Oliver Gilan

Living With Buggy Hardware

On the morning of August 2019, a few weeks before my 21st birthday and my Junior year of college, I experienced the most intense pain in my stomach I’ve ever felt. It occurred while stuck in traffic during my one-hour commute to the offices of Prudential in Newark. The pain was sharp and deep in my abdomen and it had me doubled over, debating if I should pull to the side of the road. The pain dissipated a few minutes before arriving at work and sitting in the parking garage I took some deep breaths and questioned what just happened. After a few minutes of no pain I concluded that nothing serious was wrong so I continued on with my day.

Over the two years following that moment I experienced the hardest period of my life. I experienced greater physical and psychological pain than ever before, I lost my strength and watched my body wither away, endured hopelessness and disillusionment in the heart of the American healthcare system, and experienced extreme anxiety and depression. All of this happened as I took the hardest classes of my college career, graduated at the height of COVID, and burned out at my first full-time job. The experience altered the way I see myself and the world. It made me rethink my own mortality and my relationships with those around me. It broke my body and wore down my mind. That I am here today is part luck, part resilience, and a lot of discipline yet I am still a fraction of what I once was. I’ve held off on writing about this period in my life because in my mind it’s still not over yet but so many people close to me do not know what I have been through and cannot fully understand me today without this context. That this period of my life will ever fully close is unclear so I’ve decided to write about it before I forget what I experienced myself.

The Descent #

Looking back on it I am not sure that the event in the car was the beginning of my problems (or even related to them at all) but it stands out to me as the moment when my digestive tract began to not behave as it should. The thing is, random acute pains are not fundamentally abnormal nor concerning and do not always indicate something is seriously wrong. Up to that point I’d been a remarkably healthy individual and very in-tune with my bodily functions. I was lean with a body weight of 155-160lbs at 5'11, very active, and grew up eating organic whole foods cooked by my parents. Even throughout college I’d cook most of my meals and spent a majority of what little money I had on high quality groceries. I drank alcohol little compared to the average college kid, avoided unhealthy sleeping habits, and worked out regularly. Doctors would occasionally express amazement at just how healthy most of my indicators appeared on the results of my physical checkups. For most of my life I’d gotten random sharp pains in my chest or experienced stomach pangs or would wake up with a sore muscle/tendon randomly and as far as I can tell this is just a normal part of the human experience. The pain in my stomach that day far exceeded anything I’d randomly really felt before but it completely went away after 30 minutes and later that night when my stool was loose I assumed the entire event was just a form of food poisoning.

Over the next few days my stool continued to degrade in quality (it feels weird to comment on that mostly because I meet many people who do not have a clear concept of a “healthy” bowel movement but your stool is probably the most reliable indicator for the overall health of your digestive tract and internal systems as a whole). I’ve always had extremely healthy bowel movement with the exceptions only being times I was sick and they never lasted more than a week so when it was two weeks later and my stool was still not healthy it definitely set off alarm bells. I brought it up to my GP but after some tests none of my other indicators expressed any issues and I was otherwise having no problems with my health so it was once again dismissed. I had the beginning of a new semester to deal with as well as continuing my internship so I was happy to hear there was nothing to worry about and move on.

The puking began 3 weeks later during the first couple days of my Junior year. I hadn’t thought about that initial incident in the car for a few weeks at that point but while attending a baseball game with two friends I had a single drink and felt sick the rest of the night. The next morning I awoke and rushed to the toilet where I promptly vomited. Kneeling there gripping the toilet seat I thought about that incident in the car and if it was related to what had just occurred. “Maybe just no hard liquor for a while” I thought to myself. That night I attended the first party for the semester that my fraternity was throwing but I didn’t even make it to the next morning and vomited after two beers. All my friends laughed it off as me having drank too much but at that moment, with my stomach burning like fire, I became seriously concerned for the first time. During that entire first week of the semester I tried different amounts of foods and alcohols until by the end of the week having a single sip of a beer was enough to make me vomit and my stomach was regularly burning intensely.

So I cut it out. I stopped drinking entirely in an attempt to ease the issue. I sat down and thought about what could possibly be happening and concluded that I might have a stomach ulcer that was being aggravated by alcohol. Over the next few weeks I didn’t touch alcohol at all but my symptoms continued. I’d routinely go to sleep with my stomach burning in pain and I could feel my appetite slowly decreasing all the while the hardest semester of my college career was getting into full swing. After two weeks of this I booked an appointment with a nearby GI doctor and explained my symptoms. He promptly diagnosed it as a stomach ulcer and prescribed Pantoprazole to reduce my stomach acid so that I could heal.

I optimistically took the medication over the next month and a half but nothing improved. The pain would come and go in seemingly random waves. My stomach would feel as if it was burning from the inside, my skin felt extremely sensitive to the touch, and I began to experience bouts of nausea. At the time I was working out 5 days a week and on a cold Tuesday after class I remember walking home from a particularly hard core-focused workout and immediately feeling the pain wash over me. From that point on every time I worked out my core I would experience the burning pain. I immediately began to reduce the intensity of my workouts which helped for a little. Then I had to avoid core workouts entirely which avoided direct stress on my stomach but as the weeks went on I found myself modifying my workouts more and more. The problem with the core is that most any athletic endeavor or exercise uses it. I had to drop my weight down so that I could isolate my muscles more without the need to brace my core but in the end it wasn’t enough.

I went back to the doctor and explained things were worsening including the inability to workout. I asked about the possibility of herniation but he dismissed my concerns and informed me that the medication takes time and that I should try it for another two to three months. And so I did. At the time I was in the best shape of my life at a lean 160lbs. I was lifting far more than my bodyweight in most compound lifts, hitting PR’s regularly, and had a lot of energy as a young man. The 3 months after that second doctor’s meeting I experienced a rapid decline in all those areas. My appetite dwindled fast, even the smallest workouts would leave me in pain the rest of the day, my energy to even try to workout quickly evaporated, and my stomach became so sensitive I began to experience insomnia. Over those 3 months I lost 30 pounds and became a shell of myself at 130lbs. All the work I had done over the past four years to gain weight and muscle was wiped out.

I couldn’t quite comprehend what I was experiencing over that time period. I was watching my body whither away and my mind was in a state of panic, denial, and frustration. I would go to fraternity events and hang out with other friends but it became tiring to constantly decline alcohol. In the end I didn’t even have the energy to try to socialize and I stopped going. I quit my internship (that I had continued to work at during the school year) because I could not handle the energy required for school and work. The little energy I had went towards maintaining my grades and my relationship with my girlfriend at the time. My fear and desperation was growing but I held on to this stubborn belief that I would wake up the next day and recover and I wanted to make sure that when that recovery happened I wouldn’t have sabotaged my schooling and future. School was the priority for me and so I invested my little energy into that and by the time I was done with classes and assignments I had nothing left. My life consisted of class, homework, sleeping, and distracting myself from the new reality I found myself in.

I tried explaining what I was experiencing to my parents but it did not feel as though they understood. My mother urged me to go to the doctor again and my father gave me the sort of holistic advice such as “workout more” and “make sure to only eat good food” that I just didn’t want to hear. I had been exercising. I was eating good food. What little money I had from my internship was going to school, rent, and groceries and I was eating organic whole foods that I was cooking myself. I became resentful that all my friends around me could live such easy lifestyles with shitty diets, poor sleep habits, and drug abuse and yet they were all thriving and I was the one suffering. At the 5 month mark I went to sleep every night wondering if I was headed towards a young death. Scenarios and possibilities flashed through my mind and fear became a constant in my life. The only one who seemed to sympathize was my girlfriend at the time mostly because she saw the decline up-close every day. She watched as the guy she first met slowly began to fall apart and her standing by me during that time is one of the most important reasons I didn’t completely lose myself.

Searching for a Solution #

At the 6 month mark I had settled into school and also realized that if prioritizing school meant dying then it wasn’t worth it. I can’t fully remember the order of events but I set my mind on figuring out what was happening to me. I no longer believed it was a stomach ulcer and I realized I would need a more comprehensive medical journey to figure out what was going wrong. I began by meeting with a GP and from there I embarked down a road involving multiple doctors from GPs to GIs to Radiologists to try and figure out what was wrong. Over the next 6 months I conducted ultrasounds, CT scans, SIBO breath tests, blood tests, urine tests, an endoscopy, colonoscopy, etc. I was tested for cancers, Crohn’s, Celiac’s, and every other potential fatal disease.

With each test my hopes of finding the cause of my problems would rise and with each test the results came back negative and with each negative test my frustration and anger grew. I was in the most pain I’ve ever experienced, my old life was gone and I was barely holding on. Fatigue was a constant, pain was a constant, I couldn’t seem to retain water and I was continuously dehydrated. I had no energy and barely any strength left yet all I heard from doctors was my systems look normal and fine and that in everything they could see I was a healthy individual. I could not believe at the time how my body would be considered healthy by any serious medical system. It was even suggested to me once to explore the possibility of a psychosomatic approach to my problems but that did not bear fruit. This was not a problem of the mind.

All this happened over months as I struggled to fit in doctors visits between classes and on weekends. I ended up getting second and third opinions trying desperately to figure out what these doctors were missing. That no one could point to an obvious root cause began to drive me mad.

The War In My Mind #

7 months after that initial pain in the car my symptoms seemed to level off. I wasn’t doing well but I also wasn’t getting worse. I had reached a steady state of suffering but the relief from that was short lived: death almost became a preferable outcome to the prospect of living the rest of my life in this state and as my body seemed to pause its deterioration my mind began to crumble.

How could I possibly achieve my hopes and dreams of building a family and a business and a community when I could barely stay awake for 10 hours a day and had no energy or strength to do anything beyond sit at my computer and do some schoolwork? How could I possibly lift up my kids and be the dad I want to be when even the slightest physical exertion had me doubled over in pain? How could I ever ask a woman to sign up for a life with me in such a state? It felt as though I had stuck my head in a microwave and every second new thoughts and scenarios would pop in and out and bombard my mind with terrible ideas.

Over the course of my life I was always able to call on my body when I needed to. I was such an active kid that would constantly play outside, climb trees, go for runs and bike rides. Whether I wanted to play a sport or learn how to surf or scuba dive; whether I wanted to dance or play I could do it all. I had definitely always been more cerebral than physical but my body was always there when I wanted it and it always did what I asked of it. I was proud of my mind-body connection and I attribute a lot of my early psychological confidence to the dependability my body provided me. To watch that all disappear over the course of a couple months destroyed my mind in ways that are hard to fully appreciate.

For the first time in my life my body and health felt out of my control and with them, my destiny. My dreams felt out of reach and the future felt like a long dark corridor with no sign of light at the end of it all. I had always been someone to face things directly and one of the defining attributes I hold highly about myself is high executive functioning. I was used to staring at uncomfortable and hard work that needs to be done and doing it regardless of how I felt. I was used to changing who I was and growing when necessary. Depression in high school had made me acutely aware of my own psyche and I was comfortable with the dark corners of my mind but that was suddenly an irrelevant skill: my body was failing and no amount of mental resolve was stopping it. I slept as much as possible not just because I was tired but because being awake had little benefit. I began to resort more and more to the escapism of video games and movies. I gave up on discipline and executive functioning — it made little difference anyway — and did whatever I could to procrastinate and distract myself from reality.

These actions led to me despising myself. When I looked in the mirror the man that looked back was not myself. I felt locked in the prison of my broken body and my resentment at others grew in ways I am embarrassed to admit. Watching friends and influencers make progress in the gym made me jealous and listening to thought leaders talk about waking up early and solving all your problems by grinding harder infuriated me to no end. To have a body that can wake up at all is a blessing that is out of our control I would think to myself. Even watching other students go for a jog would cloud my mind with thoughts of how unlucky I had become. I am not religious but I spent many nights wondering why the universe was doing this to me, why God was punishing me. I would spend hours racking my memories for things I had done so wrong in my life that I deserved this outcome. In the end fatalism seemed to be the only answer: I was simply an unlucky roll of the dice in a cruel and unrelenting universe.

Literature and history is full of humans suffering in dignity but that is not how I would describe my experience. At the very least the inner turmoil in my mind stripped me of any sort of self respect or dignity. I grew impatient and hard to be around. I became increasingly quick to anger and my frustration at the doctors who couldn’t help me, the world that didn’t seem to care, and the body that yielded no clues to what was going wrong continued to mount. My life and future was falling apart around me but the rest of the world kept moving as usual. Until it didn’t.

The Year the Earth Stood Still #

COVID came to America in early 2020 and my school shut down in-person classes at the beginning of March, 8 months after my symptoms began. When the world stopped because of that virus a big part of me was relieved. The end of social activities relieved me of the burden of turning down invites and making excuses for why I wouldn’t attend yet another party or gathering. Remote classes meant I could attend school from the comfort of my home and save the energy I would have otherwise spent on commuting to class. The lack of public activities meant I could avoid the stress of trying to hide my pain and sickness from others. I was suffering just like before but now at least I didn’t feel as though the rest of the world was moving on without me.

Turns out that was a naive reaction to the pandemic as the little social interaction I did have before disappeared and I felt more isolated and alone than ever. Being stuck inside so much and doing my classes all on Zoom turned out to be terrible and the last two semesters of my schooling was a joke. I increasingly began to fight burnout from being inside staring at a computer screen so much. On top of that seeing a doctor became impossible for at least 6 months and so did chances of figuring out what my problem was. The world was in stasis and now so was I but my state was suffering.

As the world found a new normal with COVID and lockdowns I found my own normal with my condition. Those days felt like limbo. My context window of consciousness collapsed and I just lived moment to moment. Despite what the Buddhists may say it did not feel like enlightenment. I planned for no tomorrow, couldn’t remember what I’d eaten for breakfast the day before and simply drifted on. I was not in hell, just purgatory. I finished my Junior year then my first Senior semester and graduated early and joined Microsoft. I knew I was going to have the credits to graduate early and for years I had planned to take that time after graduating early to travel. Had I even been healthy enough to travel COVID made that impossible so I pushed up my start date and began working.

A little over a year and a half after my problems began the world began to open up again and I was able to make appointments with doctors again. Over the next 3 months I repeated the process of testing and waiting and testing and waiting. I became sick of explaining my symptoms and the timeline of everything to new doctors. After a period of unsuccessful doctor visits a family friend recommended a GI near me and so I met with her and we concluded that with all the tests I’d done in the past there was not much else left to explore. She ran a few tests again to rule out false negatives and tested for a few more problems but after a month of that she sat across from me and informed that she couldn’t do anything else. She’d tested for everything she could and it was still unclear what was happening to me. The best she could offer was IBS medication to potentially ease the symptoms. I don’t know why but when I heard that she could do no more to help me it changed everything.

Priority #1 #

Up to that point I had been outsourcing my health to the professionals. Between school, internships, and then my first job at Microsoft I had so much on my plate it felt like the logical choice to offload the task of researching and fixing my health to the people who specialized on that one task. Unfortunately personal health is probably the starkest example of the Principle-Agent problem which states that an agent with authority to act on a specific goal for a principle may not always have the same motivations and incentives to achieve that goal. When it comes to your health you will always have more incentive and desire to make yourself healthy than a doctor ever will and so taking your health into your own hands is always necessary, even if you consult with doctors. The most cynical interpretation of this dynamic is that doctors might even be incentivized to not make you fully healthy because they get paid the more they see you but I think this view is generally overblown (although it is very present in the American system). Regardless from that point on, my health became my own priority #1.

When I heard that the doctors were out of ideas to diagnose and help me it felt like permission to take control of the problem myself. I felt the feeling of agency I had forgotten. I realized I didn’t care if I had to leave my job or sacrifice on any number of other things in life I was going to make my health my number one priority and I was going to spend all my time and energy on fixing whatever the fuck was going wrong with my body. And so I set to work.

I could complete most of my work for Microsoft with just a couple hours of work a day and instead of going above and beyond like I had been I simply dedicated the rest of that time to fixing my health. I made it a full-time job. The first thing I learned is that my experience is not uncommon: stomach problems are on the rise in the US and its a phenomenon GI’s are aware of and actively trying to figure out. There are national conferences where every year more and more doctors are talking to each other with stories of patients experiencing symptoms just like mine with inconclusive causes. These issues seem to specifically be tied to increased allergies, with gluten being a primary culprit even in the absence of Celiac’s. It’s not clear why it’s happening but leading theories suggest high FODMAP diets leading to partial digestion of food, malabsorption of nutrients, breakdown of the gut lining, and certain food particles crossing the stomach-blood barrier and triggering an immune response.

Two separate doctors had told me confidently that gluten and other foods were not the problem and I had believed them. A colonoscopy, endoscopy, and multiple blood tests ruled out gluten as a source of my problem but at this point I was ready to try anything so I cut out all FODMAPs. Growing up with a family that cooks and having already been cooking most of my meals at that point it was easy for me to experiment with my diet like that.

I immediately noticed the difference. The first day without FODMAPs I had the best sleep I had in two years and by the second day the burning sensation had been reduced by 20%. It’s hard to explain the emotions I felt as a result of all of that. Shock, hope, dismay, and excitement filled my entire soul that week. I couldn’t believe that after suffering for so long I may have found a solution and that my problems may be near their end. I was afraid to believe but I also wanted to accelerate the process. Every day I ate this restricted diet I gradually got better: my pain began to recede, my bloating decreased, and I could feel my energy returning. With each day my stomach burned a little less and it felt as though a weight crushing me from all sides was being released. Finally I could see a light at the end of the dark tunnel. And yet there I was thirty pounds lighter than I used to be, skinny, weak, and a shell of my former self. So I set about recovering the rest of my body.

I started off with pushups in my living room and then I went for short jogs in the park a few blocks from my house. I would stop by the pull-up bars in the park and simply try as many as I could. I could barely do three. With my pushups I could barely do 10. It was scary to see my body in such a weak state although unsurprising considering the weight I’d lost and the inactivity I’d experienced over the past two years. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d had to grow strong in the gym so I was used to this sort of progression and I invited the opportunity to overcome an obstacle that I could exercise my agency over. Each day I was able to do another pushup and another pull-up and run a little further. Each day gave me a little more motivation to keep pushing and keep fighting. I was thanking God every day for the chance to overcome the challenge of physical workouts instead of the challenges I’d been overcoming the past two years. Unfortunately I quickly ran into the limitations of my new diet: I wasn’t getting enough calories. Funny thing about cutting out many foods is that you end up with not a lot of things to eat. And I was not eating enough.

Now that I had a better idea of what to eat I needed to figure out how to eat that in sufficient quantities. My progress and improvement seemed to plateau as I struggled to get enough calories day to day. The psychological strain on me at that time during that plateau was unbearable. What if I slipped back into the pain I had just endured for two years? What if this was just a temporary respite? Maybe my diet wasn’t the issue? Was this recovery just a random coincidence with my diet change? My pain was at around 50% it’s original intensity at that point and the thought of slipping back kept me up at night.

I didn’t end up slipping back into pain and I continued to improve but the pain lingered for longer and my improvement slowed after that first month. Even today I am only about 60-70% of where I once was and I still sometimes experience occasional burning in my stomach.

Burning Out and Working With Pain #

When I graduated in the middle of COVID I pushed my start date up and immediately began working at Microsoft. I couldn’t travel like I had originally planned and I was too weak and sick to do anything materially enjoyable at home so I figured I might as well start earning money. That ended up being a poor decision in retrospect.

In another attempt to escape my new reality I threw myself into work with no break after school. I plunged headfirst into the job and did everything I could to learn and grow. I taught myself as many new skills as I could around infrastructure, DevOps, feature development, and anything else that was thrown my way — and a lot was thrown my way. I worked long hours and I did learn a lot and grow as an engineer but it was all just a distraction from the daily pain I was experiencing. Eventually it wasn’t even a good escape.

It was an incredibly dysfunctional job with too much red tape and no reward for individual achievement and after 12 months of grinding without any healthy outlets like exercise or friendships I burnt myself out. My struggles over the previous two years and the bleakness of my future caught up to me. I was beaten down and exhausted. I trundled along for another 6 months before quitting and getting another job at Census.

This time I took a month off before starting my new role and traveled to Israel to relax and decompress. It was a great reset and when I got back I made it an explicit point to start a lot slower at Census. I was already improving quite well when I joined and I made sure to take advantage of my newfound health to live a more rounded life. At 5pm my laptop was closed and I focused on my wellbeing: cooking, going to the gym, going on runs or long walks, meeting friends, etc. This enforcement of boundaries between work and the rest of my life actually let me relax and improve much more efficiently and happily during the time I was working and it’s part of the reason my skills grew so rapidly early on at Census.

As my responsibilities grew at Census, however, I became more invested and my tasks became less clearly defined. I relished at the chance to take on bigger problems but working at the higher levels of abstraction also meant it was much harder for me to gauge how long a given task would take and suddenly I found myself working longer and longer. I would think to myself just one more hour and I’ll have this working but three hours later I would be down an even deeper rabbit hole. When I would finally close the computer it was already late in the evening and I hadn’t eaten dinner or worked out. I wasn’t taking care of my base needs and that led to losing weight and stress and early signs of burnout.

I’ve since tried to pare down how much time I’m spending in front of the screen but that hasn’t really worked. Anyone who’s experienced burnout knows that just reducing load doesn’t always fix the problem once your mind is conditioned to feel stress and frustration on your daily tasks. It feels like all the accumulated burnout from COVID, school, and Microsoft are returning and I’m constantly trying my best to keep it at bay but even taking time off doesn’t work. It’s extremely frustrating because to be successful like I want to be sometimes you have to grind, especially when you’re young and learning. I am not a perfectly efficient engineer and the only way to learn the things I need to learn is to grind but I cannot grind because if I neglect my base needs even for a day or two then I lose energy, I get brain fog, my sleep suffers, and I burnout. This is my constant struggle.

Moving Forward #

If we fast forward to today — around a year and a half after my recovery began — I’ve been able to reintroduce most foods except gluten and I’ve regained 15 pounds of my old muscle. I’m feeling much better and I couldn’t be more grateful and happy for my second lease on life and everything I’ve learned from the experience around nutrition and health but I’d be lying if I said things were perfect. I’m still underweight — ideally I’d be at 155lbs instead of the 143lbs I’m at now — and I still suffer from anxiety and stress around the whole incident. I still don’t know what actually caused this problem and it’s hard to shake the feeling that at any day I can wake up and lose the ability to eat a whole new food group and I’m already down dairy and gluten. My pickings are becoming increasingly slim and the consequences on my life are not trivial. Eating out is a constant problem and I never cease to feel like a burden to friends when picking restaurants. The corollary is I need to cook most of my meals which means a large majority of my free time is spent cooking food, cleaning dishes, cooking more, cleaning more, cooking more, cleaning more. Over and over and over and over. Meal prep and a dishwasher has made that part of my life more bearable but it’s a literal constant drag on productivity.

Activities that used to be fun escapes like going for a day trip to the beach or a two day hike now inspire anxiety around getting enough calories. The odds I’ll find enough food to sustain me for such trips is low which means either I eat something I am allergic to and suffer for it or I get hungry in the afternoon and become a cranky person that is not fun to be around. I’m constantly trying to bring meal prepped food but even that’s not easy because I can’t just whip up a quick high-calorie sandwich or something equally portable because I cannot eat bread.

I’ve learned how to expand my diet within the constraints I have but I still do not consistently get enough calories. I am almost always running at a near caloric deficit and that can be tiring in ways that are hard to describe. It’s common for me to lose up to 5 pounds when traveling or on vacation for a week because I simply do not have my kitchen and groceries to implement my normal system of food. It still feels like I’m constantly playing catch-up and I have very little margin to let loose and live my life like I’d want to. I spend not just too much time but also cognitive energy making sure my body gets the fuel it needs to survive. Just to avoid the hell I experienced two years ago.

The psychological scars of the experience are still very fresh in my mind and I think that’s going to be the last part of this whole ordeal that stays with me. I used to have an undying confidence in myself and a self esteem that let me attack the challenges of life but that’s mostly gone now. I have anxiety and bouts of fear and self-doubt frequently. My body sometimes looks alien to me and I find it much harder to take pride in myself and how I look. I don’t trust my body to not fall apart on me when I need it most which makes me less willing to take risks or seize opportunities. Maybe this is just a signature of growing older but I no longer trust nature to spare me and I feel that I can die at any moment. I feel fragile in so many ways whereas in the past I always prided myself in being more resilient than my environment ever demanded. Now I am constantly facing feelings of inadequacy in the face of life’s challenges but even worse, life’s opportunities.

In October I will be moving away from my home in the northeast to go live and work in San Francisco. It has been a dream of mine to move west to Silicon Valley since I was young but now all I can think about is how I can build a routine to get the groceries I need and the tools to cook them and the time to make it all happen consistently. Even getting to this point where I feel I have the ability to move across the country to a new environment without falling apart is a huge step for me psychologically. I feel ashamed to tell people it’s taken me so long to move because I’m worried about getting enough food. The blank stares on their faces always scream: this is America isn’t it? We have food here too. But it’s never so simple. I will have to build a whole new routine around getting high quality groceries and becoming acquainted with a kitchen and rhythm of daily life to make the food I need to eat consistently. Even a single day with less calories than I’m used to can mean dropping weight and feeling fatigued the next day.

There’s not much of a moral to this whole story it’s simply time I wrote it all down and there’s still so much I left out. I have discovered so much about nutrition and my body. I have become increasingly prone to burnout and frustration. I have become disillusioned with the American medical system. I have spent two years staring into the abyss and I do not know how to capture all that in writing just yet. I have dreams of building my own company and achieving great things but now all those dreams come with this challenge attached. I still think it’s possible to achieve what I want and I still stubbornly believe it’s possible to regain all my former strength and resilience. Perhaps I will write another post more focused on the technicals of what I’ve discovered around nutrition but the high level of it all is this seems to be an autoimmune problem. If there’s any part of the body that resembles software and is programmable it’s probably the immune system and so I have hope. If my immune system can flip a switch and become allergic to these food groups out of nowhere then surely I can find a way to flip that switch back off and that is something I will do even if it takes me years.

Hell, maybe I’ll even make this mission a business. It would certainly be nice to work on this full-time and I increasingly speak to people who are suffering from similar issues and would love a solution. I was blessed to be raised by parents who cooked almost every night and understand the value of good healthy food so when the time came I 1) made the connection between my problems and my diet and 2) had the tools to cook for myself to solve my problems. I’m constantly amazed by how many people suffer from so many issues and never realize that if they stopped stuffing their face with every variety of garbage many of their symptoms would be alleviated. Otherwise intelligent people continually fail to see the connection between what they put in their bodies and how they feel both physically and mentally. In America there seems to be a prevailing view that our minds are abstract separate entities when in reality our minds are the results of physical cells just like every other part of our body. We talk about the mind versus the body but these are systems that are intertwined and what you eat can most certainly affect how you think. Of course, my knowledge is admittedly far from complete in this domain and without any formal credentials I do not know how I would build a sustainable business for this just yet or what that business model would even look like. The hardest challenge for these things is most people simply aren’t willing to help themselves. Anything short of a pill that can be prescribed is most likely doomed to fail due to lack of adherence. Most people aren’t willing to sacrifice half of what I have had to sacrifice just to recover to this point and I will need to sacrifice even more if I want to get to where I want to be.

So for now I will focus on myself. With the food I can eat I will regain my weight and strength. This time in addition to just strength I will focus on mobility and balance as well. I will focus on rebuilding my gut and reprogramming my immune system and flipping whatever switches need to be flipped to make my body behave normally again. As I prepare to move to a whole new environment with new challenges and opportunities I am excited for what is to come. I will build an iron body with more strength and resilience than I’ve ever had and with that body I will seize the opportunities life throws my way.