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Tag: parenting

GUEST POST: Happiness…Could the Key be in Your Genes

Written by Stephanie Correa
Original found here: http://onthegowellnesscoaching.com/articles/happinesscould-the-key-be-in-your-genes

9/1/2015

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Many people I know would be surprised to find out I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life. I chose early on to hide it, when I saw how uncomfortable people around me were when I shared what I was going through. I learned and created techniques to manage and hide it from even those closest to me. I don’t always win the battles and as a mom, whenever I felt it building up beyond my ability to hide it, I intentionally watched sad movies, so my crying wouldn’t worry or confuse my son as he grew up. With all my efforts to shield him, I was unable to prevent him from also experiencing the despair, anxiety and debilitation depression can infuse people with. His depression and anxiety worsened when he experienced a long-term illness, surgery and failed care by medical professionals. During his darkest days I was constantly fearful his despair would win and he would leave this world.

Through the darkness, however there can often be gifts. Directly after his surgery in 2014 we were advised by his doctor of the importance of managing his pain through medication. He was prescribed three narcotic pain killers, which we unfortunately discovered he was unable to feel. Doubling the dosage, per the advice of his doctor, he still felt nothing stating it was as if he was taking nothing at all. Frustratingly our doctor thought we were lying. Prior to abandoning him, his doctor did say one thing that stood out, she told me she had heard there were genetic mutations that could affect a person’s ability to metabolize pain medication.

It took all of 2014 for my son to recover from both the surgery and residual fatigue. As he healed, I researched gene mutations affecting narcotic metabolism and in the spring of 2015 decided to have him genetically tested. What we discovered was shocking, revealing and incredibly empowering.

We discovered he has a genetic mutation that prevents him from making the enzyme necessary for metabolizing a majority of narcotic pain medications. 3% of the population has this mutation. We also learned there are two medications he can take since they don’t require that particular enzyme to be metabolized. Mystery solved!!

The biggest gift, however, came from the discovery of two other mutations on a gene called MTHFR which methylates folate (Vitamin B9). Methylation of folate makes it possible for our bodies to utilize it. Folate has many important functions, one of which is to facilitate the production of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine our feel good hormones/neurotransmitters. The power of happiness really can be in your genes!!

After researching and factoring in several additional gene mutations, we began supplementing with methylated folate (aka:  L-5-MTHF, L-Methylfolate, Folicinic Acid) and noticed a difference within just a few days. With strategic supplementation based on his genetic mutations, a decade of despair and months of intense anxiety attacks were finally lifting!!

MTHFR gene mutations aren’t limited to contributing to depression. Here are several other diseases and symptoms resulting from unsupported MTHFR genetic mutations:

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With the gift of seeing my son begin to smile and laugh again and watching his quality of life improve dramatically after just a few weeks, I decided to have my genetics tested as well. I  learned I also have MTHFR gene mutations. To give you a better picture of what I’m talking about, here is how my particular MTHFR gene mutations look on my report:

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The red Result +/+, indicates I have two mutations of MTHFR C677T which means I am methylating folate at only 10% of functionality. In this scenario I learned supplementation support is incredibly important. If only one copy had been mutated the Result would have been marked as +/- and shaded yellow, indicating support would be helpful. Green (-/-) indicates there are no mutations on the MTHFR A1298C gene.

Interestingly, 40% of the population has MTHFR genetic mutations and 38% of people with depression have a folate deficiency. Not a big difference between those two numbers. If you or someone you know suffers from depression and anxiety (or any of the diseases/symptoms above), genetic testing might be worth looking into and hopefully offer a personalized pathway to feeling healthy and HAPPY.

How does someone get their genetics tested, where can you find the reports and is the process expensive? 

With genetic testing and reporting available, we have better access than ever to a road map to improved health and well-being personalized from our DNA. The reports make it possible to have a conversation with your doctor and/or health care provider, where together you can identify areas in need of support and decide how best to fill those areas in.

Below I’ve listed the company I used to order our genetic testing kits, pricing and websites with reporting platforms I found very helpful and informative.

Genetic Testing:
1) Request a DNA Kit from www.23andme.com

  • This costs around $199 plus tax & shipping.
  • The testing is through a saliva sample.
  • Note this is an ancestry site; however it will house your raw genetic data which is important when you are ready to run reports from the data.
  • The testing can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 8 weeks before your results will be ready. It is truly worth the wait!

Genetic Data Reporting Platforms:
1)   www.knowyourgenetics.com

  • Free.
  • Report is generated from your raw genetic data housed at www.23andme.com.
  • A great site for supplementation recommendations you can go over with your doctor.
  • Very informative for explaining gene mutations and the methylation cycle.

2)   www.geneticgenie.org

  • Report is generated from your raw genetic data housed at www.23andme.com.
  • Methylation Report is $10. Methylation report provides a summary of information about gene mutations found in your Methylation report.
  • Detoxification Report is $5 (this report shows how well you are able to handle toxins).
  • These two reports are concise and handy to go over with your doctor.

3)  www.promethease.com

  • Report is generated from your raw genetic data housed at www.23andme.com.
  • Report costs $5.
  • A comprehensive and informative report with details specific to how well you handle medications, diseases you may or may not be at risk for, fat metabolism, etc.
  • Interesting, but can also be a bit overwhelming.
  • Access to data expires after 45 days. You can save the information to a spreadsheet for your records.

4)   www.mthfrsupport.com

  • Report is generated from your raw genetic data housed at www.23andme.com.
  • Report costs between $30 and $50 depending upon whether they are running a special offer.
  • Comprehensive Report. Not all genetic mutations listed are easy to find health and supplementation recommendations.

There are several websites, books and YouTube presentations on the topic of MTHFR and other gene mutations, which you may discover down the road. The first step, however is to find out whether you need support or not and then begin the journey of mapping out your personalized path to feeling your best.

The information related to Epigenetics and Nutrigenomics is vast, but incredibly fascinating. Please share your stories and let me know if there are areas you would like to know more about. This topic is near and dear to my heart and if I can find ways, through my blog, to help clarify and provide you with resources to healing, it would be my great pleasure to do so!
 

http://onthegowellnesscoaching.com/articles/happinesscould-the-key-be-in-your-genes

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hang on

And just like that I’m there again. No sleep last night. And my sanity has unraveled today. Faking it so my daughter doesn’t see. Can’t breath. Can’t find calm. No energy, no appetite, but no rest. Heart pounding, pounding, pounding. I can’t take it. I don’t want to be here. To be. Gotta hang on. Hang on. Gotta remember this is temporary. It has to be.

recovered?

A new mom asked this in a forum:

“Is there really an end to this.. Like 100% healed? I feel like what I have is too disturbing and terrible to ever go away.”

My answer:

I went through an outpatient program at a hospital and they talked about accepting a “new normal”. Now, I refuse to accept that this means my new normal is misery. But I don’t think we can ever go back to the person we were before we had our birth/postpartum experience.

Like any trauma, it has left a mark on our psyche. And so we have a choice about what to do with that. I’ve tried wallowing, and that worked for a while, but it got in the way of joy. I’ve tried hiding from the world, but I missed out on living.

So I’m at a place in the middle between where I used to be and the pit I had dropped into. Sometimes I need to wallow, and I give myself space to do so. But I don’t move back in there. Sometimes I need to hide from the world, and I accept that, that I don’t have the stamina of the extrovert I used to be. But I also challenge myself, just a little, and over time I see progress towards a new me. Wiser, stronger, but also weaker in some ways, and accepting of that part of me too.

And my story, and yours too, becomes something we can share with others who are somewhere along that tough journey of losing yourself and trying to figure who you are now. We bring each other strength because we have compassion and empathy and help heal each other. Because we understand the pain. And we’re not alone anymore.

Autism

Last Friday I subbed for the first time in a classroom for severely autistic kids. I want to say I was filled with compassion and felt like the work was meaningful, but mostly I just felt traumatized by the experience. These are children that will never be normal, that will always need help from others, that are far far far from anything resembling ‘normal.’ I felt for the parents that are filled with ambivalence for a child they both love and see as a burden. My heart was heavy. The day dragged, every little thing they did is an uphill challenge. Every single thing they did is painfully slow and difficult. It was exhausting to be around. I pitied them, found them to be pathetic, and felt ugly for feeling that way. I felt ashamed that I didn’t find the work meaningful and fun like the other women working in the classroom. I spent the weekend tormented by the experience and my thoughts and feelings.

Then I went back.

In the last 3 days I have spent in there I have been able to see these kids as more than their external behaviors. I have seen humor and subtly, frustration and anger. When they refer to autism as a spectrum, they are literally describing how unique each of the children are. Yes there are similarities, however each of the children presented a unique combination of interests, levels of interaction, intelligence and behaviors. Once I was no longer shocked by the strange sounds and movements they make and do, they became fascinating to me.

I need to understand to connect. And initially it was all so foreign, loud, strange, intrusive, that I just couldn’t process it. But it’s amazing how the strangest things can become normalized just by being exposed to it for a while. And just like that the noises they made, the arm waving and flapping, the rocking and body ticks, all faded into the background scenery, and I was able to really see them, who they are on the inside. The intelligence trapped inside a body that won’t cooperate. I also judged the program that is designed to have them restrict themselves in order to make the socially ‘normal’ feel more comfortable. I don’t have a background in any of this. And my experience amounts to a book I read (partially written by a severely autistic girl), some articles, and exactly 4 days in a classroom. But I have to wonder if all the things we were making them do was really for their benefit, or ours.

I started to really care about them, feel sad when they were sad, and feel joy when they experienced it. I started to bond, and then it ended – such is the experience of a substitute. And next week I go back to a classroom full of ‘normal’ kids. The teacher asked if I wanted to come back next time my school is on break. I’m actually considering it. I prefer to help students academically. I love watching them ‘get it.’ I feel joy when I help them understand. I know that’s my calling, my bliss, what feeds my light. And yet, this hidden world was a fascinating break from the daily grind, the rushing to and from minutia, the annoyances at mundane discomforts we take for granted. It has clarified and strengthened my gratitude for existence. I am taking them back into the rest of my life, carrying them in my heart, incorporating them into the full human experience of the world around me.

I knew that children like this existed, I just didn’t think about it in depth. I didn’t want to imagine the day by day and minute by minute struggles. I didn’t want to care. When I have seen them out in the community, I have felt uncomfortable and pity. But not anymore. I will never reduce them again. My eyes are open.

 

 

Teachers

I have had many great teachers in my life. Some have been in the classroom. My junior year high school English teacher inspired my love of literature. My college comparative literature professor-turned-adviser did as well. But most of the significantly impacting teachers in my life never held a credential. One high school friend of mine that walks slowly, saunters, taught me to slow down. Other high school friends taught me to appreciate diversity in perspectives. To accept people as they are and learn from what they have experienced. The students I taught over the course of 6 years taught me empathy and compassion. My husband taught me that relationships don’t need to be dramatic to be full of love and meaning. A dear friend of mine has taught me to recognize the light inside me, and how warm and beautiful it is, when I long believed it extinguished. That possibility always exists, we just need to turn our head in another direction to see it. That the universe wants to bring me my greatest good and is always full of abundance. From my fellow outpatient and after-care friends I have learned that we may be suffering alone, but we are not alone. That we may feel broken, but that sharing our brokenness heals us all.

And finally, my daughter. Through her I am learning every single day.

I have learned what it means to love so intensely I feel like my body can not contain it. I have learned that I can handle other people’s bodily fluids at 3 AM. I have learned that I can push myself beyond the limits of exhaustion and survive (it’s not a pretty picture though). I continue to revisit the lesson of patience. Over and over. I’m still working on that one. I’m still learning how to not react when my buttons are pushed. I struggle with that lesson. I have learned how to be present, even during the 100th game of princesses. And last but not least, I am learning forgiveness, for the mistakes I’m making along the way because I’m doing the best I can.

Describe an event that changed your life forever

My life has been peppered with life-changing events, like signposts on a long and windy road. The first, and possibly biggest, was my parents’ divorce. It was only once we escaped that I realized a brutal and terrifying childhood was not normal. My understanding of my life and the world was turned upside down, and so many objects were thrown loose. It was exhilarating, the drama, the freedom. I was encouraged by therapists to let it all out – and so I did, everywhere and to anyone who would listen. I realized my story had value, like currency. In exchange others would share their struggles. And I was able to connect with many on levels deeper than the usual shallow exchanges. I was free, I was wild. I was the bad influence many parents wanted to keep away. But not because I did anything illegal or immoral – quite the opposite. Due to my mother’s neglect, my younger sister and I had to take care of ourselves. We were and continue to be very responsible. Many parents didn’t like me because I spoke my mind. Because I didn’t keep to “my place” as a child. I was honest, too honest. My eyes were open. Perhaps I was disrespectful. I didn’t see, nor wanted to acknowledge, arbitrary boundaries. There were also many parents who adored me, who figuratively adopted me and became one of my surrogate moms. Sometimes (often?) I liked them better than their kids. I connected better with them, I felt like they understood me. Memories fade, and I no longer remember the details of time spent with them. But they gave me guidance, acceptance and love that I so desperately needed. I carry them with me in my heart, even today. And I am forever grateful that they were placed in my path when I needed them.

not my mother

This burning anger. She’s keeping me waiting again. She doesn’t respect me. She is actively insulting me with her behavior. She’s pissing me off! It’s not my mom, this time. It’s my 5 1/2 year old child. She’s driving me crazy…being developmentally appropriate. I have mapped my childhood years of neglect and rage onto my baby. How do I stop? How do I not get pissed when she stalls or procrastinates or ignores me or refuses to do what I tell her to? I try to remind myself, “she’s 5, she’s only 5.” That helps, a little. But I still have this timer in my head, this schedule. I feel like I’m always failing to follow it, to keep up with it. My husband gently suggested allowing more flexibility into the schedule. “We don’t have to eat right at 6pm.” He’s right. My schedule times are kind of arbitrary. Self-imposed requirements. I picked them, so I can adjust them. What happened to my ability to be flexible? I had it when I was teaching. “Overprepare, but be flexible,” was my motto. But with my child I just want to get through each item on the checklist. Check it off, move to the next item, efficient. Except that it’s not working. I’m not enjoying any of the to-do’s. And I’m sure she can tell, sense it. How do people enjoy these lather, rinse, repeat duties? I guess maybe they can recognize how fleeting this is in the long run. Before I know it, I won’t get to nag her to get in the bath already. I won’t get to cradle and rock her in her towel afterwards. She’ll be showering all on her own. Before I know it, I won’t be arguing with her at bedtime over which books to read and which songs to sing. She’ll wave to me, “goodnight,” and head upstairs on her own. She’s only this sweet, adorable age for a little while. This is what I need to remember. Also, she’s not my mother.

white knuckling

I’m holding it together. But only just.

The words are back – the liars. They’re telling me, I’m telling me, that I’m a failure as a parent. I’m so mean to my little girl. That voice, I cut her open with contempt. All she wants is a mother’s love. I’m her mother. But I forget. Just do what you’re supposed to do. What I want you to. Obey. But she’s 5. She’s supposed to be her own person. And I crush her. She bounces back. But what damage have I done. What scar tissue am I generating under that beautiful, soft skin.

How        do        I        stop.

Please let this be hormones – this depth of this suffering crying guilt.

Does this mean I’ve failed. That I need to go back onto antidepressants.

I’m so tired. The mantra of my life.

Door slams shut inside. Feel nothing feel nothing feel nothing. Maybe if I hold really still, this will go away.

 

a new year

It’s Rosh Hashanah. The head of the year. The couple of days that are supposed to represent the rest of the year. The beginning of the 10 Days of Awe. The Book of Life is open. At the end of Yom Kippur it is closed, sealed. 10 days to repent, revisit, review. 10 days to think long and hard about the year that passed, the lifetime that has passed. Time to decide on how the new year will be. So much pressure. No wonder I fought with my sister and mother every single Rosh Hashanah growing up. Where’s my life now. A husband that is working hard, doing what he always does, taking care of us, and is just a little bit out of reach, distant. My fault? A gorgeous 5 year old daughter. Super creative and a non-stop talker. Non-stop. Non. Stop. My poor brain tunes her out so I can have head space to get the every day banal necessities completed. No room in my head otherwise. I still see her as an adult-human sometimes. I forget she’s 5 and I lose my patience, lose my temper. “Stop acting like a 5 year old!” Oh wait, right.

Another set of meds I’m testing out, ever the lab rat. Is it working? How can I tell? All I know is the side-effects and how they impact my day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Have I improved? It feels like running in place most days. How long has it been since the last breakdown? 2 years? 3? That’s pretty good. I’m not gibbering and rocking and sobbing in a corner. So that’s a definite improvement?

What do I want for the new year? More patience. Less hurrying and adhering to the clock. More in-the-moment experiences. Those fill me with gratitude. Gratitude, the high beam that banishes my darkness. The electricity that wakes up my heart. The surge of hope that makes it possible to see more days, more moments filled with more gratitude.

I want more closeness. I’ve been holding myself out at an arms reach. Sure it’s safer. But it’s also lonely.

I want more energy. How do I achieve that? Probably not on my current meds… More walking. More yoga. Less cell phone and tv time. An easy time waster/time sucker, that brings me to bedtime, and morning, and a repeat of the repeat of the repeat. Which is not a motivator.

I stopped wishing for my old self back long ago. Who or where she is, I don’t know, she’s long gone. This me is a little more serious, a lot wiser, and a bit more compassionate. I’m okay with the current me. That surprises me. I never thought I’d think that. I’m glad I do. Acceptance is way smoother and easier than the alternative, fighting and thrashing against the perceived loss of the stronger, stabler me I used to be. I remember taking for granted the day to day, it was so easy. Was it? I don’t really remember. Everything’s a blur. It’s not helpful to imagine a time that I can never get back. I’ve mourned it already. I’m ready to be in the now. I’m ready to look forward to the year. One year at a time. One day at a time. One minute at a time. So far, so good.

flood

You think you’re done with something. No sign of it for ages. And then all of a sudden, it comes burbling up, spilling over, a flood. I’m running out of time. I may already be out of time. But there are no do-overs. Doing it again doesn’t make the past not exist. So much pain. So much pain there wasn’t room for love. And now the love is so overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. I can’t breathe. And I can’t let go. I won’t. It’s all I have. It may be painful, but it’s mine. I try to go back into it, relive it but this time change it. Hold her tiny body against me, feel her breathing, and this time I try to enjoy it, adore it. I miss it. I missed it. I missed out on it. I ache for the connection. A connection like that I may never get to try at again. A lost opportunity. Lost to pain and chaos that was my reality. Yes, I know, focus on the now. Connect with her now. I do. Thankfully I can. Much of the time. But it’s not the same. She will never be an infant again. Each day she grows more independent of me, further away. And what could have been is lost. And this well of grief floods me again, and again. I accept it. I know I am mourning still. I bring the past back into sharp clarity. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want it to fade away. Because at least this way I can still go back and hold my baby, and love her, this time.