Online Therapy, Acupuncture, & Dogs

… because why not dogs?

I’m seeing my acupuncturist for the second time today. I still have a bruise on my right hand from my first appointment. However, this is common… according to the internet. Thanks, internet, for making me feel better about tiny, painful needles in my skin.

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I also have an appointment with a new therapist. Before I discuss that, I should get into a bit of history about my art therapist. I loved my art therapist. And I was a bad patient. I poofed. I poofed because she made some comments the last few times I saw her with which I wholeheartedly didn’t agree… and it became something of a pattern. I found myself talking about the same issues over and over, instead of doing the work that was in my treatment plan. I didn’t feel that was productive. The last time I went was right before entering a period of emotional crisis. At that point I decided that, for me, I had gotten everything I was going to get from working with her at that time.

I know it’s incredibly wrong to just stop seeing a therapist and not give them closure, however, it is a service for which I was paying, and I have no insurance, and that deal could only last so long. Basically, it became an untenable situation for me in many ways.

Mind you, I haven’t abandoned self-improvement or therapy all together. I have been doing my reading, and creating art, and expressing myself. I have been trying to implement the plans and strategies that came out of art therapy. I use my Girl Cave as a retreat. I’m sleeping much better.

There is turmoil in my personal life which I have agreed not to discuss openly. That doesn’t mean I won’t talk about the suicidal thoughts, or the self harm I have inflicted upon myself, or the frequency with which I have used crisis and suicide hotline resources over the past few months. It is my belief that it is important not to hide these things away, but rather to throw open the curtains and let the damned sun burn the truth of them into us. I am hurting emotionally and physically.

I am not resistant to therapy in the least. I am resistant to unproductive therapy. I am resistant to judgmental therapy.

This is a good point to get into why I have chosen to seek online resources instead of traditional, in-office therapy. There are several websites that provide access to emotional support online. I have utilized the active listeners at 7cupsoftea on a few occasions. I found the group chat to be more useful than the active listeners themselves. It turns out that active listening is not a skill that everyone has naturally. Active listeners are simply people who have completed a web-based training and are volunteering their time.

Then there are the therapy sites that provide access to professional therapists. I have not used these resources before. The two sites that I looked into when I was performing late-night searches, as you do, are TalkSpace and Breakthrough. TalkSpace has been discussed in the media and on numerous talk shows. I found this to be a turn off. There was also some language in their EULA that turned me off. I can’t pinpoint what it is that made me choose Breakthrough, but that’s what I did.

I have an appointment with a Breakthrough therapist at 2 PM EST today. Actually, she’s a clinical social worker who has worked with families and individuals who have suffered trauma. She had the cheapest out-of-pocket rate while not being a Christian nutter.

I can’t see an overly religious therapist because my relationship style and sexual orientation don’t really mesh well with them. I’d rather be able to get those things out of the way and move on to the real work.

What do I consider “real work”?

That’s a tough question, with even tougher answers. I have past traumas, trust issues, PTSD, and some massive codependency to conquer. Doing these things will help me communicate more effectively, love myself more, and manage my health (mental and physical) more compassionately. See? I have goals. I’m clear cut. But I am so easily distracted by the swirling chaos of diagnoses and external stressors that I never get to the meat of the situation.

I’m at the point where I don’t want to gently wade into these traumatic issues. I’m good at self care. I’m good at knowing when I need to stop certain conversations. (Emphasis on “certain”.) I’m ready to deal with the awfulness in which I am mired.

On to the fun things! DOGS! Well, just one dog. I know this popped up on my Instagram feed (follow me on Instagram for dog, makeup, more dog, and occasionally pictures of knickknacks or medical crap. @niansahc ) but I think that a shout out is worth while.

Here’s my baby, Oliver, and my favourite quote about devoted little dogs for your viewing pleasure:

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“We Did The Thing!” – Self Doubt and Self Care

I wrote the title for this blog enthusiastically and with happy tears in my eyes because I have recently experienced something I want to share with the world. Then, I stared at the screen, started typing, hit the backspace key, typed something else, and stared some more. The truth is that I don’t know how to talk about this in an articulate way. I have expressed parts of the feeling to individuals as I have deemed it necessary, but, ultimately, the emotion is too huge to pin down in a few words.

I am, however, going to try. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a human. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a woman. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with autism. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with chronic pain. I will do my best, and I will ramble, but I will be as sincere as I damned well can be.

I don’t trust easily. I’ve never had close humans whom I’ve felt I could tell anything to or whom I felt I could call if I needed support. I’ve never felt comfortable asking for help. I have always stringently avoided inconveniencing people. I have kept up appearances as much as I possibly can. I have forever tried my best to deal with me… myself.

Over the past few years, I have learned the importance of self care, the benefits of therapy, and how to speak to myself more positively. I had not learned, though, how to rely on others for support (or trust others to support) until two weeks ago.

I like to consider myself a fully-formed emotional being who is self-aware and capable of doing grown-up things. Unfortunately, life, which is complicated and often ugly, can sometimes smack a person around and you don’t always behave as gracefully as you should. Sometimes you break the fuck down. Sometimes the world ends. Sometimes things are just bad. Sometimes you end up in a parking lot somewhere and you don’t want to exist. Sometimes you are in such personal crisis that everything seems dark and dreary and hopeless.

It was in such a moment that I learned that other people are more than just social outlets. Apparently, and this is still new so bear with me, other people who are not family or in romantic relationships with me are capable of caring about me enough to want to help me. Other people do things like show up in parking lots with water and chocolate and hugs. Other people offer to meet for ice cream just to talk without wanting anything in return. Other people check in to see how things are. Other people offer beds and coffee and make dinner and out-of-season Christmas happen. Other people share their ups and downs and feel happy when they hear about ups and sad when they hear about downs in return.

These other people are called “friends.”

It isn’t as if I haven’t had friends all my life, but I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to have this level of friendship with other people before. I had to reach one of the lowest points in my life to finally be able to look up and see all of the hands being reached down to lift me up. And there were so many hands, and they all glowed with unconditional love and compassion.

This is where typing becomes tricky, for the tears, they are a’flowing. It has been a long thirty-five years of striving to feel accepted and loved for who I am by ME, let alone other people. I am trying very hard to let the love that I feel for humanity extend to myself. I know that I am a lovable, likable person. What I have never really believed or understood was that other people see me this way, and I am overwhelmed by how truly cared for and supported an uplifted I feel. I genuinely hope that other human beings have felt this feeling at some point in their lives. I want this feeling for everyone.

I am spending this week engaging in radical self care to eliminate some of the disquiet of self doubt that eats away at me moment by moment. I know that to move forward in a positive way with my life, my relationship with my self, and my relationship with others… I have to regain some of the self esteem that has been lost to years of pain.

I will leave you with this. One of my lovely friends, with whom I discuss aforementioned ups and downs and with whom I celebrate and commiserate, and I have a saying. It is silly and motivational and it puts our intention into the world:

“We did the thing!”

It means that what ever it is that we want or need to do is already done and we were successful. We aren’t going to do it. It is done. We aren’t doing it presently. It is done. We did the thing. The thing is accomplished. Wipe of the hands. Be it difficult and stressful or fun, we did it.

Whatever you have to do, it is already done. You did the thing. But you aren’t alone…

We did the thing.

My Perfectly Okay Codependent Relationship… with My Dog

Meet Oliver:

Terrible doggie

Oliver Wilkes Dogg (Puggle extraordinaire) is my non-human life partner and we have a codependent relationship. We are not ashamed. Oliver is the literal reason that I get out of bed in the morning (around 9 when he wants to go out after his post-breakfast nap.) Oliver is the reason I get exercise (because I have to race through the house telling him not to pee on something before I can get him outside.) Oliver is my napping buddy. Oliver is a source of joy and laughter and unconditional affection. Oliver is terrible in the best way.

Oliver eats our underwear. Oliver unabashedly goes to the bathroom as a means of punishing us for wrongs we don’t know we’ve committed. Oliver carries the skins of his stuffed animal victims around with him. Except Burnie, Oliver loves his dragon, Burnie, and has left him mainly intact.

Oliver eats like a goat… paper towels, tissues, any kind of food, plastic, money hair accessories, or bath accessories. You name it, Oliver has swallowed it whole and lived to tell the tale in the voice that we use to talk for him.

Oliver sleeps like this:

Sleeping terrible doggie

… especially when we’re upset with him.

Or like this:

Doggie tongue

… because he is a master manipulator and uses his powers of puppy-face against us so we don’t kill him.

Oliver is my best friend. When my head hurts, Oliver says, “Mama and I have a migraine,” and he curls up under the covers and naps all day with no complaints. When I’m upset, or having a really bad pain day, he puts himself across my body like a seat belt and keeps me warm and secure. He isn’t afraid of my meltdowns. He doesn’t mind that sometimes I’m not in the mood for his whimsy. He just carries on being whimsical at me until I am in the mood. He licks my feet when they are freezing. He gets his one kiss a day. Petting him makes me feel nice. I have trouble sleeping when he is elsewhere.

I have a codependent relationship with my dog, and that’s okay.

Self-Advocacy, Chronic Pain & Comorbid Chronic Depression

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a mental health professional. I’m one of 14.8 million (NIMH) people suffering from a major depressive disorder in the United States and one of 1.5 billion (American Academy of Pain Medicine) people suffering from chronic pain in the world.

As of this very moment, scientists don’t understand exactly why depression and chronic pain are linked, but the comorbidity of these conditions cannot be denied. Because these conditions are often both present in patients, one treatment strategy alone is often ineffective. To deny the mind and spirit when the body aches is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm and telling us to walk it off. However, many medical professionals are just learning that it is important to pay attention to the psychological effects of their patient’s conditions, and the reverse.

Photo: ALAMY

Therefore, I think it is important to have a conversation about what we, as patients, must do to advocate for ourselves. I discuss my doctors an therapists frequently and candidly because there is nothing shameful about being ill or mentally unhealthy. I also discuss them because removing the stigma will hopefully encourage others to seek much needed treatment even when it is not suggested by their general practitioners.

We tend to think of general practitioners as mechanics. They keep the body running and send us out to specialists to have our engines rebuilt when they themselves are not qualified to do so. What is lacking from general practitioners is a total-body approach to our healthcare. It is unfortunate that vision, dental, and mental health have been divided into separate fields. In fact, it is detrimental to those of us who suffer from chronic anything.

Think about the diagnostic process when something goes wrong with our bodies. General practitioners run through the check-lists of tests an procedures with which they are familiar and only then do they begin referring to specialists, eye doctors, and dental practitioners. Notice that I did not say mental healthcare providers in that sentence. They keep the body running, with little consideration for the mind. This is not to say that doctors don’t send their patients to psychiatrists and psychologists. However, when patients are sent, it is rare that the patient will then undergo in-depth counseling to determine root-cause issues. Typically, patients are sent with a list of symptoms they have discussed with their general practitioner, and the mental healthcare professional will prescribe something and manage psychoactive medication from that point.

This is extremely problematic. Although the chemical causes of depression may be treated, it is unlikely the patient will learn much needed coping skills to battle depression. Face it. We’re a society of instant-gratification loving people. We want pills to fix things. We want treatment to fix things. We don’t necessarily want to spend years in counseling learning how to be more functional emotional beings.

Which brings me to pain and depression. The road to diagnosis with chronic pain is a long, long, long, long road full of bumps and monsters and disaster. This process is harmful to the psyche. Between doctors who don’t know, doctors who don’t care, and doctors who mistreat chronic sufferers… patients develop an adverse reaction to the medical profession as a whole. We don’t trust that doctors know what they are doing. We feel like lab rats. And we feel jerked around. To feel pain and to not feel heard is dehumanizing.

Sure, it’s pretty obvious that hurting all the time would lead to depression. But it’s more than just feeling down about limitations. It’s a chemical process that begins to form a feedback loop in the body from which we cannot escape. When doctors don’t identify that this feedback loops is occurring, the only result is a worsening of symptoms.

As chronic pain and chronic depression persist untreated, they worsen. It’s inevitable. So what can we as patients and we as sufferers do for ourselves?

It’s simple… talk and take action.

Research symptoms. Prepare for your appointments. Consider mood as well as physical symptoms. Think of yourself as one whole being and force your doctor to see you as such. Ask questions about side-effects of medications. Talk about sadness, anxiety, crying, feeling alone or trapped with your doctors. Seek out mental healthcare and make sure that all of your healthcare providers are talking to one another. Treat your body and mind as two parts of one machine and get total-body care. Don’t wait for your doctor to tell you what to do. Do it and tell your doctor.

You are one body, mind, and spirit. These three things work in harmony to keep you going every day. I charge you with the care and maintenance of your total body. Demand that your doctor treat you the same way, and if they won’t, find a doctor who will. It is okay to seek proper treatment and it is okay to take your healthcare into your own hands. You are not at the mercy of the medical community. You are completely in charge of your treatment and you deserve the best they can offer.

But they don’t always offer, and you need to be aware of that.

Photo: ALAMY

MBHM SSRI Diet: DAY 10 UPDATE

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I started the My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet ten days agoand I wanted to share how I feel after ten days of eating meals and snacks and well-timed carbs.

First, I have to confess that on Friday I had friends over and we had a classic sleepover with snacks and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” watching and more snacks. I’m pretty certain that I did not stay under 1300 calories on Friday. However, the benefit of having friends over and the calories burned from laughing and fighting off my ridiculous dog simply must have made up for it.

Now on to the update!

My appetite is very much under control. My every thought is not of FOOOOD. This is a tremendous change from before I started the My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet. I’m thrilled with this development. The lack of constant food cravings alone is a huge boon to my self-confidence. I feel like I have control over my body again. Will-power is a terrible thing to feel like you’ve lost.

And I’ve lost weight. 2 pounds in total as of the 1 week mark. That’s a healthy weight-loss rate.

10 days down, 18 to go. So far so good. Until then, the MBHM SSRI Diet and I will be good friends.

If you try this diet along with me, let me know how it goes! Comment here, or talk to me on Facebook or Twitter!

Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Adults with ASD and Death: Mourning and Mornings Aren’t Easy

MBHM with mother, Beth, in 2003

My Brain Hates Me with her mother, Beth, in 2003

Growing up on the spectrum but being undiagnosed was difficult enough. I’ve experienced a lot of deaths along the way in the up-close, gut-wrenching way that some people do. Death is a part of life, but I’ve never known how to grieve. Whether this is an ASD characteristic, a failing on my parent’s part (which is doubtful because society is really uncomfortable with death as a natural process), or merely something that we as humans have lost the ability to do is unknown.

A friend of mine lost her mother in a way that is heartbreakingly similar to the way that I lost my own. The difference is that my mother claims to have been ready and her mother still had some fight in her. Sometimes fight isn’t enough to tip the scales and God, or science, or what or whomever, does what they are going to do. It’s tragic and I am incredibly sorry for her family.

Of course, those feelings about my mother in her final months are flooding in, and the feeling of fresh grief is flooding in, and it’s taking a long time for me to process all of it. I feel a bit frozen by it. Overwhelmed.

Autism in Adults is Still Talked About More By Adults with Autism than by Professionals

This morning, I took to the internet (as I do) to find some articles on adults with ASD and how they grieve. It came as no surprise that most of the information was written about how to handle children with ASD who are dealing with a death in the family and that the rest of the information were scattered personal accounts. Even Psychology Today has a personal account, albeit from one of the most respected autistic people in the nation, Lynne Soraya.

The trend that I see among personal accounts, and that I have felt during situations in which I have had to handle my own grief, is fear of doing it wrong. As an adult with autism, I understand that there are rules and social graces and expectations, but I don’t always know what they are or why they are, so I’m not always certain when it’s okay to break them. My husband is good at telling me when I don’t need to worry about other people and when I do. My mother’s funeral was a good example of when he told me I shouldn’t have to worry about other people.

Adults with Autism Feel Like They Are Doing It Wrong

His mother’s funeral was an example of when I did have to worry about other people and how I acted. My grandparents’ funerals were the same. I had to be on my best behaviour because those deaths weren’t about me. They were about other people losing friends and parents. But it’s very confusing.

I know how funerals are supposed to happen in my family. You have a wake, you have food, you dress up and Southern women tell inappropriate jokes while sipping sherry and eating little ham biscuits, then you have the funeral. Occasionally, I sing something. You don’t cry unless you are also telling a funny story about the deceased. There are always funny stories about the deceased. Always.

Growing up, I never saw adults cry at the funerals I attended. I saw people be quiet. I saw them look sad. Maybe I just didn’t look hard enough because I was so distracted by everything else that was going on. There were pretty dresses and suits. Lovely grass. I got to dress up.

I don’t remember if my mother cried at the funeral for my twin brothers.

So when my mother died and I cried at her grave side and I couldn’t stop crying… I felt like I was doing something wrong. When people came over to my house after for wine and little sandwiches, it had to be perfect because that’s what you do. You give people wine and little sandwiches. I was so worried about doing it right so that everyone thought that I was good at funerals and grieving properly.

That’s all that I thought grief was.

When everyone left the house, I thought that I would feel better. I thought that I wouldn’t feel sad anymore.

But I, and all of my grief, were still there the next morning when I woke up. I had no model for that. Because I grew up in a family that suppressed emotions and went on about their business, I didn’t see people being sad. I didn’t connect my mother’s drinking with sadness. I didn’t understand any of it at all.

Without those models, I had nothing TO model. I had thrown the perfect funeral… and then I didn’t know how to grieve for my own mother.

Society’s Tendency to Sugar Coat Death is a Detriment for Adults & Children with ASD

In December of 2013, about 4 months after my mother’s death, I wrote something about not understanding what was happening to me. I didn’t understand why I would suddenly cry over nothing or just stand in my kitchen for half an hour. I turned to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for that. I wrote a blog called, “Buffy Terms” because that’s how I started to explain grief to myself.

Weirdly enough, on this, the day after my friend’s mother’s death, I am having a “Buffy” marathon at my house with two other friends. We plan to watch “The Body,” which is the episode in which Buffy’s mother dies. Buffy’s mom dies. My mom died. My friend’s mom died. People just die.

Whether you have ASD or not. I don’t think any of us really know how to handle that well. But I think that there needs to be more literature out there for people who are adults on the spectrum, because we don’t know what to do and we feel like we’re getting grief wrong.

There is no way to get grief wrong.

Suicide, Depression, T-Shirts, & Deadly Rashes with My Brain Hates Me

Power of Pain Foundation

Donate to http://powerofpain.org/ or become a delegate yourself by clicking here: http://powerofpain.org/delegates-of-popf/

Suicide & Depression Hotlines

United States Hotlines

Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433 FREE

LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255 FREE

Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 FREE

Sexuality Support: 1-800-246-7743 FREE

Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-847-831-3438

Rape and Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673 FREE

Grief Support: 1-650-321-5272

Runaway: 1-800-843-5200 FREE, 1-800-843-5678 FREE, 1-800-621-4000 FREE

Exhale: After Abortion Hotline/Pro-Voice: 1-866-439-4253 FREE

National Alliance on Mental Illness www.nami.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org

SAVE www.save.org

International Bipolar Foundation www.ibpf.org

No Stigmas www.nostigmas.org

Active Minds www.activeminds.org

My Brain Hates Me Stuff!

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MBHM SSRI Diet: DAY 2 UPDATE

 

I started the My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet yesterday, and I thought it important to share how I feel after two days of eating meals and snacks and well-timed carbs.

I don’t feel ravenous all of the time.

This is a huge breakthrough for me. Obviously, it is far to early to tell if the change is dietary or due to my recent Botox injection or the addition of a new medication. Whatever the cause, I see no reason to discontinue the diet. I’ve been able to stick to my calorie restriction of 1300 calories or less daily and I’ve been eating protein and vegetables.

2 days down, 28 to go. If by day 28 I haven’t seen some kind of healthy weight loss, I will go back to the drawing board. Until then, the MBHM SSRI Diet and I will be good friends.

If you try this diet along with me, let me know how it goes! Comment here, or talk to me on Facebook or Twitter!

Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 Ways to Distract Yourself from Your Chronic Condition

No matter what you’re going through, be it depression, a chronic condition, or just a rough patch in your life, it’s important to give your mind and body a break now and then. A friend of mine, who is a Reiki practitioner, was over to do a session with me this past week. She told me that I needed to laugh more. I think this is true for all of us. As she said, as so many have said, “laughter is the best medicine.”

I think that laughter is a powerful form of distraction, the most powerful in fact. There are other ways to take a brief vacation from mental and biological negativity, however. Here’s are some things to try:

  1. Laugh. It’s not always as simple as just laughing. I get that. But what are some things that make you laugh? Silly movies? Ridiculous cat pictures? Baby animals? People falling down? Do you have a friend who always makes you smile? You used to laugh, and you need to do it more. Laughing hurts less than crying.
  2. Get creative. I learned to play the ukulele after I became disabled. It’s something I can do with my hands that doesn’t require thinking. I can play happy things or sad things. The point is that, while I’m playing, I’m not thinking about how much I hurt. I also draw and embroider. If you have a condition that limits your fine motor skills, there is always finger painting. I’m serious. Get messy! Make something! I shared the story of a woman I met at the Jefferson Headache Center who makes rubber band bracelets on a loom. She can only manage the energy to work on one for 15 minutes, but that’s enough time to finish. At the end, she’s happy to have a new bracelet. I have friends who are talented crafters, photographers, performers, and musicians… and all of them struggle with something.
  3. Learn something. Sometimes it’s hard to feel passionate about anything at all when you lack hope about the future. However, I bet there’s something you’ve always been curious about. Depening upon the severity of your condition and the level of your daily function, your ability to spend time with friends or dedicate a lot of energy to projects may be limited. But your mind still works, and it’s aching to be used and kept spry. From puzzles to out an out research on a topic to free online courses to actually enrolling in an online university… there are many ways to pursue knowledge and keep your brain in shape. Do you love science? History? Philosophy? Embrace your hunger for knowledge and force the spark for learning. The more you look into a topic, the more you might find you want to know. Not only will this give you something to talk about other than your condition (which is just a fact of life when you have anything with the word “chronic” in front of it), it will make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Netflix/Podcast binge. Yes, I said it.Binge. I know that studies have shown that a binge on shows can lead to negative emotional whatever. Fine. But you know what a binge does for me? It passes the hours upon hours that I spend in bed where I am absolutely unable to do anything other than just be in bed in pain. I can’t even look at the television, but I can listen to it. And if the light bothers me too much, podcasts are a beautiful thing. I spend hours alone while my family is at work and school. Having human voices around is nice. I can’t be productive, but I can listen to/watch things that interest me or comfort me. I can learn, I can laugh, I can feel uplifted… all from the comfort of my fetal position.
  5. Listen to music. Bob Marley said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” I choose to take that in a lot of ways. Music is soothing, there’s no doubt about it. Your favourite tunes can elicit all kinds of memories. Actively creating music by playing an instrument or singing, and listening to music are both equally as restorative. You don’t have to listen to light, fluffy music. If you’re angry about what you’re going through, you might feel better if you listen to some angry music. Get it out. It’s okay to feel what you feel. You have every right to be upset about what’s happening to your mind and body. This list isn’t about sugar-coating your condition. It’s about distracting you.
  6. Do stuff with friends. This is a tricky one. Friends can be a double-edged sword. Your good friends who understand what you’re going through will treat you like a human being and not like a fragile doll. Everyone else might be weird around you and that might be unpleasant. Chronic conditions really show you who will stick by you, and you’ve lost people and made new friends a long the way. My husband and I have worked hard to construct a social life that brings the party to us yet allows me to rest and slip away if I need to. We have people over to our house, we ask friends to help with the set-up and clean-up. We make them potluck events so we aren’t doing a lot of the work. I have friends over for show marathons and silly sleep overs. I wear my pajamas because it’s my damned house. My friends are cool with this. They get it. My friends understand that I can’t always drive. We do ridiculous, silly things. It’s all about finding the right people to spend time with.
  7. Get physical. I don’t mean exercise. You should do that too. I mean touch someone, or have them touch you. Massage, caresses, tickling, even intimate touch can be a great distraction. It doesn’t have to be sexual. As much as I hate to admit it, when I’m having a horrible pain day, it’s pretty awesome when my dog licks my feet. I frequently ask my husband to touch my back lightly. Simply being touched on a part of my body that doesn’t hurt is a great distraction. When I’m home alone, I use a soft ball to apply pressure to sore points on my back. Tennis balls work too. Heating pads and ice packs help draw my attention away from my pain. It’s all about pulling my attention elsewhere.
  8. Meditation and breathing exercises. If you live with chronic pain or depression and you aren’t already meditating or practicing controlled breathing on a regular basis, now is the time to start! Introducing calmness into your world is important for your mental and physical health. I’m not going to try to pitch it to you. I’m just going to tell you that I meditate and I use breathing exercises and they help me immensely. I think they could be good for you and you should give them a shot. That’s just my opinion. Here are some great resources to try if you need some help:

The My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet

If you have a chronic condition, the chances that you take an antidepressant are pretty high. The chances that that antidepressant is an SSRI are event higher. And the chances that you’ve gained weight due to taking that SSRI are 1 in 4. That’s a 25% chance you’ve gained weight due to medication.

I am in no way a medical professional. I’m just a gal who takes Lexapro. Recently, when my dose was doubled from 10 mg to 20 mg, I gained 15 pounds in a matter of 3 weeks. I started taking Lexapro in the spring of 2014, and from that time until now I have gained a total of 35 pounds.

Let me say that I have never been thin, and I will never be thin, and I’m not concerned with being thin. I am concerned with being healthy though. The weight gain not only affects my body image and self esteem, but is hard on my joints and my heart. My chronic pain condition already makes me bedridden much of the time, so the steady increase in my weight and my seemingly insatiable appetite is disheartening and worrisome.

I monitore my weight and my caloric intake. I use MyFitnessPal to track the foods I eat, my measurements, and my weight. I am conscious of when I am making good food choices and bad food choices. All my body wants is sweet carbohydrates… all of the time. That’s what I crave. Night hunger is a huge problem. No matter how sensibly I eat, there is no satiation whatsoever. I’ve tried adding more fiber to my diet to feel fuller. I drink water constantly. I eat protein to provide long-term energy. Nothing works.

According to my research, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Now I’m going to try something new, and I wanted to share my experiment with you because that’s the entire point of this blog.

The Logic Behind the My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet

Serotonin makes you feel better, calmer, etc. The amino acid that is generated before serotonin is produced and absorbed in the brain is tryptophan. Starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods help your body produce serotonin. Protein-rich foods confuse the body and interrupt serotonin production because they cause other amino acids to compete with the easily absorbed tryptophan. This process is detailed in a book by Nina Frusztajer, MD &  Judith J. Wurtman, PhD called The Serotonin Power Diet: Eat Carbs–Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant–to Stop Emotional Overeating and Halt Antidepressant-Associated Weight Gain.

It’s All About Timing

This isn’t to say that you should eat all carbs all the time to lose weight while taking SSRIs. Not at all. The point here is to carefully plan meals and snacks so that you are giving your body the chance to make the most of what you’re eating. The knowledge that my body actually does need these starchy carbs to help end this constant feeling of hunger together is the first piece of the puzzle. Next, I need to understand when my body needs these foods.

Serotonin levels are typically lower in the afternoon and evening, when there is less light and our activity levels tend to decrease. That and the fact that I’m female (meaning that my serotonin levels are lower anyway- yay biology!) means that I need a serotonin boost later in the day. It makes sense to structure my daily diet in such a way that it provides me with the proper nutritional breakdown, but pushes my carb intake toward the end of the day.

Another interesting fact about carbohydrates and serotonin- fructose, the sugar found in fruit, doesn’t help to produce serotonin. Nope, not one bit. So eating my fruits and veggies as snacks to prevent those cravings for sweets isn’t going to curb my appetite.

The Diet In Brief

  • Starchy carbs are okay, and timed strategically to be eaten in the later part of the day as snacks or meals
  • Protein, fats, and vegetables should be eaten separately from carbs (and earlier in the day) to achieve the most serotonin-production bang for my carb buck
  • Fruits should absolutely be consumed, but won’t be a good substitute for real carbs because fructose doesn’t produce serotonin
  • Continuing to count calories and keep track of my weight and check in with my doctor is still important!

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The My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet Plan

Now that I’ve discussed the reasoning and basic ideas behind the diet, let’s get to the good stuff: what I plan to eat and when! This plan is based on a vegetarian diet with my daily caloric restriction of approximately 1300 calories, which I calculated here. Feel free to substitute any of the foods on this list with your own equivalents! If you’d like to adapt my personal plan to your own caloric requirements, there’s a calculator here. These are just ideas that I have to use as a guideline. For example, I might have a hard boiled egg one day, and veggie bacon the next.

As you’ll see, my plan is pretty flexible. I’ve outlined a plan for myself as a guideline, but it is by no means a strict set of rules.

Suggested Breakfast Foods

Any of the following in any combination (200-325 calories)

  • hard boiled egg
  • veggie bacon
  • fruit
  • spinach omelette
  • cereal with almond milk

Suggested Lunch Foods

Any of the following (200-400 calories)

  • Mattar Paneer with rice
  • Palak Paneer with rice
  • Mattar Tofu with rice
  • Greek yogurt
  • pear or apple
  • banana
  • cheese slice

Suggested Afternoon Snack Foods

Any of the following in any combination (100-150 calories)

  • low-sodium, whole wheat crackers
  • pretzels
  • rice cakes or rice crackers
  • plain instant oatmeal or cream of wheat

Dinner

Dinner is always tricky because it’s the one meal in my home where I’m not just feeding myself. I have two non-vegetarian men to contend with. So long as dinner stays between 400 and 600 calories (depending upon how the rest of my day has gone) it can be anything from tacos to salad to pasta to burgers. I serve well-balanced meals with a vegetarian alternative for myself. The menfolk eat meat. I frequently use Martha Stewart’s website as a jumping off point for meal ideas.

Suggested Evening Snack Foods

Any of the following in any combination (100-150 calories)

  • low-sodium, whole wheat crackers
  • pretzels
  • rice cakes or rice crackers
  • plain instant oatmeal or cream of wheat

I’m beginning this diet this weekend, and I will follow it for a month and track my weight throughout. I’ll post an update about my progress in a week. My fingers and toes are crossed that this is finally the dietary formula to combat the constant weight gain.

Wish me luck!

If you try this diet along with me, let me know how it goes! Comment here, or talk to me on Facebook or Twitter!

Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Quality of Life Scale

invisiblematters:

I might have to show this to my therapist freaking GENIUS!

HOW YOU GET THROUGH IT ALL

howshouldwetreatme:

Sex and Chronic Pain

I’m an adult female in my thirties and I like sex. There, I said it. I’m a woman who likes sex. But there’s a problem with my sex life… and it’s a whopper. I have a chronic and painful neurological condition.

When I crawl into bed with my partner, I bring my pain with me. And it’s not the fun, kinky sort of pain. It’s the nauseating, ice-pack-clinging, opioid-needing kind of pain that takes over my entire body and makes everything from bathing to driving difficult. So you can imagine how trying to relax and enjoy myself physically might be an issue.

“Chronic pain is evil incarnate and doesn’t want anyone it affects to get laid.”

Though it isn’t just the pain that causes trouble, the medications can muck things up as well. Most of my medications affect sexual desire and function to some extent. Sometimes my flesh is willing but my mind just won’t get there. Other times my mind is aching for action, but my body won’t cooperate.

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Between knowing that I’m in physical agony most of the time, feeling my frustration with my own sexual dysfunction, and experiencing many of the unpleasant and disgusting side effects of my condition and medications up close- my partner has it tough as well. Recently, he admitted that hearing me vomit so frequently really affected the mood. While not my fault, and not something that affects his ability to see me as a sexual or desirous creature, it’s still not sexy to hear someone puke all of the time.

Chronic pain negatively affects physical affection in my relationship. That wouldn’t be so terrible if chronic pain didn’t also cause things like depression and anxiety and loneliness. As someone who lives with chronic pain, depressive thoughts are often overwhelming, and sometimes the simplest act of affection can calm me. Yet the one thing that I need, human contact, is the one thing that my chronic pain has pushed away.

Most of the day I am in the fetal position, listening to something, doing the small things I can accomplish here and there. Things like date nights are often tense, rescheduled, or we just give up and stay home. A lack of sexual or affectionate contact in a relationship can lead to an expectation of sexual or affectionate contact in a relationship. Those expectations cause pressures on all partners, which lead to stress, which lead to further issues in the bedroom.

Chronic pain is evil incarnate and doesn’t want anyone it affects to get laid.

Dating with chronic pain can be difficult as well. Imagine having to disclose personal health information to someone you hardly know simply because you might have to reschedule or cancel. Sure, you could not tell them. But then you seem like a flakey jerk who is wasting their dating time. The right thing to do is to be up front with people about your capabilities and your schedule. But what if it’s a first date? How do you ever get to the second date?

Marriages end because of chronic illnesses. With that kind of weight bearing down on me all of the time it’s impossible to feel sexy or impulsive. There is no levity in my relationship. My pain is my ball and chain, not my partner.

How do we get that spark back when I put more value on wearing makeup and taking pain medication to look human for social events than I do on doing the same for my partner. How do I feel sexy when I’ve resigned myself to never having sex again because it hurts less emotionally than hoping that sex will happen? How is someone supposed to want me when I’m curled up with an ice pack and a heating pad and I haven’t canged my pajamas in two days?

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health is kind of bullshit. Yes, we stick around, but it doesn’t mean we’re still attracted to the people who are wasting away physically or emotionally in front of our eyes. It doesn’t mean that we can think of them as anything other than fragile and broken. It doesn’t mean we aren’t just too damned sad to even think about sex.

I honestly did set out to write a helpful blog filled with relationship tips for maintaining your sex life while living with chronic pain, but it wouldn’t be honest. I’m not maintaining a sex life while living with chronic pain. I’m mourning a sex life while living with chronic pain. I’ve done the research and a lot of it is standard advice about communication and date nights and making time for your partners. It’s all about keeping things special between you. I can’t tell you how to do that because I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know what any of that is like.

It is important to try to maintain as much of your self as you can when you live with a chronic illness, and it is also important to know when to let some things go. Perhaps this is simply something I need to let go.

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

13 Darkly Motivational Quotes

When getting through the day is my goal, a sappy quote about success and achievement doesn’t motivate me to keep going until tomorrow. I prefer the comfort of bittersweet words that ring true. Sometimes, it’s worse to feel alone with you’re unhappiness than to be unhappy. Here are some quotes that I’ve found motivational over the years:

  • “My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.”

– Cary Grant

  • “It’s possible to love a human being if you don’t know them too well.”
  • “If you’re losing your soul and you know it, then you’ve still got a soul left to lose.”

– Charles Bukowski

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  • “You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.”
  • “The trouble with super heroes is what to do between phone booths.”

– Ken Kesey

  • “How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.”
  • “Do not seek the because – in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”

– Anaïs Nin

  • “Passion is what gets you through the hardest times that might otherwise make strong men weak, or make you give up.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • “Time moves in one direction, memory in another.”
  • “For years I have been mourning and not for my dead, it is for this boy for whatever corner in my heart died when his childhood slid out of my arms.”

– William Gibson

  • “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”

-Ray Bradbury

  • “Beware of monotony; it’s the mother of all the deadly sins.”
  • “If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time.”

– Edith Wharton

Lost All Hope: Information on suicide methods, statistics and help

Lost All Hope is absolutely the best website about suicide I have come across. It’s factual. I like facts. Facts are comforting. Numbers are real. I don’t like being pandered to or actively listened to. I want someone to give me concrete information.

From the carefully ordered menu that guides you through help and mindfulness, to the cited references that offer further interesting resources… this site is lovingly crafted. A must read for those of us struggling with a lack of desire to wake up in the morning.

 

“Lost All Hope has no angle. The site is non-profit. It has no religious affiliation. It has no political stand point on the whys and wherefores, pros and cons, of suicide or euthanasia. It offers no advice, and has no bulletin boards, chat or forums (although does link to some). It is here as an impartial resource, to help inform you, and make whatever choice is right for you. I hope you find it of use.”

via Lost All Hope: Information on suicide methods, statistics and help.