The MTHFR Mutation and Me

I've been doing nothing but working on the Thumbprints website today and my eyes are starting to cross, so I'm going to take a break. (And do more typing on the laptop!) Besides, my hippie doctor just called to give me the results on my blood test last week and I have Things I Want To Share. 

Here is a very very tiny very brief history of how I've dealt with anxiety in my life (okay, maybe not that brief):

  • Fall 2001: Experience anxiety for the first time. Freak the you know what out. Wonder whether I should choose institutionalization, substance absuse, or exorcism. (All three of these were Actual Real Things I Considered, I Shit You Not.)
  • Spring 2002: Finally, on the advice of many many friends, haul myself to therapy. Therapist uses the word "anxiety". Is the very first time I've heard of it. OHHHHH. 
  • Summer 2002: All better!
  • Winter 2003: Nope! 
  • Winter 2004: Still nope!
  • 2005-2010: Therapy, books, deep breaths, prayer, exercise, more books, an almost unbearbly close examination of character flaws, near complete revamping of how I talk to myself in my head
  • Fall 2010: Things get bad. I finally ask a doctor for anti-depressants, because after the total insanity that was pregnant-with-Molly-me I promised Phillip that I would never put us through that again. 
  • Fall 2011: Take myself off drugs because 1) I'm nursing Emma and 2) I think I'm invincible
  • Spring 2012: Put myself back on drugs because 1) nursing Emma was a HUGE FAIL and 2) I am not invincible
  • Summer 2012: Summer 2013: WHY ISN'T THIS WORKING? 
  • Summer 2013: I tell all medical professionals everywhere to screw themselves, because I am pleasant and not at all overdramatic, and go see a naturopath. She is lovely. She puts me on a diet of supplements and acupuncture. My verdict is: silly, but at least more pleasant than what I was doing before.
  • Fall 2013: My naturopath says, "So! There's some newer research about the MTHFR mutation and depression and anxiety! I think you should get tested!" I test positive. She puts me on a new diet of giant methylfolate supplements and iron pills. Tells me to come back in January. 
  • April 2014: I finally go back. I feel... great. 

I stopped taking my lowish Pr0zac dose about three-ish weeks ago. I planned to taper, but I was too lazy to call for new prescription and I couldn't halve the capsules AND I happen to be very good friends with a pharmacist who told me Pr0zac has such a long half life it practically self-tapers. (And so far so good. No horror stories, please.) 

I want to address the fact that I was still on my anti-depressant while trying to deal with the MTHFR thing - maybe THAT'S why I've been feeling great. Except I don't think so, because I never felt 100% on the Pr0zac and I would often have "episodes" here and there, and getting more frequent. When my doctor put me on the methylfolate I was keeping a journal to track my anxious times and how they correlated with life events and hormones and other stuff I never remember. But I think the last time I wrote in that journal was early January. I feel much better than I did last fall, and I started to feel better in the WINTER (while I was starting a BUSINESS). It's not like I'm only starting to feel better now, when the days are longer and the sun is out more often. This has been the case for a while. 

I do feel generally better and I generally feel that it is generally attributable to maybe addressing the MTHFR issue. I've only noticed one concrete change, between last fall and now, but it's a big one: when I DO feel anxious, it doesn't last long. I actually had one day where I went from Fine to WACKED OUT ANXIOUS to Totally Fine in less than 24 hours. That is... well, let's just say that my anxious episode in 2003 lasted well over a year. 

My THEORY, for now, based on my own personal experience and no one else's, is that I happen to be Inclined Towards Anxiety. Biologically, genetically, emotionally, my personality - it is not a huge surprise to me that I am an Anxious Sort. I didn't start taking medicine until I felt I'd exhausted my own capabilities for managing it myself. Do I recommend this for other people? NO. THIS IS STUPID. But I am stubborn and determined and it made sense to me at the time and there WERE benefits. Because I did it that way, I really do feel confident that I did pretty much everything I could possibly do to take care of this - and it didn't work. It HELPED - it helped immensely - but I was still anxious. And that's the place I found myself in last fall, where I needed an extra something and Pr0zac was clearly not it. 

The last part of my theory is that the MTHFR mutation is my missing piece. It's the thing I couldn't control. It's the part I couldn't change or self-talk-out-of or scrub away. The jury is still out - you guys, I am SO not saying that THIS IS THE THING - but it DOES make sense to me. The way I would get anxious out of thin air. For no reason. This could be the reason. 

So there's a couple things I want to say about that. The first is that I haven't done as much reading on MTHFR as I'd like. The most I knew about it was through blog posts on infertility and miscarriage - it's strongly linked to miscarriage. And about the same time I found out I tested positive I was also diving headfirst into starting an online bakery, and that takes up most of my free time these days. I did read a handful of articles and many blog posts written by mothers of struggling children, wondering if an MTHFR mutation had to do with their issues. MTHFR has been linked to everything from miscarriage to autism to pulmonary embolisms to fibromyalgia. I don't know what is a reputable source of information and what isn't. DO NOT USE MY BLOG FOR RESEARCH! I KNOW NOTHING!

The other thing I want to say is: until I went to a naturopath, possible biological reasons for or causes of anxiety were never discussed with me in a medical setting. (Oh wait, that's not true. They all wanted to test my thyroid and my thyroid always tests fine. I will give them the thyroid test.) My general experience with sharing my anxiety struggles with medical professionals was genuine sympathy followed by "well, this drug seems to work well for my other patients". I have now read articles about simple blood tests that could help a doctor decide WHICH SSRI or other anxiety-battling drug to put you on, rather than just going on what worked for the last person. But no one brought up trying to figure that out either. Doctors wanted to give me a prescription and make sure I was "seeing somebody" (you know, for that other stuff, like a therapist), but as far as choosing what to give me, in retrospect it honestly does seem to me that they just plucked one off the shelf. 

But that's what they tell you, anyway. "Oh, they're all a little different, and you just have to experiment and see which ones work for you." And since all those SSRIs say they can take 4-6 weeks (or longer) to show any effect (and who knows how long to taper off) you're just sentenced to a year or more of "experimentation". I no longer want to see a doctor who prescribes brain meds that way. 

Which will be difficult, since I went to see an Actual Brain Doctor and, although I believe he was incredibly well-intentioned and knowledgeable, he was the worst of the bunch. Beyond grilling me on every conceivable symptom (and disagreeing with me about when and how I experience those symptoms), I was not included in my own care. My own "evidence" was the least crucial in the pile of evidence he used to choose my drugs. 

So I am writing this because... well, because I write terribly personal things on my blog that probably embarrass my parents. (SORRY.) And because when I was lost in very dark anxious places, other people writing about their dark anxious places on the internet was often a rope I could grab to swing myself to another place. And also because I am trying something different and I want to say that it's POSSIBLE to try something different and it's POSSIBLE to find a healthcare provider who takes your evidence into account. No, I do not at ALL believe that we should all be taking giant methylfolate horse pills or seeing naturopaths or anything like that. I DO NOT THINK THAT. Pr0zac is a wonderful thing! Psychiatrists do good work! Doctors want to help! This is just a small story of trying something different, someone coming up with an alternate theory, and results that are 'so far so good'. I hope that is positive or helpful for someone. 


Tomorrow morning Katie and I have a meeting with a real live coffee shop owner, the sort of coffee shop that bakes all its own treats. I think it's a family business, it seems to be successful, and they have a great space that I've visited many times. I have every reason to be nervous about this meeting and I HAVE been nervous in the two weeks we've been trying to schedule it, but right now I'm not. I think I should just happily accept that fact and move on. 

If I'm not sure I'm going to ace something, I usually won't want to do it. Which is why I still wonder how I got so far into this little bakery project. Me? I have made self-deprecating jokes about my English major, not-profit-oriented, SAHMness for so long now that even I can't quite wrap my brain around the fact that I am sitting here with calculators and bookkeeping software, editing photos of muffins, and looking up websites for other local bakeries to see what the competition does. I'm talking to people I don't know about things I know almost nothing about. I left a stack of business cards in a hair salon last night. I'm psyching myself up for the day I carry a bunch of cookies around to local coffee shops and try to get them to stock our stuff. WHO AM I?

Today I decided that this is yet another thing I can blame on anxiety. HOW CONVENIENT. For ten years, TEN, between the ages of 22 and 32, I developed this whole narrative for myself. That I was an un-ambitious, un-goal-oriented, not particularly interested in challenges sort of person. AND THAT WAS OKAY! I spent lots of energy telling myself that this was okay. At the time I think a lot of it was even true. My struggles with anxiety had so beaten me down and exhausted me that I didn't have a lot left over for big ideas. At the time I was just so happy to be married to Phillip, living in our little apartment, hanging out with our friends in the evenings, thinking about maybe buying a townhouse, maybe having a baby one day. Really calm simple things that everyone else was doing. I was HAPPY. I really was. I was extremely horribly anxious, but I quite liked my life. One day I would feel better and everything else would get that much better. 

I am SO much better. I am not CURED or FIXED or anything like that, but I am SO SO SO much better and I'm different now. Even if I didn't have the anxiety stuff, I'd be different now. Older, I have kids, I have more confidence, I just LIKE myself more - and that makes a difference. And maybe I wasn't ambitious or goal-oriented when I was 24 and just trying to fall asleep at night, but I am now. Maybe I've always been and it was 24 that was the anomaly. I'm just feeling like I need to tell myself to throw out that narrative. It's no longer working for me. Stop being surprised at yourself, Self. 

I still don't want a Career. I don't want to wear suits and work in an office. I don't want to find childcare for Emma. I don't want a boss. I don't want to work for a product or a company or a cause. Phillip recently went to something at his job that I can only describe as a pep rally. Some sort of huge morale-building event where everyone got t-shirts and listened to the CEO and patted themselves on the back and he is SO HAPPY there, but OH GOD that just sounds awful to me. (For the zillionth time: thank you Jesus that someone in this family wants to earn a paycheck.)

But I so very much want to DO stuff. I want to accomplish things. I want to improve or add or start or SOMETHING. The bakery stuff is a challenge and I'm realizing how much I like having a challenge. And it's a challenge that's FUN and revolves around things I love (my sister, chocolate) and it just seems CRAZY. Like, how far can we go with this? What's possible? What could we DO?! 

I love thinking about that!

I also know that I don't want to do this forever. This is not the Thing I Want To Be or my chosen career or whatever. I don't know where it will go or how long I'll be with it, but at some point there will be other things. I feel pretty sure of this. I feel like maybe I am learning and practicing on the bakery for the next thing. This could go nowhere and I already feel like I've gained a lot of experience. Or it could go totally far and one day I'll have to tell Katie she needs to find someone else to tie ribbons around her macarons because I have to go... I don't know. Start a retreat center or something. Learn to build furniture. Ghostwrite my father-in-law's memoirs. Starting this business has only made me more excited for all the other cool stuff I'm going to do. (I KNOW. AM CRAZY.)

Or maybe the bakery stuff takes us into the church coffee shop stuff and that takes us into something else and then something else and then oh look, I've become a fashion designer!


There are so many good changes in me, because of anxiety. Truly. Which isn't to say I'm glad I deal with it (NO) or that it's been good for me (HECK NO), but I've always been able to appreciate the ways it's made me a better person. I think I'm realizing now that there were/are bad things too. I turned caution and fatigue and fear into character traits, thinking I was happy not to try, not to start or improve or grow or add. I'm trying to shake that off now. Things are different. I think I shall end this post before I start singing a Katy Perry song. 

Reasons for the elevated blood alcohol levels

Here is where I tell you I've been VERY ANXIOUS the last week or so. (Of course, if you follow me on Twitter, and why wouldn't you, you would know this already, along with every other mundane yet absolutely critical piece of Mighty Maggie Trivia.)

And each day I do triage on myself. What time of the month is it? Did I drink coffee or eat a bunch of dark chocolate? I go through my old list of triggers. I think about what's happening with Phillip's job and what I have on the calendar. And the only thing that really makes sense to me, this time around, as an anxiety cause, is the very-important-to-us macaron tasting we did last night. 

Now, when I actually zeroed in on the tasting (and, in fact, everything else about the bakery business I have going on right now) I did not feel MORE anxious. I did not get a sense of "OH THAT'S IT." I did not get a twinge or a nervous tummy or tenser muscles or anything that would signal to me that yes, this is The Reason. 

But it's pretty much all I was thinking about the last few days. I was VERY EXCITED. I was very busy doing my end of the prep. And I have always been someone who Anticipates at the highest level. So. This only adds more evidence to My Body Responds to Stress (Even Happy Excited Motivated Purposeful Stress) With Anxiety theory. 

We did the tasting last night - five different flavors of macarons for two women who are throwing a big baby shower - and it couldn't have gone better. Seriously. I feel like I can brag about it because I am not the person who made the cookies. I AM SO PROUD OF MY SISTER. And our tasters were, like, the sort of people you want on your personal cheerleading team. Their mmms and ohhhs and "This one is SO GOOD" and "Wait, THIS ONE is SO GOOD" was the gold luster dust on my Cake of Affirmation. They loved everything while having definite opinions. We spent a full ten minutes discussing different shades of pink, you guys. Was I maybe BORN to help people decide if the rectangular or fancy cut tag is the best one? 

They put in an order, which I suspected they would, but it wasn't SURE or anything, AND it was for more than we expected AND they had a brilliant idea for how to showcase our name and I am just one big happy dancey DORK. 

And still anxious! OF COURSE. 

I am hopeful now that the tasting is over this will dissipate, as it usually does, and I can go back to my regular level of wackadoo. But two things:

1. I've been keeping an "anxiety journal" since November, mainly to help me see if my new med regimen is helping. I hadn't written in it for weeks. WEEKS. I was so hopeful that the supplements I'm taking to deal with the MTHFR thing were making a difference. But right now I basically feel like I'm taking nothing. 

2. Hopefully (certainly!) this is not the last tasting we will do. 

About the first thing... I don't know. If this is as bad as it gets I'll be fine. It's when I start to despair and worry and freak and do the circular thinking thing, that's when I need help. I don't LIKE this, but I can manage it. I do have one tiny hope in that the quality of the anxiety I feel and how long it lasts seems to be different since I started taking the methylfolate. Good, right? 

And I just refuse to have an issue with the second thing. There was a year where I COULDN'T move forward with my life because I was using every ounce of energy to battle anxiety. And there have been a few years where it's been better for me to make strategic decisions about what I can do and what I can't. 

This is not one of those times. This year feels so different. I feel like this year I say, "Screw you, brain chemistry, you are not getting a say on this one."

I guess I just drink more? (KIDDING!) 

A million unintentional words on anxiety

I've had a nasty cough for over a week and today I added sneezes and chills and a sore throat and dependency on Kleenex to the mix. You'd think that with the nine frillion supplements I take there's no way I could possibly be sick, but here I am, infecting everything in a ten foot radius. 

Speaking of supplements, I was kind of thinking I would tell you guys what I'm doing and why, just in case anyone else out there is interested in trying this route. 

The "holiday project", as my naturopath put it, is to be consistent taking my pills (I am... bad at this) and then testing me in January to see what's what. In addition to the lowered dose of my SSRI, I'm on iron, probiotics, and two kinds of methylfolate. Even though I've read heaps of research now on MTHFR mutations and what happens when you have one, I can't explain or describe it. All I can authoritatively say is that because of this mutation, something in my brain does not process correctly, and my body makes 30% of a particular chemical compared to a person without the mutation. (Okay, even that I'm not sure I repeated correctly.) ANYWAY, this particular chemical has been shown to affect several different things, one of them being depression and its flip side, anxiety. That's what the methylfolate is for - to even this out and build me up.

The iron is because I am Practically Anemic and I've HEARD that this makes your body function rather poorly, perhaps contributing to things like wanting to nap every afternoon and never feeling rested and not having any energy for things like exercise... the problem is iron is finicky and you have to take it a certain way otherwise you get stomachaches and you shouldn't take it with dairy because calcium blah blah blah and TOO MUCH WORK. However. I have recently been convicted that I will feel much much MUCH BETTER if I get my iron levels up.  (I already feel better. Shut up.) 

The probiotics are because... okay, don't laugh. But a study recently came out where the gut flora of aggressive mice was replaced with different flora and the mice, uh, got less aggressive. Chilled out, if you will. The gut, if you did not know, has a lot to do with anxiety (even according to my Obnoxious Brain Doctor!) and my current hippie doctor was like, "Well, we could TRY it?" 

I stopped with the acupuncture -  it didn't seem to have any affect on me. I mean, I enjoyed my half hour in the quiet darkness, but I never felt one way or another after a treatment. 

In terms of other changes/effects since I started this naturopath stuff - I can't imagine going back to a regular doctor after seeing a naturopath. This last visit when I was feeling so terrible, so discouraged and angry and down and apathetic, she WANTED to hear about it, she encouraged me to say exactly what I was feeling and thinking, and when she responded I felt like she actually listened to what I said. One of the supplements she gave me is to take "as needed", whenever I start to feel anxious. It's hard to restate what she said here, but basically she agrees with me that once my body is anxious, it stays anxious. Like it forgets there are other ways to be. And that's what that supplement is for, to say "Hey, we don't have to go there," and maybe my body will learn. I know that sounds weird, but it makes SO MUCH SENSE to me and I was SO GRATEFUL that she accepted and understood MY evidence. 

(Note: the supplement doesn't make anything go away, but most of the time I DO feel slightly better, like maybe the edge is off and it's easier to fight the battle.)

(Also, I am fully aware that you do not see a doctor to talk about your feelings. If it turns out all this hippie supplement stuff does nothing, then I will grudgingly return to the brain doctors - just a different one this time.)

Another thing - I do this all the time I guess, but even more so right now I'm kind of processing all the years I've been dealing with this. I'm just realizing how much I believed it was my fault. I had brought this crazy on myself. I am gracious to myself with this part, because it wasn't until the last couple years that I began to mainly experience anxiety outside of any emotional triggers or reasons I'd defined as anxiety-causing. As a purely biological thing. The part I'm struggling with is how much I believed that my failure to get better was my own fault. For many years I refused any kind of medicine because this was about FEELINGS, right? So I was just going to work super hard on changing the way I feel. And I did! But constant examination of character did not make anxiety go away. A better prayer life did not make anxiety go away. Rehashing my entire sophomore year of high school in therapy did not make anxiety go away. Growing up and getting smarter did not make anxiety go away. All of these things helped, but nothing made it disappear. It always came back. 

So now I can look back and think, yeah, you WERE messed up, but you were also in your early twenties when stuff like this, if it's going to happen, tends to happen. You didn't know what to do. You didn't know what it WAS. Current Me is okay with Past Me for being bonkers during this time. 

But MAN do I wish I'd been easier on myself during the time when it was improving, but still THERE. Like I hadn't worked hard enough. I hadn't learned enough or done enough or changed enough. I wasn't a good enough person. I hadn't figured out how to forgive myself for ancient transgressions and if only I could do THAT. I hadn't grown a thicker skin and if I could only do THAT. I hadn't come to a place where I wasn't bothered by certain things and if I could only get THERE. 

Except... this is part of me. I mean, if all the research I've read is correct, or even if it's not and all the stuff about why SSRIs work is the real deal, then there is not one thing I can improve, not one way I can grow, not one way I can be closer to God, not one way I can be a better person to make sure certain things don't trigger anxiety. If I could do that? If I could totally conquer my triggers? The last two years have shown that I would experience anxiety anyway. Because that's the way my body behaves and reacts and there's science out there to back me up, not to mention thousands of people dealing with the same thing. 

It's a relief, it's maddening, and it's tragic when I think about how hard I've been on myself. 

And I wouldn't say I fully KNOW or accept it now. It still doesn't make sense to me. I get that when I'm dehydrated I get a wicked headache. I don't get that when a process in my brain isn't working correctly I feel scared. I feel like I should be able to control FEELINGS. Feelings are how I experience EVERYTHING. I'm NOT a logical thinky rational decision maker. I'm a gut instinct person, a touchy feely person, a totally obnoxious person who says things like, "I sense that..." I access everything through my feelings, and when my feelings betray me I don't understand ANYTHING. 

Ugh. I actually meant to write about the bakery tonight, believe it or not. Hello digression!

I am doing WELL right now. Except for the lingering cold. I am doing WELL. Very very busy and a little nuts, but WELL. I am saying the Christmas novena. I feel God present in my day to day. The amount of haranguing myself because of my size has decreased. I don't even hate my super grown out hair. This isn't a processing-my-sads post. 

I wonder if this is all a result of gradually getting older and learning myself better. In which case I welcome and excitedly look forward to the future. 

If I'd known I'd still be trying to figure this out 12 years later...

Stressful things are happening in Mightyland, but the only one I can really share with you right now is the fact that I can't find a Christmas party dress. Wait. Let me be more specific. I can't find a Christmas party dress that wouldn't require me to spend a seriously obscene amount of money. I am not against spending obscene amounts of money, as a rule, but even I am not frivolous enough to spend a mortgage payment on a dress I will wear IN MY HOUSE for four-ish hours. So. The retailers are going to have to step up, is what I'm saying. 

Another stressful talk-able thing is how I was already sort of tense Friday night when Phillip went out with friends, and then I went on to read a Disturbing Murder Mystery while alone in my dark quiet house and THEN, even more stupid, curled up in bed reading the news on my phone and GAHHHH THE WORLD IS A SCARY PLACE. I was kind of a nut case when Phillip got home and I was still a nutcase on Saturday. In a fit of needing distraction I took myself to Target and threw things in my cart willy nilly (not a mortgage payment's worth, AND I had lots of coupons, so there) and how you know I was not in my right mind is the fact that I bought a blazer. 

Can we discuss blazers? And how everyone looks great in them except for me? And I didn't buy just any blazer, I bought the one hanging next to the sequinned black t-shirt (which I also bought), the WHITE tuxedo-ish blazer with the black lapels. THAT blazer. It looked awesome on the hanger? I would like to be the sort of person who WEARS a white tuxedo-ish blazer with black lapels?

I don't know. Pinterest really loves blazers and they're on all the Must Have Essentials lists, but eh. I don't think they're for me. I'll take a drapey slouchy formless blanket of a cardigan over a structured blazer any day. It's going back to Target. (Same with the sequin t-shirt. Turns out I have no need for a sequinned t-shirt. Sad, huh?)

But yeah, it was kind of a hard weekend for me, anxiety-wise. Even though I am taking something like 94 capsules of God knows what every day. But also DIFFERENT. I shall attempt to explain. 

So USUALLY how it goes is a) I get anxious out of thin air or b) something completely irrational triggers a Thing and if I am already prone to anxiety (ie: hormonal!) then BOOM everything goes kaput. And it usually takes a few days for things to sort itself out. (It used to be months. So! Improvement!) So like, even if I am OVER the thing and I am not obsessing or focusing or dwelling or circular-thinking about ANYTHING, I will still feel anxious. I call that Residual Anxiety. It's like my body just has to get it out of its system and/or relearn Normal Person Reactions again. This has been the case for me for years, it's the best way I can think of to explain it, it seems logical to me, but I have no idea what my condescending brain doctor would think of my little theory. So note, Internet: NOT A DOCTOR. 

This weekend was a Thing. I guess it's good that it wasn't a TRIGGER thing. Those are worse (see: always irrational!) But there was Stress and I think I was already in the Anxious Place and then I upset myself with upsetting things and there you go. Not smart, Me! 

BUT. Saturday I woke up feeling mostly okay, but got progressively crazier and tenser through the day. My trip to Target actually helped a lot. I don't know if it was getting out of the house or being around people or being In The World or spending money willy nilly or what, but I did feel a lot better afterwards. And then I kept... feeling better. By Saturday night I felt FINE. 

AND THAT IS DIFFERENT. AND SUPER WEIRD. I do not get better that fast. I do not run the gamut of anxiety and no anxiety in one single day. Ever. 

Today I woke up totally fine. I had moments of anxiety all day long and I don't feel totally normal, but I feel pretty good right now. A long ways away from the NOT THIS AGAIN I CAN'T STAND IT rage that compelled me to buy a BLAZER.

But I don't know if that's good, bad, truly different, a result of my new hippie medicine regime or WHAT. After finding out I had the gene mutation my naturopath put me on two different kinds of methyl supplements, in addition to my SSRI (and the iron, which I am always forgetting to take, sigh.) I take these things several times a day. Are they actually doing something?

If they are, is it something good? I was VERY ANXIOUS Friday night and Saturday day. I wanted to break out sobbing in the Target dollar section because GOD THIS SUCKS! But then I felt better VERY QUICKLY. And a day later I am not ALL better, but I am MUCH better than I would expect. Does that mean ANYTHING? It could mean something or it could mean nothing. 

I just don't know. Saturday I thought: why am I doing this? Why am I not on the highest dose of this evidence-based everyone-agrees-about-it SSRI? Who cares if you suspect it's the reason you can't lose any weight? Who cares if you don't really want to be on brain meds for the rest of your life? Who cares if you think there's actually something to this methyl supplement idea? STOP BEING AN IDIOT FTLOG. 

So... ? That's kind of where I am with that. I'm supposed to make a follow up appointment this week. I think I would rather eat a bowl of cilantro. 

(Cilantro is the devil's weed.)

And so I sit here and browse the internet for pretty dresses. I'm supposed to be editing my last ten recipes and labels (only 10!) but I'm feeling entitled and resentful and confused and maybe a crazy blazer of a dress might make me feel better.

Happy Halloween, MTHFR!

At my every two weeks-ish acupuncture appointment this morning my hippie doctor gave me the news: I do indeed have the MTHFR mutation. There are several variations, actually, and I happen to have the one that is most well-known for being linked to miscarriage. 

"But all your pregnancies were fine?"



That book I read a while ago, the one that I decided gave me my own hippie doctor certification (Nutrient Power) had a lot to say about the MTHFR gene mutation or, rather, what happens when something like the mutation messes with your brain. So I don't feel TOTALLY in the dark about what it means anxiety-wise. The treatment, if you can call it that (why not?) is taking something called methylfolate. Which is different from folic acid. Apparently my body doesn't know what to do with folic acid. But I have 30% of what's normal for methylfolate (or whatever methylfolate produces? maybe I am not yet a hippie doctor.) and if I start taking that, it's possible I might see a big difference. 

A big difference in what, I asked. 

Energy? Mood? Feelings of anxiety? According to Hippie Doctor, some people start feeling great immediately. Some people take months. Some people... not so sure. She admitted it's a huge experiment. But you know, so are SSRIs.

I don't feel one way or the other about finding this out. Part of me thinks it might be nice to find The Thing That Is Wrong. Part of me doesn't believe that thing will ever be found, or if it's even one thing, or that even if it's found it can be fixed. Even though it seems purely chemical NOW, there's no way I would have said that ten years ago. Can it change? What IS it?

Phillip gave a presentation at the NDCF alumni event we went to two weekends ago and he was super nervous about it. "THAT," I said. "That's what it feels like. Just without the REASON."

I wasn't trying to be obnoxious or win the Pain Olympics or anything like that, I'm just always trying to find a way to DESCRIBE it.

So I'm going to start taking this methylfolate, slowly, and if that goes well in a week I add in another supercharged supplement thingie, and my pharmacist friend will scrunch up her nose at me and everyone on the internet will think, "As long as you don't go off your REAL meds" but... that's kind of the goal. Is there something that works that isn't an SSRI? (Which, honestly, doesn't work all that great for me anyway?)

I don't think acupuncture has worked any miracles for me, but I do love and trust my hippie doctor and she's the one making sure I don't go off the real meds. Yet. I like that she has new ideas. I like that she takes my evidence into account. I like how she connects headaches and hormones and fatigue. It doesn't NOT make sense, you know? 

We're taking the kids to a friend's neighborhood tonight for trick or treating. It's been described as "the Candy Cane Lane of Halloween." It sounded good yesterday but today I feel tired (always tired) and not excited and not into it. It's sad, because I LOVE being into it. And I also feel like we're cheating on our neighborhood, and maybe disappointing our one set of nice neighbors for whom our kids are probably their only trick or treaters. Is this a dumb thing to be sad about it? IS THIS HORMONES AGAIN?

Jack is a ninja. Molly is a "pixie fairy". Emma is a cow. I will GET excited, if only because this will be the evening EJ discovers the total crazypants amazingness that is trick or treating and I am going to enjoy watching it. I am also hoping my kids are not yet at the age where they notice that I am stealing all their good candy when they go to bed. 

Hope you're having a chocolatey evening yourself. 

Brain chemistry update

I just called my mom to ask her a couple things and she said, "ARE YOU FEELING BETTER?" and I said yes, and then I thought I ought to tell you too. I am feeling better. I have decided to assign this particular "episode" to hormones, even though my old brain doctor told me that hormones should really have nothing to do with my diagnosis. Or whatever. Well. You know what I think about my old brain doctor. 

I am feeling better, but I don't want to SAY I'm better because two minutes from now I could go all wacko again and THEN what would I say? 

I had a long day with the kids. Good, but long, and Phillip was late and I have a headache. All things that are better than anxiety, btw. 

I bought some expensive-but-worth-it volumizer for my hair and expensive-but-the-internet-says-it's-worth-it mascara. Retail therapy is temporary, but that little patch of temporary feels so good. 

I lusted after a dress I won't buy because it's $228. I wondered why I am so drawn to short shapeless dresses that belong on tall skinny girls with long legs when I am... well, let's say I do better with structure and cleavage. But oh, part of me just always wants to look like Megan Draper with her cigarette pants and cat eyeliner and nude lips. 

I did not think about the bakery at all. 

I had a nice chat with Jackson's teacher. In the midst of processing a Parenting Neurosis the other day I happened to email his teacher to see if we could meet and ohhhh I felt like a dummy today, now that I am Over my Parenting Neurosis and well aware that now I look like Overreactive Psycho Mom. 

I have a hard time talking to my kids' teachers. I want to say, "You don't have to talk to me like you talk to the other parents. Tell me how it really is. I SPEAK TEACHER." But I don't say that, because that DOES make me sound like Psycho Mom, and then I'm left wondering if I got the sanitized parent version of the story or what. Not that it matters. It doesn't matter. I don't know why I think it does. 

I think it's a Three thing. My attempts to play the part of all the teachers' favorite parent. (It used to be the part of the teachers' favorite student.)

I capitalize so many words. I know this. It's an affectation that's turned into, I don't know, how I write here, I guess. It's how the words look in my brain. And it's from reading the Bagthorpe books when I was a kid. Anyone else read those? I often think about the Strings to Rosie's Bow.

All right, this is clearly going off the rails. Thanks for all the kind comments and tweets and emails and offers of extra Xanax. I appreciate every word. 



I am super duper Mad At Everything right now and I've decided I'm just going to GET IT OUT and then pour myself a giant glass of wine and watch Homeland with Phillip. Which will probably just make me more mad because is it me or does Homeland suck this season? 

Okay, so, after two-ish months of hippie doctor acupuncture, lowered SSRI dose, iron, and vitamin B, I thought I was doing pretty well. And in fact, the last two or three weeks I was doing REALLY well. So well that last night, when I was thinking about my doctor appointment this morning, I was excited to tell her HOW well I'm doing. How this was the first Blathering where I never got anxious. How I am starting a new business. How GREAT everything is! I haven't even broken out the happy light yet! 

Until just a few minutes after those thoughts, when Hard Core Stage Fright suddenly flooded my body and I thought, "WTF?" 

Because apparently that's how it is for me now. I had my years of Major Messed UpNess and the requisite therapy and life changes and better habits and building of character. I was still anxious, but less so, and in a seemingly more predictable way? Then I started having kids. It got bad again. I went on drugs because DUDE, anxiety is a whole 'nother rodeo when you're responsible for small children. And those drugs were great, but I went off because I think I'm All That and WHOA BAD DECISION. The old drugs don't work anymore. The new drugs don't work as well AND they make it nigh impossible for me to lose any cookie pounds I happen to put on. AND NOW NOTHING IS WORKING AGAIN AND I AM MAD MAD MAD. 

Okay, so it's only been one day and it's likely this will dissipate and blah blah blah, but right now I'm going to be furious. I don't get furious very often. I feel like I'm allowed. I am SO ANGRY about this. I feel like I have done EVERYTHING. I have tried EVERYTHING. I have worked SO HARD. And nothing helps. It's always going to be there, floating around in my brain, waiting until I've had a great month and a huge new project to pounce and dance around on my shoulder blade muscles and laugh at all of my big ideas. 

This is not stress from bakery stuff. This is not stress from raising kids. This is not stress from anything else going on. I know what it's like to be stressed out and overwhelmed. I also know what it's like to be irrationally tense and fearful, to have all the physical symptoms of stage fright WITHOUT A FREAKING STAGE. When I tell friends how I'm doing I have to differentiate between Normal Person Anxious and Crazy Anxious. Two different things. And right now I'm dealing with the crazy kind. 

I've been feeling really bad about myself for gaining two sizes in one year. Pretty much everyone I mention this to says, "I haven't noticed at all!" But I'm pretty sure they're lying. (Not saying I don't appreciate the lies. I do.) But the last couple days I've been telling myself, "Self? NO ONE CARES. No one cares! Not even your husband cares! He married you when you were even bigger! NO ONE CARES EXCEPT YOU. AND YOU ARE BEING RIDICULOUS. Get over it! Stop believing the lie that you are only lovable if you are thin and/or desperately trying to attain thinness! God does not give a rip about your pants size!" 

But does God care about how I am shaky when I have nothing to be shaky about? That I lie awake in bed taking deep breaths that do nothing? Does he care how hard it is to concentrate on anything else when I'm anxious? How EXHAUSTING it is to fight the 24/7 mental battle? I mean, what else am I supposed to do? I guess I could go back to the regular doctor and subject myself to the Drug Experimentation Phase again. I could go back to therapy (to talk about what?) (How mad I am?) (Gah.) 

My hippie dr, whom I adore, drew blood today to test me for the MTHFR mutation. There's a special combination of folates and vitamin B if that proves to be a thing for me. That book I read recently offered a whole slew of potential avenues for treatment. Acupuncture is nice, although I'm not sure if that's because I'm in a dark quiet room for half an hour or if the needles actually help. 


*deep breath*

Okay. I know that it's been 24 hours of anxiety and I have dealt with YEARS of anxiety. I am not such a weakling as this post makes me out to be. I can suck it up. Also, I am not REALLY angry. I am... worn out and frustrated and feeling very WHY ME. Which I've decided to indulge tonight. I'll go back to being a grown up tomorrow. I am very grateful that I have this place to go WACKO and write all the curse words (and then delete them because this is a family website) THANK YOU AND THE END

Brain science

The last few days I've been reading a lot about brain chemistry and genes and biomedical therapy and pyschiatric medications and I am feeling FRUSTRATED. And a little bit angry and a little bit confused and I want to demand an interview with God. "REALLY? THIS IS HOW IT WORKS? REALLY!?!?!"

It started a few days ago when I went for my fourth acupuncture appointment. I haven't noticed an overall effect of acupuncture, but I quite enjoy that very dark and peaceful half hour when it's just me and the needles all by our lonesome. My hippie doctor always wants to know what's up with me before she starts sticking me, but this time she had some news. She'd been reading some new information about MTHFR gene mutations and what she read made me think of me. At my first appointment I'd said something like, "At this point it just seems like something is OFF. Like something in my brain is disconnected." Anyway, did you know that there's an MTHFR mutation linked to anxiety? (And depression and ADHD and all sorts of other things, sheesh.) 

Because I have been on the internet a very long time I am familiar with the MTHFR acronym and how it relates to miscarriage. But I'd never heard of it affecting anything else and when I got home one simple Google search immersed me in a wealth of information. Crazy stuff, but stuff that seemed to make SENSE. 

And THEN you guys, i bought a book. Oh dear. 

It was recommended at the end of a most informative blog post and now I am... Well, I am lots of things. First off, I am fascinated. I've had to skip pages full of chemical equations and words that don't appear to be English, but I get the CONCEPT. The thesis is: pyschiatric drugs have taken us a long way, but there's a lot of new science pointing to nutrient deficiences (and overloads) in the brain. If we can pinpoint what a person's particular chemistry is (through blood and urine tests), we can correct the specific imbalances with natural supplements. He takes pains to say that you can't fix mental illness by throwing a bunch of vitamins at someone. You have to really figure out what's going on with that individual, and then a lot of times it makes the most sense to supplement in tandem with SSRIs or whatever other drugs. But lessening major side effects and BEING MORE EFFECTIVE - these are the benefits. I won't even attempt to explain the whys and hows, only that if you are even slightly interested in mental illness, this might be worth reading. 

Then I am ANGRY. Frustrated. I don't have a lot of experience seeking treatment from the Medical Establishment, but what experience I do have isn't all that great. The way it usually goes, as far as I can tell, is someone is suffering from anxiety or depression or OCD or whatever else, and the doctor seems to go, "Well, most of my patients seem to do well on X Drug, so let's try that first." EXCEPT. If this book is to be believed, there are SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO to decrease the whole experimentation phase of treatment. Finding out if a person is over or undermethylated (don't ask me what that means) or if they have overloads or deficiences of certain nutrients - that information could go a looooong way in helping a medical professional choose a treatment, even which SSRI to use. WHY DON'T THE DOCTORS DO THIS?! For some people with a certain brain chemistry profile, SSRIs can be WORSE! 

As you know, I am an English major SAHM who writes on the internet. I have no business spouting my opinions about how doctors prescribe psychiatric medication. Except, whatever, what the book is saying totally makes sense to me and fits with my own experience. I feel like it's all very "let's throw something at you and see what sticks". Even with the pyschiatrist. It's just frustrating. 

The book also goes into depth on different conditions - schizophrenia, autism, depression, behavioral issues - and gives general brain chemistry profiles for people suffering from these disorders. I can just hear my psych doctor saying, "Well, there's not enough evidence" but SHOOT, I volunteer to be in the next study!

And then I feel a little irritated with God. But I might need to save that chapter for another post. I don't feel like I'm too coherent right now, and also I like to not regret things I write on the internet. I'm struggling with God allowing mental illness, which led me to google (of course) the difference between a spirit and a soul... Blargh. Yeah, that's definitely another post. So for now: vitamins! Give them to me!

Maybe I can get them on the black market

I didn't refill my brain meds until the last minute. As you do. Turns out I have no refills left. The pharmacist called the doctor, the doctor called me and said, "I'll refill your prescription if you make an appointment." This is the doctor with no skill in speaking to neurotic ladies on brain meds via email and HECK NO am I going to make an appointment with him again. So I called my new hippie doctor to see if she could prescribe it for me and the receptionist said I should just have the pharmacy call them to get the prescription. So I call the pharmacy. Except I can't get through. So I GO to the pharmacy and they think this is the weirdest thing they've ever heard and they'll TRY and then they'll let me KNOW but they don't sound real sure about it and THIS IS WHY I have one dose left and no certainty if I can get more. 


  1. I know. 
  2. It's not the doctor, it's me. 
  3. It's not their phone, it's mine. 
  4. I *think* my hippie doctor can prescribe brain meds? 
  5. If nothing else I will make an "appointment" with the first doctor and then figure out how to get my prescription from somewhere else. 
  6. My best friend is a pharmacist within the first doctor's hospital group. I CAN MESS WITH YOU, SYSTEM.
  7. Oh God, why is this such a pain. 
  8. Both of my kids are sitting in corners right now. Not germane to the conversation, but I thought you'd like to know. 

The hippie doctor, on the other hand, is great. I'm still not sure if the multiple things I'm trying with her are WORKING working, but I'm doing well. She has me on Vitamin B, a lower dose of the brain meds, weekly acupuncture, and within the next few weeks she wants to see me to discuss "The Darkness". Also known as FALL. At some point I may go farther down on the braid med dosage and do some herbal supplement stuff. I don't really know. What I do know is that I feel like she understands what I need, that she respects my experience, that figuring this out is a collaborative effort. Also, that third acupuncture appointment actually did something. I can't say WHAT or WHY or HOW, but I felt different. Brighter? Happier? I honestly don't know. I just felt noticeably different after I left. "Gooder" is not a word, but I feel like it's the right one for this situation.

I also finally ordered the right kind of iron she wanted me to get (I don't regularly go to hippie stores where they sell this stuff) and then I finally started taking them. I've finally decided I need them. I fell asleep for an hour and a half today and woke up to fighting. This is... probably not the best parenting out there. And there's no reason for me to be napping. My life is not that strenuous. And it wasn't a little pampering taking-care-of-myself nap it was a "I'm going to lay down and shut my eyes lest I not be able to function at dinnertime" nap. Not good. 

And here I am, at dinnertime, with children in corners. Functioning, ahoy!

We went to kindergarten orientation today and I have fallen in love all over again with our busted up beat down little neighborhood school and the wonderful people within. I wish I had known everything would be This Okay back when I was being neurotic about what I was going to do about school. I still think Catholic school would be nice, I still wish my kids were getting art and music and in a building that wasn't visibly crumbling. But the important parts of school are so great at our school and we got the teachers I requested and the principal asked me again if I want to be a sub and everyone remembered Jack (he's Jackson at school - I should work on this) and Molly fit right in... It's relief and confidence and happiness. 

I have more to say about all of this, but did I mention the delinquents sitting in corners? I've had it with them. And I have fix them dinner. They should fix their OWN dinner.