Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Courage is Contagious

Part Three: Part One and Two

So what does a non-medicated treatment plan look like? Of course, it's going to look different for everyone. I can only tell you about what mine looked like.

There are a few things about a non-medicated treatment plan that you should be aware of before deciding with your doctors if it's right for you… it might take longer than you'd expect, it might mean much more frequent contact with your medical professionals than you'd expect and it might mean a lot more exercise/nutrition alteration/therapy than you'd expect. That isn’t always doable for everyone.

What do I mean by "it might take longer than you expect"? When I asked my doctor if I could do this without medication she very honestly told me, "Yes, but you can do it faster with medication." So I knew going in that it was going to take longer. How much longer? That's going to be different for everyone but it took about a month before I felt like the depression had completely lifted and that just left the anxiety to deal with which took significantly longer and is still something I deal with even today.

How much contact with a medical professional? I saw my doctor about every 3 months for about a year. I'll get to how often I visited the therapist later.

How much exercise? Every time I felt anxious. Every time I felt the beginnings of a panic attack coming on. Every time I felt a fluttery sensation in my chest. Every time I felt a tight knot in my stomach. Every time I caught myself pacing around the house. Sometimes, it was 3-5 times a day. But I'm talking about 15-20 minute little bursts. Leslie Sansone Walk Away the Pounds DVDs are wonderful. Talk a walk in your home if you can't get outside. Dance around the house, jump rope, walk around the back yard, anything that gets your heart rate up. When that starts to drop, your anxiety level will drop as well.

What kind of nutrition alteration? Again, it's going to differ for everyone, but for me, I quit caffeine cold turkey! Sorry, my coffee/Diet Coke loving friends, but it's a drug... in the same category as speed (amphetamines) or cocaine. It might be beneficial in small doses, but it can be addictive and so it should be used with moderation. If a friend you loved who's last cold was months ago told you she couldn't go to bed without her NyQuil spiked tea, that she couldn't even imagine tea without NyQuil or that she's just too awake normally and needs her NyQuil to help calm her down and get her brain ready for sleep, you'd be concerned, wouldn't you? Consider this a caffeine intervention!

How did I quit? Well, caffeine can trigger panic attacks. You have enough of those and you won't go anywhere near the stuff. You will even start calling companies to find out if their products contain caffeine and what levels. Chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the higher caffeine content) and all dark colored sodas with the exception of a few root beers have caffeine. Some drinks like Big Red and Mountain Dew have more than Coke or Pepsi.

If you love the taste of coffee, try decaf. The amount of caffeine in decaf is so insignificant. And don't tell me that you can taste the difference! Caffeine naturally tastes bitter. Barq's Root Beer adds it to their recipe to cut the sweetness. If you want bitter, there are tons of bitter decafs to choose from. Eight O'Clock would be my first suggestion!

Caffeine is addictive. It forces your brain to produce beta-endorphins. It blocks adenosine receptors in the brain causing your neurons to become more active. Then your pituitary responds to what it perceives as an emergency situation with a fight or flight adrenaline response. You can read more here. It's a drug. A socially accepted drug, but a drug none the less. And while it might be a mild drug, it does have side effects. If you think you are addicted, ask yourself if you're OK with that. Is it OK for this thing to have control over you or should you have control over it? I know that it can be used for medicinal purposes, but like all medications, it should be used in moderation.

I did not explore any other kind of nutritional therapy other than identifying other natural stimulants like cinnamon, for example, but Elizabeth has written up her PPD treatment plan and you might find that helpful.

How much therapy/spiritual direction? Once a week. For a few months. And I do believe that I might have begged for twice a week at one point. Then once every two weeks. For a few months. Then once every three weeks. For a few months. Then once a month. Then once every couple of months. And finally...only on an as needed basis. That much. And then, you might have other homework to do. Relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, aroma therapy, journaling, prayer... get ready to work!

Now, I get that this plan for treatment may not be doable by everyone out there. It's the treatment plan that worked for me. I am in no way trying to say that one size fits all. There are so many resources now, so many options. Find the one that fits you! Get help. Take care of yourself so that you can better care for those precious little ones God has placed in your arms!


  1. Hi! I mostly lurk, but I love your blog. I just wanted to say that sometimes substances like artificial sweeteners can cause panic attacks. My own panic attacks have all occurred when I was using artificial sweeteners. I can't say for sure that they were caused by the artificial sweeteners (in fact I think they're more complex than that) but I'm not about to use them again to find out. Also, I have to watch my sugar levels, which seem to ironically be more affected by artificial fats (margarine, etc.) than by sugar. Unstable blood sugar levels affect my mood in a huge way. Thanks for this series!


  2. Thanks for de-lurking and sharing that advice with us, Sarah! I wouldn't have to thought to include artificial sweeteners. I usually stay away from them because I don't like the taste.

  3. I do have to recommend a 2 or 3 step process to eliminating caffeine if you are an addict. I get terrible headaches if I quit cold turkey, but I'm fine if I brew pots that are half regular-half decaf for a few days, then 3/4 decaf, 1/4 regular for another few days. (Or drink half as much caffeine as usual, then 1/4 as much as usual, etc).

    Not everybody gets the headaches, but mine are so bad that I'm useless as a human being until I get over it (which usually takes 2-3 days). Just my two cents to help somebody avoid misery.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!