Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One Year Anniversary!

Today is my one year anniversary on Empowerplus.  The general wisdom at Truehope is that from this point on I will be out of the woods of protracted withdrawal, and looking forward to increasing health and recovery.  I have to say, it feels like that is pretty accurate.  Things are looking good.

Here is a summary of how various issues that arose during the first year progressed and where they stand now.


My mood has been pretty solid right from the start.  It stayed pretty even until the fall when I added iodine to my supplements.  The iodine did seem to throw me into a hypomania, but when I stopped it in December my mood went back to being even without dropping into depression.  My previous pattern had been to have a seasonal depression in the late fall, and that did not happen at all this year.  There was a week or two in March where I felt grumpier than normal, but it didn't degenerate into what I would call clearly depressed thoughts.  Since then things have been trending to the plus side of even, but in no way hypomanic.


As I mentioned early on, motivation was one of my biggest issues before Empowerplus.  It has been slow to come back.  This is probably where I still have a fair bit of healing to go.  I have had various spurts of activity and a lot of ideas for projects, but nothing has really taken off yet.  It is hard to put consistent effort into something.

Protracted Withdrawal

As I've been saying for the past month or so, the protracted withdrawal symptoms that I've had are pretty much gone.  And they've changed, so that now, instead of neck and shoulder pain, headaches, sinus troubles, nausea and dizziness, a day of exertion just makes me really tired.  Even the colourful dreams are gone, so really, being tired after a busy day may well be entirely normal!  LOL.


The changes in my sleep cycle have been dramatic over the past year.  Insomnia was a issue for me my entire life, so one of the perceived advantages of Risperdal was that it knocked me out cold for about 12 hours a night.  Before Empowerplus I generally went to bed around 1 am and woke just after noon.  Once I was off my meds last summer I was generally awake until about 4 am and still sleeping until noon, so I was sleeping less.  When I started to get hypomanic in the fall I was generally awake until 6 am, and a few times after 8 am, and still generally up again by noon.  But when you are hypomanic you are not tired.  During the winter I was still usually falling asleep around 6 am, but sleeping longer, until about 1 pm.  I don't mind being up late, in fact I tend to like it, but I don't like sleeping so long past noon, because too much of the daylight is wasted, especially in the winter.  In April I started waking earlier and falling asleep earlier.  Now that I am more active I am falling asleep by 1 am and up before 10 am.  I feel like I could be falling asleep even earlier in the future, so we'll see how that goes.


My fitness level was poor before I started Empowerplus.  I would say it is even worse now, after a year of forced inactivity.  As I discovered last August when protracted withdrawal started, any exercise at all made the protracted withdrawal symptoms unbearable.  But fortunately, that seems to be in the past.  After a very active day yesterday I had a bit of a runny nose and I fell asleep early.  Not a problem at all!  Of course, I remembered to take a lot of Total Amino Solution in the evening to mop up any loose medications in my blood.


I gained a lot of weight when I was on medications, I was hungry all the time.  When I finished tapering off my meds and primary withdrawal hit I was very nauseous and I had a hard time eating anything at all.  I could only eat small amounts of plain bread or pasta.  After a couple of weeks my appetite improved slightly, but the nausea persisted for the first several months of protracted withdrawal as well.  It cleared up around Christmas.  I lost about 20 pounds during that period, and my weight has been steady now since the new year.  My appetite is still much smaller than it used to be, and I can only eat a small amount at each sitting.

Empowerplus Dosage

I ramped up my dose a little slower than Truehope recommended, starting with 3 capsules per day, then 6, 9, 12 and 15.  I am very sensitive so it seemed wise not to shock my body too quickly.  I have stayed at 15 per day pretty much the whole time, and I have no intention of changing the dose.  When the withdrawal was really bad Truehope suggested that I cut back to 12, but after a few days of that I noticed I was getting hyper and anxious, so I went back to 15.  During my allergy scare in December I stopped Empowerplus completely for 3 days, until I developed a pretty big feeling of anxiety and went right back to it.  Empowerplus does not give me any trouble now, I can even take it at night, so I intend to stick with it.

So in summary, things are going pretty well.  Motivation and fitness are my biggest challenges now, and I am sure they will continue to improve.  Long time Empowerplus users report continued gains over the first couple of years, so I am looking forward to that.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

One thing that has become clear to me after a year of reading the Truehope message boards is that recovery often has two factors - the nutritional support that Empowerplus provides, and a dedicated approach to challenging your negative thoughts through something like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I think anyone who wrestles with depression, be it bipolar or unipolar, would benefit a great deal from the knowledge and practice of CBT.  I was introduced to CBT through the book Feeling Good by David Burns, and really, it is the only book I ever needed.  CBT teaches you to recognize your depressed thoughts and challenge them.  CBT is something you have to practice.  I did not read the book and instantly become cured.  But I did start to see how one depressed thought feeds another, until you are spiralling down into a very dark place, and over time I got better and better at stopping the spiral before the depression really got hold.

Even once I got good at CBT I wasn't cured of my depression, though.  For me there was a strong physical component as well, and it took Empowerplus to take care of that.  But, I strongly feel that having CBT in my toolbelt is what enabled my mood to improve so much early in the Truehope process.

Another tool that really helped my application of CBT and my recovery overall has been mindfulness meditation.  I have been practicing meditation on and off for many years, and I think that mindfulness meditation, which trains you to observe your thoughts, is extremely helpful for CBT.  There is even an offshoot of CBT called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MBCT) which melds both techniques.  I have read several books on meditation, and I still think the best one is by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English.

I highly recommend both these practices to anyone struggling with depression.  Results are not fast, but they do come, and the change is lasting.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Change in Symptoms

This past week I have noticed an interesting change in my protracted withdrawal symptoms.  Up until now my primary symptom has been pain, headaches and neck and shoulder pain.  The pain started to let up in March, and through April became more and more sporadic.

Now, instead of the pain, I find that exertion is making me feel like I just took a dose of Risperdal.  I sleep much deeper and longer, like I used to on the drug, and I have very colourful dreams, which for me was a hallmark of Risperdal.  Many people going through protracted withdrawal on Empowerplus have noted that they can tell which drug is currently releasing by their symptoms.  For me, though, it has always been just typical detox symptoms, the pain, nausea and dizziness being the main ones.  Maybe because I had so many different drugs in my system all releasing at once.  So this is an interesting and not unwelcome change.  Colourful dreams are far preferable to constant headaches!

Another change has been in what is triggering protracted withdrawal.  Up until now I have been able to eat sweets without any problems.  Yesterday, however, I made myself an ice cream sundae in honour of the beautiful day we were having, and within a few hours of eating it I felt again that clearly Risperdal-induced feeling of being very fuzzy-headed.  It was even stronger than when I exercised.  Many people on Empowerplus avoid sugar, now I see that I may be headed that way as well.

I was on Risperdal the longest, over 5 years, so it makes sense that it would be the last to go.  This definitely feels like progress!