Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

True Confessions

I used to tell people my garden kept me sane. Unfortunately, lately the garden hasn't been keeping its part of the bargain.

You may have noticed I haven't been blogging as much as I used to in the past few months. I've posted for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day every month and for several Wednesday Vignettes, but I haven't been posting about my garden. That's partly because I haven't been doing that much gardening. I haven't been feeling well, either physically or mentally/emotionally.

I came home from Disney World back in April with a headache that wouldn't go away. Technically it's called a Chronic Daily Headache. I've had episodic migraines for all of my adult life. For the first couple of days of vacation I had a migraine, which then just settled into a background headache that came and went in intensity every day, sapping a lot of my energy and enjoyment, and leaving me with a low level of constant nausea/queasiness. I thought maybe it was just the stress of traveling too soon after my gall bladder surgery and ulcer treatment (which I posted about here), and that when I got home it would go away.

But it didn't. Instead it became a constant part of my life. A week after getting home, I had an MRI, which proved I did indeed still have a brain, but nothing else untoward happening inside my skull. That removed one source of worry, but still the headache refused to go away.

I might be more inclined to agree if whoever made this meme knew how to line up those damn bullet points

I've always been a worrier, and now that I'm older, I worry even more about my health and about getting older and wearing out, especially after the gall bladder surgery and ulcer.

Along with the headache, extreme anxiety about my health took hold and wouldn't let go.

I spent days Googling all kinds of headache causes and headache remedies -- Vitamin B2, Butterbur, low-carb diets, etc. -- and tried each one, but eventually decided to bite the bullet and see my Primary Care Physician, who put me on a daily dose of a medicine normally prescribed for seizures. It helped the headaches, but it had side effects that affected my energy and appetite and digestion and left me feeling even more anxious and unlike myself. My energy level was nil, my sense of humor was gone, I wasn't sleeping, my interest in things I used to be passionate about had disappeared. Strangely, although those are all hallmarks of depression, I didn't feel depressed, just very anxious. Most days I felt shaky, to the point of feeling like I had a vibrator implanted in my chest. I had to marshal my strength just to get out to the grocery store. I used to love going out to eat, but couldn't bear the thought of a restaurant meal. I was almost agoraphobic.

It was time to see a therapist. Sometimes you just have to talk to a real human being.

Not the way I do it. Have you seen what I spend on plants?

Her first suggestion for dealing with my anxiety was a life-line. She recommended meditation. I found several different apps that I could download on my iPhone, some of them for free. They were so helpful. I had always wanted to learn how to meditate.

Here are some I found most useful:

The Mindfulness App ($1.99)

Relax & Rest Guided Meditations ($1.99)

Omvana (free)

Relax Melodies (free)

Both of the free apps have add-ons that cost extra, but I found the free version quite useful for helping me relax. The Mindfulness App and Relax & Rest were a bargain at $1.99 each.

Mine is an actual person, and I've gotten a great deal of help from her. I can't help wondering who's the therapist in this picture. Is it the sky? Or the fire. Or maybe it's the sunset. The clouds? Or the errant comma. Oh dear, I'm being very judgey.

Anyway, my anxiety is getting better, and I've managed to lower my dosage of the headache medicine. I discovered how much probiotics can help with psychological issues. I've started taking a high-end, expensive probiotic that I buy online. Have you heard of the enteric nervous system that runs our digestive systems? There's more serotonin and dopamine in our digestion than there is in our brains.

Here are some interesting articles to check out about what scientists call our "second brain:"

Scientific American: How the Gut's Second Brain Influences Mood and Well Being

Scientific American: Gut Feelings: The Second Brain in Our Gastro-Intestinal Systems

Psychology Today: Your Backup Brain

I actually made it out to a local nursery a few weeks ago, and then a week after that I went to one of the open gardens on the Northwest Perennial Alliance Open Gardens Tour. That may not sound like much, but it was a real milestone for me. I'd like to eventually get off the seizure medicine completely, but for now I don't think that will be happening. I've just started seeing an acupuncturist, and I'm hopeful that will help. We'll see.

A friend on Facebook shared this recently, on a day when I really needed to see it. I printed it and laminated it and started carrying it in my pocket. I pull it out and reread it every once in a while.

So, if you've been wondering what's been going on with me, well, that's my story.