November 30, 2010
I understand that posting of this image without permission is illegal. However, it was too cute not to share. This is from a nationally-syndicated comic strip “Mutts” by Patrick McDonnell. It’s about Mooch the cat, Earl the dog, and their friends. It is an amazing and funny series.
I just noticed that there was only an hour left of this day. Just as Mooch says, I don’t really know where today, or rest of November, for that matter, went. I feel like I accomplished absolutely nothing this month. Let’s just hope that the next month is a bit more productive. Is this the ‘winter blues’ that’s making me sound so unhappy? NJToday had an article on “Tips for Reducing Holiday and Post-Holiday Depression.” Tips included:
- Maintain strong social contacts all yearlong, not just at holiday time.
- Get physical exercise. Daily exercising sends more oxygen to brain cells and results in improved mood.
- Focus on positive images in your life. Be thankful for small moments of grace within the holiday whirl.
- Get plenty of sleep all year around and especially during the holidays.
- Identify worthwhile things to do beyond wrapping and shopping. Donate your time to others in need.
(more in the article)
The tips are rather basic and stuff we probably already know. But I guess I could always use a reminder.
November 29, 2010
The entire day felt blanketed by an ominous air of sadness today. Even the trees that reached their branches in the sky looked gloomy, so much so that I snapped this picture on the phone this afternoon as I was walking out of the library. It rained a little bit, but the rest of time, the day was gray, a tone of that color which had not a hint of warmth to it.
Perhaps the entire surrounding led me to feel like I’m on a downturn, so it’s really nothing to be concerned about. But looking at this tree made me wonder if my depression stems from something that is a part of me, something that I cannot get rid of. I have received all sorts of treatments, but can an illness that’s embedded to myself actually be controlled? Regardless of what I do to try to be rid of it, I feel like the sadness will somehow find a way to exist–like how looking at this tree can evoke that emotion, as if this darkness is in the personality of that tree. I feel like I’m fighting something that will never go away.
But then again, if I took this picture of this tree again at any other time (like when the day is all sunny and blue), I probably would have described the tree to be displaying vibrance and a sense of joy. If that’s the case, can we ever really ascribe a ‘true identity’ for anyone? Do we all have some sort of an identity, or a character, we’re born with, or do we start out as blank canvases?
November 28, 2010
“Utsu” means ‘depression’ in Japanese, and the kanji (characters) symbolizing the word will be among the 196 kanji added by the Japan Ministry of Education to its list of common characters, the first change since the list was established in 1981.
The “Joyo Kanji,” a standardized list of 1,945 characters taught to Japanese students through high school, will be expanded to 2,136 characters starting tomorrow, said Yasuhiro Takeda, a researcher at the ministry’s language division. Review of the additions started in 2005, when an initial list of 45,000 kanji from books, websites and newspapers were selected by the ministry. The list was pared by the Council for Cultural Affairs, a government body comprising professors, authors and corporate executives, using public comments through the Internet, Takeda said.
“Our daily life has significantly changed since the guide was made 29 years ago,” said Takeda. “Now it’s more common to type characters instead of handwriting them.”
Read more on Bloomberg
November 27, 2010
So….I bought a Kate Spade bag. Not the one I was thinking about buying when I wrote the previous post, but it’s still a Kate Spade bag. It’s a small, cross-body bag in an interesting olive green color that’s good all-year-round. I’ve never owned a Kate Spade bag, so I was excited about the softness of the leather, etc., and then, I noticed something else. On the back of the zipper pull, there’s a stamped message in gold: HAVE COURAGE. It’s such a small detail on a bag that probably could be ignored, but the message was something I needed at this time.
It’s late November, and it’s a time when I start losing steam. I start lacking energy to finish out the semester strong, even if I’ve been doing well the whole time up until now. I neglect things that need to be done and lose care about what needs caring, including myself. It’s a semi-annual problem, I suppose. But it’s also a problem whenever the big ‘D’ (depression) decides to stop by. I become too easy to just get knocked around and lose ground.
But today, I realize I can’t just give up so quickly. And looking at the message on my bag kind of reminds me that I am strong enough to push on through and keep on going. It really is such an interesting touch to a bag, but for me, an important one. Like I now have a little motivator by my side now.
Wow. There isn’t much time left until the end of the year, and with this bag by my side, I’ve got to remember that I’ve just got to focus and get done with the tasks that need to be done, one by one.
November 26, 2010
A couple days ago, I decided to create a Twitter name that corresponds to this journal: @ECTchronicles. I haven’t quite decided, though, if I actually want to be active in this whole Twitter world. I don’t really know much about it. Anyone have any suggestions?
November 25, 2010
It may behoove those who actually see this post today to be hanging out with his/her family instead of looking at blogs, but that’s okay. To everyone who ever comes in contact with this journal/blog, hope you’re having a happy thanksgiving! (A little Thanksgiving trivia about me: I once marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with my high school band) This journal has given me so much to be thankful for, and I’ll mention just a few of them. Without having started this e-journal, I would have never found a community that I have only through the avenue of social media. It’s been great to form ties with people I would otherwise never have met. And though we may never meet in person, we’ve already formed a strong connection. The journal often serves to keep me on task, and I also very much appreciate that. Thank you goes to all the readers, from those who have me marked on Google Reader to those who were somehow directed to this site, for actually reading.
So, happy thanksgiving, everyone!
November 24, 2010
My psychologist, Dr. L, gave me an assignment to do for today’s session. She asked me to write down the concerns and frustrations I have with maintenance ECT at this moment. So, here they are:
- In order to have ECT, I have to interrupt someone else’s life so she can transport me to and from treatment
- Obviously, it’s better for me to still be ‘happy’ when the next ECT treatment rolls around, but exactly how many weeks can I be ‘left alone’ until I need another little spark?
- How do I know if this is really working?
- When you ‘maintain’ something, you do it for a long time. I’ve brought up this concern before, but here it is again. Is there an endpoint to all of this, or is this something I truly need to be maintained?
- Last night, I realized I didn’t remember most of what I had to read for class. My memory loss has been minimal, but will that change as I have more and more ECT?
- Since I’m doing this all the time, could I quit the medications?
- Has going through ECT cost me any chance of being able to obtain health insurance, at least until 2014? (Note: I do have health insurance, but I’m trying to switch to something that comes with at least a prescription drug benefit)
- Is there some sort of a standard that I should be reaching as a result of the ECT?
Maybe there’ll be more to add a little later, because I think I have more than just this list.
November 23, 2010
Lately, the news focus for post-traumatic stress disorder has been mostly about veterans coming back from the war. But the recent NYTimes article points out that anyone can have PTSD. In “Behind the facade, post-traumatic stress” by Karen Barrow, the story is about a 25-year-old woman named Robin who was sexually assaulted.
Friends didn’t understand why she never wanted to go out. They would play down her anxiety and say, “Oh, you’re just going to laugh at this in a couple days.” It took years of sleepless nights and paralyzing anxiety over tasks as simple as grocery shopping before she began to look for help.
She sought out psychologists, but some dismissed her. “They’d say, ‘What does a pretty girl like you have to worry about?’ ” she said. Others were simply too expensive. Finally, during an initial consultation, a psychologist heard her full story and said the simple phrase that changed everything: “You have P.T.S.D.”
A personal note: I hesitate to say that I had PTSD, but I dealt with issues stemming from my first suicide attempt and things related to the incident, e.g. month of the occurrence. What helped me mostly resolve those issues was when my psychiatrist finally decided to refer me to a psychologist to have EMDR done just about a year ago (it’s been seven years since the attempt). Sometimes, an issue needs to be dealt with in a focused manner, even if you are getting treatment in general.
November 22, 2010
Today was my 35th electroconvulsive therapy. When I got to the treatment prep room, there was another person that was closer to my age waiting for her turn, too. We sat next to each other as we got our vitals checked, and usually, the patients don’t really communicate with each other while waiting, but she and I ended up chatting for a little bit. We talked some about each other’s experiences with ECT, and she asked me questions about how I’ve been doing since starting ECT. I think she was relieved to hear that my personal ECT adventure hasn’t been quick, easy or miraculous as one might have been led to believe it will be. It was also nice for me to get to talk to her since it’s not very often that I get to talk to someone who’s shared this similar path.
I’m now back home, and even though I remembered the above conversation, I can’t remember anything else that’s going on in my life right now. I should be glad that I’m not really having problems with memory about past events, but wow, is it really weird to not even remember what classes I’m taking this semester. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I need to do this week, or what day of the month it is. Good thing I wrote down stuff in my planner because I would have forgot about doing an assignment or even going to class tomorrow. And usually, the stuff I forget after usually comes back after several hours, so I’m counting on that.
I’d like to lounge around the rest of the day, but just realized I have an assignment due for tomorrow. I guess I’ll get started on resuming my life.
November 21, 2010
What am I going to wear? Should I paint my nails? How should my hair look? I am fretting over the little things like tomorrow’s the first day of school. No, tomorrow’s time for another maintenance ECT, 35th ECT treatment to be exact. All I need to remember to do tomorrow morning is to keep my stomach empty and wear a short-sleeved shirt. But tonight I’m busy doing nothing—of picking out a shirt that’s going to be covered with a hospital gown, of making my hair smell good that will get funny with the gel they use for the treatment, of doing things that doesn’t really matter. I really should be reading for my classes, but I’m watching football. Well, kind of. I’m barely able to concentrate on that.
I think I’m doing all these ‘unimportant’ things to quell the actual nervousness I feel for tomorrow’s treatment. Underneath my actions of seeming like ECT’s just another routine thing to do on the planner, there’s a sense of anxiety that’s probably been on my mind for a while. And it’s hard to write out what I’m really thinking because to be honest, I’m not quite sure what I’m so nervous about.
I know the routine of this treatment so well now. I know the sounds, the sights, the smells…I have done this, a lot. But nothing in life has absolute clarity and results. And maybe the ambiguity that is left after I take away what I know about what’ll happen tomorrow is still causing me to feel uneasy. I really want to explain this state of mind, but tonight I just can’t do it, at least not in a way that’s is an accurate reflection. Maybe tomorrow will give me some clarity enough to be able to recall tonight’s thoughts?
I popped a zolpidem (ambien), just wanting for this day and my mind to stop, even though I did have some good things happen during the day (I got to go to a wonderful brunch with some friends). While I’m waiting for my mind to be filled with fog, I think to myself, maybe it’s a good thing to still be nervous about having ECT treatment, that I haven’t just resigned my body and mind over to this procedure. Really, it’s a sign that my mind is actively working.
November 20, 2010
I was reading through some stuff this week and realized today is National Survivors of Suicide Day (11/20). To my recollection, this is my first time celebrating National Survivors of Suicide Day. Well, is ‘celebrating’ too strong of a word to express my feelings about this day? Perhaps. I’m not necessarily jumping up and down for joy that I’m still alive, not that I’m not happy to be alive or anything. Maybe a better word to express the emotions of this day is that rather than joy, it’s relief. It’s relief that I’ve made, a relief that I’m still standing. It’s actually kind of hard to explain. Because what brings to mind when I think about this day is a mix of feelings that one can’t capture in a single word. Maybe it’s a tacit understanding among all of us who’ve tried to take one’s own life but are still here.
In truth, this is not a holiday that one should have to celebrate–because I don’t want to see another person have to join this circle of people who are survivors. But maybe we can look at this day as a time to honor everyone, from the survivor him/herself to those who helped each of them through to making it to today. And remember those who have left us.
So, cheers to a happy National Survivors of Suicide Day.
November 19, 2010
TIME: Depression Returns in Half of Treated Teens
The question is: does depression return in half of treated adults, too? What can we do to change this trend?
November 18, 2010
Maybe I shouldn’t complain. This should be seen as an act of good will by the pharmacy. But I’m going to.
I made my monthly trip to the pharmacy this morning. Along with the usual sign that advertises that some meds can be bought for $9.99 for 3 months supply, there was a big sign that advertised free diabetes generic medication (see the sign in the photo). At first, I thought nothing of it. But then I started thinking, why is it for only Diabetes that medications become free? Why not any other illnesses, like depression?
I feel like I’m complaining about a technically good thing that the pharmacy is doing, because I’m pretty sure that they were just thinking of ways to alleviate the financial burden for those who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes but cannot afford the medication to treat the disease. But if we were to argue this point, we need to point out that there are still millions of people who go undiagnosed for mental illnesses because they can’t afford to see a doctor. Are we just assuming that more poor people have diabetes? And since when did diabetes medication become more important to be dispensed than the prescription for antidepressants?
I picked up my $100+ worth of medication and left the building, still tasting that bitterness I somehow developed in my veins over the years.
November 17, 2010
Nighttime lights linked to depression
Exposure to a dim light at night, such as the glow of a TV screen, may prompt changes in the brain that lead to mood disorders, including depression, according to a new study in hamsters.