Much has happened since my last entry. I'll try to be brief... but I have a feeling I won't be.
Since my last entry I have started a multi-pronged approach to getting to the bottom of this once and for all if possible. I have started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is basically bio-feedback while learning how to do stress-relieving mental exercises or meditation if you prefer. I've also very recently started writing about how I feel and anything from my past or present that has bothered me.
I am also eating mostly whole foods and little to no processed, pre-packaged or fast-food. If it’s packaged food I try to make sure it is all organic and/or not a long list of chemicals and preservatives. i.e.: “Natural Flavorings” usually means MSG or similar so I try to stay away from that sort of thing. Sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup is another thing that I’ve cut way back on.
In the last 6 months I've pulled out all the stops and really made a focused effort to keep up with all these things. I can say for sure the CBT has been working the best. I have no more heartburn, gas (well other than the normal- ha) or bloating at all any longer and I'm not taking anything for it either. Not even a single Tums.
Portion control is important too. I don’t eat everything on my plate when I do go out to eat any longer. I never found anything to work for my heartburn so I resorted to the breathing exercises because I accidentally stumbled onto it on my own late one night while I had a bad case of it.
I noticed that when I took deep breathes from my diaphragm my stomach would gurgle a bit. The more I breathed deep the more gurgling and the pressure of the heartburn began to fade. I kept doing this until I could always relive the heartburn with the breathing exercises; it just took some time. Seltzer water and raw celery at the time helped too. Since I started doing the CBT mediation exercises and eating better I haven’t had to resort to this because I haven’t had any heartburn at all since.
My hives are greatly reduced as well in the past few weeks. I am however still taking all the meds for the hives- here is my daily regimen of pills--
First thing in the morning - 5am:
1 Singulair 10mg, 1 Doxepin 25mg, 1 Methocarbamol 500mg
1 Doxepin 25mg
1 Zyrtec, 1 Methocarbamol
Bedtime 9pm-ish :
1 Doxepin 25mg, 1 Methocarbamol 500mg
I've found this combo works the best for me when the hives were at their worst. The combo of the Doxepin and the Methocarbamol help to relax me. And luckily I don't suffer any side effects from any of these meds. Most of them made me sleepy at first but as my Dr said your body will get used to them and the drowsiness will go away after a couple weeks, which it did.
While the hives are not completely gone they are very manageable now. I don't believe this is from the meds though. I was taking this full med line-up and the hives were moderate to major even with all of them. The therapist advised me to keep taking them though until the hives completely fade away and stay away.
What's changed in the last 2-3 weeks for me has been the severity of the hives. They are small to none at all now. I believe the thing that helped me most has been the CBT meditation exercises. I've been doing them now for about 6 months --religiously. And I can't stress (no pun intended) this enough-- Doing them regularly (daily) is key, especially at first. I do them 3-5 times a day for about 10-30mins each time depending on how I’m feeling and how I’m responding to them.
If I don’t feel like I’m making enough of an effort I reset my intention and keep on going. Or if it feels really good I keep going sometimes as well. At first I fell asleep a lot and the therapist told me that’s ok you probably needed the sleep, so don’t beat yourself up over it if you do, just keep going and trying. Now one of my intentions is to NOT fall asleep until I’ve become relaxed and so I don’t and it works! Getting into this relaxed state and then falling asleep makes for some really good sleep!
Being able to focus my concentration inward into the parts of my body and basically take an inventory of how I'm feeling gets more attuned the more I do it. The more I do the CBT exercises the more little ‘ahh-ha’ moments I have had regarding exactly how I’m feeling on the inside at that time. Hindsight being 20/20 It’s a bit surprising to me how this is all going on literally right underneath (behind) my nose and I’ve never stopped to consider it before.
Before starting the CBT I never thought of myself to have a stressed out personality. And I've never thought of myself as a "new age, oomm meditation, health food, hugging a tree" kinda guy, but after doing these exercises for 6 months now, when I sit down to do an exercise I can really tell my body is screaming for attention. When I can feel my pulse pounding or racing I know this is trouble.
I'm sorry if I'm all over the place here but this is a little difficult to explain as I have only just started to unravel what the heck is going on and this is the first time I’ve actually sat down and wrote/typed it all out so please bare with me.
Basically what I have found is that my mental state and/or subconscious are causing the hives. Relaxing my mind/body connection and paying attention to how I feel then dealing with it is one of my keys.
As an example, when I'm busy and start getting a back ache I used to try to power through it and finish what I was doing. This just makes me rush more because I’m in pain and I want to get finished so I can sit down and in turn tightens up my back which makes me even more stressed. So I'm learning that I shouldn't do that. I need to make the time to sit down and relax my pain/stress away then finish what I was doing. And the CBT exercises help me do this every single time, as long as that is my "intention" going into it.
The CBT therapist I'm seeing tells me this is "my medicine" and not meant for anyone else so my suggestion to you, or anyone reading this for that matter, would be to go get some bio-feedback and have someone, preferably a trained therapist, teach you the meditation exercises from the beginning.
I really lucked-out and found a place that does both at the same time. And having someone that I have to be accountable to regarding these is another factor to keep me on the straight and narrow.
As far as my participation is concerned the bio-feedback does not figure into it very much with what I'm doing. It’s just a little wire strapped to my middle finger that reads my temperature, nothing more. The therapist watches my temp while we run through an exercise on each visit. She can tell if I raise my temp in my hand/finger that I am circulating more blood into that extremity, thus reducing the amount of blood in the rest of the body.
If I remember right she told me when the body is stressed it tends to lower the circulation in the extremities thus lowering the temperature there as well. The exercise she has me do gets the blood moving plus it helps give me something to focus my mind on, which is probably the point of it anyway.
An example of one of my early CBT exercises would be-- Start with going someplace quiet & comfortable, where the chances I will be bothered are minimized. Then I get into a comfortable position. Next I just pay attention to my breathing. Breathing through my nose, in and out. Breathe from the belly. Moderately deep. Easy. Slow. Quiet. In & out... Focusing my mind inward. Where do I feel my breath most? Concentrate there. Keep repeating these steps a couple times a day for at least a couple weeks.
Anyway, I could go on and on with the steps she took me through to get where I am 6 months later but they may be different for you. I can tell you I figured out that the breathing like that for 20-30mins at a time relieved my heartburn even before I started the CBT training. Moderate breathing from the belly gets the diaphragm to help move any food you've eaten through the digestive tract and for me when that process stopped that's when I got heartburn. It also helps to relax the gut which stopped my heartburn. 20-30mins of breathing like that may seem like a long time but what else was I going to do during that time? And it won’t hurt to try it out so I figured what the heck.
I started all these things after I got nowhere with my regular doctors. As I said before the key to doing any of this and/or whatever works for you is consistency and intention. Stick with it. What do you want out of it? I did this thinking, well none of any of this can hurt me, unlike taking yet another pill could, and I just might come out better than I was before or better yet finally find some relief. I'm finding both and it is very satisfying!
I still have a ways to go but I'm closer than ever to figuring all this out.
I know I've babbled on for quite a bit here (I think I set a record!) so I’ll stop now. Feel free to post back comments or questions and I will be more than happy to answer.