About a month and a half ago I went back home to Colorado to do two things:
- My annual elk bowhunt with my Dad deep in the Rocky Moutains
- Visit my neurologist to discuss the possibility of reducing my medication either partially or even completely.
Last year my dad and I went up into the mountains for an elk hunt for a week. Even though we were unsuccessful (those hunting shows make it seem a lot easier than it really is), the hunt ended up being one of my favorite trips of all time. So, once the tag drawings came out this year, I couldn’t wait the almost 5 months until elk archery season began. Now that I was familiar with our hunting location, I did my fair share of training to make sure my legs could handle the extremely rugged terrain.
Unfortunately for our hunt, Mother Nature had something else in mind. The day after I landed in Colorado, it began to rain, HARD. That’s not unusual for that time of year but it just didn’t stop raining; for almost a week. The result was the famed 100 Year Flood that we had all heard about growing up.
Rivers and creeks all around Colorado overflowed and completely flooded parts of the state including the access roads to our hunting grounds. It was unreal to see how much was really underwater just from a week straight of rain. Even most of the farmland east of Boulder County looked like an Ocean Spray commercial. All in total, there was over $2 BILLION in damages as a result of the flood. Below is a photo from the Boulder, CO newspaper The Daily Camera of a mountain road similar to the one we would take hunting, completely collapsed into a raging creek. If you would like to donate to the Colorado Flood Relief please click HERE.
So needless to say, our hunt was cancelled. And honestly, I’m glad it started raining when it did rather than just a few days later otherwise I would have been stuck in the mountains with no way out. While I’m confident we would have been ok, it still wouldn’t be the ideal situation, stuck in the mountains while it poured for a week. Anyway, there will always be next year, after coming up empty two years in a row, I’m determined to get an elk next year for sure!
Now I know that I mentioned another reason for me heading home in September was to visit with my neurologist about the direction of my epilepsy treatment. Leading up to my trip, I had been battling some fairly intense depression which is a common side effect (one of many I was experiencing) for Depakote, one of my medications, and I wanted to at the very least, lower my dose.
When I spoke with the Physician’s Assistant about the side effects and my desire to reduce the dosage, he agreed that we could try it. He wrote me out a plan to wean myself off of the Depakote completely!
He thought is was especially encouraging that I had been seizure free for a number of years and that last year when I had an EEG and sleep study, it was found that I had no seizure activity or central apnea (a common sleep disorder in people with epilepsy). We discussed what I can expect during the taper off phase and what my particular type of seizures thrive off of.
He explained that the ‘Big Three’ factors outside of nutrition that can set off my seizures are:
- STRESS ~ mostly emotional but too much physical stress can set off a breakout seizure as well. My training will have to change somewhat as a result. No more brutal and long met cons in the CrossFit realm. Anything under 15 minutes should be ok for the time being and I should focus solely on lifting heavy weights (I like this plan as I’ve never really enjoyed the long grinders that CrossFit can dish out from time to time). As far as dealing with emotional stress, I’ve found that getting outside for an hour a day minimum helps and I’ve started to drink chamomile tea and cut out caffeine or any other stimulants.
- Alcohol Consumption ~ This one goes without saying as hard as it is to abide by due to how it can change brain chemistry and is quite hard on the liver. Even though it will be tough for me to quit alcohol for a period of time, it will be worth it in the end if I remain seizure free without the aid of one more pharmaceutical.
- Sleep ~ I knew all about this one as well just from personal experience. Throughout my life, I’ve noticed that any breakout seizure that I experience is usually due to a chronic lack of sleep. I plan to attack this by getting a MINIMUM of 9 but preferably 10 hours of sleep each night. Since I’ve come off of the Depakote, I’ve noticed that if I don’t reach this sleep quota, I feel very foggy headed, sluggish and spacey. All of these symptoms can mean that I have a seizure building so I now make sure that I get plenty of sleep as a strong base. There are also steps I’m taking to improve my sleep quality which I’ll outline in a later post.
Intuitively, I think I knew all of these factors before since I’ve experienced each and every one of them. In the past however, I had a little ‘wiggle room’ in a sense with these factors since I was taking a pretty heavy duty medication to counteract the effects, but now, I have to remain much more diligent since I have less help from pharmaceuticals.
Another topic that I brought up with the PA was the use of Marijuana, specifically Cannabidiol use for epilepsy treatment. As I asked the question, I could see he was recently asked this question a lot. Most likely because of the many news stories reporting the efficacy of CBD in certain cases.
The PA explained to me that they aren’t ready yet to prescribe CBD due to the lack of clinical evidence of it’s efficacy. As of yet, he explained that there is a whole lot of anecdotal evidence out there but not enough clinical. He also said that he’s seen studies where CBD can either improve symptoms or it can worsen symptoms in about the same percentage of people. While this information was disappointing for me to hear, he said that they are constantly studying marijuana and CBD for epilepsy so they haven’t ruled it out as a possibility, just that it’s still in it’s infancy in terms of therapeutic options for now.
Now I know that this post is 6 weeks after the fact, but I figured I would test out the plan that we mapped out and I would report on how it’s working so far, especially since it is Epilepsy Awareness Month. I feel like now is the appropriate time to share. Here is the plan outlined for me by my neurologist to help me stay off of medication and improve my cognitive function:
- Avoid Multi-tasking so that you can focus your attention. I have trouble multi-tasking as it is because I feel like I have ADD or something which results in a whole bunch of things not getting done vs just one thing getting accomplished.
- Explain new information to yourself in your own words. This I’ve found pretty useful. I’m pretty adept at retaining information once I understand it, but if I’m not focused on that new info, it will most likely leave the confines of my memory and be lost for good. Using this technique has helped me retain more information.
- Other memory strengtheners like mnemonic devices, visual, writing things down etc.
So far, I’m a week into my time without any Depakote whatsoever. I’m hopeful that if I stay diligent in my diet and lifestyle, that I’ll remain seizure free. I already feel really good even with the mood swings involved with tapering off of this medication (it is used for mood disorders as well). I’ve found that the tapering side effects are greatly diminished with a proper regimen attached.
Like I did last year, in honor of Epilepsy Awareness Month to donate money earned for the “Bacon For A Cure” t shirts this month to the Charlie Foundation, a great charity dedicated to dietary therapy for epilepsy. The Charlie Foundation is the reason why I first became aware of dietary therapy to begin with. To learn more about this great organization, visit them here.
I really look forward to this month and posting more information regarding epilepsy and other people’s fight with it. Not too mention, there are still some stigmas surrounding epilepsy that I’d like to do my part to dispel.
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