Archive for March, 2014

We’re Here for Each Other

March 28, 2014

Recovery from any injury takes time. Time spent in reflection. Could I have done anything to make the outcome of my trauma any different, or to prevent it? What will become of me, and my relationships? How will I cope with my new reality? So many unanswered questions. Life is complicated enough without additional baggage.

Specialists in psychology call it grieving. Perfectly natural emotion. Grief expressed at the loss of part of you that cannot be gotten back. Everyone grieves at some point in time. How we react to it can make all the difference in the world. Most of us need some help in dealing successfully with grief.

Professional counseling is recommended to many who survived physical or emotional trauma. Most are helped by this, though some are not. They feel lost and alone. Abandoned. Trivialized.

Many require medication to overcome temporary mental issues such as depression, a common problem faced by survivors of trauma. Hopefully with additional counseling they can be weaned off anti-depressants over time. Some find solace among those who share common problems, as in support groups, meeting either in-person or online.

Support groups provide positive conversation in mutual life experience – understanding, sympathy, empathy, encouragement, information, advice, humor, and an occasional admonishment when you lose focus.

Bottom line: you don’t have to be alone, if you really don’t want to. Someone will be there for you. A family member, friend, co-worker, counselor, clergyperson, or fellow survivor will help sort out your frustrations and get on with your life.

No man is an island. We’re here for each other.

Moron

March 26, 2014

Yep, that was me. Moron.

I knew full well I had a family history of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and risk of stroke, yet I did nothing to control my extremely high BP. At the time of my stroke it was 254/170. If not moronic, then selfish, as my family was left to deal with my poor choices.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, as should be the case), I am not alone. The number of obese people in the U.S. (including children) is alarming. High blood pressure is rampant and uncontrolled. The rate of onset type 2 diabetes and associated risk for heart attack and stroke are higher than ever. The internet revolution has made more people sedentary. Good company? I don’t think so.

If only. If only I had known better. If only I had known the risk of too much sugar. Or carbs. Or too much of anything. And the consequences of too little exercise.

Excuses, I know. I hid behind them too. That’s what being human is all about. We all make mistakes. But do we learn from them? Apparently not, as the cost of health maintenance continues to spiral out of control.

Solution? It begins with education. And regular visits to the doctor. It also helps to have a physician who is well-versed in nutrition, and is willing to take a holistic approach to the practice of medicine and prescribe to the patient exercise and a healthy diet, along with necessary medications. At your yearly physical exam, request extended blood tests. If your doctor questions this, find another doctor.

In the meantime, educate YOURSELF. Keep up with the latest information. Read labels. Check for side-effects of medications. Understand how OTC medicines and vitamins interact with what you eat. Be proactive; be conscious of your body. Be skeptical of anything said or written about food, medication, and exercise. Science and research changes and improves daily. Items that were once thought bad for you are no longer, and vice versa. Doctors used to recommend cigarette smoking to “nervous” patients. My, how things change! Knowledge is power.

Despite significant advances, Medicine still has a long way to go in knowing the workings of body and mind, and proper treatment of malfunctions. My advice: stay current, as many in the health profession do not. Hearsay and legends still exist and are propagated without control, thanks to social media.

Just because I was a moron in my past does not mean I have to continue down that path to self-destruction. I learned the hard way what bad habits can do to me and, unfortunately, to my family. Now, through this blog and elsewhere, I try to make my damaged life an example of how not to live your life, if you care anything about yourself and your loved ones.

Life is what you make of it. Live and learn.

Grain Brain

March 20, 2014

What exactly is gluten, and why should we avoid it in our diet? I was wondering the same thing, and began reading Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter to find answers. One can be allergic to gluten and not know it. Supposedly it causes inflammation of the brain. Not good for stroke survivors or anyone else.

Latest and greatest health craze? A farce? I thought the same thing. Then I read the book. Got me thinking. Not a fad or trend, more of an awakening, an adjustment. Celiac disease is real, although it is the most dire of gluten sensitivity. The book is full of success stories, historical references and clinically-affirmed findings, and makes a direct link between gluten and brain inflammation that can lead to dementia and other mental disorders, including epilepsy, Parkinson’s and ALS. The author is both a neurologist and certified dietician, and maintains a website with information and gluten-free recipes.

What makes this an issue now? Hasn’t man been consuming grain since his days as hunter-gatherer? True, but things are different now. Genetically, humans are still the same but no longer have to work hard to find food. Modern grain processing and genetic modification have increased the risk of gluten sensitivity, and this book lists the health issues and consequences of ingesting such foods. There are many that contain gluten; some surprised even me. Even cosmetics and shampoos contain gluten. And science is only now beginning to fully understand the significance of how certain dietary choices impact our health, and this information rarely is included in conversation between doctor and patient. A simple test for gluten sensitivity would go a long way to solve a lot of our ailments and render many drugs irrelevant.

The book lists many options for going gluten-free, and the immediate and long-term benefits of doing so. Simply removing gluten from your diet can improve your brain function and prevent or postpone onset dementia. It can alleviate dependence on medication for those who have type 2 diabetes. You will experience less fatigue and fewer headaches, and become less dependent on medication for illnesses such as depression, ADHD and bipolar disorder. All simply by making a change in diet. And best of all, it’s free.

A high fat, low carb diet. Something considered unhealthy just a few years ago. But times (and scientific research) change. I have nothing to lose but my brain fog and morning sluggishness in trying this for myself. I recommend you do the same.

Victimless?

March 11, 2014

As a stroke survivor, I have come to realize that there are many other survivors who had no control over the factors that caused their strokes. Yet, they feel guilty and carry shame and have troubled relationships with family and friends. That does not apply to me.

I knew of my family medical history – our tendency toward high blood pressure and susceptibility to type 2 diabetes and stroke. Yet I ignored this and avoided going to the doctor for help with my elevated BP, which most likely caused my stroke. Which makes my family victims.

I really have no way to make it up to them, other than to apologize for my behavior and do my best to prevent a repeat of my poor choices. They have gone through so much because of this, altered their lives because of me.

I fully accept the blame. My fault entirely. Fortunately for me, I have been forgiven. Many lessons were learned, though, not to be forgotten.

There are those survivors who have suffered needless guilt over their strokes and resulting lifestyle changes, who have not been forgiven for events not within their power to control. They have been neglected or abandoned by their families, gone through untimely divorces, and have to seek counseling for depression and related psychological problems. They may harbor anger and resentment, and consider themselves failures. They have my deepest sympathy.

My take on this – there really are no victimless strokes. Some may perceive themselves as “victims” while others truly are. All I can say is to accept responsibility for poor choices, apologize to those impacted by those choices, and practice Christian forgiveness, whether or not you are a follower of Christ.

But don’t forget the journey, or the ultimate goal.