*Sigh* — The End of My Euphoria

Here’s another brief report on my self-experimentation progress, as I attempt to mitigate, as naturally as possible, the symptoms of my newly-diagnosed Ulcerative Colitis, and ultimately discover this autoimmune hyperactivity disease’s cause and cure.

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I‘ve just completed another correlation analysis of my self-experimentation data. The latest changes to my regimen (adding a low-dose daily iron supplement to treat my anemia, and re-starting my aerobic exercise program) appear to have had no adverse effects on any aspect of my health. The only significant change in the past week has been a modest increase in my general sense of anxiety, and an increase in the amount of sleep I am getting each night. The only variable that would seem to account for these is Friday’s third tapering-off (to 25mg/day) of the steroid prednisone I will still have to take for another 9 weeks in decreasing dose (to reduce the risk that my suppressed adrenal cortex won’t kick back in and start doing its autoimmune job again). These steroids are known to cause severe insomnia, so the fact my sleep duration has been inversely proportional to prednisone dose is not surprising.

The increased general sense of anxiety, however, is disappointing. I was hopeful that my body, in response to the disease, had permanently altered my metabolism to force me to slow down, become more resilient, and hence handle stress (the catalyst for UC attacks) much better. The data, alas, suggest otherwise — they suggest that the prednisone was behind the euphoria and the wonderful mellowness that I have felt for the past month. The NIH hilariously lists one of the main side-effects of this drug as “inappropriate happiness”. “Changes in personality” are also reportedly common for high-dose steroid users.

My “personality” seems to be reverting slowly to what it was before I contracted the disease. I’m smiling less. Annoyances get to me faster and, worse, they continue to bother me longer. I’m fretting more about Getting Things Done, and setting more ambitious objectives for each day. My muscles are tenser and get sore faster. My impatience and inability to pay attention are returning.

I am not yet willing to concede that we are who we are and, without the continuous use of artificial chemicals, we are unable to change our “personalities”, our ‘constitutions’, in any fundamental or enduring way. Just as one objective of my self-experimentation program has been to find natural substitutes for the synthetic chemicals I’m now using to treat and hopefully prevent future flare-ups of UC, another objective is now to find natural ways to make permanent the changes to my “personality” that have contributed so positively to my healing and enlightened me about the folly of my old ways.

So it’s time to gear up some of the Phase 2 self-experimentation steps that I’d planned on to cope with stress and anxiety. Here’s a table that shows how far along I am in each of the 16 elements of my stress management program, and my intuitive, subjective expectation of how much each element is likely to contribute to reducing my reactions to stress and general feelings of anxiety:

Activity Progress Expected
self-awareness and self-control Substantial Modest
meditation Not Started Significant
identifying & removing the chronic stressers from my life Modest Modest
building & using my social support network Modest Significant
consuming less sugar and other stimulants & body-stressers Substantial Modest
anaerobic exercise (toning, stretching, posture, yoga) Not Started Significant
physiotherapy & massage Not Started Significant
improving work habits & physical work environment Substantial Significant
aerobic exercise Substantial Very High
natural ‘drugs’ (sex etc.) Substantial Significant
social time Substantial Very High
physical contact with friends Modest Significant
generosity activities: volunteering, complimenting etc. Not Started Significant
play & fun Modest Significant
catharsis activities: music, crying etc. Substantial Significant
nature walks and drives Modest Significant

My ‘Expected Impact’ assessment factors in both how much effect I think the activity will have on my stress level, and how much control I have over that effect. So, for example, I expect my self-monitoring, self-awareness and self-control activities to have only a modest impact on my stress management because I’m honest enough with myself to know I’m not very good at doing these things.

The two activities that I expect will help most — exercise and social time — I’m already far along in. It would be interesting to know, had I not restarted exercising and not started devoting three times as much time as I used to for social activities, whether my stress and anxiety levels would now be even higher than they are. I’m not about to curtail either activity to find out.

The four activities on the list that I have not yet started — meditation, yoga, physiotherapy and generosity activities — should all have significant stress-busting effect. They all require more organization and cost (money and/or time) than the other activities, which is why I haven’t started them yet. They’ve now risen to the top of my list.

I’m still nagged with something of a sense of defeatism about all this. I keep blathering about how we are what we are, and that we only do what we must, and change when we must. It’s ironic that, as soon as the urgency of the situation has passed, we tend to revert to old habits, and to our old “personality”. The inevitable result is that the problems recur and become chronic, and, like binge dieters, we vacillate between action and backsliding, zeal and recidivism, rigour and procrastination.

If this is human nature, it’s not good for us in today’s world. I wish I could turn off my dysfunctional mind and rely on my body to take charge of my health and well-being. It knowswhat’s good for me. Anyone have any ideas, or success, in doing that?

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28 Responses to *Sigh* — The End of My Euphoria

  1. MatthewJ says:

    Hey Dave!I lived at a Buddhist monastery for about a year, working and practicing meditation.I eventually left, frustrated by their story, which asked me to be something I wasn’tHowever, I will say that the skills I learned there, especially around mindfulness and meditation, have helped me in a few ways.I haven’t “leveled up” in any “spiritual” sense. Instead, I say that I am mentally healthier, as if I was diseased before, and have started the process of internal healing. I am less afraid and overwhelmed by my feelings or my abstract thinking, more able to connect with my senses, and have more moments of feeling “fully alive”.I want to be clear though. I have not “moved beyond” any of my feelings. I still regularly get anxious and depressed by this culture I live in, and am still quite lonely. Furthermore, I am still searching for a vision I can live out in my daily life.In essence, I would not recommend meditation for Zorba the Greek, nor David Abram, nor anyone who has grown up in a living, functional culture. Nor would I recommend meditation to anyone who is going to be susceptable to getting caught in the ascetic, world denying, human nature changing, “ascendant” world view that usually goes with it. But for someone who gets caught in their pre-frontal cortex (abstract thinking) or someone who gets caught in cyclical feeling loops (i’m feeling depressed, ugh feeling like this makes me more depressed), I think meditation, as a healing tool, can provide a way out.Just my two cents,Matthew

  2. Dean F. says:

    I am struck by the amount of thinking you put into things. After a brush with Krishnamurti and other study over the past couple of years, including a regular yoga practice and meditation, I wonder if you might benefit more by just winging it and let things happen. Perhaps for a bit you might get the freedom you just let things take their course. And Krishnamurti indicates that trying to solve things that are caused, at least partially, by thinking with more thinking is not likely to help. Just a thought. I can totally relate to where you are and sometimes I find it best to “go faster, by slowing down.” Best of luck.

  3. Karen M says:

    Dave, I noticed that the only thing related to food on your list was about consuming less sugar. A worthy goal, but, in addition to limiting some pleasurable tastes, you might also want to add/find some pleasing/satisfying/comfort tastes, too. Think Umami. Or (dark) chocolate. Or artichokes or avocados. Also… essential fatty acids are supposed to be good for mental health, as are enough vitamins and minerals. (For example, chocolate is a source of magnesium, which is good for feeling good. And dark has a lot of antioxidants, too.) I’ve also been eating more corn, ever since I heard Christina Perillo say that it helps to elevate one’s serotonin levels. (Sometimes, I nuke some iron-enriched grits for a minute, then add some frozen shoe-peg corn, and an (Eggland’s Best) egg or two mixed in thoroughly, and whatever else I feel like adding (ham or bacon), then nuke it again for another minute and a half or two, depending on what’s in the bowl.) I know it’s lazy, but a light, quick meal for one person doesn’t want too much effort. And the result is a pleasing, if somewhat grainy, souffle-like casserole.Also, I cannot recommend too highly Paul Newman’s Fig Bars. I eat the wheat/dairy free ones, but the others are probably good, too. Organic figs, and a very satisfying flavor. Perhaps better than Newtons. I actually think your assessment table is looking pretty good, and that you’ve made great progress, and I agree with you that we can change or personalities in an enduring way… Our constitutions, though, may be a different matter. I know I’ve improved my personality over time, but I’m not so sure about my constitution. In fact, I sometimes think the effort of first, trying to control my personality, and then improving it, may have contributed to my constitution’s difficulties. Or, it could also just be the effects of age and maturing… our personalities improve, but our constitutions (i.e., health) pay the toll. I’d love to know what you and anyone else reading this think about that idea.

  4. Karen M says:

    I meant to add something in response to: It’s ironic that, as soon as the urgency of the situation has passed, we tend to revert to old habits, and to our old “personality”. The inevitable result is that the problems recur and become chronic, and, like binge dieters, we vacillate between action and backsliding, zeal and recidivism, rigour and procrastination.…that roller coaster will even out for you after awhile. There are some similarities with the grief process… denial, anger, bargaining, etc. Eventually, you get tired of the extreme lows that follow when you don’t do what you know you need to do, and you ignore those things less often and less intensely.

  5. Ranga says:

    Hello Dave,I have been a regular reader and have learnt a lot from you. Best wishes on your efforts.I think any one will benefit immensely from doing the following things. This is not a fad or fashion. These steps will simply slowly but surely alter the constitution of our body not always easily explained by science.1. Drink 5 litres of water a day. Drink teh water half an hour before food or 2 hours after food. The idea is to drink as much as possible without mixing food and water in the stomach. I have done it. It has helped me drop weight, made me agile, less irritable and more motivated for life. I am contemplative and just enjoy the simples things in life.2. Go towards vegetarian and fresh food.3. Learn breathing techniques also called as pranayama which is part of yoga.4. Learn a few yoga postures in addition to breathing.5. Eat a ton of fruits.May sound simple. Give these changes a month’s time and see for yourself. You may already know or have done all of these things, I just wanted to share my own experience. I have done all of these things.

  6. daniel says:

    I can´t find a previous post in which Dave talks about the difficulty in personal change. Anyone can help?. I used the search function but still can´t get it. Thanks

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Kinda spooky how well you guys have come to know me! Thanks for this very useful feedback. “Letting go” is (for me) a lot easier said than done. Knowing what you should be doing is not the same, alas, as either paying attention to what you are actually doing/not doing or consistently and scrupulously doing the right things. The paradox is that you need to be ‘connected’ to do these things, and not being connected is what created much of the problem in the first case.Karen, my ‘new’ diet is very (and deliberately) varied, and (with all things in moderation) quite fun and self-indulgent. I allow myself a bit of anything, including favourites like chocolate, cheese, nuts, berries, and ice cream. I find myself enjoying eating a lot more, and the UC has sharply increased my appetite.Daniel, not sure which article you are searching for, but if you Google my site for the expression “we do what we must” you’ll probably find it.

  8. Recomended Reading: Freedom From Sickness [ISBN 0-9737337-0-5]by Pierre De Luca (PDL Editions, 3505 Blvd. St. Martin, #204, Laval H7T 1A2, Quebec (450) 687-2131 note: Tell him I referred you and I am a friend of Elizabeth in Ste-Adele; he’ll know what you’re talking about. Any confusion because Pierre is so busy with his practice contact me.Another source of information and real help with the Natural end of things is to contact me by private email and I will introduce you to someone who helped me along with Pierre overcome Colitus, manic-depression.Another is my personal journey over 51 years and last year I weighed 230 and had all the associated heath risks and side effects of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics et al, and am now 170, 32 waiste, and all I did was change a few things in my lifestyle and eating.Finally the one thing that I recently discovered is neurogenesis[A mind-altering idea reveals how life affects the brain.] and you have to read this abstract from the point of view of your medcal and heath situation make a leap of faith here and apply the idea Dr. Elizabeth Gould has helped bring to the forefront,”From the FEB/MAR 2006 issue of Seed:Elizabeth Gould Photography by Reynard LiElizabeth Gould overturned one of the central tenets of neuroscience. Now she

  9. also pulled up one more articles that make you think about neurogenesis: On My Mind: James D. WatsonThe Nobelist on Enduring Memoriesby James D. Watson

  10. Hi Dave,In terms of your meditation practice, i have had very positive results with Vipassana as taught by SN Goenka (www.dhamma.org). It is non-sectarian and taught with a perspective geared towards non-ascetics (householders) and the rationally-minded. I think you would thrive in it–especially as it capitalizes on your already powerful skills of self-observation. There is a centre in Ontario. It is free–all supported by volunteers and past students. I was able to self-heal some chronic ailments during my first course. I have also read some studies that found this type of meditation is one of the few non-chemical methods of changing deep seated patterns in the brain. It does seem to have the side-effect of inappropriate happiness and completely uninhibited smiling. The downside–you would have to give up blogging and talking for 12 WHOLE DAYS!!! Now there’s a challenge for you! Cheers and love,Wendy

  11. I found myself change quite positively after I started practising deep breathing, drank more water, ate more fruit and went vegetarian. I learnt meditation from various Buddhism podcasts, but I don’t practice it anymore; I just use the idea of paying attention to breath, and combine this with lying down and deep breathing. It’s wonderfully relaxing. (Thinking about it, hearing buddhist philosophy was probably a contributing factor to being more relaxed.)Dave, you mention your inability to pay attention is returning. I found a way to get around this is to have a source of constant stimulation. I stumbled upon a really useful audio programme for deep breathing, about 9 minutes long, and listened to it every night in bed whilst lying down; time I convinced myself I’d be doing nothing else anyway, so it wasn’t a waste of time. The programme I listened to was the first one at http://www.allaboutdepression.com/relax/; I turned it into an MP3 for use on media player or iPod, and you can find it at http://entai.co.uk/archive/deep-breathing.mp3 . I recommend it highly!

  12. Sarah Nagy says:

    Recommending a read of “Voluntary Simplicity” – which manages to combine current civilization change, personal anxiety issues, and smallholding skills in one slender paperback.

  13. Maybe part of the problem is what is built into your language and belief systems. For example you use the word: regimen Like you are at war with yourself to kill what is affecting you. Seem like maybe switching to being in relationship with it might help. Here is another crazy idea. Surround yourself with all the stuff relating to your disease and then take LSD. It would take you past all your belief systems to view it from a whole new perpective.

  14. Oh the other thing is you should try a 10 day meditation retreat. Your mind seems to get in your way and I think a 10 day meditation retreat would be as good as droping LSD. I notice you have meditation on your list but it could be really hard to attempt it unless you go and do it with other people.

  15. DanK. says:

    Dave, i have been reading your blog for the past couple months. It is inspirational, to say the least. Health problems can always be controled by regulating stress levels. In California, we stimulate our anandamide receptors with delta 9-THC. That stuff seems to alleviate the symptoms of virtually any medical problem. Side effects: short term memory impairment, depersonalization, euphoria

  16. sgage says:

    Dear Dave,Add me to the list of folks who think you’re getting maybe a teensy weensy bit overanalytical about, well, everything. I suspect, if nothing else, you’re simply exhausted at trying to micromanage the Universe, as who wouldn’t be!I have learned a lot from your website these past few months, and I feel a kinship with you in many views, but I confess I am struck by your seeming need to have everything nailed down into flowcharts and diagrams, preferably with lots of arrows pointing hither and yon. Those things can be transiently useful for organizing thoughts, but as an ecologist, let me say that I don’t believe the world works quite that way. It’s a case of misplaced concreteness, IMO. More importantly, as a human being, I’m sure you understand that it’s not all about conscious rational cognition. The Real World is way more complicated than that…It seems to me that you have long since labeled yourself, and are somehow determined to stick to that categorization. Yet you also seem to have a real intuition that your illness is telling you something here…Dave, I don’t even know you, and please, I don’t mean to pop-psychologize your situation, which is all yours. I sincerely apologize if this seems intrusive. The reason I feel free to say these things is because I have had to deal with similar tendencies in my own trajectory through life. In fact, your grappling with your issue(s) here is helping me confront some stuff in my life even now.What to say? You know, meditation can be very helpful, and frankly, with due attention to set and setting blah blah blah, so can some of the pharmacological approaches suggested above. Look into the Tao. Seriously.At some point one needs to kick back, get the weight of the world off one’s shoulders, and get some rest. You’re just a person like the rest of us. I think you’re tired.All best,- Steve

  17. mike says:

    do not listen too the fellow who said to drop LSD dont listen to that nonsense bad advice how about this idea…………………………….be kind to yourself dont take yourself too seriously one day at a time:) pursue some passions of yours to find meaning

  18. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone. Your comments, links and ideas are tremendously helpful. I’ve identified an initial, surprisingly inexpensive program for yoga (starting next week), meditation (starting tonight) and physiotherapy/acupressure (starting tomorrow), due in large part to the ideas you have sent me. I’ll keep you posted!

  19. Sue says:

    Hi Dave? Is it possible that the increased anxiety, impatience, and other symptoms are physiological responses to adjusting the decreasing doses of the prednisone? Maybe rather than analyzing the situation too much, it might be best to just acknowledge that it’s simply part of the process of healing process and there’s no need to analyze it so extensively. Speaking as someone who is “guilty” of overanalyzing everything and anything, and is prone to minor-moderate fits of anxiety that are probably physiological in origin, it’s been my experience that getting caught up in the overactive/over analytical mind and/or struggling against it just prolongs the agony and worsens my mood. As the fellow Mike pointed out, being kind to one’s self and not taking one’s self too seriously does help–as does meditation and breathing exercises. I wish you well in your healing and on-going self-experimentation. Regards, Sue

  20. Here’s a poem just for you:: SIMPLE BUT DISCREET IS HIS TOUCH :: NEVER EXPECTNG, NEVER DEMANDING :: SOLITUDE’S HIS VICE :: LOVE COMPLETES HIM :: You are on a journey as a representative of the “silent ones” who, in the face of a major health crisis, where the body is weakened and the spirit is diminished, continue to shed a light of hope for others to take control of their bodies and mind. If one was given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and was told that you should get you’re affairs in order, one should ask that doctor what he does best. The doctor will always respond, “I am a surgeon, to which the patient would reply,”Exactly. So you do the cutting and I will heal my body and my mind. That is what I have control over.” This is the fundamental flaw in society to ascribe authority to the doctor in matters of the mind and the spirit. Dave, you spirit to heal yourself after the doctor has done what he can do is the best possible way to go and an inpsiration for others to take control of the things in life that they can have control over. All the best, Michael

  21. Gary Rondeau says:

    Dave, I would put diet changes higher up on the list. After all, everything you eat interacts with the problem area. A friend of mine just about died from an immune disorder called pemphigus. He was on pregnisone, which was killing him in other ways. He had always been a vegatarian. He started doing what you are doing now – searching for something besides drugs (which were clearly no long term solution) to better manage his disease. He ran on to the Blood Type Diet (www.dadamo.com) and tried it out. this was very difficult for him because he had blood type O and the O diet has lots of meat in it. But he changed his diet – and it has controlled his disease. No more steroids. When he talks about this process, he says that you have to be very motivated (sick) to make the hard choices required to stick to this diet and likely you will have to be on it for a month before you notice anything – but then you gradually start feeling better. Good luck!

  22. Gary: the blood type diet has been quite heavily criticised, and doesn’t seem to be particularly based in fact — perhaps eating meat just provided him with minerals that he wasn’t getting from anything else? (Or perhaps it was just providing him with more protein that he had otherwise.)Maybe this is just my natural response (as a vegetarian), but I find it hard to believe this diet would ever work for the reasons D’Adamo suggests.

  23. Gary Rondeau says:

    Andrew, To be honest, I’m not convinced either that everything D’Adamo syas is correct. But given that ulcerative colitis is an immune system disorder – and the blood type diet is really a tuned-immune-system diet – it seems worth the experiment. The side effects are much fewer than pregnisone!I made a diet change a few years ago when my father was diagnosed with celiac sprue. Because of the herditary possiblility that I could also be celiac – I had the blood test. Even though I had never had any symtoms of disease that I was aware of, the test came back positive. Rather than go through the problems my father had – I made the decision to remove gluten and wheat from my diet. I’m not super strict like someone who has had severe symtoms needs to be, but I’m sure I’ve reduced my gluten consumption by 95%. Surprisingly, the person who noticed the biggest change in my health was my dental hyginest. Once I stopped the wheat – my gums got healthier. BTW – if I had been on the blood type diet – wheat would have been an avoid for my type. I think that chronic disease needs a chronic change. One variable that we have a lot of control over is our diet.

  24. I am with sgage, you’re overanalysing instead of simply living. Why do you want to save the world? What for? Think of the whole universe. At this scale, eveything is working out perfectly. Put it into perspective! Ultimately, the only thing a human being can change is his own life.But you don’t want to change, do you? You want to be like this. You like it so much that you have convinced your body to produce this disease, so you can be right. “Oh, Dave, poor guy. So weak and yet so strong. He was right, we are who we are and never change. He died of colitis trying to save the world.”From where I stand, this is not saving the world at all. Don’t try to convince people that change is impossible, you’ll never be able to prove it. EVERYTHING is possible. Nature is all about change and transformation, why would people be any different?

  25. Nick Smith says:

    Seems I’m a little late contributing here Dave, but just like to share a meditation that was given me

  26. Karen M says:

    Gary & David: Count me as another one who was advised to try the Blood-type diet for type-O… by my homeopathic practitioner. I had been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for a number of years, and had gained weight (bloating?) and was experiencing GI problems, and an increasingly severe anemia. I was resistant both to adding the meat back to my diet and to eliminating wheat and dairy. But, it really did make a difference, once I did all three, and quit trying to “bargain” with different combinations. (I also noticed an improvement in my gums.) I also lost the excess weight I had gained without even trying. I don’t follow all of it strictly, but I do notice that much of what he suggests seems to work for me. The blood test for celiac-sprue was supposedly negative for me, but I had already eliminated wheat and was not willing to start eating it again, just for the sake of a test. Interestingly, I do have a cousin (with the same birthday) who has been diagnosed with it. Go figure.

  27. Karen M says:

    Ooops! I meant Gary and Andrew!

  28. Valla says:

    Dave,I am a mother of three sons, two are perfectly healthy and one has UC. He is 12. I have been reading your blog today (i just found it)and noticed that you do not seem to be comfortable with your doctor. please find a doctor that will be your partner. Many patients with UC have tried many different approches to treating their condition. My sons GI has recently had us start to use supplements based on sugers, seaweed and aloe in hopes of helping him obtain/maintain remission. the website with information on this is http://www.manatech.com. also i hope that you will find a support group through http://www.CCFA.org. They have been a huge source of support and information. Someone with your voice would be a huge assest to this organization wich is the major supporter of much needed research and advocy. Taking charge and doing something is alway a huge help on the stress level. As for the drugs, you do not seem to be on very many. My son is on the following: Azathiprine, Sulfasalizine, Folic Acid, Prednisone (in taper), and prevacid.. His doctor will not give him Remicade because there have been some unexplained cancer death with this drug in UC patients. I also noticed that you said that you are using NSAID. They can induce a flare along with Alcohol, soda and other acidic foods. please remember that this is a condition that will through you a curve ball every time that you think you have it all figured out. My son is just wrapping up his third flare and every on has had different accoumpany symptom. the first came with weigth loss and urgent diarrhe. The second (and worst) started with gastritis and then HSP Henoch-Slochen Purpra a short term inflimation of the cappilaries. He was hospitalized twice with IV Steriods, Probiotics and acid blockers. The most recent one we caught early but was only 6 months after we ended prednisone. I wish you good luck and hope that you find a management strategy that works for you..

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