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Currently (2020) my most updated blog is pinkfeldspar.

Spaz is a useful side blog for sorting other stuff out.

Monday, August 24, 2015

things that have dramatically impacted my depression and anxiety levels

I know this is going to sound crazy, but I'm a long-time depression survivor, and this is trew.

1- The sudden wheat allergy last year that had me in clinic and 2 ER visits and put me on prednisone for 17 days was a godsend. There's a rumor going around that wheat might be a big culprit in depression. After being completely wheat free for nearly a year now, I can totally vouch for that. I have no idea if it's related to the big Monsanto GMO wheat monopoly thing, but there seems to be some science developing behind it. The severe brain fog I lived with for years is mostly gone, although I still hit walls and have glitchy moments, my memory is getting better again, and my ability to deal with spontaneity and change (I have Aspergers) is getting better again. I don't seem to need as much shutdown time, and I seem more able to steer it now instead of caving to it. I'm not saying the original brain fail was caused by wheat, just that nerve healing (the brain is nerve central) seems to be going a lot faster without it.

2- Regular zyrtec is making it possible for me to drive without delayed PTSD Tourette's behaviors, like tapping my steering wheel because I'm afraid to touch it, or not being able to stop blinking while I drive. I've discussed these anxiety behaviors with a psychologist, because they go back years. I've been rolling down all the windows in the coldest winters over severe claustrophobia while I'm driving, to the point of even pulling out of heavy traffic so I can exit my car before I have a meltdown. I've tried all kinds of meds (highway patrol has driven me home 'drunk' on meds in years past), and all kinds of behavior modification techniques, as you can imagine. (I trigger easily, thanks to being thrown out of a violently flipping vehicle, so it's amazing I drive at all, especially with the pain levels I've had through the years.) Last year I was COMMANDED to stay on zyrtec since my food reactions were going ridiculously more out of control, and I discovered that zyrtec crosses the brain barrier differently than other antihistamines and a regular dose has a very calming effect on me without making me sleepy. I've been able to drive like a normal person and have gotten through a whole winter and a very rainy spring and summer without having to emergency call family to talk me through driving home or constantly send update pix of where I am to facebook or twitter. After seeing such a huge change, I have to wonder how much of my severe anxiety had more to do with a continual overwhelming barrage of histamine reactions than anything. This is not true for everyone.
Cetirizine: actions on neurotransmitter receptors
The Zyrtec Effect
But this may be why it works for me. That's right, they're discovering anxiety (in some people) might be related to histamine over reaction.
Fibromyalgia Trial Shows Promise…For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Mast Cells and Ketiotifen in FM and ME/CFS

3- ASTYM treatments in physical therapy coupled with regular chiropractic adjustments have lowered the screaming pain levels on my nervous system more than anything else I've tried in years (and I've tried everything but surgery) and considering I've actually asked a dentist to do root canals on healthy teeth and sometimes think it would be lovely if someone would just severe my spinal cord in at least two places and put me in a wheelchair, my whole life turned around over this very simple technique. Lowering the pain levels dramatically lowered the stress on my nervous system, and that has made dealing with anxiety and depression much easier. There is nothing lovelier than physical therapy where you get one on one personal touch through massage and strength training, which has done me so much more good than medications. At first it was hard because I can't bear to be touched (super aspie + pain syndrome), but over time it became a real life saver. To give you context, it took four years to break through the nasty pain just under my skull because the scar tissue had grown so thick and was creating so much pressure and swelling around my cervical nerves that I couldn't even look up at the stars for years without nearly passing out. The scar tissue was the key- microfissure and slowly rebuild new more elastic tissues, and it works best with regular stretches and exercise. I'm actually sleeping nearly through the night now, after many years of not sleeping more than 2-4 hours through the night, even heavily medicated. More sleep and less pain eases anxiety levels.

I actually owned one of these.

4- I've noticed letting my glucose levels slip up (I'm diabetic) has an almost immediate effect on whether I go into a depression plunge, which is easily masked with meds and distractions that keep me from connecting those dots. Since I don't control with meds (my doctor pulled me off over med intolerance), I must be vigilant and aware of exactly what I'm eating all the time. Since I'm no longer on head meds, I've been able to see how immediate and drastic something as simple as snacking on a couple of cookies is when I haven't had any other food in several hours. My worst anxiety attacks used to come on mid-morning, and after I found out I'm diabetic, it was easy to see the pattern after a typical carby breakfast of cereal, pancakes, french toast, etc. If I don't want to blow the rest of my day on a sugar spike induced anxiety attack and then down a depression hole as my brain and body fold up trying to deal with that, I steer widely clear of anything carby before noon, and only sparingly the rest of the day. I wrote a post a few years ago, Holidays with Diabetes- Easier than You Think, in which I show how a person can still continue to have sweets all day in very small amounts as long as they avoid carb loading, but I've noticed since then that eating like that is like teasing depression all day long until it blows up into anxiety, so I've stopped doing it. If all you had to do to control your anxiety and depression was stop drinking soda and eating donuts and cake and french fries, would you do it? I've lost a sweet amount of weight over it, so I really don't miss 'comfort food' any more.

5- And that leads to small meals. Over time as I've fine tuned my metabolic and chemical default states, I've noticed that even when I watch the carbs, I feel much better through the night when I don't fill up on snacks in general before I go to bed. I've spent years waking up to full blown anxiety out of a dead sleep, and that lately seems to have gotten better all by itself just by not eating after 6 p.m. They say don't eat for a few hours before bed to avoid heartburn and GERD, but it also works for other problems, too. I've been through severe GERD, which can be dulled by continually eating or even just drinking milk, but when you add diabetes to that mix, you can get full blown heart racing in the middle of the night, and then doctors increase your blood pressure meds and put you on more anxiety pills, and as time goes on and on, you become high risk for sleep apnea and dying in your sleep from medication overdosing.
Anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills linked to risk of death
Popular sleep medications associated with increased risk of death
Anxiety attacks in your sleep are your body kicking in keeping you alive. If you are having anxiety attacks in your sleep, the fastest and most drastic change you can make is to stop eating before bed.

There are a lot of people on the webs describing their lives with some pretty nasty sounding anxiety and scary depression. I've been there. Years and years of it. I've been a pharmaceutical guinea pig, I know the walk in clinics and ERs like I know my own house, and my family is so good at automatically watching out for my triggers that I feel like I've really dragged their lives down sometimes. My body has become so over sensitive and hyper aware of every little bitty change inside and out that I only feel safe in my own home, and living like this is ridiculous. This has nothing to do with will power and mental illness, but living in a body that can't calm down because I've trained it for so many years to stay in fight or flight response. Well, it's starting to calm down now, and I'm loving it.

I discovered all these things accidentally. I don't think doctors have a big picture yet, but they're working on it. I grew up on homeopathy, and guys, it doesn't work. It's just training your nervous self to compulsively pop more pills or whatever. Discovering I'm allergic to chamomile tea was an eye opener, most people don't even think of that. Anyway, if you want to feel better, get better, have more control over the pain and depression and anxiety blowing up and shutting down your lives, do these things-

-Get a glucose meter and use it religiously if you are diabetic.
-Find a good chiropractor, AND talk to your doctor about physical therapy for the pains that ail you.
-Take advantage of your medicare (it pays for PT) and insurance (they pay, too, somewhat grudgingly, but beats having surgery, which should always be a last resort unless it's a medical emergency).
-Stop lying to yourself about it's ok if you have this bag of chips or that pint of ice cream.
-Reconsider using meds to slap bandaids over what you can be fixing yourself. I don't know about other diabetics, but I get nasty headaches when my high blood sugar comes down too fast, and since I'm allergic to tylenol, I monitor my carbs instead of popping pills.

And the biggest part of making a new Plan is
-TELL SOMEONE. Get other people in on the changes you're trying to make. You don't have a safety net if you don't tell anyone what you're doing. Or keep a journal, write it down, blog it, vlog it, share your experiments, then look back a year later and see if anything has improved.

There is no such thing as instant success. My brain crash was in 2004, my body crashed in 2007 between a slipped disc and a nasty CMV infection on top of undiagnosed diabetes. I made a PLAN in 2008-2009 because I honestly felt like I was dying and nothing was helping, and my life really started turning around in 2011. I finally broke free last year, healthiest I've been in over a decade, able to take care of myself and do my own shopping, control my own problems, but it took a plan with a set of long range goals, a team that included doctors, chiropractor, and psychologist, and my determination that I didn't want to die yet. I was so miserable and my life sucked so bad, and now it's all a nightmare I woke up from.

I was there. Fat, crippled, ugly, and a really scattered mess. Don't blow off what I'm saying.

If you knew you could save your life and be boinging around feeling good ten years down the road, would you do it?

Stop eating that crap. Decide what you want. Make a Plan. Write it down. Set goals. Tell someone. Create a team. Start a new habit of living better one small step at a time. In ten years you will feel better and look better and be glad you're still alive. Even if you still live with depression and anxiety, you might find it easing up because your body is doing better.

Most of all, stop kicking yourself. Doesn't matter over what. Self defeat is the fastest way to sink.

If you are also struggling with alcoholism, I wrote this.