OD.CRISIS

Want to know something frightening? By 2015, the number of Americans who suffer from prescription opioid addiction rose to 2 million. Scary, right?

An opioid epidemic is changing the way doctors prescribe painkillers. And it seems to be getting worse, before it gets better. Today, 115 people overdose on opioid and related drugs every. single. day. Have I terrified you enough? Statistics like these show that anyone can be affected by addiction. It may be as easy as a trip to the doctor’s office. Or a post-surgery medication regimen.

How can we end the OD.CRISIS? Alternatives to opioids can make a big difference.

It’s becoming common for people to request non-addictive pain relievers for surgery recovery. In fact, there is now a form addicts can fill out requesting non-opioid pain relievers in the event of a hospitalization.

Aside from forms, there is a whole slew of prescription painkillers that can work even better than opiates, without the addictive side effects. Here are a few of them: over-the-counter NSAIDs, corticosteroids like prednisone, or Tegretol, an antiepileptic.

Going in a different direction, non-pill routes like yoga, acupuncture and eastern meditation can provide pain relief as well. I personally use yoga when I have hip pain from running. As someone who used alcohol to self-medicate, I remain weary of addictive prescription drugs — in this way, I enjoy stretching and strengthening through exercise, and find natural alternatives beneficial to relieving my aches.

Preventative measures and recovery alternatives can keep a person from suffering an opioid addiction later on down the road. I have met amazing people who have recovered from this disease, and I have known many who have died of overdoses. If we can get serious about the OD.CRISIS then maybe we can save lives instead of continuing to bury our children, friends, parents, and loved ones.

Start today by asking your doctor about alternatives to opioids. It just might save your life.

For more statistics related to the opioid OD.CRISIS check out the NIH page on opiate addictions.

Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – ‘I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.’ What a sexy little paradox. – Russell Brand

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DREAM.SLEEP

My very first experience with mental health occurred during my sophomore year in college. I found myself experiencing acute anxiety and insomnia after having a routine surgery to remove my wisdom teeth. I started the semester completely sleep-deprived, a nervous wreck, and at a loss for what to do to get some help.

Naturally, I logged onto WebMD and scared the bejeezus out of myself with symptoms and potential outcomes of a lack of sleep. My lungs would eventually collapse, and with one more night of zero shut-eye, I would literally die. Please note that since 2007, the insomnia page has greatly improved and is much less frightening in tone.

Anyway, I was offered Xanax by the school nurse. Had I known how much better I would feel, I would have jumped on the prescription (and naturally taken the pills as prescribed). But, my head said no: this must mean I am crazy.

I simply couldn’t shake the feeling that taking Xanax, or any psychotropic medication for that matter, was absurd; I was a bright, capable, stable (mostly) young woman. So I went to the local university hospital and was prescribed Ambien. One pill did the trick, and I slept through the night. I was screened for an Anxiety Study, but was not selected. Phew, I thought, I’m mentally clear. HAHA.LOL.

If only my past self could prepare for the struggles I would have to eventually overcome, and the challenges life would present. I would take the Xanax and run.

In all seriousness, this started the journey towards recognizing the importance of sleep hygiene to my mental wellbeing. Here’s why Zzz’s help:

REM.SLEEP. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is a part of the nightly sleep cycle that is vital to your mental refresh. It has been proven to improve memory and emotional health. Are you frequently waking up throughout the night? You might not be getting the REM deep sleep you need — and if you have a mental illness, your psychiatric symptoms could become exacerbated.

Recommendation: Talk to your clinician first and foremost. Keep informed on your sleep patterns with a sleep app or an OLD.SCHOOL sleep journal. This way you have an idea of what to mention to your healthcare provider.

DREAM.ON. Another important, but very mysterious, factor of importance to your sleep cycle are dreams. I’m going to go all supernatural on you for a minute. There are theories older than Freud and Jung on what happens when we dream, whether they are random memories or psychic visions or whatever you may believe. The bottom line is that dreams occur in that deep REM sleep, leaving us well-rested.

Recommendation: Not all dreams are good, like those RLY.COOL ones where you feel like you’re flying. Many of us with PTSD can have recurring nightmares that take us back to a troublesome event, catalyzing anxiety, depression, or other mood changes. Something that has helped me with uncomfortable dreams is meditation before bed. It can help relax you and prepare for deep sleep. It can also clear your head and make your dreams, if any are remembered, much more pleasurable.

ROUTINE. Lastly, get yourself into a sleep routine that fits your busy life. Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday can do wonders for your mental health. Sometimes, it may improve your medication effectiveness, especially if it helps you take them at a regular hour of the day.

Recommendation: Set sleep alarms. Just as you would do for waking up, set a gentle reminder to go to bed at a usual time. When I began noticing my SLEEP.HYGIENE deteriorate, I simply tracked my sleep through my iPhone. The app got me back on track, and my mood improved.

And there you have it. WHY.I and those crazy NEURO.PUNKS recommend you count those sheep and drift into deep slumber. Happy sleeping.

When we prioritize our well-being, everything else in our life gets better, including our products, including our performance at work, including our success. — Arianna Huffington

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DBT.MATE

DBT.MATE. Read about some of my favorite D.B.T. skills, and how I use them.

What makes D.B.T. (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) so beneficial?

It teaches us CRAY.BAES the skills we need to cope with the stresses of everyday life.

We don’t have to feel abnormal, strange, or different anymore. It takes some practice, but D.B.T. can enhance our daily experiences by keeping our emotions regulated, communicating with others in a more effective way, and keeping things balanced with mindfulness. There’s even ways to calm yourself when in distress. I have been practicing D.B.T. for many years now, and the benefits make learning worth it. Here are a few of my favorite skills, and how you can apply them to your therapeutic routine.

RIDE.THE.WAVE. Riding the wave is like sailing through the waters of an uncomfortable emotion. If you’re sad, surf through it. Feeling anxious? It won’t last — just keep on swimming with the wet-and-wild tide. I like to picture paddle boarding on a rough surf.

A tough emotion can seem like it will sit with you forever, but riding the wave without attaching to the feeling can help it pass quicker, and without getting pulled down by the undertow.

DISTRACT. This tool is especially handy when you need to refocus your attention from a negative thought to a positive one. Say, you can’t stop reliving a traumatic flashback. It feels as though your brain can’t focus on anything but the horrible visualization. Now, listen to some loud music. Or put your heart and soul into that D.I.Y project you’ve procrastinated working on.

Sometimes, fully engrossing yourself in a favorite activity can reframe your thoughts away from that difficult time.

SELF.SOOTHE. Now, for my personal favorite: self soothe. We have five senses and can appeal to each of them in many ways. Aromatherapy takes advantage of your olfactory glands with pleasurable scents. A massage eases tension in the physical way. I like to take a comforting bath when I can’t fight off my anxiety — and incorporate candles for the visual sensation, bath bombs for comforting smells, and the a hot water soak for touch.

You can also pet your cat, or eat a piece of chocolate: soothing your senses helps you tolerate an emotional crisis by bringing you back to the basics.

There’s a crazy amount of DBT.SKILLS you can pull out of the toolkit and apply to your thoughts and emotions. I like to keep it real simple and reap the benefits of D.B.T. even when I’m just chilling out, not a care in the world. Practicing when you are feeling great makes it easier to utilize when you’re just a wreck. Get on board with D.B.T. and take back control of your mind.

For more about D.B.T. check out this article on the WHAT.WHY.HOW of the treatment method.

The great thing about treating borderline patients is that it is like having a supervisor always in the room. — Marsha M. Linehan, DBT.CREATOR

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