Gratitude Art Journal – entry 2

I started the gratitude journal in April of this year in this post, called Altered Book Gratitude Art Journal.   My gratitude journal is for me to focus on one thing and write about it.   For me, its function is in part catharsis and healing for complex PTSD as well as cognitive reframing of some of the people/events in my life.   My first entry was about my parents, and that no matter what problems they had, I wouldn’t be here without them.

My second entry is a conversation to my inner child.  I found an old picture of me when I was about 6 or so, and I used gel medium to adhere it to the page.  I’m fond of using two acrylic paints and a credit card for the background.  It’s quick, easy and colorful and I don’t have to think too hard.

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I made a frame around the picture using a black fine tip marker (a Pitt pen I think).

I’ve done a tremendous amount of research on trauma recovery and while I KNOW a lot of information, the actual healing process takes a lot longer than the information I can stuff into my head about it.

I’ll be 42 next month.   I have a tremendous loss of energy, which saddens me.  I used to be so energetic and outgoing.  I realize, in part due to wonderful bloggers like Stoning Demons in her post about signs of long term abuse and psychological trauma that my loss of vitality is most likely a physical/endocrine response due to the dysfunctional family I had growing up and the marital strains my husband and I encountered with some of his drinking patterns and some of my own bad choices.

I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder, and for me, it basically means my formerly 6 cylinder engine is struggling along on 4 cylinders.   I’m still pretty mentally sharp, just feel exhausted too often.

I’m currently untreated, yet if ever one of us finds employment, I’ll probably go to get synthroid.  For now, I’m self-managing with vitamin B complex, Nordic Naturals fish oil, and, after following the links for that Stoning Demons post, decided to add l-theanine, an amino acid found in small amounts in tea which supposedly helps anxiety, insomnia and depression.  I get anxiety only sometimes, insomnia every few months, but mood swings depression is something I regularly deal with.

I took one capsule yesterday and while I can’t be sure if I’ll see improvements in overall well-being, I can say I had the most interesting dream last night and I actually remembered it this morning in pretty great detail, something I rarely do.

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About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Acute Response to Stress, Altered Books, Complex-PTSD, Creativity, Healing Through the Arts, journal entries, Mixed Media. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Gratitude Art Journal – entry 2

  1. Alison says:

    Casey,

    Thanks for linking to one of my articles. I am hoping the information will help you in your recovery. A writing collaborator of mine from another web site has been talking about complex PTSD and mentioned a good site called Out of the Fog that focuses on personality disorders and the damage people with them cause to people around them, especially adults abused in family relationships. The page on Complex Post Traumtic Stress Disorder was nicely tuned for this angle as so much of the C-PTSD literature I’ve seen in the past focuses almost exclusively on abused kids.

    How is your sleep? How does your energy vary throughout the day? Also, have you tried monitoring your body temperature throughout the day for a week or so? All of these can give clues that may help you figure out if your problems are mostly to do with thyroid function or may also be related to adrenal dysfunction, particularly with imbalances in cortisol.

    Cortisol problems are troublesome to treat because many of the symptoms of low cortisol and high cortisol are similar and the body’s levels vary dramatically throughout the day. So you need to have a very clear picture of your cortisol curve (set of four measurements throughout the day) before trying to aggressively treat a suspected problem with that hormone.

    Without complete test data, the best you can do is to try some adaptogens such ashwagandha and rhodiola rosea that may help your body rebalance hormonally and make better use of what hormones it does have. With that data, some people find that IsoCort and licorice root extract can be used to boost low cortisol safely and other supplements such as phosphatidylserine may help lower high cortisol.

    Some people who have out of phase cortisol levels may actually try using both, timing them to nudge their cortisol levels into the right range depending upon time of day. But this is tricky to do.

    Supplementing with low doses of DHEA and pregnenolone might also help with the energy and depression issues and could help any problems you might have with cortisol as the DHEA may spare some pregnenolone from being used to make DHEA and the boost in pregnenolone can provide the starter materials for making cortisol if the body thinks it needs it. Maybe start with 25 mg to 50 mg of each per day, probably in the mornings as they can be energizing and interfere with sleep if taken too late in the day.

    Ideally you should get blood tests to check your hormone levels across the board before trying to rebalance hormones, but it sounds like finances may be tight and even with insurance many doctors will not run the necessary tests. DHEA and pregnenolone are both very inexpensive supplements, so it may be worth trying them to see if there is any effect to get some idea if they could help or not. Your best bet if you do seek medical treatment is to find an integrative health practitioner who is up to date on hormone imbalances and knows what tests to run (such as diurnal saliva cortisol tests versus the single blood test that many doctors run) plus knows about using supplements rather than drugs for treating these problems.

    I’ll check back to see if you respond and I have any other ideas to share with you.

    All the best,
    Alison

  2. Thanks so much for the information, Allison.

    I basically have poor sleep habits – I go to bed around somewhere between 11 pm and 1 am, depending on what I’m doing. Consequently, I have trouble waking up in the morning. But even if I go to bed between 9 or 10 pm, I still have trouble in the morning. I’ve always been a night owl since I was young.

    I’ll try to do the body temperature thing. I have no idea how they’ll turn out.

    I did some reading about DHEA supplementation and the thing that worries me is that you are at an increased risk for cancers, which I think is why I chose to try the L-theanine route…

    I might try the rhodiola rosea. I like the idea of adaptogens. I was using some during breastfeeding (can’t remember what).

    For a while, I even tried 5HTP, and it was giving me a facial twitch, so I stopped it. I actually was starting to feel better though.

    Yeah, I’ve been to the Out of the Fog Website. I’ve read books on borderline personality disorder, NPD, and bipolar (because the symptom set overlaps with borderline). I had spent a lot of time overdosing on books and websites about mental illness. What I didn’t like about it was that it made me see EVERYONE as mentally ill. I had to stop doing that. I feel that our society is sick, and it’s creating more personality disordered persons. It’s hard for me to blame the individual when culturally, our (American) society is messed up.

    It made me start thinking my husband has a personality disorder too. I don’t think so. I think he had suffered from his own traumatic upbringing too. I know I have had my own temper tantrums that seem eerily like BPD.

    Sometimes reading certain things just re-traumatize me. I have to be careful what I read.

    Sadly, it’s not just childhood trauma, but my husband’s drinking pattern and my enabling and then my subsequent coping mechanisms. We’ve had some crazy tough times together.

    Some of my issues are psychological though.

    I’ve been pregnant six times, but have only three living children. I was supposed to be in my 7th month of pregnancy right now…and I’m not.

    I think some mourning/regret is going on.

    I just found this website and I like the articles here on trauma recovery.

    http://www.traumahealed.com/articles/index.html

  3. Yeah, I think I’ll try the rhodiola rosea

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/07/rhodiola-rosea-natures-anti-depressant/

    In another study reported in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Rhodiola rosea caused improvement in patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Yet another study of depressed people in Armenia showed significant improvement in overall mood as a result of taking Rhodiola rosea extract.
    Over 300 human studies on Rhodiola rosea show that the plant has anti-stress, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant properties, and that taking the extract of the root produces no significant negative effects. This is in sharp contrast to drugs for the same purposes, which typically cause sleep disorders, digestive upset, sexual dysfunction and a variety of mood disorders.

    Unlike many other herbs, Rhodiola rosea produces a palpable experience. When you take a preparation of this plant, you feel it. Typically users report enhanced energy, improved mood, greatly reduced stress, better sleep, and improved sexual vitality. These effects are largely due to a novel group of compounds in the root known as rosavins. Extensively well-studied, the rosavins act in the brain in a variety of ways.

    Overall, Rhodiola rosea demonstrates greater effectiveness and safety than pharmaceutical drugs for anxiety, depression and fatigue. So why don’t more doctors recommend Rhodiola to their patients? They don’t know about it. For many medical doctors, the herbal world is still a dark green jungle of uncertainty. Yet for brave pioneers like Brown and Gerbarg, Rhodiola therapy is the path of the future. For a patient like Juliette, the proof of Rhodiola is in the way it has transformed her life – alleviating her depression, reinvigorating her, and helping her to move past very serious trauma.

  4. Hmmm…yeah…I am not sure.

    I bought a bottle of rhodiola. I took one of the supplements today and have more energy AND yet, more anxiety.

    One of the things about rhodiola I just found is this (I don’t think I’m bipolar, but I believe there is research that shows hashimoto’s thyroidits mimics bipolar II and so I need to be careful what I’m doing with supplements):

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/455380-rhodiola-bipolar/

    Properties of Rhodiola

    Rhodiola is considered an adaptogen, which is a chemical stimulant capable of having a physiological effect. Rhodiola mediates changes in serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, which are strongly related to mood, according to “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition.” Rhodiola also stimulates the synthesis of epinephrine, norepinephrine and adrenocorticotropic hormones, all of which are related to energy levels and mood. Further, rhodiola regulates the adrenal glands’ production of cortisol, which is released in response to stress, infection and trauma. As such, cortisol is called the “stress hormone,” and imbalances can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Finally, rhodiola acts as a mild muscle relaxant and helps to regulate blood flow.

    Cautions

    Rhodiola is considered to be extremely safe because it exhibits exceptionally low toxicity. Nevertheless, consuming large doses can lead to irritability and insomnia. Recommendations are to consume rhodiola rosea extract on an empty stomach before breakfast or lunch. Some herbalists feel that people with bipolar disorder should avoid rhodiola because large doses can cause mood swings and hallucinations, which compounds the seriousness of the disorder, according to “The Way of Chinese Herbs.”

    I feel more anxious/restless. My chest feels more constricted, whereas yesterday, I felt overall exhausted but NO constriction. Then again, it probably didn’t help that I had two cups of coffee today too.

    Apparently there’s a study just completed on ashwaganhda and bipolar, but I can’t seem to find the conclusion, so I’m assuming they haven’t finished writing the report yet.

    http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00761761

    I’m throwing these out there because it’s important to know these are stimulants and caution does need to be exercised.

  5. Alison says:

    Night owls often are found to have problems with cortisol levels. They often tend to be people with anxiety problems, too, which is to be expected since anxiety, stress, and cortisol are related.

    It is very likely you have a bunch of problems with your health at a biochemical and nutritional level that you are not aware of that are all contributing to your anxiety, sleep, and stress problems. It is unrealistic to think you can solve all of them quickly, but over time (maybe a couple of years) you can probably get a big improvement by experimenting with changes in diet and supplements. It’s best if you can monitor yourself with a lot of blood tests to watch what is happening and to help select supplements, foods, and dosages appropriately. However, tests cost money so most people try to do this as best as they can without a lot of tests.

    If you have a blood pressure monitor, that is another measurement device that can be used to watch adrenal function. High cortisol levels tend to correspond to high blood pressure and low cortisol with low blood pressure. Of course there are other factors that affect blood pressure and temperature, too, so you can’t take this as a sure-fire sign of a cortisol imbalance. I think these measures are most useful when you have saliva test data that shows you have problems with cortisol and you are trying to watch your cortisol levels without having to re-run expensive tests often.

    DHEA is safer than you think. There are many hundreds of studies showing benefits from it. The cancer risk regarding DHEA and pregnenolone is largely theoretical. Probably the best argument for the connection has to do with prostate cancer in men, but then researchers showed that higher DHEA (which usually is tied to higher testosterone) actually seems to prevent prostate cancer in the first place. A better argument can be made that if you already have cancer, some cancers are hormone dependent and so aiding more DHEA (or its precursor pregnenolone) could boost testosterone or estrogen levels that could feed prostate or breast cancers.

    There’s a Life Extension article on DHEA and pregnelone safety that you should read.

    Both DHEA and pregnenolone may help with depression and anxiety and be used to reduce the need for more dangerous anti-anxiety meds such as benzodiazepines.

    There is a form of DHEA known as 7KETO DHEA that cannot be converted to testosterone and estrogen but otherwise works more or less the same as regular DHEA. Anybody who wants to try DHEA but is worried about cancer risk even after reading the article I mentioned would be better off with this form.

    NOW Foods sells a version of this called LeanGels that also has small amounts of rhodiola, acetyl L-carnitine, CLA, and green tea extra in it that can help boost mitochondrial energy production. Many people with PTSD or C-PTSD or adrenal fatigue have mitochondrial energy production problems from chronic stress.

    For people with low energy or problems related to it such as poor heart function and various brain, liver, and kidney disorders that are tied to inadequate energy production, often pursuing a mitochondrial supplementation program including some or all of CoQ10, idebenone, carnitine, alpha lipoic acid (which is synergistic with carnitine), PQQ, shilajit, D-Ribose, and vitamin K2 can make a big difference in energy levels.

    As far as reducing cancer risk goes, two of the easiest things you can do with supplements are to boost antioxidant intake and use anti-inflammatory supplements that reduce production of inflammatory cytokines. With foods, some of the best ones are broccoli and its relatives as they have a lot of biochemical compounds that have been shown to reduce cancer risk. Reducing carbohydrates, particularly in foods that do not have much fiber or protein in them, is also a good idea as rapid uptake of carbs spikes glucose and causes more rapid glycation (sugar cross-linking of proteins and lipids) that raise risks for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

    People with adrenal problems tend to have low levels of protein. This may be connected to inadequate quantities of stomach acid as cortisol levels are connected with digestive function. You can think of cortisol at high levels as functioning as a messenger that says to switch the body’s operations to emergency mode and to not spend resources on normal maintenance and repair functions. At low levels, some of the same things happen, too.

    Somebody I know became deficient in 5 out of 8 essential amino acids (building blocks for protein) over a matter of months due to severely depleted cortisol from chronic abuse leading to C-PTSD. The integrative medicine doctor recommended replacement cortisol along with betaine HCL and pepsin to boost protein digestion.

    There are so many biochemical factors involving diet, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. that it is very difficult to have a good understanding of what your body is doing without a lot of testing. Without the testing, you are sort of stuck at trying to fix things by experimenting without measurable basis for knowing what to pick and how to adjust dosages regarding how it is working.

    5HTP converts to serotonin. If your body converts it before it reaches the brain, it can raise serotonin levels outside the brain excessively and cause a relatively rare condition known as serotonin syndrome. Its symptoms include twitching. How much 5HTP did you take?

    A better option may be to supplement with L-tryptophan and lysine to help the tryptophan cross the blood brain barrier.

    Just about everybody under stress does some of the things that a person with a personality disorder does. A central difference is that people with personality disorders tend to be extreme in their behaviors and often with no apparent cause. The expression “walking on eggshells” applies to Borderlines and Randi Kreger’s book Stop Walking on Eggshells (which is about BPD) is therefore named after that feeling that you have no idea what is going to happen around these people as they can turn on you and rage at you over even something like you giving them a genuine compliment.

    If you are having so many unsuccessful pregnancies, it is possible that you have a hormone imbalance involving progesterone. There is a treatment strategy for some women with high risk pregnancies involving progesterone injections. This used to be inexpensive, but about one or two years ago the FDA stepped in and made it illegal for compounding pharmacies to make progesterone to force people to have to buy it from a company they approved. The result is that the price of the treatment has skyrocketed. It’s another case of the US government destroying the nation’s health care for the purposes of profit of companies that pay money to the FDA.

    Bipolar mood cycling is usually slower than you see in Borderline Personality Disorder. Borderlines can go from a rage against you to trying to suck you back into their web of lies and manipulations with sweet talk in a matter of minutes. Bipolars do not behave this way in general. Often their mood cycling is more on a scale of days or weeks rather than minutes or hours.

    There is very likely a strong biochemical basis for bipolar disorder, so certainly anybody with symptoms like it should be careful about supplements and medications that could affect neurotransmitters. Some say that omega 3 fish oils may help stabilize cell membranes and reduce bipolar mood swings. They have been found to help depression, too, but you have to take large dosages for a long time (probably several months to a year) before the effects against depression start to become apparent. That is probably because most Americans tend to have about a 20:1 to 40:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fat intake versus the ideal which is probably more like 2:1 to 3:1. So it is reasonable to think it would take a long time to make up for a deficit like that.

    The advice on taking rhodiola is generally to try it in the morning or around noon so that the effect decays by bedtime.

    I’ve used ashwaganda at all hours of the day and never noticed any apparent effect on sleep. But of course this is going to vary from person to person. Sensoril is probably the most widely used type of ashwagandha in research studies and was used in the study you cited.

    DMAE may help reduce your need for sleep. I have tried it previously and it seemed to cut my sleep needs by maybe an hour. It is converted in the body to acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter. Some people report it makes them have much more lucid dreams. I did not notice it interfering with sleep, even when taken at bedtime.

    Caffeine is a big no-no for people with cortisol or other adrenal problems. It tends to put more stress on the adrenal glands. Try the rhodiola WITHOUT the caffeine and see if the effect is different.

    Some other adaptogen supplements that may help with energy levels are Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) and Panax (Korean) ginseng. Both are often recommended for people with adrenal problems.

    Another really good thing the check out is your vitamin D level. Probably 80% or more of the population has insufficient vitamin D levels. I have talked with people who have depression, anxiety, and other health problems that are similar to yours (low energy, difficulty waking, etc.) who have levels 18 ng/ml or less which is abysmally low and probably related to their medical problems.

    Most adults are likely to need 5000 IU or more vitamin D3 per day to attain optimal levels. Low vitamin D is tied to a wide range of health problems including depression, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Fortunately vitamin D 5000 IU softgels are really cheap. Shop around and you can get a year’s supply for one person for less than $15.

    Be sure to get enough vitamin K2 and you may also consider dropping calcium supplements, too, as vitamin D improves calcium uptake significantly. The vitamin K2 is really important to keep the calcium in your bones and out of areas where it can cause calcification damage such as the blood vessels, heart, kidney, and liver. Most people do not get enough vitamin K2 as it is primarily found in large quantities in organ meats (liver) and certain fermented foods (natto) that many people avoid.

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