Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dead computer among other things

Hi. I just want to assure anyone reading this- I am ok... the reason I have not blogged in two weeks is this. I have been taking care of a sick family member, and the cat, for some reason unknown, actually peed on my computer. She has never gone outside her litter box, and the fact she took my two year Mac as an object...

I should be back in a few days once I can rustle up a computer.

The upside is I  have time now for reading!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Love, Labels and Lies

"Hi. My name is Susan and I have been diagnosed as Bipolar 1, ultra rapid cycler. I've been on over 50 different med cocktails, seen over 30 psychiatrists, and had ECT. On a scale of one to ten, I am feeling about a five tonight. Flat. Sleepy. I'm happy to be here tonight."

So the check in continues in my old support group. Name, diagnosis. Meds you are currently on. How you are feeling, how the meds are making you feel. And so on. Pass the card to the next person. 

First order of business. Make sure no one feels suicidal, makes sure everyone feels safe to share. And then talk of what is going on with our lives. Work issues. Family issues. Medication issues. Sex. Anything or everything.

Sounds good in theory. But here's the rub. As the group went on for years, and people grew comfortable with each other, something happened. A p-doc change because of a new job and a new insurance company. All of a sudden, the gal sitting next to me who has been "Bipolar 2" is now "Bipolar NOS". What is this? The guy who has been labeled "Schizophrenic" is now "Bipolar 1". The college student who was previously labeled "ADD/ADHD" is now "Schizoaffective, and OCD".

What gives?

Two things actually. One thing, the easier one to grasp, is what has happened to me. A medication on your cocktail gave you some funky side effects. You never felt paranoid before, but now you do. Once that medication stops and is out of your body, the paranoia is over. The label remains. In my case, a pharmaceutical made me hear voices. I mentioned this to my doctor and saw my Axis I definition changed from "Bipolar 1" to "Bipolar 1 with Schizoaffective disorder". It went away after I was weaned, but to this day, the permanent side effect is I need my iPod with me 24/7 to concentrate, listening to talk radio or books on tape. If I don't have something in my ears with this type of white noise, my brain will not function.

My label changed. Not a big deal. It's been changed in the past. Almost every p-doc I have ever seen has changed it.

Here's the truth. You go to a new p-doc. They spend the first meeting or first two meetings asking you a deluge of questions. Based on the way you answer, and the knowledge of the p-doc they give you a label based on your questions.

The first time I was evaluated my p-doc had the DSM III. I was evaluated by an overworked medical student following a suicide attempt in the ER department, right before I was sent inpatient. That label was "Depressed". I was also labeled "Suicidal" and spent two weeks on a 1-1 suicide watch, eventually graduating to a 1-15 and then finally joining the rest of the hospital. When I was deemed well enough to get off that 1-15 and join the rest of the hospital patients, I got a new p-doc. He spent close to three hours with me and gave me a new diagnosis. "Manic Depressive". I stayed with this doctor for six years. By the time I left him because of a new job and insurance, the DSM III-R had come out and my new diagnosis was "Bipolar". He assured me it was the same thing. I understood. I had many psych courses in college, both undergraduate and graduate. I remember Schizophrenia was called "Dementia Praecox" at one time.

That's all well and good, but my old support group was really hung up with labels. One girl came in hysterical one night that she was no longer straight OCD, she was now diagnosed as a Borderline on top of it. As soon as she said it, I saw her friends, who previously liked her, now distanced themselves from her. Indeed, I know a therapist in real life who refuses to see anyone with that label. EVER.

Here's what I think about labels. Unless you are shopping for consumer goods, labels don't matter. A label is something a doctor throws on you, whether it's psychiatric or other so he has a number to submit to the insurance company to get money from your visit. It shouldn't define you.

Here's my labels. Susan. SWF. Forty something. Educated. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Very zaftig. Short,( five feet tall). Flat feet.

Diagnosis- lost my way in the maze of life following a bad relationship, and currently unemployed, I feel lost, adrift. I am searching for something to give my life meaning.

Yes, I am different than most people. I have a creative brain, not a scientific one. I overthink things. I feel things differently because of the creativity. Yet, I am no different than anyone else. Yes, right now I am sorely depressed. Melancholy. What ever you want to call it. I've lost my way.

Those are my labels. I think they help me define me much better than the labels my p-doc has given to me over the years. Bipolar 1, Manic Depressive, Schizoaffective, Schizophrenia. I don't think of them and I don't let them get me upset .Because I won't let the illness define me. I let me define me.

That's the sad part about my former support group. Though it means well, people never got passed the labels, and they let them identify them as people. They shouldn't. Let the doctor and the insurance company sweat them. You are a vibrant, wonderful, unique person. Your label is your name. But owning that, is the first step to achieving wellness.

And that is what everyone wants at the end of the day. To be well again. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Depression-taking hostages

Holly on the fridge
They say depression can leak out to family members, much like the way it's noticed that female college roomates often synchronize periods.

It makes total sense, if you are around someone who is sad and depressed you try to cheer them up. You do everything you can in your bag of tricks. When nothing works, and your loved one/friend/family member is the same or worse, it wears you down.

Next thing you know you are falling into sadness/depression as well.

It's like a cold. Sneeze on me, and I get the sniffles too.

During the last bought I went through, I noticed something strange. My beloved cat, Holly, stopped eating. I would make myself get out of bed every morning, feed her, change her water bowl, clean her litter box. We would spend days together lying in bed, she being cuddled up against my tummy or my leg and I can hear her purr.

She never stopped purring. But on day two of not eating, I knew something was wrong. Holly is like the infamous Garfield- I have never known her not to pass up a meal. Especially if I can coax her to eat a can of Fancy Feast tuna or other fish flavor.

She wouldn't eat. She continued to drink, but wouldn't eat. And I in my malaise, didn't notice it as much as I should have til about day five. I went to pick her up and she felt lighter. I continued to coax her to eat, a bite here, a bit there. In my sadness, I thought she was OK.

Then came the meows and howls at 3 am. It was the worst case of caterwauling I've ever heard, short of a female cat in heat. I would pick her up, cuddle her, hold her, sing to her. The noise stopped but I noticed she was spending more and more time in bed with me, asleep, and less time doing the cat things that made up her daily routine.

To make a long story short, I finally took her to the vet. After some lengthy tests, it was determined that Holly has a hyperthyroid, and will have to be pilled for the rest of her life.

I felt like I had just been kicked in my stomach, and had the air knocked out of me. Did I cause her to get sick?

I know I didn't but I feel like I am responsible. If only I hadn't suffered from melancholy, I wouldn't have a sick kitty.

For those who have had the fortune to have an animal in their lives, these miracles on paws really creep into your heart. They become a member of your family. You love them more than some of your family members. They are your best friend. When they are feeling under the weather, you ache because you can't talk to them and ask them what is going on.

I've seen countless studies how owning a dog or a cat removes stress, creates happiness. Watching a tail thump is pure happiness. Having someone to come home to, especially if you live by yourself, is a wonderful thing. You don't feel lonely. And so on.

I know that pets sometimes take on their owners personalities. By this last depression, I created a depressed cat. I didn't mean to. I had to work extra hard to get out of that dark place, if not for myself, for the cat. I owed her that much when I adopted her and promised her a good life.

Wouldn't you do that for your best friend?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Occupy the APA- May 5, 2012

Occupy APA by Amy Smith

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, as thousands of psychiatrists congregate in Philadelphia for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting, individuals with psychiatric labels and other supporters will converge in a global campaign to oppose the APA's proposed new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), scheduled for publication in May 2013. Occupy the APA will include distinguished speakers from 10 a.m. to noon at Friends Center (1515 Cherry Street, Philadelphia). A march at 1 p.m. from Friends Center will lead to the Pennsylvania Convention Center (12th and Arch Streets), where the group will protest beginning at 1:30 while the APA meets inside.
"This peaceful protest exposes the fact that the DSM-5 pushes the mental health industry to medicalize problems that aren't medical, inevitably leading to over-prescription of psychiatric drugs - including for people experiencing natural human emotions, such as grief and shyness," said David Oaks, founder and director of MindFreedom International (MFI), which has worked for 26 years as an independent voice of survivors of psychiatric human rights violations. "We call for better ways to help individuals in extreme emotional distress."
Other speakers criticizing the revised manual, considered the psychiatric industry's bible, include Brent Robbins, Ph.D., Secretary of the Society for Humanistic Psychology, which has gathered more than 8,000 signatures from mental health professionals calling for "developing an alternative approach" to the DSM.
Jim Gottstein, Esq., founder and president of the Alaska-based Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights), will cross the country to speak. "The public mental health system is creating a huge class of chronic mental patients through forcing them to take ineffective yet extremely harmful drugs. As the APA gets ready to do even more harm with its proposed expansion of what constitutes mental illness, I want to be there in person to participate in the protest."

Occupy the APA will begin at 10 a.m. at Friends Center (1515 Cherry Street, Philadelphia), where the speakers will also include Dr. Paula Caplan, a psychologist, playwright and activist from California; Dr. Al Galves, director of the International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP); Joseph Rogers, chief advocacy officer of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP); and Dr. Stefan P. Kruszewski, a whistleblower who was fired by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare after he reported the abuse and deaths of Pennsylvania children as a result of systemic physical and psychiatric malfeasance. His subsequent federal lawsuit was successfully settled in 2007.

The rally will be followed by a march to the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 12th and Arch Streets, where participants will hold a protest at 1:30 p.m.
"We will promote humane alternatives to the traditional mental health system, such as peer support, which evidence proves is effective in helping individuals recover from severe emotional distress," Oaks said. "Our protest is about choice, and everyone is welcome."
Contact: David Oaks, MFI, 541-345-9106,
SOURCE Mind Freedom International
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