Celebrity Sensitivity: Catherine Zeta-Jones & Demi Lovato

Image from people.com

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

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

Last month, Lovato said:

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

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

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Catherine Zeta-Jones

Image from people.com

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

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

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

Bipolar disorder covered under Americans with Disabilities Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity Sensitivity: Pete Wentz

Pete WentzI’ve written about fellow bipolar sufferer Pete Wentz before here. How has he managed to keep his highs and lows in check?

His son, Bronx.

“While I’ll always be bipolar, I find it easier to deal with now. With marriage and fatherhood, I’ve finally found two fixed points in my life. They’ve taught me patience. They’ve also taught me that I don’t need to feel guilty about being happy. My emotional seasons are less extreme.

“In the past my brain would never stop. Now I’m a father, the world no longer revolves around me.”

I’ve always wondered whether having a child would change the way I deal with bipolar disorder. Of course, I’m not going to have a child simply as a test case in the hopes that he or she would “cure” me but I think having someone so completely dependent upon me would cause me to think twice about trying to kill myself.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

As reported by The New York Times, people with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of suffering from fatal illness according to a study (that reviewed 17 other studies involving more than 331,000 people) reported in the February issue of Psychiatric Services.

In the larger studies, almost every cause of death was higher among bipolar patients: cardiovascular, respiratory, cerebrovascular (including strokes), and endocrine (like diabetes). In the smaller studies, mortality from cerebrovascular disease was higher among those with bipolar illness, but they showed inconsistent results, probably because they used smaller samples or less representative populations.

Gianna at Beyond Meds provides here take here.


Some crazy nurse in Minnesota convinced a Canadian college student to kill herself and walked her through the process of appropriately hanging herself. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air calls the nurse "the first serial suicide-inciter of the modern age." Couldn't have said it better myself.


Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons is on a roll, holding AstraZeneca accountable for its actions regarding hidden information about Seroquel and now he hosts the Seroquel documents — alongside Lilly's Zyprexa documents — that indicate buried studies. Dawdy's also running a spring fundraiser and I suggest you get your butt in gear and donate to him if it's important to you that someone holds pharmaceutical companies accountable for their actions. I've already done my part.


Sorry this post isn't filled with my normal snark and cynicism. I'm behind on a lot personally — still trying to get the hang of this self-employment thing — and this is what I can throw out for now.

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 (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.

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.

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.

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Do I have bipolar disorder because my father had schizophrenia?

According to researchers at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may have common genetic causes. Researchers studied 9 million Swedish people during a 30-year period and discovered that "relatives of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder had an increased risk of both disorders." The study may also suggest that "the two conditions may simply be different manifestations of the same disease."

The article from Reuters also points out that Seroquel and Zyprexa are used to treat both disorders, which may lead people in the psychiatric industry to further investigate the link between the two illnesses. Here are some interesting discoveries from the study:

 *  First-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or offspring) of people with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were at increased risk for both of these conditions.

 * If a sibling had schizophrenia, full siblings were nine times more likely than the general population to have schizophrenia and four times more likely to have bipolar disorder.

 * If a sibling had bipolar disorder, they were eight times more likely to have bipolar disorder and four times more likely to have schizophrenia.

 * Half siblings who shared the same mother were 3.6 times more likely to have schizophrenia if their half sibling had schizophrenia and 4.5 times more likely to have bipolar disorder if their half sibling had bipolar disorder. Half siblings who shared the same father had a 2.7-fold increase in schizophrenia risk and a 2.4-fold increase in bipolar disorder.

 * Adopted children with a biological parent with one of the disorders had a significant increase in risk for the other.

Creepy. My father's schizophrenia didn't begin to manifest itself until he was in his 40s. The same is true for my two other aunts as well. It may be silly but I live in fear that I may have the same problem. I'll eventually get a psychiatric advance directive in place just in case that day ever comes. After seeing three family members with debilitating schizophrenia/paranoia, sometimes it gets to the point where the benefits of being drugged up outweigh the risks.

Mood rating: 6

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.

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"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.

Lamictal's generic equivalent, lamotrigine, has now hit the market

So much for Miss Up-on-Pharmaceuticals.

I’ve been paying so much attention to Pristiq that the very medication I take slipped out from right under my nose.

How did I find this out? It hit me where it hurt.

In the pockets, of course.

I went to CVS yesterday night for my Lamictal refill. Since I’ve been under my husband’s plan, we’ve been paying about $40 for the medication. So I nearly doubled over when the pharmacy cashier said $54.

WHAT?

I was in a bit of a foul mood about money anyway so the last thing I wanted to do was argue about the cost of my prescription that had jumped up by $14. (Which, in retrospect, I probably should have done because I could have saved $49 right there.)

I came home and made my husband’s day go from bad to worse. He flipped out and got on the phone with his insurance immediately. He said that the max he should pay on any medication is $50 so why was he paying $54 and why the cost rose so sharply.

“Well, sir, it’s because Lamictal has now gone generic and you’re paying the difference between the cost of the medication and the cost of the generic.”

Bob gets off the phone and goes straight to Google News to find out when Lamictal went generic.

Money & drugsAccording to MarketWatch.com, Teva Pharmaceuticals commenced shipment of lamotrigine tablets on July 22nd
. So instead of either the pharmacist asking me if I wanted a generic version or the insurance company letting us know a generic version would be available (it would have saved them money), we ended up paying $49 more than necessary. It appears that Teva’s generic is AB-rated, which means that it has similar strength, bioequivalence, and efficacy. Overall, it likely shouldn’t be a problem if I go from Lamictal to lamotrigine. At least I hope not. We’ll see.

Mood rating:
5

Loose Screws Mental Health News

The mastermind behind Stavzor is Noven Pharmaceuticals (in conjunction with Banner Pharmacaps Inc.). The new “small, easy-to-swallow soft gel capsule” is available in three strengths: 125, 250, and 500 mgs. The pills are are “up to 40% smaller than han Depakote® and Depakote ER® tablets at the 500 mg dosage strength.” From Noven’s PR:

Stavzor is approved for the treatment of manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, as monotherapy and adjunctive therapy in the treatment of patients with complex partial seizures that occur either in isolation or in association with other types of seizures, and for prophylaxis of migraine headaches.

The drug will hit the market in mid to late August.

The hotline receives an average 250 calls each day from veterans that have fought in Iraq, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

The issue of soldiers with mental illness has recently come to light with studies showing that 1 in 5 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have shown symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The issue of the high suicides rate has been a high priority of the VA since mental health director Ira Katz tried to hide the significant number of suicides committed by veterans.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day by calling 800-273-TALK (8255); veterans should press “1” after being connected.

“We have seen a 60 per cent increase in demand for our child anxiety classes in the past six months,” said [Dr. Kimberley O’Brien, of the Quirky Kids Clinic at Woollahra in Sydney].

It sounds more like the article is speaking of children who are exposed to constant physical and emotional abuse. If that’s the case, shouldn’t there rather be an increase in parenting properly classes?

An inhalation drug for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder???

Oh no they didn’t. From Alexza Pharmaceuticals’ recent PR:

Staccato system-inhalationAlexza Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced today that it has initiated its second Phase 3 clinical trial with AZ-004 (Staccato(R) loxapine). AZ-004 is an inhalation product candidate being developed for the treatment of acute agitation in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Alexza believes the novel, non-invasive nature and rapid pharmacokinetic (PK) properties resulting from inhaled loxapine administration via the Staccato system (click on the photo to the right to see an enlargelarement) have the potential to make AZ-004 a viable product to treat acute agitation.

The supposed benefits:

  1. Rapid onset
  2. Ease of use
  3. Consistent dose and particle size
  4. Broad applicability

Is this pharmaceutical company really developing a product to treat schizophrenic and bipolar disorder symptoms by inhaling? I thought the injectable Risperdal was bad. Check out how the Staccato system works. It blows my mind that psych drugs are being developed for injection and inhalation.

More Famous People With Mental Illness

The local NAMI chapter has literature all over a counter at my local library. One of the pieces of literature actually was a 5×7 index card with a list of famous people who struggled with mental illness. It was kind of interesting so I figured I’d share it. Some I’d already known about; others were a bit of a surprise. How did they figure out who had bipolar disorder back in the 1800s?

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Pick a number: 20 or 9,000,000

20 people annually or 9,000,000 people annually.

Golden Gate BridgeThose are the numbers that the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) Board of Directors will need to choose between in October.

GGB officials are considering a proposal to erect suicide barriers on the bridge. Public forums were held on Tuesday and Wednesday to gauge public reaction to the five options designed to deter suicides. The cost of erecting one of the barriers is estimated between $40–50 million.

Bridge officials have been culling comments about the barriers at the forums and through the site Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Deterrent Barrier. As of Wednesday, July 23, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

[O]f the more than 900 tallied so far, an overwhelming 75 percent of the respondents said they prefer that no barrier be built at all. But a small, passionate group of proponents – many of them family
members of people who jumped to their deaths from the bridge – insist a barrier is needed. Any barrier.

“Overwhelming 75 percent” prefer no barrier? That’s not good.

Opponents of the barriers say it will ruin the aesthetic view of the bridge for the yearly estimated 9 million visitors.

I stumbled upon a blog, Bookworm Room, yesterday that brought the issue to my attention. This blogger likely represents the sentiment of the “overwhelming 75 percent.”

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2-Year Anniversary: The Long and Winding Road

I’m aware that my blog has taken a significantly dark turn.  This may alienate some of my readers who seek happier, brighter topics. I don’t think my posts have been negative; on the contrary, I think they’ve been positive. Positive and educational.

I’ve been exploring the topic of suicide recently because it’s a subject that’s quite near and dear to me, now more than ever before.

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Celebrity Sensitivity: 135 Famous Celebrities and Their Mental Health

The Pop-Crunch Show has a list of 135 Famous People Who Struggled with Depression. I sit on the fence and think that it should probably be retitled "135 Famous People Who Struggled with Mental Health Issues."

But then again, we could throw nearly every celebrity in there, huh? I’m bummed that Tom Cruise isn’t on the list.

All Things Must Pass

It’s not always going to be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
— All Things Must Pass, The Beatles —

I haven’t had a desire to do much of anything lately but somehow I got the energy (and fortune) to figure out how to get my original blog design back. I prefer the format since it’s wider even if the beige gets kind of drab. I also reorganized the blog categories. I’ve become a bit of an organizational freak in the past couple of years. I’m a child of the Real Simple era, I suppose.

I have a whole post just kind of brewing in my mind and it has been for the past two weeks. I’m just taking a bit of a break and trying to figure out which direction I want to take this blog now. I’ve talked about suicide, thought about suicide, and attempted suicide but never remotely encountered anyone who’s actually done it. Now it’s hit my family, and I’m still figuring out what it means to me, my husband, and his family. We have a counseling session tomorrow night so I’m sure we’ll talk more about it then.

In the meantime, work at the ad agency has either been completed (pushed out the door) or is currently in the planning stages, which means I don’t need to go in tomorrow but am tentatively scheduled for Thursday. I have a lot of errands to run tomorrow and have been avoiding checking my e-mail like the plague. I’ll suck up the courage to look at it sometime soon.

 

Also, I gave my husband Bob Thompson guest author privileges. He’s currently deciding on whether to make a blog post on his grandfather’s suicide and its repercussions in the future. He might or might not. My husband’s not particularly fond of writing but it’s just a heads-up.

In the meantime, be well.

P.S. I’ve been on a Beatles trip lately so I’m probably going to be quoting apt Beatles lyrics for a lot of my future posts.

The Bipolar Child, Part II: Childhood bipolar disorder criteria

CLPsych wrote a post on the "Growing Up Bipolar" Newsweek cover story. I agree with most of his points. Especially:

1. Max's problems are described by the journalist as "incurable" and as "a life sentence." It is true that the kid is likely in for a life of trouble. But stating that such difficulties are a certainty for the rest of his life? That's a little too certain and it's not based on any evidence. Show me one study that indicates that 100% of children like Max will always have a high level of psychological difficulties and essentially be unable to function independently.

The article even mentions that "Max will never truly be OK." Apparently, I just learned from my recent viewing of Depression: Out of the Shadows that diagnoses are not static.

Miracles have happened but to say that Max's future doesn't have a grim tint to it is unrealistic. Not because of his diagnoses but because of all 38 different medications that he's already been on.

By 7½, Max was on so many different drugs that Frazier and his
parents could no longer tell if they were helping or hurting him. He
was suffering from tics, blinking his eyes, clearing his throat and
"pulling his clothes like he wanted to get out of his skin
," says
Richie.

By the time Max had reached 8 years old, he was already showing the symptoms of side effects that can occur long-term. Tardive dyskinesia, hyperglycemia, diabetes, akathisia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome are all very real side effects that could develop in Max's teenage years and stick with him permanently. "Max will never truly be OK." Not because of his disorders but because these medications have given him a different "life sentence" — a life sentence of physical, visible afflictions in addition to the emotional and mental disorders he already struggles with.

I haven't really gotten into the child bipolar disorder conversation on this blog because

  • it's such a controversial diagnosis that would require lengthy posts that I didn't have time for
  • I found the entire diagnosis to be a bunch of hooey

But I will now.

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The Bipolar Child, Part I: Reactions

Newsweek If you haven’t been reading the news recently, Newsweek magazine published a feature article on Max, a 10-year-old who struggles mainly with bipolar and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders among other mental illnesses. I read the article and was astounded at what Amy and Richie Blake, Max’s parents, have to contend with. I’m astounded at what Max suffers with.

The article was educational but for all the 8 computer pages that I printed, I didn’t read about Max; I read about his diagnoses:

Max Blake was 7 the first time he tried to kill himself. He wrote a four-page will bequeathing his toys to his friends and jumped out his ground-floor bedroom window, falling six feet into his backyard, bruised but in one piece.

He cried for hours at a time. He banged his head against his crib and screamed until his face burned red. Nursing, cuddling, pacifiers—none of them helped.

Richie carried his son to the backyard and tried to put him down, but Max shrank back in his father’s arms; he hated the feel of the grass beneath his small bare feet. Amy gave Max a bath and turned on the exhaust fan; he put his hands over his ears and screamed. At 13 months, he lined up dozens of Hot Wheels in the same direction, and when Amy nudged one out of order, he shrieked “like you’d just cut his arm off.” At day care, he terrorized his teachers and playmates. He wasn’t the biggest kid in the class, but he attacked without provocation or warning, biting hard enough to leave teeth marks. Every day, he hit and kicked and spat.

By 7½, Max was on so many different drugs that Frazier and his parents could no longer tell if they were helping or hurting him. He was suffering from tics, blinking his eyes, clearing his throat and “pulling his clothes like he wanted to get out of his skin,” says Richie. In February 2005, under Frazier’s supervision, the Blakes took Max off all his meds. With the chemicals out of his system, Max was not the same child he had been at 2. He was worse. … Off his meds, Max became delusional and paranoid. He imagined Amy was poisoning him and refused to eat anything she cooked. He talked about death constantly and slept little more than two hours a night.

During a recent appointment at Frazier’s office, he went into full-fledged mania. Laughing wildly, he rolled on the floor, then crawled over to his parents and grabbed an empty medication bottle, yelling, “Drugs! I’ve got drugs! It’s child safety!” Richie grabbed it back, Max screamed, Richie threw the bottle across the room, as if playing fetch. Max squealed and dove for it, then began to sing into the neck of the bottle: “Booorn to be wiiiiild …” Amy rolled her eyes: “Two kids.” And then: “It’s hard not to laugh.” (I’m not the only one who doesn’t think this is mania.)

All throughout the article, I couldn’t help but think to myself: Who is Max? Max without meds — does he have a personality? What does like to do for fun, even for short periods of time? Karate is mentioned — does he read? He has trouble writing for long stretches. He’s got a friend. What makes Max so charming other than the fact that he’s 10 years old?

(Image from Newsweek)

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Breggin takes on Newsweek's "Growing Up Bipolar" article

Breggin’s post on Newsweek‘s "Growing Up Bipolar" article makes good points but steers clear into wackiness throughout. My only wish is that instead of pointing out the problems of the psychiatric industry, he would have offered some suggested solutions.

Oh, and he flat-out gets some things wrong:

Newsweek makes clear that Max’s parents have serious conflicts over how to raise their son, but they have not pursued therapy, marriage counseling or, apparently, not even parenting classes.

The article DID mention that they tried to pursue marriage counseling but dropped out.

He says he has never been to therapy. But late last year, Amy demanded that the two of them see a marriage counselor. Richie agreed. They went a few times, but there were "scheduling issues," says Richie, and they haven’t gone back. For the moment, they are getting help from the same people who help Max. Anything that makes his life easier makes theirs easier, too.

Then he applies a broad brush from the cases of "out-of-control" children that he’s seen:

In every case of an out-of-control child I have seen in my psychiatric practice, either the parents were unable to reach agreement on a consistent approach to disciplining their child, or a single working mom was trying to raise a young boy without the aid of a male adult in the child’s life.

I like Peter Breggin’s approach to psychotropic drugs for the most part, but sometimes he just gets a little off-base for me.

"What's wrong with you?"

"You’re the most promising person that’s walked through my doors in a long time."

So says the new psychiatrist I went to see today. It was a pretty funny visit but worthless. I’m not sure that this post will communicate that effectively.

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Maurice Benard

This one’s for the women.

If you’re anything like me, sometime during the 90’s you watched the long-running soap opera General Hospital at one point or another. Well, remember bad boy Sonny Corinthos?

Maurice BenardMaurice Benard, the actor behind the character, has openly admitted to struggling with severe bipolar disorder and is a spokesperson for Mental Health America. While I’m not sure which came first (the chicken or the egg), Benard’s charcter, Sonny, also struggles with bipolar disorder on the show. In the past, I’ve read that he flew into rages so bad that he needed to be hospitalized and had to take time away from the set to recover. It’s only fitting that Sonny’s character — as ruthless as he is — shows a true side of Benard who seeks to educate viewers about the disorder.

Combined with his stressful career in organized crime, Sonny’s bipolar disease has caused him to routinely break out in acts of senseless violence.  The most infamous example of Sonny’s violent side was when Sonny, during one of his “manic” moods, shot his wife Carly in the skull while she was in the process of giving birth to his son.

That episode sounds like it might have pissed me off instead. But Benard seemed okay with it.

“Two years ago the head writer came up to me about doing a breakdown story. I said as long as it’s done to educate people and to make it right.  And we did it.  It was fantastic,” the General Hospital actor added.

I wonder what people learned from the overall storyline.

Diagnosing myself

Check It Out: My Bipolar Mother

If none of you have found it yet, I’d highly recommend checking out the blog, My Bipolar Mother. A man (who wishes to remain anonymous) writes the continuing saga of having a mother who struggles with severe bipolar disorder while trying to maintain a solid relationship with his father. Here’s a truncated excerpt:

Today, I got a call from Dad, reminding me that there was a package that Mom had sent to my Daughter and Son, who had just had a birthday, and would I mind picking it up.  That had also been the subject of a few of Mom’s messages as well.  …

I got quite a few messages from Mom yesterday, starting just after I picked Dad up and we were heading out to pizza.  When I listened to them, it was really funny to hear just how furious Mom was about me having ’stood Dad up’, and how ‘devastated’ he was when he didn’t hear from me.

My Wife picked up the package today, and got an earful from the postmaster.  Apparently Mom has been calling and harassing his employees about the package to the point that none of them will answer the phone when she calls.

My wife also had to go to the mechanic to get the state inspection done, and the owner of the station told her about one of Dad’s neighbors.  The lady had dropped her car off for maintenance, and when the owner drove her home she said that they would have to leave a message because she wasn’t answering the phone any more today.  Mom had already called her four times (10:00 am) and she just couldn’t take it any more.

I got one call from Mom this morning, thanking me (sarcastically of course) for finally getting around to letting the kids see Dad and taking him out to eat.  She just couldn’t understand why I would be so irresponsible as to let Dad sit at home and wait for hours without calling him or anything.   After all of her enraged calls yesterday, her voice was really bad today.

Analysis of "Depression: Out of the Shadows"


The show is essentially Depression 101 – for those new to learning
about the illness.
As someone who struggles with depression (within
bipolar disorder), I found a lot of the two hours pretty boring (90
minutes on personal stories and about 22 minutes for "candid
conversation"). The "a lot" comes from the stuff that I've either heard before or flies over my head, eg, how depression affects the brain, prefrontal cortex, neurotransmitters, synapses, etc. The personal stories were powerful: depressingly heartwarming. (Yes, I mean that.)

My heart sank as I heard the stories of Emma and Hart, teenagers who were diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, respectively. Both were such extreme cases that they needed to be sent away for special psychiatric care. They are on medications for their disorders; the specific drugs are never mentioned.

While watching Deana's story of treatment-resistant depression, I instantly thought of Herb of VNSDepression.com whose wife suffers from the same malady.

I tried to listen attentively for the antidepressant that Ellie, who suffered from PPD after the birth of her first child, would be taking during her next pregnancy. It was never mentioned.

My jaw nearly dropped to the carpet as Andrew Solomon, carefully plucked brightly colored pills from his pillbox that he takes every morning for his unipolar depression: Remeron, Zoloft, Zyprexa, Wellbutrin, Namenda, Ranitidine, and two kinds of fish oil. He might have even mentioned Prozac. He takes Namenda, an Alzheimer's drug to combat the effects of an adverse interaction between Wellbutrin and one of the other drugs that I can't remember. Solomon says he's happy. I'm happy for him and I'm happy that his drug cocktail works for him but I couldn't help but sit there and wonder, "Isn't there a better way?"

While I thought the stories covered the gamut, in retrospect, I'm surprised they didn't interview a veteran or U.S. soldier to discuss PTSD. If the producers were able to fit in dysthymia, I'm sure they might have been able to throw in a story about a soldier who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts stemming out of PTSD. Considering all the stories coming out of the VA, it's rather relevant. It would have been more interesting than the Jane Pauley segment. But I'll get to that in a minute.

As I listened to the narrator, I couldn't help but wonder what alternate perspectives could have popped up. For what it was, I fear none. This was a Depression 101 show — a program designed to either get people to fight against fear and stigma and get help or to open the eyes of loved ones to this debilitating disorder. I'm not sure how to slip in an opposing view on medication from a doctor without confusing or scaring people away. What would Healy or Breggin say that would encourage people to seek appropriate care?

Holistic or natural treatment was not mentioned. It's not mainstream and it's not recommended by most doctors as first-line therapy. I would have been surprised had something been said about it.

The depression portion of bipolar disorder was briefly discussed in Hart's story then Pauley added commentary about her personal experience in the remaining 22 minutes of the program.

Pauley appears at the end of the show promising a "candid conversation" on the topic. The three experts: Drs. Charney, Duckworth, and Primm sit and smile politely as Pauley rattles on occasionally about herself. Some people might find her exchange endearing and personal. After the first 3 minutes, I found it annoying. As a journalist, I wish she would have taken the impartial observer approach rather than the "intimate discussion" approach. In my opinion, she seemed to have dominated the "discussion."

It ended up being a Q&A with each doctor. Her questions were focused and direct. I expected a little bit of an exchange between doctors, talking not only about the pros of medication and treatment like ECT and VNS but also the cons. (Should I apologize for being optimistic?) Charney interjected into the conversation maybe once or twice but was only to offer an assenting opinion. Primm spoke least of everyone on the panel. I think she was placed on the show solely to represent diversity.

There were no "a recent study said…" or "critics say such-and-such, how do you address that?" It was a straightforward emphasis on encouraging people to get help or for those suffering to get treatment. Pauley's segment didn't discuss any negatives (not with the medical director of NAMI there!). The closest the entire 2 hours gets to any cons is with ECT shock treatment and giving medication to growing children. The childhood medication thing isn't dwelt on. The basic gist is: Doctors don't understand how medication works in children but are working on trying to understand it and improve its efficacy.

Forgive me for being negative. The point of the program was designed to give hope to those suffering. Instead, it just made me feel even worse. Thoughts raced through my head: "Well, if this doesn't work, then it's on to that. And if that medication doesn't work then I'll probably be prescribed this therapy, and if that doesn't work, then I'm treatment-resistant at which point, I'll have to do…"

I hope the program does what it's designed to do and that's to get those suffering with depression to seek appropriate care. The one upside is that talk therapy was stressed. I'm a huge proponent of talk therapy myself. Let me know what you thought of the show if you were able to catch it.

In the meantime, this depressed girl is going to cure herself for the night by going to bed.

P.S. Is it really fact that depression is a disease?

Depression: Out of the Shadows: Live Blogging

I’m on EST so I’m watching the Depression PBS show. I’ll be live blogging about it because I have nothing better to do with my life. Probably no interesting observations but, like I said, I have nothing better to do right now.

UPDATE: Jane Pauley doesn’t appear until 10.25.

9.07 pm – Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon is sharing his story about his bout of depression. It doesn’t help that his mother, who suffered from a terminal illness, chose to end her life.

9.09 – Dr. Myrna Weissman says that depression "is a biological disorder. It’s not all in your head."

9.12 – The show highlights an adolescent named Emma who’s been struggling with depression since 5th grade. She began "acting out" as a form of self-medication. She ended up going to to an out-of-state psychiatric hospital.

9.15 – Cut to an adolescent male, Hart, who has been suffering from depression since 6th grade. After going to a hospital, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

9.19 – Jed, a 20-year-old college student killed himself supposedly from undiagnosed depression. Dr. Thomas Insel says that suicide is almost twice as common as homicide in the United States.

9.21 – Drs. Geed(?) and Casey at NAMI are using MRI to further research in adolescent depression. An explanation on the neurochemical brain functions in adolescent depression follows.

9.25 – A narrative on postpartum depression begins. Ellie’s husband videotaped Ellie with the baby, Graham, shortly after his birth, and you could see the unhappiness of postpartum of depression on her face. In the homemade video, she holds her child while saying that she had suicidal thoughts the day before and wanted to die because she "couldn’t do this" anymore.

9.29 – Cut to Shep Nuland, author of Lost In America, and explains the circumstances that led to his depression.

9.32 – Dashaun, a member of the Bloods gang, suffered from early life trauma that led to his bouts of depression.

This probably goes without saying but so far, the program is replete with different doctors, none of which appear in segments other than the first one they were featured in.

9.37 – "When you gang bang, it’s just a form of suicide."

9.38 – Segue to Terrie Williams who not only helped Dashaun write his story and helped him recover from his depression, but also suffers from a mild form of depression, dysthymia. Dysthymia is estimated to affect 10-15 million Americans. One of the symptoms is overeating.

9.40 – Williams mentions that stigma of mental illness in the African American community prevents African Americans from seeking treatment.

9.41 – Philip Burguieres(?), a former CEO, suffers from depression and discusses the stigma of mental illness in corporate America.

They’re really covering the whole gamut.

The hubby is getting frustrated because the segments are really just that – segments and they never fully finish anyone’s story but jump back and forth.

9.45 – Back to Andrew Solomon from the beginning of the show. He’s currently taking Remeron, Zoloft, ZYprexa, Wellbutrin, Nemenda(? an alzheimer’s drug), Ranantadine(?), two kinds of fish oil. HOLY CRAP. (I think he’s also on Prozac but don’t hold me to that.)

9.47 – We’re being walked through the neurotransmitter explanation.

9.48 – Poor Andrew thinks he wouldn’t be on as many medications today if he had been on medication a long time ago.

9.48 – Ooh, look! It’s Richard Friedman, the psychologist/psychiatrist from the NYTimes.

9.52 – Back to adolescent Hart Lipton, who is in a special
school that gives him specialized attention. He has bipolar II. He is
on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.

9.52 – Emma takes one antidepressant and engages in talk therapy. She tried several different ones before she found one that worked.

9.53  – The Narrator admits that meds in young people isn’t
fully researched and may be a problem. He mentions the black box
warning on antid’s.

9.55 – NIMH docs are working on faster-acting meds for depression – as in 1 to 2-hour relief. Guinea pig patients were administered intravenous ketamine for depression. (WTF???) One of the patients, Carl, says he felt instantly better.

9.58 – Back to Shep. Doctors suggested performing a lobotomy but a resident intervened and suggested ECT. They cut to a scene from One Bird Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in which Jack Nicholson got ECT. Shep says it was worth it and that he began to feel better by the 11th treatment.

10.00 – ECT especially works well on the elderly. A woman, Sue, who developed late onset depression at age 65 comes back for her 9th treatment of ECT. It helps her. Her husband says, "She’s back to her old self."

The next hour of the show under the cut…

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Christina Ricci, Mel Gibson, and Britney Spears

Liz Spikol has a new post on celebrities talking about mental disorders. This time, it’s Christina Ricci and Mel Gibson. Ricci has previously admitted to suffering from anorexia but now admits to suffering from depression. Gibson, on the other hand, said in a 2002 interview that he was bipolar (manic-depressive back in the day). Then she’s got a whole list of people who have recently admitted to depression.

Then there’s Britney Spears. If you don’t know who she is, be thankful. For the rest of us who spend our time following celebrity news, there have been rumors swirling around recently that she is pregnant because she’s got a big, protruding belly (bigger than the botched VMA’s last year) even though she’s been exercising regularly.

Britney SpearsAccording to the Daily Mail, Spears isn’t pregnant but seriously bloated as a result of her medication.

A source close to the family says that Britney has been struggling with her weight ever since she had her second son Jayden James, 20 months, and the medication has not helped.

The pop star has been back in training in preparation for a comeback, spending plenty of time on the treadmill – but despite all the effort, she is failing to regain the svelte figure which made her famous.

I wonder what antipsychotics she’s on. Seroquel?

Finally, ABC News wrote about celebrities who suffer from various mental illnesses. I’d been wanting to blog on this some time ago but never had the chance. BPD in OKC beat me to it.

Thoughts on Bipolar Overawareness Week: Part III

In all seriousness, I have wondered about the BPD diagnosis but in my mind, have somewhat fallen short. I don’t think my symptoms are strong enough to be plastered with a BPD label.

To conclude my several-post rambling, I should answer the question that I initially posed. Do I think bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed?

No.

Many of my fellow bloggers will likely disagree with me. Zimmerman’s study at Rhode Island Hospital took into account whether those “diagnosed” with bipolar disorder had a family history of the diagnosis in the family. Maybe I’ve turned to the dark side. Just because I don’t have a family history of bipolar doesn’t mean that I can’t suffer
from the disorder. However, I have a family history of schizophrenia: one father and two aunts. Does this put me at a higher risk for schizophrenia? Definitely. Does this mean I could suffer from bp and have the schizo gene pass me by? You bet. I don’t think that I need a first-degree relative to suffer from bp to make me a classic diagnosis for bp.

For instance, when it comes to my physical appearance, I’m the only one on both sides of the family who suffers from severe eczema to the point where my dermatologist suggested a punch biopsy. Does that mean that I need to have a family history of eczema to obtain the malady? Not necessarily. Why is bipolar disorder any different?

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Thoughts on Bipolar Overawareness Week: Part II

Here are some things that have occurred in my life:

  • racing thoughts
  • spending sprees when I have no money
  • cleaning at odd hours of the night
  • thinking that I’m the most amazing job interviewer ever
  • worrying that people are watching me through video cameras or the wall in public bathroom stalls
  • afraid that a video camera exists in our bedroom (I know it doesn’t. I think?)
  • talking to "friends" who don’t really exist
  • disobeyed parents
  • talked back to authority
  • suicide attempts
  • rage/anger/hostility/irritability
  • temper tantrums
  • violent outbursts
  • socially awkward
  • extreme mood swings (happy to sad or angry in the same day)
  • doing things and barely remembering them
  • memory loss/forgetfulness
  • chronic fatigue
  • indecisiveness
  • no interest in sleep
  • inability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time/lack of concentration
  • anxious about being around people I don’t know/don’t like
  • anxious to go out and spend time with friends and/or family
  • impulsiveness
  • overeating
  • persistent, negative thoughts

All right. So those are some things that have occurred over the course of my life. Let’s see what I diagnoses I can pigeonhole myself into.

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Thoughts on Bipolar Overawareness Week: Part I

I finally sat down and read all those posts that I linked to about Bipolar Overawareness Week. I mentioned in my previous post that I feel like I had a contrarian view. Well, I do. Somewhat. Although it’s probably not as contrarian as I’d think.

Let’s take my experience, for example.

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Tardy Bipolar Overdiagnosis Week Post

Ok, so I’m incredibly late on this bipolar overdiagnosis week thing (one week, of course) but a bunch of blogs that I know of have already blogged about it. In fact, there have been so many posts on it that I haven’t been able to read and keep up on them all. All I know is that a recent study came out saying bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed. In the meantime, read blogs that have commentary on the matter (most of the links from Furious Seasons):

Furious Seasons — Study: Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed

Furious Seasons — Making Sense of Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosis

Furious Seasons — Major Researchers Support Bipolar Overdiagnosis Study

Furious Seasons — Mental Health Month Meet Bipolar Overdiagnosis Awareness Week

PsychCentral — Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Recovery — Celebrating Bipolar Overawareness Week

Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry: A Closer Look — Bipolar Overawareness Week Starts on Monday

I’ll give many of these posts a read before I say anything about it. But as of right now, I’m sitting here with a contrarian view, believe it or not.

Suicide Attempt: 1,346,985 (number is an exaggeration)

I had a serious mixed-mood episode during the weekend. I remember wanting to buy brownie mix at 1 am and refusing to answer my
husband’s question, "What’s your mood rating at?" because I knew I’d
answer 10. But then my husband woke up in the middle of the night to find his cell phone charger cord wrapped around my neck as I tried to strangle myself. I vaguely remember it.

Abilify is starting to sound better. Abilify or brain fog on Lamictal? I can’t decide. Sometimes, I do wonder if he’d be better off without me. I often think I’d be better off without myself.

Current Mood Rating:
4.9

Gone but I don't know where

You have been drifting for so long / I know you don’t want to come down / Somewhere below you, there’s people who love you / And they’re ready for you to come home / Please come home
~ Sarah McLachlan, “Drifting”

I have an appointment with my psychiatrist on Tuesday morning. I’m not quite sure what to do.

My “symptoms” are back. Now that I know what to look for as someone with bipolar disorder, I am aware of them. I’m having mania moments. I don’t want to sleep. I have no desire to. My husband sometimes MAKES me go to sleep. I’d rather be up doing the laundry, washing the dishes, blogging, reading other blogs, making to-do lists, and organizing the apartment–all at the same time–at 2 or 3 am. (This doesn’t mean all of this stuff gets finished.)

My husband and I have had physical fights in the past where he has had to restrain me because I wouldn’t go to bed and I wouldn’t sleep. It would be 4 in the morning and I refused to sleep and I’d fight him tooth and nail. I don’t know why. I have no problem wanting to sleep at 2 pm. Make it 2 am and there’s too much to do suddenly. I have the superhuman ability to get things accomplished between midnight and 5 am more than I can during the hours of 9 am to 11 pm. Right.

So now it’s almost 1 in the morning and I have nursery duty at church later in the morning. Then I have a hair appointment in the afternoon. Then I’m paranoid about what my hair stylist thinks of me.

She says she’s my friend but I wonder if she’s just pretending to like me because she feels sorry for me. I’m really lame you know. People at work acted nice to my face and then dissed me behind my back. She does the same thing to others, why wouldn’t she do the same to me? She just keeps me around and kisses up to me because I tip well.

Thinking like that scares me. It reminds me of the way my father used to think. Paranoid. (You can stop reading here. At this point on, it’s just a manic ramble that’s basically full of nothing but stream-of-consciousness just because i can.)

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Bipolar teen missing in Colorado

A 14-year-old girl who suffers from bipolar disorder has gone missing according to local news reports.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department is asking the public for help in finding Michelle Jung. Deputies say she is in need of her bipolar medication and has not been seen since 1 p.m. Monday at Hampden Academy located at 14301 E. Hampden Ave.

Deputies described Jung at 5 feet tall and weighing 120 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a gray jacket and blue jeans.

Deputies believe she was heading home from school but are unable to find her. Anyone with information should contact local authorities immediately.

Neurontin 0, Placebo 1. Pfizer loses, Placebo wins.

Stephany at soulful sepulcher has a post up on how Neurontin has not shown itself to be more effective for bipolar disorder than placebo in clinical trials.

It's actually kind of funny that this discovery has been made in April 2008 because I'd reported on this back in January of 2007:

So let's recap: gabapentin is FDA-approved for epilepsy ONLY. But gabapentin has a slew of off-label uses.

Don't know what off-label means? It means "not FDA-approved to be prescribed for this use."

Now that we've got that out of the way, gabapentin is prescribed off-label for migraines, bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder, OCD, treatment-resistant depression, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, and in some instances, post-operative chronic pain.

Where did this off-label usage come from? Basically, one journal article published data on beneficial effects for patients on Neurontin for bipolar disorder and then other articles would cite that article as supporting evidence then more articles cited all the other articles that published the positive efficacy data on the drug, creating what UNC researcher Tim Carey calls the "echo chamber effect."  From Fierce Pharma:

Hearing it over and over, doctors were led to believe that Neurontin worked for bipolar patients, and prescribed it to lots and lots of them.

These articles that touted the benefits of Neurontin were cited 400 times. Carey:

It “becomes a rumor mill in which physicians may be exposed to these types of articles, and citations of articles, which then gives credibility to off-label use.”

The conclusion?

“No scientifically acceptable clinical trial evidence supports use” of the drug in bipolar disorder.

Ouch. Hitting Pfizer where it hurts.

"You can do this"

From October 10, 2006:

carI’m tempted to go crash my car.

Again, the boy cried wolf.

Except I’m a girl.


Right now, I’m going through what my old pastor used to say is a “spiritual winter.” I just fall into moments when I just cease praying and reading my Bible for whatever reason. I’m not mad at God or anything; I still struggle with believing in a God that I’ve never seen with my own two eyes. But then I think about the specific events that have taken place in my life and I know He exists.

With that being said, I sat in my car this morning with the ignition turned on, ready to drive my car over the bridge into the Schuylkill River. I was ready to run home, make the stupid “goodbye world” post on this blog, text my husband “I love you. Goodbye” and then ram my car into a divider on I-76. It’s the worst suicidal thought I’ve had since I ended up in the hospital in October 2006.

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Half of Us

Pete WentzCelebrity Crust has a post on Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy who is doing a campaign on behalf of Half of Us, a mtvU-site geared toward college students that focuses on mental health issues.

Wentz was joined stars such as Mary J. Blige and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan as a spokesperson for the Jed Foundation’s Half Of Us campaign which is aimed at cutting student suicide rates.

The site also deals with issues such as eating disorders, stress, substance abuse, cutting, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. As part of Generation Y (or Z or XYZ), I grew up loving mtv as a teen. Now I can’t stand it. (Mainly because it’s reality-TV show channel for than music television.) But I have to hand it to the mtv networks this time. They got it right. Use celebrities if you have to so that college students will be less hesitant to seek the help they need.

Response to "Mental Health Blogs Going Bye-Bye?"

From one of Furious Seasons’s latest posts:

Mental Health Blogs Going Bye-Bye?

As I noted earlier, there’s a spate of mental health blogs that are going on hiatus of some kind. Now, it’s my sad duty to report that Gianna Kali’s Bipolar Blast blog is going on an indefinite hiatus as well. You can read her post "Quitting?" for the details. Bottom line: all those years of very high doses of psych meds seem to have injured her body. I cannot even begin to send her enough good wishes. I cannot even begin to express my disgust with some of the bad doctors she ran into over the years.

Also, the Psych Survivor blog, written by a man I only know as Mark, was taken down a few weeks ago, and from what I gather he is in the hospital with heart problems. His was/is a good and strident voice on these issues we all care about and his work is missed.

All of this kind of makes me feel glum, since the two people above had been at the blogging game for well over a year and I sensed that they’d both be around long-term. These are people I care about and it sucks that they won’t be the presence they once were.

Why is it that mental health blogs are so difficult to do and keep going? Why is it so hard for them to find the substantial audiences they deserve? The Internet is crowded with blogs about politics, technology, gadgets, gossip and parenting and many of these seem to do quite well and have huge audiences and long lives, despite the fact that many of them are merely echoes of one another. Are readers of blogs that simple-minded that all they need is the latest news and opinion on Apple’s or Microsoft’s latest bit of software or Obama’s or Hillary’s latest gaffe?

You’d think in a country where 10 percent of the population is on anti-depressants and another 5 percent to 10 percent is likely on some other psych med that there would be a substantial audience for these issues (regardless of what one makes of the dominant mental health paradigm), especially given how wildly popular neuroscience is on the Net. It makes me wonder if we all–and here I include myself–have done something wrong in how we analyze these issues (are we too contrarian?) or if we all simply haven’t been crowded out of the big search engines (that’s how most people find mental health information online) because the Net is so over-populated with pharma sites and allied pro-pharma health websites. I can certainly say that the mainstream media–which usually loves writing about characters on the Net who push against life’s many intellectual tides–has given very little attention to sites like this one, despite the fact that sites like mine have been a very real service to many in the media.

Or maybe the mainstream approach to mental health care is right and the public is just trying to tell us something.

What do you think?

I’ll tell you what I think.

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Loose Screws Mental Health News

If the state gets its way, hundreds of children could be put in foster homes, in what could be a wrenching cultural adjustment that may require intensive counseling.

Wow. That's all I can say. How do you place 400 different children in foster homes and ensure they'll get proper care? You can't.

26-Week-Old Fetus Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

Yes, it’s a parody, but an awesome one at that. Wish I’d thought of it myself.

God and mental illness

Thanks to Gianna for sending me a link to an ABC News article about the relationship between religious faith and depression. The article analyzes whether faith can help or exacerbate a mental illness. The exacerbation, as referred to in the article, mostly comes from the stigma of mental illness within the religious community.

“You might be shocked to find out there are some denominations that do harm to people,” said Patricia Murphy, chaplain and assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush University. “Some congregations teach that depression is a sin … that’s the reaction they get when they turn to their pastor.”

Being punished by your religious leader for an unavoidable disorder sounds bad enough — yet it’s often compounded with tacit warnings against leaving the condemning sect.

“Studies have shown that faith leaders are least supportive [with mental health problems],” said Gregg-Schroeder. “There’s this attitude that if you pray harder, you’ll be able to pull yourself out of it. I’ve gone to funerals of people who were told to just pray to Jesus and stop taking your meds.”

praying dogI’ve been told that I suffer from depression because I didn’t pray enough or I wasn’t “right with God.” When I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after my high school graduation, I found my pastor and church noticeably absent even though they were aware of the situation. When I was depressed, I’d get verses like Proverbs 15:13, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Great. That’s helpful. Especially when I don’t have a “merry heart.”

When I was forced to leave a fundie conservative Christian college midyear because of my depression, my pastor at the time was clearly disappointed with my decision not to return the following year. I decided that attending a college close to home as a commuter student would be better for my mental health. There was no need to scare more roommates with my occasional mixed episodes. I felt like I’d failed my pastor, my church, and my God. God more so than anyone else. I convinced myself that He must be upset with me – disappointed in me. It’s not easy to recover from depression when you feel like the One who dangles your life from His fingers is pretty pissed at you.

(Image from AP via Yahoo! News)

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Home bipolar test? What. In. The. World.

DNA strand

I stumbled upon an AP article on Yahoo! News titled, “Home bipolar disorder test causes stirs.” No kidding.

I read the article trying to figure out how this company, Psynomics, is able to genetically figure out who is more predisposed to what.

To take the test, patients receive by mail a plastic cup that they spit into, seal and send back to Psynomics. The company analyzes DNA in the saliva.

Psynomics will send patients’ test results only to their doctors to avoid the risk of self-diagnosis.

Here’s a sample report located on the Web site (PDF file).

Are you interested? If you’re anyone other than a white person of Northern European ancestry who shows some bipolar symptoms and has at least one other bipolar family member, then you don’t meet the criteria for this testing. Even if you do, save your money and buy something else – the test costs a steep $399 and the results aren’t entirely certain. In fact, researchers and doctors say there is very little data at the moment to support testing DNA for bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses.

[Dr. John] Kelsoe, 52, acknowledges that bipolar disorder probably results from a combination of genetic factors and life experiences, and that the presence of these gene variations does not at all mean that someone will, in fact, develop the disease. He admits, too, that his findings about the genetic basis of the illness are far from complete.

“The goal of this is to try and help doctors make an accurate diagnosis more quickly so the patient can be treated appropriately,” Kelsoe said. “Anything is going to help, even if it just helps a little bit.”

I’m worried that people are going to think that they have bipolar disorder, fork over the money for gene testing, and be told when that they have bipolar disorder when they really don’t. Why manufacture a mental illness for a person that may not exist?

In coming months, at least two other startups led by genetic researchers are set to release their own psychiatric genetic tests. One test claims to predict the risk of developing schizophrenia. The other is designed to forecast the likelihood that some medications for major depression could heighten suicidal thoughts in patients.

As much as I’m not a fan of psychiatrists and there’s always the chance for misdiagnosis, I call this company a scam designed to prey upon people’s insecurities. (Perhaps bipolar people would purchase this in the midst of a spending spree?) Regardless, some people are buying into this product that even the maker admits isn’t entirely accurate.

Psynomics has sold only a few tests so far but is projecting sales of 1,800 tests in 2008 and 30,000 in the next five years.

Considering that it now has major media coverage, it’s likely to take off even more.
(Image sciam.com)

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I recently wrote about the MOTHERS Act and the unnecessary scare tactics surrounding it. A Dallas-Fort Worth TV station picked up on the story and provided a short one-sided view of the issue, continuing to purport that the bill is solely about drugging new moms. I don’t discount Ms. Philo’s terrible experience with her medication. In fact, I’d be against the act if its sole purpose was to force treatment on pregnant women – medicated or not. Again, I’d like to reiterate that the bill’s purpose is to educate moms about postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis – not to shove unnecessary pills down women’s throats.

If you have sleep apnea, your CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine may alleviate depression symptoms. My husband has sleep apnea and hasn’t been able to use the CPAP machine because of sinus problems. When he doesn’t use it (he hasn’t for a while), he’s noticeably moodier and prone to depressive symptoms. But then again, anyone who doesn’t get good sleep for several days is pretty moody.

Seroquel XRAstraZeneca (AZ) is going after Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit after the two companies applied to make cheaper version of Seroquel available. AZ’s patent on Seroquel expires in 2011. The trial date for patent litigation is August 11. In the meantime, according to the Bloomberg report, the FDA is considering approval of Seroquel XR for bipolar depression and bipolar mania.

What is it about the U.K. that they seem to take pharma’s power more seriously than the U.S.? The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) charged GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the maker of Seroxat (Paxil in the U.S.), with not fully disclosing their clinical trial data that downplayed serious side effects such as increasing suicidal tendencies among those 18 years and younger. The MHRA also asserts that Seroxat didn’t alleviate depression as much as GSK’s initial data showed. GSK, of course, denied manipulating the data to show favorable results:

GSK denies withholding data, claiming the risks did not come to light until the results of nine studies were pooled.

The UK minister of public health, Dawn Primarilo, promised to address the issue of Big Pharma hiding negative clinical trial data.

“Notwithstanding the limitations that may exist in the law, pharmaceutical companies should disclose any information they have that would have a bearing on the protection of health,” she says.

In other news, I shouldn’t be a successful writer or novelist. The correlation between creative writers and suicide is ridiculously high. More than 70 well-known writers and poets have successfully committed suicide. How much more “unknown” writers and poets have as well?

(Image from Monthly Prescribing Reference)

For the Christians with bipolar disorder

If you haven’t found it already, I’ve stumbled upon My Life with Bipolar Disorder written by Nancie Koo in Singapore. She’s a born again Christian who writes about her struggles but remains steadfast in her faith. I started my blog nearly two years ago in the hopes that I could provide encouragement and information to other Christians suffering from mental illness. It’s good to see that many blogs have come along since then to fill the void.

Celebrity Sensitivity: Steve-O

I’ve never watched the show Jackass but apparently the big star from the show, Steve-O, is on suicide watch. Steve-O (real name: Stephen Glover) was recently charged with cocaine possession by LA police so it’s likely that he was under the influence of drugs when threatened to take his own life. He also is said to suffer from bipolar disorder. (I told you it’s the hip mental illness!) PerezHilton.com quotes Star magazine that first broke the story:

"Steve is stabilized on meds at this point," the source says. "He was also treated for burns on his skin as if he had been putting cigarettes out on his own body."

"Right now he’s in his extreme mania," a family member tells the mag. "His concerned friends and family are hoping he’ll seek treatment. He doesn’t need jail, he needs therapy. We’re just really hoping that this will be the wake-up call that gets him back to himself."

This is another celebrity’s antics we can take seriously. Steve-O left suicide notes for friends and family. While his drug charges shouldn’t be dismissed just because he’s famous, this family member is right; he needs treatment. If you want to see a disturbing photo that could be seen as a foreshadowing of this incident, see this post at PerezHilton.com.

Bipolar & the Workplace

I was surprised to see an ABC News article on bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is the “hip” mental illness these days — especially when used to characterize someone with extreme mood swings. One section addressed admitting to bipolar disorder in a work environment:

One day, he let it slip.

“I just blurted it out. ‘I’m sorry I’m getting shock treatments. I can’t remember anything,'” Steve said. His colleagues’ reactions were less than encouraging, he recalled.

“I would say that they were afraid of me,” Steve said. “They stopped referring their clients to me.”

Steve said that eventually his colleagues’ attitudes forced him to leave his job.

I admitted my problem to three people at my job: my managing editor at my last job and three of my coworkers (one with whom I am still friendly).

  • The managing editor, who had picked on me mercilessly, finally backed off. As far as I know, she didn’t tell anyone which I appreciated.
  • One of my coworkers admitted she had depression to me first before I told her I had bipolar disorder. It’s understood between us that we won’t go around and talk about these things.
  • The other coworker also told me about her journey through depression and her treatment afterward. I then revealed my struggle with bipolar disorder. We are friends outside of work now.
  • I’d told the last coworker about this shortly after I received my diagnosis after being released from the psych hospital. As far as I know, she didn’t tell anyone. But in the end, she’s the one who said the hurtful things about me in the e-mail I inadvertently received. It’s anyone’s guess if she told other coworkers or if she completely forgot.

From Bipolar Journey:

My experience is: work is work.  Outside of work is where one gains support for any illness they struggle with.  Acknowledging my response is skewed on the basis of recent events, I can’t recommend telling anyone you work with about one’s illness.  I should have kept to my Psychology professor’s advice:  “Never tell anyone you work with about your illness, trust me when I tell you:  they will treat you differently.”

I attended an outpatient group in late October 2006 after my hospitalization. One lady said that one of her coworkers admitted she was bipolar; since then, the coworker was teased and verbally abused by her supervisor and other coworkers. I’m not positive but I think the person might have even gotten fired lest her disorder interfere with her ability to do her job. (She cleaned pools.)

People with the disorder often have trouble keeping a job and are 40 percent less likely to be employed than the average person, said Ronald Kessler, a public health researcher at Harvard University.

On the other hand, Kessler said, if treated properly, they can be creative and invaluable individuals. Many highly successful authors, artists and professionals have the disorder.

I’ve seen statistics like this before and they worry me. I constantly wonder whether I’ll ever be able to hold down a full-time job for a long period of time. I’m currently unemployed and – to my disbelief – enjoying it. I’m afraid I’ll get lazy and never go back to work. I’m afraid that I’ll start to go in and out of jobs like a revolving door. One of my psychotherapists in college flat out told me that I’d never be able to hold down a job.

As I try to venture into editorial freelancing, I’m afraid of a host of things: outdated skills, inexperience, lack of confidence, failure, libel, confrontation, socializing, networking, creating expectations (of myself) that I never live up to. My counselor told me to just jump in and do it first then worry about the details later. [deep breath]

failureI fear failure the most. Failure that I’ve forgotten my editorial skills because they haven’t been used daily since 2005. Failure that editors will write me off because I’m a 26-year-old with unimpressive clips like “Bees Infest Dorm Hall” (yawn), “Student Organization Rallies Youth to Vote” (so cliche), and “Penn State Strikes Deal with Napster on File-Sharing” (Nov. 2003 = old). Failure that I’ll write an article, misinterpret the facts, and then get the publication slapped with a lawsuit. Failure that I’ll have to be “pleasantly persistent” in calling up editors, asking for prompt payment of my freelance services. Failure that I will intentionally avoid things that would otherwise propel my career: attending social mixers, networking, doing all the social things that makes my blood run cold because I hate meeting new people (in person). Failure that I’ll look at past awards I’ve received and then never live up to the reason why I received them in the first place. I don’t want to blame bipolar disorder from holding me back but sometimes, I can’t help but think where I’d be in my professional career without it.

(Image from gobears.wordpress.com)

Celebrity Sensitivity: Courtney Love & Heather Locklear

Courtney Love Sheesh. Talk about sensitivity on this one. Rumors have been flying around that Courtney Love (widow of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain) is bipolar. Love goes ballistic refuting those speculations on her MySpace page:

and i hear now i am “Bi Polar” uhhhh…thats more nuts than I will ever be. I may be Eccentric, i certainly speak my mind and am slow to put out a record i need to mean the world to ME, and im sure i am quite Nuerotic (sic) but “Bi Polar” . Thats just slander.I shoot straight from the hip and spellcheck has NOTHING to do with REALITY.

Ok, Love is just crazy in general. I can respect that.

In other celeb somewhat-mental-health-related news, paramedics responded to a suicide call that police believed was from Heather Locklear. However, police soon found out it was a hoax and the call didn’t even originate from her house. Someone’s tryin’ to mess with Sammy Jo… (There’s a throwback for ya.)

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