Monday, December 15, 2014

Word from the ED Counselor: on Guilt and Depression

I went to see Cloe this morning and got some words. I spilled many of my own, too... mainly talking about my feeling that even though life is "good" right now, I don't *feel* "good." I had a rough last two years or so, some of which I blogged about and some of which I didn't. A lot of the hard stuff is now *past* (the death of my best friend, my being in chronic pain and unable to walk normally or at all, medical crises of family members, etc) and I feel I should be "over it"... but I'm not. I thought that when I was able to walk again and wasn't in pain every hour of every day, I would be so much happier. I thought that after a year of grieving, the depression would lift and I would miss him less and start to feel better. I thought that when they got through the hard medical stuff with fairly good results, I would be relieved. I thought the stress and sadness would dissipate and in its place, rays of sunshine would bean down on me from above, warming me... my arms raised, my face turned upward basking in the brightness with a great, big smile and a new joy and energy glowing from every pore.

But it just didn't happen that way.

When all of that stuff was going on, I think I had a right to be depressed. I mean, anyone would be depressed going through those kinds of things. But now that the bad stuff is over I look around for my rainbows and springtime and it's just not there. And now, I feel guilty for how I feel.

"There is nothing to be depressed about!" I tell myself. "You should be thankful that your son is alive. You should be grateful your child is well. You should be doing somersaults of joy that your plantar fasciitis is FINALLY gone. You should be glad you can walk again." But I'm not doing somersaults and although I am super thankful for good results and outcomes, for some reason all of the sadness didn't go away. And that is the guilt: I SHOULD BE happy now.

Cloe talked to me about how depression works and doesn't work, that it's not always brought on by something bad happening and doesn't always go away when things are fine. And long periods of high stress or pain actually changes brain chemistry. It can take awhile... and a lot of work... to get it back to a normal, non-depressed state.

We talked about how sugar has become my drug again recently, as I self-medicate in times of sadness and guilt. She validated my feelings that eating a cupcake DOES WORK... in the short term. I can feel so low, so confined by my own feelings some days but if I think to myself "I can go get a cupcake at the bakery" I suddenly perk up, and as I take that first bite the sugar rush truly makes me feel *so much better." I feel normal... happy! All the sadness and feeling of "blah" literally disappears. I eat that thing and I am great for an hour! I have energy, I feel more positive and cheery and everything I'd been wanting to feel. But then every time without fail, by the time the two hour mark rolls around I feel worse. Frustrated, tired, and craving more sugar.

I know this, but it is hard to say no to that sugar fix that will make me feel better, even for a little while. A couple of times a week, I just get so tired of being tired and sad that I go to the store or the bakery and get a brownie or something. Just one. I know better than to make a batch at home. And I eat it and feel great. And this past week when I have done that I have been buying a little extra, one more cookie or a bar of chocolate to bring home so I can have a "fix"  later when I can't take it anymore. It is a very effective "medication" for me, but the side effects are just awful, and it only works in the very short term.

Cloe talked to me about making some changes in what I have been doing. She told me that I need to form a Delay Habit: when I decide I am going to go buy a cookie or eat a square of chocolate or whatever, I have to force myself to do 3 other things first. They can be things off my to-do list, things I need to do around the house, cleaning or laundry or taking a walk. And once I have completed those 3 things, *if I still need to* I can go and buy that cookie. So I am going to do that since obviously the cold turkey thing has not been working for me. Cloe thinks I will feel better about myself for having done the three things, and this may snowball into doing even more things instead of eating. And that if I break the habit this way and start to change things, eventually I will not feel such a strong drive to self-medicate with sugar.

She also told me I can work on self-love and not feeling guilty about not being "happy enough". We talked about how I have had friends who are depressed and I would never dream of judging them or saying "she has nothing to be depressed about!" because I do understand the nature of depression. I just don't think to apply that same compassion to myself as I am coming out of a hard time. I also need to remember that it is possible to be grateful and sad at the same time. Being depressed does not mean you are self-centered, don't appreciate what you have, or are ungrateful. It is a medical, physical condition and not a sign of moral weakness or lack of good character. Feeling guilty about not being happy doesn't help at all.

There is more, but I'll write later. Thank you for hearing me.


Maria said...

I really like the idea of forming a delay habit - I might try it for myself. Let us know how you get on with it :) New reader here, glad I found you - I can relate to so much of what you've said in previous posts.

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering the other day if you are using your sun lamp regularly. SAD was there before your recent hard times and it remains.

Best wishes.


Susan said...

Lyn, please order the 24 hour saliva test to check your cortisol levels! The blood test us not the best test for this.. if the levels drop to low you go into a depressed state WITHOUT HAVING A REASON TO BE DEPRESSED. It's an automatic.. Very few medical pepple address this, adrenal fatigue which can also lead to heavy metal toxicity (copper) because the adrenals rid the body of metal and have a direct link to the thyroid and hormones imbalance. Please please please...get them checked.
you have all the classic symptoms and I will only get worse if not addressed... addisons is the end stage (adrenal shuts down). I'm dealing with this now..suffered for a few years with vague symptoms through several tragic events and then the final event was a leg injury that took 8 months to recover from and the very next month I hit a wall. My body couldn't bear up under all the stress. I developed asthma, sinus issues, chemical allergies , weight isdues and many other things. I felt close to death many times and it took 7 months more to get a diagnosis. I spent the last few months in bed and am beginning to have a few good days now and then. If you take the test and need more direction let me know if I can help..your help will not be found in the medical field unless you know of one that does alternative medicine.
When I was diagnosed in oct I promised I would speak out on this when I see someone experiencing these symptoms.
you don't need to post this unless you feel it might be helpful. When there are imbalances in the body everything takes a hit in the body.

Cathy Yonek said...

self love is a tough one, it takes a lot of years to even know what it is, in my own experience

LHA said...

Very good insights. As a depression/anxiety sufferer I can absolutely verify that psychiatric disorders are not character flaws, and that it is possible to be depressed when you realize fully that you have nothing to really be depressed about. It is a tough struggle to live with and combat depression and eating sugar or other high carb foods is indeed a quick fix with a very bad outcome. You are on the right track here, and I hope you are also seeing a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication. It usually takes a dual approach to keep these conditions under control and see improvement. Better living through brain chemistry! Good luck going forward.

Anonymous said...

Depression is a medical condition with many drugs (beyond sugar) available to treat it. Are you availing yourself of any of those helpful drugs? It would seem any one of those would be better than sugar.

JM said...

I am wondering why not try an anti depressant? they can be very effective, and address depression to get a handle on eating?

JM said...

Lyn, I am asking about the ADs because after YEARS of depression, i am finally on them to use for migraines, and the difference is astounding. I feel so much better. So thoughts are that if depression can be treated with diet, exercise, that is great too! But sometimes you need to treat the depression to even get to that place.

Lyn said...


I do use it most mornings. I also have my Sunrise alarm clock I use daily. It simulates a sunrise at whatever time you want it to. Takes half an hour to take the bedroom from pitch dark to "morning" bright. It helps me get out of bed in the morning.

You're right about the SAD... it is definitely still there.

Lyn said...


I do think it is helpful and I think you did mention the saliva test to me before. I called my doctor to ask about it and he said that since he had done the 24 hour urine cortisol test, and it was normal, the saliva test was not needed. He said the urine test is more accurate. Do you agree with that or do you feel the saliva test is more accurate? I will look around on Google for more info but if you want to give me your insight please drop me an email. I'd like to talk to you further about this. And I am so sorry for all you have been through. Prayers for your recovery.


yes I am; I've been seeing a Dr for this for a few months (started when I was seeing the other counselor).

Anon and JM~

I don't really want to blog the specifics, but yes, I was started on one some time ago but was recently switched to something else. I hope it helps. I know it can take awhile.

O. said...

"And this past week when I have done that I have been buying a little extra, one more cookie or a bar of chocolate to bring home so I can "fix" my depression later when I can't take it anymore."

You have to realise that at some point this is going to turn into buying three things so you can "fix" yourself after the second thing wears off, and then four things, and then five ... until you're back to baking pans of brownies because it's more efficient and less expensive than going to the bakery and then, oh well, you're going to eat them all over the course of the day anyway so might as well scarf them now.

The delay habit is really good. The fact that self-medicating with food works in the short-term is a good sign in one way because it means that your depression can be eased in the short-term. You just need to find a way of easing it that you're not going to feel bad about afterwards. Walking is a good thing to do when you get that urge because light exercise may trigger some of the relaxation/feel-good hormones you've come to associate with sugary and high-fat foods ... and it will take you outside during a time of year when you need to maximise your exposure to natural light.

Karen said...

Interesting sugar addiction expert talk.

It's a lot of work to end food addiction. You are not alone.

What did Cloe think of Dr Berkeley's suggestion? How does she feel about the blog involvement?

Here's to putting down the false fixes. Onward.

Amy said...

It takes courage to face the hurtful stuff head-on, but once begin it gets easier. I'm glad you decided to stick with Cloe, seems like she is giving you some useful tools and guidance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn, I have been reading for a long time but have never commented. I felt like I could have written that post myself last year. I had the exact same thing happen where I was depressed but knew and felt I had no right to be depressed. I pulled out of it and you can too. But don't be afraid to medicate. I didn't end up taking what I was given but the daily habit sounds like it might work. Keep us posted and hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Hey. I've been thinking about your post. Here's some info I suspect you already know, but just in cae I'm sending it your way.

Lots of things can cause depression...or what seems like depression. Many of those things are chemicals which cause depressive symptoms rather than an emotion/event that causes depression.

So, here's some of those chemical things.

Melatonin will cause depression in some people.

so will St John's Wort (It can also cause agitation)

Any anti-anxiety medication or supplement can cause depression if taken more than a few days in a row.

Long periods of stress or grief or sudden stress/grief will throw your brain and body chemicals off and cause depressive symptoms beyond the emotional response typical to sad things.

Low functioning thyroid causes depressive symptoms. Get appropriate dose of thyroid supplement and the depression "magically" goes away.

AS you know all too well, SAD causes depressive symptoms.

So does lack of sleep. Again it's a chemistry thing.

And then there is the whole hormonal thing as a woman ages. You might want to get those female hormones checked if you haven't already done that.

So, Lyn, you know way more about supplements than I do, so it might serve you well to look at your info and decide if any vitamins, minerals, supplements might be helpful to reverse the damage done.

Don't get me wrong, I am not opposed to anti-depression drugs. In fact, behavioral techniques to help with eating to medicate are not going to be medicate your depression. Sooo, you need to look at an additional intervention. That can be meds or supplements or a medical screen to see what's up.

The thing with anti-depression meds is that they are not intended for long-term use. And if some things are out of whack with your body chemistry, like the thyroid, they won't repair that.

Sometimes, tho, meds can give all of the reprieve you need when aided by some nutritional supplements to get you back on an even keel in just a few months.

Often, after six months, the AD meds kind of turn on you and cause more symptoms than they relieve.

Just some thoughts. Forgive me if you knew all of that.


Anonymous said...

Does delay work for anyone? I find that I obsess more and eat even more when I do give in. I like substitution, finding luscious fruits instead of sugar, or high fiber carbs. I don't think the addiction is sugar based but dopamine/ the idea of a food treat. for me its working very well to take the time to make a nice meal, fresh vegetables, spring for the nice cut of fish, fancy goat cheese, organic eggs... another idea is that I can eat something sugary if I make it and if its at least an 8 out of 10. pan of brownies from a box, no; 2 cookies made from the worlds best choc chip recipe (leite from nytimes which has to rest overnight) fine. I do think cooking it yourself has a powerful effect, that you savor the food by touching and smelling it besides just inhaling it.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I agree an anti-depressant could help, but if you go that route, proceed with caution. I've tried several in the past and they all put weight on. Klonopin, a benzo that's very addictive and hard to get off of (although I did get off of it with great difficulty), put 30 pounds on me in 2 years. Later I took Lexapro, an anti-depressant, for 2 years, and that one put 50 pounds on me. My doctor later informed me, after the fact, that these drugs do make a lot of people crave sweets. Yes, they do stop the depression and anxiety, but in the end, I decided it's better to be a little depressed than keep gaining weight. My own depression is similar to what you describe in that it seems purely biochemical as I have absolutely no reason to be depressed. Once I stopped the Lexapro I was able to lose 47 pounds last year with counting calories and exercise. Before I got off of Lexapro, I was not successful in losing weight. That is common with anti-depressants, from what I understand. It's not a given that that would happen to you, but it's something to be mindful of if you go that route. Short term use, over a few months, could be very helpful in shaking your depression. Just be aware it can compound your weight problem. Both klonopin and Lexapro made me crave sweets, not to mention they caused fatigue and memory problems, which is also common. I do wish you the very best. Depression is awful, I know all to well. As I've gotten older (I'm mid-60's.), I've noticed the depression has nearly gone away. I suspect hormonal changes could account for that. My life as a retiree is at a very slow pace now as well, so there is very little stress. Hang in there! Well wishes and prayers coming your way!

Nan in Phoenix

Anonymous said...

Please don't stop taking your meds because you're afraid of weight gain.

Studies on antidepressants and weight gain show that some antidepressants may be linked to a weight gain of 1-2lbs on average, some people also lose weight. This may not be directly caused by the drugs, as significant fluctuation in weight is a symptom of depression. Many people lose weight while they're depressed because they lose pleasure in food and the act of eating seems pointless. Many people like you start emotionally eating to deal with their depression. Successfully treating the depression is going to affect both of these behaviours in these groups of people. You've gained nearly 20lbs since the summer from being depressed, please don't let commenters dissuade you from taking medication to deal with the underlying problem because of a tenuous link between antidepressants and weight. Aside from anything else, "weight gain + no depression" vs "no weight gain + depression" is a false dichotomy and particularly in your case as someone who has gained weight as a result of depression and emotional eating. You need to get a handle on your depression before you can lose weight.

Maria-McNeil said...

That's a really good idea to do 3 productive things BEFORE you eat the sugar...hummm I may have to try it too.

Let me know how you do with it...I'm routing for you!

suzee said...

Sometimes, after you have been through so much, you have to choose joy. And you have to do it every day. And it is hard, but it works. Having suffered years of depression caused by an emotionally traumatic life, thyroid issues, menopause,weight issues, etc., I decided to try choosing joy everyday. Sometimes it can be a very small thing that makes one happy and other times it is bigger things, but after a while, you start feeling joy and feeling less depressed. And sometimes I had to pretend I wasn't depressed and after a while, it worked. And other times I just sat down and counted, by writing them down, my blessings and what I had to be thankful for, and that worked. After a while, it becomes a good habit and you hardly have to think about it. Maybe this method would help you too. It costs nothing and is worth a try. God bless you and your's and I wish you a Merry Christmas. I've been pulling for you for a long time.

Anonymous said...

The most important thing to remember is that this is NOT your fault! Some of us try and try and try and the pounds just creep on instead of coming off. You know your body, Lyn! Just keep doing your best! -- Sharii

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn:
Just stopping by to wish you Happy Holidays. I have so much respect for your perseverance and your writing. And so much empathy with your struggles.
Best always,

Margie Vest said...

I've read your blog for a year or so now but have never commented. Your counselor's comment about an actual change in brain chemistry after a long period of stress and pain was an eye opener for me. I had an accident 8 years ago and dislocated and broke my hip. I have never walked normally since. As a result, I've had one knee replacement and am about to have the hip and knee on the injured side replaced this coming year. I've dealt with pain for years now and as a result, a weight gain of 50 lbs over these years. I don't like to think I'm depressed....but I am sure I am. Just never connected the dots that my actual brain chemistry could have changed as a result. Thanks for the insight!

Sean Anderson said...

Lyn, Your posts go deep. Being in tune with it all--and striving to better understand it, instead of getting lost in it, is a big positive deal.
Depression is tough. I applaud your efforts to understand and make sense of it all. That's not an easy thing to do.
Always thinking of you, Lyn and I wish you nothing but the best and brightest moving forward.
For me, I gave in and asked my doctor to prescribe me something to help. I was resistant to it at first, but now, I'm glad I did. I do feel better.
Wishing you a good rest of your holiday weekend and a bright and abundant 2015.

Orchid64 said...

I think saying you "should" feel a certain way puts pressure on you to feel a way other than you do. Also, what your post seems to say is, 'there is an absence of terrible negatives in my life, why aren't I happy?' It could be because an absence of terribleness isn't a solid foundation for happiness - that might be the presence of certain potent positives. I'm not sure feeling guilty about feeling bad is helping you get out of your situation.

Your counselor is right about the sugar/carbs helping temporarily. They juice your pleasure centers in your brain and provide more serotonin production. You're dealing possibly with chemical depression (not situational) as well as possible anhedonia as a result of withdrawing from your addictive substance (food).

For me, taking a supplement called 5-HTP helped a lot with depression. It's about $20 for a 75-day supply at Costco and contains substances that metabolize into serotonin and melatonin. It sometimes can serve to help moderate cravings (because it provides some of the chemical building blocks that food might offer to getting more serotonin). You might want to consider it.

Mark Crews said...

Good luck in 2015 with all of your goals!