Daily Archives: May 31, 2015

ANGER, WILL ROBINSON! ANGER!

Yup! It’s creeping on me yet again..

I don’t know why but lately I’ve been hating everything and every one. It sucks. Work has been hard because I hate my co workers. Home has been hard because I hate my husband and my cats. The internet sucks because I hate writing and everything media related.

Yeah, its been THAT KIND of anger and I don’t know how to shake it.

I need mediation, a spell, a serum or a wish because this anger might be here for the long run.

but… its also the Mercury Retrograde happening, and that isn’t good.

There is a lot going on and I can’t seem to control anything.

Yuck…


A Psychiatrist Endangered My Life and I Was Afraid to Speak Out

A sad stock photo until Jessica's illustration is finished.

A very sad stock photo until Jessica’s illustration is finished.

Folks who have never struggled with their mental health seem to think of psychiatry as a quick and easy fix. Pop some happy pills and ta-daaaa! Your struggles will magically dissolve.

What these folks fail to understand (other than, like, how psychiatric medications actually work) is that, for many of us who are in the midst of mental illness or crisis, sometimes a psychiatrist’s office can be the most dangerous place for us to be.

When I was 18 years old, my therapist told me it was time to start thinking about medication to manage my bipolar disorder. I was suicidal, experiencing severe dissociation, and was dangerously depressed. I had experienced bipolar symptoms for most of my life, and we knew that medication to help regulate moods could be a game changer.

I went to a clinic that my insurance covered, and saw the first psychiatrist that I could. I knew the situation was urgent, and I was fortunate enough to find an opening sooner rather than later. I filled out the necessary forms, came in for my appointment, and waited for what I assumed was going to be the first miraculous step in my recovery and healing.

When we think about mental health professionals, we hope and even assume that they will be compassionate, encouraging, and at the very least, competent. But the woman that I met at this clinic was none of these things.

Her first question for me was to ask why I was depressed. When I told her I didn’t know, and that I had been depressed on and off for a long time, she didn’t believe me. She accused me of exaggerating my symptoms, telling me that I was “just a teenager” and that I couldn’t possibly be as depressed as I claimed to be.

She tried to shame me for seeing a psychiatrist. She said to me, “You know, I have children, and they’re around your age. I’d be pretty skeptical if they decided to seek out pills to solve their problems.”

Not once in our appointment did she ask if I was suicidal (I was). She didn’t ask about my history with self-harm (long and complicated). She seemed completely uninterested in my past, and instead, spent a lot of time asking about where my parents were, and why I would see a psychiatrist if I was “getting good grades in school.”

When I handed her a list of symptoms that my therapist had helped me to write, she looked at me and said, “Did you just read a psychology book recently and decide you were sick?”

I wish I could say that this was the worst thing that she did. But it only went downhill from there.

After she could see that I wasn’t leaving without some kind of help, she sighed, rolled her eyes, and asked me, “What pills do you want?”

I was completely baffled. What pills do I want? Wasn’t it her job to prescribe a medication that made sense based on my experiences? Wasn’t it her job to make an educated decision on how to manage my symptoms?

“I don’t know. My aunt takes Prozac,” I said quietly. “Should I be taking Prozac?”

“If it worked for her, maybe it’ll help you,” she told me, completely apathetic.

She wrote me the prescription and told me to leave.

This psychiatrist had confirmed that I did, indeed, have bipolar disorder. There was no confusion there. And yet she prescribed me an antidepressant without telling me that antidepressants can increase the risk of mania or rapid cycling in folks who have bipolar. Most psychiatrists will prescribe them with a mood stabilizer rather than prescribing an antidepressant alone because of this risk.

(Of course, I learned all of this from my next psychiatrist who, upon learning that I had taken Prozac by itself, looked at me and said, “I don’t understand why any trained psychiatrist would’ve done this.”)

Instead of prescribing a medication that took into account my diagnoses of anxiety and bipolar, she let me choose my own medication – as if I had gone to medical school and had a background that made me at all qualified to prescribe meds to myself.

Let me say that again: A so-called medical professional let a teenager prescribe their own drugs.

I was so very young, and in no way equipped to deal with the very serious disorder I was diagnosed with. I came to her for help – in arguably the most vulnerable place a person can be – and I was shamed for it, invalidated, re-traumatized, and worst of all, prescribed a medication that endangered me.

I trusted her, and she failed me.

And yes, of course, I began rapid cycling. I experienced volatile mood swings, vivid suicidal ideation, mania like I’d never seen before, complete breaks from reality. I scared everyone around me, including my parents, who at that point didn’t have much knowledge about bipolar and thus often missed the red flags with my episodes.

It was pretty exceptional stuff if my parents were taking note.

At my mother’s urging, I called the psychiatrist. I assumed that, perhaps, it was an honest mistake. But to my complete shock, despite several urgent voicemails, she did not call me back.

Not only did she endanger me with the wrong medicine, but when I called her in crisis, she made no attempt to help me.

My gut said that this psychiatrist had no right to invalidate my pain or shame me for asking for help. My gut said that asking a patient to choose their own pills was not how psychiatry was supposed to work. And my gut said that she had given me the wrong medicine, and that she should be held accountable for irresponsibly ignoring all of my calls.

But I was a teenager, and I was afraid. She was well-respected at this clinic – one of the best, I was told. It was my first time ever seeing a psychiatrist, and I thought that maybe this was just how psychiatry worked. Maybe it really was just quick and abrasive. Maybe I was being too sensitive.

Looking back, I deeply regret not making noise for the very clear wrongs that happened here. While I am in no way to blame for what happened, I fear for all the patients that came after me, especially the younger ones who are in many ways the easiest targets for this kind of abuse because we are placing our trust in adults that we are told are there to help us.

The sad part about it is that these psychiatric horror stories are not at all rare. We often come into these offices very vulnerable, even afraid, and are expected to somehow advocate for ourselves. We are asking for help, which is the most difficult thing in the fucking world to do, and when a professional preys on that vulnerability, it can be disastrous.

I share my story not to scare folks who are considering psychiatric interventions or discourage them from seeking help. Because as terrible as this was for me, and as long as it took to get past it, psychiatry as a whole has still helped me immensely. I’ve had the great privilege of having doctors that I can honestly say are my heroes, who modeled the kind of compassionate and competent care that we all deserve.

But people need to know that psychiatry is not infallible. That doctors and psychiatrists, too, are not infallible. In fact, in my experience as an advocate, I can tell you that abuse, intimidation, shaming, and endangerment by so-called professionals is not exceptional. In fact, tragically, it’s all too common.

Folks who are seeking out a psychiatrist need to know that they are entitled to the best possible care. If something feels wrong, if the experience was traumatic, or if there is an issue of trust, you are not obligated to continue seeing this person. I’ll repeat that: You are not obligated to stay. You’re not even obligated to be “nice” or polite, especially if you feel unsafe.

You can leave at any time, or call them out if you feel like you’re in a position to do that. You can seek out local mental health organizations if you feel you might have been the victim of abuse, and of course, any feedback you can give the clinic, even if it’s anonymous, is vital.

Well-intentioned loved ones who push us to seek out psychiatrists need to understand that this is not an easy bake oven, where you hand us over to a psychiatrist and we emerge on the other side perfectly composed and healed.

If you are invested in our well-being, I would encourage you to keep an open line of communication with us. Ask us about our psychiatrist. Don’t pry about the details of what we shared, but do ask us questions about the experience as a whole. “Did you feel safe? Did you feel validated? Did anything feel off or wrong? Do they seem trustworthy?”

Those questions can actually be life-saving.

While it’s clear that reform is needed to address the lack of quality psychiatric care and the dire inaccessibility of that care, it is crucial that we advocate for our loved ones to ensure that they are receiving treatment that does not hinder their healing, but rather, facilitates it.

I walked away from my first visit with a psychiatrist feeling like an imposter. Maybe I was a liar. Maybe I was wrong to ask for help. Maybe I was selfish. I walked away confused, more fearful than ever, and convinced that nothing could get better.

This should go without saying: No one should walk away from a medical professional feeling ashamed, afraid, and traumatized.

It took me years before I could write about this experience, but it’s my hope that sharing this story can give insight into the kinds of struggles we face not only as folks with mental illnesses, but as people trying to navigate a failing system.

I am not the first person to encounter abuse in the office of a psychiatrist, and I will certainly not be the last.

So when you gently suggest to a friend that they “just see a psychiatrist” as if it’s a walk in the park, let me remind you that it’s more like a bath with piranhas, or slathering on some honey and slow dancing with a bear.

You should probably, you know, adjust your sympathy accordingly.

 Sam Dylan Finch is a queer activist and feminist writer, based in the SF Bay. He is the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his blog and labor of love. With a passion for impacting change through personal narrative, Sam writes about his struggles and triumphs as genderqueer and bipolar with the hopes of teaching others about his identity and community. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably eating takeout and dancing to Taylor Swift.

Connect with SDF: Website ; Facebook ; Twitter ; Tumblr


No Dream Warriors Here

From one of my favorite 80’s Bands, as well as one of my favorite horror movie Franchises. (Long live Freddy Kruuger!)

 

And so the sleep disturbance saga continues, with new twists that weren’t there prior to Latarda and Trileptal. It was one thing having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. Now the bizarro dreams have invaded along with a slew of other disturbing little quirks.

Last night, I retired to my crypt around nine p.m. Kid was down (finally, it’s like having a Siamese twin with a one word vocabulary MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY) and I was just needing to chill. I thought once she was down, I might revitalize and find more energy. I mean, I cooked a good spaghetti supper, we both got showers, it wasn’t an awful day, just lazy. I should have felt more alive. But I didn’t, I was tapped out. Toward ten I laid down and the scumbag brain began t0 do its tornado thought thing. I thought, I should take at least half my bedtime Xanax dose. But noo, I was being stubborn and went with the counting backward from 1000, the stop sign method, deep breathing, focusing on the Forensic Files playing in the background. (Yeah, I know, falling asleep to murder shows is creepy but that narrator has such a calming voice!)

I was in that zone where I was starting to drift off, in spurts. But I kept jolting awake, as if falling asleep would kill me. By the fifth jolt, I was pretty much on my way to dreamland. And BAM, my desktop decides to go blue screen of death and make knives in a blender noise. Instant panic and wakefulness. I shut it down, let it rest. The hard drive’s going out but I will use it til it’s death knoll. The silence killed me. I thought, I will try to drift off without background noise, give the pc a break…Ha. Didn’t happen. I got the desktop running again, put Forensic Files back on, and went back to the counting and stop sign dance. After a half hour, my heart still pounding head racing, worrying about the computer even though I’ve had it a year, it only cost $75 and I do have other options to use…I took a 0.5 Xanax. Eventually slept.

And came the dreams. Or nightmares. The Donor was in them. Trying to convince me I was the evil bitch and even though he walked out and has done nothing for Spook, he should be entitled to full custody. And I was buying into it, just like I half ass bought into all his manipulations and lies in the first place. Because he is just that good at mimicking emotion. I woke finally and was so glad Spook had climbed into my bed so I could drape a protective arm over her…I hate the fucking dreams, hate hate hate.

So I was less than amused when the spawn started poking me with a stick bright and early. When are you gonna get up, mommy. Are you gonna sleep all day mommy.Mommy mommy mommy. It wasn’t even 8:30. I just wanted to loll in bed a bit,not necessarily sleep, just loll. Bladder protested as much as the kid. then the mewling cats, so I got up. Foggy from the rough night of sleep and dreams.

Thus far, I’ve soaked some dishes, with the intent to do them at some point. Put a load of laundry in the dryer. Cleaned cat boxes. Not feeling too bad, but that’s the thing, Mornings are okay, aside from my night owl bone marrow despising the daywalker thing. Spook has a new pet, which I won’t allow in the house. It’s a worm she named Wormy. I can handle snakes, spiders, roaches..But no worms, slugs, or maggots. I can watch autopsy shows no problem. Til the maggots. I guess we all have our boundaries. The kid freaked out over a dead spider yet is petting and bonding with a worm. I guess weird is in our DNA.

I have zero plans for the day. Can’t really run around, little gas in the car. The church lady (how SNL is that?) called last night to ask if I could bring Spook today since they are all so busy, and then when I picked her up I could attend their steak luncheon. (Can’t stand steak.) It was humiliating having to admit I didn’t even have enough gas in the car for a ten mile trip so my kid could go to church. My God, I never saw my life turning out like this. All these overachieving super together twenty somethings and I’m 42 and struggling day to day…Pathetic. This was not how it was supposed to be. Of course, I never sat down and ordered mental illness from a catalog, either.

Sometimes it’s hard to take, seeing all these people younger than me, multiple kids, full time jobs, mortgages, hobbies, outings, church, et al. And I can barely manage no job, one kid, and can’t even have a social life because my brain is that fucked up. It’s not for lack of desire. To be this old and yet feel like such a child because my life is…THIS…It’s embarrassing. I also know it’s not entirely my fault. Good choices can only be made by a brain that isn’t ill. I made the choices but I wasn’t in my right mind at the time. Not an excuse or cop out, just fact. Still, no one around me cuts me any slack. Just the other day at the shop R said, “Oh, that woman can’t pick her TV up til the first when she gets her disability paycheck. Oh, I mean when they hand her money for doing nothing.”

My self esteem soars.

I have to hear shit like that every single day. Even from my own father who was on about what all he’d done in a day at his age and how I did nothing and blah blah blah. shut the fuck up. Like I don’t feel crappy enough.

Yet at the same time, I am supposed to be thankful for what I have and not complain because others have it worse.

But if I accept and am thankful for what I have, somehow that means I’m fine being mental and not being a productive member of society.

Catch 22.

This is why I like horror movies. They’re fiction. The real horror is called civilized society.


Crazy Pills

Once upon a time in the land of Jublia lived a kind and powerful queen named Lunesta. One day the dragon Cialis and the evil sorceress Humira attacked the castle, but Jublia was saved by Lunesta and her faithful dog Boniva.

And the peasants rejoiced.

Honestly! The names that pharmaceutical companies give their drugs these days! It’s bad enough that the drugs have a list of side effects longer than the symptoms they’re supposed to cure. Not to mention the drugs where the side effects are the same symptoms they are supposed to cure, or the ones where the side effects are considerably worse than the condition they’re being prescribed for.

My favorite has always been, may cause death (excuse me, “increases risk of death”). That has to be the ultimate side effect. You’ll be dead, but your toenails will look great for the funeral. Leave instructions that include sandals.

I made a list of all the drugs that I’ve been prescribed in my pursuit of something resembling sanity. It’s quite long. I’ve tried almost every class of drugs there is – tricyclics, atypical, SSRIs, anti-anxiety drugs, and hypnotics – in various combinations and assorted doses, and even for off-label uses. (TIL that Abilify can be classed as an “atypical atypical,” which makes me feel a certain kinship with it.)

The only ones I know I haven’t taken are lithium and the MAOI inhibitors. which is a good thing, because I do so like red wine and cheese.

Here’s the list, as nearly as I can remember:
Abilify
buproprion
Desyrel
Effexor
Inderal
Lamictal
Lexapro
desipramine
Prozac
Sinequan
Tofranil
Topamax
Wellbutrin
Zoloft
Ativan
BuSpar
Ambien
Valium

I may have missed a few, what with the brand names and generics, the decades over which all this occurred, the memory deficits, and the ones I took for only a month or two before the side effects became too heinous.

The side effects I’ve encountered along the way include:
dry mouth
memory loss
nightmares
agitation
lethargy
weight gain

Not all at the same time, of course, thank heavens. Right now I seem to have dry mouth, residual memory loss, and weight gain. Given the alternatives, I can live with these. More or less. (That is to say, I have to.) The memories, I understand, are not coming back. I just hope I don’t lose any more, especially ones of the hot-n-juicy variety.

The side effects I haven’t suffered include:
death (obviously)
fatal skin rash (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which I wrote bout a while back: https://bipolarjan.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/saving-face-or…-die-from-that/)
tardive dyskinesia

I hope the drug regimen has settled down for a while. I must admit that I don’t follow the instructions to the letter. They’re simply too overwhelming: Take this one on a full stomach, this on an empty stomach, another with milk or never with grapefruit juice; something else at bedtime or half an hour before bedtime, or with the noon meal. And don’t forget the non-psychotropics (cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.), or the vitamin, fiber, and calcium pills my GP prescribes or recommends. Well, and the OTC Benadryl, Tylenol, and Immodium, as needed.

(Yes, I did once look up all my meds in a drug interaction database. Every one interacts with every other one. Maybe that’s one reason mixing an effective cocktail has been such a crapshoot.)

I knew a woman who took so many different drugs for her variety of illnesses and conditions that she had a kitchen timer that she continually set and reset every time she had to take a dose of something. Her meds were more precise than mine, though. If she screwed it up, the consequences would be dire. Her side effects did include death.

The regimen I’ve settled on is this: one set of pills when I wake up (whenever that is) and one set at 11:00 p.m. I eat whenever I’m hungry, and I don’t like grapefruit juice anyway. Anything more complicated than that I can’t be sure of remembering. It’s still complex, what with the only-in-the-morning pills, the only-at-night pills, and the take-twice-a-day things.

I have little tricks to help me remember the routine – daytime-only pills in a plastic bag, nighttime-only on the lamp base, twice a day on the tea cart. Turn the vitamin bottle upside down after taking morning pills. I suppose I should get one of those daily pill caddy things, but they never seem to have enough, or big enough, compartments.

Is this routine crazy? You should see me without the pills.

Well, no, you shouldn’t.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: anxiety, bipolar disorder, bipolar type 2, depression, drug side effects, mental health, mental illness, my experiences, psychotropic drugs, SSRIs. MAOI inhibitors, tricyclics

singaporean bipolar & depression quiz show

I’m not going to review this one any further that to say zomg I LOVE it. Feel free to come back and agree or lynch me. Please check it out, regardless of whether or not you’re bipolar. I started the day feeling rather crappy, but more stable. I am now grinning my ass off. If any of you see my ass, I’d quite like it back.*exits stage left followed by a bear*

Ang Yong Guan (psychiatrist):

Body SOS 2 小毛病大問题2 Episode 2 Depression 抑郁症 and 3 Bipolar Disorder 躁郁症. Hear Hong Hui Fang 洪慧芳 talk about her Depression (抑郁症) in Episode 2 and Qian yifeng 权怡凤 speak about her Bipolar Disorder (躁郁症) in Episode 3. She was very frank in sharing her symptoms which allowed me to suspect that she could also be suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (边缘型人格障碍). She readily agreed. What are the features of Borderline Personality Disorder (边缘型人格障碍)? See the video clip.

Please take note of the Vivaldi.

IMG_6364_hired gun_peter lloyd_as

“psychiatrists are not hired guns”

You might also enjoy the episode about Emotional Bank Accounts (in English). I opened an EBA immediately.

Ang Yong Guan

I love this dude. Please note that the second video really isn’t comic at all – it’s utterly fascinating and really sad. He rhymes in his warm up bit and then gets serious. Here’s his official website and he blogs too. He was in the military, I have zero idea whether that is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing. If there are any Singaporeans reading this, I’d really love your take on him. If it turns out he’s really crap, I promise to die of embarrassment on the spot. Or the stripe. Whichever is nearest. If nothing else, I love the fact that it gives us a chance to get an insight into something other than Western developed countries’ psychiatry and zeitgeist.