This is the next entry in our series on depression. This is not professional medical advice; I’m sharing my experiences. This is my understanding of my naturopathic treatment--any errors are my own.
Last week we started talking about my move to treat my depression and anxiety with alternative methods. We left off with me having debilitating mood swings and a general feeling of despair. Where did things go from there?
Through my extensive internet research I thought I might have a thyroid problem, so I went to my doctor and she ran some tests. The internet had told me that to identify some problems you need to go beyond the normal panel of thyroid tests. I tried to explain this to my doctor, and she brushed me off.
Now, my doctor was a good doctor. I liked her a lot. And I can understand being frustrated with patients who come in with weird theories from the internet when you are the professional. But she wouldn’t listen to my concerns--it was a typical appointment, around 15 minutes in and out. I did the normal panel and everything came back normal. She offered to put me back on antidepressants or put me on birth control, but I wasn’t interested in either of those options, so we were pretty much at a standstill.
That’s when I started looking for a naturopathic doctor, which is someone who does alternative medicine. I found someone online and made an appointment.
Andy and I went to the first one together. The initial appointment was two hours long. The goal was for me to tell him ALL of my symptoms. I can’t even tell you how good that felt--to have a professional listen to me talk about every aspect of all of my systems for an extended period of time. I told him about my depression and anxiety and mood swings and irregular cycle and migraine headaches and EVERYTHING. He asked pointed follow up questions, like, “When you feel anxious, how do you feel that? Where do you feel it?”
I think that appointment was a healing experience all by itself. Instead of a doctor appointment where I had to attempt (and fail) to aggressively advocate for what I wanted, he listened. He wanted to know what I thought and how I felt. He was willing to take the time to try to understand the whole system of problems.
When we finished, he said that the next step was to try different things. He thought it was possible it could be a thyroid thing, so he ordered the full panel of thyroid tests I had originally wanted, along with some other blood work. The thyroid tests came back mostly normal, with only one number that was a little weird. It didn’t seem like it was a thyroid problem.
Because of my irregular cycles and some other symptoms, he thought I might have uterine fibroids or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I went to my OBGYN for an ultrasound, and lo and behold, my ovaries were covered in cysts. It looked like there was a pearl necklace in there. No doctor had ever told me that my irregular cycles (which I have always had) could have been caused by PCOS. My OBGYN diagnosed me with PCOS, even though I didn’t have many common symptoms (being overweight, excess body hair, etc.)
PCOS is one of those diseases that is mysterious. From what I can tell, it’s a catch-all term for a group of symptoms (I have cystic ovaries and irregular cycles so I fit in the group), but the causes for that group of symptoms are not very well understood. My OBGYN offered to put me on birth control to manage the symptoms. I wasn’t interested, so again we were kind of at a standstill in terms of conventional medicine.
I went back to the naturopath, and he had a number of things to try:
- I removed gluten from my diet. I'm not sure how much the lack of gluten helped, but it forced me to eat a lot better. When you can't eat wheat you eat a lot of proteins and vegetables. It also cut outs a lot of sugary things, like donuts.
- I started eating a lot of fiber in the form of fiber gummies. In my hormone tests I was a little high on an androgen hormone, and the extra fiber was supposes to bind that up. I was taking 30-40 extra grams of fiber a day, with no adverse effects on my digestive system. I don't know how that works, either. During this time I was trying to cut out sugar, too, so we didn't have a lot of dessert in the house. One night Andy was looking for something sweet and I directed him to the fiber gummies.
- I started taking sepia, which is homeopathic medicine.
I started feeling much better within a week. It’s hard to say which remedy helped the most, because I tried a lot of things at once. And there were definitely fits and starts in my progress. But once I started these things, I was no longer dealing with crazy mood swings and despair all the time.
Now don’t get me wrong--I’m still a fan of conventional medicine. I like drugs. And some doctors are able to really listen, even in a short time frame. But all I know is that I was really sick with something that conventional medicine couldn’t seem to handle, and now I’m better. (Most of the time. I still have hormones, and I’m still a generally anxious person. But I am so much better than I was.)
Next week I’ll talk more specifically about homeopathy, which I think helped me a lot.