Stoicism, Anxiety and Chronic Illness

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius

I’ve hated holidays, weekends and especially my birthday ever since I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 11. There were emotional, social and physical factors that caused me to dread of these cultural happy events. I still feel anxious when my family mentions going on holiday or when my brothers are planning a fishing or hunting trip. The anxiety wells up because I want to participate but I know that pain, fatigue, fear of new environments, and changes of schedule will 9 times out of 10 back out of going or if I do go I’ll not enjoy myself. That’s because the problem with being chronically ill and in constant pain is that my body and mind are the cause of my miserable state. And I’ve been miserable most of my life and especially during these so called happy times.

I used to think that my reaction to life, my anxiety and fear surrounding holidays, weekends and my birthday was a character defect. I thought that I was mentally weak because I couldn’t consistently overcome my negative thought patterns to build a life I was proud of. During these “happy times” I was always reminded about how much was missing in my life because of my chronic pain and chronically feeling like shit. I don’t have a mate, I don’t have my own place, I don’t have a social life…The don’t have list was constantly on my mind during these events or prevented me from participating all together.

The mental anxiety was warranted because I would get physically ill because of changes in my eating, drinking and resting patterns.  This coupled with the host of negative emotions of being different, worrying about passing gas through my stoma (uncontrollably) and the prospect of experiencing the humiliation of filing someone’s home with the horrific smell that only an ileostomy can produce produced near panic levels of anxiety. Needless to say I’ve not been very socially active in the past 30 years.

I’ve only been to one Christmas party in the last ten years. And I was miserable the whole time. The bathroom was in the kitchen where a lot of people were congregated, there was almost nothing I could eat there without being sick, and on top of that I was in horrific pain. The anxiety of having to dump my bag in the bathroom right beside the kitchen was horrible. So I waited as long as I could but I finally had to give in or my bag would start leaking and then I’d have to tell my brother and his family I had to go home. Ruining other people’s good time is another one of my constant fears as well. I still feel sick to my stomach when I remember the anxiety of dumping my bag there. Going to new places and being away from my home bathroom is a huge deal to me. I’ve actually developed a small kit I carry with along with useful strategies that help me feel less anxious and more in control of my ileostomy variables. (I’ll share my tips and what I carry in my small kit in later posts)

Being chronically ill actually changes the way my brain functions. It has been shown recently that the immune system (lymphatic system) is directly connected to the brain. And nuero-plasticity science pioneered by Dr. Michael Merzenich author of  the book “Soft-Wired” writes about how the brain can be rewired throughout our lives. When we focus intently on something this can strengthen connections between certain neurons and weaken connections between others. These connections are associated with learning, actions and emotions.I’ve allowed negative thoughts to become runaway mental trains that soon overtake all other thoughts while I’m sick and these have create tracks or pathways that become easier and easier to fall in to each time I indulge negative thoughts and allow anxiety to overcome me. But I know that I have the power to further rewire my brain to undo the damage and  that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been drawn to Stoicism. Stoicism is an ancient belief that teaches that we are in control of what we determine is good or bad and that having a positive peaceful mental state is the only thing that is needed for a happy life.

http://www.soft-wired.com

https://news.virginia.edu/illimitable/discovery/theyll-have-rewrite-textbooks (article on the physical connection between the immune system and the brain)

The power to rewire the human brain can have be used for positive and negative effect. Unfortunately  when I’m really sick I tend to lose the rational ability to think and focus on concepts like neuro-plasticity and I fall into old thought patterns of what scientists call “sickness behavior”. In fact its been discovered that cytokines, the chemical messengers of the immune system, can have dramatic affects on the brain. The discipline of psychoneuroimmunology studies these effects on the brain. Sickness behavior is what drives animals to be alone when ill, lose their appetite, and display other behaviors like avoidance behavior that we identify with being ill. There are definite chemical changes that happen in the brain when large amounts of cytokines are released into the blood.

http://neuroschoolrome.univ-lille1.fr/faculty/dantzer/bbimmunity07.pdf (in depth look at cytokines and their role in inducing sickness behavior)

As I’ve grown older I’ve discovered ways of overcoming or at least mediating these anxious and negative feelings. Knowledge about my condition and learning how to lesson some of the more unpleasant aspects of having an ileostomy have all been helpful. But I still have trouble with my thought patterns, staying positive, planning for the future, and being active each day consistently working toward specific goals.. Being sick and in pain separates me from “normal life”. I have to force myself to reach out to my family when I’m sick. I have to force myself to try new things and to finish projects I’ve already started. There are certain biological factors that create my “sick brain” and the physiological changes do effect my behavior and thought patterns in powerful ways. Doing everything I can to lower inflammation or lower my over active immune response is key for me to lower the physical threshold I have for living a healthier and happier life, and that includes lowering my stress response to daily life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoneuroimmunology (good overview of this discipline that focuses on the connection between the brain and immune system)

Stoicism is an ancient belief system that developed during the Greek and Roman times. It is a philosophy that focuses on creating a peaceful internal mental state.

“You have power over your mind not outside events” Marcus Aurelius

These are some of the lessons of Stoicism I’ve learned and applied in my life:

  1. Emotions are generated from within
  2. The internal mental state is what is truly important
  3. Your thoughts are powerful and you should guard them accordingly
  4. You have the ability to label an experience good or bad
  5. Live in harmony with nature. Humans are not separate from nature.
  6. Don’t worry about the future. Now is the time to live.
  7. Failure is temporary. It is too be learned from.
  8. Adversity should be viewed as a vehicle for demonstrating virtue – patience, self-compassion, and strength.
  9. Gratitude for what we have is vitally important and creates a peaceful mind
  10. Our life is our responsibility
  11. Being a good friend is one of the best things in the world
  12. Expectations and anticipation can cause unnecessary suffering

“Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca

A lot of times I’ve suffered needlessly because I’ve held on to the expectation that I would live a “normal life”. I missed most of junior high and high school. My biggest relationship I have is with my pain and illness. I’ve had only one serious girlfriend and that was almost twenty years ago. I don’t have kids or have a home of my own. But I can be happy and content in the present without accepting this as fate. Stoicism doesn’t teach apathy. It teaches strength, courage, and tenacity in the face of adversity and focusing on having a peaceful unperturbed mind even though storms rage outside, or rage inside for those of us who are suffering from chronic pain and autoimmune conditions.

“The wish for healing has always been half of health.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Health was a huge concern for the Romans as it is for humans in today’s society. Seneca is one of the three pillars of the Stoic tradition and he understood the connection between the mind and body two thousand years ago. Instead of focusing on everything that is wrong with me I try more and more now to focus on the state of health I want to experience. A strong body that is free of pain and all my organs performing their function properly. This idea also foreshadows the idea of visualization which a lot of health practitioners are recommending to their patients.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization

Below  is another one of my favorite quotes. All the Stoic writers were very intelligent and viewed the Stoic philosophy as a practical guide to maximizing a human’s experience on Earth while engaged in living. What I especially like about Seneca is that he participated in life. He was not monk or a priest. He acquired wealth and enjoyed the finer things in life but still he struggled with what I struggle with as well. He suffered later in life with chronic pain and even contemplated suicide. He stuck around because of his father.

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca\

This quote has helped me through some of my worst days. I don’t give myself enough credit. I’ve endured for thirty years pain, fatigue, loneliness, financial struggle, uncertainty, hospital stays, surgery, thousands of needles, countless medications and I’m still here. If you’ve endured or are still enduring with health challenges don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes just getting out of bed and showering are acts of courage. Remember your strength. You can continue to endure and even thrive in the face of adversity. That is a lesson I’ve taken to heart from the Stoics as well.

“There is nothing in the world so much admired as a man who knows how to bear unhappiness with courage.” Seneca

When I read Seneca’s letters which are the main source of the above quotes, its as if he is speaking directly to me. Stoics were interested in helping each other live a happier life through controlling one’s thinking. They could be viewed as some of the first pioneers of the self-help movement and even the hippie new age movement. I used to struggle with the fact I didn’t feel I was a part of nature. I was so flawed that I didn’t even feel “human”. This quote continues to inspire and remind me that I am “natural” no matter how many organs I’m missing or if I have to defecate into a plastic bag.

“Everything is the product of one universal creative effort. There is nothing dead in Nature. Everything is organic and living, and therefore the whole world appears to be a living organism.”  Seneca

I view Stoicism as an anti-inflammatory means of organizing my thoughts. My attitudes and beliefs determine my emotional reaction to external stimuli. I have the power to determine if what I’m experiencing is good or bad. This goes along with what Viktor Frankl wrote during his experience while imprisoned in a concentration camp during WWII.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Applying the teachings of Stoicism in my life helps me to lessen the impact emotions have over my body and mind, helps me to detach emotionally from the outcomes and to accept pain and loss as part of the price of living as a human being. Stoicism isn’t meant to turn me into a robot that has no feeling or passively accept life as it happens. Rather it helps me to experience emotions in a more productive way and that allows for a happier existence in spite of being chronically ill and in near constant pain. Being “stoic” doesn’t just mean suffering in silence. It teaches the old school values that used to be valued in society, patience, kindness, self responsibility, courage, and  having a positive attitude. But the teachings of Stoicism also do help me to endure pain, loneliness, loss, and overcome the anxiety of living chronically ill. I don’t buy into all that Stoicism has to offer. But I do believe in the taking of what is useful from any source and applying it in my own life. And Stoicism is chock full of ideas that I’ve found helpful.

http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/what-is-stoicism/ (an excellent primer on the teachings of Stoicism)

Two thing are occurring in my brain when I feel awful. There are chemical changes and also physical changes. Reducing overall inflammation is a great way to limit my the sickness behavior response. One of the best ways for me is to reduce my anxiety and I’ve found Stoicism to be an excellent tool to do this. The mind-body connection is a powerful one and its a two way street. I have the power to choose not only what I think but also what I feel according to my attitude. Stoicism for me is a philosophy of optimism and empowerment. To this day I still struggle with anxiety. The thought of another tomorrow filled with the pain fills me with dread. But I know that I have the power to create a more peaceful internal mental world by what I focus on. Stoicism helps me to focus on positive actions I can take in the moment and to accept the things I can not change.

One of the most powerful pieces of Stoic writing for me is Seneca’s piece “On the shortness of life”. This is a youtube audio version of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYWEAa-D5vM

Also check out Tim Ferris’ blog. This is an article on how entrepreneurs can apply Stoic lessons in their lives but I believe it also is helpful for people who are chronically ill or dealing with chronic pain as well.

http://fourhourworkweek.com/2009/04/13/stoicism-101-a-practical-guide-for-entrepreneurs/

Stoic in Training

Brad Miller

If you’ve found Stoicism or other philosophies helpful in your own life please share your experience below.

 

Philosophy And Chronic Illness

“Sometimes even to live is an act of Courage.” Seneca

I’ve wanted to give up countless times over the past thirty years. I’ve wanted the pain and loneliness to be over. I wanted to be done with the hospitals, the doctors, wearing a bag, getting stuck, taking pills. Even though I’ve wanted to quit many times it was never for very long. I’ve always gotten back up. I credit this to my family and the ideas from the authors I’ve read during my illness. Over these last thirty years I’ve read up a lot on philosophy, self-help and neuroscience.What I’ve concluded after all this reading is that my personal philosophy affects my health more than anything else I can do or others can do for me.

I hate being sick. I hate hurting. There is no philosophy that I’ve found that explains with any logic or merit why I’m sick or what purpose it serves. I used to believe in god but that ended when I was in my twenties. My personal philosophy doesn’t seek to understand or justify or explain why I’m sick or in horrific pain. What I’ve sought out is a practical system of thinking to help me live my best life today, enjoy life more and help others around me enjoy more of life as well. I see a personal philosophy as series of ideas that inform my choices, help me set priorities, and endure in the face of overwhelming sickness and pain.

When I ran my first marathon I came across the concept of having an Internal Locus of Control which I added as a key tenet of my personal philosophy. I decided to complete a marathon after almost dying from complications from a surgery. The recovery was horrifically painful. But I decided when I was in the hospital I would compete a marathon. My intention was to reestablish the paradigm that my mind controlled my body and not the other way around. I started walking around the hospital, then when I got home I started walking around the pool and then into the neighborhood.

I had purchased the book “Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer” years before I started the training. So after the surgery I started reading it. Immediately I knew this would be one of the books that changed my life forever. It introduced me to the concept of having an Internal Locus of Control. This means that my actions determine my fate. The opposite is having an External Locus of Control meaning that external events and other people determine the course and outcome of my life. At the time my doctors and family all thought I was nuts to complete the training let alone complete a marathon. I highly recommend the book even if you never plan on completing a marathon.

https://www.amazon.com/Non-Runners-Marathon-Trainer-David-Whitsett/dp/1570281823

Seven months after almost dying I completed my first marathon, it took me five and a half hours but I finished. Those seven months of training were more about training me how to think rather than how to run. Later on in the training schedule I would use the techniques in the book to breeze through an 8 mile run after work. Look back on that now seems impossible. But at the time it was just what I did. One of the techniques I really liked was the concept of typing out on an imaginary computer positive sentences while I was running. I would imagine my fingers hitting each letter on a keyboard then it would display upon on the computer screen in my mind. I would spell out “I am strong”, “I can run all day” and “I enjoy running”. These ideas became true. Now its been almost 9 years since I completed the marathon and I haven’t ran much recently. But I have begun using this technique again to help me get my chronic pancreatitis under control.

Having a personal philosophy is vitally important to everyone but especially for those who have a chronic illness. For those who are suffering it can feel like your body, your doctors, the insurance companies and the government are in control of your life, instead of you. But that is merely a choice of how to think. Once you decide that a key part of your personal philosophy is having an Internal Locus of Control new cognitive and physical doors will begin to open. Your body responds to your thoughts I’ve not personally been able to heal myself through thinking. I know it’s not a quick fix but I do believe my thoughts have an extremely important part in healing and helping me to make choices that will lead to a fuller more fulfilling life.

A key part of my personal philosophy is that I do have an Internal Locus of Control. I have the ability to find a solution to every health issue I have and to create the life I want to live. Even if its not a full solution or so called “cure” and even if it takes years to figure it out. I will never stop improving myself and seeking to feel better. I do have the ability to finding ways to live better each day. It’s not always easy to feel like and I have my doubts somedays especially on those days when I don’t even want to get out of bed. But the underlying idea of having an Internal Locus of Control that helps me to keep getting back up after I get knocked back down, whether it’s by a bowel obstruction or a severe pancreatitis attack. I want to live. I want to experience all that life has to offer. I want to fall in love. I want to feel good. I want to feel pleasure not merely be pain free. And that desire plus the belief that my actions can change my fate are what keep me going.

My next two posts will be on the ways Stoicism and the Paleo lifestyle have shaped my personal philosophy and my relationship to my chronic pain and autoimmune diseases.

Keep taking those small steps – they add up

Brad Miller

 

Please leave a comment if you’ve found philosophy helpful in dealing with chronic illness or chronic pain.

 

 

Encouraging Life when you’re chronically sick

My Life Force is interrupted when I am sick. When I don’t feel well my life is greatly reduced. My ability and capacity to think, act and encourage life in plants, pets and family and friends is greatly limited. Love for me is using my life to encourage, support or increase the life of another person, plant or animal.  But in order to do this I must take better care of myself. And this is where researching, planting, tending and eventually eating from the organic perennial plants in my backyard I put into dirt helps.

I always feel better when I am helping to sustain or encourage the life of another living entity.   When I’m feeling the worst its nice to know that I have plants that I have nurtured from seed or sapling in the past into  fully functioning plants. When I look out my window into the backyard and see these plants growing it helps me to visualize a future in which I once again will be able to do the same.  I have hazel nut trees, hardy kiwi vines, a tea plant, asparagus, two avocado trees, and many other types of perennial plants that have endured through my negligence of being sick over the past four months. After only a week or two of attention they are all bouncing back, minus a few.

I know I’m feeling better when I want to plant something new and be responsible for its growth. This responsibility helps me to feel productive even on days when I feel like I’m a giant drain on the world instead of being a contributor to it. My latest project is growing Tree Collard plants. Having a living thing dependent on me is scary. Consistency is something that I am constantly struggling with. But the payoffs are worth the risk. Organic produce I can share, a reason to get up even when I feel my worst, and a tangible reminder that I can impact the world in a positive way.

http://projecttreecollard.org

I’ve studied Permaculture, organic farming, with an emphasis on perennial plants and have never heard of this plant until a few weeks ago. I found out about these amazing plants while reading an article on supplements. The expert being interviewed recommended growing your own organic veggies and mentioned Tree Collards. It didn’t take me long to find the Project Tree Collard website. Their site is full of great information and video tutorials. After reviewing their site I orderdered three of them from their Amazon listing. I found out from past experience its best to start small when trying out a new plant species.

https://www.amazon.com/Tree-Collard-Cuttings-perennial-collards/dp/B01CPQVU3W

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The Tree Collard plants came as advertised and I planted them the same day in one gallon containers. I’ve had a lot of success using smart pots. My back deck is full of perrenial edibles planted in them. The Tree Coolards are looking great and already growing after a week in the dirt. In year two I should be able to harvest the leaves and enjoy organic “greens” that grow from a tree in my own backyard. The more I read about how scientists, big agriculture and the government work together to skew nutrition science the more I want to consume what I grow. This is one small step in that direction.

https://www.amazon.com/Smart-Pots-1-Gallon-Soft-Sided-Container/dp/B002JUU4AU

I love perennial plants. I think of myself as a perennial person. I am resilient and I keep coming back after not producing anything during the winters of my bouts of small bowel obstructions and pacreatitis attacks. That is why I love nut trees, asparagus and hardy vining fruits that take less inputs, are more hardy than annuals and most importantly produce for years. The Tree Collard checks all those boxes, they produce edible leaves that taste like greens and can produce for 20 years with very little attention and best of all I only have to plant them once.

Growing perennial plants helps to amplify my efforts. I have a limited gas tank and my energy levels from day to day fluctuate wildly. For me anything I can do to get the best ROE (return on energy) I do it. Perennials give me the best return on the investment of my life force I transfer into theirs. It’s a way to plant once and harvest for years or even decades. The Hazel Nut trees I’ve planted should produce for over fifty years. Their life helps to support mine and my life helps to support them. Instead of annual plants which you only plant once and have to replant year after year.

The concept of the Life Force sounds like a hippie-dippie idea and I’m sure somebody else can explain it better. But for me the Life Force is simply the energy that started life, propels life to consume, reproduce and create and inhabits and connects every living creature on the planet. It is a force that we can encourage or we can blunt. When I am sick I feel like my life force is being blunted. My choices are dramatically limited. By dabbling in plants and being able to see growth on them after I’ve reemerged from my latest battle with a small bowel obstruction or a bad pancreatitis attack gives me hope that I can still grow and persevere just like my hardy perennial plants.

I used to think that getting flowers when I was sick was a total waste of money. Now I realize why people do it. Mother Nature, the Life Force or simply the Natural World is a miraculous place that is teaming with growth, new life, and ever-increasing complexity. Flowers and plants are a way to reconnect to that energy, especially when your own Life Force is blunted by disease, injury or intense pain.  If you know someone who is sick I suggest you get them a plant that will last a long time like a “Tree Collard”, a Bamboo plant, or an orchid.

The more I can encourage the Life Force of other living beings around me the more of my Life Force I have to share. It’s not a zero sum game. The more I give the more I have to give. Even when I’m not feeling my best I still want to share my Life Force with others and to help those I love grow stronger, enjoy life more and to live a better life because of my actions and attention. Perennial plants give back what you put in and they endure over years and even decades. They are a great way to mulitply your efforts and have tasty organic food you can share with those you love for years to come.

This week I’m increasing and sharing my Life Force by tending to, watching and documenting the growth of my three new Tree Collard plants. When I’m sick and stuck in bed I feel my life force ebb away. When I don’t have an outlet for my creativity or allow creativity in by listening to or reading positive information I feel a lot worse. I am thankful I found Tree Collard plants from a random article about supplements. My Life Force needs to be shared in order for it to increase. I’m still working on this theory but even if you don’t buy into any of the hippie-dippie stuff science has proven getting your hands dirty, planting and tending the plants, eating organic produce you grow all have a very positive effect upon your health and the health of those around you.

Happy Planting

Brad Miller

If you’ve found gardening helpful in your recovery process please share your experience.

Why I shop at Kroger

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Kroger has Simple Truth Organic products on sale a lot. These were 2 for $5.

I used to be a huge fan of shopping at Publix. I felt that they were the best grocery store in town. After I moved two years ago I began shopping at my local Kroger and my opinion changed. This move also coincided with my renewed commitment to use food as a way to help me feel better and improve my health.  As I began to investigate more of the role nutrition has on my health I began buying more and more organic products. Kroger has an Organic Section that is growing and their own Natural/Organic Brand “Simple Truth” is outstanding and is revolutionizing the availability of organic food and organic personal care products.

http://www.simpletruth.com

The Simple Truth brand is both a natural product line and organic product line. There was some controversy last year about some Simple Truth products containing GMO ingredients. That was concerning their Simple Truth Natural line I believe. That is why I buy mostly The Simple Truth Organic stuff and I always read labels. For instance The Simple Truth Traditional Spaghetti Sauce had soy bean oil in it. I didn’t buy it. Instead I read labels until I found one that didn’t include GMO ingredients or vegetable oil. The consumer is still responsible for reading labels. The Simple Truth Brand Organic products are a great way for me to save money and is a better choice than driving hours to go to my nearest Whole Foods.

http://www.businessinsider.com/krogers-affordable-organic-food-2015-9

Kroger is not perfect and there are many Simple Truth stuff I don’t buy. But the products I do buy I think are superior in quality and taste to non-organic brands.  Take for instance their  Simple Truth Organic Cream Cheese and their Sour Cream. Before my pancreatitis was kicking my ass  I could eat the sour cream by the spoonful. It is extremely think and tasty and different from any other Sour Cream I’ve ever tried. Other Simple Truth products I like are the Organic Chicken Breasts, Organic Frozen Blueberries and Simple Truth Artesian water that has a ph of 7.6. For the last two months I’ve been drinking almost exclusively Icelandic Glacial Water and the Simple Truth Artesian Water.

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Simple Truth Artesian Water with a ph of 7.6

I believe that this has been one of the reasons my psoriasis has greatly improved and why I’m feeling better than I have for months. Also I buy Simple Truth Organic potatoes. They are smaller than traditionally grown potatoes and they go bad faster. But I believe buying organic is worth the extra price and is still a better value for my health even though the product could spoil faster. The Simple Truth grassed beef is something I’ve bought a lot of in the past as well. I used to buy that along with White Pasture’s Grass-Fed ground beef. The combination was delicious. I find more of the products I want to use at Kroger than any other grocery store in my area.

(White Oaks Patures is a local family run farm in Georgia who believes in treating animals well and feeding them what they are designed to eat. I’m a big fan.)

http://www.whiteoakpastures.com

This is a great video that explained what happened when a family ate only organic.

 

I also choose to shop at my local Kroger not only for their lower priced organic selection but also because of the people and their operating hours. The women behind the Deli counter are just outstanding and those who help with checkout are as well. I normally use self-checkout but they always have someone there to help with a smiling face.  My schedule is not normal. Depending on how I’m feeling I might be up at 7:00am because I didn’t sleep the night before and need to go to get Organic Grapefruit juice because of a pancreatitis flare up. Or if I’m up late I can go to my local Kroger up until 1:00am to buy more high ph water. This is huge for people who have medical issues who need certain food products that help them feel better and do not keep normal hours. No matte what time I go the folks are always helpful, kind and smiling.

I’ve been extremely sick for the past few months and now I’m feeling much better. But during those times I felt awful I still tried to get out of the house each day and the one place I would go is my local Kroger. For someone who is chronically ill or suffering from chronic pain having a friendly safe place to go to is so important. Some days my shopping at Kroger would be my only contact with other people. I went in there the other day and the Store Manager let me know I dropped a dollar on the floor while I was at the deli counter. Before that I saw him interact with the women working in the deli and he was kind and respectful. You could tell they respected him as well. Those small interactions matter and create an atmosphere that is enjoyable to be in. When I’m sick I need all the help I can get and I need to be around positive energy. On top of treating each other well and friendly with customers, they are also extremely responsive. Before I started buying the Icelandic Glacial Water or knew about the Simple Truth Artesian water I bout Essentia water. When I told the lady who takes care of the Organic Section that I was buying a lot of it she started ordering more and I was always able to get it.

One of the reasons I don’t shop at Publix any more is that one of the owners of Publix gave $800,000 to an anti-cannabis campaign in Florida.  The daughter of the founder of Publix gave to a group that stopped Medical Cannabis Law being passed in 2012 and they are still trying to keep Cannabis illegal in Florida. She currently owns 5% of Publix and is worth a reported $1.8 billion.  I’ve not totally researched Kroger’s donations and in the future I might find that they are a company I don’t want to support. For the mean time I will continue to shop at Kroger and improve my health by buying Simple Truth Organic products and other organic products they offer.

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/publix-heiress-donates-800-000-to-fight-medical-marijuana-legalization-in-florida-8631552

I don’t go out of my way to boycott a company because I’m sure every big company does something I don’t believe in but legalizing cannabis is something I strongly believe in. I’ve struggled with chronic pain and autoimmune disease since I was twelve. And I’ve found Cannabis helpful in dealing with my symptoms but I’ve had to travel to Denver twice to find that out. And its because people support politicians and groups that are working to keep Cannabis illegal I’ve spend over $6000 on travel and other expenses. To give money to an anti-cannabis group is an attack on people who are chronically ill and are suffering. It makes their lives harder. Cannabis Prohibition and those who support it are also attacking every individual regardless of why they want to consume Cannabis because its every adults inherent right to choose whether to ingest Cannabis or not.We all have a right to choose what we put in our bodies. No government and no billionaire has the right to tells us what we can and can’t put into our bodies.

I explore this topic further in my blog post on LegalizeCannabisInGeorgia.com

https://legalizecannabisingeorgia.com/2016/09/15/cbd-oil-is-not-enough/

My local Kroger is also carrying more and more local produce as well. Where I live doesn’t have an established Farmer’s Market. That would my preferred option of getting my produce but until that time I’ll buy organic products and veggies from Kroger. If you believe something strongly and a company is going against it you have a right to vote with your dollars to support those who support what’s important to you. Kroger has made a commitment to make organic products and organic food more available at a lower price. Publix has missed the boat on this and on top of that one of the owners is actively attempting to keep Cannabis illegal in Florida. I don’t want to support that.

All of these reasons are why I shop at my local Kroger. We all vote with our dollars every time we spend them. A lot of people have voted with their dollars in support of Kroger to continue increasing their organic selection because they now sell over 12 Billion dollars worth of natural and organic products. The more I buy those products the more of them that will be produced and if enough people do that the prices will continue to come down. Eating organic, drinking alkaline water and supporting companies that are more inline with my personal philosophy are all ways I can live a little bit healthier today and ensure a better tomorrow.

Brad Miller

 

Ten ways that help me get back to living after being extremely sick

I’ve been in and out of hospitals for close to thirty years. I’ve endured over thirty small bowel obstructions, ten severe pancreatitis attacks and over twenty surgeries. In between I’ve had to deal with many episodes where I’d been extremely sick even though I didn’t have to go to the hospital. And what occurred after each of these events is that I had to get back up. I had to claw my way back into everyday life. There isn’t much written about these dark times for people with chronic illness. What’s even talked about less is how do we get back to living. I found these ten things helpful in my recovery the last time I was sick. I’m still going through recovery and practicing most of these everyday. This time around I was sick for months due to a small bowel obstruction and two extremely severe pancreatitis attacks.

Recovery for me means getting back control over my body and mind after being nearly destroyed by the pain and fatigue of my chronic illnesses. When I’m sick I don’t feel like myself. I’m exhausted and I’m in horrific pain. So it helps to be able to do what I can to survive and then begin to thrive again. These are some things I found helpful this time around.

  1. Time Warping – The ability to jump over minutes or even hours without being aware of the passage of time and the sensations of pain and misery in the present moment.  So many people say we need to be in the moment. My question has always been, why the fuck do I want to be in the moment when I am in extreme agony? This time around I was laid up for months and I found that playing Star Craft II really helped me Time Warp. It allowed me to not think about my pain or how miserable I felt for at least 15 minutes or so at a time. Another way I like to Time Warp is by taking a bath. From drawing the bath to sitting in it, to getting out, drying off and putting on fresh clothes I can burn through 45 minutes to an hour. I also like to watch something on Netflix while I’m taking a bath, like Star Trek or Family Guy.  I also started playing around with small drones. Even when my pain was really bad I could reduce the awareness of it for those five or ten minutes I was flying the drone.  It requires full concentration to fly it. I highly recommend anyone pick one up who is sick or in pain.
  2. Exercising in small increments – As I began to feel better I started making myself pay for each game of Star Craft II I played. I wouldn’t allow myself to start a new game until I completed a push-up or some other exercise. I started out with just a single pushup between each game – which was a great struggle -and now I’m up to fifteen. I would also mix in shadow boxing or doing squats as well. Along with the push-ups I started walking five minutes at a time outside just to get the body moving. When I’m laid up I feel powerless. Moving and feeling my body getting physically stronger through strength training and walking more and more each day gives me a sense of mastery and control that is in short supply when I’m laid up and life is on hold.
  3. Listening to podcasts – The number one podcast I listen to is the Joe Rogan Experience. Joe is an amazing guy who is always upbeat, funny and has a hunger for knowledge. He has guests on that are focused on living life to the fullest and talks about living a healthy lifestyle. I also like Joey Diaz’s The Church of What’s Happening Now. This one is not for the faint of heart. But through all of the coarseness and language is some great lessons. One thing he said recently  has stuck with me and I’m adding it to my list today. It is advice he gave to his producer Lee Syatt – He told him  “Stick to something for a year. You don’t know where it will lead”. I don’t know about others with chronic illness but commitment and consistency are something I struggle with everyday.
  4. Sticking with something for a year – When I’m sick it’s hard for me to imagine even getting through another day let alone trying to imagine living another year. But this advice from Joey Diaz has helped me to focus my limited energy in a positive way. In the past I’ve started and stopped many endeavors and two business before they got up and running. Now I’m focused for the next 12 months on posting three blog entries per week. I’m also starting up a podcast this week to talk with doctors, people in the cannabis world and those who understand what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. When I’m sick I try to calculate what my return on effort will before I do something. Most of the time I don’t even start something or if I do I don’t stick with it for long,  because I’m unable to imagine a return on my energy that will be worth the misery, effort, and possible disappointment if I fail. But Joey Diaz’s advice reminds me that I can’t know what my actions today will produce in the future. The effort is not wasted if I’m doing something that I enjoy and that may be of benefit to others.
  5. Helping someone – When I’m sick I always feel like I’m a black hole of need. I suck in everything and nothing escapes. For those weeks or even months I’m relying on others for a lot. Being sick for close to 30 years now has been a huge strain on my family. They have been awesome so when I can start helping them in some small way I always feel better. One of the turning points for me this time around was when my nephew and niece came to see me. They are 5 and 4 and so full of life. I made them juice cups and small plate of food. They were very appreciative. It made me feel great. When I can help those I love it makes me feel stronger and it’s very motivating to continue improving.
  6. Opening up one piece of mail – When I’m sick and in bed the last thing I want to think about are hospital bills, insurance or some phone call I need to return. But these things add up. I will have a stack of envelopes I know I need to open  but I just let them pile up. Opening one letter and taking care of what’s inside is vital to my physical recovery. Not addressing the things necessary to continue livings adds extra emotional stress which translates into physical stress. I always feel better when I begin knocking out the bills and taking care of what I need to do, one envelope at a time.
  7. Cleaning something or picking something upI have a tendency to allow my space to become overwhelmed with clothes papers and the mess of living when I’m sick. If I make myself pick up one thing I feel better. If I make myself take my plate and cup to the dishwasher I feel better. These little victories add up and I can see that I can still make a difference in the world even if it means just putting my clothes in the hamper. Also no matter how bad I feel I always shower and it never fails to help.
  8. Reaching out to someone – Being sick, in pain and alone is terrible. I’m fortunate to have two great brothers who are always reaching out to me. I will go weeks sometimes months without reaching out to them. Even if it’s just a simple text,  or a phone call, or commenting on an Instagram post, I feel better because I’m making the effort. One of the ways I know I’m getting better is when I ask my older brother out to lunch. We do this about three times a week when I’m in between feeling awful. So getting back into that routine is always helpful.
  9. Cooking a meal  – Cooking is a way to feed your body and your soul. It is also a creative act. When I’m ill I don’t feel very productive at all, because I’m not. Cooking something that will benefit me and my loved ones helps me to feel better. Recently I cooked Key West shrimp with butter and lemon on a sheet tray and some baked potatoes. It was almost zero prep time and not much clean up and it was extremely tasty and good for us.
  10. Getting outside This time around has been one of the hardest of my life and I spent a lot of time inside. It’s the most time think I have spent inside since I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of twelve. Being inside physically and mentally limits my ability to visualize a better future. The same walls the same stupid crap on t.v., the horrible commercials all serve to limit possibilities. By going outside and reasserting that I am a part of the greater world of nature lifts my spirits. Even if it’s ten minutes in the sun, watering some flowers,  or walking barefoot in the grass I feel physically better. My mind is quiter as well. Hearing the birds, seeing the trees sway in the wind and watching the squirrels chase each other reassure me that life persists and that I am a part of this miraculous natural world.

Entering back into the world after a horrible bout of an illness or a surgery can be scary, depressing, and physically and emotionally painful. Recovering requires physical actions as well as a positive outlook. When I am in the depths of one of these attacks or recovering from surgery my thoughts trend to the negative. It feels as if they are physically generated.  I have a mental fog that overwhelms me when I don’t feel well. The pain and fatigue and inflammation create a physical change in my brain that I can feel. Time plus postive small actions done consistently and the love and support of my family, help to turn my negative physical state which directly improves my mental state. Only by doing positive physical actions, listening to positive podcasts, and helping others can I keep the fog away and begin thinking and planning for a better future.

I’m just past through the most difficult part of my recovery process this time around. It’s the transition point from being totally consumed with pain, fatigue and overall misery to being at a point where I can begin reassessing my life, making plans and thinking about acting upon them.  After going through all this pain, paying the thousands of dollars in medical bills, and being alone for so long, I emerge to see what state my life is truly in. This his can actually be my toughest stretch because I’m still physically weak and now I have my entire life to get back into order.

I’m still ill, I hurt everyday, I live with my mom, I’m currently not working, I don’t have a girlfirend. I’m starting again from the bottom like I’ve done so many times before. It feels like I’ve gone through all this just to have a lifetime of struggle, lonliness and pain ahead of me. But as time goes on I know I’ll enjoy life a little bit more everyday. I’ll  laugh more. I’ll begin making money again. I’ll get my own place. I’ll find someone to love and who loves me. I’ll seek out new experiences and be fully engaged in life once more.

I would like to hear what helps you recover after being knocked down by illness or surgery. I’m always looking for ways to improve my recovery process.

Living better one game of Star Craft II at a time.

Brad Miller

 

Medical Freedom

When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies.”
― Ron Paul

Human health is the human experience. It is both a cause and an effect. When we feel better we do more, and when we are able to accomplish more we feel better. Illness is one the ways that affects our health but also the many restrictions, laws and the very structure of our medical cartel that runs health care in this country inflicts additional pain and suffering that is totally unnecessary.

Medical Freedom is simply human freedom expressed in the production and consumption of products and services that improve human health. Laws, government regulations, employer insurance schemes, medical licensing, the FDA and all the various other means of restricting consensual exchange between individuals for the purposing of “feeling better” and “living longer” has created a ridiculously expensive and overwhelming complex system that punishes the very people its been sold to help, sick people.

I have been in and out of hospitals for the past 28 years. I have personal experience with chronic pain, surgery and the ever encroaching hand of government in my health care decisions. I reject the need of politicians and so called experts that benefit by commoditizing my suffering. That has to stop. Whenever anyone talks of “healthcare” you should be suspicious. What is lacking in all of these debates is the term getting healthier or feeling better. We don’t talk about “hunger care” when discussing farmers growing food.

Medical laws were created in this country and were sold as a way to “protect” people like me. When in reality all it has done is to make my life more difficult when merely living is extremely difficult. One example is the management of chronic pain. Reporters and politicians, police officers, district attorneys and others involved in the addiction, prison or pharma industry are in the news all the time talking about the scourge of opioid use. I have taken literally thousands of pain pills in my life and I continue to take them because I hurt a lot. I am eternally grateful for opioid pain pills. If they didn’t exist I would have killed myself when I was 12 or I would have died due to shock to all the pain caused by the bowel obstructions and most recently the horrific pain of pancreatitis.

Pain pills or pain medicine are derived from the poppy plant. It is simply a plant that miraculously creates a substance that provides pain relief. It is truly remarkable. I should be able to grow poppies in my garden and make poppy tea which humans have been doing for thousands of years. But instead I need a permission slip from a government licensed health consultant (doctor) and go to a pharmacy that has the pills on the shelf locked up behind a counter. Not only do I have to get the permission slip I now have to deal with state law on top of federal law in concert with restrictions by the insurance company. And on top of all this my personal information is now in a government database. I never consented to have my information accessed by the government for my “protection”. This is a clear violation of the 4th amendment.

What madness is this? It all boils down to the fundamentals of human freedom. The question every person, especially those who are chronically sick need to ask themselves: do you own your own body and your mind? Our system, the government, the big pharma companies, the DEA, the FDA, the police, and the licensing boards all believe you do not. It is set up to usurp your self-ownership and farm it out to your doctor, your pharmacy, drug companies and the alphabet soup of government divisions.

I believe that I own my body and my mind and that I have an inherit right to ingest whatever substances I choose to in order to feel better and live longer. I will not be right all the time. Life is inherently dangerous and I will always have limited knowledge when making choices. This also applies to the so called experts as well. Science is open ended. The current medical system is set up to convince you that they have all the answers and they are omnipotent when it comes to which drugs which are good and which are “bad”.

The entire prescription / pharmaceutical / FDA / DEA /Medical college system  is a cartel set up to allow the sale of dangerous drugs which would never be allowed if the FDA didn’t rubber-stamp them. If we didn’t have an FDA then companies would be totally at the mercy of internet reviews, independent analysis of their drugs and would be liable for killing people just like anyone else who sells a dangerous product.

Right now their liability is limited. They get the FDA rubber stamp and this allows them to rake in huge profits until the dangerous side effects begin killing and injuring people. By the time the lawsuits roll in they have already made a hundred times what it will cost them  to settle the lawsuits. And drugs like Cannabis, MDMA, psilocybin, and DMT are illegal even though they have been show to be extremely safe and more beneficial then what they are peddling.

Medical Freedom isn’t something we talk about because the debate is always about access to “healthcare”. When is the last time you heard a politician talk about individuals becoming healthier? They don’t. They simply want more and more people in the healthcare system. The same government that designs the road system, the tax system, the public education system and the wars across the world are the same people designing and implementing our “healthcare system”.

Why is it that the more government fails the more people want from it? The food pyramid debacle is the perfect example of what the true priorities are for the government and its corporate partners. Many experts now blame the food pyramid and the low fat scam as part of the massive rise in diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Food is a massive part of living a healthy life and the government purposely funded studies and supported research that showed sugar was good and that we should all be eating tons of wheat, corn and soy. And you know who receives massive subsidies from the government? You would be right if you said soy, corn, wheat and sugar producers.

Medical Freedom is the concept that you have the right to make choices devoid of corrupt government and corporate entities who want to treat sick people like a commodity. Medical Freedom simply means exercising your sovereignty over your body and your mind. Prescription Drugs should all be legalized as well as so called illegal drugs. Pharmaceutical companies will have to survive the legal challenges and the public review process along with the private entities that will emerge to test the validity of their claims.

I believe that once the FDA is stripped of their power of appointing which pharmaceutical company will reap billions of dollars in profits, the focus will turn from treating “diseases” and the chronically ill as a commodity to treating the chronically ill as human beings and treating the whole individual.

It is time to reclaim our right to go into a store and buy what we choose without the government, academics, people in white coats or who have a badge on their chest deem necessary. In a world in which Medical Freedom is respected we would still seek out health consultants and follow treatment recommendations. But the parent/child paradigm between the government and the ill would end. The consumer would be the one in control and have the ultimate say. And if you didn’t want to have a health consultant you would be free to follow a treatment program you see fit.

We’ve been lied to about Cannabis as a medicine by the government. The NIH actually holds two patents on cannabinoids that they list as effective for treating over ten different diseases and symptoms. The idea that the DEA who is financially incentivized to keep Cannabis a schedule 1 drug is criminal. The time to reassert our right to Medical Freedom as a natural expression of our innate rights due to our self-ownership as a human individual.

I’m struggling now with idiopathic pancreatitis. I’ve had this pain for decades but it went undiagnosed until the last few years. They are not sure why I have it or what we can do to prevent it from destroying my pancreas. I’m exploring having stem cell therapy to reverse the disease process. I should have the right to try what a majority of doctors might seem as dangerous or unproductive if I deem it to be a worthwhile risk.

Every decision we make is personal. When we are sick we don’t need the force of government involved to limit what are choices are in finding what we believe will be the most effective treatment for us to feel better and live longer. It doesn’t matter whether its vaporizing Cannabis, ignoring the food pyramid or trying experimental treatments that are now are considered dangerous or foolish but in the future could very well become the standard for care.

When you are sick you do not need artificial laws limiting your choices and limiting your access to natural, safe and effective plants and chemicals that have a chance to help individuals feeling better and living a longer life. Pain, inflammation and disease are terrible and life altering. I want every politician to know, every drug maker, and every one who seeks to commoditize my suffering that I am a human being who owns himself and I demand my Medical Freedom! I call all of those who are suffering with chronic illness to do the same.

Brad Miller

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Rules of Primal Living

This information is based on the Mark Sisson Book – “Primal Blueprint” – I highly recommend everyone pick up a copy and my own personal experience.

I’ve been on and off the Primal/Paleo lifestyle for the last 8 years.In that time I’ve gone gradually begun to live more and more according to the principles of the Primal or Paleo way of living. These principles have helped me to have a framework to pull me out of the depth of feeling like I have no control over my body and my mind.

I struggle with several chronic autoimmune conditions and have an ileostomy and chronic pancreatits. So it has been a challenge to get a handle on all the different variables that play into exacerbating the chronic inflammation which I believe is at the heart of all the pain, fatigue and overall misery I experience when I’m not feeling well. The Primal/Paleo philosophy allows me to have a concrete system to focus on when it feels like everything else is falling apart.

To be honest the last time I got sick in May I was in survival mode. I was eating terribly.  But once the horrific pain and fatigue began to subside a little bit I again started following more and more closely to the ten Primal Rules. As I’ve been able to recover from this latest small bowel obstruction and pancreatic attack I am eating and living more and more primally and I feel my strength, my mental well-being,  my motivation and my desire to socialize improving.

I used to beat myself up when I couldn’t live 100% primally in the past and that would cause me to chuck the whole deal and start eating Chickfila again. And that’s why I’m writing this blog and sharing my experience. I firmly believe that making small healthier choices today will lead to a better tomorrow. This is what I believe and this is what gets me off the couch to cook when I want to go to curl up and be consumed by the pain and darkness of disease.

The Primal lifestyle isn’t all or nothing. It’s like everything else in life, it’s a continuum. We all can’t be out hunting and killing our own food, growing organic gardens in the backyard, raising our own chickens and pursuing our passions as work all at once. Each of us is on a different part of the Primal Lifestyle continuum.

But that is what is great about the Primal/Paleo lifestyle. It is extremely adaptable to each individual’s personal circumstance. I don’t advocate nor does Mark Sisson living in caves and getting rid of modern technology. On the contrary I look at the Primal Lifestyle as a tool. It is simply a set of rules that help me navigate the extremely confusing and complex world in which we live.

I’m not 100% Primal. I still take opioid pain medicine for chronic pain, I still go to the hospital when I have a small bowel blockage and I still  binge watch way too much on Netflix and eat stuff that’s not on the Primal list. But I’ve made tremendous changes in my diet and lifestyle in the last eight years and it all began with these ten simple rules. I am grateful for all the pioneers and those who continue to work to get the word out about this lifestyle.

Here are the Ten Rules for Living Primally by Mark Sission:

#1 Eat Plants and Animals

#2 Avoid Poisonous Things

#3 Move Frequently at a Slow Pace

#4 Lift Heavy Things

#5 Sprint Once in a While

#6 Get Adequate Sleep

#7 Play

#8 Get Adequate Sunlight

#9 Avoid Stupid Mistakes

#10 Use Your Brain

As you can see these are extremely simple. I read somewhere that a good book should remind you of what you already know. This is the stuff that most of us deep down know to be the right thing to do to live a healthier today.

I would also  add two other rules for me. Mark does mention socialization and its importance under play and in other places in his many books and talks. Socialization makes a huge difference in my life. When I’m sick and feel horrific I want to just hide from the world. It feels like every social interaction will add pain and obligation on my system which is already weak pain riddled and extremely taxed.

Face to face socialization makes me feel better. It is important for me to share a positive reality with someone I care about. Seeing them smile when I walk in the room or when they give me a hug I feel reconnected to reality. The pain and fatigue are still there but the perception of them takes less of a priority.

The other rule I’d add is Organization. Organize mental internal environment and my physical environment help me feel better. This is a huge struggle for me. I’ve used my illness, chronic pain and overall misery to avoid organizing my life in many ways. I always felt why did it matter? I was just going to get sick again and it would be all be terrible mess again. But the pain will lesson, I’ll become more motivated, I’ll find a purpose, and I’ll endure the misery and commit, at least today accomplish something besides just existing one day. Being organized helps greatly with this process.

I will elaborate more about what I’ve found to be helpful and to be as honest as possible about my struggles. The main purpose of this blog and the classes and meet ups I want to hold is to create a “tribe” of Primally minded individuals who can share their story, offer others support and learn about different ways people have found to live better. I’ll also be writing a separate blog post for these rules and others I’ve found helpful with my autoimmune odyssey.

Please leave comments to help improve how I communicate. Also please leave a comment on what you would like to read about.