World Mental Health Day 2012

 

Today is World Mental Health Day.  The focus this year is Depression.  As a sufferer of depression, more specifically bipolar depression, I can attest that depression is not a simple illness.  It affects you mentally, physically, socially and professionally.  It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning.  The day drags by and you don’t really care if that report gets done on time or how well it gets done.  Everything feels grey and pointless.  You want to go home and go to bed.  Just get the day over with.  You think, “I’ll start fresh tomorrow.”

But tomorrow is just like today. Another cloudy day in your dreary life.

Approximately 5-8% of the American population suffers from Major Depression Disorder (MDD) and women are twice as likely to be affected when compared to men (NAMI 2009).  MDD is often a recurring illness, as half of all sufferers will have repeated episodes.  There are also genetic risk factors for MDD.

Depression is thought to be the result of an imbalance of the neurotransmitters seratonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which are chemical messengers in the brain.  Most antidepressants work by changing the balance of these neurotransmitters, usually by changing the sensitivity or affecting their receptor sites.  For example, SSRIs or Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors, work by blocking the reuptake receptors in the brain.  This means that the brain does not reabsorb as much seratonin as it normally would, leaving extra to float around and combat depression.

Depression is more accepted than other mental illnesses, although there is still plenty of stigma to go around.  You may have heard, “snap out of it”, “cheer up”, or “it’s not that bad”.  Yes, even trivial things are “that bad” when you are suffering from depression.  As well meaning as your family, friends or coworkers might be, if they have never suffered from depression, then they don’t understand how you can feel so down.

Depression is a serious illness and should be treated seriously.  So join me today in the battle against stigma and spread the word about World Mental Health Day.

 
© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Stability

I saw my pdoc earlier this week.  I told her that I was reluctant to say this, but I think I might be stable at the moment.  Why am I reluctant?  Because I didn’t want to jinx myself.  I’m still reluctant to post this subject.  Stability is weird.  It feels foreign to me.  I can be happy and laugh, without going overboard.  I can think at a quiet pace, without my thoughts rushing ahead of me.  I can be sad without being immobilized.

My doctor is also treating me with Straterra for ADD.  This also appears to be helping with my focus.  I don’t get up and do other things four or five times in a two paragraph email message.  My thoughts are slow, compared to what I am used to. But I feel like I can finish this post without running and doing a dozen other things at the same time.  Maybe that’s just called multi-tasking, but that has always been beyond me.  And honestly, I don’t think multi-tasking is good for anyone.  You do a dozen things at once, but do they all get done right?  Doesn’t it take some focus to complete a task well?  I’m so used to hyperfocusing, that I don’t even know the correct answer for those questions.

Maybe this is the time to work on me.  Time to work on more core issues.  Things that are too hot to touch when in an extreme state.  I need to come to terms with my past, my childhood, and my mistakes.  I need to learn but not mourn.  This is the perfect time for CBT.  I need to dig deeper into my psyche while I have the opportunity to do so without it blowing up in my face.

I am afraid.  I am afraid that this plateau won’t last.  Stability has only come to me in spurts: a week or two here and there.  I don’t predict it lasting, although that would be nice. Or would it?  I once had a therapist tell me that I have so much drama in my life because I seek drama. I never thought that I seek drama, but it always seemed to me that drama finds me.  But is there a kernel of truth in there?  Maybe when I was younger but I am too old for that crap now.  But I do wonder… Do I know what to do with myself on a daily basis if I’m not fighting depression or mania?

I don’t call myself in recovery though, because I will never fully recover from bipolar disorder.  I think of bipolar as a relapsing/remitting illness.  And right now, I appear to be in remission.  I don’t know how long it will last, but hopefully long enough that I don’t feel so foreign to myself.  Some part of me worries – who am I without my bipolar?  Am I still an interesting person?  Will my friends still like me?  Will I like me?

So many philosophical questions, things that can only be answered by time.  I hope I don’t become so mellow as to be boring.  I hate boring.  But I guess it’s time to find out who I am beneath this layer of illness called bipolar.

Finally caught a break…

COBRA is finally in place! After a third phone call, I spoke to someone who gave me more new information, but helped me straighten it all out. Turns out, you can’t make a payment if you are set up for direct deposit. So the nice fellow who helped me yesterday removed the direct deposit, allowed me to pay for one month with a credit card, then processed a rush with the insurance companies so that I am now covered and back covered. Additionally, my check was processed as well, which catches me up through the end of June. The same nice fellow who helped me yesterday also called me back today to tell me that everything was set up. I picked up my Paxil today and only had to spend $1.25 instead of $33 for it. *whew!* Finally!!

This week has been a little crazy, but hopefully things are settling down now. I wrote about the incident with my niece in Runaway and Runaway Part II.  She seems to be herself now, but I will track her facebook statuses more carefully from now on.  They seem to be a good indication of how things are going with her.  She doesn’t seem inclined to talk to me, and I think it’s because she is afraid that I will tell her what she doesn’t want to hear: partying is bad for her. I know how she feels.  But you have to make choices in life and some of those are related to your health.  Others are related to your career and if she keeps this drinking and partying up she won’t have the career she wants.  It’s hard to get through school with a science degree.  It’s harder to get through school with a science degree and good grades, even if you are smart.  It takes a lot of work.  She’ll tell me that she knows and is prepared, but her behavior speaks to the opposite.  There’s a big difference between a beer or two on a Friday night and being too drunk to walk without falling down.  Maybe I sound like a stick in the mud, but I’ve been where she is and I know it doesn’t work.

On to other news… I got called a BFF this week! 🙂  I’ve never been called a BFF before.  I was out shopping with a friend of mine on Wednesday, and we were looking at pillows for her new couch.  I picked up a cute one that had BFF embroidered on it and that’s when she said I was her BFF.  It took a few moments before it sunk in, and I said it back.  (It’s sorta like the L-bomb, isn’t it?)  I think a million things went through my head in those few moments.  First, I’ve always thought of myself as a loner inside.  My friendships aren’t fake, but they are limited.  For example, this friend doesn’t know I am bipolar.  She probably never will.  Which is another part of the reason why I hesitated.  Can I call someone a best friend if I can’t tell them I am bipolar?  I probably could, but I don’t want to.  You see, she is a police officer.  And I don’t want her thinking that someday she might have to be the one sitting next to me while I’m handcuffed to a chair awaiting a psych eval.  If the situation ever warrants it, I would tell her, but there’s no need to blurt it out just because we’ve determined we are BFFs.  Oh, and lastly?  I never thought I was cool enough to be called a BFF.  😉

That rounds out most of this week.  I am so happy to have insurance coverage!  And I am so excited to be called a BFF!  (I feel cool now.)  Next up – I need a job!  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great weekend!

 

COBRA

Grrr….Argh!

COBRA – Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – very useful option for those of us finding ourselves suddenly out of benefits, but…. the details!  OK, so my (former) employer sends me at least 5 different packets on my COBRA options, only one of which contains the amount and due dates for signing up and sending in payment.  Several sheets in each packet appear to be duplicates.  Not the entire packet, mind you, as if accidentally sent twice, but each packet a separate piece of the COBRA puzzle, with some redundant pieces thrown in for confusion.  I confess I skimmed through all the pages, looking for relevant, non-repeated information.  However, they give you a great big 1-800-call for information about your benefits hotline, so really, do the details on those pieces of paper matter?  Apparently so, although I still haven’t found the detail that has caused me the most immediate grief.

I called several weeks ago about my benefits and find out that I need to have a pin number sent to me that I can use to access my account.  Great.  Wait for that.  After I have all the information, DH & I debate over dental insurance.  Well, it’s $75/mo by COBRA and if we haven’t done anything about our teeth in the past two years at $12/mo why should we spend $75/mo on insurance we probably won’t use?  So we get that settled and I sign up online for health only.  Done.  I wait 10 days… no money has been taken out of my account.  Well, I need prescriptions.  So I call and verify that I have coverage.  Yes, but it takes 14 business days to notify the insurance company. OK, fine, I can wait another week for my scripts.

Fast forward to this week.  I need my scripts now.  The pharmacy says I don’t have insurance.  I say, fill them anyway.  I’m out of choices.  I call the glorious 1-800 # back and ask them what is going on.  They say, oh, well, we don’t notify the insurance company until you send in a payment.  WTF?  That isn’t what you told me last time.  What you told me last time was that I only had to sign up for it.  So now what do I do?

I had signed up for direct deposit to make my life easier, and that won’t start until June 1, which is still in my 45 day time frame for payment.  That’s all good and well, except that until then, I have to pay for all of my own medical and then try to get reimbursed from the insurance company after the back-dated insurance kicks in.  No, I’m sending a check in on Monday.  Well, you don’t have to, the benefits support specialist says, your account will be direct debited on June 1.  While true, that’s an extra two-three weeks worth of doctor appointments and medication juggling I have to do before payment all becomes automatic and life goes back to simple co-pays.  What land do they live in that I can spare all this up-front cash and trust the insurance company to reimburse me?

Meanwhile, I only picked up two of my three medications.  The third, generic Lipitor, was going to cost me $111 out of pocket.  With my high deductible health plan, this normally costs me $0.  I said no.  My PC is going to kill me if my cholesterol numbers are too high when I get tested on Monday, but she will understand once I explain at my next visit.  A lot of doctors today are sympathetic when it comes to insurance companies.  It’s not that I don’t have insurance, it’s that it’s currently inactive. It will be back-dated once it’s activated.  However, I can’t afford to be filling my psych meds without active insurance.  I need this ASAP.  I’m half tempted to send the check overnight.  It seems to take them two weeks to do anything.  Two weeks to send out the paperwork, two weeks to process, two weeks to notify the insurance carrier.  I don’t even know if I will get new insurance cards.  I should have asked, but it might have taken me two weeks and three tries to get the correct answer.

Well, that’s enough crabbing for today.  I am going to try to get back on the creativity wagon now.  It helps to keep me sane during this unemployment period.  Finding a job is a lot of work, and very depressing, so I have to find ways of balancing that out.  Photography seems to help.  I need to go out on a shoot somewhere soon.  The simple act of taking a photo is an art in and of itself.  And I need a little art in my life.

Six Weeks

I’ve been on unemployment for six weeks now with no hope of finding a job.  Well, not exactly true… with little hope of finding a job.  I am very discouraged today.

I am tired and worn out, and I feel weak.  Physically weak.  This is probably because I couldn’t sleep last night.  We went out to dinner and the movies with a good friend (a splurge) last night and I ate too much at dinner but forgot to take my meds.  Ate too much popcorn (still no meds) so when I came home, I had to eat something in order to take my meds.  By this time, I was sick with eating.  The popcorn really did me in, and I had a stomachache all night.  I tried to sleep, but kept having thoughts about jobs (past and present) and after a restless couple of hours, I decided to get up and read.  My stomach didn’t settle down until after 5am, and I didn’t go bed until 6am.  Consequently, I didn’t get up until 1pm today.  By then, the whole day is wasted.

Worst of all, I missed a job fair in the city today.  But there was no way I could safely drive down there on a couple of hours worth of sleep.

I went to “job school” on Tuesday where they talked about job hunting, resumes and interviews.  It was a requirement for unemployment.  But all I feel now is guilty.  I’m not doing enough, but what can I do?  I’m just not qualified for things. Jobs that have no requirements, people wouldn’t hire me for, nor could I stand working at (such as a job at Walmart or some other retail position).  I’d become suicidal, which was what happened last time I was unemployed professionally and working as an administrative assistant.    (I’m not knocking admin assistants – they are great people and do wonderful jobs, but I’m not the kind of person who can handle it.)  One of the things job school talked about was good old fashioned legwork.  Going to businesses and knocking on doors and leaving resumes to see if they have any positions available.  Yeah right.  Can you see me at the local Dodge dealership asking if they need a PhD scientist?  Or at a State Farm agent’s office?  Should I go work for Starbucks?  I hear they have great benefits.  I would be mortified anytime I saw someone from work.  I can’t even bring myself to tell people that I’ve been laid off because I find it too embarrassing.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Today is just not a good day.  No creativity today.  (I’ll get back to that soon.)  No energy today.  I just want to crawl into a hole.  I don’t know what I am looking for anyway.  I don’t know what I will do if I can’t find anything.  All I know is that when I was standing up there in the classroom teaching a couple of weeks ago – it was the most natural thing in the world to me.  Now if someone would just hire me.  Permanently.

Latuda

The second anti-psychotic my doctor prescribed for me is Latuda. She must be using it off-label for bipolar because the manufacturer website makes no mention of bipolar, only schizophrenia. The nice thing about it is that it doesn’t have the same weight gain effects as other atypical antipsychotics. The downside, for me, is the nausea.

I’ve been taking it on and off for about 3 weeks. Sometimes off because it does make me very sick to my stomach. However, it does wonders for stability. It stopped the Ultradian cycling cold. It’s kept me stable. And until tonight, I’ve been able to handle the nausea.

Tonight it made me violently ill. It wasn’t dinner because DH was fine. No, it didn’t start until I took the Latuda. I was sicker that I had ever been on it before. Previously, it had gone almost to the point of dry heaves. Tonight it went further. No, it was not pretty. DH was most wonderful for cleaning up after me.

Now it’s 4 am, my stomach hurts, my anxiety is through the roof (even though I’ve tried shoving a little klonopin down there) and I can’t sleep. I think I’ve had about 1 hour of sleep tonight. Between the anxiety and my stomach, I just can’t get any rest. Even after a hand full of crackers, some lukewarm water, and a sip of milk, my stomach still feels horrible. My body does not want this stuff in it.

Even though this may be TMI, I felt I had to share it with you in case your doctor ever decides to try Latuda on you. I hope you don’t have the same reaction. But if you so start feeling nauseous, keep an eye on it. Talk to your doctor. Don’t just stop it without your doctor’s consent, nor continue it because you think it will get better or you can “handle it”. It may be more than a simple nausea side effect.

Can I teach high school?

I went to the job fair yesterday for the school system. I know they desperately need math and science teachers at all levels. I gave my resume and talked with the high school for a bit. I think they are very excited about me because after I left the table, I was tracked down by one of the teachers and he gave me his card. Before I made it to the next school (middle school) I was also tracked down by one of the assistant principles. He was trying to lure me into teaching their program for students needing special help in graduating. Not slow learners or disciplinary students, but students who need extra help because life has not been kind to them. (They may have children already or a non-supportive home life.) He gave me his number and asked me to call him next week if I would like a tour or to sit in on a class.

The downside is that all of the certification tests are expensive! They have a general test and a professional teacher test (why they have two is beyond me) and then there are the subject tests. At $100-$150 each, that adds up quick, plus there are fees. To qualify for just one subject, I would be spending about $400 all total. Is it worth it for essentially a job application? Granted, I would have my certification for 5 years. I wouldn’t make very much money, but I would be “in high demand” as they put it. Teaching school here would be a nice, easy commute but teaching high school is hard. Very hard.

However, I like the idea of touching lives. Of making a difference. I have no children and I’ll never win a Nobel Prize, so basically I have no legacy. Once my life is over, who will remember me? I will have left no footprint on society or this planet. Only a lot of empty pill bottles.

I am getting maudlin. I need to keep an open mind. High school might be the place for me after all. Or is it only my lack of self-confidence telling me that I can’t teach at a level higher than that? I don’t know.

Also, how will my mental illness figure into all of this? I have to take a drug test – how will I pass it with my Klonopin?

Anyway… do you think I should hand over the money and go for my certification?