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For those of you who’ve not read my book, this isn’t a spoiler alert and only in part an epilogue. But as with any story that stops between two covers, things were left out.

The tale of the double healing undergone by my daughter and I skimmed over one person, and completely deleted another in our family. The former, who appears throughout the book but not in depth, is “Nina’s” dad, my husband. Two years after Lunacy Lost: A Memoir of Green Mental Health was published, he succumbed to a major stroke, then a total of five in all. He left for the spirit world in 2017, after “Nina” was already living in a group home.

Grief has been a rough and often insightful road. He was my anchor and light, my taskmaster and abandon-er. He was the one who—ironically in a story about a natural-healing epiphany in our home—ignored his body’s raging high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity until death made its claim. Why he left us this way when he could have prevented it is still a mystery. In a completed manuscript entitled The Ecosexual Elder: Living the Land Erotic, I explore his self-engineered demise, and how I turned to the 56 acres of land we owned to fill my needs for a partner. Both daughters as teens appear sporadically in that text. A very brief excerpt can be found here.

Yes, “Nina” has a sibling. The character that never appears in LL is her sister, separated in age by only eleven months. She too was adopted; she is the neurotypical one. It’s hard to describe the pain as a mother when you know you are spending more time and energy on one child over the other. It’s not favoritism when autism is in the house, it’s necessity. But “Sierra,” let’s call her, couldn’t understand any of that as a young thing. Her mother’s focus was on her sibling with autism, and as an adult, Sierra bears the scars.

An earlier draft of LL included her. It was written from her point of view as a child. It was lyrical and heart-breaking. But the reason I cut it was, and remains, that it should be up to Sierra to tell her story. She’s already had enough taken away from her via the day-to-day spotlight on autism that informed her younger days.

I suspect that if she ever does speak her heart, it will be an angry one, and we must listen. Siblings of the severely disabled are a silenced group: the world sees them as privileged for escaping somehow, and knows not the cost they often paid to be “the other one.”

Today, Nina and Sierra are not close, and that is Sierra’s doing. She holds a grudge, and is irritated by her sister’s socially-unacceptable quirks. I suspect she feels such sorrow for Nina that she fears it could overwhelm her. Sierra has a trajectory for her life–she’s the kind of college student who holds down three jobs, travels on breaks, never stops but to sleep. I sometimes daydream about how maturing toward midlife might change her: a pull into self-reflection, a re-evaluation of her modus operandi? Will she meditate, take up a new art form, rediscover Nature? I know it will be interesting, and very Sierra-unique.

And what of Nina? Did she recover, is she doing all right?

Yes and no. You need to understand the severity of the place she started from.

Twenty miles from where we lived, a neurological institute housed individuals who needed major care—the place has now shut down, always rumored to be a hell-hole. It used to lurk like a bad dream in my mind, a place I vowed would never, ever see Nina inside its walls. Although I’m certain now that Nina won’t need that kind of confinement, I still work on her recovery.

LUNACY LOST ends as Nina is on the verge of puberty, doing great. But puberty turned out to be a doozy. Tried and true remedies didn’t seem to hold, and we didn’t know where to turn. We got help on other fronts.

We partnered with a caregiver in a loose co-parent arrangement, for our family was truly frazzled by the girl’s outbursts and unhappiness, her lack of toilet training, her sleepless nights. She began attending a one-on-one behavioral school for kids with autism, where school districts place students they can’t handle. This calmed her a great deal, but her academics didn’t progress, and it was a long drive to the school.

Nina is a visibly neurologically-disorganized young adult, her speech repetitive, her struggles with Irritable Bowel Syndrome invading her waking hours with such force she finds it hard to relate to people. Has alternative medicine failed us? I sometimes wonder. We keep seeking out practitioners, and are often gratified by results, but no enormous breakthroughs yet as those I wrote about when she was a child.

She loves computers and her I-phone, is an avid music listener, and can still be the cutest, funniest person around when her gut isn’t in knots. She lives in a house with three other young women and enjoys them. She is interested in other people to a fault, sometimes invading strangers’ boundaries, but so what– autism continues to be an epidemic with the jury still out on its cause . . . “get used to it!” sums up my feeling about how some developmentally disabled children and adults act in public.

We go out to eat once or twice a week, her favorite activity. We listen to music together and her new thing is watching ballet, which our town showcases at a fine arts center. She is thrilled to be in a speech-therapy group for young adults at our local university, and having graduated, frequently expresses a wish to go back to school. She asked to go to the university five days a week.

I never found a way to explain to her why she can’t attend college. Her comprehension is barely a mid-elementary level, her communication skills seriously impaired. Yet like many persons with such challenges, she can read the feelings/intentions of any human being with uncanny precision.

Put simply, I find LL still relevant because there is no cure for autism yet. The moneyed interests won’t consider an environmental causation–yet many, many persons are recovered or greatly enhanced by the strategies my book explores. There is still resistance to looking at the real causes of autism as well as the roots of mental-health disturbances. Science blames genetics and offers pharmaceuticals.

But with autism the dictum holds true: do all you can while they are young. And because the brains and bodies of young adults are still in flux—even older brains are now said to have neuroplasticity, the ability to change and re-wire—I’m still a biomed mom.

LUNACY LOST highlights how the mental health system has yet to take any tips from the autism world: its relationship to cures, to practitioners, and to root causes of the epidemic. The Mental Health Monolith would benefit greatly if they listened to the carriers of the “disease” instead of fearing and controlling them, if they gave up worrying how it might affect their careers to stand for a cure, and if they’d buck Pharma for once and explore alternatives.

I never meant to write a book that bragged, “look at this child I recovered from autism!” I set out to thank Nina, because without her journey, it’s doubtful I’d have made mine back to health. I wrote because with the many gains she made as a child and what I learned about why, it seems the mental health field should listen to autism-parents who are “biomed” –who believe there is a toxicological cause of autism that can be countered, that it’s not genetic or an act of God. While not hostile to drugs, biomed souls are open to everything, on all fronts. Nina’s biomed remedies worked for me, and worked phenomenally, after I’d looked forever for answers within the mental-health system.

Biomed parents are motivated and not timid, and for that we have brought the professionals along. For simply one example, look at the vibrancy of the Autism One conference where we mix and mingle as equals, learning from one another. So many of us moms and dads suffer from depression/anxiety, chronic fatigue, and other disorders, seen also in extended family or former generations. But as the saying goes, “we’re all somewhere on the spectrum.”

I am so grateful I lucked into a life where migraines, locked-in depression with spikes of panic, phobias and fatigue became things of the past.

Am I all fixed then? Not exactly. Because even though I found clarity, energy and optimism, even though I gained a life without pain and suffering of the body including its chronic cognitive trip-ups, nutrition can’t fix everything. It’s as though I got well, then without those huge distractions I was ushered into a muddle I’d long ignored: relationships. I had to really think about how I am with people, instead of caregiving them or hiding in my bed with curtains drawn, migrained-out.

This was challenging. It still is.

Husband gone, kids moved out, land sold and our old house torn down by the new owners…there is so much space, metaphorically speaking. Some days it’s a white-knuckler, for I feel so utterly—on a soul level—homeless. Some days the freedom is exhilarating. So what is there for an aging Mad Priestess to learn?

It’s said that when you get older, you get to a certain awe and wonder about things, you touch the essence and see the precious. Friends, it’s possible. Age is the final gateway to mindfulness that you get to choose.

It’s okay to ponder now what I always tabled as pie in the sky: the practice of humility, patience, how better to love not for gain but for authenticity. To re-define aloneness . . . I’ve not mastered this one, being a human, hence social, animal. But the secret I learned is that I’m never in fact alone.

We know from lore and modern-day “whisperers” that humans can talk to, or at least savor kinship with, plants animals weather mountains water trees Nature. People fail us; the vibrant non-stop natural world does not, especially if we understand “natural disasters” in the context of our own misguided doings. With the natural world for company and comfort, I return renewed to the vexing struggles of my own kind. I’ll learn to accept them yet, for I’m accepted by the wild and enduring patience of the Earth.

So I affix humans in their place in the big scheme, try not to be so hard on my weaknesses or theirs, and speak from whatever’s gained by my experience–hoping you too will find the words, or the melody, or another cherished art form by which to do the same.

More stories, please! No two sagas alike, yet as it turns out, we have so much in common.

Thank you for reading the last post of THE NUTRIENT PATH. My new website hosts a new blog, THE MAD PRIESTESS–similar topics yet more range, posted more consistently and at times, provocatively. Please visit www.suewestwind.com