eleventhbeatnik

musings of an aquarian age counterculturist


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Strength in Community

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

After viewing the film Food Matters, I started reading everything I could find on the subject of Orthomolecular Medicine.  Last week I attended a seminar rooted in that philosophy.  The topic was “Dietary and Supplemental Support for Stress, Anxiety and Depression.” Some of the information presented was new to me; other parts were review of nuggets I had previously stumbled across on my own.

The presentation was really interesting and reinforced many, if not all, of my personal beliefs surrounding the role of nutrition in achieving and maintaining vibrant health.  I attended this talk with certain filters in place, keeping in mind that as an ethical vegan, I often find myself on the sidelines of many discussions involving mainstream nutrition or flavour-of-the-month dietary fads .  As always, I had to remind myself going in that this was a generalized nutrition talk within the realm of “natural medicine”, meaning I would have to do “compassionate replacement therapy” in my head every time I heard the words “meat”, “protein” and/or “fish oil”, etc.  Gah!   Anyway.  By reminding myself that the animal protein bandwagon is firmly not an option for me, and that there are always compassionate alternatives available, I took in the information relevant to my situation and set aside everything else not in line with my personal ethics around food.

In the end, it was not the content of the talk that turned out to be a major revelation for me.  The light-bulb moment that evening occurred as I surveyed my surroundings.  Looking around, I was amazed to realize that the event was not simply well-attended, but brimming to capacity.  It was a full house:  standing room only.

At this realization, one thought dropped down in my mind like a tonne of bricks:  “A sold out seminar directed at those suffering from depression and anxiety.  This is a sign of the times.”

Every person in that room was touched in one way or another by ‘mental illness’ (a term I abhor, but have yet to hear another that everyone understands or accepts).

Every person in that room was someone, knew someone, or had heard of someone suffering with major depressive disorder, general/social anxiety, PTSD, bi-polar disorder or perhaps one of many other stress-related conditions.

Every person in that room was looking for answers, alternatives, ideas.

Every person in that room was hopeful.

Every person in that room was in community.

Perhaps it seems rather Pollyanna-ish to focus on hope in the face of the mind-boggling numbers of people struggling with the symptoms of this far-reaching spectrum of dis-ease.  But I sincerely believe that as long as people are seeking solutions there is hope.  That room was full of people seeking solutions.  Full to capacity.  Full of hope.

I believe depression can be overcome with time, patience and guidance.  And my heart is full.

I believe that suicide is not a foregone conclusion with respect to mental illness.  And my heart is full.

I believe there are antidotes to stress and anxiety available and possible.  And my heart is full.

I believe there is love and healing in community.  No matter what that community looks like.  And my heart is full.

It is my intention to incorporate orthomolecular medicine into my own experience of depression and anxiety in a way that works for me.  I am hopeful.  In community.

My heart is full.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Marin Luther King, Jr


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Unity

Mom 1968
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman in her early 30’s.  I vividly recall her having the surgery which involved a lumpectomy and removal of the affected lymph nodes.  This was a highly progressive procedure in the day and age where standard operating procedure was complete mastectomy, no questions asked.

I remember my father taking my sister and I to visit her in the hospital afterward.  I remember the subsequent chemotherapy sessions.  I remember hearing that a classmate of my sister’s shared in “show and tell”, that our mom was dying of cancer.  When my father went to work to support us, I remember my mother driving herself back and forth to chemo sessions with kids in tow until the day came that she simply could not physically do it on her own anymore.  I remember witnessing her suffering through terrible nausea and vomiting nearing the end of that course of treatment.   Despite all of that, I remember our mother fighting to get well.  I also remember being completely confused by it all.  I was in Grade 5.

Fast forward 20-odd years from my mother’s initial breast cancer diagnosis and a lengthy period of clear clinical follow-ups.  After a time of feeling vaguely unwell and chronically exhausted, she was sent for a colonoscopy which resulted in a blood transfusion and diagnosis of colon cancer.

The news came as a complete shock.  I had just moved to Toronto a couple of months before.  I asked her if I should consider moving back to Manitoba.  She said, “Absolutely not.  It wouldn’t help anything and would only make me worry more.”

The months of treatment and recovery that followed were very difficult for her.  She endured it all quietly and stoically.  It is a testament to her strength and will to overcome that she lives to share her story.

At one point in her healing journey, my mother discovered her tribe: a group of cancer survivors participating in a dragon boat team to support each other and raise awareness. Since joining the team called “Waves of Hope”, my mother has attended many festivals and events that help to educate others about prevention and early detection.

This is an aerial overview of the recent Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota, Florida.

At the end, you will see a cluster of boats joined together.  Every person seated in the boats are cancer survivors.  And every single rose you see dropped into the water represents someone.  Someone who didn’t make it.

My mother was there, in Boat #5.

Blessed be the survivors in their unity above and beyond adversity.  May hope and healing continue to expand in their wake.