It’s another rainy Thursday, but I’m in a better state of mind. The past week I haven’t thought much about being rejected by Team Voldemort.
As Kermit and Fozzie sing, it’s time to be:
Movin’ Right Along!
Over the past few nights, I read country music superstar Naomi Judd’s new memoir River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope. The instant bestseller was co-written by Marcia Wilkie. Although I’m not a country music fan, I wanted to read about Judd’s experience with severe mental illness.
I found the book absorbing and well-written. Like many gifted musicians, Judd had a very tough childhood. She was traumatized by sexual abuse, a profound lack of parental love, and much more. She became the young, single mom of Wynonna and Ashley, and put herself through nursing school. She endured more physical and emotional abuse. Her story is a remarkable one.
However, Naomi Judd differs from many of us in that she had the finances to spare almost no expense in her quest to get well. She attended rehabilitation centers such as Promises Malibu, which costs $75,000-$90,000 a month for a single room with a shared bathroom or private suite!
She was treated by an acclaimed psychiatrist who made an exception to meet with her due to her fame. However, I brushed these inequities aside. I wanted to discover how, exactly, she got better from severe, treatment-depression.
Little did I know I’d be surprised in Chapter 17. At that point, Judd had taken all kinds of meds for her anxiety and depression. She had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which, as some of you know, saved my life. ECT helped her somewhat, but just like with my case, ECT didn’t eradicate her unremitting, soul-sucking depression.
Her psychiatrist Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, suggested she try the medication combination I’ve taken since 2013: lithium and the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) Parnate. Parnate’s generic name is tranylcypromine.
She wrote, “He explained (Parnate) is an old-school second-line treatment that works best for people with major depressive disorders combined with extreme anxiety.”
I do wish the authors included how Parnate can also help treatment-resistant bipolar depression. I’m sure many of Judd’s readers have bipolar or know someone who does.
I have mixed feelings about the book. I was thrilled that the doctor suggested Parnate and lithium — they are the only meds out of 30+ I tried that lifted my treatment-resistant bipolar depression. But I was disappointed about some misinformation. Judd wrote, “I was given an entire list of foods that the drug could react with and possibly kill me. This includes chocolate.”
That is utter hogwash. You CAN eat chocolate while taking a MAOI, as long as you don’t gobble gallons of it! While researching my book, I discovered that some people who suffer from terrible depression won’t take a MAOI if it means giving up chocolate. This, my friends, is a case of serious WTF-itis! I’m one of the biggest chocolate lovers you’ll ever meet, but I’d give up ANY food to feel better. Even (Jean Lee, you won’t believe this), gasp, coffee!!!
Judd wrote about how much she loved to research the heck out of any medical topic. Apparently, she didn’t research two small, old, but profoundly convincing studies. These studies indicated that lithium and Parnate worked powerfully together to alleviate treatment-resistant bipolar depression. Although the subjects had bipolar depression, it would’ve been useful to cite that study or more recent Parnate/lithium studies in her book.
Most importantly, Judd downplayed how much lithium and Parnate helped her. She wrote,
“About seven days after beginning both prescriptions, I could feel a slight change, a peek at a new dawn on the horizon. It was more like a spark of stability that was within my sight. For the first time in two and a half years, I could sense the possibility of ascending from, instead of descending deeper into, a dark and lifeless hole.”
“Though Parnate was the the first medication that proved to have an effect on my depression, it was not without a price,”
referring to hair loss she had, although it was possible it could’ve been a side effect from lithium.
During the previous two and a half years she was incredibly depressed and suicidal. This medication cocktail was the true turning point.
Then, she added, “I was also prescribed many other medications.”
I was flabbergasted that she didn’t name what those other meds were, or if they even had anything to do with depression. I hope she’s asked about these meds at her book talk Q&A session.
Despite my misgivings, I’m glad I read the book, literary warts and all. If you want to read more about my take on MAOI’s and lithium, please see the following two posts: Now and Then: Thank You MAOI’S and Lithium and Misinforming the Public About MAOI’s Isn’t Cool.
Meanwhile, back at the (Judd) Ranch…
It just so happens that Naomi Judd lives in the small town where my publisher’s main office is located: Franklin, near Nashville. Dangnabbit, it’s a small world!
I hope you have a good Friday, and I’ll see you next week!
Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.