Monday, August 31, 2009

Chronic Pain and Depression

Depression is often an unfortunate and seriously troubling companion to chronic pain. Thousands of patients undergoing treatment for painful symptoms have reported at least some depression associated with their illness. My own personal bout with depression was not related to pain, but I recognize the relationship, and wanted to print a short article for those readers whose pain and depression have caused problems in their lives. Below is a link to a great article I found. I hope it helps, and please feel free to leave me a comment.

Chronic pain and depression

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Don't Feel Like It

"I Don't Feel Like It."

If you're like me, suffering the effects of clinical depression, I'm sure you've uttered that phrase more than once. No matter what I attempt, either through traditional or alternative means, I still have days that I just don't want to participate in the daily activities that comprise this thing we call life. Today is one such day.

When I woke up this morning, I felt "blah." You know what I mean? The whole world just looked gray and lifeless, yet there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I tried to shake the feeling--I showered, exercised and even meditated--but I just couldn't get going. Sometimes I feel that days like these take away far more than just 24 hours. They seem to have a lingering effect that's hard to put into words.

So today, instead of offering advice, I'm going to ask for some. What sort of things have you tried to beat these "blue" days? With your permission I'd like to reprint some of your responses in hope that they will help others who are also struggling. Leave me a comment or send me an email. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Anxiety and Meditation

In my ongoing struggle with anxiety, I tried many different techniques attempting to diminish the effect the symptoms had on my everyday life. Unfortunately for me, meditation is a treatment option I learned fairly late, but I am, nonetheless, glad I discovered it.

I won't pretend to be an expert at the art of the meditation because I am not. For all the "how to" info I'll provide a link, but I do want to give testament to its effectiveness. Meditation helped clear all the clutter I was carrying around, and taught me how to live in the moment, accepting life and my experiences within it, rather than obsessing on the past and worrying unnecessarily about the future. It helped me to be okay with who I am, and that was a relief.

If you haven't yet tried meditation, I urge you to give it a try. Follow the link at the bottom for instructions.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Does Your Depression Have You Feeling Overwhelmed?

When my depression symptoms were at their worst, my entire life felt unmanageable. It was more than just being sad and apathetic. My mind felt like it was sloshing through heavy, sticky mud, causing my thought processes to slow down and my memory to fade. I was sure there were things I had to do, but most of the time I couldn't remember them, and if I did, I couldn't focus on them. Simple tasks became absolute torture, and I gradually just ignored and avoided my responsibilities to the point that they amassed into one giant overwhelming blob. How was I supposed to live a normal life when my mind wasn't cooperating?

What I didn't know then was that this phenomenon had a name. This inability to concentrate and difficulty with memory is called psychomotor retardation, and it is a frequent and common companion to clinical depression. This new knowledge was a relief--at least I wasn't abnormal (chuckle, chuckle)--but I still had two significant concerns: First I hated the term retardation, for obvious reasons, and second I had know idea how I could mange it.

My mind felt like a bulletin board littered with thousands of incomprehensible post-it-notes. Everything felt incomplete, and I lived constantly with a sense of "I've forgotten something." You know the feeling. Kind of like wondering if you've left the oven on, except the feeling never disappears. It's nagging and persistent and it interferes with every aspect of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) life.

To combat this I implemented a fairly simple strategy that I still follow today. On the days I was feeling a little less murky, I made a list of everything I needed and wanted to do. I arranged and rearranged this list in order of priority and when I finally finished it, I felt an almost immediate sense of relief. All those things I was trying to remember, the things that were bogging down my mind like a jeep in quicksand, were now on paper and OUT of my mind. It was liberating.

Some people claim that "things to do" lists make them anxious. They claim to have this "I have a deadline" feeling, so I'm sure there are some of you out there that will disagree with my reasoning here, but that's okay. This list technique worked for me and maybe it will work for someone else. It's all about finding something that brings relief. In my case, I just felt lighter all over knowing I could now refer to a piece of paper to help guide my day, rather than carrying around incomplete bits of information that were making my mind and life feel cluttered and slushy (I like the word slushy). Maybe--hopefully--it will work for you too. I look forward to your feedback.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why I Write This Blog: A Note To Anxiety Sufferers

For the targeted readers of this entry--the people who are suffering the symptoms of anxiety-- just sitting here and reading this sentence is a difficult task. Believe me, I know. You feel shaky, breathless and the sense of overall uneasiness, an uneasiness you can't explain or understand, is turning your life upside down. Perhaps you have begun to withdraw from friends and isolate yourself. Maybe the thought of performing simple chores, such as fetching the groceries or picking the kids up from school causes your heart to race, your palms to sweat and fills you with unexplainable dread. I know where you are coming from, I empathize and I want to help.

Last night my girlfriend asked me why I continued to maintain this blog, and after some careful thought I blurted out my reply: "Let's just say I want to pay back "anxiety" for all the misery it has caused in my life." Yep. that's the reason. If I can help only one person navigate this horrible disorder it will be more than worth it. For too many years I suffered this disease silently and, to be perfectly honest, incorrectly. I did all the things I tell others not to do. I isolated myself from others because I thought they could never understand what I was going through. I self-medicated with alcohol, seeking relief that refused to come, and regularly did all the wrong things that resulted in grief and pain.

Anxiety cost me my job, my house, my family and most importantly, my soul. I was a prisoner inside my head and I thought my life was over. For a time I even thought of giving up all together. I just didn't want to be here anymore.

So you see, I do know how you feel. What's more, I can tell you without equivocation that A) You're not going crazy and B) This will not last forever. I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but you will feel better in time.

This blog is intended to provide strategies that worked for me, along with useful tidbits of information I wish I'd had handy when my symptoms were at their worst. Of course not everything will work for everybody, but at the very least I can get it out there for people to decide for themselves. If you have anything you would like to add, please feel free to contact me using the link at the top of this page. Together we can make strides toward a peaceful and content mind which is, after all, the only thing we truly want.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Panic Attacks: Face Your Fear

I can still remember my first panic attack. I was at a local grocery store, in the checkout line when it came on, and it was the scariest experience of my life. I had all of the usual symptoms: an extreme sense of fear, racing heart and sweating. The attack was so profound that I simply left my groceries in the cart and bolted from the store. It was a horrible experience that I will never forget.

For months after that first incident occurred I avoided the supermarket like the plague. Just thinking about the experience made me uncomfortable, and I actually began to have more panic attacks every time I reflected on that experience. Although I didn't know it then, what I was experiencing was fairly common. Worries about having another panic attack were actually creating a stage for more panic to surface. This was a horrible cycle, one that took me way too much time and an unnecessary amount of misery to break.

According to experts, a large number of secondary panic attacks (any panic attack after the initial experience) are brought on by the fear that a panic attack will strike. In light of this data, it becomes extremely important that people deal swiftly with their fears. Avoiding certain people, places and events associated with a prior panic attack only perpetuates and intensifies this disorder. Facing the things that are causing you fear and uneasiness is the only way to combat this awful cycle.

I finally went back to that grocery store. At first I stayed only a few minutes, but eventually I was able to stay longer. It wasn't easy, but as time went on I gradually forgot all about the panic attack and why I had been so frightened in the first place.

If you feel like a prisoner to panic attacks, I urge you to take action and face your fears. It is, unfortunately, the only way to effectively deal with your symptoms. I know people promise relief from pills and other treatments, and although that can certainly be of some benefit, there is no substitute for healthy action on your part.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"A Prayer for Owen Meany" A Miracle of a Book

I recently finished reading "A Prayer for Owen Meany," by John Irving, and although I don't intend to write a complete review, I feel compelled to recommend it. If I had to pick a single theme for this book I would probably have to go with "faith," and as I believe in the power of faith for healing, I think this book meets the criteria for this site.

A Prayer for Owen Meany chronicles the relationship of two boys, coming of age in New Hampshire in the 1950s and 1960s. Owen Meany and John Wheelwright come from "different sides of the track." The former is the son of a blue collar quarry man and the latter comes from "old money." Their differences--their quirks if you will--make them perfect for each other and they develop a life-long friendship, so strong, that nothing can tear it apart. Their friendship survives a war and even the death of John's mother, killed by an errant foul ball hit by Owen Meany in a little league game.

This story of hope and unshakable faith is soooooooo good that I dare not say anything else, for fear of giving something away. What I will say is, if you have the time, this book is a must read. If you enjoy a book that forces you to look at yourself and ask what's really important, A Prayer for Owen Meany is a book you will certainly enjoy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mood and Food: The Connection

What we eat, experts say, has a major impact on our mood and how we feel. In my personal dealings with anxiety and depression I have found a lot of truth in that. I find when I eat right, that is to say a balanced diet including lots of fruit and veggies, I have more energy and I feel more focused and alert. My symptoms just seem more manageable when I practice good eating habits. Conversely, when I don't observe these nutritional rules, I feel lethargic and cloudy. Simple tasks just seem a bit more difficult, and although that is partially due to chemical changes associated with my depression, the correlation between my symptoms and poor eating is evident.

There are certain substances and food that are considered taboo when coping with anxiety and depression, and these deserve note. It is wise to either use the following substances in moderation or not at all, as they can perpetuate and intensify your symptoms:

1. Alcohol

2. Caffeine

3. Tobacco

4. Refined Sugar

Limit the use of these in your diet. Instead eat a balanced diet, three meals a day, and help jump start your system.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Psychiatry: A Racket For The Bad Doctors

There are some good psychiatrists out there, of this I have little doubt. I'm certain it is only a huge coincidence that I have yet to find one of them, but that has very little to do with this short post. Maybe another time I will feel inspired to rave about all the "good" doctors. working tirelessly to help people with mental illness, but today I am sort of "all fired up" about the bad ones, of which I am equally sure there are many. In fact, I've met several.

Most people struggling with Anxiety or Depression (or both) face many factors when deciding to see someone about their problem. Factors such as the emotional effects of these illnesses and the fear of stigma can make it difficult to talk to someone, especially a professional. And then there's always the money factor, as these services seldom come cheaply. However, if the pain outweighs these considerations, a doctor visit is often scheduled, and sadly these visits leave many folks shaking their heads, some feeling worse than before they went in.

This was the case with me anyway and it was frustrating. I waited three months to finally be scheduled, and when I finally got in, my appointment lasted no more than 10 minutes. I left more dumbfounded than when I arrived, holding a prescription for some drug I never heard of, which promised to cure all my ills, and instructions to come back in three months! Three months?

Fortunately I have insurance or this little adventure would have cost me a bundle. When I saw what the psychiatrist actually pulled in for this less-than-brief little chat, my mouth fell open. Three-hundred dollars for three minutes of his time seemed a bit extravagant, and that's not to mention what the pharmaceutical company made from this little deal. But here's the real kicker: the meds actually kinda worked, and once they ran out (not surprisingly, they ran out in three months), I needed to go back to him to get more. AHA! Now I see. You don't have to hit me over the head.

Bad doctors, in my humble opinion, are the ones who explore only one option, usually medication, and while their patients "fly solo" through this process, they sit back and collect the reward. They see patients just long enough to write a refill, schedule the next quarterly appointment, and Thank God for their good fortune. It's a racket and it's one that many fall prey to while trying anything for relief. If you are new to this process, and you have gone through anything like I described, I urge you to talk with your doctor and explore ALL treatment options. Hold him accountable as part of your recovery team (a paid member) and don't roll over. You are much to important for that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Two Words The Anxiety Sufferer Dreads Most

Some people will never understand how an anxiety sufferer feels. It's that simple. Try as they might to empathize with what we're going through, they just don't get it. Nothing illustrates this more than when they utter that two-word phrase those coping with anxiety dread the most: "Just Relax."

Now I know they mean well, and I'm certainly not trying to drum up any undue sympathy, but that simple expression makes me want to scream. Don't they realize that if I could relax I would do it in a heartbeat? Can't they see that the inability to relax is exactly what characterizes this horrible illness? It makes me wonder what advice they would offer to someone with a lung disease. Take a deep breath?

For someone who has never felt the "weird" feeling of anxiety, the ability to comprehend its scope is impossible. Many relationships have been destroyed for this reason. Bonds become strained when anxiety is in the picture, as one person tries to cope with illness and misunderstanding and the other contends with the residual effects this misunderstanding creates. It's a horrible cycle, one that could be prevented with a bit of open communication.

If you suffer from anxiety, it's important to talk about it. Let your loved ones know how you feel, and be certain to tell them exactly what you expect of them. Your illness effects your family and friends, but that's often difficult to see when you're in pain. Let them know you don't expect them to "cure" you, only listen to you. This simple talk can reduce or eliminate those awful misunderstandings that can often be toxic to relationships.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

10 Most Common Side Effects of Paxil

Paxil is an antidepressant belonging to the family of drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs. It is indicated for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Dosing schedules vary depending on the individual and the illness being treated.

There are however side effects that you should be aware of before taking Paxil. Below, for your reference, I have listed the 10 most common side effects associated with this drug--side effects which were noted in people taking Paxil for Major Depressive Disorder:

1. Asthenia

2. Sweating

3. Nausea

4. Increased Sweating

5. Sexual Dysfunction

6. Dizziness

7. Insomnia

8. Tremors

9. Somnolence

10. Anxiety

There have been more serious side effects reported with the use of Paxil as well. Talk to your doctor about any of your concerns before starting a Paxil regimen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Effexor For Anxiety and Depression: Indications, Side Effects and Warnings

From time to time, I'll review some of the more popular antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications to help you make more informed decisions when treating your disorder. Today I will take a look at Effexor.

Effexor (venlafaxine hydrochloride) is indicated for the treatment of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, OCD and panic disorder.

Common Side Effects

Sexual Dysfunction
Dry Mouth
Vivid Dreams

Some Warnings

Effexor should not be taken by pregnant women as the prenatal effects are unknown

Effexor should not be taken by children and adolescents due to an increase in suicidal thoughts.

Effexor has been linked to hypertension.

Discontinuation of Effexor can lead to SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome

Effexor has been linked to memory loss

This is not a comprehensive list of either the side effects or warnings. I urge you to do your own research and talk to your doctor about all your concerns.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Three Reasons Not To Worry

How many hours have you wasted, agonizing over things of which you have little or no control? If you’re like me, or how I used to be, the number of hours is fairly high. I cannot count the number of hours and days—days that I’ll never get back—that were given over to this nagging worry that I now regret. So why do we engage in this pointless and potentially harmful behavior? That I cannot answer. Perhaps all I can do is give you my “Three Reasons Not to Worry,” and let you make up your own mind.

Reason 1

Because there are more important things to do like hugging your kids, writing a friend, volunteering for a charity or calling your Mom.

Reason 2

Because there are more productive things to do like perfecting your job skills, starting your autobiography or banging your head against wrought iron.

Reason 3

Because, and this is very important, in the end, when all the business of life is over, you will be judged for who you were, and not for what you were able to accomplish. God put us on this earth for his enjoyment and he loves to see his children at play. Don’t waste this precious gift fretting about stupid stuff, and it’s all stupid stuff.

Can Depression Present With Anxiety Symptoms?

Anxiety is a common symptom of depression. In fact, it is so common that doctors often have a difficult time discovering the correct diagnosis.

At the height of my battle with depression, anxiety symptoms were so profound that my life became difficult to manage. After finally seeking help for this problem, my doctor at the time told me I was suffering from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for which he prescribed Klonopin. Now if you've been following my blog, you already know how strongly I oppose this drug as a solitary treatment. Klonopin is a narcotic with a high rate of abuse, and in my case the dependency was almost immediate. It worked well for awhile, but as my system grew accustomed to the drug. For me, the drug caused more problems than it addressed. But I'm getting off the subject.

After switching doctors and undergoing a very uncomfortable "detox" from Klonopin, I was diagnosed with Major Depression w/ anxiety. Unfortunately I had the double whammy as far as emotional illness goes, but at least I was finally knew what I was dealing with. With the help of my new doctor, I became educated about my illness and learned that anxiety is a very common symptom associated with depression, and to treat one, I needed to address both.

Learn from my mistakes. If you are feeling anxious, and you feel it may be part of a larger problem, check with your doctor and have him/her explain all available treatment options. It can save you a lot of grief down the road.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Anxiety and Depression Medication: My Own View

In my August 7, 2009 post, entitled Anxiety and Depression Medication: The Antidepressant Debate, I promised I would follow up with my own personal view--take a side if you will. So here goes, I'll be interested in your comments.

I realize the tone in some of my posts may suggest that I am anti-antidepressants, but that's not entirely true. In fact, that assumption would be entirely false.

Antidepressants help to combat the chemical portion of this illness and their effectiveness is well documented. Millions of sufferers, myself included, have benefited from these prescriptions, and I am optimistic both about the advancement of mental health research and the improvement of these medications. That being said, I do not believe that antidepressants work independently from other techniques and treatments. After prolonged personal experience, I have completely abandoned the miracle cure theory that many hold dear.

Antidepressants are prescribed too much, that is my opinion. Too many doctors opt to begin medication treatment before other options have been considered, exposing patients to potentially harmful side effects and dependency. The people they are treating, people who are tired of the suffering, usually jump at the opportunity to quell these symptoms with a pill. It just doesn't work that way, and doctors that choose this option as the sole method of treatment are, in my opinion, doing their patients a great disservice.

For years I tried combination after combination, desperate for relief. Finally after five years and many periods of trial and error, I finally began taking Effexor and it has helped significantly, when used in combination with other treatments I have mentioned in this blog. Five years of waiting and hoping to be magically cured. That is simply too long, and completely unnecessary. The plain truth was that I had to become an ACTIVE participant in my recovery before I noticed any measurable improvement.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Five Steps For Managing Your Generalized Anxiety Disorder

If you are suffering the symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, the last thing you need is someone promising miracle cures that don't exist, but if you are anything like me, you would probably try anything to get a bit of relief.

Anxiety, at its best, is a persistent annoying obstacle that interferes with every aspect of our lives. At its worst, it can be downright scary. Symptoms like shaking, a racing heart, sweating and a non-stop sense of uneasiness makes even the simplest daily tasks seem daunting and unattainable. Fortunately, I have been free from the "scary symptoms" for quite some time, and while I still deal with the "annoying symptoms" at times, I have managed to begin living productively again. I'd like to share five-steps I employ in my life which allow me to cope from day to day. I hope this helps:

1. Exercise

Regular aerobic exercise, whether it's a long walk, steps on the treadmill or a more organized and strenuous activity helps to release pent up energy and change focus. I simply don't think about my symptoms when engaged in these workouts. Another nice bonus is the quality of sleep I now enjoy, which also helps combat troubling anxiety symptoms.

2. Meditate

Meditation is a simple, accessible way to ease anxiety symptoms. It relaxes my body and allows me to focus on the here and now. My mediation routine has helped me to avoid old thought patterns, such as worrying about the future and obsessing about the past, and has replaced them with more productive thoughts of contentment.

3. Monitor Your Diet

Regardless of how you're feeling, you have to eat, so you might as well eat healthy. I make sure I adhere to a well balanced diet, and have gradually cut out the things that consistently seemed to make me feel worse. Avoiding thing like junk food, caffeine and alcohol are important first steps towards feeling better.

4. Journal

Writing, whether in a journal or an online blog like this one, is a great way to cope with some of the symptoms of anxiety. Put some of those troubling thoughts and feelings on paper. When I was really anxious, I used to over think and over analyze everything. I was confused and all the "stuff" I was carrying around, especially things I needed to do or wanted to accomplish, seemed an incredible burden to remember. Writing these things down, in a place where I could easily access them, was such a welcomed release.

5. Share What Your Feeling

Please, please, please don't isolate yourself, regardless of how you're feeling. I know you think you are sparing others from the effects of your disorder, but you are doing harm to yourself and to them. Trust enough in the people you love to speak openly to them about your feelings. They want to help you, but they don't know how. You need you to communicate how they can assist you with your challenges.

Anxiety is a very real and very serious medical condition. There are many treatments available to those who acknowledge their illness and seek help. Please remember that the "scary parts" of this illness are not going to last forever. You will get better but you must be an active participant in your recovery.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Anxiety and Depression Medication: The Antidepressant Debate

Antidepressant medication is the most prescribed class of drugs in North America. This prescription rate has got people, on both sides of the issue, talking, and both present some interesting arguments.

Many people see the rise in prescriptions as a promising a sign that the stigma associated with mental and emotional illness is beginning to ebb, prompting more and more people to seek help for their condition. For far too many years, people concealed problems with overall mental health, choosing to suffer in silence rather than risk the sting of public opinion often associated with these types of illnesses. Many others point to the advancements made in the newer antidepressant medications as a cause for this trend. Some of the new formulas, they say, provide both short and long-term relief from persistent, depression-related symptoms, while minimizing troublesome side effects.

Others, however, are chiming in on the opposite side of this debate. They argue that the proliferation of new antidepressant medications is alarming. These drugs are only designed to treat the symptoms of depression, and since most doctors choose this method as their sole treatment option, the cause of the depression is being ignored. They also point out that medications of this sort, while modestly effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression, can have some serious side effects. According to some treatment professionals, the use of medication is only a "bandaid" for depression, and without other measures aimed at identifying and treating the cause, the condition will persist, and in some cases worsen.

I am going to reserve my opinion for my next post, but I am ultra-anxious (bad choice of words, I guess) to hear your opinion on this hot topic. What do you think about antidepressants? Is it an effective treatment? Is it prescribed too much? Should it be used alone, in conjunction with other treatments or eliminated altogether as a treatment option? I want to hear about your personal experiences.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Can Exercise Help My Depression?

Can Exercise Help My Depression?

Many experts agree that regular, aerobic exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of depression so, taking their advice, I decided to put it to the test.

It was difficult at first. Trying to drag myself out of bed while depressed was an enormous undertaking, but eventually it got easier. I started exercising 4 times a week for 45 minutes. Initially I merely walked, moving as quickly as I could to raise my heart rate, but as I became more accustomed to the routine, I started to jog. In a month I was able to run continuously for two miles, and the results were very encouraging.

My mood improved significantly and it became much easier to sleep at night. I felt healthier in both mind and body, and the outward appearance, attained as a bonus, did wonders for my self-esteem.

The most noticeable change was that, while exercising, the destructive thought patterns associated with my depression seemed to disappear. The rigors of the exercise seemed to take my mind off all my troubles, and once I reached that point I noticed the feeling would remain throughout the day.

Try it for yourself and see what you think.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Is Klonopin an Effective Treatment for Anxiety?

When I was at the height of my battle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, many of those close to me admonished me for taking the drug Klonopin or Clonazepam. At that time, however, I didn't want to hear it. They had no idea what I was going through and this was the ONLY thing that made me feel better. If you too are treating your anxiety in this manner, I certainly will not admonish you, but I will admit that my loved ones were correct--Klonopin was not the ideal treatment for me.

While Klonopin was part of my medication regimen I never missed a dose. There was never a time when I just forgot or even took it one minute late. There was a reason for this: I had become addicted and both my body and brain would scream out at least an hour before dose time, reminding me that I needed my "fix." I know that sounds awful, but that's how I felt.

Waking up in the morning was the worse. I did nothing--and I mean nothing--before I got that dose down my throat. I felt shaky and agitated and this would continue until the Klonopin finally entered my bloodstream. It was horrible, but I didn't know what to do. I couldn't be addicted, I told myself, I am only taking the amount the doctor prescribed. That didn't matter though. I had become dependent upon this narcotic, and without it, withdrawal was inevitable. This drug that was supposed to be helping me was just causing more problems

I never thought I would be free of Klonopin, in fact I never even planned to be. Any kind of life in the absence of Klonopin was not one I wanted to face. But one day, due to an unfortunate event--an event that I won't mention except to say it was a blessing in disguise--my Klonopin was discontinued. The next two weeks were absolute mental and physical torture. This wasn't anxiety I was feeling, but narcotic withdrawal, plain and simple.

After that two week period, however, the horrible symptoms began to subside. I couldn't believe the way I was feeling. The morning shakiness and the routine of rushing to the medicine cabinet were gone, and everything seemed brighter, clearer and much,more calmer. Two years later I am still Konopin free, and I vow never to be a prisoner in its grip again.

I am not faulting anyone else for their own particular medication regimen, nor am I trying to pass this off as medical advice. I am just relating what worked for me, and hoping my passion might help others facing similar circumstances. If you find yourself looking forward to "medication time," you may want to consider this testament and make some changes. (Under the advice of a doctor). The book shown in my sidebar "How to Get Off Klonopin Safely," is a good source.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Depression Make You Want to Stay in Bed? Get Up Anyway

I've posted something similar to this before, but it bears repeating. Depression is NOT just a condition affecting mental processes. It can attack you physically as well, draining you of the energy you need to function. Too many people succumb to this loss and opt to lie around in bed, hoping their energy level might become replenished somehow. This is the very opposite of strategies you should follow. I know it seems like an unbearable task, but you gotta Get Up.

If the body is taking clues from the brain, ie. brain is depressed so body is low on energy, isn't it fair to say that the mind may be taking signals from the body as well? When our bodies are low on energy due to inactivity, our minds are quick to pick up on this signal and it acts accordingly. Thankfully the opposite is also quite true. Your mind will respond favorably to exercise. Something as simple as getting out of bed and taking a shower is a good first step and will help your mood significantly.

So don't let your mind trick you into inactivity. Get up and get moving. This is a small battle you can win everyday.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anxiety and Your Relationships

At the height of my anxiety, while I feverishly paced around my house, my girlfriend would often ask, "What's wrong?" My answer was always the same, a lamentation of how my anxiety was torturing me, and I knew she was growing tired of hearing the same old story. What could I do? I certainly didn't want to lie. Even if I did she'd know I wasn't being honest and that would just create more problems.

Gradually my anxiety began to worsen, and as it did the relationship with my girlfriend (along with every other relationship) quickly headed south. I was no longer the "whole" person she had met, rather a nervous, shaky shell of a man. With each day I isolated myself more and more from everyone who cared about me, and I stopped every activity in which I previously participated. I just didn't want to continue explaining what I was going through to people who had no idea how it felt.

Looking back, one of the most infuriating bits of helpful advice those people tried to offer me was a simple two-word phrase: just relax. What a joke. Didn't they understand that the inability to relax was the most painful attribute of this illness. It's like telling someone with lung cancer to please quit coughing. Don't get me wrong, every single person that uttered those words meant well, they just didn't understand, and I realized there were no words I could say to make them feel what I was feeling. I realized my best strategy was to just be honest.

One day I sat my girlfriend down and said, "Listen, I realize that my illness has effects that extend beyond the way I feel, and I'm sorry for what you must be going through. I'm not sure how long this is going to last, but I am determined to beat it. I cannot make promises relating to my mood or the effects of my symptoms, but you have my word I am attempting every possible solution available to me. I recognize your sacrifice and you are appreciated."

I left it that. No "poor me" pity party, just a level of honesty and candor that was truly genuine. No promises, that if unkept would cause me more anxiety. Those were "getting old," and it wasn't what she needed to hear. What she needed was an explanation and some recognition.

Anxiety makes us feel we have to withdraw and work everything out alone. This is extremely selfish. Believe me, the people who love you truly want to help in any way they can. Failing to involve them is not being brave, but self-centered. Avoid the mistakes I made. Don't shut them out. Keep the channels open. With time these crummy feelings will ebb, and there is nothing better than celebrating their departure with the people you love.

Take Advantage of Your Good Days

Even in the grips of your depression, you are bound to have some good days. Since these don't come very often it is very important to take advantage of them. Your ability to get things accomplished on days like these can go a long way to ensuring more good days to come. Clean house, do some writing or just take a walk. Send a signal of accomplishment to your brain. Get organized today and help quiet that nagging voice in your head that seems to accompany every one of your not-so-good days.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Depression and Anhedonia

One of the most pervasive symptoms of depression is a general loss of pleasure with just about everything. Things you used to enjoy can seem like torture when depressed, which can in turn lead to isolation and withdrawl. The technical term for this loss of pleasure is anhedonia and is very common, almost universal, in those coping with depression.

In my personal journey with depression, anhedonia caused the greatest difficulty. Those close to me couldn't understand why I just didn't seem up to events and activities I previously enjoyed so much. My relationships suffered. As I withdrew from everybody and everything, the world naturally continued, and my inability to actively participate became frustrating and overwhelming.

For a while I forced myself to do things even though the desire was absent, but eventually I just sort of succombed to the anhedonia and isolated myself from everthing and everyone. If the world was a high school, I was a dropout, locked out of all the joy and opportunities associated with membership.

If you share these same types of feelings, take some comfort in knowing you are not alone. Be honest with your loved ones and tell them just how you are feeling and don't hesitate to seek out assistance from a medical professional. This condition will not last forever.