I read the following post on SassonMag.com, by writer Varda Branfman, and it blew me away. I asked her permission to re-post it here on Spiritual Self-Help, and she kindly agreed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Everyone called him “The Biggest Gastroenterologist in Colorado.” I come to him on a referral because I am suffering from intestinal pain, chronic digestive problems, and a persistent low fever.
After looking at my X-ray, Biggest Gastro feels I need to undergo a series of tests to figure out exactly what I have going on in there. He says it is urgent and I must check into the hospital immediately, even though it is the eve of Rosh Hoshanah. My baby is 11 months old and still nursing. She will have to go cold turkey and get weaned overnight onto a bottle.
It all happens so fast as we stand together in front of an x-ray of my colon. Squarely facing us is the problem and the doctor’s firm conviction that something must be done immediately to fight it. He knows exactly how to confront it, and suddenly, we, the very object of his emotional conviction, know absolutely nothing.
He is willing to save me, but it is clear that I must put myself entirely in his hands.Later, I learn that such confidence as he displays is a sure sign that I am straying in the wrong direction.
But his confidence is mesmerizing, and we’ve been numbed out by a feeling of helplessness that something bigger than ourselves is now in progress.
We live several miles from the hospital, and my husband explains to me that he will not be able to walk over to see me for the next three days, two days of Rosh Hashanah and then Shabbos. There is hardly time to say goodbye. We are both in shock. The doctor has intimated that I may be seriously ill. Rosh Hashanah begins in about two hours.
There’s no one to watch our baby if my husband stays with me. The doctor’s words have suddenly plunged us into a drama of life and death, and no one to say, “Wait, don’t put your life in the hands of Biggest Gastro. Don’t leave yourself here. Go find your healing.”
We’ve been led to believe that there is simply no alternative. There are tears in the corners of my eyes. I try to be strong for my husband. And then I find myself alone, dressed in the hospital white gown.
From my symptoms and their examination of my colon, they seem to think that I have one of those big diseases. They are determined to get to the bottom of it and have reeled off the names of a series of tests that will cover all the bases.
I am my body
My body is not working properly, and like any car engine that is making funny noises, we have taken it into the shop. The only difference is: I am my body. I can’t leave it off for a few days, and then come back and get it.
What is done to it, is done to me. Perhaps I have an unusually strong identification with my body. I haven’t quite been able to separate from it.
When it stretches, I stretch. When it feels a wave of well-being, so do I.
On my first visit from the nurse, she announces that I will be eating nothing but cubes of instant broth for at least two days. I look at the ingredients on the silver wrapping. There are written a series of chemicals designed to taste like chicken soup. Sometimes they gave me a bogus vegetable broth with just about all the same chemicals.
I surrender and watch my body get weaker and weaker. I’m being starved so that their tests on my colon don’t have to be so messy. Then, they start drawing blood every few hours and ordering me to take stool samples twice a day. I barely have the strength to walk to the bathroom.
Test after test
Left with my own thoughts for 72 hours, I die slowly from every single possible disease of the digestive system. The nurses are very solicitous, but they don’t have time to chat. They do notice my weakness and order a wheelchair to transport me to the daily X-rays, the Cat Scan, Bone Marrow Test, Colonoscopy, and Gynecological Work-Up. I overhear one of them saying to the other, “She’s so young. I think she’s a young mother.”
Perhaps they are not aware that I am an orthodox Jew and for 72 hours there will be no phone calls or visits because it’s a three day Yom Tov. The second bed in the room is empty, and I am totally alone for most of the time, almost as if I’ve been put on isolation ward.
I enter the hospital with a low-grade fever and stomach pains, the clear result of an inflamed colon. I am being moved and manipulated and rolled over all day long. No one has asked me how I’m feeling and truly waited for the answer.
I am being killed by formalities. The extra blood tests, stool tests, and all the comprehensive tests are ignoring the state of the patient. She is slowly going under.
“There is no pain”
On the second day, they perform the colonoscopy. They give me a local anesthetic which they assert is just a precaution in case it’s painful, and when I scream from the pain, they assure me that there is none. As my screams get louder, their polite assurances turn into a fierce insistence.
What a relief when the Biggest Gastro announces that he’s found what he is looking for—the ulcers in my colon. He is plainly enjoying his expedition into my interior, and he launches a description of the terrain. The cramping I feel is unbearable, and I’m flailing with my arms when the nurse pins me down.
Apologetically, she asks the doctor if it’s possible to remove the probe because the patient is not behaving. And, after a disdainful look in my direction, he complies.
The findings seem conclusive, but they are determined to rule out all the other possibilities. And so the tests go on and on. Each morning for my nine day incarceration, the nurse enters the room, looks on my chart, and cheerfully announces the day’s events.
No strength left to care
I am only a shadow of myself. On Sunday, my husband makes his long-awaited visit with my baby. I am too weak to hold her. I want to respond to her joy at seeing me, but I can only squeeze out a faint smile.
Then I burst into tears as I realize that I don’t even have the strength to care for her.
I should have known. I had already had some experience with this award-winning hospital. It was in this very same hospital that my sweet baby was born.
Together with my husband and our little overnight suitcase, we made our way down to an underground floor of the hospital complex. Our steps echoed in the giant windowless hallway until we came to the massive door with a small sign to the left announcing we were at the right place. We were then buzzed in. It reminded me of the entrance to a nuclear power plant. It all seemed very dangerous and secretive.
Once inside, it continued to be soundless. The nurse led us to the first room on a long corridor with another massive door to open. Inside, there were again no windows in a large room with a hospital bed smack in the middle. Off to the side in the shadows, a few chairs.
And then again, the door closed.
I climbed up on the bed, and for the next nine hours I labored to have my baby. When I looked up at the clock that said 3, it could have been 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning. With no natural light, I had lost track of the time.
I was alone with the faithful contractions at regular intervals. Fortunately, I had hired a labor coach who kept reminding me that those contractions were getting me closer and closer to the birth.
From prison to hotel
Once the baby was born, we were taken to the maternity ward up on a higher floor. There were windows and pitchers of ice water on the table. Someone sent me flowers. The hospital became a non-intrusive backdrop to another of life’s major events. It was more of a hotel with meals at the side of the bed and triple occupancy in the rooms.
Thank G-d, I was not there to be healed. All the tests came out normal, and they sent us home after three days. I was a healthy, normal new mother, and the nurses were full of congratulations.
Now they are cold and efficient, as if they are simply there to monitor the mal-functioning machinery.
The fight-back begins
At the bone marrow test, my will to live begins to stir within me. In horror, I watch them drill a little hole into the bone of my hip and extract a bone sample. This time, the anesthetic works, and there is only a numb feeling from my waist down.
It is too late to stop the procedure by the time I find my fighting spirit. As they remove the syringe, I demand to know why they are doing this to me. They don’t have the answer. Without even looking up, they tell me to ask my doctor, as they proceed to clean up the site of the invasion.
I began to see myself as a war zone, being ferreted back and forth from room to room, from test to test, with my body being chipped away bit by bit. They are using the state of the art weaponry— miniature television cameras, chemicals, radiation, and the knife.
And an age-old tactic—slow starvation.
Arousing the sleeping warrior
When I am finally allowed to eat again, I feel some strength returning. It’s very possible that there is some real food content on the tray before me, between the wonder bread and the rubber chicken, between the instant mash potatoes and the red jello. But at least there are some calories here which translate into energy to arouse the sleeping warrior within me.
My doctor is impossible to find, apart from his star appearances every afternoon on the ward rounds as he instructs the student doctors about each case. All the student doctors are wearing white coats, but he has on an impeccable tan suit and tie. He moves with the assurance of an elevated being who has conquered the entire human digestive system.
He explains to me that there is a tendency to developing leukemia in my family since my father succumbed to that disease, and he just wants to make sure with the bone marrow test that I don’t have it.
I don’t want to argue with him that my father’s symptoms were totally different from mine, and that I’ve already endured the colonoscopy which defined my condition as ulcerative colitis.
I have been fighting a losing battle ever since I gave my consent to this hospital stay and signed over full rights to my body and my life. I know that it is useless to argue with the prince of this malevolent kingdom, but still, I dare to say the words, “I want to go home.”
With an explosion of feeling just under the surface, I calmly try to stare him down.
“Oh no, no, we’ve got to rule out the possibility of parasites in the stool tests, and that will take another few days,” is his benevolent reply.
Illness is big business
I am beginning to understand the story. The hospital is getting good money from my insurance policy for each day that I stay on. I am now quite sure that the hospital is not a place of healing, and now I discover that it is really big business. A multi-million dollar business. And this Biggest Gastro is one of the top executives.
He gives me a charming smile. “I’ll try to get you back home before Yom Kippur, but I can’t promise.”
At least, he knows what Yom Kippur is, but does he know what he is doing? All along, he has been acting as if he is doing me the biggest favor in the world, acting as if he is saving my life. He carries himself with a giant helping of self-justification and conviction, as if his chosen work is to save lives. But he is far from saving lives. Even far from healing them.
In his role as doctor, he makes a good living for his family, but does he know how much destruction he leaves in his path?
He prescribes a daily dose of cortisone to control the ulcerative colitis which he claims to be a chronic condition and incurable. When I ask him for some dietary suggestions, he is happy to assure me that I can eat anything with impunity. I just have to keep taking the cortisone.
I don’t have any medical training, but it seems obvious to me that a digestive problem might be exacerbated by eating the wrong foods, that the sensitive lining of my colon might respond well to some foods and be irritated by others.
My other big question has to do with the drug of choice. I once worked in a drug company for about six months. If hospitals are big business, then drugs are even bigger.
Without even reading the little white paper wrapped around the bottle, I know there are side effects to cortisone. With a small amount of research, I learn that the side effects include teeth loss, depression, weight gain, and after 20 years of use, a much higher likelihood of cancer.
When my husband calls the doctor to ask him about the likelihood of cancer, he laughs it off by saying something about twenty years being a long time. Apparently, he’s not very concerned about knocking a few years off my life and saddling me with a host of unsolicited ailments besides the one I have.
Grateful to be alive
It’s Erev Yom Kippur, and I finally leave the hospital about 15 pounds thinner and with big, black circles under my eyes. Our Rabbi forbids me to make the fast. I’ve been de-humanized, but I’m grateful to be alive. And I’ve learned my lesson never to give my body and my life into the safekeeping of “well-meaning” health professionals in big city hospitals.
I leave the bottle of cortisone unopened. I become an avid reader of books on digestion. I learn about the connection between stress and colitis, and between stress and problems with health in general. I discover that colitis and diet are intimately related. The lining of the colon is dramatically affected by the food that passes through there.
Biggest Gastro seems convinced that my illness is something like a wild bronco wrecking havoc in my digestive system. That we must bring in the big guns—a powerful medicine called cortisone—which will tame that bronco.
Let’s try another paradigm. The spastic colon with its internal sores is my friend. It’s me. It’s suffering. It’s trying to tell me something about my lifestyle. I’m under too much stress, and the pint of carob Hagan Daz that I consume just about every other day is too rich for anyone to handle.
I’ve developed a hyper-sensitivity to dairy products. Perhaps I’ve been internalizing certain emotions that I should have been letting out. Maybe it’s the pressure cooker principle. Just so much pressure that’s swallowed, and the top flies off. The colon is my sensitive place. It’s out of commission. Maybe I can nurse it back to health.
Illness is the body’s way of sending us a message about what needs to change
From now on, I’ll be listening to the messages it’s sending me. Maybe this bout with illness is the best thing that’s happened to me. I’ve been alerted that I need to change, even though the doctor assures me that nothing needs to be changed. “Just take this handy little pill, keep eating what you’ve always eaten, keep living like you’ve always lived, you don’t have to change an iota.”
The hospital experience has alienated me from my body. My first mistake was putting my body in their hands. They didn’t realize what a delicate, whole entity I am, how my soul is intertwined with that colon, how sensitive I am to the energy in the room, in the food, in the words that come my way. How I am a sponge, a delicate plant swaying underwater, alive to the currents.
The fact that they would submit their own bodies to the same treatment if some doctor thought it was the preferred course of action, that fact helps them to justify what they did to me.
They are caught in the system, much more deeply ensconced than I am. Their livelihood seems to depend on it.
The experience in the hospital doesn’t teach me how to heal. But it does teach me where healing is not found.Now I begin the process of healing. I allow myself permission to breathe deeply and feel what I need to feel. I won’t tell anyone. I can do it quietly without anyone knowing. I imagine a glacial lake of crystal clear water. I once swam in such a lake, and it is easy for me to return there in my thoughts.
The glacial lake feeds into a stream, and I harness that stream, coax it over in my direction, and guide its flow into my colon. I feel the cool water lapping against the sides of my colon. I even imagine little rainbow fish swimming through the colon in the flow of the healing waters.
I discover that brown rice, sweet potatoes, green vegetables, apple sauce, lemon juice, sesame butter, and rice cakes are friendly food. I drink mineral water, and prepare myself cups of peppermint tea. I lie on the couch with a book even when there are dishes in the sink, or I lie on the floor and let the baby crawl all over me.
I begin to be grateful for my ailing colon, for the message it sent me has begun to transform my life. I am more peaceful, more centered in myself, more alive again to my own dreams and visions.
And, with great amazement and gratitude, my colon responds beautifully to this gentle handling, to the listening ear, to the responsive relationship I’ve put into place. I recover my health and vitality, and begin to feel better than I did even before my “illness” began.
In light of my discoveries about how healing works, I begin to question some other paradigms that I took for granted – and I learn an amazing secret: How to honor my own intuition, listen to internal signals, and awaken to my own inner guidance.
One of my girls has been having an uphill battle with her acne for about a year and a half now. She had a few, mild, zits at 14, but in the month before she was due to start ulpana, the term for boarding school for religious girls in Israel, her spots suddenly and aggressively transformed into full-blown acne.
I knew it was related to her stress and worry about going to the new school – and sadly, her first year there was so stressful, and the food they serve in the ulpana is so very bad, that the acne became a permanent feature of her life.
It’s really, really hard to have disfiguring spots when you’re a 14 year old girl.
So, we tried this cream, that gel, this wash. I paid for all sorts of people to squeeze blackheads out of her face.
I even spent an afternoon concocting all sorts of ‘natural’ treatments for her, from my essential oils collection. After a day or two, four days max, she’d get discouraged and just stop whatever the new thing was we were trying to do for her face.
So then, I agreed with my husband that we’d spend whatever it took to take her to a professional aesthetician, to get the acne reduced. It took around 5,000 shekels (no, that’s not a typo…) and we’re still paying it off every month.
Sadly, the debt is outliving the positive effects of the treatment.
For six months, the acne did reduce a little, and did seem to be dying down. But as soon as we stopped – it came back again.
Which is when my daughter started talking about Acutane / Roacutane, or ‘Roktan’, as they call it in Israel, and my heart sank.
Because that stuff is poisonous, and a whole bunch of people launched lawsuits against its maker, Hoffman LaRoche, claiming that Acutane had caused them to develop serious Irritable Bowel issues – one guy even had to have his colon removed.
And let’s not even talk about all the terrible birth defects associated with its use, which was another serious concern for me, as the mother of a teenager girl.
And let’s not even talk about all the other, awful side effects, that so many people like to claim are not so bad, or not so widespread. This comes from Wikipedia:
“Isotretinoin is the only non-psychiatric drug on the FDA's top 10 list of drugs associated with depression and is also within the top 10 for suicide attempts. A black box warning for suicide, depression and psychosis has been present on isotretinoin's packaging in the United States since 2005.”
(Isotretinoin is the generic name of the compound previously branded as Acutane, or ‘Roktan’.)
I sat down with my daughter, and explained to her: Roktan has a terrifyingly large number of awful side-effects. Let’s go through them in detail, and then if you still feel you want to explore it, we’ll take it from there.
Acne is really, really hard to live with, so I didn’t want to take my daughter’s free choice away when it came to deciding how to deal with it, but I also really, really didn’t want her to go the drug route.
Which is when God really helped me out.
My daughter had a friend dorming with her with bad acne who’d first been put on long-term doses of oral antibiotics, which had worked for a while.
And then, the zits came back.
(As a side note, my hairdresser was also put on oral antibiotics for acne, and stayed on them for a year and a half. This stopped when her legs started to puff up and swell, when her skin turned a yucky yellow and she started to feel really, really ill – at the age of 22. The antibiotics almost caused her liver to fail, and the Dr who’d prescribed them for acne never once thought to mention that it could be potentially fatal to continue them long term. But I digress.)
So then, the doctors put this roommate on ‘Roktan’ – which is where my daughter had first heard about it. “Her skin is like a baby’s! All her spots have gone!” my daughter told me, two months into the girl’s treatment.
So, we sat down and went through all the horrifying side-effects of Roktan – and by the end my daughter told me: “My friend has got most of those.” The friend’s eyes were puffy and blurry; her skin had started to spontaneously bleed when she waded into the Dead Sea whilst on a school trip. She was hyper-sensitive to sun (a big deal, when you live somewhere like Israel); her back and stomach hurt really badly, all of the time.
But her zits had gone!
So at least that.
But thankfully for my daughter, it was enough of a wake-up call to convince her that ‘Roktan’ was not the answer to the acne. So in the meantime, she started trying to eat a little bit healthier. She started trying to make the links herself, between suppressed feelings of worry and anxiety and massive flare-ups in her face.
And slowly, slowly, the zits are starting to come around.
In the meantime, the poor girl who’d been ‘cured’ by Roktan found that her zits returned as soon as she stopped treatment. The latest I heard is that she’s still having a number of bad side effects even though she stopped taking the drug two months ago, and has been off school now for a week, while the doctors are trying to figure things out.
One thing they are sure of, and have already clearly told the girls’ parents: It’s not related to the acne drug!!!
In the meantime, what can we learn from all this?
Let’s try to sum it up:
And that last one holds true even if the Roktan works, because the zits are just signposts to some deeper issue, or deeper work, that’s required for the person to really feel happy and spiritually-fulfilled in life.
So in the meantime, I’m continuing to buy my kid any cream she wants for her face, and to splash out on any treatment she wants to try (that isn’t potentially extremely dangerous).
I’m praying on her, I’m encouraging her, I’m buying her nice clothes.
In short, whatever I can do to ease her burden, and ease her test, I’m trying to do that, and in the meantime, her state of mind is really good, considering how hard the test actually is.
But “Roktan” is off the table, and so is long-term oral antibiotics. Because even if they do work, the long-term risks to my kid’s health are just too great to be worth the gamble.
And thank God, now she actually saw what happened to her friend, and learned about the scope of the side-effects involved, she thinks so, too.
I've started writing a new book, with the working title ELECTRIC PEOPLE, that will hopefully explain how bio-electricity is the 'missing link' in human health, and that will hopefully give you, dear reader, a much better idea of HOW different treatments, both alternative and conventional work - and why they often don't work.
I don't have time to post on spiritualselfhelp AND write the book, so I've decided to stick up chunks of the rough draft as I go along. Please feel free to comment (respectfully...) on anything you'd like to hear more about, or have more details about, or if something doesn't make sense, and I'll try my best to answer your queries in future posts.
The idea that people are just chunks of animated meat is fairly new, and like many things that have corrupted the world of modern science, it can be laid at the feet of Charles Darwin.
Before Darwin came along with his theory of evolution, the idea that people had souls, and that there was a spiritual dimension to life, and that God existed and had created the world, was a given for nearly all scientists. Of course, there were always a few dissenters in the corner, but they normally kept their atheistic views to themselves, in much the same way that modern-day scientists who believe in God are forced to keep quiet, or see their career and reputation disappear down the tubes.
Then Darwin showed up, and challenged the God-centric view of the world in a number of key ways.
Firstly, he suggested that far from there being a specific plan behind, and a specific goal leading creation, everything in the world occurred due to random happenstance.
To put this another way, Darwin’s theory took an axe to the principal of ‘cause and effect’, and reduced everything in the world down to some kind of happy accident.
The next piece of mischief that the theory of evolution wrought in scientific minds is that it planted the idea that the world HAD to be incredibly old. After all, it would take billions and trillions of years before an amoeba could turn into a monkey, or a fully-sentient human being - if it could happen at all.
Sadly for Darwin, pioneering molecular biologist Douglas Axe recently proved conclusively that the amount of time it would actually take for even one of Darwin’s ‘happy evolutionary coincidences’ to occur was a number so big, it’s practically impossible. The world simply isn’t old enough for all the millions of evolutionary tweaks that could turn an amoeba into anything remotely similar to a biped - or even something more modest, like an earthworm or fruit-fly.[i]
Sadly for Axe - and everyone else who believes in God - the theory of evolution was so compelling for those individuals who wished to find an ‘intellectually satisfying[ii]’ way of denying God’s role in creation that no amount of scientific investigation, facts or research has been able to dislodge it.
And so, modern science continues to claim that the world is billions of years’ old, and to view every discipline through the lens of ‘evolution’, disregarding any of the uncomfortably mounting evidence that categorically disproves it.
Definition of vitalism
VITALISM VS MECHANISM
All this set the scene for the big schism that occurred throughout the 19th century [CHECK] between the ‘vitalist’ and ‘mechanist’ biological schools of thought. Again, until Darwin arrived on the scene, practically every scientist considered themselves to be a ‘vitalist’, inasmuch as they believed that some sort of invisible animating force, or soul, that they called the anima or elan vital, must be working through the physical body. This idea was so self-evident, it was axiomatic.
Vitalism held that this animating force was what separated living beings, including man, from the rest of the inanimate landscape.
But post-Darwin, when a new, God-less paradigm for life started to come into focus, many of the scientists of the day developed an almost religious zeal to root God and spirituality out of every last vestige of scientific endeavor - including the question of what animated man, himself.
This latter school came to be known as the ‘mechanists’, and they posited the idea that man was really just an intelligent collection of chemical compounds and cells, and was ultimately governed by the same laws of chemistry and physics that applied to inanimate matter.
Much of the debate between the vitalists and the mechanists took place around the subject of embryology, or the study of development. Ironically, Darwin himself gave the new field of embryology its name, and vainly hoped that the study of how life ‘developed’ would provide ample support for his theories of phylogeny, or what he termed the history of evolution.
Yet, despite the fact that the field was eagerly embraced by leading mechanists like German scientist Wilhelm Roux, that didn’t happen. As the field continued to develop (pun intended), embryologists like Roux and his colleague August Weismann soon confirmed that a fertilized egg appeared to be an unstructured single cell that continually divided, proliferated, and then somehow became a collection of differentiated cells.
While the vitalists argued, correctly, that epigenesis, or the external imposition of order on the cellular chaos of a fertilized egg, had to be coming from some intangible ‘vital’ force, the mechanists had a much more scientific explanation for what was really occurring: there had to be a little man, called a homunculus, in the sperm.
By the time Roux and Weissman were working on the problem of how a bunch of apparently simple cells could become a living creature, or a human being a hundred years’ later, the homunculus theory had fallen out of favor. However, the mechanists were still determined to find an alternative explanation for the creation of ‘life’ that didn’t include God or a spiritual element, so the ‘scientific’ search for how embryogenesis actually occurred continued unabated.
Weissman came up with a theory which postulated that the fertilized egg contained specific chemical structures called ‘determiners’, that would code for all the different cell types required. According to Weissman’s theory, once a cell had turned into muscle cell, or a blood cell, or a nerve cell, its function had been permanently fixed.
This was the earliest description of what came to be known as ‘genes’, and before long, DNA took the place of the homunculus in scientists’ minds, as the guiding force behind the development of life.
The father of modern genetics, American embryologist Thomas Hunt Morgan, proposed the theory that just as the genes contained inherited characteristics, they also contained the ‘code’ that would tell which cells to differentiate and become the endoderm (which gives rise to the glands and viscera in the fetus); the mesoderm (which gives rise to the bones, muscles and circulatory system) and the ectoderm (which becomes the skin, nervous system and sense organs.
At this stage in the game, it was believed that once a cell had been ‘coded’ at the beginning of the process to fulfill a particular function, that was set in stone and couldn’t be changed.
A MODERN TAKE ON DNA
It was only after work progressed on the human genome project that the cracks in this particular theory were discovered. Recent research has shown that there is no such thing as ‘one gene, one result’.
Science has now established that many genes work together to trigger a particular outcome. What’s more, the genes themselves are not ‘fixed’ and can be turned on or off by environmental factors that trigger biochemical messengers which in turn signal the gene to activate, or de-activate.
This process is called ‘methylation’, where environmental factors and experiences trigger a cluster of carbon and hydrogen atom, called a ‘methyl group’ to the outside of the gene. When this occurs, that gene is rendered less sensitive or hyper sensitive to the messages it’s being sent by the body.
What’s more, this pattern of peculiar gene expression, or ‘methylation’ can be passed on to the person’s descendants, in a process called ‘epigenetics’.
RNA vs ‘Determinors’
Weissman and then Morgan suggested that once a cell had been coded, or ‘determined’, it somehow lost the rest of the genetic blueprint that was initially available to it before it differentiated, and got ‘stuck’ being whatever it now was - like a piece of skin, or a heart muscle, or a nerve ending.
But later research showed that wasn’t true, and that the full genetic blueprint could still be found in every cell nucleus. In theory, these genes could be re-activated in the future, and each cell could change into a different type of cell via a process called ‘de-differentiation’.
Something called the RNA decides which bit of the cell’s genetic code gets switched off, and which is activated at any given time.
But the question still remained (at least for the mechanists and modern science): how was the RNA itself making these decisions, about which parts of the genetic blueprint each cell should repress, and which parts should be activated?
It's amazing how many people's lives are being ruined by the indiscriminate prescription of addictive medications. The story you're about to read is straight from the horse's mouth, and was written by a brave individual who hopes to save others the heartache and suffering she and her family endured, when her husband was prescribed benzos without any warning or advice from the doctors about how addictive and 'bad' they could be, long-term.
This is the story of how my husband went from being an extremely healthy, happy person (the sort who drinks spinach / flaxseed shakes for breakfast, who never even takes Tylenol, who is an athlete, extroverted and outgoing), to a different person, anxious and addicted to prescription pills.
One day, he got a phone call: “Due to "corporate restructuring", your department is being eliminated. We’re so sorry, but we'll send the details re. compensation, etc." It was as if the floor had suddenly vanished, leaving my husband lying flat on his back, wondering what had just happened.
Over the next few months, my husband and I went through six different stages, in dealing with the fall-out:
Stage 1: Disbelief.
"What do you mean, fired? You're upper management! You've been there 15 years!".
It felt like a game show or Candid Camera prank ... this couldn't be real.
Stage 2: Shock, insomnia. Not knowing what to do. Sitting on the couch, staring at nothing.
Instead of regrouping, thinking about updating the resume and networking, he could not process what happened. People were calling, stopping by, reaching out to help, but he would look at them, dazed, as if seeing them for the first time. He developed a tremor in his hand, and was unable to sleep more than 3 hours a night.
Stage 3: Anxiety, depression.
Lack of sleep began to have severe effects. We went to our family doctor for sleeping pills, trying a few before finding one that helped.
Even with better sleep, however, he was not the same. He felt so lost. I spent time online, and discovered that sudden job loss ranked as one of the top four life stresses (after death, divorce and serious illness).
Most people in this situation begin to recover from the shock after a few weeks of it "sinking in," but that did not happen. Instead, he began to slide into a depressed state. In over 20 years of marriage, I think the last time I can recall my husband crying was on 9/11. Now, it was becoming a near-daily occurrence.
Stage 4: ‘Professional’ help.
Our doctor recommended a psychiatrist. For the first visit, I went along, as my husband felt too anxious to drive. Out of desperation he agreed to begin taking pills for anxiety and depression. We toyed around with dosage, until finding what seemed to help.
Stage 5: Side effects.
We were completely unaware at the time of the addictive nature of the drugs (benzodiazepenes) that had been prescribed for my husband. We assumed the doctor would only prescribe what was safe.
However, my husband was on the meds for a few months, not short term. We were uninformed about how addictive it would be, and the side effects. He began getting terrible headaches every day, which he described as a clamp being squeezed around the front of his head. He was jittery and forgetful. He felt his heart beating very rapidly at times.
After four months of this, he decided he wanted off. The crying spells had greatly lessened, but the strong feeling of pressure in his head all day long was driving him crazy. He was at this point going on job interviews, yet feeling unable to concentrate or focus.
Stage 6: Talking to God
I suggested to my husband that he should maybe try talking to God. He is a logical, rational sort, so the idea of "talking to G-d" as one would speak openly with a dear friend, did not appeal to him at all
Still, I would read to him every day from a book called ‘The Garden of Emuna’, about how everything that happens to us, happens for a reason. Even when is seems to make no sense. Even if it causes suffering. Not only that, but it is all for our ultimate benefit. God knows what’s best for us, and we should not only accept it, but thank Him for it, since it is ultimately for our benefit.
That got my husband's attention:
"Are you suggesting that I actually thank God for being fired?" he asked, incredulous.
When I nodded, he continued. ..
"Okay. I'll try that. Thank you, God, for giving me this long unemployment. Thanks for taking away the job I loved, our main source of income. Thanks for giving me a psych doctor that is so expensive, we have to pay for it out of our savings. Thank you for the pills. Thanks for turning my life upside-down and causing me to feel the absolute worst I have ever felt. Thank you for the feeling that my skull is bring crushed by a giant clamp. Thank you for making me a total, good for nothing, pathetic loser who can't support his family. There. How's that? Did I get everything?"
Eventually, it occurred to my husband that he had nothing to lose by talking to God, so he started doing it every day, and even wrote out his own little script.
Aside from personal prayer, we realized that he must get off of the medications, whose side effects were becoming debilitating.
What I most want to convey to others who might be in this situation, is that certain meds are highly addictive, and the withdrawal symptoms can be brutal.
The horrible headaches my husband suffered for months when lowering doses to withdraw, were overwhelming. He’s an experienced marathon runner, and very in tune with his body. To feel like his brain was not under his control was disturbing. He has a high tolerance for pain and discomfort, but the crushing pressure in his head was unlike anything he'd ever felt.
I hope anyone who is prescribed a benzodiazapene drug will do their research, and be aware of the side effects. Know that they are highly addictive, and withdrawal can be very difficult.
Even though my husband was on a low dose, and followed a slow-tapered withdrawal, he had a hellish time. In retrospect, I wish we had taken a non-addictive sleeping pill, and known about the dangers of the drugs he was prescribed.
I cannot speak for everyone who is on these benzodiazepine drugs. Every situation is different. I will only will say, we would NEVER have gone that route, if we had known beforehand about the strong the side effects, and how terrible the withdrawal experience would be. I can understand why many people get stuck taking these pills for the rest of their lives, now that I see firsthand how hard it is to successfully stop taking them.
In the end, thank G-d, he was able to wean off of the medication, and return to his regular self. I should say a newer, improved version of himself - one with a heightened sense of gratitude for good health, and family. He has kept talking to God as part of his life. Has found a new job that, in hindsight, he likes better than the old one.
Though it was an extremely difficult journey that stretched the better part of a year, I am grateful to say he is out of the tunnel now, out of the darkness, and standing once again in the daylight. Looking back, we realize that God had a plan. We only needed to trust Him.
A new study just published in the British Medical Journal shows that medical errors are now killing an estimated 250,000 people A YEAR in the US alone:
"A study published in the prominent medical journal BMJ concluded that errors by doctors and hospitals kill more than 250,000 people a year in the U.S. That's more than strokes, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer's.
Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research, said in an interview that the category includes everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.
"It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care," Makary said."
You can read more HERE.
Western medicine likes to pretend that it's got all the answers when it comes to keeping people healthy, but the truth is actually the opposite: the more you go to doctors, the sicker you'll get. The more you rely on drugs to heal your health problems, the worse they'll become.
It's counter-intuitive, I know, but the evidence continues to stack up that Western medicine is great for when you get run over by a bus or other acute traumas, but completely lousy when it comes to preventing or treating chronic illness.
God-based holistic health, anyone?
Hat tip to EC, for sending me the link.
We'll get back to hormones and compassion in the next post, but I just wanted to share this with you in the meantime, as so many people simply don't know that SCIENCE has proven that anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are simply worsening outcomes for patients, long-term.
They don't work for most people over the long-term. Full stop. So we need to find alternatives that DO work and don't give you long-term brain damage- and there are lots of them on this blog.
Let’s quickly recap the main points we’ve covered over the last few posts:
Let’s leave the word ‘knowingly’ to one side for a moment, while we again look at some facts. A little while ago, the Nutrition Institute of America published a fully-referenced report called ‘Death by Medicine’, which found the following (all the figures below only refer to the US):
There are some very hard questions psychiatrists need to be asked, and need to answer:
So that’s the problem, in a nutshell. God-willing, over the next series of posts I want to start setting out some alternative solutions and approaches to the mental and emotional health issues that are currently plaguing our society.
The next, huge, reason why prescribed drug abuse is going through the roof is that many people have the distinct impression, often based on their own experiences, that psychiatric drugs actually work. People go to their psychiatrists depressed, hallucinating, anxious, suicidal, and after a few weeks on the meds, all their problems magically disappear!
There’s a few different things going on here, so let’s try to break them down.
The first thing to mention is the ‘placebo’ effect. In his book ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, researcher Irvin Kirsch blew the lid off the SSRI claims that they were more effective than a placebo. The long and short of it is, they aren’t, and even when they do work, they come along with a huge number of very unpleasant side affects (more on this later.)
To put it another way, the power of the mind is so great that if someone with a mental illness (or other physical disease) believes that the drug they’ve been given is going to cure them, then very often it will – regardless of its innate therapeutic properties.
To quote Kirsch:
“Even the small percentage [16%] of people who ‘respond’ only to the real antidepressant do not get much chemical benefit from the medication. Most of their improvement can be explained as a placebo effect.”
So that’s one issue – but it’s not even the main one.
Even if we assume that there is some truth to the idea that the mood-altering drugs prescribed by psychiatrists work, at least for some of the people, some of the time, as you’re probably coming to expect, there’s a lot more to the story, and it’s by no means so clear-cut or encouraging.
In his book ‘Anatomy of an epidemic’, investigative journalist Robert Whitaker spent a couple of years trawling through all of the scientific studies that measured the efficacy of mood-altering drugs like Thorazine, Lithium, SSRIs, and benzodiazepines over the long term. Time and again, he found the following pattern:
I highly recommend that readers pick up a copy of Whitaker’s book for themselves, which clearly sets out the scientific proof and chemical processes that are underpinning all the information I’m giving you in this post.
In the meantime, let me just tell you about researcher Martin Harrow’s 15 year schizophrenia study. Schizophrenia has traditionally been thought of as the most difficult of all mental illnesses to successfully treat. In Harrow’s study, he followed four groups of people:
Harrow found that: “Over the long term, the manic-depressive patients who stopped taking psychiatric drugs fared pretty well, but their recovery took time” [i.e., normally a couple of years to really get over and turn their life around again]. But by the end of the 15 year long study, they were officially ‘recovered’ from their illness.
By contrast: “At the end of two years, [the manic-depressive patients who stayed on their meds] were now a little bit worse than the schizophrenia patients off meds” – and over the next 15 years, their illness, outcomes and quality of life continued to deteriorate.
At the end of 15 years, Harrow’s study showed that both the unmedicated groups continued to do significantly better than their medicated peers, with medicated manic-depressives experiencing worse outcomes than non-medicated schizophrenics.
So you can sum up the ‘psychiatric drugs work!’ argument like this: Like all drugs, there’s an initial benefit to using them, but this quickly evaporates, with patients’ mental health issues and symptoms actually worsening over the long term, making it harder and harder for them to function normally, hold down jobs, or forge relationships.
But that’s not all: the life expectancy of people regularly using psychiatric medication is between 15-20 years shorter than normal – and the number of physical illnesses and problems they experience before their premature death (affectionately known as ‘side affects’) is often enormous.
It’s not a secret that drugs, even prescription drugs, carry huge drawbacks. The question has always been one of ensuring that the potential benefit to the patient outweighs the potential cost. And who are the ones who are meant to be ensuring the globally positive, ethical nature of the treatments and medications they prescribe? The medical profession and psychiatrists.
Which is where the tale starts to get extremely murky, indeed, as we’ll cover in the next post.
So in the last post, we started asking why it’s not OK for someone to ‘chill out’ by smoking pot, but it IS OK for someone to take a hugely addictive valium or klonopin for the same reason, just because they got it ‘on prescription’.
Here’s some of the more common reasons given for why drug abuse is acceptable, if it’s prescribed by a doctor of psychiatrist:
Let’s go through these reasons one by one, to see if they really stack up. First up, the infamous ‘chemical imbalance’ theory of mental illness. Reams and reams has been written on this subject, but you can sum it up like this:
No chemical imbalance has ever been scientifically-proven to be the cause of mental illness.
That’s the cold, hard facts, and I challenge anyone reading this to send me a scientific study (or preferably, a bunch of them) that unequivocably disproves this. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let me quote you some statements from the book, Blaming the Brain:
Edward Drummond, M.D., Associate Medical Director at Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, informs us: “First, no biological etiology [cause] has been proven for any psychiatric disorder…in spite of decades of research.…So don’t accept the myth that we can make an ‘accurate diagnosis’.…Neither should you believe that your problems are due solely to a ‘chemical imbalance.’”
Psychologist Bruce Levine, Ph.D., concurs: “Remember that no biochemical, neurological, or genetic markers have been found for attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, compulsive alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, gambling, or any other so‐called mental illness, disease, or disorder.”
Charles E. Dean, M.D., says that people are “convinced that the origins of mental illnesses are to be found in biology, when, despite more than three decades of research, there still is no proof…The absences of any well‐defined physical causation is reflected in the absence of any laboratory tests for psychiatric diagnoses—much in contrast to diabetes and many other physical disorders.
“[T]here are no tests available for assessing the chemical status of a living person’s brain.” – Elliot Valenstein, Ph.D.
I know that this can be a lot to digest in one go. You can find a few more quotes HERE, and at the end of this article, you’ll find a few books I recommend – all extensively quoting peer-reviewed scientific research – to help you ascertain the facts for yourself.
But the take-home point is this: no-one has ever proved the chemical imbalance theory for mental illness, which is why there are no tests you can do to ‘prove’ you have a mental illness.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at the next common argument: “but the drugs actually work!”
One of the things that has puzzled me for years is the following question: How can a prescription make it ‘OK’ to take mind-altering drugs? As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was assailed with messages from the ‘Just say no!’ campaign, and my non-Jewish school was constantly giving talks about the dangers of doing drugs.
The message that came across was loud and clear: drug users are risking their health, and even their lives by using drugs. They won’t be able to hold down a job, and they’ll be social outcasts and economic failures, aka ‘the dregs of society’. It’s hard to think of a more scary prospect, for an aspiring Jewish yuppie…
But that wasn’t all: time and again, we were also warned away from drug dealers, those evil people who were making money and gaining influence over large swathes of naïve people, by getting them hooked on drugs.
Marijuana is bad!
Cocaine is really bad!
Heroin is really, really bad!
Sure, you’ll feel good, amazing even, for the first few times, but then you’ll quickly get caught in the ‘drug net’ where you’re using more and more gear for ever-decreasing returns.
I think you’re with me so far, yes? Drugs are B.A.D. They kill people, they take away their ability to function and think, they can have a seriously negative impact on their quality of life and will to live, and ultimately, they detract from the person’s essential humanity, or soul, encouraging them to act in all sorts of nasty, evil, selfish ways to satisfy their habit.
So now, let me ask the question again: why is marijuana bad, but Prozac is OK? Why is cocaine bad, but Ritalin is ‘good’? Why is heroin ‘bad’, but the incredibly addictive Ativan is readily prescribed at the drop of a hat?
What it is about the magic word ‘prescription’ that makes it OK, or even encouraged for people to start using mind-altering medications, many of which are seriously addictive, and all of which come along with a huge range of side affects, some of which cause irreversible brain damage and even fatalities?
Over the next couple of posts this week, I want to take a more in-depth look at what’s really going on with psychotropic drugs, and why the ‘drug trap’ is operating just as dangerously with psychiatric medicine, and putting milllions of users’ mental and physical health on the line, even if they are ‘on prescription’.
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