How I Became a Hygienist
From The Hygienic Dictionary
Doctors. In the matter of disease and healing, the people have been treated as serfs. The doctor is a dictator who knows it all, and the people are stupid, dumb, driven cattle, fit for nothing except to be herded together, bucked and gagged when necessary to force medical opinion down their throats or under their skins. I found that professional dignity was more often pomposity, sordid bigotry and gilded ignorance. The average physician is a fear-monger, if he is anything. He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may scare to death. Dr. John. H. Tilden, Impaired Health: Its Cause and Cure, Vol. 1, 1921. Today we are not only in the Nuclear Age but also the Antibiotic Age. Unhappily, too, this is the Dark Age of Medicine--an age in which many of my colleagues, when confronted with a patient, consult a volume which rivals the Manhattan telephone directory in size. This book contains the names of thousands upon thousands of drugs used to alleviate the distressing symptoms of a host of diseased states of the body. The doctor then decides which pink or purple or baby-blue pill to prescribe for the patient. This is not, in my opinion, the practice of medicine. Far too many of these new "miracle" drugs are introduced with fanfare and then reveled as lethal in character, to be silently discarded for newer and more powerful drugs. Dr. Henry Bieler: Food is Your Best Medicine; 1965.
I have two reasons for writing this book. One, to help educate the general public about the virtues of natural medicine. The second, to encourage the next generation of natural healers. Especially the second because it is not easy to become a natural hygienist; there is no school or college or licensing board.
Most AMA-affiliated physicians follow predictable career paths, straight well-marked roads, climbing through apprenticeships in established institutions to high financial rewards and social status. Practitioners of natural medicine are not awarded equally high status, rarely do we become wealthy, and often, naturopaths arrive at their profession rather late in life after following the tangled web of their own inner light. So I think it is worth a few pages to explain how I came to practice a dangerous profession and why I have accepted the daily risks of police prosecution and civil liability without possibility of insurance.
Sometimes it seems to me that I began this lifetime powerfully predisposed to heal others. So, just for childhood warm-ups I was born into a family that would be much in need of my help. As I've always disliked an easy win, to make rendering that help even more difficult, I decided to be the youngest child, with two older brothers.
A pair of big, capable brothers might have guided and shielded me. But my life did not work out that way. The younger of my two brothers, three years ahead of me, was born with many health problems. He was weak, small, always ill, and in need of protection from other children, who are generally rough and cruel. My father abandoned our family shortly after I was born; it fell to my mother to work to help support us. Before I was adolescent my older brother left home to pursue a career in the Canadian Air Force.
Though I was the youngest, I was by far the healthiest. Consequently, I had to pretty much raise myself while my single mother struggled to earn a living in rural western Canada. This circumstance probably reinforced my constitutional predilection for independent thought and action. Early on I started to protect my "little" brother, making sure the local bullies didn't take advantage of him. I learned to fight big boys and win. I also helped him acquire simple skills, ones that most kids grasp without difficulty, such as swimming, bike riding, tree climbing, etc.
And though not yet adolescent, I had to function as a responsible adult in our household. Stressed by anger over her situation and the difficulties of earning our living as a country school teacher (usually in remote one-room schools), my mother's health deteriorated rapidly. As she steadily lost energy and became less able to take care of the home, I took over more and more of the cleaning, cooking, and learned how to manage her--a person who feels terrible but must work to survive.
During school hours my mother was able to present a positive attitude, and was truly a gifted teacher. However, she had a personality quirk. She obstinately preferred to help the most able students become even more able, but she had little desire to help those with marginal mentalities. This predilection got her into no end of trouble with local school boards; inevitably it seemed the District Chairman would have a stupid, badly-behaved child that my mother refused to cater to. Several times we had to move in the middle of the school year when she was dismissed without notice for "insubordination." This would inevitably happen on the frigid Canadian Prairies during mid-winter.
At night, exhausted by the day's efforts, my mother's positiveness dissipated and she allowed her mind to drift into negative thoughts, complaining endlessly about my irresponsible father and about how much she disliked him for treating her so badly. These emotions and their irresponsible expression were very difficult for me to deal with as a child, but it taught me to work on diverting someone's negative thoughts, and to avoid getting dragged into them myself, skills I had to use continually much later on when I began to manage mentally and physically ill clients on a residential basis.
My own personal health problems had their genesis long before my own birth. Our diet was awful, with very little fresh fruit or vegetables. We normally had canned, evaporated milk, though there were a few rare times when raw milk and free-range fertile farm eggs were available from neighbors. Most of my foods were heavily salted or sugared, and we ate a great deal of fat in the form of lard. My mother had little money but she had no idea that some of the most nutritious foods are also the least expensive.
It is no surprise to me that considering her nutrient-poor, fat-laden diet and stressful life, my mother eventually developed severe gall bladder problems. Her degeneration caused progressively more and more severe pain until she had a cholecystectomy. The gallbladder's profound deterioration had damaged her liver as well, seeming to her surgeon to require the removal of half her liver. After this surgical insult she had to stop working and never regained her health. Fortunately, by this time all her children were independent.
I had still more to overcome. My eldest brother had a nervous breakdown while working on the DEW Line (he was posted on the Arctic Circle watching radar screens for a possible incoming attack from Russia). I believe his collapse actually began with our childhood nutrition. While in the Arctic all his foods came from cans. He also was working long hours in extremely cramped quarters with no leave for months in a row, never going outside because of the cold, or having the benefit of natural daylight.
When he was still in the acute stage of his illness (I was still a teenager myself) I went to the hospital where my bother was being held, and talked the attending psychiatrist into immediately discharging him into my care. The physician also agreed to refrain from giving him electroshock therapy, a commonly used treatment for mental conditions in Canadian hospitals at that time. Somehow I knew the treatment they were using was wrong.
I brought my brother home still on heavy doses of thorazine. The side effects of this drug were so severe he could barely exist: blurred vision, clenched jaw, trembling hands, and restless feet that could not be kept still. These are common problems with the older generation of psycho tropic medications, generally controlled to some extent with still other drugs like cogentin (which he was taking too).
My brother steadily reduced his tranquilizers until he was able to think and do a few things. On his own he started taking a lot of B vitamins and eating whole grains. I do not know exactly why he did this, but I believe he was following his intuition. (I personally did not know enough to suggest a natural approach at that time.) In any case after three months on vitamins and an improved diet he no long needed any medication, and was delighted to be free of their side effects. He remained somewhat emotionally fragile for a few more months but he soon returned to work, and has had no mental trouble from that time to this day. This was the beginning of my interest in mental illness, and my first exposure to the limitations of 'modern' psychiatry.
I always preferred self-discipline to being directed by others. So I took every advantage of having a teacher for a mother and studied at home instead of being bored silly in a classroom. In Canada of that era you didn't have to go to high school to enter university, you only had to pass the written government entrance exams. At age 16, never having spent a single day in high school, I passed the university entrance exams with a grade of 97 percent. At that point in my life I really wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor, but I didn't have the financial backing to embark on such a long and costly course of study, so I settled on a four year nursing course at the University of Alberta, with all my expenses paid in exchange for work at the university teaching hospital.
At the start of my nurses training I was intensely curious about everything in the hospital: birth, death, surgery, illness, etc. I found most births to be joyful, at least when everything came out all right. Most people died very alone in the hospital, terrified if they were conscious, and all seemed totally unprepared for death, emotionally or spiritually. None of the hospital staff wanted to be with a dying person except me; most hospital staff were unable to confront death any more bravely than those who were dying. So I made it a point of being at the death bed. The doctors and nurses found it extremely unpleasant to have to deal with the preparation of the dead body for the morgue; this chore usually fell to me also. I did not mind dead bodies. They certainly did not mind me!
I had the most difficulty accepting surgery. There were times when surgery was clearly a life saving intervention, particularly when the person had incurred a traumatic injury, but there were many other cases when, though the knife was the treatment of choice, the results were disastrous.
Whenever I think of surgery, my recollections always go to a man with cancer of the larynx. At that time the University of Alberta had the most respected surgeons and cancer specialists in the country. To treat cancer they invariably did surgery, plus radiation and chemotherapy to eradicate all traces of cancerous tissue in the body, but they seemed to forget there also was a human being residing in that very same cancerous body. This particularly unfortunate man came into our hospital as a whole human being, though sick with cancer. He could still speak, eat, swallow, and looked normal. But after surgery he had no larynx, nor esophagus, nor tongue, and no lower jaw.
The head surgeon, who, by the way, was considered to be a virtual god amongst gods, came back from the operating room smiling from ear to ear, announcing proudly that he had 'got all the cancer'. But when I saw the result I thought he'd done a butcher's job. The victim couldn't speak at all, nor eat except through a tube, and he looked grotesque. Worst, he had lost all will to live. I thought the man would have been much better off to keep his body parts as long as he could, and die a whole person able to speak, eating if he felt like it, being with friends and family without inspiring a gasp of horror.
I was sure there must be better ways of dealing with degenerative conditions such as cancer, but I had no idea what they might be or how to find out. There was no literature on medical alternatives in the university library, and no one in the medical school ever hinted at the possibility except when the doctors took jabs at chiropractors. Since no one else viewed the situation as I did I started to think I might be in the wrong profession.
It also bothered me that patients were not respected, were not people; they were considered a "case" or a "condition." I was frequently reprimanded for wasting time talking to patients, trying to get acquainted. The only place in the hospital where human contact was acceptable was the psychiatric ward. So I enjoyed the rotation to psychiatry for that reason, and decided that I would like to make psychiatry or psychology my specialty.
By the time I finished nursing school, it was clear that the hospital was not for me. I especially didn't like its rigid hierarchical system, where all bowed down to the doctors. The very first week in school we were taught that when entering a elevator, make sure that the doctor entered first, then the intern, then the charge nurse. Followed by, in declining order of status: graduate nurses, third year nurses, second year nurses, first year nurses, then nursing aids, then orderlies, then ward clerks, and only then, the cleaning staff. No matter what the doctor said, the nurse was supposed to do it immediately without question--a very military sort of organization.
Nursing school wasn't all bad. I learned how to take care of all kinds of people with every variety of illness. I demonstrated for myself that simple nursing care could support a struggling body through its natural healing process. But the doctor-gods tended to belittle and denigrate nurses. No wonder--so much of nursing care consists of unpleasant chores like bed baths, giving enemas and dealing with other bodily functions.
I also studied the state-of-the-art science concerning every conceivable medical condition, its symptoms, and treatment. At the university hospital nurses were required to take the same pre-med courses as the doctors--including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and pharmacology. Consequently, I think it is essential for holistic healers to first ground themselves in the basic sciences of the body's physiological systems. There is also much valuable data in standard medical texts about the digestion, assimilation, and elimination. To really understand illness, the alternative practitioner must be fully aware of the proper functioning of the cardiovascular/pulmonary system, the autonomic and voluntary nervous system, the endocrine system, plus the mechanics and detailed nomenclature of the skeleton, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Also it is helpful to know the conventional medical models for treating various disorders, because they do appear to work well for some people, and should not be totally invalidated simply on the basis of one's philosophical or religious viewpoints.
Many otherwise well-meaning holistic practitioners, lacking an honest grounding in science, sometimes express their understanding of the human body in non-scientific, metaphysical terms that can seem absurd to the well-instructed. I am not denying here that there is a spiritual aspect to health and illness; I believe there are energy flows in and around the body that can effect physiological functioning. I am only suggesting that to discuss illness without hard science is like calling oneself a abstract artist because the painter has no ability to even do a simple, accurate representational drawing of a human figure.
Though hospital life had already become distasteful to me I was young and poor when I graduated. So after nursing school I buckled down and worked just long enough to save enough money to obtain a masters degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia. Then I started working at Riverview Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., doing diagnostic testing, and group therapy, mostly with psychotic people. At Riverview I had a three-year-long opportunity to observe the results of conventional psychiatric treatment.
The first thing I noticed was the 'revolving door' phenomena. That is, people go out, and then they're back in, over and over again, demonstrating that standard treatment--drugs, electroshock and group therapy--had been ineffective. Worse, the treatments given at Riverside were dangerous, often with long term side effects that were more damaging than the disease being treated. It felt like nursing school all over again; in the core of my being I somehow knew there was a better way, a more effective way of helping people to regain their mental health. Feeling like an outsider, I started investigating the hospital's nooks and crannies. Much to my surprise, in a back ward, one not open to the public, I noticed a number of people with bright purple skins.
I asked the staff about this and every one of the psychiatrists denied these patients existed. This outright and widely-agreed-upon lie really raised my curiosity. Finally after pouring through the journals in the hospital library I found an article describing psycho tropic-drug-induced disruptions of melanin (the dark skin pigment). Thorazine, a commonly used psychiatric drug, when taken in high doses over a long period of time would do this. Excess melanin eventually was deposited in vital organs such as the heart and the liver, causing death.
I found it especially upsetting to see patients receive electroshock treatments. These violent, physician-induced traumas did seem to disrupt dysfunctional thought patterns such as an impulse to commit suicide, but afterwards the victim couldn't remember huge parts of their life or even recall who they were. Like many other dangerous medical treatments, electroshock can save life but it can also take life away by obliterating identity.
According the Hippocratic Oath, the first criteria of a treatment is that it should do no harm. Once again I found myself trapped in a system that made me feel severe protest. Yet none of these specialists or university professors, or academic libraries had any information about alternatives. Worse, none of these mind-doctor-gods were even looking for better treatments.
Though unpleasant and profoundly disappointing, my experience as a mental hospital psychologist was, like being in nursing school, also very valuable. Not only did I learn how to diagnose, and evaluate the severity of mental illness and assess the dangerousness of the mentally ill, I learned to understand them, to feel comfortable with them, and found that I was never afraid of them. Fearlessness is a huge advantage. The mentally ill seem to have a heightened ability to spot fear in others. If they sense that you are afraid they frequently enjoy terrorizing you. When psychotic people know you feel comfortable with them, and probably understand a great deal of what they are experiencing, when they know that you can and intend to control them, they experience a huge sense of relief. I could always get mentally ill people to tell me what was really going on in their heads when no one else could get them to communicate.
A few years later I married an American and became the Mental Health Coordinator for Whatcom County, the northwestern corner of Washington State. I handled all the legal proceedings in the county for mentally ill people. After treatment in the state mental hospital I supervised their reentry into the community, and attempted to provide some follow up. This work further confirmed my conclusions that in most cases the mentally ill weren't helped by conventional treatment. Most of them rapidly became social problems after discharge. It seemed the mental hospital's only ethically defensible function was incarceration--providing temporary relief for the family and community from the mentally ill person's destructiveness.
I did see a few people recover in the mental health system. Inevitably these were young, and had not yet become institutionalized, a term describing someone who comes to like being in the hospital because confinement feels safe. Hospitalization can mean three square meals and a bed. It frequently means an opportunity to have a sex life (many female inmates are highly promiscuous). Many psychotics are also criminal; the hospital seems far better to them than jail. Many chronically mentally ill are also experts at manipulating the system. When homeless, they deliberately get hospitalized for some outrageous deed just before winter. They then "recover" when the fine weather of spring returns.
After a year as Mental Health Co-ordinator, I had enough of the "system" and decided that it was as good a time as any to return to school for a Ph.D., this time at University. of Oregon where I studied clinical and counseling psychology and gerontology. While in graduate school I became pregnant and had my first child. Not surprisingly, this experience profoundly changed my consciousness. I realized that it had perhaps been all right for me to be somewhat irresponsible about my own nutrition and health, but that it was not okay to inflict poor nutrition on my unborn child. At that time I was addicted to salty, deep-fat fried corn chips and a diet pop. I thought I had to have these so-called foods every day. I tended to eat for taste, in other words, what I liked, not necessarily what would give me the best nutrition. I was also eating a lot of what most people would consider healthy food: meat, cheese, milk, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits.
My constitution had seemed strong and vital enough through my twenties to allow this level of dietary irresponsibility. During my early 20s I had even recovered from a breast cancer by sheer will power. (I will discuss this later.) So before my pregnancy I had not questioned my eating habits.
As my body changed and adapted itself to it's new purpose I began visiting the libraries and voraciously read everything obtainable under the topic of nutrition--all the texts, current magazines, nutritional journals, and health newsletters. My childhood habit of self-directed study paid off. I discovered alternative health magazines like Let's Live, Prevention, Organic Gardening, and Best Ways, and promptly obtained every back issue since they were first published. Along the way I ran into articles by Linus Pauling on vitamin C, and sent away for all of his books, one of these was co-authored with David Hawkins, called The Orthomolecular Approach to Mental Disorders.
This book had a profound effect on me. I instantly recognized that it was Truth with a capital "T", although the orthomolecular approach was clearly in opposition to the established medical model and contradicted everything I had ever learned as a student or professional. Here at last was the exciting alternative approach to treating mental disorders I had so long sought. I filed this information away, waiting for an opportunity to use it. And I began to study all the references in The Orthomolecular Approach to Mental Disorders dealing with correcting the perceptual functioning of psychotic people using natural substances.
In the course of delving through libraries and book stores, I also came across the Mokelumne Hill Publishing Company (now defunct). This obscure publisher reprinted many unusual and generally crudely reproduced out-of-print books about raw foods diets, hygienic medicine, fruitarianism, fasting, breathairianism, plus some works discussing spiritual aspects of living that were far more esoteric than I had ever thought existed. I decided that weird or not, I might as well find out everything potentially useful. So I spent a lot of money ordering their books. Some of Mokelumne Hill's material really expanded my thoughts. Though much of it seemed totally outrageous, in every book there usually was one line, one paragraph, or if I was lucky one whole chapter that rang true for me.
Recognizing capital "T" Truth when one sees it is one of the most important abilities a person can have. Unfortunately, every aspect of our mass educational system attempts to invalidate this skill. Students are repeatedly told that derivation from recognized authority and/or the scientific method are the only valid means to assess the validity of data. But there is another parallel method to determine the truth or falsehood of information: Knowing. We Know by the simple method of looking at something and recognizing its correctness. It is a spiritual ability. I believe we all have it. But in my case, I never lost the ability to Know because I almost never attended school.
Thus it is that I am absolutely certain How and When to Be Your Own Doctor will be recognized as Truth by some of my readers and rejected as unscientific, unsubstantiated, or anecdotal information by others. I accept this limitation on my ability to teach. If what you read in the following pages seems True for you, great! If it doesn't, there is little or nothing I could do to further convince.
I return now to the time of my first pregnancy. In the face of all these new Truths I was discovering concerning health and nutrition, I made immediate changes in my diet. I severely reduced my animal protein intake and limited cooked food in general. I began taking vitamin and mineral supplements. I also choose a highly atypical Ph.D. dissertation topic, "The Orthomolecular Treatment of Mental Disorders." This fifty cent word, orthomolecular, basically means readjusting the body chemistry by providing unusually large amounts of specific nutrient substances normally found in the human body (vitamins and minerals). Orthomolecular therapy for mental disorders is supported by good diet, by removal of allergy-producing substances, by control of hypoglycemia, plus counseling, and provision of a therapeutic environment.
My proposed dissertation topic met with nothing but opposition. The professors on my doctoral committee had never heard of the word orthomolecular, and all of them were certain it wasn't an accepted, traditional area of research. Research in academia is supposed to be based on the works of a previous researchers who arrived at hypothesis based on data obtained by strictly following scientific methodology. "Scientific" data requires control groups, matched populations, statistical analysis, etc. In my case there was no previous work my dissertation committee would accept, because the available data did not originate from a medical school or psychology department they recognized.
Due to a lot of determination and perseverance I finally did succeed in getting my thesis accepted, and triumphed over my doctoral committee. And I graduated with a dual Ph.D. in both counseling psychology and gerontology. My ambition was to establish the orthomolecular approach on the west coast. At that time I knew of only two clinics in the world actively using nutritional therapy. One was in New York and the other, was a Russian experimental fasting program for schizophrenics. Doctors Hoffer and Osmond had used orthomolecular therapy in a Canadian mental hospital as early as 1950, but they had both gone on to other things.
The newly graduated Dr. Isabelle Moser, Ph.D. was at this point actually an unemployed mother, renting an old, end-of-the-road, far-in-the-country farmhouse; by then I had two small daughters. I strongly preferred to take care of my own children instead of turning them over to a baby sitter. My location and my children made it difficult for me to work any place but at home. So naturally, I made my family home into a hospital for psychotic individuals. I started out with one resident patient at a time, using no psychiatric drugs. I had very good results and learned a tremendous amount with each client, because each one was different and each was my first of each type.
With any psychotic residing in your home it is foolhardy to become inattentive even for one hour, including what are normally considered sleeping hours. I have found the most profoundly ill mentally ill person still to be very crafty and aware even though they may appear to be unconscious or nonresponsive. Psychotics are also generally very intuitive, using faculties most of us use very little or not at all. For example one of my first patients, Christine, believed that I was trying to electrocute her. Though she would not talk, she repeatedly drew pictures depicting this. She had, quite logically within her own reality, decided to kill me with a butcher knife in self-defense before I succeeded in killing her. I had to disarm Christine several times, hide all the household knives, change my sleeping spot frequently, and generally stay sufficiently awake at night to respond to slight, creaky sounds that could indicate the approach of stealthily placed small bare feet.
With orthomolecular treatment Christine improved but also became more difficult to live with as she got better. For example, when she came out of catatonic-like immobility, she became extremely promiscuous, and was determined to sleep with my husband. In fact she kept crawling into bed with him with no clothes on. Either we had to forcefully remove her or the bed would be handed over to her--without a resident man. Christine then decided (logically) that I was an obstacle to her sex life, and once more set out to kill me. This stage also passed, eventually and Christine got tolerably well.
Christine's healing process is quite typical and demonstrates why orthomolecular treatment is not popular. As a psychotic genuinely improves, their aberrated behavior often becomes more aggressive initially and thus, harder to control. It seems far more convenient for all concerned to suppress psychotic behavior with stupefying drugs. A drugged person can be controlled when they're in a sort of perpetual sedation but then, they never get genuinely well, either.
Another early patient, Elizabeth, gave me a particularly valuable lesson, one that changed the direction of my career away from curing insanity and toward regular medicine. Elizabeth was a catatonic schizophrenic who did not speak or move, except for some waxy posturing. She had to be fed, dressed and pottied. Elizabeth was a pretty little brunette who got through a couple of years of college and then spent several years in a state mental hospital. She had recently run away from a hospital, and had been found wandering aimlessly or standing rigidly, apparently staring fixedly at nothing. The emergency mental health facility in a small city nearby called me up and asked if I would take her. I said I would, and drove into town to pick her up. I found Elizabeth in someone's back yard staring at a bush. It took me three hours to persuade her to get in my car, but that effort turned out to be the easiest part of the next months.
Elizabeth would do nothing for herself, including going to the bathroom. I managed to get some nutrition into her, and change her clothes, but that was about all I could do. Eventually she wore me down; I drifted off for an hour's nap instead of watching her all night. Elizabeth slipped away in the autumn darkness and vanished. Needless to say, when daylight came I desperately searched the buildings, the yard, gardens, woods, and even the nearby river. I called in a missing person report and the police looked as well. We stopped searching after a week because there just wasn't any place else to look. Then, into my kitchen, right in front of our round eyes and gaping mouths, walked a smiling, pleasant, talkative young woman who was quite sane.
She said, "Hello I'm Elizabeth! I'm sorry I was such a hassle last week, and thank you for trying to take care of me so well. I was too sick to know any better." She said she had gone out our back door the week before and crawled under a pile of fallen leaves on the ground in our back yard with a black tarp over them. We had looked under the tarp at least fifty times during the days past, but never thought to look under the leaves as well.
This amazing occurrence made my head go bong to say the least; it was obvious that Elizabeth had not been 'schizophrenic' because of her genetics, nor because of stress, nor malnutrition, nor hypoglycemia, nor because of any of the causes of mental illness I had previously learned to identify and rectify, but because of food allergies. Elizabeth was spontaneously cured because she'd had nothing to eat for a week. The composting pile of leaves hiding her had produced enough heat to keep her warm at night and the heap contained sufficient moisture to keep her from getting too dehydrated. She looked wonderful, with clear shiny blue eyes, clear skin with good color, though she was slightly slimmer than when I had last seen her.
I then administered Coca's Pulse Test (see the Appendix) and quickly discovered Elizabeth was wildly intolerant to wheat and dairy products. Following the well known health gurus of that time like Adelle Davis, I had self-righteously been feeding her home-made whole wheat bread from hand-ground Organic wheat, and home-made cultured yogurt from our own organically-fed goats. But by doing this I had only maintained her insanity. Elizabeth was an intelligent young woman, and once she understood what was causing her problems, she had no trouble completely eliminating certain foods from her diet. She shuddered at the thought that had she not come to my place and discovered the problem, she would probably have died on the back ward of some institution for the chronically mentally ill.
As for me, I will always be grateful to her for opening my eyes and mind a little wider. Elizabeth's case showed me why Russian schizophrenics put on a 30 day water fast had such a high recovery rate. I also remembered all the esoteric books I had read extolling the benefits of fasting. I also remembered two occasions during my own youth when I had eaten little or nothing for approximately a month each without realizing that I was "fasting." And doing this had done me nothing but good.
Once when I was thirteen my mother sent my "little" brother and I to a residential fundamentalist bible school. I did not want to go there, although my brother did; he had decided he wanted to be a evangelical minister. I hated bible school because I was allowed absolutely no independence of action. We were required to attend church services three times a day during the week, and five services on Sunday. As I became more and more unhappy, I ate less and less; in short order I wasn't eating at all. The school administration became concerned after I had dropped about 30 pounds in two months, notified my mother and sent me home. I returned to at-home schooling. I also resumed eating.
I fasted one other time for about a month when I was 21. It happened because I had nothing to do while visiting my mother before returning to University except help with housework and prepare meals. The food available in the backwoods of central B.C. didn't appeal to me because it was mostly canned vegetables, canned milk, canned moose meat and bear meat stews with lots of gravy and greasy potatoes. I decided to pass on it altogether. I remember rather enjoying that time as a fine rest and I left feeling very good ready to take on the world full force ahead. At that time I didn't know there was such a thing as fasting, it just happened that way.
After Elizabeth went on her way, I decided to experimentally fast myself. I consumed only water for two weeks. But I must have had counter intentions to this fast because I found myself frequently having dreams about sugared plums, and egg omelets, etc. And I didn't end up feeling much better after this fast was over (although I didn't feel any worse either), because I foolishly broke the fast with one of my dream omelets. And I knew better! Every book I'd ever read on fasting stated how important it is to break a fast gradually, eating only easy-to-digest foods for days or weeks before resuming one's regular diet.
From this experiment I painfully learned how important it is to break a fast properly. Those eggs just didn't feel right, like I had an indigestible stone in my belly. I felt very tired after the omelet, not energized one bit by the food. I immediately cut back my intake to raw fruits and vegetables while the eggs cleared out of my system. After a few days on raw food I felt okay, but I never did regain the shine I had achieved just before I resumed eating.
This is one of the many fine things about fasting, it allows you to get in much better communication with your own body, so that you can hear it when it objects to something you're putting in it or doing to it. It is not easy to acquire this degree of sensitivity to your body unless you remove all food for a sufficiently long period; this allows the body to get a word in edgewise that we are willing and able to listen to. Even when we do hear the body protesting, we frequently decide to turn a deaf ear, at least until the body starts producing severe pain or some other symptom that we can't ignore.
Within a few years after Elizabeth's cure I had handily repaired quite a few mentally ill people in a harmless way no one had heard of; many new people were knocking at my door wanting to be admitted to my drug free, home-based treatment program. So many in fact that my ability to accommodate them was overwhelmed. I decided that it was necessary to move to a larger facility and we bought an old, somewhat run-down estate that I called Great Oaks School of Health because of the magnificent oak trees growing in the front yard.
At Great Oaks initially I continued working with psychotics, employing fasting as a tool, especially in those cases with obvious food allergies as identified by Coca's Pulse Test, because it only takes five days for a fasting body to eliminate all traces of an allergic food substance and return to normal functioning. If the person was so severely hypoglycemic that they were unable to tolerate a water fast, an elimination diet (to be described in detail later) was employed, while stringently avoiding all foods usually found to be allergy producing.
I also decided that if I was going to employ fasting as my primary medicine, it was important for me to have a more intense personal experience with it, because in the process of reviewing the literature on fasting I saw that there were many different approaches, each one staunchly defended by highly partisan advocates. For example, the capital "N" Natural, capital "H" Hygienists, such a Herbert Shelton, aggressively assert that only a pure water fast can be called a fast. Sheltonites contend that juice fasting as advocated by Paavo Airola, for example, is not a fast but rather a modified diet without the benefits of real fasting. Colon cleansing was another area of profound disagreement among the authorities. Shelton strongly insisted that enemas and colonics should not be employed; the juice advocates tend to strongly recommend intestinal cleansing.
To be able to intelligently take a position in this maze of conflict I decided to first try every system on myself. It seems to me that if I can be said to really own anything in this life it is my own body, and I have the absolute right to experiment with it as long as I'm not irresponsible about important things such as care of my kids. I also feel strongly that it was unethical to ask anyone to do anything that I was not willing or able to do myself. Just imagine what would happen if all medical doctors applied this principal in their practice of medicine, if all surgeons did it too!
I set out to do a complete and fully rigorous water fast according to the Natural Hygiene model--only pure water and bed rest (with no colon cleansing) until hunger returns, something the hygienists all assured me would happen when the body had completed its detoxification process. The only aspect of a hygienic fast I could not fulfill properly was the bed rest part; unfortunately I was in sole charge of a busy holistic treatment center (and two little girls); there were things I had to do, though I did my chores and duties at a very slow pace with many rest periods.
I water fasted for 42 days dropping from 135 pounds to 85 pounds on a 5' 7" frame. At the end I looked like a Nazi concentration camp victim. I tended to hide when people came to the door, because the sight of all my bones scared them to death. Despite my assurances visitors assumed I was trying to commit suicide. In any case I persevered, watching my body change, observing my emotions, my mental functioning, and my spiritual awareness. I thought, if Moses could fast for 42 days so can I, even though the average length of a full water fast to skeletal weight for a person that is not overweight is more in the order of 30 days. I broke the fast with small amounts of carrot juice diluted 50/50 with water and stayed on that regimen for two more weeks.
After I resumed eating solid food it took six weeks to regain enough strength to be able to run the same distance in the same time I had before fasting, and it took me about six months to regain my previous weight. My eyes and skin had become exceptionally clear, and some damaged areas of my body such as my twice-broken shoulder had undergone considerable healing. I ate far smaller meals after the fast, but food was so much more efficiently absorbed that I got a lot more miles to the gallon from what I did eat. I also became more aware when my body did not want me to eat something. After the fast, if I ignored my body's protest and persisted, it would immediately create some unpleasant sensation that quickly persuaded me to curb my appetite.
I later experimented with other approaches to fasting, with juice fasts, with colon cleansing, and began to establish my own eclectic approach to fasting and detoxification, using different types of programs for different conditions and adjusting for psychological tolerances. I'll have a lot more to say about fasting.
After my own rigorous fasting experience I felt capable of supervising extended fasts on very ill or very overweight people. Great Oaks was gradually shifting from being a place that mentally ill people came to regain their sanity to being a spa where anyone who wanted to improve their health could come for a few days, some weeks or even a few months. It had been my observation from the beginning that the mentally ill people in my program also improved remarkably in physical health; it was obvious that my method was good for anyone. Even people with good health could feel better.
By this time I'd also had enough of psychotic people anyway, and longed for sane, responsible company.
So people started to come to Great Oaks School of Health to rest up from a demanding job, to drop some excess weight, and generally to eliminate the adverse effects of destructive living and eating habits. I also began to get cancer patients, ranging from those who had just been diagnosed and did not wish to go the AMA-approved medical route of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, to those with well-advanced cancer who had been sent home to die after receiving all of the above treatments and were now ready to give alternative therapies a try since they expected to die anyway. I also had a few people who were beyond help because their vital organs had been so badly damaged that they knew they were dying, and they wanted to die in peace without medical intervention, in a supportive hospice cared for by people who could confront death.
Great Oaks School was intentionally named a "school" of health partially to deflect the attentions of the AMA. It is, after all, entirely legal to teach about how to maintain health, about how to prevent illness, and how to go about making yourself well once you were sick. Education could not be called "practicing medicine without a license." Great Oaks was also structured as a school because I wanted to both learn and teach. Toward this end we started putting out a holistic health newsletter and offering classes and seminars to the public on various aspects of holistic health. From the early 1970s through the early 1980s I invited a succession of holistic specialists to reside at GOSH, or to teach at Great Oaks while living elsewhere. These teachers not only provided a service to the community, but they all became my teachers as well. I apprenticed myself to each one in turn.
There came and went a steady parade of alternative practitioners of the healing arts and assorted forms of metapsychology: acupuncturists, acupressurists, reflexologists, polarity therapists, massage therapists, postural integrationists, Rolfers, Feldenkries therapists, neurolinguistic programmers, biokinesiologists, iridologists, psychic healers, laying on of handsers, past life readers, crystal therapists, toning therapists in the person of Patricia Sun, color therapy with lamps and different colored lenses a la Stanley Bourroughs, Bach Flower therapists, aroma therapists, herbalists, homeopaths, Tai Chi classes, yoga classes, Arica classes, Guergieff and Ouspensky fourth-way study groups, EST workshops, Zen Meditation classes. Refugee Lamas from Tibet gave lectures on The Book of the Dead and led meditation and chanting sessions, and we held communication classes using Scientology techniques. There were anatomy and physiology classes, classes on nutrition and the orthomolecular approach to treating mental disorders (given by me of course); there were chiropractors teaching adjustment techniques, even first aid classes. And we even had a few medical doctors of the alternative ilk who were interested in life style changes as an approach to maintaining health.
Classes were also offered on colon health including herbs, clays, enemas, and colonics. So many of my client at Great Oaks were demanding colonics in conjunction with their cleansing programs, that I took time out to go to Indio, Calif. to take a course in colon therapy from a chiropractor, and purchase a state of the art colonic machine featuring all the gauges, electric water solenoids and stainless steel knobs one could ask for.
During this period almost all alternative therapists and their specialties were very interesting to me, but I found that most of the approaches they advocated did not suit my personality. For example, I think that acupuncture is a very useful tool, but I personally did not want to use needles. Similarly I thought that Rolfing was a very effective tool but I did not enjoy administering that much pain, although a significant number of the clients really wanted pain. Some of the techniques appealed to me in the beginning, and I used them frequently with good results but over time I decided to abandon them, mostly because of a desire to simplify and lighten up my bag of tricks.
Because of my enthusiasm and successes Great Oaks kept on growing. Originally the estate served as both the offices of the Holt Adoption Agency and the Holt family mansion. The Holt family had consisted of Harry and Bertha Holt, six of their biological children, and eight adopted Korean orphans. For this reason the ten thousand square foot two story house had large common rooms, and lots and lots of bedrooms. It was ideal for housing spa clients and my own family. The adjoining Holt Adoption Agency office building was also very large with a multitude of rooms. It became living space for those helpers and hangers-on we came to refer to as "community members." My first husband added even more to the physical plant constructing a large, rustic gym and workshop.
Many "alternative" people visited and then begged to stay on with room and board provided in exchange for their work. A few of these people made a significant contribution such as cooking, child care, gardening, tending the ever-ravenous wood-fired boiler we used to keep the huge concrete mansion heated, or doing general cleaning. But the majority of the 'work exchangers' did not really understand what work really was, or didn't have sufficient ethical presence to uphold the principle of fair exchange, which is basically giving something of equal value for getting something of value and, perhaps more importantly, giving in exchange what is needed and asked for.
I also found that community members, once in residence, were very difficult to dislodge. My healing services were supporting far too much dead wood. This was basically my own fault, my own poor management.
Still, I learned a great deal from all of this waste. First of all it is not a genuine service to another human being to give them something for nothing. If a fair exchange is expected and received, positive ethical behavior is strengthened, allowing the individual to maintain their self-respect. I also came to realize what an important factor conducting one's life ethically is in the individual healing process. Those patients who were out exchange in their relationships with others in one or more areas of their life frequently did not get well until they changed these behaviors.
Toward the end of 1982, after providing a decade of services to a great many clients, many of these in critical condition, I reached to point where I was physically, mentally, and spiritually drained. I needed a vacation desperately but no one, including my first husband, could run Great Oaks in my absence much less cover the heavy mortgage. So I decided to sell it. This decision stunned the community members and shocked the clientele who had become dependent on my services. I also got a divorce at this time. In fact I went through quite a dramatic life change in many areas--true to pattern, a classic mid-life crisis. All I kept from these years was my two daughters, my life experiences, and far too many books from the enormous Great Oaks library.
These changes were however, necessary for my survival. Any person who works with, yes, lives on a day-to-day basis with sick people and who is constantly giving or outflowing must take time out to refill their vessel so that they can give again. Failure to do this can result in a serious loss of health, or death. Most healers are empathic people who feel other peoples' pains and stresses and sometimes have difficulty determining exactly what is their own personal 'baggage' and what belongs to the clients. This is especially difficult when the therapy involves a lot of 'hands on' techniques.
After leaving Great Oaks it took me a couple of years to rest up enough to want to resume practicing again. This time, instead of creating a substantial institution, Steve, my second husband and my best friend, built a tiny office next to our family home. I had a guest room that I would use for occasional residential patients. Usually these were people I had known from Great Oaks days or were people I particularly liked and wanted to help through a life crisis.
At the time I am writing this book over ten years have passed since I sold Great Oaks. I continue to have an active outpatient practice, preferring to protect the privacy of my home and family life since I was remarried by limiting inpatients to a special few who required more intensive care, and then, only one at a time, and then, with long spells without a resident.