More on All the Small Things

Wouldn't you know, I forgot my keys AGAIN. Luckily, however, I realized this before I walked into the train station in Center City. Sadly however, I needed to turn back around, get back on the subway, trudge back to work, grab the keys, and trudge back to the subway again to meke the next train in a half-hour.

Good news, though (no, I didn't save money by switching to Geico but instead to State Farm), it began pouring outside on my train ride home and my husband lost power at work. He called me, asked if I wanted a ride home and I said, "Sure!" Door-to-door service just doesn't get any better.

My day did end up better but I'm still quite tired and am learning to stack the small, bad stuff against the small, good stuff. I should make a pro/con list for every day and have the pros/cons cancel each other out for neutral days. I had a therapist who once said (in my answer to a question about happiness):

How do you know if you have a happy life?  If one can calculate more times or longer periods of time being happy than not then one has a happy life.  If the periods of being unhappy outweighs the periods of being happy then one does not have a happy life.

So overall, since I've been married, my life has been happy. I can't necessarily say the same for the years before that though. But happiness is a life-long process. So is beating depression. And maybe one day, when I've forgotten my keys for the third time that week and realize it, I will not trudge back to work grudginly, mumbling curse words under my breath, but will cheerfully bound over to my job, thankful that I had a good enough memory to remember I'd even forgotten it.

Sometimes we sweat the small stuff so much that we forget that there are other small (usually unnoticeable, taken for granted) things that are working in our favor.

All the Small Things

During depression the world disappears … because the inner voice is so urgent in its own discourse: How shall I live? How shall I manage the future? Why should I go on?KATE MILLETT, The Loony-Bin Trip

It really is the small things in life that get me.

I can handle major blowaway events like my father’s death (which I can’t seem to get past even though it was almost five years ago) or things like 9/11. I’m good at handling a major crisis — probably because crises don’t occur everyday and if they did, I’d be bad at that too.

My day had been fairly fine for the most part, catching the 7:48 express train to Center City with enough time before its arrival to get a quick breakfast at Starbucks. I sat on the train, reading my Metro then switching to The Devil Wears Prada. As I left the train station, I prayed, hoping that the LUCY Green line bus was still there. It was. I took my time, hoping the driver would see the influx of people and wait one more minute. Cars came at a rapid pace and I waited patiently on the sidewalk. As I crossed the street finally (!), the bus slowly moved to leave. I ran in front of the bus (as I’ve done before) in an attempt to catch it before it drove off without me. With a long honk from the driver (that scared me out of my wits), I hopped on the curb, waiting for the doors to open. No such luck. The driver roared the bus past me and my hopes and prayers of wanting to catch the bus were effectively dashed.

Losing the bus — the long honk, particularly — put me all out of sorts and I trudged to the subway to catch the trolley that involved a longer walk. I contemplated all sorts of things: jumping out in front of a car and killing myself, yelling, screaming and shouting in public, but thankfully took a less dramatic route and simply dumped the last half of my Starbucks sandwich in the garbage – an expression of my digust, more of myself than the bus driver.

On my way to the subway, my face fell from bright and cheery to sullen and dark. I avoided eye contact with passersby and explained to myself, I’m a New Yorker. I’m tougher than this. But then I realized that I was equating my toughness with my "identity" as a New Yorker. I’m not quite sure why I did that, but I’d often considered myself "tough" because I was from New York. For the first time, this equation disturbed me. If my sense of "tough" was really a New Yorker style, like I’d told myself all these years, then I seriously misrepresented my home state.

I put on my iPod to drown out the negative voices in my head and dove into finishing my Devil Wears PradaWhen I read fiction, I have this terrible habit of adapting the "voices in my head" (the talking to yourself kind, not the schizophrenic kind) to sound like I’m listening to an audiobook. I talk to myself in the third person or sound like a first-person character in a book. So I sat on the train thinking, I don’t understand why a stupid honk would get me so upset. Why was catching the bus so important to me? Why has not catching the bus ruined my day? And I carried on a first-person monologue in my head, much like poor Andrea in my novel.

I selected the first song on my iPod, "(I Got That) Boom Boom" with Britney Spears and the ever-annoying Ying-Yang Twins. Thankful that I’d remembered to take out the parentheses from the title on my iTunes last night (s0 the parentheses wouldn’t make that the FIRST song on my playlist), I pressed forward to the next song. I continued going forward until I found an Aimee Mann song, "Goodbye Caroline." That was it! Depressing mood, depressing music! I quickly switched to an all-Aimee Mann song list and replayed "Goodbye Caroline." I got off the bus and realized that maybe Aimee wasn’t the best thing for me at that moment and decided I needed upbeat, pop music. I mused to myself, Too bad I didn’t synch my iPod so I could have that sickeningly annoying Jessica Simpson "Public Affair" on. The melody, reminiscent of Madonna’s "Holiday" had this funny way of cheering me up, despite the stupidity of the lyrics.

But I trudged up the stairs, convinced that the day was already crap and shot to hell, that this had been the first bad week since I’d moved to Pennsylvania and pondered why the idea of Monday coming around would bring a new beginning. I continued to complain in my head, I knew I needed a mental health day, but I don’t have any sick days until August 15 so I have to come to work and I have to move tonight so I’ll leave early, who cares about overtime… and on and on my thoughts went. This week had been absolute crap. My hormones had been on an emotional rollercoaster:

  • I woke up at 4:45 a.m. Monday through Wednesday to set up at 7:00 a.m. for a committee meeting and worked my normal hours;
  • I hadn’t able to sleep early when I got home but tossed around in bed for 5 hours until involuntarily dozing off at my normal time of 11:30 p.m.;
  • I’d forgotten my car keys at work in Philadelphia (an hour’s train ride away) two days in a row and subjected my car to getting towed overnight;
  • and sat in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway (or as my husband puts it, the Slowway) waiting to go back to Philly after breaking out into hysterics (BOTH days).

By the second day, I was ready to sleep in bed and never get up again.

Professionally, I felt like a first-class doof at work, not knowing what to do, feeling non-self-important and wishing that I hadn’t jumped at the first opportunity of a job that had presented itself my way. For the first time since leaving Kentucky, I missed my job at the newspaper. I missed being around reporters, writers and editors. I missed the news, I missed editing and I’d come to like page designing. I missed the world of publication and hated myself for falling into something semi-unrelated. I was upset at being in Philly nearly four months and not having a single peer as a decent acquaintance. I was upset at my body for keeping to its normal cyclical schedule (after randomly being thrown off wack last month) that would surely ruin my honeymoon next month. I was tired of being bossed around, not having any privacy, not having any work, not doing anything that made me feel I was worth something.

And to top it off, the pants I’d bought on June 16 that had fit my so snugly were now falling off me. Instead of boosting my confidence that I’d been losing weight, I cursed the money I’d lost in just over a month and convinced myself that the cotton was somehow stretching in the wash.

Have you noticed what occured to me over the past week?

  • Lack of sleep
  • Irritability
  • Unhappiness
  • Memory lapses
  • Hormonal imbalances

No surprise that after this week, I’d gotten to a point where I was willing to kill myself over "keys." "It’s just keys," my husband insisted on the second day of my stupidity. "No, it’s not just KEYS," I wanted to shout. It was everything.

  • It was a ruined honeymoon at the end of August,
  • it was being in a job that didn’t allow me to write or edit in any way,
  • it was not sleeping well,
  • it was getting up extremely early,
  • it was feeling sluggish all day,
  • it was the heat,
  • it was the lack of water I drank,
  • it was the cramped space,
  • it was the lack of privacy,
  • it was the lack of social outlets,
  • it was not being in New York,
  • it was not having a church I really, really liked…
  • it was FORGETTING MY KEYS FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT DAY all the way in Philly when I lived up the Main Line.

I’m still upset. Since walking into work today, all I’ve wanted to do is sit in a corner and cry. All I want to do is go home and sleep my day away. I’m exhausted. Really exhausted. And I can’t help but wonder how much most people can take before they just finally collapse. My tolerance level is low so I play martyr for myself and convince myself that people do more than what I do. Until I can’t take anymore and try to jump out of a car.

So it’s not just the keys that get me depressed. It’s all the small things.

What a revelation (sarcasm)

This has nothing to do with depression or even mental illness for that matter.

Lance BassReichen LehmkuhlLance Bass is gay. OH TEH NOES! What will millions of adoring women do? Ha, ha nothing. They can’t.

Not to say I didn’t see his homosexuality coming from a mile away. I think the more shocking part of it was that he actually admitted it. But his boyfriend, Amazing Race winner Reichen Lehmkuhl is a HUNK.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

HIV patients with a history of depression, beware: Those who receive treatment with the antiretroviral drug efavirenz are more likely to experience mental health problems during the first four weeks of therapy and to discontinue treatment. As with all things that can cause problems, talk to your doctor about alternatives.

Tom PettyIn a string of celebrity depression revelations, Tom Petty admits that he, too, struggled with severe depression after the deaths of bandmate Howie Epstein and friend George Harrison. His saving grace? His wife, Dana. Petty’s depression at one point was so severe that he lived as a hermit in a chicken shack in the woods. Stories like this impress the importance of being a supportive, loving person when approaching a person with depression.

The Florida Bradenton Herald reports that more sick time is used on depression than on any other illness. (I suppose this includes the standard “mental health day”?) Odd quote of the day:

“We’re very excited because depression is such an undertreated problem in the county,” Deborah Kostroun, the chief operating officer of Manatee Glens said.

Morbid obesity can result in depression

India has had a a string of farmer suicides within the past three years. Reasons include debt, business failure, marriage expenses, bad health and other personal problems.

And a suicide attempt by a mayor in a Wilmington, North Carolina suburb, has directed more exposure toward politicians who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses.

That's crazy talk!

Do most people talk to themselves when they're alone?

We asked ourselves this question and our inner voice answered, "Sure they do." We're normal (almost) and if we do, everyone else must too. So what's the conclusion? Apparently some experts believe self-talk can be good, and others think we should all shut up. And yes, most of us do talk to ourselves. [Yahoo Answers]

More on regret

The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. — Allan K. Chalmers

I never answered the second question my husband occasionally poses to me:

"Do you ever feel that I’m holding you back?"

[Hesitation]

"Holding me back from what?" I’m always tempted to ask. But I know the answer. Is he holding me back from my hopes, my dreams? Everything I’ve ever wanted and still so desperately desire?

Is he "holding" me back from a life filled with the sweet pleasures of Manhattan? Is he "holding" me back from an editorial assistant position at a Hearst or Condé Nast magazine? Is he "holding" me back from my friends, my family, Caribbean food, the "melting pot" of the Northeast and my church? Or is it that I intentionally "hold" myself back?

My instinctual answer to this question is "No, you don’t hold me back" mainly to appeal to his feelings, which are generally hurt when this question is asked. But I’m forced to re-evaluate my answer later. Is that really true?

Another part of me wishes to say, "Yes. In some ways you do."

The honest answer is not an easy yes or no.

In our dating relationship, he lived in Kentucky and I’d lived in New York. He had lived in Kentucky for six years, working down there and spending time with his friends. He’d moved to Kentucky in 1999 after attending college in Florida for four years. The affordable cost of living, the slower pace, scattered population and familiar face of friends helped him feel settled and content. On the other hand, I’d lived in New York all my life with a brief stint at a Christian college in Florida for just over a year. And even Florida sucked compared to New York. Why would I want to live anywhere else?

New York had it all for me: glamour, fashion, a fast pace, history, activities, events, shopping, my family, my friends, mass transit, great food and an endless supply of jobs in the editorial field. Reasons that countered the Kentucky argument:

  1. New York isn’t affordable. No one ever said it was! That’s the thrill of living in NY! Making ends meet and being the "conquistador of chaos."
  2. New York has too much of a fast pace. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of Hell’s Kitchen. (a nice pun if you know NY)
  3. New York has a tremendously high population of people living in a small area. That’s the charm of New York. There’s always someone around. I’d feel paranoid if I lived on a hill and my neighbor lived more than a 1-minute run away.
  4. New York is a bad place for cars. That’s what mass transit is for.

My husband and I fought constantly about who would move where. I often suggested New Jersey or Pennsylvania (where he is from and where his family still lives) as a compromise. In his mind, it was Kentucky, all-or-nothing. Tired of fighting and willing to play martyr, I reluctantly gave in to the move to Kentucky. In retrospect (because hindsight is always 20/20), I wouldn’t move to Kentucky and I would have stood my ground. It seemed like such a silly thing to fight over but now that I’m married to a man who is attached to the suburbs like siamese twins are attached at the hip, I realize my dreams of living in a city are completely gone. I try not to think about it, but it kills me to think that a dream I held so dear (and still do) since I was a child will never be achieved.

Granted, I learned a lot from my move to Kentucky and I don’t regret the move. I do regret not standing my ground and giving in so easily. My act of selflessness was moving to a place I didn’t really want to move to. But I grew resentful and sometimes, still am. I ruminated thoughts in my head: Why did I have to make the move to Kentucky? Why me? Why did I have to leave everything I’d ever known for a place I didn’t know, for a man I loved but barely knew, for a career-ending move? He was a tech guy; he could get a job anywhere. I was editorial, why couldn’t we stay here? New Jersey wasn’t that bad.

I think the question that hurt even more, that still hasn’t been answered, is why he didn’t love me enough to move to New York? Why didn’t he love me enough to endure the high cost of living? Why didn’t he love me enough to deal with unfamiliar and awkward surroundings? Why didn’t he love me enough to leave his friends when I loved him enough to leave mine?

These are questions I should have asked before marriage and thinking about them still hurts.

But then I realized what I’d chose: love over a career. "Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense."

My husband didn’t get off scot-free from my move to Kentucky. It became several of the most troubling months since we’d met due to the stressful nature of a newspaper job that I accepted because there were no other companies located in a 40-mile radius that had the kind of work that I’d graduated from college for. I slid into a depression as I endured 12- to 15-hour workdays, sometimes three days a week and at times, worked six days in a row, never seeing my new husband until he was asleep in bed. The feeling of being enslaved to my job drove me to thoughts of suicide: crashing my car, jumping out of moving cars, anything to escape the hollow feeling I’d once again developed inside. I’d just gotten married and encountered my greatest fear: being extremely lonely even with a husband. My suicide attempts and depression drove him to a point where he finally reassessed the situation and suggested moving to Pennsylvania. After much thought, a month later we took a leap of faith and quit our jobs, packed all our things into a truck then into a 10 x 15 in storage and moved in with his parents. I joked to him last night, "How much easier would it have been to move my stuff from New York to Pennsylvania if we’d done this the first time around?"

I still find difficulty trying to break into the magazine industry, even in Philadelphia. Less magazines to work at in a big city means there are more people who want the jobs that I want. It’s tough competition but I try to be as hopeful as I can and assure myself that a year from now, there will be a position out there for me.

As for my husband holding me back, he hasn’t exactly put a gun to my head and said, "No, you can’t go off to New York and work there." If I chose to, I could divorce him and leave to follow my all-important dreams. So in that sense, the only person holding me back is… me.

But if my husband wasn’t so reluctant to live closer to New York (or in the metro New York City area, for that matter), I’d be able to accomplish all my of New York-related dreams and possibly feel fulfilled or satisfied.  I wanted to have a husband and a flourishing, exciting entry-level editorial career in a big city. I’ve got the husband and I guess Philadelphia’s a big city but I’m missing the "flourishing, exciting" part that I’d desperately hoped for. Is he holding me back? The answer… is still "no." My current priority is to spend more time with my new husband and get to know him. Not a two-hour travel to NY for a job. If I were so "committed" to this dream like I’d previously said, I could commute to NY for four hours every day. He hasn’t held me back from anything. I control my own life and the control I currently exert is over the time I spend with him.

In the end, my husband holds me back from nothing. I take full responsibility for my decisions, make certain things in my life a priority and once again, choose love over a "flourishing, exciting" career. Maybe one day I’ll have that dream career, but for now, I need a "flourishing, exciting" marriage.

Mommy, why is Santa Claus depressed?

Fat people are NOT more jolly! In fact, they tend to suffer more from depression. Studies suggest that doctors should be more aware of depressive-type symptoms in obese or overweight people. I don’t consider my husband, 6’2" and overweight (according to the BMI) by 150 lbs, to be more jolly, than oh say, Santa Claus. In fact, my husband’s penchant for having such a stern face earned him a college moniker: "Mr. Happy Face."

DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT take sumatriptans with serotonin medication. The FDA is concerned that the mix of migraine medications with SSRI anti-depressants could cause serotonin syndrome, a life-threatening condition that occurs when too much serotonin is present in the bloodstream. If you take anti-d’s and suffer from migraines, please see your doctor and talk about other medication options.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

ProzacIn a stunning turn of medication use, Australia hopes to prescribe Prozac to pedophiles like its European sister, the UK. Prozac suppresses sexual libido and in turn, will supposedly keep pedos in check.

Suicide prompts fundraising walk – According to Wylie Tene, public relations manager for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, someone in the United States dies by suicide every 18 minutes.

“I couldn’t make myself happy, and I couldn’t understand why,” said Rachel O’Connell, of Benicia. O’Connell, 18, knows that pain [of depression] well, but it was her own close call that drives her to walk and raise funds to help prevent suicide from claiming another life.  “I’m just happy,” O’Connell said. “It’s weird to think how I could feel that. It’s scary to think that I wouldn’t be here. I couldn’t imagine feeling that way again.”

Stephen FryBritish actor Stephen Fry admits he has bipolar disorder:

Fry hopes to raise awareness of manic depression and break some of the taboos surrounding the condition.

“I went into my garage, sealed the door with a duvet I brought, and got into my car … Sat there for at least, I think, two hours in the car, my hands on the ignition key. It was a … suicide attempt, not a cry for help.”

In a Lansing, Michigan paper, a family is using their experience with suicide to get anti-suicide plans into action. The end of the article cites some important, but frequently overlooked tips about how to tell whether someone is suicidal:

According to the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide created by the University of South Florida:

  • Early warning signs are withdrawal from friends, preoccupation with death, marked personality change and serious mood changes, difficulty concentrating, difficulties in school, change in eating and sleeping habits, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, frequent complaints of headache, stomachache and fatigue, persistent boredom and loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Late warning signs are actually talking about suicide, impulsiveness such as violence, rebellion or running away, refusing help or feeling “beyond help,” complaining of being a bad person and making statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness. Other signs are a person who suddenly becomes cheerful after a period of depression or who gives away favorite possessions or who makes a last will and testament and says things such as “I wish I were dead.”

Lindsey LohanSomething I initially heard of on The Trouble with Spikol, I learned that Lindsay Lohan beats depression by slipping into stiletto heels and going shopping! Of course! Who needs anti-depressants when you’ve got shopping therapy?

Suicides in the Indian community in Malaysia are three times higher than the national average. Dr. T. Maniam, a university professor in Malaysia, cited poverty, high school dropout rates, alcoholism and physical abuse as reasons for the staggering number. It is estimated that for every 100,000 people, the national average rate of suicide is 10-12 people. That figure jumps to 30-35 in the Malaysian Indian community.

Philadelphia EaglesThe Philly Eagles’ J.R. Reed battled depression after suffering a leg injury that threatened to end his career.

“When I found out what actually happened I didn’t get out of bed for months. I was depressed. I didn’t even want to live sometimes. I had to go through a lot of stuff to get where I am now.”

And finally, Utah ranks seventh in the nation in prescribed antidepressants. But Utah’s patrons also seem more likely to seek medical attention, not just for mental illness, but for a variety of health reasons.

Active and passive regrets

Yesterday, I posted that one of my favorite blogs is The Happiness Project. I suppose this reason is because it deals with the opposite of what I struggle with (depression). Again, author Gretchen Rubin posts a provoking thought:

Apparently people regret not taking an action more than they regret taking an action. Gilbert speculates that that’s because it’s easier to console ourselves with the lessons learned by some action gone awry than to see the good that came from the failure to act. I find this is completely true. I am always beating myself up over something I never did:

·       "I regret not putting off marriage for a year or two so I could launch my career."

·       "I regret not being able to live in New York a little longer."

·       "I regret leaving NYU."

·       "I regret leaving my mother to fend for herself with her bills."

But like Rubin says, I don’t regret the things that I’ve done:

·       I don’t regret getting married.

·       I don’t regret moving to Kentucky for a short while.

·       I don’t regret moving to Pennsylvania.

·       I don’t regret working at any of the places that I’ve worked.

·       I don’t regret staying out of NYC after 9/11.

·       I don’t regret trying a Christian college in Florida.

·       I don’t regret taking a chance on love and making it work.

There are things that I will always regret; things that I’ll never know how it could have worked if I’d actually pursued it. But some of it isn’t just regret and for the most part, it’s nothing that I can’t ever do again if I really wanted to. Much of it leaves me with hopes for the future.

My husband occasionally asks me, "Do you regret marrying me?" or "Do you ever feel that I’m holding you back?"

Such questions are not answered right away or easily. Immediately, I insist to my husband, "No, I don’t regret marrying you" because hesitation would imply that I do. And hesitation doesn’t always confirm a positive or negative answer. Hesitation confirms that the recipient of the question is deeply in thought, mulling over the question, the answer to the question and the questioner’s possible reaction to the answer.

After having the question asked to me many times over the past 11 months of our marriage, I have had many times to think about it and my answer is…

[Hesitation]

No, I don’t regret marrying my husband. However, if he asked whether I’d do it again when I did it, I’d hesitate once again. I think of the many opportunities that lay before me in the beginning of August 2005. I had just finished working at a prestigious black publication, feeling that the world (NYC mainly) lay before me. I often think that if a wedding hadn’t been looming over my head at the end of August, I would have pursued a number of opportunities to get my foot in the door at a magazine. A year later, who knows where I’d be?

But if I truly reflect and flashback to March 2005, my two-year relationship had become rocky. I’d been on anti-depressants for just over a year and my depression had led me to cut off contact with a number of friends, become anti-social and cut back on activities to such an extreme that I focused on school only. Even with being focused solely on academics, I still went from an "A" student to a "C+." The "+" being for effort, of course, since I’d spoken to my teachers about my struggle with depression.

In March of 2005, I faced a decision: I either had to choose my relationship or choose my career. I obtained the opportunity to take an editing test and jumpstart my editorial career by working at Newsday, the largest daily paper on Long Island. It is not often that college graduates (or seniors, for that matter) get the chance to jump the ground floor and start working in the editorial sector of a major media company (Newsday is owned by the Tribune Company, which also owns the Chicago Tribune).

Here, I am faced with a tinge of regret: I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like had I been able to launch a career in newspapers, skipping the normal college grad route: being a first-class lackey or assistant.

The day of my editing test, I made my decision. I purposely overslept. If I wanted to, I could have gotten up to take the test. Taking the test didn’t guarantee me a job with the newspaper, but it guaranteed that I would have been in the running for a job.

Despite my depression, I know my skills and I know my worth. I’d taken a preliminary editing test that wowed some of the recruiters from Newsday. I knew that if I went any further, I’d get to a point where I had to either accept a 2-year-position with Newsday (one year would keep me on Long Island, the other year could take me anywhere within the Tribune Co. from the LA Times to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel) or accept a lifetime of love with my boyfriend.

I flooded my head with a plethora of thoughts: "Love conquers all," "love is the only thing that matters," "Love, charity and hope, but the greatest of these is love." Then I tried to think about what could be better than a flourishing, bright career at the spry age of 24? Love.

Friends called me crazy. "Why are you leaving New York for Kentucky? And for a guy??? Why would anyone want to leave New York?" Adults told me I was rushing into things. "You’re only 24. Focus on your career. Do all the things you ever wanted to do before you get married because you won’t get to do them."

Torn between the feeling of love and opportunity, I chose love with the hope that I’d recover opportunity. I’m still hoping against hope for opportunity.

So while I don’t regret marrying my husband (he’s the most wonderful man I could have ever asked for), I somewhat regret my timing. But considering I’m overanalytical, I wonder when my timing could have been any better. When I was finally settled in a job and in NY and never ready to leave? We’d have never gotten married. And I never would have taken a chance at being as happy as I am today. So I always feel a tinge of regret on the action I never took.

And it’s true, I can’t do all the things that I wanted to do now that I’m married. So while I don’t regret marrying, I do regret not being able to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do.

Satisficers vs. Maximizers

A blog that I’m simply addicted to is The Happiness Project. Author Gretchen Rubin probably knows not about my loyal following, but many of her tips and thoughts often inspire me. Her blog isn’t some mindless rambling — akin to mine — she writes her posts with a purpose.

My favorite thought from her, however, is on the subject of satisficers and maximizers.

Satisficers (yes, satisfice is a word, I checked) are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the car, the hotel, or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied.

Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. So even if they see a bicycle or a photographer that would seem to meet their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, so they know they’re making the best possible choice.

She goes on to give examples between satisficers and maximizers, but one notable thought resounds:

Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

She says early on that "most people are a mix of both approaches" and I am certainly guilty of this myself. In the days leading up to look for an apartment, I printed dozens of  "for rent" ads, trolled the philadelphia craigslist mercilessly, hunted down apartmentguide.com and snatched up every apartment guide along the Main Line, fearlessly tabbing anything and everything I wanted to go see. Anything that didn’t meet my husband’s criteria (or price range, for that matter), was swiftly untabbed. The mother-in-law works near a business that owns a good bit of real estate along the Main Line and obtained an apartment listing for us. My husband and I checked off additional properties we’d be willing to look at and the MIL set up an appointment for us to look at rental properties. We were scheduled to view three. One of the three was rented out by the time our appointment came around and another the first one we looked caused my husband to have a near-claustrophobic fit. (He’s 6’2" and the ceiling barely grazed his head.) The final one we looked at had a spacious second-floor ceiling (a comfortable foot or two above my husband’s head) with a loft. The loft, of course, had lower ceilings but we determined that for the most part, it would be my space (I’m just under 5’4") and that if he were up there, he’d likely be sitting down. We saw the spaciousness, the convenience (I’m a 2-minute walk to the train station and he’s a 5-10 minute drive to work) and the privacy (we’re the only nighttime tenants in the building) and were immediately hooked. It didn’t take us long to decide that we wanted the apartment, even though it was at the very high end of our price range. Just one day, a look at two properties and we’d both decided in a matter of minutes where we both wanted to live. I’d been a maximizer about searching for an apartment, but when it came to looking, I was a satisficer.

When it comes to jobs though, I am a BIG maximizer. I’m ambitious, always hoping to climb up the career ladder more quickly than I’m meant to so I am constantly doing a job search (even though I don’t plan on going anywhere from my current job for now) and always on the lookout for opportunities to freelance in copy editing and writing.

When it comes to shopping, I’m a satisficer. It can often cost me more in the long run — maximizers are usually the bargain shoppers — but when I plunk down my plastic, I’m quite happy with my purchase at regular price and feel no need to go hunting elsewhere for a similar outfit with a better deal.

Rubin ends her post saying, "It’s one of Life’s True Rules: let someone else do the research." I’ll add to that – "let someone else do the research, if you haven’t done it already." The difference between $29.50 at one store and $21.50 at another is a savings worth a meal at the mall. Being a satisficer isn’t bad, but being a maximizer can sometimes work to your advantage.

Referring to an earlier post

Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards. —
Soren Kierkegaard

I managed to delete my Google alerts from June 28 through July 20. I have a light enough workload today where I may be able to get through depression news from this weekend. I’m a procrastinator, of course, so I don’t read my Google alerts until I have time to actually click on the links and read them thorougly enough to write about them. I’m working on letting go of things that I haven’t looked at in an effort to manage my time more efficiently. Delete, delete, delete.

My husband used to joke that I have OCD. I don’t think it’s particularly OCD-ish to alphabetize my CD collection (digital doesn’t satisfy my need for a nice copy of a CD liner). Besides, instead of haphazardly trying to guess where that darn copy of Madonna’s latest album is, I can simply go straight to the M’s and find her Madgesty’s latest between American Life and GHV2 along with Music, Ray of Light and Something to Remember, respectively. And as for artists with first and last names? Well, they are classified by last name. Gloria Estefan can be found under "E" and Sheryl Crow can be found under "C." Why do I do this? Because my brain thinks of last names first. My brain doesn’t register that Sheryl Crow would be under "S." It’s not a system that works for everyone and I wouldn’t chastize anyone for have Sheryl Crow under "S." Bands with more than one word go under the letter that their names begin with. For example, Green Day is classified under "G" and Stone Temple Pilots is classified under "S." Bands that begin with "the" such as The Beatles or The Mamas and the Papas are classifed like other bands without the use of "the." Again, it’s not a system that I recommend works for everyone. My mind thinks "Beatles" first before I consider looking under "the." It’s not a strict system, but it’s organized enough so that I don’t waste time looking for music I want to hear.

I’m big on organization. But I’m not neat. Yes, it is possible to be messy and organized. Organization is a system that works to a person’s advantage. Have you ever found a person that had a desk so absolutely cluttered but knew where everything was? Believe it or not, that’s organization. It’s a system that may not work for the majority of people, but it works for that person. Most people are rattled by clutter.

I’m an externally neat person. At work and at school, I had no trouble keeping my workspace relatively neat. Sure, it’d get messy during the day while I worked, but when I went home at night, I made sure that papers were in place and the desk space was clear so no one feared looking for something if I was away. At home, I’m internally messy — organized but scattered. I liken myself to a slow-moving storm: I leave damage and destruction on one table before moving to another. It’s a bad habit that I am trying to break since I’ve gotten married. I’m hoping that I can keep my clutter and scatteredness in one area (the loft) in our new apartment. My goal is to have such minimal clutter in the living room area that it can be cleaned up at the end of the day or that I can stow it away quickly and easily.

So my latest obsession has been organization and attempts at neatness. Not particularly a bad goal. One day, my husband told me about how one of his friends is so anal about his CD collection, that he will spin the CD around in its case until the imprint on the CD is readable to the viewer (as opposed to opening the case and finding the CD writing upside down and facing away from the viewer). Hearing this, I thought it was a good idea to have the CD imprint facing me when I opened the case: it’s good readability. I immediately set on a task to rotate all my CDs in their case to have the imprints facing my right-side up. I quit halfway through but made sure from then on that I fixed my CDs right-side up in their cases. My husband thought I’d joined his friend in the OCD CD crazy bin.

When my husband and I moved from Kentucky to Philadelphia recently, I began taking mass transit daily. After getting off buses and trains, I walk straight home from the train station and head for the bathroom to wash my hands. I’ve taken mass transit all the time in NY and never had a compulsive need to wash my hands. Ever. Something about Philadelphia seems dirtier than NY to me. So I wash my hands every time I come home from mass transit. (But not when I use it going to work.)

The other day, I opened the bedroom door with an unwashed, mass transit-riddled hand and went into the bathroom to wash my hands. I promptly removed a Lysol cleaning cloth from underneath the sink and decided to remove germs from the doorknobs on the bathroom and bedroom doors. My husband watched me, quite disturbed. I argued that I might be developing OCD out of nowhere. He thinks that I am so worried about mental illness that I’m bringing OCD on myself. But it’s not a compulsive need to clean doorknobs all the time —  it was just that one time. (and besides, when was the last time you cleaned your doorknob? can you imagine how many germs must reside on doorknobs and remote controls?)

The next morning, we went to a diner for breakfast. I watched him try to organize a bowl with tiny half-and-half milk cups and butter haphazardly thrown in. He was doing it out of sheer boredom and then stopped. Once I saw that his work fell apart and noticed, "Gee, the milk cups and butter do look better organized," I set out to organize them myself. He took the bowl away from me and insisted why I needed to organize them. I just felt the need to. It looked nicer and prettier organized. He argued that it didn’t matter and that it would be messed up in the end anway. I argued back that I was bored and that organization, no matter what, looks better. He reluctantly gave in and let me organize the milk cups and butter. The endeavor was a remote failure but I became satisfied with a decent, doable result. As I placed the milk cups and butter away from me, I noticed the haphazard sugar holder with packets of Splenda, Sweet n’ Low and granulated sugar sticking out unevenly, not facing the same way. I thought back to Friday and my task of getting the Post-It tape flags to face the same way in the meeting room I’d set up and thought the sugar holder could use the same touch. I headed for the sugar holder and my husband pulled it away from me. Like a kid wanting a forbidden toy, I begged, pleaded and whined. He stood his ground firmly this time, saying "No." Every time I looked at the haphazard sugar holder, a little feeling in my brain went off that made me annoyed. My husband holding out on me wasn’t helping. He insisted that "every time I give into it, I feed the need." I argued that it wasn’t a big deal, that it was just something for me to do and it would look "so much better." He still said no. The food arrived and the annoyed, unhappy signals in my brain continued to go off until I finally broke down and cried. I was too distraught for several minutes to eat and simply couldn’t understand why not being able to fix a sugar holder would send me into a state of such unhappiness. My husband, completely taken aback by my emotion, said nothing for most of our meal. I was still in no mood to respond and stared at my food while eating it. He apologized for making me cry, but if everything had to be done all over again, I know he’d still hold out on me with the outcome being the same. He also apologized for joking about me having OCD. Not good to joke about mental illness with someone if you know they have a history of mental illness.

I take that back. Just don’t joke about mental illness with anyone at all. You don’t know anyone’s history. Telling someone they’re schizophrenic is far from funny.

So I’ve put myself on a new mental illness watch: Tracking my random instances of OCD. I prefer to think it’s simply my perfectionistic self spreading into other areas of my life.

Blogger vs. Typepad

FirefoxI’ve endured much frustration with Blogger, namely at work. I use Internet Explorer here because they don’t allow other browsers to function on work computers. (I, myself, am a big proponent of Firefox.) My Firefox browser at home seems to have no problems with Blogger. In fact, it seems quite compatible. But my IE browser at work cannot stand Blogger and in some cases, anything Google-related (i.e. Google homepage, Gmail, etc.). It may very well be my connection at work is slow or the servers here don’t like my accessing anything Google-related, but I have spent at least half-a-day on many days attempting to load one single post onto my blogspot account. And I’m tired of it. I’ve used Typepad before and it loads quickly, easily and rarely gives me any problems. Considering that most of my blogging is done at work, Typepad, for me, is worth the expense. I view it as a personal investment. I used to pay for Livejournal, another Six Apart entity, so I’ll simply be switching my money from LJ to Typepad. (Although Typepad is significantly more expensive than LJ.)

My husband, not particularly a blogger, can’t understand why I’d pay more than $20 a year for a blog. I’m not quite sure I can explain it in terms anyone will understand. Why does anyone on Typepad pay to use Typepad? I’m not the only one shelling out money for personal blogging.

LJI do like Livejournal’s interface. It’s easy to use and customizable. But like Xanga and GreatestJournal, it’s got this teeny bopper-look. Typepad’s posting interface is much cleaner than LJ, saving me embarrassment from the large “LIVEJOURNAL” announcement on my computer screen to those who pass by my desk. Livejournal and Xanga also are not taken as seriously as other blogs. I’m sure there are quite a number of LJ blogs from which people can glean good information — the overwhelming majority, however, seems to be more of a “squee! OMG!LOL!ROFL!!!one!!!shift+one!!111” genre. I admit even my own LJ has an interface belonging to that of a younger person (sans the intermittent “squee”).  Deadjournal, of course, isn’t even a consideration as I have no propensity toward goth or “emo.”

My husband suggested WordPress. I tried WordPress but quickly came to dislike it because the design templates are not customizable unless you host a blog on your own site. By customizable, I am referring to a design similar to what I have here. I enjoy having a three-column blog because I think it has a cleaner layout for what I like to do. I like being able to put lists on either side of my posts and keep my page relatively uncluttered. (I don’t enjoy scrolling down a page for a long period of time.) WordPress had a three-column template that looked too futuristic — great for a tech blog, too distracting for a depression blog. I prefer simple templates that are pleasing to the eye and can get right to the point. WordPress’s inability to let me use HTML to customize the design of my blog turned me off. This revelation quickly led me to delete my account.

MovableType is also a Six Apart-entity but like WordPress, must be hosted on a personal site. MovableType has also been removed as an option. Therefore, my quest has led me to Typepad, of which I am wholly satisfied. Satisfied enough to pay for it. Because I know that once I press the button to publish this post, I will not sit here at 3:00 p.m. wondering why my pictures won’t load, what HTML tag has gone wrong with my post or why I need to constantly reformat my post to get it to look the way I want it to.

Reliability saves time and aggravation.

Nerves and New Orleans

I promised myself I wouldn't write entries on the past but I'd already had the following typed up and I can't just let it sit and rot:

I haven’t heard much about it but a device called the vagus nerve stimulator was approved by the FDA in 2005 for “chronic or recurrent treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder.” It was previously approved for epilepsy treatment only. The VNS generator is implanted under the skin from the chest to the neck, around the vagus nerve that connects the brain with major organs. VNS is only recommended for people who cannot use medications due to side effects or receive no relief from mental illness.

The New York Times has a stunning piece on Katrina’s latest legacy in New Orleans: unprecedented post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and suicide in the city. The article is a grim reminder that while the world has moved past Katrina, New Orleans has not. I’m sure the same could be said for Mississippi, which gets considerably less attention.

Prioritizing tasks

Happiness is not having what you want,
but wanting what you have. – Anonymous

Being the perfectionist that I am, I put more time and effort into this blog than I probably should. (Although you may not see it.) Sitting to my right, I have this folder filled with massive documents about anti-depressants and such that I promised myself I’d look at, no matter what. Doesn’t even matter if the subject matter is outdated by a few weeks because I think people deserve to know what’s going on.

But I’ve taken on more for this project than I’ve failed to realize. And that’s what my blog is about. Being introspective enough to see that I’m being way too perfectionistic about this. I think it’s better that I update 3 times a week with what little I have to say than sporadically with hefty posts.

So here I go… tossing anything that is too outdated or that I don’t want to really read.

It’s better for me to write about things that I can relate to, to give a better and more insightful perspective than something that is so generalized a press release says all there needs to be said. I’m also considering a linkage roundup for Fridays. It might help to me get on track with a schedule.

In one of my favorite books, Time Management from the Inside Out, author Julie Morgenstern advises taskers to “delay, diminish, delegate, delete.”

Delay:
Some tasks don’t need to be done immediately or right away. In fact,
Morgenstern points out that when people come to you with a task, it
doesn’t need to be done immediately; it’s just that they remembered at
that very moment and decided to tell you. I’m still having troubling
deciding which tasks should be delayed because I like to get everything
done in one day! (which never happens)

Diminish:
This is a tough one for my perfectionistic side. Diminishing tasks
basically means cutting corners on projects. Morgenstern asserts that
things don’t always need to be perfect for each task you do. If
you’re willing to sacrifice perfection on one project for another you
deem more important, that’s diminishing a task, which in the end, will
save you precious time.

Delegate: I’m also bad at this one too because I have a “for it to get done right, I have to do it myself” mentality. (i.e. I abhor when people move my things
around because then I don’t know where it’s been placed when I’m
looking for it; usually the person who moved it to begin with doesn’t
remember either). Delegation, however, is a great time saver –
especially for managers. Delegating is giving something to someone else
to do. A good way to figure out if you can delegate a task is to ask
yourself, “Can someone else do this?” If the answer is yes, find a way
to delegate the task. In the end, even if you have to succumb to your
perfectionistic side and clean the task up a bit, it’ll still save you
time than if you’d done the whole thing yourself.

Delete:
There are tasks you want to get to, but you don’t NEED to do. Delete
those. For example, I have this terrible problem with painful gas
buildup in my stomach. I wrote on my “to do” list: Buy Beano. Um, why?
It’s been on my to-do list for the past 3 weeks to a month. If I
haven’t bought Beano last month, I probably won’t need it this month
and therefore, may not need it next month. It needs to go. What I’ve
got (Pepto Bismol) does the trick just fine. There are things you’d
like to get to, but you haven’t GOTTEN to. Delete the task for now. You can always add it again later.

Small
lessons in time managment have helped me with my procrastinating and
perfectionistic ways because it helps me prioritize tasks in such a way
that staves off panic attacks and mental breakdowns. When you know what
you’ve got to do and you’ve got a schedule to do it, you don’t need to
be depressed! (Not about time management anyway.)

Postpartum depression

About 10 to 15 percent of women experience its symptoms after childbirth. For some, it goes away. For others, it gets worse.

Doctors can’t pinpoint an exact cause but they guess it’s

  • stress
  • genetics
  • hormone fluctuations

PPD Stats:

  • Low-income women are at greater risk for PPD
  • Financial stress increases the risk of PPD while decreased access to healthcare lowers the chance of detection
  • PPD is prevalent among Hispanic women on Medicaid Journal of Women’s Health)
  • Half of women who show signs of PPD never seek treatment

While
50-60 percent of new moms get “baby blues” within 2 weeks of a
delivery, it can get better on its own. PPD affects 8-15 percent of
mothers worldwide and can develop into something serious. It can begin
anytime within 6 months after giving birth.

PPD symptoms:

  • loss of interest in hobbies and normal activities
  • frequent crying
  • appetite loss
  • lack of motivation
  • difficulty sleeping
  • potential inability to bond with child
  • possibly harming herself or her child (severe)

PPD treatment:

  • medication
  • counseling
  • both

PPD increased risks:

  • previous PPD
  • depression unrelated to pregnancy
  • severe PMS
  • marriage difficulties
  • lack of support from loved ones
  • stressful events occurring before or after birth
  • women younger than 17
  • single mothers without other adults around
  • divorced women

Bipolar Disorder

I’ve overlooked important pieces of depression. Depression isn’t just
what doctors classify as MDD, major depressive disorder. Depression can
come in a variety of forms such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
and bipolar (manic) depression (aka bi-p D).

For many years,
especially as a teen, I misclassified myself as bipolar even though I
never received an official “bipolar” diagnosis. Here’s what you need to know:

WHAT:
“Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression, is characterized
by mood swings so severe that a person’s relationships, occupation, and
overall ability to function can be severely compromised.”

SYMPTOMS:
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms include:
a pendulum swing from euphoria to sadness, depression or anger — but
with temperate periods in between. Other signs of bipolar disorder
include insomnia or sleeping too much, drastic weight loss or gain,
difficulty concentrating, anxiousness, and suicidal thoughts.

TREATMENT
: Bi-p D can be controlled with prescription medications, often lithium, to minimized the emotional swings.

Being a 16-year-old girl in high school, I had emotional swings all the time. It’s a wonder I misdiagnosed myself.

Take a quiz to see if you have bipolar disorder and discuss it with your doctor at your convenience.

SSRIs

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
(from monstersandcritics.com)

  • present fewer side effects than their predecessors
  • less likely to be lethal even in large quantities (important for someone who may be suicidal)
  • the
    Federal Drug Administration (FDA) wants SSRI dosage minimized to
    decrease risk of overdosage and close monitoring of younger patients on
    the drug
  • suicide rates overall have declined since SSRI market introduction
  • side effects ma include insomnia, rashes, headaches, joint and muscle pain, upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea
  • mixed with painkillers, SSRIs can pave the way for stomach or uterine bleeding

In the Hindustan Times,
an article ran on a girl who committed suicide because she had not
received the grades she had hoped on a test. One highlight (if you can
consider it that) of reading world news is that they'll report local
suicides more often than U.S. media. The HT story reminds me that there
is no excuse too small or too big for people to commit suicide.

Indian focus recently has been on eliminating suicide scenes from films to prevent copycat cases. In one incident,
a mother dragged her four kids out o the train tracks to die with her.
Two of them were able to escape and survive before a train pummeled the
rest of the family to death.

Ireland is also tackling suicide – they've set a 20 percent reduction target by the year 2016. A published report notes that suicide rates are rising in males younger than 35 and in females under 25. Wisconsin
is battling youth suicide, much like Ireland, and hopes to reduce its
current rate of one young adult committing suicide per week by 10
percent. No time frame for the reduction has been set.

An anti-seizure drug, Neurontin, is being blamed for nearly 300 suicides nationwide.
It is the best-selling anticonvulsant medicine in the U.S. and Pfizer –
Neurontin's maker – posted profits of more than $2.6 billion in 2004.
The FDA has not pushed to have Neurontin taken off the market, but in
2005, simply ordered a review. The results have never been made public
as of today.

A man who killed himself after being turned away from the hospital has drawn worldwide attention to the inadequacies of Australia's mental health system. Although I'm sure similar events have occured in the U.S., it likely does not get widespread coverage.

Can depression be cured?

"There may not be many policies that deliver happiness for all,
but there are some that alleviate misery for many." – The Observer

What seems to be an editorial in the UK Observer asserts that government should step in and care for the mentally ill. Why?

  • 70 percent of men in prison suffer from a psychiatric disorder
  • Homeless people also are "similarly swollen" by legions of untreated mentally ill patients

"There
is, more widely, a taboo around mental illness and a common presumption
that people should be able to heal their own minds with an effort of
will, a stiffening of upper lips and a pulling up of socks. If that
attitude were applied to cancer patients, it would quickly be condemned
as ignorant and callous."

I couldn’t have said that better myself.

Depression symptoms

How to tell if you may be depressed:

  • persistent sadness
  • anxious or empty mood
  • feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • insomnia or oversleeping

Take this quiz and see if you might be suffering from depression.

An article from the Financial Times (more of an op-ed piece) tackles the sensitive issue of men and mental illness. The author, Robert Teed, wisely writes:

    “[Men] are traditionally more stoical, preferring to take the course of a stiff upper lip or straightforward denial. Sometimes, it is not until a mental illness has manifested itself as a physical one… that men seek medical help…”

Having had a father who suffered from paranoia and schizophrenia – I never learned his real diagnosis but I
think that’s accurate – I can wholly understand the context of this statement. My father until he was forced on medication denied that he was mentally ill. My mother helped to cover this up, until he was convinced that he heard voices telling him to do things like drive to an unspecified location or wander in the streets for days at a time
without telling anyone.

    “In spite of many barriers broken down over the past few decades, mental illness is still shrouded in ignorance and taboo.”

Teed cites that the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts depression will be the second most costly illness (behind heart problems) by 2020.

    “I know from bitter experience just how hard it is… when you have not been yourself for a long time, to know exactly what ‘being yourself’ is anymore.”

The most common triggers of male depression, according to Teed: the death of a loved one, redundancy (especially in the workplace) and marital problems.

BBC Stat:

  • One woman in 15 and one man in 30 are affected by depression each year and nearly 44 adults in every 1,000 are estimated to have an anxiety disorder.

(Stat Q: How many men, more so than women, probably go undiagnosed?)

Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) do not recommend anti-depressants for mild depression but prefer Prozac and Seroxat over other anti-d’s because they have a lower risk of discontinuation due to side effects.

BBC Stat:

  • In 1997, 6.5 million prescriptions were written for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-d’s. That figure rose to 13.3 million by 2002.

(Stat Q: Are those figures up because more people are depressed, more people are aware of their depression and are willing to take medication or are doctors flippantly prescribing medication? Such a high jump doesn’t seem responsible. I think the drug companies simply have a good ad campaign going.)

Doctors consider SSRIs safer than older tricyclic drugs which have a high overdose risk. Nevertheless, any patient on anti-d’s must either gradually taper off of anti-d’s or brace for possible side effects.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), analysis of data by the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) experts showed “a modest increase in the risk of suicide from SSRIs compared to placebos” in adults. But (!) compared to other anti-depressants, SSRIs posed no additional risk. (As if a modest risk isn’t work enough.) The MHRA also recommends closer monitoring of adults ages 18-30 on SSRIs.

Kent Woods, chief executive of the MHRA, insists, “The benefits of SSRIs in adults are still considered to outweigh the risk of adverse drug reactions.”

People – especially those with mild depression – need to know that SSRIs aren’t a cure and in most cases, aren’t even
needed. Proper counseling and therapy will aid people with mild to moderate depression.

At the American Diabetes Association conference in Washington, scientists presented findings that people at risk for
diabetes may want to stay away from antidepressants. Overweight patients with a high risk for developing diabetes were more likely to develop the disease with anti-d’s. While those with type 2 diabetes are more prone to depression after being diagnosed, Dr. Lawrence Fisher of the University of California in San Francisco says that about one in every five or six patients with type 2 diabetes reported symptoms of depression.

And in already reported news, I wanted to reiterate that the anti-d fluoxetine will not help patients with anorexia nervosa maintain their restored body weight or reduce their risk of relapse. Apologies to Nicole Richie and Lindsay
Lohan.

External shakeup

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese proverb

I had my first networking event on Friday and it didn’t go so well. I’m trying to organize a chapter of a national media networking group and the first event (for my chapter) was movies then mingling at a bar about a mile away.

A girl e-mailed me at the last minute to tell me that she wanted to come to the event and bring five people. Sure, I said. “See you then!” Another guy, who lived two hours away, said he couldn’t make the movie but would try to meet at the bar. Sure, I said. He wasn’t definitive in his commitment, but I was worried that he’d drive all that way only to not find me. I called my husband, told him he didn’t have to make an emergency appearance because a girl was bringing five other people with her. Another girl — RSVP girl — had e-mailed me a while ago to tell me she was coming and never wavered from her commitment.

I arrived at the movie theater early and waited. Despite the large amount of people swarming outside, RSVP girl showed up on time and found me. Last-minute girl with five people never showed up. RSVP girl couldn’t go to the bar afterward, which was fine since she’d told me that beforehand. I figured the guy out in the boondocks might show up.

I went to the bar, called my husband to pick me up and sat there all alone for one hour until he showed up.

I’d never felt like such a complete idiot or total fool since I got made fun of in high school. But this time, no one was pointing fingers and laughing at me but myself. I immersed myself in Glamour magazine and an Amaretto Sour. Considering that I’m not much for the bar scene, I felt terrible. Add in the fact that I was tired, came to the event straight from work and was having a bad hair day, everything was that much worse.

All weekend I tried to cheer myself up with pleasant thoughts about the situation: “There can be no success without failure” and “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

By Sunday night, my cheery demeanor was at its max. I got depressed while working on other projects and finally broke down, sobbing.

I revealed to my husband that despite my positive thinking, I’d felt like an idiot all weekend and all I could do was obsess about how pathetic I looked with one person showing up to the movie and no one else showing up to anything at all.

I’d prepped myself previously by asking other city coordinators if low turnout at the first few events is normal. Most replied with a resounding “yes” and told me to not give up.

But I evaluated the situation and noticed a few mistakes:

  • Identification: I didn’t identify who I was, how people would find me or where I’d be located
  • Contact information: I failed to re-e-mail my cell number to those attending

But I’ve learned from my mistakes and despite my social phobias, I’m planning another event for the end of the month. I don’t consider myself resilient, but after not completely hiding in my bed after something like this, I’m beginning to think otherwise. I’m not accustomed to this positive thinking thing.

If at first I don’t succeed, I must try, try again.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Benjamin Hendrickson & Ashley Judd

First, the suicide because that’s pretty straightforward.

Benjamin HendricksonAccording to People, soap star of As The World Turns Benjamin Hendrickson killed himself at his Long Island home during the fourth of July weekend. The Associated Press reports that police found him in his bed with a gunshot to the head. According to People, Hendrickson’s friends told the New York Post that he’d suffered from depression since his mother died of cancer three years ago. Apparently, no one knew just how deep Hendrickson’s depression became. While people are lamenting the loss of a talented actor, I sit here and lament at how no one saw any warning signs. Although I’ve attempted suicide multiple times, it’s not something I take particularly lightly when I attempt it. My fear is that after attempting suicide multiple times, people start to view me as the “boy who cried wolf.” My husband has assured me that he takes me seriously each and every single time — which is a comfort when I’m not depressed. But when that fog of depression hits, I’d do anything to get people to leave me alone in the hopes that I can carry out the task of taking my own life away. Some people call it a “cry for help.” Others have told me that I’m simply seeking “attention.” But things are not always what they appear to be from other people’s perspectives. It’s a shame that Hendrickson was such a good actor that he had to act both on and off screen.

Ashley JuddAshley Judd has recently said that she suffered from severe depression as well. Judd, considered a Hollywood golden girl, shocked many people with her revelation. But like Hendrickson, she too, is a good actress — both on and off the
screen. She entered a rehabilitation facility for 47 days to deal with her issues of depression, isolation, co-dependency, and signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. She explains that her life was constantly in a state of transition as a child (she attended 13 schools in 12 years) and exhibited perfectionistic characteristics to please everyone in her life: grandparents and parents.

“They said, ‘No one ever does an intervention on people like you. You look too good. You’re too smart and together. But you (and Wynonna) come from the same family, so you come from the same wound.’ No one had validated my pain before.”

As for her OCD and perfectionistic habits, Judd is using her lessons from therapy to control herself. People reports:

Of curbing her compulsive habit of wiping down plastic surfaces on planes and at hotels, Judd says: “Now I try to remind myself that if I engage in perfectionism, I am abusing myself.”

Heart problems to gubernatorial races

The Baltimore Examiner highlights the increasing awareness doctors have about heart patients.

Vital stats:

  • Older white men are most at-risk for suicide
  • Three main factors lead to suicide: health, income and social support
  • Older people who have recently lost a spouse or feel financially unstable are also at increased risk for suicide
  • People over 65 who have health problems and cannot be as active as they once were are at a high risk for suicide
  • People who have had heart surgery are at a higher risk for depression

The Washington Times ran a story on gubernatorial candidate Doug Duncan, who dropped out of the Maryland race due to depression. Duncan cites a family history of fighting the disease. This serves as a prime example for me — to cut back when doing too much. To be honest, I can’t say I would have done the same thing. I probably would have run myself ragged before bowing out gracefully. I should know: I do it much too often. This article just reminds me that I need to learn my limits — external and self-imposed.

I found this college piece from Brigham Young University quite interesting. Writer Elizabeth Adkins cites depression.com’s statistic that “6 percent of adults encounter depression in any given year.”

“This is a mind-body-spirit plan. You can’t get better without working on all three.” – Brant Slade, bishop of the NYU 117th Ward

This is where I’d butt heads with atheists — I believe that taking care of the spirit nurtures the physical and mental health of a person. Pick your spiritual remedy: being “one” with nature, worshipping a higher power or getting in touch with your inner self — it all adds up to equal a better well-being.

“Some people think holistic is quackery. It depends on your beliefs. ” – Dr. Lorraine Davis, psychiatrist at the BYU Health Center

This final quote is certainly worth a mention:

“Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe.” – Depression.com

I do prefer herbal and supplemental treatments but natural treatments do have the potential to conflict with prescription medication. Tell a doctor if you are taking natural supplements in conjunction with prescription medication or before beginning prescription medication. If something is working, let your doctor know as well — it’s possible it might work for someone else.

The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that omega-3 fatty acids can help kids with depression. Pediatric depression is something I have little knowledge about. How is a child determined to be clinically depressed? How young is too young? (Reuters)

Contentment

"I’m alive, so I should be content.  Then tell me why the hell my whole world is bent?" — Atmosphere: "A Girl Named Hope"

Sometimes, the best ideas are stolen ideas. But used ideas nevertheless.

    I receive a daily devotional from Elisabeth Elliot, a famous missionary
whose husband, Jim, died while trying to minister to a tribe in South
America. Sometimes, I receive nuggets of wisdom too good to glance over
and must share. Here’s one.

God’s Secret Purpose
    Whatever
the enemy of our souls can do to instill doubt about the real purpose
of the Father of our souls, he will certainly try to do. "Hath God
said?" was his question to Eve, and she trusted him, the enemy, and
doubted God. Each time the suspicion arises that God is really "out to
get us," that He is bent on making us miserable or thwarting any good
we might seek, we are calling Him a liar. His secret purpose has been revealed to us, and it is to bring us finally, not to ruin, but to glory.
That is precisely what the Bible tells us: "His secret purpose framed
from the very beginning [is] to bring us to our full glory" (1 Cor 2:7
NEB).

    In my mind, I’m always wondering whether what I’m doing is
right for me, but thoughts like the one above remind me that I often
need to "let go and let God" take care of my anxieties and worries.
Burdening myself with so much only exacerbates my depression.

Sitting on the dock of the bay

    My depression has been at bay. A new job with no stress, a
marriage to a wonderful man and time to myself have kept me content for
the most part. My obsession with New York is still an issue, but mainly
for the the magazine industry that I’d like to get into rather than the
place itself. I’ve been thinking about my "big picture goals" as Julie Morgenstern
puts it and one of them is to begin my own Christian magazine for
single and career women. Therefore, in looking at ways to achieve my
goal, really, I don’t need to work at a major magazine in NY
(although, I’d love to). There are three major magazines in the
Philadelphia area that I can work with and I’d like to do whatever I
can to pursue one of them. I’m learning to modify my goals to make them
work for my location and my marriage. Living in New York is no longer
realistic and I need to let go of that dream – mainly because my
husband hates New York and all things mass transit. But
it is realistic for me to consider living in a suburban area with
access to New York City: my husband will be content in the suburbs and
I’d be more than happy to work in my favorite city in the world.
Modifying my goals is something I will consistently need to do,
especially when I have kids. (!!!)
    We have found a
new apartment about two minutes from the train station and 10 minutes
from the hubby’s job. It’s quite convenient. The location saves both of
us gas, parking fees, sleep and all sorts of other assorted things.
It’s a bit pricey but well worth it when we think of why we made this
move. We spend a lot of time together now – just enough to satisfy the
both of us – are able to do the things that we want to do and have a
life we enjoy. I can honestly say that I enjoy my life now. Things
don’t always work out the way I want and sure I get sad about things,
but I haven’t been depressed in some time. But external circumstances
are working in my favor and I tend to perk up when external
circumstances are status quo.
    I’m also attempting to
overcome fear. I’m trying to take risks – as small as picking up the
phone and calling for an appointment with a doctor I’ve never seen. I’m
trying to organize a group in the Philadelphia area of young media
professionals. The main chapter is in NY (of course) but there are
small chapters around the country and I’m spearheading Philly’s! I’ve
prepared myself for major turnover since I’m so close to NY but I’ll
never know if it will work if I don’t try. (My lame attempt at social
networking.)
    I’m hoping to revamp my blog’s layout. I
don’t know many blogspot pages with three-column layouts but that’s
what I’ll shoot for. In the meantime, I’ve updated the "Resources"
links.
Commentary on depression-related news to come soon…
    P.S.
The Madonna concert at Madison Square Garden last week was simply
excellent. I enjoyed myself despite walking through torrential
downpours to get there.

Is depression a character flaw?

    This story from Vhi healthcare
doesn’t state any new information that a person suffering from
depression wouldn’t know but simply recommends that people suffering
from a mild form of depression are better off with therapy than
medication.

    David Axelrod, a political consultant in Chicago, has written a moving piece on his father’s suicide in the Chicago Tribune. A choice quote: “…my dad still was impacted by the sense, so prevalent in our society, that depression is somehow a character flaw rather than an illness.”
A quote like that warrants a standout because I often fall prey to this
belief myself. Mental illness runs in my family (more of the
schizophrenia and paranoia) and I often beat myself up because I think
depression is a fault. Some of the things that I do emerges as a
character flaw – selfishness for one – but depression in and of itself
is not a flaw and I need to stop beating myself up about it and work to
get the treatment I need.

    According to the Contra Costa Times,
Eminem has been dealing with a bout of depression. No doubt: he lost a
close friend, Proof, from his band D-12 and divorced his wife, Kim
Mathers, for a second time. If I lost my best friend and my husband in
the span of two months, I’d be depressed too. Sources say that he is
fighting through his depression without antidepressants. I say Eminem’s
bout of depression is normal – the kind that most people experience
when they lose a loved one. He’s simply grieving; it doesn’t sound like
a mental illness to me.

    According to the Times of India,
scientists at the Central Drug Research Institute have developed a
landmark drug to control and cure depression. The drug, ‘sent
propezene,’ was tested on more than 250 patients who were said to have
shown “remarkable results.” A senior CDRI scientist said the new drug
is safer than existing anti-depressants and is free of side effects.
The CDRI has obtained an international patent for sent propezene, which
is expected to hit the market soon. (This could be one to watch out
for.)

    Novelist Ned Vizzini, who struggles with depression, is featured in this AP article.
Thankfully though, he says he’s not longer suicidal and that option has
been “crossed out” for him. He’s written a book, “It’s Kind of a Funny
Story” about a young man who goes from being exceptional in an average
high school to being average at an exceptional high school. It seems
like a read worth checking out: “That’s really what this book is about,
making that decision to live,” Vizzini says.

    The San Francisco Bay Times has an opinion column that addresses depression in the gay and lesbian community
(LGBT). According to the writer, gays are four to five times likely to
get severe depression than heterosexuals. A 2000 survey found that gay
men cited depression as their number one health concern after HIV and
lesbians cited depression and mental health as their number one concern
overall. Another study found that gays and lesbians were two to three
times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals. Why the stark
trend? It seems that a “homophobic environment, suppressed anger, a
self-imposed limitation on awareness of feelings and a lack of
emotional nurturing” for their homosexual identities puts the LGBT
community at a greater risk for depression. This revelation seems to
make it possible that depression can be caused not only from a genetics
or a hormonal imbalance, but also as a result of external factors.
Medindia.com has an article
that suggests depression and chronic pain can cause disability in
women. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this finding is sort of “duh.”
If people have chronic pain, there must be something wrong. The “aha!”
finding here seems to be that pain-related emotions can produce
pain-related behaviors. So apparently, if doctors can tackle a female’s
mental health then her physical well-being is expected to improve. If
you didn’t know, now you know. I think this finding is pretty much
common sense, however.

    Recently, more light has been shed on postpartum depression because of Brooke Shield’s admission. According to the Exeter News-Letter,
postpartum blues affects 50 to 85 percent of new moms. Dr. Patricia
Kincare writes, “Common symptoms include rapid shifts in mood, anxiety,
irritability, tearfulness and poor sleep and appetite.” The blues
typically is viewed as depression after two weeks of the same symptoms.
About 10 percent of new mothers experience PPD. Women with PPD are
extremely worried about their infants, are unable to be reassured that
their child is okay and can even feel suicidal. Postpartum OCD seems to
be somewhat more severe – with the mother thinking of their child being
harmed in some way. To treat this mental illness, Kincare recommends
counseling and/or antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. My fear
of developing either PPD or PPOCD is often what keeps me from wanting
to have children. I’m already afraid of dropping my child down a flight
of stairs or tumbling down them myself so the possibility of developing
either one of those illnesses is probably very high for me. Women who
are thinking about becoming mothers should discuss with their doctor
how to approach treatment should they have an onset of postpartum
depression or disorder.

    And the debate over pregnant women using Seroxat continues to rage.
Sophie Corlett, policy director of mental health charity Mind, said:
“The science on Seroxat and pregnancy isn’t conclusive either way.”

Update

    My depression has been at bay for some time. After a serious two-year
bout when I was on and off antidepressants and not able to get out of
bed, I’m happy to say I’m at a content place right now. I find – for
myself – that external factors seem to make my moods go up and down.
Being the perfectionist that I am (which I am working on), the external
factors, for the most part, have been to my advantage or liking. My
trouble comes when external factors are not to my liking – this is when
I will be tested.
    I am very fortunate. I am originally from
New York and now am a transplanted Pennsylvanian. (I don’t like to
think of myself that way because I am so much NY love.) Pennsylvania
and New York are very different, although I like to think of
Philadelphia as NY Jr. or NY lite. It is much bigger than the 3-mile
wide island called Manhattan and there is almost as much to do –
possibly more simply because of its size. However, the attitudes are
vastly different. Philly, the City of Brotherly Love, seems to have
little Brotherly Love of any kind. Philly fans do not hesitate to boo
their team when they are losing or do not hesitate to heckle any fan
wearing a Terrell Owens shirt who’s probably “not with it.” I’ve
learned a new way to order cheesesteaks. “With or without.” No mention
of cheese, though.
    I’ve learned to love the Main Line, which is
where I live. The towns are quaint, formed on either side of the SEPTA
(Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) line. Many of them
boast antique shops and design centers. (I’m proud to boast that my
mother-in-law is a designer.) The Main Line is a quiet pocket of
activity and style that many people in New York seem to miss. The
prices can be comparable to or cheaper than New York and here’s a tip:
tax is cheaper.
    Wawas have comfortably enveloped my heart like a
good hoagie (7-11’s have now fallen out of favor with me.) and John’s
Pizza (630 Lancaster Ave. in Frazer, PA) have the best cheesesteaks
along the Main Line. If you’ve gone there, let me know.
    So I’m
handling this transplanted Philadelphian thing quite well. I lived in
Kentucky from September 2005-April 2006 and didn’t handle that
transition nearly as well. But for a plethora of reasons other than the
fact that it was Kentucky: worked a job when I never saw my husband,
didn’t have any friends, never had time for myself, rarely saw family,
etc. At one point, I ended up working 50-60 hours a week to get the job
done. For some people, this is a normal occurrence, but I am not
working in the medical or corporate field so that many hours were
completely unnecessary. It was an experience I needed to have to put my
life in perspective.

Uses of antidepressants

ON TRIAL: The cheapest antidepressant you can find? Semen.
EVIDENCE: According to a NewScientist.com article,
a study has shown that women who are directly exposed to semen are less
depressed. While doctors still advocate condom use, the study shows
that women whose partners did not wear condoms were generally happier
than women whose partners wore condoms. The article says that the
researchers took into account other factors that might affect the study
such as oral contraceptives, intimacy frequency, the strength of the
relationships and personality.

"In fact, the
results aren’t a complete surprise because semen does contain several
mood-altering hormones, including testosterone, oestrogen,
follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, prolactin and
several different prostaglandins."

The article quotes one
doctor who suggests that semen could possibly affect the mood of gay
males who have unprotected sex. The article seems to imply that the
semen-mood-altering study is directly tied to vaginal (possibly anal)
sex but hints that oral sex may provide similar benefits in the same
way that an oral contraceptive could alter hormones.
VERDICT:
If you’ve got a male partner, in a monogamous, committed relationship
and suffering from mild depression, go ahead and test this study out.
(Everybody wins!) Otherwise, stick to the anti-depressants and use
condoms.

ON TRIAL: Prozac + anorexia nervosa = recovery
EVIDENCE: Very little. According to a New York Times article,
research shows that antidepressants can help people suffering from
bulimia nervosa recover, but the benefits do not seems to transfer to
anorexia. About three million Americans (mainly women) will suffer from
anorexia and studies show that two-thirds of them are treated with
antidepressants.

"Dr. Walter Kaye, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh,
said the new findings should not rule out the use of antidepressant treatment altogether."

THE VERDICT:
Antidepressants have a long way to go in targeting those who suffer
from eating disorder psychoses. Further research needs to be done to
show any significant value in antidepressant use.

ON TRIAL: Pregnant women using antidepressants.
EVIDENCE: According to medindia.com,
Seroxat, an antidepressant linked to heart abnormalities, seems safe to
use in pregnant women. Researchers found no increased risk to women or
their babies. However, three abnormalities out of 119 women were
reported with use of the drug: clubfeet, a large port wine mark and
neck muscle spasms. In a group that did not use the drug, 25 out of 557
babies were affected.
THE VERDICT: Pregnant women
should cautiously approach using antidepressants and discuss the
ramifications of using the drugs with their doctor. The studies seems
to imply that babies can have an abnormality regardless of the mother
using an antidepressant but caution still should be used.

INFORMATION: According to a KLTV article, Mayo Clinic study has found that REM Sleep Behavior Disorder,
which typically affects people in their 50s, is now being discovered in
patients as young as 30. The link? Anti-depressants. The violent sleep
disorder causes people to act out their dreams, which can result in
serious injury to themselves or the person sleeping beside them. The
recommendation? Don’t stop taking your medication but see a sleep
specialist right away.

Relationship

    My husband has been the most effective tool in helping me battle my depression. My husband has been caring, loving and unwavering throughout our marriage. My husband, who was my long-distance boyfriend during my worst bouts of depression, provided emotional and physical support, a listening ear, and generous advice. He offers encouragement when I don’t deserve them and is considerate when I am stubborn. He only thinks of me when I only think of my suffering. And in the end, he makes me a better person for who he is.
    Healthy relationships can aid a person in the road to recovery. The transformation in my life since my marriage has been tremendous. But it requires persistence, faithfulness and unconditional love from someone who sees past the sufferer’s selfishness.

Christianity

I began taking antidepressants at 22 years old. My parents were reluctant to put me on medication as a growing teenager. In July 1998, I found something I thought would offer me a better chance at being happy: I became a born-again Christian by accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Some people find different ways of happiness and staying alive. Thinking that a big, divine God had kept me alive this long for a reason kept me going.
Jesus Christ became my raison d’être: for eating, sleeping, breathing. I lived to worship God day and night and felt He had truly transformed me and saved me out of my depression. While He may infuse a life-changing transformation for some Christians on Earth, for me, my victory over depression would be short-lived. It soon became the “thorn in my side.”
Close friends and family said that Christianity didn’t work for me. But through my faith, I found a need to continue living. I felt needed and had a reason to live for other than myself. Thinking that God has me here for a higher purpose keeps me going: I’m curious to find out what’s at the end. Faith in God can bring some needed relief for depression sufferers.

Antidepressants

Anti-depressants are a touchy subject for people who suffer from depression. Anti-depressants help some people, cause no change in others or, in some instances, can even harm. I went through Paxil and Lexapro before my doctor recommended Zoloft. None of those medications helped me with depression. Paxil didn’t hesitate to add weight, jittery nerves and increased anxiety; Lexapro helped to spin me deeper into depression and suicide — to a point where I couldn’t get out of bed. Once my doctor handed me a prescription for Zoloft, I realized that my end-all-be-all cure for depression could not depend on medicines. I received the argument, “Try all you can before stopping medication,” but I had done all I could on medication. My life was spinning out of control and it nearly cost me— I almost failed to graduate college and nearly lost my summer job at a prestigious magazine. While preparing for a wedding — one of the most stressful events in a person’s life — I quit taking the medication. Some people are better with anti-depressants than without them, but for others, anti-depressant just can’t and won’t do the trick.

UPDATE: Because of a recent bipolar diagnosis, I am currently on Lamictal (lamotrigine) and have been doing well on the medication. I recently came off of Effexor XR after having taken the medication and experience terrible withdrawal effects. More on that here.

Suicide

I’d like to say, “Been there, done that,” but it’s not something I’m proud to dismiss. February 14, 1997 was the first time I attempted suicide: I tried to jump off a fourth-story balcony. But I’m a drama queen and like standard drama queen fare, I called my pals and left them goodbye messages. People call it a cry for help; I just can’t leave this world without saying goodbye. (I liken it to leaving home for a long trip in another continent You’d say goodbye to those you love and would miss.) It’s become a bad (or perhaps, good) pattern that has kept me alive. I’ve tried jumping out of cars, swallowing pills, slashing, stabbing, drowning, suffocating — and barely stopped short of hanging. I got as far as a chair and a noose until I couldn’t bear to imagine my father walk in the door from work to see his only child hanging from the ceiling fan in the hallway.
I’m not happy to admit all this, but people can learn a lesson from a life as varied as mine. I’ve been to the depths of desolation and desperation and I know the feeling of not being able to “go on” or even wanting to “go on.”

Social Awkwardness

Being smart hardly puts people in the most popular situation. My geekiness gained me more enemies than friends. (Oddly enough, my rival Danielle turned into one of my good friends shortly after fifth grade.) Another friend I’d had since first grade — a person I’d considered my best friend — spread vicious rumors around school about me and caused me trouble with parents and college guys when I was at 12 years old. The unfolding years became no better as teasing from classmates and soon, teachers, intensified. By high school, I shut myself off from other people and making new friends. I built an armor of self-rejection around myself so the darts of rejection thrown at me could not pierce my skin. I continued to hope that my intelligence would garner social points but I quickly learned that my popularity immensely increased with tests and quizzes and then sharply declined until the next time. My social awkwardness continues to this day — in my head, I overanalyze the implications of a new friendship or conjure reasons why a stranger probably dislikes me. Such is the life of a perfectionistic, socially awkward, depressed person.

Perfectionistic Tendencies II

The principal at my elementary school ruled against me skipping a grade ahead and so I remained stuck in first grade with second grade reading skills. (It should be noted here that second graders didn’t like me either — I was the annoying kid who knew all the answers and raised her hand all the time. No one likes that kid. Ever.) As I got older, school, naturally, became harder. In third grade, a girl named Danielle, who was smarter and prettier than me, became my first intellectual competitor. (Side note: This was a futile effort as she’s been valedictorian twice in her life and graduated from college with a degree in biophysics or biochemistry.) Constantly failing to be the best annoyed me enough at this point. Instead of my father assuring me that my best was enough, I got, “What happened to 100?” I never grew up thinking or knowing that if I got a “90,” it was an “A” and if that’s the best I could’ve done under the circumstances, then it was okay. If I got a 98, I always heard, “What happened to the other 2 points?” It was always A+ or 100never “at least you tried your best.” I began hiding tests that weren’t perfect from my parents — setting me up for a livelihood of perfectionism.

Perfectionistic Tendencies

As the only child of Haitian immigrants (side note: As I write this, I’m making a note to check on the proper usage of immigrant/emigrant), pressure to make them proud was thrust upon me. Making them happy had never been a problem until I wrote my first book at 6 years old. My parents and school librarian marveled at my ability to grasp the concept of a beginning, middle and end with a clear conflict and climax at such an early age. My parents — namely my father — viewed me as a child prodigy in the area of writing. Talk ensued about me skipping a grade; peers envied me as I took second grade reading in first grade; my father strongly encouraged me to write a follow-up story. But, sophomore follow-ups don’t tend to be nearly as good as a debut. I wrote Lila’s Secret Hideout in second grade and poured my heart and soul into the book, which included endless revisions and drafts — with the help of my librarian. My father insisted that Lila’s Secret Hideout was nowhere near as good as my debut, Sarah’s Boots. I spent the rest of my life trying to win another Pulitzer Prize from my father.
I’d continue to fail.

Who I Am

I am a 26-year-old black female who suffers from bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with the illness in November 2006. I’d been diagnosed as suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) beginning at the age of 14. I still consider myself to suffer primarily from depression although I do have occasional manic episodes.

This blog has helped me to recognize many of the things that I am. That
I truly am more than my diagnosis and that my diagnosis does not define
me. I am not just a person with manic and depressive episodes. I am a person with a personality. I’m smart, witty, drop-dead gorgeous—okay, I wish, but I’m not ugly—musically inclined, and ambitious. And that’s just scratching the surface.

I can be happy, sad, angry, and joyful. I have so many emotions that could classify me as anything. I have a short attention span, for instance. The docs missed the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis (although I lack the hyperactivity).  I suffer from anxiety as well but not a single medical record lists me as suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). So I self-diagnose. It helps me to realize that all of my flaws can pigeonhole me into any diagnosis I choose. I accept my flaws – “diagnosable” or not – and my strengths. This is my journey to learn more about myself, my diagnosis, my medical treatment, and anything relating to my personal life and general mental health.

I’m skeptical of pharmaceutical companies. I don’t hate them; however, many of their practices are shady and I—along with some of my favorite medical blogs —hope to shed light on the “unfavorable” news they choose to keep hidden from the public.

I highlight celebrities who admit to mental illnesses. Many of them suffer from depression, which is the fashionable mental illness of the moment, but others truly suffer from problems that are worth talking about.

I also write about my personal life relating to mental illness. I struggle with constant thoughts of suicide. Readers of this blog will note a pronounced emphasis on suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Feel free to read on to the next entry about my Perfectionistic Tendencies. Chronicling my journey to managing and treating my illness can hopefully aid me. And eventually, someone else.