invincible summers

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

a dose of reality December 23, 2007

Filed under: acupuncture,depression,family — clementine @ 1:15 pm
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i have been empty. avoiding blogging (i hate that word) at all costs.
i have been sad. avoiding finding a normal (i hate that word, too) routine.
i have been scared. and fighting my fears.

i hit a plateau. the lamictal is not working. one could say it’s because i cut my dose from 200 to 100 to 50. but i disagree. it stopped working at 100mg. i am now taking 50mg along with a multi vitamin from whole foods and 1000mg of flax oil. i quit the cokes and coffee and replaced with a variety of hot teas. i’m hoping for the best. i have been quietly debating quitting the lamictal altogether. that road terrifies me. and yet i feel i might need to travel it. and do things differently. like, find some sort of routine. walk more often. reduce the amount of news i watch and read. schedule acupuncture when i can afford it. go outside more often. smile more. laugh more. love more.

and thanks to one special man, i am no longer alone on this road.

we just finished shopping for the angel tree families. it’s something i’ve been doing for a few years now and truly enjoy. we shopped for approximately 30 people over the last couple of weeks. this year the organizer, a friend of mine, asked us to go to the christmas party and deliver the gifts. i couldn’t bring myself to do it (luckily, i had to work…) i’d rather it be a mystery. i’d rather not see their faces as i already have a picture of them in my mind. and to be honest, without the help of our families this year…we would be in their shoes and it’s not a reality i’m having an easy time facing.

there is an ongoing strike in my business and work is very slow. so slow that for the first time in my life i had to produce a “9 to 5″resume. not an easy task when my experience has been basically, um, taking care of actors for the last ten years. i don’t know how to put into words my qualifications outside of “i’m a multi-tasker, type 65wpm, pc/mac proficient and know a variety of programs including word, excel, etc…” needless to say, i’ve had no responses. and since i love to clean and organize, a few friends hired me to clean their homes. i placed an ad at craigslist (cleaning to meet your needs…) with one hit to date. recently i told a friend…”it was not easy cleaning someone else’s toilet…”and she said, “well, you used gloves, yes?” i said..”of course, but it was more like…wow, i’m cleaning a stranger’s toilet.” the irony is, on my last film an actor that has made enough money to last several lifetimes called me and told me how wonderful i am at my job. how i made the film lighter and more enjoyable for him. he called simply to thank me and tell me “you rock!” it’s not the first time i’ve heard this and i know it’s why i’m hired to do the job i do, and yet…we cannot afford another move to los angeles…i cannot afford to join my union…we are stuck in an area where there is little work. if the actor only knew i was cleaning toilets to pay the bills one month later…

since there are few gifts to give this year, i’ve been baking christmas cookies for family and friends. snowmen, snowflakes, chocolate chip with green and red swirls, an andes mint variety and double chocolate brownies. my parents were in town over the weekend. my mom brought all the tools necessary to decorate cookies, one of her favorite christmas memories with my sister and i. as we decorated with sprinkles and sugars, she hugged me and told me these were the important things in life…spending time with family. i agreed and even while feeling nostalgic, warm, happy and peaceful…

i still felt a bit empty, sad and scared.


antipsychotics October 17, 2006

Filed under: antipsychotics,mental illness — clementine @ 8:07 pm
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i know people that take several pills at day. for me, it’s one plus a vitamin and a few omega 3 pills. my prescribed medication is lamictal. 100mg. (my doc recently cut my dosage in half). lamictal was approved to treat epilepsy in 1994. in 2003, it was the first fda-approved medication for the long-term treatment of adults with bipolar I disorder since lithium was approved in 1970. at their website the drugmaker claims, lamictal does not take away the initial feelings of depression or mania you may be experiencing, lamictial helps keep mood episodes from coming back for an extended period of time. and it’s true. at least for me. luckily i didn’t get the “rash”. stevens-johnson syndrome. the rate of serious rash is 0.08% (0.8 per 1,000) in adult patients receiving lamictal as intial monotherapy. before taking any medication for a mental illness i suggest you check out: crazy meds. a website where you will not find “doctors, pharmacists, therapists, lawyers or anyone else with useful credentials.” here you will read information on the meds, information your doctor wouldn’t dare mention or in my experience the last two decades, they sometimes deny these are actually side effects. with lamictal you get: muscle aches, full-body aches, headaches. lots of aches! dry mouth. anxiety or other hypomanic effects. another not-so-common effect is a type of insomnia where you’re tired, but you can’t sleep. if you’re a female, it can also mess with your monthly cycle. this is something i’ve recently noticed, the med doesn’t work up to par the week before and during. how does the med work? according to crazymeds, lamictal (lamotrigine) works on binding to voltage sensitive sodium and maybe calcium channels in the brain. the calcium bit is a matter for debate. it also invokes glutamate which is a major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain which is responsible for sending messages from neuron to neuron in 85% of the brain. it also lightly brushes the 5-HT3 serotonin receptor and the sigma opioid receptors.

lamictal is probably the last of the anticonvulsants you’ll see approved to treat bipolar, because all the money is in atypical antipsychotics.

antipsychotics. risperdal, zyprexa, abilify, geodon, clozaril and seroquel. of the six i’ve been on one, seroquel. it was a love/hate relationship in the begininng. the anxiety was gone. the depression, gone. but, so was my life. soon, i was a walking zombie. i would take the pill at night and ten minutes later find myself drooling and barely making it to bed, only to crash and crash hard. twelve to fifteen hours later i would wake. only i wasn’t really awake. my eyes were open but my mind was numb. and a few short hours later it would be time to take the pill again. i also gained thirty pounds. the antipsychotics family could be summed up by saying: you’ll gain five pounds just by filling the prescription. you’ll sleep 10-16 hours a day. you won’t care about anything. you might come down with type 2 diabetes.

taking these meds long term is dangerous. we do not know the long-term side effects, and judging from the short-term side effects, i would guess it isn’t pretty.

during a seven year study at vanderbilt hopsital, from 1995-2002, there were 5.7 million office visits by u.s. children during which an antipsychotic was prescribed, and more than half (53 percent) of the prescriptions were given for behavioral indications or affective disorders, conditions for which antipsychotics have not been carefully studied in children. the study also found the overall frequency of antipsychotic prescribing increased fivefold in just six years — from 8.6 out of 1,000 u.s. children in 1995-1996 to 39.4 out of 1,000 u.s. children in 2001-2002. almost one-third of those prescriptions were written by pediatricians or family medicine doctors. in the uk, the annual use of antipsychotic drugs increased by 16% the last decade.

and now there’s this study: widely prescribed anti-psychotic drugs do not help most alzheimer’s patients with delusions and aggression and are not worth the risk of sudden death and other side effects, the first major study on sufferers outside nursing homes concludes. “these medications are not the answer,” said thomas insel, director of the national institute of mental health, which paid for the study. he said better medications are at least several years away. the study tested zyprexa, risperdal and seroquel — newer drugs developed for schizophrenia. doctors are free to prescribe them for any use. however, the drugs carry a strong warning that they increase the risk of death for elderly people with dementia-related psychotic symptoms, mainly because of heart problems and pneumonia, and that they are not approved for such patients. and yet, roughly one-quarter of nursing home patients are on these drugs. the study tested the drugs on 421 patients at 42 medical centers. about four in five patients stopped taking their pills early because the medications were ineffectiven or had side effects that included grogginess, worsening confusion, weight gain, and parkinson’s-like symptoms such as rigidity and trouble walking. five deaths were reported among the patients on the medication. neurologist john morris, director of the alzheimer’s disease research center at washington university in st. louis says, “too often, these antipsychotics get overused or misused. these drugs should be the last line of therapy, and they’re for short-term use.”

a person who is psychotic is out of touch with reality. people with psychosis may hear voices (hallucinations) or have strange and illogical ideas (delusions). they may be unaware that their condition is an illness. schizophrenia is an example of a psychosis. antipsychotic medications assist in a number of ways. they often calm down the hallucinations and delusions, or at least make them more manageable. some antipsychotic medications also help the person interact more normally with others. they may become more social and less isolated, and begin to take an interest in their grooming and appearance.

my swain has questioned several times, why are we treating millions of men, women and children who are not psychotic with antipsychotics??? and it’s a damn good question. something we should all question.

i’m simply a frustrated thirty-something girl tired of the mental illness stigma. tired of the doctors prescribing dangerous medications without blinking. tired of the insurance companies laughing all the way to the bank, covering a physical illness and not a mental illness. and the evil pharmaceutical companies. they send former-cheerleaders out to pimp their nasty drugs. and they all sleep well at night, otherwise, we would see a change. instead, it’s getting worse.

as writer/reporter philip dawdy over at furious seasons points out, “this is an especially crucial time for such a rethink, since the fda is on the verge of approving seroquel for use in bipolar depression, which would allow the company to actively market the drug as a “mood stabilizer” a la lithium. zyprexa is already approved that way—and we know just how much that has helped patients.”

it’s time we, the patients and families, say something. we need a voice and we need several. thousands. millions.

to read more on the alzheimer’s study, click here.