Archive for September, 2009

September 30, 2009

Within the Confines


This is so obviously not a good or exciting photo. It’s quite boring.  But I’m posting it here because I took this photo within the locked doors of a psych hospital. I was taken to what I would call a ‘holding area,’ where you might first be taken to when they have to process some paperwork. I was waiting on some papers when I realized I had my phone with me. So, before anyone could catch me with the phone, I snapped the photo (I don’t think I’m allowed to have a phone in there). If I can get my nerve up to just hold that camera-phone up in the corridors, I will do it. I like to keep a record of my ‘travels’ with some photos. I would love to get photos from my ECT…

September 29, 2009

All in the past

ECT is so clearly a physical, tangible experience compared to taking those pills or talking in therapy. There’s something being quantified each and every time we receive that little spark to the head. Perhaps it is the collecting of quantifiable data that makes one wonder about other things, like what’s a tangible way to tell that I’m getting better? Well, I found something last night that serves as evidence, not of my improvement just in the last eight months, but how I’ve grown and matured emotionally over the last fifteen years.

Last night I was procrastinating, as usual, from doing my reading, and I ended up looking through some boxes in my closet. One of the boxes contained some notebooks, including my diaries from seventh grade and ninth grade. I decided to peruse through those pages, and what I noticed was that there was practically no substance. Where is the pain? The personal revelations? There is not a hint of any emotion whatsoever.

Perhaps this is how middle-schoolers write in their diaries, just listing what they did or ate during their ordinary day. Maybe they don’t have extreme emotions to write about. But I remember so well just how depressed I was during those years. I can recall how the thought of death just came over me during seventh grade. Though the main reason for the change in my journal-writing style may have to do simply with the fact that I’m older, I think what these diaries over the years show is how I have learned to become emotionally open to myself. I don’t think I felt safe to write down my true feelings when I was younger. Over the years -and especially through therapy, I’ve come to realize that it is okay to feel how I truly feel and not have to pretend to myself that nothing is wrong. Now I know that just because I don’t write my feelings down doesn’t mean they’ll go away or don’t exist.

Those old journals served as proof that I’m no longer that closed-up little girl who couldn’t let go of her own feelings. It may not be so obvious from the outside, but it’s good enough for me that I know I’ve grown on the inside.

By the way, I suffered my first loss against Dr. Jeff, my high-school friend and now English professor, this week in fantasy football. It was a close game, and Jeff desperately needed a win. I was the only one with a 2-0 record until yesterday. So, maybe there’s no women’s football league, but we can certainly kick butt in fantasy football.

September 28, 2009

Kay Redfield Jamison has a new book

Kay Redfield Jamison has a new book out, entitled Nothing Was the Same.  It is about her marriage to the late Dr. Richard Wyatt, who was one of the foremost experts on schizophrenia. I haven’t read Dr. Jamison’s new work, so  Washington Post’s review and Los Angeles Times’ review will do a much better job trying sum up her book.

Apparently, Amazon will give you a special discount if you buy the above book and An Unquiet Mind together.

September 27, 2009

a helping hand


of zolpidem tartrate (Ambien)

I want to kick the zolpidem habit by the end of the year….

September 27, 2009

hatching a master(s) plan

It’s Saturday afternoon. And I’m working on figuring out a topic for my master’s thesis (okay, and watching golf on tv). It’s not like I don’t know where my interests lie. I do like to take apart parts of my own life and examine it from a sociological point of view, which means I do have a fascination with the social dynamics of mental health…and fantasy football. But I can’t seem to get my ideas together. Actually, I think I actually do know that I have a particular interest in researching topics in mental health.  For some reason though, I am a little hesitant to do a big paper on mental illness.

It’s a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, I should be comfortable by now to ‘out’ myself as having a mental disorder. But on the other hand, I guess I’m not as comfortable as I’d like to believe I am. It’s such an odd thing; I’ve been writing this journal for about 9 months now. You’d think I would get over whatever worries I have about revealing my bipolar disorder to others. What I’ve revealed to myself is that I still have my own prejudice about it.

I have a lot more to say about all of this, but I probably should be using all my energy toward figuring out what topic I’ll be spending the next year researching (..and some spent on watching golf and football).

September 25, 2009

more ads equal less stigma about mental illness?

From (Probably shouldn’t just post the entire article, but the article is really fascinating since I’ve been looking at psych drug ads recently. Also, Professor Peggy Thoits was one of my professors in college.)

Stigma since the medicalization of mental illness

Newswise — The medicalization of such mental illnesses as depression and bipolar disorder, which have seen prescription drug advertisements on TV skyrocket since such advertising became permissible in 1997, has done nothing to remove the harmful stigma attached to the illnesses, according to sociologists from Indiana University and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

“The findings fly in the face of current thinking about ways that stigma can be reduced,” said Peggy Thoits, Virginia L. Roberts Professor of Sociology in IU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Stigma has posed a steadfast obstacle to the treatment of many mental health illnesses. Negative perceptions of mental illness color the support and advice people get from their friends, family and even their physicians and can create a reluctance to seek help.

The study by Thoits and lead author Andrew R. Payton, graduate student at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, sought to see if attitudes toward mental illness have changed since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines allowing pharmaceutical companies to air TV ads. Theoretically, when a condition such as depression comes to be viewed as a treatable medical condition instead of a moral failing or spiritual condition, this should reduce the blame and stigma attached to depression.

The researchers examined the Mental Health Modules in the General Social Survey during these intervening years and saw no change in attitudes toward people with mental illness, specifically when they compared depression, which was a focus of many TV commercials, to schizophrenia, for which no drugs have been advertised.

“We’re making a big assumption, that marketing drugs to treat some these conditions is actually penetrating the consciousness of viewers, giving them the ability to recognize symptoms and conceptualize them as disorders and to see that these disorders can be relieved essentially with drugs,” Thoits said.

Source: Indiana University

September 25, 2009

Life is a big Zoloft Ball….


yay, parties!

Here’s a Zoloft-ball ad from a little while ago:

So, I used to make fun of this ad, because the ball just becomes almost magically happy immediately after being touched by Zoloft. But now that I re-read this ad, I realize that there’s something else that almost never happens, at least it never happened to me. First of all, I never thought about which drug would be right for me before seeing a doctor. I never even thought to self-diagnose myself and then choose which drug I might want to take for that condition. Moreover, since when did the first drug we try ever become the magic cure for us? I’ve tried at least 20 medications in countless combinations, and I don’t expect the current combo to sustain me for the long run. Treating depression was never this easy, at least not in my own experience.

By the way, where did the Zoloft ball go? Lately all I’ve seen on the television has been are that creepy wind-up doll (Pristiq) and that montage of depressed people (Cymbalta).

September 24, 2009

Closer to Fine

One of my favorite music groups is the Indigo Girls, so I was very excited that I got to go to the Indigo Girls concert last night with some of my friends. I don’t go to concerts very often, but for some reason, I’ve been to more Indigo Girls concerts than I can remember (I think this may have been my 6th or 7th one).

Because I do have a habit of singing along to their CDs in my car–especially now that I drive nearly an hour each way to get to class–, I have come to know a lot of their songs on the concert set list (Btw, their concert is more like a giant sing-along). But there was one song that I hadn’t heard in a few years and couldn’t even remember the exact title. Though it took me a moment to recall the lyrics, I did remember word-for-word the line that I used to hold in my heart as one of my favorite quotes:

…but what it takes to cross the great divide seems more than all the courage i can muster up inside, but we get to have some answers when we reach the other side. the prize is always worth the rocky ride…
(from ‘The Wood Song’)

I had forgotten about this line that meant so much to me in the past. As I recalled it, it became clear how much it still means to me. And just how those words seem to apply so much to what’s going on in my life. As I sang along that line with the Girls, I could feel a sense of joy spread, not just across my face, but inside of me.

I think I do have that fire in me to want to do better and get through all of this. The Indigo Girls let me realize that I am slowly but surely getting “closer to fine.” I just hope I don’t forget that there is a lot of fight left in me.

P.S.  I didn’t realize how quickly one can get out of the habit of writing!

September 19, 2009

mental-health news roundup

Here are some interesting news I found before I left town for the weekend.

Drinking, Weight, Depression linked in Young Women: US News & World Report

"A study in the September/October issue of General Hospital Psychiatry found that women with alcohol abuse issues at age 24 had three times the risk of obesity by age 27. And women who were obese at 27, the researchers found, were twice as likely to be depressed by the time they turned 30."

Telehealth to manage Depression: Psychcentral
"German researchers report positive result from a new means to monitor depression managed by a primary care practice. The method involves monthly phone calls to patients with depression by health care assistants."

Biomarker Predicts Response to Antidepressant Treatment : Medscape Medical News
"These findings suggest that the biomarker, used early in treatment, may help identify not only whether a patient is likely to respond to treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor but also whether a patient is likely to respond if switched to a different antidepressant early in treatment."

Study: 8 million Americans consider suicide: AP
"About 32,000 suicides occur in the United States each year, but a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that many more give the idea serious thought. The new SAMHSA report is based on a survey of 46,190 people aged 18 and older. In the past, the question about suicide had only been asked of people who reported major depression but in 2008 it was added to all questionnaires."

September 18, 2009

ECT Lessons-I’ve-Learned #6: Communication is Key

One of the things I need to get better at is to become a better vocal communicator with my doctors (okay, and practically everyone else, but we’ll constrain it to the docs for this post). Because the ECT electrical strength, frequency of treatment, etc. is determined on what I tell them, it is crucial that I am telling the whole truth. I’ve come to realize more and more that even if I feel like a tidbit about me seems unimportant, I might as well tell my ECT psychiatrist because telling him won’t hurt. Because I don’t want to forget about telling Dr. F certain items, on some treatment days, I make sure to hand him a note that lists my thoughts so that I know they will be communicated clearly than had I tried to express them by talking.

This should not be limited to just talking/writing about how you feel. If you experience any physical discomfort after ECT, such as a really bad headache or a sore throat/jaw pain, you should let your doctor know. S/he may be able to adjust your mouth guard or give you something for the pain.

The doctors won’t be able to treat you properly if you don’t tell them exactly what’s going on. I know how it feels to not want to let anyone know exactly what you’re thinking, but this is the one time when saying those things matter.

Previous Lessons:
#5 After ECT, treatment continues
#4 Write’ em down!
#3 Look pretty for the occasion
#2 Wear a short-sleeved t-shirt
#1 Importance of social support

September 17, 2009

Life lines

On my treatment days, I usually don’t do a whole lot. But I signed myself up for an evening, community figure-drawing class. Last night was the first night, and since I can’t drive a car for a day, my sister dropped me off at the class.

figure1figure2I haven’t drawn much, if at all, in the last few years, so I wondered if I even remembered to draw. But as soon as the model began to hold his pose in front of us, my hand holding a piece of charcoal moved vigorously, as if I was recalling the how-to of figure drawing with each stroke. The two hours went by so fast.

As I look at my scribbles from the class, I can see I need some practice to get back to where I once was. But I’m excited to see that improvement as weeks pass.

September 17, 2009

Desperate Housewives

Thought the Zoloft ball was one of the first antidepressant ads? Apparently, psychiatric drug ads have been around since the 1950s, and many seemed to have targeted women, specifically housewives. I found them quite amusing:


Is there a pill to make grocery shopping more fun for this lady? I guess her husband just can’t perform this task when she’s a little tired.





Miltown was one of the first popular anti-anxiety medicine. It was widely referred to as “mother’s little helper.”



“Why is this woman tired?” “She may be tired for either of two reasons: …because she’s mentally “done in.” Many of your patients-particularly housewives-are crushed under dull, routine duties that leave them in a state of mental and emotional fatigue…”

I don’t know why someone would not feel so great about having to clean up after everyone….



Doctor, I’m tired all the time…even the thought of beginning a day’s housework makes me tired”

Maybe this pill will help women get back to what they’re supposed to be doing.

Hopefully, there’ll be more exciting ads to come….


(image credit:



September 16, 2009

ECT #21 (my sixth maintenance treatment….and the 200th post)

The sky is gray, and rain is pouring down. But my mind and mood feel clear.

Today was my 21st electroconvulsive therapy. It was also a day for some students to get to observe people having ECT. I’ve been clearly the youngest person receiving the treatment every time I’m there, and therefore very close to the age of the students watching me. I wonder what it’s like to be watching someone your own age going through something like this. Anyway, things seem to have gone smoothly, with my seizure lasting 41 seconds. It did take a little while after the ‘little spark’ to recall information like what class I’m taking or when those classes were. But those bits and pieces about my life are slowly coming back (thank goodness).

I am amazed how familiar this procedure has become for me, and it’s odd how I’ve almost fallen into thinking that this is all normal and routine. Then I’m jerked back into the reality that there’s nothing normal and/or routine about ECT. Even if I feel that way, I have to tell myself that that’s not the way it is for people around me, like for my family. They are scared every time I have the procedure. Perhaps my calmness comes because I know firsthand how this all works. But there is much more uncertainty and waiting for them. My mother asked me how much longer I will be going through this maintenance ECT. I wish I could tell them that all of this will be over with soon, but honestly, there is no end in sight at this moment. A nurse did remind me today that as long as I’m getting better, the number doesn’t matter. While as much as I realize I’m doing this for myself, a part of me does wish I could tell them that they could soon stop worrying.

On a separate note, this is my 200th post. (Have I written that much stuff?) This journal has been an outlet for me that I am so glad I have had throughout this time. And I hope this will continue to help me on this road of recovery.

September 14, 2009

All the mental-health news fit to this post

Thanks to, I gathered up some recent news in the world of mental health:

Yale Researchers Succeed In Repairing Brain Damage Caused By Chronic Stress, Lead Poisoning, Potential Implications For Bipolar Disorder

” These findings have direct relevance to our understanding of bipolar disorder, where genetic insults increase protein kinase C signaling which may be associated with a loss of prefrontal grey matter and behavioral control.”

Depression increases cancer patients’ risk of dying

“‘We found an increased risk of death in patients who report more depressive symptoms than others and also in patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to patients who have not,’ said Satin. In the combined studies, the death rates were up to 25 percent higher in patients experiencing depressive symptoms and 39 percent higher in patients diagnosed with major or minor depression.”

Ketamine reduces suicidality in depressed patients: Science Daily

“Ketamine acutely reduced suicidal thoughts when patients were assessed 24 hours after a single infusion. This reduction in suicidality was maintained when patients received repeated doses over the next two weeks.”

Study: Mild depression in teens often gets worse (

“Teenagers who experience mild depression are more likely to suffer from major depression, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders as adults, researchers say. The investigators say their finding suggests that it’s vital to provide support and assistance to teens who show two or more persistent depression symptoms.”

Study: Social networks benefit our health (

“It’s much cheaper than medication, with far fewer side effects, and is also much more enjoyable.”

September 13, 2009

My lunchbox

lunch box
I keep my medication in a metal lunchbox. It’s a cute little way to store all the bottles, I think. I remember when my first prescription directed me to take one 100mg of Wellbutrin SR per day. Those days have clearly passed. In addition to other things, there’s 400mg of bupropion SR (generic wellbutrin) in my system each and everyday. There’s been times when I stopped taking the meds, but it hasn’t occurred to me to neglect this routine in a long time. I have been wondering recently, though, just exactly how much these meds are helping. What kind of difference would I notice if I just quit one day? Will there even be any?

I will take my evening dose, knowing that this would not be a good time to try to find out the answers to these questions. I’ve found out the answers the hard way before, but I guess I never learn.

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