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Archive for August, 2013

Here I am, still fighting the ebb and flow of this recent recurrence of the stuck music (auditory memory loops/AMLs). (I now suspect I have gotten a bad box of estrogen patches, and will see if this resolves when I start on the new box.) Meanwhile, I decided to try searching OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) sites for new perspectives.

Do I really have OCD?

The first thing I looked at was a self test for OCD.  I failed miserably (or should I say “happily”). Classic OCD is associated with repetitive rituals (like locking the door the “right” number of times, or incessant hand washing) and a lot of dark thoughts and fears. The TV character Adrian Monk had OCD (among other issues). His list of fears/phobias began with “Germs, needles, milk, death….”  Yes, in that order.

I apparently don’t have OCD in the sense these tests define it. I have no rituals, no dark thoughts, and no phobias/fears other than: (a) spiders (since childhood), (b) 4-leaf clovers (long story), and, most important, (c) the fear of having songs stuck in my head again and not being able to enjoy…or even truly live life.

OCD – Melanie’s Article

Despite my apparent lack of OCD symptoms,  I searched for OCD and hormones and came up with a fabulous article from Melanie Gladney’s HubPage.  http://melaniegladney.hubpages.com/hub/OCD-Glucose-Metabolism-and-Food-Allergies This focuses on classical OCD, but offers suggestions that may work for some of us as well. It is certainly worth a shot.

OCD and Hormones

In this article, she discusses the same hormonal influences I’ve identified, but she adds important dimensions to the discussion, including information about key brain chemicals that the sex hormones trigger.

She emphasizes the role of progesterone in calming anxieties. Just keep in mind that, for me at least, there is a very narrow sweet spot for progesterone levels: if I get too much (relative to estrogen), it actually brings on the stuck music.  But as we know, we all have different body chemistries and reactions, so keep progesterone in your toolbox and use it carefully, like everything else.

OCD and Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance and Cortisol 

More important, Melanie covers in great detail the role of blood sugar/metabolism and  food allergies as they may relate to OCD. Her suggestions about diet require more self discipline than I am easily capable of, but they have worked for her OCD, so please check them out and see if her suggestions might work for you.

Remember that high cortisol can not only trigger or exacerbate the AMLs, it can induce insulin resistance (which Melanie talks about in easy-to-understand detail). So maybe it’s not the cortisol directly that affects our AMLs after all, but the insulin/metabolic conditions that result from that cortisol overload. Maybe regulating blood sugar and/or insulin is, in fact, the answer…or at least part of it.

Is it that simple? Probably not.

From a logical standpoint, it seems that if blood sugar, food allergies, and insulin resistance were truly at the root of this (in my case, at least), then I should not have been able to get rid of the AMLs when I implemented my current hormone regimen, because I did not change my diet. The only things I changed were: (1) I took cortisol suppressing supplements, and (2) I created a mini hormone cycle with a surge of estrogen 24 hours before I took my progesterone.

This same kind of reasoning told me that it’s not just cortisol that triggers the AMLs, because I have been way more stressed in my younger life (i.e., had tons of adrenalin and cortisol surging through my body) and yet I did not get songs stuck in my head.  This only started when my sex hormones went south at menopause…and it only went away again when I mimicked a youthful hormone cycle.

Then again, the most obvious difference between the identical twin boys who shared most everything except the AMLs was that the one who had the AMLs turned out to have a then-undiagnosed metabolic disorder involving insulin resistance. The mom obtained the diagnosis after reading about the cortisol/metabolic connection to AMLs here and taking her son in for relevant tests. So, clearly the AMLs and metabolic dysfunction are closely linked.

Visit Melanie

The bottom line is that Melanie and I seem to be running down the same rabbit hole, chasing the same two suspects–sex hormone imbalances and dysfunctional metabolic/adrenal processes–from slightly different perspectives. So I encourage you to check out her hub. (You can read the articles but may have to join HubPages.com to comment.) And write to her if you think she can help. She seems to be very generous in responding.

And if any of you try her suggestions, please keep us posted on the results, whether positive, negative or neutral.

Wishing you a blissfully quiet day.

Pat

BTW, Last night I attended a lecture by a neuroscientist, and he has promised to put me in touch with someone he thinks might be able to help us or at least can point us to someone else who might. Cross your fingers…

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I guess there’s a price to pay for getting too cocky. I’ve mentioned several times that I seem to be the only one among us who can turn the AMLs (auditory memory loops) on and off. Well, I suppose to remind me of the horrors all of you are still suffering, I recently had a relapse and had the opportunity to refresh my memory…over and over and over and… well you know.

This relapse happened in the wake of conditions that may have directly or indirectly contributed to the problem.

1.  I had just finally recovered from a 2-month vertigo episode, the worse I’ve ever had. This condition might not have triggered the AMLs, but it certainly stressed me out, pumping cortisol into my system for two months.

2.  During the vertigo episode I took Valium for a couple of days. (It and other drugs like it can stabilize the inner ear’s balance centers.) But when I realized it was making me nauseated, I quit. Toward the end of the episode I took Xanax (related to Valium) every night to help suppress the spinning in my sleep. I worried about taking these drugs because so many of us only started the AMLs after taking SSRIs and other brain drugs.

3. In the last 2 weeks of the vertigo I had a short-fuse video project. Not only was I stressed (producing cortisol), but I was listening to the same 3 short songs over and over again for a week as we edited the video together.

4. I had cut back on the phosphatidyl serine (PS) that reduces cortisol and provides healthy fats to the brain.

Having heard your stories and thought more about the OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) connection, I paid closer attention to what I was feeling when the AMLs came back this time.

  • I was physically antsy, a feeling I know I get when either my potassium is low or when my hormones are messed up.
  • I felt as if there was an “openness” or a gaping hole in the middle of my brain, or that there was a thinness of the wall between that open part in the center of my brain and everything else.
  • That hole was like an open sore that was exposed to anything in my environment that might “infect” it and get stuck there.  I felt totally vulnerable to falling into other forms of OCD, not just the music. (Some of you have progressed into classic OCD.)
  • I also noticed that I was waking up with the crazy repetitive dreams (making a list, recalling names) and/or the music, all happening around 3 am…the classic, low estrogen wake-up time. I also had other low E symptoms, like heatwaves, itchy-crawly scalp and ears, and stupid brain.
  • I had trouble going out to restaurants and places that played music. I realized that my awareness of music wasn’t just me being cautious about music around me. No, the music literally seemed to attach itself to me more aggressively.  I was having lunch with a friend and had to step outside when a certain obnoxious song came on. When I got back, he said he hadn’t even noticed the music.  He said “You’ve got to do something about your hearing.” “Like what” I asked. “Like…go deaf,” he said.  It made me laugh. But the point is that his brain was able to tune it out, as mine normally would. Instead, for me it seemed as if not only was my brain open but it was aggressively seeking out and sucking the music in. And, all jokes aside, my going deaf would not have stopped the AMLs because this is not about “hearing;” it’s about replaying things stored in the auditory memory…even things we’ve never heard with our ears.

So I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I finally suspected my estrogen patches weren’t working and I hoped and prayed this was also why the AMLs had come back with a vengeance. I have had problems with defective patches and/or possible permeability issues with the area of skin where I stuck my patches. So I put more patches on. And for a couple of days, the AMLs would go away.

I have finally ended that screwed-up hormone cycle and have started over with new patches in a new spot and have had no further problems with the AMLs.

HormonePathways12

Now, it would be easy to think you just need more estrogen and the AMLs will go away. But it’s not that simple.

Estrogen (at least in theory) merely creates receptors so the progesterone (P) in your system can break down into the sex hormones instead of adrenal hormones like cortisol.

But what about men with AMLs? Are they low in E relative to their P? We have no data to tell us one way or the other.

However, one new friend of the blog, a 20-year-old male, has just had a ton of lab tests done recently (including sex hormones and cortisol) and promises to send me a copy of the results. I may be able to spot nuances in the ratios or levels that doctors aren’t typically looking for.

Another new friend of the blog is a pregnant woman who began having the AMLs in her 6th month.

Both of their stories present very strong evidence of hormonal components associated with the AML/OCD symptoms. His initial labs, for example, say he’s got normal levels of a key hormone, but other symptoms tell me he is severely low. I hope our pregnant friend can also send lab results so I can see if perhaps her hormone ratios might be off, with too little E relative to the amount of P being made by the placenta.

At any rate, I am back to normal for now, having relived the terror of wondering whether I’d ever get that madness out of my head and be normal again. And my empathy has been renewed for all of you who are still suffering.

Curiously, I noticed a song in my head yesterday. But this felt different. It felt as if it was in the front of my head, instead of in that gaping, sucking hole in the center. (In fact I don’t feel that hole is there at all.) The song did not feel sticky or disruptive. It didn’t yell. It was just a small, well-behaved, pleasant memory floating around harmlessly in the stream of lots of other quiet thoughts.

I wish this same state of tranquility for all of you.

Pat

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