Some Brief Reflections on Going Gluten-Free For a Weekend

As the sun set on the biggest day in motorsports, with a stomach full of all gluten-free food and plenty of Ace and Angry Orchard hard cider, I smoked the day’s last cigar and wound down for the day, completely satisfied that I had accomplished my major project for the weekend: going gluten-free for a couple of days.

Of course, it’s not because I had to. I don’t know yet whether or not I am gluten reactive, though I still think there’s a high probability that I am for reasons mentioned prior. Rather, I did it because it was because I wanted to. I wanted to experience the struggle first-hand, as sort of a sympathy/empathy thing for those who have to fight this battle every day. I wanted to learn about what all has gluten and what doesn’t, and just how careful gluten reactive people have to be day to day. I wanted everyone at my viewing party to feel fully accommodated so that nothing was off-limits. And…there might have also been some other ulterior motives for this personal project. 😉

At any rate, I was shocked by two things – not only how much stuff actually is gluten free, but how much stuff is NOT that one would think is. In looking at getting hamburger patties, my jaw hit the floor when I saw that the lesser priced ones actually had soy flour in them! Like what the actual fuck? Why does that shit even need to be in a hamburger patty? Needless to say I quickly rejected those and paid the premium for the “real thing” – the real thing probably tastes better anyway.

So after figuring out what all I could and could not have, it was a huge learning experience to say the least, not only about the logistics, but some about how I personally felt this weekend. For reasons I cannot explain, I did feel like I had more energy this weekend than I had in a long time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact I did eat gluten free this weekend, maybe it was some other factor. I don’t know and I’m not going to make a call one way or another.

Lastly, I also figured out just how flavorful gluten free food can be. I actually found out that I prefer the taste of a gluten free hamburger bun over a plain white bun, especially after toasting it (though I should say I absolutely despise the taste of plain white bread). Gluten free barbecue sauce? I couldn’t tell the difference. Of course, base spices, etc. are also great and dress up just about any food, and everything in the end came out just fine.

I guess at the end of the day, I proved to myself that if I do wind up having to be gluten-free, it is something I can do. There are as many different varietals of hard cider out there as there are beer, of course I already love wine and rum. I could still have sushi, minus wasabi and imitation “crab”and with gluten-free soy sauce (yes, there is such a thing!). Who knows? Maybe even sorghum beer is better than it used to be, and I forget what it’s called by a prominent bagpipe maker who is also a homebrewer has to be gluten-free and brews his own beer with normal barley malt and adds an enzyme that removes the gluten. Maybe I could try my hand at homebrewing and still have my beer and drink it too?

Of course, I can’t go completely gluten free yet. I need to wait until the test because I’ll need to continue consuming gluten at least intermittently to keep the antibodies up to show in the test (assuming I do have such antibodies). Alas, nothing says I can’t experiment with doing so on a part-time basis in the immediate future, and I plan to do just that.

I guess whatever happens, does. So be it.

 

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The “G” Word…

…and I don’t mean “gay” either. I mean another one, and one that might be the mystery as to why I am totally unresponsive to antidepressant medication despite fitting the description of clinical depression. A word that is, in the eyes of many alternative/naturopathic medicine practitioners as well as some MDs, “the root of much evil.” A word that almost took away the budding opportunity in front of me.

Gluten.

Given my medical history, a more than casual correlation between neurodivergence and gluten reactivity, and certain parallels I’ve drawn in a story similar to mine, here I am faced with a painful reality. I now realize there is a very real possibility that I am gluten reactive. Of course it’s not a certainty and won’t be unless I have a full diagnostic performed, but given my family history of autoimmune disease (my biological father having been diagnosed as Grave’s but possibly was something else, and my mother having some unknown but definite autoimmune disease) and what presents as clinical depression in myself, there is a consistency there that is impossible to overlook.

Obviously this is a real shakeup of my life story and one I had never considered before as I have absolutely no GI-related symptoms with consuming gluten (though maybe my chronic piles are aggravated by it?) and I obviously do consume a fair amount.

Which brings me to why I am just down in the dumps about it all and I’ve been crying sporadically throughout the day. You know I LOOOOOOVE beer and whisk(e)y. Beer is obvious as gluten is found in abundance in barley, wheat and oats (the first of which is a common ingredient in all beer and the latter two in many styles of beer), and though distilled, whisk(e)y is debatable and there is no consensus as to whether or not it contains gluten. I also love artisan pizza, especially from a local place here in Abilene.

As such, facing the possibility of being gluten reactive depresses the shit out of me. If it turns out I am gluten reactive, all of the above has to go away, lest I face a future where I have no quality of life and suicide/euthanasia would definitely be preferable. As depressing as the thought of having to go gluten free is, the alternative is even scarier and more depressing – loss of motor function, coordination, life bound to a wheelchair. I definitely don’t want to go there.

Given this information, I’ve decided I have no choice. I have to be screened for gluten reactivity. I have to know so I don’t inadvertently fuck myself up 10-20 years from now.

So why now, of all times? Well I’m now at a point where I am receptive to making changes if I have to. Up until now my thinking on these matters (including not only gluten but getting trashed every night, diabetes, etc.) was the same – I’m unwilling to change and give up enjoyment (read: escape from pain) in exchange for better health. My attitude was “if it kills me then so be it.” You know, the same excuse heavy cigarette smokers use to justify refusing to attempt to quit (I know I sound like a hypocrite using that analogy but cigars are indeed different in how the tobacco is cured and the product is made and consumed).

So am I or aren’t I gluten reactive? For now that remains an unknown and will until I can put the immediate fires that are in front of me out because god(dess) knows that will start a whole other set of fires. I’m already finding out what a major pain in the ass being gluten free is as I am having to prepare a gluten free feast for my Indianapolis 500 viewing party Sunday to accommodate two gluten reactive guests. It won’t kill me not to have gluten after all so I’m totally accommodating.

Alas, I guess I’ll cross that bridge if it is in my path. I just don’t know how I’ll deal. There will be a years-long grieving process if I have to cut gluten, but I know it won’t be the end of the world. Plus I have the best support system I could ask for if it does transpire that I have to.

In the meantime, I’ll just do some pre-grieving so maybe I’ll have less of that to do later, so excuse me while I go cry some more.

Weighted Blanket – The (Shocking) Results

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So I said I would report back in approximately two weeks in regards to my weighted blanket and how well it’s working for me, but I’m writing this post after just six days because the results are truly shocking and instantaneous.

The first night after I got my blanket I had to be up at 5:00 AM for my Friday half-day in office (note: my current office schedule is currently full-day Monday, half-day Friday and home otherwise) so I didn’t dare take a chance at a sleepless night and downed my usual 50mg diphenhydramine liquid gel, but since then I have not taken one. Have I needed it? Absolutely NOT.

I have slept just as well with my weighted blanket as I ever did on diphenhydramine, and without the night sweats and next-morning grogginess. Luckily the blanket breathes and radiates body heat away from you so it won’t overheat you (this was my big concern as I sleep hot – I’m a Pitta by nature; the “Davy” Dukes serve another purpose than just vanity after all) and the effects it has are immediately calming and quiet my IndyCar-paced mind almost immediately. I drift off to sleep quicker than it would take diphenhydramine to kick in, and naturally.

Now, do I sleep perfectly? Of course not. As has been my sleep pattern for years (even before diphenhydramine), I sleep for 3-4 hours and wake around 2 AM +/- 10 minutes like clockwork, stay awake for a brief period, then nod back off for another 3 hours give or take. It’s what I’ve always done since I was a kid and I don’t expect that pattern to ever change. Alas, being able to achieve my natural sleep pattern again after years of not being able to sleep for shit is absolutely incredible.

Of course, I can’t help but wonder how much of the change is due to my sister from another mister (is that even a term?) virtual cuddling me to sleep every night (a ritual we recently started). Maybe something to figure in, but I imagine it isn’t a huge player. I still appreciate her kindness in that realm though. I will say even she noticed an instant change in how quickly I nod off at night though, so it’s probably a small factor at absolute most.

Now, all that’s fine and good, but how does it actually feel draped over you? I’m sure that’s the question you all are wondering. Does it actually feel heavy or like a lot of weight is pressing down on you? The answer is NO. It does not weigh you down really. It’s a gentle weight – almost like you’re wearing a hug all night. It’s just enough weight/pressure for the secure and calming effect but nowhere near enough to feel like you’re being crushed or suffocated (that is, assuming you get the correct weight for your size – 10% of your body weight plus one pound or half a kg, whichever system you use). To me, it’s just enough for the feeling of “security” without being too much.

Are there some for whom the weighted blanket wouldn’t be a good option? I imagine so, especially if you tend to shift positions frequently. Note that weighted blankets are not meant to fill the size of the bed. They are meant to distribute gentle yet constant pressure over the body. As such, a twin size is the right size for one person, regardless of the size of your bed. Frequent shifting around might cause the blanket to not cover your body entirely at some point. Another is if you just don’t like sleeping with a blanket in general – this will not solve that issue. Other than that, I don’t see many drawbacks to it.

Anyway, I write this to say I’m amazed at how well it’s worked for me. I swore I would have to gradually wean/taper off of the diphenhydramine but that has not been the case. Even though conventional medicine has yet to embrace the concept, we know how that industry operates – if it ain’t pharmaceuticals it’s shit in their eyes. Anyway, if this sounds like something you’d be interested in, check out Weight on Me weighted blankets at https://myweightedblanket.com/ to browse their various prints, styles and materials to find your perfect blanket. Shipping usually takes a few weeks, but trust me when I say the wait is well worth it to get the blanket custom tailored to your specific needs.

I truly am shocked. In a string of devastating blows, I’ve found something that actually works for me. Of course, I have my dear neuro-sister Laina to thank for this – she’s the one who recommended it to me. Thank you so very much, good doctor.

Ink As Therapy

Right on schedule, the Saniderm was ready to come off of my new tattoo and it has now entered the peeling phase, which will last about another week or so. From there I’ll have a finished tattoo that’s ready to show off.

Alas, as any ink enthusiast, ideas have already been swirling in my head for my next one and I think I have a rough concept of what I’ll be getting next. I’ll need to play around with certain design elements but as a matter of “balance” I’ll likely choose placement on the other side in the same spot (since I am all about balance and symmetry – it’s the mathematician/engineer in me). The only one I’ve not yet balanced out is my rib panel but I’m in absolutely no hurry to have my other ribs tattooed – that was a pain unlike anything I’d ever felt before.

Anyway, I digress. Obviously I’ve done the whole gamut for “therapy” – some of it forced upon me by those who also forced existence upon me, some of it voluntarily. I’ve done the whole counseling, behavioral modification and even antidepressant/antipsychotic medications. Nothing ever worked. Nothing was able to quiet my tortured mind. I guess that’s a challenging element of autism – it seems a lot of traditional treatment methods don’t work on us. Maybe this further signifies that autism should not be classified as an illness or disorder? That’s something to chew on for a later time.

Back to the topic at hand. Ink as therapy. Tattoo enthusiasts throw around the term “ink therapy” all the time. Alas, as weird as it sounds, there might be some truth to that statement. As I’ve eluded to it in previous posts, but for me, being in the hot seat is when I’m most at peace. For me, when Jade is working her magic on my human canvas is the only time my mind is ever “quiet” as it were. All the rest of the time it’s racing, typical of those in my tribe. I even have trouble sleeping due to it. Sleep? Hah, what the fuck is that?

With as much negative stigma as there still is around tattoos, the benefits I’ve reaped from my favorite hobby have been incredible. I feel like my overall pain tolerance has improved (day-to-day bumps and scrapes aren’t as bothersome to me as they used to be) and maybe I’ve even gotten an immune boost because I don’t get sick like I used to. There are studies suggesting such too.

In that light, ink has been the one thing that has been able to do what counseling, drugs, etc. were all unable to do. It centers me. It’s meditative. It makes me feel “good.” Shit, as they seem to be the only form of “treatment” that works for me it seems to me my health insurance should fucking pay for my ink. It’s better “medicine” than any of the poison that criminal enterprise known as Big Pharma peddles as such.

I’ve found something that works for me, so at the very least that should be respected and tolerated. Whether or not you even like my tattoos is of no never mind to me (art is subjective after all – a masterpiece to person A could be butt-ugly to person B) as I’ve now transcended past tattoos solely for meaning to the point of just getting them because they look cool and feel good. Call that hedonistic as it were, I admit it is. I’m not hurting myself or anyone else in the process so I fail to see where that’s a problem.

Stay cool and ink it up!

Minor Surgery in My Future?

As much as the thought of surgery scares me, at this point it might be necessary to relieve some serious discomfort. Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious, life threatening or anything of the sort. It’s not even really dangerous to my health in any way, alas I’m sick of being in pain.

It seems like the stress from the past few months brought along many physical ailments. Random aches, pains, cramps, headaches, sleeplesslness and the like. Most of these have since resolved themselves now that I’m in a lower-stress enviornment. However, there is one problem that has yet to resolve itself and might not without a surgical procedure as it is a problem that has come and gone over the years. Warning: if you are easily offended or squeamish you should not continue reading. If you choose to continue reading and maybe you have suffered something similar and come across some fixes that seem to help, please chime in as surgery is my last resort.

I’m one of an unfortunate group of people who has suffered from chronic piles most of my life – likely hereditary in nature. Some random flareups have been part of my life for years but I’ve never been bothered by them save for some occasional slight bleeding. They’d never caused me any sort of pain whatsoever, though a couple of times the bleeding was rather profuse to the point I was worried that I might have some internal bleeding. Alas, that usually resolved itself in short order so I wasn’t worried.

Well, that all changed about October-ish when the stress really started hitting hard. Now they start getting bothersome. My last flare-up started with the typical small spots of blood so I wasn’t at all worried, but when it didn’t go away after a few days and then started getting really painful that’s when I got a little worried. I remember at the peak of it there were a couple of days I had to work standing up because the (literal) pain in my ass was so bad – it was almost like someone shoved a shard of glass up there. My only thought was at the time I had at least one that thrombosed, causing excruciating pain. I can only figure stress played a major factor in this one being far worse than any others I had experienced over the course of decades.

During the peak I tried several fixes (both allopathic per the standard course of treatment and naturopathic per suggestions of my naturopath friend) and the only thing that seemed to provide some relief was applying some of my tattoo numbing cream to the area. After a couple of weeks the pain eventually passed but I was still having problems here and there.

Which brings me to today. Whereas I’m 90%+ better now, I still have some residual pain and itching. It’s like they’ve never completely healed up from that one major incident. At the time I was worried maybe my love of spicy food finally got the better of me but when I dropped it out for awhile I haven’t seen any change, so I’m right back to loading up the heat. It doesn’t seem to affect that in any way, the occasional bout of “firerrhea” aside.

Anyway, I’m on a downtick right now but it seems like it could rare its ugly head anytime, so if anyone has any suggestions please share them. Though it seems surgery might be right for me at this time, I really don’t want to go there if I don’t have to. That just sounds painful. Alas, I don’t recall anyone ever dying from piles so it’s not a medical emergency in any way and thus I have time to weigh my options but still. I just want it to go away, because it’s a pain in the ass (literally) to deal with.

Walking for Diabetes Research

Lynn reporting to you again from Texas Motor Speedway. This morning, before the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race, I participated in the NASCAR Fitness Challenge sponsored by Lilly Diabetes. It was awesome to walk for a good cause and actually get a good view from on the track. You don’t realize how big it is until you get down on it and actually look up. Here’s some pics.

And here’s something you just do not see on TV. This is how steeply banked the turns are. I took this of my feet in turn 1. See the height difference in my feet? Yeah, the grade is that steep. You sure feel it.

Anyway, I’m back home as of the time of this post going up (intended for it to be this morning but didn’t have adequate bandwidth to upload the photos) after watching Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick win an overtime thriller of a race. Hope to get back to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, hopefully with what was supposed to be this week’s SLS submission. For now, I need some sleep before I go back to prison (ahem) I mean work tomorrow.

Catch you soon!

Why I Do Not Want Children

If it’s one thing I’m absolutely rigid on and that I have never wavered on it’s my lack of desire to have children. Actually, it goes farther than that – the idea of being a father just absolutely repulses me, so much I actually ended my last relationship over that very issue. I was put at a crossroads where I had to decide which was worse – being single or having children I don’t really want. Obviously I decided that the latter was a much worse fate. As such, I did the only thing I could do and ended the relationship.

I have a multitude of reasons for not wanting children, but they can broadly be put into two categories: practical and philosophical. We shall take a look at those here.

Practical Reasons:

Concerning my practical reasons for not wanting children, the very first thing to consider is the expense of having children. Kids are not cheap! Doctors visits, increased grocery bills, daycare, school supplies, glasses, braces, sporting equipment, cars/drivers’ education, college, the list goes on! That all adds up.

The second has to due with my internal wiring. I’m one of those autistic people who is incredibly short-tempered. Is that conducive to having children? Absolutely not. I’d likely do them psychological damage with my tendency to meltdown and get frustrated over the slightest thing out-of-whack. That’s not to say all autistic people are incompetent parents. On the contrary, there are many who are quite capable of it. I’m just not.

I also pretty much got the short end of the stick when it comes to genetics, not only with the autism thing but I also have a heart defect (Wolff-Parkinson-White) that has a genetic component and I do not wish to pass that on. I also know I’m a carrier of the gene for Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid. Though I’ve not shown symptoms myself, I do know my biological father does and had to have his thyroid basically killed. I do not want to risk passing that on either.

Lastly is just I’m too much of a free spirit to be held down. Not having children I can pretty much travel unhindered, do what I want as far as nightlife and the like. I’m not held down by family commitments, which would no doubt make me miserable.

Philosophical Reasons: 

Before I discuss my philosophical reasons for not having children, I feel I must say that none of what I discuss here is intended to pass any judgment on anyone regardless of what reproductive decisions they might have made. That is not my intention. The views presented here are not original views, but rather views of academics that make the most raw logical sense to me. Again, this is not meant to be a personal attack on anyone so please do not take it that way.

The first, and strongest argument, is the Benatarian Asymmetry, named after South African philosopher David Benatar. Benatar first proposed this asymmetry in a paper titled “Why It Is Better Never to Come into Existence” and was further expanded upon in a full-blown book titled Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence which was published in 2006. The argument is much too long and detailed to list in a blog post, but the meat and potatoes of it is this: whereas pleasure is good and pain is bad, the absence of pain is good even if there exists nobody to benefit from that good, but the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there already exists someone for which such an absence would be a deprivation. In other words, regardless of the pleasure-to-pain ratio in one’s life, although the pleasures of life make our lives go better than they otherwise would, had we never existed we’d have forgone any and all pain (good), but because we would not “miss out” on anything by never existing (as deprivation requires existence), it is always better not to come into existence.

For more clarity of the asymmetry, consider two people: sick and healthy. Let’s say sick gets sick but has a strong immune system and is able to recover quickly from that sickness, while healthy has a weak immune system but never gets sick. Who is better off? Obviously healthy is better off, even though (s)he has a weak immune system. Everyone would agree that it is better never to get sick, regardless of the strength of one’s immune system. There you have it.

The second argument, which is weaker and not an entirely new argument, is the Pollyanna Principle. The Pollyanna Principle is basically an irrational optimism bias. In other words, we grossly over-estimate the quality of our lives. More or less, none of us realize just how much pain and suffering we endure on a daily basis. For a prime example of this, let’s just step back and think about a few things. What do we spend a vast majority of our waking hours doing? Working, of course. It is a very rare and fortunate person who does not completely loathe his or her job. OK, that alone puts our lives more into the pain category. Combine that with the day-to-day pains and irritants we experience and don’t give much thought to: hunger, thirst, heat, cold, financial woes, the need to urinate and/or defecate, the need to sneeze, sniffle, cough, clear the throat, etc. That’s not even considering the bouts of illness and disease we will all face. Our sleeping hours have their own irritants; namely dreams which more often than not result in painful stimuli – fear, sadness, anger, etc.

Given the above, and combined with the fact that nobody consents to being brought into existence (rather, we were all just kind of forced into it), I feel that it is very difficult to justify bringing new individuals into existence.

Given that, the question I’m sure many of you are wondering is, “Do you wish you had never been born?” The answer to that question is, without any hesitation whatsoever, a resounding yes. I would have preferred never to have been brought into existence. However, that statement shall not be construed as “I want to die.” Once already in existence, most of us have an interest in continuing to exist and it can be very easily argued that death is actually one of the many harms we will face in this life (a position Dr. Benatar also defends at great length). That said, I absolutely do support the right to die so that if one decides his or her life is not worth continuing, that choice must be respected and the government does not have the right to stop anyone from taking his/her own life.

The above are the major reasons I have chosen not to have children. Again, these reasons are personal to me and shall not be intended as a personal attack on anyone. If you disagree with them, I’d like to know why. Please feel free to discuss your own views and engage in a healthy and respectful debate. I promise you I will not shut you down. I feel we can all learn something from the other side, whether you are a pronatalist or an antinatalist, a parent or childless/childfree.