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Nadia

The importance of recognizing you're feeling good

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Nadia

Hi everyone,

 

As I've gotten better over the past 3+ years after quitting antidepressants cold turkey and having really bad problems with severe anxiety, insomnia, and other withdrawal symptoms, I've realized how important moments of happiness and contentment have been to my recovery. Of course, feeling happy or even content seemed completely impossible at first, and attaining them even now is still sometimes a challenge. But, looking back, I can see clear patterns of measurable, lasting improvement after periods during which I somehow managed to feel good. Usually, these moments involved reconnection with friends and traveling, taking time off work, and finding things to do that made me feel a sense of fulfillment, even if it was precarious and fleeting.

 

A few months ago, I came across a fascinating article that talks about the importance of positive social connections to our health. It turns out your body turns genes off and on depending on how you subjectively experience your environment, sometimes even hours after, and this can have a tremendous impact on your physical and mental health. It is a long read, but a very worthwhile one!

 

Here's the link:

The Social Life of Genes

 

What is SO difficult in recovering from antidepressant withdrawal is that the withdrawal makes us feel so miserable. Precisely what we are desperate to recover from is overwhelming negative physical and emotional feelings. So... what can you do?

 

In case it helps anyone, I'll describe some of the things that helped me (often tips given on this forum). Don't expect to have big results, especially at first. The important thing is that you keep trying. Try to notice and appreciate anything resembling a positive emotion (or even neutral) as much as you can, even if it only lasts a few seconds. If you fail, don't worry... This isn't about getting it right, it's about generating more positive emotions little by little. Sometimes you can fake your way through them, sometimes they'll come to you and you'll be surprised.

 

1. Taking magnesium salts baths to relax. Try to concentrate on the pleasant sensation of water surrounding you, on the warmth. If it doesn't feel good, don't worry. Just think that it IS good, that it will be good again someday.
2. Look at flowers and trees and nature, really observe them.

3. Spend time with animals.

4. Smell things you like or remember liking before. Don't worry if you don't get a positive response. Just observe what it brings up in you. If it is negative, don't judge it, just let it go.

5. Reach out to others, either here or in your life, as much as you can. At the end of the day, try to find anything positive about an interaction you had, even if it seems insignificant. Don't dwell on the negative stuff.

6. Take walks, trying to be present with what is around you.

7. Listen to calming, pleasant music... don't overdo it, though. I often would get things "stuck" in my head, so if you're in the worst stages of withdrawal, start small. Maybe wind chimes, or the the sound of the ocean, and just for a very little bit.

8. Do something to help someone else, however small, and then reflect on it that night. Tell yourself you should feel good about what you did, even if you don't believe it.

9. Whenever possible, enjoy food. At first you might be having severe digestion problems. I was having strange taste distortions at first, but with time I found that treating myself to something delicious really made me feel good (just make sure it's healthy and something that won't make you feel worse... excessive sugar, etc.). One of the first things that I started feeling a desire for was food and nature. I found my body asking for things it probably really needed, like dark leafy greens and celery or fruit.

10. Have a cup of tea (something you can tolerate) or a glass of water and really concentrate on the sensations of drinking it, think about the good it does your body.

11. Spend as much time as possible NOT thinking about withdrawal. Distract yourself with books or TV shows or just looking out the window. One of the first things that I was able to enjoy was the first season of Downton Abbey and Jane Austen novels. One day I realized I was looking forward to reading a new chapter or seeing another episode, and though it was a weak feeling at first, it grew into a greater desire, which was amazing after feeling completely dead for a long time.

12. Try learning something new, without expecting any results. I started taking drawing classes, and though I often get frustrated and even break down crying when I'm doing something, I later look at what I did and see small moments of success that make me feel good. Even better is when I'm able to let go and "not think" and just let my body experience what it is doing.

13. Enlist someone to cheer you on. When you're in withdrawal, people can be incredibly critical and frustrated with your lack of progress. If you have a good friend or family member who is willing, ask them to help you. My mother forced me to go on walks and just kept repeating I was going to beat this and I was going to be OK... she really helped me survive the first few months of hell!

14. Enlist other people to help you with basic tasks or back you up with work when you're in deep crisis. I kept working at first, and I was making a lot of mistakes, so I would have someone "check my work" before I turned it in. Especially during the months I was getting very little sleep, it was a life-saver to have this support.

15. If you can, take time off work, and try to get out of your usual environment... seek out people and places that make you feel better in ANY way.

16. Allow yourself to be distracted. I got really worked up about eating, sleeping, getting better... to the point I was holding up my own progress. Somehow sometimes I would break out of that and become distracted and afterward I'd realize I had forgotten about my pain and suffering for a moment! Do not underestimate the power of distraction! Sometimes what really helped me was being around people I could not talk to about what was going on with me. It forced me to be in the moment.

17. On the flip side, also allow yourself to complain about how awful you feel with someone safe once in a while. Just let it out, and then move on. Tell the other person you don't need feedback or opinions, that you just need to vent and need a sympathetic ear.

18. At the end of the day, review your day and think of anything that was positive, however small. If there was nothing positive, congratulate yourself for having gotten through it.

19. Allow yourself small moments of giving up. Rest for a moment. Cry, think that's it, you can't take it any more. Then un-give up and keep going. Even the tiniest steps will add up to something. It's going to take time, but you're going to get better.

 

Nadia

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Meimeiquest

Clicking Like!

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Barbarannamated

Thanks, Nadia!

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areyouthere

Great suggestions! Thanks for starting this topic and sharing!

 

RU :)

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Fitby50

I agree on so many points and have found them helpful myself.  Having this condition makes it hard to not be obsessive with "this condition", but it really serves no good purpose to dwell on it.  Finding distractions and looking for the smallest of positive is so very important!  Healthy eating has made a big difference.  If I eat too much sugar or bad junk, I really notice feeling worse.  Great job Nadia, thanks for the wonderful post! :D

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Altostrata

This is excellent. Thank you, Nadia.

 

Perhaps others can add their own self-soothing tips.

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Zoe

Thanks for the post Nadia! I'm like Meime- I'd love to have a like button to hit!

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Annabel

Thanks Nadia for a great list of tools, I will bookmark it so i can look at it again in a few weeks!!

About 18 months ago i did a Jon Kabat-Zinn MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course which taught me mindfulness meditation. I have found this to be really helpful. There is quite a lot of his work on you tube and there is no right or wrong way to do this meditation, its just about doing it each day. In the worst of the WD when my head is very fogged and feels like a huge pressure is inside, I sit there and all i am aware of is the huge feeling in my head. So I just sit with the huge feeling and make room for it and accept that this is where i am today. It seems to help calm down my system and help me to stop fighting with myself.

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Nadia

I agree on so many points and have found them helpful myself.  Having this condition makes it hard to not be obsessive with "this condition", but it really serves no good purpose to dwell on it.  Finding distractions and looking for the smallest of positive is so very important!  Healthy eating has made a big difference.  If I eat too much sugar or bad junk, I really notice feeling worse.  Great job Nadia, thanks for the wonderful post! :D

 

So true!! I have become a nutrition nut these past couple of years! Sometimes I laugh at myself because I can't seem to talk about anything else. Eating more protein and a huge variety of vegetables and staying away from sweets has made a huge difference. I think I came alive first through the desire for food... I really started craving bitter greens, for example. I've learned to listen to the "good" impulses... now I feel my body instinctively lets me know if I'm overdoing it with the bad stuff and I start craving things like radishes, celery, arúgula... Along with the thirst for nature I think these were some of my first feel good moments.

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Nadia

Thanks Nadia for a great list of tools, I will bookmark it so i can look at it again in a few weeks!!

About 18 months ago i did a Jon Kabat-Zinn MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course which taught me mindfulness meditation. I have found this to be really helpful. There is quite a lot of his work on you tube and there is no right or wrong way to do this meditation, its just about doing it each day. In the worst of the WD when my head is very fogged and feels like a huge pressure is inside, I sit there and all i am aware of is the huge feeling in my head. So I just sit with the huge feeling and make room for it and accept that this is where i am today. It seems to help calm down my system and help me to stop fighting with myself.

Yes! I still struggle a lot with meditation. It is only once in a while that I feel actual well-being doing it (Dalsaan's meditation/mindfulness resource is great, by the way), but the whole point is to do it no matter what. The more you practice just sitting with the enormity and chaos of whatever you're going through, the better you get at surviving it on a day to day basis.

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Annabel

Yes it seems to help on some level so I try to fit it into each day. I will look at Dalsaan's resource, thanks.

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Barbarannamated

I'm having trouble opening link for THE SOCIAL LIFE OF GENES above. Anybody else?

 

This part looks especially interesting:

 

"A few months ago, I came across a fascinating article that talks about the importance of positive social connections to our health. It turns out your body turns genes off and on depending on how you subjectively experience your environment, sometimes even hours after, and this can have a tremendous impact on your physical and mental health."

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cymbaltawithdrawal5600

Oh shoot, forgot this site truncates long links.

 

http://www.psmag.com/

 

navigation/

 

health-and-behavior/

 

the-social-life-of-genes-64616/

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Bellisimo

so wonderful post nadia and great tips!!!

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Nadia

Thanks! And thanks for posting a working link... forgot to test it. The article really is worth reading!

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MissSerene

Nadia: Thank you thank you for this post. I will return to its many great tips time and again. Just re-started tapering after a four-month hold and am not feeling good, so really need it. Will read article, too, and make an effort not to isolate. I have a gorgeous flowering plum tree outside my kitchen window and am going to gaze today at it lovely pinkness!  

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Fitby50

Thanks Nadia for a great list of tools, I will bookmark it so i can look at it again in a few weeks!!

About 18 months ago i did a Jon Kabat-Zinn MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course which taught me mindfulness meditation. I have found this to be really helpful. There is quite a lot of his work on you tube and there is no right or wrong way to do this meditation, its just about doing it each day. In the worst of the WD when my head is very fogged and feels like a huge pressure is inside, I sit there and all i am aware of is the huge feeling in my head. So I just sit with the huge feeling and make room for it and accept that this is where i am today. It seems to help calm down my system and help me to stop fighting with myself.

Thanks Annabel for the MBSR suggestion.  I will google it and give it a try.  Could really use a distraction right now, in the middle of a bad wave.

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trouper

this was wonderful! thank you! :)  i printed it out to keep with me. :)  i also read it to my husband so he can remind me of these things when i'm not feeling well.

 

another thing that i do which helps:

in my depression class they gave us a little gratitude notebook. every night we are supposed to write 5 things we are grateful for during that day. when my mind is racing in the middle of the night during waves, or when I'm having trouble trying to fight the cortisol anxiety and go back to sleep, i go over the things i am grateful for again. having just written them not long before makes them easier to retrieve. 

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DrugSlave

Congrats Nadia and great post. Great to hear you are doing better.

 

Maybe I need to connect to nature more and stuff like that. I do like hiking and we have a small garden. Also, that article about how social isolation can be the number one risk factor in disease was interesting. I am absolutely socially isolated. I socialize very little compared to my life in the past. Paradoxically, I don't feel lonely because I don't feel well and I don't feel like socializing. I WISH I felt better and FELT like socializing but I don't. So I feel socially isolated, but not lonely. Anyway, it can't be good.

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Nadia

Hi DrugSlave! I entirely understand about not feeling social. I became a complete hermit during the worst of my protracted withdrawal. In some ways that was OK. I think you need to do what makes you feel better in the moment. I could only handle very limited and quiet interaction or I would feel overwhelmed. It's important to seek connection, probably, but this doesn't mean you can't carve out a space of private safety for yourself. And it will do no good if you are social, but are not enjoying it.

 

What I took away from the article, what seemed to me to be the underlying theme, is that our PERCEPTION of what we experience is what matters:

 

“That’s a really important part of this: To an extent that immunologists and psychologists rarely appreciate, we are architects of our own experience. Your subjective experience carries more power than your objective situation. If you feel like you’re alone even when you’re in a room filled with the people closest to you, you’re going to have problems. If you feel like you’re well supported even though there’s nobody else in sight; if you carry relationships in your head; if you come at the world with a sense that people care about you, that you’re valuable, that you’re okay; then your body is going to act as if you’re okay—even if you’re wrong about all that.”

 

I think studies show that social connection enhances health because humans are social animals in general. But there is plenty of individual variation. Some people enjoy their alone time. Other people feel good when they are in a room filled with hundreds of people. As I've recovered, I've wanted to be more social, but I still prefer settings of 2 to 6 people at most. And whether I like who I am with makes a huge difference. Many times, being alone with a book is what's going to put me in that good place, not hanging out with someone.

 

The important thing is to figure out what makes you feel good, or is even an infinitesimal step toward feeling good. Sometimes this means challenging yourself to do things you are too steeped in negativity and pain to want to do, but it also means listening to your gut feeling about what is truly beneficial for you. You need to break out of a negative cycle if you are down-spiraling, but also respect your limits. Maybe this means a 5 minute conversation with someone in whose presence you feel good. Maybe it means a walk alone in the woods.

 

The key thing is that what makes your body steer toward health is feeling good about your surroundings and yourself. At each stage of your recovery, finding what "does this for you" can be different, and it can be entirely different for different people!

 

___

 

Yay for beautiful plum trees, for mindfulness, for making lists of things to be grateful for!! Don't expect big results, just keep exercising steering toward feeling positive.

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DrugSlave

Nadia, my wife read my intro thread where someone mentioned your post to me. She tracked down your post, printed it, and put it on the fridge. :) She is encouraging me to follow it and wants to follow some of it herself. Thanks again.

 

I absolutely agree that is the perception of our experiences that matters. I have read that before and believe it through my own experiences and observations. There is scientific evidence to back it up as well.

 

Social connections are very important. I think I need to push myself a little more on that front. I need to joke more too....it's so hard to break out of the negative cycle as you say...

 

"The key thing is that what makes your body steer toward health is feeling good about your surroundings and yourself. At each stage of your recovery, finding what "does this for you" can be different, and it can be entirely different for different people!" - wow, that is some good stuff there....you are quotable :)

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arwen

Thanks Nadia, you are the best!

 

I find listening to music very useful. When I was younger, I was listening to music all day long... I didn't have internet or a computer home, I was single and not much to do outside work.. So music (and dancing  alone on music) were an important part of my spare time. 

 

Then I forgot it. Last couple of years were the worst from this point of view. But one day, a couple of weeks ago I, I remembered. I recovered some cd-s from a box that has not been opened for a while, and I bought some mp3 online with old music that I used to like so much. It is so therapeutic! Plus the exercise that I get dancing :)

 

I feel like something very good happens in the brain when we listen to music. Like the neurons are firing better, in harmony, healing.

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bubble

great thread! we can never get enough of priceless little things that make all the difference.

 

reading about dancing (very true), reminded me of singing. Even if one doesn't have much of a voice or sings melancholy songs. I used to sing in a church choir but when in WD and messed up with meds, I simply couldn't imagine myself doing it.

 

This Easter I made an effort to go to church for a good sing and it was nice hearing my voice again. I would also say my brain cells were readjusting in a nice way while doing it. Singing in a choir also has the additional benefit of breaking isolation: you can enjoy the benefits of social interaction without being overly exposed to it.

 

This is also true for joining some other groups which encourage minimal but beneficial interaction: a yoga class always works better for me than solitary attempts. Or a hiking club: the group energy helps you to move but long stretches of time are spent walking in silence without having to actually interact with people. I find it balances nicely the need for alone and together time. 

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SouthernFreeze

i can agree with the Jon kabat zinn Annabel, i read his book that was done with some other medical professionals "the mindful way through depression" and "full catastrophe living", the 8 week meditation programs that i have continued with have been a real help to my life in general.

 

I noticed Nadi mentioned walking in the woods and getting in touch with nature.

What i have done is brought a camera and have found it very therapeutic to go out for walks alone and take photos of beautiful landscapes, trees, waterfalls, sunset/rises and so forth.

It's a nice thing to do in itself and can be a bonus and reminder of that nice peaceful time when you see, and maybe print one of the photos that has turned out good or is special to you

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AmyK

Thankyou for this post, Nadia!

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Doloi

Thank you, Nadia. I am early into a cold turkey withdrawal that now involves some reinstatement but to no great effect. Your suggestions look to be a valuable resource. Thank you, again

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papaloapan

Wow Nadia, thanks a lot for the first post of this thread. Incredibly just by reading it I felt better. Also reading the whole link of "The Social Life of Genes" made me feel better by knowing that our perception/framing can make us feel better or worse regardless of the situation.

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