Gut Health and Alcoholism

candida addiciton

” All disease begins in the gut.” (Hippocrates)

There is so much information out there these days on ‘Gut Health.’ Many symptoms well known to those of us suffering with mental health difficulties and addictions are common to the symptoms of an imbalance in ‘Gut Health’, that is, the balance of good and bad bacteria found in the lower intestine.


A strain of bad bacteria that can become overgrown in the gut is called ‘Candida Albicans.’ This overgrowth can be caused by heavy use of antibiotics, and the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol. The list of symptoms includes things like brain fog, chronic fatigue, headaches, mood swings, anxiety and depression.

I have been trying to work with these issues for years, with varying degrees of success. A few years ago I embarked on an extreme Candida detox, followed by a very strict anti-candida diet plan. It was a total nightmare, and not surprisingly, quite unsustainable. But I’m trying a different approach this time, reading more, and doing things a bit more gradually. I’m trying to work with my classically bipolar tendencies towards all or nothing thinking, and my naturally obsessive, anxiety driven tendencies. So far…. touch wood…!! I haven’t had a drink for the longest time in living memory…!

Here is a haphazard summary of some of the information that has helped me to leave the wine on the shelf, at least for the time being. I’m not a medical practitioner, and all that is below is my interpretation and understanding of what I have read. I’ll leave a reading list at the bottom so you can check out the sources for yourself, and I’ll recommend that, if you’re struggling with any of the issues I mention in this article, that you seek help from a professional.

The idea with ‘Gut Health’ is basically, that our lower intestines are populated with multiple strains of bacteria. Some strains are ‘good,’ and their existence contributes to healthy digestion and overall well-being. These good bacteria can be fed with PRE-biotic foods, which are foods which nourish the bacteria. Dietary fibre is basically their main source of nourishment, so the more vegetables, especially tough green ones like broccoli and kale the better.


agriculture basket beets bokeh
Photo by Pixabay on

Then there are PRO-biotic foods. These are foods which actually contain strains of good bacteria and include things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi. Basically stuff that’s fermented. Consumption of these foods can also feed the bad bacteria though, so if you’re certain that Candida is a problem for you it is a good idea to seek advice. In fact it’s a good idea to do this anyway! Kombucha, for example, is a fermented tea often recommended for gut health. It contains wild strains of yeast, however, as well as small amounts of alcohol, which are we will see can be problematic for people suffering with an overgrowth of Candida.

I have suspected for a while that there must be some connection between alcohol addiction and a imbalance in our gut flora, or more specifically, Candida Albicans.
My first enounter with the word ‘Candida’ was in my early 20s when I worked with a Kinesiologist. A Kinesiologist is basically a holisitc practitioner who can identify allergies and intolerances. There’s a good summary of the principles (and an amazing practitioner if you happen to live anywhere near Devon in England!!) here:


The kinesiologist told me that she believed I had an overgrowth of Candida in my gut, after eliciting from me that I had a passion for red wine, blue cheese and marmite. These are, she explained to me, all foods which feed the bad bacteria, i.e Candida.



She explained to me that the reason I crave these foods is because Candida produces cravings for the foods which it needs to survive. At this point in my life I really could not have cared less. Although I was struggling terribly with IBS, Depression and Anxiety, the idea of giving up all that was just unthinkable. To be honest I thought she was quite mad. I just COULDN’T get my head around the idea that my diet could have such an effect. So the idea remained dormant for many years.

Years later, it was by looking at the problems that my Father and my Aunt were facing, both alcoholics, that caused me to think again about the links between gut health and addiction. My Father is a determined and committed sugar addict, and has a huge range of symptoms that point to an overgrowth of Candida, including massive cravings, IBS, multiple conditions relating to inflammation and chronic fungal infections. My Aunt has similar issues, as well as chronic oral thrush so severe that she finds it difficult to swallow anything but wine.

So I’ve started researching the links and it is super interesting, and just makes so much sense.


To look at things from another angle, the body needs to be generally healthy in order to fight off an overgrowth of Candida. A well functioning immune system is one of the most critical elements here. One study has shown that between 70 and 80% of our immune cells are found in the walls of the gut. An immediate effect of the consumption of alcohol is the weakening of our immune systems. This means that alcohol both feeds Candida, whilst simultaneously attacking the body’s best defence against it.

Even more interesting from the point of view of mental health, however, is the fact that an estimated 90% of the body’s stores of serotonin are found in the walls of the gut. Many scientists describe the gut as our ‘second brain.’ Studies with mice have shown that if you remove the bacterial colonies from the gut, the levels of Serotonin present in the brains drops dramatically. The super amazing fact is though, that once the colonies were returned, the effects were reversed. The conclusion of many of these types of studies has been, that GUT MICROBES MODULATE SEROTONIN LEVELS. So…. consuming alcohol affects gut microbes which affect serotonin levels. To me, this is intuitively obvious, but to read it in these terms helps me to see what it is I can DO about it. It breaks it down into pieces that I can ‘digest.’


And it’s all really interesting from the point of view of addiction. Depression and Anxiety are often massive triggering factors that cause people to reach for and to continue using alcohol and other drugs. Many people, including myself have described their use of substances as ‘self-medication.’ Looked at from this new perspective, however, it sounds like actually, wherever an imbalance in gut flora might have started, feeding the imbalance with alcohol simply strengthens the cycle of cravings, as the Candida demands more and more nourishment. And, as Candida takes over and replaces the healthy gut microbes, immunity and serotonin levels are also affected, thus exacerbating the reasons that the person drank to begin with. Of course this is all an enormous oversimplification. But I think it’s a really important and interesting piece of the puzzle. For me it’s been a world that’s really worth exploring.

A really useful resource foe me has been This guy is a doctor who treats addiction via nutrition, using a system called ‘nutritional balancing.’ Its pretty extreme, and very similar to the Candida diet. It basically involves to removal of all forms of sugar including fruit, with a strong focus on dietary supplements, especially essential minerals. Dr. Wilson’s view is that overconsumption of alcohol contributes in almost all cases to an overgrowth of Candida. It also leads to chronic mineral deficiences, for example zinc, magnesium, copper and iron. As the body is always seeking balance, it attempts to compensate for the mineral deficiences by absorbing and storing toxic metals which resemble that which the body lacks. This leads to further feelings of unwell-ness, which of course, tend to lead to higher levels of alcohol consumption.

Recovery is an individual process, and this stuff might not be helpful for everyone, but for me, it’s a part of the process. And it gives me something concrete to focus on!


If you’re interested in any of this stuff here’s a quick reading list:
Clinical and Experimental Immunology Journal (2008) Sept, 153
Dan Hurley, Psychology Today

A list of pre-biotic foods can be found here:

Looking Your Pain in the Face

I saw a friend today I haven’t seen for a really long time. I’ve been avoiding her, because I tend to find her intensity hugely triggering. She has a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, and has really suffered in her life. She can be dazzlingly insightful and wise, but she can also be massively draining. Being a person who finds the definition and defence of boundaries near impossible, there have been times when I just couldn’t be around her.


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a hugely complex ‘umbrella term’ diagnosis which comprises a huge range of tendencies and behaviours. Of course, as is the case with any human diagnosis, no two cases are the same. But from what little I know of BPD it is an excruciatingly difficult diagnosis to live with, and often to be around too. There is a kind of push/pull motion that happens in the orbit of people living with this disorder, with cycles of connection and rejection that can be extremely confusing and distressing to those around them. Difficulties with emotional regulation, and obsessive compulsive traits also seem common, and can make the formation and sustenance of relationships really difficult for people living with this condition.


There is some really good information here:



We talked today about our respective struggles, as we always do, and she gave me some really valuable advice. We were talking about what it takes to get better. About how you go about changing your internal state, and addressing the root causes of distress and maladaptive behaviour.

“You have to look your pain in the face”,

she said, and I agreed. The trouble is, I tried to explain, is that I KNOW this. I hear this everywhere I go right now, and whilst it makes sense to me on an intellectual level, I simply have no idea how one goes about actually doing this. What does it really mean to sit with your pain? I feel like I do it every time I sit down, because I AM my pain, but it doesn’t get me anywhere. So how, I asked her, do you do this? What does it really mean?


And she explained that, for her at least, it has been primarily about identifying patterns. She described it as deconstructing her behaviour and considering all the patterned habits that define her day, taking each one in turn, and really thinking about how it feels to engage in those behaviours. She used the example of flirting with men. That has always been a part of who she is and how she relates to the world, but she realised that it wasn’t making her feel good anymore. Perhaps it once served a purpose but that time had passed. So she let it go, and she no longer engages in this behaviour.


The process has also been about, for her, allowing herself to feel all of her feelings. This was fine by me… another one of those instances where I understood with my mind and not my body, but nonetheless something I could relate to. But then she shared that she has been allowing herself to get really angry with herself. Calling herself a ‘stupid fucking bitch’ and really feeling that rage, regret, and bitter self-recrimination that has consumed her for so long. All the anger that she feels towards herself for wrong thoughts, wrong decisions, and wrong actions. Now my first instinct here was to jump in and say NO!!! Don’t do that to yourself, please! It’s not your fault! None of it is your fault, please don’t do that! It was very uncomfortable to hear this, and it didn’t sit well with me at all.


But she explained. These were feelings that she was having, like it or not, and like every other feeling in our bodies, if we don’t allow a channel up and out it will grow, ferment, and slowly poison us from the inside out. She made what felt to me like a very courageous and mature point, that sometimes we need to knock ourselves down a peg or two in order to grow and develop.


I said I felt it was a tight-rope, especially for someone struggling with issues around obsession, addiction and low self esteem, as we can become very attached to negative thinking habits. How do you make sure, I asked, that you don’t get lost in that place? How do you know when to stop? She told me that when she truly allowed herself to feel all of her shame, and her self-loathing and her anger, somehow, when the time was right, it disappeared. Of course it hasn’t gone completely and no doubt it hasn’t gone for good, but she described a new lightness in her being, and I could see it in her. There was a calmness and an ease that I hadn’t seen in her before. She looked beautiful.


What a brave person she is, I thought, and what a radical idea she has put to me. I have spent my whole life doing absolutely anything I could to avoid, ignore and deny all of these feelings that she talked about. And I have expended enormous amounts of energy puzzling the question of HOW. How do you look your pain in the face? How do you start, and how does it end? How do you make sure it doesn’t devour you?


But she has given me new hope, and I feel like giving it a try. I am ready to start considering my habits, and reflecting on how I feel when I do things that feel automatic. And I’m ready to allow a little of the anger that I feel towards the world sometimes, and the people closest to me, to hit the mirror. It’s controversial, and add odds with my understanding of self-care, but I can see that as long as we exclude any part of our emotional experience, we are not truly accepting ourselves as we are. Unheard voices scream the loudest, so I’m going to try and listen a little better. Thank you Sarah, you are a wounded healer and I salute you.

The Little Match Girl, Trauma and Resilience.

Yesterday I pulled a Tarot card that answered my question as to how to proceed with my writing with dazzling clarity. The key point that I took from the description was this:

“…withdrawing from trauma to focus on emotional resilience.” 

This is the card


The first thing that I thought about when I saw the card was the story of The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson, and it reminded me of some experiences I had last summer which relate to the theme of withdrawing from trauma to focus on emotional resilience.


After the trauma of giving birth to my son some three years ago, I was in a desperate state of permanent Anxiety and insomnia. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress, but given no treatment apart from medication. So I sought out an Art Therapist, and made contact with a wonderful, wise woman who changed my life forever.


She was a Jungian Art Therapist, who worked primarily via dream analysis. She would interpret my dreams through the lens of Jungian archetypal symbology, and then ask me to represent particular elements of my dreams either with oil pastels or with clay.


The first dream that I related to her involved me standing in a room lighting matches and watching them burn out, one by one. When I told her this, she said that it reminded her of the story of The Little Match Girl. I was highly sceptical. I had heard of Jungian ideas of a universal subconscious, and his theory of shared subconscious archetypes, but how could a Danish fairytale come under this category?


Many years ago, a dear friend of mine gave me a book. It is titled ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves,’ and is written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It sat on my nightstand for years. I felt somehow drawn to it, but rather put off by the title. It sounded just a little bit TOO out there for me.



But somehow, I found myself flicking through the contents page soon after this conversation with my Art Therapist. She was of course convinced that the Universe moved me to do so… And I found a chapter entitled ‘The Little Match Girl.’ I was absolutely flabbergasted, and of course, I read the chapter…


The story of the little match girl can be summarised as follows:


” There was a little girlchild who had neither a Father nor a Mother, and she lived in a dark forest. There was a village at the edge of the forest, and she learned that she could buy matches for a half-penny there, and that she could sell them on the street for a full penny… The winter came and it was very cold…her feet were past the point of being blue, her feet were white; so were her fingers and the tip of her nose… So she sat down one evening saying, “I have matches. I can light a fire and I can warm myself.” But she had no kindling and no wood. She decided to light the matches anyway… As she did, it seemed that the cold and the snow disappeared altogether…. And out of nowhere her grandmother appeared, so warm and so kind…But the Grandmother began to fade. The child struck more and more matches to keep the Grandmother with her… and they began to rise up together into the sky where there was no cold and no hunger and no pain. And in the morning…the child was found still, and gone.”

Pinkola Estes (1992: 319-320).


Following Estes’ retelling of this heartbreaking story is an analysis, from her standpoint as a Feminist, Jungian psychotherapist. Estes is a post-trauma specialist. So much do I adore her, I took my pseudonym from her.


From Estes’ point of view, the story of the little match girl is the story of the woman who is ‘out in the cold,’ living on fantasies instead of action. When women are isolated and disenfranchised, they can find themselves anaesthetising themselves with fantasy. There are different types of fantasies according to Estes, and not all are dangerous, but when we find ourselves using fantasy as an escape from reality we may be in danger.


“Sometimes the fantasy is in a woman’s mind. Sometimes it comes to her through a liquor bottle…” (1992-222).


The Little Match girl is lonely and alone. She has no one, and has given up. This can happen, says Estes, when we lack NURTURE. Whether it comes from without or from within, no human soul can survive this life without it. There is a crucial difference, says Estes, between nurture and COMFORT. We could all imagine how we might comfort the poor little match girl. And we comfort each other and ourselves very naturally, as we should. But the difference between comfort and nurture is that nurture MOVES us, somehow, to a place, be it physically or psychically, in which we are better able to thrive. It is nurture that takes us from a place of trauma towards a place of emotional resilience.


This point is relevant  to our current preoccupation with the notion of self care. I have not done a great many things in the name of self care, not realising that I was giving myself comfort instead of nurture.


“We have to DO something that makes our situation different. Without a move, we are back on the streets selling matches again.” (1992:223)


As Estes says: “A frozen woman without nurture is inclined to turn to incessant “what if” daydreams. But even if she is in this frozen condition, especially if she is in this frozen condition, she must refuse the comforting fantasy.” (1992:223).


Reading these words was light staring a thousand blinding stars in the face. I was so excited!! And full of thrilled hope and inspiration. The next time I met with my Art Therapist I asked her, is there any vague chance you might have heard of ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’? She immediately picked up her copy and showed it to me. ‘It’s my bible.’ She told me. ‘It informs everything that I do.’


I read the rest of the chapter and continued to be awestruck by the resonance of the words. It was like they were written just for me, whilst at the same time making me feel a connection to womankind across time and space. They say that the opposite to addiction is not sobriety, but connection. These words made me feel the connection I had been searching for, by burning my metaphorical matches and dreaming of another way of living.


Estes describes some of the ways that women can find themselves in what she calls ‘The Match Girl Condition.’ Times of risk in a woman’s life are times of transition. These can be the transition from childhood into adulthood, falling in love, or, very interestingly for me, giving birth. For a transition to be complete and successful, there is a necessary period of difficulty from which a woman emerges, and can commence “a refreshed and enwisened spiritual and creative life.” (1992:324). These transitions can go wrong, however, if there is “no one within our without to guide the psychic process.”


The matches are a significant symbol in the Match Girl story. They represent wisdom, consciousness and creative force. The little match girl is desperate, and her desperation causes her to exchange something of great value: fire, in return for less than she should accept: a penny. Whether this exchange happens for us as women in the world of concrete reality or on an emotional plane the result is the same:


“More loss of energy. Then a woman cannot respond to her own needs… When the match girl decides to burn the matches, she uses her resources to fantastise instead of act. She uses her energy in a momentary kind of way.” (1992:235)


We can all relate to this impulse. It is so painful to look our pain in the face. It is painful to sit with our pain, to allow ourselves to feel our feelings. And we find ourselves in societies where we are ever more isolated from one another and from our true nature. Social media promises connection. But it offers those of us who feel different, who feel like match girls, out in the cold, little more than the brief glow of a match stick. We sink into that fantasy as we numb out, gripped by the throat by the sweet seduction of the facebook newsfeed. We peer into other people’s lives and compare the emptiness we feel within with the false images of the warm worlds of other people’s ‘happiness.’ It offers a strange kind of comfort and is the antithesis of nurture.

So to go back to the message from the Tarot card I pulled, “withdrawing from trauma to focus on emotional resilience,”


I think the key is to focus on NURTURE, and be wary of COMFORT. For me that means using self care more as a self parenting tool, and less as an excuse to check out, and warm my fingers around the brief glow of a matchstick. As Estes says:


“It is far better to heal one’s addiction to fantasy that wait around wishing and hoping to be raised by the dead.” (1992:326)


Following her analysis of the story, Estes offers her perspective on the antidote, relating this to another beautiful, less well known fairytale. I will explore this next time. Thank you to my Tarot cards for showing me the path to walk for the time being!



Endurance, Resilience and Humour


I’ve just bought a deck of Tarot cards called ‘The Wildwood Tarot.’

I’ve never used Tarot cards before, so to start with I’m just getting to know the cards, reading the book, and every few days ‘asking them a question’ by just pulling a card at random to see what comes up. I’ve done this three times so far and every time the result has been uncannily relevant. This time especially so.

I’ve been wondering where to go with my blog, questioning the reasons I am doing it, struggling to gather up my scattered thoughts and find a consistent focus, and most importantly feeling like its all just too serious and boring. I’m convinced that the energy we project reflects back onto us, and I wanted to find a way to lighten the mood. So I asked the cards…


and the card that I pulled made me gasp in astonishment and just about fall off my chair!

It was the card shown in the picture above. The Five of Stones, Endurance. Below is a synopsis of the description of the card:

“A child sits in the entrance of a cave, looking out at a dark sky split by lightning. A small fire burns before her….”
“It takes inner strength and courage to protect yourself and survive the challenges of life. This may mean withdrawing from trauma to focus on emotional resilience….maintaining a resilient mind and retaining a sense of humour are most important to our health, along with the knowledge that the sun will rise on another day filled with opportunities.”

Withdrawing from trauma to focus on emotional resilience.

I can’t imagine a more relevant piece of advice in answer to my question! I will endeavour to follow this advice, and will continue to ask questions and share answers as I go.


Mental Health Support Groups and Stigma


So tonight I went to a support group meeting for Mothers with mental health issues. It’s the first time I’ve been to anything like this, and although of course it was triggering in terms of social anxiety, in coexistence with this experience was the most incredible feeling of warmth and safety. It was unlike anything I have experienced before.

Within minutes of the meeting a woman was relating an anecdote about a work trip away where she forgot her medication. The dual effect of hearing this small detail of someone else’s life that involved the word ‘anti-depressant,’ and feeling the instant surge of unshaken acceptance and recognition in the room was truly breathtaking.

One of the key points I came away from the evening with was how limiting limited ideas about ‘otherness’ are. Some of the women talked about the difficulties they’d had in identifying and naming what was happening to them. They talked about their symptoms not fitting with their preconceived ideas of certain illnesses or experiences, and how stultifying that was for their recovery. For example, for one woman, her experience of post natal anxiety and depression comprised a lot of physical symptoms, like nausea and unexplained pains. Plus she didn’t have any difficulties bonding with her baby, having picked up some pseudo-medical reference from somewhere or another that THAT was the defining characteristic of post-partum depression.

I can certainly relate to these experiences. I was diagnosed with bipolar II around four years ago, and have only just begun to come anywhere near an acceptance of my diagnosis. And part of the reason for that has been the extremely limited portrait of bipolar disorder that hangs on the walls of mainstream society. The other problem for me in finding myself under my label was the absurd process via which I was assigned it, and the extremely dubious grounds on which any diagnosis at all is based in the part of the world in which I live. In order to receive a diagnosis of bipolar II, it is necessary only to have had ONE experience of ‘hypomania’ in a lifetime. And really, read with a critical eye anyone with a pulse could be arguably squeezed into this box at a push. To what extent are we pathologising personality types that fail to meet the needs of a capitalist, patriarchal social structure? Or even just misinterpreting cultural difference? Sure, England isn’t a million miles away from where I live now but there are some marked cultural differences. And crudely put I would say that levels of ‘animation’ are certainly one of them!

Another woman in the group shared her doctor’s inability to accept what he perceived to be a contradiction in her symptom profile. This woman exhibits a significant and statistically satisfying majority in terms of her depressive symptoms, except for one anomaly. She continues to find social contact nourishing, even on her darkest days. And for this reason the doctor called her life experience, and the veracity of her suicidal ideations into question. ‘But surely you can’t be THAT depressed if you can still get out??’ Anyone who has ever found the courage to reach out to a professional for help with a mental illness has had an experience, perhaps many, like this. The consequences of such an interaction can be truly devastating, and the hurt, shame and anger can persist for a lifetime. It is the back-breaking double burden that so many of us carry every day. The pain itself, and the pain of having your reality denied to your face.

If a person is reporting distress, that experience needs to be accepted unconditionally. What threat are these professionals attempting to mitigate here anyway?? The question shouldn’t be ‘under which category should your distress be filed?’ Insisting on finding the correctly sized box for this formless piece of human distress, is, if you ask me, a form of neurosis in itself. The violence and harm caused by our mental health systems is arguably far more dangerous that the symptoms themselves.

The other key thing I really noticed after this wonderful evening was, however, how serious and specific the levels of shame and stigma are when it comes to alcoholism and addiction generally. I am no stranger to stigmatised identities, and actually have a pretty high tolerance threshold for owning uncomfortable labels. There’s a distinct stratification though, comprised of three levels. Level one, green light, is Anxiety and Depression. These words are fully part of our everyday vernacular, and a reasonably balanced picture of these conditions is beginning to find form in popular culture. The problem here can be convincing people as to the severity of the experience, when pretty much everyone thinks they ‘know what it is.’

Level two, amber light, is bipolar disorder. I have only really just come to see that my symptom profile DOES fit the criteria, and the RIGHT sort of targeted guidance and support COULD be useful. ‘Admitting’ to this diagnosis, however, has been far more difficult for me that owning depression and anxiety. I haven’t even told my parents that I have this condition. I have mentioned it a few times and they’ve made it fairly clear that they dispute it.  So bipolar is level 2. Not something I talk about freely/generally AT ALL, and only a very small number of people know that I have this diagnosis. It was something I had no problem, however, in sharing at the support group.

Alcoholism, however, is level 3. RED LIGHT. It is not really possible to talk about this with anyone, anywhere, unless they are afflicted with the same condition. MUCH greater levels of shame are involved, at least for me anyway, which I think are directly related to the stereotyped ideas our society has about addiction, but more specifically alcoholism. I somehow feel ESPECIALLY ashamed to admit an addiction to alcohol.

I can’t help feeling a certain extra sense of grubbiness around this whole business of alcoholism. I’m having treatment in the country I’m living in, and have actually found myself lying about this to some people, saying that I’m there because of my addiction to benzodiazepines. I did have one for quite some years, but dealt with it from a purely medical perspective through my psychiatric nurse. But its funny to notice how I feel there’s more dignity in being a pill popper than being a wino. In fact, I feel I’d rather admit to an addiction to ANYTHING over admitting to alcoholism. Any kind of drug addiction feels to me just somehow slightly less moralised, with a certain pitiable victimhood about it, and just a slight touch of rock and roll. I’m not talking, of course, about the hideous and debasing reality of actually living with any kind of addiction, of course. I’m just talking about that visual that exists in the mind’s eye of society. That PERSON that pops up in your imagination when you talk about that intersection of person/substance.

So I didn’t mention this at the support group, and in no way at no point did I feel like I could. Now of course that wasn’t really what the support group was ABOUT but nonetheless I really do see addiction as a mental health situation, if not in itself then certainly as a frequent add on to other diagnoses. I read somewhere that up to 50% of people with a diagnosis of bipolar II also have a substance misuse issue. I just wish I had the balls to stand up and own it, because I know that’s the first brick in the dismantling of the great wall of stigma…. but it sure is hard to be the first one!!