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Category Archives: General Health

The cheapest therapy available…

The cheapest therapy available…
GIIIIRL!

GIIIIRL!

Dear readers,

Want a way to find cathartic relief? The answer may be closer than you think. Often attributed to teenage girls, the answer I have found to prove most effective is that which involves only mere introspection. What the hell am I talking about? Why writing in a diary of course!

Dear diary... Misty is such a whore.The simple act of putting one’s ideas to paper can offer immediate relief to someone have a rough day. I often find that after dealing with a lot of crap during the day, I tend to let all the worry and angst sit in my head. I revisit this worry over and over, and ruminate about my feelings, and my reactions to these feelings. “Why did that guy look at me funny?” Or “I really felt bad about what someone said about me on Facebook. It made me angry and sad.” What I tend to dwell on can vary from superficial to profound. In both cases, it is not important the stimulus. What is important is how I attach myself to the emotional reaction to the stimulus. After all, I have no control over the past. I can choose to keep it all inside and tell myself that I should feel the way I feel. That I am silly and petty. Egotistical. Dramatic. Emotional. A wimp. A sissy. An idiot. I can tell myself these things all day long and not even realize it. It is not the words I say to myself. It is merely the impulse to refuse myself the truth of my feelings. Yes, a superficial thought is superficial, but it may have a big impact on my emotional state, especially if the mere thougBad day...ht of it makes me feel like a fool. “How can I be so effected by something so unimportant? It’s silly! I’m silly! Well, well, well, look who is a fool yet again!”

Sorry, this book's private :-)

I say “therapist” as it seems to me that a lot of psychotherapy involves the patient merely coming to their own conclusions. The therapist is a guide, but the client is walking the path. It can be quite annoying to realize that despite spending hundreds of dollars on counseling, the bulk of the therapy work is often my own. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to the process of guiding one’s thought processes. After all, that is the whole problem in the first place. It is not the stimulus. It is the response. And the response is not based solely on the stimulus. It may be based on childhood experiences and past events or traumas. Merely the thought of an event, a trigger, may be enough to make me feel like that scared kid in pre-school all over again.

Rough day...So I am wired to react a certain way when I encounter challenges. I am conditioned like a dog to respond the way I always have. I can’t help it. I have become a master of my own belief system. (see my previous post – A cloak of invisibility (or fashion in times of Lent) http://wp.me/p1qguS-bs ). I have learned very well to react with negativity to that which scares the shit out of me. The answer is not to blame myself, or my station in life. I am not out to blame anyone. Life is. My life is what it is. No amount of blame will change the past. It is up to me to be a champion of my own future. A shepherd of my soul. I may not pave the road, but I choose to walk it. I am the captain of my ship, but not master of the seas. So what is there to do in times of trouble? Let it be. (Thank you Beatles…)

I choose to write it down in a journal. I find that this frees me of the residue of the day. I still need to practice mindfulness, and all that other good stuff, but when it comes to a quick release, nothing beats a nice journal sesh. Try it! You might be surprised at how great it feels. The more honest you are, the better it feels.

What’s even more fun – reading your old journal entries every time you make a new one. You discover some interesting patterns along the way. These are not bad, but merely facets of your personality. And awareness can bring about transformation over time should you wish to change.

Thanks for reading.

-Jon

Jon Book 2

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Putting myself “out there…”

Putting myself “out there…”
No shame campaign

No shame campaign

 

Hello Readers,

So last week I posted a story on facebook. Not just any story. A story about myself. Well, more than just a story. More like a “tell all.” A coming out if you will. Only this one didn’t have to do with being gay, It had to do with having HIV. So…. Yeah. Here we go.

I really didn’t know what to expect. This all came about because of several things. First, I work for a non-profit and do fundraising for people with HIV. I thought that by showing people that I wasn’t ashamed to be HIV positive, that others would feel less stigma as a result. After all, I see a lot of things which are supposed to reduce stigma, but despite all the media out there, I found it hard to find a role model I could relate to. Most folks are celebrities or part of a different generation. I don’t really see a lot of guys my age just out and proud. I felt like it was time to have someone out there with a voice. So I decided to “be the change” I wanted to see. (thank you Mohandas Gandhi) I wrote a story (not a perfect one, but one from the heart). I wrote it once, and let it be. It was true. It was real. I wasn’t looking to get published. I just wanted so desperately to get my truth out there and my voice heard. And heard it was.

The other reason was that I am doing the AIDS Lifecycle – a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Without any previous experience riding a bike or without owning any gear (or a bike for that matter) I have been training with an awesome group of people who gave me all I need to succeed in this great endeavor. I felt that doing this trans-formative ride was just the spark I needed to set my heart on fire. I have been trying to raise $10,000 for these two causes, and I must say – it is hard! I mean, really hard. I am not wealthy, nor do I have many wealthy friends. I went into this with good intentions but not really knowing what was going to happen. I am seeing that my friends and family don’t hesitate to help when asked. My parents have been more than generous. Supporting my ride by even providing me with a new bike to get me to LA safely. I only hope to make them  proud of the work I am doing, and that I make a real difference in the lives of people in the HIV/AIDS community. I still wanted to do more. I recorded a PSA at work where I again “come out” about my status. I am considering even promoting my efforts at the gym with a sign which reads “Help me fight HIV/AIDS. Ask me how.” I have no clue how others will react. After all, I don’t live in San Francisco’s Castro district. I may get pushback, in fact I’m pretty sure of it. But no matter. I’m not going to stop until I reach my goals. And if it makes the life of LGBT youth a little better growing up in the South Bay, then it was worth it. I often see that once people get to know me, they don’t have a problem with me being gay. It is often those who don’t know me that tend to be confrontational and intolerant. So I guess I am just trying to put it out there more. Get people to realize that HIV affects more people than they know. People like me.

So here is what I wrote. I posted it to Facebook so it is now FOREVER in cyberspace. I suppose it belongs to the universe now. Haha. No matter. I have been quiet all my life. I am sick of it and I’m ready to speak out. There is rampant intolerance even here in the US. I am seeing the past generations lead the way, but I am not sure what my role is in this generation. I want to make a difference – that is all.

Thank you for reading. (and if you can make a small donation via the links below, that would be lovely.)-Jon

Here is the story/post:

Inline image 1

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I have been an active supporter of HIV related causes for a while now. Although it is quite rewarding work in and of itself, I must admit I have my personal reasons.I am a 30 year-old man, and since 2006, I have been diagnosed as being HIV positive. This had been quite a shock for me, as I was only 24 at the time. I never thought that anything like this would happen to me. I still felt young, I still felt innocent. I was still finding out who I was in the world. Had this diagnosis been made in the 1980’s or even 1990’s, I might not be here today. Despite the information out there, at first I was very scared. I had no idea what it meant to be positive. I had heard stories from growing up of HIV positive people who had lost their loved one’s to the virus. As a teenager, I had read the names of people on the AIDS Quilt in commemoration of those who had passed. My first thought was “I might soon join them.” I felt guilty for having HIV and blamed myself constantly. I had always regarded myself with understanding and love, but at that moment, I really knew what it meant to be ashamed. I thought, for some reason, I would no longer be loved. I have found that nothing could be further from the truth.When I told my family, not only were they understanding and supportive, they made sure to ask me how my health was on a regular basis. My friends rallied by my side, and even help me find books and resources to help me figure out what to do next. The community even had a seminar in which I received support from a loving community and lots of useful information. With the love and support of friends, family and the community, I felt a renewed sense of love and compassion for myself. I felt like I had been given an opportunity to turn this illness into a reason to fight for better health. The constant blood draws, the doctor visits, and the medications were scary at first, but again the support of those around me allowed me to continue to forge ahead. Now 30 years old, I am now healthier than I have ever been (according to my doctor). At first, I thought my HIV would take over my life – Instead, it has afforded me the opportunity to look at my life, really look at how precious it all is, and how grateful I am to be living in a community that cares about me, no matter what illness I have.I can’t help but think of how things could have been if I had been infected ten, fifteen or twenty years prior. After all, things were not always so great for people like me. In the 80’s and 90’s there were few options for people with HIV, and the options that were available were certainly not ideal. With countless side-effects including facial wasting and lipodystrophy, I can’t imagine the hell that the first group of HIV positive individuals had to endure to pave the way for the medications available today. I would not be here if it weren’t for them. I quite literally owe them my life. Although it isn’t always easy when you have HIV, but it is certainly good enough that I can pay forward that which was given so generously to me. I am certainly glad to be alive.

When I moved to San Jose, I lost my health insurance. I had what they call a “Pre-existing condition.” Basically, no health provider would enroll me. I was now on a list. For the first time in my life, I had no one to go to for my care or medications. I was scared of what would happen to me. I felt like I was being punished for being sick. What a horrible feeling that was. Through a miracle, I spoke with a friend who referred me to The Health Trust, a non-profit in San Jose that helps people with HIV get connected to services. My social worker helped me with all the paperwork and referrals. He not only helped me find medical services and medicine, he also helped me understand the services available to me in the San Jose area. I left that appointment at The Health Trust in tears and feeling truly grateful. Never before had I gone from a place of utter despair to true serenity in so brief a time. I was going to be okay. I was going to get all I needed to get my health back in order. I was then seen at the PACE Clinic, by the best medical team I have ever encountered. The understanding and support they gave me not only got my viral levels down, and my white blood cell count up, but made me want to do more for the community that made it all possible.

Although now I have Health Insurance through my employer, I have never forgotten what it felt like to feel alone, scared, and in fear of dying. I don’t ever think I can fully repay for the services I have received. But what I can do is help. And so I have dedicated my life to making sure others have the same great services in this community as I have had. I see every day how much of a struggle it is to keep these programs running. Many folks have forgotten that HIV is still with us, and continuing to infect more youth every day. And so I feel it my duty to continue to fight, not only for my own health, but for the health of others – those who are aging, those who are newly diagnosed, and those who still are too afraid to get tested. I do it for them, and for those who have fought so bravely for the services we have today. I will fight until my last day, which thanks to the struggles of generations past, is hopefully not for a long time.

Through my work at The Health Trust, I help fundraise for HIV services. I am truly blessed to be able to give back to the community that has helped me.

This year I have dedicated myself to two causes that are very much important to me:

Inline image 1The Health Trust AIDS Services – The organization that helped me get my Health Care back when no other Healthcare plan would have me. They are the largest non-medical provider in Santa Clara County (my home). This organization is very near and dear to me and needs help to continue to provide HIV services in the San Jose area. Please consider helping my community to better health and help me reach my $5,000 goal to help folks down here in San Jose: http://www.razoo.com/story/Dining-Out-For-Life-Silicon-Valley-A-Benefit-For-Hiv-Aids?referral_code=share

Inline image 2AIDS Lifecycle – This year I have decided to join the AIDS Lifecycle, riding 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles on bike to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS. (I have never done this before, and haven’t ridden since I was 10. haha… But I am training every week and won’t stop til I reach Los Angeles.) I need a minimum of $3,000 to ride. It would mean so much to have your support. You can help support me in my ride by clicking here: http://www.tofighthiv.org/site/TR/AIDSLIFECYCLE12/AIDSLifeCycleCenter?px=2738564&pg=personal&fr_id=1550

I have made it my goal to raise $10,000 between these two causes, so no one will have to be scared like I was. I don’t make too much money (as I work for a non-profit… lol) but would like to see if any of my friends and family would be willing to help out in any way they can. (even a dollar would be great.) 🙂

If you aren’t able to give, it would really great if you could please forward this email to your contacts. It would mean a lot to me.

Thank you for reading.

With gratitude,

-Jon Jeremy Breen

(PLEASE FEEL FREE TO FORWARD THIS EMAIL)

 

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Dream a little dream of me

Dream a little dream of me

Nothing to see here folks…

As he snuggled in his somewhat warm bed, he is only but a bit awake. He smiles just a bit, with eyes still closed. He realizes that the muscles in his face have contracted to express his inner joy, but he has little idea why he is so happy. Happy may not be the right word for it. Satisfied may be more like it. He has definitely had a nice dream, and it is unfortunate that he can’t remember what it was about. This has happened before, and he could usually rouse his memory eventually, but only after careful introspection. Although he has only a couple clues to go off of, he uses what he can to piece things together. It comforts him to remind himself that he is capable of doing this. As if a memory, as precious as gold and as elusive as a fabled creature (a unicorn, elf, angel, etc.), would hold deep meaning. Not just in an educational “oh that’s cool” sort of way, but in a “this is something personal to me – something sacred and therefore important.”

So yes, it should comfort him to know that he can do this. Well, mildly comforting, as he has yet to use this knowledge to conquer the world, or cure Cancer. So what good is this sacred knowledge? Will it get him laid? Will it get him into Yale? Yes, and no. Yes as much as any self-knowledge can lead one to gain insight into the future. And no insomuchas one can easily dismiss such wisdom as mere hedonistic voyeurism or plain old nonsense.

The Schizophrenic brain – A “Split” mind

Sometimes it can be hard to see the real meaning in a dream. What one sees in the past and present could potentially help in the future, but as for this dream, his dream, who is to say? Having a good old-fashioned sex dream about someone you adore may not hold the key to immortality, but it certainly makes for a good morning. And that is good enough for today. But he still can’t be sure what he can barely recall. What the hell was that?

Ok, so this is the process. Think of ONE thing that brings up a strong emotion. Scan your brain for anything that mildly or remotely resonates with emotional harmony or discord.

Hmm… so… is there a person involved? Can’t recall. Was there a place? Well… somewhere… barren. A desert? No… yes! But a cold desert. It was nighttime… Ok… this is a good start. Who was there? Hmm… Still no one comes to mind.

And suddenly it hits him. Death! What?! He thinks to himself, and almost shows his outright shock by uttering a “wha…!” This was supposed to be a good dream, right? So what the hell is death doing playing a part? And then it struck him again, almost like a shock or jolt of electricity.

Death! That was the person I saw, or moreover, Death is who was present.

But it wasn’t a scary death. It was a comforting one. Death, usually a suspect of terror and source of fear and pain, was no longer playing the part of malice, but rather of comfort. This was a dream after all. These things are not meant to be taken literally, right? What the fuck does he know of dream interpretation anyway?

He took some courses in Cognition in College, and learned some interesting theories on how the mind works. He didn’t, however, learn any absolute meanings here. Theories. Just theories. Plus, the Freudian school of thought seemed like a lot of bullshit anyway. He always preferred the most logical explanation. So what was it? Ok, so with very little to go on, let’s continue the fact finding search, shall we?

Ok, Death. Death was there, in the desert. The cold, night desert. And I’m happy. Why? Why am I happy? Am I actually happy? Am I just relieved? Could be…

It has been a hard week, and certainly the idea of getting away from it all does pose a certain amount of comfort on his weary mind. Or should I say heart.

What else was present?

More information usually lent itself to deeper analysis and subsequent understanding. So he picked his brain for more. He was still pretty drowsy and with milky sight still masking his vision, he looked around his room to check for additional emotional triggers.

The TV, nothing. The dream catcher above his bed? Nothing. His desk, pen, computer – nothing. His trash. N.. wait. Something. What? Did I lose something? he thought. Was that the emotional trigger? Yes, I lost something very valuable, and then I found it. What was it?

As his alarm clock sounded with the automatic playlist programmed on his ipod, the sounds of Amy Winehouse roused him from his contemplative state.

It was… Damn! It was…

And then he saw it. What he was missing. It was the key. Literally. A key.

This struck him as if he had just came across the solution to a complex algebraic equation he had been struggling with for a long time. He had no idea what this meant. A key? Surely his keys were not that important to him. But, despite knowing that in his mind, he knew, really knew, and believed, that if he lost the “key” he would be in serious trouble. He turned off his alarm before Amy got to the chorus of “Valerie” and forced himself out of bed. He would get no more sleep this morning.

 

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Giving It Up! or “How liberating my money liberated me”

Giving It Up! or “How liberating my money liberated me”

The idea of giving is not a completely new concept for me. Despite this, I have only recently discovered the utter joy of giving. By giving I mean money, cash, dinero, moolah, ducats, and scrilla. I’ve often felt joy in volunteering, but sometimes people don’t want my help, they want some dough. So why debate the seemingly unspiritual nature of money, and offer people exactly what they are asking for?

MK Gandhi

In the past, when people asked me for money, either a homeless person, or for a charity, I would often think “wait, I’m young, and barely making a living, I have tons of bills, and I can’t even afford a decent pair of pants!? Grumble, grumble.” And my head goes to a place that is utterly shameful. I began to think “why don’t they simply (insert unreasonable expectation here)” or those people always “yadda yadda yadda.” Looking back on this, I really feel like I was not doing my Berkeley education justice. Yes, if I give someone five bucks, I will not have that five bucks. But if I am someone who gives five bucks regularly, and still manages to have a happy life, I am more effective and connected than before. I would have learned how to be happy with less. And despite the fact that I have no clue what people will actually use the money for, I enjoy giving, I enjoy seeing someone hold their head up a little bit more than they did before they met me. I want that to be my life. I want to be that change that I want to see in the world. (Thank you Mahatma Gandhi!) 

Animated by positive thoughts

Well, at first I experienced a lot of hesitation. I was scared. After all, what will happen if I give my money away? Will I go hungry? No. Will I become homeless myself? Probably not. Will I become utterly miserable and regret my decision for years and years to come, pining at all that I could have afforded had I not helped my fellow man (or woman)? NOPE! In fact, I feel more secure in my happiness. I feel free from the bonds of money. I would hold onto my money with such a tight grip when it comes to others, but when it came to my own spending, I was often quite reckless. Now, don’t get me wrong, giving away money will not help you necessarily save up for that hawaiian vacation, but maybe, just maybe, I will find so much joy in life that when that Hawaiian vacation does come around, I will have already experienced joy before I had even left the mainland.

Nowadays, I find that giving makes me feel more involved. I feel like I can actually make a difference. I can

The awesome Humpback Whale.

volunteer and help with my physical presence, and expertise. Or I can help by feeding some of the benefits I’ve been afforded to those to whom they haven’t been afforded. I had to struggle to get where I am today, but I see how I can pay it forward. I am not going to clear my checking account to save the whales any time soon, but I won’t say never. 🙂 By being a part of possibility for others, I AM possibility. I AM giving. I AM love. These are gifts I have given myself. The money may not always be there, but I have granted myself something much greater in return. The satisfaction that I can BE who I set out to be. If I create that world around me, then I am, in essence, creating the world I want to exist in. So I choose to live in a world full of possibility, generosity, kindness, understanding, and empathy. And let me tell you, it sure ain’t bad. In fact, maybe I will help them Whales!

Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment.

-Jon

 

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Passage of Time…

Passage of Time…

I was looking at my calendar on my iPhone recently, and was oddly temped to continue flipping through the dates. As I was passing days, weeks, months, and subsequently years, I began to feel something. I’m not exactly sure how to articulate the feeling, but I believe it was a combination of sadness and nostalgia. I began to think, where will I be on this particular day? What will my life look like? Will my friends still be alive? Will I be alive?! The initial onslaught of emotions took a brief holiday from my conscious and allowed me to continue with my silly calendar-flipping.

I first stopped on February 16, 2012 where I would be turning 30 years old. I assume not much will have changed from now until then. In fact, I am very much looking forward to my 30’s. My 20’s were full of many not-so-fun life lessons, and various financial mistakes (did I really need that many ipods?!?). No, my thirties will be great. Not necessarily less chaotic, but just different – a whole new set of life lessons. Having survived this odd adulthood transition, I feel confident enough to face those challenges to come. No more Top Ramen! I swear. So on I go, into the future…

I stop next on February 22, 2022… Cool date! Well, it sounds cool anyway. I makes me think about what kind of world it will be in 10 and a half years. Will things be better? Will robots replace most workers causing mass-joblessness? Will we have blown each other all to bits, save a few post-apocalyptic survivors a la Mad Max beyond Thunderdome?! Well, by this point I will have turned 40… Wow, I wonder if I would have gotten my life together enough to have kids? Or even a house? God, time is moving fast! I might start to get down about losing friends and loved ones… I have many friends older than me, and this will definitely be a difficult thing to deal with… Ok, well on I go again….

Next stop, December 25, 2031. I am 49, and the same age as my mother when she passed away (God rest her soul). Aside from pondering my mother’s existence, I would also look at my own. Maybe by this point I will have settled on a house, had at least one major relationship (over 10 years I hope), looked at adoption, and began to build a nice nest-egg for the future. Retirement is still quite a ways away, but not nearly as far as it was when I began writing this blog. 😦 Hmmmm… Well, more friends, family and possibly lovers leaving/passing on… and young ones growing up… Grandkids for some on the horizon… It’s the circle of life I suppose. Ok, so on the road again…

I go a little spin happy and end up on June 2, 2044. So at the age of 62, I should hope I have gotten all my daredevil stunts out of my system, because things will always tend to fall apart, eventually. I am no exception. I might look at retirement soon, but this might not be an option for me. If I have any sort of medical issues or other unexpected financial struggles, I might not have much of a savings, OR retirement. Chances are I won’t collect social security for another 20 years after, so I guess it’s no end in sight quite yet. Although I am getting up in age, I still have to stay on top of things. I still have plenty years of work to do yet.

Ok, so at February 15, 2052, the day before my 70th birthday, I pause. I got such an eerie feeling. Something tells me I might not make it to this day. I know it sounds oh so morose, but I feel compelled to write the truth. After all, I can’t lie to you (whoever you are…lol). But who knows, this might be another marker in my existence. Just another milestone. God help me if I’m not actually able to retire yet… Man! I would definitely begin my crusade to become the crankiest person I know. Haha j/k…I am not sure where I will be living, but I sure hope I still have friends, I hope I still have my spirituality, and, most of all, I hope I still have my sense of humor, for that’s what will get me through the years. Friends, Faith, and all that is Funny…

Thanks for reading,

Feel free to comment (and if you don’t have plans on Feb 15, 2052, please let me know, maybe we can have coffee).

-Jon

 

Salad Daze

Salad Daze

20110914-034907.jpg

Recently I discovered the awesomeness that is the Trader Joe’s salad. For about $3.99 per salad, which for a work week, comes out to about $20 a week, saves my diet and saves my wallet. They have a great variety of salads. My favorite ones are the Pasadena salad (pictured) and the chopped salad with israeli cous cous and asiago cheese.
Try em out! By eating salads for lunch I saved $30 a week on lunch and about 400 calories per day. Simple but effective. 🙂

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think of the salads!

-Jon

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Diet, Food, Health and Money

 

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Watch what wheat!

Watch what wheat!

Whole Wheat... notice the 13.25 oz

At the grocery store there are clever schemes right and left. Packaging is misleading, prices are too. Things that look like a good deal, could turn into a waste of money. A good friend of mine recently told me of the trick used by advertisers to increase prices – make the packaging small and then advertise how there is “brand new packaging” or a “sleek new package.” (hint: take a look at OJ bottles…) Usually this means the size of the product is reduced but the price stays the same, thus the price increase. It goes mostly unnoticed, as who really takes the time to keep up to date on every little thing they buy and eat. Well, I may not have time, but I did start to pay a little attention. The pasta in this picture is in the same size box as the one lb. pasta, but is slightly less. The price may be cheaper than the next product, but its actually about the same price, maybe even more.
Another thing I noticed was the difference between the packaging of wheat products. Although they are all close together, it takes a little reading to pick the 100% whole wheat from the “%100 whole grain” or “made from whole grain.” I try to get the 100% whole wheat as it fills me up quicker, is better for my blood sugar regulation, and keeps me full longer. The other products may be similar, but aside from the same brown packaging, they aren’t the same.
Just another little tidbit of healthy shopping I have picked up, to save both my figure and my bank account. It may not be much money, but the less I spend on food I don’t need, the more I can buy other scrumptious food (can we say sun-dried tomatoes?! YUM!)
-Jonny 
 

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