Monday, November 30, 2009

LOL! Vegan Again

Well, I had some tuna for breakfast, in line with this "animal protein at every meal" idea, and I was sick as a dog all day.  My body just cannot handle it.  And writing that post yesterday really made me see how much I like eating a plant-based diet.  It is better in every way except for the protracted withdrawal.  So, thinking about it today, I realized that I could do a better job with nutrition and eating a more diverse range of vegetable proteins, and I decided to give vegan another try.  I feel relieved with that decision, so I'll find a way to make it work.

Vegan No More

You may recall that I started a vegan diet about 2 months ago.  I have had to give it up.  Since my hypomania a couple of weeks ago the protracted withdrawal has just been getting steadily worse.  Yesterday was the worst.  After breakfast I had to lie down again, it felt like my blood sugar was low, even though I'd just eaten, and my blood pressure felt really low too, I thought I was going to pass out while lying down.  I was taking a ton of Total Amino Solutions (TAS), and it wasn't helping. In fact, I was starting to suspect that I was actually taking too much TAS.  I needed another way to get more protein into my system, because the vegetable proteins didn't seem to be doing the job.  I made a tuna sandwich.

It didn't help right away, in fact, I continued to get worse for a while.  But after about 6 hours I started to feel appreciably better.  I ate the rest of the tuna and felt quite good last night.  This morning I had my usual oatmeal and blueberries for breakfast, which most people would agree is a nutritious meal, but the protracted withdrawal symptoms were bad again until I had some salmon at lunch.  It seems pretty clear now that I have to find a way to include animal protein at every meal.

I am VERY disappointed.  I am not worried about the animals, but I really prefer to eat a plant-based diet.  My reflux has practically disappeared since I went vegan.  It is just more fun eating plants, it is easier to cook, and I never feel weighed down after a meal.

All day I have been wracking my brain trying to think what to eat now.  Dairy is the real problem for my reflux, and I don't like eggs.  I like seafood and beef, but chicken and pork have to be heavily sauced and flavoured or I don't like them.  You can see why vegan is the obvious choice for me.  Some Japanese people eat fish 3 times a day, but I don't think I could, and there is the mercury to consider.  Hmm.  It's tricky.  Something somewhere is going to have to give, I think.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to Fall Asleep

This is the best thing I have found for falling asleep.  Further down I will talk about what doesn't work, and some general observations on sleep.

Count down from 100.  Seriously.  If you are physically tired, but it is your thoughts that are keeping you awake, this will put you to sleep.  First, bring your attention close to you by feeling how nice your pillow is, how comfy your bed is, how soft the sheets are, etc.  Then, make the decision to put your thoughts aside, decide to sleep well and awaken refreshed, and start counting.  Count at a relaxed pace.  Sometimes I find my counting synchronizes with my breathing, but not always.  To really focus on counting it helps to visualize each number as you think it.  I do find that I tend to think and count at the same time, but I just let the thoughts go and concentrate back on the counting.

When you get down to 1 take a deep breath and let it out on the 0.  Usually there is a sense of relief when you get to 0, and I try to rest there and not think of anything for a couple of breaths.  Start over at 100.  If you lose your place you also just start over.  I usually fall asleep in the middle of the second or third time.

What Doesn't Work

ALL chemical sleep aids eventually stop working.  This includes pharmaceuticals and natural remedies.  It doesn't take very long, maybe a couple of weeks, before you can't sleep without them, and some time after that they stop working all together.  Then you are really stuck.  This happened to me with Ambien, Ativan and Klonopin, and more recently with melatonin, l-tryptophan, and l-theanine.

Furthermore, I have found that anything that is strong enough to put me to sleep generally leaves me feeling wretched the next morning.  I think part of the reason is that the substance does not clear your system overnight, and is still making you sleepy the next day.  I recall that OTC sleeping pills were the worst for that, but it was also true with l-tryptophan and l-theanine.  But I also think that chemically-aided sleep is not natural, you are so knocked out that you're not moving around normally, and I always wake up stiff and usually with a headache.

I stopped taking all sleep aids 4 to 6 weeks ago.  They weren't working anyway, and when I stopped I noticed that I felt better in the morning.  I was waking up about an hour earlier, and I didn't feel so wrecked.

Observations on Sleep

What is the big deal about sleep anyway?  People get all freaked out about it.  Just relax.  If you are not sleeping it is either because your thoughts are keeping you awake, in which case the counting will work for you, or you are not physically tired.  If you are not tired I would suggest that you do not actually need to sleep.  Get up and do something constructive with your time.  After a few late nights you will be tired eventually and your sleep will normalize itself.

The individual need for sleep varies tremendously.  I have read that Mike Myers sleeps about 3 hours per night.

I have read a few people's observations that not sleeping will make them manic.  I would suggest that if they are not sleeping they are already manic/hypomanic, and the solution is to raise their dose of their mood stabilizer or Empowerplus.

Changes to your sleep habits seem to be pretty common on Empowerplus.  Partly I think this is because we were drugged out of our minds on psychiatric medications, which passed for sleep, and it is hard to adapt to regular sleep again.  Also, it seems that many people start feeling emotions and having clarity of thought that they may not have had for years, and this takes some processing and keeps people up at night.  And the Empowerplus itself seems to keep people awake a lot of the time. 

For me it seems to be predominantly the first one.  My late nights started a week or two after I finished with the Risperdal.  I went from sleeping 10 to 12 hours a night to 7 or 8 hours.  I get up at the same time, but I fall asleep quite a bit later.  It is working for me.  I enjoy my late night time.  The house is quiet, the street is quiet, it is a great time to read and write and think and meditate.  One of my goals has been to be ready to go when I wake up in the morning.  I used to drag around and take several hours to get going each day, but since I stopped all the sleeping aids I have been feeling much better.  Protracted withdrawal is still a problem many days, but at least my sleep is starting to make sense.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quiet Mind II

In my very first post I talked about how it felt like this constant noise that I seemed to have in my head had disappeared after a few weeks on Empowerplus.  That relief was the inspiration for this whole blog.

A couple of days ago I realized that the music was gone too!  LOL, that sounds bad, like the zest has gone from my life or something, but actually you'll see that it's really good.  The last couple of years before Empowerplus, when I was on medication, I had this thing where I would hear distant music.  I figured out that it was actually some background noise in the house, usually the furnace fan, and somehow my mind was turning it into music.  It would be all different genres of music, usually classical, but sometimes jazz or even pop music.  Even opera.  It was always very distant, partially heard, and it was really irritating.  I don't know if it was an actual auditory hallucination, per se, because there was a base noise that was somehow being reinterpreted by my mind.

But the cool thing is that it is completely gone now.  Fans are just fans.  And I love the silence.  At night it may be several minutes between cars on the street outside (we live on a fairly busy street) and I like to just rest my attention in the silence between my ears.  It is similar to meditating.  It gives you a very expansive feeling.

I have been trying to start meditating regularly again also.  I have been having a hard time lasting more than 10 minutes though, my mind keeps kicking me out and then I check the time to see how long I managed.  I ordered a kitchen timer shaped like a duck that quacks when the time is up to use for meditating, hopefully it will be funny but not distracting to anticipate.  But that was 5 weeks ago and it's still not here.  Ah, the perils of shopping at small online stores.  They don't keep their stock up to date.  I'm sure I'll get my meditation practice back on track once it arrives, though.

PMS and Protracted Withdrawal

Since my last update the protracted withdrawal has ranged from pretty bad to really rotten.  It just won't let up!  The worst times though were the days before my period.  This has been happening every month since August, when protracted withdrawal began.  It builds over a couple of days, with runny nose, sore throat, aches and pains, fatigue, and just feeling really fluey.  I really was suspecting this time that I in fact did have the flu.  No amount of Total Amino Solutions (TAS) or fluids was helping.  It built to a crescendo of awfulness, and then it just seemed to turn the corner and get better.  And two hours after that my period started.  It was weird.  Somehow the flush of hormones before it starts really aggravates the protracted withdrawal.

I felt ok for the first day but then I started getting migraines.  I think I've had at least 3 days of migraines now, not continuously (small favours) but pretty viciously.  For the most part my monthly migraines have been a lot better since I started Empowerplus, much shorter and less severe, but not this month for some reason.

Everything seems to be triggering bad protracted withdrawal these days.  Last night I was up quite late (even for me) and today again the protracted withdrawal was bad.  Migraine again when I woke up today, nauseous, I heated the last of my homemade soup for dinner but I couldn't eat it.

Feeling so sick all the time is making me irritable also.  I am tired of my poor parents asking how I'm doing and always having to report that I'm still sick.  We all put so much faith in the "six month" timeframe that it is disappointing to still be so sick.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Glimpses of Blue Sky

There are no dramatic improvements to report, but there have been some reductions in the severity of the symptoms at times.  Instead of taking the Total Amino Solutions (TAS) and painkillers every 3 hours, I am sometimes able to go quite a bit longer between doses.  Sometimes the pain is less and I just take TAS without the painkillers.  Right now the pain is pretty bad, but I think I am still recovering from a very busy day that I had two days ago.

I have been doing little things around the house here and there, making lists and gradually building momentum.  Two days ago I sprang into action.  I woke up and immediately got on the computer to print out a map to a store I wanted to visit out of town.  I drove out there, feeling good to be out on the road again, bought my stuff, drove back still feeling good.  Instead of opening a can or making a sandwich I made a pot of homemade soup, peeling and chopping all the vegetables.  After dinner I made homemade cookies for the first time since I moved back to Canada over 6 years ago.  I just kept puttering around.  Normally any one of those activities would have wiped me out for the rest of the day.

I was still folding laundry at 3 am.  Honestly though, it wasn't until 5 am rolled around and I still wasn't tired that the word "hypomania" crossed my mind.  Remember, I don't normally fall asleep until 3 or 4 am anyway.

The next day I had a blistering headache, but I was still very motivated.  That boundless energy I seemed to have the day before was gone, though.  After just a little bit of cleaning and organizing I was pooped.  I would lie down for a bit, and then I would get up and back to work.  I just felt driven to clean out all the junk that had been bugging me for years.  I have so much stuff that it is a real logistical challenge to know where to start with it all, but I was able to narrow it down to a few easy tasks.  For me the key is to be ruthless in my decision making.  There is no "maybe I'll be able to use it" or "but it's still good".  I've realized that for me it is much nicer and better feeling to have new things than to reuse old things.  My quilt stash is the one exception to that rule.

Last night I was up until almost 6 am writing my new frozen shoulder blog:

It is meant for people with frozen shoulder, and it felt really good to organize that whole story and get it out there.  And I am still in a writing mood today.  I have a couple more ideas but I think I will put them in separate posts.

There is a lot more cleaning and purging to do.  I have a plan to start dealing with the books.  I have been accumulating every book I ever bought since I was 9, and I moved that collection all the way across the continent to California and back again, but now I have plans to reduce that collection by about 1/3 to 1/2.  Most of the fiction will go, although I read one Jane Austen book a few months ago I haven't regained any interest in fiction since then.  All the books from grad school will go (literary criticism and theory), all the psychology books from my days in therapy, sundry self-help and diet books, all my non-vegan cookbooks, and a whole shelf of astrology and tarot books that I no longer consider to be relevant to my experience.  Every box that comes in the house will leave again full of books, and I'll donate them all to my college book sale.  The paperbacks will go to a local used bookshop where my mom can use the store credit they issue for the books.

Wow, it's tiring just thinking about it.  But, it can happen gradually, it doesn't have to be done all at once.  It will be good to free up all that energy.  I now believe that your life should be a steady stream of new things coming into your life and old things going out.  You keep what you need in the moment and trust that when you need something else it will come to you.  That's been my experience lately, the things I need or want have been showing up very quickly.  Now what I really want is a new car!