Category Archives: Health

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 were 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.

The Many Flames of Life

I love fire.  Always have.

A Passionate Embrace.

Cozy snowy days by the woodstove.

Well, not quite a Haiku’s traditional 5-7-5, but fire is still poetic.  Fire is symbolic of so many things.  Transformation, purification, life force, power, strength, destruction, rebirth, transcendence, inspiration, enlightenment.

Truth and Knowledge.  Light and Heat.  The Intellect and the Emotions.

“Baptism by Fire” restores primordial purity.  An intermediary between the Source and all of us tiny Particles of Awareness.

Fire is a good visual representation of our emotions.  Anger, I believe, is the most destructive – a raging inferno.  Passion, the most inspirational, a slow intense burn.  Love, a steady light.  Life, the precious spark.

The blaze in the feature photo above represents that out-of-control burst of anger.  Hatred.  The stare of death.

While this image . . .

Fire +

the steady, passionate burn of the heart.  That electric heat, tingle of fire, with the brush of a lover’s hand.  A slow, deep delicious kiss.

And there’s another image I truly love, from my background of being a health care provider – The Keeper of the Flame.  I found this pin at a military surplus store.  I was told it was a German medic’s pin.  The hands delicately cradling that life force.

Keeper of the Flame

And here’s one, a story for another day, perhaps, of a long ago camping trip in the mountains of Colorado.  The howling winds channeling through the mountain pass.  Filling our eyes with smoke and ash as we reached for those life-giving flames.

Cold in Them Mountains

But anger.  Yes anger is the most destructive.  A fire that can consume us.  Destroy us physically and mentally.  We might think it’s directed outward, but the amount of negative energy that burns within can kill.  An insidious suicide.

I end with a link to a friend’s blog.   Lucid Being recently posted “Solving the Anger Issues! – Open Leader.” It’s a good read.

As for that spiritual burn in all of us – don’t let that fire go out.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afflicted

I have to say that over the years my writing has evolved a bit.  I used to really like to write hard-hitting editorials with those go-for-the-throat zingers 😊  And, a lot of people really like seeing that edge to my writing so I doubt I will give that up completely.

But I’ve come to enjoy writing more uplifting pieces or just plain old-fashioned storytelling.

While steering away from some of the more controversial topics, which I think some of us are getting overloaded on anyway, I still have a couple of pet peeve topics I do like to write about.  One of those is advocating for quality health care for all, and I think health care should be recognized as a fundamental human right.  Another is economic injustice.  So here I go on today’s soapbox . . .

Back in January, I posted a piece called “Toxic” where I discussed various applications of this word as it applies to both harmful substances as well as harmful people and harmful workplaces.  God knows, we’ve all had a big dose of those in our lifetimes.

I had also made a post called “Balance.”  In it, I talked about American economics and just how disproportionate the imbalance is becoming between the ultra-wealthy and the average citizen.  I have made several updates to this piece and I like it.  Because it is turning into an interesting compilation of economic data, and it doesn’t bear out the hype you’re hearing from the politicians.

I added updates to both yesterday and I’m including a boiled down version here as well.

In Toxic, I mentioned two Netflix docuseries – “Rotten” and “Dirty Money.”  As I stated then, I usually don’t endorse products or programming, but these series are worth a watch because they explore multiple issues with modern agricultural practices and monetary exploitation.  Both of which can be toxic to your health.

The hyperlinks I’m including will take you to the trailers for these programs.

But I most highly recommend the new series they have added called “Afflicted.”  Afflicted tracks seven individuals struggling with disease processes that have been caused by, or contributed to by, our world’s toxic environment.  You can umbrella them under the term of “environmental illness.”  And it explores how these peoples’ lives have been affected and how the mainstream medical community generally turns their back to them.  It is definitely worth the watch and was of great interest to me since I have developed chemical sensitivities over the past year and have been found to have toxic metal poisoning.

This reminds me of my early years growing up with asthma.  The medical community didn’t know shit about the disease, tried to claim it was a mental illness, and damn near killed me a dozen times over experimenting with extremely bad treatments.  We all know now that this is a commonly recognized and bona fide medical illness and the treatments have vastly improved because Big Pharma found a way they could profit from it.

Sorry if I sound a tad bit cynical there 😊

Back to the post Balance.  I’ve added an update there about CEO compensation.  As you can guess, it’s beyond disgusting and has been tremendously magnified by the latest tax policy.  The average CEO is being paid 312 times what the average worker is earning.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the argument that you have to pay a premium for good leadership, although in my jobs I rarely witnessed it.  But paying anyone a salary that is the equivalent of winning the lottery each and every year is a bit beyond anything rational.  It’s just pure greed.

And if you’re wondering about the tie-in between corporate greed and health, well keep in mind that we average workers or retirees are all one serious illness away from bankruptcy.

Well, enough of that stuff, right?  Do check out the updates if you’re interested and I hope you are having a wonderful Tuesday !

I’ll be back soon with some more uplifting and fun stories 😊

***

Photo: I caught this midwestern sunset many years ago and I titled it “Moods.”  I think the gradation of colors sort of captures various moods or states of mind, from golden and blue and purple to pink, orange, and red.  It goes well with this short piece where I’m talking about the moods with my writing 🙂

BTW: If you haven’t seen them before, here are a couple of my other healthcare posts that look at toxicity and the interaction of economics with the provision of care.

Antimony, Stibine, Babies, and Death

Seeding, Misleading, Switching, and Stealing: The Vocabulary of Competition in Today’s Pharmaceutical Industry

The Cabo Monetary Standard

Ok, so I am switching to a new monetary standard.

I’ve just read an interesting historical account of the bimetallic monetary standards – the competition between using silver or gold to back the nation’s currency.  Well not that interesting, I just sort of skimmed the piece.  That was all it was worth : – )

At any rate, the gold standard, which won over the silver standard, was blamed for prolonging the great depression because it prevented the Federal Reserve from expanding the money supply to stimulate the economy.  Clearly not a problem today where administration after administration engages in big time deficit spending.  And come on, we all know there ain’t enough gold in the world to back all the cash that has been circulated now.  I just lit the wood stove with a fiver . . .

What does all this have to do with me.  Well, I went to purchase a new prescription today.  Actually, not new.  It was a type of the same medicine I’ve been taking for some 20 years without any problems, but the “new” one was supposed to be “better.”  But it turned out there was no generic version so Big Pharma could cash in.  But wait, the Pharm was going to help me out with a “coupon.”  But wait again, they refused to give me the coupon because they claim I am on Medicare.  Hold on, I’m old, but not that old.  F#$% that Sh**.  I’m not on Medicare or Gericare, or BSanythingCare.

So, in looking at the co-pay I realized I could buy 3 bottles of Cabo for the cost of that “new” “better” med.  And, thus, the Cabo monetary standard has been adopted.  Anything costing over the price of a bottle of Cabo must now be seriously analyzed – full cost/benefit ratio, except maybe for gas, but I drive a Prius – Ha!  I elected to buy 3 bottles of Cabo and forgo making Big Pharma richer, and that is probably “better” medicine . . .

***

Photo: A bottle of Cabo.  Yeah, it might start looking like the photo trick I used here after you have  few shots 🙂

BTW: I wrote this back during the winter when I was actually firing up the wood stove.  And my doctor came up with another cheaper med.  That one had so many bad side effects that I have no idea what my doctor was thinking.  I went back to the old one and drank the Cabo.

Cabo+Enamel

All Lives Matter

Does anyone see anything wrong with this title?  I mean sure, we can add other value judgments and say maybe that criminals’ lives don’t matter, as much.  Or perhaps terrorists?  Surely their lives don’t matter, as much – compared to those doing good in the world.  But those are relative comparisons and still don’t affect the overall message.

If you believe in the sanctity of life or truly practice any form of religion, then it is hard to get away from this statement.  And I would expand it beyond the limitation of only human lives and say this applies to all life – humans, animals, plants, etc.

A strange thing happened, which is why I brought this up today.  This phrase was used as an accusation that I was diluting a conversation because I put forth the implied notion that all lives matter when that person believed the subject had to be restricted to only women in certain situations, specifically health care treatment.

So how did we get from point A to point Z?  Good question.

You see, it’s like this.  An article was posted on a social media platform that can be summed up in its opening sentence: “Every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster . . .”  I’ve no doubt this is true, and bad medical practice has not only been a topic of many articles I’ve gotten published, but it is a pet peeve of mine as an RN who was dedicated to providing safe and quality nursing care.

So, I responded with posting links to two other articles.  The first was a general article about the annual number of deaths in America attributed to preventable medical negligence.  We’re talking 200,000 to 400,000 preventable deaths caused by medical negligence each and every year in this country – shocking!

The second was an article about how a medical device company actually pays doctors to get them to use an implantable birth control device that has injured women.  This article was more specifically related to the topic of women receiving bad health care in relation to reproductive care.

So far so good.

Then a woman posted a comment about women receiving inferior medical care and claimed that men would automatically receive better care.  I pointed out that in my 24 years of experience in the medical arena I did not always find this to be true.  I observed, more generally, that people with better insurance receive better care, and I’ve witnessed plenty of men receiving inferior care as well.

The response was that plenty of research studies (none were cited) demonstrated women receive worse care than men and that person did not appreciate me “derailing” the conversation with my “all lives matter” comments.  Humm, let that sink in a little.  I will also note that the original person starting the discussion did not seem to have issues with the topic being broadened a bit.

I responded that I didn’t think I was derailing anything.  Remember, I agree with the posting.  Many women do receive sub-standard health care.  I just added that I was a first-hand witness to people of all sexes, races and ethnicities being treated badly in health care, and in general, health care can be a pretty iffy gamble for everyone.

What’s the deal here?  Was the objection related to trying to label the biggest victim?  Hey look at me, my group is treated worse than yours!  Is this some type of a bragging point?  I don’t know.

What I do know is I switched careers and became an attorney to specifically fight for anyone victimized by bad medical practice.  I advocated for my patients, women and men, when I was a nurse.  And I did the same as an attorney.  In fact, most of the medical malpractice law suits I handled involved women and children clients.  I support and have actually fought for women’s issues.

I’m not interested in labeling and segregating and trying to make claims about who might be the biggest victim of something.  I realize that all people are not treated fairly.  I realize there is real bigotry in this country and it can play out in all sorts of fashions.

I don’t believe, to be politically correct, that anyone should be expected to acknowledge only certain forms of discrimination over others.  I believe all people should be treated equally, and as an RN and compassionate human being, yes, all lives matter.  Sorry, I don’t see that as a deficiency.

***

Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  I traced it back to an online publication called Missouri Blogspot.  I had my own picture of an elk in Missouri, but it was an old photograph from the 70s and was very blurred out in my attempts to upload it to the computer.  The reason I wanted that Elk was it was actually in a fenced wildlife enclosure run by the state.  The week after I took its picture some idiot used the same observation platform I used to photograph it in order to shoot it with a bow and arrow to kill it.  The moron just wanted to kill something apparently and left the body of the defenseless caged animal there.  All lives matter and play their role in the ecosystem.

BTW: I posted this under the topic of health, but I suppose it could go under the topics of society or even politics.  It’s one of those issues that bleeds over into many subject classifications, but since the original discussion came out of a dialog on health care I placed it there 🙂

Missing the Point

I’ve watched this play out before.  A health care practitioner finds themselves on the other side of the bed and they suddenly recognize that the system of providing health care has lost the element of human compassion.  They make public their revelation and appeal for less focus on technology and the itemized billing of every minute interaction – “chargeable events.”  They tout the importance of the human touch for healing, something the nursing staff doesn’t seem to have time for anymore.

Some of the responses posted are extremely defensive.  One practitioner even asks, “What, you want more?” “I just saved your life.”

I think some people missed the point. It was clear that this was not meant to be a personal attack.  The nurse who gave this presentation didn’t criticize the providers, she stated that the system was broken.  She was protesting how it appears nurses have been turned into “scribes for the insurance company.”  And she referenced the term “compassion fatigue,” whereby the staff is so overworked they can no longer summon up that human empathy that allows them to connect personally with their patients.

I believe the presenter recognized all too well the stresses bedside nurses are faced with and was calling for fixing the system, not the nurses.

I too have endured these same pressures.  Of being assigned up to 16 hours’ worth of care to provide in 8 hours’ time in very unsafe environments.  Patients suffer because of it.  The nurses suffer because they can’t provide the quality of care they would like to.  But this is the profit-based system that’s currently entrenched and, at times, it benefits the hospital’s bottom line when patients receive poor care and develop complications or even die.  Hospitals even promote infighting among the nursing staff to keep them from organizing to seek collective reforms.

A word to my colleagues out there still fighting the good fight.  Solving problems usually begins with exposing them, acknowledging they exist, and then you can confront them.  Take a deep breath and hear some of these commentators through.  You might find that they are on your side.  You might find other professionals to network with that believe in your cause.  United you can work to change this system gone astray.

A huge hug and thank you to all of the practicing nurses out there.  Compassionate healthcare wouldn’t exist without you.

***

Photo: A Tiger Swallowtail lands on some red clover.  The butterfly has long been a symbol of transition because of its life cycle.  Transitions, I believe, will become a major theme in all aspects of our society going forward as I believe we are nearing crises in all of our social institutions; particularly healthcare.   I wrote a piece a long time ago called “Institutional Meltdown.”  I might have to revive that one.

The presentation I watched was from Dr. Susan Cooley, Ph.D., RN on YouTube.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-m-cooley-phd-rn-82a29114/detail/treasury/position:820943192/?entityUrn=urn%3Ali%3Afs_treasuryMedia%3A(ACoAAALjfGIBqaMvuCJsgf83SI78msCd8yef0EE%2C51205947)

Lonely?

I came across two articles today discussing how people are increasingly lonely in America.  This may not come as any surprise, but I was caught off guard by the survey results they reported in a couple of ways.

And why is loneliness important? Well, without meaningful companionship you die sooner. It’s that simple.

Loneliness has been linked to the increased incidence of heart attacks and strokes, depressing the immune system, altering genetics, and impeding recovery from major illnesses such as cancer.

Nearly 50% of those surveyed said they were lonely, with 54% saying they felt like no one knew them well, and 40% reporting a lack of meaningful companionship.  And it seems the group reporting the most loneliness is Generation Z; those born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

Some research demonstrates that more face-time and less social media is correlated with lower rates of depression and suicide.  Other research indicates that it is a lack of down time that contributes more to loneliness.  Americans are simply too busy and too stressed for their own good.

What do you think fellow bloggers?  Too much screen time?  Or is just everything out of balance?  At some level, I think we are all striving for peace of mind and finding meaningful companionship is a big part of that.  But are we finding it?  Or are we locked into a premature transition out of this physical world?

***

Photo: Shadows through the blinds.  I like playing with lighting when I’m photographing 🙂

Do you keep your shades drawn, or do you let the world in?  Or do you only let a shadow of existence fill your days?

Links:

Americans Are A Lonely Lot, And Young People Bear The Heaviest Burden

Why are young adults the loneliest generation in America?

*Note:  All links are subject to “link rot.”

Antimony, Stibine, Babies, and Death

Recently, I was tested for heavy metal poisoning and the tests showed abnormally high levels of 4 different metals, and not-so-good levels of another three.  One of the metals that was abnormally high was Antimony.  Now I remember this metal, barely, from college chemistry courses, but how on earth did it end up in me, and in an elevated amount?

It seems Antimony is used in fireproofing textiles and plastics.  It can be found in battery electrodes, ceramics, pigments, and gun powder.  It can also be found in soft plastic bottles used for water and the water can become contaminated depending on storage conditions.

Blankets, mattress covers, and even clothing have been treated with this chemical.  And much like the spraying of insecticides and fungicides (biocides) on clothing, manufacturers do this to extend the life of their products and theoretically increase public safety.  The big problem is that the toxic effects of all of these chemicals are being discovered later.  This stuff can be absorbed right through the skin, our largest organ.

No, not all things in life can be improved through chemistry.  In fact, some of this chemistry may prolong the life of our clothing and fabrics, but it may also be killing us and our babies.  It turns out, our clothing may remain long after our bodies return to dust.

You see, some New Zealand researchers proposed a hypothesis, gathered evidence, and then other experts set out to disprove their hypothesis and research.

Boiling this all down, the theory is like this:

Mattresses and mattress covers contain the fire retardant chemicals Antimony, Phosphorus, and Arsenic;

These chemicals can be broken down by molds to form the toxic gases of Stibine, Phosphine and Arsine;

In particular, Antimony can be broken down by the mold Scopulariopsis brevicaulis to give off the gas Stibine;

This mold is present in mattresses and mattress covers, especially once they become damp with a baby’s bodily fluids;

Stibine is a very powerful neuro-toxic gas that is heavier than air and in the breathing zone of infants;

A small amount of Stibine, when inhaled, can produce respiratory paralysis;

Infants dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (“SIDS”) have been confirmed to have elevated levels of Antimony in their bodies;

Although the “UK Expert Group on Cot Death Theories” could not substantiate and is said to have discredited this theory, in New Zealand, where parents followed a protocol of sealing up these mattresses and covers, no further crib deaths have occurred.

There are theories questioning the motivations and financing of the UK Expert Group.

Reading all of this information, I can’t say one way or the other if these types of fire retardants cause SIDS.  I can, however, say with reasonable certainly, that I am only one of many who are now contaminated with this chemical that does not belong in our bodies.  And because of multiple chemical exposures, my and other people’s bodies’ natural detoxification processes have become overwhelmed producing all sorts of disabling effects.

Another thing I can say is that I’ve never met a corporate entity that hasn’t put profits over people.  One just needs to look at the tobacco industry to guess how this will play out.

For years there will be denial that the product is unsafe.  Research will be stymied because of big money and influence brought to bear on regulating agencies.  Deaths will continue.  Maybe someday a plaintiff will prevail in a lawsuit.  In the meantime, fearing litigation, some producers may change their lethal chemical mix to another lethal chemical mix in order to keep moving the ball making it harder to make the connection between chemical exposures and illness.

Delay in correcting the problem equals more money for the companies and their shareholders, while increasingly turning the planet into a toxic waste dump.

If you’re interested in reading more, I have included some links.

***

Antimony-LIt seems Antimony was also used by the Egyptians in the form of Stibnite as a black eye makeup.

Postscript:  How these chemical exposures will ultimately affect us is a big question, but it can’t be good when toxins keep turning up in our bodies.  The CDC’s most recent report indicates that some 212 chemicals tested for, which are not supposed to be in our bodies, were in most people’s blood or urine.

***

Images:  These images were found in the Internet in the public domain and no other attribution could be found.  The feature image was linked to a webpage called Live Science.

Links:

Cot Death and Antimony

Has The Cause of Crib Death (SIDS) Been Found?

The report from the “UK Expert Group on Cot Death Theories”

SIDS: A Preventable Tragedy?

Six Deadly Chemicals You’re Carrying in Your Body

Health Effects of Chemical Exposure

National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

 

The Weight

** Below is a brief excerpt from a book of health care stories I’m working on.  Having spent around 24 years wrapped up in that first career of mine, I have some pretty gruesome stories to tell.  But this one is mild in some respects, from the early days, but it starts to set the mood.

***

The old stand-up scales squealed and rattled as I rolled it down the hall on the two wheels soldered on the bottom, below the weighing platform.  I wondered what the patients thought hearing this beast as we approached the rooms for daily weights.  The patient weights were all supposed to be taken roughly at the same time of day to duplicate the patients’ conditions.  So, we performed this routine in pairs, moving down the hallway from one room to the next.  Filling in the appropriate box on the flow sheet hanging at the foot of each bed.  More numbers to the list that defined who was in the bed.  Numbers not names.

I remember the way she looked when we entered the room.  I was helping one of the RNs weigh this thirty-three-year-old woman dying of cervical cancer.  Her eyes sunken.  Her hollow face, which became taunt with pain as we stood her up to the scales.  The nurse I was with impatiently yanked her to get her out of bed and inflicted a little more pain than was necessary.  RNs are in a hurry.  Other patients and duties were waiting.

Moving a patient is a chance to assess them.  If you’re observant.  Strength, flexibility, balance, body temperature, skin color for oxygenation, skin turgor for hydration, abrasions, bruising, breathing – relaxed or labored, diaphoresis, the color of the sclera of the eyes, and their facial expressions and what they reveal.  It’s all there, if you look.

I can see her arms and legs, only 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) in diameter.  I can feel her weakness, the muscle mass wasting away, the fragility of her bones.  If I squeezed too hard her arms would break.  She had poor balance and could barely stand.  She sweated profusely with the effort.  Her skin, cold and clammy, tinge of blue beneath the fingernails.  Poor oxygenation.  Breathing as though a boulder was on her chest.  Heart pounding.  I can feel my own gut tighten as I help her to use the emesis basin, barely having enough strength to bring her stomach contents up the length of her esophagus.  The acrid smell of her vomitus blending with the smell of antiseptics.

I still see, hear, smell, and feel this scene.  It’s burned into my brain.

I look around the four-bed room on the surgical floor.  Three other women, each with a different cancer, look away from us, and from each other.  They all lay on their sides, facing the bleached-out, green tile walls.  Their backs in alignment with each other.  Maybe, if they look away, their cancers will not get ideas about devouring them.  Denial is powerful medicine.

I stand confused, for I am only a nursing assistant.  I have no formal training, yet.  No one has taught me how to build barriers to human suffering and emotions, yet.  I don’t think that I will ever become a RN, but eventually I will.  I stand outside the door and cry.  No one notices.

The next evening, when it’s time for her weight, I insert myself between her and the RN.  I gently cradle her in my arms, placing her arms around my neck.  I lift her out of bed and her face remains relaxed — still hollow.  Her breathing is effortless.  Her skin dry.  Her stomach calm.  I stand on the scales and the RN weighs us together.  I gently lay her down in her bed and say, “I’m sorry.”  She barely whispers back, “Thank you.”  I weigh myself and subtract the two weights – 38.6 kilograms or 85 pounds.  Down again.  The cancer and the chemotherapy continue to consume her.

I promise myself that I will always feel the pain and never lose my compassion.

***

Hospital Scales

In the old days, before electronic scales, they looked like this.  They weighed a ton and their color even matched the walls and the floors – all uniformly designed.

Photos:  I found these pictures on the Internet in the public domain.  I could find no further attribution for them.

Run Rabbit Run

There is Unlimited Time – But Not For Us

A dear friend and I were talking about realizations.  In particular, the realization that all of our dreams can’t constantly be put on hold for another day.  Looking back, so many years have passed in the blink of an eye, all the while we were schooling, working, maintaining a home, raising children, trying to stay married or at least in a relationship, and trying to stay ahead of the bill collector.  A million things occupying our time and our minds, except exploring who we really are or the world around us.

We have this strange belief that we will always have time, always be strong, always be full of adventure, and always be full of life.  So, we put off the adventures and chase everything else.  And suddenly, as we arrive in our 50s and 60s, (maybe earlier for some) we realize that we’re running out of time, and health.

Run rabbit run.

I had this vision a bit earlier, in my 30’s, the product of being an intensive care nurse.  I saw so many people who had waited all of their lives, until they retired, until they reached that magic, made-up age of 65, to explore their dreams.  And then the illness came and they were gone, frequently within a couple of years of retiring.  Or if they lived, they were incapacitated to the point that they could never pursue their dreams.

I also saw a whole host of others whose lifestyles determined their age – no correlation to the artificial chronology we invented.  One spin around the sun equals one year of age.  Yet I saw people in their 50’s whose bodies were actually closer to being in their 80s, and I saw the reverse as well.  Those with happier, healthier lives, who had taken some time to experience, will not only enjoy their journey more, but their journey is longer.

Of course, these are just observations on my part.  A 2017 Danish research study, that was published in the journal of Health Economics and reported by the New York Times, confirmed that early retirement decreased the probability that a man dies within 5 years of retiring by 2.6 percentage points. The study found that half of the mortality reduction associated with retirement is attributable to the reduction of cardiovascular and digestive system diseases.  Stress-related, inflammatory-based diseases.

Other studies, also discussed in the same Times article, determined that it’s not just timing, but what people do once they are retired.   If you’re working you’re likely to be stressed, which can promote all kinds of diseases.  And work takes time away from healthy activities like exercise and promotes bad ones like excessive alcohol consumption.  However, whenever you retire, you must stay active.  “[P]oor health outcomes were more pronounced among retirees who were unmarried, reduced their physical activity, and had less social interaction.”

A long-term study (18 years), published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled: “Association of ‘Weekend Warrior’ and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns with Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality,” determined that any form of exercise had health benefits.  But what I thought were the most revealing statistics from the study were the ones that were sort of side-lined.  There were 63,591 participants, with a mean age of 58.6 years, and it turns out that 8802 (13.8%) had died from all causes within 8.8 years.  So almost 14% of this large group of people did not make it past the age of 67.7 years.  This study was also reported in detail on MedScape.

Still want to wait until you’re 65 to retire?  You might only have a couple of years left to go, not much time to explore your dreams.

To sum up, if you want to live longer and happier, retire earlier.  Live your life, not an artificial identity.  Pursue your dreams, preferably with the people you love.

Run rabbit run.

***

Postscript:  I know there are economic limitations to following some dreams, and eligibility to retire and qualify for such things as Social Security and Medicare can limit people’s choices as to when they’re able to retire.  But not all adventures have to be expensive, and not all have to wait.  After seeing so much shortly-after-retirement death, my wife, now ex, and I committed to taking some type of long vacation we could afford every year, while we were young and hopefully in peak health.  It was worth it.  And we both ended up retiring early.  We found a way or, I should say, a way found us.  My ex was forced out by a health condition and I was forced out by politics.  Those were actually good events for us – the Universe looking out for us.  We are both healthier, happier, and more active since we no longer are part of the daily grind.