My bipolar depression saga

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

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Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal Thoughts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lamictal and Abilify: Back on Medication

Images from rxlist.com & drugs.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

The psychology behind sabotaging a mildly successful blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And walked away.

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

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

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

God bless,
Kass

Crisis averted

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

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

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

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

Lamictal-free and lovin’ it

freeI’ve been off of Lamictal for the past month and a half thanks to a wonderful supportive mental health community of bloggers. I’ve replaced my Lamictal dosage with 1000 mg of Omega-3s derived from fish oil capsules. So far, so good. I haven’t felt suicidal although I do admit I’ve caught myself wanting to feel suicidal. Believe me when I say it’s significant progress to go from feeling suicidal to wanting to feel that way. (By the grace of God.) Special thanks goes to Gianna at Beyond Meds and Stephany at soulful sepulcher.

I haven’t blogged on mental health lately because I haven’t had much to blog about. Any attempt at regular blogging now is mostly done at This Journey Is My Own, which is distinctively personal, reflective, and an unabashedly Christian blog. I guess it can be considered a scrapbook. Thoughts and rambles flowing freely through the blog. I don’t have the attention span, dedication, and motivation to do anything like I used to with depression introspection. I’m not averse to updating this blog every now and then but the months with 80-some odd posts are now gone. The Quotes of the Week should continue updating through early 2010. Enjoy.

Day 3: Lamictal-free.

jump for joyI stopped taking Lamictal on August 1. After going down to the 12.5 mg, I would wake up in the mornings feeling clear-headed and energetic and then take the 12.5 mg dose and suffer from brain fog and feel lethargic. I took the 12.5 for about 4 days then stopped. I think it was necessary for me to be on the 12.5 mg dose at first but I think my body adjusted to the lack of Lamictal in my body quite quickly and does well without it. Instead, I now take about 900 mg of Omega-3 capsules 2-3 times a day to assist in regulating mood. Should I get pregnant, I am OK with continuing that regimen.

So I’m on my third day without Lamictal and haven’t noticed any side effects except for having a terrible energy crash yesterday which caused me to go to bed at 8 pm. (However, I have noticed an overproduction of eye gook in one eye and visual blurriness. Not sure if it’s related to the medication though.) I’m actually scared because I feel like I have newfound freedom—a new lease on life, if you will. I am now responsible for my thoughts and actions. Technically I always have been but I have no medication to blame for anything now. It’s all me. After being on Lamictal for close to three years, it’s kind of scary. The potential for withdrawal effects still exists (especially the possibility of that nasty rash) but with each passing day, the likelihood is less and less.

Part of me is excited. This is a new chapter in my life. Who am I without Lamictal and its associated brain fog? Will I get my creative juices back? Is my severe depression gone? For how long will my suicidal thoughts stay away? Will my manic/mixed-mood episodes return with a vengeance? What in my body chemistry will change?

Stay tuned.

Ladies & Gentlemen

Landing plane

We are now beginning our descent into Lamictal-free Airport. Please make sure your previous medications are stowed and that your side effects are fully behind you.

At this time, we request that you turn off all dependence on psychiatric devices.

Federal regulations require that you put your seat belt on in the event of any side effects. We hope you enjoyed your flight on GSK Airlines and hope to see your business again on a future medication.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, we are now at 12.5 mg and are beginning our descent into Lamictal-free Airport.

(Photo source: Wired.com)

A question for depression sufferers

Do you work and struggle with depression? How do you handle your really low days? I'm finding it almost impossible to get through the day and feel like the world is caving in on you?

Good news for you

I'm getting lazy so I might stay with Typepad for a while. How I'll fund the $12/month crack habit is yet to be determined.

By the way, if you're receiving this via blog feed and haven't seen my actual photo yet, it's up now. If you're following me on Twitter or a Facebook friend (or know me in person!), it's nothing new.

Lamictal withdrawal: not over yet

People have been asking how my withdrawal has been going lately. Well, I’m not out of the woods yet.

I’m down to 25 mg and will probably be ultra-conservative and taper down to 12.5 mg. I might even be a real coward and do 10 mg for 2 weeks then 5 mg for 2 weeks.

Overall, I’ve been fatigued and I suffer from feeling slow and stupid. I guess that would be a lack of mental clarity. A few people have told me they already miss the blog’s news and regular updates. Truth be told, I put hours of time and research into those things and I no longer have the energy or the brain power for any of it anymore. I haven’t even been able to work on my novel recently. I don’t have the concentration to read a book all the way through.

All I can do now are mindless tasks like Twittering or taking “What Britney Spears song are you”?” quizzes on Facebook. I love crossword puzzles and Sudoku and even those have become a challenge for me recently.

All I want to do these days is exist. And simply existing bothers me because then it feels like I have no purpose.

I’m also more prone to negative thoughts.

I could go on and on but that about sums it up.

Con te partirò

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about this blog, mainly since I haven’t been blogging. If you’ve emailed me, I haven’t answered because I haven’t logged in to the email associated with this account. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that it may be best to terminate this blog.

You can continue breathing. I will not hit the delete button tomorrow. Or the day after even. I have—what I consider to be—a wealth of information stored in this blog and I hope to export the posts I have and import them into another site. It’ll be an extremely long and arduous process, especially since I will need to update all internal links. Despite the immense amount of time I’ll be putting into doing this, moving this blog to a free blog host will save myself $12 a month. Twelve dollars is a lot to spend for only regularly publishing Quote of the Week and not having a paying job right now.

I have also dropped off the face of the blogosphere. I have not been able to keep up with many of you—as interesting as you all are!—and this has led me into feeling guilty and also kept me away from blogging.

I recently finished reading a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero for the women’s Bible study I attend on Wednesday mornings. He outlines six principles for an emotionally healthy church but I believe those principles can be applied to being an emotionally health person as well. The principle that spoke to me most was Principle 4: Receive the Gift of Limits.

Within Principle 4, Scazzero discusses “Learning to Discern My Limitations.” He expands on the following points:

  • Look at your personality.
  • Look at your season of life.
  • Look at your life situation.
  • Look at your emotional, physical, and intellectual capacities.
  • Look at your negative emotions.
  • Look at your scars and wounds from your family past.

I’ve evaluated these points in my life and am learning to discern my limitations. The season of life and life situation I had when I began this blog is much different than what it is today. I had less responsibilities, struggled significantly more with depression and suicidal thoughts, and had more time on my hands to blog and research. (And Facebook didn’t seem so appealing back then!)

Your season of life is also a God-given limit. Ecclesiastes teaches us there is a time or season for everything under heaven: There is “a time to plant and a time to uproot … a time to weep and a time to laugh … a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:1–8).

I planted this blog back in July 2006 and boy did I ever speak. Now, I am silent and it is time for me to uproot. This blog has served its purpose and I would like to relocate it somewhere where it can continue to serve as a resource for people. I know I have many links throughout the web that will become inactive and broken. I will lose readership. I will need to rebuild a blog presence should I choose to continue writing about mental health issues. I have not lost my interest in writing about the subject; my season of life and life situation currently limit it. I must devote my precious time and energy to my novel now. And my personality—that guilty feeling that haunts me for not blogging and reading others’ blogs like I used to—cannot handle it right now. I am learning to discern my limitations. I have reached my limit with this blog.

Read the rest of this entry »

(no subject)

One of my many paternal aunts, who lived in Montréal, Canada, died in early April. I wasn't extremely close to her but she would call to check in with me and send me birthday cards. I'd also see her in New York during the holidays at family gatherings.

She was one of my aunts who suffered from schizophrenia/paranoia but improved with medication.

I always felt a little weird calling her because I never knew what to say. I didn't know much about her other than the fact that she traveled a lot. Her speech and her English were tough to understand at times but she had remarkably improved both over the years.

A few minutes ago, I was cleaning out one of my document bins and came across a list of questions I wrote down to ask her so I could steer conversation next time I talked to her. Her phone number was prominently scrawled at the bottom.

So I dialed it. The phone rang and rang and rang. Hope fluttered in my heart, waiting to hear her voice, mixed with anticipation that someone totally different would answer it.

An automated operator broke in to tell me in French that the number was disconnected and out of service. If I needed assistance, press "0" for help.

I hung up. She really is gone.

Should psych drugs be avoided at ALL costs?

My brain isn’t functioning today quite honestly so my apologies if the following makes no sense whatsoever. It’s long and I ended up rambling.


Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether there are any benefits to using pharmaceutical drugs. I have blogger friends who are very much anti-pharmaceuticals anything, try to avoid drugs as much as possible but take them if necessary, or think pharmaceutical drugs are a Godsend.

I’m still trying to figure out where I stand.

Pharmaceutical companies are in the business of making money. It is not to their advantage to put out completely shoddy products that do not work. I’m sure many of them bury negative data and findings that do not shed a positive light on their drugs but if something works overall, they’ll put it out there. I don’t believe the doctors who are involved in these trials are all dirty, rotten sell-outs. Some of them are very well-meaning and honest who work to make these drugs as effective as possible. Call me naïve if you like but I just can’t bring myself to believe there are more greedy docs who skew results than there are those who are concerned with advancement.

I don’t think twice about popping Excedrin Migraine when I’ve got a painful, debilitating migraine; I have no problem taking naproxen (aka Aleve) when I’ve got menstrual cramps, and taking ibuprofen isn’t an issue if I have severe muscle pain. I don’t question the safety of these drugs. I’ve used them for so long, they’ve proven to be relatively safe for me (not everyone can tolerate those drugs) and efficacious. The safety risk of taking Excedrin Migraine sometimes outweighs the benefits of not taking it. (Note: I only speak of adults in terms of ingesting this kind of medication.I don’t believe developing bodies, such as youngsters, are able to handle medication that can significantly affect mood.)

When it comes to psych meds, I am not anti-medication. Psych meds should be taken on a case-by-case basis. There are some people who consider these meds to be a life-saver while others complain that it has made them miserable and worsened their lives. This is the gamble people take when choosing to ingest a psych med—most people don’t know that. Trouble is, most people don’t know when the stakes are high enough to take that risk.

I shouldn’t be in a position to judge anyone but when I hear people taking antidepressants based on circumstances—a job loss, failed relationship, loss of a life—I worry that it’s unnecessary. We are becoming a nation that is more reliant on “quick fixes” rather than developing coping mechanisms. It’s easier to pop a pill and dull your emotions than it is to face problems, tackle issues head on, and learn to work your way through it. Case in point: rising unemployment hasn’t slowed sales of antidepressants or sleeping pills.

  • I have an aunt who was a violent paranoid-schizophrenic. She was placed in a mental institution and drugged up the wazoo. Now, she’s basically existing; the lights are on but no one’s home. The drugs have killed her. She’s alive but not really.
  • My father was a non-violent paranoid-schizophrenic. It got to the point where we needed to medicate him to get him on track. The medication helped him to function “normally” but his thought processes and physical ability was significantly slowed. He once told me that he felt useless because my mother was busting her butt at work to pay for my college and he was basically an invalid because his mental illness had prevented him from being able to work. He died 4 months later. A few days after the funeral, my mom began to find his psych meds hidden all around the house. I often wonder if the drugs killed him.
  • Another aunt (this is all on the paternal side of the family) also became a paranoid-schizophrenic. She was a brilliant woman who was basically reduced to moving from place to place to the point where she eventually became homeless and could not hold down a job. She disappeared for a while but during one cold winter, was found and brought into a homeless shelter. She was placed on meds and her cognitive functions returned despite the fact that her speech was sometimes garbled. She traveled the world, went on cruises and various excursions. The change was remarkable. Psych meds improved her life and saved her—the benefits of the drugs outweighed the side effects.

As I withdraw from Lamictal, I am curious to see who I am without this drug. Will my creative juices flow freely once again or are they now somewhat hindered? Will my cognitive functioning correct itself or will I forever suffer from problems? Will my short-term memory loss issues smooth out or will I still suffer from intermittent forgetfulness? I have some side effects that may remain with me for a while or perhaps forever (though I hope not) but seeing others fully recover after taking drugs for 10 times longer than I have gives me hope.

I feel the majority of my progress has come from intensive counseling and being infused with the truths as laid out in the Bible. I’d say 90% of my progress has been due to counseling. I give the meds 10%. You can tell I don’t place much stock in them. But they’ve helped to cut down on the mixed episodes.

So far, I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts are behaviors that are out of the ordinary. (Thank GOD.) I’ve been dealing with a mild depression but that stems from basing my worth based off of my career rather than any biological imbalances. The last time I suffered a severe depression, I was on Lexapro (if that tells you anything).

I’ve gotten a lot of resistance and concern from family members who question my decision to come off of the medication. They’ve seen a miraculous change in me and attribute it to being on meds. Meds aren’t a cure-all. They don’t see the counseling and shifting of thought processes going on that has helped me to develop coping mechanisms. Meds may help people “cope” but they don’t develop the tools needed to cope.

I’ve decided that I’ll probably give that Christian psychiatrist a call. My counselor recommended him and she said that he’s very neutral on meds and doesn’t shove them on anyone. I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if anyone would accept me as a patient only to lose me in the end—she insisted he wouldn’t mind. The intake cost is hefty but since I was able to temp a few days for my job this week—I’m not permanently returning, I can swing it.

Which brings me back to my position on psych meds: I said it earlier but I think it’s a case-by-case basis. In my personal life, I’ve seen the benefits outweigh the side effects and I’ve seen the side effects outweigh the benefits. And I’ve seen benefits (not necessarily beneficial) as a result of side effects. Psychiatry is the biggest medical guessing game of all medical specialties. There are no certainties, and there’s no one medication that works best for everyone. Pharmaceutical companies make it a point to put the disclaimer on the patient information sheet that they’re not exactly sure HOW these drugs work. All that stuff about serotonin, dopamine, and neurotransmitters is pure speculation when it comes to depression. You’ll have me convinced about chemical imbalances once I can get a MRI and blood test done. Until then, it’s all trial-and-error.

So if I do suffer from relapses while withdrawing from this medication and it gets to the point where I may need to be hospitalized, I’m not averse to remaining on the drug. Better to be alive and on a psych drug than dead because I was determined not to use it at risk to my safety. If I end up having to stay on the drug, the future of giving birth to children will seem a bit more uncertain.

15 seconds of fame

Recently I’ve been a pretty active participant in the Six Apart section of the Get Satisfaction community. I suppose you could call me a Six Apart fangirl (kinda like Apple has their fanboys). (Full disclosure: Technically, I’ve been a long-standing of user of Six Apart’s services beyond this blog since I’ve owned a paid LiveJournal account since 2003.)

Although I pay to use Typepad’s services, I wholeheartedly recommend them — especially since their customer support has been incredible. I have tried other free blogging services and prefer Typepad. I enjoy providing feedback with the products I use and Get Satisfaction has provided just the means to do so. It’s been worth the money.

As a result of my active participation, I was asked to be quoted in a press release about Six Apart’s budding social community to which I enthusiastically agreed to. You can read it here.

So I’ll probably get a bit more traffic in the next couple of days and I haven’t posted anything worthwhile. Other than maybe this. Boo.

So here’s a greatest hits collection to browse through in the meantime:

Update: I’m still here; nothing new to report

I’m still here; I’m still around. I haven’t had much desire for blogging or anything of the sort. I am still plugging away at my novel. I’m getting involved in a local writer’s group and praying to God that I’m not taking on too much.

I’m back up to 100 mg. The 90 mg actually threw me for more of a loop than I’d intended. It might have been that combined with an attempted jog but at the urging of a friend, I will try to take this as slow as possible.

I’m also trying to resolve some spiritual issues so we’ll see where that takes me.

Lamictal withdrawal update

Last day on 100 mg, I think. I’ve been calling around to psychiatrists in my husband’s insurance network and it’s incredibly out of date despite the “Information updated on 3/22/2009” fine print. Someone’s not doing his or her job. I’m tired and don’t care to call around some more and deal with some nurse sounds pissed off for working in a “looney bin” and won’t give me a referral number.

So I’m left to my own devices for now and will be dropping down to 75 mg tomorrow. I’m just not sure I’ll find a psychiatrist who’s supportive enough to take me on as a patient only to lose me again in the end. Maybe the $400 2-hour intake with that Christian psychiatrist might be worth the money although I really balk at the cost.

In the meantime, I still am not sleeping well and have been sleeping all sorts of wacky hours. My job came back at me with an offer of more work but I declined this time. My job is to remain alert and catch errors and I am FAR from it. I don’t even feel safe driving right now. My comprehension level for anything is total and utter poop.

I’m simply alive and surviving. That’s all that can be asked from day to day, right? I’ll still make a few posts and my apologies in advance if they’re somewhat incoherent.

Quick update

I'm doing better for now. Thanks.

My online life is getting to be too much – I'm taking a hiatus

I’m currently taking a hiatus from blogging, my email, and my Facebook account. I don’t expect it to last too long but I’m really backed up—online and offline—and feeling overwhelmed. If you need to reach me, I am still on Twitter. Twitter doesn’t take much brain power.

"Have I told you you light up my life?"

candleAgain, my MIL has proven Satan wrong. She told me “I light up her life.” My existence here is so worth it and I do make a difference.

Lamictal withdrawal: fatigue & insomnia

I'm having the weirdest combo of side effects on this. I'm tired all the time, but I can't get to sleep easily no matter how hard I try. Then when I do sleep, it's craptastic and it feels like I never slept in the first place. Anyone else experienced this or heard of anyone who's experienced this? It's wearing me out and causing me to suffer from a lack of patience.

Lamictal withdrawal: 125 mg… and counting

I'm down to 125 mg… I'm feeling sluggish and wiped out. I have what I call "body zaps" — basically I feel little prickles, like someone sticking a pin in my skin — that I find highly uncomfortable. (It's similar to feeling "brain zaps" or "brain shivers" throughout your body.) They mainly occur when I'm still, especially when I'm laying down in bed at night.

My sleeping schedule is also out of whack. While my body can be tired by midnight or 1 am, my brain simply will NOT shut off. My brain decides to shut down along with my body around 3 or 4 am from sheer exhaustion.

A few people have recommended I take melatonin to get back to a normal sleeping pattern, but I'm not sure whether that would be okay as I withdraw from the medication. Melatonin seems relatively harmless but right now, I can't tell what's normal with my body and what's not.

Possible light posting; other ways to keep track of me (if you're so inclined)

stressedI’m feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment because I have a hundred-and-one things to do and I just don’t know where to begin or how to tackle them all. I’m terrible at prioritizing. So here’s my requisite blog update lettin’ ya’ll know what the deal is. Until I’m no longer suffering a quasi-panic attack at the computer, this blog entry will have to suffice. I’m currently at a mood level of 4. I’m using Twitter a bit more frequently now (through my iTouch) so you can always follow me at www.twitter.com/mama_kass or just scroll down the left sidebar to the Twitter Updates.

In the meantime, donate to Philip Dawdy during his spring fundraiser and get a load of this.

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.

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

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.

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.)

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.

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?

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.

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.

Rare long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness post

Update: I decided to republish this for two reasons:
1) It’s a great point of reference for me to reread when these issues rear their ugly heads again (reading a draft is hellannoying) and 2) Ana reminded me that it’s good to know others feel the same and know they’re not alone.

If you’ve stumbled upon this post for the first time, I hope it can help you in some small way.


It’s another one of those days. I’m at work, struggling with social anxiety yet again. I don’t normally ramble on my blog but I think everyone needs a vent post now and then. It’s not just about social anxiety but sort of a thought dump. It’ll likely be a long stream-of-consciousness vent post and may not make sense. I’m not editing it and it won’t have the best grammar. Expect run-on sentences. I don’t expect you to read it all; I have no attention span to reread it myself. It’ll just make me feel better. Deal.

WARNING: There is cussing in this post. If you are offended by that kind of language, I suggest you stop reading.

Read the rest of this entry »

My own fail Friday

It's so easy to get my mood sinking faster than the Titanic. Just tell me that a girl I worked with at the newspaper in college now writes for Forbes, my former college paper editor-in-chief has been able to meet Oprah and interview the White House press secretary, and that another one of my former classmates has interned at the New York Times.

It's not like I'm sitting here wishing I were as successful as they are. I'm having my own fail Friday. I'm pretty bummed; I don't want to do anything right now.

Btw — just in case you're wondering, I had a rant posted on here a few days ago that I took down because it sounded like total self-pity and I didn't like it. I might take this down too but venting for now makes me feel better.

I am a Marilyn!

I don't normally post quiz results on my blog but I found one of these quizzes via Musings of a Housewife and decided to take the test for fun. When I read the result (after answering only two questions), I was shocked—and creeped out—to read how accurately it described me. It's so accurate that I'm debating on creating flyers and distributing them to friends, family, and acquaintances. (Well, maybe not but I thought about it.)


Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else?

You Are a Marilyn!

mm.marilyn_.jpg

You are a Marilyn — "I am affectionate and skeptical."

Marilyns are responsible, trustworthy, and value loyalty to family, friends, groups, and causes. Their personalities range broadly from reserved and timid to outspoken and confrontative.

How to Get Along with Me

  • Be direct and clear
  • Listen to me carefully
  • Don't judge me for my anxiety
  • Work things through with me
  • Reassure me that everything is OK between us
  • Laugh and make jokes with me
  • Gently push me toward new experiences
  • Try not to overreact to my overreacting.

What I Like About Being a Marilyn

  • being committed and faithful to family and friends
  • being responsible and hardworking
  • being compassionate toward others
  • having intellect and wit
  • being a nonconformist
  • confronting danger bravely
  • being direct and assertive

What's Hard About Being a Marilyn

  • the constant push and pull involved in trying to make up my mind
  • procrastinating because of fear of failure; having little confidence in myself
  • fearing being abandoned or taken advantage of
  • exhausting myself by worrying and scanning for danger
  • wishing I had a rule book at work so I could do everything right
  • being too critical of myself when I haven't lived up to my expectations

Marilyns as Children Often

  • are friendly, likable, and dependable, and/or sarcastic, bossy, and stubborn
  • are anxious and hypervigilant; anticipate danger
  • form a team of "us against them" with a best friend or parent
  • look to groups or authorities to protect them and/or question authority and rebel
  • are neglected or abused, come from unpredictable or alcoholic families, and/or take on the fearfulness of an overly anxious parent

Marilyns as Parents

  • are often loving, nurturing, and have a strong sense of duty
  • are sometimes reluctant to give their children independence
  • worry more than most that their children will get hurt
  • sometimes have trouble saying no and setting boundaries

Are you Jackie, Marilyn, or someone else?

Biblical view posting tomorrow

After yesterday, I’m having a media hangover and Obama overload. I’ll be posting stuff tomorrow.

Heaven have mercy

I'm on Twitter.  Twitter updates are in the left-hand column.

The Art of Distraction

I babysat the 21-month-old son of a friend on Thursday. He's an adorable, sweet little kid. Very affable and social. With the addition of a new brother, he's been craving the attention that he used to have as an only child so he's always happy when someone takes the time to sit and play with him.

His mother had to go to court to contest a traffic ticket and she took the baby with her so I offered my (free) babysitting services. I'm not a babysitter and I normally don't offer to babysit kids alone because I'm not very good with them and most young children don't like me much. However, I've really grown to love my friend's son—we'll call him Danny—and felt like I could take care of him without too many problems.

We were upstairs on the second floor in his bedroom and I talked to his mother about a few logistics before she left. Finally, she kissed Danny goodbye and headed down the stairs. Since Danny's only 21 months, he needs to be carried down the stairs. When he saw his mother disappear, he began crying (much to my surprise and much to my dismay). My first thought was, Oh great. Now, he's crying for his mommy. This isn't going to be as easy as I thought.

I tried to sit down with him on my lap in the bedroom but he was extremely fidgety and got up and began running to the edge of the steps. Fearful of a fall (remember I don't have much babysitting experience!), I grabbed him, picked him up, and shut the door to the bedroom. Realizing this meant mommy wasn't coming back right away, he cried even harder. Now I was really at a loss of what to do.

I saw a little toy helicopter that he had been playing with earlier. The helicopter made noises and I tried to hand it to him and pressed all sorts of buttons to amuse him. He wasn't fazed. Danny kept right on crying.

Suddenly feeling desperate, my next thought was, I can't have this kid crying until his mother comes back. She's going to think I hurt the poor child. I searched around the room and found a teddy bear and handed it to him. He wasn't interested in that either. Finally, my eyes fell upon a toy set up like a two-level parking lot with a car ramp that twisted around to the ground. Several small cars sat on top of the lot. Remembering Danny loved to pick up cars and hand them to people one by one, I tried the tactic as a last-ditch effort.

I picked up the first car and held it open in the palm of my hand. He kept crying but looked down at it. I grabbed a second car. His crying began to die down and he began to look at the two cars with curiosity. I snatched another car. He stopped crying and simply looked at me with a blank stare, wondering what I'd do next. I picked up another car and held them flat out on my hands for a few moments, letting him take in the number of growing vehicles. Finally, he gave me a little smile. I started rolling a car up and down his belly and he began giggling.

Problem solved. We stayed busy until his mother came home. I expected him to run and cling to his mother after she got home but he gave her a quick glance and wanted me to keep playing with him because he was having so much fun. That was pretty satisfying and felt like my first solo babysitting gig had been a success.

Just like I'd distracted Danny from the sadness of his mother's disappearance, I'm finding that a lot of people in my life have been trying to distract me from the sadness and emotional pain that have been plaguing me lately.

Read the rest of this entry »

!

I was looking through my inbox and happened to click on the Spam link only to notice a bunch of legitimate emails were thrown in there! I'm sorry if you emailed me and I haven't gotten back to you. I didn't even know you sent me an email! I have about 50-something emails to sift through so I'll be pretty slow in getting back everyone. Special apologies go out to those who emailed me around September through December. (Tells you how much I check my Spam box, right?)

Again, my sincerest apologies. I'll try to be more diligent in checking that out in the future. (sigh) Gmail does too good of a job sometimes.

This Girl's Biblical View

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7
(NKJV)

Personal interpretation
Don't worry about anything. Pray and ask God for your needs and desires, thanking Him for everything He's already given to you, and God will provide you with assurance—a kind of heavenly, unfathomable assurance—that will protect your heart and mind from constant worry and anxiety.

Personal meaning
While I know I shouldn't worry about anything, I still freak out over things and usually they're the littlest things. (See Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.) The verse encourages me to pray and beseech the Lord for help but I've got to admit, I often forget and try to do things on my own.

Personal application
The verse encourages me to really talk to God—to make God real in my life as though He were standing face to face with me. Just like I would talk to my mom and go, "Hey, Mom, I'm a little short on cash. Can you help me out today?" Well, not that irreverent but that's the idea. If I have a good relationship with my mom, I wouldn't sit in my bedroom, fretting and worrying about whether I should ask her for money or not—especially if I know she has the money she can spare me.

God wants to hear me talk to Him. And instead of opening my big mouth to Him, I start complaining about my worries and fears to other people. Voicing my concerns isn't so much a problem as ignoring that God can handle it is. And God's word promises that if I give my burdens over to Him (with faith in Jesus Christ), He will provide me with comfort and reassurance that He's got everything under control.

As I am wont to say: It sounds nice in theory. Maybe I should try testing it.

Mood rating: 5.7

This Girl’s Biblical View: Introduction

During my conversation with Natalie two nights ago, she emphasized infusing her brain with Bible verses and Scriptural passages and encouraged me to do the same. Finally, a thought came to me that a good way of constantly keeping myself in step with the Bible would be to meditate on God’s word. I know all about creating 3 x 5 index cards to help memorize Bible verses but I think a great way for me to really absorb some of the principles that I read would be to post a Bible verse and reflect on:

    1. What I think it means
    2. What it means to me
    3. How it has impacted or can impact my life

      Open BibleWhile the Bible is no cure-all (nothing currently in this world is!), I believe God’s word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

      I plan on trying to make this a weekly thing, hopefully for publication each Wednesday. I don’t promise to be perfect but I think doing this over the coming weeks (maybe even months!) will deepen and strengthen my relationship with God and others and will help me to overcome some associated behavioral issues (ie, fear, anxiety, etc.).

      Social Anxiety and Social Awkwardness

      AnxietyIf you met me in person, you’d never know that I struggled with social anxiety or what I’ve deemed social awkwardness.

      I’m a pretty quiet and shy person at first but the more you get to know me, the more you get to love me! (Just kidding about the latter.) In all seriousness, the more I become comfortable in certain social situations or a group of people, I can be loud, outgoing, silly (zany if you’d like!), bubbly, and full of energy.

      After close to a year of being at my current place of employment, I have yet to be fully comfortable. My personality comes out in short bursts but then I get quiet, withdraw, and “shut down,” keeping to myself and avoiding interaction with my coworkers if I can help it.

      I assume—I don’t know for sure—that they have judged me negatively and for whatever reason don’t like me. In a previous post, I tossed around a couple of social situations where I felt like this before. I invent all sorts of reasons in my head:

      • I’m a freak
      • I’m a weirdo
      • I don’t interact much with them
      • I don’t have an immediate warm, outgoing personality
      • I don’t dress very fashionably
      • I have nervous habits that they probably don’t like
      • I am all-around irritating, grating, and annoying in some manner that I don’t know of

      Most people struggle with this kind of thing without any real basis. My fear used to be completely unfounded and after the incident at my previous job, I am plagued by thoughts of social anxiety and awkwardness tenfold. I don’t know what I did at my last job to rub my coworkers the wrong way but I wish I knew so I could try to work on it and cut it out. Vague references of “immature” and “annoying” don’t help me much.

      So here I throw out the detailed descriptions of social anxiety and social awkwardness. The first one was developed by the NIMH; the second is my own invention built off of the social anxiety description.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Christian counseling: Nouthetic vs. Biblical

      Last night, I spent some time on the phone with my husband’s friend’s sister (aka my former pastor’s sister). We’ll call her Natalie.

      Natalie was very sweet and kind, really encouraging and strengthening me by sharing her testimony of faith in God. She suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, which has led her to take Paxil (on and off) for the past 7 years. She says the drug has helped her tremendously and who am I to knock the drug (knowing what I know about Paxil/Seroxat) when she has seen the wonders that it has worked in her life?

      I briefly explained my story of depression, history of suicide, and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Although she couldn’t fully relate, she was very sympathetic and understanding. In fact, our conversation was so fruitful, I ended up taking notes!

      Jay AdamsWe briefly touched on the issue of Nouthetic counseling (NC). She has undergone the course and simply needs to be certified. The counselor I currently see is associated with the Christian Counseling Education Foundation (CCEF), which has roots in NC and was founded by the man—Jay Adams—who developed the method. However, CCEF is now known for what is called biblical counseling. The organization has since moved away from pure Nouthetic methods and become more a bit more varied, taking bits and pieces of psychology (and perhaps psychiatry) that line up with the Bible. Adams, disagreeing with the organization’s approach, founded the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and uses the Bible as the sole counseling textbook. According to the wiki entry on Nouthetic counseling, Adams developed the word Nouthetic based on the “New Testament Greek word noutheteō (νουθετέω), which can be variously translated as ‘admonish,’ ‘warn,’ ‘correct,’ ‘exhort,’ or ‘instruct.'”

      NC was developed back in the ’70s as a response to the popularity of psychology/psychiatry. Many Christians reject some of the teachings of such popular psychologists as Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, etc. Adams’ highly successful book, Competent to Counsel, criticizes the psychology industry and counters its teaching with a Nouthetic approach.

      But NC has its Christian critics.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Lamictal in consideration of pregnancy

      My husband and I are talking about expanding our family. While that sounds all well and good, I just have one issue:

      Lamictal.

      For most women, they think, “Well, I want a kid” and the most they have to do is probably get off birth control. Just finish off their contraceptives, maybe feel a little nauseous, and move forward with their plans.

      (sigh) Not me. If I want to do this right, it might be a good 6 months or so before I can consider trying.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      December

      I have since learned that December is also a hard month for me. December has certain markers, so to speak, that jump out at me throughout the month.

      December 9 — The day my father died
      December 14 — The day I found out
      December 17 — The funeral
      December 18 — The burial

      Makes for quite a depressing Christmas. Even though he passed away only 7 years ago, it still hangs a dark cloud over my head. It takes me so long to get into the “Christmas spirit.” I now settle into the Christmas mood a week before the holiday, which is somewhat frustrating because it took me almost a month to finally enjoy hearing Nat King Cole’s smooth voice crooning through the ceiling speakers at Barnes and Noble.

      I think celebrating Advent next year might help, however, I never know much about the season anymore since I no longer attend Catholic church and the Presbyterian church I attend doesn’t seem to acknowledge it. I need to remember that Christ is “the reason for the season” (yes, I know it’s trite) but the materialism surrounding Christmas really does a good job of distracting me from focusing on that. Materialism is tangible; Christ is not. But materials are temporal; Christ is eternal. Something to keep in mind.

      I’ve been incredibly busy lately and have gotten pretty sidetracked from blogging. I’m traveling a good bit this (and the coming) year, trying to get a personal website up and running, running errands and accomplishing chores, trying to fit in exercise, spend time with friends and family, attend (usually) church-related activities, and make time for myself at night. My life in the past 2 years has moved faster than I could even imagine or fathom. The introduction of children could only make it crazier.

      How’s my mental health in spite of all this? Well, I was doing pretty well most of the year with the exception of my “normal” dive in August. Lately, I’ve been dealing with some suicidal thoughts again. Mostly passing and no serious urges but the idea of trying has been tempting. I mentioned recently that I’ve felt a “need to prove” that I am serious about committing suicide. It’s a serious pride issue. Why should I care whether people think I’m suicidal for attention or not? That doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t be more concerned about what people think of me. Rather, I should be more focused on living my life to please God and for His glory.

      I’m currently reading a book by J.I. Packer titled “God’s Plans for You.” (You can read a preview of this book through Google Books.) Lately, I’ve been struggling with what I should do with my life. I’m experiencing what has been deemed a “quarter-life crisis.” It’s like a mid-life crisis but with different challenges. Usually those challenges are related to career and vocational decisions. The mid- to late-twenties is the time when college grads are hit with the reality that full-time work isn’t as idealistic as they hoped and they are faced with the grim realization that some—or many—of their dreams may never come true.

      This is becoming the case with me.

      I obtained a degree in print journalism and a minor in English, hoping that I could enjoy working as a reporter or copy editor in the newspaper or magazine industry. It started out that way but then a move to Pennsylvania and a switch to daytime hours and a lack of clips set me back and now I am a freelance proofreader. Granted, I’m fortunate to even be a freelancer at 26 but proofreading at an ad agency was NOT what I had in mind when I took on my student loan debt.

      While I enjoy the people I work with and have become more comfortable with the materials that come across my desk, I again have fallen into the perfectionism trap. I had a week where I caught a string of my own mistakes that I’d missed (other people—non-proofreaders—had caught them) and it was extremely discouraging. This has led me to wonder whether I’m even in the appropriate field. Now, I have a desire to pick up writing again (as opposed to sole editing) and am frustrated at my lack of internal motivation. I’m even beginning to wonder whether I should go back to a full-time job because it’s tough not knowing when a check will drop in my lap during any given day of a month and the fact that I am a terrible boss and employee when it comes to meeting my own deadlines. I’m even afraid of getting audited come tax time.

      All in all, I’m currently facing a slew of decisions. Where to take my career and the prospect of motherhood, which may be hindered by my Lamictal (lamotrigine) treatment. I don’t want to be taking Lamictal during a pregnancy unless absolutely necessary and right now, I don’t feel that it’s absolutely necessary. I would like to take the risk and come off of it to see what happens but so far, it sounds like Lamictal withdrawal can be hellish. Lamictal during pregnancy raises the risk of a baby being born with a cleft palate. The likelihood of that happening to me is low and even if it does happen, it’s fixable but why take the chance? I’m also the super-psycho freak that will halt topical steroid medication of my eczema and zealously check all toys “Made in China” for lead.

      Gianna at Beyond Meds and CLPsych over at Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry have written pieces on how Lamictal’s efficacy has been shown to be no better than placebo. This is something I intend on writing about soon considering that I’m one of the patients who could probably (currently, anyway) sing the wonders of the drug.

      So there’s the update. That’s what’s going on in my life. I hope that you are all well. I likely won’t post again before 2009 so I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year!

      Mood rating: 5

      Goal for 2009: Staying Alive

      I’m being hit by suicidal thoughts again. Hard.

      I’m not going to the hospital but if these thoughts keep pummeling me, it’ll become a consideration again. I’m walking a fine line here because my husband’s family has had a suicide hit close to home earlier this year and they don’t need to experience another loss. I try to keep in mind how important I am to many people that I know: my husband, my in-laws, my mom (I’m her only child). I try to visualize the grief my mother would experience losing her only kid. It’s worked so far. I can only pray that it lasts.

      In the meantime, I’ve had my husband hide my belts. I ended up in the hospital in October 2006 after my husband woke up just in time to find me kicking a chair away in an attempt to hang myself from an air vent.

      After what now seems like a short reprieve, I constantly glance up at the ceiling air vent in our bedroom thinking about trying the hanging thing again. I’m sure I could find something else to use if I really wanted to but I’m trying not to dwell on the idea too much.

      The lies that used to convince me to try killing myself, oh say, three years ago, don’t work as well anymore. I can fight off most of them:

      Lie #1: Nobody cares about you.
      Answer: I have a husband, a big family, and wonderful friends who love and care for me. I’d be missed.

      Lie #2: You don’t make a difference in this world.
      Answer: I have a 98-year-old grandmother who loves me to pieces, I have a mother who I bring so much joy to, I have a husband who tells me I’m the best thing that’s happened to him, and I have a mother-in-law who thinks that I’m so cool, she wants to spend time with me. I do make a difference.

      Lie #3: You’re worthless.
      Answer: My husband tells me all the time that I’m worth something to him and that he’d be lost without me. If only for him, I’m worthwhile.

      So the “lies,” or challenges if you will, have changed. Here’s the new one:

      “You’re such a liar. You’re just looking for attention. You want people to pity and feel bad for you while you sit there and cry wolf. So, if you’re so serious about committing suicide, why don’t you show them that you’re not kidding and prove ’em all wrong?”

      Hmm. Good question.

      Mood rating: 3

      "Being bipolar"

      Here’s a comment that stuck out to me recently that I wanted to highlight:

      I think a lot of us feel like our disorder defines us and who we are. Often times, I feel this way. When I meet new people (which is a difficult thing in itself), I can always tell a difference in how they treat me once they learn that I’m bipolar. It only serves to solidify the notion that being bipolar defines me.

      When I began this blog, my subtitle for my blog, depression introspection, was “a born-again Christian female ponders whether she is her diagnosis or whether her diagnosis is part of her.” I wrote back in February 2007 about how people are not their diagnoses. I no longer subscribe to the idea that I am bipolar but that I, rather, suffer from bipolar disorder. I beg to differ that we are not our diagnoses and I will do everything I can to remind myself that Marissa does not equal bipolar disorder. I am so much more than my diagnosis. As I said on my “Who I Am” page in the More About Me section:

      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….
      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.

      Not only that, but as a Bible-believing Christian, I’m learning that my identity needs to be grounded more in God and what He thinks of me rather than what I think of myself.

      Seven Things I'm Thankful For

      ThankfulThanksgiving is several days over and I know I’m late on this but I still thought it would helpful for me to list seven things I’m thankful for this year. (I tried to list ten but I couldn’t think of anything beyond seven.)

      1. My secured salvation through Jesus Christ
      2. My husband
      3. My family (that includes in-laws!)
      4. My friends (“real” and “virtual”)
      5. My health (For the most part, I’m doing well right now)
      6. My wealth (No, I’m not rich but like Gianna at Beyond Meds said: If I have a computer, I’m likely well off.)
      7. My job (somewhat self-employed)

      I’m not much of a chatterbox today because I have a really bad cold and feel absolutely wiped. Tea with lemon and honey and chicken soup has kept me going this week. I have a Tina Turner concert to go to in NY tomorrow so I hope I’m on the mend by tomorrow morning.

      (Image from sarahheidt.mennonite.net)

      Thank God November's Over

      I've been on a long hiatus and hope to get back to blogging soon. For those of you who have sent emails, I hope to respond this week.

      As for that November novel, I completed it at 43K but wrote an unnecessary chapter to hit the minimum of goal of 50K.

      Catch up with ya'll later.

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