So, after battling psoriasis (mostly of the scalp but with lovely, unpredictable outbreaks of the face and other areas too) for more than 10 years I was becoming resigned to the fact that it would be just something I would have to put up with. And even though it could be quite embarrassing on those flakey days and, at other times, downright sore to the point of bleeding when I had obviously enjoyed a glorious night of sleep-scratching, it wasn’t life-threatening and, sure, there were lots of people worse off. So I trudged to and fro, to doctors and dermatologists, gratefully accepting whatever hundred-euro wonder potion or steroid they proffered. And every now and again, I would venture into the hairdressers where I would sheepishly mutter that I had psoriasis and then silently wince as they shouted “oh you do, I see it now, it’s quite bad isn’t it?” before assaulting me with 100 degree water and a hairdryer on the hottest setting. Ouch.
In the meantime, I began to notice that, as a 20-something-year-old, ahem, girl, my health wasn’t, well… it wasn’t quite what it should be. Although my doctor always seemed to find a satisfactory explanation and solution. My cholesterol, at 7.3, was through the roof (“genetic predisposition, can be treated quite easily with a life-time of statins”), my calcium levels were low (“fairly typical of a girl your age, you’ll have to be careful now but you can up your intake of dairy and of course I can always prescribe Vitamin D and Calcium in tablet form”), I was starting to develop a seriously dodgy tummy and display all the signs of IBS (“anti-spasm medication”) and my energy levels were non-existant (“now you see, some people just don’t have a lot of energy…”. Hmmm.
You would think with all this going on I might have started to question my lifestyle, and eventually I did but oh so sloooooowly. Reading an interview with Bernadette Bohan, a Dublin housewife who changed her diet and lifestyle and beat cancer before becoming a best-selling guru (her book, The Choice, is well worth a read) flicked a little switch in my brain but it was another two years or so before I put all the pieces together.
The realisation, when it eventually came, was that I wasn’t unlucky to have psoriasis and a whole gamut of problems, I was *lightbulb* doing them to myself. With a toxic, stressful, deadline-driven lifestyle, a sugar addiction that bordered on destructive (mars bar square for breakfast anyone?) and a love for caffeine that was outweighed only fractionally by my love for my family (most days), I was poisoning myself, slowly but surely. Because I’ve always been fairly slim, I thought I could pretty much get away with anything when it came to food – ah how wrong I was! With a list of food intolerances as long as my arm (eggs, are you serious?!) and an immune system that was literally screaming at me, my body had been trying to tell me for years that I needed to make some changes …and not by firing a load of drugs down my gullet, thank you!
Now I know what you’re thinking – oh another “I-changed-my life-by-giving-up-everything-that-makes-it fun-and-you-can-do-it-too!” type. Ah no. I wish! While other people seem to come to the same conclusion as me (the excellent Susan Jane Murray http://www.susanjanemurray.com and , across the water, Angela Liddon on http://ohsheglows.com) and renounce demon toxins and completely overhaul their lives so they brim with health and glow in the dark, I haven’t found it quite so easy. So while you could say (if you were a fan of catchy 90s pop music) I have the key, it would seem the secret is eluding me… Because, goddammit, I love the bad stuff!
So, I start the day with vegetable juice, I detox, I take supplements, I swig fish oils and flax seed oils out of the bottle and I start to feel great. That’s right, great. The terrorised skin on my scalp begins to heal, the gawdawful itch fades away to nothing, my stomach is serene and, for me, most impressively I SKIP out of bed in the morning! The mental clarity, oh god the mental clarity. Usually I wake up feeling fuzzy and cranky, particularly if its humid outside but, who am I kidding, the weather could be doing anything really. But when I’m looking after myself and my diet, I’m as bright-eyed and bushytailed as the original bright-eyed and bushytailed bunny. Not only that, but every last trace of pesky cellulite disappears from my thighs and bum. Even when pinched! A little miracle. Not to mention the fact that the pores on my face just shrivel up and vanish … So, all told, healthy living feels soooooo good. For about two weeks. Then what happens? Well, usually it’s a wedding, or a birthday party, or a holiday, or a colleague’s birthday, or a Friday or WHATVER. The point is that, at some point, I start to slip back into my old habits. Just a little bit at first but eventually I’m right back where I started. Except I feel worse. Because I know better.
And that’s where this blog comes in. Notwithstanding the little obstacle of being an absolute luddite, it has occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, if I was to chronicle my efforts, it might help me stick to my guns. I also love the idea that someone else might take away something from it that could help them, even a little bit. For all the years I handed over money, hand over fist, to the host of doctors and Co, not one of them ever mooted the idea of diet. EVER. Stress came up a few times and I would be told to take it easy but always with the offer of pills or tablets of some kind for something. And even though I’m a fairly adjusted, educated human being, I never questioned them. Or asked for an alternative. And, to be honest, I think they’re definitely trying their best based on what they’ve been taught. But sometimes, stepping back and asking the right questions can be a lot more valuable than hyper-prescribing. So if someone else can be spared from spending thousands of euro (and it is over time) on skin-thinning steroids and aggressive and unnecessary medications, I would be thrilled.
To get things started, I’m taking myself off to Cloona in the west of Ireland for a five-day detox (http://www.cloona.ie/) and I’m going to post a few ‘before’ pictures to help illustrate (hopefully!) the difference a week can make. I’m mainly hoping that some of their healthiness will rub off on me and that a week of detoxing will put me in a great position to make a few key changes when I get back. So please feel free to pitch in with suggestions and comments and see if this time I can finally find a healthy balance … and stick to it 🙂