Beat Holiday Blues by Controlling Holiday Spending

Is your holiday spending growing like Santa's waistline? Overspending is a sure route to holiday depression. And if you struggle with post-holiday letdown or even just seasonal affective disorder, getting in debt won't make these conditions any easier to manage. Take it from a lifelong depression sufferer--spending more than you can afford will send depression through the roof with each incoming bill. And I don't know how your depression manifests itself, but I'm so miserable I can't stand myself. I'm horrible to live with. It's not a merry Christmas, that's for sure.

That's why I'm posting tips to keep the Christmas spending monster at bay. There are a lot of reasons for and ways to overspend. Sometimes I spend to compensate for feelings of guilt. Sometimes it's because I'm feeling deprived in other areas. Whatever the reason, no good and lots of harm comes from overdoing it at the holidays. Every year, I struggle to keep within a budget during the Christmas spending blitz. Here's how this Christmas elf keeps financially solvent through the spending season. Using these strategies takes me steps further in my quest to live in joy with medication. read more

Parenting tips to survive teen depression

Clinical teen depression is relatively uncommon, but most teens are subject to bouts of depression however. Tedious as they may be for parents, blue periods in teens are normal and even healthy. Teen depression is particularly challenging to deal for parents who are struggling with their own emotional issues. Here are drug-free coping strategies to help parents help teens. Parenting tips to survive teen depression 

My Emotional Health Self-Help Books Bibliography

Whenever I need guidance, comfort, help or advice, I look to the book. The Bible is my guide for life, but it's  worlds beyond the ordinary book. I've found comfort and healing and emotional from ordinary authors, too. Are you struggling with emotional issues: fear, anger, shame, low self esteem, panic, depression, death, loss, grief, compulsive behavior, abuse, addiction, betrayal? Here's my recommended reading list for survival. Each of these has helped me at some point in my life. In my journey to quit antidepressants, self-help reading was vital. I've written this list chronologically according where I was when I discovered each book. 10 Emotional Health Self-Help Books 

How I Got Off Antidepressants Using Al-Anon Slogans

Self-discipline is something I've never had trouble with. I've got a nasty case of low self-esteem. Auto-flagellation and rigid control is my modus operandi. Hence my 7-year antidepressant habit. But I found that anti anxiety and depression meds made life worse for me. So I quit. But I still had the low self esteem and OCD to cope with. I need self-control, but not the harsh pre-antidepressant kind I used to use. Here's a simple self-help plan I created, based on Al-Anon principles, to modify behavior and change habits.

* Easy does it. I've earned merit badges in obsessive-compulsive self-control. And I've got the furrowed brow, clenched jaw and muscles aches to prove it. Self-discipline doesn't mean wearing a hair shirt, however. It should heal, not hurt. As I change habits, I'm learning to give myself the same patience and encouragement I give others.

* Progress not perfection. Under my old regime, I was ruthless and autocratic with others sometimes and always with myself. I demanded perfection in every area. Setting unattainable goals is self-destructive. I nearly killed myself and did long-term damage to my psyche. Now I look for areas of improvement. I focus on success, not failure.

* Narrow it down. Instead of blindly trying to change my entire self, I've listed 10 habits to build or break. Some are: lose weight; exercise more; improve productivity; cut spending; drink less wine; control temper; get to bed earlier; get up earlier. (Six goals is probably more realistic).

* Identify measurable goals. I found that my listed goals were too vague. To change habits, I wrote clearer objectives: lose eight pounds this month; exercise 30 minutes daily; drink 2 glasses of wine daily; go to bed at 11 p.m. and get up at 7 a.m.

* Use positive, action verbs. Clarify what you want to do not what you don't want to do. Instead of "don't get angry," I listed ways to avoid flare-ups. Journal; walk; bike (hits two goals); dialogue.

* Assess progress. I made a rubric and rate success in each area before bed. My rating system is: 1--blew it, 2--meh, 3--pretty good, 4--nailed it, mama. More than 50 percent overall, I count a good day. Less means I need to try harder tomorrow. No self-flogging. Then I give thanks to my higher power for the day.

This gentle slow-and-steady system helps me make self-tweaks where needed. I've lost weight, exercise more and am sleeping better and feeling better about myself.

Antidepressant Use Quadrupled for 12- to 17-Year-Olds

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids 12 to 17 years old are four times as likely to take an antidepressant than they were 20 years ago. Girls are 2 1/2 times as likely to be prescribed antidepressants. Here's a look at statistics on pediatric antidepressant usage and considerations for parents in seeking treatment for kids with MDE (major depressive episodes), mood disorders or depression.

Fewer kids, more antidepressants

In 1988, less than 1 percent of teens were prescribed an antidepressant. Now, 3.7 percent of those 12 to 17 take one. 11 million children younger than 19 are on anxiety or depression meds. Contrast this increase with the fact the overall percentage of the population in this age category has dropped. In 1964, 36 percent of Americans were in the 0-17 age range (about 9 percent were 12-17). Now, children account for about 24 percent. There are fewer children in the U.S., but more medicated for depression.

Antidepressants up, Major Depressive Episodes down for kids

The criteria for antidepressant prescription comes from a patient-reported survey, the PHQ-9. Patients rate the severity of mood issues: sadness, irritability, apathy, joylessness, guilt and worthlessness. Other questions deal with thoughts of death or suicide, inability to concentrate, difficulty making decisions, fatigue, lack of energy, feeling restless or slowed down, changes in sleep, appetite, and activity levels. High incidence in any one of these categories is called an MDE (Major Depressive Episode). The number of MDEs in children has dropped for most age categories and both genders. Fewer children are reporting MDEs, but more are medicated for them.

Antidepressants without clinical evaluations, therapy

The CDC report says that less than one-third of adolescents taking an antidepressant, have been seen by a physician within the last year. Eight percent of those taking antidepressants didn't have symptoms of depression. This bears out studies which show that many kids get antidepressants, without adequate clinical or psychological support, therapy or counseling. As reported by insurance companies, less than half of kids on anantidepressant also see a therapist. Older kids are more likely to exhibit depression that younger kids, but they received counseling less often. The percentage is dropping annually. ChildStats says that the percentage of children with MDE who actually discuss the depressive episode with a physician or counselor has declined as well. 40 percent received psychological treatment in 2005 and only 35 percent in 2009.

FDA warns against SSRI antidepressants for teens and kids

The FDA began posting black-box warnings on SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) antidepressants because they have been linked to "anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness), hypomania, and mania" (many of the symptoms parents give the drug for, ironcially).  The FDA issued a specific cautionary warning about SSRIs used to treat pediatric patients. Symptoms tend to show up more with younger patients, and new antidepressant patients, primarily children. The onset for these symptoms in usually within the first two months of use. The FDA urges parents and health care providers to monitor children on antidepressants and to discontinue use if depression symptoms worsen.

Paxil Antidepressant Caused Weight Gain, High Cholesterol, Possibly Stillbirth

Eleven years ago, I began taking the antidepressant medication Paxil (Paroxetine, Fluxetine) for anxiety issues. Paxil is now known to cause many side effects. Weight gain and elevated LDL cholesterol are two problems commonly caused by Paxil. In 2001, Paxil was a newer antidepressant and less was known about it. A therapist had recommended that I consult my physician about trying the highly touted Paxil for my recurrent panic attacks.

Paxil did help me manage and process my panic attacks and anxiety issues. However I became increasingly alarmed over the horror stories linking Paxil with infant birth defects, miscarriage and stillborn babies.Before I had heard of Paxil's link to pregnancy and birth problems, I had taken Paxil during a pregnancy, under my Ob Gyn and midwife's direction. That pregnancy ended in stillbirth.

Paxil also caused weight gain. For the first 40 odd years of my life, I a) maintained a constant weight of 115-130 pounds even after giving birth four times and b) did not take anti-depressants. In 2003, I went on Paxil after the loss of a baby. Since then I've been steadily gaining weight. Yes, I'm getting older, yes I'm in menopause. But those two factors together are not enough to explain this rampant weight gain.

I explored thyroid issues. Initial tests showed that I suffered from some hypothyroid (sluggish, low functioning thyroid) and some hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid) issues. I took Levoxyl or Synthroid. Later test showed, however, that my thyroid was 'fine'. Studies show that the the Levoxyl threshold levels in general testing are way to broad to be accurate. So thyroid issues may still a problem.

Of course there is always the obvious weight gain issue. Too many calories, not enough exercise. For the first 40 plus years, I have been able to eat pretty much whatever I wanted and not gain weight. Well, I thought, that's clearly no longer the case. I went on a stringent vegetarian diet, no soda, few sweets, no eggs, very limited dairy and only yogurt, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, lots of water, the whole diet package. I have followed this regime for over four months. Not one pound did I lose. In fact, I gained weight.

So something was clearly wrong. I asked the doctor if antidepressants cause weight gain and found that indeed they do. Maybe that's a dumb question. Maybe I should have known. Or maybe my doctor should have told me about the weight gain. He's the one filling out the prescription with one hand and scolding me for not losing weight with the other. And you want to know what's really bizarre? My appetite has changed since being on the Paxil. In fact I have very little appetite. Food doesn't taste as good. I have lost my taste for chocolate, cheese, desserts, ice cream, all the things I used to enjoy, before antidepressants, and still I gain weight. But I can also easily binge and not notice it, thanks to the drugging Paxil.

When I googled "antidepressant weight gain" I found a deluge of comments from folks who have experienced the same issues. Now that is depressing! There are better antidepressants for avoiding weight gain. Wellbutrin has a better reputation than Paxil and Depakote. But I decided to skip the drugs and wean myself off from all the meds. I'm continuing the healthier eating program. If you want to follow the journey or have antidepressant horror stories of your own to share follow this blog.

2016 update to this post: Guess what? After quitting the drugs, calorie counting and working at weight loss, I've shed 100 pounds and 10 sizes!

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