Saturday, March 31, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies: Yummy!

Are you bored of me talking about getting off of my medications?  You must be because I sure am!  I was so focused on it for a time because I had to be, but things have changed for the better.  So let's change it up.

I am a bit of a chocoholic.  I love chocolate and chocolate chip cookies are one of my many chocolate weaknesses.  I found this great recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies that just happen to be vegan.  I've made them several times and they are quite easy and very quick to make.

I change up the ingredients from time to time.  I've made them with margarine and also with oil.  The oil was a little easier to mix, but that's about the only difference I noticed.  For baking, I use an oil that is part canola oil, part olive oil.  I don't like to bake with olive oil, even though it's healthy because who wants olive flavoured chocolate chip cookies?

The last time I made the cookies, I used agave instead of sugar.  I bought some agave on a whim the last time I was at the bulk food store.  I'd seen agave as an ingredient for vegan baking and I thought I'd give it a try.  Agave looks like honey in the bottle.  It's sweet without being too sweet.  Agave can be used in place of sugar. I went with less agave than sugar required and I didn't fiddle with the liquid measurements although the article I read said that you should. It didn't matter, the cookies came out just as good as ever. I think the secret to this recipe is the cinnamon. I made them without cinnamon the last time I baked because I'd run right out of it. Too bad, because the cookies are good without the cinnamon, but they are great with it!

Now I'm a little more laid back than the recipe's author when it comes to baking.  I pretty much throw the ingredients in the bowl, mix it up and bake.  Sampling almost always occurs before the dough makes it to the oven.  One tip:  if you scroll to the bottom of the the first part of the recipe, there's a button to show the next step, don't use that one, use the one that gives you all the steps on one screen.  It's much easier that way.

3 out of 4 in our house like these cookies.  The 4th is my youngest who has decided she doesn't like chocolate lately.  Not sure how I had a child who doesn't like chocolate!  I may try them without chocolate next as it sounds like they might be pretty tasty.

Cookie Jars

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Getting Healthy: Medication Free

It's been a couple of weeks now since I finally tapered right off of the antidepressant I was taking.  I'm still having some withdrawal symptoms, but they're becoming more infrequent as time goes on.  The "brain zaps" bother me most when I'm tired or trying to go to sleep.

So here's what I've found now that I'm drug free:

Happy Christmas - Selfridges, Birmingham - "Happy" 1).  I have emotions again.  Before I felt a little bit, but my feelings had no depth.  I've had a couple of moments where I've suddenly realized that I felt happy.  Weird, I know.  It's nice to feel things again.   This can also be a bit of a pain because I find myself tearing up over sappy things like commercials.  I don't outright cry, but my eyes get watery and I feel like I'm going to start weeping.

2).  I have more energy.  Maybe it's all the supplements I've been taking, but I'm feeling more energetic.  Rather than sit there wishing I felt well enough to clean something or get something done, I'm actually getting up and doing it.  I'm trying to be careful and not do too much at once because I don't want to overdo it.  Little by little, my house is getting more organized.   I'm also becoming more physically active and have been enjoying spending time outside with the girls.  I've been picking up some of the winter detritus from our garden.  I've got big plans for the garden this year.

3).  I'm still in recovery mode.  It might take awhile for the side effects of the antidepressants to be totally gone.  I have to remember to cut myself some slack.  I will get there, it will just take some time.

Now that I've gotten off of the antidepressants, I'm going to spend more time and energy on getting healthier by losing weight.  My weight has really gone out of control over the last while and I'm ready for it to come off.  I'm exercising again and trying to pay more attention to what I'm eating.  There is so much information out there on what is healthy and so many different plans around that I feel a little like I'm watching a tennis match.  Eat this, don't eat this, never ever eat that.  I believe that I can do this!  If I can get off of antidepressants after 9 years, losing the weight should be a walk in the park.  OK, so I know it won't be easy, but I know I can do it.  One day at a time, one baby step after another, I will get there.  I have to.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Antidepressant Free!

Freedom Fest It's true!  I took my last Effexor XR pill 7 days ago.  It has not been easy, especially since I couldn't just ignore the rest of my life.  Day 1 wasn't so bad. Day 2 was bad, enough that I considered going back on the medication.  Day 3 was hell.  I had to leave work early because I felt so sick.  Between brain zaps, nausea and stomach troubles, it was bad.  I wasn't sure I was going to make it.

I had to ask my parents to come over to help me with my kids because my husband had to work that night.  Our youngest is a challenge to handle when I'm feeling well.  I knew that if I didn't have help, she would find all of my buttons and push them all at once.  She was surprisingly good, especially when her nonna told her that she was not to get out of bed (again).

Before they left, Mom told me that the third day is always the worst and it turns out that in this case, she was right.

Day 4 was better and day 5 even better.  I'm on day 6 now and aside from the brain zaps, I'm doing quite well. My village has been a great help to me in getting through this.  My husband has encouraged me a whole lot.  And he's had to live with me as I've gone through the detox process.  If anyone tells you that there are no withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants, that person is lying.  You can call it "antidepressant discontinuation syndrome" all you want, but that does not change the fact that there are withdrawal symptoms from this drug.  Changing the name doesn't change the fact that people are addicted to the medication.  (stepping off soapbox).

My mom has been a great support as well and so has my sister (in-law).  It really helps to have people in your corner rooting for you.  I don't know where I'm going from here, but I'm happy to be medication free.  I'll continue to work my way through the withdrawal symptoms and once they've settled down, I'll be able to focus on other parts of my life and health.  One day at a time.

I don't talk a lot about spiritual stuff, but when I was at my lowest on day 3, I told God that I couldn't do it and a verse came to me.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13.  That verse became my prayer for the rest of the day.  Never underestemate the power of prayer.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Second Week on Second Taper from Antidepressants

Tightrope Walker The second taper has definitely been harder than the first was. It seemed like I'd be feeling better for a day or two and then discontinuation symptoms would crop up again. I've had a lot of buzzing in my brain, kind of a zapping, electrical type of feeling. It doesn't hurt so much, but it's annoying and leaves you feeling a little off balance. I did some reading online and this site, The Road Back was very helpful. I added an Omega 3 supplement to what I'm already taking and it seems to help a lot with the zapping. As I'm vegan, I was happy to find that flaxseed oil is high in Omega 3 because everyone tends to think Omegas are fish oils only.

So, for supplements, I'm taking flaxseed, Vitamin D, Vitamin B and Vitamin C. Yes, I'm pretty sure I rattle when I walk by. The flaxseed really helped to get over the brain zaps. I think if I can go a few days with no zaps, I'll be ready for my final taper. It's exciting and a little scary all at once. Overall, I'm feeling pretty good, aside from having trouble sleeping. It is strange to feel things that I haven't felt for awhile, but I'm starting to feel more like me again.

On the days when I feel really good, I'm getting more things done. I'm exercising and I'm doing crazy things like washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. Before, after dinner, I didn't do much at all. Now, I'm finding little jobs to do because I don't want to just be sitting around. I look at it and I wonder how I stayed on this medication for so long and I'm really grateful that my husband encouraged me to start looking at getting off of it. I truly didn't realize that the antidepressants were having such an effect on me. I thought that the way I felt was normal. How sad is that? I'm not saying that I don't have depression any more. I am still prone to depression and will probably always have to be aware of it and keep an eye on it. Depression is a mental illness and it needs to be treated, but for me, taking the antidepressants was having too many negative side effects and was seriously impairing my quality of life.

So, this is me getting healthy. I think that as I continue to feel better, I'll get fitter too because I'll actually have the energy to exercise and hopefully I'll get a little more organized because I'll be able to focus on a task and get it done. Slowly but surely, I'm getting there, one baby step at a time.