Robin William’s death from suicide was announced the morning following my big brain meltdown. One of the dearest hearts and most amazing brains had come undone and the loss left me shaking my fist at the talking heads and the grieving friends and colleagues. It is not, I raged, that suicide needs to be viewed with compassion because it is an expression of mental illness. It is because, I screamed to my tiny little forum of two sisters, it is the final and fatal expression of a sick brain improperly treated by a medical community that just doesn’t get it. It is a brain disease – not a mental illness – and it will continue until we move beyond the psychotropic inadequacies of the pharmaceutical industry and re-connect our brains to our bodies and feed them.
Throughout my summer-long boot camp to rid my body of candida and parasites, and in the process heal my leaky gut, I had to process lots and lots of emotional baggage, psychic residue, and stored mental toxicity. My nighttime dreams were strange and often frightening following my pristine days of a super clean diet. My muscles ached and bones in my spine shifted and subluxated as I moved through the powerful cleanse. It seemed that everywhere I turned someone was there to confront me with shocking and hurtful information about former friends and loves gone bad. I was battered around like an emotional rag doll for the duration of our cleanse; oftentimes feeling like a needle-studded worry doll in the hands of a very mean voodoo practitioner. And then right smack dab in the middle of my no wine, no sweets, no relief at all program I lost a very close and dear friend to a completely shocking and untimely death. The sizing up of my emotional and mental state throughout the summer of 2014 was no simple task.
If I had ever been unclear about the relationship between the health of our mental state and the health of our G-I tract, this summer brought everything into sharp focus. Attention-grabbing emotional shocks were around every corner. With each new emotional missing piece of the puzzle of our lives being revealed we as sisters would throw our hands in the air and declare “It’s the cleanse! It has to be the cleanse!” And so the healing goes. Memories surface, get discussed in a new light, and God-willing get released to the Earth for healing. In a perfect world, that is. Definitely in a world where folks are healing their guts.
Each and every day we, as sisters, ate the exact same anti-inflammatory meals. We drank the same cups of healing herbal teas. We swallowed the same enormous pills and snacked on the same dill pickle pro-biotics with almond butter. We worked at the same jobs, lived under the same roof, sustained the same stresses and partook of the same healing benefits of colon hydrotherapy, chiropractic and acupuncture. We endured the same tragic losses and marveled together at the strange but pleasantly mild summer weather that accompanied and supported our cleanse. But I had a radically different experience of the cleanse altogether.
At first we chalked up my difficulties to age. I am 61, Clare is 44 and Annie falls neatly in between. But at a point my experience grew to be noticeably and painfully different from that of my sisters. We all rapidly developed the dreaded hairy black tongue indicative of candida dying it’s nasty death. And we all lived with its very slow resolution, ending almost exactly with the final days of the cleanse. We all experienced disrupted sleep patterns and very noticeable fatigue as our bodies did what they needed to do. But again my experience was different. It was both sadder and darker. It was a state I was not familiar with. It was depression.
The earliest days of the cleanse produced a trilogy of summer stories and I delighted in capturing them and sharing them with our readers. From funny to wistful to downright sad, I captured the memories that the cleanse was bringing to the surface and created stories. It is what writers do. But with the cleanse, I could barely keep up with the speed and clarity of the memories surfacing. My sisters worked with me to create time to get the writing done and the reader response was wonderful and heartening. Then the depression set in and changed everything. Memories left and a nasty voice replaced them. The mean-spirited, hopeless, distorted voice of depression. Where in the world did that come from? And when was the cleanse going to move to the next phase and I could bid that nasty voice good-bye and good-riddance?
My sisters were aware of my pain. I never got so deep into the depression that I couldn’t articulate to them just how badly I was hurting. It’s like I only have phrases available to me now, I would say. I no longer have complete sentences. I can’t problem solve and I can’t move from problem to solution like I usually can. Simple discouragements felt like oppressive weighted boulders instead of the stones for skipping that they normally were. I no longer sang incessantly. I couldn’t take in all the bad news the daily newspapers held and so I barely skimmed them or left them unread entirely. My beloved garden fell into disrepair and shrubs I’d gotten on sale were left unplanted along with the dahlias I’d so looked forward to enjoying in late summer. Pots came out but never got planted with herbs, petunias and trailing sweet potato vine like I normally would have done.
Clare read and studied feverishly and we tried to tweak the cleanse with medical suggestions on how to increase the stimulation of my gall bladder and my liver – the big organs for depression warehousing. They helped a little and for a while. We made more adjustments but the depression seemed to hang on. Then, in the final days of the cleanse, the depression deepened and exploded in a rage of hopelessness and despair. I was in a full-blown, deadly, excruciating depression – a fine how-do-you-do conclusion to a very challenging cleanse.
I feel very fortunate that the depression was mild for 3 months and then full-blown and gone entirely in less than 3 days. I know well that for so many others it is so much worse. But no matter its depth and duration, it left me raw and oh-so-respectful of the power of our guts to make us sick – physically and mentally – and the profound role of nutrition in healing us body, soul and brain. I thank God that loving sisters, prayer and years of commitment to natural healing all came together and produced enough insight into my special brain needs to get me back in the pink and quickly so.
And that is when I lost Robin, when we all lost Robin, and his humor and his pathos and his loveliness, on the Monday following my big dark depression. The intersection of our moments of darkness haunts me. I do not pretend to know the man or his ailments. We will never know if his celebrity and wealth afforded him the finest in medical care. What we do know is that drugs and alcoholism had already damaged his beautiful brain. And medical repair of his beautiful heart had left him vulnerable to the challenges of post-operative depression. And then finally word of the neurological nightmare that is Parkinson’s Disease. Another hit to his amazing brain and life. A brain that created synaptic connections that delighted us for decades. I loved the funny man; but I treasured even more the pathos and tenderness he brought to films like Awakenings.
I can’t help but think that medicine failed Robin Williams. I respect the members of that world that have come forward and railed against the lack of support for scientific evidence of the relationship between glutens and mental illness and depression. Did the mainstream medical community fail to support his special and beautiful brain with its very specific needs? I think yes, probably so.
I know what my traumatic brain injury did to me – the gifts it rendered and the needs it created. And I know that is not exactly the same as a brain injured by drug and alcohol abuse. But I remain so grateful that I have had skilled and passionate physicians who have never taken the expedient role with me and used pharmaceuticals to treat my deficits and symptoms. I am grateful they allowed real healing, through careful nutrition and complex supplementation, to get the job done without all the toxins and harrowing side effects the drug route affords. They have never viewed my new brain as a mental illness. Instead the treat my sometimes sick brain as a diseased brain fully attached to a body that is trying to tell me something. They extend it real healing and in doing so have extended and healed my life, my brain and my gut. My end-of-cleanse brief encounter with a malnourished brain makes me all the more determined to keep my head firmly attached to my body. I hope I can maintain the guts to continue to do so. I hope others are afforded the same real healing as well. Depression is a very nasty voice. It needs to be silenced. Permanently. And that takes GUTS.
POSTSCRIPT: If you are enjoying Mary’s recap of our Summer of 2104 cleanse, you might want to check out EAT, CHOKE, LOVE – the first installment of her post-cleanse trilogy.
About the author: Mary Duggan is Co-Founder and President of the Duggan Sisters
The Duggan Sisters cracked the code and created a natural deodorant that actually works: lifestinks. And that was just the beginning. We hope you will spend a few minutes exploring duggansisters.com to experience their spirited approach to wellness through their natural products and healing stories.