Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The cave - depression, menopause, insomnia, and chemicals

A comment I made at Mulder's site got me thinking (*ow*).  I've never really talked about this anywhere - a couple people, and Jeff knows, but I just don't talk about it. 

I quit my job, with Jeff's blessing, and my last day was April 15th, 2011.  I haven't been employed since then.  I joke around about being a lady of leisure, about lying around eating bon bons, how great it is not to work.  And, by god, it IS great not to work.  But the reason I quit?  Depression.  And most people don't understand depression.

Depression had me choking in its sweaty fist for over 5 years.  And I had reached a breaking point by the time I quit my job.  The depression and resulting anxiety along with my natural inclination toward being weird had completely isolated me.  I was doing nothing at work, mostly the least I could do and keep my job, although I can screw off most of the time and then accomplish more in one day than most people do in a week.  (I used that ability until people started catching on to me.)  I had previously loved my job, but I could no longer see the point of anything.  I was making it, but then they changed everything, every program at work, and I had to take classes on top of changing my position and tasks, and I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't take one more step.

I had NO friends.  The Ever Patient France was the only person I really ever TRIED to see.  She would walk at this one lake with me and let me vent.  I was appalling.  I was negative and fat and upset and miserable and cranky.  I hated everything or I cried, but mostly I was in bed.  Completely not joking here - I was in bed for about 4 of those 5 years.  I would get into my PJs when I got home (4:00 in the afternoon) and stay put until I had to get up the next morning.  I worked from 7-3, or 8-4 - the ONE THING that saved my working ass that whole time was that I was NEVER late to work, because my hours were so flexible.  I started any time before 9:00 AM, and then left 8 hours later (I didn't take lunch).  So no matter what time I got there, if it was before 9 AM, I was good.  I would never have been able to make it otherwise.

Some nights I slept.  Most nights I didn't.  (Insomnia is a bitch that still has me cornered, but it's the last vestige of the whole thing.)  Insomnia - oh my jeebus, it is the worst thing in the world.  (okay, fine, cancer is worse whatever).  I would go sometimes 4 nights in a row without sleeping, and then have a nervous breakdown.  I really get just so bad if I can't sleep, and I usually can't sleep.

I was taking welbutrin and trazodone and then ambien and zanax.  I was taking an ambian AND a zanax every night just to sleep.  I kept right on drinking like a fish because I had always done so - all of those chemicals and my hormones made a delightful bouillabaisse in my system and um... it didn't help.  But I didn't know any better.

Menopause was what pushed me over the edge into that dark place.  I am chemically susceptible to depression - it runs in my family.  Our brains are predisposed to it.  I do not manufacture enough serotonin or dopamine for my brain to work right.  I know now that my dad was depressed and manic.  I recognize the signs (in hindsight - not that I give a fuck about what was wrong with him).  I have been medicated for it before, during bad times, and then managed to pry myself loose.  Exercise has been the only thing that ever kept me sane, but I never knew that.  I had no idea that trying to get skinny to catch another man was the reason I wasn't living in a box under a freeway.  But a lifetime of stress, the alcohol and drug abuse I subjected myself to, and then the chemical disaster of menopause pushed me into a hole that I eventually didn't even WANT to climb out of.  It was bad.  It almost ruined my marriage.  Mike's last couple of years at home were SO difficult.  (He was an asshole due to the surge in testosterone that happens to boys, and I had no patience due to [see above]).  His surge in testosterone coincided with my menopause, and that was a nuclear bomb looking for a Hiroshima Party Bar.  It's a testament to how great we are that we still managed to make each other laugh, and we were still pretty close and GOOD during that time.

But oh, it was a TRIAL, ask Mike, lord we had some fights.  (your fault shut up MIKE)

I tried - OH I TRIED.  I knew exercise was key for some reason, (hence the lake with The Ever Patient France) but getting THERE from the hole of depression (that sounds dirty) is just impossible.

I have posted before that doctors didn't even think I was in full blown menopause, but uh, you know your body, ya know?  My hormone levels were within normal ranges for the nation, but not necessarily normal for ME.  But things were very bad.  They wanted to put me on HRT, but something stopped me, even as bad as things were I just couldn't see putting that crap in my body.  PremPro (or whatever) is made from synthetic hormones (or they can't patent the compound!  Follow the money!) and also pregnant mare's urine I SAID HORSE PEE.  No, thankyaverymuch.

The job I had was working for a clinical trials management firm.  I did financial stuff, nothing to do with the drugs, but it taught me to research, and I had access to some pretty big brains.  And I am a HUGE advocate of being your own doctor.  I may only have a degree from University of Google, but 5 minutes of research saved my husband from having a pace maker put in (the doc switched medications instead, at my insistence, and lo and behold, the issue went away).  Researching HRT drugs caused me to recoil in disgust and I wasn't going to do that to myself.  Natural HRT is a great option, but it isn't covered by insurance (of course) and it isn't an exact science - I just didn't want to screw around with chemicals, even natural ones.  (Suzanne Sommers actually wrote a great book and did a huge amount of research into that, I recommend starting there if you're interested.)

I knew that I was chemically borked.  And now let me tell you a HUGE secret.  For about a year, way on back in 1996, I went and got myself hooked on crystal meth.  Yep.  You've all heard about how bad of a drug that is, but maybe you don't know what all is IN that Turkish Delight.  Looky.

• Muriatic Acid
• Acetone
• Methanol/Denatured Alcohol
• Red Devil Lye

• Lithium Hydride (Battery Acid)
• Ether
• Freon
• Anhydrous Ammonia
• Hydrochloric, Acetic and Sulfuric Acids
• Benzyl Chloride
• Lead, Mercuric Chloride
• Prozac
• Protease Inhibitors (HIV Meds)
• Ritalin
• Laxatives

The girl that gave me my first line to snort apologized to me for YEARS after.  I was 35 years old, just screwing around on my "off" weekends, and had no idea what chaos I had wrought.  It - well, one thing.  I'll tell you one thing it did.  It made me sweat.  Not so bad, right?  But, uh - did you see all the acidic things in that list?  It made me sweat acid.  To put it delicately, I STANK.  I was ALL THE TIME sweaty, since my body was trying to fight off this poison.  It made my breath stink.  Any place you can think of that you might possibly not want to smell like acid sweat *ahem*, did indeed smell and stink of acid sweat.  How's that for pretty?  I also only did it every other weekend, when Mike was at his dad's.  So, much like the binge drinking of later years, my body was UP and then down and it ruined so much more than you would think.  Por ejemple, it ruined my metabolism!  Sweet, right?  yeah.  That is one of the reasons I can starve myself 6-ways to sunday and never eat, and I never lose a pound.  I am now SUPER prone to sinus infections.  2-week long, knock you over SINUS infections.  Greaaat.  I'm schmaaaart.

Just like drinking, nothing bad (on the outside) happened to me.  There was no bad scene, no arrest, nobody found out about it, Mike never knew.  I was in (and truly hooked) and then got myself out (true grit) in a year.  But what it did to my already weak chemical make-up was horrific.  And I wouldn't even have a clue about that until menopause hit me.  (what it does to your teeth is no fucking joke.  I was SO LUCKY.)

Once I was sure that anti depressants and chemical HRT wasn't going to work for me, I researched the hell out of stuff to figure it out.  I have never told a doctor about my drug use, not out of shame, but those people at Kaiser don't give two rat's asses about any of that crap.  They want to fill your scrip and move on to the next patient.  So I had to do my own repairs.  I had to figure it out on my own.   I basically went to school on the interwebz.  It's been very enlightening.

Amphetamines ruin your dopamine situation.  That is a kindergarten way to put it, but other than I copy & paste a buncha scientific crap, it's the easiest way to put it.  I already either wasn't manufacturing enough dopamine, or my receptors weren't picking up what was being put down.  I squeezed every single drop of dopamine out of my cells using meth, and there just wasn't any more.  GONE. 

Dopamine is your 'feel good' chemical.  Its absence is one of the causes of depression.  Carbs produce a dopamine-like substance!  That is one of the reasons fat people stay fat - it literally FEELS GOOD to eat crap!  not just the sugar high, it's the dopamine effect.  It's a handy little chemical.  Too bad my body barely produces ANY. 

So there I was, a horrible walking chemical soup.  And I came to the only conclusion there was.  I wasn't processing the chemicals I already had in my system.  My body was already overwhelmed.  I needed to NOT add any more to the problem.  So I took away ALL added chemicals.  I started eating whole foods.  No more (or minimal) packaged foods.  I (mostly) only shop on the outer edges of the grocery store.

DO NOT THINK THAT MEANS I EAT HEALTHY.  I told myself, if I wanted it, I could have it.  I just had to make it myself.  Macaroni & cheese?  I learned how to make it.  Butter, flour, milk, viola! magic fatty fat.  Chocolate cake?  sure, just make it.  My rule was, I had to know each ingredient and be able to say it.  No more methylsilosylicathiacan-ish.  A frozen or boxed food had to have less than 3 ingredients on the side (peas:  frozen peas).  And uh.  it worked.

It's working.  I feel *whispering* good.  I'm UP and doing laundry and walking the dogs and taking care of our banking and business and WTF?  Who am I?  But its taken a couple years to fully detox.  I think that getting all the extra chemicals OUT left some room for the dopamine that I actually produce to be FOUND.  Like, the noise quieted down and now my cells can find the good stuff.  (I have to think in pictures, it's the way I understand things)

Stopping drinking was the second to last piece of the puzzle.  I miss drinking every single day.  But it isn't a craving so much as a habit...?  hard to explain, but Mulder said it very well, that 'what the hell am I going to do on a patio without a drink' feeling.  When I taste alcohol, I taste Drano.  It's weird, but I know that it poisons me.  It affects my sleep, my energy, my mood for a week at least.  I am only, in the last week, finally detoxed from Vegas.  That was almost a fucking MONTH ago.  Alcohol alters the chemicals in my (weak little hot-house flower) system and it knocks me off track for that damned long. 

The other thing I have to do is GET OUTSIDE.  Here's a real scientific theory for you:  Exercise creates endolphins that swim in my blood stream and eat the depression like Pac Man eats those dots!!  (Postcards from the Edge quote:  'I'm in it for the "endolphin" rush')  that's how I have to think of it, anyway.  Exercise creates dopamine and blah blah it helps.

The last piece for me, was finding out that I needed to actually add back in a couple of things.

1.  Magnesium.  I take at least 700mg of magnesium a day.  It's like calcium, not some wacky supplement.  It helps my sleep by a gabillion percent.  Your body wont absorb calcium without enough magnesium.  I also add Epsom salts (magnesium) to my baths (I love to soak in baths).  If your kids ever have 'growing pains' or after a long day walking or running, or they need to really relax, add Epsom salts to their baths.  Women in labor are given magnesium to slow down or stop contractions.  Do your own research, I'm no doctor.  This is working for me.  I STILL TAKE AN AMBIEN EVERY NIGHT.  I'm hoping to cut the dose down soon.  I no longer take a zanax tho.  (getting off zanax is no joke, I don't recommend doing it like a chump, like I did, and just stop taking it.  You will hallucinate.  It's bad.  See your doctor for advice on that, I'm not kidding, that was a bad night a few months ago.)

2.  Taurine - this is an amino acid that helps GABBA production in the brain, which helps stabilize mood and helps with anxiety.  My anxiety comes when I lie down and close my eyes, my brain goes off like a rocket.  This is helping with that.  Taurine is also found in drinks like Red Bull.  The energy you get from those drinks isn't caffeine, it's from the Taurine.  I think it's awesome, but I don't drink those drinks, I just take the pill form.  I don't like the way they taste.

This stuff IS helping, but it is slow going.  This stuff, whatever you supplement with, has to be absorbed into your body, then into your cells, and then it starts working from way deep inside you and you don't notice the effect for a few weeks.  I recommend first cutting out any chemicals that you possibly can.  Then only add ONE THING AT A TIME, and wait a couple weeks or a month to see if it works or not.  Or causes a rash or something.  Go easy on your body, even if you're healthy.  Especially if you aren't.

I had to do a ton of research to find those two things.  And I don't even take a multi vitamin.  Just those two things.  Please do your own research.  I prefer to read anecdotal evidence by people who are actually using medications, not clinical trial data from medical institutions, but you decide for yourself.  Information is power.

My POINT is.  Your body is this huge vat of chemicals that are supposed to work together.  And mine were already screwed up from genetics.  I screwed them up even more eating McDonald's and snorting lines of crap and drinking like a fish.  When you get old, as the saying goes, all your chickens come home to roost.  Mine came home in a big way.  If you suffer from depression, I feel your pain in the biggest, biggest way.  Eating whole foods and all can only help.  But it takes a while to detox from everything, and not everyone has the luxury of lying in bed waiting for results.  Most people have jobs and kids and expectations.  I AM SO LUCKY, I know it.

I wish someone had told me the SCIENCE behind why I didn't feel good back when I would have been able to do something long term and productive about it.  I can only spackle the holes at this point. 

Depression isn't something you can jolly your way out of.  It isn't a MOOD.  It's a real, debilitating chemical imbalance.  Sometimes brought on by situations, sometimes exacerbated by PMS or pregnancy/childbirth or menopause (men, sorry, I know you have it too).  If you've never suffered under the tyranny of depression, please don't judge.  Just, be like poor E.P. France.  Get your friend to go outside once in a while.

(P.S. to TW - I am going to go get my thyroid levels checked as soon as our new insurance kicks in.  :)

PEA ESS I made myself sound ugly.  So vanity dictates that I prove I don't look like those people on 'Intervention'
Last summer


  1. I know that hole. Recently I've been more stressed than usual, and my dr told me that my body was responding to it (I get IBS) and to deal with my stress and listen to my body. I'm predisposed genetically as well. Doctors have blamed most of my health issues on stress and depression. I don't know about you, but I hate the lies you have to come up with, like recently I took time off work because I was a wreck, so told my work it was a boss told me to get a catscan, apparently I've used that one too many times now!

    1. Oh man, DM - yes! The excuses. It's part of the reason I don't talk about it, knowing that nobody REALLY understands and I have to say it's something else. I think I was mostly just vaguely 'sick' a lot. My job was so great (I really should call my boss and tell her) I never saw clients. Other than not wearing shorts, we could wear anything we wanted. That means I wore jeans and a sweatshirt for a LONG time. Hair in a pony, no makeup. So I could baaarely go to work and sit in my cube and sorta be alone. Headphones on, spreadsheet open. It was as close to working from bed as you can get.

      If I'd had to find an excuse for every day I just didn't want to live, I'd have been fired. I was going to try and see if I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome there by the end, it was so bad. Luckily I had the option to quit. ugh.

  2. When I was boozing, I was always in that dark place and spent a lot of time in bed (alone Q!). It didn't help my pancreas that I washed down tons of aspirin to ward off hangovers. After I stopped drinking I refused to take ANY meds even for a headache but still it took me seven months to get a clear blood test on my pancreas. As is normal at about 5-7 months sober I was hit with PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) which is a kind of depression that knocks you to your knees and makes you wanna drink all over again.

    Lately, I've had to give in and take Celebrex so I can walk. Being immobilized by arthritis, much of which was caused by childhood "injuries", was depressing the hell outta me and the pain kept me from sleeping. Then of course, the AA asshole saw something in me that said "victim" and decided to have some fun which set off a bit of PTSD.

    My DD is treated for depression caused by a chemical imbalance and I'm beginning to get the idea that a lot of us struggle with this shit. For me, it's mostly that I take the assholes of this world way too personally and let them get to me. Somehow I give off a vibe that says "punch me" which is weird because I think I present myself as a kick-ass old broad. Work in progress here I guess!

    1. Mulder, sometimes I wonder if our brain chemistry wasn't altered from abuse - from the gaslighting and fear. That would make sense to me. Our genetic predisposition and then the abuse and fear and then our addictions...

      Your description of your pancreas problems scares me. I am hypo-glylcemic, since childhood. (self diagnosed) The way they always used food and the WITHHOLDING of food may have contributed, hunger combined with fear and stress... But I am only sober-ISH (hi Vegas) since November, and I can tell my body is changing the way it interacts with nutrition.

      I have learned to balance my blood sugar by eating protein often during the day, and by using orange juice and other fruit rather than cookies *sigh*, but I wonder what other chemical surprises are in for me along this road. I will keep aware of the PAWS - I hadn't researched that part so you've given me a powerful tool. At least I'll be aware of the possibility.

      The arthritis pain you have, caused by childhood injuries - shit fuck bitch asshole damn. What they do to little children and then want to pretend it never happened. I HATE THOSE FUCKERS.

      Mike is ABSOLUTELY predisposed to depression. He used to cry at night when he was like, 5, or 6 - saying he couldn't stop thinking about death. All I could do was give him the tools (weak little tools I had then!) to move his thoughts along happier paths as he was falling asleep. All I could do was teach him what I knew about how to fight against it, and then when the inevitable hits, how to deal with it while you're in the cave. Now that he has PTSD - well, that's his story and he'll tell it when he's ready.

      I also take things very personally. I think it's a way that we abused try to take control of a situation, because if it's OUR fault, maybe we can fix it? I *cringe* for DAYS after something that was perceived as me being rude/dense/clumsy etc. I re-live that event over and over and over. Like those priests who flail themselves, I punish myself for stuff worse than anyone else ever could.

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  4. Shoot, I messed that comment up. Here it is FIXED

    What Mulder said about taking meds. You have to take what you NEED TO FUNCTION. For me it is the ambien, I take that because I absolutely have to take it.

    But, (for ME ONLY) I wont take ANYTHING but the ambien. I have to have that, to stay sane. Literally. But I wouldn't take antibiotics on a dare at this point.

    I absolutely refuse to get a flu shot, I have never had one in all the time they offer them. If necessary (like when I sprained my ankle) I will take ibuprofin till I can handle the pain without it.

    Mulder, I get gout flare-ups. I can't hardly handle THAT pain. I cannot imagine the pain of arthritis.

    My reasons for all of this is the chemical reaction my body has to meds. I do not react as predicted when i put too many chemicals at once into my body.

    For the acute and chronic sinus infections I get, I use a neti pot twice a day for as long as it takes. It's the most disgusting thing and I recommend them HIGHLY, they work and my infections go away in 2-weeks with or without anti biotics, so I wont take them.

    I just don't want to ADD any more chemicals to my already stressed out system. I'm sure my pancreas (now that Mulder made me think of it) is borked, along with my adrenals which I KNOW are exhausted (any boost of adrenaline now gives me a migrane instantly. If I won the lottery I would have an aneurysm on the spot!)

  5. I use Neti-pot too! After pouring booze down my throat I'm really just trying to rid myself of all addictions and chemicals (thankfully I never did smoke)!

    My arthritis really interfered with my ability to get enough exercise so there's a lot of me to love right now! But, I just had a physical and my doc says I'm the healthiest 67 year old in her practice. I'm hoping that a good thing and the rest aren't all fucked up!

    BTW My pancreas was originally fucked by a gallstone that backed up into it then passed(OOOWEEE!) damaging stuff on the way out!

  6. Interesting that there are so many pancreas problems. I have them too; when I was pregnant, I had preeclampsia which went into fullblown HELLP because when I went to the ER seeking help, they turned me away as "attention seeking" (and four hours later I was in a coma with liver, kidneys, and pancreas all failed). Everything came back *but* the pancreas. I wonder if there's a connection between lifelong abuse and pancreas problems? BTW, I also react in unexpected ways to meds. There's a family history of alcoholism but I have maybe five drinks a year so that's not one of my demons.


  7. Mulder and LuLoo, here is a link to an article about magnesium and the pancreas. I found it researching whether magnesium would help my hypoglycemia.

    I also realized I forgot to mention - the Taurine is HUGE in helping with heart health. As both of my DNA donor parents died of heart attacks, this is a gread side benefit in addition to the brain-petting I get from this amino acid.

    I know I sound like a commercial, but man, I'M SLEEPING! woot! Entirely due to magnesium and the taurine.

    Research, research, research. Knowledge is power!! Power to the people! "sorry I ruined your Black Panther party" <--Forrest Gump. It's a carnival inside my brain, *sigh*


    Thanks for this article. Makes a lot of sense.

  9. Gladys, I'm glad you've found the answers for you. I've also been exploring nutrition and exercise. I've been buying meat, milk, eggs, and veggies (in season) from a local farm and I feel like I have more energy. It's amazing what the right things (vitamins, exercise, food) can do for you. I agree that doctors don't understand how to deal with the non-typical patient.

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  11. Mulder - this is an old post, and I wonder if you will see this comment. But you said PAWS kicks in 5-7 months after you quit drinking. As I officially quit in November (blip in Vegas), that would put my most recent sessions of binge drinking at about 5-6 months. I FORGOT TO REMEMBER.

    I need to do a follow-up to this post, I get a lot of hits on it. Menopausal women looking for a light at the end of the tunnel I guess - a light that DOESN'T turn out to be a freight train.

  12. This when a lot of us were struck with the enormity of OMG this abstinence thing is FOREVER! You mean I can NEVER have another drink? That's why we need to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and take it one day at a time. Live in the now and don't worry about what's at the end of the tunnel.

    For me, the end of the tunnel meant waking up feeling good and FINALLY taking control of my life. Being sober gave me the balls to kick assholes outta my life and be happier than I've ever been. Did I mention my VISA bill looks way better without the liquor store on it?

    You're awake and aware now. It won't sneak up and bite you in the ass again!

  13. If anyone finds this post - I have an update.

    In June of 2013 I finally realized that I needed to re-evaluate my nutrition. I had read and studies lots of things - and I cut out ALL carbohydrates. ALL forms of grain and wheat and sugar, no fruit, no bread, no pasta.

    I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing the results have been. I have lost 31 pounds in 2.5 months. I have lost 25 inches (INCHES!) off my body. And my mood, my depression, everything is SO MUCH BETTER.

    Please go to my posts in June/July of 2013. I give links to websites and books to empower you to do your own research.

    PLEASE. Just try. Just try giving up all carbs for a month. Just eat protein - yes yes conventional wisdom says that is horribly unhealthy, but they lie. And how do you feel NOW? You feel like shit, right? JUST TRY.

    Here. Go here. - and read the book Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. But man - start NOW. you will thank the baby jeebus I swear. PINKY SWEAR.