Mental Illness Articles

The Science of Prayer and Healing

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

powerofprayer

Yesterday I wrote about praying for others and how it can improve and stave off depression in many cases. Sometimes I get accused of not being “scientific” enough for some tastes – understandable – so I thought I’d throw a little science into the equation today.

I found a study on the U.S. National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health website that I wanted to share with you. The purpose of the study was to find out how effective person-to-person prayer is in the treatment of depression. In other words, researchers wanted to find out if someone with depression would improve if they had someone directly praying for them.

I won’t go into all the details because you can read it for yourself, but the outcome was pretty amazing:

At the completion of the trial, participants receiving the prayer intervention showed significant improvement of depression and anxiety, as well as increases of daily spiritual experiences and optimism compared to controls (p < 0.01 in all cases). Subjects in the prayer group maintained these significant improvements (p < 0.01 in all cases) for a duration of at least 1 month after the final prayer session. Participants in the control group did not show significant changes during the study. Cortisol levels did not differ significantly between intervention and control groups, or between pre- and post-prayer conditions.

Now, if you’re not the praying type or you think the idea of God is nothing but baloney, this study might not mean much to you. I know what you’re thinking because despite my faith in God, I tend to analyze things pretty deeply. Maybe the people in the prayer group improved because they knew they were being prayed for, and thus felt more cared for and just felt more positive knowing that someone was trying to intervene on their behalf. You could argue that humans just swap and absorb each other’s energy, positive and negative alike, and that’s why the depressed participants improved so dramatically. You could also attribute patients’ improvement to the meditation and repetitious aspects of prayer, though …


The World’s Most Eye-Opening Psychiatrist Appointment

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

spaceman

Finally, after more than a year, I got to see a psychiatrist yesterday. Forgive my negativity, but…I was not expecting much, and the good doctor did not disappoint. He did not exactly come highly recommended. He just happened to be taking new patients.

I was greeted with a half-hearted handshake, directed to a couch, and told in no uncertain terms that our appointment would be 45 minutes and not a minute longer.

“I’m going to ask you a lot of questions but don’t go into detail because we don’t have time for that. Going forward, you should know that all of your future appointments will be exactly 15 minutes. I will not spend time with you or really even check to see how you’re doing. I will check your medications and you will leave. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s actually very wrong, but that’s how we do it.”

It had already been a long day. My husband is sick. I drove with my parking brake on and thought there was something seriously wrong with my car for, like, 20 minutes before I figured it out. When I went to get gas, I pulled up to the pump on the wrong side…twice.

Remember that old country song, “Did I Shave My Legs for This”? I’ve been singing it in my head ever since I got home. Thirty seconds into my appointment and he had already done everything but win me over.

So he went over a long list of rapid-fire questions, none of which were out of the DSM. Nowhere in the DSM does it ask: “Do you talk to aliens or ghosts flying around your head?” Nowhere does it say: “Have you ever been found wandering the street naked and talking to yourself?”

If I hesitated for even a second on any of the questions, he motioned at me with his hands to hurry up. Everything was very black and white. No room for explanation or interpretation. He said there’s nothing wrong with being “crazy” or with choosing not to get treatment for being “crazy.”

He confirmed what I already …


Mixed Messages About Getting Help for Mental Illness

Monday, May 5th, 2014

mentalhealthaware

This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of PsychCentral.com.

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 is Only One Good Way to Rewrite History

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

lifestory

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 …


Our Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media

Friday, April 18th, 2014

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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 …


Know Your Medications, Options, and Risks

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Interest's ConflictsCreative Commons License David Goehring via CompfightNo drug is risk-free. Know your stuff before you pop that pill.

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 …


Is Your Cat Making You Depressed?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

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.

mollybob4

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 …


Depressed? Be Compassionate Toward Yourself

Friday, February 21st, 2014

choosehappy

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 …


Sinead O’Connor and How NOT to Prove You’re Emotionally Stable

Monday, October 7th, 2013

MileyCyrusSineadOConnor-LRG

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.


Triggers

Friday, September 27th, 2013

As I write this, I’ve got a lot on my plate.
A husband facing a health crisis.
Financial struggles.
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 …


 

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