Have you felt the darkness creep on you or that it would never end? That you have been deserted by all those you that loved you, that you are alone in the universe, that even God has deserted you? Have you even doubted there is a God because if there were why would HE put you through this misery and pain, why would HE not answer your prayers, why did HE desert you. “Good parents don’t do this to their children”, why is HE doing this to you?
Have you felt you just can’t take this darkness anymore and wished there was a way out, even contemplated suicide, but maybe thought to yourself, but how would I do this, I’m too chicken to do that. But I sure wish I didn’t have to wake up in the morning. I just want this over. Yes, these have been my thoughts too, my desperation in the night, my pleas to the Universe and God to end my suffering.
And yet, here I am, alive, well and thriving. Yes, I have bipolar. Its maddening. The highs and lows of it. Personally, I love my highs. I am creative, productive, happy, thriving, and successful. In fact, I am writing this during one of those times. I don’t think I would know what “normal” is. I’ve lived with this my whole life. My family never quite understood it, some of my friends are getting used to it and have been encouraging. Needless to say, that circle is very small. I don’t have many friends, that darkness has crept into the friendship and marriages too many times and others just don’t know what to make of it. I didn’t know what to make of it for a very long time. I saw psychologists and psychiatrists off and on during my life. I got tired of them blaming my parents, my childhood, etc. for my problems. Yes, I had parents that made mistakes, however, I am an adult. I learned from their mistakes, I move on. I make my own decisions; I find my own path. Parents be damned. We either give into those excuses or we rise above them. I chose to rise above. Even in the darkness. The doctors prescribed anti-depressants. I took them for a while and personally did not like the side effects, I also lost my creative thinking ability. I am by nature a creative person. I love to paint, do photography, enjoy nature and its beauty, create anything, even if it’s a bird house. I created nothing on anti-depressants. Didn’t even have good dreams. That was devastating to me. I eventually went off them and chose to suffer. It’s been a battle, my health suffered, the stress of the darkness I believe is a contributing factor to many of our health problems, because have you noticed during your highs, you’re much healthier?
It was during these times I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic and almost debilitating constant pain. “Oh, God now you add this to me on top of the desertion! How dare You!” This was in the fall of 2000, after so many attempts to figure out what was wrong, so many doctors telling me that I was a hypochondriac, that it was all in my head. I didn’t choose this pain. I lived this pain, every day, it was worse at night, it was worse starting in the fall, I hated the fall, it was so depressing, the pain was so bad with the cold.
It’s during those times of darkness that you become sick, your immune system seems to become vulnerable to everything going around. You are fatigued, you don’t have the energy to even get out of bed.
I had migraines, that came on unexpectedly that also got worse in the fall, went to the emergency room for treatment so many times. Finally, someone says, let’s try a prevention. Hallelujah! At least someone is thinking proactive and not reactively.
Then in the fall of 2013, I got pneumonia (do you see a pattern here). I had been sick for years, fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, now on top of all of this, my weight was ballooning, my blood pressure was gaining, my cholesterol was going up and I had been having bouts of diverticulitis. I was totally embarrassed at the birth of my grandson, when on the way to the hospital I started coughing and lost control of my bowels and needs a change of underwear. What was going on with my body? I couldn’t control it anymore. I saw doctor after doctor and no good results were found. Anyway, when I got pneumonia, the doctor also told me I was in kidney failure, and all the other dismal results of the blood tests. I was basically dying. Here I was 64 years old, alone, sick, in the darkness with my depression, feeling every right to be depressed, mind you and listening to a doctor who says there’s really not much we can do for you, rest, take it easy, we can put you in the hospital for the pneumonia didn't improve my mood much. I had become disillusioned with doctors at that point. I said no, I will go home and take care of myself. I’m stubborn that way and if you’re like me while in a depression, the last thing you need is people around you, even if you crave a friend or a loved one. It’s a double edged sword, isn’t it?
I went home feeling even more depressed and sick, the pneumonia was horrible, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk. But, I could get on my computer. I decided this had to end. I had to take control of my destiny, I had to take control of my health, the doctors weren’t doing it, they didn’t know about fibromyalgia, they didn’t know what was causing all these other problems, they wanted to give me pills that only added side effects and maybe helped the symptoms, but not the source of the problem. But what was the source? I know I’m bi-polar but something else was going on. I went online, I searched my family history, I remembered my family having similar problems and that my aunt was celiac, I found out my cousin was too. I looked up what celiac disease was and found out it was genetic. Could this be a consideration? Its symptoms were many of the problems I was having. It was gluten intolerance. So if I left out wheat, rye and barley out of my diet what would happen? I was dying anyway and these are just food stuffs, nothing drastic is going to kill me if I don’t eat these things. I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t “wean” myself off these things, I just stopped eating them all together. It wasn’t difficult. Within a week or two, I noticed something remarkable I was remembering things better, brain-fog (normally associated with fibromyalgia) had lifted. I actually noticed it. It was an epiphany! This gluten-free diet was affecting my body. I didn’t have diarrhea anymore. My intestines were feeling normal. I wasn’t nauseous when I ate, I wasn’t nauseous when I went to bed at night, my stomach wasn’t cramping all the time anymore. I was actually enjoying eating; my stomach didn’t hurt when I ate. I started reading labels carefully, I started talking to waiters and waitresses, chefs, owners of restaurants, making sure everything I ate was gluten free. I discovered that even if the box says gluten-free, there are some things that I still cannot tolerate, like tapioca flour. But this is something that everyone has to do for themselves, everyone should read the labels and discover what their body can handle, but going gluten free is an all or nothing proposition. You can’t just do it as a temporary thing, if you want to stay healthy.
Anyway, eight weeks progressed, it’s now December; the doctor wants to follow up on the pneumonia. I go in, they weigh me, I sit down to discuss what’s going on. “What are you doing different, Candace?” the doctor asks. I say, “Why?” She says, “You lost eight pounds in eight weeks, you haven’t lost weight in years.” I smile. I don’t weigh myself, I gave that up when I couldn’t lose weight, it was hopeless. This makes me feel good and another piece of the evidence and confirmation of a good decision that I’ve made. The doctor says, “I want to run some blood tests on you”, so she does, they come back. She is amazed. She says, “You are no longer in kidney failure, your cholesterol is normal, your blood pressure is normal, you are no longer pre-diabetic. All your blood work is normal. Now what are you doing different?” I smile, and tell her, “I went gluten-free this last eight weeks, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose.” But evidently I did lose, I lost all those symptoms of illness, or maybe I had LOST the source of those symptoms. I had found the source by trial and error, by taking control of my own health.
She looked surprised and said, “Well, I want to do a blood test for gluten antibodies.” I said, “You won’t find any, I’ve been gluten-free for eight weeks.” And sure enough she didn’t, she could only come back and say, “Well, if it works, keep it up.” I haven’t been back to her since. I did try another doctor in her practice that said I couldn’t possibly celiac because I was too fat, I told him that was untrue and he should learn a little more about celiac disease. Just a side note. I have lost sixty-five pounds since that October and my health has continued to improve. That fibromyalgia pain? Well, let’s say, it’s not gone, but greatly decreased, a lot of that pain was celiac pain and my migraines decreased as well. Don’t even get me started talking about my sex drive, my libido has gone off the charts and that’s saying something for a sixty-seven-year-old woman.
This whole experience has led me up to this. Did you notice a pattern here, as I mentioned before? All my health problems seem to occur in the fall, my depression is in the fall, the darkness starts in the fall, which coincidentally begins the greyness and darkness of winter. The time of year when we don’t get out much, when it’s cold, when our bodies don’t react well to the cold, especially if we have any kind of auto-immune illness or disability. Seasonally acquired depression is real and for those of us with bi-polar tendencies it can be excruciatingly real.
As I write this in the wonderful, hot middle of summer, the wonderful bright sunshine of summer, I realized that it’s just this summertime, this sunshine and this time of year that I am at my best. My darkness is only a faint memory. I know it is lurking out there waiting for me. So now that I’ve taken control of my health and now that I’ve realized the pattern of the darkness, perhaps I can take better control of the depression it brings. What can I do to prevent it? To be proactive and not reactive as I have been in the past? I have taken control of every other obstacle in my life and overcome it and have succeeded. This darkness, this pain, this enemy of the soul and spirit needs to be overcome as well.
During this time of Light I have achieved enlightenment to my soul and my enemy. I must use this time to devise a way to overcome it. I have begun a new chapter of discovery, of trial and error again. Just as I discovered the source of my body’s illness, it’s now time to discover how to overcome the darkness during it’s time of challenge. Awareness, I believe is the first step in overcoming any obstacle in life. I finally have clarity of mind to have this gift. Now I have to take the appropriate steps and use it wisely.