odd anxiety discovery

Long-time readers may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned my anxiety issues too much on my blog lately.  There’s a reason for that.

I haven’t had much anxiety issues.

Except for an attack over Labor Day weekend when the girls and I took a trip to our old house (I’m still not sure what caused it), I really haven’t had any big anxiety problems.

I still notice a little something when I go too long without eating, and those little somethings are a more of a little something when I’m tired and/or stressed.  But overall, my anxiety is much, much less than it was before.

What changed?  What is different about my new house than my old house?  What is different about my life now?

I’ve been pondering this over the past few months.  We moved in mid-June, and it’s now the end of November.  We’ve lived here over five months, and I’ve felt so much better here.  What has changed?

Well, there’s a few things that are different.  I’m being more conscious to go walking and get some exercise on a regular basis.  That helps.  I’ve been getting a little more sleep overall.  That helps, too.

But I think the biggest difference comes from an unexpected reason: I’m not taking my multi-vitamin regularly anymore.  In fact, I’m taking hardly any supplements at all on a regular basis.

This wasn’t really planned.  Things were crazy with the move, and then three weeks after we moved, we spent three weeks back in the Midwest, including almost a week at WELStock in Minnesota.  I got off my normal routine of taking vitamins, and when I got home, I thought I would just see what happened if I stayed off my vitamins for a while.  Sometimes I thought that I should take them, but more often I just … forgot.

So, this fall, when I noticed that I seemed to feel better when I was not taking my multivitamin, I decided to experiment a bit.  I started making more of an effort to take my vitamins again, just to see if I noticed a change.  And, I did notice a change!  My anxiety level went up a bit the more I took my vitamins.  Hmm.  So, I stopped taking them again, and it went back down.  Hmm!

What’s wrong with my multi-vitamin?  I never thought anything was wrong with it.  I’d been recommended to take that multi by a variety of different natural and alternative health practitioners.  All of them recommended it.  My OB-GYN when I had Jujubee said it was fine.  It’s called Nutrient 950, and it’s produced by a well-known and well-respected company called Pure Encapsulations.  Every health practitioner has said it’s fine.

But.  Apparently it’s a bit much too much vitamin for me.

The directions on the bottle say to take six capsules a day.  At my old house, I was usually taking four a day.  Lately, I’ve been taking one a day, and that seems to work okay with me.  I hate to get rid of the vitamins, because they’re expensive, and I know they ARE good vitamins!  So, I’m going to try this lower dose, and see how that goes.

I also bought a bottle of B-complex vitamins, because those are good for people prone to anxiety problems.  I’ll experiment with those, too, to make sure I don’t have any adverse effects from those.

But, it’s interesting (and a bit frustrating) to discover that perhaps a good chunk of my anxiety problems were due to my multi-vitamin!  But, it’s better to know than to not know.

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still walking to save my sanity

Back in March, I wrote this blog post, titled: Walking to Save My Sanity.  I talked about how important daily exercise was for me to keep my anxiety at bay.

As I’m settling into life at our new house, and as the school routine begins again next week, those walks are becoming important again, perhaps even more important than before.  Because I can tell my anxiety is trying to come back.  My default reaction to life’s stressors is, and probably always will be, anxiety.  When I am in high adrenaline times (ie. the move itself, WELStock, individual activities that get me out into public and out of the house), I’m usually okay.  The adrenaline and/or excitement carries me through.  But once the adrenaline wears off and the excitement fades away, then I have to take care of myself or the anxiety comes back.

At some point in the weeks before our move, and definitely in the weeks that followed, including during our time in Wisconsin, I decided to stop taking all of my supplements.  Initially, I was simply forgetting to take them, as my normal routine was so thrown off with the move.  And then I got sick not long after the move, so I didn’t take them while I was on antibiotics.  But, after that, I realized I had been off of everything (except my vitamins, but I wasn’t even taking those as regularly as before) for a while,  yet I was sleeping better than ever and my anxiety was pretty low.  So, I decided to stay off of them and see what happened.

I took my supplements along with me to Wisconsin, but I only used them once or twice.  I was really okay.  But now we’re back in our new home, the adreneline rush and excitement of the summer are pretty much over, and I’m having to fight the anxiety.

Re-reading the post I linked to at the beginning of this post reminded me that anxiety is my default.  That’s just how the Lord has seen fit to have me be.  Most people don’t see it, because when I’m around people, my adreneline rises, and then I’m fine.  (So perhaps I need to be around people most of the time! :))  But it’s hard when I’m on my own at home.

And I’m going to be on my own a lot this fall.  Lyd AND Jujubee are going off to school; Lyd is in second grade, and Jujubee is going to start morning 4 year old Kindergarten.  It breaks my heart that I’ll have no child at home; I’m not ready for that yet.  Technically, I could keep Jujubee home another year, but she is so ridiculously ready for Kindergarten that I can’t justify doing that.  So, I’m going to be home alone all morning with just boxes to empty and stuff to organize.

This, my dear readers, is a recipe for disaster unless I take precautionary measures.

A morning walk is going to become an absolute necessity.  Especially if I want to try to stay off my supplements and herbs.

(Why bother trying to stay off supplements and herbs, you ask?  Well, because I really would like to do it all on my own.  I’d like to try to get my body in balance the old-fashioned way: good food, exercise, enough sleep, and just a multi-vitamin.  But the other, equally valid reason is that there is likely no longer the money to do the supplements and herbs that I did do.  I want to try it on my own, and there’s no better time than now to do it.)

So, sleep, exercise, and three square meals a day with three nice snacks thrown in.  That’s what I’m going to need to do to see what happens.  If it doesn’t work, then we’ll figure something out so that I can feel okay.  But I hope, I truly hope and pray, that this works.

managing stress

We’re moving.  In about five weeks.  I haven’t started packing.  ACK!

Alright.  I may not have started packing, but I have been doing a lot of Other Things, necessary things.  That’s pretty much how I operate at vacation time, too.  I do all of the other necessary stuff first, and then I pack last.  I think that’s kind of how I’m operating now, too.

But, I sure have been thinking about moving a lot.  And just thinking about it is stressful.  And doing all of the Other Things is a bit stressful, too.

I have not been exercising at all.  Zilch.  Zero.  Nada.

However, blessedly, I am not having too much trouble with my anxiety.  (Thank you, God!)  There are two things to which I attribute this.

First of all, my homeopathic remedy really, really, amazingly works.  I unwittingly antidoted it a few weeks ago, and three days later, I had a fairly strong anxiety attack.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on, until I realized that I must have antidoted it.  I took a dose (one dose, tastes like sugar pellets, and that’s all I need), and haven’t had any problems since.  That carcionsin stuff works for me.  I am SO thankful for that.

Secondly, while I’m not seeing my acupuncturist regularly anymore, I still take herbs that he has prescribed.  I generally have low Kidney energies, and so he has me on herbs for that.  Furthermore, I take herbs to help me deal with the physical effects of stress.  As anyone who has ever dealt with any kind of stress knows, stress is physically tiring.  It wears you down.  These herbs that I take work to counter-balance the physical effects of stress, meaning that they help replenish the energy I’m losing due to stress.  They’re not “uppers,” and I don’t feel “high” when I take them.  In fact, I don’t notice anything about them except — I feel like myself.  I’m not struggling with fatigue and I’m not prone to getting sick.  (How many times have you or someone you know been under a lot of stress that resulted in getting more sick than usual?  Knock on wood, but I haven’t been sick once this winter.  That is highly unusual for me.)  These stress herbs have been an absolute god-send for me.  I can also change the amount that I take at any time.  I take it twice a day in powder form, and I can give myself as much as I feel I need.  A maximum dose is 3 scoops, and I usually do 1 or 2 scoops.  But, it helps SO much.

The herbs and homeopathy greatly help.  However, there’s no substitute for exercise.  Because I’m not exercising, I have noticed more aches and pains and “creaks” in my body.  My right knee often feels misaligned; my chiropractor puts it back into place when I see him, but it doesn’t like to stay in.  My lower back is often out of whack, too, sometimes painfully so.  I have a strong feeling that regular exercise would help with both of those things.

So, earlier this week I treated myself to a massage at my chiropractor’s office.  He has a wonderful masseuse there; I’ve had two short massages from her before, and they’ve been great.  This time, I treated myself to a 45 minute massage.  It was lovely!  Although, to be honest, some things she did hurt.  I was very relaxed and didn’t talk at all.  But as she worked on sore spots in my back, the logical part of my brain said to me, “This hurts!”  Of course, after you’ve had two natural childbirths, your pain scale is radically changed, so I was able to ignore it.  Besides, in a massage, you WANT the sore spots worked on – that’s the whole point!

And this afternoon, I decided to have an acupunture treatment.  It was nice to catch up with Eric, my acupuncturist, and update him on everything that had happened.  I was pleased to hear that my pulses were pretty strong and that I was actually in good shape from his perspective.  I know I need to exercise, but still, I was glad to hear that I’m doing quite well under the circumstances.

Best of all, I’m very proud of the fact that for the past 5 nights, maybe more (I’ve happily lost count!), I have been able to go to bed and fall asleep on my own without having to take any kind of natural sleep aid.  During the whole house-hunting process, I was very stressed out and couldn’t fall asleep on my own.  Ugh!  It was not easy.  However, the house has been found, and I’m becoming more at peace with the idea that THIS house is “it,” and I’m finally able to “lie down and sleep in peace.”  That is a blessing.

As the time to leave this place and move to our new home draws closer, I’m becoming more and more nostalgic.  I love it here, and I’m sad to leave.  But, I’m also looking forward to being at our new place and having this move behind us!  These next weeks of sorting, purging and packing (I will have to actually pack at some point) are going to be difficult, I know, but hopefully it will go well.  Thankfully, God has provided some natural aids to help me (and thereby helping my family) through this process.

pediatric acupuncture

Today I took Jujubee to her first “acupuncture” appointment.  She has been having problems with crud in her lungs for weeks now, although really it has been going on ever since she was born.  I decided to give chinese medicine a try for her.

Jujubee was very excited to go, but she was even more excited to get her own bottle of herbs!  I take chinese herbs twice daily, and she sometimes watches me as I take them.  She is very enthusiastic to watch me, and she likes to tell me what each step in the process is.  So, when I told her that she was going to get her own bottle of herbs, she was SO excited!

We arrived, and after a short wait, “Dr. E” (he isn’t really a doctor, but I had Jujubee call him that) came in.  We discussed J’s medical history for a while, and then he looked at her tongue and felt her pulses.

When he started the actual treatment part, he didn’t use needles; instead, he used a small pointed tool that he said was part of a Japanese-style treatment.  It wasn’t sharp, but it did have a point on it, along with a straight edge for scraping.  He used the scraping edge on J, gently scraping points on her back and legs, not to draw blood, but definitely to bring blood to those points (sort of like what happens when you scratch yourself – your skin gets red).  The points got nice and red, which is what he wanted.  J was a little annoyed by it, but she held still and was a very good patient.

At the end, we put her shirt back on and went into the main front area to get her herbs.  She was SO excited!  She was thrilled when he wrote her name on the bottle.

After leaving, we made a quick stop at the grocery store.  Jujubee asked me if she could take her herbs into the store with us (she had been holding onto them carefully the whole car ride home).  I told her that the herbs had to stay in the car so she wouldn’t lose them, and she was okay with that.  But when we got back to the car after finishing our shopping, she was delighted to see her herbs again!

When we came home, the moment of truth arrived; she had to actually take her herbs.  I put the required amount into a shotglass, added water, and then mixed it together with the end of a spoon.  When Jujubee had her first taste — well, it was a disappointment.  She made a face!  Oh, did she make a face!  And it was a bit of an ordeal to get her to finish the herbs.  But, finish them she did, with a small chaser of apple juice to help it go down.

Later on in the afternoon, when she had to take her second dose of herbs, the process went much faster.  It only took about a quarter of the time, and she didn’t need the apple juice chaser (which is good, because herbs work best on an empty stomach.)

Afterwards, she was still excited to tell people about her herbs, but when asked if they tasted yummy or yucky, she said, “Yucky!”  But she still seemed proud to have her own herbs.

In fact, tonight at bedtime prayers, as we each said one thing that we were thankful for or asked for, she said that she was thankful for her “kid herbs.”  Yucky or not, she’s still excited to have them.

Now, if they just do the trick and clear the crud out of her lungs, we will all be even happier!  Her coughing did seem to be a lot less today as well as a lot more productive when it did occur.  Hopefully she is finally – finally! – on the road to total recovery.

pneumonia again???

It seems that Jujubee has come down with pneumonia — again.  This makes three bouts of pneumonia in six weeks.  NOT GOOD.

Now, I don’t have a definitive diagnosis.  But it’s following the exact same pattern as the other two times have, so if it waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.  Or in Jujubee’s case, it’s pneumonia.

I’m feeling oh-so frustrated, because I don’t know what else to do!  I just emailed my naturopath in dismay, asking him what other options there are.  My homeopath and I are going to talk this morning, and while I know that homeopathy definitely has an effect on Jujubee, so far we haven’t found the right remedy.  While I believe in homeopathy, neither can I spend much more time waiting around to find the right remedy.  I need an answer.  I need a way to keep my little girl healthy and off of antibiotics.

Since her previous diagnosis of pneumonia, I took my homeopath’s advice (and KT’s advice) and finally had Jujubee begin drinking only raw milk.  Lyd and I started drinking it, too.  Lyd still gets regular milk at school, but at suppertime or sometimes at breakfast, she gets the raw milk.  (Jujubee loves to enthusiastically say, “I love to drink raw milk!”  It’s very cute.)  Raw milk is uber-expensive here in California, but at least I can get it at my local high-end grocery store, as compared to Wisconsin where it’s a crime.  That’s a blessing.  So far, I’ve noticed changes in all of our … well, digestive patterns, but not too much else.  Although I think I feel a little better.  We’ll see if it continues.

But beyond that, what else can I do to keep every cold that Jujubee catches from turning into pneumonia?  She came down with a cold Monday morning, probably catching it from one of the neighbor kids that she was playing with.  Monday she seemed merely like she had a cold.  But on Tuesday she gradually got worse the whole day long, coughing more and more, spiking a fever in the afternoon, becoming cranky and clingy and whiny — and looking just miserable.

Thankfully, I had a bit of her antibiotics left over from last time (she finished the prescription, but the pediatrician told me there would be some left over), so I started her on those last night.  This morning I’ll see how she’s doing; perhaps I can just email the doctor and she can send any needed prescriptions off to the local pharmacy without having to have an office visit.

A friend from church said on my Facebook status that perhaps moving to the drier climate of Sacramento will be helpful for Jujubee’s lungs.  I dearly hope so.  I’m running out of ideas.

——————–

By the way, JJ and I put in an offer on a house.  We’re hoping that something better still pops up on the market, but this one is the best of our options so far.  It’s a short sale, so now we wait for the lender to sign off on the sale.  It could be a quick process, or it could take a looong time.  We’ll see what happens.

walking to save my sanity

Please don’t think that I’m criticizing people who choose medications to deal with their anxiety and/or depression or other issues.  I’m not.  I do, however, feel that those drugs are prescribed too quickly.  We’re a society that loves to take a pill to solve our problems, and while modern medicine can do amazing things (it has kept my younger daughter alive more than once), it has drawbacks, too.  This is my story; yours may be different, and that’s okay.

——————-

When I was trying to get pregnant with my second child, I experienced a lot of anxiety.  After a miscarriage, I experienced depression, too.  (Probably some form of post-partum depression.  Did you know you can get PPD after a miscarriage?  You can.)

I was also recovering from over a year of perpetual foot problems at that time, problems that had culminated in my having foot surgery.  When I had the miscarriage and resulting anxiety and depression, I was post-surgery, but I still had to check in with my podiatrist on a regular basis.

I liked this doctor’s liberal/crunchy-yet-practical-down-to-earth personality a lot, and I felt very comfortable with him.  So, I shared with him the emotional turmoil in my life.  In response, he told me that he had been part of studies at UC Berkeley that were studing something with brains and SSRI-inhibiting medications (whatever the kinds that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds are), and he told me to be extremely cautious before starting those kinds of drugs.  He said that the longer a person uses those kind of drugs, the more the person’s brain changes to become dependent on them.  He said, “Use those drugs for a short while and as a last resort, only if necessary, but there’s a lot of other stuff you can try first.”

Then he said that a brisk walk for 45 minutes or so will gradually – and naturally – increase a person’s serotonin levels (or whatever chemical it is that is low when you’re depressed and/or anxious).  He said that most anti-depression and anti-anxiety meds take at least a month or so to make the proper chemical changes in your brain, but that over the same length of time, you can often cause those same chemical changes in your brain by adding mild exercise to your life.  Plus, the benefit of exercise is that your body makes the good chemicals in exactly the correct amounts and in exactly the right form, and you end up feeling physically better from the exercise.

So, I decided to give it a try.  Around our home are lots of nice quiet streets for walking, and there are varying degrees of hills.  I could choose the streets with more or less hill, and I pushed 3 year-old Lyd in her stroller to help work my body a little more.

Did I love it?  Oh, no!  I hated it.  There were many mornings I did NOT want to go outside.  Too cold, too damp, too tired, too unmotivated.  Or too sad.  Some mornings I didn’t go.  But there were still lots of mornings when I did.  As I pushed Lyd up a hill, sweating and panting and hating every moment, I would repeat to myself, “It’s this or Zoloft.  It’s this or Zoloft.”

And, over time, I did feel better.  The doctor was right.  And, blessedly, I never had to go on medication.

———————-

I’ve come to realize that anxiety problems will always be part of my life.  When I’m overtired, I get anxious.  When my blood sugar gets too low, I get anxious.  When big stressors come my way, I get anxious.  Some people over-eat in those situations, other people get an upset stomach or an ulcer or a headache or some other less-than-ideal response.  My default is to be anxious.  For me, it’s a physical response, not an emotional response.  (And not a spiritual response.  My Lutheran husband reminds me that my faith is not based on how I feel.)

Knowing those facts about my anxiety has been a huge comfort for me.  It’s still scary to feel anxious and to have my heart racing, but now I know, I KNOW that I’m going to be okay.  I know from experience.  I also have lots of little mental tricks and, if necessary, supplements that can help me.  Best of all, I have a husband who also knows that my default is to be anxious, so he doesn’t freak out about it, which helps me to not freak out about it either.  It’s easier now to view my anxiety in the same light as one would a headache or a backache: it’s a nuisance, and you need to change things up a little bit when it acts up, but it’s not a huge deal.

The stress of an upcoming move – and all that goes with it – and the situation in Japan (Must. Not. Read. or Watch. the News) has racheted up my anxiety recently.  I also know that my anxiety is not likely to completely go away anytime soon.  In all likelihood, it probably won’t calm down completely until we’re settled into our new home.

So, despite everything I have to do right now, I’ve started walking again.  Walking used to be a regular part of my life when I had a walking partner, but now that I’m on my own, it’s more of an effort for me to go.  However, I have to do it.  It’s this or else I’ll slip down into a big pit of anxiety.  I don’t want to do that to me or my family.

So, I’m walking.

I’m grateful to have a cheap method that works.  I hope I can continue it as long as necessary to see this anxiety through.

(And we’re looking for our new house to be within walking distance of our new church!  A built-in walk every day would be a blessing.)

echinacea doesn’t work?

A few weeks ago, this news story came out, saying that echinacea doesn’t help treat the common cold.

I heard about how the study was done and shook my head at the results.  Of course that’s the results the researchers got, because they did the study wrong!

Not too long later, I had the chance to test their “echinacea doesn’t work” theory on myself.  You might recall that I woke up on my birthday with a sore throat.  Immediately, I started taking Echinacea.  I have it in capsule form, so as soon as I thought I might be getting sick, I took two capsules.  After that, I took another capsule every 2 or 3 hours.  In the following days, I took fewer and fewer Echinacea capsules, and I think I didn’t take any more at all by day 5 of my cold.

What results did I notice?

My cold definitely took longer to get going, and when it did get going, it wasn’t as intense as my colds usually are.  I was stuck in the sore throat stage for two days, which was a bit of a pain, but when the cold finally progressed to the “stuffy nose and cough” stage, it was not nearly as bad as it usually is.  I definitely had a stuffy nose, but I’ve had worse, and my cough really wasn’t too much of a problem at all.  The Traditional Medicinals brand of “Throat Coat” tea was very helpful to me during my sore throat and also during my coughing stage.

Now, a week later, I’m at the very end of the cold.  I’ve still got a bit of a stuffy nose and once in a while I have a bit of a dry cough, but overall I’m much better.  I certainly feel like myself again.

In my opinion, Echinacea helps at the very beginning of a cold.  That’s when it works best to shorten the duration and intensity of the cold.

I’ve also found that it can be helpful to prevent a person from getting sick if you take it before you feel any signs of being sick but when you know you’re immune system has been comprimised.  For example, once I got sick, I started giving my girls Echinacea prophylactically.  Lyd was sick for one day (Christmas Eve), and Jujubee – thank you, Lord! – never got sick at all.  My husband also did not get sick, although in the two weeks before Christmas, there was more than one occasion where he took some Echinacea prophylactically as well because he was feeling a little off.

So, I’m convinced by my own experience that while Echinacea doesn’t cure the common cold, it certainly helps lessen its intensity!