A Modern Man’s Tale

Once upon a time…

there was a man and his dog. Everyday they walked miles. When not walking they enjoyed watching deer occasionally from the safety of inside their castle. Daily he fed the various birds that lived all around and delighted in identifying the variety of species that visited. Chipmunks, squirrels, owls, hawks, lizards, frogs, snakes and even coyotes once in a while made appearances. They loved the life sharing their wooded lot with animals of all kinds. The woodland characters entertained him and everyone lived peacefully together.

UNTIL…

One day after a long walk the man discovered two ticks on the dog. Most likely the ticks mistook the dog for one of the deer that they tend to feed on.  The man quickly escorted the wayward ticks into their next life but later that night he woke to find one of their relatives had attacked in revenge. He had experience in guarding his home and showed the tick exactly who was in charge but he did note that it didn’t seem to look like the ticks that he normally crossed paths with. Not thinking much about it, he removed it although it had been firmly in place dining presumably most of the night. The battle ended. The man slaying 3 ticks in one day for the win!

Or so we thought.

The next day he started to feel a little off. Tired, headache, sore… which didn’t seem too out there. He easily could have picked up something & thought he was getting a cold. It got worse & a fever joined the other symptoms. After a few days he also noticed the site on his leg where the tick had bitten was red and inflamed. Not good.

Basically he was a stubborn man & rather than getting it check out to be safe, he just dealt with it. Still he just thought he was going through a cold. After the bite started growing larger, turning a dark black & swelled up to the size of a baseball he FINALLY decided to mention it. The following day he had an appointment with his dermatologist so he waited again. At first glance the doctor forgot the man was there for a simple check to ensure that the skin cancer had not relapsed & asked what the red spots, now covering his entire body, were. The red streaks going out from the initial bite up & down his leg that were extremely tender also alerted the doctor that this wasn’t an average bug bite. No kidding.

Unfortunately this isn’t exactly the end of the story. While the doctor has assured us that after some rest and a lengthy round of meds to treat the infection, the man should be back to normal – probably. With one lasting change.

He may never be able to eat meat again.

Yes this guy who has battled type 2 diabetes and won by cutting down on everything he eats and limiting carbs, may have to limit his food choices even further.

When the tick was attached to his leg it secreted a chemical that is also found in red meats. Under normal conditions this substance stays in the digestive tract & is broken down and used by the body without any problems. However the body isn’t used to having it anywhere other than the digestive track. The tick introduced it into the blood stream where being so foreign the body started to attack the chemical. Now the body has labeled it as bad news & is on alert. So there is a huge chance that the body will no longer tolerate it ANYWHERE in the body.

At this point we wait to see. Some lucky people exposed do not develop the allergy & some do. The more times someone is bitten by this particular tick, the more likely they are to become allergic. After he gets in better shape, which thankfully is quickly happening due to the medications, we can test to see if there will be any reactions. It could take a few hours to a few months for his body to either be allergic or decide the chemical is still ok as long as it stays on the food side of operations.

If he does develop the allergy it will mean he has to completely avoid all red meat & anything that has come in contact with it. Luckily it seems that fish and poultry seem to not have the reactive chemicals, so at least he will have that still. Basically it will be as serious as a peanut allergy. Anything around or that has touched something that has touched meat, could send him into anaphylactic shock and could result in a hospital visit or worse. An epipen will be his new side kick.

Joy.

Fairy tale? Hardly. Unless it is the Stephen King version where the humans are killed off and the insects take over. Let’s hope for a happier ending.

Now if you are anything like me after hearing this tale you now itch & are paranoid that every little gush of wind that blows by your skin makes you feel like you are getting crawled on. Especially around bed time when the lights go out.

As far fetched as this all sounds, sadly it is a true story & the consequences of that tiny bite are very real. So we wait & hope. Because quite frankly my Dad just isn’t the vegan type. He could surprise us as he has done with changing his diet in response to the diabetic diagnoses which he has reversed. Just never know.

The moral of the story: even the smallest little things have the potential to change your life in very big ways.

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As of now.

Crazy to think that 2014 is over half over already.

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My final (hopefully) semester has started. Stores are starting to make space or put out holiday decorations. NFL preseason games are underway & less than a month til the season officially starts up. Life just keeps flying by with no sign of slowing down.

At this point eating the “new” way (reduced carbs, avoiding refined starches & sugars counting calories & watching portion sizes – more fresh, less fast food) feels right. I have managed to lose 25 pounds in the process. I don’t have a goal weight or size & am not focusing on the scale, but am very happy to see it go. My body will stop shedding when it gets to the place it is comfortable. Strong & healthy. The biggest goal is getting a better result from testing to be done in September. I know I will need to keep eating healthy to maintain the good results, but more than anything I want to be in a better place by my next birthday!

I will be.

Signed up for two 5ks in the next few months & will be volunteering at a 3rd!  Going back to the one that started it all – the Electric Run! Not sure what I will be doing, but it just felt right to volunteer for this one. Excited to get back into the swing of it all.

As for THE distraction list, no where near where I thought I would be. Guess I have distracted myself well enough without it. Still hoping to strike off more by the end of the year. Still 21 out of a 100 isn’t bad.

One big distraction continues to be reading. Have completed 34 out of my goal of 40 for this year. Looks like I will surpass my goal again this year! Sad thing is there is just too much that I want to read. I will never have enough time to get through them all and each day more are released. Add in the homework needed for class & my eyes are threatening to go cross eyed.

Life feels a little surreal with the fear and chaos in Ferguson, death of Robin Williams and the conversations about suicide and depression it has spurred and recently a friend I went to high school with lost her mother, which brought up old feelings. All normal & I can recognize that. Wish I could change any of them, but all I can do is stay true to me. Grateful for the safety and good times I have, the help I get in maintaining my own sanity as best I can & the memories that make me smile.

Life will keep speeding up as the days get shorter, but there are still 24 hours in each of those days. Luckily I’m still able to shape them in whatever way feels best. Which means more beach days & time with my nephew….

& PANTHERS football!

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons

 

 

The CHOICE From A Depressed Mind

With the attention to depression that has engulfed every source of media  since Robin Williams died this week, I am shocked at the wide variety of responses. Depression is one of those things that you can’t really understand if you don’t have experience. Sadly so many do know. Having depression is more than the sadness everyone feels now and then dealing with disappointments or heartbreak. Even grief as horrific as it is, isn’t the same as having chronic depression. It is sort of like saying you understand what it feels like to have a broken bone when you have a bruise. Just isn’t the same.

For me seeing posts that proclaim it as a choice or threaten that those who lose their lives to suicide will “burn in hell for eternity” since it is “the worst sin”, are completely useless and just prove how much that person doesn’t get it. Must be nice to live in that ignorance of what it really feels like. Sincerely hope you never feel what it is like, but please wake up. For those of use fighting through the disease, threats don’t really help at all. The feelings are real & it is more than just an emotion to “get over”. The chemical imbalances and physical changes that happen in a depressed brain are helping science better understand what causes these feelings. Maybe one day it can be prevented.  But a “choice” it is not.

One of the biggest criticisms I see has been that the person acted “selfish” in taking their life. Rest assured that selfish is probably not anything that crossed their mind. When you are that deep into the darkness, many times you feel that continuing to be a burden to everyone is selfish. You rationalize that once you pass, family & friends will probably grieve or maybe won’t even miss you, but they will move on and be able to live without having to deal with your difficulties. When you are in that mind frame, you don’t realize how much you do mean. You don’t think about how it will realistically effect those around you. You just want freedom from the pain and hopelessness. You NEED to make it change. So selfish? I don’t see that. Maybe the people who are overly dramatic and are threatening to kill themselves in order to manipulate others have lead to this belief, but people who are truly dealing with deep depression most often don’t even tell their closest friends that they are planning to let go. Since you really can’t tell what someone really means, you have to take any threat seriously, but don’t feel like you could have prevented it if it does happen. Trust we want to make life easier, even then.

As someone who has looked down that tunnel a few times & is grateful that I haven’t made the transition from the darkness into the light I can only say what works for me.

For me the following are key to keeping me on track:

• Reaching out to professionals, trying what they suggest in treatment & getting informed about what I am dealing with. They help you to see that you are not alone & even better is the acceptance that what you are feeling it isn’t your fault. It isn’t a choice to have. How you deal with it can be a choice.

• Staying consistent in taking my medications as directed & updating them when needed. This can be a biggie! At time you just want to be better & cured. There are physical reasons for depression and refusing to treat them has consequences. Maybe one day you won’t need the help, but til the bone heals you will need crutches. If it means taking them for the rest of your life, but feeling less depressed, isn’t it worth it?

• Take time for meditation.  Relaxing quite time. Let the mind rest. It does help, even if you do feel goofy while starting out.

• Sleep. Which sucks since it is one of the things depression screws up many times.

• Having something to look forward to in future. For me this is huge. You need to know it isn’t always going to be the same old same old when that familiarity isn’t a happy one. 5ks, Panthers football games & even a family vacation to Disney help me get through.

• Family & friends – especially those who understand that me needing time alone or feeling depressed isn’t anything personal. At times it is great to be with people who value you when you don’t value yourself.

• Being able to express myself in ways that feel right for me. Creatively.  Make something to be proud of, work thru emotions to release & at times a distraction is helpful to pass the time.

• Recognition that it will feel better & yes it will be tough again. That doesn’t mean I am screwing up or losing ground. Just the nature of what I’m going thru. Remembering that this is a cycle that will change helps even if it is very hard to remember in the moment. Time does help most times to get us back to the moments that are easier. Still we need to realize that if we get down again it isn’t a failure. We haven’t lost ground in our battle. It just happens. Not our fault & probably unpreventable, but if we got thru it before, hopefully we can get thru again.

• For me I have a 3 day rule. With most big decisions that will effect my life, I give myself 3 days. If I still think it is the best choice for me after 3 days, then I go with it. Yes even with suicide. Spoiler… death by my own hand has yet to feel like the right choice for 3 straight days. If even for one moment you feel a smidge of joy or like life is actually worth living, you have to start the 3  days again. Again time many times brings clarity.

Being able to reach out has been vital for me. No one has the power to save you or end you, but you. Getting a second opinion on such a huge decision does help. Different perspectives give insight into what you are dealing with when you aren’t seeing clearly due to the fog of depression.

Saying it gets better can be great to give hope but sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it gets bad again. That is life with depression. Have to get thru the best that we can.

Judgment doesn’t help. Threats don’t help. Saying it is selfish because you transfer the pain isn’t valid. Many times you are hoping to save them the pain of being a burden. So adding on agony to someone who is already so low is just cruel in my eyes. I know people mean well, but I guess anything can be rationalized given enough thought, still doesn’t make it right.

When someone is suicidal, your opinion of what they are dealing with doesn’t prevent or halt them dealing with it. So don’t judge. Be there. Let them know they matter. Let them know you understand life is hard right now but there is a lot to love about it too. Focus on the joy and the highs instead of keeping them focused on the lows.

How you react matters but ultimately it is their battle.