No matter what country you’re in, France, the UK, Japan, India, or Canada, you are surrounded by it at any given moment. The latest sale, the hottest new look, the ideal body, the only way to ‘fit in’. This overtly westernized image of beauty has become the international standard through the influence of clever marketing and advertising schemes. We are taught that in order to fit into the globalized culture we must fully embrace the western body.
Sadly, lighter-colored skin is considered the ideal image of beauty in most countries that contain darker skinned people. The use of skin lightening creams are rampant throughout these countries, pulling in billions of dollars every year. The majority of these products work by eliminating the production of melanin, the natural pigment found in our skin. The global market for skin lighteners will reach a staggering is worth billions of dollars.. But the use of these products don’t come without dangerous risks.
Skin lightening products are estimated to bring in $20 billion by 2018.
Hydroquinone, a common topical ingredient found in skin lightening creams has been shown to cause leukemia in mice and other animals. The European Union even banned the ingredient in cosmetics in 2001, although it can now be prescribed by a doctor.
In Korea and other Asian countries, blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery, has become the most common cosmetic procedure. The idea is to create a look that makes the eyes appear more open, similar to the shape of Caucasian eyes. If you look at the models and Anime characters portrayed in Asian magazines and advertisements, it is easy to see the exaggerated size of their eyes and the influence this has on the population.
Eyelid surgery, known as blepharoplasty, is the most common cosmetic procedure in Asian countries.
Self-Love = No Profit For Beauty Industry
Where do these beauty ideals stem from? The sad part is that the desire to look a certain way doesn’t come from the men and women themselves, it is often imposed on them from the mass media and society at large. Why? Because insecure people make better consumers.
And this isn’t just a female related issue either, men face the same bombardment of chiseled models and beefy sports super-heroes every day. There is a market pin-pointed for every faction of the population.
In truth, if someone were completely happy and confident with how they felt and looked, they wouldn’t feel the need to wear makeup, do their hair, dress fashionable, or pay for expensive and invasive surgeries. These industries would all fail, and this is something they know.
This is why the big companies spend billions on advertising every year. This is why the westernized standard for perfection is pushed in everyone’s faces day-in and day-out. And this is exactly why we need to put an end to these standards.
The Illusionists is a documentary coming out this year that aims to raise awareness around the vanity-insanity issue currently plaguing our world. Their 4 minute teaser has been going viral around the web and for good reason, I think the timing of this message couldn’t be any more imperative. We can’t wait for the conversation around westernized beauty standards to be at the forefront of international discourse.
“There is no such thing as a safe drug.” This comes from ex-pharmaceutical sales rep and author of the book, Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher, Gwen Olsen.
For 15 years, Gwen was living an unintentional lie, working as a pharmaceutical sales rep for some of today’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott Laboratories. But through a gradual course of tragic events, Gwen’s eyes were eventually opened to the unethical and tyrannical truth about pharmaceutical drugs.
“It was an awakening process, a spiritual and consciousness process where I started observing what was happening, what some of the drugs were doing, the misinformation, the disinformation. I was being encouraged to minimize side effects when I talked to doctors. I started to realize that these patients were literally being tortured by the drugs.”
In her tell all book, Gwen writes about her years as a pharmaceutical sales rep, exposing the dirty secrets of the industry that often go untalked about.
As she explains, by the time a drug is approved and hits the general population, we don’t know even 50% of side effects that are involved with that drug, “We were being trained to misinform people,” she said.
But in 2oo4, a family tragedy that tied into the corruption of the pharma industry would change everything for Gwen.
“My niece was 20 years old, she was attending Indiana university and she was a pre-med student, an extremely intelligent, beautiful woman, and just a beautiful spirit inside and out. She was in a car accident, and was prescribed vicodin hydrocodone for the pain, and became addicted.”
Gwen says that the drug’s sedative properties were affecting her niece’s concentration, so she ended up taking the stimulant drug, ephedrine, to help her with studying.
“She had a drug interaction and ended up in the hospital, and they tagged her with a bipolar disorder, not a drug toxicity or a reaction to the drugs she was on. They started giving her more antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, and that set her on the road to becoming a mental patient.”
Sadly, Gwen’s niece eventually dropped out of school, after which she tried to wean herself off of the medications she was taking. Inevitably, a severe depression followed.
“Her mom was on her way home to take her back to the psychiatrist and get her back on drugs. [That is when] my niece walked into her younger sister’s room and took an angel lamp that was filled with oil, and poured it over herself and ignited it, burning herself alive.”
Gwen says that her niece’s suicide was the spark for her passion to spread the truth about what is happening to so many others out there suffering from side effects associated with pharmaceutical drugs.
“It was a promise made to her that I would not let her memory be sullied, and tell people what had happened to her. She would not be remembered as a mentally or genetically defective person, I would not allow that to happen. And I realize that there are thousands and thousands of people out there that need a voice, and I’m serving as that voice.”
Today, one of Gwen’s biggest concerns is for the millions of children taking antipsychotics, which has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. These drugs are especially being given to kids in foster care, putting them in a virtual chemical straight jacket.
“A large number of psychiatrists are dishonest, because I see them giving people drugs that they know are brain damaging therapeutics, that they know do not have positive, long-term outcomes, that they know will not cure anything. They just take a list of symptoms and call it a mental illness or disorder.”
The subjectivity of psychiatric diagnoses has created a lucrative alliance between psychiatrists, pharma reps and the pharma industry. There is no scientific data that is required to diagnose a mental illness. There are no blood tests, there are no urine tests, no PET scan, there is no medical evidence required, and so therefore, that broadens the potential patient population considerably.
“I was so disillusioned, as well as angry, when I found out how much deception, how much misinformation was taking place and how I’d been used in that game. I literally was the one on the frontlines, I was harming people unintentionally, but I was responsible. I carry a burden for that now.”
Be sure to check out Gwen’s book, Confessions of an RX Drug Pusher, for more of her story.
They are known as “fapstronauts,” and they are part of a growing community of hundreds of thousands of men and women who are abstaining from masturbation to internet pornography.
Their community is called “NoFap,” and its founder, Alexander Rhodes, is a man on a mission to educate and inspire the world about the damaging effects of masturbating to porn.
What could possibly be wrong with harmless masturbation, you might wonder? Aren’t we meant to enjoy the simple pleasure centres of our bodies?
According to Rhodes, masturbating to porn isn’t harmless at all. In fact, it is a silent epidemic of disastrous proportion.
“The emergence of internet pornography has changed the landscape of sexual development and relationships in a way never-before-seen in human history,” he said during his speech at the Out of the Shadows national press conference. “As a result, countless people are having their sexual tastes shaped by porn producers rather than real, human, experiences. These days, exposure to pornography seems to be a virtual certainty and young men [and women] are therefore automatically ‘opted-in’ to potential addiction, relational difficulty, porn-induced erectile dysfunction, and more,” he continued.
During his speech, Rhodes discusses the idea that porn is a relatively new variable in human evolution, and we are only beginning to see the repercussions of its use arise in the current generation of men and women.
He says exposure to porn is so rampant that it is practically mandatory for children to come into contact with some image or video before puberty. He quotes an Australian study which asked 258 male participants about their exposure to porn. Only one reported they’d never been exposed. Even more concerning, the median age of first exposure was 13 for males and 16 for females.
In this way, Rhodes says, kids are learning about sexuality through porn before their first kiss.
Frequent masturbation to porn is causing erectile dysfunction in a generation of men.
Today, a large community of “fapstronauts” is coming forward to talk about the impact this exposure has had on their lives. They report heavy reliance on porn and masturbation is manifesting in disturbing ways — erectile dysfunction (ED) and anorgasmia, the inability to orgasm during partnered sex, being a few of them.
According to a Kinsey report, in 1948 less than 1% of men under 30 had ED. In 2012, Swiss researchers found this number at 30%.
And the effects of watching porn span far beyond the physical, says Rhodes.
“Different studies on porn users are showing associations with sexual dysfunction, brain hypofrontality, desensitization, sensitization to porn cues, increased stress, less motivation, relationship problems, decreased sexual satisfaction, and other life-altering detriments.”
(For an extensive list of research articles on the effects of porn, click here.)
Numerous scientific studies have found that excessive porn use has biological and behavioural ramifications.
Rhodes also stresses that he and the NoFap community are in no way ‘sex negative’:
Being skeptical of pornography is not the same thing as being sex negative – there’s a huge difference between pornography and sex. In porn, the viewer is a voyeur, rather than a participant. It is on a screen. It is available in virtually endless amounts and pirated all over porn tube sites without monetary cost. It is always accessible, just a tap or click away. To our brain’s reward system, this can be an especially enticing quick and repeatable path to an orgasm, compared to partnered sex. In fact, many people who are quitting porn are doing so in the pursuit of better sex. Quitting porn is sex positive.
He notes many NoFap community members are there to improve their interpersonal relationships, whether it be for a marriage, a relationship, or single life. For others, it is simply a challenge of willpower — to seize control of your sexuality and turn it into superpowers.
“There are many, many different reasons to join but we’re all on NoFap with one goal – to help each other abstain from PMO (porn/masturbation/orgasm).”
Men And Women Report Incredible Life Shifts After Quitting Porn and Masturbation
Within the many pages of the NoFap forums, whether directly on the NoFap website or within the large and fast-growing Reddit community, it is easy to see the profound shifts taking place for people who’ve succeeded in the NoFap challenge, which consists of setting an intention to abstain from masturbation and watching porn for a certain amount of time and then riding it out.
The NoFap community is growing at a rapid pace.
Participants report diverse and overwhelmingly positive results from their efforts, like increased confidence, reduced anxiety, improved focus and memory, increased concentration, improved social skills, deeper sleeps, enhanced abilities to feel emotions, less brain fog, and even seemingly being more attractive to females.
While some might say these are rather normal powers, fapstronauts say that after years of feeling depressed, scattered. and unmotivated, the onset of these new changes feel as incredible as real ‘ superpowers‘ would.
My relationship with porn began at the age of 13 with nude Playboy photos of Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy. This was in the days of dial-up Internet, and I was initiated by my childhood best friend at the time. Although this did not seem pornographic, relative to what my peers were beginning to look at, I now see that this was the beginning. It began a cycle where every woman I met was judged by these photogenic standards, and felt no real attraction towards most girls in high school, despite being popular and well-liked for my prowess on the guitar.
He explained his warped attitude toward women posed issues in his sex life.
“None of the girls I met in college could compare to the standards in my own mind. What few girls I was attracted to, I felt incapable of asking out for a date, and often would simply fantasize about them instead.”
He admits he developed an addiction to porn, and at 31 he discovered the NoFap community.
“Since then my relationship with both pornography and far more innocent triggers is vastly different. I no longer use porn at all, and no longer place the celebrity notion of beauty on the pedestal either, and am interested in real life and real people, slowly but surely engaging in reality.”
“Fapstronauts” claim that abstaining from porn and masturbation improves their overall confidence and sex lives.
Here is what a few other fapstronauts had to say.
“Went to a dance last night and asked a bunch of girls to dance. Felt like a boss. A few months ago I would have been sweating and shaking doing that. I would’ve been looking at the floor with my head down like a whipped puppy trying to ask a girl to dance. Stay strong everybody! There’s life after PMO, and it’s awesome af!”
“Today I am walking around with random erections all day long, like a teenager. I am in my 40s, so this feels strange.”
“Life is amazing and it’s only been two weeks! I have found out how much more confident I am in public, and how much more secure I feel about myself.”
“I finished a 300 page book in one sitting today. Before I would fall asleep or procrastinate and play on my phone. Now I can read and actually remember what I read.”
The Most Important Takeaway
Today, Rhode’s mission is to get the message out to parents so that healthy conversations can start happening at an early age.
Educating children about sexuality and the effects of watching porn is a crucial component in preventing porn addiction and porn related side effects.
“Families need to educate their children about pornography – and they need to do so before the porn producers do, since right now minors are getting hooked on porn long before they are made aware of the potential negative effects.”
And for the ones currently suffering from porn related side effects, he offers that the treatment to these symptoms simply comes down to one thing— removing porn from their lives:
We simply want people to ask themselves the question, how is porn impacting my life and relationships? And if they do not know how porn is impacting them, they can simply take a quick break, changing one variable in a self experiment, to see what impact it might have on their lives and their relationships. Already, thousands have made the personal decision to leave porn in the past, and have gone on to live more fulfilling lives with improved interpersonal relationships. It’s time we think about and openly discuss our heavy usage of pornography. In the meantime more and more people around the world will continue to declare their autonomy and reclaim their sexualities from the porn production companies.
If you are struggling with porn addiction, or are simply curious about what others are reporting from abstaining from masturbation, join the NoFap communities through their website or on Reddit. NoFap offers many resources as well as a global support network to help you transition away from the addictive influence of porn.
While flipping through the WestJet TV lineup on a recent cross-country flight, I reluctantly settled for a popular daytime talk-show (my other options included Days of Our Lives and re-runs of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo), which saw a panel of 4 diversely opinionated women duking it out to see who could make their co-host seem like the biggest idiot. Sigh.
More interesting, however, was the subject they were debating about: male circumcision.
Two of the female hosts in particular were taking the stage with polarizing views. One host saw the medical procedure as a hygienic practice that lowered the risk of disease while the other saw it as an archaic and highly irrelevant surgery.
In the end, the victor was left undecided. I, however, was left with an ignited curiosity about a medical procedure that I had never really taken time to question.
I was impressed by the research the anti-circumcision host had prepared for her debate, and it got me thinking intently about the ethics behind the globally rooted practice.
How Did Circumcision Come To Be Globally Recognized?
Ancient Medieval era circumcision Italy. Source: Wikimedia
While the true origins of circumcision are largely obscured, the procedure undoubtedly has ancient roots, as documented in findings from several ethnic groups, including ancient Egypt, Greece, and Sub-equatorial Africa.
It has been proposed that the procedure began for a number of reasons, including serving as a rite of passage marking a boy’s entrance into adulthood or as a form of sympathetic magic to ensure virility or fertility. It could also have been started as a means of reducing sexual pleasure, marking those of higher social status, aiding hygiene where regular bathing was impractical, or even humiliating enemies and slaves by symbolic castration.
By the 1890s, it became a popular technique to prevent, or cure, masturbatory insanity.
Female circumcision is still practiced in certain areas of the world today, although efforts are being made to put a stop to it.
Clitoridectomies (removal of the clitoris) were also performed for the same reason, and were widely practiced in the US until 1925. This of course was until someone recognized the absurdity of such an invasive and irrelevant medical procedure.
Yet even still, male circumcision continued onwards unto further generations of men.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that globally one-third of males aged 15 years and over are circumcised, with almost 70% of those being Muslims.
To Cut Or Not To Cut
Surprisingly, even though circumcision is still performed by most surgeons today, many leading medical institutions show no favour towards the procedure.
Take the New England Journal of Medicine, for example:
“Failure to provide adequate control of pain amounts to substandard and unethical medical practice.“
The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on circumcision:
“Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, this data is not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.“ (AAP 1999)
The British Medical Association:
“[P]arental preference alone is not sufficient justification for performing a surgical procedure on a child.” (BMA 2006)
Even the Canadian Paediatric Society has its reservations:
“Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.“ (CPS 1996)
Perhaps the reason most medical institutions show no favor towards circumcision has something to do with one of medicine’s first code of ethics, “First, do no harm.”
Removing a normal, healthy body part and causing unnecessary pain is in fact doing harm.
“But the pain only lasts for a minute…”
We know that a baby has nerve endings in their genitals at birth, therefore surgically cutting a newborn’s penis undoubtedly causes extreme pain for the baby. Even if it were only for a ‘minute’ (which it’s not), such an argument also implies it is okay to inflict unnecessary pain on an infant, even if only temporarily.
Furthermore, circumcision without anesthesia is inconsistent with ethical guidelines that prohibit performing surgical procedures on live beings without anesthesia.
Money, Autonomy, and Misguided Parental Decisions
Circumcision is a massive industry, costing upwards to billions of dollars annually.
In her article, “Circumcision Ethics and Economics,” author Darcia Narvaez states that her anti-circumcision stance comes down to money, autonomy, and parental intentions.
For one, Narvaez explains how much money we actually waste on the procedure.
Medicaid spends $198 million each year on routine infant circumcision in the 33 states that still pay for it, a procedure its own guidelines consider to be medically unnecessary. Private insurance programs are reimbursing an additional $677 million, raising prices for us all (Craig 2006.) In addition to the cost of circumcision itself, correcting its complications are said to double the cost, bringing the total bill to $1.75 billion each year. Is this what we should be spending money on during a recession and at a time when healthcare costs are skyrocketing?
Secondly, Narvaez points out that everyone has a right to bodily autonomy and self-determination, and that the only person qualified to make the medical decision is “the owner of the penis, as he is the one going to have to live with the results, not his parents.”
Another valid point brought up by Narvaez comes down to the fact that parents’ “aesthetic preferences are not valid reasons for circumcision.”
While all of her points speak truth in some regard, there are arguments for circumcision that should also be looked at.
Risk of Disease?
The most common arguments for circumcision comes down to hygiene and risk of disease. Increased risk of spreading and contracting HPV, cervical cancer, and HIV are the big ones most commonly mentioned.
However, when one actually takes the time to look at the studies which suggest this correlation, it’s extremely easy to see how weak that correlation is (fortunately).
Does circumcision truly reduce the chances of contracting or spreading HPV and HIV? Is there enough correlation to draw conclusions?
When they restricted their dataset to women with only one sexual partner, there was an increased risk of cervical cancer in women whose partners were uncircumcised only if their partner was already considered at high risk for contracting HPV (as determined by age at first intercourse, number of sexual partners, and sex with prostitutes). So, in men who already engage in risky sexual behavior, circumcision does offer an advantage for protecting their partners from cervical cancer.
Yes, circumcision reduces the mucosal surface area, thereby potentially minimizing the interface for abrasion and transmission of viruses, but again, this is a weak reason for surgical intervention.
Women also have many crevices and folds in their genitals, yet we don’t automatically assume to surgically remove their labia for hygienic purposes.
It’s called showering.
Routine infant circumcision is a 90-year aberration among hundreds of thousands of years of our time here as homo-sapiens.
Furthermore, manmade traditions have never been the basis for scientific principles, so why have we chosen to hold on to such an archaic way of thinking with regards to circumcision?
Thankfully, these traditions are on their way out soon, with only 30% of American boys circumcised in 2009. It seems that more and more parents are seeing through the silly traditions of our past while looking to create a more reasonable future for us all.
Perhaps one day we will look back at a list of all the strange things we once accepted as normal and laugh, with circumcision topping the list of these absurdities.
According to a major study published in the Lancet, one of out every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — was attributed to disease from toxic environmental exposure, CBC reports.
The report estimates the cost of pollution-related deaths has grown to $4.6 trillion, or about 2.6% of the global economy.
Epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, Dean of Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and lead author on the report, says a study focused on pollution-related deaths has never been done like this before, and that it is painting a clear picture of a crisis in heavily populated, developing countries.
“Pollution is a massive problem that people aren’t seeing because they’re looking at scattered bits of it,” Landrigan said.
The 9 million related deaths is just a partial estimate, the study says, and this number will undoubtedly rise once proper assessment methods are developed.
Many populated areas, like Sub-Saharan Africa, have yet to even set up air pollution monitoring systems. “Particularly, soil pollution has received scant attention,” said CBC. “And there are still plenty of potential toxins still being ignored, with less than half of the 5,000 new chemicals widely dispersed throughout the environment since 1950 having been tested for safety or toxicity.”
While Asia and Africa’s population are among the highest at risk, India tops the pollution crisis by far.
“One out of every four premature deaths in India in 2015, or some 2.5 million, was attributed to pollution,” CBC reports. “China’s environment was the second deadliest, with more than 1.8 million premature deaths, or one in five, blamed on pollution-related illness, the study found.”
A man wears a mask on Tiananmen Square during a very hazy day in Beijing, (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
While nearly a fifth of premature deaths in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan, and Haiti were linked to pollution, many of these countries have yet to make pollution a priority, the study says.
Recently, citizens of New Delhi filled the skies with a banned firework particulate known as PM2.5 during their Diwali celebrations. The reported levels of particulate went beyond 900 parts per million, 90 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization and 22 times higher than India’s own limits.
And it is the world’s poorest who are suffering the most. 92% of pollution-related deaths occur in low-income countries, where policy makers are more concerned with building their industries and economies than the health of their citizens.
But what the policy makers in these countries aren’t seeing is the return on switching over to cleaner practices and technologies.
According to studies by the CDC, since 1980, the U.S. economy has saved $6 trillion cumulatively by removing lead from their gasoline supply, says the CBC.
Marc Jeuland, an associate professor with the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University, though not involved in the study, noted that while the report counts mortality by each pollutant, there are possible overlaps — for example, someone exposed to both air pollution and water contamination — and actions to address one pollutant may not reduce mortality.
My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control, and my voice was mute. I couldn’t make a sign or a sound to let anyone know I’d become aware again. I was invisible – the ghost boy.” -Martin Pistorious
Martin Pistorious had a normal childhood growing up in South Africa in the late 70’s. His parents, Joan and Rodney Pistorius, explained how Martin insisted that he would one day be an “electric man,” infatuated by any type of electronic equipment he could get his hands on.
But everything would change for the worse when Martin was 12. Coming home from school one day, he told his parents that he was feeling sick. This wasn’t any normal flu, however, as Joan and Rodney watched their son begin to sleep for endless hours of the day, almost like a baby. Even worse, he couldn’t eat, refusing anything they put in front of him.
Martin was tested for everything in the book, including Parkinson’s, TB, mineral deficiency, and more, yet everything came back negative.
As the months went on, Martin’s parents watched as their son slowly began to shut down — first his ability to move, then his ability to make eye contact, and finally his speech.
“He progressively got worse, probably in the second year of his illness. He was sleeping whenever we didn’t wake him up. He was permanently lying down in the fetal position,” said Rodney in an interview with NPR.
Finally, a test came back positive. It was cryptococcal meningitis, something the doctors said meant there was no hope for Martin.
They were told that he was a vegetable, with no more intelligence. They were advised to take Martin home, to provide him with love until his death.
Trapped inside of his own body for a decade and thought to be severely brain-damaged, Martin Pistorius was actually fully aware the entire time. His story is one marked by abuse, neglect, love and despair. An expert on what people do when they think no one is looking, Martin has become well versed on human nature and self-determination.
A Boy Who Wouldn’t Let Go
But something in Martin held on for much longer than his prognosis had estimated.
“Martin just kept going, just kept going,” said Joan.
The years continued to pass as Rodney and Joan cared for their helpless son. They dressed him, fed him, bathed him, and dropped him off at the special care facility he was enrolled at on a daily basis.
“My alarm was set for every two hours so that I could wake up to turn him, so that he wouldn’t get bed sores,” said Joan.
This exhausting cycle continued for another 10 years, literally taking everything from Joan and Rodney. Joan told NPR that she eventually came to a point where she said to Martin, “I hope you die.“
“I know that’s a horrible thing to say. I just wanted some sort of relief…in my mind he’d already died.”
A Nurse Who Believed In The Soul Inside Martin
By the time Martin was in his mid-20’s, something slowly began to shift. Martin was now able to squeeze someone’s hand, a remarkable advancement considering his history. Furthermore, he was getting better at holding himself upright in his wheelchair.
However, the doctors insisted that Martin still had the mind of a 3-year old. But one nurse, named Verna, was convinced that there was something there.
She eventually convinced Joan and Rodney to get another evaluation done elsewhere. Martin was given a test where he had to identify different objects by pointing at them with his eyes. Surprisingly to many, he passed; not with flying colors, but he passed nevertheless.
“I then gave up my job,” said Joan.
This 1987 photo is the last one to show the family before Martin fell ill. He is at the right. Courtesy of Martin Pistorius
Joan dedicated the next year to teaching Martin how to use a special joystick for the computer, four hours every morning, until he finally got it.
Once he did, everything would change. Martin was now able to select words using his stick.
‘I am cold. I am hungry. I want toast.‘ These were his first bits of communication. Soon after, other things began to return to him.
“He started moving his eyes and moving his head and almost nodding, asking for coffee by stirring his hands around and things like that.”
A Horrifying Realization – Martin’s Perspective
For 8 of the 12 years he was diagnosed, Martin was invisible. From the outside, he was unresponsive, a vegetable. But deep inside, Martin said he was aware of everything.
“I was there, not from the very beginning, but about two years into my vegetative state, I began to wake up.”
Martin described the initial process,
“I suppose a good way to describe it is like an out-of-focus image. At first you have no idea what it is, but slowly it comes into focus until you can see it in crystal clarity.”
Somewhere along this process, Martin soon realized his immobility.
“I stared at my arm, willing it to move. Every bit of me condensed into that moment.”
Martin recalled a moment when his father was helping him undress, and how badly Martin was trying to communicate, but nothing in his body would obey.
“Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again. The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that – totally alone.”
Martin revealed how he spent countless hours wallowing in self-defeat: “You will never get out. You are pathetic, powerless, totally alone.”
Was this really how he was to spend the rest of his days alive?
An Unlikely Inspiration Changes Martin’s Thoughts
Martin had fully let go of hope, but as he explains, occasionally there were unlikely sparks of inspiration.
‘You can always count on having a fun day when you spend it with the people you love,‘ said Barney, the fictitious children’s show icon. Martin was constantly forced to watch Barney, a show he now admits he thoroughly despised. He used the show, along with the movement of the Sun, to figure out the time of day.
This was his first semblance of control. Simply knowing where he was in the day gave him the sense of being able to climb through it. He realized his thoughts could help him.
“I’d have conversations with myself and other people in my head.”
Reengaging with his thoughts transformed his world, and slowly, life began to have purpose.
This also sometimes meant pain for Martin, such as when he heard his mother say to him, “I hope you die.”
But as time passed, he gradually learned to understand his mother’s desperation. He realized that it came from profound love for him.
“She could see only a cruel parody of the once-healthy child she had loved so much,” Martin said.
Amazingly, this made him feel even closer to his mother.
It wasn’t long after this when Martin’s nurse, Verna, saw the soul trapped inside Martin, and insisted on getting him more help. This, as previously explained, was the beginning of an inspiring new chapter for Martin.
College Graduate, Bushiness Man & Husband – Martin Today
By leaning into those dark thoughts, Martin gained a self-understanding and humour about the human condition that allowed him to attain so much more than he had ever imagined for himself.
Progressing through various levels of improvement, he eventually scored himself a job filing papers at a local office, then moved onto fixing computers, creating a web design business, and earning a computer science degree. He even met a beautiful and loving wife named Joanna, whom he met through his sister.
“I turned around, and it was just this guy with this big smile. And it’s such a warm personality…Yeah, okay, well he’s in a wheelchair, and he doesn’t speak. But I love this guy. He’s amazing. It just so quickly turned into love,” said Joanna.
Though his success may seen simplified by this article, we cannot forget the amount of dedication and hard work it was for both Martin and his loved ones to get him to where he is today.
Martin’s story is indeed one filled with many mixed emotions – sadness, empathy, fear, agony, inspiration – yet it stands as an incredible testament to human willpower.
For more on Martin’s story, be sure to check out his incredible personal account of his journey in his book, Ghost Boy.