Archive for ‘mental health’

March 20, 2013

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


screen shot 2


screen shot 1

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.

July 11, 2011


I finally went to the diagnostics place this morning to get my blood drawn in order to have some tests done. On the form that my psychiatrist gave me to take to the testing place, there was a code: “v58.69” scribbled in the billable codes section.  I got curious so I looked up what it might mean. Apparently, v58.69 means “long-term (current) use of other medications.” As much as I knew that my overall health is now incumbent upon how my body reacts to all the medication that I take, seeing that code on that sheet of paper was a cruel reminder that I cannot separate myself from those drugs.

It’s too early to say if anything is wrong, but it is obvious that my doctor thought that if anything was off, it’s probable that it’s because of the stuff I’ve been taking. While I’m not one to speculate on what could possibly be wrong with me, let’s say my use of some of the meds has led to something like diabetes. I hesitate to say that my feeling less depressed would be worth getting diabetes. I ask myself, what is the opportunity cost of taking medication? Thinking about “side” effects of the meds that we take made me recall a time several years ago when I experienced tremors and then lost most sensation below the waist. I ended up seeing several neurologists who tested me for all sorts of disorders from spinal cord syndrome to Parkinson’s, with one neurologist concluding that all of this is probably because of the lithium I was taking at the time. The symptoms eventually dissipated, and I got off the lithium sometime later.  But if my body indeed reacted to the lithium in such manner, I have to say any sort of mental wellness it gave me wasn’t worth having to go through months of utter fear and uncertainty about whether I could even have control of my own body.

Wouldn’t getting diabetes make me just as unhappy as I had been before I was medicated?  Just because I would have ‘the tools’ to deal with such diagnosis thanks to taking those medications, that doesn’t mean that getting diabetes or any other illnesses is ‘just the way it goes’ with these drugs. In fact, I’d say that these mental-health medications have more of an obligation to not have to affect people more negatively—-because negativity is what they’re trying to escape, and it doesn’t make sense if the medication itself led to further depression.

I don’t need another illness on top of the one I already deal with. And to find out that the treatment for my first illness caused the new one would be one bitter pill to swallow.

June 12, 2011


I’m watching the game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. It’s been a set of exciting games, with the Mavs leading the Heat 3-2. I’m not usually that much of a NBA watcher, but this series has been a pretty interesting one. Though most critics are speculating on a Heat win, I am rooting for the Mavs. Moreover, I’m rooting for the Mavs’ star player, Dirk Nowitzki. He’s a 7-ft, German guy who really is an amazing player.

Why am I talking about Dirk Nowitzki on this blog? First, I was just inspired by Dirk’s perseverance. In game 4, he was running a 102 degree fever and still managed to score over 20 points, including the game-winning shot. But perhaps more than that is his heart. He lost the NBA finals in 2006, and when I hear him talk about it, it is obvious that it was a crushing blow to him. But what you see in him now is that he is confronting all his demons from several years ago.  I think it’s hard for any of us to lose something we wanted and then regain courage to go at it again, at full or even fuller strength than what we gave last time. We are usually so hurt by such experience that we may never want to even make another run at it. It’s so hard to be brave about something once we’ve been hurt by it once. With Nowitzki, his bravery is in full effect right now.

I get scared to face life since my deep fall into depression, and while I suppose I’m making a slow climb out of it right now through ECT and other treatments, it’s not easy to pull my life up by the bootstraps and act like I really want it— because I am easily reminded about where this could all go again. But watching Dirk and his fight to win it all makes me tell myself that it’s okay to make a run for it, even at the risk of possibly losing. After all, a “life unexamined is not worth living.”

It’s half time, and the Mavs are leading by 2. I’ve got to go back and root for Dirk!


May 25, 2011

Let’s Tweet for Mental Health!

It’s Mental Health America’s Mental Health Month, and they posted some sample twitter messages that could be sent out during May. They suggest that you use the hashtag #mentalhealthmonth. The following are some suggested messages:

  • The vast majority of mental health conditions are treatable–people live productive lives. #mentalhealthmonth
  • Do More for 1 in 4: It’s Mental Health Month. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Go to #mentalhealthmonth
  • Who’s your 1 in 4?  Support from family, friends, peers essential in recovery. Learn how to help at  

Well, since we’re talking about twitter, I figured I should do a little shameless plug here and say: follow me on Twitter while you’re at it: @ECTchronicles  :)

 For those who Facebook, they also posted some sample posts:

  • Good mental health is much more than must the absence of illness – it’s about being able to handle life’s challenges and even flourish. Celebrate Mental Health Month with us! Learn more at
  • Wellness encompasses the notion of balance in one’s life among the mental, physical, and emotional elements of health. Live Well! It’s Essential for Your Potential! Learn more at
  • A vast majority of mental health conditions are treatable, we can–no matter how challenging the mental health obstacle we face–always chart a course back to wellness. Live Well! It’s Essential for Your Potential! Learn more at
May 25, 2011

Celebrating Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month! Started by Mental Health America in 1949, the goal of the month is (obviously) to raise awareness about mental health and MH conditions. This year, they have two themes that they’re celebrating. Do More for 1 in 4 is a call to action to help the 1 in 4 American adults who live with a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition and the fact that they can go on to live full and productive lives. Download 11 X 17 inch poster. The second theme, Live Well! It’s Essential for Your Potential, focuses on the importance of mental wellness and the steps everyone can take to improve their well-being and resiliency in the face of difficult times and challenges. Mental Health America’s Live Your Life Well program offers ten science-based tools to manage stress and help you relax, grow and flourish. Download 11 X 17 inch poster.

A whole bunch of info is on their web site at but I thought I’d go ahead and post the PDFs they have for various MH conditions and tips for living well.

Do More for 1 in 4

Live Well! It’s Essential for Your Potential

April 12, 2011

it’s too revealing

Today, I was offered a really interesting, amazing opportunity. Amy, a community leader for a health-activist community WEGO Health and also the creator of the blog Una Vita Bella, invited me to be a participant in creating a short video about mental health for WEGO Health’s new venture, WEGO Health TV. Basically, they’re creating a series of conversational web videos led by Health Activists for their online communities, and she wants me to be one of 3-4 panelists who’ll be featured in a video dealing with mental health. I got to see some example videos on their beta site, and the clips were just filled with honest insights from real people, which was refreshing to see. I was told that in addition to spreading word about health issues, the participants will be able to post them on their own sites and build their own brand. With these premises, I thought this would be an exciting chance to try something new. So, I sent Amy a note of acceptance.

While I’m still honored by the invitation, I neglected to think about one little thing before saying yes: the reveal of my true identity (or at least my name). But not just my name, but my identity being tied to this blog/journal. In my blog, I’ve been using the name “Yumers” instead of my real name, and I’ve been careful everywhere else not to tie my actual name to the blog. Most of me would like to link those two things together openly, but there’s a problem that I run into every time I think about doing that. That is, I do not want my parents and sister to know that I write this blog. There’s certainly the issue of my wanting to feel like I can write freely, but a more serious conundrum for me is that my parents do not know about some of the events that happened in my past, like the second suicide attempt—which is something I’ve talked about on the blog. Getting to be in this video would be something that I would love to tell my family, but I won’t be able to tell them about it because that would lead to their knowing that I have a blog that, (gasp), tells the bare truth about myself, instead of about cosmetic products.  I just feel like I’ve reached some sort of a juncture in my own blogosphere where I have to decide whether being my true  self, in name and all, is worth dealing with the fact that my family might find out that I’ve been out in this blogosphere for a while now.

I really, really want to be a part of this new project by WEGO Health and am still committed to being a part of it. But I am torn about having my identity exposed to the public, and quite possibly to my family.

April 3, 2011

mental disorder + graphic design

My friend Jeremy told me about a British designer Patrick Smith who’s created posters that bring minimalist design and mental health awareness together. See all of them here.

March 10, 2011

The Psycho-meter: is it offensive?

Huffington Post has an article titled “This Week in Crazy,” featuring a “psycho-meter.” What do you think? Is this just funny, or is it offensive?

January 29, 2011

a therapeutic alliance

It is four weeks into 2011, and I have yet to settle into some sort of a routine. It’s not that I’m so busy as much as the fact that I’m just unorganized about activities, cleanliness—well, life in general. So, it’s probably no surprise that it took me until this week to actually call my psychotherapist, Dr. L, to make an appointment. (Why did it take me less of a time to schedule ECT? That, I do not know…)

It was my first time to see Dr. L for the year. I had not met with her in well over a month, so there was much that needed catching up. It was near the end of our session when she brought up that it’s almost been a year since I first started seeing Dr. L. Originally a referral from my psychiatrist Dr. A, I only expected to meet with Dr. L for just a few sessions of EMDR. But since that initial meeting, I felt like I ‘clicked’ with her, unlike with other therapists that I’ve seen while I was in college. And somehow, what was really supposed to be a short-term deal has turned into a relationship. And it’s a good thing, because according to a new study,  a good relationship between a patient and therapist is likely to improve the patient’s recovery from depression. Researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium looked at the outcomes of 567 people with major depression who received six months of combined treatment with therapy and antidepressants. Sure, there were other factors that affected the rate of patient improvement, which included the initial severity of depression, a history of psychiatric disorders, job status and early improvement of depressive symptoms. But overall, a strong patient-therapist alliance meant a better progress in one’s condition. And I think I have an ally in Dr. L.

I scheduled a session for next week, of what will probably become one of many that I will schedule throughout this year. As I drive away from her office, I realize how lucky I am to her as part of my treatment team.

November 12, 2010

must read: a look at mental health treatment in China

In the last two days, the New York Times had two really intriguing articles (to say the least) about the inadequacies of the mental health system in China. Please read:

“Life in Shadows for Mentally Ill in China,” by Sharon LaFraniere

“Outspoken Chinese Risk Confinement in Mental Wards,” by Sharon LaFraniere and Dan Levin
Activists say confinements in mental hospitals appear to be rising as authorities feel pressure to quell social               unrest.


Summarizing these articles in my own words will not do them justice.

October 21, 2010

hop, skip, and not renewing meds

As if we needed someone to do actual research on this topic. Anyway…

So, I haven’t been too good about taking my medication lately. I haven’t missed everything, but I let one of the meds run out and haven’t made a trip to the pharmacy to go pick them up. I know this is not a good thing to do, and I’m counteracting whatever help the ECT has given me in the last few days. The amount of regret from skipping doses is already mounting. Before the actual effect starts to mount as well,  I really better go get these meds tomorrow.

I’m quite sure this is a scenario that many others have faced. Apparently, someone needed more confirmation than (lots of ) anecdotal stories. According to the story on, “Many antidepressant users miss doses, study shows,” the study conducted by Medco showed that1 in 3 of those who switched to higher doses didn’t refill prescriptions as often as they should. They only looked at antidepressant use, but I wonder if this behavior is also common among other medications not related to one’s mental health.

It’s really stupidity on my part to be skipping my drugs when I know what has happened in the past. If I had to make an excuse for my behavior, it’s partly because my drug coverage is about run out soon, and this particular medication costs a lot. I called an insurance agent today to see if I can get new insurance, and she told me bluntly that I may not be able to get coverage from anyone else. If an insurance agent already thinks that, is it going to worth spending my time looking for new insurance? I’ve resigned myself to not being able to get any mental health treatments covered, but I at least want prescription drug coverage. Even with the health care rule changes, am I still going to be left behind?I think the fact that my current health coverage is about to run out is starting to get to me.

October 11, 2010

Mental health stories on NYTimes

Recently, there’s been several interesting mental health stories and features that’s popped up on the New York Times.

“Despite Army’s Prevention Efforts, Soldier Suicides Continue,” by James C. McKinley Jr., gives a vivid picture of this issue. It’s worth the read to gain further understanding and awareness.

“Medical student distress and the risk of doctor suicide,” by Dr. Pauline Chen

“Side effects may include lawsuits,” by Duff Wilson, is about pharmaceutical companies who make anti-psychotics and the prevalence of lawsuits against those drugs.

An Op-ed by Nick Kristof, “At risk from the womb,” discusses how we are shaped even before we’re born.

“Patient Voices” is an interactive section featuring videos of personal accounts of living with various illnesses, e.g. fibromyalgia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc. (more than 3,000 topics described, illustrated and investigated)


Their entire health section is at

For mental health news from other sources, check out





October 9, 2010

10.10.10 is World Mental Health Day

Every October 10 is World Mental Health Day….which means it’s coming up tomorrow!

Mental disorders affect nearly 12% of the world’s population – approximately 450 million or one out of every four people around the world will experience a mental illness that would benefit from diagnosis and treatment. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, yet unfortunately, less than 1/3 of those affected will receive any care or treatment. Mental health and mental illness is a part of every country, culture, age group and socio-economic status.

Just before the World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) released their mhGAP (Mental Health Gap Action Program) Intervention Guide for mental, neurological, and substance-abuse disorders in non-specialized health settings. In a speech for the occasion, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. M.D. noted that more than 150 million people suffer from depression worldwide, 125 million people from alcohol-use disorders, 40 million people from epilepsy, 24 million from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and that every year, nearly one million people die from suicide.

I wanted to know what people were doing for this World Mental Health Day. I did find that the European Federation of Associations of Families of People with Mental Illness (EUFAMI) had a list of some commemorative events that are held at different places around Europe.

July 30, 2010

that’s peanuts

As you all may know, Hallmark card store sells much more than just cards. They have all sorts of little trinkets for the house. Their newest collection of stuff is a line of ‘Peanuts’ merchandise. They have an assortment of cute little Snoopy stuff available, including a memo pad that has the illustration from Lucy behind her ‘Psychiatric help’ booth. I was tempted to snatch that up for one of my doctors. But among all the merchandise, this little stand with the quote, “Keep looking up! That’s the secret of life!,” with both Snoopy and Woodstock looking up, caught my eye.

Maybe it’s too cutesy to be a legitimate advice. But sometimes we could use those life reminders, and what better than getting one from Snoopy?

July 16, 2010

in the crowd

Art by Edel Rodriguez

Our plane has taken off from Salt Lake City, and I am now aboard on the last leg of my Santa Barbara vacation. It’s about 3 hours left of being up in the air,where a bunch of strangers are packed like sardines, albeit in a very orderly fashion. It is interesting to wonder who these travelers are that are seated in this flying vehicle. Were they out on business? Did she fly home to see her family? What about that guy sitting across the aisle? Are they on their way to this particular destination? Questions are endless, but in general, most people only acknowledge others with a polite greeting and silence throughout the rest of the flight time. I suppose there are things about ourselves that are visible upon immediate glance, e.g. gender, race, etc. But some things, like one’s mental health, isn’t usually so clear.

I thought about that ad from ‘ where among the crowd would be people wearing shirts labeled with a disorder or as knowing someone with a mental illness (like ‘a friend of…’) If people were to wear shirts like that, how many of us in this airplane would be wearing them?

It’s really easy to think that I would be all alone in wearing a shirt like that, and to speculate that I would not be able to share my experience with mental illness with others because others simply would have no connection to it. However, last week in class, someone mentioned that she’s bipolar, which means that out of a class of fifteen students, at least three students have bipolar disorder. Even in such a small group, I am not alone.

So, as I look around these rows of people sleeping, reading their Kindle or drinking their beverage, I am pretty sure that many of us would actually be able to share stories if we knew a little more about each other.

%d bloggers like this: