Archive for March, 2013

March 20, 2013

apparently, ‘picking out’ psych meds is like trying out cereal


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Sometimes while  I watch some mindlessly good television or when I listen to some Rich Eisen podcasts, I take online surveys via those sites that pay you for taking them.  Some of the surveys are rather interesting, and occasionally it’s a way to get to know what products may be in the pipeline for various brands.  The other day, I took a survey that wasn’t about shopping, alcohol or cars; it was about bipolar meds—which I’m happy to answer questions about since I’m familiar with many of them.  So, I began the survey only to realize several things, both about me as a psych patient and about the industry that supplies these medications.

One, it reminded me very early on in the survey that I’ve taken a lot of them (see screen shot 1-sorry about the poor quality of photo). The truth is, while I did not check every single drug they listed on this page, I probably may have taken some of those but just don’t remember them as well.  Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve taken other meds not listed on this page that don’t qualify as bipolar meds per se, but are still mood altering.  It was a horrifying moment to see the glowing list in front of me and having to confront my history. But the fun of this survey had only just started.

A few pages after having to confess my medication history, an interesting question was posed to me (as seen on screen shot 2: this one can be magnified): how likely am I to try the following bipolar meds?  They gave me a short list of the newer p-meds out on the market, and asked me to give my inclination toward them. There was no description of the chemistry of these medications, what class of psychiatric meds they’re in, or really anything else.  Just the names.  Like whether I’d try Quaker Oats brand cereal versus ones by Erewhorn.  While I admit that I had already taken most of them on this list, too, it made me almost cringe in having to wonder what kind of patients those of us with mental illnesses have become.

The survey eventually led to showing of several different commercials and print advertisements, and then asked me stuff like my reaction to the commercial, etc.  And then it asked how likely I am now to ask for that particular drug to my doctor.  It was rather insulting that these companies think I’d be persuaded to ask for a drug because their ads looked pretty.  But furthermore, what is the purpose of having a psychiatrist if we, the patients, just point and ask for these medications, like we’re picking out our favorite easter candy? Well, according to this survey, our doctors really have just been reduced, to put it bluntly, to that of a drug dealer.

From taking this lovely survey, two big conclusions were drawn.  As many people already know, the drug company’s job, while it is to help people through chemistry, is to be a profitable company.  And like any product, they will market them to the public as allowed by law.  But perhaps what’s more important to learn for people taking medications is that the responsibility is largely on us,the customer, to be alert about medications being pitched to us like a new cleaning detergent.  It’s hard to be discerning when we’re so desperate to get through another day or even a minute of agony that comes with mental illness. But we really have no choice but to pay attention to what we’re ‘asking for’ or being given samples of by our doctors.  And we should expect our doctor, the person we paid for in order to get their professional advice, to steer us to make informed decisions when taking new meds.

I wish I had taken a few more screen shots of this survey since it was quite fascinating.  But more than that, it made me worried about the direction that the treatment of mental illness is taking in regard to the approach that tries to make us try medications like we’re choosing our next favorite cereal.

March 15, 2013

a raw deal: accepting side effects of psych meds


A little while ago when I was making an effort to be less of a hoarder, I came across a piece of paper I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was my psych hospital discharge sheet from September 2004, the stay that came about because of a wholehearted attempt at suicide.  What was most interesting about looking at this sheet was the list of medications that I was told to take……something like eight different things.

I’m sure the doctors that treated me there meant well (and even gave me a new diagnosis), but now that I look back on this and the rest of my journey in ‘treating’ the illness, it seems to like they are just throwing any potential drug that could work for the problem and seeing if it sticks.  Well, some of it stuck alright.  The depakote they started me on then made me gain at least 30 lbs. within months.  Some of the drugs I took to replace the depakote then led to a problem that made the neurologist think I had a serious spinal cord disorder, followed by seeking help for those symptoms at the Mayo Clinic. The verdict from the doctor at the Mayo Clinic? It’s just a side effect.  

The thing about ‘just a side effect’ is that it puts limits on your life that’s even more crushing than the original illness. And what many people end up doing is seeing that side effect as part of the illness, even if it’s not.  We start to reason with something that should not be tolerated.  Replacing one symptom with a different side effect is not effective treatment.  

And with direct-to-consumer marketing of these psych drugs, they’ve planted into our heads that all will be fine if we just find the pill, or a perfect combination of all sorts of pills.  You know what? The commercials for these drugs are done with cartoon women and their talking balloons because this world where any mental issue can be fixed with a single pill doesn’t exist!! My anger isn’t out of any belief of mine; it’s born out of experience.  I have taken at least 30-40 different psych meds over the last ten years, and I took them willingly.  What I’ve come to realize over the last year or so is that some of your problems may be the illness, but really, if you’re not willing to fix other issues in your life, then your illness will never get better.  The current circumstances of your life situation will not change no matter how many drugs you take.  

I used to hang on to old medication that I wasn’t taking anymore, admittedly so that when that ‘calling’ comes for me to kill myself, I will have adequate supplies to do so.  But things have changed, and I decided that the best thing to do is to use those pills as decoration (see photo). 

I threw the discharge paper away with all the other things I don’t need to hold on to anymore.  Am I off all psych meds? No, and that’s not necessarily my goal.  But before people just start accepting any and all pharmacological treatment, just make sure to also take a hard look at what else is going on in your life that’s making you unhappy.  

March 1, 2013

planting the seedling

It’s early afternoon on a Friday, and I’m sitting inside a Starbucks, facing a giant window that allows me to watch all the people coming and going from this retail strip. The sky is gray today, and it’s as if you can see all the individual droplets of rain that’s hitting the pavement since they are all close to being snowflakes, but not quite. There is no sign of the sun or the blue sky coming anytime soon. There are no leaves on the trees, so the branches have that look of bleakness that they sometimes give off when they look more like old, frail fingers instead of supporters of green leaves.

In spite of what I can see out this window, I know spring is coming.

Money has been tight in our household. My fiance is in graduate school full-time, and I haven’t had a real job in months. This current situation, looking at it on its own, looks bleak. But the thing is, the reason why I came to Starbucks today wasn’t to pass some time. It’s to work on an article I have to write for a freelance gig that I have. I know I’m being grossly underpaid, but I’m getting paid, to write. The topic I’m having to write about today is advice about becoming successful as an entrepreneur. I’m using an analogy about how you need to start with a narrow focus or a product for the business, because businesses are like planting trees. Trees all need that single root that anchors them so that they can grow for years to come and weather the storms and all the bad stuff that can happen to trees.

I have to look at these little gigs as all part of an actual desire to be writing and editing professionally. And I can’t get there without doing more writing and editing for anyone that needs it, at almost any price. Building experience in retail (the old job) doesn’t count for anything if my goal is to not be in retail. So, as much as I am worried about the finances (not to mention planning some sort of a nuptial plan, since I’m engaged and all), I recognize that I am doing what needs to be done. I really have no choice but to get it done, but I also know that I was the one that made the choice to do so.

…………though I must say, I felt some relief when my fiance got a call today from a business about doing bookkeeping for them (he’s studying accounting).

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