December 31, 2009
A musical term, `To the beginning,` it`s marked where it seems to be the end of a piece, but really isn`t. So, here we are, at the end of 2009. Sure it`s the end of the year, but what it means is that we return back to the beginning as soon as this day is over. I`m kind of at a loss for words. My one-year anniversary for ECT is in January, so I`ll save my sappy comments for a few weeks later, but today is a milestone of some sort. It dawns on me that just a year ago, I planned on never being here. This morning, I felt the cold breeze touch my cheeks, and I realized, I am here. I made it through the year that wasn`t supposed to be. I started the year full of uncertainty and a few months of a treatment that was done pretty much as a last resort. I`m still having ECT on a monthly basis, but with the help of that `little spark` along with family and friends, I`m, well, alive and doing pretty well.
In Japan, it`s a day to clean the house and to prepare for tomorrow`s feast (kind of like a Japanese Thanksgiving), so I probably should go help out instead of laboring over what I want to say on my journal. I still don`t really look to the future. It`s hard for me to think much past a few days, but today, I`m looking forward to welcoming tomorrow, a new year and who I can continue to grow to become.
December 30, 2009
After dinner at a great sushi restaurant, my family walked to a nearby electrical-appliance store to buy some printer ink and look at some stuff. Mom, sister and I happened to be looking at a certain item when another lady was nearby. As I walked away, the lady asked my mother if we were really Japanese. Mom explained to her how my sister and I`ve been living in the US for a while, though we are Japanese natives.
It`s a funny thing to be asked whether you are really Japanese while you`re in Japan. According to my mother, she gets similar questions from other people. Apparently, we don`t seem like we`re really from Japan, that something about us is just different.
What is it about me that seems, well, foreign? Is it the way I walk or talk, or the way I dress? Could it be the way I look in general? It really makes me wonder just what part of me has really changed for someone to think that I can`t really be a full Japanese person. After having lived in the United States for almost twenty years, I do feel some distance from the Japanese culture, but I don`t think I quite realized that other people think I can`t be a `real` Japanese person.
This reminds me of something that happened to me this year. During my initial course of ECT, I lost my ability to speak Japanese (though I could still comprehend the language). `Isn`t that your first language?,` people would ask me, and it also puzzled my ECT psychiatrist at the time. What does it mean when the language you lose is your mother-tongue? Does it mean that I am now more acculturated to the United States than Japan, that I`m literally losing my `Japanese-ness?` (By the way, my Japanese-speaking ability did come back later, thank goodness.)
This is a bit of a paradox that I`m in. I will always be a foreigner in America though I may come to be accepted in some way. But now, my homeland does not quite accept me as one of their own. This makes me question where I should call my `home.` Do I even have one?
December 28, 2009
My mother shows me a picture taken of our family at some restaurant as she tells me how much she likes this photo. I nod and tell her how nice it is. As I utter those words, I`m trying to place when this event took place.She tells me that it was taken just this summer while we were on a little trip, but my mind simply isn`t registering this occurrence in the photo.
It`s an odd feeling, to not have the slightest recollection of what I`ve done, even when there is a very visual clue placed in front of me. I suppose this happens to all of us once in a while, but for someone like me who`s gone through ECT, you tend to see that lapse in memory as a result of the `little spark.` I have been very lucky as far as memory loss is concerned, but when you do realize that something just seems to be missing from your memory vault, it serves as a little reminder about what you went through that may have caused that gap. I almost forget that my big set of ECT all happened this year, not in the distant past. But looking at this picture of complete mystery gets me back to realizing what a year it was, even if I don`t actually remember it.
I`m not too worried that I might be missing other chunks of memory from the recent past, but I do wish I could just recall that moment captured in that photograph. It looks like we had a lovely time.
December 27, 2009
It`s monday morning in Japan, and what am I doing? Watching last week`s CowboysRedskins game on the tv as I am checking Sunday`s football scores on ESPN.com. (I also am looking forward to watching `Inside the NFL` which I don`t even get to watch in US since I don`t have Showtime.) Surely, there are other things to do, but apparently I prefer keeping up with the NFL news rather than important world news (I found myself shouting about the Colts loss…yes, I`m sure that news was of interest to the rest of the family…) I suppose this shows that one part of Amercan culture I hold dear is American Football. I don`t think it`s such a bad thing to want to stare at a bunch of burly men running into each other as they toss around a ball. What`s more American than that?
In all seriousness,I think football allows me to experience an emotion that I seem to not be able to express about other parts of my life. It lets me show to myself that I can feel excitement, even if it is just some sports on tv. For one who remembers losing that ability to enjoy anything (even politics), it`s a pretty big deal. Since the ECT, there`s been a relearning of many emotions, and watching football contributes to this new-found effort to piece myself back together to a whole person, complete with all the emotions that a person should be able to feel.
Well, I`m glad Japan`s fascination with many things American, such as the NFL, is allowing me to enjoy my own American pastime, and by extension, be in touch with my emotions. Yes, watching football = therapy
December 27, 2009
BusinessWeek: Lithium beats valproate for long-term bipolar therapy
combined therapy or monotherapy with lithium helps prevent relapse, study finds
December 26, 2009
One of the things I like to do is look at people`s bookshelves. I think the types of books on the bookshelf tell kind of a story about that person
I arrived at my parents` home in Japan for the holidays and found myself looking at my parents` bookshelf today. There are fiction books, books on history, cooking magazines, among other reading materials. I also noticed something in particular. They had several books about depression, suicide prevention, and mental health in general. There was a tab on one of the pages on the depression book, so I took a peek at what page might be marked. The page was about rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.
I wasn`t quite sure that they knew my exact diagnosis until I saw that marking. I don`t remember telling them directly, so I am guessing my psychiatrist told them when she met with them prior to my having ECT. So, now I know that they know what I have. A part of me felt some anxiety that they knew about this diagnosis. But a large part of me felt a sense of relief. Though I have stories I do not want to share with them, I needed them to know at least this truth. It`s a wall that I thought stood between us, but it`s like I found out that it had been torn down without much agonizing. Until they knew this fact, I don`t think I had fully accepted that I have this illness. Now that I know that they are aware about my bipolar disorder, I feel like I let go of a big secret.
There are other walls that stand between me and my parents, but now there`s an opening that could possibly serve to create better communication between us.
December 25, 2009
I can`t believe it`s Christmas, even though I feel like it`s been the `holiday season` for months now, with all the stores selling Christmas items since October.
So, things feel like they`re up in air, just as I am literally up in air right now because I am typing this on the airplane. I barely even know what to write. Things just seem so uncertain. Is it because I am directionless? Actually, I don`t see myself as lacking direction as I am simply so curious about everything. (Right now, I`m wondering how the male flight attendants feel about their job. If I could, I`d interview all of them.) Am I too ambivalent? Perhaps. But I don`t feel so angrily torn over anything at the moment.
Since today is Christmas, that means there are only a few days left until the New Year. And I would like for things to feel a bit settled when I welcome 2010. Is that too much to ask? Maybe I`m just asking the wrong questions. Maybe I need to look at things differently.
For example, when people hope for things, that hope doesn`t guarantee them anything. But that doesn`t deter them from hoping. I`ve put my life in the hands of something concrete, like electroconvulsive therapy, not a state of mind such as hope. But maybe there was a part of me that had just enough hope for me to have ECT in the first place. Maybe a piece of hope, though it may be small and almost undetectable, never truly left me. Having electroconvulsive therapy is then proof that I don`t have to feel that everything is settled in order to feel okay. In fact, despite the stats that can be quoted, there is really nothing certain about this treatment. If I can go through this, why am I making all the other things seem so complicated? And do I even know what that `thing` is? Not really.
I want to welcome the new year as what it is, not as something that`s supposed to be `happy,` according to every holiday greeting card. I don`t need to look at uncertainty as some sort of menace, but just as fact of life. It is what it is, I say to myself often, and I say it here again. It is what it is.
But I guess I can hope for some happiness.
December 24, 2009
at the Detroit airport
To Walk or Stand, said the breezeway at the Detroit airport where I am sitting right now (My sister and I are on our way to Japan for the holidays) . To Walk or to Stand. Are those my choices in life?
We’re about to board our plane, so I must shut this computer down. I’m sure I’ll get back to writing about this picture later.
December 20, 2009
I finally bought some Christmas/holiday cards and started writing them. Of course, there’s one phrase that I write continuously on all cards, but then I began to pause between each one and realized that I have more to say than just “best wishes.” I realize I am just so thankful to have had everyone’s support over this past year.
It’s not that I wasn’t thankful for these people before, but writing these card just reminded me how grateful I am to be surrounded by the people that I have around me. ECT may have been the critical piece in regaining my life, but each moment of contact served as building blocks for me to have made it through this year. I don’t think I would have made it this far had I kept all of what happened just to myself and my family. I needed to be able to share this journey, even though it certainly wasn’t an easy thing to do.
So, one by one, as I write some obligatory ‘Happy Holidays’ note to each one of the cards, I hope I sealed it, also, with my heartfelt thanks.
December 18, 2009
Treatments for the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder Now Exist – WSJ.com.
In this article, Melinda Beck lists some ways to beat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s quite a comprehensive listing. I kind of wish people posted these things before it’s already winter. I mean, shouldn’t we have started taking vitamin D or get more light before the winter season hits us in our minds? Maybe it would help some of us to know these things in, say, August. I just wonder if it would work as a preventative tool if you start utilizing some of these techniques earlier, and be more effective.
December 18, 2009
Lala Song Player – I Will Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie.
How can I be depressed? I just had ECT less than a week ago. Maybe it’s this cold rain that’s dragging my mind down. I look outside, and it’s cold, dark and wet. I suppose that can get anyone down.
I’ve been studying recently with a friend I made since I started back school. (I asked him what his pseudonym should be for this journal, and he chose ‘Bad Penny.’ I’ll refer to him as BP. ) For some reason, I decided to reveal to him about this journal and about what’s been going on in my life. Maybe I just got tired of having to omit certain portions on my current life every time we talked. Somehow I found myself telling him about the ECT, my suicidal thoughts, etc. It turned out to be not as uncomfortable as I always imagine these conversations to go. I think that discomfort comes from the fact that this part of me that I try to keep hidden requires me to delve into the darkness every time I decide to talk about it. It’s not pleasant. But what’s becoming more clear to me is that it’s the truth. My truth. And I guess I’m proud that I’m still alive to be able to tell it.
It’s really weird to realize that it’s the end of the year and that I find myself looking forward to another year. I don’t remember the last time I found myself happy to be welcoming the new year. It’s not necessarily that I think the coming year will be filled with joy. On the contrary, I’m sure I’ll end up realizing something about myself that may not be all that happy. But even if it means having to go ‘into the darkness,’ I can accept it.
And right now, I have to just accept the fact that I don’t feel that great. Accept it and move on. Sometimes, it’s the only way to get through things.
December 15, 2009
From TIME magazine:
America’s Medicated Army
Data contained in the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.
A Mounting Suicide Rate Prompts an Army Response
Nearly 1 in 5 soldiers — more than 300,000 — comes home from the wars reporting symptoms of PTSD. Army officials also acknowledge that substance abuse, fueled by repeated combat tours, and a war-created shortage of mental-health professionals, contribute to mental ills that can lead to suicide.
An Army Town Copes With PTSD
December 15, 2009
Patients With Bipolar and Unipolar Depression Show Similar Response to Electroconvulsive Therapy – Psychiatric Times.
“Results of a large study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) might be equally effective in both patients with unipolar depression and those with bipolar depression. The study, led by Samuel H. Bailine, MD, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, NY, showed that the remission rate in both patient groups was higher than 60%.1
The authors concluded that guidelines for the treatment of unipolar and bipolar depression minimize the role of ECT. Based on the results of this study, they encourage physicians to consider the efficacy of ECT when treating patients with unipolar depression and bipolar depression. They also suggest that treatment algorithms should be modified.”
December 14, 2009
Apparently Fridays are happenin’ days for ECT. There seemed to be a lot of people here to have ECT at Parthenon Pavilion last Friday. When I was making my way up to the ECT treatment area, there was another person, along with who seemed to be her husband, in the elevator headed to the same location. It looked like someone had robbed her of her spirit; she looked really depressed.
Since we arrived at the same time, we got ready at the same time (e.g. putting the gown over our clothing, getting our vitals checked, using the bathroom so we don’t urinate on ourselves during the little spark) and were led to our beds, right next to each other, in the treatment room. It so happened that we had the same ECT psychiatrist, so he could treat us one right after the other. She got to go first. As Dr. F talked to “Allison,” I could hear them talking about how this was going to be her last ECT treatment. I can’t really recall what all they talked about, but what I remember hearing in the end was my doctor just telling her, “Good luck.”
Then, she received her last shock.
Good luck? That’s all she gets? I’m not a doctor and don’t know how this all goes, but she did not look good enough to me to stop treatment now. It was obvious to me that the husband was really concerned for her and was coming up to the prep area to ask some questions to the nurse about the aftercare. But she looked like she really needed to be cared for at this moment. She’s one of the more outwardly depressed people I’ve seen in that place. I just kept wondering how many treatments she had been through and pretty much forgot what I needed to tell Dr. F when it came my turn to speak to him. It was an awkward conversation, in that he received reports from my psychiatrist that I was doing pretty well —which is true, except I haven’t seen her in the last three weeks when I haven’t been doing all that well (which is apparently what happens when one becomes inconsistent with the meds). I forgot to tell him that part, and I don’t quite remember what I did tell him. Dr. F did ask me if I celebrated Christmas and then told me that I’ll see him again in a few weeks.
It’s been a few days since my last appointment, but I keep thinking about Allison. I really hope she is doing okay.