“I’m terrified I might have Alzheimer’s,” said the writer, who is in her sixties. She described walking into rooms and forgetting why. Repeating herself three or four times, something her son pointed out to her with the stark honesty of youth. Suddenly hitting a blank where a word should be. Staring at an item and being unable to come up with the name for it.
She noted that that she’s had a few head injuries. As have so many of us. That forgetting why you came into a room was, according to some articles she’d read, was one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.
She went on to describe signing up for a thorough checkup at the University of Pennsylvania that specializes in the disease. They’d sent her lengthy questionnaires. The next step was to go get tested.
In her post she reached out to others who might have been experiencing the same thing. What could we offer? What advice might be helpful, soothing, provide guidance?
Careful What You Ask For
As someone who has had nineteen concussions and who lives with post concussion syndrome, I can relate. I have had many of the same symptoms, and I have also asked the hard question as to whether I too was developing Alzheimer’s. I was just as terrified.
By the same token, last year after I began a protocol that helped with the post-concussion symptoms, I noticed that many symptoms didn’t abate. That’s when I pointed my journalistic skills towards a different set of questions. I had been on a heavy cocktail of anti-depressants since 1998, the VA’s way of medicating those of us who experienced rape in the service.
The answers shocked me. What I found, when I made a list of a number of odd symptoms that made no sense given my athletic lifestyle- was that the meds were behind some thirty-five distinct symptoms. I promptly began a detox program last October and just as promptly, most of the symptoms abated. What was most important was that the brain fog, forgetfulness, and other Alzheimers-like symptoms lifted right away.
Here’s one article that gave me some guidance on WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20140909/anxiety-medications-may-be-tied-to-alzheimers-risk#1
And another, which goes into more detail: https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-05-2013/drugs-that-may-cause-memory-loss.html#quest1
Bottom line for me? Memory loss, dizziness and other “assumed” signs of old age, aren’t. They are for many of us who have been overprescribed certain meds a bright red flag to get the hell off those meds rather than assume, “Well, crap, I’m just getting old(er).”
And by the way, I did indeed go get tested. I don’t have Alzheimer’s. Not in the slightest. Just because you have a few symptoms is meaningless. What that does say is start researching. NOW.
A Slap Down
I chose to write on the post, and began my comments with this sentence: Please take these comments with a very large grain of salt.
To most of us, that’s a setup to say look, this may or may not apply, if it doesn’t, then please ignore.
Then I wrote about my experience, and made a number of very general suggestions that even the most basic of research would validate: that by stopping the meds, eating well, moving more and having lots of purposeful activities, that would likely go a long way towards improving the symptoms. Did my best to make fun of myself and add levity. I even added the following line to make sure she understood that my comments were very general and not directed at her: Pills cannot fix a poor lifestyle (and I’m not saying you’re living one B — -, just making a broad statement here).
How stupid of me to assume that this woman actually wanted input to move forward, trying different things, and look at prevention.
Here’s just a small bit of her response: I’m happy for you that your lifestyle suits you so well but, don’t assume it’s for everyone or that you know more than the top docs in the country.
Not only did I not imply that I knew more than the top docs, I would never say such a thing. Her other comments are less friendly, but she accused me of presuming I knew about her meds and how she lived. Interestingly, I had in part been responding to comments she’d written in response to other posters who, like a group of hens in the henyard (and I grew up with three thousand chickens, I know something about clucking) gathered around her and gave her plenty of sympathy. Oh poor you, in other words.
Don’t Ask for What You Don’t Want
As someone who blogs on fitness, and who has been down this road already, I likely know a bit more than the average person. I’ve been badly misdiagnosed by so-called “top docs” for whom, as they so often are hammers, every single problem is a nail. They can be blind to other answers- most especially those that don’t lead to profit (pills and procedures). I offered up general ideas for the consumption of all the women who had posted, simply for discussion, and for discarding, if they wished.
What was most clear from her response was that she was far more addicted to her drama than she was with entertaining other options that first, didn’t cost much, and second, might well offer her relief from her symptoms without ever engaging expensive “top docs.” While it’s her perfect right to look into what the University program has to offer, what I found when I did precisely the same thing eighteen months ago was that nobody questions the meds.
And therein lies the problem. It’s quite normal for someone in her sixties to be taking up to fifteen different prescriptions, up to eighteen ten years later. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ann-brenoff/elderly-taking-too-many-pills_b_7079060.html
That’s NORMAL. Are you fucking kidding me?
The more I research these issues the more I realize that meds- not all, but too many- ARE the problem. We take them longer than intended, then suddenly (as I found out) we have kidney issues, skin issues, hair issues, cognitive issues. Most doctors- most especially those prescribing anti-depressants the way my childhood pediatrician handed out Juicy Fruit gum-have no clue what these meds can do over time. I found out. So did my pediatrican, who stopped handing out the cavity-causing gum.
Detoxing is Serious Business
Anti-depressants can reduce our life span up to 33%, some studies claim (https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2017/09/21/will-dangers-of-antidepressants-shorten-your-life)/ .That alone is damned good reason to dump them. However if you, like I was, have been on them for a long time (two decades in my case) it makes sense to detox slowly and with supervision. I did both. However I noted that within several days of significant cut backs, sadness, suicidal thoughts and lethargy lifted like fog on a fall day.
They didn’t reappear, either.
I had in place various coping systems from exercise to good diet to an oxygen protocol. It took me a month, but by thirty days later I was drug free. I use a few scripts for treating migraines but beyond that I take nothing. It has made all the difference. I no longer experience depression, lethargy or suicidal thoughts which are a very common side effect from the very meds you’re taking to prevent such symptoms. If you are thinking about doing something similar, consider reading https://www.prevention.com/life/a20509451/what-happens-when-you-stop-taking-antidepressants/
I Only Want a Pity Party
The woman’s personal attack in response to a heartfelt, empathetic post reminds me that a great many people do not want answers. They want others who are as miserable and scared as they are to validate their discomfort and fear. They are solely in the market for a pity party- so if you dare to suggest alternatives, a way to get better, options that don’t involve expensive traditional doctors to see if that relieved the symptoms first, then you set yourself up for a full-on slap down.
One of the most powerful predictors of long term health and happiness- setting aside the diet, exercise and fewer-pharma issues here- is who we surround ourselves with. On one hand, social networks can be as important as smoking or alcohol use in terms to causing disease and distress, but on the other, can lift, motivate, engage and keep us youthful (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/05/social-networks.aspx). The way I read this and experience it is that if I surround myself with “woe is me” types who constantly moan and groan about their symptoms, that will make me ill, just as quickly as a toxic, abusive relationship. As the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh writes in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, “Dwelling in a good environment is preventative medicine.”
Trust But Verify
When we notice symptoms- most especially those that could potentially indicate a serious disease- it’s natural to be terrified. However, increasingly we live with a health care system that is anything but preventative. While on one hand it makes sense to investigate, it also makes even more sense to validate. The phrase “Trust but verify” was made famous by Ronald Reagan during his talks with Gorbachev in 1987, and it holds particularly true when it comes to modern medicine. We are the only ones who can truly know our bodies. Anyone else, even the best doctors in the world, are just guessing at both what might be wrong as well as what might work for the simple reason that each of us is a universe unto itself with a million million variations. That’s why it’s so important to learn what works,what doesn’t and to try healthy prevention first before pills and procedures.
Unless, of course, the drama you get to create around yourself with “OMIGOD I might have Alzheimer’s” or “I might have (fill in the blank)” is considerably more satisfying than, say, being well.
To be fair to this woman and to all of us who get frightened when our bodies betray us in one way or another, what she was likely seeking (however she went about it) was what we all secrete when we are nurtured and loved: oxytocin. Not to be confused with the opioid oxycontin, oxytocin is what’s called the “love drug” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795.php. When women gather in the coffee break room, they secrete oxytocin. It is as natural to seek this out as it is to give birth, fall in love…it soothes, heals, and makes us feel better. It’s quite possible that this is what the poster was after. I can’t know that. What I do know is the knee-jerk ugly response to what I offered as heartfelt solutions.
It’s one thing to seek answers. It’s yet another to want to be surrounded by people who validate your worst, provide pity vs positive encouragement, and drag you into the sewage of sadness rather than challenge you to be your best despite the circumstances.
I can only speak for myself. I want powerful, positive, no-nonsense people around me who will provide about five seconds of empathy for my fears, then get busy kicking my butt on how to handle it. But that’s just me.
What are you in the market for?