Category Archives: treatments

Three months of reiki

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyMore and more health writers and bloggers, including the Low-Histamine Chef and Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of The Last Best Cure, have found stress reduction to play a big part in their health recovery, and since my stress tolerance is pretty much in the toilet and getting worse, I decided to go get me some.

I needed something reeeeallly passive. Meditation, yoga, and nature walks were too much for me. So were about half the service offerings at my local spa. Infrared sauna, various types of massage, and the flotation tank all require removing my contacts without a sink or mirror, or doffing and donning winter clothes in a tiny space, or showering in a tiny shower. I couldn’t deal with any of that.

I decided on reiki, which in theory moves and rebalances energy in the body. Sometimes the reiki practitioner’s hands are touching the (clothed) body, sometimes not. I had two sessions a week for two months, then switched to once a week. It’s a lot of money, and as far as I know no health insurance company covers it. But I do believe it got me through the winter without killing anyone. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • First and foremost, it’s basic human touch free of expectations or strings or weirdness — y’all know what I’m talkin’ about — which is therapeutic right there.

  • I always look forward to it, but more so if I have nothing else scheduled for the day.

  • My sleep has not improved, but I do almost fall asleep on the table. I can’t nap, either, so that’s saying something. What happens is a lot like the sensation you get on a plane where you’re about to fall asleep and there’s a WHOOSH-CLICK and your body wakes you up again, presumably to spare you the humiliation of drooling in front of strangers. I find that I nod off only when Reiki Lady is holding her hands above a particular foot-long strip of my torso, which I discover when I open my eyes.

  • I can completely relax my body much more quickly than before. If you’re into meditation you might be familiar with the concept of relaxing to the point where you go numb. Now I can do it in about 10 minutes, where before it would take 40.

  • Reiki Lady occasionally incorporates craniosacral therapy to my head. I can now not only feel how the muscles in my shoulders, neck, and jaw are connected, pulling, and relaxing, I can also feel pressure and tension patterns throughout my skull. Imagine a May pole, where all the streamers are muscles or tension patterns that have gotten wound up and distorted and twisted, due in part to the stupid way I sit at my desk. During reiki sessions, I become more and more aware of the presence, movement, and release of each streamer. This took a lot of sessions, however.

  • As for energy movement … Of course where you’re being touched (through your clothes) you feel tingly. But there is something else, too, that I didn’t start to feel until my fifth ? session, although I don’t think reiki practitioners believe you have to feel it in order for reiki to do whatever reiki does. It was subtle and fleeting, but occurred at each session after that. After about four more sessions, it changed a bit. I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe it. Somewhere in and across my upper body, a pulse or wave changed position, angle, and amplitude. How’s that? It could be that you could get this experience just from meditating regularly. I don’t know.

  • As for my stress response … Last winter I overextended myself in terms of physical, emotional, and cognitive energy, and I was still angry and stressed well into summer. I swore I would not go through that again. I overbooked myself again this winter, mostly with home repair projects that couldn’t be put off, but am rallying much more quickly after each annoying task.

Image: Still from The Phantom of the Opera (1925) by Universal Pictures. Film is in the public domain.

If you have insomnia and are interested in homeopathy

On an online discussion on insomnia I ran across a commenter who had combined homeopathy with the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of the 24-hour organ Qi cycle — that is, the idea that each organ goes into maintenance mode at a certain time of day, and if the organ is in particular need of repair, the activity might affect your nervous system. The commenter used the homeopathic formulas that treat those organs corresponding with the hours she found herself awake.

Forgive me if this is a basic tenet of homeopathy that even newbie homeopaths know. I am almost completely clueless about the subject, although I can say that choosing formulations based on their descriptions on the package in the store never did diddly for me. For all that it is maligned in the press and even in alternative health circles, however, I’ve come across enough people who used it that I’m not going to nay-say it. Who cares why it works. If it works for you, it works.

Here are insomnia-related Qi cycle hours:

7-9 pm – pericardium
9-11 pm – Triple Burner. This is not actually a specific organ. The commenter used pineal gland and hypothalamus preparations for the 6-10 pm time.
11pm-1am – gallbladder
1-3 am – liver
3-5 am – lung
5-7 am- large intestine
7-9 am – stomach
9-11 am – spleen

Wake therapy for depression

Bright light therapy requirements changing over time

I’ve mentioned this in passing a few times on the site — the exposure length and timing of the bright light therapy I use to control carb cravings, insomnia, low mood, and zombie brain changes over the years. I used to need it only from October to April, for 30 minutes, and it wouldn’t work after 9 am. Then I switched to 60 minutes for quite a while, until it started to make me antsy. Now I’m down to 20 minutes, it won’t work after 7:15 am, and I seem to need it all year. I consider this further proof that some chicks are not meant to live further north than a palm tree.

Here are a few references I’ve used to figure out timing and “dosage.”

Other interesting info:

ANT - light therapy

Illustration: Remix by MRhea.

Wake therapy (staying up all night) for depression

After a reader pointed me to a New York Times article on chronotherapy — using light exposure and waking times to affect mood — I ordered one of the publications it referred to: Chronotherapeutics for Affective Disorders: A Clinician’s Manual for Light and Wake Therapy. The manual’s authors, three clinical researchers/professors in psychiatric neuro-stuff in Italy, Switzerland, and New York, have been experimenting with chronotherapy on hospitalized bipolar and depressive patients. They themselves do not use prescription drugs in their treatment, but their patients’ other psychiatrists and doctors often do, so the manual includes guidelines on how to incorporate meds into each treatment.

Among the many topics the authors cover — bright light therapy, melatonin, and generally futzing with a person’s circadian rhythms in multiple ways — they mention that they’ve found that their depressed patients often benefit from staying awake all night once or twice a week. Specifically, the second half of the night seems to be key — you stay awake from about 2 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. You can actually go to bed early and wake up at 2 a.m.

The therapy calls for a well-lit environment, moving around a lot to stay awake, coffee or caffeine if necessary, and eating whenever you’re hungry.

The authors say that “the clinical improvement after a single night of wake therapy is remarkable,” but some patients need two or even three nights in a week (not sure if they have to be in a row) to see results. However, a good response seems to be pretty long-lasting. Patients can maintain the effect using light therapy alone or occasional nights of wake therapy.

I recommend this book if you’re looking for non-Rx ways to treat mood disorders. It’s written in normal language and the authors seem to care a lot about their patients. They cover all kinds of depression, all kinds of treatments, and all kinds of combinations of treatments. They cover blue-blocking lenses and something called social rhythm therapy, which involves paying attention to your daily activities and how they affect your internal clock. (That reminds me of Seth Roberts’ discovery that his mood was noticeably better on days when he watched TV shows featuring large faces — that is, with the camera zoomed in, as on talk shows — in the morning.)

Here’s a link to the table of contents on the Swiss publisher’s website, although it’s weirdly formatted. You can get to the order form from that page, too. The manual was about $52, including shipping from Switzerland.

Wake therapy for depression

A non-prescription approach to managing depression: debauchery

A version of this post first appeared on my older blog, Blessed Depth.

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyReading Nancy Mitford’s bio of Louis XIV, I came across this description of Louis’ cousin, the Prince de Conti, who had the misfortune to outshine the King’s son and heir in just about every way. The King got jealous and threw roadblocks in de Conti’s career for the rest of his life.

“…as the years dragged on uselessly and his hopeful youth was succeeded by a disillusioned middle age, the Prince de Conti became embittered and gave himself up to debauchery.”

Which led me to wonder: why don’t mental health professionals ever suggest this? What depressed patient wouldn’t want to hear his therapist say, “We’ve found that wallowing in all the vices at once has had promising results. Do give that a go.” Sure, it’s expensive, destructive, and if you’re doing it right, immoral and criminal, but that’s how I feel when I pay my monthly health insurance bill anyway. At least this way there’s some fun in it.

Translating this ancient tradition into modern-day practice is not without challenges, however. Patients considering this mental health solution should weigh these drawbacks carefully:

1. A significant cash outlay is required. The Prince de Conti’s expenses will not be unfamiliar to his debauched 21st-Century counterparts: gambling debts, opium, spirits by the barrel, 15-course meals, bail, trollops, legal fees, property damage claims, and the inevitable blackmail payouts.

2. Without coachmen, it is much easier to inadvertently kill people. The debauchery game has changed significantly now that one is expected to drive one’s own conveyance home after evenings spent in dissipation and depravity.

3. Strangers will butt in. Where in simpler times a family member might entreat the local minister to intervene in one’s carousing, nowadays attorneys, judges, and Child Services are usually involved.

4. There is the matter of wench identification and procurement. In the Prince’s day the respectable debauchee found his wenches at taverns or the cheaper seats at theaters. I am not sure what the current approximation is: perhaps the type of gal who shows up at the bar of whatever hotel the Yankees are staying at.

5. The template for the female debauchee has, alas, yet to be perfected. The Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957) came close: she strolled through Venice stark naked, served opium at tarot-readings, painted her house servants gold, and fished the occasional dead party guest out of her fountain. But she was also rather obviously off her rocker. Perhaps the great appeal of Angelina Jolie in her single days was the whisper of a hint of a secret hope that she was debauched.

6. Guilt is not an option. The debauchee’s commitment to perversity, turpitude, and sin must not waver. One cannot succumb to feelings of shame or regret for mortifying one’s family, scandalizing one’s neighbors, and appalling one’s friends. There is no crying in debasement.

Image: detail of portrait of François Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conti, Anon., French school, 17th century. {{PD-art}}.

On refusing to part with my gallbladder

by Nancy

The battle for my gallbladder started in 1999. I was living in Seattle and receiving regular monthly acupuncture treatments from a local practitioner, Yehosha. In my mind that was how I was staying healthy. I noticed sensitivity on what turned out to be the gallbladder meridian. Yehosha told me that it was the “decision maker” and asked if I was having a hard time making up my mind about something. I replied with a little surprise that I was: I had recently fallen in love with the Southwest and was trying to decide if I should move to Arizona.

When I started having a lot of bloating, gas, and burping, sometimes for an hour at a time, I assumed it was just stomach upset. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it until one day it turned into strong, sharp pains across the front of my stomach and across my back. Even taking deep breaths hurt.

I went to the emergency room. When the attendant asked me if I was in pain and I replied that it was worse than childbirth — and I’ve given birth to five children — I was hooked up to an IV and given pain meds and a sonogram. The results revealed a large gallstone and an inflamed, enlarged gallbladder. I was admitted to the hospital for five days of IV feeding and lots of discomfort despite the medication. The doctors didn’t want to operate to remove the gallbladder until the stone passed and the gallbladder had time to heal, so when I was released I was told to return in one month for surgery.

I thought about what Yehosha had said about decision making, about being afraid of the unknown and of leaving the security of what I had here for another part of the country. I decided I was going to rest, investigate other treatment options, and move in one month. I WAS NOT going to have the surgery.

I compiled a list of foods that irritate the liver and gallbladder, which are responsible for bile production and processing, and a list of foods that cleanse them. No red meat, high fat foods, fried foods, nuts, or coffee (waaaaaaaaaa!). Lots of filtered water, salmon and other fish, and broccoli. An apple a day (they help break up stones), radishes, beets, and lemons. Chamomile tea for calming. Small, frequent meals rather than large. Digestive enzymes with every meal. Everything organic.

I focused less on restricting bad foods and more on emphasizing foods that help break up stones, and — the key for me — on keeping my body alkaline rather than acidic. Most modern-day foods and drinks are acidic. (Editor’s note: Trying to find reliable info on the acidity of different foods is frustrating, as sources frequently contradict each other. Sandy Simmons has compiled a list of alkaline/acid foods on her Connective Tissue Disorder Site, based on her own research and experience.)

I started feeling much better. The only complication was that I was losing weight. The gallbladder has to process that fat, so I kept an eye on not losing too much too fast.

Soon after, a spa in Sedona called me for an interview (I’m a massage therapist). That was my “go” sign: I put everything in storage and hit the road. The first night I remember a terrific amount of fear, but once I got to the first overnight stay and awoke the next morning I felt a little braver.

That was 13 years ago. Since then I’ve had two gallstone episodes, both in the last year. I managed to help the stones pass on their own, with some discomfort, with a liquid diet of miso, lemon water, and lots of juiced apples.

I believe that our body is our telegraph office rather than our enemy. It wants us to know when something is not in balance, whether it is emotional, spiritual, or mental. (The author Louise Hay is an excellent resource to explore the power we have to heal ourselves.) Our bodies are quite magical and intelligent. We are the pilots and navigators of our own little universe. As long as we pay attention and make the corrections that we can, it will cease its warnings. Obviously I believe in alternative and natural methods of medicine before allopathic, but we all have to walk our own path. I honor the body/mind/spirit connection.

Because I didn’t have health insurance, that five-day stay in the hospital cost me close to $7,000, which I also did not have. Two years later I had to file for bankruptcy. But I made it to the Southwest and didn’t regret any of my decisions.