Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Routing Depression

Readers of my last post may have noticed a grumpy tone in my writing.  I would say that for 2 or 3 days around then I would have qualified as clinically depressed.  I kept catching myself in typical depressed thoughts, which I haven't had since my last few days of depression in March.  I would give you an example, but fortunately I've forgotton them now!  My Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) practice soon fixed that, however.  As soon as I became aware of what was going on, I was able to stop it without any real effort at all.  That is the great thing about CBT, once you have practiced it and seen how inaccurate those depressed thoughts are, then it is easy to clear them up when they come back.

Why was I depressed at all?  Well, I don't think it is reasonable to expect to never be depressed again.  The main thing is to recognize it and turn it around early.  Physically, I am still getting protracted withdrawal before and during my period.  I think something is going on with the hormones at that time that increases the detox.  Plus, I still get a pre-menstrual migraine, which was pretty bad this month.  The low tyramine diet has eliminated all my other migraines, but that one remains.  Although I only take Advil for my migraines now, I think even that causes a bit of protracted withdrawal as well. 

The depression is gone, but for several days now I have been dead tired by 5:00 pm.  This is reminding me of how I felt before my thyroid was diagnosed, so I am thinking I should get it checked again. 

Also, I have been very busy.  I embarked on this homemade Christmas gift foolishness, so that is taking a lot of effort.  But you know, I am pulling it off.  My family is used to me flaking out of projects, so I am thinking they will be surprised. 

And, I have come up with an idea that I like for my own business.  I mentioned last spring that this is what I wanted to do, and I think I finally have an idea that has legs.  I will get more serious about it after the holidays, and I am thinking it will probably be a year before I can launch, but it is great to be planning and working on something again!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It Takes As Long As It Takes

I have been reading a lot of frustrated posts on the Truehope message boards lately about how long this process is.  Today I am frustrated too.  I set myself an ambitious plan to make a few Christmas gifts, and I realized this morning it is just not going to happen.  I will probably only get one of the three done.  I am still too tired and weak to spend the long hours at the sewing machine that would have been necessary.  So, that is disappointing.

When I started Empowerplus in May 2009 my only real goal was to stop the decline I was in, and to be stable without drugs.  That goal has been met.  What I didn't expect was the huge physical toll withdrawal would take.  It is frustrating to always have to curb my activity because I am still having protracted withdrawal symptoms after all this time.

But at the same time, I'm aware that I've set the bar a lot higher these days than it used to be.  I may not be at the sewing machine, but I am busy with other crafts most of the day.  I was sore when I started hand stitching; now I can stitch for hours without pain.  I was sore when I started knitting again; ditto.  So I guess I know that perseverance will pay off in the long run.

Even my attention span is improving.  The other day I worked all day on the SAME PROJECT.  That is really saying something.

And, let's be clear.  My protracted withdrawal symptoms only come after some new type of exertion now.  It is only when I raise the bar.  Sometimes it feels like I am fighting for every millimetre, but I can't deny the trend is there.  Plus, I have planned to make Christmas presents before, and I have never done it.  So one is an infinite improvement over none.  My old therapist in California used to say, when I felt like was going nowhere fast, that recovery takes as long as it takes, and she was right.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How Did I Get Here?

Bipolar is a physical illness.  I believe moderate to major depression is too.  I do not believe you can cure them just by changing your thoughts any easier than you can cure cancer by changing your thoughts, although you do hear about rare cases where that happens.  But that's rare, and usually a physical intervention is needed.  For bipolar and depression, I believe the best physical intervention is a micronutrient approach like Empowerplus.

However, I do believe it was poor thought choices that made me sick in the first place.  It would be easy to blame it all on my thyroid, because bipolar is a symptom of Hashimoto's.  I probably had my first hypomania when I was 10, that I remember, and my first depression when I was 11.  Long before puberty.  I don't know if the Hashimoto's would have already been active then.  You do read about infants and toddlers with hypothyroidism, so it may be possible.

I do recall that at an early age, 8 or 9, I became attracted to the idea of being "jaded."  I liked that "been there, done that, bored with it all" aura that some people had.  It struck me as a way to be interesting, and I wanted to be like that.  Gradually I stopped taking pleasure in things.

A movie score would have a dramatic minor chord there.  I really think now that was the beginning of it all.  Probably the hallmark of my long adult depression was a complete inability to appreciate anything.  I was living in the beautiful San Francisco Bay area, with the sunshine and the sea air and flowers all year long.  I knew someone else who had recovered from depression, who told me that he loved just going for walks and seeing all the flowers.  I went for walks and looked at the flowers and I felt nothing.  I looked at them and knew intellectually that they were beautiful, but they did not make me happy.

Daily exercise, by the way, in the sunshine and sea air, also did nothing to improve my mood.

So, I had periodic depressions in high school and university, and very productive periods that made me successful in school and work.  The two years leading up to my breakdown at 35 were progressively more and more stressful.  I had a fairly heavy travel schedule that kept me physically off balance, and an increasingly more adversarial work environment.  Looking back, I see that a lot of that was my own fault.  I saw slights where none was intended, and I consistently looked at the negative side of the situation.  You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control your reaction to it.  I always saw things in the worst possible light.

When you are feeling bad it is your spirit sending you clues that things are not right.  If you ignore the clues they get bigger.  It took many years of seeing things in a negative light, and ignoring my feelings and physical symptoms, for things to collapse totally.  I do believe that my brain has always worked a little differently, which is why I was hit with bipolar depression instead of heart disease or cancer, but it was my own thoughts that created my physical illness.

That is why I think Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and meditation are such an important part of recovery.  Physical help such as Empowerplus will only get you so far if you have a negative thought pattern, which I believe is the root cause of illness.  Learning to feel our feelings, and accept the guidance that they are giving us, is crucial to long term success.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Low Tyramine Diet

I'm just checking in today to let you know that things have significantly improved since I figured out that the MAOI Parnate was still active in my system.  I've gone on a low tyramine diet.  This was quite a change for me, because once I did the research I realized that practically everything I was eating was high in tyramine.  So no wonder it was a problem.  I've eliminated cheese, cold cuts, aged meats (yes, the good stuff), bananas, soy sauce and chocolate.  It was hard for the first few days, but once I saw that a lapse was immediately making me ill, it became easier.  And, I keep telling myself that it's not forever.

Coffee is off the table again too, for now.  I'm getting used to drinking chai.  It doesn't have the same buzz, but I guess that's the point.

Anyway, it is quite a relief not to be getting sick all the time with no idea why.  It's nice to be able to get out and about again.