I Thought I Was Doing Pretty Well. Then Came the Pandemic

The hidden price of a pandemic that has already cost so much

I Thought I Was Doing Pretty Well. Then Came the Pandemic

At the dawn of the pandemic, as businesses shuttered and frontline workers braved inadequate conditions and the death toll began to tick frighteningly upward, I was home alone, nursing one selfish obsession: that I would use this time to get in really good shape. I am not proud of this–I would much rather write that I was raising money for communities disproportionately affected by this crisis, or delivering meals to the immunocompromised–but it’s the truth. The more I thought about it, the more the idea sharpened in my mind’s eye: this persistent fantasy of how I would emerge anew once the lockdown lifted, athletic and radiant, the best I’d ever been. I envisioned myself on the book tour for my up-coming novel, reading a moving passage to a rapt audience, which would probably include several ex-boyfriends who would lament that they had ever let me get away. Afterward, I would take shirtless pictures by a swimming pool under a cloudless blue sky. It was the shallowest, most inconsequential thing that I could fixate on during such a profoundly upsetting time, and probably for that exact reason, it became my lifeline.

It began innocuously–even virtuously. After all, exercise is recommended as a treatment for depression, which I’ve battled for years. In the morning, I would unroll my yoga mat and take a streaming workout. But soon, one workout didn’t feel like enough, so instead I took two. Then three. I ordered ankle weights, dumbbells and a food scale. Counted calories. Cut carbs. Began intermittent fasting. Bought a Fitbit, which I picked up from Target that same day wearing a mask and gloves; I couldn’t wait the two days it would take to ship. I would wake at 5 a.m. to exercise for three hours before my workday began. I ate no-cheat meals. I took no days off. Between sets, I would scan Twitter or read the news until a wave of nauseous dread bubbled up inside me, and then I would do more sit-ups. When I reached my “goal weight”–a number I’d picked arbitrarily–I reset it for 10 lb. less. As soon as I woke up, I started thinking about how I could get thinner that day. I’d never had this much control over my environment before. With nowhere to go, I went inward–then found myself trapped there.

None of this, strictly speaking, was new. I spent my 19th birthday in inpatient eating-disorder treatment, where I was the only male patient. (Although I felt like a unicorn at the time, studies indicate that 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life, as will 20 million women.) It was just one attempt at improving the persistent problem of my mental health during the course of my early adulthood, which seemed to shape-shift as it attached to new expressions of dysfunction: depression, anxiety, addiction and compulsive behavior. Ultimately I got sober and became someone who appeared, more or less, to have it together. I published a memoir about my troubled teenage years and wrote cover stories for this magazine. Living in my brain never felt easy–like so many people who have struggled with mental illness, I had the sensation that crisis was always lapping at my feet like a rising tide, though I kept managing to avoid having to swim in it outright.

Illustration by Ellen Weinstein for TIME

But in the past couple of years, I thought I’d made headway toward real healing, so much so that it had become one of the big themes of the novel I’d written. It was the story of a young man, much like me, who meets a mysterious healer who promises to “fix” his emotional issues in three days. As he begins to face the ghosts in his past, he interrogates the problem of thinking of oneself as broken in the first place. I’d thought while promoting the book–looking very trim, of course–I would deliver inspirational speeches about the transformative power of self-acceptance. Now that was the very thing upon which it seemed I had lost my grip, and I felt like a fraud, backsliding into addictive patterns I’d believed I’d conquered.

On a macro level, the pandemic has exposed the fragility of so much that many of us took for granted, from our economy to our health care system. Yet when I look at myself, what I see laid bare by the crisis is how all the systems I used to keep myself feeling whole were more precarious than I’d ever realized: the morning meditation practice that no longer quiets my mind, the therapist who’s now glitchy over Skype or the 12-step meetings that keep getting hacked. I am more fortunate than most: I am still employed; my housing is stable; even the fact that I have hours available to compulsively exercise, as opposed to scrambling to cover bills, as many people must, is a form of privilege. But mental health is not a luxury good, and when I talk to friends about how they are coping in the lockdown era, it seems as if most, if not all of us, are on the verge of cracking.

Like most professional young adults, I subscribe to a culture of self-improvement, the belief that I can always be getting better, stronger or faster. It’s not enough to endure the global pandemic, or so I tell myself. If I were made of really strong stuff, I would find some way to thrive through it. I could make this story as cleanly aspirational as a before-and-after picture, inviting the world to marvel at my accomplishment. Everyone says Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine; I got abs. Who cares how, or what it took to get there? That’s particularly tricky because my self-harm took a socially desirable shape. (It’s particularly valuable among other gay men, a community that’s long privileged a certain type of body.) But being home alone with an eating disorder is a problem, no matter the angle. Those of us who struggle with mental illness have known for a long time that isolation is a symptom of our disease. What happens when isolation is also a public-health mandate?

In a recent poll, nearly 40% of American adults reported that their mental health has been negatively affected by the pandemic. Another sobering report indicated that beyond the 100,000 people who have already died from COVID-19 in the U.S., as many as 75,000 more could die what’s termed “deaths of despair”–from substance abuse or suicide–as a result of the consequences of the pandemic, both social and economic. Those numbers are unthinkable.

Many resources are now available virtually, a crucial shift: in March, call volume to the national help line run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration jumped nearly 900% higher than that same month last year. But anyone who’s spent time in a 12-step program, been in therapy or even just had an honest conversation with a trusted friend can tell you that one of the most vital resources available to us is connection: the simple, radical act of piercing the divide between the frightened, insular self and the people around us who might seek to understand. There’s a difference between a grainy face on a screen and the embrace of a loved one. In order to be truly vulnerable, we need to be felt.

For me, the tools that I relied upon to feel well often looked less like treatment and more like the ingredients that make up a full, joyful life: the friends I saw for long, intimate dinners; the work events that made me feel purposeful and accomplished; even the affirming gym I went to in the mornings, which had as much body diversity as anyone is likely to find in a city like Los Angeles. As a single person living alone, without the anchor of a family, I didn’t think of these things as extravagances–I thought of them as the cornerstones of my life in recovery. It had never occurred to me that they were actually a kind of scaffolding that could be stripped away overnight.

This is the problem that confronts many of the people who are living through this epidemic alone: our only company right now may be our demons. But the shame or self-consciousness we might feel over struggling is the same poison that makes us struggle in the first place: that there must be something wrong with us, that we are alone in what we’re feeling, that anyone we share it with could only experience it as a burden. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: we feel bad for feeling bad, and feeling bad just makes us feel worse.

It’s a cliché that addicts are self-absorbed, and why wouldn’t we be? Good luck clearing the space to think about anything but yourself over the deranged, screaming choirs of your unmet cravings. It’s why the 12 steps prescribe service as part of treatment–it’s the opposite of every addict’s naturally self-oriented first impulse. But when opportunities for service evaporate because of a tectonic shift in our world, it’s easy for that selfishness to creep back in.

After nine weeks of pushing myself, a dull ache in my right foot grew to a stabbing pain, until in the third hour of my morning workout, it became so agonizing I couldn’t put weight on it anymore. Defeated, I collapsed onto the floor. No longer in motion for the first time in what felt like weeks, I looked around my apartment and felt the heavy, anxious weight of that stillness. By that point, the book tour I’d been preparing for had been canceled. But that was no matter–the obsession had consumed the goal it had once been serving. I had written a book whose protagonist overcomes his insecurities to find peace and freedom, and now I was a hostage to the same monster I’d imagined my avatar besting on the page. With the world at war, here was my body–a battle-field that was just for me.

I wanted to stay in my bubble of self-obsession, which had become a kind of security blanket, much as I hated it, but I knew I couldn’t any longer. Instead, I called a friend I knew had been struggling. I didn’t talk about myself or my problems. I just asked her how she was doing and listened to her answer. And doing that–getting out of myself–made me feel better, at least for a moment.

In the years I’ve been sober, I’ve found the hardest thing about recovery–not just from addiction, but from the trauma of being a person in the world–might be accepting that growth is not always linear. We move forward, and then, sometimes, we fall back. As a writer, I find this discomfiting: I want the clean, narratively resolute satisfaction of a happy ending. But when there is no end in sight, all we can do is try to cope, however imperfectly. “One day at a time” works for pandemics too.

Lansky is the author of the novel Broken People, out June 9

Source : Time More   

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Could Mouthwash Be an Ally in Fighting COVID-19?

New research1,2,3 shows many dental mouthwashes destroy the lipid layer of coronaviruses and reduces the replication of the virus in the throat and salivary glands, making mouthwash a potentially useful prophylactic against COVID-19. As noted by the authors:4 “Emerging studies increasingly demonstrate the importance of the throat and salivary glands as sites of virus replication and transmission in early COVID-19 disease. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, characterized by an outer lipid membrane derived from the host cell from which it buds.” Mouthwashes that include ethanol, chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, hydrogen peroxide or povidone-iodine are especially effective and may even work against any new coronavirus strains that emerge, as the virus’ lipid envelope remains unchanged even when it mutates into new strains. Previous research5 has also pointed out that certain mouthwashes, particularly povidone-iodine containing ones, may help minimize the risk of viral infections and upper respiratory tract infections. Listerine and 3% hydrogen peroxide have also been shown to eliminate bacteria from toothbrushes with 100% efficacy.6 Hydrogen Peroxide Has Multiple Uses Unfortunately, extended lockdowns have prevented many from seeing their dentist for regular cleanings and other dental work. Social distancing rules and depression may also have contributed to relaxed dental hygiene among many. This is a grave mistake, as your oral health plays an important part in your overall health.  While mouthwash may lower your risk of COVID-19 infection, their “scorched earth” impact can also create an imbalance in your oral microbiome. Twice-daily use of mouthwash has also been linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, so, it may be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of this strategy. In “For Optimal Health, Mind Your Oral Microbiome,” Dr. Gerry Curatola discusses the drawbacks of mouthwash and fluoride and the importance of maintaining a healthy oral microbiome. That said, hydrogen peroxide may indeed be an excellent prophylactic and remedy against COVID-19 and other viral illnesses, not just as a mouthwash but also as a nebulized treatment. Dr. Thomas Levy7 has issued guidance8 on how to use nebulized hydrogen peroxide for the prevention and treatment of viral respiratory infections. Dentists are also advised to use 0.5% to 2% peroxide to destroy the SARS-CoV-2 virus as they return to practice,9 and this includes using it as a preprocedural rinse. How Hydrogen Peroxide Works Against Viruses To inactivate viruses with hydrogen peroxide, all you need is a nebulizer with a face mask that covers your mouth and nose that emits a fine mist, and food grade hydrogen peroxide that is diluted to 1% or less if you have any irritation. The microscopic mist, similar to smoke or vapor, can be comfortably inhaled deep into your nostrils, sinuses and lungs. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) consists of a water molecule (H2O) with an extra oxygen atom, and it is the additional oxygen atom that allows it to inactivate viral pathogens. Viruses are not “alive” per se. They need a live host in which they can infect live cells that then replicate the viral DNA and RNA. Once a cell is infected, newly replicated viruses exit the cell and move on to the next cell to duplicate the process. So, when we talk about “killing” a virus, we’re really talking about inactivating it by breaking down its structure. This is how mouthwash can inactivate viruses, and why soap works so well. Coronaviruses are held together by a lipid (fatty) coating. Soap, being amphipathic10 — meaning it can dissolve most molecules — dissolves this fat membrane, causing the virus to fall apart and become harmless. Hydrogen peroxide works in a similar way. Some of your immune cells actually produce hydrogen peroxide to destroy pathogens. By killing the infected cell, viral reproduction is stopped. So, hydrogen peroxide therapy is in essence only aiding your immune cells to perform their natural function more effectively. Hydrogen peroxide is also a key redox signaling agent that creates oxidative eustress.11 Contrary to oxidative stress or oxidative distress, oxidative eustress denotes an oxidative challenge that has positive or beneficial effects and is essential in redox signaling. If you’re already presenting with runny nose or sore throat, Levy recommends using the nebulizer for 10 to 15 minutes four times a day until your symptoms are relieved. You can also use nebulized hydrogen peroxide for prevention and maintenance, which may be advisable during flu season, or while the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing. Levy notes:12 “As it is a completely non-toxic therapy, nebulization can be administered as often as desired. If done on a daily basis at least once, a very positive impact on bowel and gut function will often be realized as killing

Could Mouthwash Be an Ally in Fighting COVID-19?

New research1,2,3 shows many dental mouthwashes destroy the lipid layer of coronaviruses and reduces the replication of the virus in the throat and salivary glands, making mouthwash a potentially useful prophylactic against COVID-19. As noted by the authors:4

“Emerging studies increasingly demonstrate the importance of the throat and salivary glands as sites of virus replication and transmission in early COVID-19 disease. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, characterized by an outer lipid membrane derived from the host cell from which it buds.”

Mouthwashes that include ethanol, chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, hydrogen peroxide or povidone-iodine are especially effective and may even work against any new coronavirus strains that emerge, as the virus’ lipid envelope remains unchanged even when it mutates into new strains.

Previous research5 has also pointed out that certain mouthwashes, particularly povidone-iodine containing ones, may help minimize the risk of viral infections and upper respiratory tract infections. Listerine and 3% hydrogen peroxide have also been shown to eliminate bacteria from toothbrushes with 100% efficacy.6

Hydrogen Peroxide Has Multiple Uses

Unfortunately, extended lockdowns have prevented many from seeing their dentist for regular cleanings and other dental work. Social distancing rules and depression may also have contributed to relaxed dental hygiene among many. This is a grave mistake, as your oral health plays an important part in your overall health. 

While mouthwash may lower your risk of COVID-19 infection, their “scorched earth” impact can also create an imbalance in your oral microbiome. Twice-daily use of mouthwash has also been linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, so, it may be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of this strategy.

In “For Optimal Health, Mind Your Oral Microbiome,” Dr. Gerry Curatola discusses the drawbacks of mouthwash and fluoride and the importance of maintaining a healthy oral microbiome. That said, hydrogen peroxide may indeed be an excellent prophylactic and remedy against COVID-19 and other viral illnesses, not just as a mouthwash but also as a nebulized treatment.

Dr. Thomas Levy7 has issued guidance8 on how to use nebulized hydrogen peroxide for the prevention and treatment of viral respiratory infections. Dentists are also advised to use 0.5% to 2% peroxide to destroy the SARS-CoV-2 virus as they return to practice,9 and this includes using it as a preprocedural rinse.

How Hydrogen Peroxide Works Against Viruses

To inactivate viruses with hydrogen peroxide, all you need is a nebulizer with a face mask that covers your mouth and nose that emits a fine mist, and food grade hydrogen peroxide that is diluted to 1% or less if you have any irritation. The microscopic mist, similar to smoke or vapor, can be comfortably inhaled deep into your nostrils, sinuses and lungs.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) consists of a water molecule (H2O) with an extra oxygen atom, and it is the additional oxygen atom that allows it to inactivate viral pathogens. Viruses are not “alive” per se. They need a live host in which they can infect live cells that then replicate the viral DNA and RNA. Once a cell is infected, newly replicated viruses exit the cell and move on to the next cell to duplicate the process.

So, when we talk about “killing” a virus, we’re really talking about inactivating it by breaking down its structure. This is how mouthwash can inactivate viruses, and why soap works so well. Coronaviruses are held together by a lipid (fatty) coating. Soap, being amphipathic10 — meaning it can dissolve most molecules — dissolves this fat membrane, causing the virus to fall apart and become harmless.

Hydrogen peroxide works in a similar way. Some of your immune cells actually produce hydrogen peroxide to destroy pathogens. By killing the infected cell, viral reproduction is stopped. So, hydrogen peroxide therapy is in essence only aiding your immune cells to perform their natural function more effectively.

Hydrogen peroxide is also a key redox signaling agent that creates oxidative eustress.11 Contrary to oxidative stress or oxidative distress, oxidative eustress denotes an oxidative challenge that has positive or beneficial effects and is essential in redox signaling.

If you’re already presenting with runny nose or sore throat, Levy recommends using the nebulizer for 10 to 15 minutes four times a day until your symptoms are relieved. You can also use nebulized hydrogen peroxide for prevention and maintenance, which may be advisable during flu season, or while the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing. Levy notes:12

“As it is a completely non-toxic therapy, nebulization can be administered as often as desired. If done on a daily basis at least once, a very positive impact on bowel and gut function will often be realized as killing the chronic pathogen colonization present in most noses and throats stops the 24/7 swallowing of these pathogens and their associated toxins.

If daily prevention is not a practical option, the effectiveness of this treatment is optimized when somebody sneezes in your face or you finally get off of the plane after a trans-Atlantic flight. Don’t wait for initial symptoms. Just nebulize at your first opportunity.”

Oil Pulling Also Breaks Down Lipid Membranes

Oil pulling is another way to promote and maintain good oral hygiene. It’s ability to break down fat-soluble membranes could potentially render it useful against viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 as well, although there are no studies that I am aware of that have looked into this.

Mouth rinsing and gargling with warm oils is mentioned, however, in a May 11, 2020, paper13 reviewing Ayurvedic approaches that might be helpful for COVID-19 prophylaxis.

Oil pulling has been scientifically verified to help eliminate unhealthy biofilm, debris and harmful bacteria from your teeth,14 much like mouthwash. It basically acts as a safe and natural detergent, without the adverse effects. According to one review paper, oil pulling has been shown to:15

  • Reduce bacterial count by 20% after 40 days of pulling using sesame oil
  • Reduce the severity of dental caries
  • Reduce plaque and gingival indices by 50% after 30 days of oil pulling (which is comparatively similar to results produced by chlorhexidine)
  • Reduce plaque induced gingivitis

One of the reasons it works so well for cleansing your teeth and gums is because bacteria have fat-soluble membranes that break down with the mechanical action of swishing and pulling the oil through your teeth.16

Coconut oil, which is an excellent option, has the added advantage of inhibiting Streptococcus mutans, the chief bacteria responsible for cavities.17 Another alternative is to use MCT oil, which also has antibacterial properties. To whichever oil you use, you can also add a drop or two of oregano oil or olive leaf oil, both of which have both antibacterial and antiviral18,19 activity.

Basic Oil Pulling Instructions

Here are the basic instructions for how to do oil pulling:

  • Measure out about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or MCT oil. You may find this is too much or not enough, but it's a good place to start. 
  • Swish the oil around your mouth, using your tongue and cheeks to pull the oil through your teeth. Coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees F (24.4 degrees C) but will quickly liquefy once you start moving it around your mouth. Try to relax your jaw muscles to avoid muscle fatigue. 
  • Although you're using it like you would a mouthwash, avoid gargling and be careful not to swallow the oil. If you feel the urge to swallow, spit it out and start again.
  • After several minutes, the oil begins to thicken, becoming milky white. After five to 10 minutes of pulling, spit the oil into your garbage can or outdoors. Spitting it into the sink may cause your drain to clog. 

Increasing the pH in your mouth after pulling may reduce bacterial growth even further. To do that, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda or potassium bicarbonate in 6 ounces of water and gargle. This will alkalize the pH of your mouth, and since bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, the increased pH will discourage growth. 

Source : Mercola More   

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