dryadgrl: (love)
So in 2005 I was in the hospital for a while. I had been severely depressed, anxious and suicidal for years. I stopped being invovled in activist projects, I couldn't leave the house, I gained a lot of weight (about 150lbs), my insides were a mess and I often couldn't be away from a bathroom. The acute bit was that I got a migraine that lasted for weeks (6 weeks to be exact) with no history of migraines.  And nothing seemed to help

It finally got to a place that my girlfriend at the time felt she couldn't help me and convinced me to go to the ER to talk to someone. I was really lucky in that way. I wasn't committed, I wasn't picked up at work or school. I'd been suffering for so long it was actually a huge relief to be in the hospital. And I expected that they could help me.

The upside of hospitalization is that I got some space from all the stress and no one expected me to work or go to school or take care of my then 8 yo son. I could chill out, sleep, and reflect. Mostly actually I did art, saw doctors and learned that I never wanted to be in a psych ward again.

A couple of things happened that changed my life. One is that I was diagnosed with "we think you're bipolar" and "you'll never work full time ever again."  That I should expect to be on anti-depressants, anti anxiety meds and pain pills basically the rest of my life.  I'm happy to say that I do now work full time and am a pretty productive member of society. You know, as much as a single mom of a teenager ever is.

They also did some scans of my brain and told me that they didn't know why I was having migraines and that there was a thing in my brain they didn't think was effecting me, but they didn't know. So I saw brain surgeons, neurologists and stuff. The answer there was always "we don't know." WHich, by the way, is less than heartening when your head feels like it wants to split open and you can't go outside because there were no sunglasses strong enough to deal with that big ball of light in the sky.

But another thing happened. When the doctor told me I'd never work again and should expect to be disabled my whole life, something inside of me shifted. My brain fought back. My head swam for several moments and then this small voice inside me said, "This is not my life."

In that way I was lucky. Actually in many ways I was lucky.

One night I was sitting up with a nurse, just talking because I couldn't get my head around all of this and she said to me, "You know, you're different. I see people come in here all the time and I know they'll be back. But you won't. You have support. You'll figure it out."  When I couldn't figure out what the hell she meant she said, "You have support. You have more support than anyone else I've ever seen in here." She clearly believed in me and my systems in a way that I couldn't fathom.

Also they tried to put me on anti-depressants, but I have a mortal fear of them. I watched my mom be put on every psych med known to mankind and they did all of nothing for her. She took everything form lithium to progesterone and they couldn't solve what seemed to be similar symptoms. So I had no expectation that they would help me.  I couldn't tolerate the anti-depressants. Every time they'd put me on one, I'd freak out. I don't know if it's psychosomatic or if I really couldn't tolerate them, but in the end, no anti-depressants. Which was, for me, a really good thing.

Anyway, so my brain shifted. Then I went home.

At home I was alone, which in many ways was a relief. My son was staying with friends which was an incredible gift that I did not fully appreciate at the time because I was so miserable. I could hardly make my own food, I couldn't work, I couldn't really see people and I missed my kid like crazy. So I focused on making food for myself and reading.  My girlfriend was a rockstar and she did a bunch of research and helped me (well pushed me) to look at the Yeast Connection - a book about candida overgrowth and it''s side effects. I read bits of it and decided if all I could do was feed myself, I could do this project.

So I did. And for 6 months I saw my therapist 3 times a week and made my own, boring food. The basis of the book is that if you take every good thing you've ever liked to eat and throw them in the trash instead of putting them in your mouth, you'll be much healthier. So I was off of everything that is involved with sugar, fungus, and yeast from obvious things bread, pasta, crackers and gluten (and all grains) to all forms of sugar, vinegar, dried foods, and mushrooms. So in addition to no deserts, no grains, and nothing sweet, there were no condiments outside of salt and pepper. So I ate meat and vegetables. And occasionally fruit. And did not kill myself.

In some ways it was awful, I couldn't eat out or with people mostly, but what the hell, I wasn't really leaving the house. Eventually I learned how to be in the world that way.

My migraines became instantly less frequent and less intense. But I still took pain meds, and anti-anxiety drugs.

Wait... what? Food is such an intense trigger for migraines that I could change it in a few months by not eating a few things? (Ok not eating anything good, but still.) And I had more energy, my mental health symptoms were lessening, and I started to be able to work!

I started with 6 hours. A week. That's it. That's all I could do.

And it wore me the hell out.  Two three hour shifts and I would come home and pass out each time. It took me days to recover from working.

Anyway, I did this for a couple of years on and off. The food stuff was really helpful, but it only got me so far. Because it's not the answer. It was a beginning - I needed to start the detox project and to understand that there was something I can do to create change.

I continued to see doctors, none of who where helpful and who said things like, "Well that food stuff won't really change anything."  And "You're fat of course you have migraines, they were bound to happen." And "You're not really depressed, you just need to exercise more." Really helpful guys, thanks.

As you can imagine I developed a... distaste for western medicine. Aside from being completely not helpful, they were destructive to my self esteem and mean (concern trolling is still trolling).

In about 2008 ish as I was packing to head out to a convention with my kid I fell down the stairs. (Just what I always needed!) I destroyed my left shoulder and injured various body parts. Stupidly I still took my kid for half the con after going to the ER. I know, I'm not as bright as I look sometimes. But we'll also call this a blessing in disguise.

At that stage a friend who'd been watching me struggle took me to see someone she called her chiropractor. (Dr. Joan is a chiropractor. She also does a lot of other things and has a lot of training as you'll see.)  She paid for my first visit as incentive because I was so resistant to seeing yet another practitioner who just couldn't help me. Joan made me fill out a very extensive questionaire that asked about everything from sleep patterns to bowl movements to food allergies to mood fluctuations. I think it's a couple hundred questions actually and quite daunting.

Dr. Joan talked to me for a long time (her first session is 1.5 HOURS!). She said she didn't think I was bi-polar and she did think she could help me. Eventually put me on the table where she made me move my body in various ways which I now know to be Applied Kiniesology and did my first NAET treatment. She sent me home with some supplements and instructions for rest, food, and the idea that there was help for me. I felt immediately better. (If you see doctors for your pain or chronic stuff that statement will probably shock you. I know I was stunned that someone in the medical field could actually make me feel better.)

I saw her a lot after that. The more I trusted that she could help me, the more I told her, and the more we talked about. We talked about everything from my dreams (related to kidney function!) to bowels and detox, mood, relationships, work, family, home, kid, my dreams and aspirations. Everything.  We tracked my food, my mood, my sleep, exercise, supplements... all kinds of stuff and different times to make connections and create understanding. She gave me things to read, exercises to do, things to think about and encouraged me to go slow and forgive myself when I messed up.

I tear up thinking about it. Finally having a practitioner who really got that I'm not crazy, that things can change and that compassion is a critical part of healing. Compassion, y'all! It was like being granted a gift from the gods.

She made me aware that my symptoms were a complex set of interactions about hormones, organ function and what I believed. She introduced me to ideas about how people get sick and how they get well and what's needed to do that. She partnered with me about problem solving everything in my life.

There's a lot that's happened at Dr. Joan's office over the last few years, some of it you wouldn't believe. But the result is this: nutrition is more important than almost anything else in terms of baseline mental health. Exercise is right up there and so is sleep and sunlight. And compassion.  I can control how I feel.

I learned that my body was not making certain things - like DL-phenylalanine (DLPA) so my body was anxious and couldn't be happy. So I had to take it directly. When I did it changed everything. Literally changed my attitude. I would take DLPA and about 45 minutes late (we clocked it) I would start to laugh. I would literally go from sadness and anxiety to laughter and joy. So I took a lot of them. For a long time.

There are several things I found I need to take all the time: really good fish oil, minerals, iron especially, and various b vitamins. And it changes. Sometimes something goes wacky or I eat the wrong thing and I need a different supplement or need to do a detox of some kind. Sometimes we get to a new level of healing and I need less or different supplements.

Dr. Joan taught me that my body will heal the vast majority of things that happen in my body if I listen to it and get some help to uncover the messages. She's amazing. I still see her as often as I need to. But instead of seeing her twice a week it's more like every couple of months or so to make sure I'm still on track and to fine tune supplements and such. She taught me what to look for, what's normal and what's not. Because I grew up with a mom who was sick all the time, I didn't know what was normal and still sometimes forget or have no reference.

In 2012 we reached a plateau and, after much urging from her, I went to see and MD who prescribed me thyroid meds (Armour to be precise). It was quite a battle because my thyroid numbers aren't outside the test range, but they are outside the functional range (which is a whole thing in itself). It was quite scary given my history with MDs. But I found one after only 1 mis-fire and I've been on it ever since. It's changed my life - again.

It put me over the edge into being able to work a lot more. Within a couple of weeks I could work about 40 hours a week in a way that I haven't been able to in something like 8 or 10 years.

The other thing that's happened is that I can now exercise regularly. It's been a gradual process. When I first started seeing the MD she said I had to exercise 4 times a week for 30 minutes and I told her that I would try. But truth? I didn't think it was possible. And I tried and would do a few days or a couple of weeks and fall off the wagon.  It's been about a year, almost exactly and what I've found is that now, this week, I swam 3 days for 45 minutes and but was some kind of active every day - I actually left the house. I got up, ate, took a shower, got dressed and - at some point - left the house.

For most people that doesn't seem like a big deal, but remember when I was sick? I was leaving the house maybe 2 days a week. Maybe.  I would often go several days without direct sunlight.  What it comes down to is that I did a whole lot of work and I didn't give in and I didn't give up and I didn't let people tell me about my body when I knew better.

I realize that for years I was really defensive about my body stuff and I sometimes still am. But I've worked for my health. I've worked hard for it.
dryadgrl: (Default)
I got a message from Fatlandia today with a list of books about bodies. Some of these I need to read, so I'm keeping them here. Funny that these went into the welfare stuff. Love it!

Dawn Atkins edited book called Looking Queer;
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson's Staring: How we look; Lois Keith edited collection "What happened to you?": Writing by Disabled women;
bell hooks' Black looks: Race & representation;
Joshua Gamson's Freaks Talk Back;
a bunch of the essays in the Brownworth & Raffo edited Restricted Access: Lesbians on disability (and you'll recognize a bunch of the authors in there, for sure);
Julia Serano's Whipping Girl;
Dorothy Allison's Trash;
the two This Bridge books;
Anzaldua's Making face making soul: Haciendo caras;
most of the Emi Koyama ouevre (make sure the women's studies class knows to pay her for her work); Thea Hillman's book;
some of Mattilda's anthologies;
the embodimentusa wordpress website for gorgeous photos of queers;
Bodies out of bounds;
Eli Clare's Gaping Gawping Staring essay;
the "On stareable bodies" post on fatheffalump's wordpress site;
Bill Shannon's theory and performance art on his old site and on his whatiswhat.com site;
Kevin Connolly's photo project at therollingexhibition.com;
there's a post or two on the old The Rotund that explicitly address fat bodies as public property;
a lot of posts on Monica Roberts' transgriot.com;
Vivyan Adairs' From Good Ma to Welfare Queen;
and even though it doesn't address the issue directly, I sort of think it's worth listing Theresa Funiciello's Tyranny of kindness: Dismantling the welfare system to end poverty in America.
dryadgrl: (Default)
It's been a long time since I talked about my illness stuff in any detail.

I'm re-exploring this stuff as I'm more and more well.

The very short version is what we now think happened was I got pregnancy-onset hypothyroidism in 1997 During pregnancy with my awesome-amazing son. Hypothyroidism has a lot of possible symptoms but they include depression, anxiety, weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight, adrenal fatigue and adrenal related stuff, and exhaustion (and a whole host of other things including hormonal issues and nutrient deficiencies). There are something like 22 different kinds of thyroid things and that's compounded this issue.

I gained (a lot of) weight during pregnancy but it didn't stop when I had the baby. At first I thought it could have just been that car accident when I was pregnant and couldn't do very much for several months. But even once I could walk and so on, I had a difficult time with my weight and by then I started the slide into depression that got progressively worse for about 8 years (which, by the way, is a damn long time) and culiminated in a round of being hopsitalized for 9 days and a several year battle with very severe depression, anxiety and complusive suicidality. Now I know that this was a result of thyroid issues that deteriorated to include nutrient deficiencies as a result of absorption issues, adrenal fatigue, major (severe) depression and an anxiety disorder as well as a whole lot of metabolic issues.

Doctors were reluctant to test me for thyroid stuff instead telling me to exercise and take anti-depressants because I was "just fat" among other completely degrading crap. At one point when I was telling a neurologist about my migraines he said, "Well you're fat, what did you expect?" I said, "I"ve been fat for 10 years, I've had migraines 6 months." Needless to say I never went back and never saw another neurologist.

The more research I did, the more it was clear to me that depression was a symptom of something, not a cause. But, well, no one believed me. I mean fat people are lazy, unmotivated, stupid and deserve what they get, right?

Wrong.

Your thyroid control metabolism. Yes that's about weight, but it's also about nutrient absorption and that effects every single body system without exception from blood and brain function to growth to bones and muscles, etc. So no matter what I ate, my body and brain were starving which is also part of biology of depression and anxiety (the starving peice is also about cortisol and weight, this is an integrated system after all). The next system to get stressed once there is thyroid stress is adrenals and so even minor stresses would send me over the edge into very dark places. And so on. It's a very dark, difficult downward spiral into hell.

And once you get there, it's no fun either.

The hospitalization came in 2005 when my girlfriend couldn't take care of me any more. She had taken me with her for the weekend and I just couldn't cope and spent all of my time crying or sleeping or in the depths of despair. There was really nothing she could do for me. It was really the right thing and I'm very grateful for her support. She came and visited me every day and in fact it made our relationship much stronger for a time. It's actually amazing that she ever found me loveable. I was in so much pain and I couldn't imagine being lovable or loved.

Two very different things happened. One was a series of conversations with doctors in hospital who basically told me that I needed to take anti-dpressents and that I would never, ever be well. Ever. They said that my thyroid numbers were a little low, but they thought I was bi-polar and the medical records are all about my weight ("morbidly obese") and the depression and not one word about thyroid stuff or other possibilities. They told me to that I would never work again and that I should be prepared to be disabled the rest of my life.

They psychward is a terrible place. It's a lot about over-medicating people until they drool on themselves so that they don't "cause harm." It's full of people who are there to stay out of other much more terrible places or to avoid extreme fates. Yes sometimes jail/prison, but group homes and being "cared for" by terrible people and crazy abusive stories. I don't recommend it.

Though I will say it made my life look very appealing and very... sane in comparison. (Saying my life was "sane" at the time is like saying that being stretched on a rack is "uncomfortable.")

The other thing was late one night, I was sitting at the end of the hallway in the psychward, a few days in to my "stay" and a nurse came and sat down next to me. We talked for quite some time and she said that I didn't belong there. She said that a lot of these people will come back over and over but she'd be willing to bet she'd never see me again. She said that I had tons of support - people came to visit me every day (not my family, but my girlfriend and my lover and friends and my son). She also said that people really looked up to me because they knew too. And there's some truth to the idea that in the evenings we all (the inmates) started gathering to do art together which started because I just couldn't take one more evening alone crying.

But it's a bizarre thing to be the most sane person in the psychward. When I was at the lowest I thought it was possible to go, I was still not a paranoid delusional or hearing voices or afraid that people in my life were trying to kill me. One woman was convinced that the staff was trying to rape her with various things every night. But she said it was still better than the group home.

This weekend in yet another cleaning frenzy, I just let go of art the one of the women made for me and stuff that I made as well. I held on to it for 6 years. Because the crazy people mostly stick together. Mostly.

Anyway, this is all a lead up to say that I let my current healer do blood tests on me, which I haven't let anyone do in several years because I was tired of the crap and the unwillingness to do the right tests (not just TSH, but T3 and T4 please!) and not wanting to get stuck with needles in order to talk to people who see me as dumb or useless or stupid. Fuck them. I'm not putting myself into the hands of people who don't deserve my trust.

So I did it. I got the tests and I filled out a new round of assessment paperwork for my current doc and let her send it all out for analysis.

And it came back in big bold letters diagnosis: primary hypothroid.

We talked about it. We agreed on a path forward. She was impressed about the cleaning frenzy and said it was an important part of getting well and she and I both got teary-eyed about taking the next step.

She gave me new medicines.

She gave me medicine for the thyroid issue that I have been diagnosed with.

I mean we know I have thyroid issues so I've been on very low doses of iodine and some other supplements and not a lot else because I couldn't deal with the testing. But the boyfriend was a rock star and talked me through the whole thing, even the bits where I was grumpy waiting for the testing.

It's such a relief to be working with a healer who believes me, who not only listened to me say that I didn't think anti-depressants were the way to go but agreed with me and helped me treat the symptoms without pharmaceuticals. It's amazing to look back and see how different my life is because one person believed in me.

In truth she believed in me because Tia believed in me. So that's two people.

That was Saturday. I've been on the meds for 5 days and things are shifting already. I can feel eating patterns shifting - I am inclined and available to cook more. I'm HUNGRY! Several times a day! Every day! (I started getting hungry regularly in August, but this several times a day thing is so novel!) And I'm eating several times a day! When I'm hungry!

(For those that have always had a body that spoke to them about hunger, the broken part was that I was rarely hungry. I was either not interested in food or starving and nauseous and weak. There was no in between. So my blood sugar was always crashed out, my adrenals were always stressed out, my mood was always fucked, always. For years.)

That means I have more energy. Over the last few weeks I'm much more available in some way that my son is responding to. I have only been short with him twice in the last few weeks which feels really good. We have a great relationship, but it's hard on him when I'm sick or unavailable.

In retrospect there's been big change this last 7 months. Since I quit IPC, my anxiety went way down. In fact I had my first anxiety attack in months today (when I had to go see those folks in court).

I found out I am allergic to nightshades and stopped eating those and things have really shifted. Then there's the boyfriend and my capacity to be in relationship. I can do it, is the short version. I can show up for people and for myself in some kind of weirdly consistent way. I acknowledge my own boundaries and don't routinely force past them without noticing. Now at least I see them as they go rushing by. And often stop well in advance of a limit, especially a physical one.

I am no longer in every day chronic pain.

Just so that you get it: I am no longer in every day chronic pain.

I've been listening to my body more and more and just doing less. And doing less but being effective at those things and even happy. I've been pretty happy most of the time for most of a year. I have capacity for friendships and relationships in ways that I haven't in forever.

Somehow I decided that it would all be ok and have been working, but less, and not stressing about money, even though there's not much coming in. I'm just less worried... I think this is how it is for healthy people. They can still function even if money is tight and they don't spend all of their time freaking out and being sick and sleeping or staring at the ceiling about this issue or that thing.

I guess that's why they call it functional. Because they function. I think I get it now.

I haven't been this healthy in a long time. Probably since before Kiddo was born. I used to think... I thought I was a person who loved people and had lots of friends. But I could not be close to many people while I was so sick even though I deeply needed them. As I've gotten well, there are more and more amazing people in my life. I'm both grateful and sad about that. I wish I'd been able to have them all when I thought I was dying, but I'm so glad they are here now.

One thing that I've learned about healing is that it comes in waves. Some times big sweeping waves and some times small, nearly imperceptible, ones. But they all change my life. This one feels big between the house cleaning and getting back on the 'medication and treatment' horse in a new way. I can really see a path forward to consistent wellness from here.

I am so relieved to finally have a clear, concise, written diagnosis. No more screwing around about it. I have a doctor that I trust to help me and the help is happening. It's taken me 3 years to relax into the idea that this is a long-term relationship. That she will keep treating me even though I fall down and can't cope sometimes and things don't work and I don't know what to do about that sometimes. She just keeps helping me up, brushing me off, and loving me. I don't know what I would do without her.

And the idea that my body could really work well and not betray me or fall apart at every turn is amazing. I'm so excited about that.

Oh and I've started taking a belly dancing class. I haven't taken a dance class in 18 years.

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dryadgrl

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