Monday, December 31, 2012

An Update on My Anti-Depressants

Hey everyone! So, I'm nearly finished writing my post on SuperFoods, but I wanted to update you all on how the anti-depressants have been going for me lately before I post again to the physical health portion of this blog.

When I first started the medication about three weeks ago, I felt very different. It felt like I couldn't react the way I usually did - I could feel the emotions starting (anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness), but I would be able to push them out of my mind so easily. I felt so strong and capable of anything, but I was also worried that my own personality would disappear as I continued on the meds and that I would lose who I really am, naturally, without the chemicals.

As my body got more used to the medication, however, that started to even itself out. At the moment, I am quite enjoying the meds and the mood they've created because I can still get sad when I want to get sad, I can still get angry, I can still get anxious, but I'm able to let it go much more easily. Things will still make me cry, but that's okay because I'm DEPRESSED, so isn't that the way it should be? I'm just not wallowing in my sadness anymore, and that's the key. I don't let it take me over. I don't let it claim entire days of my existence. Even if I wanted to, I could never sit on the couch crying and watching movies all day anymore.

Part of that is because of the feelings that stimulants bring out in people. Yes, my medication is a mild stimulant, but it does not work the same way as most other amphetamines. Meaning, you can't get "high" from it, so there's no real threat of abuse or addiction (not any more than there is with all anti-depressants, I suppose.) But, like other stimulants, it gives you energy, a more positive outlook, and a feeling of wanting to be productive. For me, the last one is a big deal, as I'm usually pretty lazy. But now on my days off, I actually clean the house. I actually do the dishes. I actually get around to all the things I mean to get around to, but never used to actually do. That part of it is lovely, I must say. Also, the majority of the time, when I'm not feeling sad or lonely, I feel positive and energetic. As anyone else who struggles with depression can tell you, these are very welcome feelings. Generally, when you're depressed, you feel lethargic and full of despair - you feel as though nothing will be right again. So being focused on the idea that things are only going to get better from here is exciting and exhilirating.

On the physical side, this medication makes you very dry. You need to drink lots of water because it, like all stimulants, can cause dehydration. It is also very dangerous to drink alcohol while on bupropian, so I haven't been nearly at all. The reason behind this that bupropian lowers your threshold for seizures (not nearly enough to be worried about), and drinking does so even more. So, when you drink, you're making yourself even more likely to have a seizure. To be honest, though, that's not even my real reason for quitting. Sometimes when I wake up after a day of not drinking enough water, I feel hungover, so I can only imagine what I would feel like if I actually drank! I just don't want to go there, except if there's a special occasion. I have also found that this medication makes you slightly dizzy at times, but it hasn't been anything that I've find overwhelming. My doctor had warned me about having trouble sleeping, but I have been sleeping just fine, albeit with very vivid dreams that I'm not at all used to, but enjoy very much. So, on the physical side this medication has been treating me fairly well, and I have very few complaints.

Also, I have quit smoking for nearly two weeks now! It's true what they say - these meds do indeed rid you of the desire to smoke cigarettes. I hardly think about smoking. Even when I am around people who are smoking cigarettes, I have only the weakest, faintest desire to smoke that I can push away so easily it's almost as if it's not there. So I've been very happy about this, and I feel fantastic without the nicotine in my system.

So, there you have it! The meds seem to be working out just fine for me at this point. I focused a lot on the major effects of this medication in this post. Next post I will focus more on all the different emotional reactions I would like to learn to control, and how the medication effects them each individually.

Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Java java!

Okay, so today’s health blog is about COFFEE! Ah, yes, coffee – one of my favourite things in the world, and so incredibly bad for me. Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, and nearly everyone you meet drinks it. It’s said that coffee was first consumed in Yemen in the 15th century, so we humans have been drinking it for quite some time (no wonder we love it so much!). 62% of Canadians drink it at least every day, with the average coffee-drinker consuming 2.8 cups a day. But, as popular as it is, I’ve often wondered what all that caffeine is doing to us, and whether it’s something I should be worried about or not. So I decided to do a little research, and consequently made the decision to cut coffee out of my life. I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned and the reason behind my decision.

Let’s start with the good things. It’s always nice to start out on the positive side, isn’t it? Coffee can help you feel less depressed, it can keep you regular, it can help you be more focused on your work or sober you up after a long night. There are numerous positive things a human being can get from coffee. For a healthy person, one or two cups of coffee could actually be beneficial, since in moderate levels it can decrease your risk of heart and liver disease, increase your muscle recovery and give your memory a boost. Caffeine’s effect on the dopamine levels in your brain can actually fight mild depression (we all know how much happier we feel after that first cup of coffee in the morning). So I don’t want to give coffee a totally bad rap – the truth is, a cup of black coffee is better for you than an energy drink or a soft drink, so if those are the only other options for you then drink up! (But please, choose Fair Trade Organic coffee! No time to really explain why but do a little research and you will see what I mean.)

However, caffeine and coffee in general can also have some pretty bad side effects on certain people. Caffeine is highly addictive. In fact, caffeine addiction may well be the most common drug addiction, since caffeine is arguably the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. It’s a stimulant, much in the same way as cocaine and methamphetamine, although much less dangerous, of course. It affects the norepinephrine levels in your body, sending a message to your heart and causing it to beat faster. It can increase anxiety, negatively affect the way your body absorbs iron, and cause heartburn and indigestion. This brings me to the reason why I personally am trying to give up coffee.

The reason I am cutting out coffee is because I have some digestive health problems, and when it comes to your stomach, coffee is not a friend. Anyone with IBS or any other kind of intestinal issues will probably know exactly what I mean by that. Coffee stimulates your gastro-intestinal tract, thus having a laxative-type affect. It’s acidic, which irritates your stomach, and because it elevates your heart rate, blood gets pulled away from the digestive system and towards the heart and this can cause some serious indigestion. It is absolutely essential to my basic health that I stop drinking coffee. But honestly, I find this dependence tougher to give up than nicotine or sugar. It honestly makes me terribly sad to think of a life without coffee…
But, I shall prevail! Before I started this new, healthier lifestyle I drank five or six cups of coffee a day. I have since cut down to one, which I am quite proud of myself for. Caffeine addiction is a tricky mistress, and its withdrawal symptoms are quite nasty. They include depression, irritability, constipation and lack of energy and focus. So for now I’m still going to have that one cup a day, until I feel ready to cut it out completely (probably in a week or so). Once I out coffee for good, I am going to try a few different things as healthy replacements, such as herbal teas or all-natural “faux” coffees, and I will get back to you on how they have helped or not.
I’m sad to see coffee go, but I know my tummy will thank me. Now it’s just a matter of getting past my caffeine addiction and starting a new, coffee-less existence. Wish me luck!

Sources I used for this blog post:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

don't be afraid to ask for help

Hey everyone! 

So as you know, I plan to use this blog to document my journey to a more healthy lifestyle when it comes to eating habits, physical activity and my spiritual and emotional well-being. Well, I recently decided to go on an anti-depressant called bupropion (marketed as Wellbutrin or Zyban). You might be wondering, how does that fit into a healthier lifestyle? Aren’t anti-depressants bad for you? The truth is, I’ve always been curious about this, too. So I’d like to share with you the reasons behind this decision and what I hope to get out of it, which may be beneficial for some of you.

I had this friend in university who once told me my life is like a rollercoaster and I like it that way.  At the time I didn’t think much of what he said, but he was right. For a very long time, I had been riding a wave of constantly changing emotions – one minute I would be ecstatic, excited, filled with love. Then something small would happen and it would plunge me into a dark, negative place. Fast forward half an hour and I’d have found something else to be excited or happy about… And the cycle would continue. For a long time I just rode the wave and assumed this is how I was and would always be – how everyone was. But a couple of years ago I realized that not only are there people out there who have their emotions under complete control, but I could be one of them… if I worked at it. I could learn the source of my emotions and what made them so intense, and I could slowly but surely get to a much calmer place in my life.

This is a great goal, but it’s not easy. Especially when dealing with the aftermath of your emotions takes up so much of your time and leaves you so exhausted that you barely know where to start in dealing with what caused them. At the end of the day, I was just happy to be able to sleep, and I had no energy left to dissect my depression and anxiety or figure out where they came from. Riding that constant wave is really quite tiring, and your emotions can so easily cloud your judgement. It’s nearly impossible to stop and think, “Why am I so angry? What’s really going on here?” when you’re completely livid, and you don’t feel at all in control of your frustration and anger. In my opinion, this is where medication comes in.

I plan to use this medication and the resulting calming effect to finally find a way to deal with my emotions on my own, so that eventually I can stop taking it and live happily without it. Calm the waters, so to speak, so I can really get to the root of everything going on inside my mind and consequently gain some sort of control over my emotional state.

I would like to document this journey in my blog as well. I know there are a lot of people out there who may need help of some kind, but are wary of pharmaceuticals. I plan to do a kind of “study”, where I write in my blog and discuss how the medication makes me feel, what my emotional state is like, how I notice it has changed me, and also any physical side effects. I plan to be as unbiased as possible. I’m hoping this information could be of use for some people who wonder about anti-depressants but don’t know where to get real, honest information about what they do to your mental state and how they may change you as a person.

Tomorrow I’ll begin updating this blog at least every other day, and I’m excited to share my journey with all of you.