Coping with Depression

Crying to prevent my depression

My life improved when I accepted crying as a body function - like blowing your nose or peeing. I never worried that someone might think I was a wuss because I blew my nose. So, why is water coming from my eyes considered a weakness and peeing is not?

I got to pondering this enigma after a major depression that followed the death of my parents - 16 months apart - and then the death of my dog 8 months later. It took a couple years after these losses for the depression to really kick in. But when it did, it kicked in hard.

What I learned in my recovery was that I hadn't grieved properly. When sorrow smothered me, I stuffed it. When sadness came on me at work, I flung myself at a project to stop the tears. I was not going to cry - at least not in public. Of course, it's okay to cry right after someone dies or at the funeral. But not two months or two years later.

Get a grip. Suck it up. Enough already.
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Alcoholism

Can codependency kill?

I have a friend who says her codependency will kill her before her alcoholism. I am so codependent that when I do, I'm afraid someone else's life will flash before my eyes.

I am completely consumed by a dear friend's terminal illness. I don't like the way his caregiver is handling his care. I desperately want to jump in and tell his caregiver how to do things because in my spare time - when I'm not leaping  tall buildings in a single bound - I am an oncologist, a child psychologist, pain-management specialist and super-model.

That's how sick I am. I have the best intentions but my execution is a little off. It is obsessive caretaking. We form one-sided relationships with people who need care - such as my friend, who has cancer. The caretaking becomes compulsive and pathological.
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Alcoholism

Government scrubs substance-abuse data but doesn’t tell researchers

What if the government decided to withhold the data it gathers on an insidious mental illness that affects nearly one in ten Americans and did not bother to tell researchers it had done so?

It happened. The data are collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The mental illness - substance abuse.

The New England Journal of Medicine exposed these shenanigans and explained the consequences in an article published in April: Protection or Harm? Suppressing Substance-Use Data, by Austin B. Frakt and Nicholas Bagley. According to the authors, the CMS began to withhold from its data sets, called the Research Identifiable Files, any Medicare or Medicaid claim with a substance abuse diagnosis.

Why? Patient privacy concerns. Why didn't the CMS tell researchers? Good question.
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Alcoholism

Medical malpractice in treating dual-diagnosis

In September 2013 I had the unpleasant assignment of covering the memorial service of 10-year-old Alexandra Brooks. The service was held in the gymnasium of her school, where my daughter had also been a student. It was the same gymnasium where I sat through many  Christmas pageants and spring concerts.

The little girl's father, Bradley Brooks - who found his daughter's lifeless body - sat sobbing in the front row of the bleachers. The girl's mother, Pamela, who stabbed her daughter and then killed herself with the same knife, was not mentioned - although everyone quietly wondered...why?
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Alcoholism

My closet filled with little boxes of bad deeds

In my mind there is a closet. It has one shelf and I must stand on my tip-toes to reach the little brown boxes on it.

I don’t reach for those boxes often because what is in those boxes scares the hell out of me. Each box contains a memory of an event that I wish had never happened or that I pray never will happen.

I only pull one of those boxes down and unwrap it when I know I need to. One box hold the memory of a car accident I had while drinking more than 30 years ago. I wrapped a 1972 Gran Torino – a massive vehicle – around a telephone pole.
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Coping with Depression

Celebrating a decade, depression-free

I celebrate three dates every year: August 27, 1998 - my sober birthday; December 18, 19?? - my belly-button birthday and April 26, 2005 the day my depression swallowed me whole.

It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since my last major depression. I have had ups and downs but for 10 years now, there has been a floor below me and ceiling above me. I credit my medications for those gifts.

When I first started taking them...
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In My Experience

Should airline pilots – and lawyers – reveal their mental illnesses?

As the world ponders the sensibility of psychological testing of airline pilots before we even know the diagnosis of GermanWings pilot Andreas Lubitz, comes word that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Florida Supreme Court for the state Board of Bar Examiners' policy of evaluating applicants for mental health diagnosis or treatment.

According to the South Florida Daily Business Review, the investigation began in December and focuses on the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, an agency of the Florida Supreme Court, which oversees bar admissions and determines whether applicants should be admitted to the Florida Bar by reviewing lengthy character and fitness files.

Among the questions asked: Has the applicant ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, such as bipolar, depression or psychosis, according to the article.

Florida isn't the only state that asks mental health questions and the Justice Department has made it clear it doesn't like the questions.

The Justice Department has gone so far as to write a letter to officials Vermont and Louisiana - states that also ask such questions - saying the questions are illegal. While questions about conduct are appropriate, "questions based on an applicant's status as a person with a mental health diagnosis do not serve the court's worthy goal of identifying unfit applicants, are in fact counterproductive to ensuring that attorneys are fit to practice and violate the applicable civil rights laws," the letter stated.
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Bipolar

The tao of depression for a journalist

About 15 years ago the newspaper where I work sent me to a number-crunching boot camp, where I learned how to analyze data. I became a geek.

As journalism morphed from the old fashioned pen, notebook and musty records at the courthouse to the internet's ability to gather mountains of data in the blink of an eye, my geekiness blossomed. I attended more bootcamps on advanced statistics and mapping.

I added SQL, shapefiles and string functions to my arsenal of reporting skills. My brain changed, too. I could feel it. A portion of my brain that had been slacking was now firing. I thought differently. It's hard to explain.

The analytical side of my brain teamed up with the creative side and my thinking became three-dimensional. The skies parted and I realized that 3+2 and 4+1 both equaled 5. There were suddenly many solutions to the same problem. This revelation came fast and hard and not without severe consequences.
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anxiety and dreams

Is the CrossFit Open fueling my mania?

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I'm on the Autobahn. I have all kinds of great, noble plans but I'm not so hot on following through. The upshot is that I feel guilty or stupid or both. Take, for instance, my decision a few weeks ago to not do an international CrossFit competition for which I had been training for months. The closer the competition the more I realized it was stressing me out, making me anxious and fueling my mania. My life was out of whack. Mentally, I was a bubble off plumb.

I took a few days off from the gym - something rare for me - and when I went bank, I only did the programmed workout. No staying after and doing another workout or coming back in the evening for more punishment. CrossFit was really fun again.

Fast forward to last Thursday, when the first workout  in the competition was announced. Gee, it looked like so much fun! Why not give it a little try? Nothing serious - just have fun with it. Don't take your life - and CrossFit - so seriously. It's just one little workout, right?

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