Exercise, Depression and Drugs, not to mention Twitter, Fibromyalgia and PNIE (part I)


I am now on Twitter.  Good grief.  When I was a little girl my grandma would let me put wood in the old cook stove so she could make pancakes for breakfast and now I am on Twitter.  It gives one pause.

Anyway, via Twitter, I came upon an article, “Exercise Gets Rid of Depression . . . Or Does It?”  (http://marinpsychologist.blogspot.com/2011/02/exercise-gets-rid-of-depressionor-does.html?spref=tw)  So let me tell you what I know about exercise and depression—which may consist of more questions than answers.

Exercise used to make me terribly depressed.  This is contrary to popular—as well as medical—opinion.  As recently as a month ago, a psychiatrist sat in my living room and told me that my declaration that exercise made me depressed is not supported by anything he knows.  Well, here I am:  know me.

My mom said that I had a perfectly normal childhood except for one thing:  I didn’t want to play on the playground at recess; I wanted to sit under a tree and read.  Was this the first indicator that exercise was causing problems for me?  Or not?  I came from a family of readers—we would rather read than do almost anything else, consequently, I did little else.  Throughout high school, I didn’t get much exercise.

By the end of high school, I had fibromyalgia.  It was another twenty years or so before the American medical industry admitted the existence of fibromyalgia, and diagnosed me as having it, but I can look back on my personal history and see that I had it as early as high school.  During one of my hospitalizations in the 1970’s the inpatient staff took a bunch of patients to a county park where we played softball, hiked, and went swimming.  The next day I was tormented by aggravated depression.  The psychiatrist who was head of the unit announced that I was choosing to be depressed as a way of punishing myself for having a good time the day before.  Yeah, right.

So what is the link between depression and fibromyalgia?  Everybody knows that the two conditions are coexistent, but why?  I think you’ll find the answer in PNIE—psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology.  That’s a relatively new area of study that looks at the interrelationship between emotions, the central nervous system, the immune system, and hormones.  I bet you didn’t know that your immune system is playing a role in your emotions, did you?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neuroimmune disease, that is, it’s an immune system failure linked to the nervous system.  People with MS have a very high incidence of depression—you scratch a person with MS and she’ll bleed prescribed antidepressants.  Doctors have just decided that depression is part of the disease, not an emotional response to the disease.  Sheesh!  I thought they knew that years ago—I certainly did.  When the immune and nervous systems are corrupted then so is the psychological system.

So I have fibromyalgia, and what’s that got to do with depression and exercise?  Fibromyalgia may or may not be an autoimmune disease—professionals are still arguing about that.  (An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system gets confused and starts attacking the body instead of protecting it.)  We know that exercising when you have fibromyalgia definitely can make you better—it also can make you worse.  In other words, we still have a lot to learn about fibromyalgia but one thing is certain:  if you have fibromyalgia, look for the cause of your depression in the physical world at least as much as you look for it in your inner emotional world.

The Catholic channel televised a physician who reported that having an abortion causes fibromyalgia.  This show was viewed by three of us women who all had bad fibromyalgia and none of us had ever had an abortion.  There’s a lot of untruth out there wearing medical garb and carrying a prescription pad.  Speaking of prescription pads:  that may be the cause of fibromyalgia pain.

In 2001 I had to stop taking all drugs.  Thereafter, my fibromyalgia pain—which had been constant—stopped.  Without drugs, I had no pain.  I still had all the trigger points (my massage therapist could attest to that) but I had no pain.  Sometime later I came across a book written by a physician at Columbia University.  He said that his treatment for fibromyalgia was to take his patients off all medications.  He reported the case of one patient who got off all drugs and was feeling fine.  Six months later she came back reporting terrible pain again.  When he asked her what she’d done in the elapsed time, she reported going to a bunch of other physicians and getting drugs for other things.

The immune system is under attack by every drug you take.  Is fibromyalgia pain rising from the immune system and do drugs make it worse?  Find out for yourself—take a drug vacation.  Stop taking drugs.  And don’t give me any crap about how you can’t—you’ve gotta take this for your heart and that for your diabetes and so forth.  According to my personal assessment of the known world, 92.8% of all medications are taken to compensate for a lousy lifestyle.  Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise and sleep, and you won’t need to take drugs.  (To be continued)

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About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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