Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thanks for reading!
I started the Primal eating strategy back in 2005 and rapidly started to heal from myriad chronic illnesses, including PCOS and infertility. Recovering from those was a blessing which has fueled my devotion to Paleo nutrition ever since. Seven months ago, though, something happened which nearly hijacked all the benefits I had gained.
In October my sister tragically died. As if that wouldn’t have been reason enough to forget nutrition, even more tragedy befell.
Four days later I hopped on my mountain bike and headed to one of my favorite trails to be alone with my thoughts… I didn’t think to bring a helmet. The warm sun and the breeze that day made me feel almost happy, and I believe I recall taking some jumps that I know were on the trail, but maybe I only remember it because I’d done it before. I don’t know.
Anyway, from out of nowhere, I bounced up from the dirt. My vision was grey, like snow on a bad tv station. I saw blood dripping on the ground and I could barely breathe. It was a Tuesday and unlikely anyone would be on the trail. I couldn’t see well enough to be certain, though. I tried waving my arms and calling for help but couldn’t lift them high enough and couldn’t make much sound. I actually picked up my bike thinking I would ride to the street but that was impossible. I couldn’t even get my legs over the seat. It turns out the bike was fine but to me, it looked bent and mangled. I couldn’t make it go straight and I couldn’t hold it up.
In those few seconds of terror I had exhausted my options. I passed out. Or at least I guess I did. I don’t remember anything else.
Sometime later that morning some ladies (who happened to be nurses) found me there on the trail. Though I don’t remember it, they guided me the mile to the trail head. I guess I remembered the phone number my parents had had for the last 25 years, so the ladies called and my boyfriend came to pick me up.
He said when he saw me, my eyes were blank – like there weren’t any thoughts going through my head – and I couldn’t talk very well. I don’t have recollection of any of this but he said I looked like a zombie.
I remember waking up later that evening in the hospital. The doctor said I suffered a severe concussion and that I would probably have memory problems for a while, but that within a couple of weeks the swelling would go down and I’d be ok. My left leg was about twice the size of normal. The bike had probably landed on it but it wasn’t broken. I have no feeling in my lower thigh to this day. After the doctor cleaned the rocks out of my chin she stitched up the big gash where I had hit the ground. She also pulled rocks out of my hands, arms, and abdomen before she bandaged those.
In the following days I couldn’t remember much of anything about myself or my life. I couldn’t remember what state I lived in. I didn’t know I had an apartment in Denver. I didn’t know what kind of work I did. I knew I had had a boyfriend but for some reason I thought we had broken up. I had no recollection of my sister dying. I knew I had a daughter, but she had gone to stay with family as soon as my sister died and so I didn’t even get to see her (which really didn’t help bring me back to reality).
It was like waking up in someone else’s life and being shackled to the bed at the same time. Looking into my mind was like looking into a dark hallway with all the doors closed. I would search for memories and try to piece things back together. I lay in bed alone recovering and I would just try to think for hours and hours. Talking with friends and family really helped to get the memories going but, unfortunately, it was hard for me to remember things for more than a few minutes. This made it even harder to piece it all back together.
Things did start to improve little by little. After about three weeks I went back to work. I had no idea what I was doing there but I asked a lot of questions and kept trying. My short term memory started improving within a couple of weeks (though even now it’s not what it used to be) and after hours and hours and hours of thinking and asking questions, I started to piece my memories back together. But my memory wasn’t the only thing that suffered.
Forgetting everything was really scary and I got consumed by it. I feared I would never be the same, that I wouldn’t be as smart as I used to be, that I would always have gaps in my memories. I became wildly depressed. Actually, the depression started immediately. My mind just wasn’t mine. I didn’t have control over it. That would send me into panic. My heart would race, my blood pressure drop, I would sweat, thinking that my body was broken and that I was going to die. I had almost died just 4 days after my sister had died. It seemed everything was about death. I went to the ER. I became a veritable hypochondriac.
Somehow in all of this I started eating grains and sugar again. I don’t remember how it started (there are a lot of things I don’t remember in those first few weeks), but I remember eating and loving gluten free cookies, chocolate, and stuff with honey on it. (I have celiac disease so I never went so far as the SAD, but I am insulin resistant and am incredibly sensitive to sugar.)
I continued to eat meat and healthy foods too but I just didn’t care enough about life to fight the cravings. I was already fighting enough, I guess. It went on like this for months. I ate sugar to give me some sort of pleasure in all that misery. But the sugar, of course, was just screwing things up even more, but I couldn’t see it. I remembered that I used to be happy, but I just couldn’t for the life of me remember how I had achieved it. At this point I had pretty much resolved myself to a life of unhappiness.
One day, I don’t actually remember what I was doing, but I ended up on MDA for the first time and started reading about people recovering from feeling like crap and I was like, what the hell have I been doing!!?
Memories of my own health just flooded back. (This was how my memories would come back after the accident, something would have to trigger them and then they would just pour into my mind.)
I bought your book The Primal Blueprint for my Kindle and immediately started reading. Your story of Grok put me right back into the life I had lived before. Modern man was like the new me and Grok the old me. It was a harsh, but real juxtaposition.
Within a week of returning to the Primal Blueprint diet the panic attacks ceased. (Although if I eat any carbohydrates at all the irrational fears return. I have to be even more careful than I used to be). Within a month the severe depression had completely lifted and I was back to my old, care free self. I started remembering almost everything again (or at least I am able to laugh it off when I forget). I started exercising again (and better than ever with harder workouts). I even got back on my bike (which was really good because that’s my main mode of transportation). I hadn’t been reading because my brain hurt so much but I found your writings so irresistible that I read voraciously despite the pain.
Stumbling upon The Primal Blueprint helped me recover within weeks from an injury which I had been suffering for months. Your community of people, offering their experience, has been invaluable in lending me the strength I needed to recover. Your own passion for sharing your research has given me a new direction with Primal eating and lifestyle and I’m more excited than ever to share my own experience and knowledge.
In the end, there’s a purpose to everything. Thanks Mark for giving me a chance to see that.
Peggy, The Primal Parent