I’ll Take Goat Shit Pills If I Have To!

goat

 

Yes, here’s the uncensored Dyane in all her glory.  Most likely I’ll have some readers unfollow my blog, and maybe even an unfriending or two on Facebook as a result of this slightly profane post, but I’m starting to understand that I need to write my truth as long as I’m not being vindictive.  This post is most definitely my truth, and today I’m writing what I am most passionate about besides my family.

This morning I let my potty mouth loose after watching an extended eight-minute-long preview of a documentary film called “Crazywise”.

This documentary’s two filmmakers explain that they are comparing cultures and how each culture regards mental illness, which is fascinating to me.  I was very interested in their portrayal of several tribes which contain people who would be perceived as mentally ill in the United States.  But when the filmmakers showed glimpses of their interviews with American anti-psychiatric medication “gurus”; public figures I had closely studied when I decided to taper off my bipolar meds, my stomach turned.

Two of the subjects they featured in this preview unexpectedly triggered me big-time.  The first person was the author/lecturer Robert Whitaker, whose bestselling book Anatomy of An Epidemic (specifically his chapter on bipolar disorder) affected me profoundly. Whitaker’s book was one of several factors that influenced me to start tapering off my bipolar medications, which first caused acute mania and then I became acutely suicidal and required three weeks of hospitalization just a year ago.

Now, before I go any further, I know it’s not fair to blame an author or a book or a premise for almost killing me.  I want to be very clear that I’m not doing that.

However, if one is on the fence about taking bipolar psychiatric medications and reads Robert Whitaker’s work, specifically the bipolar chapter, his book is extremely convincing at making it seem like taking medications is not the way to go!  I was so hopeless and weary when I read that book.  I was ripe and vulnerable.  I honestly don’t know what exactly were his intentions with his book – it’s confusing to me given his smooth sound bites in the preview. I like to think that I’m not stupid or easily swayed by Whitaker and other so-called experts.  I’m just being honest with you because that’s what you, as my valued reader, deserve at the end of the day.

Another subject featured in this film is Will Hall, a famous personage in the anti-psych-med movement.  I was in touch with Hall at one point through his website, and he offers a free PDF “Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs and Withdrawal”.   While I know he has a good heart, seeing his face in the preview basically made me want to barf.

I had tried so many fucking psychiatric medications year after year to no avail.  Two rounds of unilateral and bilateral ECT.  Seven, yes, seven hospitalizations, which still sickens me whenever I think of it.  It astounds me that no psychiatrist I saw since 2007 thought to mention the one, old-school MAOI medication called Parnate/tranylcypromine (known as the “last resort medication” for bipolar depression) that would ultimately restore me to a good quality of life and lift my bipolar depression when taken in tandem with lithium.  (Combining the two – an MAOI and lithium – is key according to two very impressive studies I located on the internet.  They were done in the 1970’s, but their findings are still valid as far as I’m concerned, since it worked so miraculously for me 100%!)

When I started considering tapering off bipolar medication, if I had found a book that spoke to my trepidations, who knows – maybe it might have made a difference.  If I had encountered a story that documented a mother’s journey with bipolar disorder who was considering going the “alternative, natural” route but experienced total disaster despite consulting experts from around the world, who knows – maybe I would have paused. I would have, at the very least, interviewed such a mother.  And, most importantly, I would have found out what did work for her.

If I can help ONE person not experience the hellhole that I did when I slowly, meticulously tapered off bipolar medication by writing my book about what happened to me, it will be worth it.

I know there are so many people living with bipolar disorder who are suffering…I know what it’s like.  I know that 99% of of them would try any medication that could truly help them. I now know that I’ll take any Big Pharma or Little Pharma, patented or generic medication for my mental illness (and it IS a mental illness at least for me – my bipolar disorder ain’t no sublime, bewitching psychic revelation!) as long as it helps me.

I’m willing to deal with the side effects.  I’ll take goat shit pills if I have to.  I’m not going to demonize meds ever again.  I’ll watch the entire “Crazywise” film when its released and if (as I suspect) they glamorize the anti-medication movement, you’ll be seeing me speak out actively against this film, as much as an indie film lover I am, because that’s just not cool.   There are too many vulnerable, desperate people with bipolar out there willing to believe in the Kool Aide promises.  After the war I’ve been through with bipolar disorder, (and yes, I consider it a war and I have PTSD from it – my counselor agrees with this) I’m no longer a milquetoast.

To watch the “Crazywise” preview

I wrote the following comment in response to the Crazywise YouTube clip – I just went off and as you’ll see, I didn’t edit it- I was too angry at the time….

I just watched this preview and feel compelled to write this comment. After reading “Anatomy of an Epidemic” (the author is interviewed in this doc: Robert Whitaker) I went the no-meds route, I corresponded with Will Hall, Peter Lehmann, read Dr. Peter Breggin (anti-meds shrink), you name it , I read it etc. etc. Meds got my life back after I almost died. Tapering slowly off meds almost killed me. I won’t be living in a Shamanic culture anytime soon. These are all nice, smooth sound bites and I want to see this film, but I can tell you that it is not all black or white. My two little girls don’t care if Mommy takes pills as long as she’s alive to be with them. I love my lithium and no one is making a whole lotta money off me, I guarantee it.

 

Making Sense of It

If you shed a tear when the nightmare breaks
Just remember dreams go in opposites
You’re holding on
Yes, you’re holding on to make sense of it
You realize you’re not the only one
Who’s trying to make some sense of it”

Split Enz, “Make Sense of It”, Time and Tide

Yesterday I wrote about stigma towards mental illness in regard to my relationship with my Mom.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t have as much fun writing about that painful topic as I did when I blogged about adorable Boo the Pomeranian and Gywneth Paltrow’s $300 pillows.  But the topic of parental stigma has festered in my brain for some time, and after I finished writing the stigma piece, I found that writing about it helped me feel better.

Two nights ago I had a phone conversation with my Mom.  We discussed the postpartum bipolar book that I’m writing.  At first she said I was “obsessed” about my topic.  Her choice of words really hurt me, but in retrospect I think she was oblivious that her saying “obsessed” would upset me so much.  Mom has such a deep-seated stigma towards mental illness that it can’t help but affect her perspective, and I’m at the very beginning of coming to terms with that.  It’s highly unlikely that she’ll magically change her views – she’s almost eighty-years-old, and while I hate sounding like a pessimist, I just don’t see it happening.  So the change needs to be on my end.

Stigma aside, sometimes I feel like scrapping my book project.  There are days when I feel like I’m too immersed in the bipolar world, but I can’t help feeling obsessed so interested in it!   Despite having a father with bipolar and then being diagnosed with it myself, I still haven’t completely made sense of bipolar disorder in my life.  Writing about it helps me to crystalize my feelings, and in doing so I feel empowered instead of apathetic.

I want to reach other mothers who have lived through my kind of experience.  At first I wasn’t sure if there were any other moms who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder soon after childbirth. But I’ve been coming across these brave women here and there.  Some of them have graciously agreed to be profiled in my book.  When it comes down to the nitty gritty, I’m writing the book I would have wanted to read after I was diagnosed, and I’ve been told by some mothers that there is a need for it.  That’s all the validation I need!

A chunk of my book focuses upon my decision to try living without bipolar medication.  The section chronicles my carefully researched and planned year-long tapering process off bipolar medications, and what happened to me as a result of that decision. (A hint: it was a disaster.)  If my cautionary tale helps even one mother avoid suicide, then I have no problem being “obsessed” with bipolar!  (I don’t wish to sound histrionic, but I almost lost my life to suicide as a result of being med-free and using natural supplements/modalities.)

These days, as a research tool, I check Amazon.com regularly for new releases specifically about bipolar.  There are at least one or two new books published every week.  Some of these books will be great to use as references for my book,  i.e. Perinatal Psychiatry by Carmine Pariente et al, Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival by Wendy K. Williamson and Honora Rose, and  Preventing Bipolar Relapse by Dr. Ruth C. White. While other books won’t necessarily help me, they have brought a smile to my face, such as the racy cover of Deborah Kaminski’s Bipolar and Me.  I never know what new listings I’ll discover in the bipolar literary genre.

Bipolar

 Gotta love it

 

Sometimes our re-commitment to a project emerges from unforeseen sources.

I’ve been in need of a little fire underneath my kettle about completing my book.  Lo and behold, I got fired up yesterday when a new bipolar-themed book appeared on my Kindle titled Med Free Bipolar: Thrive Naturally using the Med Free Method by Aspen Morrow.  Out of curiosity, I bought Med Free Bipolar, which is free and published by the independent publisher Pottenger Press.  So far I’ve read the book’s description, the first chapter, and the Recommended Products section, in which I tried one of the suggested products, Q96, that didn’t work for me.

The Amazon description page reads,

The primary goal of Med Free Bipolar is to show that treating bipolar effectively through natural means is not only possible, but highly likely.”

I don’t know how someone in good conscience could promise such a thing, especially in writing.

In the Author’s Note at the beginning of the the book, Morrow writes, “If you are not sure if the Med Free Method bipolar edition is right for you, take the quiz…” and a link to Morrow’s blog is provided.  The quiz is detailed in an attempt to screen out people who should not try the Med Free method, yet Ms. Morrow still implies that most people with bipolar can live “med free”, which I find to be contradictory and unethical.

This is obviously a sore subject for me.  I’m not stating that all people with bipolar disorder must depend upon bipolar medication in order to live stable, healthy, fulfilling lives.  According to my research over the past two years, a small percentage of people with bipolar can live well without medication.  I’m just not one of them!

Unless I consulted a medical school graduate/bipolar disorder expert who had supervised many patients who proved they could live well without meds long-term, I would never trust following anyone’s “method”, no matter what they write is possible.

No way, no how.

Queston Dr

The blessing in disguise is by my reading a bit of Med Free Bipolar , my resolve has been strengthened to finish writing Birth of a New Brain.  Nothing will stop me from sharing my postpartum bipolar experience, as well as including other mothers’ experiences, with the world where our stories belong.

I don’t work for Big Pharma – I’ll state that for the record.  I didn’t want to have to take meds and of course I’d rather not now.  But my meds have saved me .  Anyone who reads my book who’s on the fence about living without bipolar meds will have second and third thoughts, which is one of my goals in writing the book.  I’ll also be able to sleep well at night knowing that I’m not giving people false hope and/or putting them in danger.

I know that Ms. Morrow has the best of intentions in helping others, and I’m sure she has played a part in some powerful success stories that will be discussed in her book.  But I stand by what I wrote here.  My goal is to be as authentic, ethical and inspiring in my writing as I possibly can.  If my book can help moms make more sense of how to live well with postpartum bipolar disorder, and how to do that safely, then one of my biggest dreams will come true.

Mara hair

 

Our Brains Are Tougher Than We Think

imgres-1imgres Yesterday I struggled with writer’s block.  I really wanted to have the satisfaction of writing something  meaningful, though, so I sat down and fumbled in front of my computer.  Facebook was calling my name, but I told it to…please use your imagination!

I decided to free write.  Free writing is a prewriting technique in which you write continuously for a set period of time without getting fixated with spelling, grammar, or topics.  Free writing is supposed to produce raw, often unusable material, but it also helps writers overcome blocks, apathy and self-criticism.  It was just was I needed to do, and it actually worked!  It worked a little too well, as what you’re about to read is overly long.  I should have broken this down into two parts, but please read away if you dare!

The subject that came to me was about something that was within myself all along, literally.  Yes, my very own brain!  I started typing in a frenzy, but then I had to schlep away to do errands and pick up my girls at school.

After I left the house, I noticed something cool happening throughout my day.  I encountered not one, not two, but three concrete, intriguing pieces of brain-related information (and a fourth just plain-old-weird “coincidence” for want of a better word).  Perhaps I was ultra-sensitive to noticing anything brain-themed, but these happenstances seemed too uncanny.  I considered them to be good omens that I was writing about the right topic.

Before I discuss what happened yesterday, I can’t even think about brains anymore without mentioning my most harrowing brain experience, namely my rounds of ECT,  or electroconvulsive therapy.

As some of you faithful readers know from my previous blog post, I’ve had two separate rounds of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/are-you-shocked-that-i-got-shocked/

The first ECT series I had was after my Dad died.  I became suicidal (he was one of my best friends) and I admitted myself into the hospital.  I asked for ECT because I had been medication-resistant up to that point – it wasn’t forced upon me.  I had unilateral (on one side of the head) ECT.  Several years later, when I relapsed after tapering off my bipolar meds, I had bilateral ECT on both sides of my head.  I was told by my psychiatrist that I would have short-term memory loss only, but I felt totally skeptical.  I was gravely worried that I would have permanent memory loss.

I remembered one time when I was an inpatient at the hospital where I had ECT there was a patient I called “J. Lo” in my unit.  She dressed every day in full makeup and had “Dragon Lady” nails.  J. Lo told me the day before I had ECT that she couldn’t remember her wedding or the births of her children after her ECT, and of course that completely freaked me out.  However, since I was desperate, I went ahead with the ECT anyway.

The good news is that I am one of the luckier ones; ECT helped me function and ultimately do much, much better after suffering during through those suicidal depressions.  After my bilateral ECT, which affects more of the brain, I experienced a few somewhat alarming memory loss experiences.  However, nothing was life-threatening and I even found some humor about the situations which took the sting out of the memory struggles.

One example is when I picked up my girls at school, I ran into some parents in the hallway. Although their faces seemed really familiar, I couldn’t remember their names, which I had known pre-ECT.  I felt embarrassed, unnerved, and even rude at not remembering their names, but my tendency for that to happen reduced greatly over the past few months. My psychiatrist who administered all my ECT told me that my short-term memory loss would come back by the end of six months following my treatment.  While I have no empirical evidence to prove this assertion, I can feel it in my bones that it’s true in my case.  My brain feels stronger, I can retrieve my memories easily, and my intuition tells me that our brains are WAY more resilient than we give them credit for!

The phrase “mind over matter” means when something that seems impossible can be overcome if it’s thought out.  I think that concept could be literally applied to our brains.  I know this will sound a little “out there”, but maybe our thoughts really can heal ourselves, starting with our brain first.  Life is crazy enough – why not?

I live in Santa Cruz, a town famous for its New Age culture, and for all I know there’s a “Resilient Brain” workshop or “Brain Healing Bonanza” weekend nearby at Esalen.  There are lots of books about the brain that examine both traditional and alternative healing techniques.  I’ve also noticed books written by patients with brain injuries or mysterious madnesses who achieve full healing after their traumatic illnesses.  I haven’t read any of them yet, but I bet that some of these books are entirely possible in their far-out-sounding premises.

Something amazing I never expected to happen was how these days I feel heartened at really feeling that my brain is recovering from being zapped, and it’s stronger.  I wonder if our brains get bigger when they are healthier?  Hmmmm – do any of you know? I digress!

I turn forty-four in six days and while I doubt that my brain’s growing older is a plus, I believe that my healthy habits and attitude are restoring my brain.  Some of these habits are: working out, using my Sunbox, having a few people love me unconditionally (and who I love back!) and getting daily doses of nature.  Writing helps too, as does music I enjoy.  Miracle of miracles, I even starting doing a smidgen of guided meditation with my counselor!  In other words, I’m doing many things to keep stable and productive.  (I won’t get into my sugar, fat and chocolate consumption subject now, but you don’t expect me to be perfect, right?)

And now for those brainy coincidences that occurred yesterday.  I received an email message from my friend Amy who runs a yummy gluten-free food business “Gluten-Free For All”.  She wrote me about a psychiatrist/psychopharmacologist/neuroscientist’s podcast.   The headline caught my eye: “How Gluten & Gut Health Impact Your Brain with Dr. Charles Parker”.

http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/2014/03/10/gluten-gut-impact-brain-charles-parker-gfs-podcast-036/

When I visited the link, I noticed a very handy outline of the key points that Dr. Charles Parker makes in his thirty-minute podcast.  I haven’t had a chance to watch the podcast yet, but the outline notes that Dr. Parker discusses how psych medications interfere with the immune system, brain neurotransmitters and gut regulation, as well as exacerbate gluten-sensitivity issues.  Amy has shared with me how much going gluten-free has improved her life dramatically in all sorts of ways, but I haven’t made that plunge yet.  I will watch this podcast later when I work out and hear what Dr. Parker has to say.  I’m curious!

The next brainy thing that I noticed yesterday was posted on one of my favorite blogs “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost”.  (http://insideabipolarhead.wordpress.com/)  The blogger known as “Oh Temp” informed us that this is “Brain Awareness Week”.  I love how Oh Temp writes in Monday’s blog post:

“This week kicks off NATIONAL BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK and for a whole week I will be posting a random fact on the human brain. Since a lot of our brains hold our STUPID mental illness, I wanted to share great facts about the good and interesting things about the brain!! Enjoy this week, and enjoy your brain (just a little…)”

The following link leads you to a two-minute YouTube video “The Human Brain – 10 Fascinating Facts” that Oh Temp posted on the blog.  If you’ve been feeling insecure about your brain’s ability and potential, take two minutes to watch this inspiring video!  You will learn facts you definitely didn’t  know in less time that it takes to brush your teeth.

Soon after I wrote about the “mind over matter” concept above, I took a Facebook surf break.  I encountered this link below, which discusses ten compelling reasons why “mind over matter” may not be a crock of merde.  Some of them I was familiar with, i.e. the placebo effect, but there were others that I hadn’t never heard about before.  I encourage those of you who are especially jaded about the power of positive thinking, etc. to take a peek at this link.  It might very well change your mind literally and figuratively about the power of our brains to change themselves on their own.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/03/08/10-scientific-studies-that-prove-consciousness-can-alter-our-physical-material-world/

Finally, yesterday in the late afternoon I was driving our windy highway 9 to my house, listening to 95.5 BOB FM.  Peter Gabriel’s song “Shock the Monkey” came on the air, which I haven’t heard or thought of in a SUPER-long time.  I was an 80’s teenager during Gabriel’s height of fame, and I heard that song a bazillion times and I could barely stand watching his disturbing video with the scared-looking monkey.  I’ll be blunt with you – I had no idea what the lyrics meant, as I’ve always been terrible with lyrics.  But the word that struck out for me was hearing “shock” sung repeatedly, reminding me of my ECT a.k.a.”shock” treatments.  Impressionable me, I took that as another strange coincidence since I was writing about ECT and brains that day.  I know that’s a biggggg stretch, but it seemed a bit weird.  It turns out that Gabriel has said “Shock the Monkey” is a love song and about jealousy! It has nothing to do with ECT!  I had no idea.  Go figure!  I still took it as a hippie dippie sign of some sort, silly me.

If you want to watch it, go to this link:

If you are like me in the that you take a lot of heavy-duty bipolar medications, you may sometimes wonder how these meds truly affect our brains.  I am just hoping that our chemically “different” brains can not just handle the drugs that give us the gift of stability, but that our brains can get better, not worse, for a good long while.  Let me know what you think and thanks so much for reading this novella.  I got carried away – my brain couldn’t help it! 😉