Hello, all! It’s 4:30 AM and I’m at the gym. My feet are pounding the treadmill. My heart is beating 124 beats per minute. I am laughing and smiling with new found friends. My head is up. I am feeling great. No blues. No tears. I am happy to have my brain back. The roller coaster I’ve been on for the past two years is coming to a stop.
Every morning at approximately 7 AM I open a 60 mg capsule. Then I pour out tiny beads of mania. I’ve swallowed fewer and fewer beads each morning for several weeks. I’m down to 30mg of Duloxetine a day. That is about what I think the doctor should have prescribed in the first place. Who starts a person out on double the lowest dosage of an antidepressant medication? My doctor. That’s who. Why? I don’t know.
I do know that my doctor is a good person. I have no doubt that he, with good conscience, prescribed what he felt was best for me. I do not fault my doctor. A doctor cannot be, and know, everything. They get their information from the people who know. Unfortunately, the people who know the drug are the people who profit from the sale. They do not know or have reason to care what happens to people on the other end. But I digress. I’ll save those opinions for another day.
So, to make a long story short, I’m taking control of my own health. I am sweating at the gym four mornings a week and I am watching my diet. I make sure I get plenty of rest and I pay close attention to what is going on in my brain and in my surroundings. I am doing my research. I am striving to learn which foods and activities boost serotonin levels in my brain. I seem to be doing something right. If you’ve read my previous posts, you can tell that I’m more upbeat and doing much better.
My mood has improved dramatically. I am sleeping better. I feel as if I’ve stepped out of a narrow tunnel. My altered brain had been focusing dead ahead and keeping me in a headlong rush to keep up. Now, my peripheral vision has cleared. I can see what’s going on around me. It’s amazing. This person, who was so destitute a few short months ago, seems to be on the mend. I am now putting money in the bank for emergencies. My work ethic is back to normal. I’m working my full 40 hours a week and I am getting there about 15 minutes early. There are no more mad, haphazard, dangerous rushes in heavy traffic.
That probably doesn’t sound like much if you have a good balance of brain chemicals, but it’s huge deal for me. I’m sure it’s much the way a diabetic feels when they work hard and see their weight and blood sugar levels drop. Unfortunately, there is no test to measure brain chemical levels. We can’t measure what is happening inside our brain in a visible way. We can only go by our emotions and how we relate to the rest of the world on a moment by moment basis.
Our brain and emotional health is a life time experiment. I am feeling much better and much more in control of myself. Cutting back on the Cymbalta, exercising, and changing my diet seems to be working very well for me. But is it really? It took two years for me to realize what was happening with the Cymbalta. It could take years to find out if I am wrong now.
Over the last few weeks I have experienced some very blue moments on the days when I’m off work and I don’t go to the gym. Is this due to the lack of physical activity on those days? Is it due to the disruption of my sleeping schedule? Is it due to dietary changes brought on by eating meals with the rest of the family? Is it normal? I don’t know. What is a normal amount of blue moods? Everyone has them from time to time.
Last weekend, for instance, I had a bit of a crying spell. I had done something that upset my daughter. She expressed her anger calmly, but it hurt. I felt unappreciated and unfairly admonished. I went to bed and cried myself to sleep. I am encouraged that my temper didn’t flare. Her words did not end in a verbal altercation between the two of us. I was able to accept what she said and walk away. That was a good thing. But, the tears? Were they normal? Were they excessive? How would a person with balanced brain chemicals have reacted?
These are questions that those of us with a chemical imbalance must ask ourselves. We can’t prick our finger to test our blood and visualize the chemical levels in our brain. We have no way of knowing if our emotional triggers are external or internal. Are we indeed surrounded by a$$holes as a popular Facebook meme suggests? Are our emotional reactions valid? Are we over-reacting because a chemical level is low or a neutron misfired? How can we know? Currently, there is no quantifiable way to know.
So, we turn to others for help. Our helpers are usually people who love us. We in turn love them and depend on them for feedback. Unfortunately, the people who love us have no idea what is going on in our brains either. They try to empathize, but they can’t. They can’t feel what we feel. They love us and their inability to help is frustrating for them as well. Some days they can’t deal with our depression. We are much too needy. They tell us to think positive thoughts. Snap out of it. Retrain our brain. Pray. They make good, caring suggestions that we cannot apply. The brain that controls our body and thoughts won’t let us. This is a very difficult concept for most people to understand.
I also often hear, “Turn to Jesus. He can make you better.” This implies that I lack a spiritual connection. That is not a valid assumption. I am a very spiritual person, but my problem isn’t spiritual or mental. Emotion is a physical process in my brain. If a diabetic slumps and you know that their blood sugar level is low, do you tell them to pray or turn to Jesus? No. You give them a piece of candy to raise their blood sugar level. It works like a charm. It has nothing to do with their spirituality. Their faith does not come into question.
Ok, enough of my rambling for today. I’ve turned a page in my life. I hope you’ll follow as I share what works, or doesn’t work, for me. I hope you’ll gain food for thought that will help you find what works for you. If you struggle with a brain chemical imbalance, or if you love someone who does, I hope my journey will help you.
Let’s please remove the word “mental” from all discussions of chemical imbalance disorders. There is nothing mental about it. It is real. It is as physical a struggle as diabetes, fibromyalgia, and MS. Let’s tackle this issue together. Hug more. Love more. Share more. We are in this world together. Let’s make it better.