mental illness issues

I Hate Psych Meds but Medication Non-Compliance Kills

→ October 4, 2010 - 18 Comments

I have written thousands and thousands of words in this blog and elsewhere about how much I hate medication.

I hate it in the car, I hate it on a train, I hate on a boat, I hate it in the rain.
I hate it in the snow, I hate it in the sun, I hate it standing still, I hate it on the run.
I hate it before breakfast, I hate it after lunch, I hate it in the morning, I hate it during brunch.

And while I could fill an entire blog with all the ways I hate psych meds, I still, take them, everyday.

Weird you say?

(Well, yes. But no more so than the disease it treats.)

Because no matter how much I might hate psych meds, medication non-compliance kills.

It Doesn’t Matter that I Hate Meds, I Am Medication Compliant Anyway

Someone said to me that I have such conviction for a method that has been proven fruitless again and again. Well, yes, but there has been the odd pomegranate here and there. Moreover, I can’t think of anything better with which to convict, so I have to go with what has the greatest (however small) possibility of working. [push]Psych meds are backed by science and doctors and experience; not to mention my personal experience with medication where it has definitely been useful from time to time.[/push]

But I completely understand people who want off their meds. Now. Like. Now. No more medications. No more antidepressants. No more antipsychotics. No more mood stabilizers. No more tranquilizers. No more medications. Medication non-compliance. Now.

Bipolar Medication is Horrible

I get it. Psych meds are horrible. My list of psych med side effects is terrifying, even to me. Some I wouldn’t go through again no matter what. So I totally get it. Bipolar medications and side effects can all but ruin a life.

But Bipolar Medication Saves Lives

But psychiatric medication saves lives too. In fact, it may be saving your life right now, without you even knowing about it. The fact that you’re not trying to kill yourself may be thanks to the little pink pill that you take in the mornings, even though it is your least favorite part of the day.

And that’s the thing. I understand the consuming desire to excise the poison of psych meds from one’s body, but doing so can be just plain dangerous and life-threatening. All sorts of nasty things happen to people when they suddenly stop their medication. This is known as medication non-compliance and is a topic I wrote about at Breaking Bipolar.

I Hate Online Bipolar Misinformation and Misrepresentation

→ September 29, 2010 - 7 Comments

Sometimes people ask me where they should go for an online support group. Sometimes people ask me what other blogs I read. These are reasonable questions, unfortunately, my answer is: I would know, I don’t go there. I find many online haunts full of misinformation and misrepresentation. And I hate misinformation and misrepresentation.

Bipolar Support Groups

I have no problem with bipolar online support groups. Many people find them very useful and I would never try to dissuade someone from seeking one out. People need to connect with others like them, and that is one way to to connect with others with a mental illness.[push]Online support groups are rife with misinformation and misrepresentation. No matter how well-meaning the participants.[/push]

That said, I don’t like the places much. I find online support groups full of whiny people offering misguided and often untrue layperson information. I have no doubt that there are groups online that are not like that, but in my limited experience, they are.

Bipolar Blogs

As for other blogs, I am sure there are many good ones. I have occasionally mentioned a few on the bipolar burble blog. But I don’t read them, generally. It comes down to writing quality, quality medical information and time. Quality writing is hard to find, trustworthy medical information can be tough, and of course, like most people, I don’t have a lot of time. I tend to digest medical information from journals and the occasional feature news story. They’re just more useful to me. Everyone’s biases are upfront.

I Hate Bipolar Misinformation and Misrepresentation

All that being said, I must admit, I did something stupid. I’m on a Twitter feed and last night I clicked on one of their articles. And the blog article was crap. Misinformation and misrepresentation of information.[pull]I feel like I have to fight the good fight on every front. When I see misinformation and misrepresentation, I feel the need to interject. I wish to bring rationale and logic forward. But this is the internet. It wasn’t built for such things.[/pull]

I hate misinformation and misrepresentation. Like, a lot. People who do that make me want to smack them with a journalism degree.

And the thing is, I find it really difficult to stay quiet when I see misinformation and misrepresentation. I just want to slap double-blind placebo-controlled studies all over their ass. And admittedly, that is still unconvincing to many. People still think there’s a big pharmacology conspiracy at work. I can’t help those nuts, but I feel this gritty duty to write about the wrongs anyway. I want to just say so when people are lying. They’re lying, damnit!

Bipolar Misinformation and Misrepresentation Snips

And OK, as the author said, I got snippy.

I did, I admit it. I’m not perfect. I should have just made a couple of empirical points and walked away understanding that this is a very different audience than mine and that audience is likely to attack me.  I’ve been on the internet forever, I know you can’t say anything controversial in a comment without a flame-war ensuing. I know this. And yet I allowed myself to be bated. Bad writer, bad. There are much better ways to express my thoughts than that.

Le sigh.

Now, in the author’s defense, he did change the blatant inaccuracies, which I do appreciate.

So, if you’d like to have a look, tell me I’m wrong, or snitty, or perhaps lend a comment in support, go right ahead.

Good Quality Crazy Blogs

And just in case you were wondering, some blogs by crazy people that I do like are:

Don’t Forget, Tomorrow is Dissociative Identity Disorder Day

Tomorrow I will unveil Holly Gray’s post on dissociative identity disorder. It’s a good one. You don’t want to miss it.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Goes Crazy

→ September 28, 2010 - Comments off

As I mentioned last week, Holly Gray of Don’t Call Me Cybil is writing a guest post for me here this week. Well, that got kicked off because she asked me to write the inaugural guest post on her blog. My guest article was posted today and is about the label “crazy” and why us crazies shouldn’t be so afraid of it.

A little about Holly:

My name is Holly Gray. I’m 36 years old. I’m a writer and DID awareness advocate. I live in a stunningly beautiful area of the Pacific Northwest United States.

I am a real person with dissociative identity disorder.

Check out her dissociative identity disorder blog and check out my entry on my favorite word, “crazy” and how Words Don’t Hurt People, People Hurt People.

I’m thrilled to meet a real person with such a misunderstood disorder and it doesn’t hurt that she’s bright and articulate. Thanks to Holly for the opportunity to lend a few words.

Why Live with the Sadness and Pain of Bipolar Disorder?

→ September 26, 2010 - 5 Comments

I was very sad. Very upset. About something that happened in my real life. I was anxious, sad, scared, angry and upset. But as with so many things, there was no resolution. Things just left in the air. Left to stab. Left to scathe. That’s the pain of life I suppose.

Because I was ignored. As per the usual. It is quite possible, and in fact likely, that the person is angry and thus ignoring me. Again, such are humans.

I Hate Being Ignored. I Find it Painful.

So all the upset, turns to self-hatred, turns to deep sadness, turns to pain, as it always does. And so I pressed the sadness down. From my head to my throat to my chest and into the pit of my being where all the sadness lives. Where the sadness haunts me every day anyway. Just another drop in the ocean.

I have a thing about that. Being ignored. A neurosis. Comes from childhood. No one listened or cared about my feelings growing up. When asked for my opinion it was immediately discarded when given. The question was asked simply to tick off a box in the good parenting manual. Apparently, there was no tick box for listening or considering. And being crazy, I still feel like no one is listening to my feelings. Which is only partly their fault. I fail to communicate the need for consideration and acknowledgment. I only partly think that my feelings matter and that they should be listened to.

Literature Makes Me Sad. It’s Painful.

I don’t read books. Yes, I know this is a sin against writers everywhere, and people are generally shocked when I say it, but I don’t read books. I realize that one only improves one’s craft by seeking out better craftspeople from which to learn, but it takes a lot to capture and hold my attention if I’m only doing one thing at once, and you can’t read and surf the internet like you can with TV. And with books I often find myself thinking, I write better than that. I see all the flaws in the writing, and it takes a lot for a book to overcome such scrutiny. It can be done, certainly, with great suspense or a compelling narrative, it’s just hard. For the record, I feel similarly about movies. It’s rare that a good one is made. Someone, somewhere made the rule that anything worth reading or watching will make you want to kill yourself. I wonder what the turnover is like at the Academy, having to watch so many every year.

And of course, any book considered good is called “literature”. (Although when I say it I say lit-tri-chur in a British accent. Literature sounds too stuck up to be a party to.) And, as with Academy Award Winning movies, literature must be long, slow, boring and depressing.

So while I know that literature is good, and that there are amazing writers producing such works, I can’t bring myself in the slightest to be extra sad, extra depressed for 400 pages.

However, yesterday I picked up a book and it turned out to be right in my wheelhouse, which is almost unfathomable.

It’s The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.

The Echo Maker

It’s a story of a man who is in a severe car wreck and suffers brain damage. After weeks of rehab, he can finally speak only to reveal that he thinks his sister, who has been by his side every moment since the accident, is not his sister. He thinks she is a replacement of some sort. An actor or a robot put there by some conspiracy and he keeps asking to see his real sister, idolizing her and not understanding why she doesn’t come and see him. [pull]This is a real syndrome called Capgras, Victims suffer the delusion that people close to them, generally family, are replacements. Paranoia is typically present so the person thinks others have been doubled as part of a conspiracy.[/pull]

Capgras, I believe it’s mostly a psychiatric condition and not typically produced by injury, but in the book it is and is thus a medical mystery.

There is an additional mystery in the book where an unknown person leaves a cryptic note by the man’s bedside just after the accident. The note suggests there is some kind of relationship between god and his survival.

A portrait is painted of this man – he is tortured by his brain. It bring no end of upset to him thinking his sister is a double, and then he thinks his dog is, and his house. He thinks he’s surrounded by a giant web of lies and he doesn’t understand any of it other than the people around him keep trying to tell him that he isn’t right in the head, which he doesn’t believe to be true. [push]The man, being in complete torment, absolute pain and wants to know why is there, and not dead. I know the fucking feeling.[/push]

He feels the note is his only connection to something real and outside the control of whatever is duplicating his life. And so he says of its author, “This guy knows. Knows why I’m still alive. Something I’d like to learn.”

Life, Sadness Doesn’t Have a Plan

In the book there is intimation that there is a greater plan at work, but in real life, there isn’t. No one left a note by my bedside the night I went made saying that I was meant to do something. And in spite of the “grand design” folks, I’m fairly convinced there is no plan. Yes, I know it’s convenient in books and in religions to say there’s one, but I’m pretty sure in real life there is no such thing. We as humans want there to be one, which is why people diehardedly insist that there is. We humans are meaning-makers.

Pain is a Lack of Meaning

We want there to be meaning even when there is none. Brain damage is actually an excellent example of this. When cracks appear in the brain the mind fills in the missing bits to create meaning. People who have known those with memory loss know this to be true, and is a feature of Capgras. One of the reason’s people think the person is a double is because while they recognize the person in front of them to look and sound and act just like the person they know, they have no emotional feeling that it is the right person. And so the individual with Capgras fills in the background with the concept of a “double”. This is more logical and provides more of an explanation than anything else. They are making meaning out of what they perceive even though their meaning is patently false.

sad girl with bipolar

Bipolar Disorder, Mental Illness is Pain

I have looked for meaning. I have tried to figure out why I’m here. I’ve tried to figure out why I’m sentenced to live in pain and suffering for a lifetime. I’ve come up with answers. Meaning. But none of it sticks. Because I know the truth. I know so many fucking truths. The truth is we’re here to be here. Eventually I’ll be dead, and somewhere else, but until then I’m here. I deeply wish there was more to it than that. But there isn’t. Really. Think about it long enough, look at the empirical evidence. I always come back to dying babies and starving children in Africa. There is no fucking plan that any intelligent being could come up with that would involve starving a child to death. There just isn’t.

And Still I Ask, Why Live a Life of Sadness and Pain?

And still I’m forced to wonder why I get to live a life of pain. I have to wonder why there is a failed implant in my chest, and years of therapy and doctors resigned to my fate. I have to wonder why I’m so broken that people don’t want to be around me when the rest of the broken world seems to get along just fine. I have to wonder why I’m driven to pump out millions (yes,1,000,000+) of words into cyberspace to people I will never meet. Oh how I desperately wish there was a secret note that I could flash all over town until someone finally tells me what it means. The magic angel keeping me alive. The one that insists that no matter how much I cut or how many drugs I take I just won’t die. Stupid angel.[pull]Humans are all designed to procreate and thus have a biological need to create an environment in which their offspring to flourish.[/pull]

I know that there are things we do in life that touch other people. Things we do, things we say. Yes, some of these things are helpful for other imperfect, meaningless creatures. That’s something. You try to leave the planet better than you found it, because… well, I have no idea. Biological imperative I suppose. It’s Darwinian. But not really meaning any more than dogs who bury bones for later and yet never dig them up.

I’ll get to the end of the book and maybe change my mind. You know, because 450 pages will overrule 32 years of life. Could happen, I suppose, but unlikely.

(Regardless, however, great read. Gets a little bogged down in crane metaphors here and there and occasionally the delusional thoughts don’t quite ring true, but still, great. First author in a long time to which I felt like writing a fawning letter of admiration. But I suspect he likely has a drawer full of those already, what with nine novels behind him and being a Pulitzer Prize finalist.)

My Bipolar Symptoms Aren’t Your Symptoms: I’m More Bipolar Than You

→ September 24, 2010 - 8 Comments

If you’ve been reading me for a while, you’re probably familiar with the symptoms I typically experience as a person with bipolar disorder type II rapid-cycling.

My Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Sadness / depression / tearing
  • Hypersomnia
  • Anhedonia
  • Lack of motivation / concentration
  • Slowness in thinking
  • Thoughts of death
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Excessive speed talking / thinking
  • Increased productivity

Each symptom depending on the mood of the moment (blue being depression, yellow being hypomania).

However, did you know that someone who also has bipolar type II (maybe even rapid-cycling) might have completely different mental illness symptoms?

Your Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness. agitation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Indecisiveness
  • More goal-directed activity
  • Spending sprees
  • Inflated self-esteem

That is totally different from my list, and yet we’re still both bipolar. The diagnosis “bipolar” is more of a big-tent thing. It’s the clumping of people with group of symptoms into a group called bipolar, but each person in the group is still unique.

Your Crazy Is Not My Crazy and That’s OK

In the kink world there is a saying, my kink is not your kink, and that’s OK. That is because kink run the gamut. Some people revere feet, others play with blood and others are only interested in rope-play. And sometimes one group thinks less of another group. You lick boots? Ew. I only play with good, clean rope. or my kink is 24/7 so I’m kinkier (better) than you, who just shows up Friday night nights.

Naturally, entirely silly. Kink is all just kink. It’s all just stuff that would get you kicked out of a vanilla person’s bed, the specifics are inconsequential.

And the bipolar community does the same thing. Somehow we’re caught up in our differences and end up fragmenting the group. And even worse, people seem to have a constant of one-up-man-ship to see who is horrifically sicker. Ridiculous.

So, take a gander at my HealthyPlace piece, My Bipolar Isn’t Your Bipolar But That’s OK, where I write (and talk) all about it.

Is Multiple Personality Disorder Real? – Dissociative Identity Disorder

→ September 23, 2010 - 14 Comments

Since Sybil was published in 1974 I think people have been fascinated by multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative identity disorder or DID. We see dissociative identity disorder on TV and in movies fairly frequently. I didn’t kill her, my alternate personality did.

And yet many people, doctors included, feel that the mental illness doesn’t really exist. I’m fascinated by someone having a disorder that the medical community can’t even agree exists (although keep in mind, dissociative identity disorder is in the DSM-IV).

I admit to having no idea either way and being terribly uneducated on the subject. Luckily for me, there is a new Blogger Holly Gray at HealthPlace that writes on just such issues in her blog Dissociative Living.

I’m honored to announce that Holly will be writing a guest post here on the Burble blog. I’ve never had a guest author before but I think it would be a good change for everyone and I welcome a chance to learn something new.

Facts About Dissociative Identity Disorder

In preparation for Holly’s appearance, here are some bits from Wikipedia on dissociative identity disorder (DID):

  • Dissociative identity disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a person displays multiple distinct identities orpersonalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment.
  • Diagnosis requires at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual’s behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness
  • DID is theoretically linked with the interaction of overwhelming stress, traumatic antecedents, insufficient childhood nurturing, and an innate ability to dissociate memories or experiences from consciousness
  • Others believe that the symptoms of DID are created iatrogenically by therapists using certain treatment techniques with suggestible patients
  • Individuals with the condition commonly attempt suicide
  • Psychiatrist Colin A. Ross has stated that based on documents obtained through freedom of information legislation, psychiatrists linked to Project MKULTRA claimed to be able to to deliberately induce dissociative identity disorder using a variety of aversive techniques (creepiest thing ever)

In short, no one knows what the heck is going on, but then, that’s the state of mental illness in general.

[And as a side note, rapid-cycling versions of bipolar disorder are not actually in the DSM and so technically, I have a mental illness that people don’t agree on too.]

Dissociative Identity Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

One thing I will say though is that I find it completely reasonable to think that in cases of severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe cases of dissociation would result, particularly if the trauma was in childhood (and dissociation is a big part of DID). Many doctors do feel that childhood trauma is a key factor in DID. We all dissociate to some degree (myself more than most) and it’s reasonable to think that an amplification of that would result in a disordered life.

All Mental Illness is an Amplification of Normal Behavior

And really, all mental illness is an amplification of normal behavior, which is why it’s so hard for some people to accept. Depression is just sadness squared. Mania is just energetic cubed. And so on. But it does seem that the term multiple personality disorder probably didn’t do anyone any favors.

So, look for an upcoming post next week that explores some of the issues around dissociative identity disorder and mental illness. I’m looking forward to hearing from Holly and learning something new.

Seven Accusations of Bipolars – Bipolar Myths

→ September 19, 2010 - 3 Comments

Bipolar Disorder MythsSome people really hate the bipolars. Bipolar disorder evokes ire in many. I’ve had people refuse to see me for no other reason than I am bipolar. Bipolar seems to make you grow another head, or tentacles, or something.

But that is not the worst part. Not by far. No, the really bad bit is why people hate people with bipolar disorder so much. Among the other accusations, I’ve seen: we’re liars, we cheat, we manipulate and we’re violent and angry. These particular myths along with three others are in Seven Biggest Myths About Bipolar Disorder.

People Show Prejudice Against Bipolar Disorder

The thing is, the people who make these accusations, like everyone with a prejudice, is simply showing ignorance and a lack of rationality. It doesn’t matter what group of people you hate, you’re always showing ignorance and a lack of rationality. It’s terribly unimpressive.

What generally happens is that a person has a bad experience with one person, who is bipolar, and then generalizes to all of bipolar-kind and possibly mental-illness-kind. And they blame every problem on the bipolar. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. In fact, it’s stupid. Sorry, it just is.

But there it is, my little poke back at the prejudice. I hope it makes someone think.

Like that? Well you’ll love another Top Ten Psychiatric and Bipolar Myths.

Worst Things To Say a Person with a Mental Illness

→ September 16, 2010 - 135 Comments

Worst Things To Say a Person with a Mental Illness

I think everyone with bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness, has their own personal list of annoying things people have said to them and about them. I’ve listed my 10 least favorite things to say to a person with bipolar disorder, plus a bonus #11. #11 is just my absolute least favorite.

Worst Thing to Say to a Person with a Mental Illness – We Create Our Own Reality

We create our own reality. This is one of my most hated sentences in the English language. This sentence screams of middle-class-real-problemless-spoiled-rich-person. Yes, undoubtedly people who have homes and families and health and happiness can make their own reality. They can fix the issues they have, like leaky pipes, and not be upset when the paperboy misses their front porch. I have no doubt this is possible.

But give me a fucking break.

Read more

Doctors Should Treat the Mentally Ill Without Consent

→ August 17, 2010 - 103 Comments

Doctors Should Treat the Mentally Ill Without Consent

Recently, I’ve come across several groups on Facebook and elsewhere that claim to be for the rights of the mentally ill. They talk about defending their rights through lawsuits, funding and online campaigns. They also support the banning of a doctor’s rights to give psychotropic medication / psychiatric treatment without consent. These are either well-intentioned people with little grasp of logic or just plain anti-psychiatry nutjobs.

I admit, I fell for one of these groups on first glance. But upon further reflection and research I’ve come to the conclusion that at best, these people are well-intentioned with little grasp of logic, and at worst just plain anti-psychiatry nutjobs.

Read more

What Happens When Your Doctor Gives Up On You?

→ July 19, 2010 - 8 Comments

I have had two doctors give up on my bipolar disorder (mostly depression) treatment. One almost a decade ago, and one just a couple of months ago. I didn’t take the most recent doctor abandonment all that well, as I’ve mentioned. In fact, if I saw the woman today, I’d still want to call her a cunt. An unfeeling, malpracticing, cold-hearted cunt. It seems I’m still a little upset about it.

A Doctor Giving Up on You is Unacceptable

But regardless as to my personal feelings about this woman, I feel that a doctor dismissing a patient without referral, medication, treatment or care, is unacceptable. It leaves the ill person with few visible options outside of suicide. A depression, suicidal person with no options. Peachy. These doctors are killing people through their own ignorance.

So, what should you do if your doctor gives up on your treatment? (You know, other than call them nasty names online, which I heartily recommend. It’s cathartic. HealthyPlace isn’t a fan of such things, however.)

Are You Bipolar? Do You Have Bipolar Disorder?

→ July 12, 2010 - 2 Comments

Natasha Tracy is BipolarWhen you think of mental illness, bipolar disorder, do you consider yourself to be bipolar or do you think of yourself as someone who has bipolar disorder? Just like: Bipolars have mood swings vs. people who suffer from bipolar disorder have mood swings. (I also think I’m crazy, and no, I don’t think “crazy” is derogatory necessarily.)

HealthyPlace Writing Clears Up Bipolar Confusion – I Am Bipolar

Personally, I say I’m bipolar all the time. I don’t have a problem with “being bipolar.” I know some people do dislike this concept for psychological reasons though, so on Breaking Bipolar there’s Are You Bipolar, Or Do You Have Bipolar Disorder?

Do Others Want You to Deny You Are Bipolar?

→ July 9, 2010 - 8 Comments

Deny Bipolar DisorderIt’s pretty common to deny you have bipolar disorder, before, and even during diagnosis of bipolar disorder. None of us wants to be sick, and none of us wants to be crazy-sick (sick-crazy, crazy and sick?). And it can take us a long time to come to terms with living with a mental illness like bipolar disorder.

Deny You Have Bipolar Disorder?

But sometimes, worse is the fact that those around us want to deny, or want us to deny, our bipolar disorder. They want us not to talk about bipolar, or to “control the symptoms of bipolar” or they just don’t believe in mental illness or treat it like a disease at all.

So earlier this week I wrote a piece at Breaking Bipolar about Bipolar and Denial. (Hint, I’m not for it.)

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