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Poetry Is My Balm

Many of the haiku and other poems in Short Verses & Other Curses were written as a therapeutic balm in response to my cancer. I don’t know why or how I survived all that nonsense but I suspect writing the poems helped at least a little.

Recent events make it seem to me that my country is suffering such a life-threatening and cancerous disease so I was naturally drawn to some of the poems I wrote for the collection. To some degree they helped again, if only as a temporary distraction from present reality.

I doubt if these poems have any healing power potent enough for all the ills sickening my nation; however, it is out of love and desperation that I shall share them with you now.

For the next day or so, please feel free to download the collection. If any of the poems move you in any way, I ask that you share your thoughts here in the comment section. If you have any other poetry that you believe will help relieve a troubled soul, I ask that you also share those with us as well.

You may download the collection by clicking on its book cover.
 
Short Verses

Peace.


Thank you to all who downloaded a copy of the book and especially to those who left me such kind, encouraging comments. They mean very much to me.

 
 

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DESPITE IT ALL, BECAUSE OF IT ALL | A Relating to Humans Women’s Issues Feature

DESPITE IT ALL, BECAUSE OF IT ALL
by lorieb

I grew up in a large family, the youngest girl and second youngest of six children, with two sisters and three brothers. Despite that, or perhaps because of that, I have always wanted to have a large family myself. My husband on the other hand, grew up with just one sister, so he was more skeptical of the prospect of a large family. Of course a large family today is probably only equivalent to half the size of a large family back then.

My ultimate goal was to have my children before the age of 30, so I could be a young mother and grandmother. After three-and-a-half years of marriage, I stopped using birth control so we could start a family. It didn’t take long for me to get pregnant, but it took determination and perseverance throughout nine pregnancies within the next ten years to successfully create our family.

I decided to write a book about my efforts to have children for many reasons; the most important one being that it was very therapeutic for me to jot down details of each of my pregnancies, successful or not, to keep them all sorted in my mind. Reading about them now, each one borne complete through words becoming sentences, and sentences becoming paragraphs and pages, is the most therapeutic of all. Of course it is easier to move on when things have ended on a positive note, and my family is complete.

My advice to others is simple:

Talk about your fears, disappointments and struggles to anyone who will listen. This can be a professional councilor or a friend or family member. On the flip side, listen to anyone that is trying to lean on you for support throughout their struggles. I remember a co-worker thanking me for “breaking the ice” as she called it, upon my return to work after a stillbirth. My co-workers were all very concerning and caring, but no one knew what to say or how to act, so when I started the conversation they were very grateful. It is always better to acknowledge someone’s pain rather than ignore or avoid it.

Do not wait too long to start your family. As my story shows you, things do not always go as planned. If you are in a healthy, financially stable relationship, and both of you want to have children, don’t procrastinate. That’s why humans have a nine-month gestation; it gives you time to get used to the idea of a baby in the family.

Work hard for what you believe in and want out of life. Do not let others tell you that you cannot do something that you believe you can. Do not believe that you cannot do something until you have tried your best to do it.

Do not take anything you have for granted, especially your health, but also your intelligence, athletic abilities, and anything else that makes you different from others.

Last, but not least, when you are feeling down, take a moment to realize that there is always someone worse off than you in any given situation. Think of the good and positive things in your life, (I do not mean materialistic things) and be sure to surround yourself with positive people that really care about you. Delete the negative things and people from your life. Make a written list of these things, referring to it often and adding to the list as you work through your struggles.

I can write this story now with humor, candor, wisdom and hindsight, all things I did not have much of when I was first starting out on my path to motherhood. Hopefully, this will provide inspiration and comfort to others that have or are going through the frustration and heartbreak of losing a child during pregnancy.
 

lorieb.com


 
Submit your awareness-raising human related-work to the Relating to Humans feature.

 
 

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THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES!: A Guest Post by Author Avril Meyler

We are all familiar with the term “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” An expression arising from a tale told of a young boy who in his innocence declared aloud during a parade by the ruling King of the Realm, where everyone had to bow down to the King’s will.

The Emperor Wears No Clothes!” as all around him bowed low and refused to see the obvious, much less name it.

The ruled had been indoctrinated into believing the King was dressed in full regalia and no-one dared to challenge his nakedness except this young innocent.

When anything unseen and hidden is causing problems either within a society at large or as is often the case within the immediate family, first you have to name it. Until something is named there is no possibility of resolving it. Whilst people around the “hidden issue or situation” pretend there is nothing wrong, the hidden gets power.

Naming a problem that everyone around is trying to cover up takes courage. Whistle Blowers often do this, as well as the family “scapegoat.” Child abusers rely on the hidden, look what has happened within many establishments in the UK over endemic child sexual abuse, torture and in a couple of cases murder; and widespread cover up from leading establishment figures, currently being revealed through a major enquiry, some of which goes back 40 years and beyond.

How many of those in authority in the Concentration camps knew inherently what was happening was heinous yet never had the courage to speak out?

It takes courage to name something when everyone around you is accepting something as being “normal” or “O.K.” There is tremendous psychic pressure to keep the status quo, to not upset the apple cart. More so when one’s livelihood depends on such silence or in the case of family, one’s sense of belonging is at stake.

But we remain silent at the cost of the Soul’s Integrity. Do we want to spend our years racked with guilt or denial because we did not speak when we needed to?

By our silence we are complicit.

We remain silent sometimes within a bad marriage. We know things are going terribly wrong but the prospect of our whole world shattering and the pain and suffering that ensues causes many to put up with years of unhappiness.

Fear of being alone causes many to remain in stagnating relationships with an apathetic resignation because they do not believe that no relationship is better than a bad one.

It is the same with any involvement. Becoming a member of an organisation, whether paid or unpaid, if we start to see our own personal values and ethics being compromised and at odds with the organisations goals we may have life changing choices to make.

I have been personally challenged with this in two mental health charities and a meditation group I am affiliated to. Those of you who have read


A New Human by Author Avril Meyler


or been following my work on this and other websites will know that I sustained a seven-year period of altered realities when undergoing an awakening, which is described in the book. This was followed by fifteen years of world wide travel, volunteering, learning from Buddhism, Hinduism, Quakers and some Shamanic beliefs. I was led to research Mental Health both through personal connection with someone who has and still does suffer from a range of issues and has had periodic placements in secure units for their own safety; and through my own short time need for counselling, following returning from a stressful volunteer project in India.

As my involvement with these organisations deepened, I saw that despite their ethos to de-stigmatise mental health issues and to not label many conditions as an illness, they stopped far short of opening their minds to an Holisitc approach.



But there is something else going on here apart from an inability to address the more Holistic aspects of the Mental Health process, and that is many of these and other organisations are reliant on funding, if the funding sources and committees of these organisations have little or no awareness of an Holisitc Approach to Mental health then would they also decide that something they cannot easily see or relate to as being “Wacky” thus undeserving? I have attended enough meetings to see clearly where these concerns influence decisions.

Everyone is entitled to their views and free to believe what they want to believe, but when those same people become rigid in those views and categorically refuse to consider other perspectives on Mental Health, because it involves a major shift in their comfort zones then do we wonder how the Mental Health Paradigm is still stuck in the Psychiatric/Medical Model? Which causes in many cases worse side effects and long term problems than the original episodes of psychosis – read altered realities.

It may sound as if I am being pedantic here but I am attempting to convey an overall picture of how much minds are still closed, despite the information age of one-line Internet. There is no excuse for not being informed in today’s climate.

The question is “Do we want to be informed if it disturbs our reality?

No one grew or evolved without touching the darkness within themselves or came to conclude that you cannot have a Universe made up of positive experiences only, it would lack substance and be completely out of balance. We need an amount of negativity in order to move and create time and space. The problem is because we collectively have not evolved to this understanding we are stuck in this Earth Reality where we allow our need for comfortable untruths to rule our minds.

It perhaps sums it up when a Committee Member commented when I said

“You do a lot of work for this Charity don’t you?” They responded “Well it gets me out of the house.”

We all have different reasons for volunteering but I guess meeting and interacting with someone like me who is convinced she has a “soul’s mission” to reveal all, including her own dark journey into a trail blazing brilliance of light, and refuses to shut up about it, would invite the comment, “She’s wacky!

I speak of Psychic Attack and I speak of Possession. I also speak of life changing 500 mile pilgrimages, of Oneness and the need for discernment in these accelerated times. Reading or hearing the words Psychic Attack or Possession can cause a reaction of repugnance, well I have been there and discovered traumatically that…


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio ~


Sadly the hidden does have power, it’s only by shedding light on the darkest of realities that we have any hope of raising it into a space where it may be seen, understood and dealt with, thus opening the gateways of higher Universal Consciousness.


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
~ Edmund Burke ~


 


Avril Meyler, author of A New Human and A Multidimensional Paradigm, is a qualified counsellor, hypnotherapist and holistic practitioner. She is now retired and a full-time writer and volunteer for a Mental Health Charity. For more about the author visit her website at

multidimensionalreality.wordpress.com


 

 
 

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Caffeine Therapy

Coffee in Starbucks Yokohama CupBefore the cancer I had been a pretty heavy coffee drinker. I drank it not only because I was addicted to the caffeine and the boost it gave me, but also because I really do enjoy the taste of a well-brewed cup o’ joe. A good cup of coffee, just like a good glass of wine, really does [cliche alert!] make life worth living.

I was a late bloomer as a coffee drinker. Though I always loved its smell growing up—I still have vivid, fond memories of the bubbly coffee percolator sounds and the delicious coffee smells that I woke to every morning as a child—I found its taste repulsive and the heated spoiled crap breath that all coffee drinkers blast out even more so.  I didn’t want to be complicit in that.

But after high school I joined the navy and, like an idiot, immediately started smoking cigarettes, a habit that previously had disgusted me even more than drinking coffee.  If I could force my body to accept and then to crave and then to fervently demand a steady intake of toxic death fumes, then it would stand to reason that hooking myself on coffee couldn’t be too far behind.

Actually, it took another six years.

What finally got me to join the Caffeine Club was the twelve-hour watches that I had to “stand” while stationed aboard my first ship.

I had stood twelve-hours watches all during my time in the navy prior to transferring to the ship, but those watches had always been in large, noisy, bustling communication centers with teams of sailors, which meant that there was always someone around to talk to and to keep me awake during the brutal night shifts.  But on the ship, I stood my watches in a quiet, closet of a room by myself and boy could those midnight watches, or mid-watches as the navy jargon goes, get boring.

Thus, in 1989 began my addiction to coffee.

Coffee and Cigarettes. A heavenly match made in hell.

Fortunately, I was able to kick the cigarette habit about a year later.

But I drank coffee like mad until my cancer.

While I initially started drinking coffee as a crutch to get me through the night, I still hated the taste and had to load in piles of cream and sugar to try to cover it up.  Over time, however, I eventually acquired a taste for the bean. But my passion for the bean didn’t really come until years later after my father casually remarked that to really enjoy coffee, it needs to be drank black. Unpolluted, so to speak.

So I tried it black. And, like most fathers are, he was right. From then on, I no longer was a man who preferred his coffee “sweet and blond” but one who preferred it “bold and black.”

I drank it that way pretty hard for twenty years.

But when the cancer struck, I had no qualms about quitting. In fact, I didn’t decide to quit, I just did without even realizing it. I guess my subconscious took over after they started pumping me full of chemo and steroids and other crap and spared me of any coffee or wine cravings during my year-long treatment and recovery.

Throughout my years as a coffee drinker prior to cancer, every once in a while I would try to get healthy and ween myself off of caffeine.  Not that caffeine is a particularly unhealthy addiction as far as addictions go; but it still is an addiction and deep down, I guess always felt a little uneasy about my dependency on it.

I don’t remember exactly when the last time was I tried to stop consuming caffeine, but I do remember how much it hurt: the eyeball shattering headaches; the total body aches; the nasty moods.

I remember being stuck in traffic for a very long time once during my last attempt at the last weening process and having my legs ache so badly that I thought I was going to have to pull over to the side of the beltway and have the wife come pick me up.  I was jonesing bad. I struggled on, but as soon as I got out of traffic I drove directly to the store, bought two cups of coffee, downed one right in the parking lot, and begged forgiveness and mercy from the other one as I lovingly nursed it all the way home.

I probably went through the same kind of withdrawal pain and discomfort when I quit drinking coffee after the cancer diagnosis, but there was already so much other pain and discomfort going on from the blood clots and the treatment that the withdrawal stuff just mixed right in and went unnoticed.  Thankfully.

And for over a year during my treatment and recovery process I had no urge whatsoever to start the habit back up.  Until recently.

The tweet I sent when I decided to start drinking coffee again.

When the urge returned, it returned with a vengeance.

I started drinking it like I never stopped.  There was one big difference when I started back up though:

Decaf.

I know, I know.  Drinking decaffeinated coffee is like having sex without the climax. What’s the point, right? But, I figured, since I have to take an overload of drugs every day that are already throwing my mental state out of whack, it might be best not to include a stimulant like caffeine into the mix.

So it was decaf for the first couple of weeks.

Until the first time I ran out of it and mistakenly bought a bag of the real stuff.

Why would Starbucks make the bag green if it wasn’t for a decaffeinated coffee?

One good thing about drinking decaf coffee is that I can drink it in the evenings without having to worry about it cranking me up for an all-nighter.

I made the first cup from the mistaken identity bag around 7:00 pm. I think I finally fell asleep around 6:00 am the next day.  By 2:00 pm, I was back at the store buying real decaf this time, which was not packaged in a green-themed bag, by the way.

What’s up with Starbucks thinking they can set their own standards?

Caffeine + Prednisone + Mind Explosion

I have always been very sensitive to drugs and other foreign substances.  For instance, it’s hard for me to use morphine or codeine as pain killers because of this sensitivity (remind me later to write an article about my first experience with morphine…ugh).

Even caffeine in the smallest of amounts can overly stimulate me (it’s not often I get to say that out loud) to the point of annoyance to anyone who happens to be around me.

My daily cocktail of drugs are no exception to this sensitivity rule.

Evil Prednisone
Evil Prednisone

The biggest culprit from the cocktail mix for jerking me around is the prednisone.  Prednisone is the drug of choice, in fact, it’s just about the only choice, to treat Graft Versus Host-related diseases, of which I am suffering from, and for which I am taking the prednisone.

It addition to GVHD, prednisone is also regularly prescribed for many inflammatory-related illnesses, like asthma or COPD. Because of its potency, it is usually prescribed in low doses, around 5 – 10 mg, for short periods of time, around 7 – 10 days, or so.

Well, I started at 200 mg and now I’m down to 60 mg.  I’m going on my fourth month and, even though the treatment doesn’t seem to be slowing the advancement of my lung disease, unless there is a new miracle discovery, I will probably will be taking high doses of prednisone for the rest of my life.

Speaking of miracle discoveries, I will be participating in an NIH study in April 2011 for a new Lung GVHD treatment—fingers crossed.

It kind of freaks me out whenever I visit with a new doctor and their eyes widen and mouths drop when they hear that I’m taking 60 mg of prednisone every day.

The reason they react the way they do is because prednisone has a slew of annoying side effects and is one of those drugs where the cure could turn out to worse than the disease.  It causes bone density loss, diabetes, sodium retention, water retention, insomnia, moon face (for some reason it makes the body fat accumulate around the face—my head is friggin’ ginormous!), and worst of all, anxiety, depression, and mood swings.

What fun.

Because of my sensitivity to drugs, I seem to be really affected by the anxiety, depression, and mood swings.

You might be thinking, like I would be if it wasn’t me who was the one saying it: Brindley, get over it. It’s all just in your head.

And my response would be: You’re exactly right! That’s what makes it even worse.  I do know that it is all just in my head. But I’ll be damned if I can get it out.

The more I can keep my mind actively engaged, the better off I am.

This blog is great therapy.

So are naps.

But sometimes my mind gets stuck in a deep rutted ravine filled with all of my fears and doubts and I can’t get out no matter how hard I try.  It really is crazy because even as I am trapped in this dark place, I know that a big reason why I’m there is because of a drug that is supposed to be saving my life.

And once I get stuck there I usually can’t get out until the drug wears off, which is about twelve hours after taking it.

So, the next time I ran out decaf and decided to go to the real stuff, I had to take all of this into consideration.  I knew there could be consequences from the caffeine so, to try to make good out of my stupidity for willingly hooking myself back onto something I had not needed for over a year, I had decided to treat it all like an experiment.  When drinking caffeinated coffee while taking the prednisone and other drugs, which would be anytime I drink caffeinated coffee, I would pay close attention to how they interact and affect me.

Good idea, right? 😉

What I found is interesting and somewhat promising.

Pros:

  • Caffeine, like the true stimulant that it is, seems to balance out the negative effects of the prednisone. By drinking caffeinated coffee in the mornings when the drugs are at their nastiest, I do not seem to be feeling as depressed and grouchy.
  • It seems to be easier to breathe when I take my walks. After some research, I found that caffeine is a xanthine derivate. Xanthine is used to help treat asthma. Maybe this explains why it seems that I’m breathing easier on my walks.
  • Caffeine is a diuretic. Diuretics make you pee. This is useful for me since I tend to retain water because of the GVHD.
  • Because of the prednisone, I also retain sodium. I don’t understand all this diuretic stuff enough but it could be a good thing if caffeine is of the type that flushes out sodium. I’ll have to follow up with the doc on this.

Cons:

  • In addition to the depression, prednisone also makes me anxious and edgy, and increases my heart rate. Adding caffeine into the equation only amplifies that feeling.
  • Because of my GVHD, I have dry, itchy skin and my mouth gets dry easily. The steroids help, but since caffeine is a diuretic and I’m peeing all the time I get dehydrated quickly, which only exacerbates the dry skin and dry mouth. I have to drink more water to compensate, which means even more peeing. Its a tedious balancing act.
  • Again, I don’t understand much about diuretics, but I read that certain types flush out a body’s potassium. This isn’t good because prednisone already tends to decrease potassium levels. Need more info.
  • Because of all the meds I’m taking, my liver is really taking a beating. Since caffeine is metabolized in the liver, I really need to be careful here.

So, to make a long story short… What? Oh…yeah, I see. Too late for that. I guess I got to rambling a bit. Thanks for bearing with me.

Drinking Coffee With Shikibu

In conclusion…  better?  …my long, rocky love affair with coffee has resumed once again and I find that my passion for the drink is as strong and true as its seductive flavor is bold and addictive.

And now, not only do I drink the brew to fulfill my own selfish desires and dependency, I drink it also to fulfill a broader need, one with an utilitarian, more nobler purpose—I drink it in the name of medical research.

Just think, what started out as an aide to help me better defend my country during my navy years (that sounds much better than calling it a crutch to help me stay awake during boring mid-watches), may turn out to be the impetus behind a cure for a very serious mental health condition.

Now, whenever I drink coffee while strung out on prednisone, I may be one cup closer to understanding the longterm synergistic and psychological effects on the brain from simultaneously consuming large quantities of both stimulative and depressive agents over long periods of time.

My research is going to have an extremely significant and beneficial impact on the entire mental health community.  Better lives will be lived because of it.

Yeah, that’s all a bunch of BS, I know (see Disclaimer).  But hey, if it helps me to rationalize my pathetic, self-induced dependency on something that I probably shouldn’t be messing with in the first place, why not, right?

Have I mentioned how long it’s been since I’ve had a glass of wine?