August 11, 2018 • Sarah Jean Gosney
Trigger warning: this article does contain a little bit of poop talk. If you want to continue to see me as a demure lady, you may want to read something else. However, if you want to experience radical self healing, read on.
Note: This is not medical advice. This article is based on my experience based on the advice I took from the writings of a medical professional.
I have been writing this article in my head for weeks now. Why? Probably because I knew this process was the answer I had been desperately searching for for years to answer my health questions, and I was already excited to share the process with you. However, being a results-oriented person, especially when it comes to my health, I thought I should actually get through the process before I wrote about it. And here I am, at the end of the month, so impressed with my results.
“What process is that?” you might ask. It is Dr. Kelly Brogan’s, a holistic psychiatrist, healing protocol that she lays out in her book A Mind of Your Own. She also sees clients one-on-one in her New York office as well as having an online course that walks you through the process step by step, but I am a DIY kind of gal, especially when there’s a price difference of $1000 or more (her book is about $16 and her online course is $1000).
Kelly Brogan’s stated goal on the book cover is to help women learn the truth about depression and how they can heal themselves. This annoys me a bit, because it really minimizes what she’s actually doing. In her office she is regularly treating patients with severe, often treatment-resistant mental illnesses (including things like psychosis and schizophrenia) and helping them heal naturally and get off of medication. Additionally, many men have gone through her online program, and surely even more have read her book. So my summary of what she does is simple: help people cure their mental illnesses.
What? You thought that was impossible, didn’t you. Yes, I did too. But her book dives pretty deeply into the drivers of mental illness, namely inflammation, and blows the chemical imbalance hypothesis (turns out it was never substantiated by evidence) out of the water. She also addresses the genetic component, explaining that our genes are modified on a moment by moment basis and are not set in stone (epigenetics). She then explains what all you can do about it, which is the process I went through.
I couldn’t recommend her book enough to anyone who has ever experienced any mental issues whatsoever or has known someone who has. It would be impossible for me to make the case for this process better than she can, but just know that she has seriously done her research and has helped countless patients over the past ten years since she changed her practice. One thing she mentioned in an interview that I was very impressed by: she has no long term patients. They come to her for an intense window of time, and then, once they are through the process, they no longer need her.
Anyway, I’ll get into the details of my process. I should also mention first that her methods are useful for all manner of physical ailments as well, and truly, mental illness is just another physical disease.
So what led me to this book? Primarily, I have struggled greatly with my own mental health and am currently on medication but desperately want to get off of it completely. I never liked the idea of being dependent on a medication, and I certainly didn’t like the prospect of taking these in the future while pregnant. I mentioned my desire to get off of medication after posting that story on Twitter, and two followers directed me to Kelly Brogan’s work. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Even more than that though, this book promised me something I have been desperately trying to achieve for years: excellent health.
I am a case study in auto-immunity. Growing up, I had allergies and was later diagnosed with asthma. But I didn’t start worrying about my health until I was about twenty and suddenly had terrible gastrointestinal issues. I would get nauseated every time I ate, would alternate between constipation and diarrhea, and had terrible acid reflux.
And then I started having terrible joint pain. And then I got psoriasis. Soon enough I was a twenty-two year old with the energy levels, pain, and medical history of a seventy-year old. I was not okay with this and sought advice, countless scans, and treatments from countless specialists, all of whom said “Everything’s fine,” and sent me away with one unhelpful prescription or another.
Then, at the age of twenty-four, I had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized. I had no idea at the time that this could be related to anything physical going on with me, but with the knowledge I have now, I can see that this was all related. I now too know to blame suspects like the birth control pill I was on for years, a medication I had suspected played a role in my problems but which was supported universally by every doctor I spoke to and by what little research I could find. After my breakdown, I was put on two primary medications (which changed several times over the course of a year and a half). In my continuing treatment, I must have tried at least a dozen other medications for other problems, primarily with insomnia.
I finally became stable and started feeling normal around December 2017, and have felt that way for the duration. After six months of that, I requested to my doctor to start tapering off my medication (this was before I had heard about Dr. Brogan). He reluctantly agreed, but wasn’t sure that getting off of medication was a possibility for my diagnosis (schizophreniform).
It was a couple of months into that that I made the decision to stop taking birth control pills, and almost immediately after, I was introduced to Kelly Brogan, whose research gave me all the more reason to stay off the stuff and the point the finger for its role in my health issues. So, before I even began Kelly Brogan’s protocol, I had already started the process.
I will caution you that Dr. Brogan never recommends any patient taper off their medications at all before they complete the first month of healing. I didn’t know that when I started, but things have been going okay for me.
So, let’s recap my state when I began this process:
- mentally in a good place
- active irritable bowel syndrome with diagnosed small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
- regular headaches
- got sick all the time
- had a recurrent infection that antibiotics failed multiple times to treat
I was doing okay mentally, but physically (despite looking good on paper), I was still having a lot of issues. There was also the fact that I deeply wanted to be mentally okay without medication. But I didn’t start from as desperate of a place as many of her patients do, because I was already doing a lot of things right and had been for months.
Things I was doing for my health already:
- eating mostly whole foods
- ditching the birth control pill
- taking magnesium, fish oil, probiotics, and vitamin D
- intermittent fasting
- walking regularly
- getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night
- cutting out alcohol and sugar
- working with Chinese herbs
I credit all of those things with my mental wellness. Although the medication could have been helping, I have long suspected that I have been doing well in spite of my meds, not because of them. After reading A Mind of Your Own, I am even more inclined to think so. Before I even started the process, I noticed a greater depth of feeling once I had been off birth control pills for about a month. I had no idea they were emotionally numbing me (and making my hair thinner, making me less attractive, and making me smell worse), but they had been!
So, when I began this, I wasn’t in a terrible place, but I was deeply unsatisfied with the state of my physical health as well as my dependence on medications. I knew that, despite feeling mentally okay, I had a long way to go before I could consider myself well.
So, Dr. Brogan’s process has four pillars, and is divided into four weeks of a one-month full frontal attack on your illnesses.
- sleep and exercise
While obviously the process extends beyond one month, the first month is basically what she calls an initiation to your own body. It is very strict (far more restrictive than the following months and years of your life), but it is designed to get you results quickly and break you of your addictions, and it delivers. She also makes sure to say that there is no cheating!
The diet is probably the most challenging part for most people. We are all attached to the way we eat, and radical change is hard. This diet involves eliminating all grains, industrial oils and processed foods, dairy, legumes, coffee, alcohol, and sugar. That leaves you eating meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, natural fats, honey and maple syrup, and nuts. She also puts an emphasis on organic fruits and veggies and pasture-raised animal products.
I stuck to the diet pretty religiously. The main way I faltered was that some of the meat I ate was not pasture raised, which I don’t think she would approve of. That said, I was eating pastured eggs and pastured ghee on a daily basis, so I was still getting a lot of the benefits of pasture raised animal products. However, it really would have been ideal to have 100% pasture raised meat.
I will also admit that I drank one illicit cup of green tea. I am sorry Dr. Brogan, I failed you.
I will say though that she, understanding human nature, makes it clear what slip ups would cause you to need to start the diet over and what ones wouldn’t. Specifically, eating dairy and gluten were the killers. If you messed up there, you had to start the whole process over. However, she said stuff like corn or soy wouldn’t ruin the process entirely. So, I figured my one cup of green tea could slide by.
I was lucky that she said that too, because I found out about two weeks in to the process that some of my vitamins had corn and soy products in them. Read the labels of everything!!
The first week and a half or two of the diet was admittedly a bit challenging. I felt hungry all the time, and I kept dreaming of pizza and various other forbidden items. But, I pushed through, and I’m glad I did, because after those first two weeks it got much easier.
As for what I ate, I followed a lot of the recipes she has in the book, especially her smoothie recipe which I am still drinking almost every day. However, I already know how to cook, which is helpful. I ate a lot of roasted meat and vegetables, salads, nuts, eggs, and fish.
For the record, I had tried an elimination diet in the past and had not seen any changes, so needless to say I was skeptical it would work this time. However, I was also on birth control at the time, and I understand now that that could have impeded any healing I might have had. Additionally, the elimination diet I did does not have the focus on healthy fats that Dr. Brogan’s diet does. I believe it permits vegetable oils still and excludes animal fats, and consuming enough healthy fat is critical to this diet.
I will say that with my understanding of nutrition that I am gaining from reading Deep Nutrition, I am hesitant to vilify gluten completely. I know many people have issues with it, but I think once your immune reactivity is healed and if you consume organic, minimally processed forms of gluten-containing grains, it might be fine for you. However, for now, I am sticking to Dr. Brogan’s way of doing things.
The detox element of this process is challenging in its own ways and can get a little weird. It turns out that most normal cleaning and beauty products are toxic, in addition to many household items like mattresses, furniture, and carpets, which are often treated with flame-retardants. Not to mention the issues with the water supply. Again, you will have to read the book for the full scoop on this, but it is a bit shocking.
So, I cleaned up the products that I could, although I am still not entirely non-toxic in my environment. Because of this, I made sure to engage in one of her suggested detox methods in her book, namely, the daily coffee enema for a week.
Don’t get me wrong. I was not excited about this process. I was dreading it in fact. However, everyone had such glowing reviews that I went for it. And it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t feel wildly different after doing them unlike so many other users (again, this was probably because I felt pretty good to start with). That said, a few days after I finished the week of enemas, I started having daily perfect poops for the first time in years. Six years, to be precise. Sure, I’d had good ones occasionally, but usually my digestion was in shambles.
If you’ve never had a bowel disorder, you probably can’t understand the excitement that a perfect poop can bring. Our bowel movements are a critical indicator of our health, and if they are out of order, you probably have a host of other problems (which I did).
This change was really the first (major) sign that the process was working. And it was something I’d been trying to achieve for years to no avail, and suddenly within two and a half weeks, boom, my digestion was vastly better.
Week three is supposed to be meditation (only three minutes a day), but I actually started meditating from week one. I did this because I usually woke up with a ritual cup of coffee in the morning, and even though the caffeine didn’t particularly affect me, I still love the stuff, and it signaled to me that it was time to wake up.
One of Kelly’s pamphlets on her website has a meditation for energy and getting rid of brain fog. So, I started doing this every morning instead of drinking coffee. It did wake me up too. Eventually I changed to a different meditation that is actually fifteen minutes long, but you do not have to do this.
I will say this has made me calmer and more able to bounce back from stress. If I am beginning to feel overwhelmed, I will do a quick three-five minute meditation, and I’m always amazed how much this calms me down. I’m sure it has helped me in other ways too.
I’ll also note that I have always struggled with mindfulness meditation in the past, feeling like I was doing it wrong and not getting much out of it. But Dr. Brogan recommends a form of meditation called Kundalini yoga that I find works perfectly for those of us who are bad at meditating. There is always a physical component to Kundalini meditations, and you don’t have to control your thoughts. I find I get more of a sense that I’m “doing it right” with Kundalini and can actually feel a difference.
Exercise and sleep is the name of the game for week four. I had already pretty much gotten these areas in order as I was sleeping well and taking regular walks, but I did make some changes. I made sure my cell phone was in airplane mode or was a least six feet from my bed when I slept, and I also started jumping rope.
Beyond the fourth week
After week four you can begin to reintroduce things back into your diet with the exception of gluten, sugar, and processed dairy (you can have raw dairy). You are supposed to introduce one item every three days and see how your body reacts. The exercise and all the rest, you’re supposed to keep up with.
Overall, I’m very impressed. So far, my digestion is now amazing, my infection has gone away (although I had to avoid fruit to achieve this), and my memory is better. I am still tapering off my first medication at the rate of twenty-five milligrams a month to great success. I don’t get nearly as many headaches either. Also, call me crazy, but I think my vision is better. I ran out of contacts during this process and stopped wearing my glasses most of the time.
My allergies, asthma, and psoriasis are still in the picture, however I understand that the body doesn’t heal overnight. I also know that, if my gut is healing, everything else will follow. I have high hopes for my overall vitality.
This process isn’t easy, and you have to be ready for it, but it is ultimately worth it. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.
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