invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

beauty in tragedy June 27, 2009

i must admit. i really miss writing. but life has been hectic lately, to say the least.

i am in the middle of therapy at a local sexual assault center. it’s a wonderful place and i’m finally getting the ‘right’ treatment. trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy. so, 21 years this summer since I was brutally raped. the mask is off. the walls are coming down. and i am healing. finally. no more doctors pushing the dangerous medications…just a loving environment focusing on the trauma in my life. and there is a lot of it.

my therapist asked me last week if there was anything in her office that made me feel unsafe. the simple fact that there are no pharma reps pimping their latest drugs is good enough for me. i didn’t say that but she knows how i feel about them.

i have found beauty in tragedy there. i see children playing (they are big on play therapy) outside the window of my therapist’s office in the yard or in the sand box. i see paintings and drawings from children ages 2-14 covering the walls in the hallways and my therapist’s office. and i cry. i cry tears of joy and pain. but mostly joy. i know why these young girls are there. i stared at a girl around age 7 in the waiting room one day and my heart was heavy knowing why she was there. (this center only sees victims of sexual abuse) and yet i also felt joy knowing this girl (and others there) are getting the proper help now versus 21 years later like me. something tells me their life will be less painful and a little easier. and i cry…thankful for places like this.

i sometimes sit there and stare at the children and think….if only i had found the right treatment earlier. and then i remind myself i blocked out my rape for nearly 4 years and then spent years of escaping…listening to the wrong doctors and therapists, allowing them to label me with every ‘mental illness’ in the book. allowing them to medicate me, believing it was the only solution. and yet, i do not live with regret. it took 21 years to come to this place for a reason. i don’t know why but there is a reason and someday i will know. i think i probably already do and just can’t express it right now because there is so much going on. i have not been reading blogs or the news…still. i miss my friends and readers here. but….my husband’s father is dying. quickly. cancer in his liver. stomach. colon (which they removed) and lymph nodes. we have been out of town. my husband is making peace with the man (his father) whom he had not seen in 14 years for a very good reason. and now, we wait. well, he waits for the phone call. it may come today. it may come in 4 months. but it will come and it saddens me. i wish i were in a better place to comfort him during this time. it’s something i am working on.

i don’t want to get too much into the details…it is not my story to tell. but sometimes when one is on their deathbed there is often much regret for the horrible things they have done to loved ones. i do not want to have that regret someday. and so i will continue on my path of love, compassion and honesty.

in regards to my family, they are waiting for me to call them and ‘mend’ things….and although it hurts….i will do it, eventually. sooner rather than later. because, again, i do not want to be on my deathbed someday with regret.

i will continue to seek the beauty in tragedy. it is all i know to do.
peace to you all.

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it’s not/what you thought/when you first began it June 5, 2009

it’s not/what you thought/when you first began it…
lyrics from Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up”
from one of my favorite songs and film, Magnolia.

my absence is not due simply to work (i’m finished and broke again) or negative attacks. it’s also simply (and i hope i don’t offend anyone but if I do, I apologize in advance….) I need to take of ME.

21 years ago around this time, i was raped. as my regular readers know, it was so brutal, i blocked it from my mind for nearly four years until something triggered it. then, at 19, i began traveling a road of escapism, addictive behaviors, etc. along the way I was diagnosed with just about every ‘mental illness’ out there…first depression, then double depression, then borderline personality disorder and lastly bipolar. I’ve been on numerous psychiatric medications all of my adult life.

and now, as I’m about to turn 36 next week, i have realized (with the help of some dear friends and readers…you know who you are and I am eternally grateful to you!!!) that it’s not what i thought when i first began it. for the majority of my life, i wanted to BELIEVE I had a mental illness. i took the pills. i spent tens of thousands in medical bills…saw the most expensive psychiatrists, therapists, etc….none of whom never understood me nor cared to. a waste of money and time to say the least, but a lesson learned and I grew from it. that’s what life is about….

I have been reading Peter Levine’s Healing Trauma and of course I have realized that the symptoms of many ‘mental illnesses’ are absolutely 100% identical to the symptoms of trauma. and I have a lot of trauma in my life, not just the brutal rape. The obvious cases of trauma being war, sexual abuse, physical or mental abuse, loss of a loved one, etc. But I was surprised by the lesser known cases of trauma and I encourage you to read his book if you haven’t already or one similar.

while working on a job recently, a girl turned me onto a beautiful center here in town. it’s a sexual assault center. my first appointment was earlier this week. i nervously walked in and was immediately overwhelmed by a beautiful, caring and loving energy unlike anything I have ever experienced at a place like this before. i will get more into it at another time, but let me just say, it is a wonderful place. and i received a grant so my first 8 sessions are free, after that, sliding scale. not sure how i’ll afford it then, but I will find a way. what matters here is: these people CARE. they do not medicate you. they HEAL you.

during my first session i did 90% of the talking (not uncommon during a first visit) but when my therapist was able to get a word in she brought up dissociation and a form of esp…something I will also get into at another time. (my intuition has grown much stronger over the years and she explained why) but as i sat in her office staring at the toys, the window covered with children’s artwork and drawings…i cried….tears of joy and sadness. through the window I could see children doing their ‘play therapy’ in the beautiful yard. i cried because i wish i had that experience earlier (but have also learned there are no regrets in life, at least that’s my belief) and i cried tears of sadness knowing what these children have been through.

i made it very clear to my therapist, i am anti-meds in my case. especially after 20 years of the meds making me sicker and masking the real issue: trauma. luckily, she is too. i told her the meds I’ve been on that I can remember: Seroquel, Abilify, Paxil, Prozac, Lamictal, Effexor, Celexa, etc. she told me i’d be surprised to know how many young children come in to see her who are on 6-8 meds and it saddens her. i told her i am fully aware of the child bipolar, etc. epidemic. i told her it angers and saddens me. HOWEVER, my dear how it was refreshing to see a place like this where children are loved and nurtured. they are not medicated. my therapist believes fully in creativity and I could see it everywhere. I didn’t see a diploma in her office but instead toys and books and games. even though i know she has a degree…that doesn’t matter. what matters is her heart and what this center is doing.

anyway, i don’t have much energy for more right now. (i haven’t had any energy lately and my mind has been numb) i will end by saying…i am so thankful for this opportunity and i KNOW it’s going to work. i also know it won’t be easy. and so, I haven’t been reading blogs, the news, etc…like I normally do because I’m focusing on me right now. I must do so in order to heal. I have also been escaping by playing games but I believe that is a result of 2 months of non-stop work and the nature of this therapy I’m receiving. That escapism will end as I get further along in therapy.

and in the end….i will hopefully be free of 21 long years of trauma and paralyzing pain.

my love to you all.

 

Joe Pantoliano on mental illness stigma April 27, 2009

thanks to Van for posting on this-I’ve been out of the loop and missed it although I am familiar with what Joe has been doing lately.

Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos, Memento, The Matrix, The Goonies) started an organization called No Kidding, Me Too! He has a documentary coming out with the same title. I want to start off my saying, I commend him for this. Stigma is a real problem in America and throughout the world. We must bring an end to it!

This is Joe’s message at his website:
We are ready for the fight and we ask you to please join us in the revolution and help us educate souls all over the world to “Remove the Stigma!”

Mission
No Kidding, Me Too! is an organization whose purpose is to remove the stigma attached to brain dis-ease through education and the breaking down of societal barriers. Our goal is to empower those with brain dis-ease to admit their illness, seek treatment, and become even greater members of society.

The Goal
Make Brain Dis-ease cool and sexy. We want a normal conversation in America to be:

“I have bipolar disorder/schizophrenia/insert dis-ease”

“No Kidding, Me Too!”

Who Has The Stigma:
Those suffering from brain dis-eases including anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, pyromania, kleptomania, compulsive gambling, addictions, paranoia, multiple personality disorder, gender identity disorder, Down’s syndrome, psychosomatic disorder, tic disorders, and others.

How Will NKMT Accomplish This?
h Create strategic partnerships with members of industry, academia, organizations and government to ensure a broad-based spectrum of support and input.
h Organize the creative talents of our industry professionals to generate messages for various media and use our celebrity status to ensure these messages are heard. The messages will be of empowerment and acceptance and can include topics as basic as giving job opportunities to those with a brain dis-ease.
h Coordinate, participate in and generate interest for national and regional educational events consistent with our goal.

He has an impressive list of Advisory Board members, some of whom I greatly admire in the industry Joey and I share: Robert Downey, Jr, Ed Begley, Jr, Jeff Bridges, Edie Falco, Marcia Gay Harden, Ang Lee, Robin Williams and many more.

At his website there are photos of Joey from the screening of the teaser at the Democratic National Convention with people like Tony Goldwyn, Dana Delaney, Bobby Kennedy, Melissa Etheridge and Tom Fontana.

Here’s the teaser to his documentary:

Under the resources section at his website-the very first resource listed is NAMI. ahem. I wonder if Joe has researched Big Pharma’s influence at NAMI? Is he aware that Sen. Grassley is investigating NAMI’s funding? I am a registered Democrat and I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with this party, a party who is ignoring the corruption of Big Pharma and anyone linked to Big Pharma mainly because of their involvement with them. They are looking out for themselves and those that financially support them instead of the PEOPLE. Senator Grassley is all alone and that is sad.

At Joe’s website he links to several articles, letters, humorous videos and some of this favorite quotes, here’s a sampling:

To Fight Stigmas, Start With Treatment

Call for New Home to Address Health Disparities for Mentally Ill

FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

some of Joey’s favorite quotes

The teaser for his documentary opens with the statement:
1 in 4 Americans suffer from mental illness
4 in 5 Americans are affected by it

And then throughout you see more statistics on the screen:

87 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness
There are over 350,000 diagnosed cases of PTSD resulting from the Iraq war
18 of our American heroes are committing suicide every day

And statements like these:
There is a fine line between madness & creativity
Mental illness is the only DIS-EASE which you can be diagnosed with, and get yelled at for having

Joe went public with his illness after he was hired to do a film. (FYI: one of the first things required for actors and directors before they start filming is to see a doctor and production schedules a physical for insurance purposes) He had done this over 70 times but in this case he told the doctor the two medications he was currently taking, one for depression and one for heart disease. His lawyers were then informed that the production company/studio could not insure Joe because he was taking an antidepressant. They were told Joe could sign a waiver basically saying if he had a ‘breakdown’ he would be financially responsible for the loss of work or a shutdown. Joe’s real problem and awakening was simple: they were willing to cover his heart but not his brain. That is stigma. We all know it and it’s something I’ve been fighting and living with for countless years. It’s heartbreaking.

However, in a separate (lengthy) taped discussion with Joe he discusses a number of topics, mostly stigma, his films, politics & mental illness. He also talks about the fact the he quit drinking and has started practicing yoga, he exercises, etc. He believes in the theory that mental illness is genetic. I believe he mentioned his mother was diagnosed bipolar. Now, I haven’t seen his documentary but when his teaser states 87 million Americans suffer from a mental illness-I doubt (and I hope I’m incorrect) that he mentions why we have this false statistic. This number has increased drastically simply due to Big Pharma’s influence and a bunch of doctors started diagnosing people for a variety of reasons: more money in their pockets, get the patient in and out as quickly as possible, falsified data and studies…the list goes on and on. Instead of dealing with the true issue at hand, whether it be trauma or dysfunction, it seems Joe has partially bought into the quick fix system. And he’s using his celebrity status with people in the government in hopes that his message will be heard. That would be all fine and good except there are many flaws in his message. I agree with ending stigma but ‘his message’ goes much, much deeper than that.

In chapter 15 of the discussion linked above someone asked him if he’s tried alternative treatments like acupuncture and he states that he does practice yoga and meditation, he partakes in talk therapy, 12 step groups, etc. He seems to be all over the map and that is fine. It is his path. But it will truly disturb me if he does not mention Big Pharma’s influence within our modern psychiatric world (doctors, NAMI, etc) in his documentary, No Kidding, Me Too!

 

7-year-old commits suicide while taking psychiatric meds April 25, 2009

This story at the Miami Herald saddens me. It also infuriates me. When are doctors and the FDA going to wake up? What will it take? How many more lives will be lost before this madness stops?

From the article:

Weeks before his death, Gabriel Myers, the 7-year-old Broward boy who hanged himself in the shower of his foster home, had been prescribed a powerful mind-altering drug linked by federal regulators to an increased risk of suicide in children.

In all, Gabriel had been prescribed four psychiatric drugs, two or three of which he was taking at the time of his death, said Jack Moss, Broward chief of the state Department of Children & Families. Moss said he is not sure which medications the boy was taking because Margate police took the foster home’s medication log as part of an investigation into Gabriel’s death last week.

Three of the psychotropic drugs carry U.S. Food and Drug Administration ”black box” label warnings for children’s safety, the strongest advisory the federal agency issues. Three of the medications are not approved for use with young children, though they are widely prescribed to youngsters ”off label” — meaning doctors can prescribe the drug even if not formally approved for that use.

Gabriel had been prescribed Symbyax, Lexapro, Vyvanase and Zyprexa. Again, three of these meds are not approved by the FDA for use with young children. And of course, prescribing them nonetheless is not uncommon, doctors must be held accountable.

Four feet tall and 67 pounds, with short-cropped brown hair, Gabriel was a bright, charming and often sweet little boy, those who knew him say.

But he already had a sad past hinting at a troubling future. Records obtained by The Miami Herald show Gabriel may have been molested by an older boy while he was living with grandparents in Ohio, while his mother was in jail.

On Thursday, Gabriel locked himself in a bathroom and hanged himself with a detachable shower head after arguing with the 19-year-old son of his foster dad about his lunch, Moss said.

this screams trauma. and yet again, another precious child did not get the help he so desperately needed. Instead he got the “quick fix”-medicate. medicate. medicate. so very tragic.

Myers said the boy’s pediatrician had discontinued all psychotropic drugs while Gabriel lived with him, and the boy did well, earning A’s and B’s at the Hollywood Christian Academy.

”We did not have any issues with him having tantrums,” Myers said. “He would get upset, like little boys do.”

A week or two before Gabriel died, his grandfather in Ohio expressed concerns that the boy sounded overmedicated. ”My father said that the last conversation he had a couple of weeks ago Gabriel sounded like he was too drugged,” Myers said. “He sounded like he was doped up.”

Gabriel’s doctor, Dr. Sohail Punjwani, said he did not recall Gabriel. This statement sums up part of my problem with modern psychiatry today. Dr. Punjwani, since you seem to have forgotten your patient-here is a picture:

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What a sweet face. Rest in peace, Gabriel. Let this picture be a reminder to any parents thinking about medicating their children with dangerous meds like Zyprexa. Do the research on these medications before you think about filling that prescription. Unfortunately in today’s modern psychiatric world, your child’s life and well-being is rarely your doctor’s concern.

 

pregnancy and antidepressants

Thanks to Gianna at Beyond Meds for this. And I agree with Gianna, Vogue is definitely a mainstream magazine so maybe a few lives will be saved. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Back in 2005 GlaxoSmithKline sent a warning letter to doctors, advising that the antidepressant Paxil may be linked to a slightly higher risk of birth defects in babies exposed to the drug during the first trimester of pregnancy.

From the FDA Public Health Advisory:

* In a study using Swedish national registry data, women who received paroxetine in early pregnancy had an approximately 2-fold increased risk for having an infant with a cardiac defect compared to the entire national registry population (the risk of a cardiac defect was about 2% in paroxetine-exposed infants vs. 1% among all registry infants).
* In a separate study using a United States insurance claims database, infants of women who received paroxetine in the first trimester had a 1.5-fold increased risk for cardiac malformations and a 1.8-fold increased risk for congenital malformations overall compared to infants of women who received other antidepressants in the first trimester. The risk of a cardiac defect was about 1.5% in paroxetine-exposed infants vs. 1% among infants exposed to other antidepressants.
* Most of the cardiac defects observed in these studies were atrial or ventricular septal defects, conditions in which the wall between the right and left sides of the heart is not completely developed. In general, septal defects are one of the most common type of congenital malformations. They range from those that are symptomatic and may require surgery to those that are asymptomatic and may resolve on their own. It is of note that the data in these studies was limited to first trimester exposures only, and there are not currently data to address whether this or any other risk extends to later periods of pregnancy.

The Vogue interview can be viewed here.

 

the road to recovery April 18, 2009

This past week (via email) I was accused of being “ALWAYS UNHAPPY” with my life. Yes, the always unhappy was in caps and it came from a someone that has said things like this before who no longer wants to be mentioned in my blog. She feels I’m living in a “cyber world” and not the “real world”. I beg to differ on all accounts and I told her so. She also seemed to fear for her life by saying, “It’s scary to me, how do you know someone won’t come after us?” I did not respond to that-she said this after reading an article in Readers Digest on Myspace. This is a) not Myspace and b) the people who read my blog are not the types to “go after” this person or anyone for that matter. It’s completely beyond belief and yet I will say she did admit to being “computer illiterate” and so I must believe that she is simply misinformed and that is fine.

The simply truth is, yes, I get the majority of my support from the cyber world. And here’s the simple reason: the real world has failed me for more than twenty years. Psychiatrists, therapists, people who stigmatize, etc. When you spend tens of thousands of dollars on medical bills in the real world-the outcome for me was, well, I am pretty much back to square one except for severe memory loss, other problems from the many medications I have taken over the past 15 plus years and lastly, massive debt thanks to the lack of mental health parity. I’m trying to recall a specific doctor that has really helped me-there have been two or three out of more than thirty. The ones that did help-well, at the time, when I still chose the path of medication (the quick fix), I told them what I wanted to be on. I told them I was there for med management only. I cannot think of one therapist that helped me or gave me tools that actually worked in the real world. Scratch that-I had a sexual abuse therapist many years ago tell me, “my mind may never fully remember my entire rape-my mind will only allow me to remember what it can handle” or something to that effect. And she was right. I do believe that. I have not had one doctor suggest dealing with trauma from my past (my rape, etc) instead they’ve always labeled me, threw pills at me which made me sicker and certainly did not deal with the true issue at hand.

So, a few years ago I started this blog because I was feeling very alone and misunderstood in the “real” world and over the past three years I have met so many wonderful, amazing human beings in the cyber world-you all know who you are. But, hey, lets make you REAL just for fun: Gianna, Stephany,Duane, Van, Ana, Stan, Susan, Alex, Susan, Jon, Denise and so many others. Kidding aside-you are all real. You are all amazing, compassionate, strong and wise people that have helped me along my journey and I will never be able to properly thank you-because there are no words as to how much your support and your personal stories have meant to me. Now that I have opted to travel a different road to recovery, one without meds, I will need support more than ever. There are reasons some of us have at one point traveled the different road: the medication quick fix road. I won’t get into those reasons here because they are varied and some are very sad (ie. forced treatment, forced drugging, etc.) Some of us, well, me…I chose that road simply because it was the ONLY road I knew until I began my venture into the cyber alternative healing world. It reminds me of something recently posted at the great website/resource: Beyond Meds-Alternatives to psychiatry.

“Recovery is a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitude, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of psychiatric disability.” ~ Dr. William Anthony, Director, Center for Psych Rehab

and:

Dr. Lori Ashcroft suggests that we can experience “moments of recovery” by choosing new ways to respond and breaking old patterns.

– Developing a series of wellness tools
– Recognizing our triggers and learning how to best deal with trauma
– Learning our personal bill of rights
– Setting short and long-term goals and determining actions for change
– Finding our sense of purpose and ridding ourselves of negative self-talk

The above is exactly what I plan to do-it will be part of my new road to recovery. It is part of the reason behind this post. Another being the email I received and I felt I needed to write about it here. And lastly, I just read my sister-in-law’s blog and it reminded me of so many things. She has three children (my nieces) two of whom are in their teens and have cystic fibrosis. It would take forever to properly describe my sister-in-law: strong, loving, intelligent, spiritual, patient and giving. Those are just a few adjectives but there are many more. I will strive to be more like her-I want to attempt yoga, meditation and well, just live in the moment. That is not at all easy for someone like me and I commend those that are able to do so. But anything is possible and I hope to someday live in the moment and find true peace and a calmness in my heart. It will be a long, difficult road as so many of you know-but it will be worth it in the end.

Oh, I just realized the time-I have to end this. I must venture out into the real world, which is not easy for so many of us and only WE seem to know the reasons why, unfortunately due to stigma. I am going to pick up a 40s vintage jacket that a friend of mine altered for me yesterday after trying it on. (It was a twisted scene from Pretty Woman-imagine me trying on numerous outfits-many of which didn’t fit thanks to weight gain from psych meds and I didn’t have the unlimited credit card!) This jacket is part of what I’m wearing to tonight’s screening of a film I worked on and I will be, yes, amongst thousands of people in the real world. Not here on my laptop. I spent 6 weeks in the real world working on this film, giving my all for a story/film that I truly loved. The creative outlet is an important one for me. I personally believe it has saved my life. peace to you all.

 

now is the time to act April 5, 2009

Now is the time. It was a phrase President Obama used frequently that inspired me, gave me hope.

If you google “Obama now is the time” you will find:

Obama: Now Is The Time For Iraq Withdrawal

Now is the time to protect our planet: Obama

Obama: “Now Is The Time For Congress To Act”

and this speech truly inspired me:

Today I must wonder-was it just a speech? Smoke and mirrors? I am beginning to question the man I voted for. A man who I believed wanted to unite Americans, end the war, fix the economy, create a transparent government and on and on. Now, believe me, I know that our current President has one hell of a mess to clean up. I wouldn’t want his job in a million years but…

Right now this is what I’m seeing: questionable cabinet appointments like Tim Geithner. Focusing on a war in Afghanistan when we need to focus on our country and get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama is a man who once said, “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.” Well, during these incredibly tough economic times I do not see how moving troops (slowly) out of Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan is smart. I personally feel it is dumb. Our troops are exhausted. They need to come home. We are not going to end the “war on terrorism” by moving into another country-those that do hate our country and want to attack us will just move somewhere else. We can’t hunt them down in this manner. It is absolutely absurd. No wonder we are hated by so many countries-we keep attacking them! The fact of the matter is: war is a money-making business and it seems our President is going back on his word. sad. And then there was the 62% federal cigarette tax increase effective on, of all days, April Fool’s Day. This is what his administration had to say: (more…)