I haven’t spoken about this topic in a while. There’s a story to our personal healing, and whatever that is or looks like for you, I think there are quite a lot of commonalities between the stories. Common threads, elements, and experiences. Most people know me as the guy who came back to life from all those heart attacks. The man who survived the odds. Prayers from all over the world, from people I never met and never knew all helped make the difference.
Long before the heart attacks, however, there was a young man who grew up all over the place. You might say I was a ‘mixed bag’ of upbringing. This mixture of places and times, a childhood uprooted and moved all around, led to a lot of adventures, character building, and sheltering. My parents were protective of me, and I know they were for good reasons. On the other hand, I also got to experience the latchkey childhood for a time. I don’t know anyone in the early ’90’s who didn’t have some exposure to that themselves, and if not them–their friends.
From 6th to 8th grade I attended grade school on Roosevelt Island, PS/IS 217. Here’s some pictures if you want to see what I mean. PS stands for Public School, and it’s unclear what ‘IS’ stands for to me. Maybe industry standard? It wasn’t the best or worst school, I liked my art and music teachers, and most of the rest of the time they stuck us in front of computers or had our heads lowered to text books while the teachers droned on. I don’t know what learning there is like anymore. They had an adequate gymnasium and it’s a very contemporary styled building–the architecture seemed very futuristic to me back then. In class one day we watched Bill Clinton get sworn in as our 42nd President of these United States. I remember thinking, man, what a trip!
Those were good years to myself and my family. Living in NYC was pretty amazing. Roosevelt Island, while it had its unwelcoming side effects, was otherwise pretty cool. There was a local pool that the islanders could enjoy during the summer, for a fee of course, but who cares, right? It was a pool by the riverside! I loved it.
By the time I was 15 and going to high school in Manhattan it became apparent that I was much too tired to be attentive in class. I would try to sit up and write notes and do my work, but I just could not for the life of me keep my eyes open at all. A whole year of very poor grades began to draw a circle around a deeper and more disturbing issue. Finally my father had me checked out by a chiropractor who specialized in determining whether someone had chronic fatigue syndrome. I failed all the good tests and passed all the bad ones. I was diagnosed with CFS and I had a new choice to make.
It didn’t take me long to decide on myself. I was now 15 and realizing that it took all my energy each day just to make it to school. By the time I’d climbed 3 flights of steps just to sit down in science class, or five flights just to attend gym, I was so exhausted I could hardly focus for wanting to fall asleep. Choosing to take school at home wasn’t just a no-brainer, it was my only option. I think my parents must have known that too, but I remember the talk I had with them pretty clearly. There was no pushback from them. They agreed that a program where I stayed at home, made my own schedule, communicated with my teachers directly and applied myself at my own pace was the best of all words. This was 1995, and the Internet was just beginning to be used for more than AOL and later on CompuServe. It was still dial-up connections and speeds, but my mom and dad researched which homeschooling options made sense and finally settled on Oak Meadow High School for me. There website now is nothing like what I remember from back in the day. The curriculum was sent to me via syllabi and that’s what I had to go on. My parents got me all the text books, enrolled me, paid for tuition etc, and off I went on a solo journey through the rest of high school from 10th through 12th. I completed my journey by the time I was 17, and by that time I’d completely reversed and healed myself from CFS.
But how did I do that? Well, it was not easy, that’s for sure. It took a lot of effort on my part. There were 3 primary areas that I had to bend my will and concentration to in order to achieve full healing. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome knocks you on your ass–and that’s a polite way of putting it. No matter how hard you try to get through it, you still feel tired at the end of the day most days, but each new day offers a new promise for the intrepid healer. Here are the 3 areas I worked diligently in without any compromises or letup. It was a militant lifestyle.
I was on a bevy of supplementation. I don’t recall all of them, unfortunately, and there’s no way to track down a list of what I was on. The supplements had to do with establishing metabolizing minerals, especially trace minerals into my body. There were multi-vitamins, and other metabolic styled supplements that were tailored to my specific needs. I was also taking a lot of herbs, which helped tremendously, and you can check this website out for more information (NOT an endorsement of these products, by the way, you need to be tested for what will work best for you, if you are someone dealing with CFS!)
I was strictly vegetarian. I would eat eggs, and cheese, but I drastically limited or completely (in some cases) eliminated all soy from my diet. No red meat, no fish, no chicken or pork either, in case it’s not clear. Dairy was limited considerably. Also, and this is extremely important: almost no sugar in the diet. Very little salt either. All of that was crucial to getting better. And as torturous as that seems to a 15 year old, I was able to get over my tastebuds and cravings pretty quickly and not look back with longing, or drool over a loved one’s dinner plate. Oh, and I had a super strict policy about not watching more than an hour or two of TV per week back then. I mostly read or slept or did home-school work.
Yes, back in 1995, yours truly was an every day meditator. I read a book that changed my life forever. I got really into doing the daily practice exactly as it was detailed in the book. By the time I was 15 and a half years old, (or 6 months after being diagnosed, entering home-school, and being militant about my diet and rest routine) I was meditating earlier and earlier each morning, and my energy was increasing day by day. This sounds counterintuitive, but try and remember that I was 15. I was going through puberty, growth spurts, and all kinds of hormonal sequences were all kicking in around the same time. I was experiencing rather profound insights about everything. One day in meditation in 1995, I had an insight about our universe and that there were multiple universes. This kind of stuff was not covered in any of my syllabi from school and I had not been watching television either. Actually, at that precise time, scientists were not speaking about this publicly yet anyway. It was more than a theory in my estimation–it was a dead certainty I had. Only a year or two later did I actually learn that my insight was proven by science, and this bolstered my faith in meditation immensely.
Meditation, along with diet, no television, and plenty of rest and supplementation were my life savers.
At that time, my other resort was writing. I wrote poems, short stories and class related essays. I wrote to myself and then deleted what I wrote. Sometimes I even used the computer to write my thoughts, and after a while I taught myself how to type on the keyboard with blinding speed. I discovered that writing was a form of therapy I could always count on. It soothed my agitated mind and heart when meditation seemed to push stuff up to the fore. It helped me articulate the deeper questions I had (think existential) for which no answers ever seemed (or seem to this day) to be adequate enough. I discovered I had a powerful mind and because of this powerful mind I could use it to help my body and nervous system to heal. Writing was where I began to develop my voice. When my voice got stale, I’d read books and I’d try again. When my voice sounded like other authors, I’d stop reading and practice just writing and listening to how my own actual voice sounded in my head as I wrote. It was a form of exquisite torture, because no matter what I put down on the page, it never sounded right or felt quite right.
I still write every single day, and it still saves my life every single day. I also still meditate nearly every day, with the idea that writing is just another form of meditation for me.
By the time I was 19 I was fully recovered from CFS, an almost unheard of feat. By the time I was 26 I wrote and self-published my first book on a unique aspect of healing.
I’ll continue the journey of healing every day, and I know so many of you will too.