What If My Depression Doesn’t Go Away?

What If My Depression Doesn’t Go Away?

Below you will find an excerpt about treatment for depression from the Faculty of Harvard Medical School. First, however, I’d like to convey my strong, immediate reaction to the report.

As I was reading this article, I thought about “The List”…the list of medications I took from 1961 to 1972…Valium being the first of my introductions to mind-altering drugs. I had no idea what they were or the damage they could do…I simply obeyed orders. In those days, you never questioned a doctor’s instructions!

When 10 milligrams of Valium didn’t help my headaches, fatigue or crying spells, the dosage was increased …repeatedly, in fact, over a six-month period. And as other symptoms manifested — depression, insomnia, inner trembling, blurred vision and dizziness — additional medications were added to the mix. Before long I was introduced to Mellaril, Tofranil and then Thorazine.

After years of trying these medications and my symptoms not improving, psychotherapy was suggested. Two of the therapists just changed my medications, but the third suggested a series of treatments that he thought would combat my depression. By 1969, I was so severely depressed that I welcomed any suggested treatment…I was torn between wanting to live and wanting to die.

I did not know that the treatments were electroconvulsive shock therapy! However, once in the hospital, I was not allowed to leave. I was told that I had signed papers for a series of treatment, and that’s what I was going to get. Needless to say, I came home in worse shape than when I went into the hospital. The whole experience was something I kept to myself and didn’t share for years. The shame, embarrassment and humiliation of being labeled a “mental patient” were too heavy a burden to bear.

Fast forward to 1972. My symptoms were stabilizing… or so I thought. I was in church on a Sunday morning when I suddenly passed out while standing. After several of these episodes, I reluctantly went to a doctor in Hollywood, Florida. After looking over my medical history, he said… “With all the tests and treatments you have had over all these years, you never had a Glucose Tolerance Test” (GTT)… so he ordered one. It was only then, ten years after being undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and labeled “crazy” (mostly by me), that I finally had a name for my condition…I had a severe case of functional hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar! The cure…a simple diet!

You can read all about this story in detail in my book, The Do’s and Don’ts of Hypoglycemia: An Everyday Guide to Low Blood Sugar. My purpose here today is to caution anyone with depression – especially severe depression that doesn’t go away – before years of medication, psychotherapy or the ECT treatment (that is once again popular) are prescribed…evaluate your dietary habits! What you are (or are not) eating can contribute to how you think, act and feel! Ask your healthcare practitioner to check your blood sugar, thyroid, hormone and insulin levels. Look into allergies and food sensitivities. Leave no stone unturned. The life you save may be your own!

What If My Depression Doesn’t Go Away?

 Content provided by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

 Excerpted from a Harvard Special Report.

Until doctors have a way to test people ahead of time to see which treatment will work for each individual, finding the right approach is a matter of trial and error. Depending on the severity of the depression and other factors, including your preference, you may start with either psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of the two.

If the first drug you try doesn’t work after four to eight weeks of treatment, your doctor may increase your dosage. If that doesn’t work, he or she may suggest that you switch to another drug in the same class or a drug in a different class. You can try several different antidepressants in sequence until you find one that is most helpful. Your doctor may also recommend adding psychotherapy if that hasn’t been part of your treatment plan.

If you still don’t respond to these therapies, your doctor may prescribe an additional medication, such as lithium or an antipsychotic medication, to be taken with the antidepressant. Depending on the type of symptoms and their severity, the next step may be trying electroconvulsive therapy or light therapy. Newer therapies, such as vagus nerve stimulation or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, are other options for you and your doctor to discuss. Your doctor or mental health professional is also likely to address life circumstances or losses that may be putting pressure on you or a problem with substance abuse that may be getting in the way of your progress.

Having to go through all of these steps may sound discouraging, but finding the treatment that works for you will be worth the effort.

One major study, the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial, took a close look at how people respond to “real world” treatment, where they try a series of treatments until they find one that works. More than half of the people who participated in the study went into remission after two treatment levels. Overall, 70% of all the people who didn’t withdraw from the study got relief from all their symptoms of depression.

You can improve your chances for successful treatment by taking steps to help yourself, including understanding how to take your medication, discussing your plan in detail with your doctor and abiding by it, and keeping up with therapy appointments

Here’s to your health,

Roberta Ruggiero

What to do if you have it? (Hypoglycemia)

What to do if you have it? (Hypoglycemia)

Hypoglycemia: What to Do If You Have It!

I go through so many emotions–confusion, sadness, frustration–when I receive Facebook posts or e-mails like the following ones I am sharing with you today. I wonder… how do I respond? Where do I begin?

“So, I’ve been dealing with Hypoglycemia for 4 or 5 years now and have been a vegetarian for 10 years. I am still having a hard time figuring out what to eat. I’m not healthy at all and have never been! Can someone please help me?”

“I believe I have hypoglycemia. More than three hours without food and my sugar drops fast. But I work full time. I eat glucose tabs. My dad has G6PD enzyme deficiency. I was told it can potentially cause hypoglycemia. I’ve been having trouble getting to a specialist for a complete diagnosis but it’s bad. I was also told I could be pre-diabetic. I just need some answers and ways to control it.”

“I was told I had hypoglycemia many years ago and that I needed to change my eating habits. I have to confess I have done nothing, not out of ignorance but fear. I don’t know where to start. Please help me.”

“Please send me all the information you have on hypoglycemia. I am desperate!”

I decided to respond by telling you… I know exactly how you feel because I’ve been there! I lived through the devastating effects of hypoglycemia that many of you are experiencing right now.

As a young mother, I had no idea of sugar’s consequences when living on sugary cakes, hot fudge sundaes and apple pie. I would swing from not eating meals to eating those that consisted of pasta and bread. No wonder I had chronic fatigue, suffered with insomnia, severe depression and headaches that felt like my head was going to explode.

This lasted 10 years during which time I visited dozens of doctors, endured countless tests, took thousands of pills and was even subjected to the administration of electric shock therapy. But I was still sick. Finally, I found a physician who explained I had a severe case of functional hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and all I needed was a DIET! Yes, a simple glucose tolerance test and a proper diagnosis finally led me on the road to recovery.

But it was not easy! What I hoped would be an “overnight” remedy turned out to take several years of sorting through a mass of confusing and complicated information. Due to unfamiliarity with the stages of recuperation, controversy surrounding its treatment and non-acceptance from many in the medical community, I found myself feeling like I was the only person in the world suffering from this baffling disease.

Eventually, success did come, but alleviating my symptoms was a long, slow process. It would have been quicker if only I had understood the importance of individualizing my diet, the necessity for vitamins and exercise, and the role a positive attitude plays in the healing process. Above all, the road back to health would not have been so rocky if other hypoglycemics had been there to lend support and encouragement. Faith, patience, determination and the boundless love of my family were the cornerstones to my recovery.

You, my dear readers, have what was not available to me some 40 years ago. The internet allows you to access information about hypoglycemia almost in an instant. Type in any topic of interest at Yahoo or Google and you’ll see not one but dozens of responses. My concern though is that by going this route, you’re shortchanging yourself and won’t be receiving a complete course of treatment for controlling hypoglycemia. Instead you will get bits and pieces of information that could lead to more confusion and fear.

So, after years of speaking with thousands of hypoglycemics and personally going through the highs and lows, challenges and successes of this condition… here is what I believe. Hypoglycemia is one of the most confusing, complicated, misunderstood and misdiagnosed conditions today. Therefore, my message is simple:

Your Symptoms May Not Be “All In Your Head.”

If you suffer from fatigue, insomnia, mental confusion, nervousness, mood swings, faintness, headaches, depression, phobias, blurred vision, inner trembling, outbursts of temper, sudden hunger, heart palpitations, cravings for sweets, allergies and crying spells (just to name a few), you may have functional hypoglycemia and it is most likely the result of poor diet, stress and lifestyle.

If you suspect hypoglycemia, first EDUCATE yourself on this condition. Read every book you can get your hands on that discusses the subject. One may contradict another; others will be confusing and difficult to understand. Nevertheless, you will learn something from each of them. Remember, too, you don’t have to read the thick books all at once. You can read them a chapter, a page or a few paragraphs at a time. Learning takes time, energy, patience, and commitment. Don’t give up. Just do it gradually and consistently. Don’t say you don’t have the time or ability–you do! I cannot stress enough that knowledge and understanding of the causes, effects and treatment of this condition are imperative.

Then start keeping a diet/symptom diary–a daily account of everything you eat for one week to ten days. In one column, list every bit of food, drink and medication you take and at what time. In the second column, list your symptoms and the time at which you experience them. Very often you will see a correlation between what you have consumed and your symptoms.

Now make a list of your symptoms and bring it to a healthcare professional along with your diet/symptom diary and the questions and concerns generated from all your reading on hypoglycemia. There is no substitute for a medical diagnosis and treatment plan!

Can’t find a physician? Want to know if you need the glucose tolerance test? Questioning what you should eat? Wondering if you will become diabetic? Worried that your two-year-old might have hypoglycemia? Your questions may seem endless, and it is impossible to answer all of them individually. But the good news is that many of your concerns may be addressed on our website at www.hypoglycemia.org. Visit it today! You will find pages of up-to-date information on hypoglycemia and personal stories that will inspire and uplift you. And don’t miss out on almost four years of HSF blogs…a wealth of information you can’t afford to miss!

Finally, check out the HSF’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HypoglycemiaSupport  Here you will discover up close and personal news and views on every aspect of hypoglycemia. The best part is that you will meet a “family” of other sufferers brave enough to share their personal stories. Perhaps you will see yourself in some of their experiences. More importantly, perhaps you will find a suggestion or two that work for you.

All of this is easily accessible, but YOU must take the first step. Education, preparation and commitment are key to recovery. Believe me, the rewards will be worth it!

Here’s to your health,