Hello, again. It's been a long time. I thought I was finished with this blog and with "Coming Out Crazy." I thought I had turned the page on my mental illness, since I'm so stable. I really never think about it that much, other than when I take my medication, along with the many more pills I take to keep my transplanted kidney stable or at my occasional "oil checks" with my psychiatrist, Dr. Bob, who is about to semi-retire. Life goes on and now I have other issues and passions to explore. The truth is, I haven't been writing much at all lately. I've joined my local library, though, and I've done a lot of reading and much of it good fiction. So, why am I here, now?
Yesterday, a speech I made about fighting discrimination and prejudice against people with mental illnesses through changing the way we use language made the evening news and that's why I'm back. I've missed you and for months I've felt guilty about not being here. I've even avoided PsychCentral.com. Here's why: In April, my darling dog Riley died after a four month fight with kidney cancer. He never suffered, but he was only nine years old and he was my best boy, my muse. I adored this little fellow and I still miss him terribly. I stopped writing. One month ago, after months of excruciating pain, my husband Marty had a total hip replacement. He's recovering beautifully, but it's kept me really busy. There have been other illnesses in my family that have demanded a great deal of my time. I wasn't thinking about mental health issues and my mental illness. I didn't have time.
I felt I had lost my voice, that I nothing more to say...I know these are not excuses to abandon you and my blog, but I was really beginning to think I had nothing more to offer in this forum.
Sunday night, a LinkedIn request from a chap named Stuart Ellis-Myers popped into my inbox. "Hi Sandy - I just spoke at the Winnipeg Mental Health conference - May I Please Link In with you? - Stuart Ellis-Myers" After connecting, he immediately followed up: "Thanks Sandy Winnipeg . . . . icy cold brrrrrrr the conference focus was on suicide I live with Tourette's and the buffet table of disorders that comes along with the diagnosis so know the depression driven suicide experience well The audience were awesome, everyone from parents, practitioners, government . . even a school district leader I shone the light of recognition for attending. may I send you a YouTube shot from the conference? I just need your real email mine is email@example.com cheers and all the best would love to speak with you sometime soon Twitchy" The first thing that jumped out was that Stuart said he "lived with" Tourette's rather than "suffered from" it. I loved that. He signed his note "Twitchy." I loved that, too.
This past week I had the second of two cataract surgeries on my right eye – they're doing this for younger people these days. The left eye was "done" a month ago. This means I haven't been walking my dogs or lifting anything heavier than 10 lbs. for weeks. I'm immobile. For the first time in years, my favourite exercise, walking my dogs, is verboten. I don't enjoy solo walking. Furthermore, the weather has been anything but walkable, so I've stayed home and fallen off my eating plan for my eating disorder.
I never weigh myselfThen, at my annual physical last week, I had a chat with my GP. I stepped on the scale backwards, so I couldn't see the number. I didn't have to. Although weight is one number you don't need to know, I know I'm heavier and I don't like the way I feel. I hate it. My doctor didn't recommend a diet, which for anyone with an eating disorder is a dirty word and a dangerous pursuit. "Just get back on your eating plan and get out and walk, without the dogs if you must, but not too much," she advised me sternly. She knows how easily I can get obsessed and addicted to exercise, my form of purging.
In this morning's New York Times magazine, former journalist Lori Gottlieb wrote a feature titled The Branding Cure, My so-called career as a therapist, about the dying practice of psychotherapy. As a newly minted psychotherapist, she sat in her empty office awaiting patients to flock to her door for her help. They neither flocked nor walked. They stayed away in droves.
No more traditional psychotherapy?In an effort to find out why, Gottlieb discovered that according to Dr. Katherine C. Nordal in a 2010 American Psychological Association paper titled "Where Has all the Psychotherapy Gone? that psychotherapy as we know it – or at least I know it as 50 to 60 minute face-to-face sessions with a caring and knowledgeable psychiatrist or psychologist – is quickly becoming archaic. Meanwhile, as "managed care" has declined dramatically, "pharmaceutical companies spent $4.2 billion on direct to consumer advertising and $7.2 billion on promotion to physicians, nearly twice what they spent on research and development," Gottlieb reported from Nordal's paper. Increasingly more and more patients are receiving medication only – 57.8% in 2007 or 30% more than 10 years before. I find that shocking and sad, but I know it's true. Having lost my only kidney (yes, I was born with one) to carelessly monitored Lithium Carbonate back in the 1970s and 1980s – iatrogenic acute endstage kidney failure – I know that unmonitored medication can be perilous. Nordal admits at the outset that "while medication is an appropriate part of a treatment plan for many mental health disorders, psychotherapy has been documented as the preferred treatment for many common psychological disorders." I have learned that medication PLUS psychotherapy is the best route, but that is my experience. My psychiatric experience started in the 1960s, its dark ages with precious few pharmaceutical choices.
Yesterday was my birthday. I'm not sad. Not manic, either. Just celebrating aging and a joyous day. Here are 10 reasons why: 1. It went on for three days, beginning Saturday. I had my hair cut. Very short. It's a brush cut. I love carefree hair. Who has time to fuss with hair, so every eight weeks, I'm buzzed. 2. Then, I met my closest girlfriend and we walked to a tiny perfect new sushi spot for a delicious Bento Box lunch. Very intimate. We had the place to ourselves. This is our annual ritual because our birthdays are three days apart, though I'm one year older. We exchange small gifts ~ I knit her a scarf in her favourite colours ~ and we celebrate our friendship. Without fail.
Getting Buzzed3. Then I went home, worked for a bit – I never feel right unless I work everyday. We watched a great HBO documentary about Ethel Kennedy, made by Rory Kennedy, her 11th and youngest child born six months after the 1968 assassination of her father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Okay. It's not white and snowy up here yet, but if you're beneath the 49th parallel, Canada is definitely north and in many ways, great. For one thing, today is Canadian Thanksgiving, a national holiday that always corresponds to your Columbus Day, and a great season for thanksgiving, too. Harvest Time. All over my neighbourhood, walking my two Dandie Dinmont Terriers today, I've encountered people harvesting or clearing out their gardens, a little prematurely placing Hallowe'en pumpkins on their porches and celebrating the splendour of the autumn colours. You have to see them to believe them.
This Thanksgiving Is My Happiest EverLast Thanksgiving, I was starving, skeletal and anxiously waiting to start an eating disorder program.
I'm not dead. I'm still here. I'm not "away" in a mental hospital. I'm not manic and flying. You may have thought that and I wouldn't blame you.
Quite the contrary – I'm thriving on work...Work is the greatest therapy of all. Here's why: Work gives you a sense of purpose and we all need to feel purposeful and useful. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning, get dressed and get going. (I work at home, but I still get dressed every morning, no matter what. Otherwise I don't feel professional, and I'm a professional.) When you work you have to reach out and engage with other people. Connect with the world. That's exciting and exhilarating. The more you have to do, the more you get done. (That sounds like it should be an axiom with a name like Murphy's Law, which it is not. I cannot find it right now. When I do, I'll get back to you.) You feel a great sense of accomplishment, confidence, self-esteem, a wondrous natural "high" when you do a good job. You can't buy that feeling. It's truly priceless. I love it. You learn so much from the mistakes you make or the first drafts you have to rewrite. It's tough work. Writing really makes you bleed sometimes, it's so hard, but when you get it right, it's bliss. There's nothing better than falling into bed at night utterly exhausted after a hard day or night of work.
Last summer, before beginning his first year at Robert Land Academy 15-year-old Peter Darwin (who requested that his real name not be used) weighed 360 lbs. Since then Canada's only military-themed school for adolescent boys with multiple challenges has transformed him.
He Was A Poster Boy For Morbid ObesityNo more. Darwin has dropped 105 lbs., and now weighs 252 lbs., since boarding at the 33-year-old school in Southern Ontario's Niagara Peninsula. This summer he hopes to continue losing weight and ultimately reach his 210-pound goal. Morbid obesity, an increasingly critical societal, cultural, medical and emotional concern, especially for young people, jeopardizes every sphere of their lives.
A Self-Described "Emotional Eater""At home, I used to raid the fridge whenever I wanted and I used to think I ate pretty healthy," Darwin said, at this year's graduation ceremony. "When I got sad, though, I'd eat a lot. Emotions controlled my eating. "Robert Land Academy taught me a lot. It taught me how to set goals properly, to value my nutrition, to work out properly. Now, I eat three times a day. I like the food here. It tastes good. They don't give you too much or too little. You control your portioning. Learn to make choices."
Brass buttons were bursting with pride at last month's 33rd annual Robert Land Academy graduation ceremony. Another class of mature, respectful, goal-oriented and successful young men completed their high school education at Canada's only military-style boarding school for adolescent boys, some as young as 11 years of age.