Fighting Off SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a fairly common depression that happens usually during the winter months of the year. At least a partial cause is the  lack of sunlight often experienced by those affected. We wake up, it’s dark, we go to work away from any sunlight and when we leave, it’s dark again. In my experience it can be more than that though. For me personally, it occurs right before Christmas, because, well, I spend Christmas alone.

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Yes, I buy myself an advent calendar every year.

I spend Christmas alone because a) I live in Toronto, and the majority of my family lives in Winnipeg (though my older brother recently moved back to Vancouver, where he has lived most of my life, 15 year age difference and all); b) I work in retail, so going home for Christmas isn’t really an option when you work until 7:30pm on Christmas Eve and have to be back at work as early as 5am on Boxing Day (this year I start at 1:30pm). And thus, this experience is numbering my days in a retail store (I’d love a head office position though). It would perhaps be better if I had a partner who’s family I could spend Christmas with, but as I am currently single, SAD seems hits hard.

IMG_0327Traditional Ukranian Christmas Eve dinner with cabbage rolls, onions, perogies, pickerel, pickled herring and borscht… plus Christmas Vacation playing.

It usually begins about a week before Christmas. And though I can fight it off from time to time, overall it’s tough. I purposely make Christmas Eve (my family’s big day as my maternal side is Ukranian) as much like it could be back home as possible. I make all the traditional food. Open a few of my presents, and facetime in to my family’s dinner where I get a brief chat with everyone from my siblings, parents, nephews, and other people who show up, with slightly longer conversations with my younger brother and my mom. And then I watch Christmas Vacation (family tradition) and drink wine. Christmas morning involved me facetiming my parents while I open my stocking, and drinking mimosas while I watch Home Alone and The Santa Clause. This year I also got an invite to a friend’s family’s house for dinner, which is nice. They are like my family with Christmas Day being of less importance, and the invite was so thoughtful and sweet that I’m looking forward to it. My friend and I are going skating first which will be great!

IMG_0329Spike and I in our Christmas outfits!

As much as I can do my best to fight off SAD, it does still get me. My goal is to get home for next Christmas (or as my mom would prefer, we’d all fly somewhere warm for Christmas… though I told her I need one at home with my nephews first). In the meantime, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, or send love if you don’t celebrate Christmas.

CBD, here I come…

Okay, so as I mentioned in my rheumy recap post, she agreed that I should go to a local medical cannabis clinic and try some CBD. It can’t hurt, right? Upon further research, the clinic she recommended (which happens to be next to my work – score!) requires a referral form, plus essentially an application/request from the patient to fill out, and then is reviewed by their staff doctors. Problem one, I don’t have another appointment with my rheumatologist until May. Problem two, my family doctor is on leave (not sure for how long) and her replacement only works Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have Wednesday off (this week at least and I want to get on this). So, I made an appointment with another random doctor at the family practice I go to, hoping he would just look at my chart and agree to fill out the form… but I mean, you never know because it completely depends on who you get.

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Luckily for me, I got this very nice young male doctor who happily filled out the form for me. He made a comment about the “heavy duty drugs” I already take for my autoimmune condition. He also told me that he has a few patients with different autoimmune diseases that have recently started taking CBD and it seemed to be having a profound positive effect on their symptoms! This is definitely encouraging. He faxed off the form plus some consult notes from my rheumatologist to the clinic, and I filled out the patient request form, so hopefully I hear back soon for an appointment at the beginning of the new year.

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What I find so interesting is, once again, how quickly doctors are now willing to refer for medical cannabis. Two to three years ago I couldn’t get any one to. We had to go through pain specialists only, with wait lists of over a year minimum. Now I can walk into a doctor’s office, and as long as they can see I have at least one condition (he checked off pain, anxiety and sleep issues on the form, because realistically these are all related, especially for autoimmune and other pain conditions) and they’ll just give a referral right away. Thank you liberal government of Canada for finally making everything easier on this front.

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For the cannabis critics, there is increasing research (even the doctor today said he was excited about the research that is now growing in this area) that there are more positive effects of cannabis, especially CBD, in treating everything from autoimmune diseases to Parkinson’s to cancer. I highly recommend that everyone who is in pain try some. Talk to your naturopath, family doctor, or other specialist first, of course, but CBD doesn’t have THC in it so it doesn’t make you high, it just relaxes your body to reduce pain. Or, if you don’t mind the THC, from my experience it really helps sleep issues because it knocks you out. If you have any questions or comments on this subject, please reach out!

Rheumy Visit Recap

A couple of weeks ago (between my bouts of cold/flu) I had my regular semi-annual checkup with my rheumatologist. The visits are for the most part what I’ve come to expect. She asks how things are, what’s been painful, if there are any new symptoms, etc. Then she does a physical exam and decides what blood work needs to be done (all of it – they literally took 5 viles again and a urine sample), plus if I need any MRIs or X-Rays (none needed at the moment). Then she writes some refills on my prescription (plus upped the dosage of Lyrica, because it’s a good pain fighter). Half hour is all it takes, then a quick trip down to the lab (which actually was surprisingly quick this time, I only had to wait 15 minutes). Baddabing Baddaboom.

IMG_0141That’s actually really legible handwriting for a doctor.

What was interesting about this appointment was that my rheumatologist was on fire! Let me explain.

  1. “I don’t want you working retail. I don’t think it’s good for you.” – Okay doc, but can you give me a prescription to get a new job? Aka, I’m working on getting into that Master’s program so hopefully I won’t be working retail much longer
  2. “If you’re going to work retail, I want you working less closing shifts.” – literally writes a doctor’s note saying I can’t close as often (which by the way my GM said was okay and has me down to closing only 2 nights a week as opposed to the 5 I was closing before).
  3. “If your pain is that high can you work?” Literally is ready to write sick leave for me. But I need to work to make money to live so I’ll survive.
  4. “The dry heat really helps you. You should move to Southern California where it’s warm.” YAAAAS but also can you write me a prescription for immigration? LOL
  5. “Okay so maybe move after Trump is gone.” Probably a better idea.
  6. “In the meantime use the sauna at the gym since you started working out (which is great).” Sauna it is. Plus my yearly vacation to Phoenix is coming up in February.
IMG_0028Waiting to get blood work is always a pain.

Lastly, i asked her about medical marijuana. As you may recall from some of my older posts, in the past when I asked her about it she said she “doesn’t prescribe that.” Plus she “doesn’t want it to interfere with my medications.” Well, let me tell you, now that marijuana is legal in Canada her response was totally different. “You don’t need a prescription, just go down to Apollo Cannabis Clinic and they’ll get you some.” LOL Seriously (plus it’s down the street from my work). “I think it’ll be good for you to try it. It might help you a lot.” I’m laughing as if I haven’t been using it for 2 1/2 years but also WTF? Very interesting indeed.

IMG_1257Poll: Should this be my future home? Reply to the post!

Overall it was still the best check up I’ve had. She’s still hard leaning toward a lupus diagnosis because my ANA count is always off the charts when she tests it but it can’t be an official diagnosis unless I have one more symptom (I have 3 off the list, just need number 4). Alas, we shall see what the next six months brings.