Mental Illness is Real: An Awakening

Depression is a feeling of absolute hopelessnessI’ve talked about my depression and anxiety on this blog (in addition to many other health topics) with what I thought was true conviction and understanding of these disorders.

However, it was only recently that I realized that deep down, I never really believed I had depression and anxiety.

I really just thought that I was unhappy and too damned lazy to do anything about it…

…until I had everything I’d ever wanted and yet found myself in the deepest depths of depression and the biggest twists and turns of anxiety I’d experienced since I was first diagnosed.

The reality of this was a true slap in the face, like being diagnosed all over again.  It was a realization that, well, fuck…depression and anxiety are both very real, and it sucks.

At first I thought it was the surrealism of finally getting what I wanted.  Like, seriously…has my dream actually come true?!

Then it was the stress that came with acquiring a business that I was now 100% responsible for in addition to being the sole provider for my family.  Anxiety?  Why, yes! Of course!

I was afraid to fail.  I was afraid of people figuring out that I was a fraud (see: Imposter Syndrome).  If one thing went wrong, I expected the rest of it to fall apart in my anxious little mind, like a game of Jenga.

Things got better, though, and I figured I’d pulled through and found my strength. Everything would be fine.

…and then, for seemingly no reason at all, they weren’t fine.  Everything was fine with the business. Everything was going well.  Nothing was perfect, but nothing was falling apart either…well, except for me.

I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t work.  The voice in my head was screaming about how worthless I was.  If I didn’t have a perfect day of productive work, the bitch we all call depression made me feel like I was garbage because I wasn’t perfect and constantly kicking ass at what I do.

Thing was that even when I wasn’t on top of my game, I was still kicking ass.

Then the anxiety would kick in.  If I feel like this about myself, what will others think?  Will my clients and partners begin to realize that I’m not good at what I do?  Will they stop coming to me for services?  What if all of this was just temporary and I lost all of it tomorrow?

So I found myself lying on the floor, face down, arms outstretched, unable to do anything but wish that I could stretch beyond my own body and touch the four walls surrounding me.  I began to wonder why people ever wanted to own their own businesses?!  This sucks! It’s too much pressure. I can’t do this! I’m done!

But I wasn’t done, and I’m not done.  Because I knew this would pass and I would be stoked about what I do.  I just needed to shift my perspective, something I’d gotten really good at, but found increasingly harder to do since the pressures of business ownership came into play.

Between the struggle of dealing with these negative emotions, trying hard to power through them so that I can work and do my job and keep the business running, and coming to the realization that all those years of saying, “I have depression and anxiety and I have temptations to self-mutilate,” weren’t total BS…I had become a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

My depression is real.  She’s a fucking bitch, and I fucking hate her, and she needs to fuck off already, but she’s real.

My anxiety is real, like that annoying crazy person on the side of the road wearing a sign that says, “The end is near!” while screaming about how we’re all going to hell.

My self-mutilation is real.  I haven’t cut myself since I was 16 years old, but the temptations are there, and I recently found myself unconsciously hurting myself in uncomfortable situations to keep myself from flying off the handle in a public place.

All of this and the inability to discuss it openly with most people makes for a very, very ashamed, angry, sad, frustrated, stressed out, and very isolated person.

Then came a glorious, very open and out there individual who I will call “S” who just announces to everyone, “Yes. I have an anxiety disorder!” without any shame.  She battles the stigma and challenges it on a daily basis, forcing people to face things they are very uncomfortable with…the fact that they see mentally ill people as negative people who don’t know how to just put a positive spin on things.  They see us as people who just need another inspirational graphic to perk us up.  We just need to walk on the sunny side of life, and if we can’t do that for them, then we are in the way.  It’s a stigma.  Because mentally ill people aren’t seen as people who are struggling with a chronic illness. We’re seen as Negative Nancys and Neds who need to stop being such a bummer!

While “S” is putting herself out there in a major way, I keep most of what I deal with to myself for fear of the stigma hitting me and affecting my business because of judgement from others.  I want to discuss my struggles openly, but…what if my customers find out and fire me?  The logical part of my brain tells me it won’t happen, but the anxious part of my brain is terrified.  And then there’s another part that just wants to talk about this, air everything out and help fight the stigma head on and make a difference.

Which way do we go, George? Which way do we go?

The answer?  I don’t have it.  I’m working to employ my coping strategies and testing different productivity models to help me stay focused on my work so that my mind doesn’t tumble down the rabbit hole of depression and anxiety.  I know there’s a balance.  Positive thinking can help, but it only takes me so far.  The medication helps me meet the positive thinking in the middle, when I am able to reach for it.  Other times, the positive thinking is a self-help guru I just want to punch in the face for being so damned chipper all the time. Like seriously…who’s THAT happy ALL THE TIME?!

I have no answers.  I have no solutions, yet.  I’m working on it.  I’m a work in progress, and I’m trying to be okay with that.  Right now, I’m just trying to come to terms with the fact that I am, for lack of another way to say it, broken.  I just need to be okay with that and power through.  Right now, that will be the focus on my health journey and this blog…trying, every single day, to overcome the negativity and self-sabotage that comes with having depression and anxiety.

5 Medical Miracles Performed by Botox

We all know Botox as the cosmetic anti-aging treatment that has stirred up a great deal of controversy during it’s decade long reign as the reason why celebrities look scary and frozen.

I’ve learned a lot about Botox during the last few years, both its cosmetic uses and medical uses.  Here are some facts about Botox Cosmetic to get us started:

  1. Botox doesn’t freeze your face; Botox in the hands of an inexperienced injector DOES
  2. Botox doesn’t make you look fake or scary; overdone Botox (or any cosmetic treatment for that matter) will.  Remember the old saying about “Too much of a good thing…”
  3. Botox injections for anti-aging treatments don’t give you botulism.

Now that we got THAT out of the way, let’s move on to:

5 Medical Miracles Performed by Botox

Fda

FDA approved uses for Botox

Botox for Chronic Migraines

After all other treatment options have been exhausted and a patient is still suffering from chronic migraines, your provider may recommend Botox injections.  Now, you won’t get injections into your forehead like the anti-wrinkle indication, but instead there will be several strategic injections made at the base of the skull and elsewhere every few months to keep migraine pain under control.

Eye Spasms, the first FDA-approved use of Botulinum Toxin

In the late 1980s, Botulinum Toxin was approved by the FDA as a treatment for blepharospasms and strabismus, muscle disorders that can cause uncontrollable eye spasms and even make the sufferer “cross-eyed.”  Botox is placed in specific locations (in patients 12 and over) to reduce the symptoms of these muscle disorders.  As a muscle relaxer, Botox is perfect for this type of condition.

Hyperhidrosis, to Reduce Excessive Sweating

I know what you’re thinking…blocking sweating? Seriously? Well, while a certain amount of sweat is healthy and necessary, there is such a thing as excessively sweating.  People who have been diagnosed with hyperhidrosis often try prescription anti-perspirants, but these don’t work for everyone.  Sufferers often complain of sweating through clothing several times throughout the day, despite not being hot or very active.

To treat hyperhidrosis, a provider will inject botulinum toxin into the sweat glands in the underarms, preventing them from excreting sweat for several months.

Overactive Bladder Treatment

Remember that commercial?  “Gotta go, Gotta go, Gotta go right now…”  Overactive bladder is like that – sudden urgency to urinate, often with leakage.  Embarrassing condition, right?  Well, if the patient has tried other prescriptions that haven’t work, Botox can be prescribed by a doctor to treat the symptoms and help the patient live a more comfortable life.

Cervical Dystonia

Cervical Dystonia, like blepharospasms, is a nerve disorder that causes the muscles spasm uncontrollably.  In this case, the muscles are in the neck and can cause severe pain and abnormal head positioning in the sufferer.  Botulinum toxin is injected to relax those muscles, reduce the pain and allow the patient to live more comfortably.

In addition to the above, Botox is being tested as a potential treatment for:

Arthritis: Botox may be an alternative to steroids, injected directly into the joints of the patient to bring relief.

Asthma:  For patients whose symptoms include the throat and don’t respond to rescue inhalers, Botox can be administered into the vocal chords to bring long-term prevention and relief.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cerebral Palsy in Children:  Children with cerebral palsy are often confined to wheel chairs, but Botox is showing promising results in helping to increase muscle control and improve quality of life for these children.

Depression:  This one is a two-for-one special, as the use for depression is like those of a cosmetic treatment.  While we know that our moods affect our facial expressions, studies have shown that our facial expressions also affect our moods.  By relaxing the muscles responsible for looking angry, stressed or sad, we can lessen the emotional impact of those facial expressions.  …and even if we can’t, at least we’ll look younger!

Erectile Dysfunction:  Okay, guys. Brace yourselves.  This one, well…yes…the needle goes THERE, but studies are showing it works for those who aren’t able to take other prescriptions or if those medications just haven’t been helping you rise to the challenge.

Gastric Cancer:  This is the newest that we’ve seen in the news, and it’s really exciting!  Lab rats with stomach cancer had botulinum toxin injected into their cancerous tumors, and they stopped growing and even started to shrink!  This is huge and super exciting, and I will personally be watching this study VERY CLOSELY!

To wrap all of this up, here are a couple more interesting facts about botulinum toxin and the brand known as Botox by Allergan.

  • Botox has 10 FDA approvals, more than any other drug in existence.
  • Botox is the #1 most studied drug in the United States.

How’s THAT for patient safety?

WebMD Food & Fitness Planner: I’m shocked by how many calories I consume in a day!

I started using the WebMD Food & Fitness Planner last night.  And let me begin by saying…OH MY GOD!  The calories I consume in a day…no wonder I’m fat!

It’s a wake-up call, to say the least!

No wonder I'm so fatI also discovered, to my horror, that I consumed the majority of my calories before lunch yesterday! WHAT?!

Now, I knew I wasn’t making healthy choices. I mean, I’m not a moron.  But seeing the numbers is more eye-opening. And tracking these calories is helping me make better decisions about how much to eat, when to eat and what to eat.

Did I still have a mocha frappuccino today?  Yes!  But I only had one.  And I had applesauce for breakfast instead of cereal with sweetened coconut milk.  Little changes can make a big difference, and I look forward to using this great tool by WebMD to keep track of my food choices.

My Weight Loss Goals

Right now, I’m considered overweight for my weight and height, as seen in the screenshot I took below.

BMI - Body Mass Index Overweight…and to answer your question, no…I’m not very muscular.  So, no…my high BMI is not healthy.

Belly Fat Waist to Height Ratio July 25 2014…and then there’s the waist to height ratio, which I knew was a problem.  I carry a lot of weight in my belly, which is incredibly unhealthy.  Belly Fat can be deadly, particularly if it’s visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs) vs. subcutaneous fat (fat beneath the skin).  I likely had a lot of visceral fat, but making better food choices and exercising will help with this.

What I’ve Tried in the Past:

I’ve tried eliminating whole things from my diet, and dammit, it caused serious issues, like sugar withdrawals, for example.  Eventually, I cave and have more than I should of something that I’ve completely eliminated (like mocha frappuccinos…my ultimate weakness), which means that I gain any weight I lost back.  While it’s good to not consume any processed sugar, it’s not realistic, and I understand that now.

So yes, I’ve become a calorie counter.  It will have to do.  It’s what doctors suggest doing.  I’m going with actual doctors now – WebMD and Mayo Clinic contains peer reviewed information about nutrition from actual doctors, and that’s who I’m trusting moving forward.  Provable…measurable SCIENCE!

 

 

Confessions of a Depressed Comic

Depression Stigma

Depression

When a teenage boy can get up in front of a camera and a room full of people to say “I suffer from depression,” you can’t help but wake up and pay attention.

That takes real strength and courage.

There are many things that I can rise above, but coming forward to the entire world and saying “Here I am.  See my face?  Hear my name? This is me. I have depression and anxiety.”

People have contacted me about this blog and told me how courageous I am for being so honest. Well, it’s easy to be so honest when few people know your identity behind the bluntness.

Kevin Breel attacks the stigma of mental illness and depression head on in this 11 minute presentation about his depression, suicidal thoughts and a fundamental misunderstanding of any sickness related to the human brain.

Watch it below and let me know what you think in the comments:

 

 

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Exercise with Asthma: I can’t breathe!

 

When I first developed asthma, it was only an allergic reaction that caused wheezing and coughing.

 

In the last couple of years, however, I’ve discovered that I now have asthmatic symptoms anytime I work-out.  This makes weight loss difficult, and I have gained weight…unfortunately.

 

Bronchi, bronchial tree, and lungs.

Bronchi, bronchial tree, and lungs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m now considered overweight.  It doesn’t help that I sit on my behind almost all day with laptop while I work.  I’m doing my dream job, which is awesome, but I’m getting fat.  And it hurts when I stand up.  And it takes me awhile to straighten up and get moving.  Everything hurts, and nothing works right.

 

But whenever I try to exercise, I start to cough, and I can’t breathe.  I feel sick.

 

I tried a workout my husband does and took my inhaler beforehand.  I lasted much longer and didn’t have to stop because I was coughing or had trouble breathing, so that’s good. However, the exercise was still too intense for me. I can’t do the things he does, because the extra weight on my body makes anything intense extremely difficult and painful.

 

So, I did a Google search on the best exercises for women with asthma and found a good article on Health.com that recommends:

 

 

 

  • walking
  • yoga
  • swimming
  • bicycling (as long as it’s a slow pace)

 

There were a few others, like baseball and softball, but honestly, anytime I tried kickball, I needed my inhaler.  So for now, I’ll pass. Thanks.

 

So, I’m going to start…somewhere.  We have a YMCA membership, so I’m starting by looking at their schedule so I can determine where I should start, what works with my schedule, etc…

 

I just don’t want to be fat anymore, and I’m disgusted with my body and the fact that I can’t do much in it.

 

Question: If you’re overweight and have asthma, how do you exercise to get the weight off and feel better?

 

 

 

 

 

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I Deserve the Good Things in Life!

Could I become the always happy chick?

Know that you deserve good things in your life!

When you have depression, like I do, you frequently don’t expect good things to happen to you.  Sure, you may accept a good job and work hard to keep it, all the while giving yourself tons of negative feedback even though you KNOW you do your best work.

Okay, maybe I’m projecting here, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this.  I think a lot of depressed people also suffer from a certain level of paranoia.

That’s why if something great happens in our lives, we’re always expecting the rug to be pulled out from under us if we get too comfortable…especially if “something great” is “something so goddamned fucking outstanding that I must be dreaming!”

People, I’m there.

Logically, I know that I’ve worked hard and created real, measurable value in my work.  If I were someone else, I would look that person in the eye and say, “You are AMAZING! You are TALENTED!  You can do this, and you deserve this!”

But because it’s me, it’s surreal.  My reaction to the whole thing was (and still is), “Why me?”

But someone I know who is a lot smarter than me…someone I’ve worked with who I have learned a lot from about business skills and, let’s face it, life skills (you’d be amazed how much the two overlap), said to me,

“You’re thinking ‘why me?’, but you need to shift your thinking and instead ask yourself, ‘why NOT me?’”

Have you ever tried doing that?  I never had.  It never occurred to me to ever ask myself that question.  In all honesty, that was some pretty deep shit!  And it got me thinking… a lot.

Of course, I now have a heavy burden on my shoulders, but it’s really not a burden…I’m making it a burden. It’s a blessing.  But, as you know, for someone with depression, we can’t just accept a blessing, we have to consistently obsess:  “How long before I fuck this up?”  or “Something’s going to happen to destroy this.  I can’t get my hopes up.”

In my case, it’s a bit of both.

I will interrupt that thinking from time to time and remind myself to look at the evidence.  I can totally rock this, and I will be SET!

Set…seriously, almost set for life…or at least set for a good long time, with more opportunities down the road to keep my family and I more than comfortable for the rest of our lives.  So, I start to get excited.  I’m planning the wedding we never got to have (we’ve been married 11 years and have 2 kids…yet, we never had a wedding OR a honeymoon).  We were already considering buying a house, and maybe now we can afford something just a little bit bigger or pricier so our kids can stay in the school we all love so much.  We can travel more now.  I have the freedom to control my work schedule – not just when I work, but how much I work.  It’s what I’ve always dreamed of!

Now it’s here, and my thought is, “What have I done to deserve this?”

Of course, if I didn’t deserve it, I wouldn’t have it.  Those who have given me this opportunity will look you in the face and tell you, without a doubt, that I’ve earned it and deserve it 100%.  That’s the logical part of my mind.

But when I think of other people who have (subjectively) worked harder to achieve goals they have yet to reach, I feel guilty for getting the comfortable life I’m about to have.  I also have a bit of survivor’s guilt, but that’s another story.

Why I’m allowing the lives and successes of other define how I live my life is beyond me.  Again, there’s a deviation between my logical mind and my depressed mind…the voice in my head that says, “Why should you get anything you want?”  Wow, that part of my brain is a real bitch, and she needs to shut the fuck up.

Yesterday, I went to get a massage.  I told myself that I needed it because of the back pain I suffer from.  I also went to a chiropractor for the first time this past weekend.  It was also my birthday weekend, so I heard from a lot of people I don’t usually hear from.  I also got some wonderful well wishes I wasn’t expecting, and it really got me thinking about who I really am.

The truth is — most of the people I meet think I’m a wonderful person.  Sure, I get paranoid (there it is again) and think that despite how they are to my face, they really don’t like me much at all.  But really…when I shut up the depressed part of my brain (seriously, bitch, go to your room and shut up), I know these people don’t just like me…they love me.  And why wouldn’t they?

I’m an amazing fucking person!

I took a tally of the things I’ve done for other people…things I didn’t really pay much attention to before.  Now, I’m no Mother Teresa, Princess Diana or Gandhi.  Those people are/were EXCEPTIONAL.  But I don’t have to inspire millions of people to be a good person deserving of the finer things in life.  I just have to be the best version of myself…something that a friend thanked me for being in his birthday greeting to me…yes, I cried.

During my massage, I suddenly realized that I do deserve the amazing things coming to me, and that I should feel good about celebrating and taking the next steps toward a great life.  My life has been amazing the last couple of years as I watched all of my dreams coming true, and now the dreams I never really expected to ever come to fruition are about to grow and ripen, and I should embrace it fully with the expectation that I have done much to deserve it and not feel guilty about it.

Something else hit me over the weekend, and that was a TED Talk with Amy Cuddy:

1 — I’m going to put a poster of Wonder Woman in my office (you’ll understand why when you watch the video, below…)

2 — I need to stop feeling like “I’m not supposed to be here!”… because I AM SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!

Drug allergy causes death of Australian woman despite medical bracelet indications of allergy

When should a doctor be held responsible for giving a drug to a patient when that patient is allergic to the drug?

Maybe that’s too vague a question.

Should a doctor be held responsible for administering said drug to said patient when that allergy is documented 14 different times in her medical records and, said patient, is wearing a TWO bracelets indicating an allergy?

This, sadly, is not a question that I am posting simply to spark discussion. Mrs. Carol Whiteford of Meckering, Western Australia died on March 6, 2008 in a Northam Hospital after having eye surgery. The inquest started yesterday after it came to light that Dr. Andrew Stewart, Mrs. Whiteford’s eye surgeon, prescribed a sulphur-based drug post-operation. It was sulphur-based medications that caused an allergic reaction, a fact that was documented 14 different times in her medical records and for which she wore two medical alert bracelets.

There are a couple arguments supporting Dr. Stewart:

  1. While there were 14 documents in her medical file stating her allergy, there were 5 that did not.
  2. According to Dr. Stewart, Mrs. Whiteford had a consultation with him in September 2007. It was/is his routine to ask patients about previous drug reactions or allergies. There were no notes indicating she had allergies in his records.

I’m not buying it.

If you are my doctor, you better peruse my medical file thoroughly. That negates the first point. Also, in the 6 months leading up to the surgery, things can change. Regardless of what was stated in the consultation, there should be pre-op consult in which you go over the patient’s records again and, perhaps, ASK THE PATIENT ABOUT THE TWO MEDICAL BRACELETS THEY ARE WEARING.

That seems like important/pertinent information. I’m not a doctor, though.

The inquest will also be looking into the hospital’s record filing policies and guidelines.

Un-Vegucated

First, I would like to start with a disclaimer, as it were, that I am not opposed to the choice of an individual to abstain from eating meat and/or dairy. Whether said individual is a vegetarian or vegan by choice or due to dietary necessity is personal and beyond my criticism, nor do I aim to do so in this article. However, if you are going to make a documentary arguing for everyone to become a vegetarian or live a vegan lifestyle, be fully ready for a rebuttal.

Vegucated is a 2011 documentary by writer/director Marisa Miller Wolfson and has won several awards to include Best Documentary, Toronto Independent Film Festival, 2011; Chris Award for Best Educational Film, Columbus International Film & Video Festival; Best Food Issue, Cinema Verde Environmental Film and Arts Festival, 2012; and more. It follows the dietary overhaul of three individuals who volunteer to practice a vegan lifestyle for six weeks.

Over the course of the documentary, the three volunteers (Brian, Ellen, and Tesla) are subjected to biased information supporting the unidirectional focus of the film, “meat and meat by-products are bad. Don’t hurt animals.” I don’t want animals to suffer through their existence when they are slated to don my dinner plate someday but most of the provided argument is, in no uncertain terms, mild brainwashing, no matter how humorously or sincerely it is presented. In the same style of most documentaries it attempts to convince the audience that it presents the clear and current facts but uses misinformation and obfuscation of rational argument to do so. Fortunately, there are intelligent and recognized individuals to discount their ‘facts’.

Because most articles enjoy using lists (who doesn’t love a list?) I use one in my rebuttal to this uneducated dribble of a movie.

1. A Vegan diet is healthier.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. speaks on this point in the film to say, “…as the unrefined plant foods increase in volume in the diet of a particular population, heart disease and cancer go down and almost disappear.” Almost disappear? That is a bold statement considering we know factors that attribute to cardiovascular diseases include genetic predisposition and environmental causes. That’s why when you see the doctor he/she asks the question, “Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with ____?”

But that’s beside the point. Is it healthier? I will say yes…to the extent that increasing mineral and nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits in anyone’s diet would be beneficial. This would be good for anyone! What about cutting meat/dairy? I would recommend for everyone’s viewing pleasure the documentary (one of few that I credit) Fathead, wherein Tom Naughton demonstrates that a person can eat fast food everyday and still get healthier.

What about the full screen image stating Vegans have a 26% lower chance of dying from America’s number one killer, heart disease? It may be America’s number one killer but, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the US is lower than several other countries, to include Russia and China, in

deaths by cardiovascular disease and diabetes. (http://www.who.int/gho/ncd/mortality_morbidity/cvd/en/index.html)

The film makes the claim that a vegan diet will cure you of all ails and you’ll be healthier and heartier than ever. Where is the evidence? Where is the peer-reviewed proof? Show me the numbers!

Well, the biggest supporting literature most vegans and vegetarian’s use for this point is The China Study. I’m not getting into this. Here is a link by a Ms. Denise Minger who did an exhaustive review of the book: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/

The China Study author Dr. T Colin Campbell’s response: http://www.tcolincampbell.org/fileadmin/Presentation/finalmingercritique.pdf

And Ms Minger’s rebuttal: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/16/the-china-study-my-response-to-campbell/

Also, here is a page that lists links for all the criticisms of the book, which are numerous: http://freetheanimal.com/2010/07/the-china-study-smackdown-roundup.html

What the film fails to address to its participants and audience, and are worth noting, are the drawbacks and dangers of a Vegan diet:

* Anemia,

* Malnutrition,

* B12, Calcium, and Omega-3 deficiencies mean the requirement for supplements and fortified foods.

That’s why you shouldn’t just jump into this diet without thinking it through and seeing if it’s the best for you.

Moving on…

2. Current practices for large-scale meat production are inhumane.

Through the use of graphic images, the film enrages us with the inhumane depiction of slaughterhouse practices here in the US (As a side note, compared to other countries I would say our regulations are more humane than others but I digress). I will agree that animals should be treated humanely before being killed and butchered for dinner plates across America. That doesn’t mean stop eating meat.

It means hire people like Temple Grandin. This woman has nearly single-handedly revised outdated guidelines and brought many slaughterhouses up to higher standards. She has audited processing

plants at the request of the American Meat Institute (trade group for meat packers), the US Department of Agriculture, and large buyers such as McDonald’s. Better yet…she’s a meat-eater.

There are individuals who understand and identify with the desire to treat these animals with dignity, but the film decided to use the images as an emotional scare-tactic and a straw-man argument rather than besiege the actual problem. She attempted to tug on our heart strings to try and change the opinion of her viewers as much as she did her three participants. Noble? Perhaps Quixotic? I believe ignoble and charlatanism are better adjectives.

3. We aren’t designed for meat consumption.

Aah, Milton Mills, M.D. I’m not an expert on the subject of evolutionary biology or any field of anatomical science that can evaluate the arguments set forth by Mr Mills but I can easily ascertain that he is not either. Let me just post the following which was adapted from a talk by John McArdle, Ph.D.:

‘Humans are classic examples of omnivores in all relevant anatomical traits. There is no basis in anatomy or physiology for the assumption that humans are pre-adapted to the vegetarian diet. For that reason, the best arguments in support of a meat-free diet remain ecological, ethical, and health concerns.’

[Dr. McArdle is a vegetarian and currently Scientific Adviser to The American Anti-Vivisection Society. He is an anatomist and a primatologist.] The above came from a vegetarian group (http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/omni.htm) and does a solid job of inadvertently ripping apart all arguments set forth by Milton Mills. But here’s another: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/peta-cspi-and-other-menaces/are-we-meat-eaters-or-vegetarians-part-i/

This is a lengthy article with many links but well worth the read. In it, he discusses another piece but it’s still applicable to this point about Vegucated. For those that simply wish to finish this article I’ll break down the evolution of man in two steps.

- All archeological evidence points to us eating meats and plants throughout our known history. It is even theorized that we lost the majority of our body hair and developed sweat glands to aid in hunting. Our body (from our teeth to our…other end) are evolutionarily designed for an omnivorous diet.

- 10,000 years ago, in an area marked the ‘fertile crescent’ we developed agriculture and hence farmed and kept livestock. We sowed grains and domesticated animals.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. We were hunter/gatherers that became…farmers.

4. There are numerous environmental benefits to not eating meat.

Around the 45 min mark in the epic fail of information, the director/narrator states the environmental benefit of less meat is that it will lessen the overall carbon footprint of which livestock is more damaging than road vehicles.

What?

I agree with doing less harm to our environment but I don’t think less cow farts is going to do the trick. I know that’s a generalization of her argument but it gets to the root of the matter. Sorry to say that she has no supporting evidence for this claim and it’s a travesty to even assert so. With a cursory glance of a World Resources Institute working paper on World Greenhouse Gas Emissions (of 2005) and the EPA Draft Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions And Sinks: 1990-2011 I was able to find livestock & manure emissions to be less than agricultural soil management and well below road transportation. This would mean that by eating less meat and more vegetables, you stand to cause the soil management portion to increase. We can’t win!

In the end, I wish that I had the 76 minutes of my life returned but that’s not going to happen. I’m saddened that it has won so many awards and hope that most people that see this movie recognize it for what it truly is…propaganda.

Where to Watch Vegucated:

If you have Netflix,it’s streaming as of the time of this article’s writing.

You can stream Vegucated on Amazon
as well.

Dealing with Food Allergies – Tips for the non-allergic

In my previous article I wrote about my past experience with allergies and how my family’s allergies affected me. After I wrote it, I felt it prudent to make a list that may help those in a similar situation.

1. Having allergies is hard.

kids with food allergies

Going to a birthday party isn't just about showing up with a gift anymore. Mom & Dad have to make sure they bring safe snacks and cake for their allergic child, but sometimes the kids still feel left out b/c they can't have the birthday cake everyone else is having.

I know this is a ‘duh’ statement but the point is you will never truly understand how hard it is. Having never experienced allergies for yourself it becomes an alien concept like trying to explain colors to a person that has been blind their entire life. What you can do is to try to be as accommodating as possible and trust in your loved ones. Also…

2. Be knowledgeable about the allergies that afflict your loved ones.

A quick anecdote, I was with my youngest son at his school when they were having a special open lunch for Thanksgiving. Another boy sat at the table and I was told, as I spoke with his mom and dad, that he was allergic to peanuts. The way they tested whether food was safe or not, when an ingredient list was not available, was to allow their son to ‘taste’ test the various foods. This was utter lunacy in my mind. One, because having a reaction is never an acceptable consequence. Two, the reaction to that which causes the allergies can grow more severe the more exposure that individual has. This was evident in the above case as, when I questioned them more, I was told their son reacted more strongly each time. I worried they were grossly misinformed.

3. Try substitutes with your family.

There are going to be substitutes, lots of them. Some of them are going to seem like they won’t taste appealing at all but sometimes you’ll be surprised. We make SunButter and jelly sandwiches for our boys, the sunbutter (derived from sunflower seeds instead of peanuts) is actually pretty good and I enjoy eating them also. It tasted strange the first time I tried it but I grew accustomed to it and like it now. Our boys, having never had anything else, love it. Rice cheese on the other hand (this being a vegan substitute for real cheese) was horrible. It was unpalatable. It crumbled rather than melted so a hot sandwich was questionable and it gave the sensation of having grit in my mouth when chewing. Plus, it failed at the one thing it was supposedly designed to accomplish…taste like cheese. The point being there will be successes and failures in this but you’ll find products that you enjoy. Also, the market for this is growing and many more products come out each year which means better products over time and decreased cost (sunbutter is expensive, unfortunately). But you must always remember to…

4. Check the label.

Whether it says that it’s safe or not, double check the ingredients list to be safe. That is a good principle whether you’re dealing with allergies or adhere to a vegan lifestyle. As an example, my family and I went to Whole Foods for some groceries. At the time, we were still looking for suitable substitutes but also that was the only place my wife could find gluten-free bread. As she perused the shelves, she found carobs marked expressly as ‘Vegan’ and thought about giving it a try for chocolate chip cookies to replace the chocolate chips.

Let me just say, if you’re going to use a phrase such as ‘Vegan,’ know what it means!  My wife was appalled to find under the ingredients that the product had an allergy statement that read, “May contain milk.” Apparently, this manufacturer did not do their homework.

5. Have a personal stress relief.

Stress relief is always important

Coping with a chronic medical condition is stressful for everyone involved. Take care of yourself too.

Some of the changes were particularly difficult to cope with and if I hadn’t had a stress relief, they would have been worse. The stress of the situation can be bad enough for those suffering let alone added stress from those that they need for support. I, personally, am an ultimate disc enthusiast and getting time away to play worked wonders. It also allowed me a chance to unwind so that, when I returned home, I was able to give my wife a break so that she could unwind. Just be sure not to overindulge…as I did. (I was playing nearly 8 times a week at one point)

6. Enjoy the things you use to…out of the house.

Oral allergy syndrome - allergies to raw fruits and vegetables

Some food allergies aren't as dangerous as others. My wife can't eat raw apples (oral allergy syndrome), but we still have them in the house & eat them around her.

I alluded to this at the end of the last article by saying I occasionally treat myself to Chinese food or a Snickers bar. It’s true. You are not allergic to the things your family member is. Just because they can’t have it doesn’t mean that you’ll never have it again either. Don’t be afraid or feel guilty about wanting something that they can’t have. When I went out to see a movie with a friend, we ate Chinese food beforehand. My family wasn’t there so there was no problem. Even within the house we allow for certain food to remain. My youngest is allergic to dairy but we still have cheese in the house. My oldest loves cheese and we’re glad he can enjoy it. They both know and understand who can have what and how to eat it safely so that there are no ‘accidents’. BUT you have to be mindful of my second point above. Enjoy the things but do so safely.

Married to the Always Sick Chick – A Spouse & Father’s Perspective

I have no allergies.

None.

And yet I have spent the better part of the last 8 years trying to understand them. More the latter portion of those 8 but we’ll get to that.

The Always Sick Chick wasn’t always “always sick”. We ate Chinese food, had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, watched animals for friends without a fuss (even had two of our own), and never had to be mindful about spills. What reckless and overindulgent lives we lived!

In sickness and in health isn't always easy.

In sickness and in health...isn't always easy.

That all changed with our first child. My, what wondrous things pregnancy hormones do to an expecting mother. That’s another article, though.

I’d like to interject with a quick history of my own experiences with allergies up to that point. My grandmother was told that my aunt (at an early age) was allergic to dogs but my grandmother never told her NOR gave up their family dog. My father is horribly allergic to cats (eye-watering, itching, throat-closing allergic) yet we had 5 of them when we moved in with my stepmother. He used an inhaler for many, many years along with shots in order to cope. Now he barely needs either…around their 5 cats.

So, in my experience, allergies were a ‘mind-over-matter’ situation. With enough perseverance a person could overcome it. This was the complete opposite of my wife’s experience whose family had many allergies of which we thought she had inherited none of the food allergies, and the environmental and animal allergies were well controlled with medications.

Now back to the birth of our first child. We went from ‘no care or cause for concern’ to ‘couldn’t keep our pets anymore because they made my wife miserable’ in only a year. She coughed and sneezed and wheezed because of them. She felt sick nearly all the time, especially since she was in the home a majority of the time as a stay-at-home mom.

I’m not proud to say that I told her to ‘suck it up’. If my father could do it then so could she. The pets were a part of our family and we couldn’t give them up.

In the end, we gave them up.

Another thing I’m not proud to say is I blamed her. I was so angry and emotionally distraught over the whole situation and eventually I blew up at her and told her how angry I was in a terrible way, with a drunken argument filled with accusations. I’m sure I hurt her deeply because she loved those animals too.

Fast forward a couple years. By this time I had come to terms, mostly, with the fact that we couldn’t have pets. Okay, no biggie. I grew up with a lot of pets and always envisioned pets in my ideal family dream but it wasn’t a bad thing. We had friends with pets and couldn’t necessarily go to their place anymore but it was okay because they could still come to our place, as long as they were careful about bringing in pet hair. We couldn’t stay at my dad and stepmom’s house when we went for a visit either. If I played with an animal or was at a friend’s place and they had an animal then I had to be careful when I came home to wash up properly or she would be miserable the rest of the night. But I was flexible and learned to be okay with it.

In case the subtlety was missed, this was actually quite a dramatic change that I didn’t really get used to and it wore on me. The biggest problem was that I still didn’t understand and harbored a deep-seated doubt that she wasn’t trying to overcome this.

I know, shame on me.

My wife was pregnant with our second child during this time and, two years after our first, she gave birth to our second. We now had two beautiful boys. Because of her concern of latent allergies, given her family history, we were cautious of introducing new foods to our first and had never exposed him to such things as peanut butter. I say ‘we’ but it was her that stressed the concern and I that went along with it simply to appease her. In my opinion, we were being overly cautious and should expose him to everything but, as you may have discerned by this point, I am more of a risk-taker. Still, for her peace of mind, I went along with this plan as we continued it with our second.

It was at this time that another strange thing happened. She developed an allergy to foods. Raw fruits and nuts made her break out with hives. They made her tongue swell. She had an asthmatic reaction.

What the hell, pregnancy hormones?! What the hell is going on?! Is pregnancy mutating my wife? I thought pregnancy was supposed to be a period of swelling for a woman followed by the ‘miracle’ of birth. Now I’m learning that pregnancy can degrade a woman’s body and cause passive traits to manifest. I seriously don’t understand.

So now she seems to have these strange and exotic allergies. She’s apparently allergic to furry animals. Our oldest might be allergic to nuts. Our youngest may be allergic to dairy (all dairy, mind you. Not just lactose-intolerant) and he may have asthma.

I’m not gonna lie. I really wondered to all the validity of these claims. So she felt like her tongue swelled when she ate an apple. So our youngest got a bit of a rash when he was exposed to dairy. I partially wondered, although I rarely voiced it, if this wasn’t all in her head and that our boys would suffer the vices of an over-protective mother.

This, as you may gather, was a rough point in our marriage. We were at odds about many things. Part of this was due to my inability to understand, not just about allergies but about several things. We came very close to divorce. By close I mean I slept on an air mattress in the living room for a month. We talked more in passing than in earnest. I took nearly any excuse not to go home, whether it was to work late or hang out with friends. The climax was actually the talk of divorce.

Luckily, it didn’t happen. Unluckily, I still didn’t understand a lot.

Another year later and we moved to a new state. In the military this is called PCSing or ‘Permanent Change of Station’. Our oldest was almost 5 and our youngest almost 3. The move was a rough experience and the stress was obvious with our boys as they got sick frequently. I felt bad for them and wished it wasn’t necessary. We survived and were staying in on the base in temporary lodging until we could move into base housing.

In our new city, my wife was closer to friends that she hadn’t seen for years and she finally got to visit with them once again. One night she stayed out with a friend all night to catch up on each other’s lives and have fun partying. I was completely for this as it would be nice for her. She didn’t do it often. I stayed with the boys, obviously.

The next morning, I grabbed a snack bar for my breakfast that I hadn’t eaten at work the day before. My oldest son, curious as all kids are about what their parents are eating, drinking, and doing, asked if he could try it. It had a peanut butter spread on the top but he had never had a reaction to anything which I assumed he would have. My wife told me about labels placing warning about ‘manufactured in a facility that processed peanut’ so a rationalized that if he were allergic to them then surely he would have had a reaction by this point. So, I gave him a bite.

I regretted that moment ever since.

I watched as he chewed a small bite then spit it out saying ‘it tasted funny’. I could instantly tell that this wasn’t the normal ‘I don’t like the taste’ reaction. This was something else. The way he was trying to scrap it out of his mouth and spit it out wasn’t normal. This was followed by his face swelling. Soon, his eyelids were swollen to the point that his eyes were looking at me through little slits. Needless to say, I panicked. Luckily, his throat wasn’t swelling shut and he could still breathe. I rushed us all to the hospital ER, calling my wife to let her know what had happened.

It’s hard to express the amount of shame I felt. I had failed. I had failed my son, my wife, my whole family. I hadn’t protected him. On the contrary, I had caused this pain to him. What if it had been worse? What if he hadn’t spit it out? Would that have caused his throat to close? Did I almost kill my own son because of my lack of understanding? I was horrified by myself.

Needless to say, that was eye-opening like little else could be. I wish beyond anything that I had been more receptive before that point. I am more thankful than words can express that it hadn’t been worse.

From that point I paid better attention to the information that my wife presented. I had paid attention before but I made sure I knew with greater certainty the facts and possible consequences and I erred far more greatly on the side of caution.

I still made mistakes.

My youngest got sick a year later. I wasn’t sure that he needed his rescue inhaler but my wife insisted so I trusted her decision. He still developed pneumonia but the doctor gave him antibiotics and he was fine. It was strange because we never realized that he had it but took him to the doctor because the cough seemed to persist. I’m glad we did.

Another year later and my youngest had a persistent cough again. My wife was a little amused that I was the one this time worrying if he needed to go to the hospital. She was sure that he didn’t so we didn’t go and just made sure he got his inhaler and he was fine.

I’ve learned to trust in her recommendation. She devoted a great deal of time researching everything and seeing the signs of problems. I regret much that I did wrong in this whole ordeal. I’m thankful that I have two beautiful boys and a wonderful, beautiful wife that has done much to keep them healthy and happy.

Do I finally understand? No.

I never will. I will never know what it feels like to eat something and it causes a physical reaction. I will never know the fear of wondering why a food or a playful animal is making me feel sick. But I don’t need to. I just need to know that my family knows what it feels like and that it has been far harder on them than it has been on me.

My wife is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, raw fruit, cats, dogs, other various furry animals, and should abstain from gluten. My oldest is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. My youngest is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and dairy. They don’t abstain from these things because they want to. They do it because they have to.

Finally, I needed to trust more in my wife and not allow my decisions be dictated by the past decisions of my family.

And occasionally treat myself to Chinese food or a Snickers bar and make sure to keep it away from my family. After all, they’re the ones that are allergic, not me.

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