February 28, 2010
A friend had reminded me just the other day to smile because March is just around the corner, and I actually had forgotten that the end of February was so near. We’ve come to the last day of February, and I appear to be unscathed and ready to finish this month. From all the worries I had in the beginning of this month, how did this happen?
I guess I have to thank ECT and especially EMDR. I can honestly think back to February 16 and be okay with it. I understand that I can still remember what happened seven years ago, but I feel ready to let go of all the shame, sadness and darkness I had attached to that event. I find that I’m telling myself, “I’ve made it through that time, so it’s time to move on.” It’s a surprising but a refreshing feeling to have all that angst settled. What a relief. (And this may be a sign that EMDR is working for me.)
So, here it is. One more day left in the month of February. And like my friend told me, I’ll be smiling my way through it, and hopefully for days to come.
I’ve made it!
February 27, 2010
There’s an article called Depression’s Upside in this Sunday’s NY Times magazine, written by Jonah Lehrer.
The alternative, of course, is that depression has a secret purpose and our medical interventions are making a bad situation even worse. Like a fever that helps the immune system fight off infection — increased body temperature sends white blood cells into overdrive — depression might be an unpleasant yet adaptive response to affliction. Maybe Darwin was right. We suffer — we suffer terribly — but we don’t suffer in vain.
February 26, 2010
The daily pill dividers are nice, but I wanted to get a pill container that’s kind of cute, and doesn’t look so, well, medicine-y. Other day, I picked up a little tin of Trader Joe’s espresso pillows, packaged in this lovely, colorful tin. As I indulged in these pieces of chocolate, I noticed how the size of the beans closely resembled my meds. If this tin can hold these candy bits, I thought, why not put my pills in there?
So, since I finished eating the remaining espresso pillows, I’ve been storing a nice assortment of pills in this well-constructed, pocket-sized container.
It almost makes my meds look like candy…..almost.
February 26, 2010
Why Psychiatry Needs Therapy | By Edward Shorter – WSJ.com.
Where is psychiatry headed? What the discipline badly needs is close attention to patients and their individual symptoms, in order to carve out the real diseases from the vast pool of symptoms that DSM keeps reshuffling into different “disorders.” This kind of careful attention to what patients actually have is called “psychopathology,” and its absence distinguishes American psychiatry from the European tradition. With DSM-V, American psychiatry is headed in exactly the opposite direction: defining ever-widening circles of the population as mentally ill with vague and undifferentiated diagnoses and treating them with powerful drugs.
February 23, 2010
I am in no way suicidal, but I must write this.
It’s a hard thing to explain, and I don’t even know if other people feel like this. As I’ve said previously, I have made suicide attempts, and I am still alive. When I have made those attempts, I have ended up hurting a lot of people. And I am deeply, deeply sorry that these people had to be tangled up in this selfish mess.
So, how do I feel about suicide now?
I am embarrassed to admit this, but I still feel like suicide is a choice that one should have the right to make. I’m not saying it’s legitimate or the right thing to do, but I’m just saying that I can understand how people come to this decision. And I think my thoughts on this matter has strengthened since I’ve made those suicide attempts.
There’s a line, I believe, between contemplation and action. Regardless of how much your mental illness played a part in carrying out this task, I think that once you’ve ‘crossed that line’ of having made those attempts, you kind of know that you have some capacity of being able to carry out this attempt again. Once that line is crossed, you know something about yourself that you didn’t know before. And I know it’s such an awful thing, but for me, something about me has changed in the way I view life and options in life. And I’m not sure I can ever go back to viewing life to the way I did before I made those attempts.
I don’t know if any amount of any type of therapy can fix how I feel, and whether it even needs to be fixed. Perhaps the only thing to do is to temper this feeling, and keep it well-contained somewhere where one do not act on his/her feelings should a time like that arise. But I am so scared that this one belief I have about this task will manifest my head if this ‘decision’ must be made again.
Just as you can never take back what’s already been done, can you ever undo the line you’ve crossed within your heart?
February 22, 2010
by Matt Bandsuch
There’s a great article in the Spring 2010 issue of Stanford Medicine Magazine titled: No longer shocking: Electroconvulsive Therapy is a Lifesaver, by Ruthann Richter.
It’s a story about a physician named Henry who came on a brink of suicide as he contemplated his death on the Golden Gate Bridge. This is about Henry’s experience with ECT and about the state of electroconvulsive therapy.
This is well worth the read (not long, either). I felt the article reinforced/re-engaged my commitment to keep going with this treatment.
February 21, 2010
I read an article for class that intrigued me. It was about housing for the homeless that’s available only if one has a psychiatric diagnosis. The researcher wanted to know why these homeless (mentally ill) women refused this sort of housing. It turns out that they did not want to be labeled as ‘crazy’ and thought that once you become ‘crazy,’ you will always be crazy. (The whole research paper is posted here.)
Well, in that case, once I have the diagnosis of being bipolar, will I always be bipolar? Or can someone become a ‘bipolar survivor,’ kind of like a cancer survivor?
It’s not that I have issue with having that ‘label’ because I know I have bipolar disorder. But when we say “I’m bipolar” instead of “I have bipolar disorder,” are we wrapping our identity around this illness? People with other conditions usually don’t say “I am [insert an illness here.]” Have we totally committed/resigned ourselves to having BP for the rest of our lives? I’m always torn when saying/writing that “I’m bipolar,” because to me, it sounds as if that’s who I am, first and foremost. And I don’t want to seem like I define myself through a single illness. However, maybe I’m trying to deny something that, well, I am. And by saying that “I’m bipolar,” I would simply be accepting the fact that this illness is a part of me, since it would be impossible to treat it if I didn’t acknowledge that it’s not like a cold that can go away in a day, but something that takes personal commitment from me.
Maybe I’m just being too critical about this grammatical usage.
Perhaps it’s okay to be ‘crazy’ for the rest of your life. After all, what really matters is that you have that ‘craziness’ under control and that you’re living your life. Besides, I can’t deny that some of that craziness made me who I am.
February 20, 2010
NIMH · Same Genes Suspected in Both Depression and Bipolar Illness.
Researchers, for the first time, have pinpointed a genetic hotspot that confers risk for both bipolar disorder and depression. People with either of these mood disorders were significantly more likely to have risk versions of genes at this site than healthy controls. One of the genes, which codes for part of a cell’s machinery that tells genes when to turn on and off, was also found to be over-expressed in the executive hub of bipolar patients’ brains, making it a prime suspect. The results add to mounting evidence that major mental disorders overlap at the molecular level.
February 19, 2010
EMDR is kind of like taking a soda can and popping the top open, said Dr. L, my EMDR therapist. If you think of the soda can as the trauma you’re working on, EMDR allows you to release all the ‘fizz’ that’s embroiled in that event. In the end, the can may still be there, but the fizz is gone.
Today was my second session with Dr. L. It’s still fairly early in the morning, so I thought I might not be as emotional as I might be at a later time but I walk into her office, which is really a quaint house that’s been converted into therapist offices (and also next to this really good popsicle place). She has a homey, comfortable office, not like the one you might picture from ‘the Sopranos.’ . I sit on a large couch that takes up the side of the wall, and she sits in the leather chair in front of me. We talk about any changes since the last appointment and then we begin the EMDR process. As she waves her fingers in front of me (the little buzzing machine broke), I am told to focus on that suicide attempt in February 2003. Tears begin to stream down my cheek as I think about the event and what happened as a result of my action, how it affected others, etc. I first feel guilt and sorrow. How could I have done this to others? Why did I have to hurt my parents this way? But as the fingers keep moving, I begin to realize, it’s been seven years, and I still have my identity wrapped up around this single event as if I am locked up in a birdcage. Perhaps this will always be a part of me, but I start to see that there’s a difference between feeling sorry about what happened and shaming yourself all this time. I ask myself, is there any good reason to continue shaming myself for something that happened seven years ago? Slowly, I find myself begin to think that maybe it’s okay to move on. Maybe I’m causing more damage by hanging on.
So, will I be able to fly out of the birdcage? And where will I go? I have another appointment scheduled with Dr. L next week.
I hear the ‘fizz’ being released a little at a time.
February 19, 2010
Drinking may not worsen bipolar symptoms , according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The study found that as long as people with BP strictly followed their medication regimen, drinking alcohol did not seem to worsen the symptoms.
Well, should I feel good about this news? I suppose this means I don’t need to feel so bad when I do drink.
February 18, 2010
Didn’t we know this already without someone doing a scientific study on it?
Study: Happiness Good for the Heart.
The problem is that it’s not as if people who are depressed are choosing to be unhappy. Of course, we’d rather not be more susceptible to heart disease! This article lists ways for ‘negative people’ to become more positive, including:
- Express gratitude on a regular basis.
- Practice being optimistic.
- Engage in frequent acts of kindness.
- Visualize one’s best self.
- Savor joyful events.
- Practice forgiveness.
I wish becoming a happy person was as easy as following a few simple directions.
February 17, 2010
I sit in front of Dr. L and begin telling her about February 16, 2003. I tell her the basics, like how I took some sleeping pills, got caught trying to kill myself, was taken to the ER and then placed in a psychiatric hospital. But as I begin to tell her those pieces, I begin to recall little details that I haven’t necessarily thought about in a while. It’s an odd thing to be telling a person you just met perhaps the most personal of information, but I think I’m in a place now where I’m so ready to be over all of this. So, I keep talking, and I tell her about my second suicide attempt and the trouble I’ve had with ideations. When she asks me how I feel about those events seven years ago, I tell her, “I am broken.”
It’s so interesting to realize how much shame I still carry from this one incident. In a way internally, I feel like I still define myself as that broken, suicidal girl from that time. After some more questions, she hands me these oval objects that buzz in the palms of your hands. (EMDR works, it is thought, by activating both the right and left sides of the brain while recalling an traumatic event–thus, the buzzers. This allows the memory to be reprocessed and the emotion attached to it to be released.) And we begin the EMDR process. As the buzzer buzzes between each palm, I think first of a ‘safe place,’ and then onto that night in February. I let my mind wander from place to place as it digs out the anger and tears and also random thoughts. (It’s so hard to describe-here’s how it’s done).
My time is up, and I’m told to come back for one more session to complete the process. I am curious to see how this all turns out.
February 16, 2010
It was seven years ago today when I first attempted suicide. Every year, I struggle with this anniversary and this month in general, and it seemed at the beginning of this February that it would be the case. I become filled with thoughts of suicide and wonder why it is that I can’t seem to get it accomplished. I feared that when February 16 came, that I would once again not be able to function.
So, today came, and what is my head filled with? The lyrics to the song “That’s How You Know” from the Disney movie “Enchanted.” Maybe it’s the ECT from Friday that’s kept me in an up mood. Or the fact that I’m having to study for a test that’s tomorrow. Whatever it is, I feel like some spell had been broken. It really is such an odd feeling to actually feel okay today. Instead of telling myself all sorts of horrible things, I told myself, “I’m going to be okay.”
By the way, tomorrow’s my appointment to have EMDR. I spoke with the therapist who I’ll be seeing tomorrow. She says that many people say that one session of EMDR is like having gone through six months of therapy.