Archives for depression
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.
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.
I'm very tired. Blogged out. My blog posts are not up to scratch, in my opinion. I know because you're not commenting and a blog is a community. Without you, where's our community? So this little post is simply an update to let you know that I'm not going to spend hours posting today.
Today's a "mental health day"During my 30-year career writing for a daily newspaper, for radio and for magazines, as a freelancer, I always took a day off from time to time. Everyone needs to recharge, reflect and refresh to continue to write, which is enormously taxing work.
Me, too. I hope you'll understandNever, ever have I published 12 days in a row, as I have here. And here, I've actually posted 14 times in 12 days. That's a lot. You can get burned out at that rate. I need to prevent burnout. Also, my blog posts average between 500 and over 1,000 words. Ernest Hemmingway wrote 1,000 words a day. Would that I could write like Ernest Hemmingway – in my dreams – a journalist before he became a novelist. He wrote for The Toronto Star.
I just read Jenise Harmon's enlightening Sorting Out Your Life blog here at Psych Central. It's titled Live Beyond Normal and it's one of today's most popular. It deserves to be and I urge you to read it... Before I rhapsodize about her insights into that misunderstood word, normal, not one of my favourites, I read more posts by Jenise. Thinking Outside The Box hit home for me. "Everyone sees the world through their own frame, or box," Jenise says. "Early on in life, people are given labels, told who they are and what is expected of them. They are ‘put in boxes.’ A teacher may label a student as gifted or slow. Parents see one child as the athlete, one as the smart kid, one as the comedian. Peers give the labels of stupid, ugly, dumb, fat, or loser.""But boxes, no matter how ornate or beautiful, are limiting." So true. So beautifully stated.
My formal psychiatric psychotherapy is ending. I've been reflecting on some recurrent themes. They won't move mountains for you or transform your view of life. They're not earth shattering. That's a misconception about psychotherapy. Psychotherapy doesn't change you... It's gradual. It's hard. It's work. It's a process that can change the way you feel about yourself, though you don't realize it while it's happening. You have to commit yourself to it. You end up, I think, with a bit of insight. People don't change and you can't change them... This is perhaps the hardest, most challenging realization I've learned in my therapy. I'm constantly learning and relearning it. Really accepting it has made my life more peaceful. This is as close to an absolute truth as any I know.
Stress can't begin to describe how it feels to cope with being unemployed. In today's economy, with soaring unemployment rates, cut-backs, massive lay-offs and a consumerist culture shouts "buy, buy, buy," it's devastating to be jobless. Furthermore, our cultural values are out of sync – how we value ourselves and our mental and emotional health versus the value of work, money and "stuff." (Ironically, volunteer work builds self-esteem more than a huge salary and it's a great stress-reducing strategy while job-hunting.) All this hit the headlines last week... Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen belittled Mitt Romney's wife Ann and her full-time career as a housewife and stay-at-home- mom. "Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life," Rosen said on CNN."She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future." That comment rang alarms with everyone across the political spectrum. Especially women.
There's a mysterious, somewhat strange-sounding convention in psychiatry, I think. I'm not sure. I've never imagined it would apply to me, so I've never bothered to investigate it. I've steered far away from. It scares me. Leaving therapy... Here's how it was explained to me at the Eating Disorders Outpatient program I just completed. And remember, an eating disorder is a psychiatric illness. For a minimum of two years, I was told, I could not go back to see my social worker, dietician or any of the practitioners who helped me begin eating normally for the first time in my life. A follow-up might be possible, but now I have a psychologist to help me. I suspect psychiatrists work in similar ways. I don't know... Once you say good bye. Once you receive your psychiatric "seal of approval." Once you have your psychotherapeutic "walking papers." Once you leave, is that it? Do you venture off into the world on your trembling feet, vulnerable, alone? Independent? Do you never see your therapist again? Or at least for a minimum of two years? That never seemed to be the case with Dr. Bob. It seemed he would always be there for me.
You may be wondering where I've been since November 30 ~ Day Three ~ of my outpatient eating disorder treatment program. Read the comments to that last post. You'll see some of my progress. Since then a few things happened... I snapped the picture you see, this morning. It's a tight shot of my right hand. Note the discolouration on my thumb. Not dirt. It's a bruise, black and blue. Also... I am very right-handed and not, as I have discovered ~ in the least, whatsoever, in any remote way ~ ambidextrous. The plaster cast you see goes up to my elbow. It weighs "a ton." Feels like it, anyway. After a stupid fall on Wednesday, December 14 ~ all falls methinks are stupid, right? ~ and an x-ray revealed that I had indeed broken my right arm above my wrist, the technician in the ER fracture clinic said I would be able to have a yellow fibreglass cast in a week. Mmmmmm. My favourite colour.
This afternoon I met with the service manager of the Canadian National Institute of the Blind ~ the CNIB. Kids with mental illnesses and visual impairments... She and a group of teachers, parents and professionals working with blind or visually-impaired kids had asked me to speak at an annual conference ~ about mental health A New Challenge... Admittedly, I have never spoken or facilitated any kind of workshop on the subject of mental and emotional health for children and youth who are visually-impaired, had never even thought about this particular demographic The topic fascinated me, so I was anxious to continue our dialogue.
When I was about 16, I spent about nine months in a psychiatric hospital. During that time, I was extremely ill. At one point, I became catatonic. Following that hospitalization, I recovered at home with the help of my mother, who made two wise decisions. My mother and my recovery... The first, was to buy a dog for me to care for. I was the sole family member to help her. Finally, we settled on a Yorkshire Terrier. After accompanying my mother to dog shows and various breeders, we found our little pet. In this case a two-year-old retired show dog we named Derrier, or Derry for short. Learning calligraphy was another recovery technique... My mother was involved in a charity. Learning calligraphy was one of her chapter's pet projects (no pun intended) so personalized plaques could be given to honour worthy recipients. These plaques were a form of fundraising. I found calligraphy strangely therapeutic.