Just Because It’s Difficult Doesn’t Mean You Ought Not Do It.

Losing weight. Changing careers at fifty-five. Changing careers at any point in your life. Starting a business. Beating diabetes. Beating addiction.

I’ve worked with clients tackling all of these things. And there’s one obvious commonality they all share. They’re all incredibly difficult things to accomplish.

If losing weight were simple, there’d be no multi-billion dollar diet and fitness industries. If changing careers or starting a business were easy, people wouldn’t reach eighty and regret not taking more chances earlier in their life. 

Diabetes and addiction, while different beasts to each other, are most often daily battles. Rarely is there a moment where one is restored to their original health. Our bodies don’t come with reset buttons. The impact of dis-ease lasts a lifetime. And every morning, peace must be re-negotiated. 

Each of these struggles challenge us to push the limits of what is possible for the individual human being. Certainly they challenge the expectations of us. 

A common refrain I’ve heard from clients changing careers is that their bosses don’t expect them to actually quit and succeed. To be fair, these guys are financially invested in us showing up to work again on Monday.

Most doctors likewise don’t expect either diabetics or addicts to ever change. Of course, if you did, they’d lose a patient, a source of income, and a source of validity in their own work. 

This was the fact that surprised me most during an international health coach call I participated in a couple years ago. Colleague after colleague of mine from the medical field lamented the fact that none of their diabetic patients were interested in adopting any sort of lifestyle change. 

While they came at health coaching from the direction of wanting to motivate these patients, I come to this field from the perspective of someone who is managing their blood glucose levels without pharmaceutical intervention through holistic nutrition, fitness, and other lifestyle-based strategies. 

I surprised the room when my own experience was the exact opposite of theirs. I’ve seen countless diabetics already implementing lifestyle changes with success. These same clients reported that it was their doctors, not themselves who were strongly against exploring lifestyle changes for beating diabetes. 

Could both be true?

What I took away from that call at first was a hot-headed reaction to the typical medical establishment. Of course doctors don’t want their patients to change, I reassured myself. That would defeat their whole business model.

The truth though is that I do the exact same thing. I want my clients to be successful because that’s my model. 

Ethics and philosophy aside for a moment, where myself and my colleagues in medicine share common ground is in creating a framework of expectations for the people we work with. It’s in everything we do, from the way we discuss diagnoses and terms to the strategies we share with our clients; it’s the entire vibe of our work. 

Doctors tend to catch people at the end of the line whose bodies have broken down in one emergency or another, or over the slow course of a thousand different not-so-great choices. Their go-to strategy is the prescription pad because most people don’t have the time or willpower to change their lives and experiment with eating better or getting outside and running everyday. 

On the other end of the spectrum, I also pick up folks on the other side of emergencies and slow breakdowns. But the folks I get are the ones who at least in part, generally want to change. I can create space for them to explore what change will look like for them, what obstacles they anticipate facing, and how they will overcome them because that’s the path they have the interest and willpower in taking.

Having Willpower Isn’t Enough Though

The harsh reality is that entertaining our desire to tackle a big life change like beating diabetes is itself not enough to push us through. As I said before, all big life changes are extraordinarily difficult tasks to accomplish. 

In my own journey, I have faced numerous setbacks including relapse into needing medication after a period of remission. No health journey I have witnessed yet as a coach is as straightforward as choosing a direction and simply realizing it.

If I may be permitted one last barb directed at the medical industry, it is exactly the over-reliance on medication my colleagues complained about seeing in their patients that exemplifies the misconception that health struggles will be simple. When our dominant idea of healing is that it is as easy as taking a pill, we are thoroughly unprepared for the reality of a more difficult journey replete with setbacks, utter failure, periods of cluelessness, and disappointment.

Big life changes like beating diabetes are difficult. But that does not mean we ought not attempt them anyway.

On the other side of difficulty is not just the goal we set our sights on, but a new version of ourselves made capable of achieving at that level. Beating diabetes is undeniably a remarkable feat. Becoming the kind of person who gets to ask themselves “what next?” after doing so is a change in self-image we’ve likely never even imagined possible.

So We’re Just Going to Put Vaccines in Spinach Now?

There ought to be a law against medicating people without their consent. There probably already is. And it probably doesn’t matter anyway.

When I was a child, I was put on numerous medications for severe asthma, including various kinds of puberty-disrupting hormones. The side effects of these medications were, to our recollection, rarely if ever discussed with me or my parents. In large part, it seems now that they were unknown even to the doctors prescribing them at the time. Rather, we were caught up in a market-driven model. Symptoms = diagnosis = prescription (product). And the best consumers are those left in the dark about the products they consume.

New medicines weren’t prescribed on the basis that I needed an effect that they were shown to produce. No, new medicines were prescribed on the basis of being newly available.

I was the lab rat.

In the twenty years since I was subjected to these treatments, new studies have explored the damage wrought on the endocrine systems of children put on these medications. Neurological problems including suicide risk have been associated with others. And anecdotal evidence abounds among ex-patients identifying a connection between pharmaceutical intervention for asthma and onset of obesity, adult diabetes, and even gender dysphoria despite the research not catching up quite yet with what we ourselves already know.

When you come to realize that your childhood body was a sort of experimental playground for drug manufacturers and dealers licensed by the state, there’s a degree of mistrust and sensitivity you develop for future instances when say, drug use is mandated by the government or when powerful pharmaceutical interests explore their capacity to introduce medications into the food supply.

Meanwhile, even the acknowledgment of the long ancestry of indigenous wisdom all the world over regarding the use of plants and food as medicine is enough to earn the ire of the pharmaceutical industry’s apologists.

Imagine instead medicine that is freely available. Imagine natural medicine that grows wild. Imagine medicine manufactured by the sun and rain. Imagine the security of an entire ecosystem providing for your natural immunity and natural growth throughout the ages. Try to remember that this is the planet you already live on. This is your birthright.

For a wider audience, the Flint, Michigan water crisis–in which intolerable amounts of lead were found in the city drinking water–was a wake-up call to what elements of the natural living movement have been calling attention to for decades. The water supply is poisoned by agro-chemical runoff, toxic metals, and pharmaceutical traces delivered from millions upon millions of individual consumers. You are drinking antidepressants and heart medicine, birth control and testosterone.

Tomorrow will there be vaccines growing in your spinach? Researchers at the University of California, Riverside are putting to use a $500,000 grant from the taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation to find out.

Whatever Happened to Natural Medicine

What if you don’t want to be exposed to chemicals that disable your reproductive capacity? What if you don’t want bipolar medication in your drinking water, or mRNA vaccines in your salad?

If those questions are still too partisan to entertain, imagine that you discover that you have an allergy to a certain kind of medicines. Or imagine your child’s body being disrupted by the side effects of a medication, new conditions developing, and the possibility of preventable disability forming in their future. Imagine how vigilant you must become in either of these situations when the trigger is so normalized and so commonplace, it could be in the water you’re drinking or the food you encounter at the store or in restaurants. Imagine being fired from your job for not consuming it.

The U.S. has decades now of evidence that few will resist either the presence of these conditions or the implementation of social control measures meant to stigmatize and ostracize those who, for whatever reason, do not consent. The question before us is not if there will be a future where the normalized coercive or stealth medication of the populace becomes untenable for any particular individual–we’re already there for many people. The question is whether it will ever matter to a sizable and powerful enough segment of the population to stop it.

In this regard, our institutions of science and medicine have long ago failed. No institution which can rationalize the kind of damage done to children through the medications I and countless others were put on in the 90s and 00s is ever going to have the kind of ethical standards a healthy society needs from its caretakers. My example is hardly unique.

Modern medicine is instead driven by the profit to be gained from triggering a lifetime of compounding sicknesses, not health. And this makes sense given that we have John D. Rockefeller to thank for its hegemony over our very understanding of medicine these days. Medical doctors are not healers. They’re the middle men in a drug market, and now responsible for the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

So uprooted from the elegance and medicine of the natural world is this entire system that it can, with a straight face, study the engineering of plants to interject its own patented creations to alter the bodies of its consumers. Worse still is the possibility that the very thing being vaccinated against is itself a creation of the same industry. Can we even rightly call this medicine anymore? So many pharmaceuticals have their ancestry in natural medicine. Metformin was once goat’s rue. Morphine was once the poppy. Aspirin came from white willow, and penicillin from a mould.

Today we rewrite the story. Modern medicine is all that is given value. Traditional natural medicine is written off as quackery and statistically indistinguishable from placebo. Health that was once wild and free is made captive, patented, engineered, and manufactured. In this upside down world, putting vaccines in spinach makes sense. The natural body and the natural medicine that sustains it is the crazy idea.

5 Questions to Ask Before Coming Off Antidepressants

Choosing to come off of antidepressants is a deeply personal choice which unfortunately can often be misunderstood or stigmatized by both health professionals and our everyday social circles.

More than that, the choice to make any alteration to our brain chemistry is a fairly consequential decision in our lives. It may impact our emotional and physical states, relationships, career, and other areas of our life.

While being under the prescribing doctor’s care is almost always a good idea when making changes to prescribed drugs, these five questions may help you to develop a more holistic plan for coming off antidepressants if that is the choice you make.

What are you going to do when you have your next anxiety attack?

Depending on where you are in your mental health journey this question may seem moot. The truth about some antidepressants is that we feel like we don’t need them when they’re working best. Another way to look at that truth though is to consider that it applies to every coping strategy. When something works, we stop thinking about it. (Even when it does more harm than good, as may be the case with our antidepressants).

Consider how addicts view their drug of choice or how over-eaters view food. The strategy for dealing with an unwanted experience becomes so reflexive we eventually act on muscle memory more than conscious decision-making.

Coming off antidepressants shocks that whole process. Suddenly the coping strategy we’ve grown to depend on isn’t available anymore, and we’re once again facing the same beast that sent us seeking that strategy to begin with.

So what’s the next strategy? Try to imagine yourself in different potentially triggering situations, and then brainstorm your way through them. Going to yoga class might work at establishing a long-term healthier baseline, but it’s not realistic when hyperventilating in the bathroom at work. Give yourself a tool belt with as many different options as you can imagine.

How are you going to manage withdrawal symptoms?

This might be shocking news if you’ve never looked into coming off antidepressants, but the withdrawal period (sometimes lasting weeks or months) can be awful. By my reckoning, there are two components to withdrawal. First, there’s the new feedback we get from the body as it adjusts to life beyond a chemically induced altered state. Some people report the sensation of “brain zaps,” episodes of dizziness, mood swings, and more.

Second, there’s the potential intensity of reacclimatizing to our original symptoms. While you might have experienced anxiety or depression while taking antidepressants, without them, you’re experiencing the un-numbed version. It might be more intense than you’ve been used to for a while, or even worse than before.

How will you plan for, track, and address these experiences?

How do you know if you need to stop?

So here’s an uncomfortable part of coming off antidepressants. Sometimes you have to stop, restart the drugs you don’t want to be on, and wait to try again later. It happens to the best of us, and it’s no reflection on your character or strength as an individual if it happens to you too. People using any drugs for any reason often go through cycles of coming off of them. In this sense, antidepressants are no different than other drugs just because they’re prescribed or legal.

What experiences are your absolute limit in this process? What lines will you draw to protect your long-term health as you begin withdrawal?

What support systems will you engage while coming off antidepressants?

Building on the last question, who will help you through this journey? What professionals and more intimate connections do you need to engage? The obvious answer is that coming off antidepressants should be under the care whatever doctor prescribed them in the first place. But the less obvious answer is that lovers, family members, and friends are probably going to see you more than that doctor.

Who can you trust to give you objective external feedback about your emotional or physical state while withdrawing? What groups or communities might be able to help you feel safer and supported during this process?

What does long-term mental wellness look like for you?

Not a lot of doctors seem to want to ask this question. And that may be an important piece to why so many of us seek health beyond what conventional doctors offer.

Long-term mental wellness is more than just applying a prescription to a set of symptoms, or slapping a diagnosis over it all. How do you want to feel? How do you not want to feel?

Your vision for long-term mental wellness might include mitigation of certain symptoms or experiences, but it could also include aspects like finding time or a medium for creative expression, not being on medications for the rest of your life, eating healthier, sleeping better, or feeling more confident in yourself.

Write or sketch all this out.

Coming off antidepressants isn’t a choice in league with picking out a shirt for tomorrow. You’re making a life-altering decision here. Be certain you’re making the choice you want to move forward with, and that it fits into your vision for your long-term sense of self.

No one else can answer that question for you. Truthfully, no one else may even ask.