Lamictal-free and lovin’ it

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

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

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anonymity

anonymous When it comes to blogging about mental illness, that’s something that I don’t want my name connected with. Sure, I’d like stigma surrounding the illness to be reduced but it still exists and I don’t want it to affect my chances of working at a decent company that would hire me if not for my bipolar disorder and history of depression and suicide attempts. I think of some mental health bloggers — Liz Spikol especially comes to mind — who are brave enough to post their struggles
with their real names and pictures for everyone to know and see. And I’m jealous.

Jealous that while Liz still probably suffers from MH stigma from idiots, she has the opportunity to be hailed as a hero in the MH community. I completely admire Liz because she’s been able to talk about her experience having through
hell and back, especially on ECT. Her name out there raises awareness about theses issues and her presence in the MH community brings comfort to many people who are struggling with similar issues.

Then there’s me, having to adopt the name Marissa Miller in the hopes that no one finds out who I am. (My real name is so unique that if it was Googled, all of my articles would pop up on the first page.)

If you’ve started reading this blog recently, you haven’t read some of the 600 posts here. Many of them are pretty personal.

  • Being Brave: “I have much to say / And there’s much I haven’t done / But what does it matter / When death’s got all the fun?”
  • Identification: “Now, if I have enough fearlessness to face death, why can I not have enough fearlessness to face life?”
  • Suicide and Baseball: “[T]he truth remains the same. Not just for me but for all suicidal people: We don’t really want to kill ourselves, we just want to end our pain.”
  • You can do this:  “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.”

I wouldn’t hire me if I saw blog posts like that. Perhaps some people don’t get frustrated by the anonymity; I do. I don’t know if there will ever come a day when I can come clean about my identity and let the world know who this person is and what she really struggles with. God bless all of you who can put a real face to a name and still talk about deeply personal issues.

Current Mood Rating: 5.9

Light posting again

POSTING
Posting may be light through Friday as I’m proofing an ENTIRE website — medication-related, actually — and making all the web copy is correct, the links work, and that the design/layout isn’t funky. Since it’s a website, it’s a huge job and it may take me until Friday. Here’s an example (not the real site I’m working on) of the monstrosity of the kind of work I’m doing.  I’m proofing every single piece of text on every page.  Funny thing is, I don’t mind. I love what I do.

PSYCHIATRIST APPOINTMENT
I have my psychiatrist appointment at 3:30 pm so I might be able to get a quick post in to let you know what happens. He’ll probably be concerned that I didn’t take my Abilify, but I just stopped taking fexofenadine (Allegra’s generic equivalent) and have begun to drop weight. I don’t need Abilify to help me pack it back on it again. I can do it quite easily with the help of the amazing bakery across the street.

COUNSELING
I had counseling last night but will be going again next week. I usually go once every two weeks, but my counselor is concerned since I’m having a consistent reoccurrence of suicidal thoughts. Even when I’m in a good mood, I still think of finding a way to kill myself. That’s not depression so much as it is my negative way of thinking. However, it’s still cause for concern considering that dwelling on the idea could actually lead to another attempt.

RISPERDAL WITHDRAWAL
I’ve read a few blogs in which people are enduring Risperdal withdrawal. I have a friend who’s currently coming off of Risperdal because her blood sugar is so high. She’s been on it for years. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to take an antipsychotic. Doctors put patients on it for long-term maintenance when most of the clinical trials have only studied short-term effects.

LAYOUT
I’ve become dissatisfied with how narrow the layout is on my blog so it’s possible that if you visit the site, it’ll look funky every now and then as I play around with it and decide on one I like. I’m not an expert with CSS so I tinker with it until I’m satisfied. I’d like my text area wide enough to post YouTube videos and pictures without them getting cut off. Just letting you know so you don’t wonder what happened to your browser.

FURIOUS SEASONS
Last but not least, if you like this blog, then please go to this one and donate $1, $2, or $5. If you know me in person, please donate as well. (I made a plea about this last week.) That blog provides me with inspiration to keep on going.  You can donate to Philip Dawdy via PayPal, check, or money order. (I guess you could send cash too but that’s never recommended.) Philip’s blog, Furious Seasons, has helped many people in the mental health community including myself.

Emo + Music = Suicide?

Here’s an interesting post from Lightning’s Girl on the matter.

How is this for a startling number when you put in emo + suicide in google?
1 – 10 of about 4,010,000 for emo suicide

UPDATE: The New Zealand Herald has an article about how young emo listeners are fighting back. Apparently, the Daily Mail in England went a tad bit too far and called emo music a "sinister teenage craze that romanticises death." Emo fans in England are planning a peaceful march to protest the Daily Mail’s – in what they call – an unfair characterization.

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.

The Great Medication Debate, Part 1

"For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." — Luke 12:48

Gianna at Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Recovery has written a post about reconnecting with her spirituality and working with her doctor on more med tapering. Toward the end, she wrote:

I went for a walk the other day with a woman who could’ve been my client from years ago when I worked with the “severe and persistent mentally ill.” She was so sweet and warm—yet there was a deadness in her that I recognized as familiar from the clients I worked with on heavy neuroleptics. I was so glad to walk with her as an equal and not as a social worker—she is my peer and we talked to each other as such. She is getting tardive dykinesia from her neuroleptic. I asked her how long she’s been on it and it’s been 2 decades. I asked how long she has been stable and she said 12 years. I wanted to scream. This poor woman is half dead inside for no good reason. She is on three medications for bipolar disorder and has had no symptoms in 12 years. I see that as criminal, especially since it’s clear a part of her is dead, just as I’ve been dead for many years but am now coming back to life.

I gently talked to her about talking to her doctor. “If you’ve been symptom free for 12 years maybe you don’t have to be on a toxic drug that is giving you tardive dyskinesia,” I suggested. I didn’t add she struck me as part dead too. I want to help all of us who are being over-medicated and poisoned. How can I do that? This blog is simply not enough.

In response, I wrote this comment on her blog:

Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping up with the Joneses

The longer I continue this blog and the more comments I receive, I stumble across more mental health blogs that offer unique insight and a wealth of information. However, I have only so much time in the day (and week!) and can’t keep up with all of them. This disappoints me as I love to read them all but feel overwhelmed. I use Thunderbird, a program similar to Outlook, that downloads RSS feeds but I already have 30+ sites listed. I’m not a fan of Google Reader. Anyone have any suggestions on how to keep up with the  blogs you read?

Taking on pretentious Christianity: You don't always have to be happy just because you call yourself a Christian

Nancie at More Than Conquerors has a great post up including a devotional that reflects on Jeremiah 17:17: "Do not be a terror to me; You are my hope in the day of doom." It really contradicts the notion that Christians are supposed to be bright, happy, sunshine, and flowers. Christians always seem to act like because they have "joy" in Christ, they are supposed to be happy-go-lucky and everything just works out for them.

How absolutely and utterly wrong.

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm.

Because I’m essentially faceless on this blog, I can be me–like it or not. I’m not your typical born-again Christian. I don’t act pretentious. If crap is going wrong in my life, I say it is and I won’t act like things are butterflies and sunshine. I cuss (sorry to those it offends!) at times when I’m angry or frustrated. This is me; I am a human with faith in Christ.

So I’m out to blast this notion of Christians always have the "joy of the Lord," meaning "I am so happy because Jesus saved me from my sins that I have to go around and smile all day." NO. "Joy of the Lord," I think, means quiet confidence in him. Knowing who he is and what he’s done for you and through all the trials of life, never letting go of that faith because you’re secure in his love for you.

No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children.

We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ.

The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

Boy, do I feel like winds and tempests are exercising my faith. And I’m not going to act like they’re not. Jesus showed the weak side of his humanity. I’m not sure why some Christians think they need to be "stronger" than Jesus.

/end ex-fundamentalist rant/

Current Mood Rating: 5.5

Blogging bad for mental health?

Two weeks ago, the NYTimes wrote a story about the pressure that blog writers have to keep on blogging. The article points out that three bloggers died (it’s assumed that it’s due in part to the nature of their work?) and that many more suffer from weight problems, sleep disorders, and a whole host of other sicknesses or illnesses because of their addiction to blogging. Many of these bloggers (the article cites the techies) are paid and get little sleep lest they not be the first to post about the latest news.

I don’t have the problem about being first about anything. I never am and don’t expect myself to be. I do know how it feels to place pressure on yourself to keep blogging, blogging, blogging. Especially when you take a look at your stats and see your readership increasing every day.

My readership hits reached a daily high last month with my two posts on the FDA’s investigation on the Singulair-suicide link. That rarely happens. But it gave me the impetus to keep digging for stories that might be of similar significant relevance. (I haven’t found any since so far.)

But it hasn’t kept me tethered to the computer although I can be if I’m in the right mood. I’m pretty slow at typing my posts and can sit here for at least an hour before hitting the publish button.

Blogging has been lucrative for some, but those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work.

I’d like to get paid $10 a post as opposed to getting paid $0. (In fact, I’m paying $12 a month!) Anyone have any ideas to get revenue going on a blog apart from Google Ads?

(Hat tip: Six Until Me)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Blogs around the way

I’m catching up on reading my fellow bloggers’ posts (see Blogroll to the right), so if you’re not reading their site already, I’d encourage you to do so. Below  are some posts that caught my attention. Some might be a little dated.

Gianna at Bipolar Blast: Has a video up of Gwen Olsen, an ex-pharma rep who says that pharmaceutical companies aren’t in the  business of curing but in the business of "disease maintenance and symptom management." It’s nothing new but here are two quotes that caught my attention:

"And what I’m saying is provable is that the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want to cure people. You need to understand specifically when we’re talking about psychiatric drugs in particular that these are drugs that encourage people to remain customers of the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, you will be told if you’re given a drug such as an anxiolytic, or an antidepressant, or an antipsychotic drug, that you may be on the drug for the rest of your life. And very frequently, people find that they are on the drug for a very long period of time, if not permanently, because they’re almost impossible to get off of. Some of them can have very serious withdrawal symptoms – most of them can have extremely serious withdrawal symptoms if they’re stopped cold turkey – but some people experience even withdrawal symptoms when they try to titrate or they try to eliminate the drug little by little, day after day."

"We have got to start making the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their actions and for the defective products they’re putting on the market. It won’t be long before every American is affected by this disaster and we need to be aware of what the differences are between diseases between disorders and between syndromes. Because if it doesn’t have to be scientifically proven, if there are no tests, if there are no blood tests, CAT scans, urine tests, MRIs – if there is nothing to document that you have disease, then you in fact, do not have a disease, you have a disorder and it has been given and has been diagnosed pretentiously and you need to get yourself educated and understand that there are options and those options are much more effective than drugs."

I’ve always wondered why doctors don’t run tests to diagnose any psychiatric disorders. From NIMH:

Research indicates that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. In addition, important neurotransmitters–chemicals that brain cells use to communicate–appear to be out of balance. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred.

If MRIs have shown that the people with depression have a part of the brain that functions abnormally then why isn’t it standard for all people diagnosed with depression to have an MRI done to confirm this? I have one of two hypotheses:  it’s too expensive to get an MRI done for each person and that insurance won’t pay for it or the abnormal functioning cannot be detected in the brain of every depressed person.  Therefore, is major depressive disorder really a made-up diagnosis?

Read the rest of this entry »

Small fish in a big pond

"I will admit to having developed an irrational dislike of it that’s out of all proportion to its actual impact or relevance. After all, it’s merely a small turd in the big pharma blog swimming pool. And sure, you don’t have to look at it or even go near it, but just knowing it’s there taints the whole experience." ~ PharmaGiles

Why is everyone deciding to give up now? Is this a bug going around akin to the flu?

Blogs: Tracking Effexor Withdrawal

I really should have posted on this a LONG time ago, but Graham’s Blog has done an unbelievable job of tracking his Effexor withdrawal symptoms. Something I learned today:

"| Night Sweats – I had this very bad, constantly wake up drenched in sweat,
literally soaked to the skin and to the mattress. But Have just realised I have
not had these severity of symptoms for some weeks, which is helping with the
consistency of sleep."

Ohh, so that’s why I wake up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night regardless of whether it’s warm or cold in my room. To quote Dawdy over at Furious Seasons, like Paxil, it truly is the "gift that keeps on giving." Hooray for long-lasting effects from psych meds! [sarcasm] Now, I’ve got this occasional twitch in my cheek. I took Paxil for about 3 months in 2003 and I still get eye twitches that I never had previous to the medication.

Check out Graham’s Blog and see the hell that Effexor can cause. Stephany at soulful sepulcher tracks some helpful tips for withdrawing from a psych med.

Medical blogs

I’m totally in love with the Furious Seasons blog and a new one Dawdy linked to: Kevin, M.D. Kevin M.D. is a PCP who blogs about the health care industry.