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Archive for the tag “mental health: bipolar”

Project Semicolon

No, this isn’t a grammar lesson.

Project Semicolon is a movement that promotes mental health and suicide awareness. The stigma that is attached to mental illness often prevents sufferers from speaking out or even seeking help.

The stigma needs to end. And that starts with all of us rising above and sharing our stories.

I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life.

[cut for talk about suicide]

Read more…

My Thoughts on Robin Williams, Mental Illness, and Suicide

"Robin Williams 2011a (2)" by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams -  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Robin Williams 2011a (2)” by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

It’s been over a week now since the world was shocked with the news that Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, committed suicide. Celebrities die all time, but suicide? He’s not the first and won’t be the last. The rash of suicides filling the airwaves, from big name celebrities to small town teenagers, has had one positive effect: it has gotten people talking. Talking about tough questions like what does it really mean to have a mental illness, what pushed these people to suicide, how can we help, and what is wrong with our health care system?

For me, Williams’ death hit a very, very tender spot. Last month, I found myself spiraling into a deep, scary depression after my bipolar medications stopped working. Things escalated quickly from being just a little tired and sad to suicidal a week later. Even in my diminished condition I managed to reach out to people online. I posted a few comments on Facebook eliciting responses of “contact me” and “hope you are okay.” I emailed two friends to apologize for not being strong enough and made preparations to turn over control of my livejournal to one of them. I wrote down the passwords to my laptop and most important websites where I wanted my husband to leave a message about what happened to me. I wrote a letter to my husband explaining why I broke and couldn’t hang on any more.

Through it all, I cried. I cried because I didn’t want to die, but I could see no other way out of the constant pain. It was agonizing. I emailed back and forth with my two friends for twenty minutes, but the more they worried the worse I felt. At some point I had downed about ten Ativan, a few Klonopin, and two Trazadone (sleeping pills). I think in the back of my head I knew this combination at those doses wouldn’t kill me, but the intent was there. I told both friends good-bye, turned off my computer and laid down in my bed. I wanted to sleep and never wake up to the pain again.

It couldn’t have been ten minutes later when one of my kids came in and shook me awake. I was sleeping and confused, but followed him into the other room where the police were waiting to talk to me. They called for EMTs to transport me to the hospital because I had taken so many pills. During all of this, my husband and kids were in the rest of the house enjoying their lives and oblivious to the abyss I had fallen into. I couldn’t reach out to them. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. It ended up being one of those email friends who called the police for a well check.

I spent the night in the ER–probably the best night sleep I’d had in weeks. There were no ill-effects from the pills I took. The next three and half days I lied in an inpatient treatment center where I had some therapy and got my meds straightened out.

So, you can imagine, hearing that one of my favorite actors committed suicide hit a little too close to home. Having just gone through the desperation, my heart broke thinking of how much pain Williams must have been in to end it all. In the days following I read articles and Facebook commentary on the death, mental illness, and suicide. Many times I had to shut my computer down and do something else.

While reading, I alternated between tearful joy at the number of people that understood depression–who had the same experiences I had–and rage at all the people that had no clue but spouted their opinion as fact. We’ve come a long way as a society in understanding mental illness, but we still have a long way to go.

I read some very hurtful and dangerous comments giving out false information and guilt trips equally. The outpouring of love from other sufferers and their family and friends, though, has outnumbered the haters, at least in what I’ve read. I have hope that in the future we will understand this awful disease and the people that suffer from it. No more will people have to languish in emotional torment with nowhere to turn. There will be no stigma in admitting you have a mental illness and people will all be willing to help you with only love and caring. No more will we hear news reports of ten-year-olds having hung themselves.

Robin Williams is sad. The world lost an amazing entertainer, philanthropist, and man. I’m not sure any one else could fill the hole left in his wake. It will take time for the country to mourn and heal from this emotional blow. In the meantime, we need to continue the discourse on mental illness and the lack of resources sufferers encounter every day. The best way we can do that is to simply keep talking. Tell our stories and not hide in the corner. It’s not easy, I admit, but the more people that share, the stronger we will be. Our voices will be louder than the ignorant haters that try to keep us down.

We are strong. All of us that suffer and survive every day–we are strong. And those that didn’t make it were strong until that last day when the disease won. They were strong to make it that long. 

People should be able to afford their medication

A few years ago my mom’s oldest living brother had a relapse of his cancer. It was bad and the doctors only gave him a few months to live. There was a treatment they could try, though, that could prolong his life. But his insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of the medicine which was over $3000/month (that’s three thousand). His family created a fundraiser trying to come up with the money, but he died a couple months later. He probably wouldn’t have made it more than six months, but we’ll never know. With his loss that leaves just two brothers and four sisters left of the original eleven (my uncle along with their oldest brother, two eldest sisters, and my mother–who was third youngest–are gone).

I’ve found myself in a similar, yet less deadly situation. My husband injured himself on the job last year and has been on disability through his company and worker’s comp. Tomorrow our company health plan runs out leaving the entire family (me, husband and our 5 children) without medical, visual, or prescription coverage. Luckily my children are very healthy and rarely see a doctor. I’m not so lucky.

I have a severe mental illness that requires daily medications to keep in check. I saw my doctor today for my routine med check and told him what was going on. He was already going to up my dose of the main medication because I had a manic episode a little over a week ago and have been severely depressed since then (the joys of being bipolar). The prescription he gave me was for more than he actually wanted me to take so that it would last longer. I had just gotten my old prescription filled so I had about a 90 day supply. Along with the new one I could stretch it out to six or more months before I ran out.

Problem is, our insurance didn’t like that prescription and kicked it back, refusing to pay for it. Which sucks. We’re given the option of paying for it out-of-pocket.


Like we, living off of disability, have $700 laying around. So I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m supposed to increase my dosage to relieve the depression and keep me from having a repeat manic episode, but because I only have a 90 day supply I have to actually decrease the dosage so I can drag out that supply as long as I can, weaning myself off of it because we can’t afford the out-of-pocket cost even for the dose I’m on now (about $400 for 90 days). My husband said the other option is for him to charge it to our one emergency credit card.

There’s a chance, thanks to Obamacare, that I will qualify for Medicaid. I know the children already qualify. They qualified even when he was working. Until the ACA changed things we would not, as adults with our income, would not have qualified. But until we can figure that out I have to assume this 90 day supply has to stretch out until my husband returns to work which could be months away.

People in one of the richest nations in the world shouldn’t have to make these kind of decisions. Do you buy needed medications or pay your rent (which is only $250 more than the prescription)? Do you try to set up a fundraiser to collect enough money to pay for just one more month of life-saving medications or do you prepare to say good-bye to your family because it’s inevitable?

I’m mentally preparing myself for the possibility that my husband won’t be back to work before my medication runs out and that we won’t qualify for Medicaid. It’s frightening. After years of suffering I finally found something that helped, something that changed my life completely, something I need to survive. The thought of returning to the crippling depression, near constant suicidal thoughts, and physical pain scares the crap out of me. But it might be inevitable.

It’s hard to be hopeful and positive when I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff and below is the gaping maw of mental illness–an illness that nearly took my life 4 years ago.

Welcome to America, richest nation in the world, where people have to choose between life-saving medications and paying their rent.

Going back to college, bipolar and research papers oh my!

I graduated high school in 1995. Yes, I’m that old. I did the typical college thing right after, but thanks to my mental illness, inability to handle stress, and poverty I quit in 1997. It was either go to work and have a place to live or go to school and live in the library. I chose my apartment.

Fast forward to January 7, 2014–my first day of school (also my 14th wedding anniversary). I’m taking online classes at Southern New Hampshire University to complete my major in Creative Writing. So far I like it, but it hasn’t even been a full week. The fact that you only take two classes every 8 week term helps. So much better than taking five classes a week for 16 weeks like my first go-around.

This term I’m taking English Comp II and Intro to Humanities I.

The classes are split up into modules, one for each week. I’m already done with modules 1 and 2 for Humanities including the quizzes (100% on both). I just need to do next weeks discussion and start thinking about the essay I have to write.

It’s English Comp I want to talk about, though. The entire class is dedicated to writing one research paper. I hate research papers. I hate research. I get all confused with too much info coming at me and my brain shuts down. I just hate it. That’s why I don’t write historical fiction.

Like with Humanities, I’ve already finished all the reading for week one and took the two quizzes (perfect scores on both) and have more than participated in both discussions for the class. But I couldn’t leave it alone. Next week we’re supposed to work on research so we can hand in an annotated bibliography.

First off, I’ve never written an annotated bibliography and barely remember how to write a regular one (what’s MLA style again?). The fact that we have to turn in the bibliography before even starting to write the paper did not sit well with me. That’s not how I was taught to write a research paper, and apparently, it’s not how my brain works when it comes to writing.

I sat down earlier tonight (last night… whatever) to make some notes on some research I bookmarked.  Of course that got my brain into writing mode and when I was done I just had to start writing down paragraphs of ideas. What came out was the crappiest rough draft I’ve ever created. I also found out that all the notes I took were interesting but won’t end up in my paper. Now I have to go back and find the research I slightly remember glancing over that had the ideas that I actually want to use. D’oh.

But that lead me to actually trying to figure out what I was writing. That meant comeing up with my thesis statement, which apparently isn’t covered fully until week 3. Huh? I have to have a bibliography (annotated with reasons why that research should be used) when I won’t know what I’m writing about until week 3. Sorry, doesn’t work for me.

I peeked ahead at later modules to figure out what I was supposed to be doing and came up with a working thesis and a preliminary outline that organized the mess of ideas I had in the rough draft. Then I posted it all to week one’s discussion because I needed input from my prof or I’m going to go nuts.

Actually I’m already nuts. I’m pretty sure I’m at the beginning of a manic episode. It could be the caffeine that has me up at 3:30am feeling completely wired, but I’m not interested in bed and am ready to tackle this paper and get it out of the way. Seriously. If no one stops me I will stay up all night researching and writing.

Part of it is because I want to get it out of the way before my “up” goes away. My crashes are horrible and I know I won’t want to do crap once I’m all depressed again. I have to work when I feel the urge. Plus it leaves me with less things to stress about.

The smart thing to do would be to acknowledge my manic episode, down a sleeping pill and go to bed but… research paper calling me. It’s like when I get in the zone with my fiction… I’m afraid if I stop I won’t be able to start again and my paper will be crap.

(and all this while having random fantasies about the Walking Dead’s Daryl and Carol… thank you AMC for your New Year marathon that I’m still working through.)

When You and Your Teen Both Have a Mental Illness

I have dealt with debilitating depression since I was a child, although at that time I had no word for it. I knew I didn’t feel write, didn’t seem to feel happy the way the other kids did. By high school I’d developed severe social anxiety that has only gotten worse over the years.

Recently my doctor changed my diagnosis from clinical depression to bipolar with hypo-manic episodes. I’m the kind of person that stays depressed for long period of times then suddenly has a week where I feel really good and want to take on the world. I don’t go overboard with the manic stuff, but I do a lot of out-of-character things for me. It was my getting a tattoo back in October that made me realize something was up.

Right now I’m in the process of weaning off of certain anti-depressants and easing into some bipolar meds. It’s not going very well and causing me to feel a little nutty. So dealing with my thirteen-year-old daughter who also has mental illness problems has become an ordeal.

She’s been diagnosed (well, her counselor at school and her primary care doctor both agree) with depression and anxiety. Whether a therapist said it or not doesn’t really matter because it’s obvious she suffers from both. Her anxiety is more general whereas mine is mostly social. I have a feeling she’s bipolar, too. My dad has been saying for a long time he’s manic-depressive. That’s another way of saying bipolar. Looking back a lot of his actions when I was growing up fit the description of the illness.

Trying to deal with my daughter’s mood swings isn’t easy when I’m already a mess in my head. We get into screaming matches. Well, mostly she screams at me and I try to ignore her so I won’t say something I regret. When I do yell it’s because I have to get loud to be heard over her tantrums (which can flip on at any second over any trivial little thing).

We both need to be in therapy, but even with our medical insurance, we just don’t have the money. So far the best way I’ve learned to cope is to stay in my room and try not to piss her off. It works to a point. Night time is the worst. Right around bedtime she suddenly feels a need to scream at me in the face and tell me everything I’ve ever done wrong.

And call me Satan.

That makes her laugh.

Honestly I’ll take the new name if it gets her to quit screeching at me. With my meds not set yet my head is too muddled up to deal with her.

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