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American motivational speaker, anti-bullying activist and author, Lizzie Velasquez was dubbed the ‘World’s Ugliest Woman” in a video posted on YouTube when she was 17. She has a rare congenital disease which among other symptoms, prevents her from accumulating body fat. The condition resulted in bullying during her childhood and early youth.
The 27-year-old from Austin, Texas, who has spoken out against bullying, was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome by the Baylor College of Medicine. She has zero percent body fat and is medically unable to gain weight. Additionally, she is blind in in her right eye and vision-impaired in her left eye. Doctors told her parents, at birth that she would never speak or walk. The doctors were wrong. In fact, at 27, she does both professionally. HuffPost described her as a “seasoned motivational speaker and a “self-professed pacer” while she speaks on stage”
“There were many times where I was so frustrated and angry. I didn?t know who to blame or who to get angry at. I made every birthday wish, I lit every candle at church and did every prayer before bed. I said ?God, please take this all away from me. Please make me normal,” Velasquez told the crowd during one of her speaking engagements last year.
Velasquez has written two books, ‘Be Beautiful, Be You and ‘Choosing Happiness’ directed towards teenagers, which share personal stories from her life and offer advice and talks about obstacles she has faced in her life and how she’s learned the importance of choosing to be happy when it’s all too easy to give up.
Growing up in Texas, Velasquez was teased, gawked at or sometimes downright ignored. She remembers her first day of kindergarten and noticing for the first time in her life that other kids were scared of her. She went home and asked her parents what was wrong with her.
“I credit my parents? answer with why I?m able to do what I do today,” she said to HuffPost. When I asked them what was wrong with me they said there?s nothing wrong with you. The only difference is that you?re smaller than the other kids. They told me we are going to love you and support you and help you reach every dream you have,” she added.
Her parents treated her like everyone else. But the world did not. Velasquez remembers going to amusement parks and feeling like an attraction. Groups of adults would stop mid-conversation and stare at her. She refused to go to water parks because she couldn?t stand to be in a bathing suit in public.
A documentary film based on her life which is entitled A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, premiered at SXSW last year and is set to premiere on Lifetime on October 17th, 2016. The optimistic young woman took to Instagram five days ago to write about the birth of the documentary.
“I still remember the day we hung up giant post it notes on a wall and brainstormed what would be needed to bring @abraveheartfilm life. I remember our cheers of happiness as each of you gave so generously of your time and money to help our team. I remember the day we realized this project was so much larger than us. I want to congratulate not only our Brave Heart team but everyone who has watched, shared, and helped give a voice to those who needed the help. On October 17th at 8pm PT/ET, our documentary will make its television debut on @lifetimetv! Here’s to us remembering the day we helped bring awareness to the possibility of coming out on the other side of bullying”
Got Pain? A Virtual Swim With Dolphins May Help Melt It Away
Source: npr- Virtual reality is not new. But, as people search for alternative ways to manage pain — and reduce reliance on pills — VR is attracting renewed attention.
Imagine, for a moment you’ve been transported to a sunlit lagoon. And, suddenly, it’s as if you’re immersed in the warm water and swimming. That’s what Tom Norris experiences when he straps on his VR headset.
“It’s fantastic, I really feel like I’m there,” says Norris, who is 70 years old, retired from the military, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife. As dolphins frolic and swim by in the virtual scene, “I get a strong feeling of pleasure, relaxation and peace,” he says.
It doesn’t take long to produce that effect — about 10 minutes or so, via the headset.
Norris is no stranger to pain. He’s got chronic pain through his spine, back and hips, from injuries that go back years.
Ever since he was introduced to virtual reality, he’s been hooked. In addition to swimming with dolphins, he’s tried other VR experiences, such as wilderness walks.
“I relax. My attention is diverted and it makes the pain more manageable,” he says. Norris was on his deck when we spoke, drinking a morning cup of coffee and watching the hummingbirds. “Pain is part of my life,” he told me.
He uses lots of tools to help him cope, he says, including peer support groups, which he helps lead. But he says he finds VR particularly helpful. For him, the feeling of relaxation and ease that comes from a virtual swim with dolphins tends to linger for several days.
Can You Reshape Your Brain’s
Norris isn’t alone in his positive experience. A study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE is just the latest to document that an immersive, virtual reality experience can be an effective strategy for reducing pain.
VR “changes the way we perceive the pain,” explains study author Brennan Spiegel, a physician and the director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research in Los Angeles.
The research was done in a hospital where participants were undergoing treatment for various conditions; some were experiencing pain linked to cancer and others had orthopedic pain. “We divided the patients into two groups,” Spiegel explains.
One group tried VR. They used Samsung Oculus headsets that were each fitted with a phone that had a VR app. Patients could select from a library of 21 VR experiences available on the app.
They were free to use the VR devices as much as they liked, but were advised to aim for three daily sessions, 10 minutes per session. The other group of patients got to watch a health and wellness channel on TV, as much as they wanted.
“We found that virtual reality reduced pain by about three times as much as watching TV did,” Spiegel says. Using a zero to 10 pain scale, the virtual reality experience led to a 2 point drop in pain, compared to a half-point drop for watching TV.
Spiegel’s study was partly funded by a grant from Applied VR, a company that sells VR software, but the company played no role in the conduct, data collection, data interpretation, or write-up of the study, he says.
It’s not exactly clear how VR works to help reduce pain perception, but pain specialists say there are likely multiple explanations. Distraction in just one element.
“When the mind is deeply engaged in an immersive experience, it becomes difficult to perceive stimuli outside of the field of attention,” Spiegel and his collaborators write in their journal paper. In other words, when something captures our attention and uses all our senses, we focus on it. It’s like a spotlight — and everything else falls into darkness — at last temporarily.
So, a virtual swim with the dolphins can overwhelm our visual, auditory and other senses. “VR is thought to create an immersive distraction that restricts the brain from processing pain,” the authors conclude.
The study adds to other evidence pointing toward potential benefits of VR to manage pain. Going back more than 15 years, studies have shown the technique to be useful in a range of settings — from helping people cope with anxiety to helping reduce acute pain during medical procedures, during physical therapy or during dental procedures. And, there’s some evidence VR can help with chronic pain, too.
Still, there are some unanswered questions, says Zachary Rosenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University who has been involved in research on VR’s effect on pain. “Distraction is helpful for pain,” he says. “That’s an understood phenomenon. … But why should VR be better than any other kind of distraction?” he wonders.
Spiegel’s research “starts to answer this question,” says Rosenthal. “I do think this study moves the needle forward.”
If you’re new to virtual reality, Spiegel has some advice: “It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first, whenever self-treating symptoms. But in general, it is safe to use VR at home,” he says. About 5% to 10% of people who try it get cybersickness, which is basically a feeling of dizziness or vertigo, similar to motion sickness. So, it’s good to be aware of this risk.
“For people who own an Oculus Go or Oculus Quest [headset], I suggest Nature Trek, which is an outstanding set of content that is peaceful and meditative” for the treatment of pain, says Spiegel, who has no financial ties to the company. And there are other companies that make a variety of software specifically aimed at easing pain.
“For cheap and easy access to VR experiences, you can simply visit YouTube and search its massive library of free VR content,” Spiegel says. “If you want a virtual trip to the beach, type ‘VR beach’ into the YouTube search engine. Or ‘VR forest.’ It’s all there for the taking.”
VR is certainly not a panacea, but it can be another tool in the pain management toolkit. Spiegel and his collaborators say there’s still a lot to learn as to which types of VR may be most effective.
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