In past posts I’ve mentioned that I have been fighting with a systemic candida infection. In September of 2014 I put myself on an extremely low carb diet and I stayed on it for a solid year. Well, I got off for a week at Thanksgiving cuz I thought I was healed, and then of course there were those days where you’re just a mess and you have to choose between eating what’s not on the diet, or not eating at all, but generally I was pretty strict. When a year later I was still having symptoms every time I let off the diet I knew I needed help.

I found the blog of a nutritionist Mary Vance, and my first indication of how long a candida cleanse should actually take: 6 – 8 weeks. I was ecstatic. I said to myself even if her fee is $1000, it’s worth it after a year of fighting to know I could be healthy in just two more months. Well, it turns out her fee is $1000 for the amount of help I needed, but that’s what economists call “indifferent optimization.”

Let me tell you a little bit about how systemic candida works. When I was not on the low carb diet, I would get regular bouts of athlete’s foot, an itchy butthole (gross, right?), and monthly yeast infections. Monthly. My bowel movements were mushy on a good day and downright asspee otherwise. It was pretty awful. On top of that I could just feel that my body was starving — on the diet or off. Doctors were useless. They just kept prescribing me more chemicals. I didn’t know it at the time, but my immune system was also trashed. I would get debilitating colds at least three times a year where nothing but lying in bed for several days could help me.

There were other things going on with me, too. I developed insomnia late in my graduate career from a combination of stress from my dying marriage, stress from ending said marriage, and stress from the PhD program itself. Working with Mary has helped me to put the pieces together and I now have a moderately clear picture of when and how my health started to go to pieces.

In all likelihood it started when I went to college. Yale university is a magical place that never stops moving. I started as a sophomore and as a transfer student it meant the pressure was on from day one with none of the usual social supports. I didn’t bond with my classmates over freshmen events and felt like an outsider for most of my time. I also had to do four years of work in three years time because Yale does not accept transfer credits from lesser universities. Homework in my major averaged six hours per week per class, and we had four classes standard per semester. And then there was all that stimulation. My very first symptoms started then. A diet heavy in pasta and bread probably contributed. That was when my annual athlete’s foot started.

My poor eating habits continued through graduate school where they were mixed with the pressure of a program designed to prove to you at every step of the way that you are not worth anyone’s time and with the stresses of a marriage to a husband who in all honesty is probably a sociopath. My period never went irregular, but it did stop responding to birth control. Instead of a light or nonexistent period I got two periods per month that sometimes bled into (heheh) a single fourteen to twenty day bought of misery. PMS was debilitating leaving me in a sobbing pile of pathos on the shower floor for at least two days each month and with breasts so sore and swollen I could not sleep on my stomach or side at night. This continued for over a year. My first yeast infection arrived just as I was working my way up to telling my husband I had decided to leave him. At first they visited me only once every three months or so, but by the time I graduated two years later they were with me every month.

Divorce was the clincher. I was in such bad shape that my diet consisted of kefir. Yup. Dairy milk, store bought kefir was my primary nutrient for several months on end. My face and back exploded in the worst acne I had experienced since puberty. I was twenty seven at the time. Twenty seven year olds are not supposed to have acne. I developed insomnia which was then joined by debilitating fatigue. I would wake up at 5 am one day, go to sleep at 11 and then stay there until 2 or 3 pm the following day. I started therapy to deal with the stress and I regularly slept through my late afternoon appointments.

Moving to Japan after graduation was a big deal. I had finally started to get my anxiety, depression and ADHD under control, but I still didn’t know about eating healthy. I figured I was an active person who never put on weight, what could be so bad about eating whatever I wanted? That was when the symptoms started to really converge into something that was undeniably candida related.

On the one hand, you might look at this history and say that I was just suffering from a ton of stress and nothing more. Or you might think that depression and psychological health are not related to digestive health, but I see one great big katamari of causality here culminating in my current condition: candida aggravated ADHD and anxiety overlayed on a background of adrenal fatigue.

I’ve been working with Mary for about six weeks now. She has me on a strict regimen of rotating herbal supplements, diatomaceous earth and probiotics. I’m swalling 11 pills per day plus two tablespoons of dirt. In addition to the supplements I am also working on healing my adrenal glands and my digestive system which has been trashed after a solid decade (or possibly more) of absolutely horrendous eating. The biggest challenge for me right now is sleeping. I log my sleep along with my food every day. Some nights I barely get eight hours. Some nights I’m well over ten hours. It’s unpredictable and debilitating. I can wake up at 8 am and be completely useless by 7pm on the same day. Can you imagine living a life where you only get 11 hours of functional activity in a day? And then you’re expected to work for eight of those? Leaving you with a meagre three hours to do your laundry and cook dinner, never mind actually have a life. Oh, and don’t forget your commute. Mine is 30-40minutes each way. It’s rough.

Can I say that my health is improving as a result of these efforts? I’m not really sure. I think it is. Mostly, I’ve notice general changes more than I can say I’ve seen any absolute improvements. For example, I’ve started to finally have solid bowel movements again. First time in two years. I also noticed an acne breakout that stayed with me when I wasn’t PMSing. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it felt different than my usual breakouts, like poison coming to the surface. On occasion I feel sleepy now, too. Previously I was never sleepy, just wired or exhausted. Sleepy is new. And of course, the fatigue. That’s definitely not an improvement, but the fact that I’m registering it now where before I was just high strung all the time seems to me like some switch has been thrown inside me and that I’m now beginning to heal.

Healing is not fun. It’s hard work. You know you need to do it, but it means ripping open scars, tearing out old habits that have become crutches, and perhaps most difficult: excising the parts of your life that have made you so sick in the first place. Often that means your job, failing relationships, or projects that you’ve poured your heart into. I broke myself because I had goals I wanted to achieve, but drank the yang koolaid and didn’t know I needed to give myself some yin time, too. I’m doing that now and I believe it’s what I need, but it is very difficult on a spiritual level. I keep myself motivated by reminding myself that this is temporary and when I’m through to the other side I will have health and energy in abundance along with the tools to keep that health and the clarity of vision that only comes from climbing out of the pit of failure that will keep me on track to achieving the things I really want.