Archive for August, 2010

August 29, 2010

ECT at-a-glance

in Louisville Courier-Journal 8.29.10

The above info box was published along with the article “Controversial Shock Therapy Back for Severe Depression,” written by Laura Unger and  published in Louisville Courier-Journal today. There’s not necessarily anything new in the article, but it does quote Dr. Peter Breggin, a physician noted for his opposition to ECT, saying that ECT is a “closed-head lobotomy.”

I guess an article about ECT can’t escape from talking about the opposition viewpoint. It’s just that we don’t ever seem to question the potential complications that might arise from other surgeries, such as organ transplants—where we’re literally opening the person up and taking out someone’s organ from his/her body and then putting someone else’s organ back in. Doesn’t that sound a bit dangerous, too?

August 27, 2010

solving for the dependent variable

I must address a bad habit that I have. Zolpidem Tartrate AKA Ambien has been prescribed to me for a long time now. Lately, I’ve been using more than just one to go to sleep. Therefore, I’ve run out of these pills, well over a week before I can call in for a renewal. So I went out to the grocery store and bought the store-brand, maximum-strength sleep aids. I first took just one of these lovely, turquoise colored pills, as directed by the instructions on the bottle. But after a while, I popped one, and then another, and another. It’s now been several hours, and I can’t feel any affect. As 2 am rolled around, I scourged about the old prescription bottles, hoping to find a stray Ambien somewhere…anywhere.

I finally found one and swallowed the pill as if it were some magic potion. Now, I am just waiting for it to take over my body and mind. While the Ambien is starting to numb my senses, I am well aware that what I just did is incredibly bad. I’ve been neglecting to put any effort on my part to the process of going to sleep and instead allowing for these prescription drugs to do all the work. I think I’ve come to a point where I need realize that I am being constantly dependent on a drug where there doesn’t need to be such dependence. Sure, everyone goes through those spells of not being able to fall asleep, and then resorting to sleep aids. But I’ve crossed that line of ‘as needed’ usage.

I need to do some work on putting myself to sleep and not expect for the Ambien (or whatever other sleep-aid-of-the-day) to take full responsibility of that task. Yes, these and other medications are important in helping us function, but sometimes, we give too much credit to these meds and have forgotten to do our share of the work, starting with the fact that not everything that we feel or do happens because of the drug. Though it’s easier said than done, we need to take ownership of our own body.

In the coming months, I need to relearn that bed time does not have to be initiated by the imbibing of random pills.

August 26, 2010

preschoolers and depression

There’s a long but good article in the New York Times titled “Can Preschoolers be depressed?” I’m always cautious about reading on mental health and kids because it seems like they end up talking about medication—and I’m not quite sure how young is too young to give psychotropic meds, especially when they haven’t even been much research about youngsters and those drugs. But this article, written by Pamela Paul, ends up talking about an interesting therapy technique called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).

I do think adequate treatment is really important at any age. But once a diagnosis has been handed down to that child, can a child ever ‘outgrow’ that label? Are these illnesses like juvenile diabetes where it has to be controlled for a lifetime? Even as an adult, it’s hard to deal with a psychiatric diagnosis. If so, what’s it like for a child? Does the parent tell that kid that s/he is ‘sick’?

August 25, 2010

the sixth anniversary

It’s August. To put it more clearly, it’s almost September. But there’s something I haven’t talked about this month.

It’s been six years since one of my suicide attempts (I figured I’d link to my last year’s post about the anniversary and not rewrite what I wrote back then). It’s an episode that my psychiatrist referred to as my ‘personal 9/11′ because every time August rolled around,  I couldn’t get this event out of my mind. It’s also a time when the doctor diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, and I remember not knowing what to do with that diagnosis. I just remember a lot about that whole time period that’s wrapped up with all sorts of emotions.

So, this ‘anniversary month’ has been around for 25 days, but quite honestly, it’s not really been on my mind much this year. A few weeks ago, I came across my journal entries that I kept when I was in the hospital then, but reading those didn’t spin me into one of those depressive episodes.

Maybe this is a sign that I’m doing better and that I’m moving on. I still remember so much of what happened six years ago, but at the same time, I don’t feel completely submerged by the weight of that memory. I can’t guarantee that I won’t harm myself again, but it feels good to not live in fear that I would harm myself. For the longest time, I didn’t think I’d live past 30, but it’s already been six years, and now a few months since I turned 30. And I’m doing okay.

August 24, 2010

Stigma In the Headlines

I was googling to see if there were any interesting news about mental health, depression, bipolar disorder, etc… Some items were worth reading up on, but one headline from the Chicago Sun-Times caught my eye: “Bipolar man gets 9 years for breaking into church.”

Is it of utmost importance that we know that this perpetrator has bipolar disorder? Are we supposed to think differently about this guy because he’s bipolar? This headline gives an assumption that the reason why he broke into the building was because he’s bipolar.

August 21, 2010

study: “magic” drug for depression?

Ok. I’m sure it’s been a ‘magic’ drug for those people who’ve used Ketamine AKA ‘special K,’ the horse tranquilizer turned recreational drug, at the comfort of their own drug den. But, Ketamine is still a medical drug, and a drug is something that should treat some sort of a medical symptom, right? According to the research published in the newest issue of Science, it suggests that ketamine could be reformulated as an anti-depressant that takes effect in hours rather than the usual weeks and months of most available medication. The lead researcher of the study said, “it’s like a magic drug.”

Ketamine does need to be given intravenously, and one shot will last for about a week.

Here’s the story on Medical News Today.

August 21, 2010

I want to be sedated

I guess it’s a pity party, party of one.

I can feel the rise and fall of my own chest as I breathe in and out. The splashing of water and the chatter among the people at the pool sound loud and clear. And I hear the faint but consistent sound of my ceiling fan above me.  The shwish of the grass outside. Sometimes, I feel like I become aware on so many things going on in life that I just wish that this heightened sense of awareness could somehow be toned down a bit. Do I really need to be so alert when my mind’s spinning all the time? Can’t I just be numb or a little ignorant of what goes on around me? Couldn’t I live just a perfectly contempt life without internal and external conversations I have in my mind could just cease?

The problem is that this ‘heightened sense of  awareness’ doesn’t equal feeling sharp or invigorated. It just paralyzes me. I can’t move on from thinking about the ‘what if’ and ‘I can never be [insert a noun here] because….’ I envy people’s    obliviousness sometimes, because it seems like if you’re oblivious to something, you can just go on about your business without worrying about that issue.

August 18, 2010

bipolar conundrum

August 17, 2010

Come on now social

Six months ago, the only ‘hanging out’ I did was with my cat Simon. Last night, I went to dinner and drinks with some of my friends from school. Tonight, it was dinner and a movie with a few people from work. What? I’m doing stuff with people? It feels kind of odd for me to be going out and actually interacting with human beings.

It’s not that I’ve been a total recluse in the past. After all, I was in a sorority in college, so I had to be somewhat social. But for me, communicating with people has often meant “having to deal with people,” like it’s another chore to be done. I’ve felt uncomfortable,  and even among friends, I never felt like I fit in. I got nervous when having to make small conversations. Everything just felt unnatural.

The ‘little sparks’ have certainly helped in peeling away those dark clouds that had cast a shadow in my mind (which had kept me from wanting contact with people). But especially in the last six months or so, I’ve learned to let my guard down, slowly but surely. I think I have to thank therapy for giving me the keys to open those gates and allow people in. It’s not been an easy process, and my interactions still feel awkward in my head. Also, therapy doesn’t come with a checklist of things that are going to be changing as you go through it. But maybe something has changed in me to want more than just a cat to interact with (though my cat is an excellent kitty).

August 17, 2010

The Onion: FDA approves depressant

Saw this link on ‘Shrink Rap’

Just so it’s clear: This clip is from THE ONION
FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

August 16, 2010

Would you make a good psychotherapist?

Gabriel Byrne as Dr. Paul Weston in HBO's "In Treatment"

We’ve probably all gone to one of our therapy appointments and then thought to ourselves, “Could I do that, too?” Perhaps the following could give you an answer to your question.

“Psychologies” magazine has a 10-question quiz, “Would you make a good psychotherapist?” They also have other tests, such as “What’s your creative style?” and “Do you know how to be happy?”

So, would I make a good psychotherapist? According to this site, I am “attracted to the idea of becoming a therapist, but could go off in the wrong direction.”  I’m not quite sure what that means, but right now, I’m only planning on going to therapy, not actually having to become one.

August 13, 2010

the ugly truth

Just had to share this cartoon by Rob Rogers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I think this toon captures so well  a national problem we cannot ignore any longer. Regardless of how one may feel about the war, our soldiers do not need to become another casualty, and sometimes fatality, of this war as a result of something that could be treated.

August 12, 2010

ECT Lessons-I’ve-Learned #9: What happens during ECT

a part of the ECT Lessons-I’ve-Learned series…..


I’ve certainly learned how the whole process goes, from walking into the hospital to being wheeled out to the car that’s picking you up. But I think Dr. John Hauser from psychcentral.com already did a great job of explaining that process.

He recently wrote a very concise description of “What to Expect from Electroconvulsive Therapy” Here’s an excerpt, with added random comments from me:

(My side note—this part varies depending on how your treatment room is set up, but…you’ll go to the prep area where you’ll be asked to use the bathroom to avoid any accidents during the procedure. You’ll then put on a gown over your clothes, and then the nurse/CNA will check your vitals. Then you wait til someone takes you to the treatment room. You might want to pick up a magazine from the side table to skim while you wait, but then you realize they are several years old….Some people are wheeled into the treatment area, but I just walk to my bed/stretcher in their treatment room.)

Before ECT is administered, you’ll be given an IV (intravenous catheter), which is inserted in your arm or hand through which medications and fluids can be given. Sometimes you will be provided with a mouth guard to help ensure you don’t accidentally bite your tongue and help protect your teeth during the seizure. Some doctors also may administer oxygen through an oxygen mask. (My side note:You might also be made to wait in your bed/stretcher until your doctor comes. The nurses might turn on the ocean/birds sound machine so you can attempt to keep calm.)

(My side note: Your doctor shows up and starts talking to you for a minute or so. I never know exactly what to say. S/he will tell you when you might see him/her next time, as if you’ll remember after the little spark.) Short-acting, general anesthesia is injected in the IV to bring about unconsciousness, as well as a muscle relaxant to help prevent your body from convulsing during the seizure. (The anesthesiologist  always tells me “You’re going to take a little nap” before he injects me…) A blood pressure cuff is placed around your forearm or ankle area, preventing the muscle relaxant from paralyzing those particular muscles…..

Electrode pads will be placed on your head, which will be the pads that actually administer the small electrical impulse that will trigger a seizure in your brain. (my side note: they don’t place the pads on me until after I’m out) ECT can either be administered unilateral, in which only one side of the brain is subject to electricity, or bilateral, in which both sides of the brain receive electrical currents. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is also connected, which measures your brain activity. The EEG lets the doctor knows when a seizure is occurring, which can be confirmed by watching for movement in your hand or foot.

I think the rest of the page is well worth reading if you want a short, clear-cut answer about what happens in the treatment room.

August 10, 2010

in therapy

by Laurie Simmons for the NY Times

It’s only been about six months since I first started seeing Dr. L, but I feel like she’s the first therapist I feel I can open up and really say what I’m thinking. But where is this all going, I ask myself as I walk to my car after a session. Her hugs at the end of each session are so comforting, but am I paying $100+ to get a comfy hug? Therapy, while it leads to closures to various issues, seems to open up new questions, not only about the process, but also about yourself.Dr. L tells me I’ve grown and changed, but how have I changed? How have I grown? Can those changes be seen by anyone besides a mental health professional? I am a student of qualitative measures, but why is it that I need some tangible, quantitative data, in order for me to be satisfied with the progress?

As I was pondering about therapy and its implications, I came across a NYTimes magazine article by Daphne Merkin titled “My Life in Therapy.”It’s an interesting read. She talks about her years of therapy. The pics posted above and below accompanied the article. They do depict that strange sense of intimidation that I feel regardless of how comfortable I feel I’m becoming in that room.

My appointment is coming up this Friday, and I’ve begun to wonder what I should talk about in my upcoming session. I know that it’s probably better to be more spontaneous with the topics that come up, but I can’t help but mull over a list of possible events in my life that could be analyzed. To the inexperienced eye, therapy just looks like you chat for an hour, but in reality, it really is work. But right now, I’m not quite sure I can put in words just what ‘work’ I’ve accomplished in the time I’ve been in therapy. Is it enough to be able to say that I’ve been doing okay, or should I be seeking for more than that? I think I’m going to address this issue at another time (I really, really need to be working something else and not on this journal….).

August 8, 2010

study: shrimp on prozac makes them ‘suicidal’

well, kind of. But they do become a bit reckless. There’s a story on NPR’s All Things Considered today about research that’s being done in University of Portsmouth in England about how meds like Prozac (fluoxetine) are ending up in our water supply, and that drugs like Prozac bumps up a shrimp’s serotonin levels. Then, the crustacean becomes much more likely to abandon shadowy, safe waters and swim toward the light, where it makes a tempting target for predators.

Here’s the story. It’s really interesting.

The researcher, Alex Ford, tested different concentrations of the drug on tanks of shrimp, and found that shrimp exposed to the fluoxetine were five times more likely to swim into the light.

I’m thinking that instead of taking Prozac everyday, perhaps I can just start eating tons of shrimp…..

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