Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rerun:Why I Hate New Year's Eve

This piece was written several years ago....This does not indicate my state of mind at the moment, but is rather a glimpse of why I hate New Years Eve, especially if you are alone for it. 

New Years is a bad night for me. Part of me thinks of the old Barry Manilow song, "It's just another New Year's Eve/It's just a night like all the rest..."

Part of me is feeling sad. Depressed. Wanting to put a gun to my head and pull the trigger. I realized yesterday when I w as eating Chinese in the Village with a friend of mine, that I was conceived on New Years Eve by a 12 year old girl who had too much to drink. Could my earliest memory of consciousness be that of my conception between a drunk sperm and a drunk egg?

After all, drunken conception is nothing new, it has been happening as long as primal man slithered out of the the primal ooze that was the river Charybdis and became the genus Homo. John Lennon once made a comment about half the people in the world being conceived by too much alcohol on a Saturday night. I shouldn't be teasing these Saturday night specials, after all it made my father's side of the family multi multi millionaires. It is like the Bible says "the sins of the parents are passed down to their children?"

I am lonely. I feel lonely. Thinking about conception has made me horny. But I don't want to get laid. I don't know what I want. I have an urge to fly; I want to have one of those flying dreams I use to have when I was a child, but don't anymore. But I do not know where I would fly to. There is no where I want to go other than my bed. I want to sleep. I never want to wake up again. This horrible thing is depression, and it has me in it's sharp talons, not letting me go. I am screaming, and no one is listening. No one can hear my soul in pain.

I had my last drink on September 26, 1996. I can still recall it, sometimes I can still taste it. September 25, I had a bottle of red wine, adding grain (Everclear) to it so I could get buzzed faster. I passed out. I woke up the next day, no cottonmouth, but thirsty. I went to an AA meeting where being so thirsty, I couldn't even hold my glass of water. Finally got some down, got drunk again, and went into the DT's. I have not had a drink since then. Every time I get an urge, I recall that drink, the DT's; being strapped down to a bed and shaking so badly that the bed was moving, and the feeling passes. At the time I was drinking, I was hell bent on destroying myself. I was in pain, felt my life had not meaning, and it was easier to stay drunk than to actually live.

Now I have tonight.

I want to drink tonight. I want to take a bottle of vodka and take a long hot bath in my pajamas. Drink the bottle in the bath tub. And when the bottle is empty, crash it against the bathtub, shattering it. Taking the shards and slitting my wrists, my ankles, my throat. How long would it take to see the blood ebb out before going to sleep? I just want the pain to stop. I want the loneliness to stop. I feel all alone. I feel empty. I feel worthless. I feel like I should have been born dead. I don't know why I was conceived in the first place.

I'm hollow. I don't even feel alive anymore. I feel like a Basilisk. Dead. Empty.

I am not afraid of dying. That is easy. It is living that is hard, and living , so much of it sucks. I feel the loneliness the despair and it chokes me. I do not know who to ask for help. Maybe I don't want it. All I know when I feel like this, I want to curl up and never wake again.

Please God, grant me that one wish. Please. Because I am afraid of tomorrow. I feel as if I have been lied to, it does not get better. All the hard work I have done, that I am doing, back breaking work when I hit bottom to be where I am now, was it worth it? I do not mind being alone. I cannot handle lonely anymore. I feel so lonely I really could die. I am so lonely I might as well be dead.

All that hard work, and just now, when I feel the most vunerable, the most wounded, the one time I need someone I am alone. Like Tennyson's Percival, if I was to see the Holy Grail, I would know that this quest is not for me. Like Percival, the purest of Arthur's knights, , but still not pure enough to touch the Grail. I am not a knight in shining armor. The only dragons I have slain are of my own making.

And I just can't see this fairy tale ending happily. A long time ago I use to do tarot readings. They said I was psychic. I can often see how people will die in this lifetime. I have seen my own death, and know it will be by my own hand. And this prophesy I want to change. I just want not to be alone right now. I just want someone to hold me until this feeling passes. I s that asking so much? But as always, I am alone. YOu come into this world alone , you die alone, but I never thought this middle part called life would find me alone as well.

(Original written in 2001, re written in December 2008, and December 2009).(Photo Times Square 2009)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Teenage Nuts Is The New Cool

I didn't write this, instead it's from Mind Freedom Virginia's blog, Lunatic Fringe.  What strikes me as amazing, is why would anyone want to be be Bipolar? Because the media romanticizes it.  Because this famous celebrity has it. If you want to see the unromantic, un glamorous side of bipolar, check out those who have it on my blogroll. It's not romantic, it's not glamorous, it destroys lives, destroys our health and can cripple our relationships with our friends and families.

There are also some pretty scary things in it about teenage behaviors, such as self harm and bulimia, which should be addressed because that can lead to a lifetime of pain and hurt.

A study of 1,192 youths in the UK aged 12-17 was conducted by www.mentaline.com to find out about their opinions on mental health matters. Just over 1 in 10 young people, or 11%, in the UK think of “mental illness” as trendy according to this study. A press release in PRLog tells it all, 1 in 10 teens think mental illness is ‘fashionable’.
Regarding these youngsters who thought “mental illness” the thing:
34 % lied about having a “mental illness” in the past
32 % stated they knew somebody with a “real” mental health issue
49 % thought “mental illness” made you unique
16 % said celebrity sufferers gave “mental illness” it’s chic appeal
25 % just thought “mental illness” was cool
07 % thought they had a “mental illness”
61 % thought mental health should be taken very seriously

The 34% that admitted to pretending to have some kind of mental health problem in the past were asked to specify what the issue was. The top five problems were as follows:
1. Eating disorders – 22%
2. Self-harming – 17%
3. Addiction – 13%
4. Depression – 12%
5. Bipolar Disorder– 9%
And the winner is…Eating disorders by a length.
I cannot help but wonder if this is the way teens think in the UK, can the US be far behind? 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Belated Festivus

I still believe in Santa. Yes, it's true. If I was home there would be home made warm home-made chocolate chip cookies for him tonight and carrots for the reindeer.

In the spirit of the holiday, (as well as a belated Festivus), nothing beats tracking Santa on Norad. I've been doing this since 2005. It's a lot of fun, and a wonderful way to see all the places in the world I would someday like to visit.

On behalf of myself and Miss Holly the cat, I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday, and best wishes for a wonderful New Year.

Eta: I shouldn't do this, but I  just found this great video from Cheezeburger about a cat and a tree. I'm adding it for any other cat lovers who might need a cute fix, or anyone who is stressed out today and needs a cute fix.

Our cat, our Xmas tree, & time-lapse from Griffin Hammond on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trying to stay upbeat

One of the things I am noticing after my near death experience is how precious life is. I will and hope I never forget the look on my mother's face when the doctor told her I was going to make it. I was practically unconscious at the time, but her smile is ingrained in my head.

I recall how wonderful everything was. The smells, the people, being able to look out the window and see rain, and trees  with practically bare branches, and just being grateful for every breath I took. It didn't matter that I felt my life was in the toilet and I was going nowhere with no dreams, it was just glad to be alive.

AA calls it "An attitude of gratitude". I felt the same way when I was newly sober, how wonderful life is when you aren't drinking. It went away after a few months, and once again, I became cynical, and curmudgeonly, isolating myself away from people and once again building walls around myself that no one could penetrate so I couldn't be hurt.

In the last twelve hours or so I've lost that attitude again. There is a part of me that wishes I had died. Maybe I'm on the pity pot. Maybe I just miss the cat and need a cute fix. But I just don't see the future again. If anything I feel like Job, why have I been forgotten, how much physical pain can I take before I break? Why did my kidneys fail and why am I having such problems with my bladder and my female bits now?

There are people worse off than me. I know this. I just have to watch the evening news to see stories of children who just lost lost a parent, people loosing their houses, parents who lost a child. Soldiers coming back from wars missing legs from bombs. As much as I detest physical therapy, I keep thinking, "Susan, you have two legs, you will be able to walk without a walker soon".

In other words, in the immortal words of Monty Python "Always look on the bright side of life".

Ha! My parents bring in medical bills. I owe money to doctors, to hospital. I'm not working. Is my writing good enough to sell? I'm rusty. Does anyone want to hire a mental health blogger? There are so many of us on the blogosphere. Should I finish my novel, and try to publish it to the big guys or go independent? Or do I even want to bother with it? At one time my play was considered for an Off Off Broadway venue. Should I try to peddle it again?
Will the economy improve so I can make a living again from my pen?

And the worst feeling of all, can a 40 something compete with all the 20 somethings out there? When I was in my 20s my writing was top notch, even if I look at a lot of it now and think of it as "gifted juvenilia". Perhaps it was a bad thing that I got awards and heavily published before I was 23. I thought it was easy, now I realize it was because of professors and networking.

I am lost. I keep dreaming the same dream, I'm lost. Sometimes I am in a forest, sometimes I am in my native Manhattan. And I cannot find my way home. I cannot get home. I know it's stemming from the fact I am not home right now, I am still recooping at my parents house until I am able to climb stairs and stand long enough to do simple things like cook dinner or take a shower. I miss my place, I miss my cat. I want to see her for Christmas. I want to sleep in my own bed again.

I look at people my age, they have children, and I'm not going to ever have any. It hurts. I never ever want to get married again, that hurt too much too. I have to let it go. Every time I see a toy commercial on TV now, it's like a dagger in my heart. Every time I see a commercial for a jewelry store it's another dagger, some guy buying some nice bauble for his girl for the holiday. I don't really wear jewelry, but....

And then there is New Years Eve. One more New Years in my life without being near a special person at midnight.  Sigh. Yes, I will be with my parents, and they are special, but, there is a lot to be said about a  good snog.

Sigh. Does anyone want to hire me? I hope I can find some work in 2011. I just want to get better and work again and join the human race again. That's how to get off the pity pot. I need to find a paying market. My body is rusty, my writing is rusty. With practice and hard work they both should be at their best soon. And then maybe someone will want me.  Hopefully soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Update On Lithium Toxicity (I hope this will clear up any confusion)

There seems to be some miscommunication going around the blogosphere what caused my kidneys to fail. I fear I might have accidentally added to it.

I saw the GP yesterday. Here is the official scoop, which I hope will end any confusion.

The official result that was sent to the insurance company is  from "Unknown Etymology".
My GP told my mother he thinks it was from an over the counter pain pill I had taken 18 hours before for menstrual cramps. I took two pills, and in 18 hours they  had left my system by then.

However the second time I was admitted to the hospital I spoke to several doctors and interns  who actually took the time to sit down with me and go over the meds I have been on and said it was from lithium poisoning but they would never swear to that on the record.

I was premature when I blogged from my hospital bed it might have been from Nexium or Seroquel, the results from the biopsy had not come in and the doctors were just shooting theories at me, and I was desperate to tell people I am alive. NO RESULTS WERE KNOWN AT THE TIME BECAUSE THE BIOPSY GOT LOST AND IT TOOK TWO WEEKS TO GET THE RESULTS. When I spoke to another blogger on the phone two weeks ago, the biopsy had not come in. No one knew at the time what the official reason was.

So I admit I made a huge mistake in blogging what it might and might not have been.  We learn from our mistakes and I am truly sorry for any confusion I might have caused. It was not my intent.

And for those who still might doubt me, at the time of my admission, there was only Seroquel and lithium in my blood stream. No other drugs.  I take Nexium once a week. And there was the OTC pill I had taken for cramps 18 hours prior. I had taken the Nexium pill several days earlier, so it was not in my blood stream. Nexium did not show up on the biopsy. You can draw your own conclusions.

Again, I am sorry for any misconceptions that are going around the blogosphere. If there is any questions, please don't hesitate to email me at Hollythecat at gmail. com
I understand if anyone is angry at me because of this, It was not my intention.

I have stated the complete facts as they are totally known.


Saying Goodbye To My Support Group Hello To A New Kind of One

This past weekend I sent a note to the President of my local support group who is also, as chance would have it, the President of the State chapter as well. As of January 1, 2011 I won't be on the board of either group and unable to facilitate.

Seven years ago I started going to these meetings. And in all honesty, (since I've never been anything but honest in this blog) I haven't gotten much out of them. A lot of war stories that bind us together. The same problems with family and friends, and work issues.

But what I noticed over the years is striking, and upsetting. I've seen so many people come in from a long extended stay at a hospital, either private or state. They are on many many meds. I'm not a doctor, but is there a reason that someone has to be on five, seven, nine, different psych meds?
I've been on as much as nine at a time myself. Plus other pills to clear the side effects from the psych meds. Upset stomach, migraines, vomiting, even Miridia because one doctor was worried about all the weight I had put on in six months from Seroquel. (Note: He did not tell me to get off the Seroquel, though).
I've seen people come in and beg for answers about ECT. I've gone down on my knees and told them not to do it, to wait a while longer before engaging in such a procedure. I've been told to shut up because they were hell bent on getting this treatment and wanted to hear good things about it. And I can report, sadly, that those in the group who had it, had nothing happen, it wasn't the panacea it was touted as.

The older I get the more cynical I get. Maybe I've spent too many months in hospitals, in the trenches. I've seen the bad and the ugly. I don't know how many useless tears I've shed over this.

But this year, I hit the breaking point. To paraphrase Ginzburg, I've seen the minds of my generation destroyed. I've seen folks come in who were functional, who, now because of the drug cocktail they are on, unable to work and now on disability. I've seen the functional reduced to suicidal zombies, with any hopes for the future dashed and gone. I've seen people  go from fully fully functional to unable to do the simplest tasks for themselves, and if they didn't have the good fortune to have a husband/partner to care for them would be non compos mentos and most likely in a state hospital or nursing home for the rest of their lives. And I've seen those whose bodies have been shattered and practically destroyed from a suicide attempt that failed.

I've seen some successes, but those seem to be the people who are just on one drug not a cocktail, and rebound because they have a good therapist, or just rebound on their own when the depression lifts on it's own, or just by sheer grit and determination to ride it out and conquer it.

I'm tired. In the seven years I've been going, I cannot handle it anymore. I am mad as hell. Maybe it comes from my near death experience last month, when I was brought into the hospital and told last week I had actually started to die. Or maybe it's because I've been reading voraciously over the last year, books by Breggin, Szasz and Whittaker, among others.
Or maybe I just feel that people with the psych label on them are treated as second class citizens, not as human beings. This flies in the face of the fact that some of the greatest most talented and creative people in history have been labeled bipolar, schizophrenic, or depressed.

Right now I have to take care of me, and I have a long road ahead with physical recovery. When I am able, though, I want to spend the time with other groups I tend to agree with now, like Mind Freedom, Icarus and Psych Rights. I know someone personally who will say I've gone to the dark side, but someone has to speak up for those who cannot speak. I was grateful this past month when I could not speak, others spoke for me and got the word out.

Fourteen years ago, when I realized that shots of vodka and Everclear in my Snapple wasn't going to quell the suicidal ideation, I got sober.  I had hit bottom, lost everything I owned and was practically homeless, spending 18 hours a day in a 24 Hour Club. And one of the things I learned in AA was to pay it forward.

It's time for me in the New Year to do that. Pay it forward.I'm going to miss the old one and I'm still going to be an activist. It's just a different kind.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm back!

I finally got wifi, and am able to get into my mail, and start blogging again proper!

I'm still in a lot of pain, I've been rushed back to the hospital twice since my last post but fortunately didn't have to stay overnight. I am resting at my parents house walking with the help of a walker, since I cannot stand up or walk on my own, and I have a catheter since... well, we won't go there .

I know it's early, but I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday. Here's one of my favorite holiday songs, cutesy of the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Enjoy.


Friday, December 10, 2010

They say in the darkest night

I am writing this on my phone so I wlll be brief.

I was rushed back to hospital Tuesday nite. The good news is my kidneys are getting stronger. The bad news is no one knows what is causing this pain I have on my side.

I've been poked til I'm black and blue and my veins collapsed so I have a Pic line. I have an IV in my foot

I'm on a morphine drip for the pain and a Foley because my legs will not hold me up

And they just moved me to surgery ward which is scaring me shitless.

I keep thinking of a line by Jimmy Webb "they say in iN darkest night there's a light beyond".

Outside my window there is a Christmas tree.

I'm holding on to that light but it's hard. I'm scared.

I'm just going to hold on to that light from the tree and hope I am with my family for Christmas.

Eta: as soon as I can I will post an update things don't really happen on weekends and I should have some answers soon. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Monday, December 6, 2010

No Heroics, Please

If you haven't heard, I had been away in hospital for 15 days with my kidneys shutting down and urine poisoning in my blood. I've gone through transfusions, and dialysis, and now it's a long road home to recovery and getting my kidneys to start working again. I'm as frail as a new born lamb.

I am so grateful for the phone calls, cards, wishes and prayers. It really helped during all the times I was in pain and just wanted to quit and go into that good night. I had to give into the pain and keep on going. Just like we all do.

Raymond Carver wrote a book while he was dying called "No Heroics, Please". I don't think I did anything heroic. Instead I was getting strength from people I know whose stories are so much harder than mine.

You have to keep going. I am so frustrated right now about how fragile I am and how sick I am. I cannot do anything for myself including walking. I'm saddened in my heart to know that this poisoning came from either Seroquel which I was doing a proper taper, or Nexium, a drug I've needed for years since lithium ruined my stomach and digestion. It wasn't from lithium but it will probably be a year before my kidneys are back to functioning at 100 percent.

Internet access is only through my phone and my ability to write is so rusty I want to cry.

I'm not gone. I'm still here. I am blessed. I just have a long road in front of me to get better to heal. I shall write about it as much as I can when I can. It's all baby steps right now. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

ETA: The official result from the biopsy ruled out Seroquel and Nexium; it was from lithium.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thank you

Remembering those who fought for their countries, those who aren't here and those who are.

My father is a veteran of WW II and I am so proud of him. He had just turned 18 when President Roosevelt called him to service for his country and he was sent from Brooklyn to Fort Bragg, and then overseas to Germany as a medic to help Germany recover/clean up from the war.

He won't talk about it and he still has nightmares about what he saw. They called it shell shock back then, today it's called PTSD.  Those who know me know my dad is my my hero and who taught me what men should be like, just like all fathers do with their daughters.

My mother had an Uncle she never met who was killed at the Second Battle of the Marne during World War I.

I know I have several readers who have husbands who have served recently and a friend who currently has a son over there. One of my dearest friends in the world recently completed 20 years with the Guards.

Several years ago I was in London on the 11th of November, in front of the Centotaph and saw the Queen put a wreath on it. I cried. So did the people I was with. We later went to Westminster Abbey and laid a cross in memory of my friends grandfather who died in WW I as well.

I know people look at tomorrow as just another day to shop the sales before Christmas, but please, take a moment and thank those who served to make our lives better and give us freedom. They shan't be forgotten. Do a good deed for a Veteran. Tell them thank you.

Here's a clip from one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Blackadder, that commemorates WW I. Lest we forget. And yes, that is House in it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rerun:Some Early Thoughts on Anatomy of an Epidemic

It's come to my attention that a lot of controversy has been generated lately by certain bloggers over Robert Whitaker's book Anatomy of an Epidemic. Let me put it this way. In my life time, I will rank it as one of the best non  fiction books I have ever read, the other one being "And the Band Played On". I hope Mr. Whitaker's book does for the mental health movement what Shilt's book was able to accomplish for the gay movement. Here is my review of Whitaker's book. If you haven't bought any holiday presents, I would consider purchasing this one as a gift.

Robert Whitaker's latest book "Anatomy of an Epidemic" came out last month. I had been listening to it on tape (Audible) since I have problems reading print at the moment. Yesterday, the blessed package came from Amazon. His new book, and the reissue of "Mad in America". 

I made myself a sandwich, poured a glass of ice tea from the fridge, and sat down, to read it again. And from the minute I started, I realized one thing. The publisher made a huge mistake. The book should come with Kleenex. 

Like the spoken edition- which is  the same book - it's the type of non fiction book that will make you cry. Weep, copiously. And after your tear ducts are dry, I felt like I was watching one of my all time favorite movies- "Network", living the "Mad as hell" scene. I would have indeed gone to the window and shouted, but my downstairs neighbor is 88 and deaf, and ... what good is shouting "I'm mad as hell" if no one can hear you? 

I'm too numb right now, and it's 5 am in the morning to sit down and write a review worthy of the New York Times Book Review. Let's just say this. 

In the book he interviews many, many people, especially in the last page. I am fortunate thanks to Facebook, to have emailed  some of them and they inspire me.  

And I think about the ones in the book as true cases, especially the children, who were also hurt and maimed. Including the one I love the most- ME. In the fact that we were not killed outright but, as a friend said in a phone call, - "our brains were raped".

I don't know who is pro-Big Pharma or against it, and frankly it isn't salient here. What I want everyone who sees this is to arm themselves with knowledge, every time they get a script from the doctor. The doctor can be your GP, Gynecologist, Dentist, or Shrink. You get a script, ask what this is. What are the side effects. Please ask. Go home and look up the drug on the Internet. Knowledge is important. Don't be a sheeple. This can save your life. 

 I was brought up by a father who worked for Big Pharma, and believed in Whitaker's "Magic Bullets". You take the script from the doctor, and take it. No questions asked. Doctors are just a fraction below G-d. If you don't question , you really are taking Blue and Red Pills. Within ten miles from where I grew up, and about 3 miles from where I am now, is a town called "Milltown". My mother always beamed with pride as she reminded her girls in the back seat of the car this town we were driving through was named after a wonderful drug from the 50s. (Whitaker describes the town and the drug in detail in the book as well). 

I had only one doctor who, upon giving me a script for Lamictal back in 2001, told me about the rash. If I get any kind of rash, call him immediately. If I cannot reach him, go to the emergency room. No other doctor, from childhood on, ever did this. 

The first drug I ever had a problem with was Prozac, which I started in 87, about 12 months after I was diagnosed. Prozac was was the wonder drug of that age- on the cover of Newsweek and The New York Magazine at the same time.  The side effects were awful.  I couldn't sleep, I had nightmares. Then the fevers, ringing in my ears, and the sensation my skin was moulting and I couldn't stop scratching. My whole personality changed, I went from being a mild Casper Milquetoast type person to someone looking for a girl fight. Then I was told to quit the drug cold turkey, and fortunately, for me, I was put on both Zoloft, and later, Paxil, and fortunately, no side effects. Not like the Prozac. 

It wasn't until I was reading this book I saw i was not alone with side effects from Prozac that I experienced. And when I told the doctor how I was feeling on it, he told me to keep staying on it, and ride it out. Two psychiatrists later, I was finally moved off Prozac to something else. 

And now I sit, 2 years ago almost dying from Haldol, where every muscle in my body fell asleep and I had to re-learn how to do everything. Walk, talk,eat, even go to the bathroom. Yet in the book, over and over again- Haldol- muscle fatigue. I was as bad a case from this as possible, the worst would have been dying. I survived. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. To this day I am haunted by something a nurse told me when my muscles started to wake, that my screams from the pain were exactly like the ones from burn victims. 

Three years ago, one P-doc put me on Remeron. After about two weeks on that I got so suicidal I checked myself into the hospital, because I reckoned, I would rather be shot up with Thorazine and be alive and get off this drug then stay home and I know I would suicide. While I was detoxing off Remeron, the same pdoc wanted to put me into Trenton Psychiatric Hospital due to the side effects I was experiencing with the meds. I fired him, and left the hospital against doctors orders. Alive. If I was put in Trenton Psych, I fear I would still be there, like a scene from "Cuckoo's nest" 

And being on lithium, since 87- with small respites on Depakote and Lamictal- well, I just wrote about loosing my hair. I am constantly sick to my stomach, and can only eat bland food. Anything spicy- no. Nexium has become a magic pill for me to be able to eat anything.  But the worst- is knowing that sometime between now and September I have to go for another bone marrow biopsy, and it's just a matter of time before I have leukemia unless by some miracle my white blood count should stop duplicating and go DOWN. Which it hasn't since 2003, it's been going up in some kind of Mathusian equation I haven't been able to crack.

I said this book belongs on every one's bookshelf. It does.This book deserves to be on the Times Top Ten list. But no matter your stance- pro pharma, anti pharma know this.  But please, question the doctor for everything. Don't be blind trust, there are good ones and bad ones out there- but you are the most important person in the world, and you must know every option out there, and question. Likewise, there are good drugs out there- Penicillin, for example has saved lives. But question. Question everything. Question authority like you haven't done since you are 18-19.  The life you save will be your own, your husbands, child's or parents. You owe them and yourself the chance to live long and prosper. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Halloween: 5 Emotional Vampires -- and How to Combat Them

I want to thank my friend Therese Bouchard for this Halloween gem. I've met a few emotional vampires  in my life too. I would rather have the ones from Twilight, no? Happy Halloween, to all.

In the spirit of halloween, I thought you'd all appreciate some vampire talk. In her new book, "Emotional Freedom," UCLA psychiatrist Judith Orloff identifies five kinds of vampires that are lurking around and can zap our energy if we're not careful. Here is an excerpt adapted from her book.
Emotional vampires are lurking everywhere and wear many different disguises--from needy relatives to workplace bullies. Whether they do so intentionally or not, these people can make us feel overwhelmed, depressed, defensive, angry, and wiped out.
Without the self-defense strategies to fend them off, victims of emotional vampires sometimes develop unhealthy behaviors and symptoms, such as overeating, isolating, mood swings, or feeling fatigued.
Here are five types of emotional vampires you're likely to encounter, and some "silver bullet" tips for fending them off.
Vampire 1: The Narcissist. 
This vampire is grandiose, self-important, attention hogging, and hungry for admiration. She is often charming and intelligent--until her guru status is threatened.
Self-defense tips: Enjoy her good qualities, but keep your expectations realistic. Because her motto is "me-first," getting angry or stating your needs won't phase her. To get her cooperation, show how your request satisfies her self-interest.
Vampire 2: The Victim. 
This vampire thinks the world is against him, and demands that others rescue him.
Self-defense tips: Don't be his therapist, and don't tell him to buck up. Limit your interactions, and don't get involved in his self-pity.
Vampire 3: The Controller. 
This vampire has an opinion about everything, thinks he knows what's best for you, has a rigid sense of right and wrong, and needs to dominate.
Self-defense tips: Speak up and be confident. Don't get caught up in bickering over the small stuff. Assert your needs, and then agree to disagree.
Vampire 4: The Criticizer. 
This vampire feels qualified to judge you, belittle you, and bolster her own ego by making you feel small and ashamed.
Self-defense tips: Don't take what she says personally. Address a misplaced criticism directly. Don't get defensive. Express appreciation for what's useful. Bounce back with a massive dose of loving-kindness.
Vampire 5: The Splitter. 
This vampire may treat you like his BFF one day, and then mercilessly attack you the next day when he feels wronged. He is often a threatening rageaholic who revels in keeping others on an emotional rollercoaster.
Self-defense tips: Establish boundaries and be solution-oriented. Avoid skirmishes, refuse to take sides, and avoid eye contact when he's raging at you. Visualize a protective shield around you when you're being emotionally attacked.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lemons, Luck and Lemonade

I wish I had written this, but I didn't. It was written by friend of mine, Sean, a fellow journalist and writer in Tacoma, Washington

Many of the bpers I've met seem to fall into a few categories.


1) embrace their illness and try to find the positive in it (turning lemons into lemonade)

2) try their best to live with it, despite the challenges (striving to turn lemons into lemonade, sometimes more successfully than at other times)

3) are simply resigned to it (knowing they've got lemons, but believing there is nothing they can do about it

4) fight it (wishing the lemons weren't there, but since they are, hoping the lemons will turn themselves into lemonade)

5) deny it ("What lemons?")
I realize this is a gross oversimplification and doesn't take into account financial circumstance, trust in pdocs, mixed dxes, level of functioning, severity of episodes and so forth. But when I look at that list, I can't help but wonder if the primary distinction between each of the items is a bper's attitude toward his or her illness. If it is, there's good news: Attitude is the result of a choice that we are free to make.

I had a professor who survived a concentration camp, where he was subjected over an extended period to the most painful medical experiments imaginable. During one of the most excruciating experiments, he found he had suddenly stopped caring about the pain.

The pain didn't go away, obviously, but it became more bearable because it taught him that there was a part of his character that the Nazis could never reach: his attitude toward his treatment, and that was fully in his control. He later described that realization as the most liberating moment in his life. Despite barbed wire, attack dogs, crematorium and armed guards, he never felt more free in his life.

My epiphany in this regard came in a far more benign environment -- at work. I was never a morning person, so I didn't especially like getting up and going to work each day. I also have a limited theshold for idiocy not of my own making, and hated stupid obstacles created by others and got easily frustrated.

One day, the business' head honcho asked me how I could possibly go through life with such an outlook. The way he looked at things, we get a finite number of days in our lives, and he couldn't understand how a person could stand to waste a single one. (I think his attitude was shaped in part by the fact that he'd lost several siblings when they were young.) He said he couldn't wait for the alarm to go off every morning so that he could get to work and tackle the challenges.

Scott Carson

He didn't see problems the way most of us do. I remember early one morning, when I could tell by the tension in his jaw that he'd just been on the receiving end of a particularly unpleasant telephone call with a corporate honcho. I said something like "Well, it doesn't look like your day is off to a great start!"

He looked to me as if I was nuts. From his perspective, that phone call brought him an unexpected problem that would require him to use intelligence, creativity and working with others to solve. That was NOT the attitude I brought to my work and my life, but over the course of the four years I worked with him his attitude rubbed off on me and others around him.

Realizing that we control our attitudes can give us a whole new way of looking at ourselves and the world. It changes EVERYTHING. Because of that change in perspective, I found myself feeling downright LUCKY when I was dxed with bp.
Lucky that there was now an explanation for my chronic depressions, my manic antics and my abusive behavior.

Lucky that bp was treatable, and that I lived in a time when medications could bring it under control.

Lucky that it brought me in contact with other bpers, both here and IRL.

Lucky that, because of bp, I had to face and learn to overcome challenges that other people would never know.
Once I thought of myself as lucky for such a dx, I became free to feel a sense of pride in achieving even the simplest everyday task during a depressive episode. Sometimes just crawling out of bed requires a good deal of willpower, when all my body wants to do is sleep, and knowing that I really won't feel like doing any of the things I need to do once I get up. So getting up can be a significant achievement.

I feel lucky to have such supportive friends here on MG who gave me such encouragement when I was on the downslope recently, and who show appreciation on those occasions when I can contribute something of value to them. I would never have had such friends except for bp, and my life would be so much the poorer.

It takes courage to be a bper. It takes resilience. But it needn't require resignation. I like to believe it is possible for many of us to embrace our illness, appreciating the advantages it's given us and looking for ways to mitigate the disadvantages. If we've been given a lot of lemons, we may not be able to make a lemon-chiffon pie, but lemonade may be within our reach.

We don't get to choose bper-hood. But as my professor observed, we are free to choose the attitude we wish to bring to any situation, no matter how terrible. And that, in his view, is the very definition of freedom. Our attitude is within our control, and we can make a tremendous difference in our lives if we exercise that choice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I am here. This last fortnight I have been running a fever of 100-101 every day. My joints hurt.  The last two days I cannot move my legs or barely walk. I can barely get down the stairs in my apartment. I've been sleeping about 18 hours a day. When I am not sleeping I feel miserable.

I haven't been on line. I haven't been reading, or writing, I just feel too ill to do that. On top of that my hair is coming out in clumps, my fingernails, always strong, are breaking, and my skin keeps flaking off like my mother might have been an alien from "V".

I spent the morning with my GP getting blood drawn. They are testing now for Lyme's, Mono and of course my wbc for Leukemia, to see if it has gone full blown.

I am scared.  I really am.

And I am sorry for not blogging or visiting any blogs. I love writing and reading others, as well as books and I am just feeling too poorly to do anything.

I should know in a few days what is going on and hopefully will be on the mend soon.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Musings on Bipolar and Gastronomy from a Writer in South Africa

I love Mary, who blogs at Letting Go, and writes about life in South Africa. I missed this gem last week, but it's worth reprinting for two reasons. First she writes about a meal she had at La Bulli, which was for years rated the best restaurant in the world. Then she muses on a book by David Healy that starts with the untimely death of Rebecca Riley, and wonders, which came first, the condition or the drug?  I will let this one speak for itself.  Mary doesn't usually write about this topic but when she does, she has an interesting perspective from a country not to many people write from. Like Mary, it's a keeper.

The village encased in blank walls of heavy mist, a cow mooing somewhere out of sight. A friend has shared bunches of fresh fenugreek and handfuls of broad beans with me, so I am cooking up a storm.
And I am reading reviews of Colman Andrews’ biography of the molecular gastronomc chemistry schoolboy aka chef Ferran Adria. Years ago I ate at La Bulli in between rereading Cervantes’ Don Quixote and revisting battle sites of the Spanish Civil War. Aside from the haughtiness and inscrutability of uncommunicative macho waiters, I was astonished by a seagreen foam of  what had once been plump ripe olives and perhaps a crust of Parmesan. It tasted  delicious, but I was left with the impression of having eaten nothing at all. After a ravishing and improbable meal of six minute, invented dishes (including a gritty spoonful of frozen foie gras dust) I went out in my trim little bullfighter’s cape of scarlet and black and  gobbled up tapas of manchego cheese, coddled eggs and chorizo, grilled anchovies, a creamy almond soup spiked with garlic. Spanish food is very more-ish.
The secret to Ferran Adria’s success? “His tongue is bigger than ours. He literally has a larger tongue than normal, with more papillae.” That may be so, but my appetite is much bigger than Ferran’s.
So good to be online again, my busy real life has gone into hiatus. Big Pharma watch from the London Review of Books, a hard look at the contested and unreliable history of bipolar disorder and the increasingly drastic  treatments:
One now speaks of a ‘bipolar spectrum’, which includes, along with bipolar disorders I and II, cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar II) and bipolar disorder ‘not otherwise specified’ (an all-purpose category in which practically any affective instability can be placed). The spectrum also includes bipolar disorders II1⁄2, III, III1⁄2, IV, V, VI, and even a very accommodating ‘subthreshold bipolar disorder’.
The category has expanded so much that it would be difficult to find anyone who couldn’t be described as ‘bipolar’, especially now that the diagnosis is liberally applied to people of all ages. Conventional wisdom once had it that manic depression burns out with age, but geriatric bipolar disorder is now the talk of psychiatric congresses. Elderly people who are depressed or agitated find themselves diagnosed with bipolar disorder for the first time in their lives and are prescribed antipsychotics or anticonvulsants that have the potential to drastically shorten their life expectancy: according to David Graham, an expert from the Food and Drug Administration, these psycho-tropic medications are responsible for the deaths of some 15,000 elderly people each year in the United States.
Scary stuff! Time to give the Internet a break and do some gardening before the sun burns off the mist and it becomes too hot outdoors. The thing about sobriety is that we get to choose what happens each day and how we respond. Something else to be grateful for –

Thank you Mary, as always.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I think I am way over due for a cute fix

I am way over due for a cute fix. Something cute to take our minds off the world news, and just make you feel happy.

Enjoy your weekend, and remember, somebunny, (Me) loves you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Brand New Blog Worth Reading

I've been writing about old psychiatric hospitals the last few entries, for the same reason that Santayana said to recall history. So it's not repeated.  So people when hospitalized won't suffer like our ancestors did.

With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that long time activist Jonathan Dosick has started a blog, Civil Rights in Psychiatric Hospitals.  

I am breaking one of my cardinal rules, I don;'t promote brand new blogs having been burned by brand new bloggers I start reading and they stop blogging after a month or so. If you are a blogger and you want on my blog roll, my requirements are 1. You gotta be blogging for three months, and 2, I have to like reading you. I don't have to agree with you but I have to enjoy reading you.

Jonathan has been an advocate in Massachusetts for a very long time. Here is Jonathan's mission: i snded in dis
We must address the continuing climate of disrespect, coercion and disempowerment that we see daily at inpatient facilities. This is carried out in the name of patient safety, but is grounded in discrimination, ignorance and the relentless pursuit of Profit.

The hospital lobbyists who furiously oppose our efforts claim that State authorities should not dictate clinical care - but their dismal record regarding basic patient rights shows that they need oversight.

In the mental health system, why is 'clinical care' so misunderstood? Why, in the name of 'proper clinical care,' are basic civil liberties and the dignity of so many violated so brazenly?

This is one not only do I enjoy but it's a must and should be on our blog rolls. To stay in the loop about what goes on and how to change it. Because Jonathan is an awesome activist. It's tough to read, but a little bit of knowledge goes a long way and might come in handy for a loved ones hospitalization. Not every hospital is bad. But so many ones are and with so many budget cuts, a little knowledge does go a long way.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guest Post: Understanding Through Reading 3 Must-Read Memoirs on Biopolar

As anyone who has suffered bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other related disorders knows, it's more difficult to live with than other illnesses because it affects you and everyone you know. While chronic physical disorders don't necessarily change your behavior, chemical imbalances in the brain make it a daily struggle to maintain healthy relationships because behavior is unpredictable.   Your friends and family, try though they might, just don't understand. And this lack of understanding is precisely what causes these strains in interpersonal relationships in the first place.

Reading about those who have struggled with bipolar disorder is a helpful way of gaining a new understanding and perspective. Everyone has different ways of dealing with the disease, and it can be inspirational to find others who understand, and who can articulate their personal stories. Here are a few memoirs that are particularly noteworthy:

Kay Jameson is probably the leading researcher on bipolar disorder. As both a psychiatrist and a sufferer of bipolar disorder herself, Jameson offers insight into the illness that both personal and professional. Jameson, although critical of big pharma, does demonstrate how a combination of lowered medication and personal support saved her life. Best of all, Jameson clues us in on the latest advances in neuroscience that can offer new hope for an illness that has been misunderstood and misdiagnosed for centuries.

We all know Kurt Vonnegut, the eminent writer who gave us such classics as Cat's Cradle and Slaughter House Five. But what many don't know is that his son, Mark, struggled under his father's shadow with a debilitating bout of decades-long psychosis that was first diagnosed as schizophrenia but what he now considers bipolar disorder. In his latest volume, released this year, Vonnegut offers fascinating insight into his own struggles, as well as giving readers a more expansive perspective on mental illness in general.  With panache and humility, Vonnegut is adept at both writing humorously and inspirationally. In one of my favorite segments, Vonnegut states:
"None of us are entirely well, and none of us are irrevocably sick. At my best I have islands of being sick entirely. At my worst I had islands of being well. Except for a reluctance to give up on myself there isn't anything I can claim credit for that helped me recover from my breaks. Even that doesn't count. You either have or don't have a reluctance to give up on yourself. It helps a lot if others don't give up on you."

While Jameson's book is told from the perspective of a clinician, and Vonnegut's is told from both the perspective of a doctor and the son of a famous writer, Manic is written by a former entertainment lawyer. The most interesting part about Manic is that Cheney writes her book in short episodic segments that very accurately describe what it's like to cycle from the rapid highs to the soul-wrenching lows that characterize bipolar disorder. Cheney's account is not necessarily an uplifting one, but it's certainly describes the bipolar life with a candor that is hard to match.

These are just a few memoirs out there about individuals who have learned with varying degrees of success to live in the rollercoaster existence of bipolar. Even if they don't offer hope per se, they at least offer solace. Knowing you are not alone in your suffering can sometimes be more uplifting than anything. 


This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who writes on the topics of nursing schools.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: kitty.holman20@gmail.com.

***This is a guest post. The views and ideas expressed in this post are not necessarily the same as the author of this site. Please direct any comments or questions to the author of the post at kitty.holman20.gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Hell on Earth-Norwich Mental Hospital

I have been trying for over a year to find this clip and put it on my blog. The best I can do is this Hulu Clip,  it starts at the right counter, and it finishes at counter  31.11.

From Life After People, Second Season, episode Crypt of Civilization. We need to know about these things so they will never happen again.

I bring you Norwich Mental Hospital, otherwise known as Norwich State Hospital for the Insane, in Preston and Norwich, CT, USA
Clip contains triggers

Eta: I apologize about the ads.

Monday, October 4, 2010

More Hell On Earth-Greystone

Over a year ago, I posted a pictorial piece on Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. SInce then the site has added photos of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital otherwise known as New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum at Morristown (NJ). They are taken from the site Forgotten Photography. Greystone was closed down a few years ago thanks to Governor Codey, some of the buildings have been demolished, others lie in disrepair at the moment, waiting for the state to either declare them as historical landmarks or total them. 

Take a look at these pictures. They are worth a thousand words. 

It is interesting to note that in it's histories, Greystone did lobotomies among other "therapies". 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

schadenfreude? Rewritten. Revised

I was driving home from my parent's house and turned on the radio to get the weather report. Instead I got a minute of a talk show , the host on a rave about big pharma destroying our souls with their pills.

I've always thought this guy was a jerk, but every now and then someone, anyone gets it. Even a radio personality who I have never agreed with can shoot a fish in a barrel once in his lifetime.

Since I am almost off meds, just on 150 mg of Lithium, I can tell you honestly I am sleeping a bit better. 5 hours of sleep a night average. One night this week was nine hours and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The humidity dropped a bit but it's still almost too hot to sleep. I want to get out of Dodge and move to Alaska, where it's cold and I might actually be able to catch some Z's.

My skin keeps acting like it's moulting. But it's not moulting, or even shedding. It itches constantly, and it's all on my back and neck. I can reach my neck, but I cannot reach the spot on my back. I've tried a back scratcher, I've rubbed up against walls, all to no avail. I've even put baby powder on it, which brings some relief until it wears off. Same with cold showers, and an exfoliating bath wash with my loofah.

What kills me now is the concept of schadenfreude. I never felt it personally until yesterday. I take referral calls from both my local mental health support group, and the state one. Usually they are pretty tame, when is the next meeting, how do I get there, where in NJ are the meetings, etc etc. I usually can answer the calls, or I refer them to NAMI. It's all good, NAMI refers their callers to me. Sometimes I get social workers and pdocs who are looking to get more help for their clients, and think a peer run group sounds great. Often the social workers will ask me about the types of training it takes to run a meeting, and again, I state that too.

But the woman I spoke to yesterday was different. I've spoken to many like her in the four years I have been doing this. A mother of a son in his twenties who was just diagnosed. Just started taking meds in February. He was having a hard time with side effects and developed ed. His girlfriend/fiance left him because of ed. He moved back home to his parents house, he was mopey, still grieving over the loss of what might have been and the fact that the meds were not only putting on weight, they had taken away his sexuality.

She asks if this is normal. I tell her I've seen my weight go up 50 lbs from different med cocktails since I was diagnosed back in 86. I am only 5 feet tall, so 50 lbs on me looks like 75 lbs on someone taller. I have had relationships end because of the illness. Either because I (and I am being candid here and I realize this may upset people and say you COULDN"T have been like that). I lost one boyfriend because I was hypersexual and wore him out. Yeah, it's true. I know most guys would love that , just as they wish for the four hour erections advertised on Viagra or Cialis. I've almost been engaged to someone who, finding out I was bipolar and it could be hereditary, dropped me, citing, he couldn't be responsible for a bipolar child. I've written here he said he could continue to fuck me, but marriage and relationship was off.

I can tell you it was the first time my heart was broken, and the pain hurt for months.

I can also tell you that my bipolar cost me my marriage. I don't like to talk about this in public, because I really don't believe in airring your dirty laundry in public. It takes two people to make a marriage, it should take two to end it. In my case, it didn't. While he accepted the fact I was a fellow Beeper, and embraced it!, he never could cope with it. My pdoc at the time sat down with him and told him I was one of the "sickest" bipolars he ever saw, and he didn't ever think I would be able to get off my meds and I would always suffer from things that didn't effect him ever, the hypersexuality, the suicidal ideation. He only took Depakote. I was on a med cocktail at that time of at least 4 or 5 different drugs.

I was a hero to my husband, i was working in a newsroom, doing all the grunt work for the reporters, and making a very good living at it. I was making a nice bit on the side by entertainment blogging, at one time I was considered one of the five best entertainment bloggers in the country. I was working on my third novel. He thought I would be able to keep my job, support him totally and we would live happily ever after. And at first, for the first 3 months it was fine. Every day we would ask each other if we had taken our meds. But then I started fllipping into mania, and it depressed him. Seeing him depressed depressed me, and I floated back to depression, mine worse than his because I would get suicidal ideation on top of it.

It wasn't anyone's fault, but it was a deal breaker. He could understand in theory what it was like to be bipolar, but living with one was not something he liked. He wouldn't go for marital counseling, he just felt I needed to try harder. Some days I couldn't get out of bed I was so blue, and he would get upset with me and not understand. Yet when he couldn't get out of bed, couldn't make his own writing deadlines, I would ghost write things for him, try to help him get out of the depression.

We grew apart as people do. Perhaps it was for the best, the marriage was concieved in mania and it was too fragile to last. The ironic part was when we met he was more in love with me than I him. I grew to love him more as his love for me faded. When he left I thought my world would end because at that time I loved him more than he did me.

Back to this lady. She asked how many meds I have been on and I replied I stopped counting at 30. She said she couldn't go through that with her son, is this normal? I told her I have met quite a number of people who have been on as many meds as me or more. I told her honestly, I had been in the hospital 4 times in 20 years, and have tried almost every type of therapy imaginable, Freudian, Jungian, Ericksonian, CBT,DBT, you name it I've tried it.

I've even tried ECT in a feeble attempt of living a semi normal and productive life.

"What a strong woman you are". She said. She got off the phone saying she would be there next Tuesday and could I talk to her son.

I've been hearing that a lot lately. I don't feel strong. I have done what needed to be done, but never thought it was anything remarkable. I had to learn to re use my muscles because I didn't want to wind up in a nursing home, hooked up to a catherter and unable to eat or dress myself at the ripe old age of 45. It wasn't anything wonderful or brave, it just WAS.

I take lithium because I don't want the kind of mood swings I would get if I didn't take it. It's not perfect but I would be rapid cycling and that's not livable.

I've dealt with crippling depression and suicide attempts, the last one came very close to succeeding. I am lucky. But what choice do I have? I can view my bipolar as either a blessing, a curse, or both. I don't feel extraordinary. I feel human. But I do feel like a fraud for someone to think I am inspirational, extraordinary. Maybe it's the depression talking.

All I know is last night, I couldn't sleep. I was upset about some things going on in my personal life, and kept dreaming the same dream, I was hanging from a tree, birds pecking out my eyes. I know why I was dreaming this, my last attempt, in November of 2002 was a hang, and as I lost Consciousness the rope broke. Had it not broke, I would not be here right now writing this. I know someone who has a gun, and I called him to see if I could borrow it. The old black dog had me by the short and curlies, saying he was boss of me.

I got so far as in my car to collect the gun, and tried to figure out if I would do the deed on my bed, or the couch. Would it look like a scene in Pulp Fiction? Could I really put gray matter and blood on my two favorite pictures? Over the couch hangs a framed print of Wheatfield with Crows by Van Gogh. The irony alone in that statement made me decide against it.

The painting over my bed is the famous Red Poppy print by Georgia O'Keefe, that they were selling right and left at the Met when her show was there. I always liked that print, even if it does look like a giant c**t.

I calmed down when I felt the air conditioning on my face and told myself my brain is playing tricks on me. Ignore the voices and you won't drown. You don't want to be like Prufrock, you want to be alive.

I went back to bed. Sleep did not come easy, but at least, as I counted each breath, I was grateful I didn't listen to the mermaids sing. Not this time.

Maybe I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Who knew?
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