This is not a success story. This is not a recovery story. This is a story of survival. A trip to hell and back that I wouldn’t even wish on an enemy. At the same time this is a story of transformation, spiritual maturity and perseverance.
It’s as if it all happened overnight. What seemed like a lightning strike from a blue sky, my life as I knew it had changed forever. My mother’s deeply ingrained childhood notion that I was born under the lucky star is about to get the biggest test of a lifetime – something is seriously wrong and for the first time in my life – I have no idea what it is because it does not fit any description in my doctor’s textbook. “Must be your nerves,” she says as she writes a prescription for Xanax… “sleep it off.”
Stunned, baffled but still hopeful I returned home in hopes this is just a short stroke of bad luck. After all, having moved back from California, my wife and I are on our longest vacation ever. There is no stress, no worries, no routines. We had some savings and decided to take a couple of years off to raise our daughter and enjoy our home country. We were away for thirteen years. This was the time to really live. So immediately I knew it couldn’t have been my “nerves,” it had to be something else. As a couple of torturous nights turned into a week I knew something was very seriously wrong.
The Crisis Years Start
The next three years tested my mind and body more vigorously than the worst army camp one can imagine. It wasn’t just a simple insomnia – I was burning and freezing from inside all at the same time and I felt like I was about to lose my mind or consciousness. My quiet life had swiftly spiraled into a dark and mysterious dungeon of neurosis and despair. Without realizing it yet, I just started the biggest, excruciating experiment of my life – to fix my sleep.
Friends and family, while supportive were just as baffled and offered what seemed to be a well meaning but maddening advice: drink some vodka, have more sex, exercise more, have some milk, don’t stress and everything else that our communal wisdom could find in our folklore. Meanwhile, my symptoms were stacking faster than I could grasp the flow of events inside my body: food sensitivities, paradoxical reactions to supplements, bladder issues, digestion issues, various pain, neurological issues, brain fog, tinnitus, emotional issues, inability to cope with any amounts of stress and monstrous fatigue. To say I was a huge mess is an understatement.
After visiting a few doctors they all sent me straight to a neurologist, who said I was “fine” and sent me straight to a psychiatrist, who was very quick to dispense her diagnosis – “depression and nervous exhaustion.”
I actually bought the damn anti-depressants that day but on my way home I heard that little voice of reason, the little shaman in me said – “You know they are all wrong… Listen to your heart, listen to your body… this is not depression. Keep looking…” Up to today I’m grateful that I listened to that voice because not only saved me from antidepressants it led me through my entire journey towards the path of gradual recovery years later. This was not some fight against disease (there was no strength for that) but it wasn’t some passive waiting either. I would describe it as a persistent path of discovery that would unveil not only the structure of the human body but deepest valleys of the psyche.
Hundreds of directions, a swirl of theories and ever dwindling resources. Confusion and fear reigns the day (see my entire symptom list here). A prelude to one of the biggest traumas of my life has begun.
First Signs Started Years Earlier
I had no major surgeries or health concerns till about age 34 (except for injury related TMJ. Two annoying symptoms worth mentioning was teeth grinding (let the grind begin!) which developed when I was about 24 and working a stressful job (but also coincided with my first set of amalgam fillings) and high glycemic foods sensitivity.
Age 34 I had an H Pylori infection and gastritis. Took care of H pylori with natural supplements but gastritis pain lingered. It was diagnosed as as irritation of gastrointestinal tract due to bile back-flow (should have had my first clue here).
At age 35 I had an acute appendix inflammation which ended up in appendectomy (another clue). Same year started developing a chronic lower back pain which could not be easily relieved by exercise (yet another clue). I kept experiencing longer and longer periods of wired but tired feeling, needing less sleep (thought this was cool at the time) but was not yet alarmed as these symptoms would come and go. At the time I merely related my health woes to higher stress levels.
At the same time I was slowly drifting into a disillusionment with my life in USA, emotional detachment, losing my joy, vigor, and overall drive at which point I felt a strong pull to move back to my home country. Later I realized that my subconscious was already sending a message that a serious shit storm is coming and you better seek shelter and anchor down. So we sold most of our possessions and moved back to Lithuania in December 2012 where the “party” really started.
Onset of Insomnia
Weeks passed but I could not get in tune with the local time zone. Then things began slowly with light and interrupted sleep that kept on without any brakes. I would be very restless at night and it felt as if I couldn’t even reach the “first cloud.” Due to this very superficial sleep I started waking up tired and depressed.
A serious onset of severe insomnia and a multitude of other symptoms happened six months later – June 2013. This is the moment I described previously where the world had crashed on me with full weight.
It was just another week. After a few days out in the country, lots of work, lots of wine and little sleep I suddenly felt very hot and tense. Already during day time I felt like my engine was overheated but I was wired – didn’t even think about rest – it was all go go go… That is until the night came – this is where the “crap really hit the fan”. I could not fall asleep and was experiencing heat flashes, sweating, heart palpitation, some sort of spasms (intestinal area) that run from abdomen down the legs. It felt as if my system could not go into rest mode, there was a ball of tension and heat in my stomach, I was very wired and extremely tired. As days wore on this persisted and I also noticed I could not sleep at all on the left side as I would wake up with my heart racing and usually from some wild, disturbing dreams.
The Self Diagnosis and Testing Mess Starts
Naturally, my first instinct was to visit my family doctor but somehow I already knew this was a pointless exercise as I couldn’t even properly describe how I felt. “Oh hey Doc, so I’m burning, sleeping one hour at night, freaking out, my heart seems like its going to jump out out my throat, my brain feels swollen, peeing eight times a night, stomach churning, legs can hardly walk, eyes hurt, I am angry, tearful, exhausted and lost.”
She did what any decent doctor would do – sent me on to do a bunch of expensive tests. Little did I know that my frustration about 100 Euros was just a start of a long, protracted financial drain that would end up costing me tens of thousands of dollars.
Various blood work like liver function, pancreas and thyroid was showing up as normal. The only test that was a bit off was liver which showed an elevated levels A-amalyse. As far as doctors were concerned I had a clean bill of health!
A year later I was at a state of physical and mental collapse. So I went to major hospital and told them to hit me with very broad spectrum of tests to check for viruses, infections, parasites, thyroid, adrenal function, etc. Once again all tests came back without any clues. One showed I had previously contracted Lyme’s and H-Pylori but both infections were “no longer active”. I knew I had H Pylori but Lyme’s? That was a surprise as I never had any symptoms.
Lyme’s syndrome was one of my biggest suspects because back in California I did get a tick bite which developed into a large rash spot. At that time I was given one shot of antibiotics and never felt anything wrong afterwards.
A year later I had an Organic Acids Test done. What it revealed was very high oxalate metabolite count, some irregular Krebs Cycle metabolites, imbalance in neurotransmitters, low vitamin B6 as well as C, and some other markers. A functional medicine practitioner in UK interpreted this as leaky gut and changed my diet to see whether it would help. It didn’t.
Traditional, Chinese, Holistic Medicine:
My first source of help were a few people that knew something about Ayurveda. Diagnosis – “Vata disorder.” So I took anything warming (ginger, cinnamon) to calm the “wind” but it made things so much worse – I was burning from inside and could not sleep at all. I was starving at night (as the warming herbs would kick up the metabolism. I wasn’t sleeping anyways so I ate toasted cheese sandwiches, drank milk (another Ayurveda advice) but this caused even more gastro discomfort. This is when it first dawned on me – certain foods are problem.
Besides the initial misdiagnosis of a vata issue some other remedies like an oil massage, hot oil pad treatment and various herbs and teas were somewhat helpful in easing some symptoms.
First acupuncturist was able to relieve some of those evening chills but only temporary. Second Korean acupuncture specialist thought he knew what he was dealing with but heck knows what pattern he established and three weeks of sessions gave zero results. Another highly praised acupuncturist had left me sleepless for several days. He too was dumbfounded as to what could have happened.
Shiatzu and Thai massage
Shiatzu massage was somewhat helpful for a stressed and tight body but did nothing for insomnia. Thai massage coincided with massive episode of insomnia so I’m not sure what happened, perhaps some sort of a mast cell activation.
Treatment included enriching blood, calm lung, proping up digestion, enriching kidney jing but nothing helped. A famous Tibetan medicine Dr. Nida diagnosed me with the “la” problem but he mentioned it was very complicated to treat and the local apprentice didn’t have the time to work with me. He advised me to make two silver rings and wear them to prevent “energy leaks”. That was as effective as pissing against a hurricane. A couple of years later I learned what this “la” concept really is – it is known as “soul loss.”
Dang, what a waste of time and money this was! She thought I was experiencing an allergic reactions to food, prescribed various homeopathic formulas which once again led me nowhere.
Local voodoo doctor
This guy was a “trip”. He became absolutely convinced that I was cursed by by my wife’s “jealous girlfriend in California” who competed for my attention. Then he diagnosed me with energy leaks in the kidney area and weak liver.
Various fasting, cleansing and diet experiments
Exhausting and made everything much worse. These included coffee enemas, liver and gallbladder cleanses, water fasting, vegan diet, paleo diet, high sulfur diet, low sulfur diet, etc.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Some herbal formulas were by far one of the most useful methods to manage some symptoms but I had to experiment and tweak things which taught me a lot. Any other protocol by a TCM practitioner really backfired and some practitioners were just plain ignorant and led me towards copper detox (Dr. Wilsons protocol), which involved high sulfur supplements (made me suicidal) and really mismatched herbs that caused a ton of grief. Most of these “healers” abandoned me in the height of their created crisis.
All the Diseases That I Thought I Had But Didn’t
My symptoms were so all over the board they fit a great deal of most exotic diseases. As months wore on I diagnosed and attempted treating myself for a plethora of dysfunctions. I mean, at that time I was almost convinced that this is what I had and pursued them for months if not years!
These include: massive adrenal fatigue (could write a whole book about this mess), methylation issues, toxic liver, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, SIBO, leaky gut, parasites, Lyme’s, H-pylori, dysautonomia, pyroluria, copper toxicity syndrome, blood acidity, toxic mold, histamine intolerance, candida, dysbiosis, vaccine damage, chronic fatigue, sulfur intolerance, high ammonia, and hundreds of experiments with various supplements and protocols.
Here’s the craziest part: with time I realized I have high histamine issues (stimulating at night), glutamate sensitivity (again stimulating), gut dysbiosis, methylation issues, food sensitivities, ammonia sensitivity, and thiol intolerance. Now try and eat anything… This is insane!
Supplements Tried Over the Years
I’ve tried a large amount of supplements and protocols. Like I said, my body is very reactive. Most of the supplements made me feel worse and some caused total crashes. I learned a lot. I detail many of my experiences in the this blog and my Youtube channel.
This list is just to give you an idea but is not exhaustive by any means:
Vitamins: A, various B (especially Panthotenic Acid and Panthetine, P5P, B6, B12), various forms of C, D3, E, K. Minerals: magnesium, calcium, zinc, boron and complexes. Herbs: passion flower, 5-HTP, valerian, gingko biloba, skullcap, silymarin (milk thistle), artichoke extract, tumeric, alow vera, hawthorn, licorice, lecithin, motherwort, swedish bitters, Ayurveda… Amino acids: L-Tryptophan, L-Glutamine, L-Theanine, L-Methionine, L-Argenine, GABA, L-Taurine, L-Glycine…. Others: Melatonin, NAC, NAG, Inositol, Quercetin, Phosphatidylserine, Fish oil, Alpha Lipoic Acid, silica, probiotics, digestive enzymes (GB3 and others), metabolic formulas like SBF Formula, adrenal glandular and quite a few TCM formulas and herbs (follow link for detailed list).
During the biggest sleep crises I took AMBIEN/STILNOX and some benzos. Sometimes taking an anti histamine helps me to cool off and sleep better.
Emotional and Spiritual Crisis of Highest Order
Why me? Why now? Where did this come from? Why it’s only getting worse? Emotionally this was absolutely draining, exhausting… Worst part was not knowing what the heck is going on: no direction, no answers and NO HOPE. I felt I was broken and done for. My life was over. I had no way out of it.
I didn’t want to see my friends, extended family and see them party, drink beer, eat grilled meat, anything they touched was poison for me that could up the level of my insomnia level from nightmare to hell. Any trips or vacations seemed like an insurmountable task ridden with neurosis and anxiety of being in the sun, in the wind, in the cold, not having anything to eat that I could tolerate, not having enough energy even for a short walk.
I could not wait for the day to be over but was so terrified of the night that the only safe place was to retreat inside of my pain and suffering.
How I Discovered I am Dealing With Mercury Toxicity
Internet is buzzing with keywords like epigenetics (gene studies) and methylation issues these days. There was only one thing left to do – a genetic test. General info was boring (yes, I’m European, alright) but it provided a raw data file which hosts a ton of useful info if you know where to plug it.
Things that came up were various gene variations (aka mutations) like CBS, MTHFR, COMT and a few others that kept pointing towards one crucial clue – impaired detoxification pathways. In short, it showed that I am one of those ‘slow detoxers’ and can be prone to storing toxins like heavy metals, etc.
For example MTHR gene mutation can aggravate the methylation process, while CBS gene mutation can make one sensitive to foods and beverages that contain sulfur; lead to decreased glutathione levels and will further contribute to a loss in the so called methyl groups, which are crucial for proper detox.
Add on top a COMT gene mutation and your body is not properly degrading stimulatory compounds such as dopamine and adrenaline and lets them accumulate in the nervous system. This can cause anxiety, insomnia, migraines, and irritability.
There was only one thing left to do – figure out where the toxicity was coming from. Biggest suspect was too obvious – my amalgam fillings. So I rushed and bought a book called “It’s All in Your Head: The Link Between Mercury Amalgams and Illness“, which described my symptoms perfectly. It finally hammered the final nail into suspecting heavy metals – IT’S ALL BLOODY MERCURY!
Road to Recovery Starts
Once I finally put the dots together my road out of hell could finally start. Years of failed diagnosis made me hungry for some type of proof so I found a clinic where a professor was willing to do some testing. To my dismay they did a very limited hair and urine test which showed absolutely nothing. This didn’t discourage me because I was aware that “non-excreters” do not show obvious signs on tests – we store those metals and never let them go!
I could have done another hair test by sending a sample to USA but I wasn’t going to wait to remove those damn amalgam fillings so this is exactly what I did. I immediately scheduled an appointment with a local dentist who was willing to follow a SMART amalgam removal protocol and had it done in a course of three weeks. A strange feeling of lightness was felt almost immediately. But this was just a feeble start towards a long, exhausting recovery ridden with roller coaster rides through more hell.
The Sheer Complexity of the Problem
At this point my body was so messed up and ridden by a host of issues where one symptom treatment makes another symptom much worse. For example, to increase bile flow one needs bitters, but bitters cause me chills which makes me unable to sleep. Tried things like dandelion, bupleurum, milk thistle and all cause uncomfortable side-effects like increased fatigue or brain fog. Gut health requires glutamate rich foods like bone broths, fermented foods and probiotics but they only feed bad bacteria, increase histamine and makes me too stimulated to sleep. When one loses sleep one damages microbiota even further!
It gets even worse. Researchers see that circadian rhythm disruption induced by insomnia causes imbalances in the gut microbiome which compromises the integrity of the gut barrier contributing to the so-called leaky gut.
At this juncture one accumulates toxins even faster and now there is an added toxicity in a form of toxic metabolites that put further burden on your liver. For example, leaky gut usually comes hand-in-hand with dysbiosis and intestinal inflammation which can further promote endotoxins penetrating into one’s blood circulation and causing systemic inflammation which migrates into your entire body.
Various studies show that endotoxin related inflammation has a negative effect on detoxification pathways like liver (impaired phases, reduced glutathione production and reduced bile flow) and kidneys. Heavy metals become stuck in circulation, and redistribute back into organ tissues, including the brain, nervous system, thyroid where they cause further inflammation and damage.
What if your gut health is so compromised that it makes it nearly impossible to detox mercury? One could find oneself dealing with issues so far down the chain reaction that the hole thing becomes almost like self sustaining loop. A deep pit without a ladder.
As the body gets completely overwhelmed, this is where things quickly spiral out of control very fast. Can you even imagine what it would take to detox in this situation? Do you think your local family doctor might have a slightest grasp of the complexity of this situation? It’s such a cluster$@ck to navigate, it is maddening even for the Einstein types!
Take this type of situation, now add massive insomnia on top of this and you are ready to either start taking anti-psychotics or jump off the Golden Gate bridge. And many do!!!
My Detox Path
Initially, I had chosen a detox direction that felt the safest to me – Dr. Andrew Cutler’s mercury chelation protocol (ACC). It entails the use of synthetic chelators like DMSA, DMPS and also Alpha Lipic Acid, supported by various supplements and regiment. Later I switched to OSR/NBMI which I find to be much more gentle. I’ve been chelating mercury for almost four years and I feel like I’m only half way into it. The improvements are well worth it. Sleep has been recovering nicely, getting more and more energy, head is more clear, mood is better and there’s an increasing sense of overall wellness.
UPDATE: It is now May 2023 and my sleep has recovered to the point where I am able to sleep through the night if I’m not experimenting with other things related to my heavy metal toxicity.
What Made a Difference Over the Years
Through study and experimentation I’ve come up with a few things that fit my body type and condition. This is what I had to do:
Learn to Navigate Food Sensitivities
Avoiding thiols (sulphur), gluten, dairy, high histamine and high glutamate foods was a game changer!
Insanely rigid routine
Rain, shine, party or parade I am doing my QiGong practice at 8 PM and in bed by 10pm. This has allowed me to maximize on quality sleep (happens before 1am), track my progress and monitor response to various supplements.
I am now on a very simple diet mostly consisting of of some veggies, chicken and fish. I completely avoid any stimulants like coffee or chocolate, and go very easy on potatoes, tomatoes, spicy things, all glutenous grains, beef, high thiol foods, etc.
Time in nature is like the mega vitamin pill for the mind and body. I find spending time in the forest or on the lake extremely comforting and relaxing. I felt numerous times how balancing and healing nature can be even for a short time. I highly recommend this book The True Source of Healing.
I made sleep and healing my top priority and went to great lenghts to enforce my boundaries. This meant a ton of NOs like turning down invitations, trips, parties, events. I wasn’t going to do anything at all that would further drain me. Sounds very egotistic but there was no choice.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
This ancient form of Chinese Medicine has been one of the most helpful systems of supporting my body. By experimenting with herbal formulas I found how to support various organ functions, digestion, body temperature, immune system and so on. I find it to be way more helpful and easier to navigate that Western Medicine’s understing of hormones, neurotransimitters,and various biochemical processes.
After a couple of trips to Mediterranean climate zone I realized that climate played a huge role in how I felt. Within a few days my fatigue levels dropped, mood improved, food sensitivities diminished, it was fantastic. Apparently, an exhausted body is more susceptible to environment and things like heat, cold, damp etc. so all these factors can either work in favor or against the body, depending on the elements around it.
Working on Drainage Pathways
This is a relatively recent direction that has been immensely helpful. I talk about the importance of working on drainage before attempting any serious detox regiments in this video. And the beautiful part that most of these remedies are very cheap!
One morning prior to starting this article I heard a voice inside say “Suffering lets us plant a seed of compassion.” First I brushed it off but I couldn’t sleep anyways so I pondered the thought and realized that it is pretty profound. Only now I can truly feel compassion for others in similar situation, sympathize with their ordeal and have enough will power to extend my hand.
This entire ordeal made me learn and grow faster than anyone around me could even start to comprehend the complicated things about our body and psyche. Here are a few things that I found extremely helpful to cope with this ordeal:
Zhong Yuan Qigong
An ancient art of self healing. This was one of the biggest gifts of my life. Observing my plight, a colleague invited me to a weekend retreat where I learned a few simple but profoundly effective exercises to gather energy from “outside” and use it for healing purposes. It has been such a quality of life changer for me I wrote an article and recorded a video about it which I highly recommend it. It is said that energy is intelligent. All we need to do is learn how to direct it and it will do the work that needs to be done. Very liberating!
I was already practicing meditation before my health fell apart so I found it extremely useful in relieving mental suffering which I used as raw material for realizing the depth of Buddha’s teachings on impermanence, suffering, ego, emptiness of all phenomenon and so on.
Shamans and Plant Medicine
Traveled to Spain for a couple of plant medicine ceremonies and was blown away. They were very helpful dealing with my trauma and victim identity and gave me even more amazing tools for healing the psyche.
Spiritual, Eastern medicine, scientific, stories of survival and so on.
Various Facebook Groups
There is so much support one can find online it is blooming amazing. Also, sharing your own experience and guiding others is very healing too.
Lot’s of TLC!
Sometimes we get so zoned in into our supplements and symptoms we forget about the most powerful chemical factory we have – our brain. Simply focus on things that bring some pleasure! Endorphins are the body’s natural pain reliever! The influx of these natural endorphins stimulates our immune system by binding to regulatory T cells, which promotes an increase in T-lymphocytes. This up-regulation of T-lymphocytes reduces cytokine and antibody production, restoring a more normal balance while pumping the brakes on overall inflammation. They’re produced during activities such as exercise, love making, laughter, massage, eating delicious meals, dancing, cuddling, listening to music or playing an instrument, meditating and any other activity that makes you laugh and have a good time.