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Saturday, April 02, 2016

Ten Ways to Stop Being a Facebook Bully

You know, I thought once I was out of high school I wouldn't have to put up with bullies anymore - not the physical kind, not the emotional kind, and not the social kind. You know, you expect folk to grow up once they've gone on to become self-described adults.

Not so, apparently.

I run into bullies all the time. Fortunately, I am large enough and don't give a rip about my reputation, credit rating or social standing that I don't let them bother me anymore. Or so I thought. Turns out, however, that I'm still sensitive to bullying. I used to get knocked around in school a lot, when I was a skinny kid with good grades and glasses, so I'm kind of defensive of others I see being pushed around by the thugs of human society. Sadly, some of those bullies don't realize they are being bullies. Many of them in the complex world of today's social media are merely responding to bullying by passing it along in submission to the orders of those who are bullying them.

In school, this transference of bullying expresses itself in mob bullying. The bully would select a target, start the attack and then step back and watch those who were afraid of him participate in the bullying in an effort to appease him, or as Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan both described it, to "feed the crocodile hoping it will eat you last!"

On social media it takes a more subtle, but no less virulent form. I'm not talking about open cyber-bullying here. Everybody knows that's wrong, even those who do it. What I'm talking about is online thugs trying to force people to do things for their own amusement by making people do things to appease their own guilt over something or to do some duty they think has been forced up on them to avoid consequences they wish to avoid. 

Let me 'splain!

Here are some forms of social media bullying that you may not have realized were bullying behaviors. I'm not saying people who do this stuff are necessarily bullies. In fact, most are not. Most are victims of bullies submitting to bullies for psychological reasons. Ask yourself, "Have I participated in doing this to my friends?"

  1. Share this or else...:  This one is one of the most common types of social media bullying. In essence, it says, "Share this post" or "Like this post" or even the more complex "cut and paste this post" or something bad will happen. It may be bad luck, illness, missed opportunity to get lots of money or even death. The recipient is told to propagate this post to all their friends to prevent the negative consequence. 
  2. Share this to get rich:  You've seen those posts on your wall. Share this or like this or leave a comment and money, romance or good luck will come your way. Don't share it?  See #1.
  3. Share if you love Jesus:  This one is particularly evil. It offers a story of some miracle or some poignant situation or a Bible verse and then threatens you that if you don't pass it along to everyone on your friends list, then it proves you don't love Jesus. I don't think Jesus approves of that kind of thing, myself.
  4. "Can I get 2 million likes?":  This one involves putting up some pitiful person - a wounded vet, an sick child or a sweet old grandma and then tries to guilt you into doing some action, usually comment, share or like or a combination of these. In checking some of these, I've found pictures lifted from elsewhere on the net and then repurposed with a phony story designed to draw sympathy and guilt you into taking some action that wastes your time and energy and gets you to help promote a lie.
  5. My __________ (teacher, mother, professor, friend) bet I couldn't get...:  This one often comes with a picture of someone with something written on a white card held up in front of them. You see the same pictures over and over with different messages Photoshopped into the white space of the card. They say someone has bet them they couldn't get a thousand "likes" or shares or something or other. They probably didn't bet them squat. There are weird little people who like doing this for some reason. They probably get a thrill out of making people do things they want them to. There's no bet, you can bet.
  6. I'll know which of my friends doesn't share this:  This one is really disgusting. It makes you feel like you are letting your friend down if you don't pass this along. Only problem is your friend only posted it because she thought she'd be letting down another friend by not passing this along and so on and so on. None of them are really going to check to see if you are sharing or not. They didn't write this in the first place. They're just submitting to a bully way back up the line who is laughing at them and getting a thrill from successfully manipulating so many people.
  7. This will be a short experiment:  This ploy exploits self-pity. It purports to be an experiment to see how many people read the poster's wall. It demands that you prove you are really, truly their friend by doing something like sharing, liking, commenting in some special way or cutting and pasting the post (so it looks like it originates with you). It makes you feel guilty by insinuating that if you don't do what they demand, you aren't really their friend and who wants to disappoint a friend like that.  The deal is that whatever you do, it's going to make it look like you are the one who is pressuring friends into some time-wasting effort to perpetuate a mean spirited manipulative load of baloney.
  8. "Can we get a million likes?":   Here we go again. The perp in this case picks a sad story, a pitiful picture, a sweet child (preferably one with cancer), a wounded veteran or a sweet old lady and asks you to like the post to help reach some goal. What's the point other than racking up online time for Facebook so they can make more money from the ads they post.
  9. Share this if...:  If you have a daughter who is special, a son you are proud of, if you support the troops, want to save the whales, support some politician or want to show solidarity with some cause. People feel compelled to share this stuff because they don't want people to believe they don't love their daughters, want to save the whales or aren't angry about the same issues their friends are.  Good news. Nobody's keeping track, so you don't have to waste your time and clutter up your personal Facebook page with this junk. Nobody's gonna know. Nobody's gonna care whether or not you reposted this, except maybe your friends who have to wade through hundreds of these kinds of things in order to get to the things actually posted by their friends like news about the family, pictures or stories.
  10. Sign this petition if you care about...: There are a lot of petitions going around on the Internet these days. There are whole websites devoted to creating petitions with lots of names. Two things you should know. Sometimes they work and sometimes they have no effect at all. The latter mostly. If you feel strongly about an issue, go ahead and sign the petition. That doesn't mean you have to share it with all your friends. I almost never signs a petition that demands I pass it along to everyone I know. Because of the low chance of the petition actually working, I don't feel a lot of guilt in passing up these "opportunities".
A lot of the people who start these things are people who simply enjoy manipulating people through guilt, deception or social pressure. They sit down there in their mothers' basement at their computer screens and come up with thousands of things designed to waste the time and energy of people who actually have work to do and lives to lead. Many people feel compelled by these social cyber-bullies to participate for fear of offending someone. To those of you tender souls out there, please understand that I am not criticizing you for passing this stuff along. I entirely blame the people who start these things in the first place. I would like you to realize why you should stop giving in to them.

To the perpetrators, I say, "There are a lot of kind-hearted, caring people out there online and to manipulate and con them into doing your will is despicable and you should stop doing this nonsense."  

And to the victims, I say, to quote former first lady, Nancy Reagan, "Just say no!"

To assuage your guilt over refusing to respond to this sort of thing let me assure you that:
  1. Whoever sent you this type of post is not going to check up on you and throw you off their friends list if you don't share whatever it is or do whatever they tell you to.
  2. If they do throw you off their friends list - good riddance. Anyone who would do that simply because you didn't repost their butterfly/Kahlil Gibran quotation isn't your friend in the first place
  3. Passing this stuff along doesn't really help anybody.
Ultimately, however, it's up to you. Let me tell you this one last thing thought.  A picture post or story or quotation that YOU found or YOU made up or a picture that YOU took is far more powerful than the second-hand stuff someone else had to demand that you share for fear you wouldn't.  And if you find something lovely and original that you find particularly appealing, the do post it.

The rest of us would like to see what YOU think, what YOU believe, and how YOU are doing out there in the wide world. It is, after all, why we friended you in the first place.

© 2016 by Tom King

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Forty Two Years and Counting

Every day I get a friend request on Facebook from one or two narcissistic females who post nothing but selfies on their home page. Are these girls really so desperate for compliments that they are willing to post photos that objectify themselves? It's kind of sad. Most are pleasant enough looking girls, but is that all they've got? Is there no brain back there with ideas and dreams and passions (and I don't mean long walks on the beach and cuddling by the fire)?

Have some self-respect girls. Any man worth his salt isn't interested in a girl he can use. He is looking for a woman who is his match in every way; one who challenges him, inspires him and who cares enough about him that she takes the trouble to "get" him in a way that no one else does.

That's how you get to your 42nd anniversary like my Sweet Baboo and I did today. You find someone real who uses her brain for something besides filler for a big hollow thing to which she attaches hair extensions, applies colorful paints and hangs big dangly earrings.

And to the woman for whom I would give my life, "Happy Anniversary, my darling." I look forward to millions more.

Love always and forever,


© 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Of Libraries, Books, Basements and Icky Twerp!

I grew up in Texas where the summers were 100 degree miseries unless you are outside or one of the rare few who had a basement to hole up in.
My grandparents had a basement. Their house was built by a transplanted Yankee who didn't understand about Texas red clay soil and its deleterious effect on basements. The place always smelled of dirt because it was constantly sifting into the basement through the cracks in the block walls where the Texas earth shifted and bucked as the temperatures went from blistering hot to freezing cold when the Blue Northers swept down from Canada in winter.

I liked to go down there in summer. It was always cool down there with all the old furniture and stuff. There wasn't much down there, Honeymom's canning jars, cans of insecticide on a shelf, an old table she later gave me and some nondescript boxes I never dared to open. There was a laundry hamper and her washing machine down there as well. The hamper sat beneath a chute that dropped down from the bathroom. We were forbidden to drop rocks and sticks down the chute, but we did like to holler back and forth up it; one of us in the bathroom above and one by the hamper below. Adventures didn't take much to create back then.

Honeymama and Grandpa kept the TV upstairs so they could watch "As the World Turns" when he came home from the kitchen cabinet factory on his hour-long lunch break, so I seldom watched TV over there, though we did come over for my Grandpa's hamburgers and the annual showing of "The Wizard of Oz" for several years running. Other than that, we didn't see a lot of television, but spent our time running around down by the stock pond in the back pasture.

In bad weather. I almost always had a book going anyway. For more than half of my childhood, the TV was broken at my house and when it wasn't I, being an Adventist kid, couldn't watch Roy Rogers or Sky King because they came on the air on Saturday mornings. The only TV I got to see was Channel 11's Slam Bang Theater with Icky Twerp, a local program on an independent station in Ft. Worth, that cme on every day after school. It was supposed to be a "kids" show featuring Popeye cartoons and the Three Stooges, a strange little man with a tiny hat and two guys in gorilla suits named Ajax and Delphinium. Modern parents would have been aghast. Someone got punched in the face in every episode of every cartoon or film that Slam Bang Theater offered. Between cartoons, Ajax and Delphinium would beat up on each other, Icky Twerp and any "guests" they had on the show. Other than that daily dose of mayhem and violence, the Ed Sullivan Show was pretty much it for family TV viewing, with a sprinkling of "Bewitched" and "Lassie" thrown in during my adolescence.

I started out on books almost as soon as I could read.
I read Moby Dick in third grade. It took me six weeks and my biceps got bigger from carrying that massive book around with me. It was a bit over my head, but I soldiered on determined to finish what I started. I then found Captain Blood in the school library, a much more satisfying read than Melville and then finally discovered Captain Horatio Hornblower who was more satisfying yet. Then I discoverd the public library.

By this time, I was earning four or five bucks a week riding an after school and Sunday paper route for the Cleburne Times Review. Mom took us to the library one weekend because the television was broken and she wanted to lure my brother and I out of the tops of the oak trees in the backyard. It didn't work. I used to climb trees to read in private up among the leaves. Once, I got my library card, I was hooked. Because we had to save the $2 worth of gas so that my step-dad could get back and forth to work, going to the library wasn't an option. Besides, if my folks took me in, I didn't have nearly as much time as I wanted to roam about among the stacks. So, I would take off on my own on weekends and pedal my Schwinn Stingray bicycle the five plus miles into nearby Cleburne (named for Confederate General Pat Cleburne) to the Carnegie library where I would check out books by CS Forester, Rafael Sabatini, Lester Del Rey, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Andre Norton until I'd read every swashbuckler, adventure and sci-fi novel in the place. I carried home four or five books a week (all they would allow me to take) then pedal back the next weekend to return them.

Then, I discovered the Sci-Fi book club from which I got two volumes a month for $3, which was most of a week's wages from my paper route. My room, a converted back porch my step-dad built on, had a long shelf of books I read over and over. We had a post office box, so I'd have to go into the post office to pick up my packages there when I picked up the newspapers every day off the afternoon mail truck. I'd tuck my new books into my paper route bag and carry it home with me to read after I got in off my route that evening. I went through two books a week minimum - often three or four. 

When we would go over to Honeymama's on rainy days and we couldn't go down into the pasture, I used to sneak down to the dark and musty basement to read. Much more scope for the imagination down there, reading under a single naked lightbulb suspended from the floor joists above. It was kind of an adventure all by itself.

I'm still collecting books off eBay that I read from the library back then or had on my shelf and then lost. I have the exact same edition of "Captain Blood" and Lester Del Rey's "Step to the Stars" and the entire Hornblower series that I borrowed from the library back then. I've added more than three bookcases over the years and that's what's left after I was forced to reluctantly sell off over half my collection during a forced move several years ago. I've also collected a formidable library of theological tomes so God gets a good deal of my attention, especially these days.

Since I've been writing for a living, I haven't had as much time to read for fun much anymore, but my Kindle library already holds hundreds of books in readiness for the end of the world, when I'll be holed up in my end-of-the-world bunker without an Internet connection. I'm working on a stationary bicycle that generates electricity for my computer while I ride it. I don't have much faith in the electrical grid, what with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton closing in on their parties' nominations. It's like choosing between Hitler and Stalin and I don't fancy we'll do well under either. But at least, I'll have plenty to read anyway.

And there will be bookshelves in my bunker. Of that you can be assured.

© 2016 by Tom King

Monday, February 29, 2016

Coffee - To Drink or Not to Drink - That is the Issue

Ours is a mixed marriage - not racially mixed or even divided over religion. The great divide in our marriage was over coffee. You see, I grew up in a small Seventh-day Adventist college town in Texas. We rolled up the streets at sundown on Friday and rolled 'em back out at Sundown on Saturday. Adventists, especially in college hive towns, are pretty strict about things like Sabbath observance (we don't work, play army, or watch TV on Sabbath), alcohol (we don't drink period), meat-eating (we didn't sell it in any stores in town - you had to drive 7 miles to Cleburne to get a hamburger), AND coffee.  Oh, there were those who smuggled it in and drank it on the sly, but those folk were committing sin and they knew it and didn't care.

I never got the big deal about coffee. My step-dad liked coffee, but to me it always tasted like the liquid my Mom would pour off a pot of burned pinto beans. Don't ask how I know - it's one of those inexplicable things one does in childhood to find out about stuff. I could never get past the taste.

Also, caffeine has virtually no discernible effect on me other than as a sleep aid. I have ADHD. I once chewed up and swallowed two No-Doze (at that time roughly the equivalent of 20 cups of coffee) in an effort not to fall asleep while driving on I-20 in Louisiana. It did not work. My wife had to keep picking fights with me to keep me awake the rest of the way there. We got to her parents house a half hour later at 1am. I immediately went straight to bed, chock full of caffeine. I must have rolled and tossed for 3 or 4 minutes before I fell asleep. I slept like a baby. So without the "hit" you get from the caffeine, coffee for me was all about the taste and for those of you so caffeine-addled that you missed it, coffee doesn't taste very good. If I put a lot of milk in the cup with a half pound or so of sugar, I can just about drink it, but only to be polite to my relatives for whom coffee is a religious rite.

My Sweet Baboo, unlike me, was weaned on coffee - literally. Her mother used to drink 3 or 4 pots of the stuff a day, so my wife was already on massive doses of caffeine in utero. Miz Bea's breast milk was probably the equivalent of a Red Bull for caffeine content. Sheila went straight from breast milk to coffee at around 18 months. I think her mom used to lace her baby bottles with it.

Sheila's constitution is quite different from mine with respect to caffeine. If she drinks a Coke after 6pm, she'll spend half the night sitting up in bed quivering with her eyes peeled open like a hoot owl. You should see her clean a house after a couple of cups of morning coffee. It's like those old Mr. Clean commercials. She's like a white tornado. Me and the dog go hide when she gets cranked up. 

And there's the taste! My wife growing up always envisioned sitting around the breakfast table with her handsome husband, talking about feelings and drinking a morning cup o' coffee. It had to be coffee in order to complete the picture. Chocolate milk would NOT do. Orange juice in a coffee cup would not do.  And MILK absolutely ruined the tableau for her.

Unfortunately, I just really hate coffee. It has been a forty year long source of grief to my poor wife, for whom sitting on the porch talking doesn't really work without a cup of coffee in everybody's hand. That's how it was done back home and pouring a diet Dr. Pepper into a cup fools no one. It keeps making bubbles and a fizzy sound and coffee aficionados are not fooled. They also think you're a sissy if you don't drink coffee and that's not something you want to be among people from Louisiana (or East Texas for that matter).

Trouble was, I didn't really like the SDA official coffee substitute either. The folk at Post used to make a grain-based beverage called Postum. Charlie Post, was the guy who stole the idea for corn flakes from John Harvey Kellogg who ran the Adventist Sanitarium in Battle Creek (yeah, that Kellogg). Post developed enough of an SDA following that he dug back into Civil War alternatives for coffee and created a coffee substitute aimed at the Adventists and Mormons who don't do caffeine and the unfortunate folk who can't tolerate it. I don't know if they make it anymore. I haven't seen it around on store shelves lately.

Fortunately for me Loma Linda foods, and SDA vegetarian food manufacturer does produce a product called Kaffree Roma, which is actually pretty good. It looks like coffee, but with a little milk, sweet n' low and vanilla flavoring, it comes pretty close to hot cocoa for taste without the caffeine.

Sadly, it may be a little late for this mixed marriage to get the same boost from sharing a hot coffee-like beverage on the porch or over the breakfast table. Once you get old, it's hard to reset your habits. Besides, my Sweet Baboo has decided to quit her caffeine habit and she's drinking decaf these days. I'm not sure decaf will work as a substitute for the old morning cup o' joe.  Rituals tied to beverages are hard to recreate with substitutes. It's one of the reasons smokers and alcoholics have such a hard time quitting.

Still, I think I'll make me a cup of coffee substitute when I fix up Miss Sheila's morning cup of decaf. Who knows. We may get her fondly remembered ritual going again.  Just without the kick it once had.  I did save some of the evil caffeine kind of coffee in the freezer, just in case Mama needs a jolt to get her housework done or I need help falling asleep.

© 2016 by Tom King

Friday, February 19, 2016

Aramis - The Agent Orange of Middle School

If you've ever been a teacher of 5th and 6th grade boys, you have likely been on the receiving end of something little short of a chemical warfare attack. You may be suffering its after effects to this day.As puberty strikes boys between the ages of 11 and 13, for some inexplicable reason, their little bodies express this sudden effluence of testosterone by making their feet go bad. Bad is, perhaps, a wholly inadequate word for what happens within the confines of a 6th grade boy's tennis shoes.

The military is always experimenting with doomsday weaponry; I feel they have missed something by not collecting and testing middle school boys' sweaty sneakers from their school lockers. The smell coming from a roomful of sixth grade boys in the throes of pubescent is quite over-whelming. Imagine being a teacher trapped in that classroom, day after day, unable to leave. And unlike factory workers, garbage men and sewer staff, middle-school teachers are not required by OSHA or even allowed by the school board to wear surgical masks soaked in disinfectant, to wrap their faces in a wet bandanna or to break out a war surplus gas mask. School authorities, of course, fear that to do such a thing on the part of the teacher would be to damage the self-esteem of the precious snowflakes we are raising them to be.

It was actually better back in my day because Keene Public School had no air-conditioning. Mrs. Webb, my sixth grade teacher God rest her soul, used to open all the windows in the classroom and turn the big stand fans, that we had back in those prehistoric times, so that they would face outward. She sometimes did this in the wintertime. I remember my pencil once iced up during a math class.
During WWII middle school teachers often held extended gas mask drills ostensibly so that the children could "get used to breathing in the things". Shropshire sixth grade teacher Dudley Ramsbottom actually made a formal proposal to his school board to make the masks standard equipment in grades 5 through 8 classrooms. Sadly, nothing ever came of his excellent idea, much to the disappointment of middle school teachers throughout England who had rather enjoyed the brief respite from the combined fumes of strong cheap cologne and really bad feet afforded by the drills.

The worst part of it is that, what with the surge of youthful hormones suddenly bringing the presence of girls to the attention of these budding young Lotharios, they are suddenly struck with the idea that some sort of masculine scent would be appropriate at this juncture. The human nose is strangely immune to scents emanating from its own body. It is perhaps this biological self-defense method which seems to protect the boys from the pungent fumes rising from below their school desks. This scent-dampening effect may be the reason boys are drawn to cologne scents strong enough to peel paint off the walls of the classroom. These guys are not even trying to mask the smell of their sneakers. They are blissfully unaware of it. 

Now imagine yourself a teacher facing a roomful of adolescent boys, their shoes giving off toxic fumes and their necks emitting an array of powerful scents from the most pungent colognes they can buy with their paper route money. In my day, the favored scent seemed to be Aramis.  There were other less powerful knockoffs that were tried, but for the recently sexually awakened 12 year old male, there is nothing quite like Aramis. It makes little girls swoon and teachers cry.

It's a wonder Aramis didn't use that as a slogan in their commercials!  Just looking at a picture of the bottle still makes my eyes water.

Tom King © 2016

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Psychiatry does NOT Kill: Stupid Internet Videos Kill

Not everyone who hangs out their shingle
on the Internet knows what they are
talking about.
Okay, can you tell I'm angry? I just saw a video entitled "Psychiatry Kills". The premise is that the medicines psychiatrist give are all bad and you should get off them. The trouble is, rather than trust a highly trained physician with years of study and research behind him, you're going to trust a lot of anecdotal "evidence" from a group of people that the video says, quit all their meds "cold-turkey".


Here's what happens when you quit a psychotropic medication cold turkey.  First, you start going back into the depressed, panicked, schizophrenic or whatever state you were in that caused the medication to be prescribed in the first place. Second, the change in neurochemistry in the brain caused by the sudden stopping of your meds triggers all sorts of brain neuro-transmitters to either shut down or kick into overdrive giving you the equivalent of a very bad LSD trip.  So every story in this video (and no I'm not going to give you the link to some advice that can kill you, so don't ask), is based on someone doing what their doctor told them not to and in many cases probably because the person saw one of these scary videos about evil Big Pharma and decided some anonymous Internet video cares more about them than the physician you are paying to look out for your health.

Do psychotropic meds sometimes cause side effects?  YES.  You see, you can't peek inside the human skull when the patient is alive to see what's causing his mental problems. That would do more damage than good (remember lobotomies).  Diagnosing psychoses is a very much working in the dark process. We can only diagnose by observing behavior and listening to you tell what is wrong.

If you do a lousy job of telling the doctor what's going on in your head or if you spin the story to make it sound worse or sound not so bad, you will almost certainly get the wrong medication the first time out.  That's how psychiatry works. It's a partnership between patient and physician. He is not a magician. There are no magic words he can say nor magic pills he can give you, especially if he doesn't get good information from you. If you don't tell your physician what is going on, you probably are going to have a bad experience.

The truth is that the chances of the first medication you try working for you are pretty slim. That's because the causes of many mental disorders cause symptoms that look pretty much the same. One pill may work great for one kind of depression and be really bad for another kind of depression.

And yes, not every depression is exactly the same and cannot necessarily be cured by the same treatment.  I know people expect doctors to wave their magic prescription pad and cure their problems, but it's not that easy.

Think of the doctor/patient relationship as a collaborative research partnership.  Here's an example.  My grandmother's physician prescribed a powerful anti-biotic for an infection she had.  Just after she started taking it, she had a terrible panic attack. I was in grad school at the time and so the first thing I did was ask if she was taking any new medications. I'd never heard of an anti-biotic causing panic attacks, so I went down to the pharmacist to ask about side effects (this was pre-Internet).  Sure enough one of the side effects listed was panic attacks. 

We called her general practitioner and he prescribed valium for her anxiety. It didn't work and the problem escalated. She was so freaked out, she was afraid to drink water. Fortunately, at school I had access to Medline and looked up some info on panic attack. A doctor in Shreveport had done some work on panic attacks and noted that anti-anxiety meds don't work on severe panic when used alone. He recommended pairing it with an anti-depressant and had shown good results with a combination treatment.  I went down to the doctor's office (his secretary wouldn't let me talk to him). I ambushed him as the office was closing, told him about my grandmother's problem and showed him the research I had found (he was not a psychiatrist, remember).  He said he'd take a look. He called me a couple of hours later and told me I was right. He prescribed an anti-depressant to go with the valium and once we convinced my grandmother to take it, she got better immediately and within two weeks, just like the research said, the panic attacks were totally gone and she was able to quit the meds as she should have.

Treating mental illness is a tricky process. There are no instant cures. If you are lucky and diligent to give the doctor good information, you may get the right treatment the first time, but don't count on it. If you have bad effects from the medicine, tell the doctor and he'll try something else. Trying a lot of different meds doesn't mean you've got a bad doctor. On the contrary it may be a sign that you have a very good doctor.

Here is some advice for those of you with mental illness who are taking or considering taking psychotropic meds like anti-depressants, anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications:

  1. If you need psychotropic meds see a psychiatrist: If the problem is severe, you may need to see a psychologist too. A psychologist will test you to find out what's wrong. A psychiatrist handles medication.  Either may send you to a counselor for talking therapy if that's appropriate.
  2. Trust your physician:  Take the meds as he or she tells you to. Don't fiddle around with the dosages or times you take them. Doing that can cause some side effects or mess up what the drug is supposed to do.
  3. Choose a treatment partner:   Your spouse is the best or a parent or adult child who lives with you. That person needs to know what you are taking, why you are taking it and go along on doctor visits to provide a 3rd party report to the psychiatrist as to what your behavior is really like. They WILL see things from outside that you don't see from inside your rattled brain.Trust your partner! Your partner will tell you when you are going off the rails. It's the hardest thing in the world to trust someone to tell you your behavior is erratic. You probably don't want to hear that and you may be so screwed up that you think your partner is out to get you. You need to know that this may happen. It's the illness, not necessarily the meds. It could be both if you have the wrong medication too.  Here's where you have to use cold rational thinking to overcome your feelings. If you are mentally ill, you cannot trust your feeling.
  4. Don't self-medicate:  Pot may make you feel "mellow", but it may also have some nasty interactions with the stuff your doctor gave you. Illegal drugs are notoriously irregular in their strength and dosages and pushers are a real hazard to your health. My son wound up 3 days in a coma because he believed pot had no dosage limits and smoked his whole supply wrapped up in papers his helpful dealer had treated with PCP. It nearly killed him.  That's why you don't self-medicate.
  5. Call the doctor if there is something wrong or give your partner permission to call on your behalf: When you are having an "episode", you cannot trust yourself to act in your own best interests. People who trust their own judgement when they are mentally ill are the ones who kill themselves or do something monumentally stupid that they wind up in jail or worse. You need someone who will get you to the help you need and you have to keep reminding yourself that you trust that person, no matter what you feel emotionally.
  6. Don't switch doctors:   Too many people switch doctors the first time their medicines don't work and then complain because the new doctor gives them the same medication.  Each mental illness diagnosis has a protocol that doctors follow. You give Medicine A first and then Medicine B if that doesn't work and then Medicine C and so on. Change doctors and he's going to start down the same protocol list.  Stick with your doc till the two of you figure it out. If you find a physician that will listen to you when you tell him what's wrong, then stick with that doctor. You've found a jewel.
  7. NEVER QUIT COLD TURKEY:  Every damned story in the "Psychiatry Kills" video was of someone who belonged to a group which quit their meds cold turkey and they all had suicidal ideation, homicidal thoughts and really twisted urges. No wonder. THEY QUIT COLD TURKEY. The warnings that come with the medicine say never to quit cold turkey. It can be fatal.
  8. Don't believe everything you see on the Internet:  There are some wonderful resources there. Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and other reputable information sources have a wealth of material about every disease imaginable. If you see some hysterical warning on Facebook, skip it. Search out the information for yourself. Avoid the independent websites. Hook up with social media groups to share stories and learn how other people handled their disease, but be careful of quack cures and hysteria. Your doctor studied all those years because she wanted to help people. Besides, killing your patients is not a very good way to make a living. Dead people don't pay for doctor visits.
  9. Remember that you are unique:  No two people are alike and there is no "blood test" or X-ray for mental illness. Even MRIs and CAT scans can diagnose your mental illness on their own. It's a long and complex process.
  10. Don't make big decisions when you're not thinking clearly:  If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, make it an agreed upon thing that you don't make big decisions when you're having an "episode". Always let your treatment partner be the one to be the final word on whether you are up to it or not. That's hard to do, but it's the best way to regain control of your world. By deciding not to make impulse decisions when you aren't at your best is very wise.
Finally, remember that fear, paranoia, sadness, elevated mood and rage are all components of various mental illnesses.  They come with the territory. Apologize in advance to your loved ones. You may say stupid things that you regret later, but which, at the time, seem like they simply must be said. Build around you a circle of loved ones who know what you are going through and who you trust to be on your side when you are in trouble. You want people who won't let you go to the casino when you're manic, because they know you'll bankrupt yourself if given a chance.  You want doctors who have enough experience with you to piece together a correct diagnosis and who trust you to tell them what's really going on in your head. Not every general practitioner is good with medications for your mental health. If you need medication support, go to a psychiatrist who is expert in treating mental illness and build a partnership with him or her in helping you reach stability.


Tom King
© 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Kale: The Vegan Hair Shirt

Since I started a website for Adventist Potluck Vegetarian cuisine (stuff you can make on Friday
Kale - The "Holiness" Church of Cabbages
and take to church for potluck on Sabbath and reheat and it still tastes good), I have been the periodic target of militant vegans.
These radical vegetarians find my use of eggs, cheese, milk, wheat gluten, soy products and cream of mushroom soup offensive.  Also my lack of outrage over GMOs and my failure to insist on organic products, seems to rankle as well.

Why is it that every time you try to make things nice for folk, there's always someone who comes along who wants to put a hair shirt on it. For those of you unfamiliar with medieval monastic practices, supposedly celibate monks of the middle and dark ages used to believe in a quasi-sexual practice call "mortifying the flesh".  Basically they would cut themselves, whip themselves with cute little whips, starve themselves and generally get naked and hurt themselves in some titillating fashion. Let's face it, monasteries were kind of like asylums for sado-masochists in many cases. They did some good, but there was an awful lot of really disturbing behavior behind those walls, one of which was the hair shirt. A hair shirt was an animal skin worn inside out so the hair was next to the skin. It poked you, made you itch unbearably, and kept the fleas close to you.

Haystacks are way better than hair shirts.
The point of all this self-induced pain was supposedly for the purpose of getting yourself right before God. I cannot imagine, though, how God could look down on a 58 year-old portly naked man slapping himself across his own buttocks with a rawhide whip and think "Now there's a guy who's really right with me!" There's always a human kind of vanity that says, I can do you one better and takes pride in its ability to suffer more than others.  They believe that this earns them special status with God or at least bragging rights for being holier than everyone else.

My favorite Vege-meal: Barbecued Tender-Bits
I believe along with my fellow Adventists that the body is the temple of the Lord and that we ought to take care of it. That's why Adventists pay attention to keeping up our bodies in good shape. Statistically, our lifestyle gives us an extra six or seven years more than typical Americans. We believe our brains are a conduit to God and that if we keep it reasonably healthy we can draw closer to him. It's also a good way to avoid heart attacks and cancer too by happy chance. So we follow scripture-based health practices like avoiding certain kinds of foods, we believe in exercise, and we have a quite ambitious medical work that we support worldwide. 

That said, most of us tend to be vegetarians, or at least what I call "mostly lacto-ovo vegetarians with an occasional tuna sandwich".  My website "The Potluck Vegetarian" is dedicated to the sort of Adventist potluck dinners I grew up with. The food is unique and quite delicious. Adventists invented The Haystack, for instance. It's basically I giant Tex-Mex salad consisting of either Fritos or Tortilla chips (there are minor theological differences as to which is the correct base for haystacks). Atop the corn chip base you then pile, Ranch Style Beans and/or Vegeburger, lettuce, tomatoes and cheddar cheese, maybe some sour cream, Ranch or Catalina salad dressing and a smattering of olives. Other ingredients are added or subtracted depending on the local culture. In Hawaii some churches make haystacks with pineapple in them. I tried that and it's really good. Adventism is a mission-intensive faith and so there are literally thousands of local versions of the haystack around the world. This happened because it's easy to make them for potluck and will feed hundreds on a giant pot of beans and a dozen heads of lettuce.  

King Ranch Vegetarian Chicken (uses mushroom soup)
The standard SDA casserole base is cream of mushroom soup. Used in various oatmeal patty recipes and grain-protein dishes, mushroom soup has been the go-to wet-base for potluck casseroles for decades. Cheese, melted over enchilada casseroles, lasagna, and other tasty reheatable casseroles has long been a standard protein source for Adventists, especially since most cheese is now made with vegetable rennet rather than the traditional pig-based rennet. Anyway, Adventist cooks like my beloved grandmother have come up with thousands of amazing dishes you can make on a Friday and serve on Saturday after church when everyone gathers for potluck - the Adventist version of a feast. And they all use a fairly basic set of ingredients that Adventist keep in their cupboards. She used to make a peanut butter loaf that was amazing.

ENTER THE MILITANT VEGANS! These dour, and usually unhappy people inevitably intrude upon the scene of potluck celebrations and commence to criticizing the vegan orthodoxy of everything in sight. If you use lettuce in the salad, they'll stand over the bowl and loudly enough to be heard at the far end of the hall, announce that lettuce has no nutrients and that you should have used kale!

Kale, I believe, is the vegan version of the hair shirt.

I've tried kale just to make 'em happy.  I firmly believe that there is a reason God made so kale so rare that it's expensive. It tastes bad. I'm sure some caterpillar somewhere loves the stuff and turns into a beautiful butterfly after eating it, but to me it tastes like dirt on an oak leaf.  And I know what oak leaves taste like. I lived most of my formative years in the tops of North Texas oak trees.

Non-Vegan Cottage Cheese Loaf
The Vegans have so far told me not to eat cheese, milk, sugar, cream of mushroom soup, wheat gluten, wheat flour, soy products of any kind,  avocados, bananas or any form of flour that doesn't cost $4.50 a pound. And do NOT let them get started on GMOs! Pretty much anything that tastes good is off the table with these guys. And don't believe them when they tell you something they made that is organic, non-GMO, high-fiber and vegan and brought to potluck is just delicious. Don't taste it unless you are prepared to tell an untruth when they say, "Isn't that just delicious?"  One hates to tell them the dish they slaved over for 13 hours tastes like a plywood and sand sandwich.

Militant Vegans do like the idea of raw kale and carrots and other RAW foods. I capitalized it because when they say RAW foods, it comes out like a kind of roar - imagine charging Mongolian hordes and you kind of get the sound.  But even their favorite RAW foods are not safe.  Recently I saw carrots blasted as unhealthy by one of these Super Vegans.  Apparently someone like me shredded carrots, sauteed them in olive oil (not the expensive kind) and made a sweet base for a spaghetti sauce. It's quite delicious by the way. Probably why it received the Super Vegan curse.

I believe in being healthy so far as you can. I believe God intended for us to enjoy food or he wouldn't have made it taste so good.  Remember he promised us a land of Milk and Honey - both animal products by the way. My principle is that if I can eat something that no animal had to die to provide, then, I'm probably okay with God on that.

One of my favorite Harry Miller creations.
As to Dr. Harry Miller's brilliant use of soy and wheat gluten (something he learned when he was a mission doctor in China), I heartily approve. Lots of his meat substitutes get used in the dishes I post on the potluck vegetarian. Atlantic Natural foods still makes some of Dr. Miller's vegetarian meat substitutes. They even make Vegan versions of some things if your offended by milk and eggs in the ingredient list.  Some of the older non-vegan types are still my favorites over the new gluten free versions. I don't have ciliac disease and don't have a problem with gluten. It's a wonderful plant-based protein source.

As to the kale-eaters who jump on my website to criticize my straying from Vegan purity, I usually don't approve their posts. I think potlucks should be celebratory feasts and should not be haunted by gaunt spindly figures dressed in black and gray who will come to the table and tell you stories about how unhealthy they were till they started eating kale-based organic, non-GMO food and six weeks later passed a cancerous tumor they'd had for years. I can do without that mental picture, thank you and I've had it happen to me many times, so I'm not making this stuff up. There really are people like this out there. And to those of you non-militant Vegans, I'm not talking about you. This is about your fanatic friends. You know who they are. They're like Ron Paul Libertarians only holier than them.

So, I say celebrate the bounty God has provided. Avocado is virtually the perfect food. Bananas are full of nice healthy potassium and soy and wheat gluten is God's gift to Chinese and vegetarian cuisine. In addition, I can tell you from experience that cows are quite proud of their many tasty cheese products. And drop by The Potluck Vegetarian for some ideas for you next church potluck or, for that matter, for Sunday brunch at your house. I think you'll enjoy the joyful version of vegetarianism.

Just saying.

Tom King
© 2016

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Soon-To-Be Lost Art of the Gentleman's Disagreement

Sometimes best friends are united by their disagreement over politics and religion. Wouldn't it be nice to live in a culture where old friends could sit on the porch and argue politics like gentlemen, share a tall cold glass of sweet tea and enjoy the back and forth of friendly verbal sparring.

One wonders who it is that has convinced us all that anyone who disagrees with us is our enemy. We live in a nation founded on the recognition that each of us is different.

We have fifty states so that you can find one that suits your political, social and economic clothes simply by moving a few hundred miles or so. We put limits on our government and balanced the three branches so that none of them may declare themselves absolute power and that we all might agree to disagree, preserve the right to be who and what we are and continue to live in peace.

The greatest threat to peace and liberty today is the insidious belief that anyone who disagrees with me needs to be shut up. Storm's a comin' folk!

Tom King
© 2015