Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Recipe - Black Bean & Avocado Burrito

I hear a lot of people say that eating vegan is “bland” or “boring” or that you can’t make delicious food without meat. This is so ridiculous I felt the need to argue publicly on the behalf of all vegetarians and vegans. Plant-based protein is not only oftentimes more nutritious and more lean than animal-based protein, it’s also delicious! So here is one of my favourite vegan recipes. Try it out and see how you like it. You may just find that eating vegan is a lot easier and tastier than you thought!


If you’re vegan or vegetarian, EAT. BLACK. BEANS. It’s just that simple. They are incredibly high in protein, not to mention a bunch of other vitamins and nutrients, and they taste great.


-one red onion, cut up

-one red pepper, cut up

-one green pepper, cut up

-one clove of garlic, minced

-one can of black beans, mostly drained (I like to leave a little bit of the juice)

-a bunch of mushrooms, whatever type you like best, as many as you think you will want (I prefer Portobello)

-half an avocado, cut into little pieces

-some spinach leaves

-whole wheat tortillas

-hummus (whichever type you prefer)

-extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil


Pour a little olive oil into a large frying pan or skillet. Add onion, peppers and garlic and cook on low until the peppers and onion are slightly soft. Then, add the mushrooms and cook until all vegetables are at desired tenderness, stirring often. Then, add the black beans and any spices you might like to include (I find it tastes great with just pepper, but that’s me). Once the beans have heated up, turn the stove off. Don’t cook the beans too long – you just want to warm them up, really.
Spread the spinach leaves onto your tortilla wraps and pile the mix as high as you want! Then, add the avocado and the hummus, wrap and ENJOY! You can also add a whole bunch of other things to the mix – zucchini, tomato, or cheese if you’re not a vegan. Try it a bunch of different ways and figure out how you like it best!
Easy, cheap and delicious!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Are Anti-Depressants Addictive?

It’s been a while since I have written about my depression and the experiences I have been having on my medication, and last week something happened that I feel is really worth talking about. Remember when I said that I was going to try and be as unbiased as possible when it came to telling you guys about how the meds are working for me? I’d like to exercise that in this blog entry, and talk about something that may be difficult for some people who have been on anti-depressants for a long time to face – the threat of addiction.

When I started my meds, I didn’t really think about the fact that my brain could become very accustomed, in fact – addicted, to them. I think in our society we tend to view drug addiction as something that happens with recreational drugs, or at the very least drugs that can be used to get high, not psychoactive drugs. But the reality is that your body and your mind can become accustomed to any chemical substance, and when you take away your daily dose, it can be very difficult to function without it. Although people will try to tell you differently, I don’t see how it’s possible that these drugs aren’t addictive. Everyone has a different opinion on this, however, so I’m not trying to say mine is fact. But I do believe that anti-depressants are addictive and that this addiction can pose a threat.

Last week I fell ill and so of course was very preoccupied with all of those things you tend to do while sick – sleeping, whining and more sleeping. I was so preoccupied that for two whole days I forgot to take my meds. That’s four doses. For whatever reason it just completely slipped my mind. On Friday I spent the majority of the day alone – the rest of the farm occupants were all gone to a cottage up north, and the entire vast space of the property was empty save little old me and my cat. By around 6 PM I started to feel stir-crazy, which isn’t unusual for me. I began texting friends asking them if they wanted to get together to hang out, but everyone was busy. I panicked. Suddenly, a lonely feeling spread through me like ice. It had been such a long time since I had felt it, but I recognized it immediately - it was the same way I used to feel in these sorts of situations before I started my meds. Soon I had collapsed on my bed and was weeping. I felt completely alone. I’m sure that anyone who suffers from depression knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Soon I remembered that I needed to take my meds, so I quickly popped a pill. My friend Kate talked to me and calmed me down a little, but I decided I couldn’t stay on this big farm all alone, and set out for a friend’s house to stay there for the evening while he was away (and use his claw foot tub). It took me nearly an hour of trekking through the snow and the freezing wind to get there, but I made it. By the time I got there I had already started feeling better, and soon I was back to my regular self. The medication had made it into my bloodstream, you see, and the chemicals in my brain were all where they should be again. 

That scares me! Granted, stopping any medication cold turkey like that isn’t good for you, and if I had eased myself off of them my reaction wouldn’t have been so strong. In fact, I may not have even had a reaction at all. But the idea that my body has become so used to getting its twice daily dose of anti-depressants that it simply cannot function normally when the supply is cut off is absolutely terrifying to me. What about people who have been on this medication for years? Have their brains ceased being able to fend for themselves all together? Are they like opiate addicts writhing in pain as soon as the juice is cut off, because their bodies don’t know how to produce their own endorphins anymore? The fact of the matter is, probably! If you take the time to wait it out, eventually your mind will get back to normal, but when it comes to mental health and people who suffer from debilitating depression, asking them to “wait it out” may not be the best idea! Very bad things could happen during that waiting period.

I’m not a doctor, and I’m not saying that my opinion is fact or that I know everything about these meds and what they do to peoples’ brains. But the fact of the matter is that the brain can get used to any change in its chemical levels. If you eat a lot of salt for years and years and then stop, you’re going to crave salt, it’s going to drive you nearly crazy. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that if you’re pumping SSRIs into your brain for years and years that it may become accustomed to those as well? So all of this just drives the point home for me that I do NOT want these pills to be a lifelong solution. I don’t want to be dependent on any medication in order to be able to function normally.
So what do I do? I don’t want to stop taking these meds yet, because I am also using them to quit smoking, and for that you’re supposed to be on them for at least six months. So far, I’ve been on them for almost three. They have been doing wonders for my mood, and I feel lighter and happier than I have in years. It’s also been a lot easier for me to dig to the root of my issues, and I’ve been having a lot of revelations lately about the way I think and how I got to this place in my life, so I don’t regret starting them. I don’t think it would have been possible for me to do all this work if I were still trapped in a pit of depression. So in that sense, they are doing exactly the job I had wanted them to do. 

So. I’m going to continue doing the work, continue trying to find ways to cope with my depression and my negative moods without the meds. I’m going to keep trying to get to the root of my depression, and find healthy, natural ways of fighting it, like eating specific foods and developing an exercise regime. If you are on anti-depressants, I urge you to do the same! Try and think of your meds as something transitional, not permanent. Talk to someone – see if your doctor’s office has a counselor you can speak to or find out if your health plan covers psychiatric visits. Do some reading, and try and find a method of calming your mind that works well for you. You can try guided meditation, which I find works really well when I am too worked up to sleep. You can search ‘guided meditation’ on youtube and find a lot of really great videos that help make it easier. Start researching different foods and herbs that help with depression and anxiety, and develop a regular exercise routine that will get your blood pumping and the endorphins flowing three or four times a week. Find a method of dealing with your chemical imbalance aside from just popping a pill every morning. That way, at some point when you do decide to go it alone, you will be a lot better equipped to deal with what’s coming your way. And remember to take your meds! Stopping cold turkey is NOT a good idea, as I learned last week! If you do decide to go off of them talk to your doctor about the best way to ween yourself off them, and follow his or her advice.

Above all else, love yourself! Treat yourself the way you are meant to be treated - with patience, love and kindness. 


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let go and let god, indeed!

Today I’d like to talk about something a bit out of the norm, although along the same vein, I suppose, as a few of the other things I have written about so far. When I started this blog I intended for it to be solely about my physical health, but it quickly evolved into being about my depression as well, and since then has gone off in a couple of other directions. The fact of the matter is, I am in the middle of a transformation. Of course, I guess we could all say that at any given point – we are always changing, transforming. I guess I should say – I feel like I am at the peak of a transformation, or at the very least at one of the high points, and I would like to share with all of you some of the things that have been on my mind.

Do you ever get the sense, in one incredibly defining moment, that your life is following a specific course, and that everything – everything you say or do, see hear, taste and experience – is leading you to something? That all of it is working together to bring you to exactly where you are supposed to be at this exact moment in time?

I have had many moments like this in my life. Some have made me laugh out loud with their perfection; others have been so beautiful they have made me cry. This feeling – that you are exactly where you were always supposed to be, that all the events in your life have been happening for a reason – is a wonderful thing to finally discover. It has brought me so much peace and filled me with so much love for every living thing on the planet, because it also drives home the point that we are all intertwined and connected with one another in the most beautiful and intricate way.

Oh, well – I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me start by explaining where I was, the trajectory my life had been on for so long, and where I feel I am headed now.

For a long time, indeed for as long as I can remember, everything that happened in my life was NOT my fault. At least the way I saw it. I refused to take responsibility for any of the things that were making me miserable, and instead spent a lot of time being upset that they were making me miserable. I wallowed in my bad and sad moods and waited impatiently to be “up” again, which would inevitably happen, as my life was a constant rollercoaster of emotion. I wouldn’t say I was an unhappy person – I had too many highs and moments of joy to use that word to classify my general state of being, but I spent a lot of time being unhappy. I spent a lot of time ranting and raving about what horrible hand I was being dealt and how sorry for myself I felt. I had negative things on my mind, and so began to see only the negative in everything. I wasn’t entirely unpleasant to be around – like I said, it’s not as if there weren’t many moments during which I was happy, but I was absolutely not taking responsibility for the course of my life and the way it was all shaking out. 

I can’t say the exact moment that things changed for me. It was not as if there was some clap of thunder and intense moment of enlightenment and from that time on I walked around whistling and saw sunshine and rainbows everywhere I went. But I got fed up with myself. I started seeing my relationships with people beginning to deteriorate because of my negativity. I started fighting with people I never fought with. It seemed as if no one understood what I was trying to say! It was then that I realized that it wasn’t that they didn’t understand what I was unhappy about, but that I didn’t understand that I was creating this unhappiness for myself.

Suddenly I realized that every “bad” thing that had happened to me in the recent past, every change of direction that I had interpreted as negative, had been leading me to this exact moment. It all became so clear to me. I saw it laid out in front of me, and I laughed out loud at the beauty and simplicity of it. I was filled with such an overwhelming sense of joy! So much love flooded my heart. Not love for one specific person or place or thing – love for everything and everyone. I saw how closely knit we all are, how we are all strung together tightly, and it made me so happy! That bird flies up and sits on that tree branch, and as a result that leaf falls off its branch and begins to travel in the wind. I take a deep breath and exhale, which causes the leaf to move in the other direction and begin a completely different path – one that brings it to another bird who picks it up and uses it in its nest. So simple, and yet… so beautiful! We truly are all connected. We are not alone – rather, we are all the same, and everything we do or say influences the path of others. This is a freeing realization! It was as if a giant weight had been removed from my shoulders. 

The point of my speaking to you about all of this is to explain what happened next. I began waking up every morning filled with a sense of excitement about the day to come and what it would bring me. I tried my best to always see things in a positive light, and while sometimes it was very difficult and took a lot of concentration, I was, for the most part, successful. Soon, more wonderful things happened, which only made me feel lighter and happier. It has become like the most beautiful cycle – I think positively, positive things happen to me, which makes me feel even more positive. It may seem silly for me to say that thinking positively brings about positive things – maybe that’s not it at all, in fact. Maybe it’s just that you begin to see things in a different light, and instead of seeing the negative, you see the wonderful things about them instead. 

Now, I have tools I use to keep my happy energy flowing. When I worry, I recite a Dalai Lama quote I read somewhere that always stuck with me, “If you have fear of some pain or suffering, first think if there is something you can do about it. If there is, you have no reason to worry. If there isn’t, you have no reason to worry.” Or something like that. Basically, if you can do something about it, then do it, and stop worrying. If you can’t, well, there’s no sense in worrying then, is there? It’s only a waste of energy, and fills you with a lot of negativity. Much better to just relax and see where all this takes you. When I am filled with anxiety, thinking like this almost always calms me down. If something happens that formerly would have plunged me into a pit of depression and moroseness, I take deep breaths, I tell myself it is what it is, there is nothing I can do about it. I remind myself of all the other “horrible” things that have happened to me that have actually turned out to be wonderful in the end. “It is what it is”, this is a useful phrase to recite to yourself. When things happen to you, there is rarely anything you can do to change them. And like the Dalai Lama said, if there is, go do them! If there isn’t, well, then you have a choice: you can wallow in self-pity and anger, or you can decide to just let that go, and fill yourself with positive energy instead.

A lesson that has been truly difficult for me to learn, and one that I am still deeply immersed in, is the fact that how you react to things or people and how they make you feel is entirely up to you. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was so right! And on the same vein, no one thing or person can make you feel anything, really, without your consent. You have the power to decide how you are going to react to things, no one else does. If you think clearly before making this decision every time, if you decide to react as positively as possible (even if it takes some time and some deep breaths, which for me it usually does), you may find your life following a very different path than the one it was before. We all struggle, there are always going to be things we’re going to get upset about, but we can reduce the number. We are the only ones who can truly change the way we think about things. So what’s stopping us?

I don’t want to make this too long, but I could go on for days about the beauty of this realization and what it has done for me. I still have such a long way to go in my journey of self-discovery, and so many more lessons to learn to help me get through my depression on my own, but I feel as if this may have been the most important one. But then again, how would I know? There are so many more I haven’t even imagined headed my way! I’m excited to see what my life will bring and what wonderful things I will learn about myself and, therefore, about everything and everyone.