Finding my bliss

I have always been a slightly anxious person. I think all those internet articles call it "high functioning anxiety." My doctor calls is general anxiety disorder.

I recall being in school and thinking how great it would be to be done with tests and essays and projects because then my stomach might not hurt so much every day. I wish I could go back in time to that girl and pat her on the head, "oh, Sugar ..."

I got pregnant in 2009 (#thanksobama). The pregnancy itself was pretty easy, despite a LOT of diabetes maintenance. Labor and delivery was lengthy but ultimately a huge success. I delivered a perfect human, surrounded by my loved ones. Everything was aces. 

And then I started crying, right about the time I had to go back to work. Ian was eight weeks old and all I wanted to do was hold him. I would walk to the daycare next door at lunch to nurse him and cry for 45 minutes every day. The lovely Hispanic women would just nod and lovingly hand me tissues. I would bring Ian home and sit in the recliner, nursing and weeping. Rich was dumbfounded. "You know he's ok, right? Like, everything is ok?" 

No, baby, everything is not ok. I'm going to have to give this child away again in the morning and it will rip my heart out of my chest. I am Not. OK. 

My therapist and I talked about trying Zoloft for postpartum depression. I started taking 50mg a day and things got much better. I remember the first time something was mildly stressful (like being 10 minutes late to something) and I didn't feel like I was going to throw up. "Woah! This must be how everyone else feels! This is amazing!"

Since I had lost that constant knot in my stomach, I felt like things were "fine." That may have been true, but it was much like the dog in the fire kind of fine. 

 This is fine.

This is fine.

Then Rich got cancer. And we had a child to raise. And everything just got a little bit harder each day. 

Once Rich died, I went to my beloved witch doctor (Dr. Marion Constantinides at Applied Health). She suggested we do an "anxiety marker" test. Sure. Whatever. I'm fine. I can't pull my shoulders out of my ears, but I'm sure that's normal. 

The test is a urine sample that you mail away. It came back with several results, but specifically we'll talk about serotonin and dopamine. The normal range for seratonin is 34 to 208 somethings. Mine was 42. The normal range for dopamine is 72-297 somethings. Mine was 86. So while I was technically in range, I had a D- in happy.

Side effects from having levels that low include anxiousness, fatigue, sleep difficulties, mood issues, weight management problems, and constipation. In other words, my adult life. 

I started taking some supplements to boost those numbers. The plan was to take a regimen for eight weeks, retest, then adjust as needed. 

I started taking the pills. I felt better. Things actually really did seem ok. Eight weeks passed and it was time for a retest. Unfortunately, we didn't time that as well as we should. I took the re-test but then ran out of pills. But that should be no big deal because I felt great.

Two weeks later, I got the results back from the lab (there were some unusual delays). My dopamine had risen to 141 somethings so I was solidly in the middle zone of chill. My serotonin, however, was 623. When your serotonin is three times the max, the only symptom listed is "low libido." I presume this is because one already feels so blissed out just from sitting around that the idea of seeking out hot lovin' seems superfluous.

The wrinkle in all of this was that I had run out of "bliss out" pills. On Labor Day, I spent the majority of the day in the fetal position on the couch sleeping or crying. I wasn't sure why it was happening, but I was clear that something changed. 

I'm happy to report that I'm back on a reduced dose of "bliss" while I'm waiting for a new regimen of different pills to try out this week. Things are feeling normal again. 

I love my witch doctor. I'm grateful that some simple supplements can help my body have the right good vibes to make me a joy to be around. These pills are more complicated to manage than my previous routine of just throwing a few things down my throat before bed. I have to take some 30 minutes before breakfast, some with breakfast, some 30 minutes before dinner, and some an hour before bed. I now own a pill organizer from Amazon listed under the category "Stuff Seniors Want." 

 Taste the rainbow!

Taste the rainbow!

I can tell you that if there's a fire, after everything with a heartbeat is safe, I'm grabbing this pill organizer to get me through a few days until I can restock.

It's amazing what we get used to as normal until we learn differently. I watched a video recently of a 66 year old man getting EnChroma glasses to correct his color blindness. He was grinning and weeping and vibrating at the sight of grass. Grass, people.

I feel like that now about my emotions. I don't have to identify as an anxious person. I can recognize the triggers and patterns and I now have the tools to navigate them. 

The witch doctor told me a few months ago that I was covered in tape. Anything unpleasant that happened to me just stuck to me and I couldn't shake them off. Here's to finally feeling less sticky.