Saturday, June 26, 2010

Catching Up-And Crashes

I am afraid to write. I don't know what to do. I crashed. I figured I would, the depression lifting was too good to be true. I not only went back to depression but to suicidal depression. My only waking thoughts are so negative I am afraid to say them out loud. 

What's worse, I feel sick constantly. Sick to my stomach, copious amount of vomiting. Major headaches; sinus variety and migraine. Period cramps off the chart. Back aches and muscle fatigue. I suppose my body is adjusting, but to what I don't know. Perhaps an alien being has taken over in my head. Or will emerge out of my stomach, like the alien did to John Hurt in that eponymous movie. 

My Axis 1 diagnosis has changed- it has over the last three years gone from "Bipolar One", to "Bipolar One/Schizoaffective" and now to "Schizophrenia". I don't believe in labels, but the medications I am on - trouble me. I found out that as of next month (July) I fall in the proverbial "donut hole" with them and it's going to wipe out my savings to be on them. I would just as soon be off them- I think people are starting to think that too- (Hallelujah!) but like I said, I've gotten worse where I cannot take care of myself anymore. Yes, that's back again. And to make matters worse, the State is inspecting the entire apartment complex, something they haven't done since the Nixon administration when the apartments were built. It's nothing major, they need to check the electrical, and other things. And if they see how badly I've gone in the last two weeks, I know I will be evicted, and I know they will probably advice I go to a state hospital. And if that happens I will loose my cat, my best friend. But the weird thing is, I don't care. It's like I am the reincarnation of Bartleby the Scrivener. Other than not having the cat with me, I don't care. 

Put me up in front of the firing squad like that prisioner last week in Utah. I might as well be dead. 

There is always hope. I could cycle back up and fix everything. Superman- could come and save the day. Or if this was a Disney movie, the cat would get her friends to come and help me clean. But this isn't a Disney movie, this is real life, and I am too paranoid right now to write anymore. I hope it gets better soon.  I just want my old life back. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Blogger- Bailey the cat ponders on his human's depression also

This was submitted by Bailey the cat two days ago. Bailey's human dad, R- is a member of my Depression Support Group. 

I never thought kitties could write, but after I read the story by Holly, I figured I would give it a shot.
My name is Bailey. I'm ten years old and I live in New Jersey. I'm gray and white. I want to tell you about my brother, my Daddy, and me.

I don't remember much from before Mommy and Daddy brought me home from the shelter. I was happy to go with them because I didn't like being in a cage. The trouble started when I got home. There was another baby kitty there, this one named Jackson. He told me I was going to be his brother. Then he ate all my food. Later on we wrestled, and then he ate all my food again. That went on for about ... well, it's still pretty much going on today. He's over 20 pounds and I'm only 7 pounds, so we don't wrestle much anymore.

Daddy never liked cats before Jackson and I came to live with him. After that, he loved cats. He even went to volunteer at the local shelter. He set up all their computer and networking systems, and even bottle-fed baby kitties who were smaller than even me! Every time he went to the shelter, there was one kitty who would go crazy jumping up and down, and he only did this for Daddy. That kitty was named Claude, and he was born in the shelter. His mommy was in a nearby cage. He drooled constantly and was very big. Also he was very clumsy. Nobody wanted to adopt him, but he and Daddy became good friends at the shelter. Daddy wanted to take him home but Mommy said that two cats was enough for a small apartment. Jackson and I agreed. Daddy used to use his lunch hour at work to drive to visit Claudie and play with him. Then he would drive back to work, hungry and drenched with drool and covered in cat hair. Then he would go back to visit him after work. When he came home, Mommy would accuse him of being with Claude again, and Daddy used to try to say he was out with another woman instead so Mommy wouldn't get so mad! Daddy promised Claudie he would find him a home, and called everyone he knew. But nobody would take him, so Daddy brought him home anyway. He became my brother too. Next time I will tell you about the time that Claudie farted, and he was so suprised that he jumped 3 feet in the air!

Then Mommy's tummy got big (like Jackson's) and we heard there was going to be a new addition to the family! We were so excited. I was hoping for a girl cat, but instead it was a little monster who only wanted to drink milk and pull our tails. Jackson swiped at it, and I ran away, but Claudie didn't care if his tail got pulled. Once the tail-pulling stopped, Mommy's tummy got big again. This time I was hoping for a boy cat, but we got another monster, just like the first. This one also chased me and tried to pull my tail.

Now, I have to tell you, I've always been a scaredy cat. For the first 10 years of my life, I never went outside except in a kitty-carry to go to the vet (not fun). I hide when people come over. I lived in a closet for most of my life, nestled up in sweaters and coming out at night to eat. Later I lived in a dirty basement, and one time I hid under the insulation in the attic for 4 days. Boy did they send out the search parties!

One day, Claudie got sick. They took him to the doctor but we never saw him again. When Daddy came home, he was crying. He cried for 4 whole days, and didn't eat or go to work. I guess he was really sad. He cried a lot for a whole month. He still cries sometimes when he sees a picture of Claudie. Come to think of it, he's always been sad a lot. He cries sometimes for no reason at all. We kitties don't think about things when they're gone. I guess people do.

Well, here's the part I really wanted to tell you about. About 2 months ago, I decided to go outside. I don't know why. It was a little strange at first, but now I spend most of my time outside. Me, who spent 8 years in the hall closet. A few days ago, there was nobody to let me out, so I took a running start and leaped at the screen door. It tore away from the frame and I got out! Mommy and Daddy were pretty mad though - I don't think I'll do that again. I run and chase bunnies but I let them go. I sneak under the fence and go exploring. Everyone says it's really amazing the way I changed. I guess I'm just not scared anymore.

It's hard to change, but I'm much happier now. I guess it's really hard for some people to change. But I think if I can stop being scared, then maybe my Daddy can too.

Bailey is a newly syndicated columnist and professional outdoorsman in Central New Jersey.

 Claude the cat on the day he was adopted

Bailey, Jackson and Claude

Hagedorn Hospital (NJ) Will Stay Open

The big news in NJ is this today. From The Star Ledger.

LEBANON TOWNSHIP — After months of worry for patients and their families, a state budget compromise was reached today that will keep Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital in Lebanon Township open for at least another year.
The 310-bed Hunterdon County facility specializes in treating geriatric patients.
State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) called the compomise the best possible outcome for Hagedorn’s patients and a testament to the “excellent level of services provided at the hospital.”
“I’m very happy and, on behalf of the patients, family and staff, appreciative to the governor … for letting this institution, which is probably the best psychiatric institution in the state, stay open,” Codey said. “Hopefully forever.”
Codey, a former governor and longtime advocate for mental health reform, co-sponsored the bill to preserve Hagedorn with state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren).
“Look, I’m not a fan of big government, but I think there are some things government needs to do, and one of those is take care of the most vulnerable members of our society, and geriatric psychiatric patients are certainly among the most vulnerable,” Doherty said. (Emphasis mine).
“The governor deserves a great deal of credit for his willingness to re-evaluate the evidence in order to come up with the right decision,” said Phil Lubiz, director of advocacy for the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The agreement also calls for creating a task force to look into long-term needs for in-patient psychiatric beds before closing a state hospital. (Emphasis, mine).
When Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital in Monmouth County was shuttered several years ago after three years of planning, overcrowding, injuries and even death were attributed to moving patients to Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Camden County.
“That’s the reason the task force is important — to make sure the same problems don’t happen again,” Doherty said.
“The state was just moving too quickly, and I commend the Christie administration on reconsidering their decision,” he added. 
Story continues here. 
(Photo courtesy of the Star Ledger)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wonder of Wonders, Miracles of Miracles

I don't know how else to say it. I keep thinking of that line from Jefferson Starship- and Fiddler on the Roof. Two songs about miracles. And know that I am indeed witnessing one.

Readers of the blog know I have been depressed since November 06. It waxes and wanes, a few good days here and there, a few suicidal days where I am trying every trick in the book to stay alive. Some days where all I can do is hold the cat and listen to her inner purr as I fight. But I fight. Hoping among hope the depression will lift, go away and let me live, for a while, with just regular sadness. And about three weeks ago, I wasn't suicidal. I had a whole day without the ideation, the bad thoughts, the hatred.  Then the second day- a complete day without thinking of suicide. Without thinking depressive thoughts. And by the third day, I felt like taking a long shower, washing my hair, cleaning the apartment, and going to the grocery store. And it kept going on. By the end of the seventh day I had gone to  Barnes and Noble, bopped around the books and music, bought a coffee  and people watched, jotting down notes in my old journal. Something I haven't done since the early part of this new decade.

The part of me that is such a Virgo, practical, down to earth, kept saying "It won't last". The other part of me was also weary, hoping I don't flip into mania. But no hypomania, nothing.

The meds- well, I am currently weaning off Seroquel. My sleep patterns are not as good as I would like, one night five hours, one night 12. But feeling refreshed. Lithium is currently at 1500, which is great. I would personally like to get it down to a microdose of 300 but that takes time. The other drugs are the same doses. I don't think it is from the drugs, however.

Could it be from the spring turning to summer? No. I suffer from reverse SAD- warm weather makes me cranky. Side effect from the lithium, I cannot tolerate being hot. If I ever have another boyfriend, he will have to expect fights over the thermostat. I like a nice 65 degrees year round.

"If only you believe in miracles, baby/So would I"-Starship

No, I think it's the miracle. Friends. Everyone on my blog roll is my friend, I read them and feel, even though i only know one in real life, they are good people and feel like family. One of them who I didn't know came down to visit me a few months ago, for coffee, to cheer me. It meant so much to me, I don't know what to say without crying. Good looking guy too. If I was 15 years younger.....

And yet one more friend who called because she was in a funk, and I managed to cheer her. And our cats meowed to each other in the background.

But I think it was another friend, who called because he was concerned about my dad. And let me talk on the phone for over four hours one night, going back and forth. Someone  else who cared.

I've never suffered from agoraphobia until a year or so ago, so my online friendships mean so much to me, as well as my best friends' B and her son. I wish I had money to send them all flowers, chocolate, iPads, something nice. Something small to say Thank you. But I don't. All I can offer is that for the last two weeks, I have been able to eat correctly, go to the gym, six days a week, and feel like a human being for the first time since Thanksgiving 2006. I am Thankful. On the scale of miracles, this is a small one. But to me it's the universe. And I am grateful.

 ETA: I realize some might not know the Jefferson Starship song- here's a video. Great song, but I miss Grace Slick, but you get Papa John Creech as a studio musician.

Friday, June 18, 2010

And now for something completely different

Let's face it. Between the World Cup, and Father's Day picnics- no one is on line. And I've been writing some real sad stuff. So- here's a story about a woman who is supposedly bipolar and left 6 million Pounds  (11 million US dollars) to her dog in her will. I don't know how reliable the Sun is for anything other than their famous "Page Three Girls" but, all I can say to the son is- dust off your copy of Shakespeare- Re read "King Lear". "How sharper than a serpent's tooth to have an ungrateful child".

Maybe mom felt the dog was a better child than you.

And for the record, I have money in MY will going to what ever cats and dogs I will have at the time of my death, so they will always be cared for. It's not because I am bipolar. It's because I don't want them put down.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On The Death of Esmin Green

June 19 is the second anniversary of the death of Esmin Green. She sat in a waiting room of a New York Hospital for over 24 hours. She collapsed and laid on the floor for an hour and died– in full view of staff and patients…unhelped and unnoticed. She is the horror story of what it means to be labeled with an emotional illness in this country. Hers is not the only story. The real horror is that there are many, many more. I have a friend who was very suicidal. Her only option was to go to the state hospital. I will never forget what she told me….”I will die first before I go to that place….”

Please do not forget Esmin Green. She deserves better than that. And better yet speak up for all the Esmin Greens. We all deserve better than that.
(Thank you Larry Drain from the Hopeworks Community blog for reminding me)

Laura Tenney of the Opal Project has more information on the vigil here, and how to get there, and other PDF docs for download.

If you want to know why should we care- it's because what happened to Ms. Green should have never happened in the first place, and for those of us who have been to these hospitals- may it never happen again. RIP Ms. Green. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Early Thoughts on Anatomy of an Epidemic

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. 

ETA: After I posted this, Pharma Gossip put this book review on it's site as the book of the month. It's an article also worth reading. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The ABC's of Impunity (Warning, Contains Triggers)

This is not a political blog. But when my friend Red Pill Junkie (RPJ) posted this in his blog a few days ago, I knew I had to re print it here. My heart and soul goes out to the families of the 49 children that were killed in this tragedy. By reprinting this, it is my hope that similar tragedies like this in the future will be averted.

Yesterday, June 5th, was the first anniversary of a tragedy that shocked the whole of Mexican society. And in these sad days we live in, when violence has erupted with a potency not witnessed since the mythic days of the Revolution, it takes a particularly horrible act to catch the attention of the public; the reason for this: the victims were all little children.
 On June 5th 2009, the children kept at the 'GuarderĂ­a ABC''. a state-sponsored day care center in the northern state of Sonora, were caught on a fire that had started somewhere else nearby. The result: 49 children killed, and many survivors left with permanent scars or health problems caused by the smoke which will affect them for probably the rest of their lives.
 After the tragedy, the media showed us that this so-called 'day care center', where poor Mexican workers had to take their little children while they were busy at their respective job centers, was actually a warehouse. One of several kept by the State government in one of their buildings; the fire had actually started in one of these warehouses filled with bureoucratic documents and papers (highly inflammable stuff), but the worse thing was that the actual day care center didn't have any kind of emergency exits, as required by Federal law —the fact that the tragedy was not greater, was due to the courageous intervention of one of the parents; who used his pick-up truck in order to break a hole in one of the walls, and allow the teachers and remaining children to escape.

You can read the rest of the article here

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Crowning Glory

I've spent the last few days engrossed in Robert Whitaker's new book- "Anatomy of an Epidemic", so much so that I have been off line.  I cannot put this book down, and will be writing about it shortly. Suffice to say, it belongs on everyone's bookshelf.

My mother and I went out yesterday- my energy has been coming back and I am currently cutting back on some of my meds. I am feeling like the old Susan from before- I've been in a four year depressive state, so it's nice to know it's finally lifting. It's a wonderful, wonderful, thing.

I had not had my hair cut in 2 years. It was way to long, unweildy, and it needed it. Of course I am unhappy, I asked for 3 inches to be cut, she cut off close to six.  I don't like short hair on me, I like it long. So it feels weird. But, it's not so bad as a friend reminded me last night on the phone, it can grow back.

What upset me, and shocked my mother, was as the girl was shampooing my hair, and then arranging it to be cut- she started seeing bald spots. As she put her comb through my hair, it's coming out in lumps. My mother is shocked and I am biting my lower lip not to cry.

"Did you have cancer?" the hair stylist asks me.

"No", no I nod.

"By any chance are you taking lithium?", she asked- and both my mother and I almost jump up- in our chairs.

"Yes, Yes".

"Well,  I have other clients who take lithium. You know it makes your hair fall out".

Shit. Well, my hair is falling out, and I am trying not to cry. My mother asks about what we can do- and she suggests either hair extensions, or a wig.

"Or just style your hair like this= it will look OK.", she assures me.

This morning I went for my blood draw, and looked long and hard in the mirror. Not only is it short- shoulder length instead of past my neck- but the texture is now baby fine from kinky curly hair- like Elaine from Seinfeld had in the first few seasons. I really cannot look in the mirror without crying.

Stupid me. I know there are people who follow my blog who have been through hell in Afganistan and Iraq. There are people who have lost children and marriages due to this illness. I know another reader two weeks ago who just died by his own hand. This is just a hiccup in my life, I have been through worse. No doubt it will make me stronger. But not today. Today I just want to say "F**K You lithium".  You took away my crowning glory. But you aren't going to get me. Not me or my soul. It's on! 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rerun-This Time It's Different-A New Hollowness In My Soul

(This is a repeat. I am currently the same med cocktail, only on Abilify for Cymbalta. I am also just getting out of this depression fugue).

She sits in front of me in a big overstuffed black leather chair, black patent pumps swaying softly while she crosses and uncrosses her legs as a nervous tick.

She is made up and looks like she just stepped out of Vogue for working women. I, on the other hand, look like an unmade bed. It's been a week since my hair was washed, and that long since I showered. I did brush my teeth and floss before I got there, and brushed my long blonde hair, tying it up in a scrunchie. My jeans are clean, but the shirt I threw on, a black turtle from LL Bean, has a white mark from deodorant, and should have gone straight in the laundry pile. No make up , not even a trace of lip gloss. My shoes are brand new and hurt, brownish tan clogs from my parents for Christmas to replace the blue ones the cat destroyed a few months earlier.

We are discussing my current med cocktail. The fact that it appears that my thyroid has shut down or is shutting down because I am constantly tired and sleeping close to 16 hours a day. I cannot eat but am drinking copious amounts of water. I crave sugar. The Dunkin Donuts across the street is singing a Siren Song to me.

Lithium is being raised to 3100 mg, Cymbalta is staying the same at 60 mg. If the lithium doesn't start working soon, I will be weaned off it and go on Lamictal. All I know is it took every ounce of effort to get there this afternoon, to get dressed, brush my teeth and drive the two miles to the therapist's office. Climb the 15 stairs to get to her room in the building. I am winded like I was in my childhood when I had asthma.

All I know is I am in crisis. My brain knows this. My mind and my soul know this. Life hurts and every breath I take makes me feel like a medieval torture devise of being crushed or weighted to death in the Tower or some other gloomy place. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. But surprisingly, I am not suicidal. I just don't care- I just want to go to sleep and wake up as worm bait.

Raising the lithium, with the Cymbalta, now- it's not passive anymore. it's active. But not active like it was when I was on Remeron and got so suicidal I knew to get to the hospital pronto. It's different this time, but isn't every depression slightly different, like identical twins are never really totally identical?

I find it more violent, the ways I want to go out would give Stephen King a new novel and a literary hard on. It would make Jeffrey Dahmer a new recipe for madness. No OD'ing on pills and slipping gently into that good night. These are painful, horrible, dreamscapes and nightmares from a fevered mind sparked from neurons and gray cells not reacting or over reacting to chemical number 3 on the Periodic Table.

I hover between periods of sanity and insanity- wondering to go into the hospital and make arrangements for the striped baby girl, or just going to Home Depot, buying a few items, and going out one night in the parking lot when everyone is home and asleep and ending it all, the last moment of consciousness dialing 911 and telling the cops to seal off the parking lot.

Right now I can hover. I am scared I might slip. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but hopefully not soon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I've Never Had A Picture Drawn Of Me Before

At least not Since Kindergarten. So I am over the moon to see in my mailbox, an email from my good friend Sandy Naiman, saying I was one of the 31 people drawn for the month of May by Chato Stewart, a new blogger to Psych Central.  I am humbled and over the moon. It's a good likeness, of me and Holly, don't you think? Check out all 31 people. All awesome.

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