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I spoke to a friend last week who was in an emotional state of upheaval.
She has battled anxiety and depression for most of her life, has been prescribed numerous drugs, but never sticks with them long enough to find out if they work. She is starting to accept that she needs more help than just meditation and a Bible study at church.
She went to see a new psychiatrist (she moved to a different state several months ago) and he prescribed a brand new drug – one I’d never heard of, and that’s rare in my line of work. I’ve written about more drugs than you can shake a stick at, but this one hasn’t even caused a blip on my radar. That’s because, I found out, the drug is so new that no one has had a chance to file any lawsuits over it yet. (The sad but true reality.) My friend called me to find out what I knew, and I couldn’t help her.
Because the drug is so new, my friend’s insurance won’t pay for it. Her psychiatrist is trying to fix that, but in the meantime, the antidepressant is very expensive and my friend, because of her move, is short on cash and not sure how she’ll pay for it. She explained this to her psychiatrist, who gave her some samples and a coupon.
I am definitely concerned about the potential side effects of a brand new medication, but I’m more concerned that a psychiatrist has started my friend on a brain drug (because that’s what these things are, think about it) that she may or may not be able to keep up with. She is taking a pill that is altering her brain chemistry, and if she can’t afford to continue taking it…then what?
We live in a country of mixed messages when it comes to mental illness.
The list of psychiatric medication is growing and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.
The only time we hear about mental illness in America is when …
There are certain things you shouldn’t do when you’re depressed, like watching sad stuff on TV. I try to avoid that sort of thing as much as possible. Actually, I’ve decided that watching a few reruns of “The Golden Girls” is great therapy for those down days.
The other day I was dealing with a very bored, very restless sort of depression. I’ve talked about this before – when you get that way, you don’t really feel sad or that life is just too painful to continue, you feel like nothing is interesting or worth the energy it takes to participate. I flopped down on the couch and reached for the remote and turned on Hulu Plus. (Cool service, by the way.)
I did what is normally a very dumb thing for me to do: decided to watch a documentary called Hitler’s Children. Here’s the description from the IMDB website:
Bettina Goering is the great-niece of Nazi official Hermann Göring. Katrin Himmler is the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler, second in command of the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler. Rainer Hoess is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, creator and commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Niklas Frank is the son of Hans Frank, Polish Governor-General during WWII, he who was responsible for the ghettos and concentration camps in Nazi occupied Poland. Monika Goeth is the daughter of Amon Goeth, commandant of the Plaszów Concentration Camp. None with Nazi leanings, the five talk individually about what it is like to carry a name associated with the Nazi Party, being a blood relative to someone associated with hate and murder, being German at a time when that in and of itself was seen as being associated with Naziism, dealing with their family regardless of their allegiance to the Nazi Party, and if they feel any guilt associated with the actions of their infamous ancestor.
Now, if you’re in a bad spot, I don’t recommend watching this or anything like it. Nothing will rattle your faith in humanity like stories from the Holocaust. It’s information we all need to know, but sometimes …
Ah, social media. I kind of hate you, but I can’t quit you.
Facebook is great for many things. I love keeping in touch with my family in California on a daily basis. I like seeing pictures of my friends and their kids (and their cats, and their dogs), and even their food, sometimes. It’s a good place to have deep, meaningful discussions and heated debates. It’s where I keep up with Amy Grant and find out what’s going on with the production of “24.”
But have you ever been un-friended by a family member, or sent someone a friend request who rejected it? Have you ever had a friend block you because of your political views? Not very pretty. Those Candy Crush invites make smoke pour out of my ears, too.
According to a recent study, social media is changing us, and not entirely for the better. For one thing, social media makes us braver. That can be a good thing, if it means raising money for a cause, standing up for the oppressed, or educating the public about an issue (mental illness, for example.)
Not everyone can handle the anonymity, however. It allows people a forum to be as obnoxious as they want to be with few repercussions, and most of the time, nobody will ever even know their name. I’ve experienced it on Twitter, and even on this blog. People do and say things online that they’d never be caught dead saying or doing in real life.
Social media has created the perfect environment for bullies. Bullies don’t just dump your milk on you in the middle school lunchroom anymore; they can follow you virtually anywhere. Take, for example, the case of Melody Hensley, a feminist atheist who claims she has been so harassed on Twitter that she has developed PTSD. Whether you like Melody Hensley and what she stands for is not important. It’s not even important whether or not you believe that Twitter bullying actually gave her PTSD. What’s scary about her tale is that so many people feel justified in treating another person …
On May 5, 2006, I realized that I was happy. I remember the date because May 5 is my birthday, and there is no greater birthday present than the feeling of true joy. Maybe cash? I digress…
Up until that point, I’d struggled to find a combination of medication that helped my bipolar disorder AND helped me sleep. Insomnia has been my worst enemy for as far back as I can remember, and a lack of sleep just makes mental illness worse. But as I stood in the sunshine under a cloudless sky on that unseasonably warm morning, watching my nephew’s Little League team struggle to get a hit (they were only 5), I realized that my medication was actually working. I also realized that I had never felt that good before, which is sort of sad, considering I was 27. That’s a lot of years of unhappiness.
My “wonder drug” is Seroquel. Though it took a while to pair it up with Lithium and eventually Effexor, I knew the Seroquel was helping almost immediately. Of course, it made me gain about 50 pounds.
Oh, and I went from being pre-diabetic to full-blown diabetic. And it wasn’t always easy staying awake…which is part of the reason I’m not self-employed.
I write for a large national law firm based in New York City. I’ve become somewhat of an expert on the FDA and drug manufacturers. Drugs are a Godsend, but there is a downside to everything. For example, many people don’t realize that a new drug doesn’t have to go through any studies or clinical trials to be approved by health officials. Using an expedited approval process known as 510(k), the FDA can approve a new drug as long as the manufacturer can prove that it is significantly similar to another product already on the market.
In other words, if the new drug has …
I’ve dealt with depression from the time I was a child. It goes so far back that I can’t point to an age or a moment when I realized something was different about me; it has always been there.
As a child, I spent many nights sitting on the floor beside my bed, a cassette tape crackling on the stereo in the background, thinking about the vastness of the universe and how tiny and isolated the earth is (this was when Pluto was still a planet), and it depressed me so deeply that I didn’t want to live. I’m sure a lot of people have these disturbing thoughts sometime in their lives, but 10-year-olds should not be dwelling so much on the dark mysteries of the universe that they want to kill themselves.
It struck me. My brain got sick. I never asked it to.
When you have a mental illness, you eventually learn that there are certain things you can’t really do without making yourself feel worse. Watching sad movies depresses me. Skipping sleep sometimes makes me manic. My friends and family know this about me, and if I’m not doing well, they will usually ask me if I have “done anything differently lately.”
I think they’re good questions to ask, and I know that some mental health advocates believe that all of that is beside the point and that no one has a right to inquire about such things. I disagree. I think it’s important, especially if you’ve asked others to come alongside you and help keep you healthy.
But there’s a catch. These questions are only useful if the person asking them has at least a general understanding of mental illness.
Like most of you, I don’t NEED to watch a sad movie to become depressed, just like I don’t need to mess up my sleep schedule to become manic. Mental illness and addiction often go together, but they are not the same. We don’t get sick because we fall off the wagon. I don’t sit alone at night, fighting my temptation to be depressed. I don’t think to …
As I write this, my cat is bumping her head up against my leg and purring. That doesn’t make it any easier to write what I’m about to write.
Mommy loves you, baby. Forgive me.
For those of you who think cats are the devil incarnate…let me add to your arsenal.
A new study has found an unusual link between cat bites and depression.
According to the study, published online at the journal PLOS ONE, Over the course of 10 years, 41 percent of people who presented at hospitals with cat bites were also treated for depression at some point. Women who have been bitten by a cat have a 50 percent greater chance of being diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.
So I guess it’s just as you thought – cats’ eyes glow with pure evil.
The study notes that pet ownership has numerous benefits. It lowers blood pressure better than hypertension medication, for example. It also provides much-needed companionship. In my opinion, it also gives depressed people a reason to get up and do something when they’d rather retreat to the bedroom all day. The cat won’t feed itself, unless you have a rodent problem or leave the door to your parakeet’s cage open. He won’t clean his own litter box. Trust me on this, you do not want to neglect a litter box.
Researchers found that depressed people were more likely to own cats to begin with. I’d give you my personal opinion on why this is the case, but I never set out to be a cat person. I was always a dog person who didn’t understand how anyone could think a cat was cute, or why they’d want a pet that ignores them all the time. But then Molly showed up on my doorstep 5-1/2 years ago, just a fluffy little kitten, and she stole my heart. I can’t imagine life without her, yet I never would have adopted her if I’d seen her at Pet Smart.
The real link here, though, is between cat bites and depression. Supposedly cats have some of the …
There’s a fine line between prioritizing personal space and becoming a hermit. I seem to toe the line all the time. I can say with great certainty that I think life would be easier if I could just hole up in my apartment and ignore the rest of the world.
Ah, but that’s just depression talking. ‘Tis the season. I don’t know where you live, but here in Pennsylvania, we haven’t seen green grass…shoot, no grass at all…since just after Christmas. So even if I felt emotionally up to going out, icy roads, bitter winds, and snow up to my chin would have kept me from wandering far.
Sometimes the weather makes life more stressful than it needs to be, so we curl up under a blanket and shut out the world for a while. Sometimes other people make life more stressful than it needs to be, too. I don’t know how you deal with it, but I I’m learning to react much the same way as I do to blizzards, and downpours, and the razor sharp wind chills: avoidance.
I know we usually think of avoidance as a bad thing, but not in this case. When the local government says to stay off the roads, you avoid the roads. (Unless you’re one of those people who will risk life and limb for a Snickers bar.)
Depression messes with my judgment – much more so than mania. If I had a million dollars, I could probably do a lot more damage in my manic states, but the opportunity just isn’t there. With depression, though, I take minor things far too seriously, hurtful words cut deeper, it’s easier to hold onto anger, and it seems impossible to hand over bitterness to God. I guess that’s what depression is – a hyper-inflation of all the bad stuff.
Well, I decided to take a little time off from what was eating at me. I decided to back away from the things that were making me sicker. Man, I felt some serious guilt about that, too, but here’s how I look at it: if I …
It was a twerking working weekend for me, but I did get to catch up on a Miley Cyrus’ Saturday Night Live appearance, and Sinead O’Connor’s not-so-motherly advice to the former Disney star.
The two have been haggling back and forth like middle school girls in love with the same boy. Here is a link, but proceed with caution because Sinead’s favorite word starts with an “F.” To summarize, Sinead wrote an open letter to Miley warning her of the pitfalls of the music industry. She advised her not to let the industry use her body for profit. Had it not contained multiple F-bombs, it might have been a decent letter. Certainly her advice was spot-on, and no one would know better than someone who has been there and done that.
As I write this, I’ve got a lot on my plate.
A husband facing a health crisis.
A book project I can’t seem to dream into existence.
I don’t know how it is for you, but around here life is a delicate balancing act between trusting God and throwing something really big and heavy through the TV. That’s about as encouraging as I can be today.
What worries me, even more than the problems I face, is the sense that I am always this close to going through a bipolar cycle. It won’t be the health crisis, the financial struggles, or the professional frustration that gets me. It will be the combination of all of them combined. I’m sure you’ve felt like life was piling up and you’re one more memo from your boss or one more car problem away from breaking. Everyone, whether healthy or mentally ill, knows what that’s like. It’s just that it’s more catastrophic for some of us than others.
Any type of life change, no matter how big or how small, can trigger an episode of bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental health issues. For some people, all it takes is an argument or the change in seasons.
All my life, my mother told me that God would never give me more than I could handle. Now I know that’s not true. Relevant Magazine just published an article on this very topic. In the piece, author Michael Hidalgo points out that not only did God notpromise to give us more than we can bear, there are plenty of examples of overwhelmed souls in the Bible – Jesus included.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus told His father, “This is too much for me!” We see this kind of thing in the Psalms, too. The Psalmists ball their fists in rage, and shout at God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22) In their sadness they say, “darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88).
So I go into this period of my life not expecting God to lift me up and over the pain. Even the best psychiatric …
By day, I write for a large law firm that deals primarily with personal injury litigation. These aren’t the small, ridiculous cases you hear Stephen Colbert making fun of on The Colbert Report, these are huge cases that often involve injuries, illnesses, and deaths caused by medications. I never cease to be amazed at the way pharmaceutical companies will put millions of lives at risk to earn a profit. I’ve come to the conclusion that none of them are immune.
It burns a little to have to write so much about anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication. Thank you, Lord, that I wasn’t one of the teenagers who became increasingly suicidal when I was prescribed Paxil and then Zoloft nearly 20 years ago. It’s heart-wrenching to think about the countless families who lost an demented elderly relative to a death hastened by anti-psychotic medications used to keep their behaviors under control. I think about the many people who became diabetic after taking Seroquel to hush a mind full of racing thoughts that refused to calm itself naturally. People like me.
Even though these drugs come with harsh side effects, and, yes, drug manufacturers sometimes lie about the (lack of) safety and efficacy of their products, there is no denying that some of these drugs are lifelines for many people. After all, it was Seroquel that seemed to put the kibosh on my rage-a-holic tendencies.
It’s just sad that so many of us face a terrible choice: Do I want good physicalhealth, or good mental health?
If I could go back to 2006, I’m not convinced I’d trade in Seroquel for a working pancreas. A lot of people don’t understand why I say that, but that’s because they’ve never been stuck in the hamster wheel of Bipolar Disorder. It’s harder to appreciate peace if you haven’t lived most of your life in an emotional war zone that comes complete with the torture of sleep deprivation.
After spending a good bit of the summer hiking, however, I’ve started to wonder about these drugs that I take…I wonder if there really is a …