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11 November 2012 @ 03:26 pm
Depression survival  
In the last months I suffered a breakdown (panic attacks) and relapse of my depression. At times I've been so disconnected I had no idea who I was and my thinking has been paranoic and distorted (but I don't recognise it as such at the time). However I have lucid times as well and still hope to be able to stay off medication.

So I haven't been in a place or time where I had a lot to give to other people (hence lack of posting here). But in my searching for ways to help myself and give myself hope that I can see this through, I've come across a couple of resources that might be of interest to others who suffer from depression, anxiety or other mood disorders:

optimismonline These guys have an app where you can track your symptoms and the various ways you look after yourself (sleep, exercise, supplements, etc). You can customise it with the techniques you are trying so you get an idea over time what is really making a difference. This seems really ideal to me in terms of self-monitoring, on or off medication.

curetogether This site gathers data from people who actually have various conditions who report on how useful they found various treatments. The results are compiled as here for depression:
http://curetogether.com/blog/2011/05/03/23-surprisingly-effective-treatments-for-depression-one-year-later/
VERY useful to bust the myth that medication alone is a solution. Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all solution to depression as it's such a blanket term that covers a lot of different things, but it's a great way of seeing that there are many ways to support ourselves (most of these can be combined, after all!). And which ones are fucking useless--alcohol and caffeine!! (And some fairly useless medications!)

smilingmind An Australian initiative to promote meditation, especially among young people. It's a very userfriendly, accessible introduction to meditation with the advantage that you can use it on your computer at work in short breaks. Meditation has been instrumental for me--when reducing my medication and now to recover. Absolutely everyone benefits from it--the key is to learn how very easy it really is!


1. Accept myself exactly as I am. If that means I'm sobbing or feeling disconnected from everything then that's also ok. <--easier said than done
2. Lie on the grass in the sun, feel my body supported by the earth and breathe deeply, connecting with it. Soak up the blue sky. Just go into the feeling/moment.
3. Have a warm bath with Epsom salts. I was doing this through detox and I'm probably still detoxing ten years of medication--either way, it is very comforting and a sanctuary for me.
4. Get out of the house. Spend as much time around other people as possible. This is especially important for me because I work alone. Absolutely do not withdraw--I know what a trap that is.
5. Cut out caffeine. Yeah, it probably added to my withdrawal symptoms briefly, but that shit is POISON if you have panic attacks. I know that now. Thought I'd never quit my beloved coffee (I'm a Melbournian!) but it's not a problem for me now--it's amazing how good chamomile tea tastes when the alternative is thinking you're having a heart attack.
6. Cut out alcohol. A no brainer for me as well--I quit while stopping meds. I do actually have an occasional sip of wine or beer in company, but my mood is generally too fragile to risk it these days.
7. The weird one: network spinal analysis. It's definitely the most 'out there' thing I've tried so far, and the results are kind of frightening (emotions being released) but I'm on week 3 and I think a big part of the reason I can be lucid and make this post is that the extreme tension/spasms my body was in as a result of the breakdown/panic have eased. My body feels more flexible and relaxed. So going to keep trying this.
8. Qi gong. My lifeline. My body feels very different now than when I started--so doing it reminds me that I don't want to go back on the meds. My channels are more open, physical blocks are less. It's just mental noise and emotional distress that I am in now. When I practise--especially with others--I believe this too can clear over time.
9. Reduce sugar. Should have listed this above with caffeine, but basically this became a necessity for me due to anxiety. Again, you start seeing it as poison when you feel it's direct affect on adrenals. I am a sugar junky but I haven't had a pastry in weeks... (have to say this is a TON easier to stick to when not taking Effexor--and a fellow former Effexor taker agreed with me). I only eat fruit and occasional honey now. There is incidental sugar in sauces and stuff but I don't eat sweet snacks at all.
10. B vitamins, Vitamin D and iron--B vitamins and iron helped my energy levels recover. I now basically don't have an energy problem (which always used to be a big part of my depression--I would lie around all day). Vitamin D was very low in me so I am taking that too and while I can't say I notice the effects I know it DOES help in time.
11. Listening to music while I work. My concentration has been shot to pieces (anxiety SO MUCH more work-impairing for me than general depression) but putting some music on makes it a lot easier. Really helps my mood a ton.
12. As much time as possible out of doors and in natural settings. Still getting used to just how good this is for me. My mind is constantly tricking me not to, thanks to years of thinking of myself as an indoors, bookish city girl. But connecting to nature is incredibly calming--at times my only comfort.

On the fence about:
1. Eating a protein-rich diet. I certainly do think it helps my anxiety. Does it help my depression? Hopefully in time. I know I may need to take it further and look at reducing or dropping gluten--not quite strong enough to do that yet. Focusing on the fact that making SOME positive changes in my diet is a good thing.
2. Amino acids. Thanks to the wonderful [personal profile] laurashapiro I was introduced to Mood Cure. I had to ship in some of the supplements suggested but I am now trying them out. One of them (DLPA) seems to help with the excessive crying and sensitivity I was having--always prone to it, but it's a known problem coming off Effexor so it was NUTS for months. Could not watch ANY TV AT ALL without bawling. Ad with puppies? BAWLING. Other supps I'm not sure on yet... 5HTP seems to make me kind of wired. :(
3. SAM-e. Recommended by my doctor and rates pretty well on curetogether. It's natural and has no side effects. I *think* it may be helping but it's fighting against a lot. I would have been very distressed ON medication in the last few months anyway so it's hard to say.
4. OMEGA 3 (supplements and eating fish/eggs): Possibly is helping? I can't say I notice it specifically among other things I take but am willing to keep going on the strength of my doctor's advice and the Mood Cure.
5. Therapy. I had a great therapist. She quit just as I got to zero. I am on the fence about my new one after trying several people. I go for the meditation and visualisation exercises--those seem to help. But sometimes I feel like I'm just turning up to report in. I have to for now because I am on a care plan.

And I have a new one today: STOP THINKING YOU ARE DEPRESSED. Half my problem (now) is that having had a personal crisis, a genuine one, I reacted unconsciously by assuming that that meant I was or would be depressed--old messages and conditioning inside told me that. The crisis itself was real. And I hadn't had such panic attacks before so I can't do anything about the fact I experienced them. But my mind telling me that I don't know who I am, or I am somehow different now or all these feelings of total disconnection: that's an illusion, perhaps a result of the attacks, but still one to be broken. I'm me. I was me on medication too--just a dampened me, with a lot of side effects. But things that made me happy then can make me happy again now too. I just have to trust that, myself and the universe.

Haha, must be me: I am still tl;dr.

This entry was originally posted at http://bop-radar.dreamwidth.org/244554.html. comment count unavailable comments Comment here or there, as you will.
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Current Location: sofa of comfiness
Current Mood: pensivepensive
 
 
Jonathan Toews does not want a sandwich.svmadelyn on November 11th, 2012 06:06 am (UTC)
As a side note to the omega 3 portion - olive oil! It's such a small thing, but I really feel like it's helped me.

Good luck with everything, seriously.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 07:25 am (UTC)
Awesome! Yeah, I threw out all other oils ... I'm glad to hear it helped you!
eriatarka: beck &; like a symbol of hopeyamakasi on November 11th, 2012 08:10 am (UTC)
i'm sorry to hear about your relapse. this is just a setback, though -- i know you can pull through this. ♥

i must confess that i have not commented on your previous entry about this because (and you may not recall we talked about this before) my mother has had a very positive experience after stopping her lithium and i didn't want that to come off as insensitive to the issues you are experiencing.

anyway.

i am a firm believer that meds are not the "be-all-end-all" when it comes to treatment -- and in a lot of cases of depression therapy can be just as effective if not moreso than meds -- and it is very interesting to see what does & doesn't work for you.

my brother has depression and while he is on meds (which i think his psychiatrist put him on too early & at too high a dose but that's another story) he is also very much into mindfullness meditation and other ways of approaching it.

thank you for sharing.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 08:44 am (UTC)
Thanks for commenting! And for the positivity. :) It's very good to hear about positive post-meds stories actually! I don't know anyone who's been on depression meds as long as me and come off successfully--and belief that it's possible is half the battle. So it's good to hear about your mum!

I know that if I ever go back on medication I will do better than before because I have other ways as well to manage things. I remind myself of that on my despairing days. It's a common story with psychiatrists to put people on too much (my psychiatrist upped me to a level where I was basically passing out all the time). I know there are good psychiatrists out there but a lot just think 'more drugs' as solution to all. So sympathies re. your brother. But it's great that he has more than that alone in his treatment plan! :)
eriatarkayamakasi on November 11th, 2012 12:22 pm (UTC)
oh, i am glad, then! mum is bipolar and she had been on the meds for 25+ years. since coming off them these past 6 months there was a period of time where she had to readjust her emotions (she didn't have as great emotional control as she thought) but now she is much better. they had to take her off because one of the negative side effects of being on lithium for that long for her was that she had episodes where she couldn't control her body properly. but that has now cleared up.

yes, most recently my brother had a very "eventful" period of time: he moved out, got a new job, came down with a bad cold and couldn't do his job for a few weeks and then relapsed. and what did the psychiatrist do instead of acknowledging that MAYBE these recent events could be contributing to my brother's depressed state? upped the meds. *sigh*

i really do think that in a lot of cases there is more than one answer. :] i am glad others believe so too!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Batgirlbop_radar on November 11th, 2012 12:58 pm (UTC)
That's SO good about your mum! And good to hear that she could rebalance her emotions in time. I think part of what I'm going through is an attempt to rebalance my emotions (my depression was always pretty moodswingy--though not full bipolar). Unfortunately I went through a relationship/life crisis simultaneously--so that kind of blew everything out.

And aahh, that story about your brother is such the classic response! One reason I'm being really stubborn with my doctor and psych now is that I *know* no matter how bad things are right now there are real external stressors in my life creating them. I'm also not getting a hell of a lot of support from medical professionals there--I get the 'don't you think you'd cope better on medication?' thing a lot. But my GP can see that going back on meds for me right now would be even more devastating than anything, so we're giving it more time. It's tough--most days I do just feel miserable, and I do know that it's a trap... I do know I could slip into depression more permanently from here. But I also have choices and each day try to do things that act against depression. I'm not used to the magnitude of my emotions off the meds but on the other hand I do have better coping skills than ten years ago. So fingers crossed!

Certainly, I agree, it's good to talk to more people who believe there are many paths here... I think a big part of it is learning to tune into what works for each person as an individual. Physical things really work for me--getting out of my head and using my body, massage work, etc. I didn't know that years ago.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 01:00 pm (UTC)
PS. That curetogether site indicates that bipolar is best managed without drugs! I thought that was pretty cool, as everyone I've known who is bipolar has been on lithium. So your mum will have a good future!
darluludarlulu on November 11th, 2012 10:07 am (UTC)
Thanks for the links. I'm gonna check out what the curetogether report looks like for anxiety.

*big hugs*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 01:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :) The one for anxiety is useful too! I never had such high anxiety as recently so I had to quickly learn some things about managing it--quite different than my old depression tactics which were more about getting myself moving.
Joyobraver_creature on November 11th, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear about the major episode.

I spent a lot of months this year fighting one off (I think? Maybe? How does any of this shit actually work?)

I don't know if you're in any mood to read about such things, but if you're looking for any meditations on depression, I highly highly recommend the Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon.

He's so utterly comprehensive and *fairminded* and kind and writes about his own experiences and those of others and SCIENCE and FEELINGS intellectually AND beautifully that I found a lot of comfort and self-assurance in it.

He has some (imo) very helpful musings on the intersection between depression and personality/character.

But yeah, I really identify with "Point 1" and in fact most of your "to-do" list. My breakthrough last year was about giving myself permission to have a "non-starter" day. It's obvs more complicated than that, but I found that by forgiving/allowing myself to have days that just aren't happening, I had those days less often.

Also: TL;DR 4 LIFE!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
God, yeah, I know... how do you know when you're winning? It's hard to tell. I have days when I think 'I am doing really well all things considered!' and others where I despair completely--my mood swings are giving me whiplash.

Thanks for the rec! It sounds comforting!

And thank you for letting me know you too found accepting yourself where you are now to be helpful. I've been really pushing myself to be better and it's sometimes counterproductive. Yes, I do need to get out of bed and do stuff, but I'm trying to learn to talk to myself more gently about it. I'm glad you managed to have a breakthrough with that! Gives me some hope...
devohoneybeedevohoneybee on November 11th, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
thanks so much for this! I run a group on depression and am always glad to have all the alternatives available to share with people so they can each find their own best solution or combination of solutions. I will share these links with the group. FYI, some of them don't seem to be working -- can you post the full urls, please?
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I think I fixed the links now. I hope they prove useful.
Ellielli on November 11th, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
*bighugz*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Jen: Cheers! by lieslchenjlvsclrk on November 11th, 2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
*hug* So sorry to hear about the problems you've been having, but very glad to see that you're developing other coping methods. Drugs are a great tool for coping with depression but psychiatrists all too often fail to strike the right balance. Be well!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 11th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Meds helped me a lot for a long time--they just also bred a lot of dependence and a ton of side effects. The main problem was no one ever encouraged me to reduce them once I did stabilise.
CapnZebbiecapnzebbie on November 12th, 2012 02:18 am (UTC)
Thanks for all the links! I'm going to favorite this--a lot of good info. I'm glad you're finding things that are helpful *HUGS*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 13th, 2012 03:01 am (UTC)
I'm really glad if you find it useful! :) It's very hard to trust that *any*thing is useful when you're in the middle of an emotional storm, so partly I wrote this to remind myself. :)
Nora Norwichnorwich36 on November 12th, 2012 07:33 am (UTC)
I'm glad you seem to be finding a way through this. *hugs*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 13th, 2012 03:01 am (UTC)
Hi Nora! How are you? :)
Thank you for the hugs... I'm hanging in there.
pigtailedgirl: smpigtailedgirl on November 12th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
Can I say how much I admire you for this post? Your suggestions really are great and I will be browsing though.

I've been back a forth this past year from such a break and anxiety terror that I still struggle with, and am in constant fear/panic over what to do to fix myself and to not go down too far and be re-hospitalized. And I'm afraid of talking, esp. flist wise because of the shame and fear of definition and of online permanance.

Your posting makes me feel better, it makes me admire your strength and bravery and your care. That you share your struggle and your efforts to help others. Thank you.

BTW, if you struggle with anxiety I've found Anxiety BC the website quite interesting. I've also read Against Depression. It's great in you struggle to remind yourself that depression is a disease, not a character or emotional failing but it can be triggering in that it has a clinical style look that may not be the most encouraging to people looking for straight up hopeful help guides and compassion. It's more analysis and arguement against romantisizing an illness such as history did with consumption for example.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 13th, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
Thank you! It is terrifying, I know, to have gone through something so extreme and it feels like that threat lingers on--after my attacks I was in a fervour to fix myself, and afraid of every sign of anxiety and/or depression, of which there were lots. Just this week (and it's been a couple of months, please bear in mind), I managed to kind of shift out of that ... I learnt the best thing with panic attacks is NOT to be hypersensitive to physical symptoms. For weeks my heart beat too fast but what I learnt is not to give that too much importance, just say 'ok, my heart is beating fast' and direct your focus elsewhere. That helped with the physical stuff but then I was still extremely, extremely emotional, found concentration hard, thoughts raced and were very negative (including a lot of flashbacks to past pain). I think I have to learn a similar way of detaching from that ... ok, so I still wake up in anxiety, I still have nightmares, I still feel anxious and teary and have negative thoughts and a great many fears. I found this week when I just accepted that, things got a bit lighter ... it's got to come from really accepting it though. I was TELLING myself to accept it for weeks. Writing can help ... writing down things that my wiser mind/self knew when I was in a strong period helped me when I went back into attacks.. I would just read my statements over even if I didn't believe them at all at that moment! Affirmations/mantras can be similarly useful. Like 'I am safe', 'I am protected'. So I really really sympathise with you still feeling fear/anxiety about another break... and about it defining you forever. That's where I've been, mentally, for a few months. I think you'd find a lot of people are very very sympathetic online though.

Thank you for the mutual recommendations! It's a fine line with books about depression... it's good to know the reality, but also good to know it's always possible to change. I think we have to listen to our own hearts there--if a book gives you comfort then listen to that, but if it raises anxiety in itself then maybe stop reading, because our minds can get very self-critical and despairing in response to things sometimes--I am trying to practise what I preach, as I have been obsessively reading self-help books and some of them are great and others just make me all 'NNGGGGAAAHHH I WILL NEVER BE 'HEALTHY' LIKE THIS BOOK DESCRIBES!' ... which isn't helpful at all. My therapist made me imagine cutting up the words 'unhealthy' and 'unstable' into pieces and blowing them away to the wind, all scattered... because really who decides what is 'healthy'?? We're all on a journey.
amnisiasamnisias on November 17th, 2012 01:56 pm (UTC)
Learning to live with your moods and emotions is just like riding the waves - they come and they go. If you find mindfulness meditation useful you might want to check this one out, we're using it in our DBT group, and the young people really enjoy it.

Hugs, sunshine and pebbles for you....
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 19th, 2012 04:02 am (UTC)
Thank you! :) That looks really beautiful, I like it. Thanks for the recommendation.