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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

I know how it feels to be passed by. I know how it feels to allow someone else’s success to be my own failure. I know all too well how hard it is to battle a nasty inner voice.” @AmericaFerrera

america-ferrera-triathlete

Inspiration is all around us. I found a little bit of it the other day in the New York Times in an essay about training for a triathlon by America Ferrera: “How a Triathlon Helped America Ferrera Defy Her Inner Critic.”

With every step, stroke and pedal, I turned “No, I can’t” into “Yes, I can,” “I’m limited” into “Look what I’m capable of,” and “I’m weak” into “I am whole, healthy and strong.’” @AmericaFerrera

You’d think that someone who is as successful as she is in her chosen profession would be beyond negative self-talk. Especially with so many agents, publicists and studio execs kissing her (bad)ass on a daily basis.

But no, she does it too. It was also nice to hear someone who is in the public eye openly admit to being human and fallible. I find that refreshing and inspiring. I have to admit that blogging about my own psychological challenges feels a bit strange at times. I’m not one who likes attention, I dislike most reality TV shows, and I was raised not to “air my dirty laundry in public.”

BUT, if no one aired their dirty laundry, how would we know that how we feel is also how a lot of other people feel. We can only learn and grow by sharing what we know, by being honest. So hopefully you appreciate my contribution to the noise as much as I appreciate America Ferrera’s.

And who isn’t guilty of negative self-talk, even though we know it’s not good for us. And it can be as innocent as calling yourself stupid if you make a minor mistake. I’ve called myself that just for dropping something. And each and every one of those comments chips away (subconsciously) at your self-esteem.

I have to admit that I have tried to use positive reinforcement on myself, but it always sounds silly or lame. Or like Donald Trump. “I’m Awesome!” “I’m Huge!” “I’m a force to be reckoned with,” etc., etc… So even if I don’t do that, thank you America for reminding me not to do the other.

I finally got my answer to that question: Who do you think you are? I am whoever I say I am.” @AmericaFerrera

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When you think like a designer, when you are willing to ask the questions, when you realize that life is always about designing something that has never existed before, then your life can sparkle in a way that you could never have imagined.

designing-your-life

It’s been six years since I last posted something here. Inertia is a BITCH!

Life has taken a lot of twists and turns since then. I finally moved away from Northern California (and that damned mechanical turkey) (see my Nov. 24, 2009 post “Giving Thanks for an Epiphany“) and relocated to the East Coast. I’ve also begun to experiment with pharmaceuticals again, which I am not happy about. But with all of the stress that comes along with moving, and aging, etc., I felt that it was time to reach out to some new doctors and see if there were any new pills worth popping in an effort to stop a downward spiral. Yes. And no.

For a few months I was on and off some medications I had tried before. Since I couldn’t remember what I had taken, how many milligrams, and in what combination with what, I let the doctor convince me to try things I had already tried, like Abilify and Wellbutrin. When there was no luck with those, he was convinced that I would see some relief with Latuda, a drug I had never tried before but which I was aware of thanks to Sunovion‘s unrelenting TV advertisements. Since it seemed to be working for everyone else, why not me? Well, I don’t think I took it long enough to find out. I had to stop it cold turkey because it was making me want to crawl out of my skin. There’s an actual term for that side-effect. It’s Akathisia, which is also something I was quite familiar with.

On to a new doctor. And here I am, starting my second week with Rexulti, and upping the dosage from 1mg to 2mg.

I’ve also been seeing a counselor/therapist of sorts who has been trying to get me to try things like DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). (He confessed last week that he didn’t think DBT would necessarily do me any good, but that having to adhere to the schedule might.) He also wondered, out loud, if perhaps my expectations were too high. “No,” I replied immediately. It wasn’t something I had to think about. “I’m trying to get from black to grey,” I said, “so, no, I don’t think my expectations are too high.”

Anyway, I’m at my desk writing again, so that’s something. And I feel it’s the only thing that keeps me sane, keeps me committed. The unexamined life is not worth living. But then neither is the over-examined life. But just by sitting at my computer THINKING about what works and what doesn’t, encourages me to keep trying. To re-establish all of those daily activities that have some impact, however small, on my mood-swings or depression; like eating right and exercising. And writing. So even if this new drug doesn’t work, I’m fairly certain it will be the last one I try, so I’m going to need something else to fall back on.

Be well, Marco

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Does Abilify Cause Weight Gain?: Weight gain is a common side effect of Abilify® (aripiprazole). In studies, the exact percentage of people that gained a significant amount of weight varied from study to study, but most studies consistently showed that people taking Abilify were more likely to gain weight than people taking a placebo (a “sugar pill” with no active ingredient).

For two and a half weeks I’ve been following the advice of Timothy Ferriss. He has after all practically guaranteed (money back?) that if I follow his plan I’ll be down to 8 percent body fat in just a few days. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, a little, but dammit, if I’m going to survive on a diet of lentils, kidney beans, tuna and eggs, I want results. And I want them NOW.

And doesn’t a plan for only four-hours a week of anything seem like the perfect fit for someone who’s bipolar and has ADD? In fact, it feels like it’s taken me four-hours just to write this much of the blog. Why are we so impatient? Honestly, I can handle all of the mood swings, the delirious highs and the bone crushing lows, but the boredom, the impatience, and the irritability makes me, well…crazy. Or is it the other way round?

The main reason for my frustration with Mr. Ferriss’ claims is that, not only have I not lost any weight or dropped any percentage points in body fat, I’ve actually GAINED weight and girth.

And then I had a realization. About the same time that I started the “diet” (eating plan, life style, or whatever he wants to call it,) I also started taking ABILIFY® (aripiprazole).

Now, anyone who’s read this blog before, knows full well that I don’t do drugs. Been there, done that. That was the whole purpose of this blog when it began: exploring living a bipolar life without pharmaceuticals.

But here’s the thing: I reached a low point where I just needed something, anything. And vodka, while I’ve used it judiciously in the past, wasn’t going to cut it. At least not for the long term. Of all of the hundreds of medications I’ve tried over the years, Abilify was the only one that worked, albeit for a short period of time. So, while I was hesitant to begin ingesting toxic chemicals into my bloodstream once again, when you’re on the Titanic, and the water is rushing up to your chest, you grasp at anything that resembles a floatation device.

And so it occurred to me today that it was probably the medication that was keeping the weight on in spite of my dedication to the 4-Hour Body plan, right down to the blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup and the half-pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk on those glorious cheat days.

So here is the sad truth about being bipolar: You can’t win.

But don’t you think that with all of that running and running just to stay in place that I’d have lost at least one of those extra pounds?

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Many people today are infatuated with the biological determinants of things. They find compelling the idea that moods, tastes, preferences, and behaviors can be explained by genes, or by natural selection, or by brain amines (even though these explanations are almost always circular: if we do x, it must be because we have been selected to do x). People like to be able to say, I’m just an organism, and my depression is just a chemical thing, so, of the three ways of considering my condition, I choose the biological. People do say this. The question to ask them is, Who is the “I” that is making this choice? Is that your biology talking, too?” The New Yorker, March 1, 2010: HEAD CASE: Can psychiatry be a science? by Louis Menand

I seem to have been in a downward spiral for the past few months. Thus the lack of postings. Miss me?

I can blame it on a lot of things. The weather. The news. The economy. Dick Cheney. The fact that I am forced to deal with bad brain chemistry without the aid of medication.

But whatever the cause, my depression, and the cause du jour, is not a CHOICE.

Yes, the pharmaceutical companies have gone astray and led their Mercedes Benz—home in the Hamptons—trips to Paris aspiring doctors along with them.

I don’t have a problem with people taking Paxil for shyness, Xanax for anxiety, or Wellbutrin for weight loss. But I do have a problem with people assuming that whatever it is that I take (used to take, actually) is a cop-out.

The decision to handle mental conditions biologically is as moral a decision as any other. It is a time-honored one, too. Human beings have always tried to cure psychological disorders through the body. In the Hippocratic tradition, melancholics were advised to drink white wine, in order to counteract the black bile. (This remains an option.) Some people feel an instinctive aversion to treating psychological states with pills, but no one would think it inappropriate to advise a depressed or anxious person to try exercise or meditation.”

For the record, there are those of us who are treatment resistant. But even if you’re not, why would anyone assume that you would choose to take a prescription medication if you didn’t have to?

Yes, we have entered the age of pharmaceutical advertising (TV, magazines, billboards) in which even the most obscure diseases and disorders are woven into our subconscious minds. Come to think of it, my legs do tingle from time to time—maybe I should be taking something for restless leg syndrome. I’ve also noticed I’ve been a little gassy lately—I’ll just bet I’ve got me a mild case of GERD. And even though I’ve no idea what Fibromyalgia or COPD are, according to recent commercials I have a number of symptoms for both, so…yeah, I’m going to self-diagnose (since that’s what those advertisements seem to be about anyway, and it doesn’t seem all that risky when you consider that “…psychiatrists reached the same diagnosis only twenty per cent of the time…”) and demand my doctor prescribe an assortment of pills and caplets for me to ingest that may or may not work, but that will certainly cause dizziness, nausea, constipation, tremors, dry mouth, blurred vision, weight gain, diminished libido (which in all fairness, may be attributable to the weight gain) and suicidal thoughts. Yeah, give me some of that.

Exercise? Diet? Meditation? All good options. IF you can drag your sorry ass out of bed.

We seem to be living in a very strange time (but then, when haven’t we?). Scientists discovered (in many cases, accidentally) that some drugs had a positive effect, on certain psychological disorders, in a few people, under certain circumstances. And, this being America, land of opportunity and quick fixes, we of course decided to take it one step further. Why feel good when you can feel great? My girlfriend just dumped me—give me a pill. My stock portfolio is in the toilet—better take a capsule. My favorite sitcom just got canceled—better up my dosage.

You know what, that’s what cocaine is for, not Prozac. And quite frankly, cocaine (the few times I consumed it years ago) did more for me than Abilify, Prozac, Zoloft and all of the others combined. WITHOUT impinging on my libido.

For those of you who are suffering from symptoms that are far more profound and harder to treat, and find any kind of relief at all in pharmaceuticals, I am truly happy for you. Whatever relieves you from some of the horrible effects and consequences of depression or bipolar disorder, ADHD or OCD, go for it. And I promise you, even though it’s not for me, I won’t be one of those people standing on the side-lines accusing you of copping out.

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“…studies show that the worse side effects a patient experiences, the more effective the drug. Patients apparently think, this drug is so strong it’s making me vomit and hate sex, so it must be strong enough to lift my depression. In clinical-trial patients who figure out they’re receiving the drug and not the inert pill, expectations soar. That matters because belief in the power of a medical treatment can be self-fulfilling (that’s the basis of the placebo effect).”

Perhaps I should explain the title of this post.

You’re all familiar with the philosophical riddle, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, an article in the February 8, 2010 issue of Newsweek magazine (“The Depressing News About Antidepressants,” by Sharon Begley) about antidepressants had me wondering; if a pill that is swallowed that is basically sugar, with no chemical component that might effect serotonin, works because we “believe” it works…does it “really” work?

“…scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it are concluding…that antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs.”

I’m a firm believer in the power of the mind. I’ve witnessed first hand how thinking can make it so. I do believe that, in some instances, there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. BUT…

But, the chances of it working are about as good as your chances at the blackjack table in Vegas. Sure, sometimes you’ll draw an ace and a jack, and sometimes people get better because they believe they will, but not always. If just wishing could make it so, I’d have a brand new Maserati (GranCabrio convertible in Blu Oceano with a Sabbia interior) sitting in my driveway.

Here’s another question I had after reading the article: What happens to the placebo effect after people read an article like this one? Great! Now the pills that don’t really work, really don’t work because we’ve lost faith in them. Now what do we do?

The power of positive thinking has its place. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to practice that in your daily life, pills or no pills. Accentuate the positive, as they say. But also, be realistic. But wait, how can you be realistic and hope to cure your depression with blind faith?

But then again…I’ll bet there are a number of Pharmaceutical sales reps out there who do have Maseratis in their garages because they visualized them. Because they held a picture of them in their mind and repeated a mantra over an over again while they fudged the test results and made promises to general practitioners that the pills couldn’t possibly deliver.

If placebos can make people better, then depression can be treated without drugs that come with serious side effects, not to mention costs.”

Hey, it’s worth a try. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to try an experiment of my own. Here’s a photo of the car.

If you would just stare at it for a few minutes and repeat over and over, “A Maserati in Marco’s driveway,” I’ll let you know what happens. If I go out there tomorrow and there’s a blue convertible, I’ll be first in line to refill my prescription for Zoloft.

But until then, I’m remaining drug free!!!!

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I thought my life would seem more interesting with a musical score and a laugh track.”  Bill Watterson

As most of you know, I’m only in this for the money.  And of course the fame.  And the accolades.  And the….

Did you know that Comments cure depression?  Well, that’s not really true, but they can lift it temporarily.  Nothing brightens my day more than seeing a number or two lit up in the “comments” section.  No matter how old the post is, or how inconsequential you think your comment might be, leave it anyway.  Some days that’s my only reason for living.  Well, maybe not the only reason, but you know what I mean.

I’ve decided to keep it light today.  I’m still in a New York state of mind.  Still reeling from the culture and the cuisine, the noise and the theater, the museums and the cab rides.  I am operating on sensory over-load and loving it.

I thought that I would share a few more of the Calvin and Hobbes pieces that I love so much.

I adore his honesty, his self-centeredness, his unwillingness to change to suit other people’s expectations.

BUT, he’s also a good reminder of how we SHOULD be.  I like to think that I’m a good person.  I like to think that I do nice things.  And while I am and I do, is it really enough?  Being a good person means more than being moral and conscientious.  It means actually going out and doing something to make the world a better place.  I recycle, I’m kind to animals, I contribute to food banks and occasionally to pan-handlers.  But what am I REALLY doing to make the world a better place?

Okay, I promised I was going to keep this light.  Must be all of those New Year’s resolutions creeping into my subconscious.

Like it or not, Calvin is a child of our times, raised on the cusp of Twitter and Reality TV.  And he makes no excuses for it.

I like an audience as much as the next person.  Not as much as John or Kate or any of the newest of the string of celebrities for celebrity sake (e.g., Tiger’s female entourage climbing out of the swamp to get their 15 minutes.)  But I can also BE a good audience.  And that brings me to the Special Gift portion of our show.  My fellow blogger and mood-swinger, Sarcastic Bastard has given me many chuckles over the past year, and I am hoping to return the favor with, “The Ladies Who Brunch.”  It is a photograph I found years ago.  I have no idea who these women are, but it makes me smile every time I look at it.  And it reminds me not to take life so seriously.  I hope she, and YOU, enjoy it, that it puts a smile on your face as well, and that it encourages you to kick up your heels a bit more in the New Year.

"The Ladies Who Brunch"

And remember: YOU MATTER.  Well, maybe not to me, but to someone, somewhere…..

Thanks for playing.

Love, Marco

P.S. CALVIN & HOBBES FANS: See more at:  There Must Be More to Life!

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Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.  It is out of the formlessness of the neutral zone that new form emerges and out of the barrenness of the fallow time that new life springs.  We can support and even enhance the process, but we cannot produce the results.  Once those results begin to take shape, however, there are several things that can be done.  The first is, very simply, to stop getting ready and to act.  Getting ready can turn out to be an endless task, and one of the forms that inner resistance often takes is the attempt to make just a few more (and then more, and again more) preparations.” “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,” by William Bridges

I had a foul epiphany the other day.  Well, actually, it was more like a fowl epiphany.

I stopped off at a mall close to my house to run a few errands.  Being as I live in California, it’s an open-air mall, irrespective of the fact that it’s Northern California and several of the months here are more often than not, cold and rainy.  Anyway, the first thing I noticed was this twenty-foot high orange and brown wooden turkey with a bobbing head.  Now I wasn’t surprised so much by the turkey (it shows up every November and doesn’t depart until after the New Year) but I was surprised by the whole “Groundhog Day” effect that it had on me.

You see, this turkey is hollow.  It has a door in its side that opens up so that you can donate canned and dry goods to the local food bank.  It’s something I do every year.  Only this time when I saw that damned turkey I could have sworn it was only a couple of weeks ago that I had been shoving boxes of pasta and tins of tuna into its hollowed-out butt.

Now, here’s the thing.  I’ve been starring at that mechanical turkey every holiday season for the past twenty plus years.  I’m sick to death of that Turkey.  And it was a stark reminder of how boring my life had become.  How risk free.  How safe.  And I swear to you, the second I laid eyes on it I vowed that it would be the last Thanksgiving I would ever have see it.

I’m an East Coast person.  Born and raised.  And though I was transplanted to Northern California more than two decades ago, my roots never took.  Every year I vow to move away, back to New York or Boston.  Back to someplace that makes me feel more alive.  And here was this gigantic three-dimensional reminder that another year had passed.  Another year spent daydreaming instead of taking action.

When the time comes, stop getting ready to do it—and do it!”

What is it about the familiar that keeps us so chained to the status quo?  Why would we rather suffer in a toxic environment than try something new?  It’s one of the reasons (I repeat, ONE of the reasons) people stay in abusive relationships.  The “known,” no matter how detrimental, feels like a safer choice than the unknown.  I’ve seen videos of children screaming to be returned to their parents, even though their parents were abusive to them.  We crave, (consciously or un) sameness.

I had some relatives from South Florida visit not too long ago.  They borrowed my car and drove up to Napa for the day.  They were rather disappointed by the trip.  Seems that they stopped and asked several people if there was a “Bennigans” around.  There wasn’t.  They were 3,000 miles from home, in an environment that is nowhere near theirs, and yet they wanted to duplicate the same experience they have in Palm Beach.  They wanted the familiar.

Now, I’ve never really been one to play it safe.  Or so I thought.  But to tell you the truth, the idea of actually implementing a plan that would take me far away from that turkey, that would uproot me from everything I know, regardless of how boring it is, scares me to death.  Why is that?

But like I said in my last post, there are two different kinds of learning, and this one was the experiential one.  I got it on a gut level.  I would rather die doing something new than live forever doing the same old, same old.

And like they say in “Pippin,” “I want my life to be something more than long….”

“Corner of the Sky” from “Pippin

Everything has its season

Everything has its time

Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme

Cats fit on the windowsill

Children fit in the snow

Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?


 

Rivers belong where they can ramble

Eagles belong where they can fly

I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free

Got to find my corner of the sky

 

Every man has his daydreams

Every man has his goal

People like the way dreams have

Of sticking to the soul


Thunderclouds have their lightning

Nightingales have their song

And don’t you see I want my life to be

Something more than long….

 

Rivers belong where they can ramble

Eagles belong where they can fly

I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free

Got to find my corner of the sky


 

So many men seem destined

To settle for something small

But I won’t rest until I know I’ll have it all

So don’t ask where I’m going

Just listen when I’m gone

And far away you’ll hear me singing

Softly to the dawn:


 

Rivers belong where they can ramble

Eagles belong where they can fly

I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free

Got to find my corner of the sky.

Pippin: Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

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