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Posts Tagged ‘Mental Health’

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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I have a good memory. Actually, I have an excellent memory when you take into account all of the drugs and alcohol I’ve consumed to manage my moods over the past three hundred (or so it seems) years.

But there are times….

My significant other and I were doing a bit of purging the other day. You know, getting rid of clothes we haven’t worn in 10 years, bikes that are old and rusty, books (and more books)…things like that.

And there, sitting on the floor of one of the closets, still in the box, was a Rubbermaid Ironing organizer. In fact, the box has been sitting on the floor of that same closet for at least several years (or so it seems) right next to the ironing board that rests on the floor, and the iron, which sits on a table to the left of it.

I, in one of my bitchier moods, asked why it was still in the box and not attached to the wall as it was intended (and clearly wanted) to be. I was told that it was something that I had purchased, and then questioned as to why I hadn’t taken the initiative to install it.

Well! I would never purchase such an item. First of all, I don’t iron. I purposely by drip-dry shirts, wear sweaters even in summer, or pretend to be an aging Yuppie instead. Anyone who knows someone who has ADD and/or bipolar disorder knows that we would rather have a root canal than iron something. It’s just one of those chores (like making coffee or doing dishes) that makes us, dare I say, crazy. Or crazier.

But the truth is, the more I thought about it, I could just see myself (although I STILL don’t remember) in a frenzy at the local Bed Bath & Beyond, loading up a couple of shopping carts at once in an effort to get my life back on track, organized, simplified. I can see canisters and fussy little boxes, clip boards and pegboards, soap dispensers and paper towel racks spilling over into perhaps a third cart.

Did I purchase that odd little item? I don’t know. But what I now realize is that I shouldn’t have been so adamant about the fact that I would never have purchased such an item because when I’m in a manic state, even though I may seem, even though I may feel, lucid, it is a sort of delirium. And while I stand by the fact that 99 times out of 100, I will remember events correctly, I can’t be certain that 100 percent of the time, I didn’t do or didn’t say something that I just don’t recall doing or saying.

How is your memory?

P.S. Yes, this is my attempt at an apology.

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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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I’m not exactly a pro at this social networking stuff, but I do it. A little. And feel somewhat obligated to, sometimes.

Attend any writer’s conference and you’ll hear at least once in every session, something about: Blogging, Tweeting, Facebook, Technorati, and the ever popular, Platform. Because apparently, if you’re not social networking, you don’t exist.

Well, I’ve been blogging and tweeting for a while now, but as I said, I’m no expert. In fact it wasn’t until last week that I learned the purpose/meaning of the hashtag (#). There are days when I want to abandon all of it and hide in my room, reading and writing. When the thought of interacting with anyone on any level is just too much.

For one reason, every interaction harbors the potential for rejection. Those of you who are writers (and who isn’t these days) understand the dynamics of that. Except for James Franco of course, who’s been granted immunity against all rejection. But for the rest of us, well, it’s no fun and it does nothing to improve our writing or our social skills.

Now, I enjoy writing this blog, but that’s because I do it for me. I write it because I’m a writer, it provides me with some structure, and it’s a place to organize my thoughts and to ponder the bigger questions. If someone happens across it and finds it interesting, great. If no one does, great. I am delighted if my words touch someone, if they have an impact, or if they simply make someone feel that they are not alone in their struggles. And I am thrilled when someone takes the time out of their day to comment and share their thoughts with me. It’s a wonderful bonus.

But Twitter is different. For one thing, unlike the blog, people (followers) will SEE my tweets, even if they don’t read them. And because of that, I feel pressured to say something of value. My comments have to be witty or smart, insightful or thought-provoking, useful or profound. And at times, I feel the need to make them all of the above, which you have to admit is pretty hard to do in a 140 characters or less.

And then there are the statistics. I rarely pay any attention to my blog stats, but my Twitters status glares at me from the upper right hand corner every time I open the site. Twitter feels compelled to provide me with frequent updates as to my popularity.

Your Tweets 122

Following 139 Followers 61

Whether or not someone “follows” me is irrelevant. It’s nothing I have any control over. And yet it’s hard not to equate that in some way with my self-worth. Which I have to admit, is really quite bizarre. I don’t ask people to follow me. And I don’t follow people hoping that they will follow me in return.

I think I would enjoy the experience a whole lot more if I had no idea whether anyone was following me or not. Today I thought I lost 4 followers. Given my meager numbers, that’s a 6.7% loss in one day. I know it shouldn’t matter. And in reality, it doesn’t. But does anyone really need to know with that much accuracy, and that frequently, how “popular” they are?

The sad part of this story is, I hadn’t opened my Twitter account on that computer in a few days, so the numbers hadn’t been updated. Truth of the matter is, I didn’t loose 4 followers, I GAINED one. And suddenly I’m Sally Field, “You like me, you really like me.

Be well, Marco

(That’s (@MarcoDante) in case you’re interested!)

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Poems

Even though the house is deeply silent

and the room, with no moon,

is perfectly dark,

even though the body is a sack of exhaustion

inert on the bed,

someone inside me will not

get off his tricycle,

will not stop tracing the same tight circle

on the same green threadbare carpet.

It makes no difference whether I lie

staring at the ceiling

or pace the living-room floor,

he keeps on making his furious rounds,

little pedaler in his frenzy,

my own worst enemy, my oldest friend.

An excerpt from: “Insomnia” By Billy Collins

 

After many sleepless nights, I am finally rested and ready to tiptoe back into the blogosphere.

“Been away so long I hardly knew the place…Gee it’s good to be back home….”

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting is inertia. Once you stop anything it can be difficult to start up again. Conversely, once you start something it can be hard to stop….

Plus, I grew weary of talking about, thinking about, writing about, reading about…Drugs, Moods, Cycles…….

I felt stuck. The best part of writing for me was connecting with people, of knowing that, just by the virtue of sharing my experience, others felt validated, and in turn, validated me.

So, I’m still drug free. Still have my ups and downs, my good days and my bad. I will confess to having moments when I want to reach for the phone and call Dr. X to request (demand, plead…) a prescription for something, anything that might eliminate the ups and downs. But then I watch television for a few minutes and I am reminded, by the inundation of pharmaceutical company commercials, that more often than not, the side effects are worse than the disease.

One thing that just occurred to me, literally as I was writing this (another reason to keep at it) is that, subconsciously, knowing that I had sworn off drugs forever, I began to accept how I am. What I mean by that is, knowing that there would never be some “quick-fix,” or any fix for that matter, I got better at managing my moods myself. You see, I think if you hold out hope for some “cure,” you never become adept at living with, or managing whatever it is that you have. If you fall off a boat in the middle of a body of water and no one else is around to save you; you’d better learn to swim. You may not like it, you may swallow a lot of water, but if you survive, you know that you did it yourself. And you realize that no matter what happens, no matter how difficult things are, you can get through it. And you’ll be stronger and more resilient because of it.

So, what does this all mean? For one thing, it speaks to the dichotomy of life, the yin & the yang, the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde of it all. The bipolarness of life in general, for everyone. I hope that you will join me on this new, expanded journey, this new format of looking at LIFE as bipolar, not just the disease. That you will offer up your questions, suggestions, your experiences, (your rants if that’s what’s going on for you at the moment), and occasionally a shoulder to cry on. And I promise to do the same for you.

Be well, Marco

 

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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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