High’s and Low’s

It is always amazing to me how much my opinion on my relationships, career, and even music can change depending on my mood.  If I am depressed and feeling negative I will think my boyfriend isn’t right for me, I have ruined my career, and that music just doesn’t matter to me anymore (!?!?!). If I am feeling particularly good suddenly I am dating my soul mate, my career will fall into place, and music speaks to my soul.

It is important to always keep in mind that we are constantly viewing the world through a lens made out of whatever chemicals are present in our brain at that moment. And while there is something to be said for positive thinking sometimes all we can do is say “things look bad because I’m feeling down today, I’ll revisit this when the lens is made of different chemicals”, then simply wait it out.

The yo-yo effect can be draining, you may ask how you are supposed to know how you really feel if you brain’s chemicals are dictating all of your opinions. But there is no certain way that you really feel, they are all just emotions. The best you can do is vow not to make big decisions when you are too high nor too low.

“We’re all at war with ourselves; that’s what it means to be human.”

——Sylar from Heroes

Crazy Pills

Ever wondered how your anxiety meds actually do what they do?

See, I think I may need to go back on medication. This is an agonizing decision for me because even though I know Prozac lifts the heavy weight that sits on my shoulders, it also comes with a slew of side effects that affect my quality of life in a different way. It is pretty much just trading one type of mental anguish for another.

I have been on (and off) several medications, Prozac being the most effective, but the side effects of each has led me to do a lot of research on the types of medication that are available to anxiety sufferers. This is what I have learned in my research:

First of all there are these little things floating around in your brain/body called neurotransmitters. And they, well…they transmit. They travel from receptor site to receptor site passing along information about what you’re feeling at that time. There are different ones and they all convey different bits of information. Anxiety deals with a few different neurotransmitters.

THE KEY PLAYERS (NEUROTRANSMITTERS)

Serotonin (my favorite, also the chemical compound shown in the upper corner of my blog): Key word here is HAPPINESS. Like when you have had a wonderful day at the beach.

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (or GABA, my second favorite): key words here are RELAXATION and CALM. Like when you take a warm bath.

Dopamine: key word here is REWARDS. Like when you get a pay raise!

Norpinephrine/Epinephrine: key word here is ADRENALINE. Like when the fire alarm goes off while you’re in the shower…

So I’m sure there are more, and those are super basic explanations but it helps to know them when understanding how the different meds work.

You have your SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Luvox): Basically you have little nubs in your brain that suck up the neurotransmitters from another nub in your brain (I think the nubs are actually nerve cells but all the pictures make them look like nubs).

neurotransmitter-diagram

When they’re not working right the initial nerve cell sends neurotransmitters over to another nerve cell and then is like JUST KIDDING, and reabsorbs them. This causes a shortage of that neurotransmitter. So what SSRIs (Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) do is they bind to where the Serotonin is coming out and block it from going back into the nerve cell that it came out of (they Inhibit the Re-uptake). SSRIs are like those spikes in parking lots that allow you to leave but won’t let you back up. This keeps enough serotonin floatin’ around in your brain and therefore helps decrease anxiety and depression. These work the best for OCD because Serotonin plays a big role in the Obsession and Compulsion process.

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Then there are SNRIs (Cymbalta, Effexor): These are essentially the same thing but they block the reuptake of Norepinephrine instead of Serotonin. This is so interesting to me because a Serotonin issue might cause one person’s anxiety, while a Norepinephrine issue might cause another’s. Or some unlucky people might even have an issue with both. This is why certain medications work for some people and not others.

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Next up are the Benzos (Benzodiazepines) (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan): These are my favorites but they can be super dangerous. They make you feel great, almost instantly calm, but they are incredibly addictive if you’re not careful and have some of the most dangerous withdrawals. I know for some of us that is something to obsess over but those warnings are in place for the people who need them so don’t freak out, just be aware. These work by binding to the sites that are receiving the GABA neurotransmitter and boosting the function of GABA. The little GABAs latch on and open a channel into the nerve cell, said channel allows chloride ions to enter. Once they enter the cell they sort of numb the cell to keep the other neurotransmitters that make you all worked up at bay (essentially keeping you calm).

GABA: holds the door open “Hey Chloride Ion! Welcome to the party, Adrenaline is already here!”

Cloride Ion: “YAYYYY” hugs Adrenaline really tight and won’t let go

Adrenaline: can’t do its job

Buspirone: This one is in a class of its own. I recently started looking into it because it doesn’t seem to have the side effects that I was experiencing with Prozac. However, my doctor does not want to prescribe it because of the rare but permanent side effect of developing a movement disorder such as a twitch. This would be permanent even once going off the medication, which is very scary. However it supposedly works very well for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Buspirone is something called a selective serotonin subtype 1A (5-HT1A) partial agonist. But that sounds super confusing so basically it increases the release of Serotonin and Dopamine but in a more controlled manner than say a FULL agonist drug (such as morphine) would. It is like when you only partially open the vents in your car because you’re kinda cold but its too hot with the air off…

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Gabapentin (Neurontin): This has been the most recent one I have researched because my doctor just wrote me a prescription for it last week. I have chosen not to take it because of people online saying it caused weight gain. Since that is the biggest reason I’m not going back on Prozac I don’t think it’s the right choice for me. It does seem that it can be effective for people though which is weird because it is primarily an anticonvulsant (used to treat seizures). It seems that they’re not too sure why it can work on anxiety but oddly enough it doesn’t seem to work on the GABA receptors, despite the name.

kristen stewart

So to reiterate:

SSRIs- Keep Serotonin from being reabsorbed by the nerve cells that release it

SSNIs- Keep Norepinephrine from being reabsorbed by the nerve cells that release it

Benzos- Help GABA to do its job of making you numb to stress

Buspirone: Increases Serotonin and Dopamine in a controlled way

Gabapentin: No one seems to know…

This is obviously not everything that can be prescribed for anxiety, but these are the ones I have looked in to.

Are any of you on other types of anxiety medications? Or does anyone wish you could find a simpler explanation of a medication you’re taking?

No Title

Are there actually people out there who are able to spend a nice day off completely at peace? I can’t remember what that would even feel like.

I spent the entire ride home from a nice day-trip out of town with a sense of dread. For me anxiety is felt primarily in both my stomach and my chest, therefore the whole drive home it felt like a fist was clenched securely around my heart. My mind was spinning between dreading the work-week (where I have too much time doing excel spreadsheets to think about my fears), thoughts about when the people I love most in this world might die, and looking back at things we drove past trying to get the last “perfect” image of them. That last one is one of my OCD compulsions which tends to get worse on days where I’m making really good memories. I start to feel like I MUST remember that good day/moment/feeling forever and so the last image I see of it has to feel “right”. According to my OCD if I don’t get that last perfect mental image then something bad will happen.

So for me sometimes even happy seemingly carefree moments aren’t carefree because all I can think about are all the different ways that happy moment may become a painful memory. For example today as I had this great day-trip with my boyfriend I was plagued by thoughts of us breaking up in a year and this day just being a reminder of how oblivious I was to the coming doom. Then to counteract the anxiety from that thought I had to get a perfect mental snapshot of the good moments; of the pretty views on our hike, of the clear blue sky over the pier, of the tropical drinks we had a lunch, of the sun setting over the pacific ocean on the way home.

I can’t just look at those things like a normal person. I have to blink a certain way, or stare for the right number of seconds, and then god forbid I accidentally look at it again and have to do it all over. Or worse I don’t get that perfect image before the spot of beach slides out of view from the car’s window and I have to sit with a dull gnawing anxiety until it passes.

I want to end this on a positive note or with some type of advice for lifting your spirits on the days when you just feel defeated and down, but I really can’t right now. Sometimes all you can do is let those feelings be there and trust that they will cycle through. In fact usually that is the best thing to do; let the bad feelings be there, don’t do anything about it, and watch them dissipate on their on. It is trying to do something about them that usually gets us in trouble anyway…

So like…..What’s Your Sign?

When your friend says aspects of your astrological chart don’t line up with aspects of your boyfriend’s astrological chart:

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I have something called Relationship OCD (rOCD).  This particular brand of OCD is barely ever talked about and there is very little research on it, but its a real thing.  rOCD is when your obsessions and compulsions center around a significant other or someone you’re dating. It can take one (or both) of two forms. On the one hand you can obsess over the other person’s flaws and the “rightness” of the relationship and on the other hand you can obsess over if they really love you or their faithfulness to you. My rOCD tends to flip a little bit between both which is confusing for my poor boyfriend.

The compulsions associated with this can be anything of course but some examples are: mentally comparing your relationship with others, “checking” your feelings to see if you feel in love (and any moment where you don’t feel totally in love is a massive trigger), or seeking constant reassurance from your partner about their feelings for you.

This is hard for me to write about because even when I tell people about my OCD I usually leave this aspect of it out. I am aware that to the untrained eye it just appears that I’m your stereotypical CRAZY girlfriend. For example, when I studied abroad in college my roommates simply did not understand why I couldn’t enjoy my time abroad because I was bombarded with nearly constant obsessive, unwanted thoughts about my boyfriend cheating on me while I was gone. He didn’t understand it either. I didn’t even understand it. It would be another 3 years (and a period of us being broken up) before I would be able to put a name to what was going on in my head.

Luckily now we both understand it better and he knows to only give me reassurance once or twice before refusing to be an enabler in my compulsions. I understand what is happening now when a friend tells me that some aspects of our astrology don’t line up and it seems like the world screeches to a halt. I understand what is happening when I can’t focus on anything around me after that. I understand what is happening when I then feel the need to spend the next week compulsively learning about astrology to make sure our relationship isn’t “wrong”. I understand what is happening and so I will not be spending my week reading about astrology, but instead use my time to do things that will move me toward positive things in my life : )