too. Something I’m not very good at. Patience.
He talked to me and the forager (who had started attending these with me pretty early on) about just HOW big a shift this 150 pound weight loss journey has been for my body. He made it clear that having my gallbladder out last fall was kind of a big deal to my tummy tum. He talked to me about managing my gut health better without a gallbladder. He really laid it on me about managing my stress. He gave me a shot of B-12 and put me on a new supplement for that, made a suggestion of new digestive enzymes and a load of new vitamins, gave me strict orders to not change anything else about my almost paleo diet for awhile, and made it clear just how important fermented foods and getting probiotics into my body is right now. He stressed the importance of sleep and restful behavior. He mentioned the stress thing… again. He just wanted me to please just give it a few more months of trying these things before we go the ct scans/hospital visits/cardiologist route. He really seems to think that it is just my body is kind of in shock from everything that has changed for me physically in the last three years since I lost the weight. And as if that wasn’t all enough, I had also piled a whole farm load of stress on top. He didn’t give me a lollipop… and I left, knowing that…. sigh…. what he was saying, made a lot of sense.
Since then, I’ve been on supplements out the wazoo. I’ve been doing everything I can to manage my stress. I’ve been working less and the forager has been working more to make up for it. I’ve been careful with what I eat. I’ve been doing breathing exercises. I’ve been taking enzymes for my gut health. I’ve been taking a lot of walks around the homestead and staring at beautiful wild plants and animals. I’ve read a load of new novels. I’ve started taking a lot of naps. I’ve not been around people as much, except for good friends and family that know what is going on. But the biggest thing I shifted, was in my brain. I stopped focusing on what didn’t feel good in my body every second of every day, and focused on what did. I worked towards thinking about how much I love my wife and the way we live, how much I love our homestead, how crazy I am about how beautiful nature and life is…. and told the whiney part of my brain that wanted to talk about how awful I felt to shut the hell up. I started to think about how it could totally be worse, that many people have much bigger physical challenges than I do, and I started focusing on being grateful for what I am able to manage to do and how amazed I am that I’ve gotten through to this point.
Now, within spitting distance of December… I have to admit, for the last month, I do feel a little bit better about half the time. It’s not where I want to be, it’s not anything like being back to my old self, but it is what I needed – to see at least a little progress. That will help me keep fighting through this I think. It’s what I will need if this is all just going to be my new normal. It’s also helping me to understand just how much me and my body have been through on this homesteading journey.
Seven years and two months ago, another doctor, in another city told me I had six months. To change my life, my eating habits, and my bad behaviors. Or we were going to be having a very different conversation. Or, worse, we were not going to be able to have one at all. It’s occurred to me through all of this that that means to me, that this extra time has all been frosting on the cake of my life already. And I’ve finally arrived at this point in my mind that I’m just not going to waste any more of this time that I’m fortunate enough to have on wallowing in not feeling well or feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to focus on the good parts. I’m going to do everything I can to heal on the homestead, to the best of my ability. Or I’m going to die trying!
So, that’s where I’m at. And I wanted to share it with you. I miss sharing the things I’ve been writing about on my own this year. I want the folks who have been messaging saying they miss it too, to know what’s been going on here. It may have taken me almost a year, but I’m ready to talk about it. It is what it is. And I need to take this on now, because I have big plans for 2018 that I need to execute too.
For the last three years, I’ve chosen a word as a “theme” for the year. Something I want to work on, something I aspire to be or make important in my life. I usually select it on our reset retreat the last week of each year. This process is important to me. It’s my tether to self care and self growth. I’ve already chosen mine for next year, earlier than I ever have before. I’ve known what it would be for the last month or so. And the more I think about it, the more right it feels. Heal.
That’s my big plan for 2018. Get better. Keep working on the forest garden in the ways that I can so we have the permaculture demonstration site we need to continue to teach and share in. Write stories. Make art. Calm down. Live through this. I know I can do this. I know I love this homestead life, permaculture, my body and self enough to get through the hard parts, through the pain. So for now, I will just work on willing it into being so. It is how I can start where I am, use what I have, and do what I can. And I will close this bit of sharing with this simple quote that always makes my eyes well up a bit…. I will take a deep breath, and dig in… one. more. time.
“A winner is a loser who just tried one more time.” – George M Moore Jr.
During this upcoming season of giving, I’d love to use this space to make an appeal for some help. We could use some kind words, support, healing vibes, prayers, or whatever you are into. I could use some volunteers stepping forward from our followers, former students, guests and friends to make progress on some projects I’m struggling with (Email me if you want to get your terrace on this winter or pile some brush on contour! firstname.lastname@example.org). We could majorly use some folks willing to make donations to the homestead to continue to develop the work we do here. With everything we have going on, it’s been a hard year. We’ve not really posted about donations as much as we have in years past and consequently, we’ve raised significantly less funds in 2017 than in the past. But, we would like to try to change that with the time we have remaining in the year if we can. We take donations of any size and can take them all at once or you can make a commitment to make a small monthly donation over the course of the 2018 year.
And of course, you can now make a donation to the farm’s donation based educational programs by sending funds to our non-profit arm! You can either send checks or money orders made out to “Redbud Institute” with a memo line that says “for Eight Owls Farmstead” and mail them to PO box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712. OR you can pay via PayPal by sending your donation to this email address “email@example.com”, again please put a memo note on the donation that it is for Eight Owls Farmstead.
Redbud Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so you will get a receipt to show you donated to one. 100% of your donation will go straight to fund operating expenses, equipment project development and keeping the cost of our donation based education at Eight Owls Farmstead nice and affordable. Please make sure to include your mailing address if it is not on your check and email address, so we can send you a receipt and our eternal thanks! Every single little bit will help us continue to move forward with the work that we do here.