Saturday, March 12, 2005

A protocol for solving anxiety

Anxiety was one of the most significant challenges I faced with CFIDS-Lyme. This is probably because the neurotoxins from the co-infections amplified a childhood-based anxiety response. As part of solving my own CFIDS-Lyme I have had to deal with a lot of anxiety issues. I have written about getting off benzodiazapine drugs for anxiety. Here is a more thorough description of what I would consider to be the anxiety protocol that I followed. It was holistic, meaning it involved a lot of work on multiple levels of the illness.

Probably my first attempt to solve the anxiety was to use meditations. I listened to a few soundtracks, tried breathing exercises to calm myself, and things like that. My initial reaction was 'this will never work.' I felt that way becasue I could not even calm my mind enough to listen to one of the meditations all the way through, let alone actually work through them. I was in pretty bad shape, I can see that now. Finally, I found binaural beat soundtracks. This is a special relaxation technology, where sounds with slightly differing frequencies are played in each ear, setting up a resonating 'brain wave' in the head that can be quite calming. The break-through for me was that after I down-loaded a free sample off the internet, I found that I could actually relax, even with all the tension from this illness. This was the first step on the road to finally solving most of my life-long anxiety problems, and even solving my anxiety about having anxiety, which is the worst kind.

Initially I used the program offered by www.centerpointe.com. I only selected CenterPointe because I didn't know any others. I think their product is very good, but I stopped using it after a few months because I had learned what I needed to, my brain had learned to relax. I think that is the goal. It takes a few months. I also purchased the Insight/Focus programs from http://www.mercola.com/forms/insight_focus.htm and they worked as well for me as the first level of CenterPoint. There are other brands also, one that looks interesting is http://www.mind-tek.com/. And a lower cost version is available at http://www.hypnosiscds.com/. There are some differences between the various systems, but I don't think it matters which you use if you goal is simply to teach the brain that relaxation is possible. My approach to binaural beat to was to use the soundtrack for a few months while the body adjusted to relaxing (there was some detox, both physical and mental/emotional), then gradually taper off, and try to start relaxing the mind without the soundtrack. I found I could do that with a little effort after 2-3 months. Basically I used the soundtracks to train my mind. And it worked. The training method I used was to listen to the soundtrack, then turn it off and try to maintain the same relaxed state as long as I could. I also would meditate at times on my own, and think about the soundtrack, and over time I started to experience the same relaxation response from thinking about it as from listening to the soundtrack. I felt like the first battle was won, I could relax on queue, as part of a meditation. But I did not want to have to always take a half hour of meditation to get relaxed, so there was clearly more to accompllish...

I realized that while I now had the skill of relaxing, I was still regularly sending my body messages to be tense. I was having to use the relaxation skill too often, and I did not have time to be continually battling my own body. So the next thing I did, was to start using a guided imagery technique to try and retrain my subconscious mind to stop sending tensing messages. I used the program from http://www.panic-anxiety.com, called 'The Linden Method.' This method included a very good meditation soundtrack. There are other good methods as well, including some using 'neuro-linguistic programming' which seems very similar. The idea was to re-program the SUBCONSCIOUS mind to stop interpreting events as threatening and stressful. And this particular approach worked for me, I felt that I was communicating with my fundamental, subconscious programming, and was stopping the tension and stress signals that had been causing the anxiety. After a few months of using the Linden Method, I found I could use the method's soundtrack to help me get to sleep at night. This was very important, I finally got over anxiety/panic responses to herx, and to life in general.

Next, I realized that although I now could relax, and had solved some major elements of my anxiety response, I still had some problems. There were still times when I just would become tense during the day, usually involving my work or interactions with my family. So I decided to work through some emotional processing / emotional release. Earlier in my illness I had learned an emotional release process from Pam Robinson (http://instituteofhealingarts.info/). One of her facilitators came to my area and I went through several sessions and learned the basics of 'emotional processing. So I already knew how to work through 'emotional release.' This time, as I reviewed my past I looked for the causes of my reaction to career and family stressors. This took several months. I discovered some important details about my early life interests that I had effectively burried. As I discovered this I re-prioritized some aspects of my life that were stressing me. I actually changed career directions as part of this. Next I found that I had established a co-dependent relationship with some family members. This was a bit of a shock becasue I had always felt highly independent, but I was really using them as a crutch emotionally. So I made some changes, and resolved many of the issues I uncovered. This was a HUGE break-through and my entire illness started turning around. I had major herx from this, particularly from the re-prioritization and career change, I think it relieved so much of my stress response that it freed major immune resources. The entire emotional processing took about 3-4 months. I got VERY tired during this time, but felt the body was healing.

Finally, after I started feeling that I was ready to 'recover' I discovered the use of a hot pack around the neck. That was the clincher, and allowed me to finally sleep without seditives, which I had taken for 7 years. The hot pack was very important, helping me to train the neck and shoulder muscles to relax, even during herx / detox times. The 'training' took about four months, after which time I actually could sleep without any assistance, without the hot pack, meditations or any medications. Additionally my anxiety response was mostly gone. I still get some of the 'trigger' symptoms for the anxiety, such as pressure in the chest area, but I now realize that is a detox response, and it generally does not progress into any kind of anxiety.

As I went through each of these holistic treatments, the binaural beat relaxation therapy, the guided imagery to re-program the subconscious mind, the emotional processing, and the use of the hot pack, I viewed them as 'the solution' and for the first three, moved on to the next feeling like the treatment had somehow failed, because I was not yet well. But now as I look back I can see that these treatments were in a useful sequence, and all were necessary in solving the anxiety riddle.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cort said...

What great stuff!I've never heard of anyone investigating this so thoroughly and I think its very useful. What's going on now? How are you doing now?

June 5, 2009 at 9:16:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Kurt said...

The improvements have stayed, this combination really did work out well. Occasionally I review one of the treatments in the combination, and I use a hot pack on the gut often still, whenever I sense tension there.

What is going on now is that I have added self-talk to the mix, see my self-talk post, and that takes it one level further.

June 5, 2009 at 4:04:00 PM EDT  

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