30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 9 & 10

So I missed yesterday, which I only realised today. The reason being a baby tried to kill me. We currently work in Paediatrics and I got gastro from one of them which I haven’t had since I was little and I’d much prefer bronchitis any day. The whole of yesterday I was passed out and woke up at 1AM with all the lights still on. Stomach cramps and vomiting makes one feel like death. So I apologise for the missed day but onto today; days 9 & 10.

Have you ever tried any alternative therapies? If so, what? Did they work?

I have literally been down every single road of possible therapy in my absolute desperation. I don’t want to have to take psychiatric meds for my illness. My Doctor is very aware of how much I hate having to be dependent on pills to feel like everyone else. I take 5 different types of meds whereas 7 years ago I could manage with 1, so it’s unsettling to realise how much my mental health has deteriorated. I have researched everything which could help for depression and unfortunately, most are for management of mild to moderate depression even though they help for severe depression, I will never, in all likelihood, be able to function on those solely, but other things may help. 

So what have I tried? First off, is the lifestyle changes. I still follow these religiously as they reduce my risk of relapse and over the long-term may enable me to at least reduce the dose of my meds as has been scientifically proven. These involve 7-8 hours of sleep, a healthy diet avoiding foods that cause sugar spikes and drops, so low GI and lots of veg and fruits. Also exercise! I cannot stress how important this is and how much it has helped. It is recommended to do a minimum 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise at least 5 days a week. The exercise should really get your heart pumping, so cardio is best. I have started going daily the past 3 weeks instead of 2-3 times a week. In all honesty, it has become the favourite part of my day and investing in your body helps you to feel good about yourself and the exercise itself boosts your dopamine and noradrenaline which immediately helps boost your mood after. It also helped improve my energy levels and I no longer nap during the day. Also, I do pilates twice a week and in addition to the exercise, being in a class that surrounds you with people and there is the occasional laughter and joint routine also helps. There are days where you just sit and sigh and don’t feel like going but I know I have to force myself and when I get started I am glad I went.

I have also tried herbal remedies although they don’t work for severe depression and may interact with your medication. But vitamin supplements are important and I have found them to help. I take Vitamin B’s which boosts energy and is important for a healthy nervous system, also a general multivitamin. Omega 3’s are also important for a healthy nervous system and have been shown to help with mood stability but I don’t take them although I should start. Lastly, I take a cognitive complex to help improve my memory. Depression and the meds you take can really make you feel like a fish with a ten second memory. I struggle a lot with this and am extremely forgetful. There are many supplements out there specificially targeted at improving your memory so doing some research and trying one may help you. Things like Ritalin or Concerta is not great when you have depression and anxiety as it worsens it and you need to be closely monitored so I don’t take them.

Also, staying away from caffeine!! You are allowed a max of 3 cups of coffee a day but under no circumstances should you take energy drinks like monster, play or red bull and things like bioplus or whatever else is out there on the market. It has been shown to worsen depression in addition to many other negative effects. 

Then there’s the psychodynamic and cognitive/dialectical behavioural therapy. These have also been proven scientifically to help and is just as important as taking meds. Psychodynamic therapy is basically talk therapy where you just talk about your life and emotions and past traumatising events or things that currently worsen depression for you and you’re helped to work through it. I did this for 3 years and it helped somewhat but would make me very emotional after, which sometimes had the opposite intended effect. So a month ago I started dialectical behavioural therapy which for the first time has started making great progress within me. You don’t talk about things that happened in the past or your emotions all the time. Your behaviour and distorted thinking is focused on so that you are not controlled by negative thoughts or behaviour and you are able to better cope with things that normally derailed you. You’re taught and challenged with things like your obsessions, emotional thinking, validation in emotions, judgement, managing conflict, dissociating from things that attempt to emotionally overwhelm you, rewiring negative associations you have made that are not realistic or conducive to your recovering. It is a very direct approach which I like.

What little things makes your life easier?

This I think is important to realise. When I was highly depressed and tried to find such things it felt so incredibly futile. Like people were telling me to find little things and be grateful and all that. It just annoyed me and didn’t help. But recovering from depression means doing everything not just one. There is no quick fix. You have to persist and do them even though you don’t feel like it. Eventually you end up realising how much they actually do help.

So first off, this one may sound odd and the opposite of what the world is preaching, but there’s Facebook. Having a community of friends and people who’s posts you enjoy reading or who leave a nice comment and who you can interact with helps you feel less lonely. It’s hard to always find time or energy to go out with people and so even just spending 10 minutes online and watching a funny video someone posted or seeing motivational quotes or your friends going “live” and smiling at what they’re saying is helpful. Reading a comment and replying and having a quick conversation on something one of you posted or posting things you find interesting, funny or self-expressive is uplifting to your mood. Many people are lonely and they get in contact with people they’ve known for years but who live far away through facebook. It makes me happy to see what they are up too.

Next is my huskies. If I had a soul animal, this would be it. They’re incredibly silly and energetic and so sitting with them outside for 30 minutes or so and watching them play or hassle me with kisses makes me smile and laugh. I also feel such a sense of love or comfort when they sit next to me and for a moment I just hug them and bury my face into their coats and give them a kiss on their snout knowing I am hugging another soul who loves me just as much in that moment. 

Then there’s routine. I have found this gives me stability when life feels chaotic. I wake up the same time every day, even on weekends, I go to the hospital, come home and have something to eat then head to the gym for 30 – 60 minutes, come home and study and have supper then go to bed at 11PM. On weekends I add in seeing a friend for a while or having a quick trip to some place nice like the botanical gardens or just coffee at my favourite coffee place.

Keeping things in order. I have never really been an organised person. I basically always dug around for things I needed and had a general but disorganised space where everything had to go. I also had too much stuff accumulated throughout the years and piles of books I said I’d donate eventually but they kept piling up. All of that changed and I found it relaxing to plug in my earphones and listen to music while I sorted through things and put everything neatly into its place or chuck out what was no longer needed. Decluttering the space around me emotionally and mentally also helped me feel less overwhelmed and cluttered.


2 thoughts on “30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 9 & 10

  1. I’ve seen, more times than I care to count, one of the hardest hurdles for people dealing with mental illness is what can be called, “surrendering to the necessity of medication.” That probably holds for any chronic illness. I run into it myself in dealing with my Bursitis, feeling often that even taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory (naproxen sodium) is some kind of defeat, and enduring a flareup for days when relief is waiting in the medicine cabinet. It is hard to accept being dependent on a pill even to that extent, let alone to be able to function at all, which makes any search for alternatives both understandable and appropriate.

    And, then the message of self care comes around again, which does include finding what works and what doesn’t. It is easy to forget that there is no such thing as a trivial blessing. They all need to be noticed. Of course, your beautiful huskies have no trouble getting noticed and the joy you and they share together always shines in your pictures. Angels in fur!

    Liked by 1 person

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