Nov 23, 2015

Holistic vs Homeopathic vs Medical: Who Is More Accurate?

A very long time ago, when I was a college professor (but not anymore because the stroke eclipsed that opportunity), I was teaching a class of freshmen the art of composition. Included in that group was a middle-aged man who, as it turns out, was a Tai-Chi Master, having found out through my first assigned essay, "What's Your Passion." While the unworldly freshman wrote about their passion for video games and shopping, the erudite man wrote about his interest in homeopathic (or holistic) remedies. I remember his words.

"Everything you need to keep yourself healthy is right here on earth, from headache to rash, from stomach pains to diarrhea."

The class laughed when he said diarrhea, totally being freshman, but the man didn't skip a beat and went on.

"The only trick is finding what cures what. But once you find a remedy for your particular ailment, you'll forever stick with it."   

My student, as it turns out, was into homeopathy. But it falls under the holistic umbrella. Mother Nature Network uses this example:

"Feel a cold coming on? You could nip it in the bud with conventional medicine, or you could consider a homeopathic or holistic approach — but what's the difference?

"A holistic medical doctor combines modern, Western scientific treatment with alternative medicine or complementary treatments, such as chiropractic, acupuncture or massage. Both a homeopathic physician and a holistic medical doctor will look at the whole picture. How they differ is that the homeopathic doctor would prepare a remedy in liquid or tablet form, while the holistic doctor would provide a patient with the option of a pharmaceutical drug in addition to alternative treatments, which could include a homeopathic remedy."

The bottom line? Homeopathic medicine looks at the whole person, combining a person’s physical state, diet, emotional and mental state and stress triggers, often not taking into consideration the use of modern diagnostic tests. Holistic medical doctors often encourage diagnostic testing in an attempt to find the underlying cause that led to the disparity in the first place.

I take 10 prescribed pills a day, and I get prescriptions for all of them from a medical doctor. They each do what they're aiming for, like anti-seizure, reflux, asthma, and as a result, no seizures, no heartburn, no asthma. If another stroke happens, (though the odds say it shouldn't because I'm past the 5-year post-stroke demarcation line), I'd choose the holistic approach.  

I wanted choices while in the hospital for 15 weeks and after for 6 years, but all they had were medical doctors. Pill writers. Prescription aficionados. Big pharma pills of the day for which the doctors are wined and dined at banquets in hopes that interest abounds. "Choose the red capsule, choose the pink pill," big pharma screams.

The medical doctors use us as guinea pigs to determine--on us, I repeat--if the pill or serum or what-have-you works. So I can't say who is more accurate--holistic, homeopathic, or medical. What I can say is, to use Ed Koch's line, the former mayor of New York, regarding the choice you make, "If it's working, don't fix what ain't broke."

Nov 8, 2015

Frustration and Stroke Survivors: 5 Ways to Avoid It

Charles M. Schulz is gone now (he died in 2000), but his memory lives on in the characters he created in Peanuts, those lovable little ones who express honesty to a fault, sarcasm to the weak-minded, and the thoughts by illustration of that endearing dog, Snoopy. 

In one scene, Linus is obsessed that there is a Great Pumpkin who will appear on Halloween night and has Sally accompany him to the pumpkin patch. Linus passes out as  the shadow of Snoopy appears instead, rising slowly from the pumpkin patch. When Linus "comes to," Sally, out of frustration, goes into a maniacal rant about missing Halloween and all the candy. That's when she says, twice, "You blockhead!" (

I called people blockheads, too, before my stroke 6 years ago. Blockhead was sometimes followed by "Aaaargh!" But that's all. Now, that I don't have any filters after my stroke (, my words are a lot worse, like prick, shithead, and asshole. If what they did was really bad, I would say, "Fuck you" (but that only happened three times and in the first year after. I ended up feeling sorry for them).

I was frustrated, and still am. I realize that it's not going away any time soon--or ever.

From what I figured out in my post-stroke time with myself, frustration comes about whenever my goals aren't met. I have also decided that there are 2 types of frustration, which I call outie and innie. (Just like the belly button. I stole that from my mother). 

Outie frustration comes from causes that you can't do anything about, like standing in line at Walmart or getting stuck in traffic. Outie frustration is unavoidable. 

Innie frustration is about the disappointment that gets in the way when you can't achieve something you want, the kind of frustration that we can do something about. 

After 6 years, though I'm not done, I figured out 5 suggestions for avoiding my innie frustration, and I'll pass them on to you:

Problem: If I would phone any government agency and the person on the other end didn't understand me, or wasn't listening and had me repeat things, I'll start to get breathless and my throat becomes hoarse from saying it again--and again. And the more aggravated I get, I soon go into hyperventilation. 

Solution: I have friends, you have friends. Have them make the call with the phone on speaker so you can interject (unless you have a rotary phone and I'm simply not going there).

Problem: You have to open a can or jar, you're alone, and you can't.

Solution: Just go to and type these words into the search bar: "can opener with one hand" or "jar opener with one hand." You'd be amazed at the assortment. Holidays are coming. He-loooo!

Problem: You want to eat something, but there's no one home to make your meal.

Solution: Glad makes those Zip Lock bags now. Don't buy the slider bags. They're impossible to get open. Have someone cut up individual portions--sandwiched or whole meals--and place them one at a time inside the Zip Lock bags, placed in the refrigerator or freezer. You can take one out anytime independently and put it in a microwavable-safe container. Voila! A meal in minutes!

Problem: Take a look at your bathroom sink right now. Does it look similar to this? Do you have your toothbrush and toothpaste, cups to rinse your mouth after, your personal grooming tools, any lotions, towels, where they are unreachable? Mine resembled the pic on your right.

Solution: Organization is key. I re-organized the sink area with small containers, putting all my brushes, make-up and mirror (for guys, other grooming tools), lotions, and towels  separated within easy reach.

Problem: You are ready to go to bed and forgot your book in the living room. (If you wear an AFO, you really don't want to back there and get it). Instead, you turn on the TV or the Smartphone or the computer, which is a bad choice. A few years ago, the Chicago Times reported that neuroscientists have found light-sensitive cells in the eye that detect light, which contain a photopigment called melanopsin that is particularly sensitive to blue light. 

"Blue light alerts the brain and suppresses the melatonin, and shifts your body clock at the same time," said Harvard Medical School sleep researcher Steven Lockley. "Your brain is more alert now and thinks it's daytime because we have evolved to only see bright light during the day."

Solution: Reading before bed--good choice. If you don't have a night stand, you can pick up a standing lamp for cheap at places like Goodwill or thrift stores in your area.

And there you have it. Easy-peasy. Quick remedies. So come on. Get going. You don't want to be called a blockhead, do you?