You know in the 80s film ‘Gremlins’ there are those rules? Don’t get them wet, don’t expose them to bright light and don’t feed them after midnight. Well, since coming back from detoxing at Amchara I realise I have a Gremlin in my stomach with its own set of rules. And there are similarly dreadful consequences to the film if I break them.
Don’t eat crap. By crap I mean processed food, sugary food, too salty food, too fatty food.
Consequence for breaking Rule One:- lethargy, tummy ache, diarrhea and or TERRIBLE farts.
Don’t eat things your body now rejects as food. Doing a fast, followed by very slowly re-introducing food types one at a time means it becomes super obvious what your intolerances or food allergies are. I can no longer eat onion, more than a smidge of garlic, white potato, most of the nightshade family of foods in fact, lobster, sea urchin (not that I was a big sea urchin eater anyway), and I no longer WANT to eat meat, cow’s milk, prawns, shellfish and most drinks other than water/coconut water which I can’t get enough of.
Consequences of breaking Rule Two:- similar to number one.
Summer eating was easy. Wonderful salads and fresh fish kept me happy for months. But now winter is here, salad has become a turnoff, my hatred/intolerance to a whole smattering of root vegetables makes winter fodder less palatable as a whole and nearly every mealtime I’m stood next to the open door of my fridge, staring inside looking for answers that don’t make themselves known – like someone flicking through the Bible hoping that God finally speaks to them.
I invested in a new, giant sized slow cooker last week – so if I finally found some delicious slow cooker winter food recipe I could make vats of it and freeze it and then not have to think about what the hell to do for dinners and lunches every day. And yet every day, at least the days when it’s my turn to cook, I find myself staring into the abyss of my open fridge, feeling lost and uninspired, then glaring resentfully at the giant slow cooker on my kitchen counter – wishing I’d turned it on and filled it with delicious stuff 6 hours ago, reaffirming my plan to do THAT tomorrow, and then repeating this pattern eternally.
But what I didn’t know about was Rule Number Three: Thou shalt NOT eat cheese after 4pm.
I’ve hardly eaten cheese since coming back from Amchara and detoxing. Cheese used to be a major part of my life. It was a love affair that spanned over four decades. Melty cheese undulated through my favourite dishes, it crisped off the tops of otherwise bland daily foods, it filled my days with hedonistic joy. Mmmmm melty, as Homer Simpson once purred.
Before you’ve done a detox, if you were a big cheese freak like me, you probably can’t even imagine giving it up. Even cutting down on cheese, during diets, felt like cutting off one’s own toes in an act of self-torture. But I have to admit, since coming back from Gozo, I haven’t had any cheese cravings at all. I haven’t missed it one bit. If I had, I would have trusted my body and had more of it. That said, I hadn’t given it up completely – when André added a bit in meals or if it was served to me in a café or restaurant I would eat as much as I wanted of the dish and leave the rest. But it’s been tiny dribs and drabs compared to my old cheese consumption patterns.
And at this point we realise what a bad story teller I am in terms of construction, because I need to jump to a completely different subject right now to tell you something. If I had J.K.Rowlings’ fine powers of plot weaving I would have gracefully knitted this information into the beginnings of this post in some casual way that made you surprised when I come back to it later and it all fitted into place. But I don’t. And it’s 8:35 am when I’m writing this because the run up to Christmas is damned busy and I really don’t have time for blogging right now let alone clever plot weaving intricacies so I’m just going to jump to what I want to tell you about with all the grace of a hippo on a trampoline:-
I get terrible heebie jeebies. That is, I suffer dreadfully with nightmares, night terrors, waking dreams, sleep talking, and even sleep movements (I won’t say sleep walking as such but I have been known to try and fling myself out of bed, sit bolt up right and punch the air shouting ‘Oh yes!’ before laying back down again and snoring). My whole life I have suffered from these afflictions, particularly the incredibly vivid nightmares and waking dreams. When I am stressed they usually get worse. Room mates and boyfriends past and present have complained of me waking them up SCREAMING, or shouting – usually pointing at the ceiling or some space in front of me, yelling, ‘Look! Look! What the HELL is that thing?! It’s right THERE! Can’t you see it?!!!!’ while I point and gesture to a void as empty as my fridge. I can have my eyes WIDE open, be sat up, be having a conversation with André, be completely aware of my surroundings, anyone in the room, and yet my brain will still be dreaming and projecting some hallucination INTO my bedroom. It’s basically dreaming with your eyes open – a little space between sleeping and awake where I THINK I’m fully awake but I’m not. And it’s TERRIFYING, I tell you. TERRIFYING. I see macabre heads and giant spiders coming at my face from the ceiling. I see claws coming out of the curtains or wallpaper. I see little tiny spiders crawling over everything. I’m not even afraid of spiders in my waking life, but they seem to feature in my night terrors an awful lot.
What usually happens is that André tells me that I’m ‘Talking shit in my sleep again!’ and in my dream state I will argue vehemently with him that, ‘No I’m NOT! It’s right there! Look! Look! I am awake and I can see it and it’s right there’….and then like the spiders slowly creeping creeping towards me, my brain will slowly slowly start to wake up properly and the nightmarish vision will slowly slowly fade out of existence with my bedroom returning to normal and I get the creeping creeping rather embarrassing realisation that André is right and I am wrong, and my room is NOT filled with horrific monsters and I was indeed talking shit and dreaming again.
And only the other day I commented to André how this hasn’t happened in quite a while. How he’d not reported back to me the next day, as he used to, so many times, about some random conversation we’d had while I was fast asleep or half asleep. How I hadn’t punched him in bed whilst hollering something that nearly made him lose bladder control in quite a few months. And how marvelous it all was.
Until last night. Last night I discovered Rule Number Three. We had little blinis in the fridge that needed finishing off and the thing I wanted to put on them had been opened and put back in the cupboard rather than the fridge by some unknown mystery person in our house (possibly me having a senior moment), so I was forced to use my imagination a bit with supper. I opted for a small splat of horseradish sauce with a tiny crumble of Wensleydale with cranberries on top. Such a tiny amount. The whole portion of cheese on my plate probably added up to a dessertspoonful at most. Nothing like the vats of the stuff I would eat in my old life.
But it’s a rule you see, and I broke it because I didn’t know. Well, that’s not true…I’ve long joked about my ‘Cheese Dreams’ – extra vivid and weird dreams I’ve had in the past if I’ve had a particularly pongy variety of blue cheese or something. But I didn’t realise how closely tied cheese was to my life history of night terrors until last night.
For starters, despite being exhausted, I couldn’t get to sleep for AGES. I was hot, then cold, and uncomfortable, and windy. My pillow seemed suddenly lumpy like someone had taken the usual filling out of it and stuffed it full of something that felt like old underwear tied in knots and random bumps. My side of our (rather massive Queen Size) bed, felt like it had shrunk somehow and I was teetering on the edge of it, feeling odd and uncomfortable and like my limbs had been removed and put back on but not in the right sockets or something. My joints felt odd and electricky. And my bloody brain wouldn’t switch off the random thoughts.
Finally, after what felt like hours, I must have fallen asleep. But I didn’t realise I had fallen asleep because I had my eyes WIDE open. I was staring at the void to the side of my bed in the darkness. And I could see something DISGUSTING. I squinted at it in the darkness to try to get my eyes to focus. It looked like a long trail of slime dangling from my bedroom ceiling to the floor with millions of tiny spiders crawling up and down it. A snotty ribbon of spider nest. And of course, as one does when one is having a full on cheese dream half awake wide eyed hallucination in the night, I started squealing and yelling at the top of my voice – trying to direct Andre’s attention to the horror of the arachnid bogey draped from our bedroom ceiling to warn him about the imminent danger. He was not pleased.
‘There’s nothing there! For fuck’s sake CJ! You KNOW you do this. You were only telling someone the other day! You are dreaming!’
‘No! No I’m not! You’re wrong! Look! I’m awake and I’ve got my eyes open and it’s still there!’
‘No it’s not! Go back to sleep! You’re talking shit again!’
‘No. YOU ARE WRONG! IT IS THERE! Look! Look! It’s…..slowly disappearing before my eyes and yes…’ (at this point I shut up, a bit embarrassed). And the reality of Rule Number Three and the consequences set in.
Detoxing is great. It makes it so much clearer when your body is trying to tell you something. It makes reactions more intense, more recognisable, so you can avoid things your body does not want you to eat.
My whole life my body was telling me not to eat cheese before bedtime (it may well not want me to eat cheese at all…but that we will investigate another time) and I couldn’t hear it. Cheese to me, with my creative imagination, is like magic mushrooms to a layman. A full on hallucinogen. And now it makes perfect sense why my night terrors got worse for a while after André moved in with me (at the time, he liked putting cheese on almost every meal we ate together). It makes sense of why the university years were filled with room mates who laughed at me and mocked me for the crap I spoke about while unconscious in our Halls of Residence, after those late night cheese on toast sessions. It makes sense of a lifetime of filthsome vivid nightmares.
Cheese is a drug we should warn our children about and the dangers of it are real. Cheddar is the gateway drug…and by the time your child has reached maturity, so will the cheese they are snaffling. It’s starts with a Babybel and before you know it you’re onto the hard stuff – Roquefort with French bread, a little line of Gorgonzola here and there. Watch your teenagers especially – they can get through entire packets of cheese and entire loaves on bread in one sitting.
In the cold light of day I can see that the spider covered snot trail that was dangling from my ceiling was in actual fact the cable from my bedside light. Perfectly harmless…as long as I don’t chew on it. Cheese. It’s everywhere. Don’t trust it.