Monday, November 28, 2011

Let's Blog Swap!

Hi all loyal readers...

I was just updating my "blogroll" (aka "Blog List") on the right side of my page, and I was wondering if anyone who visits here keeps a blog, too.  If you do, post the blog in the comments section or send it to me in an email and I'll put it on my blog list at right.  Or, if you know someone else who blogs, tell them to check me out, let me know their URL, and I'll add theirs, too.

If you don't blog, what are some of your favorites to read (aside from this one, of course)?  What kinds of blogs are the best?  I'm partial to knitting (duh) and parenting, myself.

Tomorrow or the next day, I'm going to put up a post about how you can win a copy of Blake Mycoskie's (aka "The TOMS Guy") book, Start Something that Matters, just in time for Christmas.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hello, Mania, my old Friend....

...and since it's 3:30 a.m. and I'm writing a blog post, it's obvious I've come to talk with you again.

(and if you don't get the above cultural reference, you're too freaking young.  Go get Simon & Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park and report back later).

So while I was in the Lindner Center, the doctor there put me on a new, fun drug called Geodon (generic name:  ziprazidone).  It's an atypical anti-psychotic (AAP), much like Seroquel or Zyprexa, but it's a little bit newer and the side effects don't seem to be as bad.  For example, Seroquel and Zyprexa both cause insane weight gain, Zyprexa worse than Seroquel, and I've gained like, 50 lbs on Seroquel over the past five years.  Yeah, okay, I also had four pregnancies and three kids in those five years, but I'm gonna blame it on the Seroquel anyway.

Geodon is actually not a new drug, but apparently it seems to be used more often when other AAPs haven't worked.  I'd never heard of it when the doctor put me on it, and I feel like I'm pretty well-versed in this stuff. The nurse had me sign a release for it with the rest of my meds when I first got there, and she told me that it was a drug that they usually inject you with when you get really psychotic and they can't control you, and they almost certainly wouldn't have to give it to me.  Two days later, the doctor calmly informed me it was goinng to be part of my regular routine (in a capsule form, not an injection).

Apparently, it's marketed by Pfizer, and they were involved in a federal case a few years back that included being fined by the FDA  for marketing Geodon and three other meds for "off-brand uses."  To the tune of $2.3 billion.  That's with a "b," not an "m."  Here's an article from a medical fraud advocacy group that says that Pfizer got what they deserved, and here's another article from Forbes saying the whole thing was ridiculous.  I'll let you decide.  But the point it, maybe the drug is sort of unpopular due to public opinion reasons, I don't know.

Essentially, though, the doctor at the clinic took me off my virtual pharmacopeia of drugs I was on when I went in (lithium, Zoloft, Seroquel, Lamictal, Buspar, and an occasional Ambien and Ativan) and wanted me just on lithium and Geodon.  In fact, she said that a sort of "perfect storm" of occurrences led up to me being hospitalized, with the icing on the cake being the Zoloft, causing an agitated mixed-mania state, that was causing hallucinations, delusions, and suicidal thinking.  I'd been on Zoloft for six years, so Zoloft and mania or Zoloft and mixed-states was never on my radar.  I was taking all of my normal drugs in relatively low dosages, except the Zoloft.  I mean, I'm depressed -- give me an antidepressant, right?   Seems logical.  But it turns out that none of the meds were really helping, and some of them were actually hurting. Antidepressants can actually be pretty bad for bipolar people, but I've never had any obvious problems with them before, so I've stayed on one after another after another (you name it, I've been on it) for years.  This is actually a pretty major problem for some people, but I'll talk about that another time.

So when the pdoc sent me home on Wednesday, I was on Geodon, lithium, and Xanax as needed (with the idea that eventually I'd get off of everything except the Geodon).   Three drugs seem like nothing, compared to my previous med cocktail.

The only trouble is...well, it's 3:30, and I'm writing this blog post.  Yep, seems like something is sending me into some sort of (at least hypo-)manic state.  I'm pretty sure it's not the Xanax, since Xanax usually knocks me on my ass.  But I've had three of them since 7:00 p.m. tonight, and other than the fact I can't see straight and I feel like my brain is rattling around in my head, I'm not at all tired.

I did do some web searching, and that shining bastion of research, Wikipedia, mentions that "Ziprasidone is known to cause activation into mania in some bipolar patients."  Thanks, Wikipedia, for that thorough explanation.  At least they list references; here's a link to one of the studies that supports this claim (there are a couple). I also found a couple of discussions online about "Geodon mania" that were asking the same questions.  Here's one; here's another.  God, I seriously love the internet.  You could do a search for just about anything and find a discussion about it.  Anyway, irrelevant.

Maybe it's the Geodon, maybe it's something else causing the mania, I don't know.  I've actually cut way back on my caffeine, so it can't be that, and the Zoloft is gone, so it can't be that, and I've been on the lithium for about six I'm kind of at a loss.  I will mention, though, that the sleeplessness isn't the only manic symptom I'm experiencing, so this isn't just a case of insomnia. I won't elaborate, in case my husband reads this, but he'll know what I'm talking about when he gets my next credit card bill (sorry, sweetie). 

For now, I think some of the Xanax has kicked in and, while I'm not tired, I definitely can't see straight.  So I think my rant is at an end for the moment.  I hope you're sleeping, cozy in your bed, and not doing random research on anti-psychotic meds that you feel like a crazy person for needing to take. 

Oh, wait, I AM a crazy person. Oh well. Least I'm a crazy person with a credit card.  For now.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Check Me Out -- I'm Home, and Away From the Horrors....

of 24-hour-a-day Christmas music.

That's right.  I had to go stay in a "mental health facility" (but I usually think of it as a "looney bin," even though I know that's totally un-PC), and just in case us patients didn't feel shitty enough, the place was pumping Christmas music through the stereo in all the common areas 24/7.  And it wasn't even Thanksgiving, for God's sake! 

Plus, it was bad Christmas music -- I heard Mariah Carey more than once.  Thankfully I didn't hear that damn hippopotamus song, because I probably would have ended up restrained, or taken to the "tub room" (I actually don't know what the "tub room" is, but there was a door by my room marked as such and I've seen enough bad movies and House reruns to conjure up images of a big basin floating with ice cubes they dunk you in to calm you down).

As a result of the holiday cheer onslaught, I've put a moratorium on Christmas music at my house for at least another week, unless it's instrumental/ambient or classical (like, no lyrics classical -- not Bing Crosby classical) Christmas music.  Frankly, as I get older, I like that kind of Christmas music better anyway.

I'm not trying to make light of my stay at the Lindner Center (which is really the absolute opposite of a "looney bin" -- it's beautiful, bright, and modern with a very caring staff and doctors, Christmas music aside).  But I actually have so much I want to say about my stay there, what I learned, what medications I'm now on -- and how I got to be in such a crisis state that I had to go stay there -- that I'm still trying to organize it all in my mind.  

I will say that I almost kissed the psychiatrist, though, when she informed my husband that no amount of exercise, "good eating," or other coping mechanisms would have helped me get out of the funk that brought me there. I had to stop myself from jumping up, doing a little dance, and screaming, "I F*CKING TOLD YOU SO!"

But I'm classy, and very magnanimous, so I didn't.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Maintained Radio Silence....

Just thought I'd update that I won't be posting for a few days, maybe a week.  I've won a fabulous vacation to the Lindner Center, a psychiatric facility in Mason, Ohio.  I met with my new psychiatrist today and she thought it was best for me to check in and get a "tune up."  I don't want to go, but I guess it's for the best.

In the meantime, join and follow me.  Or check out this totally obnoxious, yet adorable, Hello Kitty crocheted scarf that I'm working on (well, I won't be working on it while I'm gone, cuz crochet needles are a no-no).

Where is My Village?

If you follow my posts at all, you'll know the last few weeks have been somewhat of a challenge for me, mental-health wise.  I've talked about coping mechanisms like humor and crafting, and I've been pretty good (in my opinion) trying to use these things to feel better.  I even managed to drag my butt to my mom's group at church on Tuesday and to yoga on Wednesday.  Alas, to no avail.  Some days seem to go okay, and then there are days like today, when the devil is whispering in my ear horrible things about myself, I keep screaming at my kids, and I can't get the image of running my car into a tree out of my mind.

I'm not talking about this stuff simply to whine, but to bring up a larger problem:  why do we mother alone?  A friend of mine, a yoga instructor, once promoted a "Yoga Playdate" class by saying, "Come build your village."  That phrase has stuck with me ever since.  Regardless of if you're a Hillary Clinton fan or not (I'm referring to her book It Takes a Village), there's something to the thought that mothering (and parenting in general) should be a shared task.  It seems that almost every mother I know, at some time or another, has felt alone, vulnerable, and overwhelmed.  The vulnerable and overwhelmed feelings are probably just parts of being a mom, but the "alone" part shouldn't have to be.

Take me, for example. Today I keep wondering how the hell I'm going to make it through the day -- and, more importantly, how the kids will make it through without me totally losing it.  I am truly blessed that I know I could call my mom or father-in-law and, if they could, they could help  -- but my mom works, and my father-in-law has his own stuff going on, and I feel like it's not their job to parent my kids.  Plus, that makes me feel like I'm failing -- why can't I "stick it out" or "suck it up?"  And I feel horribly, painfully alone.

I've often wondered why there isn't some sort of emergency babysitting service available.  Why don't we have services or groups for women, with help available 24-7?  If our society could pull together to offer services like this, I would almost guarantee that child abuse, infanticide, and maternal suicide (not to mention depression and other mental illnesses) would become less prevalent.  Unfortunately, I think the reason these services don't exist is the same reason that I feel guilty calling someone for help.  Mothers are expected to be able to do everything, to be everyone, to cook everything, to work anywhere, and still maintain some sort of sanity.  And for those of us that don't work -- well, what the heck is OUR problem?  We don't even have the stress of a real job, so of course we should be able to deal with whatever comes along (I hope my sarcasm comes through here).

How have we gotten so isolated?  I'd blame it on technology, but I think it started well before the advent of the internet and social media.  I'm sure there's lots of scholarly research on the topic, and I think I'll check it out, but I just don't have the energy today.  Right now, I'm just throwing out the questions to hopefully start some thinking on the topic.

Okay, my baby is shrieking in her crib, so I guess that's enough writing for me today.  In the meantime, if you're a mom and feel overwhelmed, check out this "Tonglen for Mothers" by DeLona Campos-Davis. My favorite line:

I breathe in the loneliness of days spent mothering on my own.
I breathe out connection, community, compassion.
Just breathe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Trouble with Trauma (and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

I'm reading a book right now called The Night Strangers, a novel by Chris Bohjalian.  It's a pretty standard ghost story, but at the center is a pilot who has survived a plane crash in which most of his passengers died.  He's suffering pretty severe PTSD, and the ghost part goes on from there.

The reason I mention the book is that it's gotten me thinking about PTSD and trauma, and what constitutes trauma.  Clearly, a plane crash would constitute as trauma for just about anyone; it's understandable that someone who survived something like that would have some lingering issues.  A while ago, though, I wrote about postpartum PTSD, and how a lot of people don't think about how childbirth could be traumatic and cause something as serious as PTSD.  I know, however, that I did have PTSD after my first daughter was born, even though I didn't realize it at the time.

The thing is, I know someone else could have gone through the same childbirth experience that I did, yet not experience trauma.  Similarly, a few years ago I was in a car wreck with my husband and baby in the car, in which my new car was almost totaled, and had no lingering issues from that at all.  I know other people have gone through similar wrecks and probably did experience PTSD.

The US Library of Medicine says that PTSD can occur when someone has "seen or experienced a traumatic even that involved the threat of injury or death."  Seems pretty straightforward.  The definition mentions incidents like war, assaults, abuse, and terrorism as "traumatic events."

In a weird stroke of synchronicity, however, I was reading some of the stuff about this whole Penn State debacle, and there was a report of a janitor who saw the coach in question molesting a young boy.  The janitor was a Korean War vet, but said that what he saw between the coach and his victim was something he'd "never forget."   Clearly, witnessing the abuse of a child was more traumatic to this man than what he'd seen in the war, but that seems to counter the previous definition of PTSD.

What makes one person's trauma another person's mere experience?  And, what makes one experience traumatic to a person, versus another?   So often, when you have a traumatic experience, people in your life  tolerate your PTSD to a point, and then, when it seems like enough time has passed, everyone assumes that you should "get over it" or "get through it." 

Unfortunately, I think when you experience a trauma severe enough to cause lingering issues, it's something that stays with you for a long time -- maybe forever.  It may be something you can manage with therapy or other coping mechanisms, but it's something that stays in your brain, like the janitor in the Penn State scandal said.  It's something you carry with you for a very long time, maybe forever, and it may be a mystery why one experience is a trauma and another is just an experience. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tis the Season: Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you live in the Eastern part of the U.S., you are probably experiencing the wonderful phenomena of Time Change Hangover.  I know I am.  It seems like when the clock falls back an hour in the fall, everything in my life gets thrown off a little bit -- and even more so, now that I have kids.  Kids tend to ignore the time change altogether, which makes sense since they can't tell time (this logic, however, does not make it any less irritating when they're yelling at you at 6 a.m.).  

This time of the year, I hear a lot of people talking about how the weather and light (or lack thereof) affects their mood.  I found an article at talking about things you can do to combat the "winter blues," or mild seasonal depression, which is probably what most people experience.  The suggestions are nothing earth-shattering:  exercise, light therapy, that kind of stuff.  

Unfortunately, a lot of people experience a lot more than mild seasonal depression; studies estimate that 4-6% of people suffer full-blown SAD, and 10-20% have a more mild form of the condition.  For these people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, fall and winter mean a lot more than feeling cranky and lethargic.  I think a lot of people think they have SAD, or throw the term around somewhat carelessly, when SAD is actually a pretty severe condition. In addition to "normal" depression symptoms, like feeling hopeless and anxious, people with SAD may crave carbs, oversleep, and gain weight.  The feeling of depression is also gets progressively worse throughout the winter, only letting up when the seasons change and days become longer.

Interestingly (well, probably not for the people who have it), some people with seasonal affective disorder can get their symptoms in the summer.  These people usually have trouble sleeping, rather than oversleep.  It's more rare to have SAD in the summer, but it happens. 

Treatment for SAD can include light therapy, meds, and psychotherapy.   If you think you have full-blown seasonal affective disorder, the best thing to do is call a psychiatrist or psychologist, or -- if you have a problem getting to see one of these doctors, which you may -- see your family doctor. 

Luckily, I don't really think I have SAD -- just sort of some mild "winter blues" brought on by the fabulous Ohio fall and winter.  Having said that, everything lately is an effort, so I may go buy myself a light therapy box or light bulb for a little at-home light therapy.  If nothing else, it's probably good light to knit by.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Coping Mechanisms: Humor

Still feeling pretty funky.  I'm working on a post about medical testing on mental patients, which is really fascinating, but it's requiring more energy than I'm capable of right now.  So, in the meantime, I thought I'd talk about another coping mechanism:  humor.

It's pretty self-explanatory.  Read, watch, or hear stuff that's funny, and usually you can't help but smile.  I was feeling pretty low yesterday, but when I started reading some of the entries over at, I was laughing so hard I was crying.  It's nice to cry over something other than crushing hopelessness.

I don't subscribe to the whole "Just turn that frown upside-down!" school of depression triumph -- in fact, I want to stab people who say stuff like that with a sharpened broom handle.  But I do think that humor can offer a temporary respite from some pretty crappy feelings.  Interestingly, a lot of comics and humorists suffer from depression and other mental illness, so maybe there's something to humor as a way to cope.  As Erma Bombeck said, "If you can laugh at it, you can live with it."

Here are some other amusing links. 

The Institute of Offical Cheer, from James Lileks.  I love James Lileks; his writing style is witty and intelligent.  My personal favorites at the Institute are a tour of The Gobbler, a fabulous (yet, sadly, gone) Wisconsin motel, and  Art Frahm:  A Study of the Effects of Celery on Loose Elastic.  Art Frahm was an illustrator that painted pin-up girls who usually:  a)  were carrying groceries, including celery; and b) were losing their underwear.  It's very weird.

Love, love, love the site  Hilarious.  You just have to wonder what the hell some of these people were thinking.

Sh*  Pretty self-explanatory, but for anyone who has had a kid screw something up, it's painfully familiar.

The fit & fabulous MerlinCat  No, this is not another (also known as LOLCats) site -- I think this was actually around first.  It's funny because the cats all look so pissed off -- which is pretty much the natural state of a cat's demeanor.  Speaking of which, this is a hilarious cartoon about hating cats.  (And, yes, I have a cat, but that doesn't mean I can't make fun of them, too).  In case you live under a rock and have never heard of (it was on Jeopardy!, for cripe's sake), it's a "news" site that posts user-submitted current event links with user-submitted headlines.  Example:  "Naked guy wanders around Dulles airport, perhaps trying to beat TSA to the punch."

No discussion of internet humor is complete (not that this is a complete discussion, but whatever) without a mention of The Book of Ratings.  I mourn the loss of, which was an offshoot of The Brunching Shuttlecocks.  Lore Sjoberg, the writer, inexplicably commented on and graded totally random things -- everything from marsupials to the seven deadly sins to Dante's punishments.  Sadly, I can't find the ratings online anymore.  There is an actual book (book?  paper?  what's that?), which is a small comfort, and I do own it, but I could read ratings all day long and pee my pants laughing so hard.  And I mean that literally, now that I've had kids.

Since you can't find the ratings online anymore, I'll post one of my favorites that I managed to dig up:
From "The Ratings for Dante's Punishments":
The Blasphemers
Burning sand and rains of fire, all for those who said things like "Jesus f*ck, that's one God-be-buggered big-ass fajita plate," plus the entire London cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. It doesn't make it clear whether you can get away with phrases like "Gosh darn cripes," which would have been good to know. Anyhow, if you do these things you have to lay down in the sand. I think it would have been a more appropriate punishment for evil sunbathers, but that's why I'm not Pope. Among other reasons.
 I'll leave you with that thought.  Hope you're smiling.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Finished All Those Legs

I finally finished my octopus.  His official name (per the book) is "Tentacle Terry."  The kicker is that neither of my kids like him; I think he reminds them too much of a spider.  On a side note, I didn't really like the yarn I used, it was Vicki Howell for Caron, Sheep(ish) in Plum(ish).  I like it in the scarf I'm making, but on the little needles (I used a size 4) it got really fuzzy.

This isn't a great picture; my iPod doesn't take great pics.  I could probably change a setting, but that would require too much effort.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

That's Me Trying

Several years ago, a very odd musical collaboration occurred between William Shatner and Ben Folds.  If you are familiar with William Shatner's previous musical offerings (his version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" is my personal favorite), you'd be right to be skeptical.  But -- and I say this completely without irony -- the resulting album, Has Been, is actually not bad.  Shatner mostly does spoken word recitations rather than trying to sing, and Folds sets the tracks to music and does some backup singing (along with others, like Aimee Mann and Henry Rollins).  My favorite song on the album is called "That's Me Trying."

Anyway, the reason I mention this (well, really, who needs a reason to mention William Shatner??), is that I've mentioned that I haven't been doing so well in the mood department for the last week or so.  I've gotten a lot of help, thank God, but everyone just keeps telling me, "You have to try!"

I guess I understand what they're saying, but at this point, I really don't even know what "trying" is.  Is it not cutting myself?  Not bursting into tears every hour?  If that's trying, then I'm not trying.  If it's managing to make dinner (which didn't turn out great), managing to drag the kids to the store (which was a big mistake), then I am trying.  Is it updating this blog, and working on my knitting projects?  Then I'm trying.  Is it fighting the "I want to die" feelings?  Then I'm not trying.

You get the point.

My constant questioning has me coming back to that stupid Shatner/Folds song again and again.  Part of the refrain goes, "Above the quiet, there's a buzz/That's me trying."  I think, I made dinner.  That's me trying.  I took a walk.  That's me trying.  I feel like I want to write on the walls, "Look!  That's me trying!"  The only problem is that  I still feel like shit.

So now what?

Note:  part of "me trying" is continuing work on my little octopus.  Did you know that octopuses have eight freaking legs?  That's a hell of a lot of legs.  I'm tired of knitting legs.  But that's me trying.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coping Mechanisms: Craftherapy

A while ago, I was proud of myself for coming up with a new word, "craftherapy."  Out of curiosity, I did a google search for the word, and it turns out some other people came up with the same word as well, so I'm not as great as I thought I was.  Darn.  Even so, I'm going to write about craftherapy today.

In my last post, I mentioned that my previous attempts to stave off a depressive episode weren't working, and I was doing kinda bad.  Well, the bad continues.  Bad enough that hospitalization has been mentioned, and I SO do not want that, if for no other reason than they won't let me have my iPod or knit (of course, there are lots of other reasons as well, but those are two very concrete ones).

So to avoid possible hospitalization, further self-injury, or any other kinds of serious badness, I'm trying to pull out some coping mechanisms.  And it's not easy.  All I really want to do is lie in bed all day and eat chocolate (and, after Trick-or-Treat, we have a lot of that), so getting up and sitting vertical and doing something is a major effort.  Man, you gotta love depression.

Of course, some of my coping mechanisms are forms of -- here's the word -- craftherapy.  I mentioned before about the entrelac scarf I was working on, and I'm still whittling away at that.  I also finished a zigzag scarf (pattern here) in Red Heart Boutique Swirl in Floral, then finished a pair of basic gauntlets (fingerless gloves) in some bulky rust colored yarn from the book Speed Knitting.

In addition, I ordered this cute little book from called Little Knitted Creatures by Amy Gaines, and started to make a little octopus.  I'm not a huge fan of octopuses (octopi?), but I had purple yarn, so there ya go.

Lastly, for a craftherapy task other than knitting, I bought a book called The Mandala Workbook, which is supposed to guide you through a twelve-stage mandala cycle for healing and growth.  I've started reading it, but haven't actually started any of the mandala exercises yet.

In general, I guess my coping mechanisms are working okay, in the sense that I'm not in the hospital.  I'm kind of funked out right now because I can't find a tapestry needle and I don't have the right sized needles for another project, so I'm sort of at a standstill.  It's irritating when your coping mechanisms piss you off more than your depression.  But I'll just keep plugging along.

For anyone else out there having a bad time of it (I think the change of the seasons is a rough time of year), I hope you're engaging in some coping mechanisms yourself and staving off the really bad stuff.  Feel free to share your tactics for survival.