Where the Body Goes, the Mind Follows

Everyone make it out of this past weekend’s bi-annual time warp okay? I like daylight hours well enough, but nighttime is when I feel most alive, so this is my least-favorite time change. But, I’m managing passably well, I suppose. Only six more months until my inner vampire will be happy again.

A few things about me that might be of interest before we start talking about supplements:
– My body is incredibly sensitive to supplements, vitamins, drugs, etc.
– My personality is such that I pay attention to and notice the *tiniest* changes in my body (yes, it’s annoying – I generally don’t share).
– I’m a control freak, and I studiously avoid anything that fogs my brain or slows my thinking for any length of time. That includes most pain-killers, psychotropic drugs, and large amounts of alcohol. I’ve been tipsy, but only had one hangover, ever, and I’ve never done any kind of street drugs or been “high” aside from the occasional contact high with friends or in concerts. My greatest fear is probably general anesthesia, which I wouldn’t even let a dentist use when he wanted to pull one of my teeth (I’ve had several teeth pulled, fully conscious, thank you very much). Yes, I have a high pain tolerance.

All that said, I am constantly studying herbs, spices, and various vitamins/minerals in order to try to keep my body running as well as it possibly can. And a very interesting (I think it is, anyways) side effect of this is what happens to my brain in the process. Depending on what I happen to be “experimenting” with on any given day/week/month, my thoughts can either be completely chaotic and have the texture of a bouncy ball, or they can be overwhelmed with anxiety in several different forms, or they can be calm, focused and downright serene about life. That calm focus is the goal, of course, but sometimes a new supplement or different percentages of things can screw that up almost instantly.

Toward the beginning of that whole mid-life “thing”, I started taking MSM because I thought it would help with…some aspect of my body (I forget what…it was several years ago, in my defense). I did all my research, and as usual, nothing mentioned anything about mental side effects. Just how great it was for so many things. So, as usual, I tried a quarter of the normal recommended amount first (because…sensitive). The first day, things were okay. The second, things were a bit weird. My body felt fine, but my thoughts were starting to race a bit. Still, I have my off-days like everyone else, so I didn’t think much about it.

Long story short, by the end of two weeks I was an anxiety-ridden mess, misinterpreting people’s actions/words (I’m normally pretty decent at interpreting people), and not interacting well at all due to all the weird and confusing thoughts going through my head. By then it was pretty obvious that it was the MSM giving me some sort of odd mental reaction, so I stopped it, and within a day or so, I was back to “mid-life” normal.

It’s kind of freaky how stuff like that happens. And if you’re not paying attention and keeping track of what’s changed in your life (for me, a new supplement), it’s very easy to miss the cause of such a quick onset side-effect.

In any case, I’ve taken a multi-vitamin for years, and during the mid-life thing I found that fish oil really helped to calm the anxiety in my head. I started taking it to balance out my cholesterol and get more omega 3’s in, and realized not long after that my thoughts were clearer. I stopped it for a few days to test, chaos returned. Started it again, and within a week, I was mentally more stable. I’ve made sure I am *never* out of fish oil since then – it makes that big of a difference for me.

I’ve tried a lot of things, with varying results, and I could share them, but the thing is, everyone’s body and chemistry is different, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Right now, I’m experimenting with new supplements that are made in Seattle to replace the basic Costco variety we normally buy. The difference is night and day. We have a calcium supplement, whole food vitamins for women/men (same basic mix on the label, just proportioned a bit differently), and new fish-oil tablets that are stronger than our usual.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s not all roses right now. There’s a fair amount of vitamin D in both the calcium supplement and the vitamin, and that tends to wreak havoc on my system (physically). There are a lot of other vitamins/herbs that have been blended together, and according to the company, they’re put together in specific amounts that should make all of the elements more bioavailable. Which for me, is basically code for, “These things are strong – start slow and pay attention.”

Of course I didn’t, because I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything out there that will help talk my body into letting go of extra weight (unsuccessfully). I just went ahead and started with half a dose of calcium, and a full vitamin dose. Which, predictably, made me physically miserable for a solid week until I backed off on the vitamins (cut to half-dose).

But, while my body was rebelling, my mind was doing something very interesting…like…nothing. My anxiety shut down, my thoughts calmed, I could focus without even really trying, and I wasn’t worried about much of anything – just like when I was younger. It was glorious!

When I cut back on the vitamins, the mental effect was still there, just not as strong. Which was disappointing. So now I’m kind of playing with the amounts of the calcium/vitamin supplements to balance out for my physical comfort, and hopefully once I get that figured out, the mental benefits will stick around as well. If they don’t, you can bet I’ll be breaking down those vitamins and figuring out what gave me that shining “moment” of serene relaxation again. Because that is the person I want to be.

All this to say…what we put in our bodies has such a huge impact not just on how our bodies work, but how our minds work as well. I’ve done so much as far as cleaning up my diet, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s pretty decent, overall. And I know I still don’t get the vitamin/mineral balance I need just from diet alone, so supplementation is an important part of my life. Naturally, as our bodies age, the things we need change, so it’s not really a “set it and forget it” type of thing – it’s something I pay attention to and tweak often, because what helps one day or week may not the next, depending on what’s going on.

Now, to sleep. I haven’t been getting all I need of that lately either, so I’m making a better effort. Except for tonight (Mon/Tues), so I can get this post out (since I have to be up early anyways). But the rest of the week, you can bet I’ll be getting my 6 hours in.

I wonder if those years of sleeping 4.5 hours a night contributed to my mental issues…could I have saved myself a lot of angst just by sleeping more? Something to ponder further, perhaps. After I get some sleep.

On Sulfur, Anxiety & Other Fun Stuff…

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try sulfur (MSM) eye drops for my corneal degeneration condition (the drops my eye doc recommended started making my eyes hurt). I did some initial research (because I’m sensitive to a lot of things in ways other people aren’t), and found lots of information on how good it is for you primarily because it opens cell walls and allows them to heal and function better. The side effects listed on medical sites seemed mild, so I started the eye drops, and then a couple days later, started taking a very small dose (a quarter dose once, instead of twice per day…like I said, I’m sensitive and thus leery) of MSM powder too, thinking maybe it would help heal from the inside out (and also do something for my arthritic hand – MSM is often used for joint pain).

The week I was taking that stuff was one of the worst I’ve had in a long time, and I didn’t realize why until I first stopped taking the powder (just got lazy/apathetic), and then finally stopped the eye drops (which allowed it to completely flush out of my system).

Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I was a hot mess, and in doing some very targeted research after my brain snapped back to normal, I found out that in some lucky individuals (including myself, apparently), MSM/sulfur can cause anxiety – like, major anxiety, and insomnia (I hadn’t been sleeping well either – because my mind was spinning). That post last week about seasonal angst? I wrote that while taking MSM & using the eye drops, and my mind was going 24/7 with constant worry, paranoia, anxiety, and obsessive/compulsive thinking. It was bad, and thank goodness I’m an introvert with few actual friends, because my best buddy had to listen to all the nasty stuff via email, and it also aversely affected my attitude and actions at work. I was still able to function and do my job without breaking stuff, but it was a serious struggle, and staying away from people as much as possible became my main goal because I *knew* something just wasn’t right with the way I was interacting/relating to others (severe paranoia along with the anxiety – warranted paranoia, as it turned out).

So. Not. Good.

Note that in order to find other people with that same reaction, I had to dig pretty deep into discussion forums and such, because when things cause mental side effects like that, the medical community tends to ignore them, or brush them off as some other problem. Same thing happened when I tried to use Splenda and it made me crazy-angry all the time, or when I tried to take extra Vitamin D (because none of us get enough, right?) and it screwed with both my head and my hormones until I stopped taking it.

I do have minor anxiety issues if I stop taking fish oil (to a far lesser extent…I’ve never experienced anything like this sulfur-induced craziness). So I may well be prone to those problems anyways, but the fish oil (brain food!) keeps me on a nice, even keel, and the MSM just basically threw me off a mental cliff and into a seemingly endless free-fall. I truly thought I was losing my mind.

In any case, one day last week (Tues, I think) after I became too lazy (or anxious – whatever) to worry about something so trivial as eye drops or extra supplements (because I was obsessing constantly), I had a horrible headache all day, but I could *think* again. All the anxiety/paranoia/obsessive thoughts just completely disappeared, and my mind was calm and rational again – like a switch flipped, just that abruptly. The headache went away after a day, and I’ve been fine ever since – mentally peaceful and focused. The only thing I changed when the anxiety shot up was taking sulfur, and the only thing I stopped when my mind cleared was the sulfur, so I’m sure that’s what it was.

The bummer of the whole thing is, the sulfur was working well for my eyes – they actually felt better than they have in over a year when I first started the MSM. But, I’ve found some other eye drops that work okay and don’t make me nuts, and I vastly prefer being logical/rational even if my eyes are a bit worse off. So no more MSM for me.

I have to say, it did give me a renewed respect for what people with clinical anxiety go through every day. I couldn’t have handled it much longer without doing *something* to stop it, because it was just completely crazy…I felt totally out of control and the lack of sleep certainly didn’t help. Dealing with other people was nearly impossible between the paranoia and obsessive thoughts, and I just wanted to go crawl into a cave far away from everyone. I never want to experience that again.

Needless to say, that took up a good chunk of last week and the week before, and since the haze cleared, I’ve been working like mad trying to catch up on all the stuff I didn’t get done as far as the writing/writing related stuff goes. I think I’m pretty well caught up now though – all the newsletters should be hitting inboxes sometime today, my serial scenes were all posted last Friday, and I can start this week with a clean slate.

On another happy note, Independence Day is this coming Saturday here in the states, which means I have Friday off work. Three-day weekend, and I do believe I’ll spend the time catching up on some much needed updates to my personal web sites, including the BSB site. I’ve been thinking about adding a mini-social network to the BSB site so I might play around with that, and I also have a book (not by me) that I need to get edited and sent back to the author, so I’m hoping to get that done this weekend as well.

Believe it or not, I even have a reading post done and scheduled for Wednesday. Don’t get too used to that – it’s more of a time issue than anything else and I have seven drafts to keep up with right now, but hopefully I can at least make it a monthly thing.

Alrighty then. Here’s to a good, level-headed, mania-free week. And hopefully a quick fix for our A/C, which isn’t working yet again just before the hottest day of the year so far…

But hey. Good excuse for a late-night ice cream float, eh? 😉


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