Digesting Death: A Young Man’s Voyage From Hopelessness to Healing

Note from Jordan: This is a guest post from my dear friend, Blake Roberts. As you’ll see, Blake has been through a hell of a time this past year. His story is deeply saddening, but it is also a story of hope, healing, and gratitude. If you’re moved by Blake’s story and wish to extend a hand of compassion in his time of need, please take a look at his GoFundMe page. Thanks much, everyone. <3


I’d like to begin as I end, with gratitude:

Thank you.

Falling Out of Grace

It’s been exactly a year since everything fell apart.

This time last year, my dad died; a sudden heart attack made him comatose. It was New Years Eve, and I was in Joshua Tree; I caught a midnight flight. My little brother and I welcomed in the New Year by his bedside, unhinged in our tears and our prayers.  By God’s grace he eventually awoke. Miracle. But, he awoke determined to marry the woman that had left him homeless two months ago. The day after his release from the hospital, she pressured him to return to the very job, to the very desk on which he had keeled over. She blocked all of our calls, and my brother and I felt loss beyond-death for the soul of my father. But he had made his choice. . . It was terrible, inarticulable grief.

This time last year, my mother had a schizophrenic breakdown. Just as with my father, my deep love and sense of responsibility for my mama compelled me to return to her, despite childhood trauma. Though at first receptive, her flailing mind soon jabbed at me with daggers of delusion . . . Her whole life’s pain she smeared on me like toxic paint.  Compounded on top of the weight of father’s plight, I could not begin to process it at all.

This time last year, I became a man! (21 years old).

About one year ago, I tried to escape my emotional anguish by fleeing to the Hawaiian Islands. I didn’t. Escape, I mean. Rather, my emotional trauma became more than emotional… it became physical.

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Blake + childhood puppy “Romeo”, who passed this summer.

Within a month of that time, I contracted a parasite, a nasty one, which then became an antibiotic-reisistant infection, which then became autoimmunity, which then became rectal bleedingwhich then became what doctors finally admitted: I was a mystery.  I bore “invisible illness”.  It wasn’t Chrons, it wasn’t H. Pylori, it wasn’t Lymes . . . certain terms like “SIBO” described some of the symptoms, but the cause(s) and the fundamental nature, no one knew.

Just with the symbolic death of my parents, I could not digest the (symbolic and literal) death of myself. This translated to my body, as I could not digest or absorb nourishment (food). For about a month, meals meant white rice, coconut oil, green powder, and bone broth. I was scared of food.

Well-meaning doctors, on the natural and western end, knew only one word:detox. The problem is, I wasn’t strong enough to detox. Not even close. Antibiotics killed my immune system and triggered childhood allergies, and oregano oil caused my intestinal tract to first burn, then bleed.  Black stools for two weeks. For months, my body was in a catabolic state (eating its blood, tissue, bone marrow. . . that it’s eating itself). New bloodwork showed my body went a step deeper into a hemalytic crisis (my body could not make enough red blood cells to replace those that were being — prematurely — destroyed). I literally rose and dreamt shaking in stress and terror.

For months, anemia was the norm, as were the shakes and chills, and chronic fatigue. Docs said my brain was inflamed, and turmeric couldn’t do much. Soon I lost whatever color my already-pale skin had, as well as 20-30 pounds off my already-lanky body. My kidneys cried, my tongue yellowed, and my stick-bone arms and legs ached as I walked.

I felt the pulse of life leaving me. 

It killed my girlfriend, my beloved partner of two year to see this happening to me. It killed me to have her see it, too.

Days before I contracted a parasite from the Pahoa warm ponds. Note the contrast between my body here (before parasite) and the previous picture (post parasite).

Uninsured, I blew through my savings (about $7,000) in 2-3 months, on probably a dozen doctors.. Alternative treatments helped symptoms, kind of. When all was gone, debt piled, and I felt obliged to work a behind-the-counterjob, which I really should not have been doing. . . but had no choice. Marissa and I were surfing between couches and sublets, and as you might imagine, we really needed a nest.

Being a cescarian baby who was hardly breastfed, this is not my first rodeo through, even quite serious illness, but it is the first time I truly thought I would die. I lived in fear. In fear of death, but moreso in fear of how I was dying. It just wasn’t right. Fear I wouldn’t get to live to share my life, my gifts, my love. I was twenty one years old, and the fear in my doctor’s eyes affirmed one reality:

“This kid’s dying”.

My family has been broken for a decade, but I felt they would rally to my bedside… that maybe their grief for me would even bring everyone closer together. That could be the gift in this, right?

No one could take it.

Not even my Aunt and Grandma, who had housed me in high school when my parents could not. It was too much for them, and they were quick to denial. Even anger. In the emergency room, while my belly bled, we all yelled at each other: I at them for not being able to  feel (express) compassion, and they at me, for bringing this on everyone. “You’re going mad – just like your mother”. I’m still trying to let go of that one. Mom and Pop checked out long ago, but now I’d lost my Annie and Tutu, too.

This piece of losing my family burned worse than internal bleeding; I’d hoped with all my heart that the trauma would bring us together. It hadn’t. Now I really  feared death, because I feared dying cold: alone, and without love.

Are you depressed yet? I’m sorry! The story is actually much deeper and darker, but you get the idea . . .

Falling (Back) into Grace

Days, weeks, months passed.

I cried, keened, and keeled at a community Grief Ceremony on the coast. I moved my stagnant energy through a Qi-gong course work-trade, and I sang my prayers and songs every Wednesday evening at a Portland communitysong circle. I felt less and less alone. At times, I even felt loved.

My Grief story (Mommy top-left , Daddy top-right. Brother and I below)

But physically, I was still getting worse.

I held my breath and waited.

Then, strangely enough, my body improved. A little less blood, a little less bloat, a little less bad. Then, woah – a little more good: a little more energy, a laugh here and there. Though illness was still overcast above, the light ofreturning life began to break through. Though yes, slowly, oh so slowly. My god, slowly. . .

But I learned to wait. To not believe a thing my mind said. To return to my body again and again and again and bring the best medicine that I could affordin that moment. Almost always, that meant my meditation and Qi-Gongpractices. Long walks if I had the spirit. In the thick of it I was practicing formal mindfulness for a consistent 3-5 hours/day. I didn’t know what else to do. Not eating frees up a lot of time, and spiritual practice was my only food.

Well, spiritual practice and community. I reached out to friends, and friends reached out to me. I cried a lot, and I was held, enough. Enough to trust in the goodness of Life again. Like magic, or miracle, these friends became more than friends. Yeah, family. Many of the bonds ran deeper and dearer than anything I’d known.

And then, the breakthrough: I roadtripped down with some of my dearest friends to sit with and hug Amma , an Indian saint, and one of the world’s most charitable activists.  In that space of grace, I was able to see her personal doctor, and he — seeing clearly the root of my energetic knot — stemming from my family trauma — tailored to me an diet-lifestyle as effect as it is ancient, (called Ayurveda), to begin to untangle this mess.

It’s now about 108 curry meals later, and though my path is long, I truly believe this is healing, and will heal me.

Can you believe that? If you ever get the chance, please, hug Amma.

My Place in Blake’s Path

I could not have, and cannot, walk this path alone. In the beginning, a high school teacher and mentor let me stay in his place.  A friend and local nurse became a mother and guide to me.  In the thick of it, my friend’s parents sent me some money to get colonic hydrotherapy, and the next day I was feeling practically princely as I laid back, received, and felt the joy of at-long-last . . . release!

I learned to ask. To just ask. When I did, help (often, though not always) came, and in real, compassionate , meaningful ways. As a jack-of-all-trades lifelongfiend for learning, I’ve picked up a lot; but, the greatest lesson, by far, was in learning to ask.

Well, I’m still learning.

And I’m still healing.

. . . Will you help me heal?

How Can I Help?

By supporting me financially during this recovery and re-vitalizing stage. . .

I believe that, with your help, I can come to full recovery in six months. Most doctors give a minimum of 2 years, if at all, before I become something of “myself” again. Well, I don’t buy that. I truly feel, believe, and envision that it will take about six months of intentional hibernation and restoration.

My “battle plan” is powerfully holistic, including lifestyle/diet (Rising @ 5a.m. specifically prepared meals at designated “meal-times”, gentle (though detoxifying) exercise and deep meditation, etc. ), conscious creativity, and intimacy with community,  as well as . . .

What I Need Money for

Treatments that will work! (believe me, I’ve tried it all!) such as, Colon Hydrotherapy (the best!)Acupuncture, 0xygen therapy (oxygen pumped directly into your blood) and Nutrient IV Therapy (nutrients pumped into your blood) – 500-700/month x 6 = $3200)

Medicines (herbal antibiotics, liver cleansers, blood purifiers, etc.) – easily $500/month x  6 = $ 3,000)

Medical Bills that threaten my credit score –  (~$1500)

Therapy to help my mind-body process and release the trauma – (~ $500/month x 6 = $3000)

Rent (and maybe some heat) for the six month lease of our new home . . . ($1,000 x 6 = 6,000)

Super supportive family sharing Indian food and a song circle in the new home!(Blake = on the bottom)

A note on income: Right before Christmas, both my partner and I were released (fired) from our job; bosses weren’t too happy with working with a household so deep in sickness. . . so though our total household income just got cut, it is a blessing because though I’d like to be working and engaged in that conventional way… it’s just not conducive to my healing right now. I need lots of deep breathing, rest, and mindful prep of meals. 

And, if I am cleared, a Fecal Transplant Treatment, in which my microflora will be repopulated by another’s fecal… donation. (Price TBD, probably around ~$750)

Math tells me that, in 6 months, these should run out to be $18K... ouch.  I’m asking for $9k because, well,

a) 18 feels like way too much for asking… there’s still guilt in asking for 9k and

b) I’m just asking for some help. I’ve got to do my part. I’m going to take advantage of this time to cultivate my writing career, (I already have some jobs aligned) and other ways of becoming abundant, that don’t drain or deplete my body. That, along with Marissa’s blossoming Doula career, (she’s going through school right now), and a whole lot of grace will bring the other half. I, we, trust.

But I cannot understate how much your monetary donation would help. Words seem so vapid here, because your donation would literally bring merelease, rest, and a very-real rapture from stress and worry as I remember what health feels like.  This is my birthday wish, (which is comin’ up, Jan. 5!) and I can’t imagine a greater gift.

What’s on the Other Side for Blake?

Well, Singing, Dancing, Praying and Playing, of course! Life is returning. Trickling back in, as is love, gratitude, and laughter.  So too is anger, a heavy heart, and very-real post-traumatic shock.  Above all, I’m finding in me a very real faith that I will be “okay”.

For a while, I wasn’t sure.  But I have something of a path now. I have a path now! My feet feel it. And though fog clouds my path’s length or even direction, to have a path is enough. The terror is in having no ground, and in the falling to lose even your trust.

My path’s changed. I’m on the healing path now, and I’m going to be a healer.  I’m going to study medicine with every cell of my body, and become a fine doctor of holistic, individually-based medicine.  I feel an almost mystic compulsion to learn all that I can about invisible illness, and then to, one day, offer it all up.  Insurance be damned. To cast some light in the abysmally dark because, well . . . it’s scary down there. And all deserve health, all deserve medicine. Education’s gotten me so stoked… I’m already narrowing down schools, but I keep telling myself: I need to first heal!

The gratitude is real. For learning how to heal. For getting to know my body (and I mean, to know my body). For feeling the fundamental innocence of all life, and the necessity of Forgiveness. For making me run, to run crying, screaming, flailing to that Mama-Papa called God Eternal, and to there, rest.  To really, really rest in those arms.  For teaching me stillness, silence, and the way to peer deeply into mortality; For teaching me how to honor the precious beauty of this moment, and this moment, and this moment . . .

Right now, I’m feeling grateful for the (kinda’ scary) opportunity to ask, as well as for the opportunity to receive.

And, for the opportunity to thank.

For hearing my story, thank you. For listening to me ask, thank you. That is really enough. All else is extra, in dollar, hug, or hoo-rah!; with me, it is well spent.

From the bottom of my belly, I offer you a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig



With sincerity of heart,




Note from Jordan: Once more, if Blake’s story touched you and you would like to offer your compassionate support, please visit his GoFundMe page

About Blake Roberts

Blake Roberts is a Portland homegrown currently rooted in Southeast, on the corner of Grief and Praise. Unabashedly eclestoteric, he weaves neuroscience, Vipassana, and Taoist Shamanism into his work with Masculine initiation, energetic medicine, and I don’t even know. He likes plants, arched-feet, and curry. He’s down to talk, but he’d rather cuddle.

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