My bipolar depression saga

For those who are interested, I am chronicling my bipolar depression saga over at This Journey Is My Own. The first post is Journey of My Bipolar Depression. You can read all my posts on mental illness on that blog by clicking here.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams, singer most popularly known as part of the trio Destiny’s Child, has revealed that she struggles with depression and has struggled with depression since she was a teenager.

I had to choose to get out of bed and do whatever I needed to do to be happy.

A simplistic approach, but we’ll merely assume that Williams’s depression has been mild.

Sometimes you are going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed or some situation than might have you down in the dumps, but you have to choose to be happy.

According to The Miami Herald, Williams has not taken any medication but has used exercise, therapy, and positive thinking. But Williams isn’t anti-medication either.

Go see a professional so that they can assess you. It’s OK if you’re going through something. Depression is not OK, but it is OK to go get help.

Celebrity Sensitivity: LeAnn Rimes

LeAnn RImesThe latest star to reveal that she’s suffered from depression and contemplated suicide is LeAnn Rimes. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Rimes confesses to cheating on her husband and admits that she had thoughts about taking her own life during the ordeal. According to the UK’s Daily Mail, the 30-year-old country singer checked into a health facility to deal with anxiety and stress after being criticized for her affair.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Ebselen, an experimental bipolar disorder drug, has been found by British researchers to work like lithium but without lithium’s side effects. In mice. In testing, mice that were somehow made manic with “small doses of amphetamine” were placated with ebselen. Researchers are now moving on to testing on healthy human volunteers before studying those suffering with bipolar disorder.


A study, published in JAMA Neurology, discovered that retired NFL players were more likely to suffer from depression and brain impairment. The study comes on the heels of the suicides of Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, and Junior Seau. Researchers suspect a link between “hard hits to the head and depression.” These problems have also been noted in NHL players and combat soldiers who have suffered a brain injury. Many of the retired NFL players developed a type of brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Duerson and Easterling were found to have CTE during autopsy. In related sports news, the UK’s Telegraph reports that depression is a problem for soccer players in England and Scotland.


According to Time magazine, ketamine—a drug that induces hallucinations and other trippy effects—may hold potential as an antidepressant.

And now scientists report on two formulations of drugs with ketamine’s benefits, but without its consciousness-altering risks, that could advance the drug even further toward a possible treatment for depression.

Ketamine is seen as a fast-acting antidepressant for those at high risk for suicide. GLYX-13, mentioned here previously, is a ketamine-like antidepressant currently in clinical trials. AstraZeneca has AZD6765, a “ketamine mimic” that does not appear to be as effective as actual ketamine.

New research has discovered that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Even though the study evaluated men and women, the results for women were overwhelmingly striking.

It finds that women with symptoms of depression were 2.5 times more likely to have experienced domestic violence over their lifetimes than those in the general population, while those with anxiety disorders were more than 3.5 times more likely to have suffered domestic abuse. The extra risk grew to seven times more likely among those with post-traumatic stress disorder.


An analysis of more than 1 million Scandinavian women has shown that taking SSRIs during pregnancy may not increase the risk of stillbirth. This study could help revolutionize treating depression in pregnant women.

“From our study, we don’t find any reason to stop taking your medication, because untreated depression may be harmful for the pregnancy and the baby,” [Dr. Olof Stephansson, the lead author of the new report] told Reuters Health.


Finally, “gender identity disorder” has been removed from the DSM-V and has been replaced by “gender dysphoria,” a condition in which people are concerned about their gender identity. “Gender identity disorder” seemed to stigmatize gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals. The continuing inclusion of “gender dysphoria,” however, ensures that people suffering with gender identity disorder still have access to health care treatment. (In my opinion, the renaming of “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” is really a politically correct change. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM back in 1973.)

Loose Screws Mental Health News

According to an article on PsychCentral.com, bisexual men who don’t admit to their sexuality are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. The study, performed at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, evaluated 203 men who had female partners but did not disclose their same-sex behavior to them.


A study done in Australia has found that an MRI can detect young people at risk for bipolar disorder. Researchers studied the brain activity of young people (the article didn’t specify ages) and determined that those at risk for bipolar disorder had reduced brain responses when shown pictures of a variety of facial expressions.


Chalk up the next article to crafty cosmetic surgery advertising. A new study has found that Botox might help prevent depression because it prevents a person from frowning. The study evaluated 84 people who did not respond well to antidepressants. Some were given a Botox injection and the others a placebo. Of the Botox-receiving subjects, 27 percent reported not suffering from depression. PsychCentral notes, however, that the findings haven’t been reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.


Have a dog dealing with depression or seasonal affective disorder? The solution may be to get a light box. Apparently, Max Marvin is the founder of Pawsitive Lighting that offers the Sol Box, a 10,000 lux light box that caters specifically to dogs and cats. The light box will set you back $199.


And finally, a new study suggests that depression in the elderly may be an indication of dementia. I’m a little skeptical of this study considering that 9 percent of Americans already suffer from depression and 3.4 percent suffer from major depression, according to the CDC.

When researchers evaluated 2,000 elderly New Yorkers for depression and then followed them, they found that depression accompanied memory declines but did not necessarily come first.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

An antipsychotic inhalation powder has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of agitation in adults with schizophrenia or bipolar I disorder. While loxapine (brand name: Adasuve) by Alexza Pharmaceuticals acts rapidly, the side effects include “bronchospasm and increased mortality in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis,” according to Medscape. In case you don’t know, bronchospasm can lead to acute respiratory problems in people with lung disease, asthma, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Plans are for the drug to only be accessible through a medical facility with the ability to treat bronchospasms.

In related and somewhat interesting news, the Medscape article also notes that 3.2 million people in the U.S. are being treated for schizophrenia or bipolar I. “Of these, approximately 90% will develop agitation during the course of their illness.”

That’s an incredibly high number of people who develop agitation. Just sayin’.


According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, patients in a study dealing with depression seemed to have high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for increased risk of heart and inflammatory disease. The lead researcher notes that “people with increased CRP have a two- to threefold risk of depression.” It is not clear whether CRP causes depression or is simply a sign of it. Increased levels of CRP tend to be seen in obese patients and those with chronic diseases.

“More than 21 million Americans suffer from depression, a leading cause of disability, according to Mental Health America.”

Note: the 2011 estimate of those residing in the U.S. stands at more than 311 million.


Depression is increasing among Japan’s public school teachers.

“A report by the Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture, Science and Technology shows that in 2011, around 5,200 public school teachers had to go on sick leave due to various mental illnesses, including severe depression.”

The Japan Daily Press article also notes:

“The study also highlights the fact that the main reason for the increasing depression is a school environment that puts too much workload and pressure on the teachers that they cannot have a healthy work-life balance anymore, much less deal with students, their guardians and the paper work that comes with all of these. (emphasis mine)

I recently finished a book by actor Tony Danza called I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had in which he chronicles his yearlong stint in Philadelphia’s inner city public school system. He echoes some of these sentiments as well. After trying to teach his students, he notes that it is difficult not to get involved in their personal lives as well. In the Epilogue, Danza writes:

“…I can only do so much. Where does teaching stop, and start? Where should it? I don’t really know. To engage my students, I found that I had to become engaged in their lives, their problems, and their futures. That connection was what made the job the most rewarding. Yet it was also the intensity of that involvement that, by the end of the year, had made the job of teaching so much tougher than I’d ever expected.”

It seems that Japan’s public school teachers are no different from American public school teachers.


Although 38 states require mental health background checks, only a quarter of states actually report their statistics to the federal NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).


And surprise, according to a recent study, pot could lead to psychosis in teens or teens who smoke pot can later develop psychosis. I find it interesting that teens were actually evaluated after smoking pot.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Lady Gaga

According to the Daily Mirror, Lady Gaga will be setting up free counseling buses at her Born This Way Ball tour. Lady Gaga said:

At the BornBrave bus you have have access to professional private or group chats about mental health, depression, bullying, school and friends. I feel like most kids don’t look for help because they feel embarrassed so mum and I wanted to break the stigmas around ‘help’ and make it fun.

Talk about a celeb being sensitive to the needs of others.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

In the wake of the Newtown, CT shooting, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre called for a national registry of those who are mentally ill. According to the Washington Post, the federal government does not possess the constitutional authority “to require state agencies to report data.” All the federal government can do is either offer or withhold funding, as it did in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting when it provided additional funding for state governments that shared 90 percent of their mental health records. But it seems that 38 states already maintain an active database that “require or authorize the use of” mental health records during gun background checks. And the Gun Control Act of 1968 does not allow sales of firearms to people who have been institutionalized or considered to be mentally “defective.”

For the purpose of firearms sales, I support the idea of maintaining a database of people who have been institutionalized. This could prevent a person from being a harm to himself or to others. I speak as a person who has been institutionalized for being a harm to herself more than once. If I’d had access to a firearm, I wouldn’t be here right now. There may be many others who are in the same boat.


The New York Times reported on mental health coverage through insurance. In any given year, 26 percent of adults have a mental disorder, and 6 percent of adults have a mental illness that prevents them from functioning, according to the NIMH. In addition, 21 percent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 undergo a “severe emotional disturbance.” But it seems as though 85 percent of employers offer some kind of mental health coverage through insurance, and 84 percent of employers with more than 500 employees allowed access to in-network and out-of-network mental health treatment. Beginning in 2014, insurance plans will be required to cover mental health disorders as part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The New York Times notes that many psychiatrists, however, don’t accept insurance:

Plenty of psychiatrists in private practice accept no insurance at all, though it is not clear how many; their professional organizations claim to have no recent or decent data on the percentage of people in private practice who take cash on the barrelhead, write people a receipt and send them off to their insurance company to request out-of-network reimbursement if they have any at all.

My psychiatrist does not accept insurance. He writes me a receipt, and I am to seek out-of-network reimbursement, a claim that has been repeatedly rejected by my insurance. The NYT is right on the money in this instance. But I am happy with my psychiatrist and would rather pay out of pocket for him without reimbursement than to find another psychiatrist who is in network.


According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California is ahead of every other state in covering mental health services with public money. But as always, there are critics who say California does not go far enough, even though in 2004, California voters approved Proposition 63 that funnels $1 billion annually for mental health services by taxing the state’s highest earners. But funding is being cut, not just in California but also nationally, according to NAMI.

Overall, California cut $768 million from its state mental health services outlay during the past three fiscal years, according to a November 2011 report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. California’s 21 percent reduction in mental health funding over that period is the seventh-highest among all states.

Nationally, states cut more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets for mental health services since 2009, according to the 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

I’m not sure what can be done to stop funding cuts of mental health services when state budgets are slashing services across the board.


And finally, according to NY1 News, New York City Mayor Bloomberg has announced an initiative to get mentally ill people out of jail and into treatment facilities. The mayor’s office estimates that 36 percent of inmates suffer from some kind of mental disorder. The city initiative will attempt to “reduce incarceration rates, improve jail safety, and lower crime.”

Celebrity Sensitivity: David Letterman

Letterman_David
David Letterman has gone public about his struggle with depression. He admits that he was reluctant to take any antidepressant medications to help with the problem. After coming down with shingles, Letterman also developed an anxiety disorder. But he finally came to the end of himself and asked his doctor “for anything just to get rid of this depression.” No word on whether he’s doing much better, but the assumption is that he probably is.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

According to an article in USA Today, researchers have found that siblings who argue could have negative effects on their mental health.

Researchers report that conflicts about personal space and property, such as borrowing items without asking and hanging around when older siblings have friends over, are associated with increased anxiety and lower self-esteem in teens a year later. And fights over issues of fairness and equality, such as whose turn it is to do chores, are associated with later depression in teens.

I’d like to tell these siblings to get over it, but I don’t have any siblings of my own to relate my experience to.


PBS’s Frontline reports that most soldiers who commit suicide have never seen combat or even been deployed. According to the Defense Department, the Army has the sharpest rate of suicides of all the military branches. About 53 percent of military personnel who took their lives in 2011 had no history of deployment to active combat zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Even more troubling is that 85 percent of those who committed suicide may have been deployed but not involved in direct combat. Even though the military has invested $50 million to study mental health and suicide, a stigma of getting help still remains. It seems as though military personnel would rather take their own lives than seek help.


An antidepressant called GLYX-13, currently under study, appears to work within hours and last for up to a week. The lead researcher reports little to no side effects on the drug, which is injected intravenously. The drug is in phase 2, which means that its effectiveness and safety are still being tested. I have my doubts about an intravenous drug. If doctors are not currently testing patients’ serotonin levels, how would they be able to prescribe an intravenous antidepressant?


Depression has passed asthma as the top disability among North American (U.S. and Canadian) teens.

Asthma had been the largest contributor to YLDs (years lived with disabilities) for youths in that age range in the US and Canada in 1990, but the study published in The Lancet on Thursday led by researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle showed that in this group depression surpassed asthma to claim the number one spot in 2010.

Back in the 1990s, depression was not widely regarded or evaluated among teens. It was still “suck it up” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” My depression was viewed as laziness or “senioritis” among my teachers. I had no sympathy and very little leeway. Now, mental health is being taken more seriously for teens, and I think that’s a good thing.


See you if you can keep an elder person in mind during this holiday season. Senior depression is always on the rise during the holiday season due to problems with health, loneliness, or finances.

Adam Lanza, Violence, and Mental Illness

Much has been made of the Newtown shooting. After many inaccuracies by the media, the truth finally emerged that 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother then proceeded to his old school to murder 20 children and 6 adults before killing himself. Then another detail emerged that he may have struggled with Asperger’s syndromeThinking the Unthinkable (also now known as the infamous “I Am Adam Lanza’s mother” post) at the Anarchist Soccer Mom’s blog has gone viral about violent people who struggle with mental illness. (Or rather, a mentally ill person who struggles with being violent.)

I want you to know that you don’t need to be mentally ill to do what Adam Lanza did. His plan to kill was not merely cold but also very calculated. That is not the rash act of a mentally ill person; that is the meticulous act of a mastermind. He destroyed his hard drive beforehand so people would not be able to figure out why he did what he did, and according to the Daily Telegraph, rigged “his semi-automatic rifle… to fire with maximum efficiency.”

Now, autism groups and moms who have children with Asperger’s are scrambling to defend autistic people from the stigma that already comes with mental illness. The truth is while mentally ill people have moments of violence—I have kicked and punched my own mother in the throes of bipolar disorder—they are never planned acts of violence. Psych Central addressed the issue of mental illness and violence back in 1998:

Unless drugs or alcohol are involved, people with mental disorders do not pose any more threat to the community than anyone else.

It’s high time that people stop blaming cold, calculated acts of murder on mental illness.

(From a Christian perspective, sin, or an evil heart, is the real reason why things turned out the way they did.)

Chronic Mononucleosis

In May, I was diagnosed with chronic mono due to a high Epstein-Barr virus count and constant complaints of feeling tired. (According to my doctor, there are many doctors who don’t believe that chronic mono exists.) Chronic mono is a gateway illness that can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). (Although CFS can have other triggers unrelated to EBV.) There’s not much information about chronic mono, but here’s what I’ve found:

According to Livestrong.com, mononucleosis is caused by exposure to the Epstein-Barr Virus, or EBV. Apparently, close to 95 percent of adults between ages 35 and 40 carry an inactive form of this virus. While many people may never experience symptoms, those who do experience symptoms may see a resolution within 2 months. Those who experience symptoms for 6 months or more are likely to have chronic mono.

What are the symptoms of mono?

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Liver and/or spleen enlargement

While I haven’t had swollen lymph nodes or fever, I have had recurring sore throats (not lately since I’ve been on a supplement) and severe fatigue. As far as I know, I don’t have an enlarged liver or spleen.

There’s not much reliable information on the Internet about chronic mono so please feel free to chime in if you know anything about the illness or virus.

It’s Official: I’m on Abilify and Prozac

A cursory search on Google for Abilify + Prozac didn’t yield too many helpful results. I suppose it’s not a common drug combination. So far, I haven’t had any real side effects. I take Prozac in the morning and Abilify at night. I’ve also started taking my vitamins again after shirking them for quite a while: Fish Oil with Omega-3s, Iron (for slight anemia), Vitamin B-Complex with Vitamin C, and a women’s multivitamin.

I am a little nervous about taking an SSRI again because the last SSRI I was on (Effexor/venlafaxine) produced some nasty side effects (mania, night sweats, vivid dreams, brain shivers) along with the one I liked (significant weight loss). When I last blogged about Prozac, my only side effect was somnolence—a side effect I don’t appear to be experiencing this time around.

Are you on a drug combination? If so, what and is it working for you? If you used to be on a drug combination, what was it and did it help?

Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal Thoughts.

Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. They are all rolled up in one.

I am anxious about a lot of things these days. From something as mundane as sitting here typing on the computer to driving to cold calling a prospective client (which may never pan out because I’m too anxious to call right now). My anxiety has been debilitating in the past where I didn’t want to leave my home, and I fear it’s getting to the point of debilitation again on some days.

My anxiety depresses me. It keeps me from doing things that no one would think twice about. But here I sit, a prisoner in my own body, freaking out about nearly everything. To escape this, combined with my severe lethargy, I crawl into bed and sleep, hoping that when I wake up, things will be better. But they usually are not.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have a life many people would envy: a loving husband, a supportive family, and a steady job. I am thankful for the good things in my life. But this attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness doesn’t take away the depression inside of me.

I do not want to go back to the hospital. If I fear anything worse than death, it may be going back to a psych hospital. I have passing suicidal thoughts about hanging myself, but I haven’t been able to act upon it. I can’t determine whether I am a harm to myself in which case I would need to go to the hospital. The point of the hospital (for me) is to get me away from things that would cause immediate harm to myself. But I can’t be locked up in a hospital forever. (I guess I could in a state institution but that would be a nightmare.)

Somehow, existing in this jumbled mix is me. Somewhere inside, I am bubbly, wonderfully wacky, and beautifully strange. The depression and anxiety fuzz all of that. I am only some of what I used to be. I go to sleep, hoping for some kind of reprieve from this dark cloud that hangs over me.

What is depression like?

For me, it’s like losing pieces of myself . . . one by one. The things that used to interest me aren’t so interesting anymore.

What’s depression like for you?

Don Cornelius Died . . . So What?

Image from washingtonpost.com

On February 1, 2012, Los Angeles police declared “Soul Train” legend Don Cornelius dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. As my Facebook feed filled up with R.I.P. Don Cornelius, I thought to myself, We’re not addressing the larger issue here: how he died.

It got me thinking about suicide rates among the black community. Suicide is something largely not spoken of among black people. No one likes to discuss suicide after someone’s self-inflicted death, but I think it’s important to address the issue. A study released in 2006 showed that each year 70,000 black people try to kill themselves and about 1.4 million or 4 percent attempt suicide at least once in their lives. From an article in the Associated Press:

While depression is strongly tied to suicidal behavior in whites, anxiety disorders were more common than depression in blacks who attempted suicide in the study. That is an important racial difference that could alert doctors to black patients who might be contemplating suicide, said [Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard University psychiatry professor and race relations specialist].

According to an article that appeared in the Journal of Black Psychology:

Historically, suicidal behaviors among African Americans received scant attention because of the belief that very few African Americans completed suicide; it was also assumed that they did not experience depression. Blacks were historically viewed as a psychologically unsophisticated race that were naturally high spirited and unburdened with a sense of responsibility.

Suicide rates among black men are growing. A 2007 statistic from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.3 percent of them are likely to kill themselves. Mr. Cornelius was 75.

There’s no indication that Mr. Cornelius let anything on to family or friends. In a Washington Post article, Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Mr. Cornelius did not seem upset when they spoke a few days prior to Mr. Cornelius’s death. Police say that Mr. Cornelius left no suicide note and are investigating his mental state. They have ruled out a homicide.

A quick snapshot toward the end of Mr. Cornelius’s life shows that he had serious health issues and may have endured a bitter divorce with his second wife. This information doesn’t provide definitive proof that Mr. Cornelius was contemplating suicide, however, it may give us a peek at what may have contributed to his suicide.

Significant health issues are often overlooked in regard to a person’s mental state. Sometimes, a person won’t let on how much pain he or she may be in even though the pain may be unbearable. Mr. Cornelius may have been very lonely and in a lot of physical pain. Those two factors combined may have led him to take his life. But I am speculating—no one knows that for sure.

People will wonder how this unfortunate act could have been prevented. Unfortunately, it couldn’t. Mr. Cornelius did not tell anyone that he was depressed (as far as the media and police know), suffering, or contemplating taking his life. Generally, people most determined to take their own lives will not speak of it to anyone.

But there is a lesson to be learned here. We can encourage people of all races to speak to someone when life gets to be overwhelming and too burdensome. We don’t need anyone else who is blessed with gifts and talents to commit suicide because he or she feels as though no one will listen and no one cares. 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-SUICIDE are good resources with people who will listen and genuinely care. May we all learn from Mr. Cornelius’s lesson and get help when we truly need it.

Lamictal & Abilify: Wacky Side Effects

Images from rxlist.com & drugs.com

Here’s a list of the side effects I’ve experienced recently taking Lamictal and Abilify (I can’t attribute any side effect to a specific drug since I am taking both):

1. Somnolence (I am sleepy within minutes after taking the drugs.)

2. Dizziness/vertigo

3. Tremors (At night, I think I’m having convulsions but my husband says I don’t move.)

4. Delusions (I think I’m dying before I go to sleep.)

5. Disciplined sleep regimen (I wake up for the day when my alarm goes off. That’s consistently been 5:20 in the morning.)

6. Poor balance (This may be related to the dizziness and vertigo.)

 

I’ll add more to this list as I experience any additional side effects.

Lamictal and Abilify: Back on Medication

Images from rxlist.com & drugs.com

After 2 years of not being on medication, I am back to a daily regimen of lamotrigine (Lamictal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) with lorazepam (Ativan) as needed.

Many of you may know, or may not know, what I decided to taper off of medication so that I could get pregnant. Well, that hasn’t happened. And my thoughts got to a point where it became life and death again. I didn’t want to go back to the psych hospital so I asked my psychiatrist for help.

My psychiatrist (God bless him) is a very conservative psychiatrist. He was the one who helped me off of medication 2 years ago, and he’s the one titrating my dosages up now. Lamotrigine is for long-term maintenance of the bipolar disorder, aripiprazole is for short-term maintenance of bipolar disorder and SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and lorazepam assists with severe anxiety as needed. I started taking the medication four weeks ago, and I’m only on 50 mg of lamotrigine and 5 mg of Abilify. There will be no increase on Abilify and I titrate up on lamotrigine every 2 weeks. My next big jump is 100 mg.

My psychiatrist expects me to come off of aripiprazole within the next few months (hopefully by December). If not, I will have to get regular blood sugar and cholesterol tests performed. He will adjust all medications as necessary in the event that I am pregnant. He’s a great psychiatrist; he’s willing to work with me based on my situation rather than him throwing drugs at me. He allows me to have complete control over my treatment regimen, which is something I like and respect.

In the past, I may have come off as anti-medication, but really, I’m not. I advocate for use of medication in a necessary, responsible manner. In 2010, 253 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants.¹ (Keep in mind that the U.S. is estimated to have 307 million people in the country.² That’s about 82.4% of the population taking antidepressants.) This is not responsible; this is too much. In the comments, people have rightly corrected me in the assumption that 1 person can get multiple prescriptions in a year; I failed to remember that.

Let’s assume a person is on 1 antidepressant (the majority of people take 1). Beginning in January, that person gets 5 refills for 30 days. By May, the person will need another 5 refills. Then another prescription is dispensed in October. That’s 3 prescriptions per person. Of course, this can vary depending on how often the doctor will see a patient so let’s generalize and say 5 prescriptions per person per year. My calculations for prescriptions per American mean that nearly 20 percent (about 17%) of the population is on antidepressants. Sure, it’s not my original ridiculous number of 82.4%, but I still think this is pretty high. (By the way, feel free to correct my stats in the comments if necessary; I don’t claim to be a math wizard.)

While I am not on an antidepressant, I am one of the millions of Americans who is on medication for mental illness. For 2 years, honestly, I’d forgotten I had anything relating to mental illness. It was nice to wake up and be myself without thinking about me plus bipolar disorder. Every morning and every evening, it’s now me plus bipolar disorder plus SAD plus anxiety. These are all real symptoms that need to be managed. I don’t want to be dependent on this medication forever, but I may have to. If it helps me manage my suicidal thoughts and function with people in life, then it’s worth it.

Your turn: What do you think about taking psychotropic medication? Do the symptoms outweigh the risks for you? What’s been your experience in taking (or not taking) psych meds?

Notes:

1. Shirley S. Wang, “Antidepressants Given More Widely,” The Wall Street Journal. Published on August 4, 2011. Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903885604576486294087849246.html. Accessed October 20, 2011.
2. Google Public Data Explorer. Population in the U.S. Last updated: July 28, 2011. Available at: http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=kf7tgg1uo9ude_&met_y=population&tdim=true&dl=en&hl=en&q=us+population. Accessed October 20, 2011.

Anxiety

I’ve experienced anxiety for the past two days unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I’m afraid to do anything significant which includes leaving my home. I’m afraid to drive, travel, and interact with people other than my husband and impersonal Internet communication. I’ve cried every day and every night since Sunday. As part of anxiety issues, I’m battling depression as well. I’m simply paralyzed by fear and afraid to venture beyond my home. I’m somewhat paranoid about being watched as well. And no, I’m not on medication.

I don’t know what to do. Anyone have any advice to offer?

Celebrity Sensitivity: Catherine Zeta-Jones & Demi Lovato

Image from people.com

Catherine Zeta-Jones has bravely put her face on the cover People magazine—and on the face of bipolar disorder. And in a less publicized interview, 18-year-old Demi Lovato of teen Disney fame admitted last month to People that she too also suffers from bipolar disorder.

“This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them,” the [Zeta-Jones], 41, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement in this week’s cover story. “If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it. There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.”

Last month, Lovato said:

“I never found out until I went into treatment that I was bipolar. Looking back it makes sense,” she says of her diagnosis. “There were times when I was so manic, I was writing seven songs in one night and I’d be up until 5:30 in the morning.”

I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of mental illness fads, but bipolar disorder has such a stigma attached to it that celebrities who seriously suffer from the disorder have a chance to put a face on and say “There’s no shame in getting help.” And while psychotropic drugs certainly aren’t a cure-all in conjunction with talk and behavioral therapy, bipolar disorder can be managed—not just for these celebs but also for anyone who suffers from the disorder.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Catherine Zeta-Jones

Image from people.com

Of all the celebrities I would have pegged with some kind of mental health disorder, Ms. Zeta-Jones would have never made the list. After supporting her husband Michael Douglas through his cancer treatment, she remained quiet about herself only outspoken on issues pertaining to how upbeat and positive the couple was on Douglas’s treatment.

But clearly, being a bedrock for her husband has taken its toll on her. Last week, she checked into a mental health facility seeking treatment for her bipolar II disorder. Bipolar II is characterized by frequent depressive episodes rather than a constant swing of manic-depressive ones. While only Ms. Zeta-Jones knows what’s been going on inside her mind and her heart, I can only imagine that she’s been suffering with some depression for a while but quietly put it aside as her husband struggled to become healthy again.

In the past, I’ve used the Celebrity Sensitivity feature of this blog to mock celebrities who seem to be diagnosed with nearly any mental illness fad that goes around (normally, depression), but this time my heart goes out to Ms. Zeta-Jones who decided to seek treatment for herself instead of putting on a face like everything’s okay and toughing it out.

My Dark Passenger: The Suicide Side

Image from zazzle.com

Although I’m not a fan of the Dexter books or TV series, I’ve been introduced to both by way of my husband who enjoys both forms of Dexter media.

The other day I flipped through Jeff Lindsay’s latest, Dexter Is Delicious, and read a little bit about the part of Dexter that he calls his “Dark Passenger,” the voice inside of him that compels him to kill. (But he justifies this by killing murderers. An interesting twist on the anti-hero.)

I ruminated on this as I’ve been dealing with a lot of suicidal thoughts lately. And really, there’s nothing wrong in my life that would cause these suicidal thoughts to arise. It’s just something in me gone haywire. It’s like a part of me that’s not really a part of me that I can kind of talk back to. It sounds otherworldly and crazy.

It is.

So I’ve taken to calling the suicidal voice (unlike Dexter’s homicidal one) in my head the “Dark Passenger.” My husband kind of likes this too as it identifies something that’s not really me although it’s a part of me.

The Dark Passenger is pretty random these days. Even if I have a slight mood crash, he’ll—because my sinister voice is clearly not a seductive she, maybe androgynous—tell me that life is not worth living and to go kill myself.

Me: What?
Dark Passenger: Go kill yourself. Life isn’t worth living anyway. You’re a total failure and you know you can’t do anything right.
Me: Um, why are you bugging me? I’m not even depressed right now.
Dark Passenger: [silence]

Yeah, that’s pretty much how our conversations go. It probably sounds a bit schizophrenic or something but that’s basically my stupid battle to stay alive. You can probably imagine how terrible our conversations are when I am depressed.

My Dark Passenger’s a bit starved, you see, because I haven’t tried to kill myself in a while and he’s getting antsy. I was last hospitalized for a suicide attempt in 2006 and even though I’ve had a few half-hearted attempts since or serious thoughts about an attempt, I haven’t had a serious attempt that has required me to be locked away for a good bit of time. I still get freaked out about my near-sexual assault encounter and that’s done a good job of keeping me in check for now.

So the Dark Passenger tries to get me whenever he thinks he’s got an opening:

No one signed up for your class. You’re a loser. Go kill yourself.

She never called you back. See? No one likes you. Go kill yourself.

You can’t get pregnant or do anything right. You’re not cut out to be a mother. In fact, you weren’t meant to be one because you need to go kill yourself.

And on and on and on. It’s easy to tell him to shut up when I’m not deeply depressed. Not so much otherwise.

Maybe there’s something to that “Get behind me, Satan” stuff after all. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a famous British preacher, once suggested in his book Spiritual Depression to “talk back” to one’s negative voices. While it doesn’t work in the most severe of cases for me, it works. . . for the most part.

Bipolar disorder covered under Americans with Disabilities Act

This is old news but I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while.

In 2008, bipolar disorder became a list of covered psychiatric conditions under the American Disabilities Act (ADA). While I support the move, I’m somewhat guarded about it since there are a variety of symptoms within bipolar disorder that can make it difficult for a person to perform his or her job. From PsychCentral’s post about it in September 2010:

For ADA purposes, major life activities that may be limited by a mental health disorder could include learning, thinking, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself, speaking, or performing manual tasks. Sleep also may be limited in such a way that daily activities are impaired.

Someone with bipolar disorder may temporarily experience “limits” to handling life activities. A deep bout of depression or insomnia may create a need for time off or for flexible hours. An individual may need time off for doctor appointments. In the daily work environment he or she may need a quieter work area to decrease stress and enhance concentration or more frequent breaks to take a walk or do a relaxation exercise. He or she may need office supplies to help them organize and focus more effectively.

I’ve experienced all of these issues at one point or another (sleep issues have been the most frequent and debilitating) in the past and I completely understand how it can affect someone’s ability to work. However I worry that someone might use this to their advantage to cover bad behavior rather than someone who legitimately needs this protection. But alas, abuses to systems exist everywhere.

This coverage prompts me to ask the question: is bipolar disorder (and depression as well) a legitimate disability?

Trying to conceive with mental illness

I’m now in a new phase of my life. Last August, I came off of my bipolar disorder medication and have tried to regulate my mood through natural remedies such as taking 1000 mg of fish oil and multivitamins and by exercising regularly.

I’m also trying to get pregnant.

I haven’t wanted to discuss this particular phase of my life as I think it’s a very personal and private time. However, the emotional and mental toll that TTC (trying to conceive) brings upon someone who struggles with mental illness, I think, is worth discussion.

I wrongly assumed that when I decided that I wanted to have a child, I’d automatically be able to get pregnant. (Bristol Palin had no problem, right?) Several cycles later, I find myself still childless and even more desperately yearning for a child than the month before.

The mental anguish of TTC month after month is tough for any normal woman. During this phase of life, women may experience the following feelings:

  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social isolation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Marital problems

In a woman who suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness, those feelings can become so intensely extreme that they can be debilitating.

I can’t even begin to explain the psychology behind the agony a women endures when she desperately hopes for a child, only to be disappointed by a negative pregnancy test or the monthly visitation from a visitor commonly known as Aunt Flo. Month after month and year after year, the pendulum of emotions range from anger to despair. How is it possible to want and love someone so much whom you’ve never met?

For me, I’ve found that I am relatively sane and able to go on with life for about a week after trying. When I am a day or two away from my expected period, I am thrown into such emotional turmoil that I am nearly inconsolable. Part of it has to do with the sadness that accompanies my body preparing itself for the beginning of a new cycle; the other part of it is the emotional roller coaster that comes along with PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Throw in a dash of bipolar disorder and there’s no limit to how despondent I can be. I can only imagine the same would be true for women who suffer from other mental illnesses.

During those times, I’ve tried turning my eyes toward God and attempting to put my faith in His wisdom for my life, but I feel so isolated and so alone that I wonder if even God could comfort me. The pain of hoping for a child each month then discovering that it is not to be brings a sense of abandonment (for some reason). Negative thoughts creep into your mind at a furtive pace:

  • I’m not meant to be a mother because I’m already suffering from a mental illness and God is doing any kids I’d have a favor by not bringing them into this world through me.
  • I’d be a terrible mother anyway.
  • What is wrong with my body? Why can’t I conceive?
  • There’s no point in me living if I can’t have a child. I want a child of my own so desperately that I just don’t want to live anymore if I can’t have one.

Each month, a woman trying to conceive goes through the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial (The pregnancy test must be wrong; I’m pregnant for sure. Maybe my hormones haven’t been detected yet.)
  2. Anger (Why is this happening to me? What’s wrong with me?)
  3. Bargaining (I’ll do anything be pregnant. Please, just give me a baby.)
  4. Depression (I’ll never get pregnant. What’s the point? I’ll be a terrible mother anyway.)
  5. Acceptance (I’m not pregnant. [Some women can also say: But at least we can try again in the next cycle.])

I usually go through all that in the course of, oh, about 2 days.

I haven’t been trying for an extremely long period of time so I’m not classified as infertile but the internal and external pressure of trying to conceive can be stressful nonetheless:

  • Family members ask when a little one will arrive in your family
  • Friends and family members will have conceived (and even given birth) to a child within the time you’ve been attempting to conceive
  • Well-meaning people offer advice to simply “relax” and go on vacation to get pregnant
  • Pregnant women you know will complain about all the awful symptoms of pregnancy
  • Mothers you know will complain about all the downsides of parenting and rarely offer the upsides

I haven’t fully figured out how to deal with the uncomfortable situations I find myself in with others or the drained energy that comes from learning of a barren womb. This site provides coping techniques for normal women dealing with infertility, but I want to go a step farther in specifically addressing women TTC who suffer with some kind of mental issue:

  • Talk to a trusted doctor or counselor. Determine this is the path that you want to be on and discuss how to develop strategies in the face of another disappointing month.
  • Determine whether you need to take medication (if you’re not already on it). I tapered off of my mood stabilizer in the hopes of being able to have a natural birth and breastfeed. I’m altering those dreams. It’s not the end of the world if I have to have a baby in the hospital and a child won’t die if I feed it formula. (Although I’ll probably catch flak in the Christian community because what self-respecting mother doesn’t breastfeed?! [sarcasm])
  • Determine whether you need an adjustment in medication if you are taking something. Is the medication you are on relatively safe for pregnancy? Will you need to switch? Is the medication you’re currently on affecting your ability to adequately deal with the emotional pendulum that accompanies TTC?
  • Consider using natural mood-boosting remedies to bolster your mood. I know it’s cliche to mention this, but for some women suffering from mental illness, natural remedies actually do help. (For some women, natural remedies have little to no effect.) Here are a few to try:
    • Take at least 1000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids daily. BEWARE: 1200 mg of fish oil does not equal 1200 mg of Omega-3s! I take 900 mg capsules of fish oil that only contain 450 mg of Omega-3s each. I need to take at least 3 capsules to get more than 1000 mg of Omega-3s. You can also get the weekly required amount of Omega-3s by eating fish twice a week. (Science Daily)
    • Take daily multivitamins with at least 400 mcg of folic acid. Folic acid helps lower the risk of birth defects in a baby. For me, I need the iron supplement to help me fight fatigue as I don’t eat many foods rich in iron.
    • Exercise regularly. I’ve been exercising about 3-4 times a week for about 30 minutes. Exercising temporarily boosts my mood although that’s only been a recent occurrence (within the past year).
    • Try to steer clear of mood-altering substances. The depression that accompanies not having a child can drive a woman to smoke, drink too much alcohol, or engage in the use of illegal drugs. (I’m guilty of having a bit too much wine.) Although we all know to avoid this stuff when TTC, it’s sometimes hard to resist. But try.

I hope this post can be of some help to women who are trying to conceive but also suffer from mental illness. We may be a small minority but we’re not alone. Feel to offer feedback on this post by leaving a comment.

Quote of the Week

"The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone." — Oswald Chambers

Quote of the Week

"The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning." — Ivy Baker Priest

Quote of the Week

"The thing you really believe in always happens . . . and the belief in a thing makes it happen." — Frank Lloyd Wright

Quote of the Week

"The secret of a leader lies in the tests he has faced over the whole course of his life and the habit of action he develops in meeting those tests." — Gail Sheehy

Quote of the Week

"If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing." — Margaret Thatcher

The psychology behind sabotaging a mildly successful blog

There’s no other way to say it: I choked.

Depression Introspection, originally hosted on Typepad, was a mildly successful blog within its niche community. I updated the blog regularly and within a year, watched my stats rocket and was named one of PsychCentral’s Top 10 Depression blogs. I enjoyed researching and learning information then providing analysis for the world to see. I wasn’t the first (or second or third) mental health blog but I was part of the early game.

After claiming the #1 spot for PsychCentral’s Top 10 blogs of 2007, I freaked. I averaged 5,000 page views a day. For a nobody like me, I found that nothing to sneeze at.

Then the pressure was on. The pressure came from no one but myself.

I regularly received emails asking for advice or comments on older posts. But the pressure to keep and satisfy an audience became overwhelming. It was all self-created. I wanted to compete. And when the competition loomed large and appeared daunting, I cracked and walked away from it altogether. Updating the blog was no longer fun, I hated doing research, learning about mental health became a chore.

From 2006-2008, my entire life surrounded my mental health and learning about it. Within 2 years, I grew and changed. I no longer wanted to write about mental health on a daily basis. Nor did I want to put so much time and effort into generating content that earned me very little money. But I have a bit of a historian in me: I can sit back and appreciate the hard work I put into this blog. In an effort to preserve the content, I spent a good bit of time and energy into moving this blog from Typepad to WordPress. Even without updating this site new information, my old posts (especially on Lamictal) still get regular hits and comments. Simply that amazes me and makes me realize how valuable some of the information is within this blog.

With the exception of the Quotes of the Day, which are scheduled to update through March 2010, this blog is basically defunct. It’s up as a resource for people to browse through and glean some kind of knowledge on various psychotropics (however outdated the information may be). There is always the possibility I could update regularly again but I doubt it. Like I mentioned previously, I’ve grown beyond simply mental health writing and update a personal blog titled This Journey is My Own where I blog about various topics from introspection to politics to religion (mainly Christianity) to race relations/identity. I run quite the gamut than what I used to write here. And I purposely do not mix the content because I serve two different audiences with each.

So there you have it. I’ve since learned that I’d rather never succeed than watch myself hopelessly fail. Not that I was failing with my blog. Far from it—I was succeeding, succeeding beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And when I saw that I had to work to maintain that success (after having achieved it so effortlessly and carelessly), I choked, sputtered, and stalled.

And walked away.

I know a lot of people were sad to see the regular updates disappear. I fell off the blog scene and keep up with people mostly through Twitter. But I did what I had to do for me. To maintain my sanity. The joy and the love for writing the blog were gone. Once those things go, it’s time to end it, which is what I did.

My other blog has a regular audience of about maybe 5-10 people max. And that’s okay. Any more “success” and I think I’d choke.  Besides, I’m really just trying to write for “an audience of one” now.

So if you’re new to the site and visiting, feel free to take a look around, there’s some good information to be found. If you’ve been a regular reader, thanks for your loyalty in showing me that I’ve got what it takes to be mildly successful.

God bless,
Kass

Quote of the Week

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." — Anaïs Nin

Quote of the Week

"No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear." — Edmund Burke

Quote of the Week

"It's not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised; the mosquito is swatted." — Marie O'Conner

Quote of the Week

"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one." — Elbert Hubbard

Quote of the Week

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent." — Marilyn vos Savant

Quote of the Week

"It gives me a deep, comforting sense that 'things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal.'" — Helen Keller

Quote of the Week

"I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us."  — Dorothy Dix

Quote of the Week

They say that God is everywhere, and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse. — Emily Dickinson

Quote of the Week

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can
alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind. — William James

Quote of the Week

Grief is Newark. It's there. Can't avoid it. The idea is to hold
your nose, hope the traffic's not too bad and get on to Manhattan as
quickly as possible. — Eli Attie


Quote of the Week

Call on God, but row away from the rocks. — Indian Proverb

Crisis averted

I struggled, wrestled, and prayed. A thank you to those who also prayed for me.

I poured a 3-oz cup full of Tilex and debated on drinking it. The main reason that kept me from ingesting is I wasn’t sure whether it would just cause a really bad stomach ache or whether I could actually die from it. A Google search for “Could Tilex kill you?” yielded no relevant results except for “Tilex kills mold!”

I’m happy to announce our sink drain no longer suffers mold or mildew as of this present time.

And it’s not a suicide attempt because I never attempted.

Quote of the Week

As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself. — Adelle Davis

Quote of the Week

Health is not valued till sickness comes. — Dr. Thomas Fuller

National Suicide Survivors Day

Today is National Suicide Survivors Day. If you know someone who has struggled with suicide or has lost a loved one to suicide, please show them your love today or this coming week.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a 90-minute webcast featuring a panel of mental health professionals and suicide survivors. Here's a bit of background:

What is National Survivors of Suicide Day?

National Survivors of Suicide Day was created by U.S. Senate resolution, through the efforts of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who lost his father to suicide. Every year, AFSP sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together for support, healing, information and empowerment.

AFSP's National Survivors of Suicide Day links simultaneous survivor conferences throughout the country and internationally — each local conference site is organized independently, but they're all connected through a 90-minute broadcast. This unique network of healing conferences helps survivors connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss, and express and understand the powerful emotions they experience.

When is National Survivors of Suicide Day?

It's always the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The 11th annual conference will be held on Nov. 21, 2009. The broadcast runs from 1-2:30 p.m. EST. Some conference sites also choose to add local programming before and/or after the broadcast.

Quote of the Week

Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have. — H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Quote of the Week

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. — William James

Quote of the Week

A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug. — Patricia Neal

Quote of the Week

“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is
suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best
friends. If they're okay, then it's you.” — Rita Mae Brown

Quote of the Week

The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. — Stephen Ambrose

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