Never Quit Becoming

I told my friend not to expect my writing to be much good. My excuse was that I’m just not a good writer. Never have been.

“So become a good writer.” He replied. Just like that. “If you want your book to be great, you’ll have to be a good writer. Otherwise, don’t bother. Because it’ll fall short of the magnificent work this raw material is made for.”

So true. Everything I can do now, I learned. Even breathing was something I learned and had to keep working on. My health condition made every breath a struggle.

I can’t tell you how many successful people and executives I’ve met that have unimpressive schooling. But they never stopped becoming someone better in their adult years. Meanwhile, many with a fancy degree that had the initial lead are now working for someone whom they thought would never catch up. Look up any successful person on Wikipedia and you’ll be surprised of many of their backgrounds.

All of us are who we are today by becoming something different from a helpless glob of infant. So at what point do we start thinking that growing is unnatural, when it is in fact the opposite? Is a degree, a title, or an age the cutoff point for learning and growing? Sure seems like it for many people, doesn’t it?

Many adults “experience” a lot of things. But how many of these experiences actually changes you? Do you approach classes or team competitions now with goals and the same accountability as when you were in high school or college? Or do you travel and say “oh that was fun” but end up not knowing any more of the culture and people as before your adventure? Doing doesn’t always mean becoming.

What life would you miss out on if you stopped becoming someone more?

If I didn’t learn survival skills on my own every day of my life, my disease would’ve taken my life long ago.  All through school, I always had the best grades in Biology class.  Classmates assumed I was smart in that subject.  Wrong.  I studied Biology 10x harder than anyone else, even those who’s grades were about as good as mine.  With my mysterious disease and every doctor having failed, I took it upon myself to become an expert at biology.  Grades and the time I spent on it didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter if it was hard for me to understand or that it took 10x longer for me to study.  Other patients think, “I can’t be as smart as a doctor.  I’ll just let them handle it. ” or “It’s the doctor’s job to know, not mine.”  Almost everyone I know who thinks like that have suffered because even the best doctors can’t possibly know everything.

I’ve said this many times, one of my degrees is Mathematical Economics, but I hated finance in college. Spent zero time on it. Then, on my deathbed with a laptop I could barely control with my fingernail, I learned stock trading. It was one of the few things I could do with minimal typing and clicks. Each keystroke and click was excruciating. I would temporarily blank out from the pain. The subject matter I detested has become such a big part of my life as I’ve gone on to trade options, futures and consult for Wall Street professionals and even teach this stuff.

I became something I’d never imagine I could be. I never thought I would be producing videos either. How wrong I was. I should just stop giving myself limits because these limiting beliefs don’t hold up.

As my friend reminded me, we have always been growing, always becoming. If we’re not becoming someone better, stronger, we’re becoming someone worse and weaker. We all have an inherent ability to learn and grow, whatever that may be. Different people pick up different skills faster, but nothing is out of any of our reach unless we choose to be worse, not better.

Adapting. Changing. Growing. Becoming. It is human nature. Don’t deny yourself of your natural progression.


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    Allergies Bringing Down the Mind: Immune System & Inflammation’s Link to Depression

    A big mystery of my skyrocketing improvements over the last 6+ years is the corresponding fall into depression and mental breakdowns.  For the first time in my life, my skin isn’t falling off and always in pain.  I can breathe.  I can sleep.  I can eat…sometimes.  My condition is a million times better than I ever dreamed of, and yet I’m depressed and emotionally unstable.  A few years ago, a psychotherapist friend helped me understand it’s probably PTSD from 30+ years of survival.  I’m sure it was part of the puzzle, but I’ve always been a very positive person, much more so than people a fraction of my severity.

    Susannah Cahalan (author of “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness“) shared this Discovery article that answers some questions:

    Depression’s Dance With Inflammation: Why the body’s natural protective response to injury, infection and stress may have unexpected emotional consequences.

    “the role of inflammation in mental health might be more nuanced than once thought. It also helps make sense of other research suggesting that anti-inflammatory drugs may undermine depression treatment in some individuals. One recent analysis of more than 1,500 people found that those who took an anti-inflammatory drug along with an antidepressant were less likely to overcome their depression than those who only took an antidepressant.”

    The improvements the last few years have been due to the immunosuppressants constantly having the effect of reducing inflammation, which seems to have similar effects as quoted.

     

    Also,

    “Now it seems like both the high and low levels could lead to depression: Yirmiya and his colleagues have done studies in mice for the past 20 years suggesting that a specific level of cytokines is needed to ward off symptoms of depression.

    As Yirmiya points out, these molecules at normal levels have many important brain functions associated with learning, forming memories and making new neurons. So, what do we make of inflammation’s double-edged nature?”

    Having been born with my condition, I suppose my brain had adapted to functioning on high levels of inflammation…now that’s changed and nothing feels right.

     

    My condition is a form of allergies, but I don’t tell people that anymore.  My overactive immune, triggered by the slightest external sources, breaks down my body in very painful ways.  It’s not just the skin, which is what everyone sees, but also internally in my gastrointestinal tract, lungs, and even nervous system.  Allergies can affect your nervous system, eyes and brain?  Yes. I’m proof of that.


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      People Need To Know Your Illness

      I always hated talking about my own disease, partially because I didn’t want to think about it and didn’t want to be defined by it. But as I’ve been telling bits of my story, it’s connected me to tons of others who suffer and thought they were alone. Those are the people I want to reach, not society in general. I think many of us try to hide it to make the world seem peachy, but then people think there’s no problem and end up not doing anything.


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        What Would Be Your Life’s Grand Finale?

        What’s the one thing you’d do if you didn’t have long to live? A few months maybe? This isn’t about what tops your bucket list. This is about getting to know yourself and what’s truly important to you. You’re only forced to think about essential vs. non-essential when things are limited.

        I’ve been in borrowed time the last 6 years. The only medication that’s keeping me alive is also very toxic and should’ve wasted my liver & kidneys all this time. Earlier this year, the only option it seemed was to get off this medication and gamble on a brand new treatment that wipes out my immune system. So, for a year after, I would have to be isolated in a clean room. Anything, even dust, could be deadly. I’ve gotten 6 or 7 extra years, which had been nothing short of spectacular. But once again, staring my own mortality in the face, I looked inside myself again. Yes, optimism is a must, but what if these last few months are it? What do I need to do that I CAN do?

        This isn’t a fantasy of anything goes. This’ll probably have to happen in or near a hospital somewhere. I decided to write my autobiography. How I survived the unimaginable and managed to do many things even healthy people couldn’t. Sure, I could continue to work on the many things I’m good at. But there are tons of other people who are better and will carry on that work. I’m not adding anything others can’t. But my life and how I lived it? That’s a gem. That’s worth leaving behind that others will need.

        Luckily there’s a safer, experimental treatment I’m supposed to test in the fall, but work on the autobiography won’t stop.

        A friend of mine from the Bronx would want to bring a giant American music tour to Brasil, where he lives now. Once I’m cured, I’ll put on this show with him.

        What would you do? Let’s assume you do all the important things like spend more time with the people closest to you and making amends. After all of that, what would you do?


        Being Used For Good. Helping a Homeless Deaf Man

        Yesterday I got to help a deaf homeless man without knowing I was needed at a certain time and place beforehand. I was on my way back from the Temple and meeting a friend for dinner. But I was early. I decided to swing by the Wednesday night Institute class. When I opened the door I found my friend Christian and two missionaries on the floor of the hall using sign language to communicate to another man. He looked ragged, like he’d been on the streets, and had a small suitcase. Upon finding the class overcrowded, I rejoined the group on the hallway floor. I learned that the man was on disability but he wouldn’t get his check for several days. He was back on the streets without a place to sleep. He had been hiding near places he’d lived. We brainstormed of parks, parking garages and hidden alleyways for him to hide in, but with his hearing and back problems we couldn’t come up with anywhere suitable. None of us had ever been on the streets, and secretly thought of how grateful that we had our own beds to return to. Just before I had to leave, I suddenly remembered a good buddy who had been homeless when I met him. He knew the ins and outs of living on the street, especially in this area. I called him and sure enough, he had places for our homeless friend to stay. Amazing how little miracles happen. I wasn’t even supposed to be there last night. I sat with them for just 10 minutes and things worked out better for a man I’ve only met. Best 10 minutes of the week.


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          Breathing On A Plane :: Utah Medical Trip 5.21.14

          BREATHING ON A PLANE. THIS IS “NORMAL”

          Had my camcorder out crossing the Tarmac and up the back stairs into the rear entrance of the plane. As soon as I entered the door, I caught a whiff of scents in the plane that immediately made me uneasy. Really noticing the tons of smells in the cabin from people. Playtime is over.

          I put my camcorder away and completely focused in my surroundings, especially with my nose. Every person I pass on my way to my seat I’m keenly aware of their scents, the texture of their clothes, their carry-ons. With each careful breath I decipher more and more smells in the cabin. Perfume, deodorant, lotions, creams, hair products. Smells of chicken, cheese crackers, vegetable oil, and other food fill my nostrils and it chokes. Also smelling some fuel and exhaust from outside the cabin. Taking shallow breaths. Fewer breaths. Each breath filled with smells feel uncomfortable in my mouth and throat. Opening AC vent for my seat on full, but with the engine still idle on the Tarmac, AC isn’t strong enough to clear the air around me. I lift my head up and point my nostrils at the vent, hoping to catch more of the gusts of oxygen. I imagine myself breathing through a snorkel tube underwater.

          We move onto the runway but I barely notice. My attention concentrating the quality of air I’m breathing and noticing any scents that I still sense. Suddenly a bit of sesame and maybe margarine scent irritates the back of my nose for an instant. The engine revs as we ready for takeoff. The AC starts putting out a strong funnel of breathable, cool air.

          I get to relax a bit and pray for a smooth flight that everyone gets to where they want to go. I’m thankful for the AC so I can breathe and not take gasps of breaths, and thankful the flowing air doesn’t rip at my skin as it used to when my skin was torn and damaged. Now, waves of air flowing on my face and arms actually feels therapeutic. We’re at cruising altitude and I seem to be on for now. Didn’t even have to break out the mask or rescue inhaler. We’ll call that a win.

          I love being around people, but you can see how just 5 minutes in public can be exhausting. This is normal. This is how I get through my minutes, hours, and days.


          Stella’s Oil & Salt Eczema Bath Success Story & Message

          Stella’s mom had Stella try the Robathol Oil and Salt bath that I recommended (and use daily).  Got this amazing message about Stella two days later!  Totally made my day, week, and month! Look, she’s even well enough to play in water.

           

          “So I’m doing 1 cup of sea salt and a cap full of castor oil (instead of Robathol). After the first day it seemed to make a difference! Her skin sure felt moisturized after the bath! I need to make sure I keep up on it…

          I’m going to check her in a minute. She seems to be itching less for sure. The other morning her redness was almost completely gone!

          Stella’s skin has been helped do much by the oil and salt in the bath!! ”

           

          Each day I get a message like this I feel pure joy!  I know exactly what little Stella is going through and glad my journey through the minefield first could clear up a path for her to follow.  She’s sensitive to foods, fragrances, and smells just as I am, so we’re constantly under attack, body fighting, and uncomfortable.  Happy times are hard to come by but we love every moment of it!

          Stella’s itching:

          “stella can scratch and scratch and cry and scratch until it is an open wound and is bleeding… it’s such an awful thing to witness.. it’s like she’s possessed and she can’t stop with the scratching… with those baths you recommended and now doing that it’s making such a huge difference for her!”

          Stella’s chemical allergies:

          “Even friends or family that come over and hold her… Seems like they make her break out every time.. Probably perfume or something. I have made my parents switch laundry detergent and different things so they don’t make her break out..”


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