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

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)

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Let’s start off small and build up, shall we?

A blog I came upon, Providentia, has a post on the suicide rate in Kentucky over a 10-year period. Male schizophrenics have the highest rate of suicide. The leading methods of suicide in the state are firearm use, overdose, and hanging.


Mary WinklerMary Winkler, the preacher’s wife who killed her husband, has been moved from jail to a mental health facility, where she will serve the remainder of her three-year sentence.


East meadow, a poster on the drugs.com message board, asks about Lexapro’s correlation to suicide. Her sister committed suicide while on Lexapro and questions whether the Lexapro might have affected her in that way. As a former Lexapro user, I can empathize with the change in her sister’s behavior.


The Depression Calculator: see how much depression is costing your company and see if treatment is worth your while. I went through it for kicks and basically, I walked away feeling like it cost too much to hire someone with depression, especially if I were running a small business. Blah.


Apparently, bipolar disorder is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Starbucks is settling an $85,000 lawsuit with Christine Drake, a former Starbucks employee who suffers from bipolar disorder. It seems that Drake’s first manager was willing to work with her “psychiatric impairment” and allow her to gain “extra training and support.” Then, get this:

“But, during her third year, new management told her she was “not Starbucks material,” refused to continue the accommodation and ultimately fired her for discriminatory reasons, the agency alleged.”

Starbucks probably put up one helluva fight, but in the end, they’ve tried to put a good face and good spin on the situation:

Starbucks agreed to pay Drake $75,000 and donate another $10,000 to the Disability Rights Legal Center, which provides legal representation for low-income people with disabilities facing discrimination, as part of the settlement.

“The facts of this case illustrate how relatively minor accommodations are often all that disabled people need to be productive members of the work force,” said the EEOC’s San Francisco district office director, Joan Ehrlich. “It is important that all of Starbucks’ managers understand their legal duties regarding disabled employees and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed. This is in everyone’s best interest.”

Ms. Drake, who seems to be more than capable of handling a job well, has probably eeked out several years of a barista’s salary from the Starbucks suit.


I’m amused, but it’s not necessarily a good thing.

RisperdalJohnson & Johnson is gearing up to put Risperdal for children on the market. I’m sure other blogs have beat me to the punch on this, but I just came across this info and found it absolutely retarded. (But what do drug companies care?)

The FDA has approved “expanded use” for Risperdal in teenagers who suffer from schizophrenia and the short-term treatment of bipolar mania in kids ages 10-17. I’m leery enough about antidepressants in kids let alone antipsychotics.

“J&J said the agency has not requested the company perform any additional studies, implying that it need only agree with the FDA on acceptable labeling for the expanded uses in order to gain final approval.”

I wasn’t sure what “expanded use” was so I looked it up. This was the best I could come up with:

“Applications for a new or expanded use, often representing important new treatment options, are formally called “efficacy supplements” to the original new drug application.”

Well, I didn’t know what efficacy supplements were so I looked that up too:

“The legislative history indicates that this provision was directed at certain types of efficacy supplements (i.e., supplemental applications proposing to add a new use of an approved drug to the product labeling).”

So – correct me if I’m wrong – it sounds like the studies performed that led up to this “expanded use” are not as rigorously evaluated by the FDA as the initial studies that allowed the drug to be released on the market in the first place. It just seems like a company and the FDA simply need to agree on “acceptable labeling.” So if we’re following the theory that I’m still correct, the FDA doesn’t follow up on the clinical trials performed on these children, they just agree with J&J on the “acceptable labeling.” Doesn’t that thought make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside about your health?


Christopher PittmanOn the subject of children and psychotropic medications, 12-year-old Christopher Pittman shot and killed his grandparents and then set their house on fire in November 2001 all while on an adult dosage of Zoloft. It looks like the drama is still playing out in June 2007.

According to CourtTV.com, Pittman suffered from hallucinations while on the 200 mg dose and while in jail, displayed symptoms of mania.

“Three years after the killings, Pittman was tried in adult court and convicted of murder. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was then 15 years of age.”

No doubt Pittman should be held responsible for what occurred, especially if he admitted to the killings (which he did). However, the situation raises a few questions. First of all, why was he on 200 mg of Zoloft when he was TWELVE? Why wasn’t he considered mentally ill and placed in a mental health facility? I could go on and on. While Pittman “did the crime and needs to do the time,” why isn’t the doctor who prescribed this not present in any of the reported stories? If this incident was 2001, it can only be worse for antidepressants and other psych meds today.

Suicide: Understanding and Intervening – Outline

While the book had me put off, I did glean a couple of things from it, mainly things that pertain to Christians who struggle with suicidal ideation.

“The paradox is brought into full focus when a suicidal Christian wants to know if she will lose her salvation if she kills herself. The contradiction in her thinking – that the same God who has the power to condemn her eternally doesn’t have the power to help her now – seems lost on her.”

The key here for Christians is to focus on “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” This is especially difficult to do when a person doesn’t know the next path to take, what to believe, or desperately wants die. The Biblical view of Christianity holds that a person who has trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and commits suicide is not condemned to hell. However, the booklet deals with issues leading up to this point and does not focus on suicide per se.

While suicide is viewed as a psychological act born out of a depressive state, the author correctly states it is “the act of a sinful heart.” All Christians must come to terms that many mental illnesses are a result of a sinful, fallen condition. Christianity rejects the teaching that “all people are inherently good.” From a Biblical standpoint, that’s a fallacy. Psalm 53:3 reminds readers, “There is none who does good, not even one.” Those who believe in God must accept that they are fallen, sinful creatures incapable of consistently doing good in and of themselves. Depressive and suicidal tendencies stem from this sinful nature.

Black quotes G.C. Berkouwer:

“One cannot find sense in the senseless and meaning in the meaningless.”

Life as a non-Christian can be senseless and meaningless because there seems to be nothing to live for other than the self. A belief in Jesus Christ as Savior gives life a brand new sense of meaning. But even a Christian can lose track of that. Again, the inability to remain focused on God stems from a sin nature.

Black uses the apostle Paul as an example of someone who overcame trials, hardships, and suffering. In II Corinthians 4:17, Paul refers to his suffering as a “light affliction, which is but for a moment.” Black outlines how Paul is able to regard trials as light, momentary afflictions:

  1. Paul lives his entire life with purpose. He endures the suffering because of the good he knows will come out of it.
  2. His life is lived for the future, for a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (II Cor. 4:17)
  3. Paul is “strengthened” to face the challenges that God has given him through the Holy Spirit.

While Black explains how Paul overcame his difficult trials with courageous faith, his application flies over the head of any depressed believer. The above may be encouraging to a believer who is disappointed by trials, but it is an application out of the grasp of someone who is suicidal. A more appropriate application would be King David in the Psalms, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 43:5) or rather Elijah, who after a great spiritual victory, prays to God, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life.” (I Kings 19:4) Perhaps even a suicidal person can relate to Job, “"Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not.” (Job 3:20-21) Black overlooks believers with applicable moments of despair and opts to use the apostle Paul as example for hope. Here, the cliché is applicable: a person must go through the darkest part of the tunnel before he can see the light.

Not only did I feel as though Black throw Paul’s example in for a “See? This is how a true believer should act,” he immediately delves into how “suicide is a sinful act.” Pitting depressed people against a great apostle like Paul is just an awful reminder that they just don't “stack” up. Contrasting a suicidal person with a spiritual giant is yet another reminder as to why he needs to die, not to live. As I mentioned before, using Elijah, David, or Job would have been a more empathetic approach.

An underlying base of suicide is selfishness. Black capitalizes on this thought:

“My goal is not simply to get the person to repent over a specific act of lawbreaking (suicide), but to undermine his pattern of sinfully self-centered rationalization.”

He adds that suicide is an “expression of self-centeredness contrary to our position as creatures responsible to a Creator.” Suicidal thoughts remove God from being the primary focus of life and make people gods in their lives. Suicide seems like a noble way of dying (a form of narcissism) while it is essentially a slap in the face to God. Suicide says to God, “I don’t trust that you can help me through life so I’m taking matters into my own hands,” whether the individual is aware of God or not.

Revisited: Twisted Christian Viewpoint on Mental Illness

Many thanks to Gianna for reminding me about this post. It sunk into the recesses of my blog and I’d forgotten about it, I reread it recently and found it incredibly relevant and uplifting. Go ahead and read it for yourself.

Furious Updates

Furious Seasons linked to this article about an internist who forgot about an incident with an Eli Lilly rep — until recently. Great excerpts:

     "I was reminded of the incident last week when news reports emerged that Eli Lilly had reportedly urged primary care doctors to use the drug for elderly patients with symptoms of dementia. The company has denied promoting the drug for off-label uses.
     The reports highlighted for me the crucial role that internists and other primary care doctors play in screening for psychiatric illnesses but also in knowing when to refer these patients for proper treatment. Although psychiatrists are not always available and not all patients are willing to see them, doctors must carve out our areas of expertise in keeping with our training and experience, and depression and psychosis are simply not my areas as an internist.
     I tell [patients] that this cost-benefit decision [of prescribing medicines] should be made in conjunction with the patient's psychiatrist, not solely by an internist placed under pressure by a salesperson."

To read this article, you must register with the LA Times' Web site. If you don't want to do that, just type in the following to get to the article:
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Twisted Christian Viewpoint on Mental Illness

Despite the fact that Liz Spikol is messhuggeneh, she linked to an amazing blog with a Christian perspective on depression. (I’m ashamed I didn’t find it before!) I’m pleased and excited that a Christian in the blogosphere finally has the correct approach to mental illness.


CLIFFS NOTES VERSION: Christians have a very limited understanding of depression, suicide, and other various forms of mental illness even though there are SPECIFIC examples in the Bible. Christians need to learn how to take care of those with mental illness or they may very well isolate the people they are called to love.


(The rest is a half-finished personal background. You can stop reading here if you choose to.)

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