Archive for April, 2010

April 30, 2010

End is near for National Poetry Month

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, so I’ve summed up what’s going on in my life by attempting to write a little poem.


I’m surrounded by books
and papers, empty bottles
and food wrappers. And I am
concentrating hard on the
task at hand now that the
deadline is approaching
in just a few hours.
It’s too bad all my effort
is going to write a poem
for this blog of mine, as I
again put off going through
those papers that sit
scattered around me
like piles of garbage.

April 30, 2010

Is your drug in the top 25?

IMS Health just released a list of top 25 psychiatric prescriptions for 2009. Found this list on PsychCentral:

Brand name
(generic name)
Used for… U.S. Prescriptions (% change)
1. 1. Xanax
Anxiety 44,029,000
2. 3. Lexapro
Depression, Anxiety 27,698,000
3. 5. Ativan
Anxiety, panic disorder 25,868,000
4. 2. Zoloft
Depression, Anxiety, OCD, PTSD, PMDD 19,500,000
(- 28%)
5. 4. Prozac
Depression, Anxiety 19,499,000
(- 9%)
6. N/A Desyrel
Depression, Anxiety 18,873,000
7. 16. Cymbalta
Depression, Anxiety, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy 16,626,000
8. 13. Seroquel
Bipolar disorder, Depression 15,814,000
9. 6. Effexor XR
Depression, Anxiety, Panic disorder 14,992,000
(- 13%)
10. 9. Valium
Anxiety, Panic disorder 14,009,000
11. N/A Amphetamine salts
Attention deficit disorder 10,794,000
12. 14. Risperdal
Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, irritability in autism 10,590,000
13. N/A Vistaril*
Anxiety, tension 9,770,000
14. N/A Bupropion
Depression, stop smoking 8,981,000
15. N/A Abilify
Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression 8,209,000
16. N/A Concerta
Attention deficit disorder 8,098,000
17. 11. Celexa
Depression, Anxiety 7,215,000
(- 22%)
18. 19. Buspar
Sleep, Anxiety 5,455,000
19. N/A Vyvanse
Attention deficit disorder 5,437,000
20. 17. Zyprexa
Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia 5,379,000
21. 12. Adderall XR
(amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
Attention deficit disorder 5,255,000
22. 10. Wellbutrin XL
(bupropion xl)
Depression 3,021,000
(- 73%)
23. N/A Geodon
Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia 3,012,000
24. 15. Strattera
Attention deficit disorder 2,919,000
(- 42%)
25. N/A Pristiq
Depression 2,432,000
April 26, 2010

more chocolate=more depression?

Well, maybe there’s now a scientific reason why I do this.

According to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who feel depressed eat about 55 percent more chocolate than their non-depressed peers. And the more depressed they feel, the more chocolate they tend to eat. Here’s the article.

I found the end quote of the article kind of interesting: “If you’re depressed and eating lots of chocolate, look for more direct solutions such as psychotherapy and/or antidepressants.” If eating chocolate is kind of like taking antidepressants, then I think I’d take the chocolate route. Not only is it delicious, it’s a lot cheaper…

April 25, 2010

A therapeutic dose

Are psychiatrists just counting symptoms and matching them to the definitions in DSM -IV or do they care about what’s going on in your life before prescribing you with various medications?

In the New York Times, Dr. Daniel Carlat’s article, Mind Over Meds, addresses that issue.

April 24, 2010

HuffPo: Why Antidepressants don’t work

There’s an article on Huffington Post by Dr. Mark Hyman, titled “Why Antidepressants Don’t Work for Treating Depression.”

I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it’s pretty interesting.

He did list 7 ways to treat depression without drugs:

1. Try an anti-inflammatory elimination diet that gets rid of common food allergens. As I mentioned above, food allergies and the resultant inflammation have been connected with depression and other mood disorders.

2. Check for hypothyroidism. This unrecognized epidemic is a leading cause of depression. Make sure to have thorough thyroid exam if you are depressed.

3. Take vitamin D. Deficiency in this essential vitamin can lead to depression. Supplement with at least 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day.

4. Take omega-3 fats. Your brain is made of up this fat, and deficiency can lead to a host of problems. Supplement with 1,000 to 2,000 mg of purified fish oil a day.

5. Take adequate B12 (1,000 micrograms, or mcg, a day), B6 (25 mg) and folic acid (800 mcg). These vitamins are critical for metabolizing homocysteine, which can play a factor in depression.

6. Get checked for mercury. Heavy metal toxicity has been correlated with depression and other mood and neurological problems.

7. Exercise vigorously five times a week for 30 minutes. This increases levels of BDNF, a natural antidepressant in your brain.

Maybe it would be good to incorporate some of these tips into my life.

April 23, 2010

The Cure

“I’m a 30-year old female; I’m a Japanese immigrant; I’m a patient of ECT; and I’m a blogger,” I said as I started my presentation about my ECT story. I thought the presentation went fine, and I didn’t cry like I thought I might (as I wrote in a previous post). What surprised me about the presentation? The questions I got afterward. Most of the questions had something to do with what I would do if I were suddenly cured. How would my identity change? What would I do with my blog?

I thought that the questions were really interesting, but kind of odd. But they do have me still thinking: Is my identity as a bipolar/ECT patient such a part of me that I wouldn’t know who I am if I were to suddenly be cured? Well, I thought about it, and the best answer I could come up with is to think about how we can call those who have been cured from cancer a ‘cancer survivor.’ It’s because just because something is over, that it’s no longer a part of you in some way. It’s part of my history—what makes me, well, me. And with other illnesses, it’s okay to keep a part of that past with you. Also, I hope that I don’t see myself simply as a bipolar person. I think I’m much more than just my illness.

And what would I do with my blog? Well, I don’t think my interest in mental health would change if I’m cured from mental illness, and I could still write about issues pertaining to mental health—and about living life in general. I’m sure I’ll have something to say, even if it might be about the NFL draft…..

Anyway, it is a good question: What if you were cured all of a sudden? What will happen?

April 21, 2010

you’re a pansy

I was out on my deck for a little bit today and noticed how well my pansies were doing. Pansies are not necessarily my favorite flowers, so when my mother brought them to me to put out in the deck, I really thought they were just going to die in a few weeks. To the contrary, they have survived the strange weather and have blossomed–even gotten bigger. I had no idea pansies were such strong flowers. I’ve been feeling like I’m so ready to give up. But looking at those flowers reminded me that I do have strength within me to get through the semester.

“You’re a pansy.” Maybe that should be a compliment.

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April 19, 2010

excuses, excuses

When someone takes a vacation, s/he sometimes has to play catch-up with work, etc. after s/he is back from that vacation. Well, taking that two-week  ‘med vacation’ is certainly creating some problems for me right now. It has been a couple weeks since I got back on those chemicals, but the amount of work that I chose not to do during that ‘vacation’ is not making it easy for me to have enough time to adjust back, both mentally and physically, to the ‘norm.’ I suppose I could choose to stay up all night to get some work done, but keeping some sort of a sleep cycle is vitally important for those with bipolar disorder. The last thing I need is to become hypomanic (contrary to popular belief, my hypomanic moments do not result in getting work done. I instead end up baking and start to believe that I’m going to be NYT’s Maureen Dowd the next day….).

I told Dr. A that I was behind on assignments, and she immediately offered to write some note to the professors. As much as that would be nice, isn’t it my own fault that I took that vacation? When is it okay to say “I’ve been ill”? When you are mentally ill and have these episodes, you never quite know when it is legitimate for you to be excused from work or get an extension for assignments. With physical illness, it’s, well, physically obvious that you’ve been ill.With mental illness, there’s that additional issue about having to disclose something about your disorder. Even if the professor already knows about your condition, I hesitate to say it again.

I was supposed to turn in a rough draft for a class, but didn’t get it done in time. I finally decided to tell the professor the reason why I didn’t turn it in. I’m glad that he knows the reason why the draft is coming in late, but I feel like my reasoning still isn’t that legitimate.

April 17, 2010

Dr. Hyman’s Stress Tips

I have 3 weeks left of school, and the stress is mounting. I am surrounded by piles of papers and books–even my cat is sleeping on top of them now. So, when I saw that Dr. Mark Hyman had a post today on Huffington Post called “Stress Tips: Calm Your Mind, Heal Your Body,” I thought I’d share the 10 tips here. I sure need to be reminded of these tips so that I can get to the finish line.


10 Tips for Calming Your Mind

Here is what we know about how to influence the mind-body and the body-mind system. Consider these essential survival skills. You cannot thrive without them!

1. Address the Underlying Causes of Stress — Find the biological causes of problems with the mind by working on the 7 Keys to UltraWellness. Mercury toxicity or a magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiency or a toxic gut chemical or a gluten allergy could be changing your brain. So, by changing your body, you can change your mind!

2. Relax — Learn how to ACTIVELY relax. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must DO something — you can’t just sit there watching television or drinking beer.

3. Learn New Skills — Try learning new skills such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.

4. Move Your Body — Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind, so just do it! It has been proven to be better than or equal to Prozac for treating depression.

5. Optimize Your Nutrition — Clean up your diet from mind-robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars and eat regularly to avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body.

6. Supplement — Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response, such as vitamin C; the B-complex vitamins, including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid; zinc; and most important, magnesium, the relaxation mineral.

7. Try Herbs — Use adaptogenic herbs (herbs that help you adapt and balance your response to stress) such as ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, cordyceps, and ashwagandha.

8. Use Heat Therapy — Take a hot bath or a sauna to help your body deeply relax and turn on the relaxation response.

9. Change Your Beliefs — Examine your beliefs, attitudes, and responses to common situations and consider reframing your point of view to reduce stress.

10. Find a Community — Consciously build your network of friends, family, and community. They are your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.

April 16, 2010

“Frankenstein Op”??

Still? That’s what UK’s “News of the World” called ECT. More accurately, they put it in their headline about this actress, Bev Callard, who suffers from depression and decided to go through “terrifying electric shock treatment…..,a scene of horror beyond anything TV scriptwriters could have imagined.” Callard has written a book about her experience.

I’m not discrediting how she chose to chronicle her ECT experience, but it makes me sad to read a first-person account that makes this procedure sound like how many people already imagine ECT to be like.

I know this “Frankenstein” comparison showed up in a trashy Sunday tabloid, but I think this is how people absorb these stereotypes and stigmas and accept them as reality. It may not be the responsibility of those of us who experience ECT to accurately describe the treatment (and again, I’m not saying Callard’s descriptions are incorrect), but it is something that is of importance to me.

April 15, 2010


I turned 30 today.

Nothing unusual happened. I saw my psychiatrist Dr. A, got free coffee at Starbucks, went to class, etc. I’m now sipping on some sparkling wine as I write this post. I know it may seem a bit sad to be drinking alone, but I felt I needed to celebrate it somehow, aside from eating cupcakes in class.

I guess hitting 30 is a big deal, but what really means a lot to me is that I am celebrating this birthday. Just a year and a half ago, I never planned for this day to come.

Thank you to everyone who helped me get to this number.

April 14, 2010

autoethnographically speaking

I am writing an autoethnography.

Ellis and Bochner (2000) advocate authoethnography, a form of writing that “make[s] the researcher’s own experience a topic of investigation in its own right” rather than seeming “as if they’re written from nowhere by nobody”. Autoethnography is “an autobiographical genre of writing that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultura; autoethnographers “ask their readers to feel the truth of their stories and to become coparticipants, engaging the storyline morally, emotionally, aesthetically, and intellectually” (Porter, Noah)

It’s about getting electroconvulsive therapy. And I’m presenting a part of it to class next Thursday.

This is going to be strange. I’ve never really told this story to anyone before, well, except to those who read this journal. I’ve been disclosing so many of the details over the web to practically anyone who wants to read this, but why do I feel uneasy about saying something in person? When I write online, do I feel like I’m somehow detached from the story? That must partly be the case because I am letting the writing do the talking, but now I will have no distance from the story that I will be telling.

I’m nervous. Though I’ll have much of it analyzed sociologically (and that’s how it will be told), the story is still mine. How will I react? Will I be overwhelmed by emotions that I’ve never been in touch with before? That would be embarrassing if I tear up during class, but maybe that’ll be good for me to get it out. I used to be worried about how others might react, but now I’m wondering how I will be when I give this presentation.

A side note:
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift”

I happened to see this quote on the end of my friend’s e-mail, and it made me think a little bit.

April 13, 2010

News: Popular anticonvulsant drugs raise suicide risks

Popular anticonvulsant drugs raise suicide risks | Reuters.

April 12, 2010

What’s working?

It’s been about two months since I first met Dr. L, my psychologist. It was originally supposed to be just a couple times for EMDR, but I’ve been seeing her almost twice a week, including today.

Dr. L has become my trusted confidant and therapist, and I’m glad to have her as part of my treatment. But between the therapy, meds, and the ECT, do I really know what’s working?

April 10, 2010

Detecting suicidal thoughts in antidepressant-takers

Simple test can detect signs of suicidal thoughts in people taking antidepressants

Reporting in the April edition of the peer-reviewed journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, Aimee Hunter, an assistant research psychologist in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, and colleagues report that by using quantitative electroencephalographic (QEEG), a non-invasive measurement of electrical activity in the brain, they were able to observe a sharp reduction of activity in a specific brain region in individuals who proved susceptible to thoughts of suicide — within 48 hours of the start of treatment. The researchers treated 72 people suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) with one of two SSRIs, fluoxetine or venlafaxine, or with a placebo. All were evaluated by a clinician using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, a standard instrument that assesses the severity of a wide range of depression symptoms. Of the 37 participants on medication, five (13.5 percent) had worsening thoughts of suicide. (ScienceDaily)

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