A quick apology before the start of this post; I am late with this one, I know I am. A whole bunch of things cropped up, the good the bad and the ugly but these things happen in life and I couldn’t find the time to finish this and publish it. Life gets in the way sometimes but I am proud to say that I have coped with everything it has thrown at me in the past few weeks and I see this as a sign that my recovery continues on the right path, Yay Me! Thank you for your patience and on with the post…..
A Journey of 1,000 Miles Starts with a Single Step
I was conflicted. I had achieved what I had yearned for; time. Time off from work to heal and get better. I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame and relief. What would the neighbours think when I was at home all the time? What are my colleagues saying about me at work? Will my parents be embarrassed? Will my wife think I’m weak? Will I be able to admit it to my friends?
It was difficult to say the least. The anxiety from all of these things was distracting and while previously I used to fantasize about having days where I didn’t need to do anything and I could play video games, watch films or sleep in; but it just didn’t match up to reality. Sure I tried these things and secretly ate a load of crap too but none of it really helped. I couldn’t focus on games, I found they made the anxiety worse sometimes, like I was a failure if I didn’t succeed a mission or died in the game. Can people see how crap I am at this game? To counter the anxiety I changed the difficulty setting to easy so I could be a bit more casual about it. I felt ashamed and pathetic doing this too. I still couldn’t focus and felt deeply unfulfilled.
This wasn’t helping at all and so after a few days I decided to crawl out from my pit and take action. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done as my mood was not improving and rest was not making me feel less tired. Time to get busy and throw everything at this illness. I’d been band aiding it for 16 years and I wanted to bury it once and for all. My Mum had been pestering me for ages to go and see Karen, a fabulous acupuncturist in Winchester and I hadn’t bothered. She has treated me before and I felt like a failure going back so avoided it but I bit the bullet and went for it.
My first appointment with Karen was a few days after I got signed off and started taking the Fluoxetine. We had a long chat about things and discussed medication etc. She has seen me on various meds and tentatively asked if I would consider going med free. This stunned me as I hadn’t really considered it as an option, like I had freedom of choice in the matter. I thought about it, as I had long considered that meds often made me feel worse and where they didn’t make me feel worse they really dampened my emotions so I felt hollow inside. I know part of the point is for them to take the edge off of the major low points but in my experience they cap the high points too so I lost the ability to really experience joy and happiness a lot of the time.
We discussed alternative supplements which might be of benefit and as she rightly pointed out I could go on my meds whenever I chose if I felt that it was the right course of action. She read me a passage from a book about pharmaceuticals and the negative effects; muscle weakness, headaches, appetite suppressant etc. etc., were ones I was experiencing. The one that gave me pause was appetite suppressant as I had poor body image and an eating disorder, this was something I counted as a major positive and I was tempted. I decided to think about it and we continued with the acupuncture and made another for the following week.
I realised I had a major decision to make and I cannot stress this enough, this is a dangerous thing to play with and I am in no way saying this is the right thing to do for everyone. Pharmaceuticals have their place for sure and I do not and will not ever recommend people come off their meds without supervision. Not Ever. That said, for me I decided to give it a try. Besides, I had tried so many in the past and never fully climbed out of the pit. I was sick of the effects they had on my ability to experience life, good and bad, plus the effect on libido was horrendous to boot. I had my safety net, close support and supervision, plus I was in no way suicidal at any point during this time. Your own personal safety is number one here people, don’t mess about with this if you are showing any signs of wanting to harm yourself.
The Alternative Way
Coming off meds was tough, tougher than I thought but I kept myself going by thinking that this was one less hurdle to deal with later. A week or two later I was feeling a bit better and had started experiencing a fuller range of emotions which was both good and bad but felt real. Since Fluoxetine is an SSRI, meaning that it inhibits the re-uptake of serotonin in the blood, I wasn’t able to start some of the alternative supplements while still having Fluoxetine in my system. Combining the two would not be wise. I initially started on Cordyceps, a type of mushroom (go shroom power!) which are great for boosting energy and lowering stress. There is an article here on the wide ranging benefits. To try and boost my serotonin levels we supplemented with American Ginseng which is believed to help regulate serotonin in it’s own right, more on that here. I am still taking these supplements today and do feel like they helped a lot but they do take time to get to work.
Acupuncture has been a massive help through my recovery and that is as much to do with the actual acupuncture as it is to do with the practitioner, Karen. She has gone above and beyond anything I could have expected to try and help me through this and I owe her a great deal. It is amazing when you find someone with such a big heart who puts you at ease and genuinely cares about you as a person. So much so that her support and treatment has been a major cornerstone of my recovery journey.
If you are interested in exploring the option of acupuncture in treating depression or anxiety, then do your homework and look for a practitioner that is trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Five Elements acupuncture. The best ones should offer a free consultation and The British Acupuncture Council has a searchable list of practitioners which would be a good place to start, unless you can go by recommendation.
Karen, the wonderful lady that she is, works out of Winchester Health and Beauty in Hampshire and I never hesitate recommending her to anyone. She is the first of the heroes we will encounter in this tale.
What I am reading right now?
The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes. A fantastic book. I am finding it very thought provoking as one of my biggest challenges has been a lack of identity. I have fought so hard to hide my mental health challenges that I adopted many different “masks” as I called them. As if by magic, here Lewis identifies each and every one of them and deconstructs them. A very timely book and one for anyone to read, male or female as we can all adopt these masks. It just so happens that this is written from Lewis’ own perspective and experiences, it is a very open and vulnerable portrayal of his life and ever so powerful because of that.
Really to go with the above, this one is Lewis Howes on “The One You Feed” podcast and it will give you a brilliant introduction to what the book is about and also to the ever amazing One You Feed podcast which has helped me in numerous ways over the past few months. Lewis Howes also has his own podcast called “The School of Greatness” and this is also worth a listen too. I will talk more about this one in later blogs as it has been incredibly inspirational but may not be as beneficial to people early in their journey!
Next Blog post coming really soon so I’ll get back on track. Look after yourselves and catch you next time,