Thursday, February 4, 2016

My fate is in my hands

Yes, that's my hand and my keychain Magic 8-Ball.
I have written about this before, but I think that my atheism has helped drive my recovery.

Sure, my stubbornness has something to do with it--don't tell me I can't walk!--but knowing there's no one out there who's going to make things better makes me do it for myself.

I realize that believers find praying to God comforting. And they keep waiting and waiting for God to pick up the message.

I guess he screens his calls.

A famous large study of heart patients showed that patients who knew they were being prayed for actually did worse than those who weren't prayed for.

But like people relying on Magic 8-Balls, believers keep shaking that ball, waiting for it to say something other than...

ANSWER HAZY TRY AGAIN

They've all heard the canard that God helps those who help themselves--I wonder why that is?--but they still wait for the great big genie in the sky to make it better for them.

CONCENTRATE AND TRY AGAIN

But since I don't believe there's anyone up there, I know I have to rely on myself. My recovery won't happen on it's own.

IT IS CERTAIN

And there's a comfort in knowing that I have my fate in my own hands. The faithful are always excusing life's misfortunes by saying God works in mysterious ways.

BETTER NOT TELL YOU NOW

Well,  I don't have some fickle deity deciding to give me yet another bout of Legionnaires' disease because he woke up on the wrong side of the cloud.

MY ANSWER IS NO

I slowly weaned off prednisone early last year , so I'm no longer as immune-suppressed as I was. (My methotrexate also has immunosuppressive properties, but it's not coincidental that I haven't had a bout of pneumonia since I went off prednisone in late January of 2015.)

IT IS CERTAIN

I'm continuing to exercise on the stationary bike six times a week and hike once a week, not to mention my physical therapy exercises. I keep escalating the difficulty of the hikes. Indeed, the hike this Monday at Rocky Peak Park was the hardest yet (post and Tumblr link are forthcoming).

When I was a toddler, I had a shoestring with some large beads. I would chew on the ends of the lace, so they were rather frayed. I couldn't get one of the beads on, and I was getting red in the face with frustration. My mother took it from me. She was about to string it on for me when I grabbed it back, and said, "Me do it!"

I'm still like that when I feel frustrated. But when I see myself climbing new heights, I can say,

"Me did it!"

Will I recover the rest of my physical abilities without recourse to a higher power?

OUTLOOK GOOD

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.