Category Archives: Health

Toxic Positivity – Really???

I know you’ve seen it.  It is as constant as the Northern Star. 

A continual onslaught. 

It is the branding, renaming, inventing, concocting, devising, fabricating, and excogitating of terminology and buzz words in an attempt to “newly” describe some concept or phenomenon that exists in the minds of the propagators.  It could be something that was non-existent until the label was contrived.  Or it may have existed forever, but someone attempts to claim credit by architecting a word or phrase to rebrand the old as new again.  And the definition of some of these terms can be counter-intuitive as they mean exactly the opposite of what you might think they mean. 

Often, the label comes first. 

Then there is a quest to find evidence to substantiate it. 

Continue reading Toxic Positivity – Really???

Consciousness, Emotions, and EMFs

Yesterday’s post, which briefly touched on the symbolism of the Tower of Babylon, got me to thinking more about how humans seem to like to convey human attributes onto the Gods they believe govern their existence in the physical plain and the afterlife. (This statement, of course, presumes there is both a limited physical and eternal Spiritual existence for us.) And, this train of thought led me down the path of pondering just what are emotions, what are thoughts, and what is consciousness??? 

Three questions get three question marks. 😊

To add to this thought-wave pulsing through my brain, I remembered a response I received to a post I made on another social media platform recently.  The post was this well-known quote:

“Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Author Unknown

The response I received was something along this line.  Anger is an emotion given to us by God, and therefore, it is supposed to be experienced and is not detrimental.  That’s my summation of the response anyway, and I may have actually given it more meaning than what the author intended, but that’s the way my brain interpreted it.  I can happily extrapolate further if you like by placing it in the context of current world events.  

Ok, maybe not.  😊

Now, I’ve heard many other claims of things or feelings or “rights” that are supposedly “God-given,” such as for possessing guns, but this comment on anger was a new spin for me. 

BTW, I really don’t think an omnipotent being thought up the idea of a right to gun ownership that then spontaneously worked its way into the American Constitution.   That type of “law” is man-made, as is the weapon itself.  But I digress . . .   

What this is all about, of course, is anthropomorphism. 

We are bestowing human characteristics upon other members of the animal kingdom or upon Gods or even upon other objects – animate or inanimate.  As a literary device, anthropomorphism may make sense because we usually need some descriptive or comparative form in order to carry on a conversion about some things – to visualize them.  It’s also fun.

But utilizing projections and metaphors and analogies is not necessarily the same, nor could it be, as capturing a clear, unfiltered, objective, tangible observation of something in space-time reality. I mean really, why would an all-powerful being be a slave to human infirmities, passions, and prejudices?

I guess that makes four questions. 😊

Now those of us who are not science-deniers, and who have even marginally read about the magnificent machine the human body is, know that a great deal, if not all, of the functions of the body are chemical-electrical in Nature.   If you prefer big words, these functions are neuroanatomical, neurochemical, neuralhormonal, and neurophysiological.

There is no dispute that messages in the brain are tossed about by electrically charged neurons, and as these messages jump from gap to gap between neurons an electromagnetic filed is created around those neurons holding the same information that is being transmitted.  This has been confirmed by electroencephalograms (EEGs) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) and has served as the basis for the theory of “CEMI” – the Conscious Electromagnetic Information Field.

Neuroscientists argue over what this exactly means in terms of consciousness.  And I got to tell you that reading through the scientific journals and news reports, this is some pretty tough shit to conceptualize.  But I’ll try to summarize this in a way we can understand it.

Traditionally, philosophers have argued that there is a mind-body dualism.  This philosophy is a step beyond materialism as it implies consciousness is occurring beyond the physical realm.  Free will is supposed to fit in here somewhere, although there are still debates as whether the mind and spirit are different, or the same, or if the entire “mind” concept should be discarded as being superfluous to a body-spirit duality.

Classic scientists advocate their own monotheism that consciousness is generated by the physical brain itself and its network of billions of neurons.  This is not to say automatically that they disbelieve in the Spirit, but rather that consciousness is distinguished from Spirit.

But the neurobiological dualistic theory being advanced most recently is that we have physical matter, our brain, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that compose our consciousness.  In other words, the difference in the dualistic theories of the philosophers and the neurobiologists is the distinction between matter and spirit versus matter and energy.  

Physically speaking, our brains have some “5 million organically-formed magnetite crystals per gram;” each with a north and south pole, “serving as in/out information channels, the basis for awareness,” forming a complex network to broadcast information at “a fraction of the speed of light, unifying conscious experience.”  Whereas the monistic physical model argues integrated information is physical, the dualistic model argues:

“ . . . that nearly all examples of so-called ‘integrated information’, including neuronal information processing and conventional computing, are only temporally integrated in the sense that outputs are correlated with multiple inputs: the information integration is implemented in time, rather than space, and thereby cannot correspond to physically integrated information. . . .

. . .only energy fields are capable of integrating information in space.”

Ok then, if we can wrap our heads around this so-called measurable scientific standard, we not only have to contend with the concept of consciousness not being integrated in physical structures or physical space, but also with the concepts of sentience, awareness and emotion.  All of which can be considered part and parcel of consciousness. 

Maybe we just have too many words here trying to describe the same thing.  One could simply argue that the EMFs created in, or associated with, our brain are the equivalent of what many refer to as the Spirit. 

Energy fields, like Spirits, flow through space and are not bound to physical structures or to time.  

Now, sentience is defined as “the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively” and is distinguished from thought.  Awareness is having “knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.”  And, emotion is defined as “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as a strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”

If the existence of EMFs equals consciousness, and consciousness embodies thoughts, sentience, awareness and emotion, then Mother Earth, with its magnetic field, is indeed a sentient living entity.  As are rocks, plants, and all other forms of life on the planet for that matter.  Maybe we just haven’t learned how to fully measure consciousness in other entities or bridged the communication gap. 

Ponder that for a bit . . .

That’s why I personally find Naturalistically-oriented Spiritual beliefs, such as the ones that First Nations Peoples have adopted, to make so much sense.  Everything is part and parcel of the Source.  “All My Relations” are alive and deserve my recognition and respect.

If we accept that energy fields compose our consciousness, and then add a bit of deductive reasoning, this may very well answer other questions for us and give us a scientific basis for understanding such things as extrasensory perception, telepathic communication, and even how artificial intelligence can transfer to sentience. 

Think of the future of robots.  

And we should also think of the consequences and effects on our own consciousness that creations of ours that emit EMFs may have.  They could be enhancing or very, very destructive. 

So, perhaps this is a scientific quantification of Spirit of sorts.  Science and Religion have always been compatible, so I’m unsure why some try to differentiate them. 

But, getting back to “anger” for a second.  I still believe this powerful emotion is detrimental to us both physically and mentally.   And if you wish to believe it is God-given, then perhaps the Source gives us this emotion as a challenge to discipline our brains and for controlling our thoughts.  After all, traditional dogma tells us that the Source challenges us in many ways to develop and live a spiritual existence free from judgment and the inferior human emotions.  

And no matter how much some people might wish their God was as racist and bigoted and judgmental as they are, I don’t think Gods work that way. 😊

In Metta

Photo: This is an actual image of my brain from an MRI I had. I darkened it a bit so you could see the contrast better of my blood vessels being lit up by the contrast die. Not to many abnormalities present – LOL! I used this image in a bit of prose of mine titled “Neural Roadmaps Revisited.”

Interesting enough, my very first on my blog was titled, “Consciousness.”

Disclaimer: I do not profess to be an expert in such matters as neurobiology, or theology for that matter. I am, however, reasonably educated and enjoy pondering complex questions about the nature of our existence. :-0 I am also open to any other insights or perspectives anyone else may have.

Remember also: the first law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created or destroyed, it merely changes form – thus, it’s eternal in Nature.

Past Blog Posts of Mine on Brain Stuff:

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive

Wired

Boring

If My Memory Serves Me

Brain Games

Sources and Further Readings:

Could Human Consciousness Just Be Brain’s Own Electro-Magnetic Field?

Neuroscience Researcher Todd Murphy Says: Consciousness is the Subjective Experience of the Brain’s Magnetic Fields

Controversial New Theory Says Human Consciousness Is … Electromagnetic?

The Experience of Emotion

Feeling Our Emotions

Integrating Information in the Brain’s EM Field: The CEMI Field Theory of Consciousness

Researcher Proposes New Theory of Consciousness

The Conscious Electromagnetic Information (CEMI) Field Theory: The Hard Problem Made Easy?

Fact or Fiction?: Energy Can Neither Be Created Nor Destroyed

Fulfilling Relationships = Life

I really do like studies.  Even the ones where we think there are obvious conclusions, as if we didn’t need any documentation.

“Everybody knows that!”

But us humans do like to research.  To authenticate, substantiate, certify, justify, confirm, establish, corroborate, prove, support, validate.  Whatever word you want to use.

We like confirmation and quantification.

So, while I’m not overly surprised, I do find it intriguing that the research bears out that modern medicine has very little to do with our overall health – only about ten to twenty percent at best.  A full eighty percent or more is determined by our relationships.  At least that is what a seventy-five-year study conducted by the Harvard Medical School concluded.

Continue reading Fulfilling Relationships = Life

Advanced Camping And Chemical Chaos

I was on a pretty good writing streak for the last half of October and into November, but Thanksgiving this year has brought some new challenges and disruptions and we’ll see where the Universe is going to take me now.  Still plenty to be thankful for.

So, what’s the new chaos??

And I suppose you could call this Part 9 of my series on marriage and divorce, because separating from my last wife is what placed me in the environment that spawned the challenges I now face.  A product of many factors, but economics was one of the primary triggers.

Not that I couldn’t survive monetarily, but the loss of assets lead me to the house I would end up in, and that would lead me to a different type of deterioration.

***

Continue reading Advanced Camping And Chemical Chaos

Time Fell Back

For being a totally artificial construct, time certainly can beguile us.

Lead us into a false sense of security when there seems to be plenty of “time-to-spare.” Yet place us in a state of sheer panic if time has “escaped us.”  Particularly for workplace deadlines.  Or when we’re dashing across the airport terminal trying to catch that connecting flight.  Or maybe when we’re counting the seconds between the contractions a mother endures during childbirth.

A new life blooms that will soon be “ticking away” the hours.

Continue reading Time Fell Back

Neurocognitive Scaffolding

Disclaimer:  Beware – today I dive into a more technical piece of work versus my more poetic stuff 🙂

***

I always love it when new terms of art are coined.  The coupling of words and formation of short phrases to describe something, a concept, possibly already known or possibly a new formulation.  It seems to be the perpetual motion of researchers, politicians, and wordsmiths alike, to boil a concept down into a few short syllables to describe something of monumental proportions.

Why?

Well once the label or buzzword or soundbite is created, no one has any need to reference the material supporting it, or even read and digest it for that matter.  It sort of becomes a “given.”  It is a self-explanatory definition that generally becomes universally accepted.

It is the same philosophy journalists use when they try to tell the whole story in just the headline.  Reading the story becomes superfluous, and with lowering attention spans many readers don’t make it past those headlines.

You might even compare this practice to that of our ancient ancestors drawing pictograms and petroglyphs on cave walls.  Reducing an idea to its most elementary form in an attempt to communicate.

Actually, I think images may even be more powerful than words in the sense that they convey detail that encompasses all of the senses that can cross language barriers.  Some days, I would prefer petroglyphs to the written and spoken language 😊

But, should simple or even complex phraseology be given such deference?

I’m not sure.  Such practices have the potential to oversimplify.  And in the case of journalists, many times their stories don’t match their headlines – not even close.

So where am I going with this?  Well, I stumbled upon a new term this week involving our aging brains.  “Neurocognitive Scaffolding.”

Continue reading Neurocognitive Scaffolding

Call of the Wild*

I’ve been doing a lot of stumbling lately.

I really like that word.  Its main definition is about walking in an unsteady manner, being clumsy, to almost fall, or to make an error.  Blunder.  But I like the other definition, that of unexpectantly coming upon something – like truth.

Now that’s no error.  That’s magic.

Continue reading Call of the Wild*

Silence is Golden, but Mantras . . .

You can fill in the blank in the title.  I might say . . . “are miraculous.”

***

I can remember back in college, I had friends who used to wear their headphones constantly.  They told me they couldn’t study without listening to music.  And I always found that hard to believe because if I’m listening to music, the only other thing I can do at the same time is dance.  And I’m not so great at that either, although I have fun flailing about 🙂

I mean I can’t even go to sleep listening to music.  Music just seems to engage some part of my brain that carries me somewhere else completely.

And totally.

Continue reading Silence is Golden, but Mantras . . .

Brain Games

Well the old brain is clicking along today. Somewhat dazed, but the ramblings in my head don’t go away – except maybe when I meditate.

It’s funny we go through life trying to find meaning, to discover an identity for ourselves, and yet try as we might, we, as beings, are kind of hard to define.  And if we can’t even define ourselves, then how can we elucidate a purpose for this existence.

As I was listening to a song this morning the lyrics kind of hit home when I heard, “I don’t even need a name anymore, when no one calls it out, it kind of vanishes away.”

Continue reading Brain Games

Contrasts – ምዕራፍ 7 – Molecular Hysteria

I paused for a few moments to take in the panorama.  Absolutely beautiful.

I was sitting on top of a mountain pass looking down through the outstretching valley below.  Mountain ridges rose parabolically, expanding outward and then opening up to a gorgeous vista.  More mountains in the distance shrouded in a light bluish haze.  The product of wind-blown dust and the sun’s rays bending around all of those tiny particles.  Photons bouncing through a prism, the colors and shadows changing constantly with Sol’s rotation.

The undulating hills bore the tracks of water courses, washes that were bone-dry now but would rapidly fill in the monsoon rains.  Rains that would carve.  The softness of water overpowering the hardness of basalt, granite, and rhyolite.  Like a sculptor of the landscape etching images that can best be scene from this bird’s-eye view.

Volcanic remains from a once violent explosion.  The center of the caldera sinking as millions of tons of smoke, ash, and debris filled the sky, blotting out the sun until the jet stream cleared the airways.  Once molten rock now overgrown with sagebrush, Mexican feather grass, manzanita, brittle brush, turpentine brush, prickly pears, mesquite, pinyon pine, alligator juniper, and scrub oak.

A light, warm wind blows as black hawks sore at dazzling heights – eye-level now that I’m at the peak.  I speak to them and offer thanks for their company.  A roadrunner scurries across the path in front of me carrying a freshly caught spiny lizard.  Life.  Predator and prey.  A continuous cycle.

There’s no other human soul around me and I’m basking in eternal peace.  Yet there is another battle silently raging in the recesses of my mind and body.  Ever pressing its way into the forefront of my consciousness.   An insidious illness that many doctors refuse to acknowledge even though some seven million Americans are afflicted.   Symptoms growing from minute exposures.  Triggering a cascade of molecular hysteria.  The body unable to compensate.

***

I found myself rapidly getting dizzy.  My brain was becoming foggy and then the headache came.  I noticed my heart beat was irregular, sometimes slowing down, and other times speeding up.  Skipping beats.  And there was the abdominal pain and nausea.   It was difficult to navigate to find a place to rest.  My voice cracked, became hoarse, it was difficult to speak.  There was short-term memory loss, the immediate short-term, making small instant decisions difficult.

You might think I had been poisoned.  Inhaled some insecticide by accident.  Perhaps a farmer spraying crops in the distance.

Or maybe I could have spilled some rat poison or gasoline on my hands.  Drank some polluted water.  Walked through the thick smoke of a brush fire.  Breathed paint fumes in a freshly painted house or from a recently stain deck.  Or maybe it was formaldehyde or ethylene.  Gassing-off of furniture or from the upholstery and plastic dashboard of the car.

All of these factors, and more, can be triggers.  But all I had done was get dressed.

You see, clothing manufactures are spraying all types of noxious chemicals on clothes now.  To make them last longer, wear better, not catch on fire, and not smell when we sweat.  Or to kill bugs when they’re shipped.  No different than the farmer spraying the crops.

Then there are the chemical detergents the clothes were washed in.  Or the washing machine and dryer themselves.  Now contaminated with chemical residues from past loads.

Chemicals that are truly poisonous, but which most people, at least for the moment, can tolerate in small amounts.  Some of us aren’t so fortunate.  Our bodies have become overwhelmed by all the toxins and we can’t clear our systems of them any longer.  Smaller amounts begin producing bigger reactions all the time.  It’s called toxicant-induced loss of intolerance.

And there’s no escape.

It began with a reaction to chemicals used to tan and waterproof leather.  A new pair of hiking boots.  And then exploded to any clothing, soaps and detergents, sunscreens, shaving creams, etc.  Anything that may contain any type of rubber accelerator, biocidic agent, or chromate.   Foods, now saturated with pesticides and herbicides and preservatives, can trigger it.  Molds, that produce endotoxins that gas-off or are carried by their microscopic spores, once inhaled, can debilitate.

This condition goes by various names.  Multiple chemical sensitivity, environmental illness, sick building syndrome, idiopathic environmental intolerance, ecologic illness, total allergy syndrome, and the 20th Century disease.  In terms of our military veterans, this can manifest as Gulf War Syndrome or Agent Orange disability.

One of the hindrances for doctors accepting the existence of the disease is their disagreement on how to define and name it.  It also doesn’t quite fit the traditional allergen-antibody reaction.  Instead of having hives, or a runny nose, watering eyes and difficulty breathing, the reaction is nuerotoxic, like a poisoning.

Despite the AMA’s denial, there is so much information about this disease and its various manifestations that I won’t attempt to try to cover it all.  Treatment is extremely limited and primarily consists of avoidance and boosting the body’s natural ability to detoxify.  Kind of hard to avoid clothing 🙂

Some medications can lessen symptoms but there is no treatment to my knowledge that is getting to the root cause – an increasingly toxic planet caused by human occupation and alleged progress.

If you find this concept hard to wrap your mind around consider this, there are some 85,000 chemical compounds licensed by the FDA for commercial use in America.  And very few have been tested for safety.  The umbilical cord blood of infants in this country, just prior to their birth, before they have even taken their first breath, test positive for up to 287 industrial chemicals with an average of 200 per baby.  These chemicals include: polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, furans, pesticides, flame retardants, industrial lubricants, plastics, consumer product ingredients, wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage, lead, mercury, methylmercury, perfluorochemicals (PFCs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), to name but a few.

***

So, as I hike through this paradise of nature my mind grows cloudy and my body becomes weary.  A contrast of pristine beauty flooding my senses with intoxicating images, forms and scents.  A vision that is totally energizing and invigorating, while the body betrays and is overwhelmed with fatigue.  Predator and prey . . . the continuing cycle that none of us can escape.  But perhaps our predator has become ourselves.

***

Postscript: Sometimes I believe that the Source strips away many of the material distractions in our lives to get us to focus on spiritual development.  You are compelled to pay attention to those matters of soul growth.  Our mission in life is not to work and pay bills and engage in immediate sense gratification.  There is so much more about getting to and experiencing our true essence.  I believe that this is one of those times.

Photo: Sitting on top of a mountain in the southwestern desert, gazing though the valley formed by an old volcanic caldera.

Language for “Chapter 7” in the title:   I know you’ve all noticed that I’ve been using different languages in the titles of these chapters I’ve themed as “Contrasts.”  Today’s choice was Amharic the Semitic language descended from Ge’ez that is the official language of Ethiopia.  I enjoy marveling at different languages as I explained in my post “Like.”

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

Contrasts– 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Contrasts – Isahluko 6 – Southwest versus Midwest

Source Materials:

Case Definitions for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

A Report on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

How many toxins is your baby getting in the womb?

Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns: Detailed Findings

What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity by Alison Johnson Chapter 2 The Elusive Search for a Place to Live

Chemical Sensitivity Foundation Research Bibliography

Seminar explores multiple chemical sensitivities topic

Fragrance-Free Workplaces

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Link Rot: As always, I cannot predict how long a hyperlink on the Net will hang around.  They tend to disappear over time or be hijacked to other sites, but they were current at the time I referenced them.

Breathing is a Good Thing

A faint sound pierced the cloudy haze.  An echo through a long corridor.

Darkness, but light sort of on the periphery.  A greenish glow that grew brighter at regular intervals.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  I didn’t know where I was. 

I smell antiseptics.  Hear voices growing louder.  Shouting!!

Sort of floating.  I wasn’t walking.  I was being dragged.  My legs outstretched behind me.  Feet limp.  I had no control of them.  There was pressure under both of my arms.  I slowly opened my eyes and recognized the green tile floors and walls.  I was in the emergency room at the air base hospital.

Two airmen in uniform each had an arm under one of mine as we burst through the double swinging doors into the treatment area. 

I heard the doctor asking what was going on and one of the airmen yelled, “He passed out in the waiting room!” 

The familiar face of the doctor said, “Oh, he’s ok, he just needs some rest.”

The airman protested, “Well, he doesn’t look so good me.  We picked him up off the floor out there.”

Doctor, “I gave him some medicine.  That’s to be expected.”

The next voice I heard was my mother’s frantically asking what was happening.  She had gone out to the parking lot to bring the car up to the door. 

After we were all dismissed by the doctor, the airmen carried me to the car and put me in the back seat.  A fog enveloped me and I was out.

I woke up eight hours later in my bed at home.  I struggled for breath, coughed, stumbled to the floor and called out for my parents.  I was a nice shade of purple.  Cyanosis.  Not enough oxygen.  Thirty minutes later I as back in the ER, only this time I was being given epinephrine. 

My heart rate picked up.  Lungs cleared.  I could breath after getting the third dose of .3cc.  They followed that with a shot of susphrine, a long-acting form of epinephrine.

These were the meds I should have received on my first visit to the ER, standard treatment for an asthma attack at that time.  But I had unluckily come in when a certain doctor was on duty.  One that believed asthma was a mental illness so he had given me a shot of 50 mg of thorazine, a powerful antipsychotic medication.  A big dose for a 50-pound kid.  And this was exactly the wrong medication to give to a person in respiratory distress because it depresses respirations further.  I would learn later that it was amazing I even woke up after that.

It was time to package me off to home again.  But I’d be back. 

***

1965.  This was a rough year.  Almost 80 trips to the ER – that was one to three times a week, depending on the week.  I knew all of the ER staff by name.  The medical knowledge was limited and the treatments were primitive.  I used to say that if the disease doesn’t kill you, the medicine will.

There were so many things the docs didn’t know or understand about the disease back then.  And they were not of the mindset to listen to their patients either.  Especially a child patient.  No, these docs were educated old-school that they were the keepers of all of the knowledge.  It was a dictatorial approach, not a collaborative one.

A couple of very simple things really threw these guys off balance.  If I had been in respiratory distress for a while and finally got relief from the epi, I would go to sleep.  My body was totally exhausted from having struggled so hard to breathe.   You use all of your chest muscles fighting to inhale and you can’t seem to be able to exhale.  It’s like lifting weights and running at the same time while you’re really just lying in bed. 

They didn’t get it.  Epinephrine doesn’t only dilate your bronchioles, it really kicks up your heart rate.  It’s a stimulant so they expected you to be bouncing off the walls after getting a shot.  More than once, I woke up on an ER gurney being slapped around by doctor screaming “WAKE UP” after the epi finally broke the attack.  A look of panic and fear filled their faces.

Another thing they couldn’t grasp was what absence of wheezing meant.  Wheezing, or air whistling through a constricted airway, was a hallmark symptom of an asthma attack.  But you reach a point where your airway is so constricted that you can’t exchange enough air to produce a wheeze.  The docs know now that this is an ominous sign.  You’re near death.  But back in the day, if they didn’t hear a wheeze, they’d send you home and try to tell you that you weren’t having trouble breathing.

They could have drawn arterial blood gases to measure the oxygen content of your blood, but even that was a new technology at the time, people weren’t skilled with drawing blood from arteries, and most hospitals didn’t have the equipment to analyze such a blood sample. 

Now they have pulse oximeters that give you an instantaneous oxygen saturation reading.  Just clip it on your finger and it compares infrared to red wavelengths of light to tell you how much oxygen is in your blood.  I even have my own at home.   If they had had those then, I’m sure they would have been shocked to see how low your oxygen sat was.

In those days, it was sort of off-the-cuff, hit-or-miss treatment.  So, I was frequently misdiagnosed, given the wrong medication, or overdosed on the right medication.  You name it.  You could die with or without the treatment.  Take your pick. 

An upper respiratory infection could quickly turn to pneumonia, trigger the asthma, and I’d be spending the week in the hospital.  A scary place for a little kid.  Once, when I as in an oxygen tent, a technician walked into the room smoking a cigarette.  Hospitals weren’t smoke-free then.  Patients and staff smoked all the time.

Of course, oxygen is not explosive, but it will rapidly feed a fire.  You don’t bring fire, in any form, near an oxygen tank or tent or mask.  That’s just asking for trouble.  Not to mention that cigarette smoke can cause an asthma attack.  Stupid.  Even as a little kid I knew better. 

For maintenance treatment, they prescribed theophylline-based drugs.  I would use a liquid form of this to swallow the other pills ordered.  But theophylline wasn’t cutting it, and good inhalant meds didn’t exist yet.  So when an allergy specialist rotated into that hospital, he started me on steroids.  

It took high daily doses of prednisone to bring my asthma under control, and the docs weren’t aware of the long-term side effects.  They controlled the asthma but they stunted my growth.  Big time.  A bone age study when I was thirteen put my bones at an eight-year-old developmental level. 

The docs told me I’d never get off the steroids, but I weaned myself off and proudly handed a bottle full of pills back to the doctor.  I thought he’d be happy.  Instead he berated me, “I can’t be your mother and make sure you take your medication!” 

Strange. 

Once off those meds, I grew a foot in height in just one year and normalized my weight a bit.  I never approached my father’s or my brother’s heights, but hey, there are advantages to being short 🙂

While I had gotten off the steroids, and as time progressed, the docs kept increasing the dosage of theophylline and added terbutaline, another bronchodilator.  On these meds, my resting heart rate was 120 beats per minute and my hands would shake so violently that I couldn’t even write my own name.  So the wise doctors added three doses of valium a day to take the edge off.  What a mix.

I could tell you a lot of crazy near-death stories from back then, but it might get boring after a while and I don’t want you think I’m whining or feeling sorry for myself.  I’m not.   It’s all just experience.  I have a great appreciation for life. 

And it’s important to realize that healthcare practitioners aren’t gods.  They don’t know it all.  You need to be an active participant in your own healthcare.

I will end with another brief tale, though.  When inhalant drugs were first introduced, there were no hand-held, pocket-sized devices.  You had to own an air compressor and hook that to a plastic or glass nebulizer attachment, mix the solutions for the nebulizer, and then fire up the machine and breath in the mist. 

One of the first inhalant meds they tried in the early 60s was Isoproterenol (Isoprel).  (An incredibly potent heart medication I would be administering to my patients in the ICU as a critical care nurse years later.)  But the cardiac effects were way too strong and they were giving little kids heart attacks.  I remember two different times showing up for the allergy clinic where we got our twice-weekly allergy shots only to find a face missing from the group. 

Two kids I knew died from this medication at an age when I really didn’t have a full concept of what death was yet.  I just knew I never saw them again . . .

***

Postscript: The inhalant drugs would continue their evolution through Isoetharine (Bronkosol), to Metaproterenol (Alupent), to Salbutamol (Albuterol or Ventolin), and with the addition of Beclometasone (Vanceril or Q-Var), a steroid inhaler, things really improved.   My condition stabilized in 1982 with the addition of Beclometasone, and that was the last year, so far, that I’ve been hospitalized with asthma being the cause.  Of course, now we’ve gone even generations further and have such products as Fluticason (Flovent), a long-acting steroid, and Formoterol (Foradil), a long-acting beta-2 agonist that targets the lung more and the heart less.  Progress.

Photo: The big skies of Montana.  No better representation for the air we breathe.  The oxygen we crave.  The ease of living.

Transformation or Illness: How Would We Know?

I picked up a fun book tracing a historical perspective on the advancement of medicine, and it naturally included a section about the Hippocratic Oath (400 B.C.).  Hippocrates was the ancient Greek physician credited as being the father of Western Medicine.  He is famous for dismissing beliefs, more ancient than he was, that advocated the supernatural origin of disease.

The oath, which has frequently been summed up as “first do no harm” is actually quite lengthy.  It has been modified multiple times over the centuries and, as it turns out, was not, most probably, written by Hippocrates.

Another irony is that, while Hippocrates disavowed supernatural origins of disease, the original oath translated from Greek, begins by invoking supernatural beings: “I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius [God of Medicine], by Hygieia [Goddess of health and cleanliness], by Panacea [Goddess of remedies], and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.”

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of texts associated with Hippocrates’ teachings, only part of which was authored by Hippocrates.  And perhaps in another irony, the Paneth Codex, another medical text that was completed long after Hippocrates had passed, contains some of his writings while using depictions of demons as metaphors for disease.

It seems that it was hard for even the most objective early practitioners of medicine to fully eliminate the supernatural from the corners of their medicine cabinets.  And maybe for good reason.  For the supernatural, once identified and defined, can become quite natural.

So just what is the supernatural and what is natural or normal when it comes to defining illness?

My background and careers are largely based upon science and logical reasoning.  Yet, I’m still willing to keep an open mind and recognize that science and human genius can’t always explain things.  As most people would attest, we’ve seen or experienced things that simply don’t fit neatly into the boxes and shelves of the “normal.”

To say it differently, I believe in the metaphysical realm.  I also believe in mind-body connections and what’s happening in the mind can find ways of manifesting itself in the body.

While I was working at a major research hospital, the doctors and nurses frequently described and linked personality types with specific diseases.  And not always in the most positive terms.  A more neutral example might be that “Type A” personalities were more likely to have heart attacks than “Type B” personalities.

Which brings me to today’s pondering.

Is every so called “unnatural” or “abnormal” condition truly an “illness?”  What’s the interplay between mental and physical illness?”  And what if instead of an illness that required treatment, people were really, in some instances, going through an evolution that should be allowed to progress?

And I guess before I dive in too deeply here, I should clarify that I’m not a mental health professional, nor am I a medical doctor.  If you’re needing a medical opinion, consult your primary care physician, and if you wish to learn more about mental health from a real professional, check out the site of my blogging friend Dr. Perry.

That disclaimer aside, most illnesses would fall outside the definition of normal and some seem relatively simple to diagnose and identify their causes.  Some are genetically related and some follow the pathogen-induced pathway.  Sounds simple, you’re born with the genetic makeup that can be expressed as a physical ailment or you encounter a virus or bacterium and you contract a disease.

But many people have “bad genes” or have close encounters with pathogens and they don’t become ill.  Why?  They are usually said to have healthier immune systems.  What makes a healthy immune system?  Besides good nutrition and exercise there are plenty of correlations to good mental health, positive thinking, and being happy to having a healthy immune system and healthy body.

The idea of illness originating in the mind, or from a body being out of balance might coincide more with some Eastern medical practices, while germ theory most follows Western medicine.  Although I will give Western medicine credit for having researched some things like meditation and meridians and finding scientific bases to support traditional Eastern or more holistic approaches to treatment.  And many Western pharmaceutical treatments come directly from old-fashioned herbal remedies from the Shamans of old.

So if one is encountering an illness, or deviation from normal physical or mental health, something not occurring naturally, then, despite Hippocrates’ claims, could there be a “supernatural” cause, and just what would that mean?

The definition of “supernatural” doesn’t only include references to spiritual entities, but it more basically means transcending the laws of nature or being attributable to an invisible agent.  So, before the advent of the microscope, a simple bacterium or a virus would not have been visible in the observable universe and an illness caused by such would have been a supernatural occurrence.  Consequently, depending on the limits of scientific measurement at any point in time, many causes of diseases could, by simple definition, be supernaturally caused.

And when referring to the supernatural, does it have to be an external source?  What about the person’s own spirit?  Can’t a damaged soul be expressed as a physical ailment?

Or maybe an enlightened soul is causing a physical evolution?

My daughter sent me an interesting article the other day called,  “Shamans Believe Mental Illness Is Something Else Entirely.”  The article focused on a West African Shaman of the Dagara people who proposes that some mental ailments, like depression and schizophrenia may actually be a step towards transformation – even meaning the birth of a healer.

The Dagara believe that some of what we in the West call mental illness is really what happens when people encounter, and don’t how to deal with, psychic phenomena and the spiritual world.  In their tradition, these individuals are seen as a bridge between physical and spiritual worlds.

This Shaman is said to have taken an 18-year-old suffering from hallucinations and depression back to his village.  After 8 months of healing rituals this person was acting quite “normal” and returned to U.S. society to earn a degree in Psychology at Harvard.

While this may be an isolated example, it’s an amazing concept to contemplate.  And I’m not saying that such non-traditional approaches would be a panacea for mental health treatments.  I’m just saying there is still more unknown than there is known.

Given our acculturation, if we were undergoing a positive physical, mental, or spiritual transition we might very well be totally confused as to what was happening and think we were ill.  Our doctors might be unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis and resort to traditional treatments or try to repress the evolution.  You might be labeled as being mentally ill, which could, in turn, send you down medical corridors forever obscuring the inner butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

As more advances are made, and as more ways to measure the currently unmeasurable become available, finer distinctions may emerge as to what constitutes good or “normal” health.  For the supernatural may be commonplace and just another source for healthy growth and development.

***

Photo: The book I picked up is titled: “The Medical Book” and it was written by Clifford A. Pickover.  This picture is a portion of a photo used in the book and comes from the Paneth Codex, completed in Bologna in 1326 A.D.   The book begins in the time frame of 10,000 B.C. moving through medical advances until 2008.  Medicine, indeed, has come a long way from bloodletting starting in 1500 B.C., and I believe it still has a long way to go.

I can personally attest to the advances made in the treatment of asthma since the 1960s when many doctors believed that asthma was a mental illness.  I had many a scary trip to the emergency room as a child, and when in full respiratory distress was even administered Thorazine, an antipsychotic medication, and knocked unconscious.  Oh, the many things we’ve been fortunate enough to survive:-)

Hypocrite: I feel compelled to mention that the word “hypocrite” does not originate from “Hippocrates,” even though it sort of sounds like it does.  Hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, meaning “an actor,” and translating more literally to “an interpreter from underneath” because actors at the time traditionally wore masks.  Figuratively, it meant someone who wears a mask to pretend to be someone they are not.  In early religious texts, its appears as “ypocrite” referring to those acting like they are morally good to deceive others.  Today, of course, we accept the meaning that it’s a person acting contrary to their stated beliefs.  In a loose sense, that could apply to Hippocrates – denouncing supernatural causes of disease while swearing to supernatural beings to practice good medicine 🙂

Update December 1, 2018: I stumbled upon another article today about this same subject and the Dagara. “A Mental Disease by Any Other Name.”

 
Link Rot Warning: No one can guarantee how long a link on the Net will last.  The US Supreme Court got into trouble over this.  One of the judges quoted from an Internet site, but after a couple of months the site was no longer there for reference.  I also once went to check out a link promoted on our local TV weather channel only to discover it had been hijacked by a porn site – Yikes!

Trust Me, I’ll Feel Guilty

As I’m waking up most mornings, I usually enjoy a cup of coffee in front of the computer while scrolling through various social media sites, picking up the news, and marveling over the commentary.  A while back LinkedIn started what it calls its “Daily Rundown” where it features select tidbits of business-related news and solicits comments.  The skew is usually pro-business and pro-employer, although you will also see pieces that are neutral or pro-employee.

The other day they featured an article about some research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled “Who is Trustworthy? Predicting Trustworthy Intentions and Behavior.”  The study used several economic games to measure the personality traits that predict if you can trust someone.  And what they discovered was that “guilt-proneness” was a powerful indicator of trustworthiness.

They distinguished “guilt-proneness” from “guilt” by defining it as the tendency to feel guilty about wrongdoing, thereby avoiding that wrongdoing, versus the negative emotion experienced when someone actually commits some transgression.  The gist of the article discussing the research was that if you wanted trustworthy employees, look for people with a high level of guilt-proneness.

The comments that followed ranged from equating guilt to perfectionism, extreme self-awareness, or having a conscience to guilt being a toxic form of shame that destroys self-esteem.  Some spoke of religion using guilt to control people.

One gentleman said, “I don’t do guilt – such a loser’s emotion,” although later he said he was being “tongue in cheek.”  One woman said, “Then employers should hire more young, white men.  For 50 years feminism has portrayed them as being Guilty of Everything.”  Oh dear, no backpedaling from her.

Yes, the commentary can get a bit dicey to say the least.  And it’s important to note how most of us seized on the word “guilt” as opposed to “guilt-proneness,” and seemed to miss the distinction the researchers were trying to make.  I looked at the verb form of the word myself.

Semantics can muddy the waters of any communication.

I’m not sure how an employer would go about measuring guilt-proneness.  In fact, it seems you would have to entice people to do something wrong and then measure their reaction – avoidance or commission.  Which is what the researchers did.  How would you do that objectively in a job interview or in the workplace after hiring someone?

I do know an employer locally that requires applicants to take a personality test.  I think that’s a bit extreme, and having worked for that employer in the past I imagine the purpose of the test is to screen out any non-conformists.  They don’t want to hire anyone who might question authority or their profit motivations.  I think they will end up screening out the most creative and adaptive applicants and end up with a hive of drones, but hey, that’s just my view 🙂  They may measure “trustworthiness” as a completely different concept – “blind loyalty.”

It is an interesting article and context is important.  Like I mentioned, I looked at the verb as in “guilting.”

When I was a practicing RN, I did a literature review of nursing management journals.  Forty articles out of four hundred – 10% – were dedicated to describing methods for employers to take advantage of, or abuse, their staff.  One in particular was titled, “Manipulation, Making the Best of It.”  The article focused totally on using guilt as a means to take advantage of the staff.  Guilt is a powerful motivator for caregivers and management was encouraged to guilt their staff into working additional 12-hour shifts, accepting ridiculous patient loads, floating to units where they did not have expertise, not taking breaks, and even into not getting paid for their work.

One winter, after an extremely heavy snowfall, my ex was guilted by her employer into trying to go to work.  We lived out in the country and the roads were impassable.   She barely made it out of the driveway when she tried and had to put both of our cars in the ditch to finally absolve her of that boss-instilled guilt.

So while the article focused on how the propensity to feel guilt can be a reflection of the trustworthiness of employees, the question I would ask is if we can trust employers, or anyone else for that matter, not to use guilt as a weapon.  Maybe that’s a better measure of trustworthiness 🙂

***

Photo: I wasn’t sure what pic to choose for this one, but decided this innocent, young buck was a good one.  I was at a distance and made a slight noise to attract its attention.  He warily observed me, not knowing whether he could trust me not to do him harm.  Our eyes met for a spell, after which, he leisurely resumed his grazing.  I guess I somehow communicated that I meant him no malice.