How Not To Be Depressed, part 2b

2b. Don’t get an autoimmune disease.

There is a relatively new area of medical investigation called PNIE—psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology. It says that how you feel emotionally is related to your nerves, your immune system, and your hormones. Who’d a thunk that your immune system has anything to do with your emotions? But it does. Ask anybody with multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is an autoimmune disease, i.e., a disease caused by the immune system attacking the Self instead of behaving itself and only attacking Foreign Invaders. Autoimmune diseases are most prevalent among women, not men. This is thought to be because women must have a more complicated immune system than men for one major reason: women host the fetus. From the moment that sperm enters a woman’s body, her immune system has to accommodate both what is Self and not-Self, i.e., her DNA and her partner’s DNA. This poses a major problem because the immune system is supposed to reject what is not Self. Miscarriages may be the result of the mother’s immune system not being able to figure out that it is supposed to tolerate this particular foreign invader.

So a lot of women get MS and then they get depressed. Since the beginning of doctoring, male doctors have declared that women get depressed about a lot of things and getting depressed about having MS is just one of them. Prescribe antidepressants and move on. Ah, but no. Physicians have recently begun to realize (I thought they had known years ago—I certainly did) that people don’t get depressed ABOUT having MS. Multiple sclerosis IS the depression. The characteristics of MS include blurred vision, loss of balance, tingling, muscle weakness and depression. The body is making you depressed.

Rumor has it that hyperglycemia—chronic high blood sugar—and CFIDS—chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome—also cause depression. My glucose has been over 350 (it’s supposed to be below 120) for several years. For the first couple of years I was dreadfully depressed. Now, after craniosacral therapy, homeopathic remedies, and such other alternatives, I no longer am depressed on a regular basis. So does uncontrolled diabetes really cause depression?

CFIDS, another autoimmune disease, is known internationally as myalgic encephalomyelitis and one of the world leaders in the treatment thereof is Dr. Sarah Myhill in Wales, who has treated over five thousand people. She says, “The main cause of depression in CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome] patients results from bad treatment by their physicians.” And there we have just done a 180-degree turnaround: the cause of depression is unexpressed anger; the cause of the anger is not having the power you need to live your life. Depression is caused by repressed anger at the dorkhead physicians who won’t listen or work cooperatively with you. The cure for this depression is to get mad at the physician. So he kicks you out of his practice—so what? He’s not doing you any good anyway. Better to move on without him.

Other people with autoimmune diseases often have been diagnosed as having psychiatric disorders. A psychiatrist whose wife has lupus told me that the initial diagnosis for lupus often is psychosis. People with autoimmune diseases are frequently found on inpatient psychiatry. Asthma, psoriasis, Crohn’s, celiac—all these and more are autoimmune diseases; go to for a long list of autoimmune diseases. Once you get one autoimmune disease then you are more susceptible to a second or third, and once you get an autoimmune disease then your emotional life is at risk.

Physicians know little to nothing about the immune system. You’ve got to be self-taught on this on. The director of hospitalists at one hospital told me he had learned more about the immune system from trying to treat me than he’d ever learned in medical school. They just aren’t teaching immunology. If you have an autoimmune disorder then you may have to see as many as a dozen physicians before you find one who gets it right. Rely heavily on your own research on the Internet, chat rooms, friends, and the grace of God to get a proper diagnosis. If you believe that your disturbance is in your body, not your mind, then stick to your guns. You cannot stop physicians from telling you that you’re crazy but you don’t ever, ever have to believe them.

I have myalgic encephalomyelitis, which is an autoimmune disorder that affects both the nervous system and the immune system. According to Dr. Myhill, one of the worst things you can do if you have this chronic fatigue syndrome is take antidepressants: I took them every day for 26 years. That is why I have spent the past decade in a wheelchair. Do you really want to risk going there?

The antidepressants, on top of the ME/CFIDS, totally fucked my immune system. By the time I stopped taking antidepressants in 2001, my immune system was reacting to makeup, jewelry, food, pets, a handmade quilt, any change in the weather—just about everything. And, most particularly, I have not been able to tolerate any pharmaceuticals for the past 15 years. Seriously. The antidepressants that were supposed to relieve my depression became the drug that was causing my depression.

Your immune system is your best friend. Treat it gently and with respect. Every time you take a pill your immune system comes running to evaluate what you’ve just ingested and then reacts to it. The first symptom of immune distress is fatigue, or—as the handout from the pharmacy says—tiredness, lethargy, exhaustion, listlessness, weakness, lassitude, low energy, drowsiness. Virtually every drug you take carries one of these words in the list of side effects. What they mean is that your immune system is fighting with your pharmaceuticals.

My psychiatrist had an atypical kidney infection and actually believed his physician who said that he had to take an antibiotic for four weeks. In week one, the twinkle went out of his eyes. Week two, he sighed and complained of being too tired. Week three, I told him it was his antibiotic but he didn’t believe me. By week four, he was talking about retiring. In week five, off the drug, he bounced back with a twinkle in his eye and a joke on his lips. From retirement to comedy in one week because he stopped his antibiotic. Take the lesson.

Do everything in your power to avoid taking pharmaceuticals. They are not benign; they are challenging your immune system, which can cause depression.

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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