Friday, December 30, 2011

Start over in 3...2...1

It's that time of year again. A chance to pledge to the world all the things in your life you want to change, do, or overcome. Some see it as any other day, other's welcome it for a chance to forget the past and start over. I see it as a day of reflection. How was I changed in 2011? Do I have any regrets? Was I happy? What was my favorite moment and why? Who did I meet and what did I learn from them? I put all my discoveries, my tools, my learning experiences in my pocket for safe keeping and walk into 2012, prepared and ready to keep climbing in my own personal voyage of life.
I make resolutions every year. Sometimes I follow through, and other times I just get too busy and forget my focus. In the last two years, I have accomplished three out of the five resolutions that I made each year. This year I climbed a lot stairs instead of taking the elevator, which I might add, is not that easy. I got lost in a lot of buildings! Why do they make stairwells so dark, boring and way out of the way? I ended up exiting into a lot of back (and not so inviting) alleys. Anyway, continuing on. I read a book in Spanish from beginning to end, though I used the dictionary every three seconds and had read the English version. I also paid it forward as much as I possibly could. YEAH ME! This year, however, my resolutions are going to be a bit more personal. Instead of exercising more and quitting bad habits, I'm going to work from the inside out.  I'm going to explore fear, happiness, love and health.

Resolution #1: "Anything that's really worth doing in life makes you want to throw up before doing it." Amy Spencer wrote this about nervous energy in one of my favorite books called Meeting your Half Orange. The same kind of energy that I used to get five seconds before I walked out onto the gymnasium floor before a drill team performance. All that scary nervous energy and fear went away the moment the music started and all I can remember is how much fun I had. My resolution is to take more risks, even when I feel like I am going to throw up. I don't want fear to steer my path, but instead I want to take the risk and see where my path takes me. How will I do this? I'll have more faith in myself. If she can do it, why can't I? I'll say yes more often to things that sound interesting. What do I have to lose? I'll take baby steps, and focus one day at a time. If anything, I'll end up discovering new areas in life, new joys, new chances that I wouldn't ever have known if I hadn't tried. 

Resolution #2: "Happiness is love and love is happiness". Robert Holden wrote this in Be Happy, a book I'm reading discussing happiness. Did you know that Harvard University has a class just about "Happiness"!? And that there is an entire Happiness Institute that teaches seminars and hold events? This got me thinking... why have I never talked about the subject of Happiness with my friends or family? I have three books currently exploring this topic, and within the first three chapters of Be Happy I was unlearning a lot of garbage up in my head. My resolution is to live a year discovering and discussing happiness, in hopes, that I learn something new (or unlearn something old).

Resolution #3:  Robert Holden says "When you wish for happiness you really are wishing to be the most loving person you can be." In order to be a loving person, to love others, I must love myself first. I do love myself, but it's like a love you have for a sibling, you get mad at him/her all the time or they drive you nuts.  Some days I just beat myself up. I need to let myself off the hook. Amy Annis wrote in the Athleta Chi on loving ourselves, "Only after we find peace with things we cannot change , can we focus on the ones we have the power to change".  My resolutions is to love ME, to accept all my imperfections, and to love the unchangeable. Loving myself will make a happier Nicholle, and a happier Nicholle will be able to love other's back.  Amy Spencer wrote "You attract what you think about and feel." If am thinking about happiness and feeling love and acceptance within myself, then I am going to start accepting more challenges, people etc. and attracting some sweet happiness and love in my life. 

Resolution #4: Health is the groundwork to happiness. When I am living a healthy life, exercising, getting light, eating wholefoods, etc., I feel like I'm on top of the world. I stopped doing all six steps of the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) program (aka: healthy life steps) in Steve Llard's book The Depression Cure. I started out doing all six and felt the best I have felt in years! Within two months, six steps turned into only one step, and I felt a definite decline in my mood and well being. My resolution is to follow the TLC program religiously.  It is, after all, a lifestyle change.

Amy Annis, in her resolutions blog, changed the word resolutions to possibilities. I like that word, possibilities, because if they don't get done, that's okay. I'd like to make fitness fun again, learn to cook different dishes, wear lipstick more (Yes! LIPSTICK is making a huge comeback), study Spanish everyday, etc etc.  But my main focus will be on happiness and health, taking risks, and love.  If I follow through with my resolutions, I feel everything else will just happily fall into the right place. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Juice Detox Finished

I made it!  Day 5 was yesterday and I didn't eat a single solid food for 5 days!  I started out at 142.6 and weighed in at 136.8 today.  I lost 6 lbs in 5 days, detoxed a lot of toxins out of my system and gained energy while doing it.  I put on a pair of jeans that usually fit with a little suck in, and I can now pull them off without unbuttoning them!  This morning, for breakfast, I was surprisingly not that interested in food.  If it weren't for the fact that tonight is my "birthday" party (week early), I feel I could have kept juicing for another five days! Am I still going to juice?  OH YEAH!  I have a juice next to me as I write this, (2 fennel bulbs and 2 pears, soooooooooo yummy!), and I plan on having at least one juice a day for the micro-nutrients that our bodies need!
Day 3 and 4, did I mention I broke out?  I broke out as if I was 15 again!.  Zits were popping up every where, and not little ones, but huge ones, with zits under them.  Zits on top of zits.  I'm not making this up.  It was disturbing. It was as if my body as pushing out toxins through acne. Is that possible?  They are gone, or healing, thank goodness, but very interesting to say the least.  I am in a group on Facebook that is juicing only in October, and one man broke out in hives for the first time.  This made total sense to me.  When I eat dairy, my body creates hives because dairy is a toxin in my body and can't digest it, so it tries to come out through my skin.  This man in my group had the same thing going on, toxins trying to get out, so his body created hives.  Doesn't this make you want to get rid of your toxins??  haha.. okay it sounds a bit horrible, but after the toxins are out, you feel so much better.  Its like going to get your car oil changed, and filters checked.  Everything is clean inside!
Day 5 was my energy day.  After Spanish class, and even a little before, I had a lot of energy.  Like the kind of energy I had when I was 14 and was super silly with Kasey Kelly making weird noises and jumping off walls... I'm not kidding.  I called Terry and I think he got a good laugh at my voice mail as I was super chatter box in it.  I only had three juices by then, so about 800 calories... not what I would have felt had I ate 800 calories of bread, processed foods, meat, etc.
Would I do this again?  Yes.  Do I encourage others to try it?  YES!!!  The first few days are hard, but then its just easy! Yes there are difficult food triggers, like grocery shopping or being out with friends, or being social at all!!  But you just have to make a decision to stick with it.  I walked into the grocery store yesterday to get food for today and I happened to walk into the bakery part.  I looked at that food not as "ooooh my goodness look how yummy everything looks" but instead "That cupcake is not even an option, eating that will make me sick and feel bad".  I chose to make my brain not think it's good and I walked away not even thinking of looking back.
If anyone wants to try it, or has questions, or needs tips on recipes, please feel free to ask.  I might do a 15 day detox with solid fruits and veggies, as well as juices in November.  5 days is the minimum.... but it's a good start to see if this is something for you.
Eat well, live well!


ps.  Might I also add that my mental health through this process was GREAT!!  No depression, even though I wasn't following the steps of the Depression Cure for the five days.  Researchers say that food can be a factor when it comes to depression.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 3 Juice Fast

Day 3 is already here for my 5 day juice fast.  I can't wait for Friday morning to indulge in eggs and toast or maybe I'll even go crazy and go out for breakfast!  So far the juice fast is going great.  I haven't killed anyone yet, bit off anyone's head, slammed my car into someone due to road rage or broken down and cried like a little baby.  But then again, I haven't been around anyone, or in my car, and too busy with phone calls to try and get a tear in. 
Day 1, I weighed in at 142.  I started a bit late, due to the fact that I hadn't bought the produce yet, and started just after noon.  I had juiced 4 recipes that day.  The nice thing about these recipes is some will yield up to 4 glasses of juice.  I felt like I was sipping on juice every minute!  The "green" juices aren't my favorite.  I hate celery.  I think I might just cut celery completely out of these recipes as I only taste the celery, bleck!  Coconut water helps though.... I just top off the yucky tasting ones and it sweetens them up a bit.  I love all of the ones that include a little more fruit, such as pears or apples.
Day 2, I weighed in at 140.8.  I juiced 4 juices, drinking a ton of veggies and fruits, including an entire cantaloupe and melon by the end of the day!  Who knew that beets, ginger root and carrots, when juiced together, would be so good?  I was very surprised.  It was so good yesterday, that I juiced it again!  Today I fit a walk in, nothing extreme, but I got my heart rate up.
Around 6pm, I hit a wall.  I could have passed out standing up, I was so sleepy.  Joe, the Aussie, said this would happen. I think from 6pm til I finally fell asleep was my hardest. I really wanted to eat. I made another juice instead, but I still wanted to eat.  Going to bed hungry is NOT easy.
Day 3, I weighed in at 139.8.  Total of 2.2 lbs lost since day 1.  I thought I would be STARVING, considering the night before I thought my insides were going to cave in, but instead, I felt fine.  In fact, when I saw my reflection in the mirror, my skin tone looked better.  I'm now drinking 2 green apples, a lemon, celery (yes, i put 2 stalks instead of 4), spinach, kale, & half a cucumber.  Today, however, I have to go to the bank, and my Spanish class.  Sweet KIWI, I have to be AROUND people!  I am going to fill a container full of juice and bring it wherever I go, in hopes that I won't break down and buy food.  (Fingers crossed!)


Sunday, October 9, 2011

5 Day Juice Fast

How many fruits and vegetable servings are you eating a day?  For me, it's possibly two servings of fruit a day and maybe 4 servings of veggies a week (and usually steamed so there goes most of the nutrients!)  After watching the documentary, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead I decided that I needed to "reboot".  Joe, the now very good looking (not so good looking before) Australian, drank nothing but juice for 60 days with no hard food and documented it all. 60 DAYS!!  Yes, that is extreme, but as he filmed his process, he inspired many along the way, including me.

This last week I researched juicers and decided on the Breville 800 on amazon after reading a million reviews.  It was more than I had planned on spending on a juicer, but I also wanted the best. Today I went to Wholefoods and stocked up.  I wrote down all the recipes that sounded good and started plopping those ingredients into my cart.  I will admit, I was a little overwhelmed shopping.  For one, I didn't know what half of the vegetables even looked like, Kale, Chard, ginger root, etc etc.  I didn't even know the difference from a pear and an Asian pear.  However, the lovely produce specialists at Wholefoods were more than happy to help me.  Now I can tell you that there isn't just one kind of chard, but many!  I was also getting nervous as I watched my cart overflow with all organic veggies and fruits... this was going to add up.... in which I did, to $200.  I bought for 5 days, with 6 juices a day.  However, as I sip on my first juice writing this, one juice recipe really gives you two large glasses of juice, so I probably could have just bought for 3 juices a day!  (Note to others planning to do this!)

$206 worth of fruits and vegetables at Wholefoods Market
My Breville
The ingredients of my first juice.  2 apples, 2 Asian pears, 2 carrots,  6 handfuls chard, 1 cup cabbage and a beet
It was super yummy!

I am hope to do this juice detox in 5 days.  There are longer ones, which I think I will do in November, but this is a good start!  I'm excited to see how I feel at the end.  Here are just a few benefits of juice fasting:
  • Purification
  • Rejuvenation
  • Resting of digestive organs
  • Drug detoxification
  • More restful sleep
  • Better skin beautification (I still get high school break outs!)
  • Reduced allergies  (I have so many!)
  • Anti-aging
  • Clearer and sharper mind
  • Mental clarity
Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October me all over

I love October.  I heart October.  I less than three October. The fall colors, red, orange, yellow and brown, the fresh cold air of Autumn, the darker days and even the nasty storms. I love the pumpkins, Halloween, the smells, and warm sweaters. October soothes my soul. It's the time of year when I get to see family again, move to a place I love, travel the world (sometimes), and up my age by a year.  I make sure that everyday in October I do something fun, relaxing, exciting, cause I just LOVE this month!  So to start off October 2011, I ran a 5K.  Here's the part where you think I will tell you that it was awesome, and WOW, I feel amazing... but that would be one big fat LIE.  I got a side ache within the first two minutes, that did not give up, and I struggled the entire way to the finish line, finishing 4 minutes slower than my last 5K two months ago.  But on the happier side, I took 2nd place in the adult women's division. Yeah Me!
After the run, Terry, Matt and I went for a walk around Ward Lake. There recently was flooding around the lake, so the smell wasn't the nice cold fresh air of southeast Alaska that I was hoping to smell.  Instead it reeked of dead fish.... it was pretty gross.  But it was worth it because today was such a gorgeous first day of October here in Ketchikan, and despite my lazy 5K, and smelly fish, I wasn't letting anything bring Oct. 1st down.
The best part of my day was my niece, Avery, coming over for dinner.  Mom baked three pans of salmon in three different styles; brown sugared, teriyaki, and lemon/onion.  All tasted delicious.  Then the rest of the night, I cooed and awed at Avery.  I just can't get enough of her.
What a great start to an always awesome month!

My first time meeting Avery.

Avery Jayne

Friday, September 9, 2011

"...and I'm back!"

This was a thought in my head as I went out on my run today.  A run, might I add, that was not only my second work out for the day, but a work out that I CRAVED!  I actually felt the need to RUN, which I haven't felt since I was 27.  And it was dumping buckets of rain, but I wouldn't let that stop me.  Three weeks into implementing all six steps of the Depression Cure and I'm feeling better than I have in a very long time. 
So what am I doing differently and how?  Let me break it down to you again (the 6 steps).

Me: 6-7 days a week (I still believe in free days!)
  • I wake up at 7 am to sit in front of my light box (step 4).  I play scrabble, read emails, study Spanish, etc., for at least 30 minutes in front of my exceedingly bright light.  It kind of feels like a UFO is in the room, it's that bright.  Let me note though, that 7 am is like 3 am for most.  7 am is still night time, 7 am is EARLY!  Ask my mother and she will tell you that in high school she used to have to wake me up multiple times, taking all my covers off of me and leaving the lights on, (and some days that wouldn't even work),  but today, I woke up without the alarm.  I was in utter shock.  So this simple little habit, is a huge triumph for the old depressed Cole.  Literature says that a habit can be formed in two weeks.  I agree.
  • I work out after my light session before my day begins (step 3).  My goal is to get my workouts to 60 minutes in duration, but currently I'm at 45 minutes.  Some days I only "briskly" walk, some days I put a little jog in it, and then on really fun days, I play DANCE DANCE on wii!  If I find that I get less than 30 minutes in, I don't feel as good during the day. I feel tired and solemn and I know I need more exercise, like today for example, and that is evidence enough that Exercise is MEDICINE! 
  • Vitamins (Step 1).  I take my vitamins in the morning, but my Omega 3s at night.  I also freeze my Omega 3s.  Freezing them helps so that they don't create so much gas in the stomach.  I was taking them in the morning and became a gas machine by 10am.  It was frightening.  FREEZE THEM, for the love of all around you.  Also, I eat oatmeal on Mondays and Fridays (two days a week), if you read the book you'll understand why.
  • I stay busy (Step 2).  Throughout the day, if I find myself feeling "waaa waaa", I immediately dive into a project, whether that is cleaning my bathroom, re-merchandising a fixture at work, or reading a book, whatever I can find to distract me from my thoughts.  If I find I can't stop thinking about something, and coming to no conclusion, I call my friends/family on my list.  I have only had to make one phone call in the last three weeks.  It was to my mother.  The first thing she said was, "I never hear from you anymore!"  Another piece of evidence that I am feeling better.  I guess I need to call Mom for the positive in my life too.
  • I am getting involved (Step 5).  It's a bit hard in Skagway, but I am starting to get into the gardening community.  My dear friend Shawna has an amazing yard and on days she gardens, she calls me so I can come learn.  I also started weeding the side of my house and will be putting good soil down for the winter, so that come spring, I can plant a gorgeous flower bed.  This excites me.  It also gets me outside, and working my body.  Three steps in one! 
  • My bed time is 10pm (Step 6).  I literally turn off most of the lights, my lap top, my phone, and I sit on the couch from 9pm to 10pm and read.  This is my quiet time.  Then I go to bed, and for the most part, have been falling asleep within 30 minutes. I have found, however, that when I pick up my iphone to play scrabble, or play on my computer 30 minutes before bed time, I struggle to get to sleep.  I really have to be religious about the rules of sleep, in order for me to get my 8 hours.
That's it.  The first two weeks were a struggle, but here I am on the third week and loving it.  I don't feel hopeless or scared or panicky.  I haven't cried either.  Eh, except for last night when I watched Barney's Version and bawled like a baby, but OH such a good movie.  Which leads me to believe that I am on the up and healing.  I'm not saying that any day now my depression can't come flying back into my corner and torment like a scary old mean big brother, BUT I am doing everything I can knowing I am fighting it off.  I get up at 7am to win.  I work out to win.  I take a million vitamins and find new activities so I can beat depression and win.  If you ever feel down, or you just want to have a healthy mental mind, I highly encourage you to read every word in the The Depression Cure.  There is no one size fits all cure for this mental illness, but after 10 plus meds, this one feels the best so far.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mariah turns 40!

When Mariah told me that for her 40th birthday she was going to Haines, staying in a cabin by the water, celebrating by hot tubbing and dancing (not at the same time), with some of her most favorite people, I immediately hoped I was one of those favorite people.  I was.  It was beautiful weather in Haines.  First stop was the Haines brewery for some yummy beer and then to the cabin for a wonderful salmon/halibut dinner from our host, Tom.  He also made a home made carrot cake!  Mariah is such a hoot.  She brought all these wonderful pretty dresses for everyone to wear out dancing.  We danced at the Pioneer Bar to a local band called, Swing Set, and had such a great time!  Have I mentioned how much I love dancing?  Happy 40th Birthday Mariah!

Lisa, Marie, Nicholle, Charity, Cindy and Mariah

The view.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

be cool & be you by Janeen Koconis

be cool & be you

Join the Movement! Now is the time for spontaneity.
Just be. Just bop. Just scat. Just that. Sure, there's
classical rules about how to get it right; but don't be
tied to old forms-- hold onto that feeling of floating free.
Be a stand for asymmetry. Let it rip. Let it riff. Sing it just
like Ella with those kooky, random vocables & syllables
and nonsense lyrics without words at all. Just make up the
sounds! Be-dah. Dee-dop. Doodly-skid. Ski-dah. Believe in
art as improvisation. Hold the flag for the avant-garde.
It's a true revolution in the art of jazz and living.  It's you!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sleep (Step 6 of 6)

Finally, the last step to the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) six step program to beat depression without drugs.  Sleep.
How is your sleep? Do you toss and turn and struggle to get to sleep at night?  Do you wake up throughout the night, disturbing you from getting the essential slow-wave sleep your body needs?  Do you wake up too early and can't seem to fall back asleep?  Do you have anxiety at night?  Are you tired all day long but then can't sleep at night?  If you said yes to any of the above, then keep reading!
Sleep disturbances is one of the major symptoms of depression, but it is also a trigger for the illness. When our bodies are deprived of sleep, even for a night, our memory and concentration wanes, we get more irritable, our judgement is poor (I find that I eat unhealthy food when I'm tired), reaction time slows down, coordination and energy say bye bye and we get sick easier. (194)  Sick as in colds and flu's but also as in depression. Anything we can do to improve our sleep will help fight off depression, and also prevent a future episode from occurring.
Fortunately, most of the steps in the TLC program can help with your sleep.  Exercise, as well as bright light in the morning (or at night depending on your sleep problems), help your internal body clock and sleep drive stay balanced.  Even our Omega 3s, anti-ruminative activity and social connection our beneficial - "by helping slam the brakes on the brain's stress response circuits - improving both the quality and quantity of sleep" (194).
So how much sleep do we need?  "Most adults need about eight hours of sleep each night for optimal physical and emotional well being" (195).  However, some people can manage perfectly on six or seven, while others might need nine.  Dr. Ilardi recommends starting with eight hours of sleep and after a few weeks, adjusting those hours to your needs.
Okay, so sleep is good, but it's not as easy as it sounds. I will go to bed and then toss and turn until 3 or 4 in the morning, Sleep sometimes feels impossible for me. What's my problem?  Dr. Ilardi discuss three variations of sleep disturbances.
The most common form in depression is known as terminal insomnia: waking up too early, usually an hour or two before intended, and being unable to fall back to sleep.  Middle insomnia, is marked by frequent awakenings throughout the night, is also fairly widespread.  The final variety-onset insomnia-is a hallmark of seasonal affective disorder and many forms of anxiety; it refers to an initial inability to fall asleep at night.
I have the last one, onset insomnia.  Remember how in my first blog I talked about some of my symptoms of depression.  "I still have anxiety off and on for no apparent reason at all.  For example, I will be laying in bed at night and my heart will start to flutter and race, but I have no idea what thought triggered me to start freaking out."  I never knew it actually had a name.  Onset insomnia.  I used to think it was because I had a lot on my mind and couldn't turn my brain off, but maybe it had something to do with my depression the entire time.  However, there is hope without Ambien, and all last week I took the following "Habits of Healthy Sleep" into consideration and was falling asleep within 30-40 minutes, which is a record for me.

Conditioning Your Body to Sleep
  • Habit #1:  Use the Bed Only for Sleeping (200-201)
    • Anytime you've been lying awake for fifteen minutes, get up, leave the bedroom, and do something relaxing until you feel drowsy enough to return to bed.
    • Avoid getting into bed anytime you aren't already drowsy. If you go to bed just after watching a scary movie, surfing the Internet (bright light), or exercising, your throwing yourself into bed just to hop right back out.  Instead do activities that are relaxing, not arousing.
    • Anything you do to increase your drowsiness should be done somewhere other than the bedroom.  For example, I used to play games on my phone at night to increase my drowsiness, or read.  Now I do this all on my couch, not in my bed.  Your bed should be associated only with sleep, not the state of being awake.
    • You can make an exception in the case of sex.  Of course you were wondering, right?  Sex apparently helps you sleep and is associated with positive happy feelings, which in turn will help you associate sleep with good feelings, not anxiousness.
    • Avoid sleeping anywhere other than your own bed.
  • Habit #2: Get Up at the Same Time Every Day (201-202)
    • All of us have a sleep meter in our brain that helps set our sleep drive.  You can boost your sleep drive by getting up at the same time every day, which is hard, especially on the weekends, but it's essential to help sleep disturbances.
  • Habit #3:  Avoid Napping (202-203)
    • "Simply put, anytime you nap, it strongly reduces the brain's sleep drive, which then sets you up for potential insomnia later that night.  There is also evidence that napping can cause a reduction in restorative slow-wave sleep" (203)  Though if you have healthy sleep already, napping doesn't seem to harm your sleep pattern.
  • Habit #4: Avoid Bright Light at Night (203-205)
    • If you are around bright light at night, your sleep drive can't kick in unless its around night time light (low light settings).  Do not use your computer an hour before bed time.  Do not watch TV in bed, and keep your bed room pitch black while you sleep.  If you use a light box, make sure you use it in the morning (unless otherwise directed).
  • Habit #5: Avoid Caffeine and Other Stimulants (205)
    • Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine really screw with your sleep drive.  "Caffeine has a typical half-life in the body of about four hours. (This means that every four hours, your blood level drops by 50%.)  So, let's say you have a strong cup of coffee-with 200 milligrams of caffeine-at noon.  By 4:00 in the afternoon, you still have 100 mg of caffeine in your body, and at 8:00 pm, there's still 50 mg in your system.  Even at midnight, you're left with 25 mg of caffeine coursing through your veins; that's about the equivalent of a cup of green tea, and it's enough to disrupt your sleep" (205).
  • Habit #6: Avoid Alcohol at Night (205)
    • A lot of people use alcohol as a way to get drowsy at night, but it will interfere with your sleep, causing you to wake during the night and feeling exhausted all day.
  • Habit #7: If Possible, Keep the Same Bedtime Every Night (205)
    • By going to sleep at the same time every night, your sleep drive will kick in about 30-40 minutes before bed time habitually.
  • Habit #8: Turn Down the Thermostat at Night (205-206)
    • "There's evidence that a mild drop in temperature at night helps increase sleep drive" (206).  Dr. Ilardi suggests dropping your thermostat 5 degrees an hour before bed time.
  • Habit #9: Avoid Taking Your Problems to Bed with You (207-209)
    • For most people, and especially depressed people, bed time is when you dwell on negative thoughts or worries you have.  When you ruminate, it stirs your brain's stress response circuits, and in turn, makes it super hard to sleep.  Dr. Ilardi suggests mental activities, (no not counting sheep, but kind of), to help get to sleep at night.  I actually tried a few of these and they work!
      • Replay scenes from a favorite movie in your head.  I keep replaying scenes from Love Actually.  It's a happy movie, nothing scary or stressful about it.
      • Visualize a relaxing scene.  I did this one too.  I took myself back to Costa Rica on the beach.  Oh how I love it there!
      • Play a round of golf in your mind's eye.  Um, no thanks.
      • Use progressive muscle relaxation.  This is a technique that I actually learned in high school for volleyball.  Simply tightening and then relaxing each major muscle group in the body, somehow relaxes you and distracts your mind from rumination.
      • Use another proven relaxation technique.  Diaphragmatic breathing involves learning how to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply from the diaphragm.  Autogenic training  makes use of guided imagery to create a pleasant feeling of warmth in each party of the body.
    • There are also things you can before you actually get into bed.
      • Talk things through with a trusted confidant.
      • Write down your ruminative thoughts.
      • Fill your mind, right before you go to bed, with explicitly positive thoughts and images.
  • Habit #10: Don't Try to Fall Asleep
    • This has actually been the number one thing that has helped me.  Before I would stress about sleep.  I would anxiously watch the clock as my sleep hours would tick away and the more stressed I got, the harder it was to sleep.  "Sleep can never be stalked and caught - like some sort of wild animal -  when you hunt it with intense, focused effort.  Instead, it will appear unbidden, sneaking up on you gently after you've fully let go of the struggle" (209).  These two sentences are something I remind myself of every night.  If I just let go of my worry for sleep, my less worried self, falls asleep much faster.
I highly encourage you to get the book if what you read here has peeked your interest.  It seems like a lot to take in, a lot of changes you must do, but the nice part about the book is the week by week implementation process.  Dr. Ilardi doesn't think anyone should just do all of these six steps at once, but instead invite each step in every week.  I'll be blogging at least once more about The Depression Cure and I will go over this guided process, as well as, road blocks that might occur.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Get Connected (Step 5 of 6)

As humans, we are not meant to be alone.  We are born to connect.  Even as babies, we cried when we needed touch, or as Dr. Ilardi tells in the book, "...babies instinctively know it's (being alone) a recipe for biological disaster" (163).  If we are left alone for a few days, not only do we feel lonely, but all sorts of negative effects start happening.  "Our stress hormones escalate, mood and energy plummet, and key biological processes quickly fall out of balance" (163/64).  Hundreds of years ago, people ate together, played together, talked together, and lived together.  Today we are living more disconnected than we ever did in our past.  We text, instead of talk, chat online with people we don't even know (which is better than not chatting to anyone at all), stay in doors, eat alone, live alone, sleep alone, and recreate alone.  "Nearly 25% of Americans have no intimate social connections at all, and countless others spend the bulk of their time by themselves" (164).  Sad, isn't it?  I like knowing my neighbors, and being able to knock on the door to borrow a cup of sugar, but how many of us really KNOW our neighbors?  I have lived in my Seattle condo for 10 years and only know the neighbors below me, but the other 8, not a clue.  I wouldn't even recognize them if I saw them on the street.  GAH!
As Dr. Ilardi discusses in the book, isolation is a major risk factor for depression.  Since depressed people tend to withdraw from others, their social connections get deprived, heightening their depression even more.  Why do depressed people withdraw?  I only bring up this point because he quoted my exact feelings when I was at rock bottom in my depression.  I remember telling my counselor, and a few friends that I just wanted to "crawl into a hole and wait for it all to go away".  Dr. Ilardi said the same thing, but he wasn't talking about depression, he was talking about having the flu.  With any illness, even the common cold, we naturally withdraw from others to get better.  No one feels like socializing when they want to vomit or have a fever of 101, and depressed don't either.  They are embarrassed of how they feel, they think they are being selfish for thinking of themselves, they have no energy to contribute to the conversation, they don't feel they are worth others time...the reasons can go on and on.
When I was in the summer of my deep sadness, I upset a lot of friends, but I didn't know how to fix that nor did I really want to at the time.  The problem was, a lot of my friends had no idea what I was going through, they just assumed I stopped calling cause I didn't like them, or was a bad friend.
For those friends who don't understand the seriousness of depression, the disorder's characteristics withdrawal can become a source of great pain and frustration.  Simply put:  It's hard to watch someone pulling away and shutting down, especially when you can't figure out why in the world it's happening.  Even friends who know that social withdrawal is a core symptom of depression may find themselves feeling rejected" (169).

I remember having dinner with Hans-Eric.  I didn't realize it at the time, but during dinner we hadn't said a word to each other.  Now that I look back, I barely remember even being there, my mind was completely somewhere else.  After we left the restaurant, he stopped us from walking, took my shoulders to face him and said "Where are you?  I can't find you, or reach you.  It's like you are lost in your own head."  The look on his face killed me.  I didn't know where my mind was, but I also didn't want to keep hurting him.  I came to the conclusion that he was better off without me.  He deserved a happy girl who talks with him.  This is just one of the many examples of how I... excuse me, how my depression, hurt my relationships.  So what do we do to help find the motivation to keep our relationships intact and to continue connecting with loved ones?  The book kindly told me the following advice.

  • Disclose.  This sounds so easy, but it's not.  So many people hide their depression by putting on a mask and going through the day with a fake smile and fake laugh.  "No one wants to risk being viewed as "crazy" (or weak, or lazy, or any number of other qualities mistakenly attributed to those suffering from depression)" (170).  But if your friends don't know what is going on with you, then they are left in the dark and only have room to guess.  You would be surprised at how supportive people are.  When I blogged about rumination the other day, I told everyone I made my list of friends to call when I needed to talk, and the next day I got a few texts saying "I'd better be on that list".  I couldn't have done this without support.  It's similar to having a broken leg, and trying to hide it from people and walk on your own.  It's impossible.
  • Educate.  "Friends and family need to know three things:  Depression is an illness-one that robs people of their ability to function; like many other forms of illness, depression typically leads its victims to withdraw from friends and loved ones; nevertheless, social support can play an important role in the recovery process" (170).
  • Ask.  ASK FOR HELP.  Call up a friend and tell them your situation.  "Hey friend, I haven't been feeling well the past few weeks, and I'm sorry I haven't called you back.  I'm going through a depression and seeing you would really help.  Do you think we could have lunch tomorrow?  I also might have trouble taking the initiative on other outings, so if you don't hear from me, would you please check in on me?"  Any friend who wouldn't do that for you is no friend at all.
  • Avoid Negativity.  Having negative conversations can trigger an episode of rumination.  Try to stay clear of upsetting topics and instead plan outings that are around shared activities. 
Let's also not forget friends at a distance.  In my current situation, I do have friends here in Skagway but my super close friends and family all live in other places. When I was going through my summer of ugliness, I luckily had Rosie here at my side.  I did, however, cut friends off that lived in other cities.  For example, Barbie in Seattle.  After my sad summer, she and I were talking about hanging out, and she made a comment that I never call her back.  Of course I never called her back, I didn't want to bring her down too!  Now that I'm out of my deep sadness, I use video chats (Skype), to keep in contact with loved ones.  It's a great tool, especially if you are a seasonal worker away from friends and family.
There are other ways, besides friends and family, to get connected.  "One of the surest paths to boosting mood is giving to someone else in need.  Such giving can take many forms" (186).  For example, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, helping in a soup kitchen, being a Big Brother or Big Sister, caring for a pet, babysitting, etc etc. is a helpful site.  If you live in smaller towns, check the local paper, or call city hall.
Dr. Ilardi has an entire section on "Finding Community".  Being from a small town in Ketchikan, I always felt apart of my community, but tragically, I have never felt that way about Skagway.  However, I haven't done any of the things he suggested.  Church, Volunteer organizations (as previously mentioned), social organizations (Eagles, Moose, Elks), self-help groups (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, DBSA), interest groups (book clubs, running club, etc), sports leagues, and/or work.  For the most part, I'm too busy for any of the above, except church, but I have never found one here that I love.  I think I'll stick with interest groups and volunteering where I can.
If you still are having trouble making connections, or just can't seem to take the first step, there is always internet friends.  Dr. Ilardi recommends a few websites:

I only have one more step to discuss with you, sleep. I also just got my light box in the mail today.  Do you know how excited I am!??!?!  I have implemented 4 of the steps so far.  Omegas, exercise, engaging activity and sleep.  4 points me (for each step I am doing currently), 0 points depression.  Once I am finished discussing the last step, I will blog a little of what changes I have done in my life the last two weeks.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Skagway 2011 Party

I'm taking a break from the depression blogging because I am getting so behind in all the other fun stuff I'm doing.  Last week we had our 2011 Seasonal party for Skagway Mining Co.  24 of us, (all 11 employees, me and our dates), took a bus up to Fraser, BC to Lake Bernard for some kayaking.  It was a bit windy that day, and cold, but nothing was going to get in our ways.  Packer Expeditions provided four awesome tour guides to take us around the lake.  The head wind wasn't as bad as I thought, and when you got into the little coves it was so relaxing and gorgeous.  Canada is so beautiful!

Left to Right: Me, Erin Jakubek, Jen Funhauser, MJ Phillips, Teslyn Korsmo, Jon Sey, Sarah Dudley
Kristin Moore, Marcos Cruz Diaz, Unknown, Unknown 2 (i'm horrible with names), Jared Foland, Katie Williams
Will Dudley, Jason ?, Jene Foland, and Brittany Snell.
Guess who?  (No it's not me.)
Marcos and the bus driver, who was a very quiet man.
Brittany Snell and Katie Williams enjoying a cove.
Erin and I.  She's such a pro at kayaking.
Afterward we drove down to the Klondike Gold Dredge and had ourselves a wonderful barbecue.  The cooked us up quite the spread, including salmon, corn bread and some yummy salads.  They even gave us dessert.  In the last few years the Klondike Gold Dredge has really expanded, and they now have dog sled puppies and dogs on site.  Since I can hold puppies without an allergic reaction (no dander yet), they allowed me to play with a few.  I fell in love with one and didn't want to give him back.

10 years!  10 SMC end of the year parties!  I can't believe this season is almost over!  YEAH!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Let there be Light (Step 4 of 6)

Being that I was raised in Alaska, I always knew the importance of light for one's mental health.  Growing up I always heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, but never once contributed it to my diagnoses of clinical depression.  Did you know that America is less happy and more sluggish in the winter and that the rate of clinical depression goes up?  "An estimated 20% of the population battles the "winter blues", with at least some clinically significant depressive symptoms between November and March" (140). Considering that most Americans work 8-10 hours a day, finding the time to be outside can be a struggle.  Our ancestors spent the majority of the day outside, farming, hunting, gathering, playing, yet I am barely getting an hour a day, and the few minutes I do get outside, it's usually overcast and raining.
Why is light so important?  Bright light stimulates the brain's production of serotonin.  It's the neurotransmitter that helps with stress, depression, well being and social activity.  A recent study also showed that people under the influence of bright light are less likely to argue or fight with others (138).  I find this fascinating.  So fascinating that I'm sorta testing that study.  Lately I feel very irritable and on edge with people, arguing a lot.  (Did I say lately? Okay, so more like off and on my entire life!)  I feel like I constantly have that crows feet scowl, and "I just want to scream and push you off a cliff you are driving me so nuts" attitude.  I told this to my doctor and she of course prescribed me a mood stabilizer.  Go figure, another drug.  Did she once ask me, "are you getting enough light, exercising, sleep?"  No.  I haven't taken the prescription yet.  I am going to use the light first (as well as the other 5 steps) and see if my irritability goes down.
Another benefit from natural light is that it helps with our "body clock", our chronometer, and when our body clock gets out of sync, "hormones get out of whack, sleep grows erratic, and energy ebbs and flows at all the wrong times."  This alone cane trigger a full blown episode of depression.  No bueno.
So why can't we just sit in front of a light bulb?  For many reasons.  "Natural light from a sunny day is over a hundred times brighter than typical indoor lighting" (136).  And because our brain has special light receptors that respond only to natural light, most people need to get 15-30 minutes of morning sunshine a day (139).  But what happens if you live in the Tongass National Rain Forrest where it is overcast more days out of the year than it is sunny?  Dr. Ilardi discusses brightness in lux.  Indoor lighting gives out about 100 lux of brightness, whereas, outdoor lighting on a sunny day can give out 10,000 to 100,000 lux.  You can purchase light boxes that give out 10,000 lux, sit in front of it every morning as you eat your breakfast and read your paper and get your light fix in that way.  That's my plan at least.  I ordered my light box and plan on doing 30 minutes in the morning while I eat breakfast, blog, email etc.  I also might, on sunny mornings, incorporate step 3, exercise, with getting my light in by walking 30 minutes in the morning outside. (I did this today even though it was overcast, and it felt great, though I am a bit sleepy right now.)  If you decide to buy a light box in the near future, I advise you to read the book.  He gives many suggestions depending on your sleep pattern, eye color and skin tone, as well as, light box tips, i.e., do not look directly into the light box.
But what about vitamin D from the sunshine?  We all know Vitamin D is important, and if one becomes deficient, it can cause a handful of health problems.  Rickets, multiple sclerosis, colon cancer, Crohn's disease, and depression are just a few diseases that are linked to vitamin D deficiencies. Some of us our fortunate to live in sunny places, where you can sit outside at a cafe, and get your 30 minutes of vitamin D from the sunshine, while sipping a coffee and eating your lunch.  However, here in southeast Alaska, that is usually not an option.  That's what the supplement of vitamin D is for.  Dr. Ilardi recommends 2000 IU of D3 each day, but up to 4,000 IU.  (I'm currently taking 3,200 IU.)  Always consult your doctor, and again, if you are still reading this blog and are interested on boosting your mood, buy the book and follow along.  He gives so much more amazing information on the benefits of light and vitamin D.
2 more steps to go!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exercise is Medicine (Step 3 of 6)

Okay friends, on to step three: Exercise.

Everyone knows that exercise is beneficial for our physical health, but many don't realize how equally important it is for our mental health. "Exercise is medicine-one that affects the brain more powerfully than any drug" (117).  The great Dr. Ilardi mentions clinical studies that has even proved that quote, comparing Zoloft with exercise among depressed patients, and the conclusion was that in the long term, the exercisers remained depression-free.
I remember I used to love working out.  Even before I lost my weight (when I was 27, I lost 16-20lbs), I used to enjoy exercise on a weekly basis, at least.  Then when I started on my weight loss program, I loved it even more.  I became a machine... running more than I ever thought I could, and even called myself a "runner".  I remember feeling the best I ever have, mentally and physically.  My workouts, however, came to a stop when I pulled a hamstring, and ever since then have had aches and pains while out on the road.  Then I started making more excuses, and before I knew it, my work outs went from five times a week to one, if that.
When you are depressed, exercise isn't even in your vocabulary.  Depression robs you of your energy and motivation.  Your body actually feels heavy, as if your bones were weights, and the last thing you feel like doing is going to the gym!  So how in the heck do you get motivation and energy to even start this "medicine"?  You start slow.  Instead of working out, do an activity that gets you out of the house and walking, like shopping for example.  "As it turns out, whenever we're caught up in enjoyable, meaningful activity, our tolerance for exercise goes up dramatically" (118).  If you do an engaging activity every day, your energy goes up a little bit more and you can move on to other activities/exercises.
There are seven things the book discusses about exercise and it working as an anti-depressant.

  • One: Make it aerobic.  "A workout is aerobic whenever it gets your pulse between 60%-90% of your maximum heart rate" (120).  An easy way to do find your heart rate while working out is to count your pulse in 6 seconds, take that number and multiply it by 10 and you have your heart rate, or buy a heart rate monitor watch.
  • Two: Choose an activity.  Walking, gardening, sports, anything that gets your heart rate up.
  • Three: Determine how much, how long and how often.  "The best research suggests that it takes only ninety minutes of aerobic activity each week to provide an antidepressant affect" (124).  That's it.. and here I was, after my depression, trying to make myself work out everyday and then quitting cause it was too much.  Three thirty minute aerobic workouts a week is perfect (plus extra 5 minutes before to warm up).
  • Four:  Make it enjoyable.  Stop making yourself do something you don't want to do.  Make it social by hiring a personal trainer, or working out with a buddy.  Make it absorbing by playing your favorite music or listen to audio books while you are on the treadmill.  Make it purposeful, for example, an activity in your own backyard: gardening, raking, shoveling, etc.  Or just the mere fact that you are fighting depression is your goal, use that as a purpose.
  • Five: Create a schedule.  Set aside an hour and make it a routine.  Having it written down in your schedule, to work out every two/three days, will make it a habit and it will start to stick.
  • Six:  Make your workout specific but flexible.  If you aren't enjoying what you are doing at first, you have to change it up or you will quit.
  • Seven:  Be accountable.  Find someone who will keep you accountable.  Even if you have to call a friend from another state and have them call you and say "did you get your work out in?", it will help.
I have started my omega-3s and this week has been a good week (though omega-3s can take up to a few weeks to feel a difference).  Tuesday I felt a little crappy, but I went to the gym and worked out and guess what?  My mood was much better afterward.  Literally, I had no energy, a little sad, didn't want to work out at all, but I pushed myself to do just 30 minutes and I left the gym feeling lighter.  After reading this chapter, I think I might actually challenge myself and make my work outs in the morning, that way I will be in a good mood all day :o)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ruminate This... (Step 2 of 6)

Did you know that cows regurgitate grass in the form of cud, "a bolus of semi-digested food"?  Then they eat up that cud and chew on it for hours, breaking it down into smaller pieces so it can be fully digested.  Why am I talking about cows and their digestive systems?  Dr. ILardi, author the The Depression Cure, uses the cows digestive process, which is also known as rumination, as a metaphor for how us humans ruminate on thoughts.  We chew on them for hours.  Eh, let me rephrase that.  Most people dwell on something maybe 5-10 minutes, find some clarity in the situation or if none, move on. Depressed people, however, think about things for hours, mostly negative thoughts and then break down and have what I call "a bad day".  I have had way too many "bad days" for me to count, but my mother can vouch, as she is the one I call when I can't pick myself back up.
When a person mulls over things "way past the point when enough is enough", several damaging effects can occur.  One is that it "tends to amplify negative emotions" (93).  I'll give you an example of what might go on in my head.... from thought to thought:
I wonder why she didn't invite me out to dinner with her and her friends?  What is so wrong with me that I can't get an invite?  Does no one like me in here? (Anxiety sets in, pulse goes up, heart starts to race) They must not.  I mean, why else would they not want me there?  I haven't done anything wrong to her, or have I?  Crap, I probably did.  What did I do?  I will never have any friends.  No one will ever love me.  I will always be alone... I hate it here... why am I even living?

Thoughts like this can stew in my head from ten minutes to hours, throughout the entire day, leaving me wanting to climb into a hole and hide from the world.  Which leads me to the second negative effect, it makes you less active and withdraw from others.
When we are brooding, we're especially inclined to avoid activity, as it would force us to shift attention away from our internal machinations and out onto the world around us instead. (93)
And it's true.  When I ruminate, I withdraw.  I withdraw because I feel so sad that I don't even like myself anymore, so why would anyone else like me?  I have no energy.  The last thing I want to do is be social with people.
Another thing I noticed about myself, and the book mentions it as well, is that when I am in phase of negative thoughts, I don't hear what others are saying.  I'll go through a conversations saying "uh huh, yeah, OK" but if they were to say "Cole, what did I just say?" I wouldn't be able to tell them. (Sorry for those I have done that too!!)  It's hard to connect to people when you are in the habit of rumination.
The third negative effect is that "rumination sends the brain's stress response circuits into a flurry of sustained activity" (93).  Which is most likely why I also have a lot of anxiety and trouble breathing when I finally hit rock bottom, call Mom crying, and her saying "just breath, take a deep breath.... breeeeaaath!"
So how do you break the habit?  It's hard.
During an episode of depression, dwelling on negative thoughts is so effortless and automatic - its possible to spend long stretches of time doing so without any awareness of what's happening. (96)
This explains why, in the past, I wouldn't remember any of the drive from Seattle to my house (30 minutes), and then suddenly I'm driving into my garage (crying or on the edge of tears).  So, the first step to stopping this ugly habit is to become aware. Dr. Ilardi recommends doing a "mental inventory", an hour by hour thought journal of your day.  Literally, set your watch and have it beep every hour.  Write down what you were doing, i.e., watching TV, working, making dinner.  Then estimate how much ruminating you did in that hour, i.e., 25 minutes.  Finally, rate your negative mood with 1 being low and 10 being high.  Doing this will allow you to see what part of your day is a risk factor for setting yourself up to mentally abuse yourself.  If you find that you are doing the majority of your ruminating while watching TV, then find a new activity. The hard part for me is that I live alone.
People typically ruminate-and feel the worst-when they have nothing else to occupy their attention.  And, given the depressed mind's inexorable drift inward upon itself, the single biggest risk factor for rumination is simply spending time alone.
Gulp. I am not panicking though.  Dr. Ilardi discusses common risk factors: watching TV (I don't have cable), spending time with other negative dwellers, listening to sad music, driving, doing mindless chores, daydreaming, lying around the house.  The solution is to turn our attention to more doing than thinking.  "By simply engaging in activity-any activity-we can change the brain in a way that helps reverse depression" (101).  Before I discuss activities, I want to also mention that he says that a certain amount of rumination is productive.  Like I mentioned before it can help us a resolve a situation or come to a better understanding of what just happened.
When you're ruminating, how long does it take to hit the point of diminishing returns, when any more fresh insights are unlikely to emerge?  The consensus answer: five to ten minutes.  So, I make a deal with them:  When you catch yourself ruminating give yourself permission to continue thinking about things for a maximum of ten minutes.  But be sure to set a timer, and then resolve it to shut the process down as soon as the timer goes off (if not sooner). 
So with all that being said.  Here are activities that he suggests to turn to when ruminating.

  • Engage in conversation - Make a list of people you can call, your comfortable level with them (1-10) and their availability level (1-10).  I made my list!
  • Pursue shared activities - There is some things that are just more fun doing with people than alone.  From mundane tasks of hammering nails (i.e. building a home for a volunteer project) to joining an exercise group.  Go volunteer, join a knit and bitch group... anything!!  Just as long as it's with PEOPLE!
  • Play - Sports, board games, card games, online games, WII games... anything!
  • Listen to music - Avoid the downer singers though... the ones who sing about loved loss, being lonely and ... well country music basically.
  • Listen to books on tapes - This is something that always sounded cool for me, but I have never bought one.  What a great way to drive in traffic!
  • Watch Videos - Be careful.  If you are single looking for love, do NOT watch a romantic movie. Watch a drama, or a comedy, anything but "Oh love is so easy and I found the most awesome guy (that doesn't exist), and I'm going to live happily ever after... muhahah and you my little lonely depressed girl on the couch, WON'T!)  I sometimes want to tell Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson to shove it.
  • Brainstorm - Here are some that I am adding to the list: Gardening (I plan on turning a piece of land beside my house into a wonderful flower garden!), baking, shopping, volunteering, exercising, dancing, study Spanish, bike ride (with someone), read a book, clean (very therapeutic for me), writer a letter, hike.
I hope this blog is helping you or giving you perspective on depression.  If you like what you reading, a highly advise you to get the book.  The next few steps will be much shorter blogs.  I felt the need to write a lot about rumination because I feel this is the biggest depression trigger for me, and one that most don't notice they are even doing.  It's the one thing that pulls me back down continuously and I am determined to break the habit.

If you don't want to leave a comment, but instead want to email me directly, my email is

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Thank you for the feedback to those who wrote to me about my last blog.  I received a lot of emails, phone calls, and support from friends and family and I just love that you are all behind me.  I had only planned on talking about my experience with the program, if I feel better, or worse, etc... but the more I read, and from comments by you, I want to share a little bit more.  I want to share what is getting me excited, what is giving me hope, the clinical research that Dr. Stephen Ilardi reports, because I think it is important.  Knowledge is power and the more you know, the better you can take care of yourself and your health.  I am not getting my hopes up, or putting any expectation into this program, but when I get excited about something, I just have to share it with all of you.

According to The Depression Cure by Stephen S. Ilardi, PhD, there are 6 steps in his program to beat depression without using drugs.  They are:
  • Dietary omega-3 fatty acids
  • Engaging activity
  • Physical exercise
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Social support
  • Sleep
This blog entry, however, is just going to point out some of the amazing things I read about the first step:  dietary omega-3 fatty acids.  Dr. Ilardi calls it brain food.  As an Alaskan, I immediately thought of wild salmon.  I never would have guessed though, how much omega-3s impact our brain.  Did you know that our brain is mostly made up of fat?  60% of the human brain is fat by dry weight.  Most of the fat molecules in our brain are made up by the body, but some we have to get through diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in fish, wild game, nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables, all things found in abundance in the hunter-gatherer diet. Our distant ancestors ate five to ten times more omega-3 fat than we do.  In fact, omega-3s have gradually disappeared from the American diet over the past century. (10)
Why has the American diet changed so much from our ancestors?  Well, first let me tell you that omega-3s come from algae, grasses, plants, where omega-6s come from plant seeds, nuts, grains.  A healthy ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, to maintain a healthy chemical balance, is anywhere between 3:1 to 1:1.  Our ancestors had an outstanding ratio of 1:1, but today in America we have a horrible 16:1 ratio!! (pg 67)
To explain why this drastic change has happened, lets look at our farming history.  The majority of livestock in America today is corn or seed fed (omega-6s), instead of in the past, where they were grass fed (omega-3s).  Fish and other meats in chain restaurants and in super markets are mostly all farmed, not wild.  Also corn is in almost anything nowadays.
The shift to industrial agriculture or “factory farming” did not happen overnight, but it has monopolized American farming practices mainly because it is highly efficient in producing massive quantities of food at a relatively low cost. And one of the biggest culprits fueling the factory farm movement? You guessed it…CORN! Corn is a food that is heavily subsidized by the government, essentially meaning it is overproduced and incredibly cheap. So cheap, in fact, that it is chemically altered and used as a replacement for thousands of more costly ingredients. Corn is not only used as a sugar replacement (high fructose corn syrup) but also found in unsuspecting household products like chewing gum, craft glue, plastic bottles, and cell phones, just to name a few..  source:
Therefore, we are getting way too many omega-6s, and not enough omega-3s.  If you learn anything from this blog, I hope it is that you only eat wild fish/game and grass fed livestock or no meat at all.

So how does consuming too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s effect my mood, my sadness, and/or my will to live?  Dr. Ilardi goes into great detail about the chemical imbalance it causes on our brain.  I am not going to go into detail, but I do find it really important, so if you want the answer to that question, buy the book. Not only does the chemical imbalance effect mental illness, such as depression, but other wide spread diseases in the industrialized world: diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, allergies, asthma, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and even many types of cancer. (pg 71)

Dr. Ilardi writes about the different groups of people in the world and their depression rates.  This gives an example, and more proof, of how our diet is effecting our brains.  For example, he brings up the Amish in America, who still live in their eighteenth-century way of life, but have the lowest rate of depression than any other group in our general population.  Another example is the modern day hunter-gatherer, such as the Kaluli people of New Guinea highlands.  One would assume that because they have a hard life, with no material comforts or medical advances that we have, they would suffer at least a little depression.  Researchers that have studied these people have come to find that clinical depression is almost completely nonexistent among such groups. (pg 4-5)

Dr. Ilardi is not anti-medication, but he is a researcher and writes about many clinical studies that suggest that "omega-3s are among the most effective antidepressant substances ever discovered" (11).
British researchers recently studied a group of depressed patients who had failed to recover after taking medication for eight weeks.  All study patients stayed on their medication as prescribed, but some also took an omega-3 supplement.  About 70% of those who received the supplement went on to recover, compared to only 25% of patients who kept taking only the medication. (10)
He also mentions there are many clinical studies that have been done on anti-depressant medication versus the placebo effect, and the comparison of the patients recovery rate.
Irving Kirsch, a clinical researcher at the University of Connecticut, petitioned the FDA for the results of every drug-company study submitted over a thirteen-year period (1987-1999) for six commonly used antidepressant medications: Zoloft, Effexor, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, and Serzone.  Incredibly, he found that in 56% of these studies, depressed patients taking an antidepressant drug fared no better than those who took a placebo.  Not surprisingly, the drug companies have never published most of these studies.(46)
I could go on and on with more examples that he gives about medication, omega-3s and the brain, but I think you get the point. Omega-3s are essential to the human diet and clearly help a good % of depressed people.  I have ordered the prescribed dose he discusses in his book, and I can't wait to start my regimen.  I hope I will feel a difference, but again, no expectations.  Just like the Dr. says "When it comes to treating depression, there is no one size-fits-all cure" (61).  There is so much more that I read that I want to share, but if you have read this far into my blog, then you are obviously interested and should just buy the book.  The information Dr. Ilardi writes is not just for depressed people, but for people who want to live a healthy lifestyle.  Amazon reviews have said the same thing, but it's true.  I am giving it a 5 star and I am only on page 88 of 278 pages.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Depression Cure

A little over three years ago, I was sitting in a cafe in Turkey with my then boyfriend, Hans-Eric, and I had my first big anxiety attack.  The cafe had a view of the sea that I will never forget.  It was a beautiful day, a calm turqoise blue ocean and I remember sitting there, trying so hard to pretend everything was okay.  "Just focus on the horizon, look at the sea, just breathe".  I didn't want Hans-Eric to see me freaking out.  I was like a duck on water, calm and collective on the outside, but scared and paddling like hell underneath it all. 
The day before I woke up anxious, Hans-Eric and I were happy.  We were on vacation in Turkey for a wedding of one of Han's colleagues.  It was also the same week of his 30th birthday.  I remember walking through town with him, holding his hand, looking at silly tourist items and saying no to the pushy vendors.  We came upon a window display of gorgeous rings and he asked me which one I liked the best.  I took this as a sign of him wanting to buy me an engagement ring in the near future.  I was elated.  I was so madly and deeply in love, it felt unbelievable.  I finally met the man of my dreams.  I wanted to marry him and have my very own happily ever after.  But the very next day, my every feeling for him just vanished and all I wanted to do was run.
After my anxiety attack, I cried a lot.  Everyday, for hours, off and on.  I couldn't understand my sudden change of feelings toward Hans, toward life, toward myself.  I couldn't explain myself.  I could see how much pain I was causing him with my behavior, which made me feel worse, but I could not control it.  I fell into a very deep and dark depression.  I stopped working out, I didn't eat much, I had zero energy, I slept A LOT, I stared off into space, walked slower, talked slower, and throughout it all, I just wanted to die.  I wanted to curl up in a ball, and bury myself in the ground.  I wanted to hide, vanish, but most of all not feel what I was feeling.  It became acutely clear to me why so many people use drugs.  Who on Earth could stand to feel these feelings when they could just numb themselves with drugs instead?   I remember flying back from Sweden (just after Turkey we spent a few days in Sweden) and hoped the plane would crash.  I thought, "If the plane crashed, then I wouldn't have to feel this pain, this heart break, this sad feeling in my gut anymore, please CRASH!"  When they plane didn't crash, the same thoughts were there, just different scenarios.  "I wish a bus would hit me.  Why can't I just accidentally fall off this cliff?  Maybe if I just shut my eyes and drive a truck into the ocean with me in it, no one would even notice I was gone." 
Depressing, isn't it?  Well depressed I was, diagnosed shortly after with clinical depression, put on a plethora of medication, talk therapy and some scary highs and lows I don't even want to mention.  There I was, this 29 year old pretty blond, in the best shape of my life, wonderfully in love with a smart, handsome Swedish man, who loved me profoundly back, to all of it gone after an anxiety attack.  It was like I had everything I ever wanted, but it was too much for me.  Too perfect.  Did I not believe I deserved it? Was I scared that it would all go bad anyway in the end, so instead of later, why not end it now?  What happened???
Currently I am still medicated, but I don't feel like my old self yet. I still get extremely irritable at times. Its like I can't lighten up. I still have anxiety off and on for no apparent reason at all. For example, I will be laying in bed at night and my heart will start to flutter and race, but I have no idea what thought triggered me to start 'freaking out'. I do worry a lot still, about my future, about my happiness and lack there of it. I'm still stuck in a town that is super hard for me to live in and I worry that I will never meet the man I am going to marry if I keep this six months here and six months there lifestyle. I worry I will never be a mother. I worry I'll be alone for the rest of my life. Just typing that sentence puts a heavy brick on my chest. Skagway and my unhappiness there is an entirely new blog itself. There are days, and a lot of them, where I just want to pack my bags and walk away, leaving all that I have invested behind. I'm writing this in Seattle, and just the thought of going back tomorrow makes my body heat up, and my heart drop. I have a physical reaction to the thoughts of Skagway. Let me repeat that. My body actually physically reacts, with heat, a faster heart beat, a heavy brick on the chest and stomach, when I think of living in Skagway. Um, that says something. I know I have written many blogs about how I am determined to get out, but it still just hasn't happened yet. The sad thing is, I had my chance this year. I could have told Dave to not sign the lease for another three years. I didn't tell him that, but I also didn't tell him to sign it either.  When he asked me, I told him I couldn't give him an answer.  He signed it anyway. This leaves me with three more summers in Skagway UNLESS I can find another job in the mean time and have the confidence in another person to run the store for me. I own 40% and can't just walk away. Or maybe I can, but could someone please grab my hand and start pulling... God help me.  Anyway, enough about Sadway, I mean Skagway, back to depression (waaaa waaaaa).

I have never written about my depression.  Not even in a journal.  Writing about it just seemed pointless.  I have never been a journal girl.  I tried, but I start them and never finish them.  When I was younger, I felt like I needed to write TO someone, so I would address every journal entry as "Dear Diary, or Dear Journal, or Dear whoever eventually steals this and reads it, but it never really made me feel better.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve.  I want people to know what is going on with me, not hide it in some little book for my eyes only.  So now I blog.  I write to the world, whether the world reads it or not, is fine by me.  But why would I write to the world about something to sad?  So personal?  Well, for two reasons. 
  1. I want to get better.
  2. I want to help others get better, and by writing my story, it may (I hope) give hope to others.
How am I going to get better, you ask?  Well I don't know yet, but I just started a new book called The Depression Cure.  I picked it up at Borders and then put it back on the shelf, after reading the cover,  "Yeah right, a cure for depression without medication, this will never work."  As I walked away from the self help section, with one book called Be Happy: Release your power of Happiness in you, I got about half way through the store, when I turned back around and picked it back up.  Why not just read it and give it it a try?  It can't hurt, and besides,  I hate being on medicine.  I know it works for a lot of people, people that I personally know, but it hasn't worked 100% for me.  I have been on a lot of them: Wellbutrin, Celexa, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor.  None of them worked.  Most made me feel like a zombie, or on speed, or the side effects were just too much for me.  Currently I am taking 100 mg of Nortriptyline.  I used to only be on 20 mg, but for various reasons, it's up to 100mg.  I hate them.  I don't feel all that much better.  I have horrible side effects.  Dry mouth, the shakes, head aches, tired, no motivation.  I just want off of them or at least back down to small dosage. 
What got me excited about this new book is that it isn't necessarily against medication, but if meds aren't working, here is another solution.   The author, Stephen Ilardi, has seen and documented countless patients where meds weren't working as well as the patient had hoped, but when they tried his 6 step Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) Program, they felt amazing and were completely off medication.  Believe me, if there was a shiny happy pill I could take that worked and didn't give me side effects, I would take them by the dozen, but so far, I can't find that happy pill.  A lot of people, and I myself too, believe that my shiny happy pill is a ticket out of Skagway. A new beginning, whether that is going back to school, or finding a new job, or moving to Europe to teach english for a year.  In this economy finding a job that allows me to still keep my house and live the way I have been living, is pretty hard or maybe just really scary for me?  I have considered taking the next three years that I am going to Skagway and using my off season as an opportunity to still make a salary and get a masters.... but in what?  I'm still working on that.  I think the depression debilitates me in this regard.  It leaves me feeling hopeless and not able to make decisions.
So finally, to the point of this ridiculously long blog.  As I read through this TLC program in the The Depression Cure book, I decided I want to document it as I learn and experience each new step, chapter after chapter.  I want others that feel the way I did, to be able to use my blog as a reference, or for hope, or for research, or... well i don't care what for, I'm doing it anyway.  I read the reviews for the book on amazon. These are real people, who describe themselves feeling the exact way I felt (and sometimes currently feel), who say this has worked for them.  Reading their reviews for this book, got me excited, so maybe my blogs on this book will get someone excited too.  If it doesn't work, well at least I tried, right?  I have hope though.  I hope to return to that girl I was, happy, in shape, with good days, and even bad days, but most importantly, to say "YES!!  I beat depression and I will NEVER let it beat me down again."