February 28, 2011
People remember their first kiss. I remember my first suicide attempt. It was February 16, 2003, when I tried to kill myself in my college dorm room. It might not be considered a ‘serious’ attempt since the amount of sleeping pills I took would’ve never killed me, but I was nothing but serious when I came to a conclusion that I needed to end my life then. I have no recollection of how the ambulance came and took me to the ER, but I do remember waking up in the ER and then being told that I needed to be admitted to the psychiatric hospital. And I remember those few days of my first stay at a psych hospital.
In a way, this event changed everything. For start, it’s certainly changed the way I view February. For the last seven years, I dreaded the coming of the month of February like it was the plague, and when it did get here, I was mostly frozen from the fear that I would do this again. Then, all the suicidal thoughts seem to come up, and I spend the rest of the month just hoping that I can get through it in however many pieces that remains of me. That’s been the routine. In trying to heal the wounds of what my psychiatrist calls February my “personal 9/11,” she referred me to a psychologist trained in EMDR. I had those treatments late February/early March last year, and while it curbed my suicidal thinking at the time, there wasn’t really a way to tell if the EMDR truly benefitted me until another February came.
So, February did come again, and now we’re mere minutes away from the end of February 2011. And I can’t say that there was any dreaded countdown, the crippling fear, or the ruminating thoughts of suicide during the 28 days. All in all, I didn’t just survive through it; I lived through it. Just as this month was ushered in without any fanfare, it will close its doors unceremoniously.
Even though this February hasn’t had the ‘excitement’ of the previous seven Februarys, I do feel a sense of relief coming over me as I write this entry. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the details of the attempt. I’m well aware of what happened, and I still want to give a nod to this day and this month because it is such an important part of my development as a person. But what’s looking more clear to me now is that the past doesn’t have to be the anchor that holds me back. Rather, I think I would be honoring that experience properly if I can live on.
Time “Marches” on. And so will I.
February 27, 2011
- by Jessica Tam
Recently, a new study out in the Academy of Management Journal that showed that a fake smile can be bad for your health. So, when one of the contractors said to me, “I like coming here, because you’re always so happy,” I felt kind of uneasy about her comment. I’ve definitely been that smiley person in public who exude a sense of happiness, even when the insides were completely mismatched. I wondered, am I still putting on an act?
I thought about what’s been going on emotionally lately. There’s been some issues, but I kind of realized that in general, things seem to have been going, well, okay. I think we get so wrapped up in being ill that sometimes we forget how to recognize being fine. Sure, it may be a chronic condition, but when we start placing our illness as our identity, it’s as if we’ve put ourselves in a position where we can’t (or won’t) be able to see ourselves aside from being sick. We are much, much more than our illnesses. And we shouldn’t feel like we’re deviating from our roles when we do feel good—because it’s a good thing, and we should celebrate that.
Maybe I’ve not been putting on an act, and that my exterior and the interior have somehow connected together. I don’t really know if I’m hap-hap-happy, but I do need to tell myself that I am doing okay.
February 25, 2011
Mike Huckabee was on a radio show today and decided to respond to some of his critics. As for a response to MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, Huckabee offered this prescription: “Chris, see a doctor. Do it quickly. You’re out of control. You’re off your meds. You absolutely must get help, and do it today.” (See the article and hear the actual interview)
I doubt that people are going to make a big deal (or any deal) about what Huckabee said just because people make this kind of joke all the time, at least I’ve heard others around me make the same type of comments about people they have issues with. But I believe this is the kind of “humor” that’s often tolerated in society that probably should get pointed out by mental health advocates.
I’ve personally liked Mike Huckabee as a person for some time now. In fact, on last night’s “Colbert Report,” he was pretty funny. But I wish he would understand that the “off your meds” comment is really just making fun of people who take psychotropic medication as some kind of deviants. I realize this was just a casual comment, but really, we wouldn’t poke ‘casual’ fun at other types of illnesses.
February 23, 2011
“My ECT is scheduled for next week,” I tell my therapist. Dr. L. asks me, “How do you feel about that?” I pause for a moment. I clutch the pillow next to me like a three-year-old holding her favorite teddy bear. “I don’t know,” I say to her. I am never sure how I’m supposed to feel about getting my next ECT. I know that there’s no ‘right’ feeling, but should I be looking forward to the treatment? Or should I be scared of it? I hold the pillow harder and say again, “I don’t know.”
We’ve been discussing how often (or if) I should be having ECT on and off for a while now. “I just don’t know how I would be able to tell if or when I can stop having ECT,” I tell Dr. L. She tells me that from the interactions that she’s had with me, I haven’t been critically depressed in a while. And then she asks me the question: “Are you suicidal?” “No,” I tell her. Dr. L then says, “that ‘s one measure of seeing if you need to keep having ECT or whether you should space them out.”
The conversation goes on. But one question stood out to me: Are you suicidal? It’s a question that I hear almost every time I see any doctor. It’s not just a measure of whether I need ECT; it’s really my measure of seeing if I’m doing ok. I know they all need or should ask that question to me given my track record. But it is odd to me when my measure of wellness now seems to be incumbent on the question of my suicidality and almost nothing else. It’s kind of like, if I’m not trying to harm myself, then I must be fine. I’m not saying I’m currently doing poorly, but I do wonder, when will I reach a point when “Are you suicidal?” isn’t my measure of wellness?
Fifty minutes pass, and I make an appointment for next Wednesday, 12:30pm.
February 23, 2011
(image @ http://teacher-stamps.co.uk)
“You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” -Author Unknown
It’s almost mid-semester, and I feel like I’m already running out of gas. I remembered a column I had read at the beginning of the year by Joe Robinson: “Don’t Give Up: Why Effort is the key to satisfaction,” and thought this time of the year is when I could use a re-read of this piece.
Here’s an excerpt:
Effort is your friend. It’s the unsung engine of the 40 percent of your potential happiness that you can actually do something about, that’s not inherited or the result of circumstantial influences (health, environment, geography). Researchers say that this chunk, known as “intentional activity,” is the best route to increasing and sustaining happiness, through self-chosen, positive experiences. All intentional activities require you to do something, so initiating and sustaining effort are essential to increasing your odds of finding real satisfaction.
In grade school, teachers have that “Needs Effort” stamp for assignments. This is one of those times when I need to be stamped with a “Needs Effort” on my forehead.
February 22, 2011
In Today’s the Irish Times, Dr. Muiris Houston penned a column titled “Why banning ECT would be a big mistake.”
Here’s an excerpt:
If even a small minority of lives can be saved with the treatment, then access to ECT must be maintained. And if it helps others for whom medication and therapy leave them still feeling as if living with depression is akin to “existing as the walking dead”, then an outright ban must be resisted. As long as, where possible, the patient gives valid, fully informed consent, which includes a discussion of ECT’s side effects and risks, then the treatment must remain available.
…..calls for an outright ban would be a mistake.
Read the entire column here.
February 21, 2011
It’s time for President’s Day Sale weekend, and predictably, I made my way through several stores to see just what I wouldn’t be able to live without. So, I went to West Elm, an affordable, contemporary furniture store with other knickknacks. I headed straight to their sale table since those were extra 25% off, and I found these stamp kits, made by Yellow Owl Workshop. The kit had two stamps: a cage, and a bird. I’ve never really played much with stamps, but this really intrigued me. So, I picked up this set, stamp ink, and a rhino eraser (which were all on sale).
I went home, found some decent piece of white paper, and untied the ribbon that tied the bag that contained the stamps. I first picked up the cage and pressed the rubber into the red stain. Then I pushed the piece hard onto the paper to make sure that the ink would stick. I peeled the mold off the paper, and a pretty birdcage was stamped, just as expected. Now, I repeated the whole routine for the bird, except I now had to pick where I needed to place him. Should I have him perched in the cage, or flying far, far away in the sky? I decided to place him sort of in a happy medium, where he looks like he’s flying out, but then again he could very well be stilling on the outer wire. I then stamped another red bird that’s obviously flying away. But I keep thinking if there’s any significance in my placing the first bird in such precarious position. While I’ve become more independent in mind and life as I’ve grown older, I still feel safety from having a cage-like structure around me. As I look up to see that bird flying away, I wonder, can I get there, too?
In my next stamp composition, maybe I’ll have all the birds flying—but with no cage around.
February 19, 2011
“What are you writing your thesis on?” asks Jamie, as four sociology grad students drink beer and eat some dinner at a local restaurant. “I’m writing mine on electroconvulsive therapy,” I answer with a slight bit of hesitation. “Oh,” says Jamie. “I didn’t know they still did that.” Oh, yes, they do, I thought to myself as I try to gather my thoughts to answer her. But I couldn’t. She goes on to put ECT in the same sentence as lobotomies, but I leave the conversation there.
At this point in my life, I could almost recite the details of electroconvulsive therapy. I could go on about how it’s not like what you imagine from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or practically anything that depicts ECT—not even the Broadway show “Next to Normal” gives a fair portrayal. I could tell Jamie about how I’ve had over 30 treatments of ECT and have helped me survive. I could say all of this but I didn’t.
It sometimes reminds me how a part of me is still, well, ashamed of having this procedure. And it’s not just the ECT that I’m afraid to tell people; it’s the fact that the reason I’m having ECT is obviously going to be connected to my depression, my bipolar disorder. What will people think?, I still wonder, even as I display myself on this journal as some kind of vocal advocate for mental health issues. I don’t think I need everyone in the world to know about this, because it’s not necessary information for people to know about me. But when asked directly about it–and with whom I consider as ‘safe’ company, I shouldn’t feel so hesitant to say something about it.
I guess I still feel guilty about all of this.
February 18, 2011
Though the process got held up for a few days due to rain and snow, my bathroom remodel is moving right along. Apparently joining the team of contractors is my cat, “Inspector Simon.” Every time that contractors leave, he runs into the construction site as if he needs to make sure that the work is done correctly—which looks like it is. I like to refer to my contractor Clint as the “Southern Mike Holmes” (like that guy on HGTV’s ‘Holmes on Homes’), without the muscle-man shirt and an earring. I’m really amazed by just how much careful detailing go into making a good bathroom.
Some of the older photos from the initial stages of the remodel are located here.
I hope to have the tiling process ‘iphotographed’ by the next installment of my remodel photos.
February 17, 2011
I finally finished it. For a book that’s in generously sized font and a mere 180 pages, it should’ve taken me just a few days-or week at most to be done. But regardless of the time it took, I reached the last page while at Starbucks today–while attempting to do ‘real’ work, of course. ;) I know it’s just another book among tons of other ones I’ve read, am reading, or will read in the future, but for some reason, I got a little emotional as my eyes came to the last word of the book. The book’s kind of about running, and I don’t even run! And it’s not some sappy tale that’s supposed to induce tears. But I took a deep breath with a sense of relief.
Though I don’t want to place blame on my illness for stuff, the depression has often robbed me of my ability to complete things, either on time, or not at all. It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with–and one that really does hinder me from moving on with various aspects of life. Currently, I’ve been having a hard time keeping myself motivated about finishing this masters program, among other things in life. So, actually finishing this book gave me a little hope that I am able to take myself to the end of what I started, however big or small the task may be. Writing a thesis and reading someone else’s work are not the most congruent tasks. But they both do involve having to take steps in order to finish it.I think I had forgotten what it feels like to actually get through something. And this really was a good reminder of what you can get done when you keep going with what you want to get done.
By the way, this book (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) was a really good read!
February 16, 2011
I love the sharp, astute observations that comedians often make. Their humor point out a way of looking at the world that has not been articulated by any other media. And the fact that they are funny make it all the more fun. One of the more brash comedians of our time is Joan Rivers. She now hosts “The Fashion Police” on E! Channel, and she made the following comment to a reporter for Footwear News regarding the Oscar-nominated Helena Bonham Carter’s fashion sense. She said, “Six sessions of psychiatric treatment will straighten [Helena] out. [It] looked like she just got out of her straightjacket [sic] and escaped too quickly.”
I’ve seen how Rivers talks about other people, so I know I shouldn’t be shocked by the comment. But this statement did make me a bit annoyed. My thoughts probably derive from so many times that I’ve heard other people use this straitjacket/psychiatric hospital example as a source for laughter, and that so many people find the bit so funny. But what part of being confined to a psychiatric hospital and then escaping is a laughing matter? I’m not really the one that take offense at a lot of things, but Joan Rivers’ comment made me wonder if I’m ignoring comments that should be scrutinized? Is there a line where we should actually take offense at what a comedian says?
February 14, 2011
I noticed today, when I was picking up some pizza at Papa John’s, that they were advertising their heart-shaped pizzas. Obviously, they’re meant to be eaten today, for Valentine’s Day. I guess couples can have a romantic night by sharing a slice of their heart-shaped takeout food. Okay, I could go on and mock yet another holiday involving consumerism extravaganza, but some part of me also wanted to join in celebrating this day. This might be a tricky proposal since I don’t have a significant other, and I just live with a cat, who probably doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day…..or any other holiday. But I still wanted to extend my love to some people. I usually express my gratitude to friends and family, so I thought, who do I need to express my appreciation to for making my life better? I realized that the supporters of this journal really do keep me going from day to day, so here’s a little list of people that I’d like to show my appreciation to this Valentine’s Day:
- Subscribers via my journal, Google Reader, Networked Blogs, and other methods of getting my posts: Thank you for your constant support. I hope the entries you get have been something you want to read.
- Visitors: I am grateful that I have people that actually want to visit this journal. Thank you for stopping by and reading my random commentaries.
- Commenters: Sometimes, getting a comment on a post does make my day. I really appreciate your taking time to express your thoughts.
- Future visitors: I’m always happy to find out that I have new visitors/readers. Thanks, in advance, for finding my blog! And hope we can meet up sometime over at Twitterland. I’m @ECTchronicles
I really, truly am grateful to all those who have helped me on this journey. I extend my heart in sincere appreciation and hope that you come again soon!
February 13, 2011
Depression has always made it a bit uncomfortable for me to see a scene in a movie or other programs that included a suicide attempt. That discomfort escalated to a point of real uneasiness after I made my own first attempt. Since then, seeing those scenes often contributed to triggering a desire to contemplate suicide. So, when a friend asked me this weekend if I wanted to go see “The Virgin Suicides” for free at our local museum, I hesitated. Could I handle a film that involved not just one, but multiple suicides? Will this lead to my having to think about suicide? Despite those worries swirling around me, I agreed to go.
The movie was odd but good (for one that involves multiple suicides of teenage girls…), and the viewing even came with free popcorn. Any other time, I would’ve felt almost frozen from having to see something like that, but even when we went to dinner afterward, the conversation flowed fine. Sure, having to go eat with someone after watching a movie doesn’t leave a person any room to replay those scenes in his/her mind, but I didn’t even think a single bit about the film while we had dinner. After I came back home from dinner and a movie, there was a certain amount of expectation that I would have to deal with my emotions. After all, being left alone to think about things has often been a “good” opportunity to contemplate. I sat down and looked at my wrists. I ran my fingers across each wrist as if I thought I’d find old cut marks from years ago. But even while I stared at my limbs, my thoughts never crossed over to even a moment of contemplating suicide.
I know it’s just a reaction to a single film. But I really am surprised that a movie that’s titled “The Virgin Suicides” didn’t provoke a dark reaction from me. Just maybe this is an indication that I’m doing better, bit by bit.
February 12, 2011
Yes, this is a “Style Alert” for depressed people….
Some people look for the perfect shoe, others look for the perfect bag. I’ve been looking for the perfect pill box. Well, I don’t go “pillbox shopping,” but I currently have one that I think is kind of cute and funny.
I found this one in the picture at PotteryBarn in December in the stocking stuffers section (I’m not quite sure they still sell this one anymore). It’s metal, and this little quote, “My cure for everything,” makes me chuckle since sometimes, these meds sure feel like ‘my cure for everything.’ And other times, they are everything I don’t feel like dealing with.
It’s a pill box, but that’s not all it is! The inside lid is also a mirror, so I can take my pills while I put on some lipgloss.;)
There are plenty of other, cuter pill boxes available, like at thefind.com, where they have a lot on display. But I think I’ll stick with the one I have for now.
February 11, 2011
This picture really is worth, well, maybe a, “WTF?”
The linked photo is of the varsity dance team from Waunakee High School, in Waunakee, Wisconsin. Their “We Get Crazy” routine features the 18 dancers in straitjacket costumes with the words “Psych Ward” written on the front. (Read the local story)
Apparently, it took until this February for anyone to get a little disturbed over this routine. Even now, there’s only been mostly local media coverage…..except from Rick Chandler, a columnist on “Off the Bench” blog on NBCSports.com. Here’s what Chandler had to say, though not about the dance team routine, but about the (delayed) reaction from “mental health advocates.”
Thought I’d get this out for now. My own comments to come a little later.