Anxiety, Mental Health, and 2020

Most of my life I’ve experienced some form and intensity of anxiety or depression. I don’t remember when it exactly started. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel anxious in social situations. I mean, I know that’s pretty common. Most people have some level of social anxiety, or at least shyness. But it was worse for me. Like overwhelming to the point where I struggled to make friends or even speak in social situations.

And the depression. Again, don’t know when it started, but pretty early. And then in my teens it just intensified. Like it was pretty bad. Luckily I had made a few really close friends around that time that got me through those years.

Anyway, I don’t really want to dig into all of that too much. I don’t think that’s the point of this post.

I just wanted to introduce that part of my story a little bit. The crippling anxiety and depression part.

So many people are struggling with mental health issues these days. I know many will say it’s just because we are noticing it more and talking about it more and looking for it more. That we are diagnosing better. And I do think that plays a role. But in my opinion it’s a relatively small role. I think there is a huge rise in mental health issues. I may discuss what I think some of the causes are in a minute, but first I just wanted to talk about my journey and experience with my own struggles and walking the healing path.

About 8 or 9 years ago I had this kind of pivot point in my life. I was experiencing intense, almost constant anxiety and panic attacks. Every day. It was suffocating and I really couldn’t handle it much longer.

One night I went to this religion class, like a Bible study, but I’m LDS so we study the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon and other resources in these classes. This particular class and night we were talking about the Book of Mormon.

I can’t remember exactly what else was said, but I remember the teacher talking about covenants. A covenant is a two-way promise between humans and God. The teacher started talking about making our own covenants with God and it was in this moment, in a brief respite from the panic, that I had a very clear and enlightening spiritual talk with God. Just in my heart and mind.

I knew that He was telling me that if I would commit to study the scriptures every single day for at least a half hour that He would heal me of the anxiety. I knew it. I still know it. That’s what He spoke to me.

I left that class that night with a renewed faith and hope.

I made that covenant with God and have kept it ever since.

But what followed over the next 8 years was not what I was expecting or hoping for.

I hoped, or really I should say I wished, because I think hoping and wishing are different and we get them confused, but that’s a topic for another day. I wished that God would just immediately heal everything and make me feel awesome.

That did not happen.

Now, I will say that the anxiety got better. I went from being constantly anxious and often panicked to being rarely panicked and mostly only regularly stressed rather than anxious. That stress would build up over time and I would get more anxious, but it was an improvement.

And I was still, am still, anxious in social situations. Maybe more so now than ever before, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.

It became more manageable. And for that I am grateful.

But still I didn’t feel good. I just felt less awful. And that’s how it’s been for years now. Mostly feeling a range between intensely anxious and nothing. Kind of numb.

I think that it wouldn’t be fair to say that I never feel good. I have worked really hard and tried to address a lot of issues and traumas and false beliefs and I have improved at times or had little pockets of clarity, even of feeling good.

They just haven’t lasted long and it takes too much energy to get there and what has seemed like an impossible amount to stay there.

I think that more people than we could ever dream of are experiencing some version of this. So if that’s you then at least now you know you aren’t alone in it. I don’t know how much that helps, but I do believe in the power of connection. The need for it, really.

That seems like a good transition point for where I want to go next.

 

Covid

 

What an absolutely insane experience 2020 was. Never in the history of the world have humans experienced anything like that. I mean, that’s an assumption, but I’m almost certain it’s right. Because as far as I know, never in the history of the world has the world been quite so connected as it is now.

Although connected isn’t the right word, is it?

And that’s sort of the problem. Well, one of the many that I see.

Renowned shame and vulnerability researcher and author Brene Brown said that humans are wired for connection and without it there is suffering. Something like that. I don’t want to look up the exact quote right now, but that’s the gist. We need each other. In deep and meaningful ways.

Earlier tonight I went on a walk, as I often do. I love walks. There’s just something about them for me. Something therapeutic. Movement and thinking. Praying as I go. I love them. But I digress. I was walking around the neighborhood and I passed by a house with some kids outside talking. They were probably around 10 years old. It’s a Friday night, and they were just hanging out. Just some friends hanging out. Like everyone used to do when they were kids. Do you remember that? When you just hung out on a Friday night with some of your friends when you were 10?

What a jovial time that was. Worry-free. Playing kick-the-can or Ghost in the Graveyard (do kids still play those anymore? I’m dating myself, I know, but that’s what we did in the 80’s and 90’s). The laughter and the fun and the friendship. The bonds formed at that age were priceless.

Except that’s not what I saw tonight.

I saw three kids sitting six feet apart from each other, talking.

No adults in sight. Just these kids, who need connection, conditioned to distance themselves from their friends even when their parents aren’t around.

No doubt many reading this might praise their obedience and willingness to “do the right thing” even when no authority figures were around to enforce it.

But I won’t.

I know I have lots of very unpopular opinions about all of this. I know that because I’ve felt the backlash and the vitriol and the weight of contempt toward me and others like me who have offered alternative opinions and perceptions to the mainstream narrative during the last over-a-year.

It’s been exhausting. And for someone who struggles with social anxiety to begin with, it has been overwhelming. Devastating even.

And here was this stark reminder to me as I walked freely around in the night air of the damage we have done to ourselves and, most egregiously, to our kids.

Okay now that I have exposed myself as an enemy to the public let me go back a little bit in my story so you can understand how I got here and why.

Remember how I said that God was going to heal me but that it didn’t go the way I wished it would? Well that’s because instead of just outright healing me, He led me to study and learn about health for myself over many years and what creates it and what doesn’t.

I learned so much about health.

And about why the medical system in the Western world has gotten it all wrong for so many years.

Now, before you dismiss me as a conspiracy theorist, which is the easiest and most comfortable thing to do these days, please know that I am a human being too, and I have reached the conclusions I have for logical reasons after painstaking hours of research and thought, with great concern for the welfare of all humankind. I hope you will try to look at me with compassionate eyes and try to understand where I’m coming from.

If there is anything I have learned over this last year it’s that none of this is simple.

I am not alone in my position though. I am sure, no matter what side of the aisle you are on in this particular issue, you have seen or heard of many doctors and scientists from around the world who have spoken out against the narrative or against the handling of Covid. Or at least maybe you saw some of them before they were censored on social media (which is not necessarily something I want to get into here, but in my opinion should be a major red flag to everyone).

Okay let me go back a few years.

In my healing journey, I think the first thing I discovered was the gut-brain connection and leaky gut. Maybe you’ve heard of leaky gut. I’m sure you’ve heard of gluten-intolerance or celiac disease. You can’t go into any grocery store now without seeing gluten-free sections (which I am grateful for). So many people suffer from this disease that you probably know someone personally. Maybe it’s you.

So what is the gut-brain connection? Well, one of my favorite doctors is Kelly Brogan. (I am such a nerd when it comes to health! Other people are fans of athletes and singers, but how many people do you know that gush over doctors? Yikes!) Dr. Brogan is brilliant! She studied at Cornell, NYU, and MIT. She knows her stuff. And she is also one of the many doctors who bravely spoke out about how things were handled during 2020, and was ridiculed for it.

Dr. Brogan explains the gut-brain connection:

“The vagus nerve is a two-way information highway that connects 200-600 million nerve cells between our intestines and brain. Many of us have felt this gut-brain link. Have you ever been too stressed to eat or felt butterflies in your stomach? Interestingly, this perceived stress, anxiety, and nervousness isn’t just in your head; it can lead to inflammation in your gut and beyond.”

So our brains are connected to our digestive system through what’s called the Vagus Nerve. When something is out of balance in the gut, it effects the brain, and vice versa. If the gut is damaged, the mental state is effected negatively.

Another component here is that an estimated 90% of the serotonin produced by the body is produced in the gut. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (meaning that it helps the brain to send messages around the body) and is the feel-good hormone. So if your gut isn’t functioning properly, you may not be able to feel good or even think clearly. (Brain fog is something I have struggled with for years. It feels like your brain is running in mud. Like it’s slow and sluggish)

Okay so now you’re thinking what in the world does this have to do with Covid or a virus? Well, let’s make the connection.

As I started learning about the gut-brain connection, and the health of the gut, one thing was unavoidable: the microbiome.

This was sort of the next major piece of the puzzle that I learned about. The microbiome is essentially the micro environment of the biological world that lives all around us, but more particularly inside us. In more layman’s terms, the microbiome is the community of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live on and inside our bodies 24/7.

This is a relatively new realization for the scientific and medical community, but it has become pretty much widely accepted as fact that this tiny ecosystem affects our bodies and our brains in innumerable ways. (Fun fact: there are more microbial cells in our bodies than human cells. Like a LOT more. Like we are somewhere around 1% human cells and 99% microbial cells…if they really wanted to kill us, we never would have stood a chance)

I know this is a lot of dry information, and I don’t want to bore anyone and I don’t want to get lost in the weeds here, even though there is so much more depth and it is really important that we understand this stuff. But I just wanted you to have a basic understanding of this concept:

Trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi live in and on our bodies every second of every day.

The issue is that over a century ago, a man named Louis Pasteur declared war on the microbiological world and we are still stuck in that destructive mindset.

You may have heard of Pasteur. He invented pasteurization, like as in pasteurized milk. And he did a lot of work in the field of vaccines, which is probably something I’ll have to get into in another post.

Pasteur is the father of what is known in the scientific community as germ theory. Basically it holds that bacteria, viruses, and fungi are dangerous and they kill people and we have to find ways to kill them before they kill us.

It’s an ideology that has dominated scientific and medical thinking in the area of germs since the 1850’s.

It is also wrong.

 

Germ Theory Vs. Terrain Theory

 

See, Pasteur had a contemporary. A man named Antoine Bechamp. A fellow scientist. They were rivals for their entire careers because they had very different understandings of the microbiological world.

Bechamp’s theory was that it is not really the germs that are inherently dangerous to people, but rather it is the environment in which those germs live that determines their danger.

Probably my favorite doctor alive, triple-board-certified Zach Bush, has done amazing work in the field of the microbiome and gut health. There are so many videos out there of presentations and lectures he has given and I would recommend any of them, but here is a great one to get you started.

Basically Dr. Bush explains that it is biodiversity in the microbiome that creates or supports health, and a lack of biodiversity that destroys it. (Biodiversity meaning many different species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi) It is also the state of our gut that supports or allows certain bacteria over others. A healthy body supports all sorts of different species of bacteria, for instance, whereas an unhealthy body doesn’t.

In the area of the bacteria, you may hear the term friendly bacteria, or friendly flora. Or the inverse, unfriendly or pathogenic bacteria.

The idea is still stuck in the Pasteur germ theory mindset. People believe that some bacteria are friendly and support our health while others are trying to kill us. That’s not exactly true.

Bacteria and viruses and fungi are not our enemies. They aren’t trying to kill us. They are just trying to support the natural ecosystem of the earth. They will support healthy plants and animals (humans included) and then when something becomes diseased passed a certain point, it is the “unfriendly” bacteria’s job to take that life back to the earth to recycle it.

“For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

It’s the circle of life on earth.

“Unfriendly” bacteria are not hunting us down trying to kill us. They feed off of junk and waste. It is their food. So if our bodies are in a condition that is overwhelmed with sickness or waste, or all we eat is junk food, we provide the environment internally that can only support those types of bacteria that people consider unfriendly. Our internal terrain in that state cannot support a healthy and robust diversity of bacteria that would keep us healthy and vibrant, and so our bodies get overrun with these “unfriendly” bacteria and this can lead to death. But it wasn’t exactly the bacteria’s fault. It’s just the way nature works. It’s a law that can’t be changed. (We just have to learn to work with that law, rather than fighting it)

The same is true with viruses. Now, there is a whole lot we don’t know or understand yet about viruses in general, and even this sars-cov-2 virus. (I mean, as far as I know it still has yet to be purified, which just means it hasn’t been isolated from the human exosome….okay that’s maybe a complex concept, just know this purification process is a really important step in understanding a particular virus and it hasn’t been done for this one) There is actually a good case to be made that viruses are not actual living things, but excretions from a diseased cell. Here is an interesting video about this and the impact of EMFs on health.

The point is this: we’ve got it all wrong when it comes to the microbiological world and our reactions to it are destroying us and the earth.

We declared war on nature and we are losing. According to Dr. Bush, in 15 years time at the current trajectory of infertility and disease, we won’t survive as a species.

We are asking all the wrong questions. Instead of asking how do we fight and kill and avoid exposure to viruses, we should be asking how do we strengthen our immune systems so they can handle it?

Have you ever wondered why some people get sick and die and most don’t? What’s the difference? Do doctors know? Do they even care what the difference is? Seriously, why do most people handle this and every other virus and bacteria just fine but others are not so lucky?

If germ theory were true, every person exposed to a virus would have the same or very similar outcome. But they don’t. It varies wildly between people. Why? If the virus is the same, and it’s dangerous enough to kill someone, why doesn’t it kill everyone it touches?

Because germ theory is wrong. Because each person has a different internal terrain. Each person’s level of health is different. Most people are healthy enough to handle viral infections and their immune systems function the way they were designed to and they may get sick but that’s part of the process of immunity.

But some people are not so lucky.

And why? Because of their internal terrain.

And we can see this in the data.

94% of covid deaths were in those who had on average 2.6 additional comorbidities (additional sicknesses that can cause death). And the average age of death is well over 65.

 

We Need to See More

 

All lives matter, and all deaths should be mourned. Compassion is very important to me.

And so is truth.

And so is health.

And if we don’t know the whole truth, or can’t see the whole picture, we miss really important details and we come to sometimes disastrous conclusions.

Like 2020.

Like we need to wear masks constantly and avoid other human beings.

Like we must disinfect and fight and kill and avoid exposure to viruses at all costs.

The truth is that we need viruses and bacteria and fungi. We just need it in balance. Which actually means that we need to expose ourselves to as many different germs as we can as often as we can. Which means we need to be around each other, breathing in the microbiological diversity from one person to another.

(We can’t avoid viruses, btw. According to Dr. Bush there are 10 to the 31st power viruses, bacteria, and fungi all around us all the time. That’s 10 with 31 zeros after it. Or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. So yeah, avoidance is laughable. Not to mention they are too small to be stopped by masks in general, but I won’t get into that right now)

We definitely do not need to disinfect everything. When we do this, we create a lack of biodiversity in our microbiomes and even poorer health. We need these microbes to be healthy! They help us digest food. They help us fight infections. They create different nutrients that we can’t create ourselves. We need them! And we are killing them, and consequently ourselves, because we don’t see the whole picture.

Dr. Bush recommends one of my favorite remedies for fixing the microbiome. Get outside and breathe. When we breathe in the fresh air in different environments, we breathe in the microbiome of that environment and it enters our own and integrates with our own and makes it more diverse. It is this diversity that creates a healthy immune system and a healthy person.

Now, there are a couple of things to say here. First is that of course there are complications to health. Of course there are genetic mutations and variables that complicate things. There are those who are born unhealthy or have inherited or developed genetic issues that compromise their immune systems. I understand that.

But then even more important is their relationship with the microbiological world! Their microbiome and virome is even more important! They really need to make sure they have a robust and very diverse biome.

We can also generally avoid disease which we are genetically inclined toward. Just because something runs in a family doesn’t mean we have to get it. If we take care of our health, in general we can avoid developing these things.

It’s just that most people don’t take care of their health.

Masking, social distancing, and the like, they are monumentally catastrophic responses to a virus. What we need is to take personal responsibility for our own health. That is the only solution.

We need to understand how to create and support health in the individual. The way to do this is pretty simple, but is a major issue in our world today. We must eat a healthy diet and live a healthy lifestyle. That is all we can do to insure health. Eat healthy, organically-grown whole foods, preferably local. Get enough sleep at the right times, exercise, think healthy thoughts, get outside, create connection with other people, breathe in as many different environments as you can, and when needed take high-quality, bio-available supplements. And when we get sick, we should be taking lots of good vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C (we can handle extremely high doses of this and it is incredibly strengthening to the immune system, and has proven to be quite effective in combatting covid), Vitamin D, Zinc, drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of rest.

These are the things that support health. But we have abandoned them as a society in exchange for fast food, soft drinks, candy, snacks, a sedentary lifestyle, and man-made medical interventions that can’t address the root of the issue because they don’t speak the same language as the body.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Bush applies here:

“There is not a single pharmaceutical drug you can take that can put you into balance. Every single drug disrupts the normal pathways of signaling and function. If nature did not make the compound, our physiology does not understand it. Every pharmaceutical out there is altered from its nature-intended chemical structure so that it can be patented and turned into a multi-billion dollar revenue stream. For every intended action of a drug, there is an opposite negative impact. That’s why the disclaimers are full of all the ways your body may become out of balance — erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and possible death. But at least your blood pressure will be a bit better. We need to learn how to connect with our intrinsic ability to heal. Healing is within you. It always has been.”

The amount of people I have seen wearing masks and pressuring everyone else to wear them but who drink pop on a regular basis tells me that as a society we don’t understand health at all.

If you truly care about others’ health, then you need to understand what creates it and what doesn’t.

I don’t think I would ever consider wearing masks or socially distancing as a solution to viruses, but I would consider considering it if everyone who was advocating for it spent as much time and energy committing to eating and living healthy. I would be willing to consider that the government actually cares about public health if they spent their time and our money advocating for healthy eating and healthy lifestyle. If during the shutdown they didn’t allow places like McDonald’s and Burger King to remain open while shutting down parks and trails and the ocean and advocating for a vaccine that will conveniently make billions of dollars.

Okay, I think that’s more than enough for now. I have gone on much longer than I intended to.

And this might all be boring and/or angering and non-helpful (although if you’ve read this far you probably don’t hate it/me haha). I get it. Truly. I have spent a lot of the last year torn between wanting to just keep the peace (I’m a peacekeeper by nature. I don’t like conflict) and standing up for what is true and right.

Torn between just loving and protecting freedom and truth.

It has been a very difficult year for me for those reasons. Not for the pandemic, as it were. But for the weight of truth and right on the shoulders of a compassionate soul. For the weight of justice juxtaposed to mercy, each pulling in seemingly opposite directions on my heavy heart.

We need each other. But we need truth, too.

We need to understand our health better. We need to understand what creates health and what creates sickness. We need to understand the role of viruses.

And we need to love and be kind.

And I haven’t figured out how to balance those perfectly yet.

And my mind is tired.

 

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