Archive for ‘Other’

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.

July 23, 2011

it’s a date!….at my therapist’s office

One of the things that binds me and the boyfriend together is our extensive experience with depression. Because of our shared illness, we’ve definitely accumulated some unresolved issues that influence how we think, and ultimately influence how we interact with each other. Nothing is really going wrong in the relationship, but I really felt like our wounds from the past would heal—and thus lead to a better relationship—if we discussed our problems and concerns more openly.

That’s why I asked him to come with me to my therapy sessions. And he agreed.

My therapist also specializes in couples therapy, so we decided to show up together every other session (I still need some time to myself on the other weeks). I don’t really know what I expected, but so far, it’s been a learning experience to have another person incorporated into the session. Yes, I do think that it’s already made our relationship stronger by airing out our laundry in this format, but I also think that I’ve learned something about making a good relationship.

First, you really have to listen to what the other person is saying. I think one aspect of couples therapy that is totally different from individual therapy is that, well, obviously there are two of us (plus the therapist) in the room, and it’s not just you now; you must listen to what your partner is saying. Sometimes it’s easy to tune out the other in an ordinary setting, but therapy teaches you to be attentive to your mate.

Second, you must be ready to respond to what your partner has just said. Listening isn’t enough. I’ve learned that when the boyfriend has brought up a certain issue to the table, it’s my responsibility to react in some way. In order to solve a problem, I can’t just be quiet. It’s no longer my problem or his problem. It’s our problem, and it takes both of us to solve it. And while what the therapist has to say is important, our own feedback is crucial.

Third, you have to learn to communicate clearly. At home if I’m annoyed by something, I could just give a vague reaction. In a therapy setting, I must be able to express what it is that I’m annoyed about. That means digging down and organizing my thoughts about a certain issue before opening my mouth. Therapy teaches me to be precise about how I feel and communicate those feelings to my partner.

Finally (for now), you have to keep talking. I tend to just stop talking if there’s another person in the room that can do the talking. This does not do the relationship any favors. I realized that in bettering communication, I must do the communicating. The fact is that if I don’t say what’s on my mind, I can’t expect the other person to figure it out.

So far, I believe this experience has been a valuable part of building this partnership, and I hope I can keep learning more about creating a better relationship.  But what’s a huge bonus from going to therapy together? There’s a Mexican popsicle shop (Las Paletas) on the same street. Nothing like a post-therapy ice-pop to decompress from an hour-long session.





July 8, 2011

the proverbial tea leaves

I decided to have some tea, decaf, of course,  before going to bed the other day. I opened a box of “Good Earth Decaf Green Tea,” and noticed something kind of cool. Each tea tag at the end of each tea bag has a little quote!  According to the web site, they recently had a tea tag quote contest.  I liked the following winning quote:

“You can go amazing places when you quit stepping on the brakes.” – Dr. Larry Iverson

Just had to share this little finding. Will be back to talking about mental health very soon…..

June 17, 2011

what’s in a name?

Lunatic Fringe is a term coined by Theodore Roosevelt, used to characterize members of a political or social movement as extremists with eccentric or fanatical views. It was also a title for a 1981 song by Red Rider. But if you didn’t know any of that, when you hear the term ‘Lunatic Fringe,’ what comes up for you?  Well, apparently, it’s the name for a chain of hair salons in the United States.

On their website, the salon defines ‘lunatic fringe’ as “A group of people who share a set of radical principles and strive to create a like-minded atmosphere.” I came across this salon and its name when they were offering a generous groupon for their services. When I noticed that their name was ‘lunatic fringe,’ I could only picture this term as talking about a group of ‘crazy’ people who have been pushed aside to the skirts of society. While the offer was really good, I hesitated to purchase the groupon because I couldn’t get over the name of the salon. Can I really support a salon that uses the word ‘lunatic’ in its name? I eventually bought the groupon, and today, I redeemed the coupon by getting a haircut.

The place was nice, and the haircut went well. But I still haven’t decided if I want to come back for another haircut, not because of the cut itself (it’s the best of the last three cuts that I’ve had at other places), but because the name still bothers me. I don’t consider myself a part of the “PC police” or anything, because I understand that most people are not necessarily aware that they might be using a certain word that comes across as offensive to some others. But I think that my experiences as a mentally ill person has affected how I react to certain terms, even when I know, logically speaking, that the phrase itself is a benign one. Just as the most random things can provoke one’s memory, either good or bad, words can induce a similar reaction, too.

Have I become too sensitive for my own good? I don’t know, but I can see how people sometimes become a bit ‘oversensitive’ about the use of certain terms.  It’s never easy to dismiss all of your experiences when having to place meaning on anything, including words.

June 16, 2011

getting back to a routine

Since mid April, it’s pretty obvious I’ve been really lax about keeping up with my journal. I suddenly lost whatever it was that got me writing at a consistent pace, and it’s been kind of hard for me to pick it all back up again. But it’s really not just the journal that’s lost that rhythm in my life. I’ve been really terrible about taking care of my physical self—little exercise, bad eating habits, etc.  In the last few months, I think I’ve  reached my heaviest weight ever. As much as I’d like to tell myself that I love my body however it may look, I also know that lack of exercise contributes to depression. So I’ve reached a point where I realize that I need to get back in shape.

Luck would have it, Groupon recently offered a very discounted rate to a nearby Koko Fit Club, so my boyfriend and I purchased the one-month membership to get our fit regimen going. Koko’s a really interesting ‘gym’ where all members have a flash drive that they insert into their gym equipment, which guides the members throughout the 30-min. workout. It not only establishes the workout for the day, but based on the workout, it personalizes the next session for you (I’m not explaining this system very well here.  It really is very cool). Since redeeming our groupon on Friday, we’ve made it over to Koko everyday since then. I hope we’ll keep up this initial enthusiasm for this program.

And speaking of enthusiasm, I’m starting to regain that umph for writing in my journal. So, my goal for this blog is to write/post at least once every other day.  I think setting very specific goals help me in attaining my larger goal than simply coming up with some nebulous, broad wish. Without defining some short-term, routine tasks to do, I won’t have a road map that can guide me in reaching my goal of losing weight or writing more.

A little update on my emerging hypomania: I’ve also been using this ‘routine’ idea to combat a potential hypomanic debacle from happening. Regular exercise, lots of sleep (thanks partly to Tylenol PM), and staying active throughout the day have almost squashed that agitated self. I hope I am back on track…


May 31, 2011

a little high-5 to me :) recently posted a list of what they think are the TOP 50 BLOGS ABOUT DEPRESSION on the web today. And apparently, this “Little Spark” blog is one of their picks. They thought my journal “is a standout choice for showing how the treatment works and how well it worked for her.” To the makers of this list, thank you so much for even finding my blog and including me in the company of some amazing blogs.  I am really honored. I have to admit it is humbling to be recognized, and it made my morning to find this out.

Also, congrats to my friend Amy’s blog Una Vita Bella for being a part of this list, too.

This TOP 50 BLOGS ABOUT DEPRESSION list is an amazing compilation of blogs worth checking out. It even gives a short description on all the blogs they mentioned.  Hope you get to see the list.

May 23, 2011

Turn of events

So…it happened. I went to the Paul Simon concert this past Thursday, and I’m still reeling from it. If I must compare going to this event to something else, then it was like a religious experience. I got to hear the hymns of my life performed by the very person that wrote them.

I also attended the concert with….(drum roll….)…a boyfriend. He is, in fact, the first boyfriend I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’ve never dated or been in any sort of relationship (except with the cat) until now. I’m sure I’ll write more about my adventures of being in a relationship as I write more, but I think that for now, I’ll just say what a new but wonderful time I’ve had being in this partnership. This is certainly an unexpected happening in my life, but perhaps one that I had been prepping to get ready for as I’ve become more open and honest about my life.

May 18, 2011

Here comes Rhymin’ Simon

Most people that know me have been told that my cat is named Simon, after Paul Simon, the musician. And I will be seeing Paul Simon live on stage tomorrow night!! It’s really like meeting the long, lost godfather to my (feline) child for the first time. I saw him and Art Garfunkel once at a much larger venue, but I can hardly wait to see him solo at a more  intimate setting.

This morning, I’ve been looking up set lists for the other dates that he’s played during this tour and seeing if I need to review any songs. We all have artists that we like to listen to while we drive. I truly am in love with so many of his song lyrics—–as in, I’m emotionally invested in them. But this emotional investment don’t feel as painful as it used to be lately. Rather, it feels beautiful. I just feel glad that I am able to experience emotions without it pulling me into a dark place. Maybe this is one indicator to let me know that I am doing better. And what good timing, because I want to be able to experience tomorrow’s concert  with my mind and heart in a right place. Sure, I have things to worry about, but it really feels good to feel okay to have to deal with worries and frustrations. Suddenly, it’s as if I realized that I still have a future regardless of what rocky roads must be taken to get further along.

Anyway, all I’m thinking about today is that tomorrow’s Paul Simon concert.

May 17, 2011

Strangest moment….

My friend just read this poem to me, and I knew I had to post it.

There Comes the Strangest Moment
by Kate Light

There comes the strangest moment in your life,
when everything you thought before breaks free–
what you relied upon, as ground-rule and as rite
looks upside down from how it used to be.

Skin’s gone pale, your brain is shedding cells;
you question every tenet you set down;
obedient thoughts have turned to infidels
and every verb desires to be a noun.

I want–my want. I love–my love. I’ll stay
with you. I thought transitions were the best,
but I want what’s here to never go away.
I’ll make my peace, my bed, and kiss this breast…

Your heart’s in retrograde. You simply have no choice.
Things people told you turn out to be true.
You have to hold that body, hear that voice.
You’d have sworn no one knew you more than you.

How many people thought you’d never change?
But here you have. It’s beautiful. It’s strange.

April 26, 2011

what Jack Daniel’s has taught me

I visited Lynchburg, Tenn., to the Jack Daniel’s distillery on Sunday (yes, I went to a liquor-making place on Easter). It was a really nice (and free) thing to do on a sunny weekend day. Sure, these advertising people who market Jack Daniel’s can easily come up with some inspirational sayings, but according to the tour that I took, the above saying, “Every Day We Make It, We’ll Make It The Best We Can,” has been around since they started making the whiskey in the late 1800s. It’s hard to perform to our best each and every single day, but I think this quote reminded me that it’s not about perfection, but the goal is to reach the peak of our ability for that day.

……..and it also reminded me of how much I like whiskey sours…..

April 14, 2011

How to tie a strong knot

When those who’ve never seen “Sex and the City” hear about this television series, they undoubtedly think that it’s all aboutsex, and the city. And, well, there’s definitely a lot of sex going on in the city in those episodes. But what becomes clear as you watch the show (which I believe ended in 2003) is that it’s not just about what the title says. The story is woven around the strong bond of these four friends who lead their own individual  lives, yet find a way to always stay connected with each other. Sure, I want Carrie’s shoes and career or Charlotte’s apartment, but what I end up really wanting every time I watch that show is their sustained close relationship that they have with one another.

They make having relationships (and I mean friendships) look so easy, but people don’t tell you that the prerequisite for being able to have any sort of relationship is that you are able to open yourself up. My own track record for keeping relationships has not been very good. I’ve purposely broken up good friendships for no good reason in the past. Many times I’ve suddenly stopped speaking to someone I had good relations with, and then not contacted him/her for months at a time. I often find a way to push these connections away if I sense even a hint of closeness. I haven’t figured out exactly why it is that I’ve done such a thing repeatedly, but I do know that one of the reasons is that I’m so afraid of being “found out” that I’m much different from the image of myself that I may have projected. I’m so afraid that when the perception of a good friendship is peeled away, I will be exposed with all the flaws. As a result of having torn up so many past friendships, I’m so afraid to even allow for other relationships to form, because I’m scared that I will do that again to someone else that I care about deeply.

Right now, I feel like I’ve met a person with whom I think I could sustain a long friendship. And despite so many of my fears, I am trying hard not pull away like so many other times.  I kind of feel like a tuna can that’s being pried open, but I guess one way to look at it is that in order to enjoy what’s inside, you’ve got to get that can opened.

I’m not looking to be able to recreate that “Sex and the City”-like bond with three other people. I just want to be able to have a relationship with someone for the long term. But what it seems to be coming down to is whether I can let that relationship to happen.


April 10, 2011

Masters-ful plan

I’ve never quite understood the lure of watching a game of golf on television. It’s not like golf fans wear “I heart Phil Mickelson” tees while watching TV, like one might wear for his/her favorite football team. While the intrigue may not be clear, I am one of those people. The Masters was being played this weekend, so for the last four days, I found myself turning the channel to watch this notable tournament.

The show pretty much involves watching men swing their clubs to hit a tiny ball while standing on a sprawling green acres-upon-acres of land. But I guess I’ve come to appreciate what it might take for one to make decisions to hit a ball in a certain distance and direction, and then swing a simple apparatus to try to meet that goal. While hundreds of people are on the green to watch these players and they do have caddies that help them, each man ultimately makes such decision on his own and then take action. It doesn’t always work out the way they planned it (Rory McIlroy probably wasn’t planning for his game to fall apart in the last round), but sometimes things work out far better than one may have imagined it (and such may have been the case for this year’s Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel).

We often hear that phrase, “game of life,” and when we use that saying, that “game” could be anything. One could imagine something like a lottery or slot machines where it really is about luck. But as I sat around watching golf this late  afternoon, I kind of thought about what it would be like if I approached my life right now more like a game of golf. Here’s a little list of what I think I  learned:

  1. Concentrate on one shot at a time. I watched how strategic each player was with every shot that he took. Sure, it’s important to focus on the big goal, but in order to achieve it, I must remember that each small step builds upon another to get there.
  2. Keep track of your score. After every hole, each player pulls out his score card from the back pocket and writes down his score. Knowing what you’ve done in the past can often serve as a guide in planning what to do at the next juncture.
  3. Every day is a new day. Charl Schwartzel, the guy that won the Masters, wasn’t a leader in the first three rounds, but that didn’t stop him from playing a spectacular last round. If he had let his performance in the previous rounds determine how he played on the last day, he may never would’ve won the green jacket.
  4. Keep walking. It doesn’t matter where the ball lands. The players keep walking to it and work to advance it to a next location. I need to remember to that I need to just keep moving if I want to get anything done.

I may have wasted some time this weekend watching a bunch of men in polo shirts, but I think I also gained a little ‘shot’ in the arm of some life lessons.

April 9, 2011

fade to…

My mother left the country last Sunday, and I hadn’t talked to her much since she returned to Japan. So, I called her last night (which would be around 11am on a Sunday, Japan time). We talked about random things, like how Kate Spade is having their Friends and Family sale, or that it’s been raining for the last few days where she lives. But the conversation wasn’t all casual. It’s been a month or so since my grandmother (on my father’s side) moved into a senior-living home. The family had been aware that she may have beginnings of dementia, but wasn’t completely sure. Now it seems  that the dementia has progressed to where she no longer recognizes her own son, my father. She instead believes that he is her brother.

The issue of dementia in seniors is often addressed in the news, but perhaps it’s something that we don’t seriously think about it possibly happening to our own family member, at least I haven’t thought about it beyond what I’ve learned about through the media and class until now. I feel like what I’ve been thinking about, though, seems a tad selfish, very self-absorbed. At the risk of sounding selfish, I guess I’ll just write what came to mind.  This situation made me think about our connection with reality, and what it might feel like to slowly be separated from it. I’m not sure if I could ever cope with such state if I was aware that this was happening to me. It made me kind of realize that having that reality in my hands—even when I might make a comment that makes one think that I want to be separated from it—is incredibly valuable to me. I never thought this much about just how important the value of being aware is, even if that awareness comes with stuff that I’d much rather not deal with. I’ve often thought about what it’s like to be oblivious, and what I’ve come to understand is that I cannot just exist without introspection, no matter how painful it sometimes is.

To know such crucial part of being alive is eroding away from my grandmother’s livelihood is so saddening.  It’s a cruel way to close a chapter of her life.

March 3, 2011

‘Unhappy Hipsters’ that make me happy

Where do I go to get some laughs lately? I came across Unhappy Hipsters when the weekly WPLN (Nashville’s public radio station) e-newsletter had the link.  Basically, they take a pic from “Dwell” magazine and put these depressingly funny captions to them.  As an owner of an issue of  ‘Dwell’ magazine, it now makes me view these modern-life images as another indication of  loneliness exhibited by modern architecture. Yet I’m desperately aspiring to make my new bathroom look as depressing as possible, in Unhappy Hipster-terms, of course.

I hope you get to visit the site sometime.  It’s really hilarious.

Any other suggestions for some sites where laughter comes over you? Let me know.

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.

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