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.
- 2010-2011: DRUGS ARE AMAZING! WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG?!
- 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.