Toxin Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT)


I first learned about Toxin Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) from Dr John Cline, Matthew’s Functional Medicine Doctor.

TILT made sense because it describes a tipping point: how toxins accumulate in our bodies until our tolerance is compromised and we tip from an equilibrium of health into an equilibrium of illness.

As Dr Cline explains, “when our bodies accumulate enough toxins, often in combination with stressful life events, a tilt occurs, and our health then deteriorates rapidly in many ways”.

The idea behind TILT is that many chronic illnesses, as well as environmental sensitivities, originate in an accumulation of toxins in our bodies over time. At some point in this accumulation, susceptible individuals tip over into poor health. Continue reading

Being an Advocate

Being an advocate this oneAs a caregiver, you may need to advocate on behalf of a loved-one in the medical system.

In a crisis situation, when someone you care about can’t speak for themselves, advocacy is straightforward: they need medical attention and you make sure they get it.

But the role of advocate is more complex when the person you care about has some ability to speak for themselves. Especially if their capacity changes from day to day.

In this case, an advocate needs to adapt their approach as the ability of the patient evolves.


My husband Matthew has often needed medical advocacy in the last eight years. And my role as his advocate has caused friction in our relationship.

In fact, my role as advocate has been one of our primary sources of conflict during this time.

You’d think it would be simple:

  1. He needs help;
  2. I provide it;
  3. He’s grateful for my assistance.


But real-life people in real-life health crises are much more complex than that. Continue reading

The Shadow Side of Caregiving

This is the fourth in a series of posts:

  • The first discusses ways that caregivers can support a loved-one as they embark on a healing protocol;
  • The second considers self-care for caregivers, including dealing with powerful emotions; and
  • The third addresses sustainability, by investigating how caregivers can address their own needs.
  • This post examines the shadow side of caregiving.
  • The fifth explores how to be an advocate.


The Shadow

Carl Jung referred to the rejected and hidden part of the self as ‘the shadow’.

The shadow self is unknown. Inherently. When it’s existence is also denied, it can cause serious problems.

“Everyone carries a shadow,” wrote Jung, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.

According to Jungian psychology, we try protect ourselves by denying the existence of our shadow self. Usually this results in projecting the contents of our shadow onto others. Anytime we blame someone rather than taking responsibility, or judge others rather than working to improve ourselves, chances are good that the shadow is at play.

We each have a shadow, and entire societies also have a collective shadow.

When ignored, this shadow creates tremendous pressure.

It needs to be expressed.

If we don’t take charge of it’s expression, it will find it’s own way. And is likely to do harm in the process.

A Current Example

Continue reading

Sustainable Caregiving: your needs matter too!

Sustainable caregivingCompassion and exhaustion.

Anguish and anger.

Constant worry. Trying not to let it show.

Caring for a chronically-ill loved-one is difficult and demanding.

And most of us don’t have mentors to help us to figure out how to do it sustainably.

As a result, most caregivers end up relegating their own needs to the bottom of a too-long list.

Because the needs of a healthy person don’t rate compared with what’s happening for someone who’s chronically ill. Right?

Your needs as a caregiver

Any needs, if repressed for too long, find ways to express themselves.

When they finally bust out, they can do damage to relationships. Continue reading

12 Tips for Caregivers: supporting your (reluctant) loved-one to start a healing protocol

Your (reluctant) Loved-one

Some people are motivated to begin a healing protocol on their own.

Some are well enough. Can think clearly. Make plans. Set goals.

But others require help to get there.

If someone you love has a chronic health condition, and you think that a healing protocol could help, you probably feel some urgency. You want them to get started. Already.

But what if they’re not ready?

Or worse, what if they’re hostile to the idea?

If you push too hard, they’ll resist.

I know from experience!

How to support your (reluctant) loved one to start a healing protocol

After years in the role of caregiver, here are my 12 strategies: Continue reading

Mind Tricks for Pain & Illness

Mind Tricks for Chronic Pain & IllnessIn the past 9 years I’ve been observing a person who became almost completely disabled by disease.

And in the past 2 years I’ve been watching as he’s been slowly recovering.

I’ve noticed how he has handled chronic pain, loss of mobility, severe nausea and the catastrophic up-ending of everything he thought he knew about life.

And I’ve been impressed.

I don’t know how many of us could have handled what he has been handed with as much grace.

Not that he’s been gracious every minute of every day. He’s been profoundly depressed. And really angry about his situation. At times.

But on the whole, Matthew has maintained a profound equilibrium.

How has he done it?

Well, I’ve been watching, and I’ve figured out that this exceptional ability to roll with the challenges of multiple chronic health conditions is the result of mindset.

So, I thought I’d ask him to tell us about it.

Mindset for Living with Pain & Illness

Continue reading

3 steps for Hacking Sexuality

Getting your sexual self sortedBefore Matthew became disabled by autoimmune disease, we had a lot of really good sex.

In fact, when we first got together, a bunch of our friends broke up because they could tell (we weren’t saying anything, they could just tell) that we were having better sex than they were ever going to have together.

But then Matthew got sick.

Really, really sick.

And what had been a source of strength in our relationship became a real problem.

A real problem in a big monster pile of really-real problems.

It took years. And a devastating amount of vulnerability, maturity and compassion, but we figured out how to put our sexual selves back in the centre of our marriage.

Your Own Personal Sexual Revolution

Continue reading

25 minutes to Create a Transformation

petra8paleo tools 2When you have your life completely upended by chronic illness, you get to really think about your life.

Why you’re here.

What it’s all for.

And what you want to do with all the good days that are left.

When Matthew committed to the Healing Protocol lifestyle 2 years ago, he hadn’t had a good day in months.

Now, most of his days are good.

Which means he can do stuff. Take care of himself. And even begin to consider the future.

We created this survey to gather your feedback for a project we are developing.

It’s a project designed to support people in finding their own best strategies for reversing chronic illness and finding peak experience.

We want to devote ourselves to this~

Because we know this practice is hard.

And we also know it works.

In a recent interview with the Paleo PI, Matthew said that now “I can reliably care for my needs, for my family and participate more fully in many aspects of life.”

Which may not sound amazing.

But for someone who was almost completely disabled by chronic health issues and side-effects from medications, it’s pretty much a miracle.

Participating more fully in life has involved thinking about the future.

The Future of Health

Our future is clear: Matthew & I want to meaningfully support people who are suffering in finding their personalized path back to health.

We are committed to the growing community of people who are individually and collectively working toward this goal. And we are working on developing some resources to help with that.

We’d love your help!

We’ve set up an anonymous survey to collect information that will help us to develop tools that (we hope) will be truly useful to people who want to improve their well-being.

We would really appreciate your feedback!

Just 25 minutes to help us create a transformation~.

Find the survey here.

Petra & Matthew 2 cropped

Chronic Illness as Initiation

ShamanOne of the things I inquired into when doing graduate work in organizational studies was an idea I had that shamans were the original consultants.

That might sound dippy, but stick with me for a moment.

Back before we had consultants to assist with organizational health and professional development and systems thinking and such, back when we lived in interdependent small communities inside the cycle of nature, humans (on all continents) relied on shamans for advice.

Research tells us that shamans were ubiquitous in human societies before we got into this thing called civilization, and shamanism remains in societies that still live in traditional ways.

There are aspects of shamanism that are universal. Many shamanic practices are culturally unique, others are found in virtually all societies on all continents. These practices are just part of the phenomenon of shamanism.

One of these universal themes is the wounded healer archetype, in which an initiate (usually an unwilling one, because who would voluntarily sign up for the ordeal?) experiences illness so severe that he or she is transformed. The illness is described in some cases as being akin to dismemberment, or even to include dismemberment in the spiritual realm. Through this affliction, the initiate confronts death and passes through death into the spirit world. The new shaman then returns to the community, perhaps after an extended ordeal, with the ability to heal and thereafter retains the ability to communicate with the spirit world.

I’m not saying I’m married to a shaman.

But maybe he’s having the kind of experience that is prerequisite for that capacity.

I have watched precisely that type of initiatory illness, that devastating, transformative archetype, playing out in our home over the past 5 years. I have experienced (with a bit of awe, sometimes) the wisdom that Matthew has earned through it.

Believe me, he’s not exalted & wise all the time. A lot of the time he’s just suffering and having very human reactions to that suffering.

But there are times when I feel like he’s become centuries, or millennia, older than me, rather than just the 3 years on our birth certificates. It has occurred to me that if he manages to heal, even partially, that he, and others like him, will have a lot to offer those of us who have not been initiated through suffering.

I feel this quality in some of the autoimmune bloggers who have already found their healing path, like Eileen Laird at Phoenix Helix. Her response to finding healing from arthritis through the Autoimmune Protocol has been to assist others to heal. Before her illness she may not have expected to become an important source of wisdom and healing information for so many people.

Chronic illness may feel senseless, and it may be senseless. But maybe we also need people with the wisdom it brings.


Loving someone with a chronic illness

When Matthew’s health first got really bad I went to the internet to try to find out how people cope when their lives are devastated by chronic illness.

I found online support groups for younger people living with arthritis and by reading those posts I came to understand more about what it was like to live with a painful, potentially degenerative disease.

I also learned that there were people who were much worse off than my man, people who had lost most of their mobility and could no longer care for themselves in even basic ways. People who were younger than him.

Truly, you never think it’s going to happen to you, or to someone you love.

One thing I noticed in those posts was that there seemed to be only 2 categories for people’s partners. They were:

  1. Saints who did everything that needed to be done and never once complained; or
  2. Jerks who left.

Even then I knew I wasn’t either of those things.

Anyone can pull off a short-term sainthood. 

When your partner gets pneumonia or breaks a leg or completes a successful cancer treatment.

But when your partner is more or less debilitated for years and you are left doing everything? Every single trip to the grocery store. Every time the bills need to be paid. The lightbulbs need changing. The kids need clean socks. Or are hungry. Including when you’re sick. And have had the crappiest workday in all of creation.

The reality is that until we figured out (slowly, by trial & error & radical upheaval) how to live, I felt mostly harassed and cheated, and I’m pretty sure it showed.

So I know for a fact that on the continuum between the saints and jerks are the harassed. And those that are feeling sorry for themselves.

And the desperately worried.

And the devastated.


Over the past 5 years, I’ve thought a lot about what chronic illness does to relationships.

I’m now very aware that debilitating illnesses happen in real-life, including in real-life marriages. Loving marriages, cheating marriages, bored marriages, passionate marriages, miserable marriages and variable marriages.

Matthew and I happened to have the intensely loving & passionate variety, and I can tell you that if it can almost destroy ours then I don’t know how the other kinds survive at all.

SaintsSimone_Martini_-_St_Catherine_and_St_Lucy_-1320 25

Of course, it’s not just the partner who is required to be saintly.

The person with the chronic illness is expected to find ways to ‘manage’ their condition, and the expectation is that they will do it with a minimum of fuss and a great deal of quiet courage.

Not only are people supposed to manage their illness in an unobtrusively heroic way, everyone gets bored of hearing about their pain.

If not bored then uncomfortable.

Or skeptical.

Ultimately, no one particularly wants to hear about it.

(But you can be sure they will suggest a random remedy that will solve the problem: Marijuana! Lasers! Castor oil!)

Real-lifePetra & Matthew

So. Two ordinary people in a real-life marriage. Under tremendous stress. For years. Maybe forever. One of them in constant pain. Both required to begin their non-optional non-stop intensive training for sainthood.

If the relationship is going to survive.

Both will fail their sainthood exams on a regular basis.

While other people alternately forget, or expect that they will carry on as usual.

That’s the deal.

Maybe this is the post I hoped I’d find when I first started to try to figure out how to cope.