Status update

I'm going to try to keep this as short as I can because I have a lot to do and finally have the energy — and mental clarity! — to do it.

I woke up at 5 am yesterday due to a bad migraine. I didn't fall asleep until 2 am. I'd laid in bed from 10 pm-12 am hoping to fall asleep since my thoughts had begun to take a negative turn and I knew it was because of lack of sleep.

I was up for a total of 21 hours. Between the lack of sleep and the medication side effects, it was a combo for disaster. I tried to use Twitter and play Scrabble and Sudoku as distractions but my negative thoughts continued to invade my mind. Go ahead, call me crazy, but I believe in evil forces and Satan was attacking me hard.

I am okay right now. My mood is just fine, holding steady at a 6 right now. But I was bad — very bad last night.

And yes, I should be eating better.

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Mood rating update

I’m at a 5 and doing better. This is a remote post so I’ll write more later.

Mood rating

Mood rating: 1

I'm feeling depressed

It just hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know why. No suicidal thoughts. Just depression. It hurts. Cymbalta won’t help. 😛 (I can’t be too bad if I have a sense of humor, right?)

Mood rating: 2

Comments: CAPCHA back on

I've been getting about one spam comment a day but I'm much too lazy to start deleting a comment a day. It'd especially be annoying to go without checking my email or looking at this blog for a period of time then have to delete a slew of spam comments. So CAPCHA's back on. Oh well. It was nice while it lasted.

A touch of bad '90s teenage angst poetry

All the rage

The movement people call “emo” today slightly evolved from “grunge” about a decade and a half ago. Regardless, I was part of this “grunge” culture and wore the flannel shirts, ripped jeans, had the messy, dishelved long hair, and felt the torture of my mere existence. (There was a hint of sarcasm in that last phrase.) I roll my eyes at how much of a drama queen I was back then (10 times more so!) but my emotions as a teen were very painful and very real. Since I can’t provide a coherent, well-thought out post today, I decided to peel back a little bit of my vulnerability and share a bit of “angsty” poetry written on June 1, 1999. If you can get past the crappiness of it, you can get the sense I was feeling rather lonely.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lamictal withdrawal + sickness = out of it

I'm most likely out of commission for the week. I traveled this past weekend and came down with this nasty cold. Along with tapering down on Lamictal, I'm feeling kind of spacey and out of it. Thanks to a good friend's advice, I'm holding off on tapering down some more until I'm feeling better. So right now, I can't tell whether I'm suffering from Lamictal withdrawal, the effects of a common cold, or a combination of the two.

Except for the blurry vision — I've had that since starting Lamictal and the withdrawal is making the difference much more, er, visible.

Quote of the Week

"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain
too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives
everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that
can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis
the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and
whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto
death." — Thomas Paine

Junk mail hurts the environment

A duh statement, right?

Junk mailFor most of us, we have emails that do a pretty good job of controlling spam. (Let me pimp gmail here for a second — they do a GREAT job of controlling spam.) But every time I receive a bunch of crap in my snail mail, I always wonder whether these companies pay attention to the concerns about the environment and lessening waste. Trust me, I’m no treehugger but I do think that we should be good stewards of the paper we use. (You’re talking to the girl that writes on the back and front of pages in notebooks. It irks me when people only write on one side of a page.)

I don’t mind getting circulars; I use them. I wouldn’t say to completely eliminate them either since there are likely older people who don’t use the Internet, but there should be a way to opt out of junk mail and subscribe electronically.

Most banks provide the option of receiving bank statements wirelessly. I subscribe to electronic statements for the majority of the banks I use. But then there are all these “special” bank offers that I’ve been pre-approved for. Is there a number I can call and say, “Please stop sending me this crap! I am not responding to any bank offers via postal mail, I don’t care how good it is”?

Then I get the stupid roofer, mason, siding, and renovation advertisements. I live in an apartment, not a home. Get real.

The floating “Subscribe to Netflix today!” ads. Guess what Netflix? You get our money every month already. Stop trying to recruit your own customers.

Victoria's SecretVictoria’s Secret catalogs. OK, I’ll admit I love getting VS catalogs. Beyond their undergarments, they also sell a few modest outfits (pants, button-down shirts, and tank tops) and (IMO) to-die-for shoes. VS catalogs are pretty long and detailed so I can understand why they’re mailed. But my husband and I have — at one point — received 4-5 catalogs one week, some of them duplicates. Many times I’ve gotten up to 3 catalogs a week. These catalogs don’t vary much in the products they contain except that they’re all assigned different catalog codes. A catalog every now and then is no big deal. When you bombard me during a “big sale” several days a week for a few weeks, then I start to get annoyed. If the government does this, we call it “wasteful spending”; I think the same of VS. How much money could they save themselves by sending less catalogs?

My biggest irritation is the referrals to other store catalogs I’ve never heard of, don’t care about, and will never buy from. Here’s some TMI for a hot minute: I’ve ordered from VS, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Activa Sports, and Road Runner Sports. These four catalogs suddenly decided that perhaps I’d like Venus, J. Jill, Coldwater Creek, Athleta, Boston Proper and a whole other host of catalogs that I don’t even know the names of because they simply find a new home in the trash. In a random catalog mailing, I received Alloy — a catalog that I used to get, oh say, 10-15 years ago. Come on, seriously? Something’s wrong if a 15-year-old is getting Alloy and VS.

To be introspective for a moment: Do I waste paper? Well, I certainly do; I’m not perfect but I try to minimize my use of paper if I deem it unnecessary. If I have a post-it note and have to scribble two unrelated things, I use a line to divide them instead of using separate post-its. (Unless the post-it is 1.5 x 2 or something like that. I don’t write small enough.)

treeI’m not the best at saving the environment. In fact, I probably hurt the environment in more ways than I help it. But I wish environmental groups would actually take notice of this blatant littering of the environment and do something about it. (Btw, I have tried GreenDimes when it was free and it didn’t do much.)

Fail Fridays

Concerta ADHD Ad

Of all the examples to use for an ADHD medication ad, I thought the “before” symptoms were terrible. I’m not ashamed to admit I did all of those things at one time or another (not in the same sequence). But then again, teachers tried to tell my mother I had (what used to be known as) ADD. Whatever. People these days call it ADHD. I call it being a normal kid. (Side rant: Teachers these days don’t want to deal with disciplining children in school when they misbehave or act out of turn so they recommend medicating them as a way to keep them docile and under control. And parents go along with it since they feel it will make their lives easier at home too. Not to say that some children don’t legitimately suffer from ADHD, but based on casual conversations I’ve had with a few people, it seems as though the number is rising.)

Below is a photo that I snapped of a Concerta ad which recently appeared in Shape magazine followed by 2 pages of side effects and indications. (Click on the picture to view its full size.) Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

Concerta ad

20% of American children suffer from mental illness

The new SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) law that President Obama signed significantly increases health coverage for children, which also includes mental health parity. According to Nancy Shute of U.S. News & World Report, health coverage is expanded to:

“4 million more children beyond the 6 million already covered but also brings mental-health parity to the state programs that provide insurance for children in low-income families, requiring that they get the same access to treatment for bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and other serious disorders as they do for physical ailments.”

Then I stumble across this:

Depressed child“Mental-health needs are nowhere near being met,” says Jay E. Berkelhamer, past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and chief academic officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “At least 20 percent of all visits to pediatricians’ offices are related to mental-health problems.

Normally, though, overworked pediatricians may not ask if a child has a mental-health problem—and may not know where to refer him or her if they do. About 20 percent of children and teenagers have a mental-health problem at any given time, or about 8 million to 13 million people. Two thirds of them are not getting the help they need.

That means out of roughly 40-65 million kids, we have 8-13 million who are “mentally ill.” And then about 5-8 million who aren’t getting proper mental help.

Color me cynical but I think 20 percent is a disproportionately high number to classify children as mentally ill. I think the percentage of adults being classified as mentally ill is exorbitant enough, let alone children who are going through stages in their lives where they’re simply developing, encountering mood swings, being disobedient, and perhaps, being — perish the thought! — normal children.

But let’s address something else here: I don’t think it’s impossible for children to suffer from mental illness but the incidence should be significantly lower.

According to Dr. Louis Kraus, the chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, suicide ranks as the sixth-leading cause of death among ages 5-14 — “although rare.” From ages 15-24, it jumps to number three.

The key word in that last paragraph is suicide is “rare.” The rate of mental illness in children should reflect that somehow. While I’m very happy SCHIP includes widespread mental health parity for low-income families, I’m also concerned children will be overdiagnosed with a “mental illness” when they may simply be dealing with the normal challenges of a difficult life.

“I used to care, but now I take a pill for that.” — Author unknown

Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons has some great posts on the bipolar child paradigm that further explore the murky world of psychiatry pushing psychiatric illnesses and psychotropic drugs on kids. I’d also recommend reading Soulful Sepulcher as Stephany recounts her and her daughter’s experiences in and out of the mental health system.

(pic from save.org)

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I could’ve been a statistic right here in this area.

suicides in PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia now boasts the sharpest increase in suicides in the country. Despite all the homicides in Philadelphia making the news, the 196 people who killed themselves in 2008 were quietly buried in the obit pages (if they made it there at all).

In light of this news, I’ve decided to place a suicide hotline web banner in the upper right-hand corner of my right sidebar. Susan of If You’re Going Through Hell Keep Going has one in her sidebar and I think it’s a wonderful idea. I’ve had a couple of people comment or send me emails about how they feel they’re on the brink of losing it so hopefully the banner — one of the first things to be seen on this page — will draw some attention and prompt someone to call for help. When I was a teen, I called 1.800.SUICIDE. I can’t remember what happened exactly but I called the hotline and someone talked me into why life was still worth living. People who are suicidal don’t really want to die; they want an escape from the pain they’re feeling and they feel the only way to alleviate that pain is through inflicting death upon themselves. I hope someone who is suicidal would be willing to pick up the phone and come to the same realization that I did at the time.


Speaking of suicide, researchers from the World Health Organization and the University of Verona, Italy have discovered that SSRIs (a class of antidepressants) may significantly reduce the risk for suicide in adults. SSRIs — which include such medications as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft — are not be confused with SNRIs such as Effexor, Pristiq, and Cymbalta. PsychCentral notes:

SSRIPrevious studies, including a 2007 study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), found the risk of suicide in adults was neutral, elevated in those under 25 and reduced in people older than 65. A subsequent black box warning was added to all antidepressants regarding increased risk of suicidal symptoms in people under 25 years of age.

Basically, this study just means antidepressants help those who are 25 years and older and hurt those 24 years and younger. I’m sure a new study will come out within the next year or so that contradicts this one. Especially since numerous previous studies on SSRIs found the risk of suicide to be neutral in ages 25-65.


Young adultAccording to the Boston Globe, a (really pathetic) new study shows that nearly half of young adults between the ages of 19 to 25 “meet the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder.”

Whether in college or not, almost half of this country’s 19-to-25-year-olds meet standard criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder, although some of the disorders, such as phobias, are relatively mild, according to a government-funded survey of more than 5,000 young adults, published in December in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The study, done at Columbia University and called the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions, found more alcohol use disorders among college students, while their noncollege peers were more likely to have a drug use disorder.

But, beyond that, misery is largely an equal-opportunity affliction: Across the social spectrum, young people in America are depressed. They’re anxious. They regularly break one another’s hearts. And, all too often, they don’t get the help they need as they face life’s questions…

According to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey, the population for adults ages 18-24 is gauged to be around 30 million. Therefore if we’re going to take the study at its word, let’s chop the number by half (even though the number is just under half). That will put us at about 15 million young adults. The NIMH, however, estimates 57.7 million adults in the U.S. “suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.” If this is the case, those 15 million young adults make up nearly 26 percent of the NIMH’s “diagnosable mental disorder” statistic. The inclusion of alcohol and drug addictions might explain why this figure might be a little high.

DISCLAIMER

After receiving many e-mails from people asking for me help, I feel obligated to put the standard note on this site: I am not a doctor.
Never have been, never will be. I only offer my personal insights and options. I cannot offer medical advice whatsoever — official or unofficial. Please consult your doctor for professional medical advice.

The Zoloft-rage connection

ZoloftI’ve received a lot of hits from people looking to find a connection between Zoloft and rage/violence/irritability. Here’s what I have so far:

Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) information

Comments

I'm opening comments without CAPCHA to see what happens. While email addresses will still be required (use a fake one if need be), this should make it easier for people to comment on posts. (A few people have told me they would comment if it weren't for that silly CAPCHA.) If I get hit with a slew of spam comments, CAPCHA will be turned back on. Banned words are still in effect.

…and on to AstraZeneca's problems with Seroquel

Eli Lilly seems to be passing along its misfortune off to AstraZeneca, which now appears to be having issues with masking evidence of Seroquel side effects. From Furious Seasons:

A great article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times over the weekend, revealing that lawyers for AstraZeneca will argue in court later this month that the company wants documents introduced into a federal court hearing in a case over various allegations around Seroquel sealed and hidden from public view. They want an upcoming hearing in the federal class action lawsuit against AZ closed to the public as well. Lawyers argue that they are protecting patients and, oddly, the public at-large.

Read the rest of Philip's post.

Effexor (venlafaxine) Withdrawal

I’ve compiled a list of my posts on Effexor (venlafaxine) withdrawal in chronological order. Do NOT take any of the information from these posts as official medical advice. This is based on my own experience; experiences may vary.

Antidepressant rankings: Zoloft and Lexapro considered best overall

A number of antidepressants were recently ranked in different surveys:

Zoloft and Lexapro came in first for a combination of effectiveness and fewer side effects, followed by Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Cymbalta, and Luvox among others.

The first was efficacy — or how likely patients were to experience the desired effects of the drug.

Efficacy:

1. Remeron (Mirtazapine)
2. Lexapro (Escitalopram)
3. Effexor (Venlafaxine)
4. Zoloft (Sertraline)
5. Celexa (Citalopram)
6. Wellbutrin (Buproprion)
7. Paxil (Paroxetine)
8. Savella (Milnacipran)
9. Prozac (Fluoxetine)
10. Cymbalta (Duloxetine)
11. Luvox (Fluvoxamine)
12. Vestra (Reboxetine)

The second was acceptability — the likelihood that a patient would continue using a drug for the duration of the study (it is generally assumed that a high ratio of patients dropping out indicates the presence of undesirable side effects for a drug).

Acceptability:

1. Zoloft (Sertraline)
2. Lexapro (Escitalopram)
3. Wellbutrin (Buproprion)
4. Celexa (Citalopram)
5. Prozac (Fluoxetine)
6. Savella (Milnacipran)
7.
Remeron (Mirtazapine)
8. Effexor (Venlafaxine)
9. Paxil (Paroxetine)
10. Cymbalta (Duloxetine)
11. Luvox (Fluvoxamine)
12. Vestra (Reboxetine)

antidepressantsMy experience with Lexapro was a disaster and I’ve written about Zoloft’s connection with irritability and rage. Paxil’s side effects are especially rough (see Bob Fiddaman’s Seroxat page) while Effexor’s withdrawal effects proved to be significantly challgenging. Although Prozac offset Effexor’s withdrawal symptoms, it causes severe somnolence that can impair cognitive functioning. And last but not least, Cymbalta contributed to the unfortunate death of Traci Johnson who had no history of depression.

These drugs may be effective for many people but it’s still a guessing game. Dr. Mark I. Levy, quoted in ABC News’s article on the rankings, mentioned that while psychiatrists may not have much use for the rankings, he sees them as beneficial for primary care physicians. And Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a professor at Duke University Medical Center, adds:

“I would be likely to start patients on either Zoloft [because it’s cheaper] or Lexapro … Unfortunately, that is almost none of my patients. By the time they get to me [a psychiatrist], the primary-care doctors have tried Zoloft and other antidepressants, so my patient are not the “new to medication” kind of patients,” he said.

I won’t rehash my thoughts on PCPs prescribing antidepressants and other psych meds. You can read about them here.

Loose Screws Mental Health News (the ODD version)

I came across an article in my Google Alerts titled, “Harvard study: Under-treatment of mental illness contributes to crime.” Intrigued, I clicked on the link to read more of the article. Turns out the lede is:

Two thirds of prisoners nationwide with a mental illness were off treatment at the time of their arrest, according to a new study by Harvard researchers that suggests under-treatment of mental illness
contributes to crime and incarceration.

The article is poorly titled. The headline was designed to be alarming: “Watch out for those crazy people! They’re violent!” It’s not “under-treatment of mental illness” that “contributes to crime” so much as it is “two-thirds of inmates with mental illness are off medication.” There’s nothing in the article that asserts people with mental illness contribute to the crime rate in America. An interesting read but an inaccurate head.


shoppingThe New York Times had an article a few weeks ago on compulsive shopping eventually becoming a legitimate disorder. I’d been wanting to write about this for a while but Gianna at Beyond Meds beat me to it. She aptly titles her post, “It’s called poor impulse control, people .” She writes:

It’s a psychological problem. But let’s relegate out of control shopping to a brain disorder too, so people can have one less thing to take responsibility for. This is really getting ridiculous. Pretty soon we won’t be responsible for any of our bad behavior as it all becomes pathologized and out of our hands. And you can be sure they’ll be a drug for it, too. Since their calling it OCD related it’s a good bet they’ll try out SSRIs.

The DSM-V is currently being crafted in secret but everyone in the medical field fully expects new disorders (such as subthreshold bipolar disorder and Internet addiction) to pop up. Don’t be surprised if CSD (compulsive shopping disorder) pops up in it too. (pic via pro.corbis.com)


In related let’s-give-everything-a-diagnosis news, some mental health experts are assigning a new label to women obsessed with having children: baby addiction.

baby…Sometimes the desire to keep having children can be rooted in complex psychological issues dating as far back as one’s childhood. In certain cases, experts say, it can become a compulsion, an obsession or even a “baby addiction.”

While the current book of psychiatric diagnoses, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” has no entry on baby addiction, mental-health professionals say they see patients, mostly women, who desperately want to keep having newborns, even when they already have several children and aren’t managing their family situation well. That, they say, is a big red flag, no matter what term is used to describe it.

“It can be an addiction,” says Gayle Peterson, a family therapist in the San Francisco area and author of “Making Healthy Families.”

Peterson has seen several women in her practice who’ve been overwhelmed with four or five children, including those with special needs. Some of the women were suffering with depression or panic attacks and yet when their youngest child became a toddler, they wanted another baby. These women can be driven to have more children in an effort to make up for some sort of void or loss, usually from their own unhappy childhood, explains Peterson.

“If you’re just having babies to complete something in yourself that never got completed, you really are talking about an addiction,” she says.

While it might be an addiction, it’s not DSM-V diagnosis-worthy and it definitely doesn’t need medicinal treatment. Get some psychotherapy and call it a day. An addiction like this is behavioral more than anything else. (pic via sodahead.com)


And last but not least, we’ve also got a new case of “climate change delusion.” (Ha!)

Last year, an anxious, depressed 17-year-old boy was admitted to the psychiatric unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. He was refusing to drink water. Worried about drought related to climate change, the young man was convinced that if he drank, millions of people would die. The Australian doctors wrote the case up as the first known instance of “climate change delusion.”Robert Salo, the psychiatrist who runs the inpatient unit where the boy was treated, has now seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change, as well as children who are having nightmares about global-warming-related natural disasters.

–snip–

Of course, no one can predict what effect warming will have on our psyches. The links between mental illness and the weather can be tenuous or even downright contradictory. Depending on which studies you read, suicide is more common, less common, or equally common in hot weather. Ditto dry weather.

It looks like my post just turned into an ODD (OverDiagnosis Disorder) case. I’ll get back to you once I’m free of my concern for the environment, my desire for multiple children, and my penchant for window shopping.

Welcome to Philadelphia: where our judges like to jail kids in return for money

This isn't mental health related but it's a story despicable enough that I had to put it here. As if the Philly area didn't have enough murders and stuff going on, we've got judges who would rather get rich than be concerned with children's welfare.

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Two judges pleaded guilty on Thursday to
accepting more than $2.6 million from a private youth detention center
in Pennsylvania in return for giving hundreds of youths and teenagers
long sentences.

–snip–

When someone is sent to a detention center, the company running the
facility receives money from the county government to defray the cost
of incarceration. So as more children were sentenced to the detention
center, PA Childcare and Western PA Childcare received more money from
the government, prosecutors said.

–snip–

One 17-year-old boy was sentenced to three months' detention for being in the company of another minor caught shoplifting.

Others were given similar sentences for "simple assault" resulting
from a schoolyard scuffle that would normally draw a warning, a
spokeswoman for the Juvenile Law Center said.

The Constitution guarantees the right to legal representation in
U.S. courts. But many of the juveniles appeared before Ciavarella
without an attorney because they were told by the probation service
that their minor offenses didn't require one.

Read the entire article.

Coming off of Lamictal (lamotrigine): 200 mg to 150 mg

I'm currently experiencing significant blurry vision and fatigue. I feel like my eyes keep crossing and I have to blink several times and keep my eyes wide open to focus well. It's annoying. My mood is stable at a 6. I also think I have a slightly weakened immune system as I'm starting to get sick.

Quote of the Week

"What does the Lord require but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God?" — Bible: Micah 6:9

Happy Valentine's Day (for real this time)

I get so negative on this blog with negative stories and negative anecdotes that sometimes we all just need to think about the positive things in the world. Instead of me focusing on suicide for a day, how about I focus on life?

Check out this story from the Boston Globe of a white firefighter who saved a black baby girl 40 years ago during the a time when racial tensions were still high. It's good to read of a story that reminds me of life rather than death. Maybe I can use this story to celebrate life on Valentine's Day rather than… death.

(H/T: No Quarter)

Happy Valentine's Day

I hate Valentine’s Day. I never cared much for it growing up except that my elementary school teachers forced us to make crafts with hearts aglow and such to present to our parents. But that’s not the reason I hate it so much.

Suicide jumpOn February 14, 1996, I tried to jump off the balcony on my mom’s 4th floor apartment. I’d left my friends goodbye messages but one friend was so concerned she called the police who promptly showed up at the door to make sure I was okay. My mother, who normally works during the day, took the day off just because she “felt like it.” (Which if you knew my mother, never happens and was very out of place.) When the police showed up, she had no idea that I’d been leaning over the rail outside on the balcony staring down at the concrete four stories below. I didn’t fall; I never leaned myself over the rail enough. And by the time I walked back inside (which wasn’t very long), the police rang the doorbell.

My mother looked like she had been hit by a truck. Why would her daughter want to kill herself? She and my father, immigrants from the West Indies, had worked so hard to provide me with a comfortable life, my own bedroom, my own TV, my own video game system, my own stereo, a Catholic school education… everything. Why this?

Not long after, I tried to jump out of the second story window at my high school. The students “tattled” and I suddenly found myself in the guidance counselor’s office. And my mother suddenly found herself sitting next to me as well, disheartened and dismayed.

Why? What prompted all of this? Was it my mental illness? No.

I was lonely.

A new freshman in an all-girls’ school, one of two black girls in the school and I just couldn’t find a way to make lasting friends. The friends that I did make weren’t in any of my classes apart from Music and everyone else seemed to enjoy taunting me and tormenting me. So essentially I had no one to talk to or sit with during lunch. The one girl I’d known from junior high who attended the school with me suddenly turned on me and became hostile. (I’m so forgiving, though, she’s one of my Facebook friends now.)

Broken heartSo on Valentine’s Day, girls got flowers and balloons from their boyfriends who attended other schools and friends showed other friends their affection by giving them cards or funny trinkets. I gazed out the window right before school ended only to see parents pulling up to the school with Lexuses and Benzes while a few guys following behind with their BMWs.

I didn’t speak to anyone the entire day and no one bothered to speak to me. Here’s a bit of TMI: You know that grimy feeling you get in your mouth after you wake up from sleeping during the night? Yeah, I had that by the end of the school day.

Our slim lockers were crammed all into one room so at the end of the day, you had to wait or fight your way to getting to your locker. I distinctly remember bending over while I was packing up only to have someone pinch my backside. Of course, stupid me, I turned around trying to figure out who it was but all I could find were girls chattering excitedly everywhere. Optimists would call it an accident; I dealt with enough that year to know it wasn’t and one of those girls had a few people laughing behind my back.

So when I hear of Valentine’s Day each year, I think of my first official suicide attempt. Nothing serious that landed me in the hospital but it was the first in a string of attempts to come. (I’ve never mentioned the knife-throwing incident at my friend’s 16th birthday party, have I? Well, that’s a story for another day.)

Oh and by the way, have a Happy Valentine’s Day.

(first photo of a Norwegian man jumping to his death; second from lifeofworship.wordpress.com)

Coming off of Lamictal (lamotrigine)

Medication

I am officially joining the ranks of those who are facing the challenge of Lamictal withdrawal.

On Wednesday, I went to see my psychiatrist with a plan to come off of Lamictal:

  • 150 mg for 3 months
  • 100 mg for 3 months
  • 75 mg for 3 months
  • 50 mg for 3 months
  • 25 mg for 3 months
  • 12.5 mg (depending on whether my side effects on the 25 mg are bad)

I told him that my husband and I were looking to have a child sometime next year and that I’d like to taper off of Lamictal but was open to the possibility of getting back on it should I encounter severe suicidal ideation and mixed episodes. He warned me against it and thought it was a bad idea.

He proceeded to say that it’s a maintenance medication, I have a lifelong disorder, it won’t just go away, my symptoms would probably return, I have a higher risk of attempting suicide, blah blah blah — am I aware of all these risks?

He explained people with bipolar depression after coming off of meds can actually be worse, undergo severe depressive episodes, have more suicide attempts, and yadda yadda yadda. To sum it all up, I was risking my life just to get off of Lamictal.

My pdoc was trying to scare me into staying medicated.

He then added if I really wanted to come off of my meds, I could “just stop.”

WHAT?! My eyes flew open.

He stated he’d had patients who had stopped cold turkey without a problem. According to him, anticonvulsants don’t have severe withdrawal effects.

WHAT?! His advice just flies in the face of what most doctors recommend. In fact, quitting Lamictal immediately increases the risk of seizures, which is exactly what I’m afraid of.

Philip’s experience and Gianna’s experience along with the comments on each blog are proof that many people have experienced tremendous withdrawal effects from decreasing Lamictal’s dosage. In the past, I’ve quit Paxil and Lexapro cold turkey — both with not-so-good results to put it mildly.

I insisted that I wanted to come off of it slowly so he said I could just cut my 200 mg pills in half and jump down to 100 mg and stop after 2 weeks.

For real? Two weeks, doc? I had a plan that would take me over a year and you’re reducing it to a mere two weeks? On 100 mg dosage?

Again, I insisted that I wanted to take more time. He reluctantly wrote me a 30-day prescription for 100 mg and said since I was off the medication, I had no need to see him anymore. “Good luck,” he flatly told me.

When I came home after the appointment (and a bitching session to my husband), I remembered that I’d stashed a few 150 mg pills away sometime ago after I jumped back up to 200. So as of Wednesday, my arsenal included:

  • A bottle of six 150 mg pills
  • A bottle twenty-five 200 mg pills
  • A prescription for thirty 100 mg pills

I dropped down to the 150 mg on Wednesday and have been doing all right so far. I intend to keep myself at 150 mg (cutting the 200 mg and the 100 mg in half) for at least 2 weeks, then drop down to 75 mg for 2 weeks and then 50 mg for 2 weeks. I’m most worried about coming off of the 25 mg. This is a way more accelerated plan that I hoped for but I’ve got to work with the cards that I’m dealt.

We’ll see what happens.

Fail Fridays

FDA approves antihappiness drug

Loose Screws Mental Health News

ReadWriteWeb reports Stony Brook University researchers discovered too much exposure to “texting, instant messaging, and social networking” can make teenage girls more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. This landmark discovery sampled a whopping 83 teenage girls.

computer useThe results of their tests, recently published in The Journal of Adolescence, showed that the girls who excessively talked with their friends about their issues had significantly higher levels of depression. Today’s online tools provide even more ways for this to occur. Says Dr. Davila, “Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression.”

The problem with these electronic tools du jour is that they allowed the girls to discuss the same problems over and over again. This caused them to get stuck obsessing over a particular emotional setback, unable to move forward.

–snip–

It’s not necessarily the medium through which the chatter tasks place that’s the issue – it’s the amount of discussion that leads to the feelings of depression. Said Dr. Davila, “[The girls] often don’t realize that excessive talking is actually making them feel worse.”

So we can conclude then that keeping your teenage daughter from MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, and texting will help improve her mental health so she’s less likely to be depressed. Back in the day, I just wrote morbid poetry in a sad, lonely marble notebook. Alas, those days are gone. (pic via reviews-for-you.com)

On a related note, another study has discovered that teens who watch TV for long periods of time are more likely to be depressed. (Does nearly everything cause an increased risk of depression these days?) The study tracked over 4,000 teenagers and their TV-watching habits. The conclusion? Seven years later, participants were more likely to be depressed and the risk increase with each hour of television exposure. Perhaps it’s because TV creates an unrealistic perception of how a person should look and act and how life should be. Although researchers of the study did note that exposure to electronic media yielded the same result.

PregnantOn the Christian tip, I need to once again dispel this nasty rumor that the MOTHERS Act is intent on drugging pregnant women (and thereby the baby) to oblivion. (I addressed this issue around this time last year once again from Christians who think some left-wing liberal nuts are out to “indoctrinate hundreds of thousands of mothers into taking dangerous psych drugs.”) Once again, I need to repost the goal of the MOTHERS Act as stated in the original bill:

To ensure that new mothers and their families are educated about postpartum depression, screened for symptoms, and provided with essential services, and to increase research at the National Institutes of Health on postpartum depression.

The legislation is only intended to increase the resources for screening of mental issues in women. Women will NOT be forced to take medication if they do not want it.

In the Congressional findings, medication is mentioned only as a form of treating PPD. That’s not directly encouraging new moms to take drugs; it’s encouraging them to seek treatment, whether it be therapy or some other course. Not every new mom will need therapy, hospitalization, or medication, and this bill is far from attempting to “indoctrinate” moms with psych drugs. Also, the bill only mentions “medication” once. It does not even use the word “drug.”

It’s unfortunate to hear stories of women who suffered miscarriages or acted erratically as a result of medication. However, postpartum depression has become such a prevalent issue that proper screening — not necessarily medication — is needed. And the mother in conjunction with her doctor must make an informed and appropriate decision on how to proceed with treating her mental health. A great resource on the MOTHERS Act can be found at Postpartum Progress where blogger Katherine Stone vigilantly monitors the progress of this bill and clearly lays out what the bill entails:

  • Encouraging Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate and continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and find treatments for, postpartum conditions.
  • Encouraging a National Public Awareness Campaign, to be administered by HHS, to increase awareness and knowledge of postpartum depression and psychosis.
  • Requiring the Secretary of HHS to conduct a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
  • Creating a grant program to public or nonprofit private entities to deliver or enhance outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions.  Activities may also include providing education about postpartum conditions to new mothers and their families, including symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources, in order to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Although a vote on the act was blocked in the Senate in September, Sen. Robert Menendez of NJ has reintroduced the bill, championing the cause for PPD awareness at the federal level.

And on a humorous note, if you are single and mentally ill, you can go to TrueAcceptance.com and find someone who suffers from mental illness just like you. That’s right, TrueAcceptance matches the mentally ill with… the mentally ill. The premise is based on the idea that matching people who both suffer from mental illness are more likely to understand and support each other. The idea amuses me but I’d be too afraid that being with someone else who suffers from mental illness would end up being an enabler. (via Fox News)

Loose Screws Mental Health News: Suicide slide

congregationA new study from the University of Manitoba shows people who regularly attend some kind of religious service are less likely to attempt suicide. The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, surveyed 37,000 Canadians and their connection with spirituality, religious worship, and suicidal behavior. Those who simply said they were spiritual but didn’t attend religious services did not show a reduced risk of suicide attempts. However, I was dismayed to read that researchers didn’t investigate why regular church attendance decreases the risk of suicide attempts. (Note to self: Go to church each Sunday!) (pic via www.assumpta.fr)

Alison Go of U.S. News & World Report cites a study from Academic Medicine (originally reported by Inside Higher Ed) which suggests depression affects 21.2 percent of medical students. The rates is 11.2 percent higher than that of the general population. And unfortunately, 13 percent of black medical student reported suicidal ideation in the survey, suggesting that the demographic is more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts.

And yet another study about suicide… The University of Gothenberg in Sweden performed a study on people who had nightmares following a suicide attempt and found out that they were five times more likely to try committing suicide again. The conclusion is based on a meager sample size of 165 patients but I suppose it’s a start.

While it appears that other sleeping obstacles do not raise the risk of multiple suicide attempts, patients who have attempted suicide seem to battle sleeping problems on a regular basis.

It is normal for patients that have attempted suicide to suffer from sleeping difficulties. Some 89 percent of the patients examined reported some kind of sleep disturbance. The most common problems were difficulty initiating sleep, followed by difficulty maintaining sleep, nightmares and early morning awakening.

Interesting observation considering that I have pretty much all of the common problems with the exception of early morning awakening.

Finally in a semi-cool story, a 22-year-old New Jersey guy who was friends with an 18-year-old Californian over the Internet called California police when he found out the 18-year-old said he would attempt suicide. Although it sounds like the teen (his name was not disclosed) is pretty upset about being saved (I know the feeling), it’s a (somewhat) happy ending compared to what happened in November when a Florida teenager streamed a webcast of him committing suicide by dying of a drug overdose. The Florida teen died before police arrived.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Ted Haggard

Ted HaggardTed Haggard, the former evangelical pastor of megachurch New Life Church, recently admitted on Oprah Winfrey’s show to contemplating suicide after the public learned about his sexual encounter with a male escort.

“I was dying. I had settled in my mind exactly how I was going to commit suicide,” Haggard told Winfrey. “I was preparing, and in my life, Jesus came to me and he said, ‘Now, now I can save you.’ “

I hope Mr. Haggard can find other resources to help him move past this difficult trial in his life so that suicide is not a fall-back option. God has an amazing way of taking broken things and piecing them back together, even if we’re the ones who cause the problem. I feel like living proof of that.

Bipolar Awareness Month

Bipolar Awareness RibbonApparently February is Bipolar Awareness Month. (Who decided this?) I’m well aware that I suffer from bipolar disorder, thankyouverymuch. Looking forward to Bipolar Overawareness Week in May.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I decided to publish a “Loose Screws Mental Health News” post even though I said a few weeks back I wouldn’t do it anymore. Eh, can I change my mind? “Yes I can.”


newbornAccording to the Journal of Psychiatric Research and the British Journal of Psychiatry, women who had abortions suffered from more mental problems than women who did not. However, a report from the American Psychological Association asserts that there is no connection between abortion and mental health issues. (via CBN News; photo from solarnavigator.net)

I can’t imagine that there is no connection. Considering an abortion is stressful enough. I would think actually following through with it would induce a whole new set of problems.

I’m sure Liz Spikol has probably linked to this article already but the Philadelphia Weekly had a great cover story about a man’s struggle to take care of his mentally ill older brother who has bipolar disorder with psychosis. It’s a long read but well worth it and very touching. It reminded me a little bit of what my mother and I went through with my father which made me very empathetic.

An article in the Daily Mail reports that some scientists think depression can be good for people:

There are, they say, more benefits from the blues. Being sad can leave victims stronger, better able to cope with life’s challenges, and can lead to great achievements.

And their claims may stack up historically with Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Sir Isaac Newton and Beethoven all suffering from some form of depression.

A growing number of psychiatrists are now questioning whether doctors and drug companies are too keen to treat the condition with pills that may have side effects and also harm the evolution of human emotion.

I think there’s some truth to that and I wholeheartedly agree with the third paragraph. However, I wonder if they’re simply addressing normal depression aka “the blues” rather than clinical or chronic depression.

Quote of the Week

"The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have." — Anna Quindlen

Song of the Week: Pretty Amazing Grace by Neil Diamond

I don’t think Neil Diamond is a Christian — as far as I know, he’s still Jewish — but he wrote a song called “Pretty Amazing Grace,” which blows my mind because it has some strong Christian concepts behind it. Maybe he’s resolved things between him and God? Who knows?

I’m currently reading a book called Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. The book focuses on reminding Christians that God draws people to him based on his grace and mercy and not based on our merits or works. The Bible teaches there is nothing people can do to get to heaven. (Ephesians 2:8-9) I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and became a Baptist 16 years after being a Roman Catholic. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, I’d view my standing with God based on a “points” system. For example, let’s start at zero. If I was nice to or complimented someone, I’d give myself a +1. But later on, if I told a white lie to my parents, I’d give myself a -1 putting me right back where I started. So I’d go back and forth on this points system trying not to reach a deficit. The new church I joined taught that there was no points system, people couldn’t earn their way to heaven, and that one had to rely solely on God’s grace — the gift he gives the people who believe in Jesus Christ.

not good enoughAfter a few years though, being a Christian became burdensome — not because of God — but because of the rules the church I attended would begin to impose in my life:

  • you’re in sin if you don’t wear a skirt past your knees
  • if you don’t go knocking on doors and proselytizing to people, you’re in sin
  • if you’re not in church every time the doors are open, you’re in sin
  • working on Sundays is a sin unless you’re a doctor or a nurse (it’s OK to heal people on the Sabbath)

The church taught one thing but did another. I began to feel as though I was never doing enough for God no matter how hard I tried. I was back on the points system.

Transforming Grace is a book intended to blow legalism out of the water. It takes legalistic concepts and casts them into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19) or puts them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). It reminds Christians that any blessings they receive or any favor they find in God’s sight is not based on what they do, how good they are, or how many “points” they’ve racked up. After years of bashing myself as a bad Christian, this book reminds me that in and of myself, I’m a pretty bad person. (Romans 3:10-12) But with a belief in Christ, God doesn’t see me as bad; he sees Christ’s righteousness. So there’s no more points to earn. There’s nothing I can do to make God love me any less or any more.

And this is where Neil Diamond’s song “Pretty Amazing Grace” steps in. I don’t know what Neil Diamond’s spiritual belief is but somehow, he’s grasped the concept of God’s grace quite well. As a result, I’ve chosen “Pretty Amazing Grace” for the song of the week as I continue my studies in learning more about Transforming Grace. You can listen to the full song here, and the lyrics are behind the cut.
Read the rest of this entry »

Fail Fridays

Curious thought

What do you say to someone who's not having a happy birthday? You can't say "Unhappy birthday." How could you resolve that dilemma?

Happiness Flash!

From Self magazine, May 2001:

Startling suicide news Wealthy people with a history of mental illness are more likely to kill themselves than those is lower income brackets, says a study in the British Medical Journal. Greater stigma about mental health problems may lead to the higher suicide rate among the well-to-do. [emphases not mine]

Laid off

Laid off. For now. Tomorrow's my birthday. Joy. I've been dealing with social anxiety lately anyway so it's kind of a mixed blessing but I could really use the money! *shrugs* I'm "on-call" for the busy days. I don't see any busy days ahead and my boss says things will pick up again in March. I hope so.

In the meantime, maybe I can finally motivate myself to do freelance writing?

Yeah, right. And I'll motivate myself to be the Queen of England while I'm at it.

Quote of the Week

"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end." — Ursula K. LeGuin

Mood rating

Mood rating: 4.7+
Bummed that I’ve gone from regular part-time work to on-call. I’ve been expecting something like this anyway.