Pain Mastery Institute is shut down

The Pain Mastery Institute, which I’ve been blogging about for a couple of months, is shutting down due to financial considerations.

The Pain Mastery Institute, which I’ve been blogging about for a couple of months, is shutting down due to financial considerations. Their courses have been useful to me but not nearly as useful as if they had survived long enough for me to get through the whole program.

The main thing I learned from the courses is that much of what is available for mastering chronic pain is drawn by observed people as they take actions or make decisions which assist them in managing their pain, or ameliorating the amount and intensity of pain.

While the course is gone, and the Institute website shut down, this doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning my pursuit of effective pain management strategies. So keep watch for my blog because I will coming back with a new approach soon.

Update on Intermittent Fasting

Starting on Monday this week I began a five day fast, which so far has been a bit frustrating and challenging. The second day and the third day I found myself absolutely starving, which is odd because up until now, fasting for three days a week, 36 hours, I have never been really hungry.

It takes a bit of a different strategy for longer fasts, like a five days on, four days off, but I’m learning and will be putting together a new primer based on somewhat longer fasts.

Boing 737 crashed after being shot down near Tehran

This has been a really sad and horrific week for me, and for many Canadians. 147 Canadian residents and citizens were killed this week by an airline shot out of the sky by Iran, either by mistake or by design. Either way, we have all lost so much and I can’t really even begin to make any sense of it. I am just sick over it, and I didn’t know anyone personally on the plane, although I do know some family members.

The Prime Minister of Canada has been highly visible in his demands for accountability for this disaster, both from Iran and the United States governments, who put into play the violent altercation that led to these deaths, whether by misadventure or by malice.

I don’t know whether to rage or to cry, or both. I’m not expecting any closure any time soon. Iran is virtually certain to lie through their teeth on this, and Trump will do no better. This is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved in the flight, and all of their country mourns their loss.

A New Years Resolution

Starting today, January 6, 2020 It is my stated intention to achieve a BMI goal of 25% during the current calendar year.

Later in the afternoon

I started working on my blog earlier this afternoon, but was interrupted by a request from a family member for a ride from Burnaby, where I currently work, home to Langley. But I’m back at it now, and would like to upgrade my resolution to include a little more detail about this pledge, seemingly coming out of the blue.

I started doing intermittent fasting in July last summer, and promptly lost 35 pounds before the end of November, fasting for three days a week, 36 hours each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Pretty good results although most of the weight was lost in the first 60 days, and only a small amount during the last 60 days. In the last month I’ve pretty much given back ten pounds or so, depending on the time of day I weight myself.

Until Christmas holidays began I didn’t miss a single fasting day in my schedule, although I did start to cheat a little by eating Keto friendly pepperoni sticks and cheddar cheese sticks after a minimum of 24 hours into my fast. Checking my glucose levels shows me that the advisors are correct, and eating those two things, even combined, doesn’t raise my blood sugar at all, or not does having a handful of nuts. However, it does seem to have a negative effect on weight loss so I am going back to a more strict interpretation of fasting, which is eating nothing during the scheduled period.

During the holidays I broke the fast program only on two days, except for the cheating I’ve already mentioned, but my weight fluctuated from 209 back up to 222 and then down again to 216 and then back to 222. It’s amazing to think that I could regain basically 12 or 13 pounds, even attempting to keep my carbs down and no sugar to speak of at all, except for Christmas Dinner. Losing weight and keeping it off is a challenge, that’s for sure.

In addition, because I stalled quite a while before I started to cheat a little, I’m going to increase the length of my fasting period from a three day a week fast, alternative days during the week, to fasting for five days on and then four days off. My current plan, which I started implementing today with Day 1 of my first 5 Day Fast, is designed to kick start my weight loss again, so lose the next 25 to 35 pounds and get a lot closer to my goal of a BMI of 25, which as I said at the beginning of this blog, is my goal for 2020. I’m going to run with this schedule until my weight takes the next step down, past my previous barrier of about 209 pounds where I bounced back up to 222 over the Christmas holidays. .

My weight this morning when I weighed myself was 222.8 so a 25 pound weight loss would get my weight under 200 lbs, for the first time in a pretty long time. At 200 pounds my BMI will be about 31.2 instead of the current 34.8 (222 lbs) or 38.4 (245 lbs) when I started the program in July 2019.

Over the next few days I am going to re-read Dr. Jason Fung’s book the Diabetes Code, and also review his book on intermittent fasting. My own endocrinologist, Dr. Kang at VGH isn’t planning to see me again until about May so I hope my weight is down substantially by then, and my A1C levels at least down to 6.0, but we’ll see about that.

This plan to reduce my BMI to <25 and my weight to <160 is highly purposeful, in that I am attempting to do on my own what Dr, Fung achieves with his patients, a dramatic reduction in obesity and blood sugar levels. In the meantime I’ll continue to take my course in Pain Mastery from the Institute, and report back to my faithful readers my progress and challenges both in my fight against diabetes, and my battle to manage my chronic pain.

Multigenerational Abuse

Child abuse doesn’t just affect one generation. It often spans many generations and triggers numerous dysfunctional relationships over time.

People who have been abused as children have a really hard time as adults, especially as young adults trying to formulate romantic relationships. Without a solid foundation established early in life, emotions can feel like quicksand and you soon feel like you are drowning. People become desperate for love and accept all sorts of inappropriate behavior that seems like it must be some kind of love, or it wouldn’t be so intense. So this is the story of one such person, after an abusive and destructive marriage

Even after years of counseling, he still feels the desperate self-criticism of his youth, pulling him back into depression and suicidal thoughts. At the end of his first marriage, he actually tried to kill himself by sleepwalking in front of a bus

The transit bus driver drove his bus into the side of a building to avoid hitting the patient, most likely saving his life.

He went to see a doctor after this because he felt that he was in danger because of his actions. He consciously knew that he was a danger to himself and potentially others, but so deeply depressed about losing his wife that he was wandering around in a complete daze.

This was despite the fact that the relationship was fundamentally dysfunctional, and she used and abused him virtually every day from the very first moment he laid eyes on her. His self-worth was so low that he actually believed that everything that ever went wrong was his fault. He allowed himself to be her emotional and physical servant, charged with somehow making her feel good about herself.

Although she was highly intelligent and won many academic awards she required constant affirmations of her intellect, and couldn’t accept any opposition to her opinions on any subject at all. To whatever degree he differed from her point of view, she called him out and accused him of trying to undermine her and make her look like an idiot to their friends or families. He also took on responsibility for taking care of every aspect of her life, including paying all the bills, providing her with funds to pay for her advanced education, and a constant stream of extravagant gifts. Their life together was one of extraordinary social adventures, with a stream of her unusual friends variously moving into and out of their home and their lives together.

They were together for nearly ten years and had a daughter. Their divorce was highly acrimonious and as a result of an emotional breakdown, she intimidated him into giving into virtually all of her demands, including extremely restrictive access to their infant daughter, who is now almost forty years of age.

Because of his blindness to her faults and unwillingness to acknowledge her abusive behavior, He simply was not in any position to provide adequate co-parenting to their daughter, who ended up with her being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by his ex-wife and her mother, who had previously done the same things to his ex-wife.

It wasn’t until their daughter ran away from her mother’s house to live on the streets that he became aware of all that she had gone through in her mother’s care.

The daughter suffers from multiple psychological disorders including acute anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD as a result of multiple sexual assaults starting with her grandmother as early as five or six years old. After she ran away, at thirteen years old, from her mother’s home when she came to live with his current partner and him. It was only then that he heard her story and got her into counseling. The road was very difficult, and they were not very successful in helping the daughter overcome her many conditions.

Never in all the years he had been married to his ex-wife did he realize how destructive her constant personal attacks and total narcissistic behavior had been to him. After he more or less recovered from his breakdown and hospitalization after their marital breakdown, he still blamed himself for everything that had gone wrong in their marriage.

But no more. His daughter suffers from many psychiatric and emotional defects, some of which would have been there no matter who raised her as a young child. She also has many physical disabilities including muscular and skeletal problems that have resulted in her living life in chronic pain, and incapable of independent mobility. She also had two children, which he had to have taken from her because she is incapable of providing the minimum care level necessary for their physical and emotional health. He doesn’t blame his ex-wife or her mother for all of it, as it would unfair to do so.

Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse, but when combined with sexual and physical abuse can lead to almost untold self loathing in its victims.

But what is fair to say is that without the abuse by her narcissistic mother and a grandmother who barely survived Nazi rule in Holland as a young girl before abusing her own daughter and granddaughter, their daughter didn’t have a chance at any reasonable life. Despite years of counseling himself, He still knows that he has blinders on regarding his ex-wife and still has hard time understanding what he allowed to happen in his marriage, or what really took place in all the years she had total control over their daughter’s care and custody.

He had even blamed himself for that restricted access, and his lack of involvement in his daughter’s life. The extreme anger his ex-wife expressed towards him made a more normalized co-parenting arrangement impossible. Even spending thousands of dollar on legal fees trying to get better custodial arrangements failed.

If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship and have gotten out, don’t try to deal with this all on your own. Find a good counselor and make every effort to deal with your own demons before they drag you into yet another dangerous quagmire.

Unfortunately, you may find yourself repeating your mistakes, over and over again. Learn to recognise the cycle of abuse in your own life, and take action to change your circumstances. Leave.

Why Global Warming isn't it!

Global Warming is not the most important crisis facing the world’s human population at the moment.

One of the things that really concerns me about the current mass political movement around global warming is that it is distracting the human race from several other issues that are of far more immediate concern, and which also require a global response if there is not to be catastrophic outcomes, some of which are already far advanced.

And I am NOT saying the Global warming isn’t a serious danger to the health and quality of life of millions of people around the earth, mostly in the mid to long term, anywhere from twenty-five to fifty years from now. And while I believe that it is important, if we don’t address several other, far more pressing issues, half of the population of the globe with sick and dying, directly because of these other issues.

I specifically referring to serious medical problems arising from really bad lifestyle choices being promoted by governmental agencies, national and international disease associations, doctors, international food industry giants, dieticians, and the public media.

So what the heck could I possibly be ranting on and on about? There are three health crisis catastrophes happening right now that can have a bigger effect on the human race, today and tomorrow, than global warming.

  1. Metabolic Syndrome
  2. Antibiotic resistance and superbugs
  3. The explosion in pollution of the world’s oceans
  4. Religious and political fundamentalism in the political area, and erosion of political and religious freedom
  5. Industrial corruption around the world, and its impact on the peoples of the world.

No one article could even begin to explore these five serious hazards to humanity, and the quality of our existence on the planet Earth.

Canada’s north is suffering from accelerated climate change, threatening our wildlife and the quality of our own lives.

Personally I’m optimistic that the human race will figure out how to reduce or eliminate the human contribution to global warming. It won’t stop the climate from changing, either continuing to warm for the next few hundred years, or crashing into a new ice age, which is what many scientists were concerned about only a few years ago. It took a lot of effort to stop using fluorocarbons in spray cans, which was attacking the ozone layer only a couple of decades ago. Global warming is more of a concern than fluorocarbons, and will require a much more consequential response if the human race is to find solutions that will resolve our contributions to it. But call me Pollyannaish but I do believe that we will find technological solutions to a problem fundamentally caused by technology. As someone said to me, “it’s not rocket science.” No, it’s harder. But it be done.

I’m far less optimistic about our response to Metabolic Syndrome. Only recently have scientists started to realize the breadth and seriousness of the syndrom, which is directly caused by the consumption of excessive carbohydrates and sugars by populations of all ages, and is a now a global problem facing all of the nations of the globe. Recent research and publication have demonstrated a direct causative relationship between the over consumption of carbohydrates and sugars to the following disorders and diseases.

  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Cancers of the pancreas, heart, liver, kidneys
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic lung disease and cancer
  • Heart disease including cardiac arrest, arrhythmia and death
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • May be related to several mental disorders underlying depression and mania

The number of deaths in the world from the above categories of diseases, in 2019 caused by carbohydrate and sugar far exceeds the projected loss of life in the world from Global Warming by 2050 or even 2150 assuming that we don’t do anything to stop it. There is now solid evidence that over a third of all human beings alive today are suffering from Metabolic Syndrome, and many many many people die from it every single day. Far more than from wars, automobile accidents, distracted driving, alcohol abuse and drunk driving – all put together.

Superbugs

Superbugs present a slightly less ominous threat, if you don’t think about the fact that without effective antibiotics we are all vulnerable to diseases we once believed we had wiped out.

Humanity’s defences against infection are wearing thinner by the day, and the microbes responsible are getting stronger.

One in four infections is already resistant to antibiotics and other known forms of treatment, and 5,400 Canadians died last year from infections that until recently had been treatable. That’s according to a comprehensive peer-reviewed report presented by the Council of Canadian Academies this week.

That’s roughly double the number of Canada’s annual traffic fatalities and homicides combined.

These infections range from pneumonia to infections of the urinary tract, the blood stream and the skin. And their numbers are rising everywhere as international transportation carries every infection-causing microbe to every part of the world.

The report, When Antibiotics Fail, was prepared for the federal government by an expert panel. I was a member of this panel, chaired by Brett Finlay of the University of British Columbia.

Gerry Wright is a professor of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and the Scientific Director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at  McMaster University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Oceanic pollution, including plastics and other waste

Ocean Pollution: The Dirty Facts

We’re drowning marine ecosystems in trash, noise, oil, and carbon emissions.January 22, 2018 Melissa Denchak

The fate of our seas is not only up to the government or industry. Our individual, daily actions matter, too. You can start by reducing water pollution and runoff at home, being more mindful of your plastic consumption, or organizing a cleanup of your local waterway. You can also support the work of NRDC and other environmental advocacy groups as well as other businesses and organizations that work to preserve our coasts and waters.

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/ocean-pollution-dirty-facts

Religious and political fundamentalism in the political area, and erosion of political and religious freedom

The news is full of examples of political terrorism around the world, including bombings and individual acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. This is terror on a retail scale and pales into insignificance against the damage being done to our political and religious freedoms around the world as a result of religious or political fundamentalism that denies people the right to their own religious beliefs, personal development and gender identification, even the right to exist as ethnic minorities in various parts of the world.

There are more people in concentration camps today, than during the second world war, with the vast majority of them in China. We in the west have been negligent in this, but mostly because we are also complicit in our own attacks on minorities and aboriginals. The United States and Europe are split right down ideological and religious seams that threaten the future safety of the world because of the increasing intolerance being shown to people with different religious or political beliefs of large parts of the population. Christian, Muslin and Atheist fundamentalists deny the very right to exist for anyone who dares believe something different than they. The intolerance of a pulpit bully today is the concentration camps of tomorrow.

Industrial corruption around the world, and its impact on the peoples of the world.

A new report has alleged that international medical and pharmaceutical companies are complicit in China’s organ transplant scandal.

The report has, for the first time, named 20 global companies profiting from China’s transplant trade, where innocent people are murdered in a state-sponsored campaign of forced organ harvesting.

The report, entitled the Economics Of Organ Harvesting In China and conducted by the Institute to Research the Crimes of Communism, finds that the companies from Western countries are ‘taking part’ in China’s organ harvesting crimes, including Pfizer from America, OrganOx from the United Kingdom and Roche from Switzerland.

The report supports China Tribunal’s Final Judgement in June 2019 which exposed China’s ‘wicked’ organ harvesting crimes and murder of innocent people as ‘Crimes Against Humanity’.

Western companies allegedly involved

The new report emphasises that China’s transplant system is ‘dependent on the import of devices for organ preservation’ from the West and has accused the Western pharmaceutical companies of using Chinese prisoners for testing transplant products.

Over 1.5 million people detained in Chinese ‘camps’ are seen as ‘ideal source of organs’ according to the report and the authors are calling for companies named in the report to answer to allegations or for state offices to “investigate international criminal activity”.

Global pressure is now mounting on China to stop the brutal murder of prisoners of conscience in a scandalous industry estimated to illegally earn the People’s Republic of China over $1bn (~€0.89bn) per annum.

Susie Hughes, Executive Director, International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), stated: “These companies are in a very powerful position because China’s transplant industry would falter without them. It is imperative they withdraw from China immediately to help save innocent people who are being killed for their organs.”

Hamid Sabi, Counsel to the China Tribunal, who recently raised the issue of forced organ harvesting in China for the first time at the United Nations said: “I welcome all new research confirming this horrifying issue. Organ transplantation to save life is a scientific and social triumph but killing the donor is criminal.”

https://www.healtheuropa.eu/exposed-western-companies-allegedly-complicit-in-chinas-organ-scandal/95719/

Industrial greed and complicity in the dangers to human survival, both individually and collectively cannot be pursued with enough vigor. Companies are responsible for causing untold health hazards and killing millions upon millions through smoking, dietary corruption of the food chain, false information distribution to the public over years and years.

Global Warming is a Safe Enemy

I started this blog by saying that I don’t think that Global Warming should be at the top of our concerns about the future (and present) of the human race. There are lot of things to be concerned about, and Global Warming is just one of them.

Photo by StrahilDimitrov/Getty Images

The massive obsessive focus on Global Warming is a little like the obsession in the 1960’s with the nuclear threat and the idea that the Russians were going to wipe out the human race in their global arms race with the USA and the West. The obsession wasn’t totally misguided, it just missed the point that there were other things which should have been addressed and were not. The consequence of obsessing over one significant challenge facing the world, without paying attention to many of the other issues is highly risky.

More Pain Relieving Skills

WEEK 2 More Relieving Skills for the Physical Intensity of PAIN

The second weekly lesson from the Pain Mastery Institute is about another set of skills designed to reduce the experience of pain in the body. These skills are to impact pain that is a result of muscles tightening up as a reaction to pain of any type, located in various parts of the anatomy.

What is taught is a series of tensing and relaxing of muscle groups, starting at the toes and working up to the head and neck of the body. I was told to tighten and then release systematically the tension I had created, and then relax after releasing, and then breath deeply.

These techniques are very similar to some exercises I learned many years ago, as part of creative visualization and meditation. Instead of focussing on achieving a receptive state of mental suggestibility, these relaxation techniques are designed for the specific purpose of releasing muscle tension underlying many of my experiences of pain – especially in major muscle groups in my body, such as cramps in my feet and calf muscles, lower back and upper back muscle aching and tensions, head aches from neck and head muscle tensions. And so forth.

After completing the lesson, and doing all of the tightening, releasing, and relaxing exercises for the various parts of my body I realize that this technique is intuitively a part of pain management strategy for most of us, but only used occasionally. The purpose of the course, I’m sure, is to create a conscious awareness of yet another technique that promises some relief from pain, which we have all practiced once in a while, and bring this technique into daily use, as a part of our Pain Toolbox of resources.

Even after only two of the weekly courses in the Pain Management Institute online course I am beginning to realize the efficacy of this program. It’s success will be in part a result of bringing into conscious control elements of knowledge and behaviour that help ameliorate pain. These techniques are a part of innate knowledge but without conscious awareness of their use and potential benefit we only apply them randomly, rather than on purpose to structure our response to chronic pain.

This is a good start to a realization than I may indeed have the ability to management and improve my experience of and control of pain, not necessarily all at once, or even ever completely, but incrementally somewhat better.

When I started this set of blogs related to pain I was looking for some real improvement in my experience of and control of pain. Even after only a few weeks of analysis and discovery I am more hopeful of making gains.

Brain Space – Pain Mastery

Brain Space of Sensory Strip = Amount of Neuron Cells = Sensitivity

Here is an image of the sensory strip. The view point is as if you are looking at a person’s face, right into this particularly cross-section of their brain. The body drawing on the outside demonstrates the region of that strip that is typically devoted to sensations from those body parts. Thus, you can see just how weird the proportions really are with very large face and hands compared to everything else! When we introduce this skill we also choose to add the option of a focus on the feet. Although the sensations from the feet don’t take up a huge amount of brain space, they are are still proportionally larger and on such a different part of the sensory strip that it can really move the attention away from other painful parts.

Lessons from this week’s lesson

In this week’s lesson on managing pain, I learned some new concepts about how pain functions in the brain, as well as on how to take something I already knew, and provide a better and more purposeful way to use it to reduce my experience of pain in my body.

The main points of this lesson are as follow:

  • Pain is experienced in the brain, after information is sent to the brain through neurons transmitted through the spinal cord.
  • Passively attending to something in your body, other than the pain, will reduce the experience of pain to some degree or other. Sometimes this reduction in the experience of pain is significant, sometimes not.
  • Actively creating a mechanical distraction, especially in the area of the body which is experiencing the pain, can have a positive effect on that pain.
  • Interestingly, by creating a mechanical action, such as shaking your hand if you injure a finger or burn yourself, will reduce significantly the amount of pain actually experienced, by actively reducing the signal from the pain receptors in getting to the brain. This takes place in the spinal cord itself, rather than in the brain, so the reduction in the pain can be very effective.
Concentrating your attention on some part of your body not currently experiencing pain can help reduce that pain.

Now, lets stop thinking about the theory of pain, and think about what the theory of pain is teaching me. If I can move my attention from focusing on a specific cause of pain to focussing on some other part of my body, such as my face or ears, for example, I can significantly reduced my experience of the pain. This reduction is my experience of pain is relatively mild, for me, at this point, but it serves to reduce my experience of neuropathic pain from excruciating to merely troubling, a huge gain since when it is only troubling I can often drift off into sleep, which is nearly impossible when my neuropathic pain in my feet is most extreme.

Through practice and the investment of some time I hope to increase the effectiveness of this pain strategy, which holds out some promise in being an active tool to improve my current experience of pain.

The second strategy in this chapter of the course on Mastering Pain, is about a more physically active method, and requires some mechanical actions to be taken. So, when the pain in my hands or feet is most severe instead of mentally focussing on another part of my body, I use an action to draw my attentions elsewhere. This action can be pretty simple, such as playing with my car keys or making a cup of tea, and really paying attention to what I’m doing, rather than dwelling on my neuropathic pain.

Doing something physical, like washing a load of dishes in the sink, can sometimes be an effective distraction to even quite severe pain. It won’t make it go away, but it may help make it more bearable.

You’d be surprised at how often this helps reduce the experience of pain, sometimes by a lot, depending on how absorbing the actions being taken are, and depending on how seriously I focus on them.

Before I started taking this program I think I intuitively already knew some of this information, without knowing the underlying physiology of the spinal cord and the part of the brain responsible for experiencing pain.

A significant part of the benefit of taking this program is the development of a more organized and deliberate strategy for dealing with my everyday pain, in ways that improve my experience of life through my own conscious efforts, without taking opioids or other pain killers to deal with the pain. A major goal of Mastering Pain is to create a Personal Toolbox of resources to assist with what has become a major preoccupation of my life, the toleration and management of chronic pain.

For me, the alternatives to doing this program seem few and very unattractive. I have no willingness to go down the road of pharmaceutical solutions for my pain, unless I absolutely have no choice, in order to tolerate the ever increasing amount of pain in my life. It may be that at some point I won’t be able to function, whatsoever, without pain medications, but I intend to push that day off as long as possible.

Note on formatting

Up until this week I was using a Drop Cap for the first letter of each paragraph in my blog. I recently received feedback from a mobile reader, using her cell phone, that said that the Drop Caps were screwing up her ability to follow my blog, by throwing text all over the place, when viewed on her phone. So I’m not going to use them in this blog from now on.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Sculpted by Donald Wilson 1982

I’m lost on a road to “God knows where.” Feeling scared. Uncertain. It’s my story right now, and I’ve good reasons for my emotional state. It’s not the first time in my life I’ve been lost or overwhelmed by circumstance. There’s no doubt my situation is difficult, and solutions to my problems seem beyond my current […]

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Two years ago I wrote the above blog entry in my other blog “Out Here in Paradise” and re-examining some of the issues with which I was ensnared at that time have shown that progress is possible, even given serious and intractable problems.

Mine isn’t a new story.  My health is not good, and is deteriorating over time.  It is responding to my focus on trying to find a solution to my worst problems, and a way to cope with the things I won’t be able to control.  My financial situation is a disaster, brought about by a series of mistaken steps, all of which seemed to be the correct decisions at the time, but have left me in serious debt, absent an income on which I can rely, and quite uncertain as to the potential for even basic survival, under my current situation.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Two years ago my health was a lot worse than now. At least it seemed so at the time. I had just got out of the hospital where I was extremely ill with pneumonia, with a new diagnosis of COPD, to go alone with my diabetes and chronic arthritic and neuropathic pain. I didn’t know it then but I also had the classic symptoms of fibromyalgia at work. I had a lot of good reasons to be depressed, just based on my health, not to mention a lifetime of fighting with bipolar depression even since my twenties, more than forty years.

So that was where I started to fight against continuing to fall down the Rabbit Hole, and started this blog, where I’ve largely focussed on discussing my attempts to improve my health and the quality of my life by taking intentional control of those things I can control.

If you follow this blog you will have read about my struggles with my medications, and coming to an understanding of how they interact with each other, and have many side effects, some of which still plague me.

You have seen my excitement of discovery when I read Dr. Jason Fung and realized that I can take control of my diabetes by making significant lifestyle changes, including intermittent fasting and radical reduction in the amount of carbohydrate in my daily diet. I came to realize that exercise every day is important, just not exactly for the reasons that I thought. I’ve lost a lot of weight on this journey, with the result being an increase in energy, a renewed sense of hope for the future, and a continued plan to improve matters further.

I’ve written about my challenges with my marriage and how we have evolved to a new set of understandings that allow for the possibility of staying intimate friends, while perhaps moving to a new description of our relationship. In our new relationship as Nesting Partners, rather than Husband and Wife, we talk far more openly about just about everything, than we even did in the past. Which is a good thing.

I’ve written about Polyamory, the state of being committed to being open to romantically or sexually loving more than one person at a time, within ethical boundaries and with full disclosure of the partners to each other and to every new person brought into relationship. We’re both struggling with our new definition but have continued to be loving to each other while figuring out how to move forward into the future.

Me as a kid.

In that Blog from two years ago I was feeling completely defeated financially as well. Things in this regard haven’t resolved themselves entirely, but I have made strides in dealing with my debts by filing bankruptcy. It wasn’t fun and it isn’t over yet, but it will be soon, and I will be able to move on into some meaningful employment or business. I’ve also learned the outcome of my problems with the Securities Commission, and while I’m far from sanguine about the Decision made, and the sanctions against me, I am in a place where I have begun to see how I can move forward from here. I have accepted entirely that I am accountable for my current financial situation, and if I am to rise again, it will be because I make it so.

Here are a few random thoughts about how I will get out of this mess.

Make a list, detail the issues including both those which seem unsolvable and those which appear to have potential solutions, no matter how unpalatable.

Take concrete steps to begin to address some of the issues.  Whether or not I can solve everything, or even most things, I can do something about most things.  I desperately need to break the hold that my emotional condition has on me.

Start listening better to the people in my life who care about me.  At the moment they seem to believe in me more than do I myself.

Creatively analyzing my situation with a view to possible improvements in it.  A little improvement is better than none.  Maybe everything isn’t quite as far gone as I currently believe,  maybe I can still pull myself back from the brink.  Of if not, figure out how to ride out the storm caused by going over the edge.

Let go of the past, embrace the future.  What is, is.  What has already happened is done, over and can’t be changed. But what has not yet happened, may never happen, or may result in outcomes totally different than anticipated by my fears.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise
Self Portrait of me as a young man.

I haven’t entirely let go of the past, and I continue to work on those things from the past that still cause havoc in my life. What can say, two short years later, is that there is hope, and things have actually improved, through hard work, a renewed practice of personal discipline in following my new lifestyle, and a willingness to be open and transparent to my partner, which means a lot less anxiety of both our parts, and a better, if not a little more complicated, redefinition of our lives, both together and apart.

Different Pain Management Strategies – Brain Maps

The first part in the upper left corner of the pain block is PHYSICAL INTENSITY. This is that 0-10 rating of how LOUD the pain signal is. This is what we are usually aiming to reduce to when we try new medications or other treatments.

The second part in the upper right corner of the pain block is the AGONY of pain. Pain is one of the class of sensations that when it hits the brain, also activates other parts of the brain that create emotional responses. Pain is not alone in this ability to activate more than just sensation. Think of the agitation that is elicited by an itch, or the panic when you catch your breath, or the pleasure of sensual touch. Pain activates the emotional pathway of agony, it is an intense bothersomeness. Interestingly, as you will learn, pain does not have to activate this agony pathway all the time – we just have to teach our brains how to change it.


The third part in the lower right hand corner of the pain block is IMPACT. The Impact of pain is all the ways that pain affects our lives. The impact in our lives is far reaching including our sleep, energy, stamina, movement, social life, our ability to work the way we used to, our costs of living, memory, mood, and even our sense of who we are as a person.


The fourth part of pain in the lower left hand corner of the pain block is NEGATIVE STIGMA. Stigma is pervasive in our society. The bias against individuals is very real and destructive.

The most important thing about the MPM program is that it is highly systematic and based on the scientific method. As a chronic pain sufferer I know that I have tried many different approaches to mitigate or deal with my pain. I tried pain killers, physiotherapy, exercise, anti-inflammatory drugs, sleep aids, music… even sex and other intense emotional and physical interactions to try to drown out the noise of pain. None of them make the pain go away, but sometimes I have felt some amelioration of the pain. For me the most consistently successful of these strategies has been distraction from the experience of pain by focussing my attentions on some other thing, usually an interaction with another person, or sometimes a creative visualization of an intense subject.

The key to the method taught in my course, however, is not the specific technique itself that worked, or didn’t work, but he careful examination of various approaches using the scientific method, to test a number of potentially helpful strategies, in an orderly manner. Those that seem most promising are then examined in the context of the other methods, with the eventual idea that some of these may be even more effective if combined together.

Interesting enough, the very fact of dispassionately examining what has worked in the past in an organized fashion itself helps to ameliorate some of the pain by lessening my fear that it will continue to be out of my control altogether. No matter how sever the pain seems at any given moment, it is made far worse by my imagining that it will only ever get worse, and the fear itself tends to increase my awareness and sensitivity to my pain. Analysis actually substantive reduces the experience of pain but bringing it into the realm of personal control. Believing that I can control the pain, to any significant degree, actually helps me control the pain, to a degree.

Here is a sneak peak at what is in store for me as I follow the Mastering Pain Management training program.

Activate Endogenous Opioids – Ever wish you could feel that “high” that runners talk about, but know you aren’t about to go run 12 miles? That high is from our body’s own opioid system and it doesn’t require running to trigger it. In fact, there are a number of ways to turn to the system on. The biological evidence shows that we can do this on your own in just a few minutes. While some of the skills might involve imagination, the effect is not imaginary, the opioids are real, the response is real, and the science to demonstrate the process is real. These are some of the most powerful IMMEDIATE RELIEF skills of the Mastering Pain Method. In person, we have witnessed an average of a 50% drop in pain intensity. Its now your turn to discover how well the skills work for you.

Retrain Sensory and Motor Nerves – Learn how to have mastery over out-of-control sensory nerves and motor nerves that are keeping muscles guarded and tight or sending signals to the brain that aren’t helpful.

Rewire Agony/Suffering Circuitry – Change the patterns in your brain that make pain so unbearable. Clear cut evidence exists showing that we can change the way our brains respond to pain and only experience it as a sensation without all the agony and suffering that is usually associated with it.

Train Vagal Tone/Relaxation Response – Pain is so overwhelming and activates our danger sensors leading to adrenaline bursts from the fight or flight response. To calm this response we can train a special system, the Relaxation Response, that is associated with the Vagus Nerve.

Engage Pleasure Circuitry – Change the patterns in your brain that make pain so unbearable. Clear cut evidence exists showing that we can change the way our brains respond to pain and only experience it as a sensation without all the agony and suffering that is usually associated with it.

Engage Restorative/Anti-Inflammatory Systems – Our body produces inflammation when stressed. And the body is clearly stressed by pain. Regardless of the cause of the pain learning how to put a stop to the inflammation is critical – even more so when the cause of the pain is an inflammatory condition. Our bodies’ are amazing full of ifferent ways to stop and start inflammation. Learning to turn off inflammation and turn on the restorative systems.

Retrain Interpersonal Neurobiology – Our body responds when we interact with others. It has certain patterns of responses to different environmental cues. These patterns impact our sense of self and our relationships. Learn how retraining these
skills can improve pain and begin the trend to change the cultural stigma of chronic pain.

From MPM Chapter 3

It often seems highly hypothetical to consider that pain may be somewhat controllable by following a road map of different strategies in an organized and systematic manner. My sincerest hope is that the program is right, and I can learn to have a much higher level of control than I have at the present time. Many years ago I took a training course in personal development which taught me that “understanding is the booby prize” by which the trainers meant that it is in doing something rather than in understanding something that lies the potential for real change in human experience. However, without the “booby prize” of understanding the nature of pain, and systematically examining what works and doesn’t for me, I am highly unlikely to accidently come upon actions which will have any significant effect over the long run, or even have any real impact on a moment by moment basis.

Obesity Week 2019: Why is it So Hard for Doctors to Admit Their Failure?

By Dr. Tro Kalayjian

doctortro.com/obesity-week-2019-why-is-it-so-hard-for-some-doctors-to-admit-their-failure/

It’s Thursday night, and I’m sitting in an airplane, about to take off for New York. I’m heading home from Las Vegas after attending Obesity Week 2019, the world’s largest obesity medicine conference, a collaboration between The Obesity Society and The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons.

I don’t quite know how to express my feelings and thoughts about this event, but the words ‘anger’ and ‘hopelessness’ immediately come to mind. My anger and hopelessness are best exemplified by the first keynote speech, delivered by Dr. William Cefalu, who is chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association.

After accurately describing our country’s spiralling healthcare costs, and the morbidity and mortality associated with diabetes and obesity, Dr. Cefalu went on to discuss the benefit of low-calorie approaches for diabetes reversal. He also highlighted bariatric surgery and medications. But ultimately, he harped on one point, that is frequently repeated at conventional obesity medicine conferences: 

“There is no best diet. The best diet is one that a patient can adhere to.” 

The above article by Dr. Tro Kalayjian the physician behind Dr. Troys Medical Weight Loss and Direct Primary Care is a discussion about why it is so difficult for the medical profession to accept fundamental changes in medical understanding about diabetes and current treatments for it. It is why patients continue to get contradictory advice from doctors who really ought to know better than to recommend any number of established and well known dietary strategies that simply don’t work. It’s not that they don’t work anymore, it’s that they never worked, and there is no scientific basis for any of them.

This sounds pretty revolutionary to me. The esteemed Canadian doctor is joined by a number of US based colleagues who are challenging the status quo in the treatment of diabetes, and sending a message to their profession. Just stop! Stop misleading the public! Stop lying to patients! Stop killing your clients!

Closeup on medical doctor woman giving a choice between apple and donut

Of course, they are doctors and they don’t quite put it that way. But what else can you say when so many health professionals and authorities continue to promulgate misleading information, such as “moderation is the best strategy” when clearly, based on current information that is simply not true. Moderation will kill you if by moderation you include relatively mundate advice about carbohydrates and sugar. What sciences know is that consuming carbs in excess of certain pretty limited amounts leads to metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to diabetes. Diabetes leads to lots of really bad stuff that can kill you, or at the least, make you really really sick.

Stop being so gullible. Doctors aren’t necessarily up to speed on the current information about your health.

If you or someone you love is fat, obese, or has diabetes or prediabetes follow the link on this blog entry to the above article and understand what is being said. Doctors are willfully ignoring solid medical evidence in favor of standing by old, disproved theories because they are afraid of rocking the boat. Read Dr. Fung’s book, the Diabetic Code.

Stop believing anyone who says that eating many small meals a day is ok. Stop following advice so far heard that has led you to being overweight and obese. If you want to live and healthy, long life, fire your current endrochronologist if he or she disparages the most recent research and tells you not to follow Dr. Fung’s advice. Run away from anyone who says that carbs and sugars are not the cause of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and many many many other life threatening diseases.

Pain Mastery – Evaluation

How has pain been a complex problem in your life? How has pain interacted with your movement, energy, sleep, social life, finances, identity, memory, and mood?

Mastering Pain Institute

After listening to and reading the materials in the 1st leasson of the Pain Mastery Class it asks the student to answer the above questions.

Movement

How has pain interacted with my movement? As pain from various causes has increased over the past few years I have observed that my ability and willingness to move has undergone an uncomfortable metamorphosis. Simple tasks like walking, bending over, picking up items, getting dressed, doing my toe nails, making the bed… etc. have all become much more difficult.

Neuropathic pain has combined with arthritis to make steering the car for long periods increasingly painful. I alternate from my left to my right hand constantly as I drive, because the pain builds up in each as it is used. Eventually the pain is too great in both hands and I have to take a break. The pain in my legs and feet make driving hard as well, and certainly limited my pleasure from doing so. Driving a car is one of my great pleasures, or, it used to be one of my great pleasures and it represented a kind of freedom that is now gradually disappearing from my life.

The same can be said for a lot of routine physical tasks, all the way from making the bed to cleaning the mirrors in my bathroom. I didn’t used to mind housework or gardening but it is now so painful to mow the lawn that I’d rather let it grow twice as long as I used to. These type of restrictions have inevitably reduced my freedom of movement, and my interest in and willingness to do routine, simple life tasks.

How has pain affected my energy? Anybody who suffers from chronic pain will attest to the fact that constant, unrelenting pain is exhausting. There is almost no time when I’m not tired and so sore I feel like I really just want to lay down and sleep for a while. Even a nap would seem like a relief, if I can sleep, that is.

The net available energy is a function of pain in my body. The more severe the pain becomes, the less energy I have. And not only to do life in general, but in having the interest and energy to participate in the things of life. A lack of energy is behind so many other deficits experience by people with chronic pain that it tends to blind us to how serious it actually is. Without sufficient energy to function properly nothing actually works the way it is supposed to work. How the hell am I supposed to do my job at work, when I hardly have enough energy to get there in the first place every day?

How does pain affect my sleep? To most of us with chronic pain sleep is seldom deep or really very restful. Not a single night of sleep goes by without being disrupted, again and again by waking fully or partially because of pain in the body. For me it is all sorts of different parts of the body and different types of pain, but it all hurts, and it all makes me awaken at some point during sleep. If I wonder why I’m so damned tired all the time, I simply have to remind myself that I really haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years.

I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but sleep apnea really isn’t the reason I’m awake half the night. It’s the pain, the pain. Snoring is a part of it. Blocked airways aggravates it. But pain causes sleep interruption, over and over again, every single time I go to sleep.

How does pain affect my social life? What social life? Who really has the energy to maintain a social group or friendships when you’re in constant pain? It takes energy I don’t have and mobility that is a constant struggle, simply to get out and visit with people. I’m no longer the happy go lucky guy I used to be. I try not to spread my pain around, or make my kids and grandkids suffer from my experience of pain. But I wonder if my increasing isolation from them is at least partly because I do longer know how to overcome my pain for long enough to actually properly engage with people.

And being socially isolated also increases my experience of pain, because lacking real human contact with others is not only uncomfortable, but it’s also actually harmful physically because it encourages inactivity and passiveness. Instead of getting out and doing things with the people I love, I stay at home, watching television, at least partly because it’s less painful than the alternatives of getting out of the house, and doing the things necessary to have a life.

How does being in pain affect my finances? This is one of the things that is most humiliating about being in pain. Instead of being vibrant and capable, I’m tentative and withdrawing from challenges. I used to love going to the office and taking on new challenges, meeting new people, creating new financial opportunities for myself, and for my staff. Now I have no staff, and I’ve been afraid for years of taking on jobs that I know I’m qualified to do because I’m afraid that I’m going to let them down, or worse, prove myself to be incapable of handling the physical and emotional demands of the work.

In addition, my increasing health problems cost a lot of money, which I am now having to pay with a lot less income, due to my reduced employment capabilities. I struggle to manage my prescription deductibles and copays. And that’s for the prescriptions, which doesn’t actually include any pain medications I can trust. Nothing the doctor has prescribed for pain has actually helped very much, if at all. I know that opioids would be more effective than OTC drugs but I also know that they are highly addictive, and have major other problems that I don’t need to add to my pain.

And being chronically short of money, as well as in pain, means that I can’t take advantage of one of the things I used to do a lot, which was going out to nice restaurants and have good meals with friends. Shortage of money means that I’m socially isolated by it, as well as by my resentment over finding myself in this situation. I never wanted to be dependant on anyone else but I find myself in a situation that make this every more a fact of life.

How does pain affect my sense of identity? Truthfully, I don’t really recognise myself any more. I no longer feel like the man I used to be, and I certainly don’t have the confidence I have always had. I’ve always thought of myself as a highly charged, somewhat hyperactive and oversexed Type A personality. If I had faults they were likely the faults of thinking that I could do anything, be anybody, accomplish anything. A little bit of humility probably wasn’t a bad thing for me to learn, but pain has driven me to distraction. The amount and persistence of pain has now reached proportions that are disabling my sense of self to a point of no return. I don’t actually know what it would look like for me to be me, the way I have always been. So damage to my sense of identity is a real cost of being a victim of chronic pain.

How does pain affect my memory? My partner says that I’ve become a lot more forgetful than previously. I’m not sharp anymore, and I don’t automatically pick up on things so quickly. I don’t think I’ve lost my marbles, but I get confused more easily and mix things up, despite my best efforts to not do so. It means I slow down, because I can no longer count on my memory for important information. I’m a lot more cautious than I used to be, if for no other reason than I hate being unable to remember even the simplest facts or common words.

I’ve always been a prodigious reader, at one point reading more than a book a day, not to mention newspaper and magazines. Now it takes me a week to read a novel, and a month to work through a non-fiction title, no matter how interested I am in the subject. I don’t remember names very well, I never did, but I’m also losing the ability to remember what books I’ve read or which ones I liked or didn’t like. I find myself half way through the first chapter of novels only to realize that I read the damned thing six month ago. So yes, memory is being affected negatively, if only because I’m so distracted by the constant pain interrupting the flow of my thoughts and feelings.

How does pain affect my mood? I was diagnosed as being bipolar when I was about thirty years old, after a major breakdown and depression. After being hospitalized for six months I came out of the hospital with somewhat better emotional management tools than I had previously. Relatively quickly I abandoned the prescriptions for bipolar I had been given, because they made me feel like I was living in a fog. And I reconciled myself to living with vivid emotional ups and downs. So depression and mania have long been a part of my nature, and my life. I’ve done well in managing to live a full life despite these problems, but now it feels like depression stalk me, without the accompanying manio to provide any balance to it.

There are two kinds of depression with which I struggle, one of which is a direct result of serious and chronic pain. It’s tough to get out of being depressed when you feel like you’re under a constant pressure cooker caused by physical and mental pain. This past weekend, in addition to chronic neuropathic pain in my hands and feet, arthritic pain in my shoulders, fingers, hands, I was also slayed by a serious migraine headache. I haven’t suffered from migraines on a regular basis for years, ever since I started practicing a form of self-hypnosis that seemed to be effective at shortening their duration, and eventually led me to being able to predict and prevent the worst of them.

Even that ability seems to be beyond my control these days, because it’s pretty hard to meditate when I’m in so much pain that I can hardly sit still.

I don’t know if this exercise in counting the ways that pain affects me is supposed to make me feel better, but it hasn’t yet. I also suppose that to defeat an enemy I first have to understand the enemy and all the territory it has staked out in my life. This is the exercise from Chapter 1 in my program to begin to manage my pain. I hope the next exercises don’t leave me here.