If this is your first time visiting my blog, you probably have a few questions. Start here for the basics.
Who is this lady and why is she obsessed with gut health? Why does she talk about trusting our instincts? And what does “Trust UR Gut” mean, anyway?
All good questions. Here’s the short answer:
Trusting my instincts saved my life. (that story below)
Trusting my gut saved my health. (that story here)
To understand this, you need some context. So let’s start with the story of a young woman.
WARNING: If you’re a survivor of abuse, this story might be a trigger for you.
This girl is 23 years old and still living at home.
It is hard to call it a “home,” because she doesn’t feel the safe embrace of a home when she is there. But it is where she lives with her father, and it looks like normal home from the outside, and it’s the only kind of home she’s ever known.
This girl looks normal from the outside, too. She does 23-year-old things. She goes to the local college and works as a waitress in the evenings. She has friends, she goes to parties, she spends most of her time avoiding being at home.
When she was a little girl, she dreamed of going away to college to study writing and then traveling the world in search of the most interesting, untold stories. She hasn’t thought about that dream in a long time.
Lately, her friends have been talking about graduate school and jobs after college, and she mostly avoids the topic because she knows that despite how she looks from the outside, she is not like her friends. There is no way she can leave her home and start a life of her own. He would never let her go.
This girl has a secret. Well, not just one secret. She has spent the last decade stringing a whole mess of secrets together to protect herself, to protect the person she is at home, to protect her father.
Her father. She cannot remember a time when he was not the center of her universe. Sometimes when he locks himself in the bathroom with his gun and screams about how he is going to kill himself because everyone has failed him, she closes her eyes and remembers when she was a little girl. She transports herself back to his art studio, where they would listen to Nina Simone, while he sketched out his latest painting and she arranged his tubes of paint in a kaleidoscope of color.
She puts this memory on repeat to avoid bumping into others. Like the the time when she 7 and she saw him slap her mother for the first time. The loud thwack sending a shock wave through her body, fear settling into her bones for the first time. The morning when she was 8 and he took her out to breakfast before school (rich, thick-cut french toast, heavy with vanilla and dripping with maple syrup) to tell her he was leaving for Europe for “a while.” When she was 9 and he was wheeled into the house on a stretcher and down the hall into a hospital bed because of a back injury that kept him immobile for 6 months on a steady diet of pain meds. When she was 10 and it was her job to bring a little plate of tiny pills to his bedside each morning before he woke up. When she was 11, and he moved out, and she was visiting him over the summer, and he raped her for the first time. She had missed him. He told her this was the way they would stay close. For one instant she swelled with pride; he still loved her. In the next moment he tore into her, and left her hallow and terrified. When she was 12 and she moved in with him. She didn’t know she would never see the step-mom who raised her again. When she was 15 and she finally figured out a way to avoid being alone with him. His advances waned and were replaced by rage.
And now here she was, suddenly 23 years old, taking care her father, who has long been addicted to pain medication and is struggling with mobility issues. She uses most of her income to help pay the bills, she takes care of grocery shopping and jobs around the house, she wakes up to help him in the middle of the night when she hears him choking down the hall from his sleep apnea. She wonders what would happen if she didn’t help him.
Recently, a small voice inside of her has begun to speak. The voice is quiet and small, but insistent. She tries to ignore it, but it murmurs in her ear incessantly. The voice is quiet but clear; it tells her that it is time to go. She is suspicious of this voice. How can she go? Where would she go?
She is scared someone will find out her secret: that she allowed her father to abuse her all of these years. She is more terrified that if she leaves, he will spin into a rage and come after her and her friends. He is volatile, angry and strong. The mere idea of his anger makes her body flood with fear. She is paralyzed against his rage. She is the person he groomed her to be: a loyal people-pleaser who barely recognizes her own emotions. She doesn’t know how to be anyone else.
Sometimes she sits in the bathroom stall between classes and sobs. Sometimes she sneaks off campus and binges on fast food, and then crouches on the Taco Bell bathroom floor, vomiting until she feels empty again. She likes to see if she can drink her male friends under the table; it’s a game she always wins. She smokes pot almost everyday; she likes the way it makes her numb, like she’s floating outside of her body.
But that voice inside her is getting louder and more destructive. She can’t ignore it anymore. It feels like there’s something eating her from the inside out. Last week she learned she has ulcers at the base of her esophagus. Her doctor asked if she’s been stressed, suggests she cut back on her school load. She laughs. And spends the bus ride back home sobbing.
A month later she is backstage at a music festival with her father. He grabs her roughly by the arm and pulls her just out of sight. He is yelling at her about something she forgot to do at home. She can feel his fingers digging in making bruises on her arm, she sees spit flying from his mouth and feels it land on her face, she sees the hot anger in his eyes. This is not unusual. She is familiar with the humiliation, the fear. But this time something is different. Something in her breaks. She pulls herself free and runs away, knowing he won’t follow in such a crowded place. Suddenly she can’t hear the noise around her, all she can hear is that voice inside of her saying one thing over and over: If you don’t leave right this minute, you never will. This is your chance. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE.
So she makes a decision that will change her life forever. She listens to the voice. She leaves the keys to their house on the porch and note telling him that she is never coming back. She leaves all of her stuff behind because there is no time. He could be right behind her and if he finds her before she leaves, she is sure he will really hurt her this time. So she runs away from home and hides out with some friends. She can’t stop looking over her shoulder; she is terrified he will find her and drag her back. She hears about him pounding on the door of a friend’s house one morning, and she nearly breaks. But that voice inside, her deepest instinct tells her again: This is your chance to be free. If you go back, you won’t survive. She wakes up each morning so scared she can hardly breathe. But she listens to that voice because she knows it is the truth.
Six weeks later she and her girlfriend are driving a Uhaul down to Los Angeles, a city she has never visited, to move into an apartment they have never seen, with $300 in her pocket. She’s still scared and will keep looking over her shoulder for years. But the voice inside of her is louder now and she hangs onto it for dear life.
This is my story. And that voice? That was my gut talking. I believe that listening to my deepest instincts that day saved my life. Now, if I get a “gut feeling” that something is right or wrong for me, I listen. I always trust my gut.
Ok, so what does all this have to do with gut health, wellness and food?
Here’s the rest of the story.