I have to start this by saying, it’s very hard for me to share this. I am a people pleaser and unfortunately, I often let that get in the way of authenticity, because I don’t want to burden others or sound like I’m complaining, and I worry I’ll be seen as a failure…or weak…or a wacko. It’s embarrassing for me to admit that I struggle, especially with something like depression.
It all started years ago. After a tumultuous childhood, a suicide attempt right after high school and a rough first year of marriage, the Lord came into my life. He dramatically changed me, literally transforming me into a new person. However, although my behavior changed, and my desperation faded, headaches and periodic bouts of sadness overwhelmed me. These often occurred in the mornings, but would then fade after a few weeks. This has gone on for many years. Last summer, I wrote a post about my visit to a doctor specializing in women’s health hoping to help ease some of the fluctuating moods I was experiencing. After starting Progesterone and adrenal support supplements, I was actually feeling pretty even-keeled for about 6 months, and then about 4 months ago, noticed that I was getting extra emotional around the time my period was due again. I was waking up in the mornings with that dark cloud starting to creep in. It seemed it was a very gradual decline, and would be aggravated some days, and almost nonexistent others. I started to have headaches again. Pretty much every day, the headaches were “background noise” to everything else going on in my mind.
A little over a month ago, I experienced the worst headache yet with blurred vision and pain so excruciating, it had me rolled up in a ball sobbing. And for the few weeks after that, I was waking up each morning feeling more and more overwhelmed, starting to feel like the walls were closing in on me and that I was hopeless. By the middle of July, I practically had a breakdown. Poor Superman tried to juggle me during a dark few days when I felt suicidal, overwhelmed with the smallest tasks, and a very disturbing sense of disconnect from everyone around me, including my own family. What was so upsetting to me was that I had nothing to be sad about. I have an incredible family, great kids, a supportive husband…I live in a place that resembles paradise…we’ve had a wonderful summer of traveling and bonding and just all around goodness. So why was I feeling suffocated by despair? I know it’s hard for someone who hasn’t experienced this pit of darkness to understand. I mean, why didn’t I just pick myself up by the bootstraps and carry on?
Well, I kind of did…having 5 kids makes it nearly impossible to just retreat to my bedroom for days or even hours at a time. The problem was that I could. not. pull myself out of it. I desperately dove into my Bible, praying for God to pull me out of it, show me what I needed to do. I kept telling myself, “you’re being illogical. You have nothing to be sad about.” But it didn’t help. It was like a shroud of darkness was wrapped around me, and I couldn’t break free.
So, back to my mini-breakdown. I was in a place where I hated myself, my children, my husband…I truly felt like I hated it all. I feel awful even writing that. Superman recognized that something was off either chemically, hormonally, emotionally…whatever it was, I was not the person I normally am. I did not want to go to my primary care physician, as I feared he would suggest I start anti-depressants, and I know there must a root cause to what I’m feeling. I didn’t want to just put a band-aid on my problem. So, I decided to see the Naturopath who Superman saw through all of his health struggles. The woman who pretty much saved his life. That’s what I felt like I needed–someone to save me. I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel, I felt like all I could see around my were dark walls creeping in. I went in and talked to Dr. Heidi, told her my history and held back tears as I explained what I was feeling. After listening to me, she said, “Shanti, before we get into anything else–how is Chris doing?” I told her he is doing amazingly well. He is doing so well, in fact, that he even said a few weeks prior that he thought he might be “healed.” She went on to say, “You had a very sick husband for a very long time. You not only took care of 5 kids and homeschooled them, but you had to take care of your spouse as well. That’s good. That’s what spouses are supposed to do. But taking care of someone as ill as your husband is not only physically draining, it’s emotionally draining, and I think that now that he is doing so much better, your body realizes it can finally let down.” I about burst into tears right there. First, I thought, why can’t traditional medicine be this way?? But secondly, I thought, she is so right. The last 10 years of not knowing what was wrong with Superman, dealing with the fact that he could not eat anything except meat, veggies and fruit, trying to be encouraging and supportive even when I felt I had nothing left to give…it all drained me. I’m not saying I regret that time, or wish it wouldn’t have happened, since there was a lot of good that came out of that suffering. But there were times in the midst of the deepest valleys of Superman’s health when I just wanted a support group. I wanted someone who I could vent to who understood what it was like. I couldn’t complain to the victim, for heaven’s sake. He was suffering worse than I was, and was so bad, he thought he was going to die.
Over the last year, both my grandparents passed away as well. They were pivotal in my growing up to be the “normal-ish” person you see today. They were the constant in my life, and when they died, I felt as though a huge chapter of my life closed. And I realized after talking to Dr. Heidi, I had never really processed their deaths. I know that probably sounds cliché, but it’s true. I just kind of moved on, and I think I should have spent a little bit of time allowing myself to mourn their losses.
Dr. Heidi took a blood sample to test about 100 different foods to see if I had any intolerances, as well as a micronutrient panel, and then had me do a saliva test (4x in one day) to test my cortisol and hormone levels. My results came back as follows:
Food intolerances: eggs, wheat and cane sugar.
Hormones: mostly in the “normal” range, with the exception of my cortisol level, which was on the low side all day.
Micronutrients deficiencies: Vitamins B3, B6 and B12, Serine, Manganese, Selenium, Coenzyme Q-10, Ferritin (very low). and Vitamin D.
I was actually happy to see my food intolerances on paper. I know how I feel after I eat wheat and sugar especially, and it makes total sense. As for the micronutrient deficiencies, that may seem like a lot, but being that I was tested for about 40 different micronutrients, it’s really not that bad. And definitely fixable! So now, the treatment:
Here’s what I’ve been on for the last month:
Iron (65 mg once a day)
Vitamin D (5,000 i.u. once a day)
Opticleanse GI support (Dr. Heidi theorizes that these intolerances are due to a weak intestinal system, and that they will improve with some help. I believe her because that is exactly what happened with Chris!)
Xymogen IgG 2000 DF (Reduces G.I. Inflammation and provides immune support)
The above three I just combine into a smoothie each day. They are pricey, but they are not meant to be taken longterm, so I consider it an investment in my health!
Here’s how I feel right now:
This month, when my period approached, I was tense with anticipation. I was so scared I would have a repeat of the previous month. But I didn’t. PMS was almost nonexistent, with the exception of feeling weepy when watching cute dog videos on Facebook…but that’s normal for me. =) Headaches are still coming and going, with less frequency and intensity. Energy level has improved. The dark cloud periodically wells up inside me, but staying busy and focused on other things helps me to get through my day. Sometimes I’ll just be driving and be struck with sadness, for no apparent reason. We shall see what the next few months hold.
With all that said, the physical issues I’ve addressed are just part of the puzzle. In my next post, I’ll tell you about what I’m doing emotionally and spiritually to help heal my body.
Update: You can read Part Two HERE.