A diagnosis with no direction

It is a hard thing to write:

I am depressed.

I am feeling depressed.

I am going through depression.

No matter how I type it the words seem to float as a far away dream, surreal that the state of being that I have been going through has such a simple name. I’ve always dissociated depression as being something other people go through while trying to rationalize my emotions as being caused by my health. While it is true that my health caused my depression, it is also true that my mental health is just as important and in many ways more important than my physical health. I have been neglecting my emotional health for a very long time because I had always assumed that being sad or wishing I would disappear, die or never have existed in the first place was a logical side effect of the chronic pain and inflammation in my body. Even though I know that mental health in and of itself can heal or worsen disease, I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t strong enough to just push through it and magically be ok. I didn’t want to feel weak.

Admitting how sad I feel would make how useless I feel real. Other people would know what I think about myself and maybe they would start thinking that about me too.

That I am useless.

A burden. 

A bump on the log ruining everyone’s time.

A waste of space. 

Admitting it would mean saying that things are as bad as they are in my head. Admitting it means admitting that I am not ok. Admitting that chronic disease is frigging hard. Admitting that just because I know there is inflammation every where, or that my hormones are wonky, doesn’t make feeling like this is ok.

I started seeing a psychiatrist for cognitive behavioral therapy recently, and I have been given a diagnosis that I never actually wanted to think I would ever have. It is honestly the only diagnosis that hasn’t given me a sense of relief and direction. With my physical health, I am going through it, I know it is not normal. I know I can make it better over time once I know exactly what is causing it… but chronic depression?

My health caused it, but I can’t fix it by making my health better. I have to fix it to make my health better. I have had no interest in the things I love for the last 8 months. I was able to fake it for a while, but now I can’t even bring myself to do that. I have had times were things were bad and everything was dull in the past, but this has been worse. I know that my joints and gut have been inflamed. I’ve had the blood tests. I know that inflammation in one part of your body means inflammation everywhere, including the brain. I knew that before the psychiatrist told me that inflammation in and of itself would cause depression. Knowing that doesn’t help, it doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t even give me a direction as to how to make it better.

I am thankful that my husband and one of my close friends helped me to realize that I cannot keep leaving my mental health on the back burner while I try to fix my body. I’ve become so tired of everything that I am losing the will to keep trying. It feels utterly pointless. Maybe as I start CBT I will be able to have an idea of how to pass over seemingly insurmountable mountain of my mental health.

This post has been hard to write, unbelievably so. I honestly don’t feel stigmatized by anything that is going on in my body more than my mental health. Some say the hardest part is getting out of denial… I guess I will have to see from here…

An epidemic of priority

In childhood, everyone assumes that they are like everyone else. Their body must experience and feel things that everyone else goes through. For many, that translates into growing up, aging and experiencing a fairly normal range of health. For others, it leads to problems being undetected until it is too late. Somehow our society has put such an emphasis on the idea that your health is not a priority until it is so debilitating that you have to address it. The idea that you have to address problems when they are so bad that they can’t be fixed is something that no one applies to any other area of life. Yet, somehow we almost all do that for our own bodies.

“You just learn to live with it.”

“It is just part of aging.”

“I’ve been going through this for years.”

“Well there isn’t anything I can do about it.”

These are all statements that have me questioning the speaker when it comes to their health. Would you say that about a car? About your house?

If you had an ant problem or a leak in your house, would you really sit there and do nothing? If your car wasn’t turning properly, would you really leave it like that?

Most people would say no, and many more would say they even do things to prevent those problems and keep their house or car in the best condition. So why would you leave your body like that? Why would you accept that you have things going on in your body that are not normal? Why not try to seriously do something about it? Maybe it can’t be fixed but most things you can definitely prevent from getting worse.

It shouldn’t get to the point where finding out the label for what ever is wrong with you becomes the biggest source of relief in your life. It shouldn’t get to the point where you are so elated to finally know what is wrong and how to more forward with it because nothing was done to prevent it. Health needs to be the first priority because careful maintenance is so much easier than a total overhaul. If you have family with genetic disorders but do not have any symptoms, get tested. Not every genetic disease starts with symptoms. If you have a family history of anything, get tested. Not because you may think you have it, but to cover your bases and prevent the possibility of doing something that will make it worse if you do have it.

There is so much research that has found ways to prevent illness, and others that have found ways to support the body’s own healing processes. The biggest finding: nutrition. It is the one thing that we take for granted most. What you eat makes the biggest difference in your health, but most of all is the key to preventing illness in the first place. Certain kinds of arthritis can be prevented, or at least kept from being too bad with exercise nutrition and muscle support. Autoimmune disease can be reversed if you remove all the triggers and support the body’s self healing. There are ways to make it better… but we shouldn’t be focused on fixing what has already broken, we should focus on keeping it from breaking in the first place.

 

A fare terror

Could food really cause terror?

To most that question would be answered in a split second, with a strong and certain, “Of course not!”

To those with life threatening allergies or autoimmune diseases like celiac disease, you might hear a different answer. Personally, I like to keep the word terror reserved for that utmost uncontrollable panic inducing fear that leaves your heart racing, your limbs frozen and cold, your body trying so hard to flee but unable to. It is a very extreme form of panic that leaves you shaken to the core, and that is exactly what I went through today,  accompanied by flashbacks and uncontrollable tears… All because of food.

Somewhere else in the house, our housemates were off baking a pizza. The house began to fill with an aroma that would have most salivating, but left me with the sour nausea that always comes from the smell of wheat. It has been like that since long before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Back in the time when I ate normal north american food like everyone else… but  I couldn’t taste the bacon, lettuce or tomato in my blt sandwich because the bread overpowered the other flavors so much. A time when I would bring pasta to university as my lunch, because leftovers have always been my lunch of choice, and I would find myself so nauseated that I could barely finish the meal. As I was teaching online tonight, the nausea crept up in that normal way it does as the smell of baking wheat wafts through the air. I was not prepared for what would happen next.

My husband was on cooking duty, so he made some gluten free pasta which has never been an issue in the past. In fact, it was always a meal we have both enjoyed thoroughly. The olfactory overload was too much though, and all I could smell was the wheat that our housemates had baked into a pizza. My head started to spin at the look of the pasta, and images flashed reminding me of my days in university, reminding me of how horrible I had felt eating those noodles that smelled of wheat. The pizza tricked my brain into thinking I was about to ingest poison, and I felt uncontrollable terror.

I ate my food urging my mind to calm, “It is quinoa and rice in pasta shape.” I repeated that over and over, but I couldn’t calm down. My mind wasn’t in charge, my body’s survival instinct was. The memories of images and sensations were so vivid that I could not stop crying. I felt true terror as my body was trying to tell me to not poison it. Unfortunately, that mix of smell and visual cues was too much for my conscious mind to over come in battling my subconscious need to keep me from danger.

In all honesty, I thought I had healed more emotionally than this in the 5 years that I have been gluten free. I didn’t expect to be gripped so uncontrollably with terror like that… all because of the smell and look of food…

The devil is in the details

I have been letting myself slip into a worse state of mental health as my husband and I have been trying to move forward. The ever churning thoughts of worry and anxiety well up inside my mind and I am stuck frozen in an insurmountable moment of time.

“Nothing will move forward. You will be stuck this way for ever.” My internal monologue whispers, as if my conscience had puffed into being. As though the proverbial angel and devil sitting atop my shoulder had spoken to me, thoughts whispered into my ear. “You will amount to nothing. You will suffer. You will not find respite.” These thoughts echo through my mind and begin to swirl down into a spiral of angered noise. The angel at my ear has been tied up with a gag in their mouth to keep them from talking. The devil on my shoulder keeps chirping away.

In many ways this figurative description of my anxiety and current state of mind is a reasonable representation of the spiritual aspect of my struggles. The devil is in the details of our every day life. If you follow him, he will reward you with all the things that will never fulfill you, but if you refuse he attacks like a wild boar. Yes, we are autonomous creatures with free will, but we are not impervious to spiritual guidance or mis-guidance. St. Ignatius Loyola wrote extensively about this, and many other saints battled demons in a more than figurative way. Padre Pio was attacked physically. Yes, these individuals did receive attention in a way that most people will not, but no one is left alone. The enemy is relentless and will take any opportunity to snag a sheep out from pasture.

Lately I have been spiraling, very very badly. I am not in a position to implement the strict balancing act that I had found helped reduce my fibro, and I won’t be until my husband and I are able to live without roommates. This will be some months away, but no more than 4 months. We have had some ups and downs with jobs, but it has ultimately led my wonderful partner to a strong sense of vocation in his life. He will be starting college in the fall for police foundations with the intention of joining the RCMP, it only took 9 years working in the security industry for him to find the path that we are walking now. It is a series of events that caused an incredibly short period of discomfort in the grand scheme of things. Yet, somehow, the fact that my health is not where I would like it to be at all has meant that this beautiful progress shines like dimly lit kindling. I cannot get passed this sense of overwhelming impossibility. Everything is lining up, but there is a constant sense that everything will fall apart and I will be in ruins left to suffer horribly.

I realize that my feelings of depression are not at all rational. I realize that I am not moving backwards like it feels. Even still, I am unable to pass that wall that screams of failure. Though it may feel as though the little angel on my shoulder has been locked away by the devil, I do find a sort of fearful solace in knowing that my God is always waiting with an arm stretched out for me when I am ready to ask for help and guidance.