Be Mindful of Your Medications

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Late last year, I was at work and started feeling really foggy. My hands were trembling, my anxiety was rising, and I started to feel confused. I would look at my computer screen and within seconds forget what I was looking at. It was terrifying.

I told my supervisor that I needed to leave. I called my boyfriend to have him pick me up, and while I waited I called my psychiatrist. I described my symptoms to her, and she told me to start reducing the amount of quetiapine (a schizophrenia medication that is also used to treat bipolar disorder) I was taking by half every three days until I wasn’t taking it anymore. Eventually, I started feeling normal again, but it was a scary experience to feel myself growing more and more confused and frazzled by the moment.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about that experience on here before, but I was thinking about it recently after speaking to a friend about medication interactions. I had mentioned to her that I was taking Lexapro and Trazadone (among others), and she told me that her doctor had advised her not to combine the two because it can lead to serious side effects, including serotonin syndrome. I looked it up online and sure enough, she was right:

Using escitalopram [Lexapro] together with trazodone can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called the serotonin syndrome, which may include symptoms such as confusion, hallucination, seizure, extreme changes in blood pressure, increased heart rate, fever, excessive sweating, shivering or shaking, blurred vision, muscle spasm or stiffness, tremor, incoordination, stomach cramp, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases may result in coma and even death.

Obviously, I stopped taking the trazodone. It’s a sleeping aid, so thankfully it’s not something that I’m required to take daily and there are no issues with stopping it suddenly.

After feeling relieved that I had avoided any of the above horrifying side-effects, I was disappointed and frustrated that two separate doctors had approved the combination for me, even doubling the amount of both recently. Then when I picked them up at the pharmacy, the pharmacist didn’t advise me to be careful with them.

While I feel like it is the responsibility of doctors and pharmacists to alert patients when they may be taking a potentially deadly cocktail of drugs, it made me realize that I also need to take some responsibility for my own health.

If you start taking a new medication, pay attention to your body. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to call your doctor or pharmacist to find out if it’s normal. Use the power of the internet to research drug interactions. Read the pamphlets that come with your medications.

It’s so important to maintain both your physical and mental health and being attuned to your body and realizing if something is wrong is a huge part of that. Take control of your health as much as you can and learn to be an activist for yourself. No one knows yourself better than you do!


Have you ever experienced a scary side-effect from a medication or combination of medications? Let’s talk about it in the comments!




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What’s the Difference Between Psychiatry and Psychology?

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When I first began seeking help for my mental health, there were so many unfamiliar terms. The most confusing for me at first was simply the difference between the two different types of doctors available: psychiatrists and psychologists. I’m sure I’m not the only person who was confused about the difference between the two, so I wanted to help out anyone else who might be in the same boat.

Essentially, psychiatry is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnoses, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. Meanwhile, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior.

So what does this mean? Since a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, that means that they can prescribe medicine. So when you need to get on mental health medication or alter the drugs you’re on, you’ll want to see a psychiatrist. They can also diagnose your mental disorders and give you testing.

If you’re looking for talk therapy, however, you’ll want to see a psychologist. While they can’t prescribe you medications, these are the professionals you’ll want to see when you want help working through your problems. Cognitive and behavioral therapies as well as many others, including art therapy, are just some of the services they offer.

Depending on the type of help you need, you might need to go to one or the other, or you can seek out both types of help (which is what I need to stay healthy). If you’re not sure what you need, talk to your doctor for recommendations.

I’m American, so I don’t know anything about options in other countries. If you do and want to offer some advice, please do so in the comments. So, some tips for Americans seeking mental health care:

  • If you have health insurance, check your provider’s website or call them for a list of psychiatrists and psychologists that your insurance will cover. Don’t expect it to be easy, however; I have great insurance through my job, but it was still an epic pain-in-the-ass to search through hundreds of names to find a good provider.
  • If you don’t have insurance, you still have options. There are free or sliding-scale practices all over the country, and a Google search will help you find them.
  • If you don’t have time to go to a doctor’s office and would prefer to seek help online, there are resources for that too. The only one I’ve used is Talkspace because my employer offers a service through them. I didn’t stick with it because I prefer face to face appointments, but it’s a great option if you prefer video chats or emailing with a psychologist.
  • Finally, if you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, please seek help immediately. Either visit your local hospital or call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255, which is available in both English and Spanish.

If you need help with your mental health, I know it can be scary and overwhelming to find the services, doctors, and medications that are right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!



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Reading as an Escape

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One of the most common reasons I hear for why people love to read is that it allows them to escape the stress of our real world and escape into a fantasy. Escapism is a powerful tool for releasing the stress that builds up over time, and it also serves to let us view worlds, ideas, and people that we may never experience otherwise.

Escapism is the primary reason that I’m drawn to books. It’s no secret that I have a great deal of stress and anxiety in my life; I’ve shared it with you guys often. I also work a high-stress job dealing with scared, angry, and frightened people over the phone, and there are times when it’s hard for me not to dwell on those situations once I’ve clocked out from work. Mental illness, financial hardships, health crises, a global pandemic… these are only a few reasons that we might pick up a book in order to escape for a few hours.

I started reading at an early age, but I think it was in middle school and high school where I really picked up reading as a serious hobby. I was not a happy teenager. I was severely depressed and untreated; I missed too many days of school, I failed assignments because I was too anxious or embarrassed to present a project in front of the class, and I didn’t feel as though I really fit in with my friend group.

Reading was what I turned to in order to release the stress. I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction, and I would get lost in the stories. While I was reading, I wasn’t focused on my speech impediment, being overweight, or overwhelming loneliness; I was going on an adventure with a group of exciting characters! The library quickly became my favorite place to be, and I skipped lunch in high school more than a few times in order to pursue the shelves in search of my next story.

As I’ve gotten older and am nearing my mid-thirties, I still find myself turning to fiction when the real world becomes too much to handle. Sometimes it can be detrimental, and I’m aware of that; for example, there are times when I really should be working, doing chores, or running errands, but I cannot bring myself to close the book. I have to know what happens next. Overall, though, reading has allowed me the space I need to breathe and come back to myself.

Several years ago, I moved away from Asheville, NC, where most of my friends live, to a city where I didn’t know anyone aside from family. I still don’t have a large group of friends here, and when I’m feeling lonely, reaching for a book or talking to other members of our book community makes me feel happier and less alone.

I don’t know what my future looks like, but I do know that no matter what happens, I will always turn to books when I want to feel better, or get lost, or explore a new world. Books have given me so much throughout my life, and I hope I can continue to share my love of the written word with all of you for years to come.


What does reading mean to you? Let me know in the comments!




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Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee – A Review

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Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee
Nonfiction | Self-Help | Psychology
Published by Harmony
Released March 10th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

If there’s one book that I’ve read this year that I would encourage everyone to read, it would be Celeste Headlee’s Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. Even though we’re only halfway through the year, I’m confident that this book will still be my top non-fiction recommendation of the year come December.

No one can deny that Americans, and citizens of numerous other nations, are extremely overworked. Most of us rarely stop moving, even after we punch out. We’re always busy and we rarely take time to relax. I’ve talked on the blog before about job-related burnout, and I’ve experienced it for years (especially back when I was working two jobs!).

In Do Nothing, Celeste Headlee makes the case that Americans are too focused on productivity and efficiency, to the detriment of our happiness and health. Rather than working 40+ hours a week and constantly striving to be the best member of your team, she suggests that we slow down and set aside time to relax, have hobbies, and truly rest.

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Celeste Headlee

Before I talk about all the reasons that I love this book and its purpose, I do want to mention that the idea of voluntarily taking time off from work or just simply working less comes from a place of privilege. Obviously, if you’re struggling to put food on the table and pay bills, you’re not going to be able to do it. The reason I rated this book 4.5 stars rather than 5 is due to this book not being practical for everyone.

There are several points that Headlee discusses in her book that are important. First, the tradition of a 40-hour workweek is outdated. This isn’t anything new – there have been plenty of studies that show that workers who work fewer hours are just as productive and are happier at work. The “standard” work week, as we know it, was invented during the Industrial Revolution to maximize the profits of business owners and milk as much productivity out of their workers as they possibly could.

Second, we as a culture are constantly working to improve our productivity and efficiency, even when those things actually make more work for us. Think about it – how many of us use a plethora of apps every single day to track our food, water intake, moods, steps, to-do list, etc? All of this takes time, and while there are benefits to these things, it’s taking away from our precious leisure time. We also take our work home with us through email on our phones and having to be available whenever our bosses need us. We’re not really relaxing if we’re on call 24/7.

Third, and possibly most importantly, Headlee discusses in length the effect that social isolation has on the human psyche. More and more people prefer texting or email over real life social interactions, and that is linked to growing rates of depression and loneliness. No one talks to their neighbors or have backyard barbecues or game nights.

These, along with several other incredibly important issues, are all addressed in length by Headlee. She argues her points succinctly, with plenty of evidence to back up her claims. Everything in the book is easy to understand and is something that most of us likely already know subconsciously, but that desperately needs to be said.

The one thing that I took away from this book that I think will have a lasting impact on me is the suggestion that we can work enough to provide the lifestyle we want, rather than constantly striving for more. I’ll admit it’s not something that has ever crossed my mind consciously but make so much sense. When I picture my future, I don’t see being a manager of a huge company and having an embarrassingly large house (although it’s okay if that’s what you want!); I simply want a modest home with enough land to grow food, be able to take trips occasionally, and not worry about paying my bills or putting food on the table. I’m okay with not being at the top, I just want to be comfortable enough to enjoy life. It’s such a simple concept, but one that’s also easy to forget.

If I haven’t made it clear yet, read this book! I rarely call a book life-changing, but changing our lifestyles to become healthier, happier people is something that we should all be striving for. Work consumes our lives, and few people are actually fulfilled by their jobs – let’s work instead towards the goal of learning to enjoy our leisure time.




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Emotional Detox for Anxiety by Sherianna Boyle – A Review

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Emotional Detox for Anxiety: 7 Steps to Release Anxiety and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle
Nonfiction | Mental Health | Self-Help
Published by Adams Media
Expected Publication: December 24th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I read a lot of self-help and mental health books because it helps me stay on track in my own life. Managing bipolar disorder and anxiety is difficult, and I’ll take all the help I can get. Which is why I jumped on the opportunity to read and review Sherianna Boyle’s Emotional Detox for Anxiety.

This book is the follow-up to Boyle’s Emotional Detox, but specifically targeting people with anxiety. She proposes that by using the C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method people can treat the underlying causes of “painful emotions in general and anxiety in particular.” C.L.E.A.N.S.E. stands for:

  • Clear Reactivity
  • Look Inward
  • Emit
  • Activate Joy
  • Nourish
  • Surrender
  • Ease

I can’t say that this is the book that has helped me the most, but there’s a lot of great advice for people suffering from anxiety.

Sherianna Boyle is very thorough in breaking down anxiety, starting with describing what anxiety is and what the underlying causes often are, and ending with step-by-step instructions for following the C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method. I appreciated that she delved a bit into the science of anxiety, such as when she discusses the connection between inflammation in the body and anxiety in the mind.

Some of Boyle’s advice is expected, such as meditations and creating a healthier environment for yourself. However, some people might find the advice in the book a little hippy-ish or “woo-woo,” so keep in mind that if you try to avoid that sort of thing, this book might not be the best option for you. Think humming, visualization practices and manifesting, and opening your third eye.

None of the information in this book is necessarily revolutionary, and most of the components of Boyle’s C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method is also incorporated in other forms of anxiety treatment, but if you’re someone who hasn’t found a way to handle your anxiety and you want to try something new, it won’t hurt to read this book and give Boyle’s method a shot. It didn’t help me personally, as I’ve found that sound therapy/meditation and manifesting do nothing for me, but everybody is different.

One slightly-weird aspect of this book that I feel the need to mention is that the author seems to bring some of her own baggage into it. I have no idea how often Boyle brings up the fact that her husband had an affair and it caused her pain, but it’s a lot. It was enough that I started to get annoyed with it. There’s nothing wrong with writing about your own experiences; in fact, it’s good to do so! She just overdid it and left me wondering if she shouldn’t practice her C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method a bit more herself.

While I did discover a lot of information in this book, it’s not going to be one that I find myself coming back to in the future. I made the effort to internalize the new-to-me information, and I feel that I have nothing more to get out of this book. As I mentioned before, however, everyone is different and copes in their own way. If Emotional Detox for Anxiety sounds like a book that might help you, grab a copy and give it a shot!




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An Example of What Bipolar Disorder is Like

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At least as far back as high school, I’ve dealt with severe depression, anxiety, and mood changes, but it wasn’t until this past year that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The diagnosis didn’t lead to a cure for the disorder since there isn’t one, but it’s allowed me to notice the symptoms and triggers for the manic or depressive episodes that define the disease. Seeking professional help for it has also led to being on medication that I, in all honesty, should have been on decades ago.

Unfortunately, we’re still getting the medications worked out. The types of drugs and the amount vary for everyone, and we haven’t quite found the right mix for me yet, despite going as far as doing genetic testing to try to figure out the best combinations. The medication has certainly helped to a certain degree, but I’m still having manic and depressive episodes that are severe enough to interrupt my normal day-to-day activities.

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This past week has been a rough one, and also a perfect example of what my bipolar disorder is like. Therefore, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about what I experience every time I go through a manic and depressive episode.

Everything started out fine this past week, and I even managed to complete nearly a full week at work (which has been rare for me lately). Then the hypomania kicked in.

Hypomania is different from mania, although it can also lead to full-blown mania. Bipolar mania tends to get out of control, sometimes even requiring hospitalizations. Mania lasts for a week or more, can lead to terrible decisions (think out-of-control spending, increased drinking and drug use, and making poor sexual choices) and is something that, thankfully, I’ve only experienced twice in my life.

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Lasting for just a few days however, hypomania actually feels great much of the time. During the hypomanic days that I experienced this past week, I was incredibly productive, highly motivated, excited about everything, talkative (which is strange for me, because I’m usually really quiet), and didn’t sleep as much. I experience hypomania frequently, and it always leads to a period of depression.

It’s a strange feeling to be hypomanic. One the one hand, it’s wonderful, because I no longer feel depressed, I have less anxiety, and I can get so much done. On the other hand, however, I know that it can lead to an actual manic episode. I have trouble knowing when I’m hypomanic, which is why I’m thankful for my boyfriend, who has taken the time to get familiar with the disorder so that he can help recognize the symptoms even when I can’t.

So, for two to three days, I felt great. And then yesterday happened.

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Yesterday I woke up feeling shattered. I didn’t want to get out of bed, my anxiety was about as high as it could get, and I felt worthless. I had to call out of work which was necessary but made me feel guilty and even more upset.

My entire day yesterday consisted of beating myself up mentally, binge-eating, trying to escape into Fallout 4, and napping. So much napping.

My boyfriend did what he could to try to cheer me up and to make sure I was eating and drinking water, lighting stress-relieving candles around me and putting my cat on my lap when I was feeling particularly bad (quick tip – purring cats make you feel better). Despite all this, I just felt like absolute trash all day.

Depression isn’t something that you can smile your way out of or ignore the pain of. There’s nothing worse that you can say to someone suffering from depression than “snap out of it” or “It’s not that bad – deal with it.” It’s a mental illness that can lead to physical pain and make normal life impossible to carry on with.

Being bipolar is difficult. There are any number of things that can trigger either a manic or depressive episode. The worst thing I’ve been dealing with lately is that it appears that my job is a trigger for depression, which is terrible since it’s the best-paying job I’ve ever had, and I desperately need the medical and mental health benefits that I receive from it.

While these manic and depressive episodes are different in everyone, and can even vary for me, this was a great example of what living with bipolar disorder feels like. As I learn more about coping with this disorder, I’ll share what I learn with you guys. As of today, I’m still struggling with the depressive part, but I know it won’t be too long before I’m on another upswing.

Bipolar disorder is one hell of a mentally exhausting disease.


Are there any questions you would like to see answered about living with bipolar disorder? Leave them in the comments for me and I’ll answer as many as I can!




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Everything You Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Now that it’s officially autumn, it’s getting close to the time of year when many people, approximately 10 million of them, are going to start feeling more depressed.

Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects people based on seasons. The majority of people with SAD become depressed in autumn and winter, with the symptoms lessening or disappearing in spring or summer. The symptoms start out mildly at the beginning of the season and then gets worse as the season progresses.

While SAD can affect anyone, there are certain people who are more prone to it. Women are four times more likely than men to be diagnosed with it, and people with a family history of SAD or other forms of depression are more prone. Also, the farther you live from the equator, the more common SAD becomes.


Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of SAD are the same as for people suffering from year-round depression, such as: overwhelming feelings of sadness, low energy, feeling hopeless, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in things you previously loved, changes in appetite, problems sleeping, or thoughts of death or suicide.

However, there are symptoms specific to SAD, and if you suffer from it in autumn/winter or spring/summer. Here are those symptoms, from the Mayo Clinic:

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

Oversleeping
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain
Tiredness or low energy
Social withdrawal

Spring and summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include

Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Poor appetite
Weight loss
Agitation, anxiety, or violent behavior
Restlessness


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Causes of SAD

While, like depression, the root cause of what causes SAD and why only certain people suffer from it is unknown, there are a number of factors that can contribute. The most prevalent are the changes to your serotonin and melatonin levels.

Serotonin and melatonin are both important chemicals produced naturally in your body.

Serotonin, also called 5-hydroxytryptamine, is found in your brain, bowels, and blood platelets. Your body’s levels of serotonin can increase due to exercise and diet, along with light levels. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, as the chemical is responsible for regulating mood, sleep, memory, and more.

You know that feeling after working out when you feel amazing and invincible? That’s serotonin. A deficiency in serotonin has a number of symptoms, such as

  • bad moods
  • poor memory
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • cravings for sweet or starchy foods

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland that aids in sleeping well and regularly. According to the National Sleep Foundation,

“During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is ‘turned on’ by the SCN [suprachiasmatic nucleaus, an area of the brain] and begins to actively produced melatonin, which is released into the blood.”

Bright lights (such as those fluorescent lights you work under) and blue light (from your phone or computer screens) both suppress the production of melatonin. There are a number of ways that you can increase your melatonin levels at night.

The most obvious way is to turn off your technology an hour before going to bed. Blue light is super harmful to your ability to sleep, and we all spend too much time on our phones anyway. Turn them off and read a book before bed. There are also special glasses that you can buy that block out harmful lights.

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Stop doing this!

The most popular way to increase melatonin levels, however, is to take it as a supplement. Melatonin supplements can be purchased over-the-counter and from online retailers such as Amazon and Wal-Mart. It’s generally considered safe, although there can be side-effects. While it can really help some people sleep better, it’s a bad choice for others.

To give you an example, I’ll share the effects that melatonin supplements have on both myself and my boyfriend.

I take melatonin a couple of times per week, on those days when I can’t fall asleep by other means. I’ll take two gummies about an hour before sleep, and by the time that hour is up, I’m falling into a blissful slumber.

When my boyfriend takes melatonin, however, it does help him fall asleep, but when he wakes up the next morning, his entire day is ruined by a “melatonin hangover.” He’s groggy for the entire day and has trouble focusing. We’ve even tried cutting his dose in half, and it still has the same effects.

If you have trouble sleeping and want to give melatonin a try, by all means go for it. Just remember that it isn’t for everyone. Some common side-effects of taking supplemental melatonin include drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Also, it’s not safe to take melatonin if you have an autoimmune disease or are taking oral contraceptives (it reduces their effectiveness).

 


Natural Ways to Relieve SAD

While it typically isn’t possible to get over SAD on your own, there are a number of activities and habits you can take up in the autumn and winter to reduce the severity of your symptoms.

  1. Exercise regularly. Exercise causes your brain to release important chemicals (such as serotonin) that promote your mood. Plus, exercise has so many other great benefits, like increased brainpower, weight loss, higher energy levels, and reduced risks of chronic diseases.
  2. LightOne of the treatments for SAD is the use of light to improve your mood. While going outside and getting natural sunlight is the best choice, that’s a lot harder to do in the winter. Fortunately, there are countless lamps made specifically to mimic natural light. Sitting near one of these lamps will improve your mood during those darker times. Very Well Mind has put together a wonderful list of some of your best options.
  3. Diet. Studies have shown that foods high in a chemical call tryptophans can lead to improved mood. Here’s a list of foods high in tryptophans that you might want to add to your diet when you normally experience SAD. As you can see, there are a lot of different options, so everyone should be able to incorporate at least a few of these into their diet.
    • Bananas
    • Eggs
    • Salmon
    • Poultry (chicken, turkey, and goose)
    • Seeds & nuts
    • Soy products
    • Spinach
    • Milk and cheese
  4. Aromatherapy. Essential oils are great for relieving stress. This is one option that I can personally vouch for. I used to work in the spa industry, and I learned to use various essential oils to produce the desired effects that I wanted. One of my favorite, not related to SAD but still useful, is the energizing effects of grapefruit and rosemary essential oils blended together into a diffuser. Here’s a list of four essential oils that might help relieve symptoms of SAD.
  5. Routine. Sticking to a regular schedule, even when you don’t feel like it, has the benefit of teaching your body when it’s time to sleep or eat. SAD can lead to insomnia and weight gain, and having specific times when you do these things can lessen the effects.
  6. Journaling. I’ve written on this blog before about journaling and the effect it can have on your life and mood. In my own experience with depression, journaling can provide a necessary outlet to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you can better analyze your thoughts and deal with them. I like to journal in the evening before I go to bed, as a sort of “brain dump” to help me sleep well, instead of worrying about everything that happened that day.

Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes, home remedies aren’t going to be enough, and that’s okay. You need to take your mental health just as seriously as your physical health.

If you start to have feelings associated with depression or SAD, please seek out your doctor or a psychologist. They’ll start off by doing a few tests to make sure something else isn’t going on, such as an underlying health problem. Once that’s ruled out, your doctor will do a psychological evaluation to determine if you have SAD.

Once you’re diagnosed, your doctor will recommend treatments or medications for you. For treatment options, they might recommend light therapy (phototherapy) or traditional talk therapy (psychotherapy). When it comes to medication, there are a number of options, including bupropion (which I take myself and has improved my energy levels) and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, aka anti-depressants).

I would like to reiterate here that there is nothing wrong with taking anti-depressants or going to therapy. It drives me crazy that there is still a stigma in some communities over seeking help for mental health. If you are feeling depressed, please seek help.


In the end, seasonal affective disorder is a real and very serious disease. If you find that yourself or loved ones are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, please consider getting help.


Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or know someone that does? Feel free to leave any insights or advice in the comments!




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The Transformation by James Gordon, MD – A Review

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The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma by James Gordon, MD
Mental Health | Psychology | Nonfiction
Published by HarperOne
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I’ve frequently written about my struggles with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder on this blog, and I always look forward to reviewing books that deal with mental illness. When FSB Associates reached out to me to ask if I’d like to review Dr. James Gordon’s new book, The Transformation, I jumped on the chance. Despite not being familiar with the author’s name, I had definitely heard of his organization, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

It took me a while to read through this book, but that was only because the information contained within it was so helpful, and I wanted to try out all of Gordon’s advice. I went through a whole stack of sticky notes annotating this book so that I could come back to it over and over again.

The Transformation is a book meant to help people deal with trauma through methods other than being prescribed antidepressants and other drugs. One thing to note is that Dr. Gordon doesn’t think that medications are bad, in fact, he writes in multiple places that they are useful if needed, but that the techniques in this book can be used before resorting to taking pills.

Of course, the advice and techniques contained in this book can be used if you’re already on various medications, such as I am. Medication only goes so far, and it’s always nice to have other methods for handling the bad symptoms of mental illness.

One aspect of this book that immediately drew me to it was Dr. Gordon’s definition of trauma. Whereas many people think of trauma as something rare, he defines it as something that everyone experiences – from violence and war to losing your loved ones to being fired from a job. It’s this definition that I feel should be the correct one. So many of us can point to at least one traumatic experience in our past that we are still trying to overcome, and as such, The Transformation is a book that I would recommend to everyone.

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Dr. James S Gordon

Within the book, Gordon gives us plenty of examples of how his methods have worked for different groups of people, from survivors of brutal wars, to business people, to first responders, and everyone else.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first of some of the advice, particular what he calls “shaking and dancing.” Essentially, this is similar to ecstatic dancing, which I’m familiar with (it was popular when I lived in Asheville) but that I’ve never done. Well, I tried it while reading this book, and let me tell you – it really did help loosen me up when I was stressed and anxious. It left me feeling more energized. My full-time job is at a call center that deals with auto insurance, and it’s the most stressful and demeaning job that I’ve ever had. This past week, I’ve taken to hiding in bathroom stalls when I feel like I’m on my way to having another panic attack in order to “shake things off,” and it has really improved things for me. While it’s not going to solve the fact that my job worsens my mental health or that I have anxiety, it is a useful method for dealing with it in the moment.

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Another part of The Transformation that I really appreciated was the chapter on diet and mental health. I’ve always been fascinated by how the foods we eat can influence our mood and mental health, and it’s a section of the book that I will definitely be referencing frequently.

I’m not going to go into detail into every technique that Dr. James Gordon discusses, because I think you should get it directly from the book. What I do want to say is that I am incredibly thankful to the publisher for reaching out to me for a review, because it’s already improving my life. I doubt I would have picked this up otherwise, but I’m so, so happy that I’ve read it.

If there’s any part of your past or present that is causing you stress or anxiety, please find a copy of this book when it’s released on September 10th. Whether you purchase a copy or request a copy from your library, just get it into your hands and read it.


Need some other mental health books to hold you over until September 10th?

Perfectly Hidden Depression | Healthy as F*ck




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My Bipolar Type II Diagnosis

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At the beginning of last year, I started a new full-time job, one that had great health benefits. Previous to this, I had worked jobs that either didn’t offer health care or didn’t offer good healthcare. I’d gone most of my twenties without having insurance, which meant I had zero access to mental health care.

Once I had insurance, I went to my primary care doctor and brought up my issues with anxiety and depression. He prescribed Zoloft to me, and I started taking medication for my mental health for the very first time.

Before we go further, a few things: First, I’ve suffered from depression since middle school, so for nearly twenty years. At times it’s been incredibly severe, even to the point where I’d fantasize about suicide. Second, I’ve always had wild mood swings, sometimes going from happy to depressed within seconds. Third, I’ve also dealt with crippling anxiety, particularly in high school, which has slowly gotten manageable over time. I’ve long known that I needed to be receiving mental health care, but when you don’t have insurance and are working jobs that don’t provide income beyond that which you need for basic necessities, it can be impossible to get the help you need.

Back to the Zoloft. At first, it worked. I noticed that I was generally happier. The changes happened quick, almost too quick. Within a couple months, it completely stopped working, actually making things worse. I became lethargic and depressed, and it got so bad that my boyfriend was skipping work to be home with me because neither of us wanted me to be home alone.

I went back to the doctor, and he then switched me to 20mg of Lexapro. The same thing happened this time around – it started working right away and then stopped, and I was thrown into another period of depression and worsening anxiety.

So then I went back to my doctor a third time. This time around, he cut my dosage of Lexapro in half and added Wellbutrin. And… you guessed it. The same thing happened again.

Finally, I’d had enough. I booked my first appointment at a psychiatric office, which I should have done in the first place. I met with someone who I talked with for about half an hour, and she looked at me and told me straight up that she was 90% sure I was bipolar.

I had heard of bipolar disorder before because I had a high school teacher who was bipolar, but I really didn’t know much about it. At the end of that appointment, I was scheduled for another, to get my actual bipolar diagnosis, when I was told that I had bipolar type 2. Afterward, I started doing research on bipolar disorder, and I was shocked at how every single symptom was something I’d experienced. It felt so good to finally know what was going on in my brain.

My new doctor kept me on the Lexapro and Wellbutrin but added Quetiapine to the mix. So far, everything is working. In fact, I feel the best I have in recent memory. The Quetiapine maintains my mood swings, and I rarely have panic attacks anymore.

Looking back, I’m not surprised by my diagnosis. I’ve been able to pinpoint manic episodes, where my energy levels would shoot up to astronomical levels. I’d stop sleeping, and take up activities that weren’t particularly healthy. In fact, during one of these manic episodes, I lost nearly 100 pounds in a few months because I spent an entire summer being obsessed with working out, sometimes working out for six to eight hours a day. With the help of my doctor, I was able to pinpoint two truly manic episodes in my past.

With bipolar type 2, I’m more prone to hypomanic episodes, which “is an emotional state characterized by a distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting throughout at least four (4) consecutive days, according to the American Psychiatric Association.” I’ve been learning how to deal with this disorder, and I finally feel that I’m getting the mental health care that I’ve needed.

I’ve been wanting to write this article to encourage other people to get the help they need, and to make sure you’re speaking up about whether or not your mental health medications are working. At times, when the previous concoctions of pills weren’t working, I didn’t notice right away, because the slide into depression happened slowly. The first time it happened, with the Zoloft, the only reason I noticed it was because my boyfriend pointed it out to me.

If you feel as though you need mental health care, get it. If your medication isn’t working perfectly, talk to your doctor. You deserve to be happy.




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