Archive for December, 2010

December 31, 2010


happy new year from `a little spark`!

December 31, 2010


In just a few hours, it will be 2011 here in Japan. The New Year in Japan is kind of like Thanksgiving, loaded with tradition—and food (I hope to post some pics of the food and stuff later). It would be easy for me to look back and write out my regrets and disappointments over these last 365 days, but as the new year draws closer, I`m starting to think it would be better if instead I readied myself for this new beginning. So…I want to spend the remaining moments of this year filled with thankfulness. Sometimes, we don`t talk about expressing being thankful except in times of Thanksgiving, but I figure that it`s something I should be doing throughout the year anyway–and why not do it a day before the new year?

The one that I wish to mention is that I am grateful to all the support I have received from everything (not just `everyone,` because it has to include my cat) over this past year. It is really odd that just two years ago, I never imagined myself to be around for this moment. But I am. And I am grateful for this life, too. Sure, I still struggle with this issue, but perhaps there is some virtue in contemplating what it means to be alive rather than simply existing on this earth without questioning anything (Note: I certainly do not wish for people to have to ever go through having thoughts of hurting themselves).

While I am grateful to many things, I still want to say that I am grateful I get a new start in a few hours. Even though I don`t really know where the time went, I feel ready to just get this year over with.

December 29, 2010

putting one foot in front of the other

My father is planning to run the Tokyo Marathon this coming February (It will be his first marathon). I keep being nudged about taking up running, that it suits my personality.  The only somewhat agile part of my body are my fingers, and I never thought of running as something I could have an interest in doing. But as much as I get some enjoyment from the movement of my fingers, I do realize that moving the rest of my body is important, if not for my mental well-being, then obviously for physical reasons. And how I feel physically affects my mental state, so it would benefit the total package anyway. With a few days left in 2010, I am starting to think about what I want and/or need to do in 2011. There is a part of me that want a way to think beyond how I think now…..and gain this way of thoughts without having to read a bunch of academic books. I do wonder if being more exposed to the outside world—the sunlight, the sky, the air—-would allow me to find more agility mentally, too. While being connected to the computer keyboard develops those muscles in my hands, developing my entire self seems important, now more than ever. I can`t waste any `freedom` that ECT has given me in the last two years. That would be a costly mistake, both financially and personally. I kind of feel some obligation to my own self to do everything that I can to not backtrack to that dark hole.

Anyway….With all this convoluted stuff said about my thoughts or whatever, all I really need are some shoes, a road, and for me to get moving.

Dad just came back from his morning run. He sounds so refreshed after each run. Maybe I should give running a shot.

December 28, 2010

mommy and me

When people hear that I`m going to Japan, most think that I`m going to be taking some grand vacation where I`ll be taking in the sights and sounds of all that the country has to offer. What have I done so far? Walk the dog, go grocery shopping, etc. To me, it`s mostly just `going back home.` Maybe I`ll get to go somewhere neat and fascinating, but this trip really isn`t about that.

What I value most in my trip thus far is getting to talk with my mother. Yesterday we got to just talk and cry for about an hour in the afternoon about some stuff that`s going on in the household, which I might expand upon later. I really appreciate that she feels comfortable enough to tell me exactly how she feels, because it seems that Japan still values for people to contain themselves, even at the point of his/her detriment. I want my `mama` (that`s what I call her) to be able to tell someone her thoughts without having to restrain herself, and I`m glad I could serve some of that role. At the end of the conversation, we hugged and she told me that I can say what I need to, also. Perhaps I am still holding on to that Japanese custom, and I haven`t quite been able to express what I probably want to say. But maybe as we have more of these conversations in the next week and a half, I will somehow find my way to be able to just have some verbal release. As much as I want to keep a lot of things to myself, there is a certain part of myself that want to let go and just let her know exactly what`s going on. There are many virtues to various Japanese traditions, but more and more, it seems that this self-containment doesn`t work, at least for me. While I, of course, want to pass on my homeland`s values (to whom, I`m still not sure, but….), it is up to me to start a new tradition, of openness. And if that`s the case, I need to practice it.

The wall by this computer is covered with family pictures. Tears fall as I write this, because so much of me does want to open up. I still haven`t figured out how to do it, though. Maybe I should do what I`ve learned from those Nike commercials: `JUST DO IT.` 

December 28, 2010

patterns of Japan

a vast array of magazine, including cooking, gardening, etc.

this vending machine serves drinks in an actual cup with ice

new year decorations on sale

instead of `wine in a box,` it`s `sake in a box`

sushi: it`s what`s for dinner

hallway of an old hospital in Japan

fish, anyone?

Welcome to`s a Starbucks...



December 27, 2010

recovering from a nervous breakdown

Mark Rice-Oxley is the assistant news editor at The Guardian, a British publication. He wrote about his depression, which started after he turned 40, in an article which was published in August. He`s now followed up on his recovery in a section: `What Happened Next: My Recovery from Depression.`

A little excerpt……

“Don’t let the kids see,” I mouthed at him. But it wasn’t the kids I was worried about. Going public about such a private thing as a depressive breakdown that struck on my 40th birthday was probably a risk I shouldn’t have taken. It wasn’t hard to tell the story: it just sort of fell out of me on to a nearby computer screen over a series of good days in July. It made for a satisfying narrative, with a clear-cut beginning, middle and end. Only, as it turned out, it wasn’t quite the end……”

Just as Rice-Oxley states above, I think we all wish, or at least almost assume, that there will be some sort of an end to our depression (or whatever other illnesses we face), just like any other story. But it goes on……and on and on. Perhaps the trick is to not necessarily wish that it would somehow end soon, but to `enjoy` the ride in some way possible. It is what it is, I try to say to myself.

December 27, 2010


My family went to Kyoto today, mainly to visit my grandmother who is in the hospital. While I`ve been told that her mind has deteriorated some, she still remembered me and my sister. As my sister and I sat next to her on the hospital bed, she talked much about how hard the nurses work. She also mentioned how we must not have any worries and struggles in life. I do realize that I have had a privileged life and that I may not have had to deal with a lot of struggles that people may have to face in life. I cannot imagine having to lose a spouse (which happened just a few months ago for her), but I get a bit annoyed when people assume that just because I might look a certain way on the exterior that I must have absolutely nothing to worry about in life and that everything must be going well. As much as the ECTs have become a routine part of my life, they still signify the reality that I have to deal with an illness on top of whatever else that may be going on in life. Well, to be honest, ECT`s not simply something I do as an aside from the rest of life; it is often my life, at least for the last two years. I will have to say that the experience of other treatments I`ve gone through is different from the experiences I`ve gained through having ECT. And while I have found a way to tell the story via this journal/blog to other people, I still don`t feel the need to tell any of my relatives (outside of my sister, parent) about my mental health issues. So, though I may feel annoyed that others in my family see me as being totally happy, part of me wants to perpetuate that appearance.

I smiled and nodded to my grandmother, and she moved on to talking about stuff like marriage (I did tell her that having a male cat in my life is enough for me….).

December 26, 2010

scene change

written 12.24.10

All the days seem to run together. I can’t remember when I did what in the last few weeks. Now, it’s Christmas Eve, at least according to the calendar. Where did the time go?

I thought I should take a little holiday gift over to the ECT staff, so I dropped by the psychiatric hospital on Thursday (It really does seem odd to me that I just dropped by such a place….). They let me up to the treatment room so I could go say hi to the nurse that has known me for the last two years. Since I brought something for Dr. F, my ECT psychiatrist, she called him over to come get the gift. When he came over to the room, he gave me a hug and asked me how I was doing. All I really wanted to do was just cry and tell him just how bad I`ve really felt this December. But I didn`t. I just told him that I was doing okay and handed him a little gift. Later, when I was leaving to get on the elevator, I ran into him, and he gave me a little nudge on the shoulder and a smile. Perhaps he knew from my demeanor that I wasn`t telling him the truth.

Now, I am on a plane headed to Japan. From Seattle, it`s about a 11-hour flight, so by the time my sister and I get there, it`ll be late afternoon on Christmas Day in Japan. I haven`t really thought much about this trip since I haven`t bothered to think much about anything lately. However, now that I am on the way, I am starting to think that maybe this little change in scenery would do me some good. At least it better, because I don`t know how much longer of this feeling I can really take. As much as I hate leaving my cat by himself (I did hire a professional cat sitter to come check on him for the duration of the trip), but it would not be a good thing to welcome the new year feeling like I couldn`t care less. I guess this trip is already doing me some good, I suppose, since it`s actually making me write something.

Anyway, I hope the next two weeks will revive me from whatever`this` is.

December 19, 2010

personal blog topics

Obviously, I’ve had some trouble writing a post this month. It’s not that there’s been nothing going on in my life, but something’s been causing me to not be able to write. Though not knowing what to write about hasn’t necessarily been the problem here, I figured I should put together a list of some potential blog topics. The prompts probably make sense for blogs of more personal nature, but regardless, lists are always kind of fun and a place to gather different ideas. Anyway, here is a list of 50 potential blog topics/prompts………

  1. How I’m feeling today
  2. What gives me hope
  3. Ways to feel better today
  4. What it feels like to be a ________
  5. Quote of the day
  6. I am anxious about…
  7. Why having a pet’s been good for me
  8. Book review
  9. Am I doing this right?
  10. Pick a word and write about it
  11. I found an interesting blog/web site
  12. An observation I made
  13. My favorite color
  14. How can I improve my week?
  15. Gratitude
  16. Thing(s) I’m frustrated about
  17. A childhood memory
  18. Thing(s) I’m happy about
  19. Why I chose to do_________
  20. I like this song because….
  21. I learned that….
  22. Maybe I was wrong
  23. A person I admire
  24. things to-do
  25. My take on a current event
  26. I am special because….
  27. things not to do
  28. my own signs of when things aren’t going well
  29. I laugh about…
  30. basics of my illness/condition/etc.
  31. What I didn’t expect
  32. my wish list
  33. stuff I’d like to try
  34. What I regret
  35. My dreams
  36. Why I made the decision I made
  37. There’s more to life than this
  38. What I’ve learned from my pet
  39. I want….
  40. Ways to improve my blog
  41. Something I’d like to remember
  42. Ways to improve my life
  43. What makes me ‘me’
  44. What I really want to say
  45. I cry because….
  46. Something I’d like to forget
  47. Today, I plan to….
  48. When I found out __________
  49. What needs to change
  50. I believe…..
December 14, 2010

constructing a fresh start

What started out as a toilet that’s not filling has led to a plan to redo the entire bathroom.

And so it begins the bathroom remodel. Is a destruction always needed in order to get a fresh restart on things? I posted a quote in a previous post by Picasso, “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” That may be, but there’s only so much destruction that I can take.

I’m picking out tiles today with my contractor. Stay tuned for my equating of a bathroom remodel to life itself….

December 7, 2010

fear of losing

The red scarf around my neck is soaked.

This morning, Elizabeth Edwards passed away at the age of 61 of cancer. When the news hit late this afternoon, I was shaken. Yes, this was an ‘expected’ death, but I was still saddened by the loss.

Then, I began to cry, and I haven’t been able to stop. Elizabeth Edwards’ story just hit a little too close to home.  My mother is currently 61-years-old, and she underwent treatment a few years ago for a stage III colon cancer. I believe her latest tests have come back clean thus far, but she occasionally makes comments about her speculation that she wouldn’t live much longer. I suppose no one is ever ready to lose a parent, and I am certainly not ready to lose her. Not right now. This fear has overwhelmed me, and the tears have been streaming for several hours now. I want to call my mother, but I’m afraid I’ll start to break down even further.

In the hours when I need to be working on some really important tasks, I have come to a complete halt. All I can do is read obituary after obituary of Edwards and just cry.

December 7, 2010

deciding to misuse stimulants

It’s due tomorrow.

I’ve been sitting at the same spot on the couch with my laptop in front of me for nearly the entire day. It’s the last paper I need to write for this class, but not a single word has been written. Between all the stuff that’s going on, I am completely distracted from this particular task at hand—not to mention the fact that the Patriots and the Jets were playing tonight. I’ve never been all that good about writing papers in advance, but even this is a late start for me—way beyond last-minute. Really, all I need to do is just start writing and just get it done. But I can’t seem to even start. I’m asking myself, How am I going to get this paper done?

Then, I remembered something: isn’t a time like this when people abuse ADHD meds to be able to stay awake and study? And I realized: what do I have in my house but Concerta, one of those ADHD drugs? Let me be clear that I did not obtain these pills illegally. Concerta is one of the medications I’ve been taking regularly for seven years, so I don’t even know if taking more Concerta would help someone like me, who already take the stuff, do more schoolwork. I am well aware that this pill isn’t going to magically scroll out a paper for me.  But apparently, it’s worked for others in crunch time, and naturally, I wonder if it will somehow help me out.

Oh, I know this isn’t the right thing to do, but I am so tempted to do something I’ve looked down upon when other people talked about misusing  (other people’s) ADHD meds.

As the clock nears the deadline, I am drawn closer and closer to breaking my own conscience.




December 5, 2010

Learning how to “sur-thrive”

Sur-thrive. That’s the word Carrie Fisher used in a latest interview with the New York Times (It’s an interview with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds together). I just found that word so fitting to what I’m trying to do. It’s like I don’t want to just survive if I’m going to live a life, but at this point in time, I’m trying to survive to thrive—thus, ‘sur-thrive.’

Here’s a small excerpt from the interview that I found pretty funny:

Q. Just to clarify, do you suffer from manic depression or bipolar disorder?

FISHER They say bipolar now. It’s the same as manic depression. I think manic depression is more descriptive. Bipolar sounds like a gay bear.

December 4, 2010

Washington Univ. in St. Louis opens clinic for treatment-resistant depression

Washington University opens clinic for treatment-resistant depression | Newsroom | Washington University in St. Louis.
news excerpt by Jim Dryden

Washington University School of Medicine has opened a clinic for patients with treatment-resistant depression. Directed by Charles R. Conway MD, the clinic targets patients who haven’t responded to standard therapies for depression.

When medication hasn’t helped, the clinic team may recommend additional medications to supplement what a patient already is taking, or suggest other treatments such as vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), deep brain stimulation (DBS) or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), treatments that stimulate the brain in various ways to treat depression.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation is like a pacemaker, but for the brain. It involves implanting a device under the skin that sends electrical signals along the vagus nerve to the brain.

ECT is the “gold standard” for patients who haven’t responded to other therapy, but it causes a minor seizure and requires anesthesia, so some who seek to avoid ECT choose rTMS instead. That treatment is delivered by placing a magnet on the patient’s scalp to stimulate a particular area of the brain. The treatment is given five days a week for several weeks.

Deep brain stimulation involves careful placement of very thin electrodes into specific brain regions. This treatment currently is FDA-approved for compassionate use in severe, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that has not responded to treatment. Research now is underway to determine whether DBS also is effective for treatment-resistant depression.

“This is a very exciting time for neurostimulation treatments for psychiatric disorders, and Washington University is very active in this area,” Conway says. “Other neurostimulation treatments, including the use of directed, high-powered electromagnetic fields to induced well-controlled seizures (referred to as magnetic seizure therapy) also are being studied, and we hope to be involved in research for that potential therapy.”


December 3, 2010

gaining weight on meds

Gaining weight and taking mental health meds often go hand in hand, but we don’t openly tell other people how it is that we gained 30 lbs. in a couple of months. Well, a piece by Judith Wurtman in Huffington Post, “The Cause of Weight Gain People Don’t Talk About,” actually brings up this subject.

….Well, what does one do when the weight gain was not caused by a 14-day cruise, a new job as a pastry chef or the inability to exercise due to a bad back? What does one say when the weight gain was caused by medication taken for an emotional disorder such as depression, panic attacks, anxiety, or cyclical mood swings? Do you really want to explain to cousin Shirley or aunt Josephine that you are taking Zoloft or Lexapro or Depakote and the drug caused you to put on 20, 30 or maybe even 70 pounds since last Christmas? Do you want to spend time explaining that the emotional problem causing you to take the medication has been helped, but now you are left with many unwanted pounds?….

…..The reason aunt Josephine and cousin Shirley don’t know about this cause of weight gain is that very little attention is paid to it in discussions about the “obesity epidemic” or in television shows devoted to helping fat people become thin. Has any reality show had volunteers who were thin until they started on Zyprexa or Respiradel? Have any television medical show hosts gone to a meetings of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and met members who are carrying 75 or 100 extra pounds because of their medication? Have well-meaning public figures mentioned the severe weight gain seen among school children because they are taking medication for pediatric bipolar disorder? Do national weight-loss organizations such as Weight Watchers address this problem in their meetings?….

I am glad that someone is pointing another reason for weight gain aside from the usual causes, but I’m almost afraid to think that this is an issue to be discussed in a manner that Wurtman does, because it would mean that there is an appreciable number of Americans on these medications.  Is weight gain the issue, or is the fact that this many people are taking these medications a bigger issue to think about? Wurtman ends her piece by saying, “Perhaps when all our relatives recognize the connection between antidepressants and obesity, those people committed to solving the problem of obesity will too.”  I understand what she’s saying, but maybe the big problem we need to figure out is improving people’s mental health in general.

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