It has been two years and seven months since I had the misfortune to discover how effective the hormone oxytocin is in helping one cope with pathological grief. That was the same month I gave a little research presentation at the MIND Institute at UC Davis about hyperbaric oxygen in treating children with autism. It was through my work with children on the autism spectrum that I became adept at using oxytocin for treating fear and anxiety, but it took me over three weeks after my son passed from a train accident until I realized it might help me.
Oxytocin is the hormone of trust and love, but it nicely blocks fear inputs into the amygdalae of the brain, a part of the limbic system. First and foremost, I need to explain what I am calling pathological grief, as I experienced it. I had completely lost the ability to modulate obsessive thoughts about how my son died, what he might have experienced, what if I had been able to be there, and so on. This collection of fear, anxiety, and panic took on a life of its own as if it were a separate thought-stream I had no control of. It was suffocating and debilitating.
I also experienced a most unusual phenomenon – in the hour after sunset and in the hour before sunrise, I had tapped into a most unpleasant circadian emotional cycle. The Swedes call the hour before sunrise the hour of the wolf, the time when your worst fear is realized. Oh boy, I can attest to that. Most people know the hour after sunset as the bewitching hour, which can affect babies or old folks with dementia.
The hour of the wolf was the worst because it would catch me off guard if I happened to be sleeping, so I made a point of setting my alarm to wake up in advance of it and occupy myself creating tones with quartz bowls until the sun came up. The evening wasn’t as bad, but it was still bad. I had to control my breath as if I was in a Lamaze class and breathe my way through the hour.
I still remember that very first time I used oxytocin. I waited for the bewitching hour, until I was good and affected by its spell, and then I squirted two doses up my nose. It took about ten minutes to fully kick in, but it worked. My obsessive fear, panic and anxiety fell away from me and I had emotional equilibrium.
I purposely thought again about one of my disturbing obsessions and nothing stopped me from doing so, but as soon as I no longer wanted to think about it, it drifted away and no longer had a life of its own. There are only so many oxytocin receptors in the brain so they will be quickly saturated for some time. It will not become addicting. I didn’t need to use oxytocin for more than a few weeks.
Now, if you and your physician think oxytocin is right for you, then it is a prescription item and will need to be ordered. I had a compounding pharmacy make up my nasal oxytocin. Your physician can have the local drug store order it as it is used to treat new breastfeeding moms having trouble with milk letdown. Anxiety will stop milk letdown, or should I say a lack of oxytocin will stop the flow.
You will need to have a saline nasal pump, empty it out and put the oxytocin in the pump instead. You will also need a syringe to pull it out of the vial so your physician will need to order you one as well. I do this for my patients; I just have them bring the oxytocin vials to my office and I transfer it into a nasal pump. Having said all that, it is probably better to obtain it from a compounding pharmacy known to supply the oxytocin nasal spray, such as Hopewell, Lee Silsby, College or Wellness (four compounding pharmacies I know that will prepare oxytocin nasal spray) as most neighborhood pharmacy won’t have it in stock.
The bottom line is a physician will need to order it as it is not an over-the-counter item. This may sound like a lot of trouble to get, but it really isn’t, and it is really worth having it. Do not take it if you are pregnant as there are oxytocin receptors on the pregnant uterus and it will cause it to contract.
There is a tourist train that passes near my house in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I still live. I hear it blow its whistle every evening during the summer just after sunset. It was the last sound my son heard on earth, albeit from another train in another location; nevertheless, before my oxytocin experience, I would cringe when I heard it and the sound of its rolling stock.
Today, when I hear the whistle I think not of tragedy, but of adventure. I think of the excitement old-time tourists must have felt taking trains to the National Parks in the Southwest be they in Arizona or Utah, and I think of the good times Galen and I had on the train at Disneyland.
Kenneth Stoller 2011