invincible summers

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

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!”

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!


now is the time August 28, 2008

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

Forty-five long years later, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s historic nomination to run for president of the United States in front of a crowd of 75,000 people. Mr. Obama is the first African-American to be nominated by a major US party. Tonight was a beautiful night and one I will never forget. Barack Obama’s words (and they are not just words) reminded me why I’ve stuck around even when I didn’t want to. Hope is what gets me up every single day. Hope has been there even in my darkest hours. After my rape at fifteen, during my brief stay in a mental hospital, when I lost my health insurance this year and during the many years from childhood to adulthood when life seemed so hopeless, it was always there…burning inside me… hope…hope has kept me alive. Barack Obama is promising hope and change and I know he will deliver- with our help. Now is the time…this election is about us…each and every one of us.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Sadly, most of America did not hear a few very special stories because mainstream media (to my knowledge) chose not to air them. Even MSNBC cut to their commentators during the following speeches. Thank God for C-SPAN!!! I have decided to share a few of the videos here because they are stories we all need to hear. And a special thank you to the following lovely men and women who spoke tonight:

Roy Gross – Michigan Teamster car transport driver affected by decline in car manufacturing; Monica Early – New to campaigning, this Akron mother & grandmother is an Obama volunteer; Janet Lynn Monacco – Struggling small business owner from Melbourne, FL with health issues; Teresa Asenap – Albuquerque, New Mexico public school worker concerned about economy

Pamela Cash-Roper – Unemployed nurse and lifelong Republican from North Carolina

Barney Smith – Marion, Indiana plant worker – lost job of 30 yrs when plant moved to China


while i’m away March 14, 2008

Once again, I’ll be taking a break. I’m starting a job next week and will be working those hideous 12-18 hour days until mid-May. and although I rarely blog these days I’m still following stories in the mental health (and beyond) world.

Here are few worth reading:

Antidepressants found in drinking water of 24 US cities

Mental health parity bills have now passed both houses of Congress. Here’s hoping the Senate and House can compromise. I prefer the House version for a variety of reasons you can find here at my blog. The White House opposed the House bill, saying it “would effectively mandate coverage of a broad range of diseases.” I can’t even begin to describe how this infuriates me! Not that it will help, but I urge everyone to email or write the President, letters to the editor and members of Congress—demand an end to this discrimination.

The famous UK study published in the journal PLoS Medicine finds antidepressants are barely more effective than placebos in treating most people with depression.

I have two friends that recently decided to quit smoking (one was successful and one was not) However, they were both prescribed Chantix-the one that quit successfully had few side effects. The one who is still smoking went a bit crazy on the drug. It was very frightening and I begged her to quit taking the pill. Before taking Chantix she rarely suffered from depression and never anxiety, one week into Chantix she experienced extreme agitation, anxiety and depression. Her lovely doctor then added Wellbutrin and Buspar for the anxiety and depression and Miraplex (for her restless leg syndrome) Next thing you know-she was on the edge. I urged her to find a new doctor, go off the pills and treat the side effects from the multiple pills with acupuncture. I’m happy to say with the help of acupuncture and vitamin supplements she’s doing much better. Studies have found Chantix causes suicidal thoughts amongst other things and it angers me our doctors are not only ignoring the data but prescribing more drugs to treat the side effects of Chantix. We live in a sad, pathetic, sick country these days.

It is no secret I am not a fan of antipsychotics after my experience with Seroquel. We are no longer a Prozac Nation-we are a Seroquel/Zyprexa Nation and that is frightening. However, it’s nice to see an alternative to the nasty drugs used to treat dementia in nursing homes. Lately antipsychotics have been heavily and ignorantly used to treat the elderly and now one nursing home in the Bronx is treating patients with aromatherapy, long soothing bubble baths and massages. Way to go! Click here for the story.

Antipsychotics cause brain damage? Read on…

Here’s a reason why we should boycott the Olympics.
(a warning to animal lovers-it’s incredibly sad)

I watched “In the Valley of Elah” recently and highly recommend it. Here’s the true story behind the film and what should have been a real wake up call to anyone who doubts our soldiers are in dire need of mental health care.


good bye lamictal January 17, 2008

Shortly after Christmas the time had come to refill my Lamictal prescription. I stared at the bottle with one pill remaining, picked it up and put it in my kitchen drawer. That one pill in the bottle is still in the kitchen drawer several weeks later.

I had been slowly tapering off the medication for a few months for a variety of reasons. One being, it’s too damn expensive. But most importantly, I had hit a plateau. Typical of every single medication I’ve taken for my mental illness over the last 15-20 years. And I’ve taken a lot of them. I must admit, of all the medications I’ve been prescribed, Lamictal was by far the best. The side effects were minimal. No weight gain. No fear of diabetes. I wasn’t sleeping 12-16 hours a day. I wasn’t a zombie. It seemed to be working and I believe it did for about 18 months. And then, bam, that damn plateau. I was truly disappointed this time. I thought I had found a medication would continue to work. I was ok taking that pill the rest of my life. Instead, slowly, I began to experience symptoms more frequently…anxiety, depression, fear, mania and more depression. And then the frustration set in. Anger directed towards the pharmaceutical companies. Knowing all too well, most of these companies don’t want to see us well, they want us sick. Their medications (most of which they know little about) work temporarily, if at all, in most cases. And that is not good enough.

The day after I put that bottle in the kitchen drawer, I began taking a Whole Foods multi-vitamin and 1000mg of Flax Oil every morning. When time permits, I will do the research and look into other alternative options as well. And when money permits, I will return to acupuncture.

Coming off the Lamictal has not been easy. Nasty withdrawal symptoms, mostly, I have been severely agitated. Every single little thing bothers me. Tons of anxiety, etc.

Since coming off the Lamictal, I lost my health insurance. I’ve been insured my entire life. My premiums have nearly doubled since 2004 and I find it unacceptable. I didn’t have the $744.00 to pay the bill. And *poof* just like that, I became one of the 47 million uninsured Americans. I’m trying to switch to a catastrophic plan with the same company but it’s not easy dealing with the lovely insurance folks. On the bright side, I no longer have to worry about ridiculously high psychiatrist bills and medications. Something that has nearly sent me into bankruptcy several times over the years, even with insurance.

Surprisingly when I uttered the words “I went off my meds” to my parents, they didn’t freak out. I was certain they would because any mention of it in the past has caused serious concern. And I must admit, I’ve always been that person that believed whole-heartedly I would be medicated my entire life. I believed (and still do) a mental illness is like any other illness and should be treated as such. However, I have decided after almost two decades of numerous failed medications to go another route. I will travel the “alternative” path and see where it leads me. Maybe my parents have more faith in me than I thought. Maybe they believe I’m strong enough to fight this battle. Maybe they see what I see and that is: After a certain length of time, on any medication, I no longer feel the effects of said medication. It has happened time and time again. The doctor’s solution has always been the same, try something new or up the dosage. I can’t imagine what my father would do if his high blood pressure medication suddenly stopped working. Which leads me to….

I watched “The Medicated Child” on Frontline last week and hope to soon discuss the show. The segment that troubled me more than anything involved Dr. Patrick Bacon. A doctor who suggested to the parents of his 4 year old bipolar patient, DJ Koontz, adding Xanax to his large cocktail of medications for the anxiety he feels before he goes to school. This suggestion surprisingly came after DJ’s parents learned of Rebecca Riley’s death and asked Dr. Bacon if there was “anything not medication related that we need to be doing for DJ”? Throughout the segment Dr. Bacon used words like “experiment” and “gamble”.

Frankly, I am tired. Tired of playing the guinea pig role for the last twenty years while others profit off me


big pharma spends more on advertising January 7, 2008

Filed under: big pharma,health care — clementine @ 1:14 pm
Tags: ,

from ScienceDaily:

A new study by two York University researchers estimates the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development, contrary to the industry’s claim.

The researchers’ estimate is based on the systematic collection of data directly from the industry and doctors during 2004, which shows the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spent 24.4% of the sales dollar on promotion, versus 13.4% for research and development, as a percentage of US domestic sales of US $235.4 billion.

The research is co-authored by PhD candidate Marc-André Gagnon, who led the study with Joel Lexchin, a long-time researcher of pharmaceutical promotion, Toronto physician, and Associate Chair of York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health.

click here to continue reading.


i’m home November 29, 2007

i’m home and it feels good. leaving home for a weekend or week is one thing…but 7 weeks is a whole other beast. some of you know i work in the film industry and occasionally work will take me out of town for weeks or months at a time. and i rarely post about my experiences on set because they usually involve those that we read about too much. however, i will say it was a pleasure working with hawkeye. overall, it was a long 7 weeks and i returned feeling exhausted and broken. during the second week i injured my back and sciatic nerve. over the last two weeks of filming i battled “whatever flu virus has been going around” and it’s still lingering…thanks in part to the ever-changing weather. i’ll leave it at that for now.

decided to return with some headlines that caught my attention over the last month or so. hoping to follow up on a few of them.

Dr. Drug Rep

Lilly makes billions off Zyprexa while approved for Schizophrenia only

120 War Vets commit suicide each week

State files suit against maker of medication

Changes in psychiatry’s ‘bible’ altered children’s care

Republicans have better mental health than Democrats

Friends, family mourn tasered man

Before shooting in Brooklyn, a history of mental illness and family discord

Law on mental-illness coverage near fruition as details ironed out

Moody is the new bipolar

Abilify approved as additional treatment for major depression

Minnesota limit on gifts to doctors may catch on


update on mental health parity bill September 24, 2007

Last week the Senate passed legislation that would require equal health insurance coverage for mental and physical illnesses when policies cover both. One day after the Senate approved the bill (S 558), the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health approved the House version (HR 1424) of mental health parity legislation. There are a few differences between the House and Senate bills. Most notably is the House legislation includes a broader definition of conditions that insurers would be required to cover. The Senate legislation is a little more vague, it seems their bill leaves it up to the insurance companies to decide what is covered. Under the House version, the policy would go into effect Jan. 1, 2008, while the Senate bill states that it would begin one year after it becomes law.

Click here to read my previous blog on the House version. And you can read the side-by-side comparison of the two bills here. Of course, they’re both better than what we have today. If only someone would introduce a bill that will reimburse the mentally ill the money we have paid out of our pockets for years. Take action to see change! Write your local congress members and the president. You’ll find their email addresses here.