Last fall, about a month following the release of Tales of a Thief, I finally found a moment to relax and breathe (and drink wine). I had run myself ragged with the album launch, shows, music videos shoots, and other fun and exciting things. In fact, I was so excited that it never even occurred to me that this work of creating and performing music is actually stressful. I wasn’t stressed out, I was on fire!! (insert burning piano joke here)
It wasn’t until I had a moment of stillness that it all caught up to me. At the end of each day, I was totally wiped out. I would skip dinner, pour myself a glass of chardonnay (wine is like a food group for me), and plop myself in front of the TV, finally allowing myself a couple of unproductive hours. Then, my stomach started bothering me. At first, it was triggered by wine. Then I started to wake up at night with a raw burning sensation from my stomach to my throat. Eventually, reluctantly, I cut out wine, and all other alcohol, but it was too late.
When I arrived in L.A. to record my newest songs, I was having intense, uncontrollable coughing attacks which left me barely able to speak, much less sing. “Stressed” doesn’t even begin to describe how this made me feel. Which of course, only made the acid reflux exponentially worse. Years of vocal training and technique was the only thing that got me through the recording session.
As soon as I got back home, I started seeing doctors. Good news from the Ear Nose and Throat doctor- my throat was inflamed, but my vocal cords were perfectly fine- no damage at all. The Gastroenterologist was more concerned. I wasn’t responding to the the prescribed medication, so he doubled the dosage. After a couple months of treatment and a strict diet, I still had major symptoms. I had an endoscopy, where they biopsied my esophagus and stomach- no sign of cancer, thank goodness, but severe inflammation.
I was at a loss. I had given up alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, citrus, and carbonated drinks for over 2 months. It sucked. There were a few moments where I would have sold my soul for a glass of wine. Why wasn’t I healing??
Finally, a few weeks ago, my mentor Cari Cole suggested that I try a vegan diet, mostly raw, with absolutely no sugars, not even honey or agave. Under any other circumstances, this would never happen. I eat meat twice a day, I adore cheese, and ice cream is my favorite treat in the whole world. However, I had reached a point of desperation where my health and well being became even more important than cheese! So, I gave it a shot. Within a few days, I quit all my prescription and over-the-counter meds cold turkey, with no reflux symptoms at all.
I’m about 2 1/2 weeks in now, eating mostly vegan (I have fish twice a week) and mostly raw (cooked beans and quinoa- I need protein), and I feel SO MUCH BETTER!!! People are commenting on how I look so vibrant and healthy. I won’t maintain this extremely strict diet forever, but I’ll never go back to my old ways. I don’t even miss it! Okay, I still miss wine (and when I visit Napa in a few weeks, you KNOW I’m gonna do some tastings), but eating tons of salad, veggies, nuts, and seeds makes me feel energetic and awesome. I’ve always been a proponent of listening to your body, but sometimes it’s hard to understand what it’s trying to tell you. Sometimes you just have to try different approaches and figure out what works for you. Sometimes even “happy stress” (as my friend and fellow musician Robin Brock calls it) can catch up to you and make you sick. (I’m also doing daily meditation now- more on that next time!)