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Broken

Question:

I have not been myself for years and its due to changes in my life around me. As a teenager I saw a psychiatrist and was given Aderol and anti-depressents to get me through school. I had trouble comprehending what we were learning and completely distracted by everything around me. After High School I learned my dad had Bipolar Disorder and that he had similar problem as me, but I didn’t believe I had Bipolar Disorder.

I continued to see different doctors to get help because I always felt there was more to “it,” my problem, than what all these doctors were finding. I was always told I was either depressed or had anxiety because I got serious chest pains for no reason. I agree that I do have anxiety. My chest pains have no noticeable trigger.

I have taken so many medications that I lost count. As of the past 3 years I have just become completely broken. In 2009 my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer, had multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. Then, in 2010, my dad was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer. He passed away in Oct. of 2011. His battle with cancer was horrific and painful.

My moms cancer is genetic and I have a 50% chance of having it. If you add my dads cancer from his side of the family, I feel very scared.

I have no interest in anything in life whatsoever anymore. I have a husband and 2 children who I take care of to the best of my ability. My life is consumed by cleaning. It’s the only thing I can do to get my mind off of all the negatives in the world around me. I do not socialize, I do not make friends. I am uncomfortable around people. I attend college but it is now a chore to me. I only enjoy going to school as a way to keep my mind busy.

I feel like I live in my head all day and night and am consumed with thoughts of pain, heartache and confusion. I cant get out of there. My friends and family tell me I am different and they want me to get better. But I don’t know what better is? Please help me.

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Answer:

There is a term that is now used to describe the type of stress you are under. It is called the allostatic load. What that means is that stress is cumulative, slowly and gradually taking it’s toll on our emotions, ability to cope and physical health. Your allostatic load is heavy. It is not just that you could have a bipolar disorder with depression, or ADD or both, but that so many things have happened to you in the distant and recent past, that you “live in your head all day and night, feel confused and are consumed by thoughts of pain, heartache and confusion. Indeed, your family and friends notice and are aware of the fact that something is wrong and that you are not the same as you once were. I am quite sure that they are worried about you.

There are a number of things you can and should start to do to relieve the pressure of the stress that is wearing you thin. Of course, these things cannot alter the tragedy of what has happened and is happening to your parents. Indeed, these things cannot be altered and the past cannot be changed but your ability to cope and even regain some pleasure in your life, can be improved.

The impact of stress, including and especially the allostatic load, can be reduced through regular exercise. Exercise can improve your mood, improve your physical health and provide more energy to help you deal with the things in your life that are both terrible and wonderful. I suggest and urge you to see your physician and discuss the types of exercise that are safe for you to do. Your MD knows your the state of your physical health and is in the best position to know what you can and cannot tolerate in terms of exercise for you and an individual.

Nutrition is a vitally important part of our ability to meet life crises. The connection between nutrition and emotional heath is no longer theoretical. Just like exercise, healthy nutrition forms part of a life style that helps all of us live balanced lives. Here, too, consult your MD about your nutritional needs and the best ways to alter you current diet. I’s not about calories or how much you eat but about the quality of what you eat and what food choices you make.

Yoga and meditation are excellent tools to use along with exercise. You can learn these by getting a few books at the library or by attending a few classes that may be available at the local community center or “Y.”

Finally, psychotherapy is, in my opinion, helpful. I prefer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) because it aims at the specific problem and learning new behavioral strategies to better handle difficult situations.

None of us can change the facts of what life is dealing us but we can learn better ways to meet and deal with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Good Luck

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