Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Isolation and Cults

A constant theme of this blog has been recovery in leaving a cult and rebuilding my life - as well as the pure mind-fuck that happens doing that. The whole journey has been a difficult one for me and those around me. The part that's hardest to explain, especially to those that have been constant sources for support, is the complete and total feeling of isolation in leaving. After all, when people are so willing to adopt you into their family, listen to you bitch and moan, and give a constant ear, how can you possibly feel isolated?

Especially recently, with biological "family" events and happenings, the theme of isolation comes to mind. When informing my family that I most assuredly would not be attending their little reunion, they asked why I was "isolating" myself. That is when this new chapter of my life started making more sense.

Feelings are difficult to change. I wish I could flip a switch and suddenly connect with the people around me. I wish I could make the whole process "easy". Looking at what friends and family members of ex-cult members go through, I'd say that it's just as tough, if not more so, than leaving. It kinda makes sense that only a small group of people manage to 'work through' the walls raised by an ex to become friends.

A metaphor might help to explain what it's like to be in the "world" for the first time. Imagine that you embarked on a voyage across the ocean. On this voyage, you live in a small boat stocked with all the supplies you need to survive. On the horizon, you see other people in similar small boats. But you are alone in your boat - only a small radio and the ability to stand outside and wave to other people on the same journey provide any human contact.

For many, the decision to leave a cult is the single most solitary thing that can ever be done. Leaving the cult is the decision to step on the boat and venture off not knowing what is out there, with only the hope of hitting land at some point. And because that decision is such a solitary thing, no one will ever fully understand. After all the damage the cult did, the most emotionally destroying thing it will do is force this choice in leaving.

So, you push off into the world with only the hope of finding land, after years of being told that the ocean will eat you whole. Every social interaction, every party, every friendship, every love, every family - all - interactions defined as evil by your group.

The greatest irony is that my desire for connection, the pain that comes from standing in a crowded room and feeling completely alone, is created by the exact choice to "isolate" myself. I chose to isolate myself by moving across the dark void spanning the distance between the cult and those that live in the outside world. And now that I clasp the hands of those pulling me into a larger, greater, and more beautiful world, I see the reality of a group standing apart from humanity. Alone and pitiful.

So, as my parents warn me of "isolating myself", I stand and realize how very different that is from the reminder of my friends that they are there. The message from the family was not one of giving. They did not say "we are here for you in your time of need". They only stood and shouted that I was a fool for making my journey. And while I see myself in troubled waters, I am still moving forward.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vegetarian Challenge - Conclusions

Tomorrow will be my last official day of my self-enforced diet habit, but I won't have much time to blog about it throughout the day. I've managed 6 days without any meat products, though I have not banned eggs and dairy.

As a health experiment, I'd say that the personal challenge here was very successful. I've managed to eat healthy, well balanced meals, everyday. I've also noticed increases in energy, easier time sleeping / better sleep, lack of muscle cramping / feeling of muscle cramping during tough work out, and have managed to loose a couple pounds. Also, I'm relatively certain my blood pressure has decreased back to my original good levels from the slightly elevated levels I've been stuck at for a while. As a health choice, it's forced me to avoid fast food, and convenience foods that filled my stomach but only provided questionable nutrition.

Now, that said, I think I could have achieved all of the same effects simply by watching my diet more as an omnivore. The thing is, I don't know if I constantly watching my diet is something I'm capable of doing. Not eating meat makes life a lot easier, as you remove whole groups of unhealthy and easy options. (Note: I'm aware it's very possible to eat an unhealthy diet as a vegetarian.)

I attribute the slight but noticeable health impacts to the following -
  1. Pure placebo effect by changing things up.
  2. Lower calorie intake
  3. Less refined sugars from fast foods
  4. Much higher potassium / sodium intake ratio
Of all things to be aware of, the fourth I did not really know about before starting. Yes, I'd heard 'keep the sodium down'. I had not heard that how important potassium is in your diet, that the average American gets much lower than the recommended potassium intake daily.

Insuring a solid decent intake of potassium (a daily minimum of 2000 mg), and lowering intake of sodium has benefits for hypertension, osteoporosis, and kidney stones.

So, overall, a positive experience. It also helps me to realize how difficult it can be to order meals as a vegetarian when everything seems to involve beef, chicken, or fish. Still, the overall moral of the story?

Eat your fruit and vegetables.


I still want a steak.

Edit, Forgot the links...

K-State Article

USDA Article
CO State Article

Things to think about

Worth remembering.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vegetarian Challenge - Day 3

I could really go for a hamburger now, preferably with bacon. And a steak. Maybe finish that off with a nice ham. Then polish the day off with a turkey sandwich.

3 days so far, and still successful at avoiding meat. The change in diet does seem to be doing some good, but it's really too short to know. I'm realizing now that I don't get nearly enough vegetables in my normal diet.

It's odd, that my 'challenge' to myself is basically to eat a diet that a great many people are forced to eat - simply because meat can be a luxury when you have little at all to eat. We take meat granted, largely due to an enormous amount of industrial know how and ability.

Actually, we as a society take food granted. There are groups of people that live here, yes, that have difficulty obtaining good food. But, those challenges are small compared to what can be found in other countries.

Still, I'm in the mood for a steak.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vegetarian Challenge - Day 2

I've decided to be a vegetarian for one full week.

I'm not going the vegan route, so milk, eggs, and cheese are still on the menu. Fish, however, is not. Why do such madness?

Well, basically, I'm trying to start better watching what I eat, and further trying to eat healthier. I'd argue there is little about a vegetarian diet that is inherently "better" than an the usual, but I'm hoping that the attempt here will result in something better. Also, a couple of people are of the opinion I'm not going to make it.

I figure one week should be easy, so I'll be logging my progress here. So far, so good. Lunch today consisted of a olive and mushroom pizza with a small salad. So far, so good.