Monday, March 23, 2009

Here I go again

Killer said to me last night: I wish you could relax your values and try animal protein. That kind of surprised me -- not that I haven’t talked about it in my more desperate moments for at least two or three years, almost the same thing but then someone else saying it to me -- and not a healthcare practitioner but someone who I actually relate to -- at first I thought: what are you talking about? But then: me too. And at this point it’s not exactly about values -- obviously I already make any number of horrible compromises in order to survive in this monstrous world on a daily basis, and after several years of thinking okay, I’ve tried everything absolutely everything except eating flesh, or something like flesh, and would it be so awful if I ate a piece of fish once a week or whatever and it made me feel better?

And yes, it would be awful, but not necessarily more awful than giving PG&E more money to wreck the environment or publishing books that tear up forests -- you know, maybe an awful compromise in order to survive? I mean, for as long as I can remember people have asked: do you feel better? Do you feel better because you’re vegan, or do you feel better because you’re so healthy, and no no no I’ve never ever felt better I mean it’s almost like food feels less and less nourishing.

But then there’s the act of actually sitting down and eating something that horrifies me on such a visceral level, even if I’m just doing it for a few months to see if it helps, or something like that -- my mind goes to the restaurant where I would sit and what I might order, but then always back to that experience of chewing flesh. Of course I grew up that way, but nothing like it for 18 years and I guess I could eat something with a meat-based broth but what would that be? I can hardly eat anything at a restaurant without shitting afterwards for days. I think: what about some kind of organic broth in a package? But nothing in the package works for me. Six months ago I tried to eat an egg, a hard-boiled egg from an actual free range farm that doesn’t kill any animals and mostly sells vegetables -- I took one or two tiny bites and tried to chew it and then my belly turned into a balloon.

So then my mind goes back to that restaurant, the restaurant that serves delicious roasted beets that’s the highlight for sure, and they always have some kind of fish special that actually sounds like the best thing on the menu except for the fish -- but right, then there’s the fish. Maybe a soup, what kind of soup? I could try it -- whatever it is -- for a few months, and if it doesn’t work, then I can stop again. It doesn’t make me a horrible person to eat meat, I mean I don’t feel that way about other people, why do I have this different standard for myself? I mean of course I want different standards for myself, but it’s getting to the point again where I can barely cope. Every day I wake up and think how can I be this exhausted? How can I need to eat this many times? How is it possible that everything, absolutely everything drains me? I need to try something new, and there aren’t that many things to try. Yes my thought process is circular, yes this goes on and on in my head, yes I’m still conflicted and yes there are deep core issues like a childhood surrounded by violence to such an extent that it felt like the core a childhood of never experiencing safety in any way except as more violence and no, eating flesh is not going bring me a sudden forcefield it’s not going to answer any of my questions about how to find the kinds of beauty I want but maybe it will give me energy. Maybe every day won’t feel like a struggle to do nothing, a struggle to do anything, a struggle to feel worse and worse but keep struggling, okay? Maybe flesh will give me nothing, or maybe it will make me feel worse, I mean it’s true that I already feel worse just writing about it, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the things that I’m afraid of that are the most important to say, even if that’s practically a cliché in artistic circles I've also learned that what makes me feel the most vulnerable also makes me stronger, and even if writing about this now makes me feel awful just awful like I’m writing about giving up. Even when what I’m trying to do is not to give up. I know someone else will look at all this and think lady, why so much drama? Or: I know exactly what you mean. I don’t even know what I mean, but I just went back and read this entry from a while ago and it pretty much says everything else.


Hilary Goldberg said...

I don't think it is dramatic. Sounds like a really hard choice, and being super conscious of the organic/free range/local aspects might be a way to at least quiet some of the pain of the test study. Fish and eggs sound the least traumatic, but I don't know meat benefits. What about that naturopath person who was kinda cool? -- I wish you would have a tour guide to this land, if you are actually gonna go there, seems like someone should know what is missing from your diet that you need and that can only be found in meat or digested better by you from a meat source?... love, hil

Anonymous said...


I can sort of relate to your inner struggle re: this issue. I too find myself struggling with the contradictions between my values and behaviors in certain areas. But you are right we all participate to some degree in the perpetuation of this culture's death wish like whenever we buy something from a store. The sales tax from our purchase of an organic carrot pays for the bullet that will ultimately shatter the ribcage of a person in Afghanistan.

From what I can tell, you have had the courage to live in accordance with your values to a greater extent than most people and at a much higher cost to your well-being.

Mattilda, you are suffering. If consuming some form of animal-based protein will help you heal, that means you will be more productive in your writing. And if you are more productive in your writing, that means you will be saying with more frequency those very things you are afraid to say and that most people are afraid to hear yet need to hear, I mean I know I need to hear them. When you do so, you are strengthening not only yourself but everyone who reads your work.

So if by eating the occasional piece of fish (and I completely understand how difficult that would be) or drinking a shake made w/ whey protein now and then you are able to ease your suffering which would give you energy to write even more words, those words that "break glass" that needs to be broken, those words that remind us of the strength in vulnerability and shatter delusions we don't know we have, then on balance the good that would result from your consuming animal protein will far outweigh any harm caused by doing so.

That's just my opinion. I am not minimizing the difficulty of the decision you have to make. Whatever you decide to do I hope you find relief.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Thank you, Hilary -- I knew you wouldn't think it was dramatic!

And yes yes, probably if I start with something it would be eggs and then I would definitely do the organic/free range/local root -- for fish, I honestly can't imagine ever cooking fish in my house, so that would be more complicated. Of course, I also can't really imagine eating it -- oh, life!

As for that doctor, she left the clinic because they decided she needed to see four patients per hour, and she hasn't had a practice since maybe a week after I saw her (nine months?). Supposedly she will have a practice soon, and then I will definitely find her. She actually didn't suggest animal protein at all, and congratulated me on my 17 years of veganism -- something no doctor has ever done!!! So yes, she could be helpful...

Oh, and I know all the theories about what might or might not be missing from my diet -- the problem is that almost always they're coming from meat eaters so it's hard to figure out what to trust. What is certainly true is that I don't get my essential fatty acids because I can hardly digest oils at all, that I'm missing certain enzymes and amino acids, but also there's that tragic mythology of animal protein and the way it grounds and who the hell knows maybe that could be true for me/my body?

Elian, this is very sweet:

"Mattilda, you are suffering. If consuming some form of animal-based protein will help you heal, that means you will be more productive in your writing. And if you are more productive in your writing, that means you will be saying with more frequency those very things you are afraid to say and that most people are afraid to hear yet need to hear, I mean I know I need to hear them. When you do so, you are strengthening not only yourself but everyone who reads your work."

The problem is that it's likely that consuming animal protein will give me nothing (or not enough to make it worth it), like many things I try (healthwise, I mean), but yes yes an experiment is worth it, I just have to figure out how...

And yes yes to relief, who knows...

Thanks for the support!

Love --

Hilary Goldberg said...

oh right, i remember why i liked that woman! yeah, gotta figure that beet place is the place to try cooked fish -- all so far out of my realm, the health stuff, the vegan stuff i get, but not a very helpful friend in the wings regarding the properties of food. i just wish you could have a blood work up before and after if you are gonna do it/ or some kind of way to see a difference...but then i guess you just need to feel the difference right? ... have you tried acupuncture to balance out your system? i did not have a love affair with acupuncture and probably won't ever get it again, but know that it has done wonders for many and they can target specific systems. or reflexology? since the soaking of the feet worked so well, perhaps your feet will let you in? love, hil

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Hilary, don't worry I've had lots of bloodwork done -- conventional and unconventional tests -- and I don't know if that's what's going to change (my bloodwork mostly looks fine). Although not a bad idea to try a before and after, anyway... if it's not too expensive...

Acupuncture I love, and I've done for years, but over the last several it actually just drains me -- usually the herbs are helpful, but right now I'm too sensitive for the vast majority of the herbs, dammit! Reflexology is a lovely idea -- it's the kind of subtle modality that works well for me (like feldenkrais and homeopathy), but I don't think it's a modality that would have deep immediate impact -- it's more of a subtle type of thing to try over the course of years.

Don't worry -- I've thought about all of this forever, so if I do decide to try some sort of animal protein it's definitely an informed choice (even if also a nightmare to me) -- I'm not sure if it'll be the right choice, but I at least need to investigate it...

Love --

Anonymous said...

Since you've tried everything, you've probably tried or at least considered what I am about to suggest, but I'm going to suggest it just in case you haven't thought about it or don't know about it.

Have you ever been to an osteopathic physician (a DO)? In case you aren't familiar with DO's, they are equal to MDs in that they can prescribe meds, do surgery etc. There are DO neurosurgeons, DO internist, etc. THe majority of them practice standard allopathic medicine, and one could go to the doctor and not even know that the doctor is a DO.

However, DO's receive additional training in osteopathic manipulative medicine and, because of the history of osteopathic medicine, there are many DO's who combine Western medicine and alternative therapies (especially accupuncture, osteopathic manipulative medicine, chelation, cranial osteopathy,supplements, vitamins, homeopathy, etc).

While such DO's are in the minority, they do exist. They are more apt to view you as a whole person as opposed to a set of symptoms with legs. I once had a GP who was a DO of the type I am describing. I went in to see him for a relatively minor problem, and he spent almost an hour with me. I've never had a doc spend that much time asking detailed questions about ME and my history. He gave me the option to take meds, but he didn't try to force it on me. He gave me numerous suggestions and treatment options involving lifestyle modifications, osteopathic manipulative medicine, etc. He worked WITH me and respected my values and autonomy, and ultimately helped me more than any MD ever did. And since he was a licensed physician, the visit was covered by insurance.

A DO like that is worth her weight in gold. She WANTS to know you as an individual, including your health history AND your personal story. She sees you as the expert on what your body is telling you (imagine that, a physician who actually listens to you and believes you) and collaborates with you to find the best treatment for you as an individual. She also respects your values re: the use of medications, diet, etc.

I have seen people suffering from chronic pain who have been to dozens of MD's and taken countless different pills to no avail. Then, they find a good DO and after a few sessions of OMM along w/ other alternative therapies, they are better. I don't know if OMM can help fibromyalgia, but maybe it is worth looking into if you haven't done so already.

Just a suggestion. Anyway, I am thinking about you and I want you to know that.

Mark said...

I was vegan for a long time. I stopped cause I found it difficult for various reasons. To get the nutrition all the pro-vegan literature said I needed was just too much work. The issues were Calcium, Vitamin b12, Vitamin D, Omega 3 fatty acids, and to a lesser extent - protein. B12 you could only get with a supplement, and Omega 3s you could only theoretically get from things like flax oil and expensive DHA seaweed supplements. I remember reading a post here about how it was only after a decade of veganism you decided to take a B12 supplement. That's a harsh thing to do to your body, I think.

Matilda, I'd say if you found a way to include fish and eggs in yr diet, that might be enough to help maintain proper nutrition. If you can't eat fish (i definitely can't), try fish oil capsules. You just swallow 2 a day with a meal, and that would be probably more than enough to get your Omega 3s met.

If you have been straight vegan for years, it will probably take a short spell of time for your body to adjust to new kinds a food. It may help to eat fermented foods like miso, raw saurkraut, yogurt, pickled veggies, etc...

The pain you describe in your blog day after day... if you think adding fish to your diet may help you, don't torture yourself over it. Giving up something isn't a bad thing. Especially if it isn't working. Taking care of yourself is only admirable.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Elian, guess what? That doctor Hilary and I are talking about above is in fact an osteopath! And yes yes, even though I only had one appointment with her before she disappeared from that clinic I can say for certain that she was much much better than any doctor I've seen, even some of these super-holistic $$$doctor$.

Thanks for the great suggestion!

Love --

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Mark, I've taken B12 for a while -- actually I started right when I became vegan, but then perhaps stopped for a while. The omega-3s are really hard for me, since I can barely digest the required oils at all. It's true -- I could try the fish oil capsules, I'm just worried that it would be a nightmare to digest, since I have a very hard time digesting any oils at all, but certainly not a bad idea to try... and yes, pickled vegetables are great!

The problem for me is not so much the experiment (well, okay, that's part of the problem), but especially the probability that it won't help -- but wait, I'm supposed to think positive!!!

Thanks for the ideas and support...

Love --

jasmin said...

hi mattilda,

i realize i'm commenting on an old post, but i came across it and i wanted to recommend that you try Vega Powder. there is a very small percentage of people who do have protein issues on a vegan diet (though most people can do it just fine without any outside assistance) and i know that Vega Powder has helped some people i know. one of those people is my partner, who needed an extra batch of healthy, whole protein, but is vegan and didn't want to give that up. vega helped her immeasurably. it's really yummy in a shake, too.

i think it's really possible to live on a vegan diet and not be tired or feel like you're compromising anything. in fact, i think it's a pretty amazing thing to do, and a wonderful way of living in accordance with your ethical beliefs.

your fan,

p.s. you get can vega powder from it is made out of a mixture of pea, hemp, and rice protein and is an unprocessed food.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Thanks for the tip, Jasmin -- usually I can't digest protein powders at all, but I'll look into it...

Love --