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.

 

Medicating grief isn’t the answer April 28, 2009

Filed under: change,hope,news — clementine @ 12:46 pm
Tags: , , , ,

We need more doctors like this. From an op-ed at the Boston Globe:

ON A RECENT episode of the HBO series “In Treatment,” a CEO of a major company describes with complete absence of emotion the death of his 16-year-old brother when he was 6. When Paul, his therapist, suggests that his panic attacks may be related, he leaves the office, saying he will ask his doctor to prescribe medication now that he has a diagnosis. Paul gently suggests that they continue the important work they have begun. I am eager to see how this plays out. I am quite certain, however, that in the real world, the CEO would find many doctors to prescribe medication, enabling him to eliminate the symptom without the hard work of grieving.

This episode reminded me of a case in my pediatric practice (with the details changed to protect privacy). A 5-year-old girl was referred by her kindergarten teacher for evaluation of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with a strong recommendation that medication be considered. Her behavior had been disruptive since preschool, but was now affecting her ability to learn. There was concern that she might not be able to move on to first grade. Before I even saw the patient, armed with standardized forms and psychological testing, I was quite sure that she would meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD and that medication would be a reasonable consideration.

I met with her parents, who described classic symptoms of ADHD, including prolonged battles at home around such simple tasks as getting dressed for school. About halfway through the visit, I began to ask, as I always do, about past history. “How was your pregnancy with her?” There was a pause, during which the parents exchanged looks. “Actually, I’m not her biological mother.”

Now it was my turn to pause, as I was quite shocked to receive this important piece of information so late in the evaluation process. With some reluctance, they went on to tell me that the girl’s mother was seriously mentally ill, had been intermittently involved in her life, and had disappeared completely two years earlier. But, they assured me, she never talked about her mother and it wasn’t an important issue.

This story has a happy ending. I agreed that medication could be helpful, but, building on the trust they had developed with me as their pediatrician, I suggested that the loss of her mother was actually very important and needed to be addressed. They accepted my referral to a therapist. I am fortunate to have an excellent colleague across the street who accepts their insurance. He wisely explained to them that children do grieve, and now the whole family is engaged in working with him around this painful and difficult task. This child is now thriving in first grade.

For this one positive outcome, there are hundreds that do not end this way. Children who have experienced terrible loss do not have the opportunity this girl had. They are aggressive and disruptive, and their symptoms are medicated away. They continue to struggle, often failing in school. Some of the reasons this path is chosen are lack of time, limited access to mental health services, and resistance to doing this hard work.

I recently received a letter from the state with the alarming statistic that 37 percent (nearly $190 million) of the MassHealth pharmacy budget is spent on behavioral health medication. The letter asks for input regarding possible ways to improve patient care while reducing costs.

I proposed that we as a society recognize that grief and loss cannot be medicated away. As one friend who recently lost her husband so eloquently put it, “Grief is a powerful release that validates your loss, relieves stress, and helps you heal.” Certainly medication may be an adjunct, particularly when people are so incapacitated by their symptoms that they are unable to function. But if we as a culture validate the experience of grief, if we offer the time and space and resources to support people through the difficult process, I am quite certain that in the long run we will not only spend less on medication, but will help people to heal and return to being productive members of society. It is with children that this investment will have the greatest return.

Dr. Claudia Meininger Gold, a pediatrician, practices in Great Barrington.

 

pregnancy and antidepressants April 25, 2009

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.

 

David Helfgott-a beautiful man April 16, 2009

Filed under: ECT,film,hope,inspiration,life,love — clementine @ 2:03 am
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Years ago I watched the film Shine several times. Tonight my swain and I watched it together and I felt like posting a couple of clips-one of the real David Helfgott and the other is the trailer from 1996.

from wikipedia:

When he was nineteen, he won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London, England for three years, where he studied under Cyril Smith. During his time in London he began showing more definite manifestations of mental illness. His doctor in Australia, Chris Reynolds, whom he met some twenty years later, said that he suffers from an acute anxiety neurosis. He returned to Perth in 1970, and married his first wife, Clara, in 1971. He also took part in several Australian Broadcasting Corporation concerts. After his marriage broke down he was institutionalised in Graylands, a Perth mental hospital. Over the next ten years, he underwent psychiatric treatment which included psychotropic medication and electroconvulsive therapy.

Today, David Helfgott now lives in “The Promised Land”, a valley near Bellingen in New South Wales with his second wife, Gillian. He continues to perform concerts at his home. His other interests include cats, chess, philosophy, tennis, swimming and keeping fit in general.

 

Quotes April 15, 2009

Filed under: hope,life,love,pain,peace — clementine @ 3:59 pm
Tags:

My posting will be sporadic for awhile. Most of you know where to find me. Peace to you all….

“People who cease to grow can’t inspire others. Leadership begins with challenging oneself.” ~Daisaku Ikeda

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

“Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace.” ~Buddha

“When you love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable, you’re free.” ~Bernie Siegel

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Physical gifts will break or fade, but your gift of love will last forever.”

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” ~Buddha

“How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us.” ~Mr. Rogers

“Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none.” ~William Shakespeare

and something from one of my favorite films, Ordinary People:

“A little advice about feelings kiddo; don’t expect it always to tickle.” ~Dr. Berger to Conrad