Celebrity Sensitivity: Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst I’m not a fan of Kirsten Dunst or her acting (but Interview with the Vampire was pretty good) but I have to give her sympathy if she was depressed enough to check into a hospital. Her admission comes toward the end of Depression Overawareness and Overmedication Week and May’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

In February of this year, Dunst checked into Cirque Lodge Treatment Center, a “posh facility” in Utah that has treated the likes of Eva Mendes (wouldn’t say) and Lindsay Lohan (substance abuse).

In any event, Dunst stayed low-key about her treatment for depression.

As for why she decided to talk about her struggles now, Dunst tells E!, “Now that I’m feeling stronger, I was prepared to say something … Depression is pretty serious and should not be gossiped about.”

(Does this count as gossiping?)

Dunst dealt with her depression allegedly by partying and engaging in “wild nights.” However, a supportive friend says that she had been struggling for quite a while.

“She’s been crying a lot lately, ” said the friend. “Everybody hits that bottom where you feel [so] scared that that one heavy night of partying can really wake you up. It’s good she’s getting herself help.”

I’m glad that she was able to get treatment. Although I still envy the “posh facility” part of it. Checking in to a hospital is never fun but I can only imagine that celebrities are treated comfortably. See it here.

(Hat tip: Gianna at Beyond Meds)

The "Black Dog," Part III

By the end of March, we decided to get engaged and work out our differences. (I’d move to Kentucky and he’d be open to not having biological kids.) In early July, I quit Lexapro cold turkey. (This, folks, is a NO-NO.) Two weeks later, I had a relapse and attempted to commit suicide. Bob freaked out and called the cops and I nearly lost my job at a prestigious magazine. It wasn’t Bob’s fault; it was mine for quitting a med cold turkey and it was Dr. X’s for not warning me about the potential for suicide attempts on the drug. Perhaps she didn’t know. After all, she kept doling out Lexapro samples to me via the drug rep. When I told her in August that Lexapro wasn’t working, she became skeptical, assumed that I was still being noncompliant and wrote out a prescription for Zoloft. By that point, I was tired of meds. I’d gained 40-50 lbs between Paxil and Lexapro (after being skinny all my life) and still had a difficult time functioning normally. I never filled my prescription.

I moved to Kentucky in September and started a new job in October. After things became a little hectic and overwhelming at work in December, I became suicidal once again. I never saw Bob during the day (I worked second shift into third shift sometimes) so he was able to be depressed during the night and hide it apart from me since I rarely saw him. Bob, fearful of a failing marriage and I’d make good on my promise to kill myself, made the decision for us to move back to his hometown in Pennsylvania in April 2006.

As of January 2006, I knew I needed to be hospitalized and talked about it frequently. However, I felt like I couldn’t: "My job needs me," I said. "We’re understaffed. My job needs me." Even the anxiety of handing in my resignation at a job I hadn’t been employed at for a year gripped me.

We began our job search in the metro Philly area in April and both landed jobs in May. He in the suburbs; I in Philadelphia. My suicidal attempts and thoughts remained with me, but began to increase in August. My sick days became frequent. After a honeymoon at the end of August, I came back in September to a hostile co-worker and a micromanaging, picky boss. Those factors – in addition to whatever I was already dealing with – contributed to taking a disability leave from my job and admitting myself to a psych hospital. I’d been unwilling to do it because I was so busy, but if not, my husband would have been forced to do it for me.

I stayed in the hospital for 7-8 days. The doctor who initially admitted me asked me what meds I’d been on. I said Lexapro and Paxil. I mentioned I didn’t like them. He suggested that I try Celexa in the meantime and that it wasn’t the same as those two. Before I began this blog, I had no idea that Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram) are virtually the same thing. I passed on Celexa at med times, knowing that my case doctor would be switching me to something different. My case doctor, Dr. S, recommended Effexor XR after I told him that I’d had trouble with Lexapro and Paxil. He said, "Well, it’s an SNRI and functions differently than an SSRI. Let’s try you on that. We’ll start you off at 37.5 mg and get you up to 150 mg by the time you leave."

On the first day of Effexor, I developed severe somnolence that lasted an hour. Later that day and the next three days, I developed severe dry mouth. I’d never known what dry mouth was until then. So I chugged several Snapple Iced Teas a day since water wasn’t available through their vending machines. (Weird, I know.) When I began at my intensive outpatient treatment afterward, a nurse told me that drinking too much sugar can cause the liver to overproduce sugar – if I remember correctly – which can lead to diabetes. *sigh*

Because of a (somewhat) sexual assault incident at the hospital, my release was hastened and I left at 75 mg of Effexor. My psychiatrist at the outpatient clinic titrated me up to 150 mg, which according to him, "is standard. Some patients do better at 300 mg." (!) By the time my outpatient treatment was over, I was steady at 150 mg of Effexor.

In the meantime, my husband was overtaken by all the events that had been occuring since August. (You’d be freaked out too if you woke up to see your spouse trying to hang him/herself.)

In November, he finally admitted to me that he struggle with depression. He began crying all the time over nearly everything. As a computer programmer for seven years, he felt inadequate and insecure at his new job. He cried over my depression. He cried about worsening my depression with his depression. He became anxious over everything. He couldn’t sleep in the event that he’d wake up to see another suicide attempt. He became wracked with anxiety. After much provoking and nagging, he finally agreed to seek treatment in the evening at the outpatient clinic I’d been to. He found it somewhat helpful but admitted that it was difficult to act on what he’d learned.

November threw another curveball at us when my outpatient psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. That finally explained my hostile, irritable, and angry episodes (which normally occurred at night) in addition to my depression. Now, Bob became anxious over the next manic episode that might occur.

Just as he had involved my mother of my situation, I sat down with his parents and spoke with them about Bob’s. His parents seemed taken aback. The quiet, shy kid had all these problems that they’d never known about? His parents and I thought that Bob was freaking out over me and the recent events. Little did we all know that it was simply a trigger. Since I was around Bob all the time now, he wasn’t able to hide it from me any longer.

Despite weekly counseling that we began in August, he still suffers from extreme anxiety. He still suffers from depression with passing suicidal thoughts. He still cries and gets angry over, well, insignificant things. But he’s been brave to admit that he struggles with depression. He’s taken a leap of faith to talk to his parents, his brother, and me about what he deals with and some of what he’s been thinking. Bob has a long way to go, but he’s finally taken the steps forward to recovery.

The "Black Dog," Part II

In February 2004, I tried to kill myself. I don’t remember how now. But he pleaded with me to go see a doctor and get some help. Since I was 21, I no longer qualified under my mother’s health insurance so I tried to avoid docs as much as I could. My pediatric (PCP) doctor continued to treat me despite my age. Dr. X diagnosed me with depression and said, "Since you don’t have medical insurance, I’ll give you some samples of Paxil that a drug rep gave me."

Welcome to the beginning of my first experience with psych drugs.

(Just an aside: Before this, I had never taken medication for depression. My parents wouldn’t let me growing up. In the psych hospital, I said no even though the psychiatrist there gave me a tough time about it.)

I remained on Paxil through July. I wasn’t accustomed to taking medication each day so I’d take it for a day or two on and off. But no more than that. If I didn’t take it for three days, I knew it was time to get back on it. I’d suffer from dizziness and "brain shivers." It was also the first time that I developed eyelid twitching.

I went back to Dr. X and told her that Paxil wasn’t working. She told me that she knew I wasn’t consistent in taking my meds. But she still switched me to another med.

Enter Lexapro in September.

A crucial year in college. I was attempting to graduate that semester, juggle responsibilities as a reporter and copy editor for the college paper, manage a long-distance relationship, and complete a 50+ page honors paper. After accidentally reporting incorrect data on an investigative piece that I thought I’d thoroughly researched, university directors came down HARD on me. The managing editor made it a bigger deal that it really was (according to my teacher and newspaper advisor), freaking me out and sending me into a tailspin. I adhered to my Lexapro regimen much more carefully, but my depression worsened. By the end of October, I’d quit my job at the paper and found myself unable to get out of bed except for late afternoon and night classes. In November, I had to cut back from 16-18 credits down to 12 – just enough to keep me a full-time student. Of course, I didn’t graduate that semester.

I’d went to a psychologist (recommended by my PCP) who gave me "tough love" advice for $75 per half-hour. The "tough love" approach wasn’t for me and actually made me feel worse about myself. I continued to worsen under his care. In February, I switched to a Christian-based counselor and dramatically improved. She listened to me for $75 an hour and at the end of the session, gave me helpful advice. The support of my counselor and boyfriend helped me to get through the trying time. Bob helped pull me through graduation the next semester despite occasional moments of relapsing (into bed).

Bob, not accustomed to the severe depression at first, immediately became frustrated and used the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality. After all, despite his depression, he was still going to work, still living. When he noticed that strategy wasn’t working, he did some research on depression and became a little more sympathetic.

However, our relationship began taking a turn for the worse: we began arguing about pretty important things – where we’d live and whether we’d have biological children. We took "breaks" on and off and after several attempts at discussing breaking up, we tried to do so. Of course, it didn’t last. His depression kept him from feeling confident in our relationship and his ability to handle my depression. He conveniently left out how he was worried that his depression would conflict with mine.

PCPs Don't Know Jack From Zyprexa

Eli Lilly’s actions continue to be appalling.

LillyApart from trying to hide the fact that Zyprexa induces weight gain, diabetes, and hyperglycemia, they also had sales reps encourage primary care physicians to prescribe Zyprexa for patients who did not have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (basically off-label usage).

It seems that Lilly told marketing reps to suggest Zyprexa for dementia in the elderly. Lilly denies this, of course, since olanzapine (Zyprexa’s generic name) is not approved for that kind of use since it increases the risk of death in seniors with psychosis associated with dementia. Lilly also attempted to market olanzapine to patients with mild bipolar disorder who suffer mainly from depression. (In actuality, Zyprexa is approved to treat those who suffer from mania.)

This issue with Eli Lilly delves into precisely why I am against PCPs prescribing psychiatric medicines. Primary care physicians don’t know enough about the various psychiatric conditions to prescribe the appropriate kind of medication. This type of prescription should be left to specialists like psychiatrists. PCPs should focus on the things they deal with on a daily basis that no one else can take care of: the common cold, the flu, annual physical, etc. It should be the job of the PCP to refer a patient to a psychiatrist should they present symptoms of mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, etc.). I have been burned by having a PCP prescribe antidepressants for me and as a result, attributed my horrible experience with drugs to that.

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Celebrity Sensitivity

Shelley LongCheers star Shelley Long has checked into a psych hospital after an ongoing bout with depression. Her latest trigger? Her husband filed for divorce after 22 years. No doubt, that’d be enough to put me in a psych hospital.

Actress Emma Thompson has admitted to struggling with depression as well. The Daily Mail reports that “due in part to her attempts to have children, she has been left so depressed that she could not wash herself or change clothes.” According the playfuls.com article, “Thompson told the newspaper that she has found an effective way to balance herself emotionally.” I wish she would have elaborated what that effective way was to enlighten the rest of us.

In shocking celebrity news – get the idea when I say “shocking,” I’m being sarcastic – Britney Spears has been rumored to be popping psych meds for fun. She has been seen popping Xanax and Paxil. To top it off, she’s also been seen drinking after taking the pills. Anybody with a brain knows that mixing alcohol with an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication is a no-no. But we never said Britney had a brain, did we?

In more upbeat and better celeb news, Patty Duke is being honored for her efforts for bringing more awareness to mental illness. Patty Duke’s struggle with mental illness first came to my attention when my psychiatrist recommended that I obtain her autobiography that deals specifically with mental illness, A Brilliant Madness. I haven’t read it yet, but once I do, I’ll be sure to post a review.

Remember those “No Fear” T-shirts that were EVERYWHERE in the 1990s? Well, the creator, Marty Moates has apparently committed suicide. Like what I struggle with, I wish his fearlessness had kept him alive instead of bringing him to death.

Andre WatersFinally, in another sad story, Andre Waters, who killed himself last month, actually DID struggle with depression. Family and acquaintances cite a tough child custody battle and his inability to break into the NFL as a coach as a few of the reasons that led him to battle with a severe depression. In outpatient treatment, I knew of a woman who was going through a tough child custody battle with her ex and felt like she had no hope of obtaining custody if she didn’t have a good lawyer. Child custody battles can be some of the most emotionally draining and depressing experiences in a person’s life. It’s sad that the justice system is more based on who has the best lawyer instead of who is more capable of taking better care of the children.

Just another day: Part II

Originally written October 16, 2006 (Updated edits in bold red)

On the heels of discussing my cynicism about pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical companies (namely, psychiatric-related), I have a few questions regarding the approach of psychiatric evalutations:

1. Why aren’t people tested for biochemical imbalances?
2. Is there a way to determine from blood work or an MRI what kind of mental illness a person is suffering from (in conjunction with the patient’s psychiatric assessment)?
3. How do doctors know the appropriate dosage for a patient? Does s/he start a patient off on what is considered “normal” for an average person and then increase or reduce the dosage based on reactions and side effects?
4. How does a doctor know when to increase a dosage? (Figuring out when to reduce a dosage SHOULD be much easier.)


Psychiatry is an inexact science. For the most part, I think much of it — regarding medication, Freud, and now, the pharmaceutical industry — is a crock.

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Just another day

Originally written October 16, 2006 (Updated edits in bold red)

“So sad / so sad / sometimes she feels so sad” ~ Paul McCartney, “Another Day”

I’m finishing up my third full day in the psych hospital and I’m accomplishing things totally unrelated to my “treatment.”

I’ve gotten through 100 pages of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It’s an interesting book — never read it before – and reading about Tom’s mischevous ways takes me away from the dreariness of a psych hospital. I have a mind to read Huck Finn afterward.

Your Drug May Be Your ProblemI’m reading several books at once, however. (I’ve got ADD when it comes to books; sometimes I finish them, sometimes I don’t.) I’m finally reading my Bible again and trying to plow through Your Drug May Be Your Problem. It’s an interesting book but most of it is alarming. The authors, Breggin and Cohen, argue against psychiatric drugs completely. The books raises some awareness about the use of psychiatric drugs but I think the authors are mostly crying “Fire!” about an unattended candle. The only time I somewhat took them seriously was their discussion about lithium. I’ve already heard — and now seen — its effects. I think lithium is a drug that really shouldn’t be used any more. Are the therapeutic effects of lithium really worth risking a patient to possible toxic levels?

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Mood System

“They have a chart and a graph/ Of my despondency/
They want to chart a path/ For self-recovery/ And want to know/
What I’m thinking / What motivates my mood” ~ Sara Groves, “Maybe There’s A Loving God”

Mood chart

October was a tumultuous month that will be reported about over the next couple of days. I ended up in a “behavioral” (see psychiatric) hospital for 7-8 days then on the 24th of October entered a day program (see intensive outpatient therapy) for 9 days. During the day program, I encountered a series of questions I had to answer each morning. The first and most important among them was rating our mood.

The mood system worked on a numerical system from 0-10. The system varied between individuals, but here’s the system that I worked out in my head (using the day program’s guidelines somewhat):

0 – Severely depressed, suicidal and/or homicidal, requires immediate inpatient treatment, unable to function (in daily activities)
1 – Severely depressed, potentially suicidal and/or homicidal, should be closely watched, inpatient treatment may be necessary, unable to function
2 – Severely depressed, somewhat suicidal and/or homicidal, should be occasionally monitored, no inpatient treatment necessary, unable to function
3 – Moderately depressed, possible thoughts of suicide and/or homicide, should be occasionally monitored, great difficulty functioning
4 – Mildly depressed, passing thoughts of suicide and/or homicide, monitoring recommended but not necessary, some difficulty functioning
5 – Not depressed but not joyful either, in a state of existence, “emotionally numb,” no suicidal and/or homicidal ideations, no monitoring necessary, some ability to function, borderline mood (potential for instant change to a 4 or 6)
6 – Mildly joyful, content, no suicidal and/or homicidal ideations, low functioning problems
7 – Moderately joyful, upbeat, little to no functioning problems
8 – Moderately joyful, happy, optimistic, positive, no functioning problems
9 – Extremely joyful, happy, optimistic, cheerful, positive, “in a good mood,” “feel great,” no functioning problems
10 – Extremely joyful, manic, happy, energetic, euphoric, optimistic, cheerful, self-confident, positive, excited, giddy, ability to function may vary (inability to no functioning problems)

I’ll rarely be found at a 10. Most of the time I bounce between 4 and 7. 10 isn’t necessarily a problem as long as it’s not a mood that lasts consistently. It’s not out of the ordinary to feel a 10 on a wedding day or at a graduation, but waking up in the middle of a normal routine as a 10 is out of the ordinary — especially if someone is known to struggle with depression.

So that’s my new mood system that will be now be found at the bottom of each entry. I hope it can help some people. I know it has certainly helped me and my husband.

Mood: 6

Update: This mood chart has been modified as of December 30, 2008.