Finding hope in the dark


40879688It’s hard for me to express just how pleased I am that I’m now seeing a health psychologist. I feel hopeful about dealing with some of my physical ailments now, for the first time in a long time. My most recent session on Wednesday gave me some piercing insights.

I went to him, Dr. M, at my regular therapist’s recommendation to find help with my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I’ve had it for several years now, and the pain and the desperate dashes for the bathroom are debilitating. (Note: My gastroenterologist has tested me to a fare-thee-well and concluded that my IBS is stress-related. I don’t have ulcers, cancer, sprue, Celiac disease, etc. We’ve tried several different medicines with no noticeable effect.).

My main symptom is diarrhea. On bad days, I’ll have to go to the bathroom 7-8 times in a couple of hours. It’s like having continuous food poisoning. I mention this gross fact just so you’ll get why Dr. M’s comments to me were so trippy and dead-on correct.

First, the ‘mediciney’ stuff

Dr. M told me about how some medicines interact. He explained why some medications shouldn’t be taken in generic form; there’s the “70% rule” (generics are often only about 70% effective compared to the original medicines). It’s particularly important for medicines that treat depression and thyroid disease. Guess who uses generics for those conditions …

He also suggested talking to my psychiatrist about taking ProMeth. It’s a drug that enhances the effect of certain medications for depression. (It helps support normal mood by providing the brain with the nutritional levels of L-methylfolate it needs to produce the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Basically, it supplies a digestible form of folate.)

We also talked about a constellation of illnesses I have that are related. And, with my diabetes, we also talked about how one type of bariatric surgery helps to lower your blood sugar even before it helps you lose weight. And because my BMI is 45.7, it’s in the morbidly obese category, so my insurance is likely to pay for the surgery because it’s medically needed.

So I’ve signed up for a seminar about it at a local hospital to learn more. If I do that (and it will be a big “If,” taken with plenty of forethought), it would be the roux-en-y gastric bypass. That particular one helps more with diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol, and it’s not just because of the weight loss; it’s also because of how your body adapts to the new gut plumbing. The diabetes typically improves or disappears within days, supposedly.

I currently take 20 pills a day (diabetes, depression, IBS, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, urgent bladded, HSV1, allergies and Vitamin D deficiency). Any improvement would be a good thing.

Next, the ‘psych-y’ stuff

We also talked about the effect of beliefs, history, circumstances, etc. affect health. The mind really *does* affect the body. He said it’s helpful when contemplating this to think of it this way: “What is this inconvenient symptom trying to accomplish?” Then reach that goal in another way, and the symptom can go away.

For example: People will often shit or piss themselves in extreme crisis situations, just like apes do. (Just ask any cop who’s worked a major accident scene.) It’s the body’s reaction to having all its resources automatically shunted to the brain and muscles while the gut becomes a second priority to survival. Your body will literally dump what it doesn’t need and concentrate on staying alive.

He also cautioned that some physical conditions have purely mechanical causes. But for those symptoms caused by or worsened by a psychological issue, this questioning can be helpful.

cinderellaI kept thinking, “So what is triggering my IBS? What psychological issue could it be a symptom of?” We talked briefly about that. I mentioned that it emerged in the aftermath of my husband’s four-year emotional affair. I said I’ve quasi-joked to my husband that his affair has been my literal pain in the ass. (All those bathroom trips will really irritate your pooper.) I mentioned my rage and pain about the betrayal, even years after the affair ended.

And then Dr. M. said something like, “So you’re literally losing your shit.”

… tick … tick … tick … I gasped and my jaw dropped open.

Oh. My. God. That is hilarious and awful and perfectly apropos.

Funny, in those times when I’ve considered leaving my husband for good, I’ve thought of it sometimes in terms of, “I need to get my shit together.”

It really resonated with me. I’m going to be thinking about this for days and days.

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