Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meet My Friend Miki Baker- The Award Winning Therapy Dog

Miki Baker, the therapy dog
I love dogs. I know it sounds silly, everyone thinks I'm a cat person but someday I would love to have a dog in my life.

Until then, I have to content myself knowing a very special dog, Miki Baker, the therapy dog. Miki is a three year old Pomeranian and his human is Trish Baker, someone I am honored to call my friend.

Miki is one of this year's winners of the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence. Miki won the Therapy Dog contest.

This is from an article in today's (NJ) Home News. I hope Miki will warm your heart, as he has done mine. Miki is also on Facebook, under Miki Baker, the Parti-Pomerian, ready to friend.

"We're thrilled," said Tricia Baker, who, along with her husband, Kurt, and their 18 year old daughter, Katelyn, founded AIR (Attitudes in Reverse), a grass-roots group designed to raise awareness about mental illness and educate the public about the stigma attached to the illness. 

"Miki is a great dog and has helped us through a terrible tie when our son, Kenny, who suffered from anxiety disorder and depression, completed suicide on May 19, 2009, when he was 19", Baker said. "Miki has been an integral part of our journey and continues to be a champion for the cause."
Miki and her human, Trish (courtesy of the (NJ) Home News 

Baker explained that as a result of her son's illness, the family came to realize there was a lack of understanding about mental illness. 

"We saw how his death was treated so much differently than the deaths of other students in the school,", she said. "When Kenny passed away, less than 10 people from the school came to the wake and funeral because the belief was that people who complete suicide are only looking for attention, and that's not true. It's an illness. There's also the old thinking that if you talk about suicide, other people are going to go out and complete suicide. That is not how it is."

"If someone completes suicide, if the death is not discussed and those kids that are struggling don't get the help they need, there could be possibly another suicide. That's how the contagion happens. It's not because you talk about suicide, and someone with a healthy brain is going to go out and complete suicide. When we saw how his illness and death were treated, we knew as a family that we needed to change things. We needed to do something to help other kids' depression."

So the family founded AIR. The organization's slogan is "Mental illness is like air. Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's all around us."

Baker said the family, along with Miki, attends community events and makes presentations in schools in hopes of getting the word out. 

"Our main goal is to reach kids to help educate them so they can get help and seek treatment if they need it", Baker said. "We want them to know what to do if their friends are struggling. We also want to change the way society looks at mental illness." The entire article can be seen here.

More Miki. Such a cutie!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mental Disorders as Illustrated by Winnie the Pooh and his Friends

This is sort of a dark and  satirical  take on mental disorders by Winnie the Pooh and Friends .  

The creator of these gifs is Matthew Wilkinson and you can view his web site here. Thank you Matthew! 
ETA: Click on pictures to animate.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I'm sitting in my psychiatrist's office. It's on the clock, in her waiting room are another four clients and one irate rep from Big Pharma, with lots of samples of Cymbalta. I have about 5 min plus another min or two to pay and re-schedule. It's going to go very fast.

She looks at me. I'm trying to care about my appearance- I noticed she's referred to me as "disheveled" in the past. I've taken care to wash and blow dry my hair, and put on make up. Put on new clothes. The friend who is staying with me this week says I look "Beautiful". The doctor clearly disagrees, she's writing furiously on her writing pad.

She wants me on medication. It will be a year, since last November when I went cold turkey off all my meds. She feels with diagnosis, I should be on something. She wants Prozac. I don't want Prozac. I was on Prozac when it first came out, after a couple of months, I developed something strange- I felt like there were bugs under my skin. I went off it cold turkey, and on to Zoloft and Paxil.

I remember when Prozac first came out. Dr. L- was all over this, thinking this drug would cure me, cure everyone. His copy of Newsweek was worn, he treated it like his bible. Prozac was all over the place, everyone was taking it, even people that didn't have depression. I even knew a man from work who named his cat "Prozac".

So when I told the doctor one night, I couldn't stop scratching and felt there were bugs crawling over me, he couldn't find that in the side effects. Eventually this side effect did make it into the list, but not then. All I knew is that this drug wasn't like a magic wand, it was making me worse. This was the first drug that failed me. Over the next two decades there would be many, many more.

My doc wants me on Prozac and Abilify. She has called my GP and my kidney doctor to make sure I can take it. She thinks Abilify will help, and the Prozac- why don't you take it, maybe it will work this time. If it doesn't, stop it immediately.

I don't want to be on psych drugs. The swelling in my feet is going down. I'm moving around better. A friend who is staying with me has me walking every night this week except the night it was raining. The last time we saw each other I could only walk with a walker. Now, I am walking, leaning gently against him for balance, with a semi like drunken gait. It's not where I want to be, but it is better than it was even a month ago. Baby steps. Recovery goes in baby steps.

I made dinner one night, broiled chicken, broccoli, and noodles. It was nice cooking for someone, I enjoy cooking simple, plain meals. My friend tells me I look healthier- my skin has a glow in it that it didn't have earlier this year, and I'm not in pain every moment. No, my pain has been ebbing over the last fortnight, it's not as bad as it was. I'm sleeping again, only it's hyper sleep- 16-18 hours each day.

Despite the company, I feel lost. I'm being pulled from two different directions- all over the medications. Over my life. What I am doing with my life. Do I go back to school for a PhD or another Masters? I think I am too old and don't want to go into Student Loans. Can I find a writing job when all over newspapers and magazines are laying off writers. Can I even work if I am sleeping too much and feeling terrible from the kidney, bladder and high blood pressure meds?

I don't know. I just know I want to contribute something back to society. That would be the best therapeutic answer to everything and make me feel whole again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Cartman and Chronic Pain

I haven't been able to sleep in over 24 hours. It's not a big deal, but for one thing. I'm in pain. Real pain. And other than crying into my pillow so my neighbor above me or on either sides can't hear me, I have no relief. I can't take anything other than Tylenol (which doesn't work for me) or Tramadol. I'm trying to get through the pain without taking one of those.

I never really had pain before. Yes, I get monthly cramps that are so bad I wish I had been born a guy- but that fades after a couple of days. I had real bad tooth pain a few years back before I got my first (and only) root canal. I've had back problems my entire life from being too endowed by Mother Nature. But to be entirely honest, if a doc asked me to put my pain right now on a scale of 1-10, and I could take away teeth pain and put that on a separate scale- I've only gone to the 10th one time in my life- for about 3 weeks non stop. That was when I had tardive dyskinesia from Haldol poisoning back in the Spring of 08 and couldn't move any of my muscles in my body. I still remember a nurse in the nursing home I was put in temporarily telling me the only other patients that scream like that are the burn victims. That was a ten. I've never experienced labor, but according to the nurses I have met labor pains pale on the pain scale that severe burn victims go through. Who knows. If I ever have a child, I can figure out where that pain lies.

Tonight my pain is about a six on my scale. It's driving me up the wall. I can't sleep. I'm in an ice cold sweat, questioning whether or not to get up and change the sheets. I figure no, I would just sweat through them again. The pain is in my kidneys, and my bladder. My legs and feet are so swollen with edema, I cannot move them. They are elephantine, the doctor guesstimates between them I am carrying around 25 pounds of excess water. (I actually have pictures I took with my phone, but I don't want to post them lest someone looses their lunch). My GP tells me to keep my legs elevated, and wrapped in "T.E.D" socks to help the edema go down. It's been almost two months now, I've cut out all salt from my diet, gone on a renal diet and still, I cannot move my legs. My feet look like planks of wood with little stumps for toes.

One of the side effects from my kidney failure last year and subsequent dialysis is dry skin. Not just dry skin, we're talking alligator dry. Sahara desert dry. I slather on Aloe lotions, Cocoa Butter lotions, every day. And it still itches, I want to scratch. I can't. If I do, it flakes off, like some type of horrible dandruff. So I just keep moisturizing and wearing black when I go out so you can't see how greased up I am. Let's face it. I'm at the point where I'm ready to take a page from Cartman and put all this stuff in the bathtub and just soak in it.

Cartman bathing in Calamine lotion, and a few Terrance and Philip fart jokes. Because the world needs fart jokes.

I'm learning to live with the pain every day and just try to work around it. It's hard. I don't want to let it destroy me.

How do you deal with chronic pain?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

To Med or not To Med

That's the question. The rub is- what is the correct answer?

Dave Stein in his blog posted that question yesterday. I've been thinking about this long and hard, and I've come up with the conclusion.

It depends on the individual. But this individual says no.

See, I'm not a doctor, I'm not trained in pharmacology. All I can tell you is I've taken almost 40 different psychiatric drugs in my lifetime. None of them worked - some did what they were supposed to and pooped out after about 3 months or so. Some of them gave me bad side effects after a couple of days. Some of them made me exorcist sick. A few gave me side effects like weight gain (up to 100 pounds) made my hair fall out, gave me stomach problems and GERD. These side effects were nothing compared to kidney failure, and nearly dying from tardive dyskinesia from Haldol. ECT made me loose my photographic memory- made me loose most of my memories and I lost my career because of it.

I will admit- the first year or two- the drug cocktail I was on made me feel better. Or maybe it didn't, but acted like a placebo to my brain. The doses got stronger and all of a sudden it just wasn't one drug I was on (lithium) but the doc said, add Prozac. I didn't tolerate Prozac that lead to six months on Zoloft and then a change to Paxil after another six months. Then all the other medications were tried with the lithium. After six years with one doctor, I got a new one- who changed out the lithium for Depakote. That's when the weight issues came in. I went from 105 pounds to over 200. Depakote was stopped, back to lithium. And so and on so on. And my weight over the years cycled from a low at 140 (which was 30-35 pounds overweight) to at one time a whopping 210 at my heaviest. (To give you an idea, I am five feet and one sixteenth of an inch tall, and should weigh between 100-110 lbs).

Every time i would complain about a side effect, doctors gave me pills for the side effects. Stomach issues- I was told to take Maalox or Pepto. I got to carrying around Maalox tablets with me at all times. I couldn't sleep, I was given something to make me sleep. I couldn't wake up, I was given a pill for that. I was given Meredia for diet pills. My hair fell out on three different occasions- I was given slips to buy wigs and scripts for Rogaine. I became anemic- I had to take iron pills. Then my white blood count started going haywire, until it's been hovering right at a number just below the number for leukemia. I started to hear voices, I was given a pill for that. I've been up to 11 different meds at one time- not all psychiatric.

And let's put this on the table, before I was "diagnosed" the only health issues i had  besides the normal childhood illnesses, were painful menstrual cramps.

Today I am currently on Clonidine, Amlodipine, Bethanechol, Colace, Lasix. I take Tramadol for pain. I'm not on any psych drugs, much to my mother's chagrin, because of the kidney failure. I suffer from agoraphobia- brought on from the drugs I suspect. I've never had that. I have edema in my legs and feet, and cannot walk without a walker.  I totally cannot think for myself, I have to make lists of everything to do. I have a little bit of my memory back, it took over 8 years after the ECT to get any of it back. I cannot tolerate heat, my apartment stays at 62 year round. Any higher and I get sick from heat. In the winter I would keep the thermostat lower but my landlord says I have to keep it at 62 or the pipes will freeze. My ideal climate would be in the North Pole in an ice house, year round.

I know on the internet, for every one person that is pro meds, there is another that is anti meds. Like I said, I am not a physician. What I will say, as I look at my life, I rue the day I ever took my first psychiatric pill.  In hindsight, I would have been sufficed best by talk therapy.

What I wish is that the doctors I saw had listened to me when I complained about side effects to my medication. I wish they knew about weaning off one drug before starting another. Instead they told me to go off cold turkey from one med, try another, and were never with me when I was adjusting  to one while going off another. I learned to live in the bathroom for days- never knowing if I had to put which end on the toilet. I had shakes worse than the shakes I got from drinking.

If you are taking any meds, and have side effects call your doctor immediately. Don't let them marginalize any side effects. Any and all side effects should be brought up. Don't let a doctor condescend to you. Look up your prescriptions on the internet. Read all you can and talk to your doctor about the drug(s) he or she wants to put you on. Question everything.

I'm taking the high road here. I cannot tell you to med or not to med. All I can do is tell you, in hindsight, they didn't work for me, they made me sick and gave me side effects that were horrible. I wouldn't do it again. But if you are reading this and feel the meds are saving your life, good. But please, please, the minute they start making you feel wonky and sick, call the doc immediately. If your doctor doesn't listen to you, get another doctor. Your life is important, and loosing your life from meds or from their side effects stinks. Arming yourself with knowledge can and will save your life.

And in the end, that's all you have. Your life and your health. When your health is gone, so is your life. Take that tip from me. I celebrated my birthday last week, my biggest fear is I won't celebrate next year's one.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

For the husband who told his wife I love you one last time before his plane went down in a field, for the wife who stopped in the stairs to call her husband to say I will love you forever, for the mothers and fathers who kissed their kids goodbye the morning they died, for the policemen who rushed in with the firemen to help get others out only to die themselves, for the soldiers who fought back and lost their lives. today, tomorrow, ten years from now, we will remember.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Break the Silence on Mental Illness-September 24

Today, Shock Girl tells us how we can break the silence on mental illness. Do your part to raise awareness. Please consider attending this important event, on September 24. Thank you.

Hat tip to Nami Dearest

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Encourage Yourself

I want to thank Larry Drain at the Hopeworks Community for this one. 

  1. Find the bright spots in life.  Find the things that you do that work and do them more often.  Emulate success.  Nothing is a problem 100% of the time.  Whatever you are doing when it is not a problem do more often.
  2. If a problem was solved how would you know?  What would the video-tape of the solution look like?  What can you do right now that would be part of the solution?  Do it.
  3. Decide specifically what you are going to do if you want to change something.  Change is a process that without a first step doesnt have a second step.
  4. Be part of something you think matters.
  5. Life your life by what is important and dont be deceived by the cry of urgency.
  6. Know the way you feel is important, but it is not all that is important.
  7. Show other people they matter to you.
  8. Find people you matter to.
  9. Know that falling down teaches you how to get up, not an excuse to stay down.
  10. Know where  you are going and why it is important.  A lot of things are bearable if there is a reason to persist.
  11. It is hard to stop treating something as important–even if it is messing our life up– if we dont find something more important.
  12. What you know in life is important but what you care about gives it direction.
  13. Remember you have an endless capacity to make stupid things seem brilliant.
  14. Remember you have an endless capacity to make brilliant things seem stupid.
  15. Remember nothing is forever.  Good times go away, but so do bad.  Be grateful for what you have, but not crushed by what you dont.
  16. The most difficult fight for most of us is realizing what there is no point in fighting about.
  17. Remember courage is what you do when you are scared, not the absence of being scared.
  18. Tell your story often, but listen to the story of others.  There is much to learn.
  19. Life is not about you or me.  If it was it would not be about much.
  20. Neither of us are God.  Thank Goodness.
  21. Do things that help to make you the kind of person you want to be.
  22. Practice.  It doesnt make perfect, but it does make different.
  23. When you can deal with the stress of everyday life, you begin to appreciate the joy of everyday life.
  24. When you try to do more than you can you end up not doing anything.
  25. Appreciate small steps.
  26. Be glad we dont always get our way.
  27. Just because we dont see it doesnt mean things dont make sense.
  28. You are more than what you are called.
  29. Others are more than what you call them.
  30. There are many things that make life better.  The list goes far past 30.
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