Then the fog came

As I’m nearing the end of my holidays, I can’t help but to think about how they went compared to my expectations.

I drove here with a heavy heart. Filled with loneliness, sorrow, completely lost. Feeling invisible to the world, immaterial. I couldn’t think because there was so much background noise back home. So much to deal with, to go through. My head was foggy, groggy, couldn’t focus. I hoped to be able to think a little more clearly. But I’m not sure I accomplished that goal. Continue reading

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Letting our emotions speak

I went to see the movie Inside Out today. It’s entertaining, fun and light – nothing too deep here, or even 100% accurate, but let’s not forget it’s a movie and not a scientific paper. More importantly – and not wanting to give away too much here – the movie is also a reminder that all our emotions play an important role in shaping who we are and keeping us safe from danger. Often we want to shut out the most unpleasant ones – sadness, fear, anger – but they are needed, and nothing else would exist without them. Continue reading

Black Friday – as in sad and depressed

I really don’t know what Prozac is doing, but I cried more times this week than in the entire year.

First, I went to the hospital on Monday, only to find out that I won’t start Tysabri until January. Since mid-September I know I need a more aggressive drug than Copaxone. That’s three and a half months waiting, worrying about possible side effects and living with that little anxiety that the unknown always seems to bring.

Tuesday I received a phone call. In August I had applied for the Believe and Achieve Project, a project created by the European MS Platform aiming to give employment opportunities to MSers under 35. The position they had in Portugal had everything to do with my project in college, so I applied. I didn’t think they would call me for an interview because they would probably pick other MSers who were unemployed, which is not my case, but they did, the interview went really really well and I hoped I would have a chance. But on Tuesday they called telling me that, while I was perfect for the job and they really liked me, they ended up choosing someone who, due to limitations, would probably never get a job anymore if they didn’t give him/her that opportunity.

Now I want to make things clear. I’m happy for the person who got the job because everyone deserves a chance regardless of their limitations. But I’m confused. I have rejection issues and I think I’ve always been rejected because I’m not good enough. This was the first time I was rejected because I was too good. Fear of rejection just got worse for me. And that sense of non belonging I’ve been living with all my life was highlighted once more. I don’t feel well enough for many things, but I’m too well for others. I’m in this limbo, disconnected. Where do I belong? Some people say that the more rejections the easier it gets. But it’s not getting easier for me. I just feel like not trying anymore. That’s probably what separates the depressed and the non-depressed. Helplessness.

Then the nightmares started. I dreamed doctors told me my mother only had a week to live and I didn’t even have a chance to think about what that meant because I mobilized all my energies into trying to make that week the most comfortable it could be for my mom. Then I dreamed that I was sitting on a wall and I suddenly lost consciousness for just a second. When I regained consciousness, I was falling. And finally I dreamed I found out some nasty secrets about this guy I fancy. It’s funny because every time I see him again after some time, I get bad dreams. Last month after I saw him I dreamed my father and stepmother were getting divorced. Today was about dirty secrets. Either case, they were dreams about loss.

There’s also a funny thing that happens when people like me. Officially I won’t be filling my new job position until next year, but I’ve been in training. I ended up getting along well with one of the people I’ve been working with. Today he left for three weeks away on vacation but he left me some books of his. And while it’s great to have new stories to read, I can’t help but to feel that it’s a burden when someone likes me and cares about me.

And you’re gonna have to pardon my French now, but I think I’m seriously

fucked

up.

The Body Remembers – The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment

51Iz1JHskkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_When my therapist said most of my symptoms were consistent with PTSD, off I went on a shopping spree trying to understand everything I could about it. I ended up only purchasing two books (so much for the shopping spree) and chose to pick up this one first because one of the things my therapist keeps telling me is that trauma is always in the body. It is felt, processed, stored and remembered in the body.

This book didn’t disappoint in explaining how. The first part provides a useful introduction to the mechanisms underlying the experiences of trauma. Being the geek that I am when it comes to all things science-related, I enjoyed learning about the role of brain regions such as the amygdala and the hippocampus in processing information, stimuli, emotions, etc, in regulating the body’s response to them, and their connection to memory, learning and language. 

The second part is aimed at providing therapists and their clients with techniques to alleviate and treat trauma symptoms using body awareness. The idea that the body is an endless resource for healing is certainly one that appeals to me. I’ve been learning for the past years how to pay more attention to what my body is telling me through yoga, contemporary dance and meditation. Now I intend to follow some of the suggestions in this book as well. I actually had the opportunity to try them today when I woke up startled at 5.30 am due to a nightmare. I didn’t think I could go back to sleep, but I remembered some of the exercises in the book and managed to get some sleep before the alarm went off.

Overall I think this book helped me getting more acquainted with what PTSD is about. It offers a nice balance between psychology and neuroscience, theory and practice. I hope the next one on my reading list will provide me with as much insight.

Dear sleep, I missed you

The first night I remember waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep again I was 15. It’s likely my sleep issues started earlier, as I remember always being a very light sleeper, but that was the moment when sleepless nights became something like normal routine to me.

I tried everything I could remember, especially because I didn’t want to be medicated (I’m currently taking 6 different medications every day, so haha, the irony). Medication had side effects. I didn’t want to become a zombie. I didn’t want to admit defeat and ask for help. I thought I could outsmart myself and beat this devil in me that didn’t let me rest. I always had the notion that what was causing this was psychological rather than physical, so I thought I could somehow turn this around.

Then at the end of 2010, when I was 28, I went through a really rough period in my life and became severely depressed. I wasn’t neither eating nor sleeping at all. That’s when I saw a psychiatrist for the first time in my life. I started on an antidepressant (Agomelatin, which didn’t do much for me) and on small dose Cyamemazine for sleep. Cyamemazine is an antipsychotic drug and for some time I thought I was going psychotic much like other members of my family, but later my new psychiatrist explained Cyamemazine is also used to treat anxiety in other cases, so I took a deep breath.

Cyamemazine made me sleep deep and peacefully like a baby and those were happy sleeping times. Funny enough, after a while on it, it occurred to me for the first time that something could be seriously wrong with me. You see, I’d been feeling abnormally tired for years now, but I attributed it to suffering from insomnia. But now… I was sleeping safe and sound and still kept on feeling so awfully tired. Then at the end of 2011 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and things started to make sense.

I had to change medication, because Cyamemazine, being a neuroleptic, can accelerate demyelination, which is not good news when you have ms. I couldn’t go back to not sleeping because not only studies suggest our body produces myelin during sleep but also because I couldn’t possibly handle the subsequent fatigue. I changed psychiatrists (my first one didn’t want me to stop Cyamemazine despite what my neurologists said) and I started taking Escitalopram at breakfast and Trazodone before going to bed.

I immediately felt a difference. On the one hand, Escitalopram really did its job with stabilizing my mood and my anxiety. My chest used to hurt due to anxiety to the point I thought I had some cardiac disorder, but as soon as I started taking Escitalopram I never had that again. On the other hand, Trazodone wasn’t as good as Cyamemazine in making me sleep. I noticed my sleep became lighter and I sometimes woke up a little earlier, though nothing compared to waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning. So as long as I was having 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, even if it wasn’t such a deep one, I was still happy.

Then last summer my psychiatrist and I decided I was more at peace with my diagnosis and dealing with things much better so we tried to take Escitalopram from my cocktail and see what happened. A month off of it I started waking up half an hour before the alarm, then one hour before, then two hours before, and so 4 months later I went back to taking it. This really seems to confirm that my sleeping issues are all related to depression and anxiety and panic disorders.

Sleep became an issue again these past two weeks. I’ve been waking up before the alarm, sometimes 20 minutes earlier, sometimes one hour and half earlier and anything in between. This isn’t something that bothers me much if it happens occasionally, but these past two weeks it happened every day. My fatigue worsened a lot and my mood became somber. And why have I been waking up? Well, there’s a simple answer for that: nightmares. I wake up after a nightmare (or several, it depends) and I can’t sleep again. Sometimes I consciously decide not going back to sleep, because I don’t want to keep having nightmares and become so agitated.

What do I dream about? It varies. Sometimes my nightmares wouldn’t be considered nightmares by most people. They’re just uncomfortable dreams, but those uncomfortable situations I dream about connect with very deep insecurities and fears I live with, thus resulting in my body setting off the alarms. I’m also very susceptible to everything I read or watch. Working in a publishing company mostly with children and young adult fiction, I read a lot of books that sometimes upset me. I remember having several nightmares after reading The Hunger Games, and when I read Pure I dreamed I was spying on my ex-boyfriend through a camera inside someone else’s head, much like happens with the main character. Needless to say, I didn’t like what I saw in the dream.

And then, like today, I break down. I woke up early as usual, had breakfast, and as I was feeling really dizzy and numb, decided to pick up my e-reader and do a little reading in bed. I don’t think I read a single page – I fell asleep and only woke up at 1.30 pm because I have my alarm set to that time in order to remember to take one of my many medications. I was so so so tired. I don’t even remember the last time I woke after noon, probably back in 2011 during my Cyamemazine days. I’m feeling better, but I wish my sleep would be normal enough so my body wouldn’t have to occasionally shut down like that.