What ‘Normal’ People Don’t Get About Suicide…

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I get to write about this because I’ve been there. I should be dead. My second attempt won me an ambulance ride to the emergency room and a 3 night stay in the psych ward. In order to leave I had to have appointments made with a psychiatrist and a therapist. I kept the appointments. I spent thousands of dollars on 1.5 years of psychotherapy and I tried 4 different anti-depressants. Am I better? Nope! A little bit better? Nope! Will I attempt suicide again? It’s likely. On the way home from my mini-vacation I said to my husband, “The only thing I can promise you is that I might do it again.” He responded sadly, “I know.”

Why did I do it? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that ‘normal’ people would not consider committing suicide for the reasons that I did. Normal people would never consider it for any reason. I think about suicide in general almost every day. I think about suicide specifically at least once a week.

I actually laugh out loud when I see those Facebook posts about recognizing the signs and letting others know that you’ll be there for them, and about how to make people “happier”. I couldn’t have been “happier”. To other people, everything about me was normal. I didn’t seem depressed or withdrawn. I had everything I needed and a lot of things that many people wish for. I have designer handbags, a good job with good benefits, a nice home and a nice car. I buy VIP ticket packages to concerts and see all of the Broadway shows that my husband will tolerate. I travel to the Caribbean and Europe every year. I have a personal trainer and I am in great physical health, albeit crappy mental health. I have the most supportive and loving husband ever, whose biggest hope is for me to be mentally and emotionally well, and to stay alive. None of this mattered.

It’s so backwards that normal people think that someone who is at their lowest point should just call a friend or a hotline to be saved. I laugh and think, “Oh gee, why didn’t I think of that? I wish I had known!” LOL You ‘normal’ people think you know everything! What a joke! When you get to that point, all you want is to be is dead!!! There is no other option! I didn’t actually plan my suicide attempt. I snapped and went straight into action. It became my purpose and I carried it out quickly and methodically. The only mistake I made was texting my husband goodbye as I laid in bed waiting to fall into a coma.

When I hear on the news that someone else has bitten the dust, I am not sad for them. I am secretly happy for them. They got what they wanted. I’m not a sociopath – I really am sad for their family and friends. But even my husband’s pleas for me to throw up the pills were not enough. Knowing that he was sobbing was not enough. Knowing that I was breaking the heart of my soul mate was not enough. I am still bitter at times that my death was stolen from me.

It makes me angry when people say how selfish it is for someone to commit suicide. Yes, it is selfish, but it is equally selfish for normal people not to want that person to get what they want. Just because what I want for myself isn’t what you want for me, doesn’t make me more selfish!

Only one person asked me directly how I was doing after it happened. Such is the nature of suicide. You are alone in your attempt and you are alone if you survive. Nobody wants to talk about it! I recently commented on a famous author’s Instagram about a quote she posted after Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. Everyone else who commented was in complete support of the author – that suicide is sad and it doesn’t have to happen because there is help. My simple truth to her was “anyone who has never had a serious suicidal thought will never understand why people who do, do”. The author “liked” everybody’s comment but mine. So tell me Emily Giffin, why would you expect a suicidal person to reach out to a normal person for help when you can’t even acknowledge a benign comment from an actual suicidal person?

Did you know that the propensity to commit suicide can be hereditary? My father and my uncle both committed suicide in their 20s. Johns Hopkins researchers have even identified a genetic biomarker which can “measure” suicide risk. That’s how much suicide may not even be preventable in many instances! But you normal people should just keep spewing your meaningless words as if you know something I don’t, and I’ll just keep shaking my head and laugh.

The bottom line: No normal person wants to talk about your suicide wish….at least not in your lifetime! Lol

My Benzo Addiction and Detox Journey

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If all you care about is how to fix a benzo problem, then by all means, please scroll to the bottom right now where I explain how. I don’t want to hold you hostage for a second too long. I understand all too well how badly you just want to become a normal person again. If my advice works for you, then all I ask is that you spread the word to others! Good luck and Godspeed!

No one ever thinks that they’ll be that person… a drug addict. Well it happened to me. I have been an insomniac for most of my life, about 30 years now. I have trouble falling asleep and I have trouble staying asleep – if I even fall asleep in the first place. There are nights where I see every hour go by on the clock. And the nights where I do seem to sleep for long stretches (either drug induced or not), I never wake up feeling well rested. My eyes are always sore and bloodshot.

I began complaining to my doctor in my 20s. The first sleep med I tried was Trazodone. It did not work well, sometimes not at all. And the following day I would always feel like I had been run over by a Mack truck. In my 30s a bunch of new sleep meds popped onto the scene. Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, and Rozerem. I tried them all. Ambien and Lunesta were hit or miss – more often a miss. Plus the horror stories about people sleep driving and sleep eating on Ambien scared the crap out of me. Sonata was ridiculous. It has a half-life of like 3 hours, and sure enough every single time I took it I would bolt upright about 3 hours later. Rozerem was a total joke. I’m not sure how the FDA ended up approving it for sleep. It must have had something to do with a Congressman who was paid off. Enter Clonazepam

OMG! Finally something that seemed to work most of the time. I took 1 mg about an hour before bed, and then about an hour later…ahhhhhh. I felt warm and fuzzy and so happy, because I knew sleep was going to be a thing for me that night. I seemed to stay asleep for most of the night, although I did not feel well rested in the morning. I would feel sluggish throughout the day, but I felt mentally well knowing that I had slept. The doctor warned me that it was addictive and to only take it a couple nights per week. I obeyed.

Then in my 40s I started taking Wellbutrin. It jacked me up. I felt energetic and “fake happy”, but it kept me awake all night with my heart racing. To even have a chance of sleeping I needed to take Clonazepam every single night. My new doctor warned me that it was addictive, that it interfered with deep sleep, and that it could contribute to Alzheimer’s. I figured it was better than no sleep at all, so I continued taking it at the 1 mg dosage for the next 9 months. Side effects caused me to give up on Wellbutrin and several other anti-depressants, and with that, I decided to back off on Clonazepam.

I knew that I needed to reduce my dosage slowly and I figured I could handle it. I suppose that most people who take benzos end up taking them for life (either because they need to or because the withdrawal symptoms are so severe), such that many physicians don’t fully understand how to get their patients off them completely without experiencing withdrawal syndrome. Every 2 weeks I reduced my nightly intake by 1/4 mg, until I got to 1/4 mg. I assumed I had done everything correctly and responsibly, and that I would be fine going to bed without any Clonazepam. WRONG!!!

That very first night I somehow managed to fall asleep for a very short time, and then suddenly just after midnight, my life as I knew it did a 180. And so did my husband’s. Let me just say right here that if your partner does not fully support you in every way that you need during a drug detox, then he/she is NOT the partner for you!!! Get rid of them quickly! Back to that first night…. I woke up suddenly and everything felt wrong in a way that I can’t even explain. I felt panicky. I tried to fall back to sleep but I couldn’t relax enough to stay still. I got out of bed and used the restroom. Then I got back in bed, but popped right up, as if some invisible force was pushing me out. I went downstairs and got a drink of water and checked my phone. As I steered myself toward my bedroom, I knew that lying down just wasn’t going to happen. So I went into the guest bedroom to try meditating – which is something that had been helping me to relax before bed at the time. I felt claustrophobic. I kept looking over my shoulder at the door which was mostly shut. It was then that I realized that I was going through withdrawal.

I finally returned to bed, but I felt like I was going to suffocate if I fell asleep, and a ton of negative thoughts kept flying through my head. I don’t remember if I fell back to sleep that night, but I did manage to stay in bed. I thought that everything might end up being ok. Not to be!

The following night I got up twice to pee (not normal for me) and tossed and turned all night. On the 3rd night I had to wake my husband up in order to feel calm enough to stay in bed. On the 4th night I realized that I felt a little less panicky after seeing light coming in through the bathroom windows, but the tossing and turning continued.

After 1 week of no Clonazepam I dreaded going to bed so much that I watched tv until late. This is a big thing for someone who insisted that the lights be turned out at 9:00. Some other weird things were that I had to take my socks off before bed because they made me feel even more claustrophobic, and I had to turn the fan down from high to low. The noise was also contributing to my claustrophobia. And I had to keep the bathroom door open because seeing that little bit of light helped, sort of. All of this for someone who has mylar shades in their bedroom because one speck of light kept them up and needed the fan on high to block all outside sounds.

The next week, everything started to get a little worse. I could not stay still in bed. I kept getting up to pee even though I didn’t really need to. I kept waking my husband up to tell him how miserable I was. He suggested that I go downstairs and sit up with my pillow and blanket, and keep the lights on and read. I began researching benzo addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and treatment. There wasn’t much useful information out there. Some people wanted to be paid for any advice that they gave. How inhumane!!!! I did come across a website that would end up saving my life, but didn’t do anything about it just yet. I started feeling claustrophobic during the day. I needed to be in a large, open space, and I needed to be able to see daylight. Friends suggested that I try melatonin, valerian, tryptophan, chamomile tea. I did. Ha! All jokes! I tried staying in the bedroom at night with the bathroom light on and the tv on. It did not help. I also turned on the closet light and the foyer light. Nope! I began to feel claustrophobic in my heavy coat and even in my car if I was stopped at a red light. I attempted to meditate at lunch time at work, but felt panicky when I shut my eyes. I started to feel nauseous and itchy.

After 12 days I finally went to see my doctor. He said he’d make a call to a local mental health center to see if they had a day program for me, and he prescribed Clonodine and Librium (another benzo). It helped a little bit for one night. I tried sleeping in the family room again and my husband offered to sleep there too. He slept like a baby. I did not sleep at all. I developed a low grade fever.

I thought a change of scenery might help. We went to the beach for the weekend after Thanksgiving. Our room had an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows which overlooked the bay. I figured if I kept the curtains open I wouldn’t feel claustrophobic. I got in bed the first night and felt like I might be able to sleep…for about a minute. I got out of bed and paced. I turned the tv on and sat on the sofa. I was so tired. Every time I closed my eyes I would panic. I woke my husband up and he offered to sit on the sofa while I laid on it with my legs across his lap. He fixed my pillows so I would be propped up, because I still felt like I would suffocate if I laid flat. He did this for both nights and I managed to get a tiny bit of sleep each night. He was my hero!

Throughout this time I questioned whether I should go back on Clonazepam. Even just 1/8 mg. I knew that dosage would not do much to help me sleep all night long, but at least I might not feel panicky and claustrophobic all of the time. But I always talked myself out of it, knowing that it would also do nothing to help break my addiction. I had to persist.

Fifteen days after suffering from benzo withdrawal syndrome I finally made a decision that would save my life, or at least my sanity. I would follow the advice of that website I had come across during one of my sleepless nights. I realized that going to a treatment center wasn’t going to do anything for me that I couldn’t do myself, other than drain my bank account.

READERS WHO JUST WANT TO KNOW THE FIX, SEE BELOW…

After reading the The Ashton Manual and showing it to my doctor, he agreed to my plan. I would begin by taking 5 mg of Valium (name brand diazepam), which is equivalent to 1/4 mg of Clonazepam. And I would reduce it by 1 mg every 2 weeks until I had used 1 mg. I used this chart to figure out the equivalency of Valium to Clonazepam. The reason that Valium works so well as a detox drug is because it is longer acting than Clonazepam and other benzos, and you can get extremely small doses of it. The trickiest and most important part is getting your doctor on board with it. I was very lucky in that regard!

My first night of taking Valium was on December 10, 2016 and my final night was on March 17, 2017. As I reduced my dose, sleep was tougher and tougher to come by, but I did not suffer from any withdrawal symptoms. I never felt any of the phobias I had been experiencing even once! I didn’t have the best sleep, but that has always been my normal. What I did have was my life back!

Low Ferritin: Are you constantly tired? Are you losing more hair than usual with no regrowth?

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I first noticed something was off when I couldn’t maintain my usual pace during my evening power walks.  I felt slightly winded, and I couldn’t even keep up with my husband who usually can’t keep up with me!  Around that time, there had been instances when I had to hold myself up at the kitchen counter just to get dinner started, and then my husband would have to finish cooking and serve me in bed because I felt so wiped out.   It was time to see the doctor!  He looked at my ferritin results from my physical earlier in the year.  The only reason my ferritin had been tested is because I choose to see a “boutique” doctor.  My doctors in the last 2 practices I had gone to had never tested it.  Lo and behold, my level was 8!  ROCK BOTTOM!

Now mind you, 8 is actually within the lab reference range and therefore had not been flagged.  However, lab reference ranges are not synonymous with optimal ranges.  My doctor asked if my multi-vitamin contained iron (yes), if I had heavy periods (no), and if I ate meat (yes).  So he prescribed Ferocon, a medical food containing iron and intrinsic factor (liver concentrate and various vitamins to help with absorption).  After a few weeks I began to feel noticeably better.

Now is a good time to tell you what ferritin is.  It is a protein that stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion.  Plasma ferritin indicates how much stored iron you have. Many doctors think that if your iron level is fine then you are fine.  But your iron level only tells part of the story.  All the while that I had no energy, my blood iron level was normal. But the only reason it was normal was because all of my stored iron was being used up to keep it that way.

I decided to keep taking Ferocon after reading that some doctors recommend a minimum ferritin level of 50 for a feeling of general well-being.  My next blood check showed that I was there, so my doctor told me to stop taking it.  I had suffered some hair loss (clumps) while taking a certain medication and it didn’t seem to be growing back whatsoever.  I knew that ferritin was instrumental in hair growth, and that my level might have fallen again.  I went back on Ferocon and decided to keep taking it until my level was around 90.  It’s generally agreed upon that hair growth is best supported with a level of 70-90.

It took 1.5 years to reach 90, even after adding more red meat to my diet. Clearly something was keeping me from absorbing iron like a normal person.  My GI doctor tested me for h. pylori and Celiac disease. Negative.  I eventually asked to be tested for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) to find out why my thyroid antibodies might have increased.  BINGO!  I tested positive, and and while I was waiting for the results, I read that the particular bacteria that can live in your small intestine, where in fact there should be none, survives in part on iron!!!  So until I deal with the SIBO, I know that I need to stay on Ferocon.

My takeaway for you is that if you are less energetic than normal or your hair is suddenly thinning, ask your doctor to test your ferritin right off the bat….and don’t let him tell you that you’re fine just because your level is within range.

 

A Word About Vitamin D

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There’s a lot of controversy about the optimal blood level of Vitamin D (25-Hydroxy) we should have.

Back in 2005, I started experiencing stress fractures in my feet, and this led me to become a patient of Dr. Elizabeth Streeten, an endocrinologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.  During my early years under her care, she advised me to maintain Vitamin D levels of about 40 – 50 ng/mL.  In order to achieve this, I needed to supplement with 1000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily.  This was in addition to what I was absorbing from my multivitamin and the Caltrate 600 D+ tablet I was taking each day.

Then after a few years, she suddenly wanted me to reduce my D3 intake, as research was showing that many pancreatic cancer patients had blood levels of 50 or more.  Her new goal for me was to sustain a level of 30 – 40.

There are a ton of folks today preaching that your level should be 60 – 80, and even some who suggest a level of 100 or more!  During a visit to my new endocrinologist this past May (also at UMMC, a research and teaching hospital by the way), I asked what the practice’s current recommendation was, and she responded that it’s still 30 – 40 ng/mL.