invincible summers

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

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.


get kids off medicine December 19, 2008

Quickly, I would like to direct everyone to my new page (35 things: a continuous entry) at the top of my website, to the left of ‘about me’. I frequently update there with personal stories. It’s been very therapeutic.

my sincere thanks to Beyond Meds for this linking to this story. I think it’s a wonderful idea and hope to see more to follow.

Martin Irwin, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, is launching what he believes is a first- of-its kind-program nationally to “Get Kids Off Medicine.”

The LSUHSC Get Kids Off Medicine Program, dedicated to tapering and discontinuing psychiatric medication for children being treated with three or more psychiatric medications, is being implemented three half days a week at the LSU Behavioral Science Center at 3450 Chestnut Street. The program accepts Medicaid and most insurance. Discounted and possible free care will be provided to those who qualify based on income.

“Along with the increase in prevalence of mental illness in children and youth, is a skyrocketing rate of use of psychiatric medication often as the sole treatment and most commonly to treat disruptive behaviors and aggression,” says Dr. Irwin, who specializes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “It is not uncommon for children even as young as five to six years of age to be on multiple medications, as many as four to five at the same time.”

Dr. Irwin says the over-medicating of the problems of children in the mental health system is likely to result in misdiagnosis-labeling of behavioral problems that result from interpersonal difficulties, realistic feelings that are not excessive or out of proportion to the child’s real life experiences, or reactions to current life stresses as major psychiatric disorders leading to unnecessary medical treatment. Many of the medications used to treat children are either not approved by the FDA for use in this age group, or are not approved for the indication they are being prescribed.


jim carrey slams long-term use of prozac December 17, 2008

Full disclosure: I love Jim Carrey. I admire his honesty about his life, his mental illness and I think he’s a great actor especially in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Truman Show and Man on The Moon.

He was on Larry King Live and actually slammed long-term use of Prozac. There are a few bloggers out there comparing him to Tom Cruise (Scientology) but Jim’s message is right. In my opinion, it’s the others who need to educate themselves. I do not believe Jim is anti-meds like Scientologists, I think he’s simply anti-meds that do not work, have horrific side effects, make us sicker or those we know nothing about the long-term side effects and risks. and he’s not afraid to talk about all of this with the host of a popular show. Kudos to you, Jim!

Here’s a clip, although the entire interview is worth watching:
(2:06 minutes into clip)

Here is part of the transcript with the Prozac conversation: (more…)


a familiar road December 3, 2008

things in my life have taken a turn for the worse. call it anxiety. call it depression. call it bipolar. and yes some suicidal thoughts thrown in the mix. call it whatever you want but it’s not fun. at all.

the past 12 or so months have been unusual and quite difficult. in no particular order dealing with:

-loss of health insurance for the first time in my life
-the 20 year anniversary of my rape which has flooded my mind more than usual
-the diagnosis of sciatica and adenomyosis
-choosing a road without medication for my mental illness
-the economy failing and finding it incredibly difficult to secure a job-especially when the last ten years of my “occupation experience” fall in the film industry, which nobody seems to understand. when you can’t get hired at the new whole foods or trader joe’s in town-things are bad.
-two newborn nieces i have never met
-difficulties with my family over numerous issues have brought much sadness

where have the above left me? in a deep, dark hole. and for the first time (in a long time) i have not been able to see the light and that fact frightens me.

it could be worse. i know this. we all do. i especially know this considering a family member was killed in Kuwait, he was 19 and had his whole life ahead of him. another cousin just happened to be at the Alfred P. Murray building on the same day Timothy McVeigh “visited”, Thomas died that day. A girl I worked with was shot during last week’s Mumbai attacks.

however, I have a mental illness and have come to realize that sometimes you must take drastic measures to get out of the “hole” and that (sometimes) requires taking medications you absolutely despise. (this would not be the case if i could afford acupuncture)

i paid a visit to my internist since i cannot afford to see a psychiatrist without insurance. yesterday morning i sat in her office taking deep breaths, trying to avoid a full blown panic attack. i stared outside her window, watching small snowflakes slowly fall to the ground. grey skies. ugly buildings. but beautiful snow. and my mind kept going back to the same place—when will this end? it was there that i decided, probably never. i will be fighting this illness my entire life. it’s like an incurable cancer that you are born with and forced to live with…until the end of your days. and i say that because…

my internist walked in and asked what was going on…i broke down…and three crumpled tissues later she was handing me 3 sample boxes of Abilify (the heavily advertised antipsychotic), a prescription for xanax and celexa. Wow. I fought the Abilify choice-I am 100% against antipsychotics after my Seroquel experiences. However, she basically told me i am in a very bad place and need something strong to get me out of it. She promised it would be short term-hence only a 3 week supply. During our visit I was reminded of something a nurse at a Vanderbilt psychiatric study told me. and i told the story to my doctor. basically, a few years ago i signed up for a paid depression study— after i listed the medications i had taken over the past 15 years, the nurse denied my participation in their study by simply stating, we have deemed you untreatable.

yesterday my doctor laughed at the idea of participating in such a study and my response was a bit harsh, and from the look in her eyes, I don’t think she liked it…..i said, “why not…i’ve been a guinea pig for the pharmaceutical companies for YEARS and i might as well get paid for it!”

untreatable. and that’s where i’m going with this. i am convinced the medications on the market for depression, bipolar, etc either a) don’t work b) work short term or c) make us sicker. and although a lot of my “symptoms” revolve around situational experiences, i do believe i was born with a mental illness and i have to figure out how to live with it and survive it…in a world full of stigma and companies that do not seem to give a damn about the medications they are pumping into our bodies. the studies are flawed and fixed. it’s all about the money. doctors are influenced/bribed. the hippocratic oath is a rare thing these days and that is very sad.

and so i stare at these and cringe:


as much as these medications disgust me it was the printout i received from my pharmacist that truly disturbed me, it was titled:

Antidepressant Medicines, Depression and other Serious Mental Illnesses, and Suicidal Thoughts or actions.

the printout goes on about how loved ones should pay close attention to any sudden changes in mood, behaviors, thoughts, or feelings. they list possible symptoms like…thoughts about suicide or dying, new or worse depression, new or worse anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, new or worse irritability, acting aggressive, being angry or violent, acting on dangerous impulses, an extreme increase in activity and talking (mania), feeling very agitated, other unusual changes in behavior.

How unbelievably ironic and SAD. medications prescribed to stop these very things can lead to any of the above. So much for progress. I have fought this illness since I was thirteen, that would be 22 very long years.

and this is where we are?!

but…i’m not back at square one. i’m just on a very familiar road. a road that is very bumpy, curvy and unpredictable. luckily i’m smart enough to know when that road leads me to a cliff, i do whatever is necessary to avoid jumping off.

maybe someday i will not be deemed untreatable. maybe someday my illness will be understood by the people i hold close to my heart. and hopefully someday that road will never lead to a cliff.


scary September 5, 2008

Filed under: antipsychotics,big pharma — clementine @ 12:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

from WebMD:

Seroquel XR, an antipsychotic drug approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, may ease generalized anxiety disorder, new research shows.

Seroquel XR (the “XR” stands for “extended-release”) is approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Its maker, the drug company AstraZeneca, is seeking FDA approval for Seroquel XR as a generalized anxiety disorder treatment.

In the new study, 854 generalized anxiety disorder patients were given either Seroquel XR, Lexapro (a prescription drug approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder and depression), or a placebo without knowing which pill they were receiving.

For eight weeks, the patients took their assigned pills daily. During that time, Seroquel XR and Lexapro beat the placebo at reducing anxiety, according to surveys completed by the patients.

Those improvements started on the fourth day of taking Seroquel XR. Lexapro was “also effective, but improvement was not seen by Day 4,” write the researchers. They included Charles Merideth, MD, of the Affiliated Research Institute Inc., a San Diego company that conducts medication studies for drug companies.

The most common side effects reported in the study were dry mouth, sleepiness, sedation, nausea, dizziness, and headache (with all pills). Constipation and insomnia were also on the list for Seroquel XR; fatigue and diarrhea were common side effects in the Lexapro group.

click here to read the full story.


good for you, joe!

Filed under: depression,entertainment news,mental illness,stigma — clementine @ 12:17 pm
Tags: ,

from WENN:

The Sopranos actor Joe Pantoliano headed to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota this week to lobby politicians on behalf of the mentally ill.

The star, who suffers from clinical depression, runs the No Kidding charity, an organization which aims to remove the stigma surrounding brain disease.

Pantoliano campaigned outside the U.S. Republican Party’s annual event – during which Senator John McCain formally accepted his party’s nomination to run for presidency – in a bid to raise awareness and defend sufferers of the illness.

He tells the New York Post’s PageSix, “My mum was bi-polar, and it runs in my family.

“We want to take the sting out of mental illness, so it’s like having diabetes or asthma, so the all-American brain gets the same constitutional privileges as our gallbladder.”


a life without meds July 8, 2008

It’s odd- I thought maybe my life would be very different when I stopped taking the Lamictal. In the past, whenever I went “off my meds” I would usually find myself feeling manic within a few weeks or months. It’s been almost eight months off the medication and I actually feel very slow. I feel as if I’m underwater. I feel less creative (which isn’t a good thing in my business) and very tired. One indicator is, I used to post here frequently. They were almost always personal blogs but not so much anymore. I’m afraid to post anything of my own in fear it will not make sense. and to put it bluntly, the words aren’t there anymore. They are in my head but I can’t get them out. It’s very frustrating. I have noticed a lot of blogs have a two year life span- and maybe that’s where I’m at. I’m still trying to figure it out. I admire those that are able to write so honestly and eloquently every day. Like Stephany and Gianna. I desperately miss that release.

I must admit it’s been a relief- not getting to that manic phase (knock on wood!)
Anyone who’s ever been medicated for a mental illness, in particular bipolar, can relate. It’s a scary place sometimes and a place I really don’t want to visit again, at least not long term. And when I say long term, I mean more than one day.

Most doctors will tell you, it’s not a smart move choosing a life without meds. I, however, beg to differ. I’ve said all along, I’m not anti-meds. I have witnessed first hand the wonders of western medicine. My sister would not be alive today without it. My two nieces (both diagnosed with cystic fibrosis) would not be alive without medication and their brilliant doctors. I’m simply against meds that don’t work! Period. And those medications just happen to be 90% of the antidepressants and antipsychotics for those living with a mental illness. I’ve seen them work. I’ve seen them help my friends during a bad period in their life. But for those of us born with a mental illness it’s altogether a different story. We rarely recover. We rarely get better. We just learn to live with it. And that’s sad considering the pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars advertising and so little on research.

For years 20+ I gave it my best shot. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars. Saw the best therapists and psychiatrists with the same result every time. I tried Prozac, Wellbutrin, Seroquel, Effexor, Paxil and the list goes on…Talk therapy, group therapy, mental hospital, in patient and out patient. They all worked temporarily. And some really made me sick. Dare I say, sicker?

We should not be forced into learning to live with our mental illness. We deserve better.