Today is a good day. The past couple of days, especially—wrist RSI and mild IBS attack aside—have been good. My workaholism has been champing at the bit due to my forced absence from the computer, hooray, RSI, but I’m risking the wrist gremlins to give you this bit of fluff.
At the suggestion of my therapist, I have discovered 5-HTP. While I strongly encourage everyone to chat up their doctors and do lots of research, the very short version is this: 5-HTP (or 5-Hydroxytryptophan) affects serotonin production, which is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that depressed people tend to fail in producing. There are side effects that can be or have been reported, like most anything, and there are some very real risks if you aren’t smart about it. Having thoroughly educated myself, I decided that maybe it was time I stop being stubborn about my needs.
Like any good writer, I like my mind-altering substances to come from a glass. I’m not adverse to the occasional mild painkiller when needed—like for the bad headaches or serious cramps (you’re welcome)—but even after surgery, I weaned myself off the heavy narcotics faster than I probably should. I support and encourage everyone on anti-depressants, because it’s everyone’s individual choice, but I was never comfortable taking that step myself. Even my Xanax prescription is only broken out when all else fails.
I always try and find a different alternative for narcotics, and I rarely like to “drown” aspects of myself in mind-altering substances. Fun fact: alcoholism runs in the family. I’m even careful with my liquid sunshine.
So when my therapist suggested I look into 5-HTP, I was immediately and inherently mistrustful.
But you know. You saw it. My depression hit another low for no particular reason and it was affecting too much to let slide. Me and mancandy did some talking, and I ordered some 5-HTP supplements. I started with a low dose, 100mg, and promptly caught a cold. (Thanks, mancandy. Maybe we don’t need to share everything?)
Things I learned during this time:
- Cold medicine also affects serotonin in a different way, so combining the two is very dangerous and should not be risked. After my first dose, I took the cold medicine instead ’til I beat it, then tried again.
- While the average user seems to take 300mg a day, spaced out, 100mg at a time was enough to knock me on my ass. I haven’t been that stoned since the kidney stone.
- My filters have taken a bit of a beating. I’m less annoyed, but I’m also slightly more inclined to tweet or say something without a mental edit.
I dropped my dosage to 50mg twice a day, and I’ve been on it for a few days. It’s a little scary, how much I’ve improved.
Mancandy noticed it almost right away. My outlook improved, my smiles came more frequently and for no reason. I caught myself dancing while I made dinner; I was humming cheerful music. The first half hour after I take a dose, I usually feel a little medicine-headed, but it evens out by the time I’m done with my first cup of coffee and then it’s an even keel.
Today, I neglected to take my dose, and the comparison was kind of frightening. I was snarly, easily irritated, and my thoughts were of the “scorched earth” variety. Initially, I would have thought these closely mimicked withdrawal symptoms, but a) 5-HTP is non-narcotic and I’ve never suffered withdrawals to other non-narcotic substances, and b) I recognized those traits as traits I’d displayed before. I felt myself falling back into old habits, and that was eye-opening.
This… bothers me.
On the one hand, I’m still not keen on relying on drugs, natural or other, to be anything other than myself.
On the other hand, myself is broken. Sometimes, things need help to work right.
Overall? I’m more positive when I am on 5-HTP. I’m cheerful, and I’m actually looking forward to things on a regular basis. I am less confrontational.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s worth it? Maybe I should toss out my hangups and just go with what actually works for me and those around me.
I guess time will tell!
Later Thoughts: Clarifications
I tend to be paranoid about body-chemical alteration. It may be legacy of some long-standing issues in my family, but it may not. I can’t really put a finger on just what it is that frightens me about ongoing chemical usage. Even “natural” stuff.
Yes, there is a “frightened” there. I imagine that this could be a very interesting thing to take up with a therapist, no?
The thing is, there is no real long-term study on 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort, the other depression-helper. Of the two, I’d be more inclined to build up the reservoir of St. John’s Wort, but the therapist I spoke to suggested I take the former because of the severity of my depression. The lack of long-term studies also worries me, because I apparently have neurosis on top of my neurosis.
Most cases appear to suggest 5-HTP as a temporary helper, to get through the hard times. If that’s the case, then maybe I’ll play it by ear there, and then get off it when the sun comes out again.
Depression really sucks. And as a natural skeptic, I inherently mistrust outside drugs and influences. What is a girl to do?