Commentary #74: The “New Science of Psychedelics”

The New Science of Psychedelics

Image Credit: NPR

Many of you know that I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to regularly is NPR’s Fresh Air podcast.

This week, Terry Gross interviewed Michael Pollan, a world-renowned author. His books have typically focused on food and agriculture.

However, his new book, titled How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, discusses the history of psychedelics, and the “new” uses of them to help treat anxiety, depression, and helping cancer patients face their mortality.

There have been two phases of clinical trials up until now, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved Phase III, which is “testing of drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety.”

In researching for the book, Pollan himself became a “reluctant psychonaut” with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushroom) to see if these effects were real.

I won’t tell you Pollan’s results, but it’s a really interesting process. I recommend listening to the podcast version of the show, as it’s an extended edition, where Pollan and Gross discuss the history of psychedelics, which is so fascinating to learn. It’s amazing to learn how LSD was first synthesized, and how it has had a turbulent history. Pollan also discusses psilocybin to an extent, which is another interesting part of the story.

For me, I was definitely more than a little skeptical. I’ve never used any drugs or psychedelics in my life. I’ve seen counselors and therapists.

However, Pollan lessened my skepticism a bit during his interview with Gross. One of his interview subjects was a woman who had survived ovarian cancer. She was absolutely terrified of it recurring, and she was paralyzed with fear. She found a guide, a therapist who administered small doses of one of these psychedelics, and helped her along her trip. She discovered this “black mass” underneath her rib cage during the trip, and originally though it was her cancer. The guide helped her understand that it wasn’t cancer, but in reality it was her fear and anxiety. During the trip, she commanded the black mass to leave her body, and it did.

When Pollan’s fact-checker called to verify her account right before the book’s publication, Pollan’s original words were something to the effect of “this black mass was significantly reduced after her experiences with psychedelics.”

The woman corrected the fact-checker over the phone and said, “No, it wasn’t ‘significantly reduced.’ It was extinguished.”

Again, some of my skepticism remains, but as someone who has a diagnosed anxiety disorder (GAD), hearing the woman’s story gave me hope. I truly believe these psychedelics helped her.


For more information, check out the following links:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Commentary #68: “Support Systems” (Reblogged)

I’ve been following Sara’s blog for quite a while. Her poetry is beautiful. She does fun Questions of the Day every now and then.

She also makes the time to reply to every comment that is posted. She’s so sweet, and incredibly supportive!

I wanted to share this post of hers about support systems. It’s a long one, but she pours her heart out. I know I’m glad I took the time to read it.

Sara, you’re an awesome person!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Sara in LaLaLand

For a large portion of my life, I have felt that I have not had a very strong support system. Growing up, I was not taught how to talk about my feelings, I was encouraged to shut them down. It was not until I was living in “the real world” that I noticed the way I expressed myself was not normal, but it was the only way I knew. I did not have the kind of parents you could talk to about anything and everything.

I first experienced death when I just turned 10 years old and I did not know how to deal with such a thing. I was not talked through loss. I was given the news and then left to my own devices. I even remember some cruel kids mocking how this person died. I was lost at that point and from here is where I started building…

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Getting Personal #107: My Skin & Makeup Routines (Part 4)

I’m trying some new things, so I figured it was time to write another Skin & Makeup Routine post!

Here are the links to my original posts:


Skin

As much as I love LUSH Handmade Products, the store at MacArthur Mall was closed for a bit while they moved into a bigger space. It was disappointing.

In the meantime, I capitalized on the products that Young Living Essential Oils offer. Since I’m enrolled in their Essential Rewards (ER) program, I earn points for everything that I buy.

Here are some of the Young Living products I’ve been using recently:

I’m loving these two, so far! I only need a tiny bit of each. I’m using the Scrub every few days, but I use the cream every morning after my shower. It smells like the beach!

I love the smell of Morning Start – Peppermint, lemongrass, rosemary, and juniper. Several people have hugged me at church and asked what perfume I’m wearing. When I said it’s body gel, they were all shocked! I can’t wait to try Sensation soon!

I’m looking forward to the day when I’m able to snag just one container of the Orange Blossom Facial Wash. It must be popular – It’s been out of stock for months!

Now that the bigger LUSH store is finally open, here are a few of the things on my wish list:


Makeup

I love Savvy Minerals by Young Living!

The brushes are so soft, and they’re labeled!

I think I need some different eyeshadows. I love the eyeliner, though!

These are my Before & After photos from yesterday:

Personally, I like the Jet Setter eyeliner the best! I definitely want to experiment with different eyeshadows and blushes. The brush set is AWESOME!


Deodorant

I love that I tried making my own homemade deodorant, but I had one strange side effect. My armpits would not stop itching! It felt like they were sunburned all the time. Finally, I reached out to April, my friend and Young Living independent distributor, for help. She thought it could be the baking soda – Too much of it can cause a skin reaction.

So, I ditched the homemade stuff and started trying the cake deodorant that Young Living makes. It smells amazing!

I got Al to start using it, too! I’m excited to try Meadow Mist when I finish the first cake. It’s lasted a good while!

So far, I’ve only used the Mountain Mint one. It smells awesome, and I’ve noticed that I’m sweating less. Plus, no more itching or burning!


Hair

I started with Young Living’s Lavender Mint daily shampoo and conditioner, which I liked. I plan to use more of that during the summer, since lavender is a good mosquito repellent!

Once I finished the bottles of Lavender Mint, I started using the Copaiba Vanilla shampoo and conditioner. These are definite winners for me, and I intend to keep buying them!

I also have the Lavender Volume shampoo and conditioner on deck.


What about you?

Do you have a certain skin routine? What about makeup?

Have you tried any homemade recipes related to skin or makeup?

Check back in a few months – I’ll likely have another update post to share!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #63: “Awareness vs. Understanding”

Image Credit: TOBYMAC

I started following Caralyn’s awesome blog, Beauty Beyond Bones, a while back. She is an awesome, amazing woman. I love all of her posts!

She always shares something profound, or thought-provoking, every week. This past week was no exception.

Here’s the link to her post, published on February 22nd:


Caralyn’s focus is her journey after her eating disorder (ED). She’s a beautiful woman, who is an activist for so many causes. She posts recipes, too!

This particular post shined a spotlight on Weight Watchers being in the news last week, and not for a good reason.

They announced they would be offering free memberships to teens, ages 13-17.

Naturally, this caused almost immediate backlash.

I’m with Caralyn. I don’t agree with Weight Watchers offering these free memberships. Teens, ages 13-17, have enough to deal with in their lives. Yes, obesity remains a significant issue. Caralyn cited several statistics, including some from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But, for Weight Watchers to offer these free memberships to this very vulnerable age group is not the answer.

She tied the Weight Watchers news in with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA), which starts today, February 26th, and runs through March 3rd.

I see her point about viewing NEDA with somehow glorifying the disease, and so on. But, then she realized that the news about Weight Watchers is one reason why conversations need to be had.

And then, she hit on the Awareness vs. Understanding point, which I think is so important.

There is a difference.

Awareness is certainly important, and a good thing – Share stories, come together as a community, and so on.

However, understanding is even more paramount. With something like eating disorders, moving beyond awareness into understanding is critical.

With that said, I cannot say that I empathize with Caralyn, or say that blanket statement of “I understand” at all. I have never had an eating disorder. I know what they are, how they start, the basics. You could say that Laura Beth is aware of eating disorders.

Caralyn, however, truly understands eating disorders. She is a survivor. She is an advocate. She works hard to discuss ED, her own journey, and help others, which I find incredibly admirable. In her post, she writes that “an eating disorder is a mental illness.”

She closed her post with wanting to “foster understanding on this anorexia recovery blog” and “answering any and all questions about eating disorders, recovery, treatment, how to support. Nothing is off limits.”

I think this is wonderful! She, of all people, knows what she’s talking about. She writes beautifully and humbly, too.

So, if you’re interested in asking questions or learning more, check out her blog!


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Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

To me, Caralyn is a source of inspiration. Thank you for being amazing!!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #86: My Skin & Makeup Routines (Part 3)

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Image Credit: Pinterest

I’m trying some new things, so I figured it was time to write another Skin & Makeup Routine post!

Here are the links to my original posts:


Skin

I just finished my bottle of Rose Jam shower gel last week. I think it lasted roughly seven months. It smells amazing. I’m planning to buy another bottle during my next trip to the store.

Here’s a few of the new things I bought during my last trip to LUSH – My annual birthday trip!

Ultrabland is one of the best makeup removers that I’ve ever used. I bought a second, bigger pot of it during my last trip to the store!

I haven’t tried Cup O’Coffee yet – I want to try it this weekend. For best results, you’re supposed to leave it on your skin for at least 15 minutes before rinsing it off. It smells heavenly! I’m also excited to try The Olive Branch, once I finish my bottle of Dirty Springwash.

This is two parts of my daily moisturizing routine – I use the Enchanted Eye Cream right under my eyes. Less baggy and diminished purple! I doubt I will use anything else other than Enzymion – It feels so smooth, and it’s really helped me control oil, and my breakouts.

Ocean Salt (left) and Dirty Springwash.

Ocean Salt smells like the beach and limes. I need to go back to LUSH soon – I’m almost out of it! And Dirty Springwash smells so fresh and minty!

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Left to right: My bigger pot of Ultrabland, Plum Rain shower gel, and my second bottle of The Olive Branch (I accidentally bought two!)

My LUSH wish list:


Makeup

When I started getting into Young Living Essential Oils earlier this year, I began to realize that makeup is full of terrible chemicals, and a lot of toxins. Yuck!

I decided to take the plunge and look into the Savvy Minerals by Young Living makeup.

Over the last few months, I’ve been stockpiling. I bought the Essential Brush Set, as well as two shades of the eyeshadow – “Spoiled” and “Best Kept Secret.” Turns out, I accidentally ordered two sets of these eyeshadows!

Next month’s Essential Rewards order will have the eyeliner, and blush. I’m also looking forward to when they release mascara!

I like the packaging – It’s very fancy, and perfect for gifts. But, I wish they wouldn’t do the paper confetti! It gets EVERYWHERE!

I love the Brush Set!

My Savvy Minerals wish list:


Deodorant

Making this change was set in motion within the last month. I already knew many deodorants and antiperspirants have a laundry list of chemicals, but most of them are truly awful!

My Young Living consultant, April, recently posted a recipe for homemade deodorant.

She wrote:

“What’s cooking? Homemade deodorant! Did you know that many store bought deodorants contain chemicals like

⚠️ aluminum- linked to Alzheimer’s and an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer

⚠️ parabens- can disrupt hormones and has been linked to breast and prostate cancer

⚠️ triclosan- this ingredient is sketchy enough that it has to be removed from hand soap by this fall because the safety of it is in question. But it is still in many deodorants!

⚠️ propylene glycol- can cause damage to the central nervous system, heart and liver

⚠️ fragrance- a catch all term that covers hundreds of “trade secret” ingredients. May cause skin irritation, allergies, respiratory issues, etc

Guess what? My deodorant doesn’t contain any of those chemicals and it is super cheap to make. Not only that, but it really works! It took less than 5 minutes to make- so easy!

I’ll post the recipe in the comments. Do you make your own deodorant?”

Homemade Deodorant Recipe

2 Tbs baking soda
2 Tbs arrowroot powder
3 Tbs organic coconut oil
5-10 drops Purification essential oil
5-10 drops Lavender essential oil

Directions:

Combine 1 Tbs baking soda and 1 Tbs arrowroot powder. Add coconut oil and stir. Depending on how warm it is in your house, the coconut oil may be in a solid or liquid form. Coconut oil is a solid below 76 degrees. If it is in solid form, warm it slightly (just until it liquefies) for easier mixing. Add desired amount of essential oils and stir. I chose Purification because it is great at getting rid of odors and Lavender because it is good for your skin. Add 1 Tbs of baking soda and 1 Tbs of arrowroot powder, stir well and transfer to storage container. To use, dip your finger into the deodorant and then apply a dime-sized amount under each arm.

My ingredients! I had everything at home, except for the arrowroot powder (That’s the small baggie). Luckily, there’s an awesome store in Chesapeake called Sage Organics. They sell many items in bulk, and you can measure out how much you want on your own.

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My results! It took less than five minutes to make. I used a sterilized Tupperware container. The main thing was melting the coconut oil, but that only took 30 seconds in the microwave. It smells amazing!

I want to try this Deodorant Spray next!


Hair

I also just started using Young Living’s shampoo and conditioner. Traditional shampoos and conditioners have many of the same chemicals and nasty stuff! Plus, my hair was getting really greasy and gross recently. I don’t have time for that!

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I just started using the Lavender Mint this week. It smells AMAZING! Plus, the mint feels really good on my scalp.

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I have the Copaiba Vanilla waiting the wings. It also smells really good!


What about you?

Do you have a certain skin routine? What about makeup?

Have you tried any homemade recipes related to skin or makeup?

Check back in a few months – I’ll likely have another update post to share!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #58: “The women who don’t know they’re autistic”

Autism Speaks

Image Credit: Autism Speaks

I stumbled upon this article via Facebook back in July. I thought it was fascinating, and it prompted me to learn more about autism.

Here’s the link to the original post:


The article primarily focuses on what’s known as “high-functioning” autism in women. This means autism without intellectual disability.

According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities:

Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18.


For years, it’s been studied, and widely publicized, that more boys than girls are diagnosed with autism.

Autism is defined as the following:

a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

It’s estimated that 1 out of 68 children in the United States are on the autism spectrum. For boys, it’s around 1 in 42.  For girls, it’s around 1 in 189.

Some of autism’s signs can now be recognized as early as 18 months of age, but are usually identified and diagnosed between the ages of two and three.

Parents are encouraged to seek evaluation of their child without delay. Early intervention can improve outcomes.

In 2013, all autism disorders were merged under one umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Previously, they were distinct sub-types,  including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger Syndrome.


Despite more childhood diagnoses, it’s becoming more common for people to be diagnosed as adults.

According to the Madison House Autism Foundation:

  • Those with autism may have exponentially acute senses. Bright or fluorescent lighting can be overwhelming. Loud sounds and crowds of people may be as well.
  • The ability to concentrate for long periods of time on one thing, and their attention to detail is something those without autism find enviable.
  • They are often highly visual people, and many have found ways to communicate through multiple mediums besides with words.
  • Those with autism may avoid eye contact with other people and, because they often take language literally, may have difficulty with metaphors, humor, and sarcasm. Interpreting what others are thinking or feeling is challenging because they have difficulty understanding social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions.
  • It is a myth that those with autism are unable to feel empathy.
  • Those with autism think, process, and behave differently than neurotypical individuals.

As renowned animal rights activist and professor Temple Grandin says, they are “Different, but not less.” They can, with support and slight modifications, become assets to every community and the workforce.

The main point I’m trying to get at – Individuals with autism are individuals. They are amazing. They may think and behave a little differently than others, but it’s important to recognize them and appreciate them.


The original article provided and cited a variety of sources:


This article shone a spotlight on women and how we can recognize smaller, less noticeable signs of ASD.

  • Compensating for communication impediments they may not be consciously aware of.
  • Not being good at guessing what people are thinking.
  • Hypersensitivities – Smells, sounds, bright lights, etc.
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain.
  • Misdiagnosed psychological disorders.
  • Taste for solitude.
  • Intensity of passions.
  • Talking about one subject / topic for extended periods of time, longer than normal (i.e., spending hours focusing on one thing in particular and not deviating).
  • Not wearing jewelry because of the way metal feels on the skin.
  • Not wearing certain clothing because of sensitivity to fabrics, tags, buttons, zippers, etc.

Given some of these signs and symptoms, it’s fairly easy to interpret or assume that a woman may be an introvert, be shy, have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a speech impediment, or some form of a developmental or intellectual disability.

As the article indicates, ideally, a lot of women being diagnosed with autism as adults could have / should have been diagnosed as children. Luckily, these childhood diagnoses are improving every day. Leaps and bounds have been made in the last 20-30 years, and research is ongoing. However, doctors and psychologists alike need to remain vigilant, and keep a close eye on young girls exhibiting similar signs and symptoms, especially since autism symptoms in girls have appeared to be less obtrusive than those in boys.


For more information, here are some more links and resources. Education is so important. Continual learning and studying will help all of us better understand ASD, and start to take away the stigma!

I have immense respect for those who work in special education, work with individuals with ASD, and parents that have children with ASD. My hat goes off to all of you!

 


April is National Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society encourages everyone to join them in promoting awareness, action, inclusion, acceptance, and appreciation.

World Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd of every year. It’s one of only four official health-specific United Nations (UN) days.

Several movies have been released, featuring prominent characters with autism or ASD behaviors. Children of the Stars is an award-winning documentary about children with autism in China.


What do you think? Do you know someone that is autistic?

Do you have any ideas about how to help those with ASD?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #57: “Trump has no idea how much health insurance costs”

health-care-costs-2

Image Credit: thenesthome.net

Even though this article was published well over two months ago, it sparked a fire in me.

Here’s the link to the original post:


Reading this article, I was appalled. Granted, a lot of things about our current President are appalling. But, I digress.

How much do you pay every month, or every pay period, for your health insurance? (This is a rhetorical question, of course.)

I think we all WISH it was as little as $12 or $15.

Sadly, it’s not.


Al and I both are incredibly fortunate to have decent/good employer-sponsored health insurance. This means that health insurance is one of the benefits at the companies where we work. But, even though our employers offer it to us, it’s far from a simple process.

At my work, we can choose from several different options. Depending on what we pick, that factors into how much money we pay. For me, I’ve elected to pay for my plan out of every paycheck, and it’s automatically deducted.

Toward the end of the year, the two of us will sit down and re-evaluate the plans that both our companies offer, side-by-side. We will figure out if we will continue to pay for our own individual plans, like we have been, or if one of us will go on the other’s insurance plan since we’re now married. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these strategies. So far, it’s worked out that we’ve paid for two individual plans. We will also have other decisions to make when we plan to grow our family. The short answer: Spouses and children are a tad bit expensive (to put it lightly).

I won’t say how much we pay, but it’s much more than $12 or $15 a month. That’s a pipe dream.


I thought this was an interesting link:

I don’t swear by these numbers, but it certainly gives me a good indication at how much prices have skyrocketed!

And, it’s a bit mind-boggling to think/know that every singe state in our country shows different prices.


Recently, I’ve seen multiple arguments / pleas / thoughts about the U.S. needing to convert to “universal health care” or go to a “single-payer system.”

So, what does this mean?

Canada, Australia, Taiwan, and several countries in Europe, offer their citizens “universal health care,” which basically means that health care is provided to everyone, no questions asked. Also, prices are typically lower / more affordable.

That conglomeration of ideas is certainly enticing to many. However, there are trade-offs.

For the most part, many citizens of these countries pay higher taxes.

Non-emergency approved surgery have significantly longer wait times. Sometimes, patients are waiting for at least six months for some surgeries, if not longer.

“Single-payer health care” is sometimes referred to as “Medicare for all.”

The way I interpret it, is that all citizens of a country pay into one pool. That pool of money is used exclusively for all health care costs. In this instance, health care is considered a right, not a privilege.

As some of the sources I’ve consulted point out, the U.S. already has an established single payer system, meaning Medicare and Medicaid. However, only certain people in the U.S. qualify for these programs, such as people over the age of 65, young children, the blind, and people with certain disabilities. Even so, there are strict rules in place. For example, not all states have expanded Medicaid – Virginia is one of those states. If you make too much money, you don’t qualify. And on and on. It’s immensely confusing, and frustrating.

Here’s a list of resources / articles that I found helpful:


In short, health care in the U.S. has become increasingly complicated, convoluted, and expensive. I realize that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fixed some things, but it also created other problems. A lot of the big health insurance companies, along with the pharmaceutical companies, are purely driven by greed. They only care about the bottom line, not about the patients that are trying to get health care and medicine that they need.

I certainly don’t have the right answer.

In my research, I’m all for making health care more affordable. Every American should have equal access to health care at all times. But, making that happen is a tough challenge. In my view, if our country can revamp Medicare and Medicaid and make those existing programs into universal health care for America, that would be a step in the right direction.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂