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.


MedWatch May 18, 2009

Filed under: antipsychotics,big pharma,FDA,medications — clementine @ 3:19 pm
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still taking a break but i just received this email from the FDA and found it interesting:

MedWatch- The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program

The April 2009 posting includes 65 drug products with safety labeling changes to the following sections: BOXED WARNING, CONTRAINDICATIONS, WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS, ADVERSE REACTIONS, PATIENT PACKAGE INSERT, and MEDICATION GUIDE.

The “Summary Page” provides a listing of drug names and safety labeling sections revised:

The “Detailed View Page” identifies safety labeling sections and subsections revised along with a brief summary of new or modified safety information to the BOXED WARNING, CONTRAINDICATIONS, and/or WARNINGS sections:

The following 45 drugs had modifications to the BOXED WARNING, CONTRAINDICATIONS, and WARNINGS sections:

Extraneal, Remicade, Orap, Prevpac, Soma Compund, Aleve, Aleve Liquid Gels, Aleve-D Sinus & Cold, Axert, Carbatrol, Celontin, Depakene, Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakote Sprinkle, Depo-Medrol, Dilantin, Doribax, Enlon Plus, Equetro, Exjade, Felbatol, Gabitril, Heparin Solium injection, Ibuprofen, Kaletra, Keppra/Keppra XR, Klonipin, Lamictal, Lyrica, Midol, Motrin, Children’s Motrin Cold, Mysoline, Neurontin, Peganone, Sarafem, Stavzor, Tarceva, Tegretol, Topamax, Tranxene, Treanda, Tridione, Trileptal, Zarontin, Zonegran

click here for the detailed view.


FDA suicidal warning on epilepsy drugs December 17, 2008

Filed under: big pharma,FDA,mood stabilizers,suicide — clementine @ 3:41 am
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From Tuesday’s Reuters

so much for my thoughts on Lamictal being one of the only decent meds for bipolar….

Makers of epilepsy drugs must add a warning that the medicines carry a risk of suicidal thoughts or actions, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday.

The companies also must develop a patient-friendly guide explaining risks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.

Analysis of 199 clinical trials of 11 anti-epileptic drugs found twice the risk of suicidal behavior or thoughts with the drugs compared to a placebo, the FDA said.

The increase represented about one additional case of suicidal thinking or behavior for every 530 patients treated with one of the medicines, the FDA said.

“The risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior was generally consistent among the eleven drugs analyzed and was observed in patients who were treated for epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, and other conditions,” the agency said.

Epilepsy drugs include Pfizer Inc’s Lyrica and Neurontin, GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s Lamictal and Johnson & Johnson’s Topamax.

Glaxo believes the findings of the FDA analysis should be added to the labels of epilepsy drugs, company spokeswoman Sarah Alspach said, adding Glaxo would review the FDA action.

Topamax already includes information about suicidal behavior in its prescribing instructions, said Tricia Geoghegan, a spokeswoman for J&J unit Ortho-McNeil Neurologics Inc. “We will continue to work with the FDA to make sure any changes they request are in there,” she said.

A Pfizer spokesman had no immediate comment.


update on lamictal withdrawl February 10, 2008

I’ve been off the Lamictal approximately six weeks and it’s been incredible difficult to gauge my symptoms and/or side effects, if any. The extreme irritability is gone but I’ve been incredibly fatigued and depressed lately. I’ve been sick more than I’ve been healthy. What bothers me is, it could be a number of things. It could be the crap in our food, the cigarettes, our fireplace (carbon monoxide?) It could be the constant weather changes in my area which led to the disastrous tornadoes a few days ago. 70 degrees one day, 30 degrees the next. Maybe a new pillow or bed would result in less tossing and turning and therefore more sleep. It could be stress from non-stop work the past month. Or stress from losing my health insurance. It could be from the great sadness I feel after reading too much news and seeing firsthand our country being taken over by corporations. Or stress from unpaid bills.

Do you get my point? It could be many things and possibly a combination of all of the above. It might not have a damn thing to do with the fact I’m no longer medicated. And so, how does one begin to figure it out and feel better? I’m certainly not going to medicate the problem. And not because I lost my health insurance, although that’s part of it. Mostly because I believe 90% of the medications on the market make us sicker. Frankly, I don’t know what to do and I’m open to suggestions.


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


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.