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.

18 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing what's been happening on this part of the path. I am glad you are doing so very much better. xoxxo

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  2. Glad you are finding your way out. I have heard of the connection between the gut and our psychology (only recently) and I find it fascinating. I am slowly educating my children on the importance of food and exercise not only for weight control but for psychological well being. Thank you for this blog.

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  3. Alison, I was thinking about you just the other day. I'm so sorry you've had to deal with all this but I hope you're on the way to a healthier you. It's hard as we age NOT to awfulize every persistent symptom and for those of us who already struggle with anxiety/obsessive thinking, it's even more difficult. Love and hugs.

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  4. You are finding answers and that's the best part. Trying to imagine you losing your wonderful sense of humor was the hardest part to read. By reading your photo captions I see it's returning. It's also nice you wrote this out for those who might find it helpful under similar circumstances. I'm glad you've found a combination that works and look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

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  5. Oh, Alison, I feel you. I had the same anti-seizure medication for a while, same symptoms, it is as if I could have written this. It is a very real and horrid place to be, hard to describe to someone who hasn't experienced it but you did a great job. I'm glad you have found some ways to find relief - and prebiotics and probiotics I think are very crucial. Keep us posted and know that you are not alone.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this Alison. It's always good to read what people you care about are experiencing, and as you know I've been wondering about you. I agree with what Shirley said, about your sense of humor shining through in the image captions. I am so happy things are starting to turn for the better for you and hope to read more about your adventures in the upcoming weeks. I have really missed your presence in the blog-o-sphere.

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  7. I'm glad you had the will and the strength to pursue a variety of avenues seeking answers, Alison. That alone takes courage when you're feeling as you describe. I'm also glad you've found things that help and that you're continuing your exploration. My husband and I both have gut issues and I appreciate the links you provided here. Best wishes and I look forward to hearing from you wherever and whenever you pop up.

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  8. Alison, i hope you get some concise answers and the least side-effecty medication. There seem to be so many ailments that doctors miss. Specialists concentrate on their area and miss the overall situation. I had to suffer with Aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease until more doctors learned about it, including moving to a new area with smarter doctors, for six years. Chemo ruined by entire digestive system starting with my tongue. I took probiotic every day. I wonder if it helped my wacky chemo brain, too? It really helps me, emotionally, to get out and toddle around our garden i little bit each day, even it is just to look.

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  9. Awww...darn! That's rotten. I hope you continue to find improvement. I sure know what you mean about "fear of wearing out". Anyone who doesn't cop to that is lying, I think. Or super exceptional in their ostrich-imatating skills. I'm gonna look into probiotics--and pre-biotics, too. I hear a lot of good things about those, too.

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  10. Well, Allison, it seems you have been having quite a struggle. I'm sorry to hear that you have not been able to find joy even in gardening, but it sounds like you are making progress and finding help that works for you. Wishing you continued improvement.

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  11. So sorry Alison, to hear that you are having problems. You certainly haven't lost your sense of humour and I think that will see you through. Just sitting in your garden will bring you peace and healing and soon your gardening mojo will be back.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this, Alison. I'm glad you're starting to figure out ways to improve your situation and hope you keep feeling better. I've struggled with anxiety, depression, and energy issues for most of my life and can understand some of what you must be going through. I've made some changes in my diet in the last year and seen some improvement, but I want to learn more, so I'll be reading those links you thoughtfully shared. I love your last meme. It puts in words the attitude I've been subconsciously working towards for the last several years. Here's to continued improvement in your life.

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  13. So good of you to share this in such a humorous way. I'm delighted that things getting better for you as I've missed my partner in crime and look forward to playing with you again when you're up to it!

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  14. I'm so sorry Alison. Headaches are a constant for me, too, though they are getting better as my treatment goes on. Probiotics are very helpful for me, too. I know how much it stinks not feeling well. I'm cheering you on from here!

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  15. You're a brave soul. :o) I hope you find a method of relief that works for you.

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  16. I followed some of these links and this is fascinating stuff Alison. As a fellow anxiety sufferer I can visualise very clearly how you feel and hope you continue to conquer it. It may sound simplistic, but being outside in the fresh air surrounded by the garden really does help. There is no place I'd rather be.

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  17. I'm glad you feel better Alison. I am not recommending, I am just saying that this book was very helpful for me and my close friends: The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. I keep it on my desk. Thanks for the links!

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  18. I didn't read this timely, which is kind of where I am these days: untimely. I look forward to seeing your blog full of your garden again.

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Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.