Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Pills: Misconceptions of SSRIs

Those that suffer from anxiety, depression or any other mental health disorder can tell you how debilitating it can be. Since I've been 16, I've fallen victim to depression and anxiety, which fell away to manic depression and sever OCD in my adult years. For me at least, I don't know where I'd be without my medication.  I know I wouldn't be where I am today, that is for damn sure.

My disorders, like many others, arise from a mixture of unfortunate life events and a chemical imbalance in the brain. Common medicinal treatment comes in the form of a SSRI or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor.  Basically, it balances out neurotransmitters in the brain, especially serotonin, the "happy" chemical.  This balancing act in turn, helps the brain act somewhat normally.

Before I begin, I want to be clear that I don't believe that medication is always the answer. Therapy can sometimes be all the medication one may need.  For those of us that need more, therapy should compliment medication, not supplement it.  I've never been a fan of of psychotherapy, but it has improved my coping mechanisms and has helped me communicate in a more efficient fashion. However, I'm in the group where therapy just doesn't do it for me.  I need my drugs, and they come at a price.

I don't necessarily like the physical effects that my SSRIs have had on me.  I've felt like a zombie.  I've gained ridiculous amounts of weight, and my sex life has suffered. However, the trade off is that I'm able to function normally in society; I can order my own food in a long line, I can place phone calls, I can develop meaningful relationships. With my manic depression, I go through phases of depression, coupled with longer stretches where I may only sleep one or two hours a night. All this because my brain simply refuses to work the way that I want it to.

Due to the stigma placed around medication, I've gone without it before. I've been told that medication is just a crutch and the only reason I can't function without it is weakness. In the days when I believed in such nonsense, I stopped taking the pills, causing me to engage in inappropriate behavior, and to lay (almost literally) paralyzed with anxiety. I went back, and for a long while I hated myself for it. I hated myself until I started looking at the issue from an objective position. I started coming up with my own conclusions, not those posed on my from peer pressure, but from a basic understanding of how the brain works (or in my case, doesn't).

My first conclusion is that I hate, HATE, when people refer to the SSRI group as happy pills.  I don't feel "happy" when I take these, I feel normal, balanced. I don't experience any form of elation, and they don't make you "high".  Please stop calling these happy pills.  It makes them sound illicit, which adds to the stigma around them.

My second, and most important conclusion is that everyone has to do what is right for them. If you need pills, please take them.  If you feel like you can function without them (while keeping yourself safe), go off of them.  However, you should make this decision with the help of a trained professional.  I've fallen into the trap to, and I totally get it.  You feel back to normal, so you go off your meds. When you have a problem, and you go off medication you aren't your best judge.  So, if you make this decision, I implore you to continue going to therapy, and trust others when they tell you something is wrong.

My last conclusion falls in line with religion.  Don't preach your views.  You may talk about your views, your personal experiences, but don't tell others what is right for them.  What is right for you,is not always what is right for them. Telling someone that medication is a "crutch" is unbelievable dangerous and frankly, quite rude. For those of you who are fortunate enough to go off your medication successfully, don't advocate that for everyone. I know there is a trade off (feel physically great, or feel mentally great). It sucks, but don't tell someone they can have both when they can't. 

Finally, I give the advice that is true for every facet of life. Don't be an ass.  When you see someone acting inappropriately (think attention seeking behavior), or simply not themselves, don't judge. Be their friend, talk with them, but just know, you are by no means better then them.      

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Penis Pictures and How They are Ruining the World

I'm going through some major Game of Thrones withdrawal. Season 4 doesn't start until April and Winds of Winter will come out who knows when.  So while I was waiting for a class to begin, I went on a Game of Thrones chat room on a lark. Bjorn is only on book 2 and I'm eager to discuss theories (I won't list them here as anything at this point can be a spoiler). Also, I'm looking for an outlet to discuss how much I really do hate Bran.  I created a cute little avatar of Olenna Tyrell (a powerful female character) and begin.  This is what happened.  For reference, my handle is HatetheplayernottheGame.

Winteriscumming (seriously dude?): How r U?
HatetheplayernottheGame: Anxious for WoW to come out
Winteriscumming: I'm horny
HatetheplayernottheGame: I'm sorry to hear that
Winteriscumming: Want me to fuck u with my long sword?
HatetheplayernottheGame: Why is this a thing you are asking me?


HatetheplayernottheGame (after a 20 second pause):  What am I supposed to do with this information?

Second PENIS PICTURE!!!!!!!

What do I get for wanting to discuss who  Jaqen H'ghar really is?  I picture of a penis.  A picture of a stupid erect penis. Stupid, stupid stupid.


First off,  I'm Olenna fucking Tyrell.  This is one bad ass lady, but in no way exudes a sexuality or any note of desire for one's long sword. Olenna Tyrell means business, something Winteriscumming clearly does not understand. Everything in the realm is accomplished with scheming and betrayal, not penis pictures.

Let's forget the GoT analogies for a second though and break this down.  Really, this is just a story about one girl getting a picture of one penis.

My initial thoughts were those of anger.  I've received many a penis pic in my day, but today I reached my tipping point.  For the record, nudity does not offend me.  I'm not adverse to pornography, but it has to be consensual.  This was NOT consensual.  I did not ask for said penis picture, nor did I say "please sir, can I have another?"  I  was so unnerved by this, I had to step away and break down my feelings.  What I've concluded is that I'm angry because I don't like rude people.  It is a carry over from my retail days.  Rude people are a particular pet peeve of mine.  What Winteriscumming did was rude.  Very rude.  He didn't know where I was.  I could have been at school, on my lunch break, on the bus, watching my kids.  If he would have asked first, I'd be far less angry. I also made no indication that I wanted to talk about anything other than GoT.  Instead, I just get penis, and this makes me sad.

Then, the rationalist in me, had to break this down further.  I mean, there has to be a reason for one's actions, even if I don't agree with them. There are reasons people believe in god.  I may think they are silly, but they are reasons nonetheless.  What I figured was that in general, men tend to be visual creatures.  Yes, this is a generalization, but my 29 years of life experience has led me to this very general conclusion.  I'm assuming this fellow is one that enjoys to see pictures of nakedness and debauchery.  So in turn, he assumes I want it. This is very, very wrong.  This doesn't look good to me.  In fact, it looks sad, the same way I feel sad when I see a polar bear stuck on an ice cap.  It then leaves me to figure out what to do with this information.  I should have confronted him, told him that this is not an o.k. thing to do.  Instead, I freeze and click out of the entire chat room.  Now I feel like shit for not standing up for women everywhere who do not enjoy this type of thing.  This leaves me feeling powerless and ashamed.

This leads me to another thought.  Somewhere out there, some women must like this, right? I mean, not every woman is the same by any means, and obviously if this keeps happening, there must be some response prompting the penis pictures to keep on coming. Is it supposed to be a form of flattery?  Am I supposed to be impressed?  I just can't think of a situation where this would be the kind and courteous thing to do, unless you have a long established relationship with the person and have confirmed, unsolicited, that the receiving end welcomes this sort of thing.

So, guys, just don't do this.  The pictures of your junk are ruining the world.  They are gross. They are annoying, and you are making people mad. You are also selfish, and the world cannot thrive on selfish people. No good will come from doing this, I promise.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Waiting Room

She wakes up at the sound of the alarm clock.  I should get up, she thinks, It seems like the right thing to do.  The woman pulls herself out of bed to find the bathroom, where she washes her face and brushes her teeth.  She dares regard herself in the mirror, a daily mistake that veers all good intentions off course.  What she sees is dark, hollow eyes, horribly blemished skin, and hair that defies any reasonable convention.  She sees a failure.

The failure proceeds downstairs, where maybe she will have a cookie and a can of soda for "breakfast", maybe just the soda.  From here, she will watch episodes of The Simpsons, for what seems like a sensible amount of time to wake up.  When the guilty feeling of idleness catches up, the failure goes upstairs to work on odd projects on the computer.  She finds a way to keep herself busy for at least an hour or two, but if you were to ask here what she did during that time, it is doubtful she could recall.

When the morning activities have been exhausted, the failure returns downstairs for the most painful part of the day, the waiting part.  Here she sits in silence, with her phone on her lap, waiting for a call.  During this part of the day, the air is so heavy it is palatable.  Everything inside and out has a dull charge, a mild electric current that keeps her heart beating just fast enough to ward off fatigue, but  just slow enough to let in everything she so desperately wants to keep out.  During these moments, it is unclear even to her what she wants.  Uncertainty of a bleak future or the blissful ignorance just another day can offer.  The anticipation of change or the dread of having to face something new, something uncharted.  Whether the phone rings or not, there will be some level of disappointment.

At around the traditional lunch hour comes the period of anticipation.  This is where she starts looking forward to the time of night where no possible phone call can come and she is powerless to do anything about her current situation until the next alarm clock call.  During these hours she looks forward to crawling back into her bed, into her sanctuary, maybe with some pills, maybe just with the comfort of the escape of another day.  At night, she comes her closest to reuniting with the woman she used to be.

That isn't for some time  though.  For now, all she can do is wait.  Wait for something to inspire, wait for the assurances that this will all be temporary to come, wait for the phone ring, wait to live.  As she sits, the world continues to move, this world so oblivious to pain and pleasure, justice and fairness.  As she fights back the tears, a clock that doesn't exist ticks its sweet song into the silence.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Diagnosis-Neoplasm with Uncertain Behavior

Leading up to my Dermatology appointment I doing well.  With the help of drugs, my husband and a very dear friend I made it to the waiting room in one piece.

I don't know what I was expecting, but i wasn't expecting for things to be so...personal.  The nurse and the dermatologist were excellent.  If anyone finds themselves needing to see a dermatologist for any reason, Allina Bandana Square Clinic treated me very well.

I'm not a brave person.  I don't particularly enjoy being nude unless I'm really comfortable with the person.  I'm a person who likes being in control, and when I'm in an open gown with my boob out, I don't feel in control.  She started by doing a general mole check, which involved getting very up close and personable with every inch of my body. "The mole", the reason I was there in the first place came last.

"Now, what in particular brought you in here"
"I have a concerning mole on my left breast"

The microscope came back out and she was right up there.  My boob rarely gets paid this much attention.  My heart was pounding so fast I'm sure she could hear it.  Everything has come down to this.  All of my obsessive thoughts and compulsions have centered around this mole.

"It looks mostly benign, but I'm seeing some other stuff here that I'm just not sure of.  May I remove the mole?"

Several things raced through my head at that moment.  I was mainly struck with the polite way she asked.  I've come to both love and hate this mole, but I wanted it gone.  I just wasn't expecting it to be so soon.

"You can do that?  I mean like now"
"Oh sure.  Lie back"

She applied local anesthesia, which as a needle phobic I would normally pale at, but today was different.  After some slight pressure, the mole was gone and she was telling me I could sit up.  She told me the results should come back in two weeks.  Two weeks is a lot of time to wait.  Since my appointment my world has felt both very big and very small.  Big in that there are some things I can't control, no matter how much I try and small in how alone in this I sometimes feel.  The infinity of time itself and the finite nature of life.

I was left alone with the nurse, who was finishing up the notes, pulling my clothes together in a stumbled daze.  At the time, all I could remember was thinking "I never got a band aid".

We'll just have to see.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Just Say the Word

For several months I've triumphed over my OCD as much as someone with an anxiety order can do.  I've spent less time Googling, the thoughts on dying have been less persistent.  When I looked at the mole, the same one that drove me to an out of control state to begin with, I looked at it in a whole new light.  Instead of seeing a red, glaring lesion I saw the same ugly yet normal mole I've came to peace with long ago.  This all ended with a routine physical.  As a cruel twist of irony my nurse wanted to refer me to a dermatologist, and my downward spiral started all over again.

I really wish I could describe the anxiety I feel, and that is partly the reason I'm writing this.  I've always been better with the written word than the verbal.  Part of me also just feels better explaining my behavior.  I don't expect to gain any more fans, but part of me just wants people to know why I do the things I do.

It starts with the sleeping and the dreams.  This happens in the times where I can still gave a grasp on my conscious actions.  As much as I fight during the day to not be a total crazy person, my dreams remind me that I'm breakable. My favorite dreams are when I'm back at Snyder's Drug Store, and I'm trying to close up, but people just keep coming in.  Or the dreams where all my teeth fall out.  Or the dreams where I get a regrettable tattoo.

Then comes the obsessive searching.  I could probably have my own Cracked article on my Google searches.  In between search results like "REO Speedwagon tour dates MN" and "Winds of Winter release date" I have things like "What does metastatic cancer feel like" and " Melanoma staging pictures".  Bjorn finally disabled WedMD from my computer, which I told him he was silly for doing, but Google was just making me sicker.

Than comes the physical symptoms.  Sometimes I get a sudden fear reaction.  My heart starts racing, I get hot and I literally (and not the hyperbole form of literally) feel like I'm being hunted with seconds to live.  That is how I would describe a classic panic attack.  Other times it is a feeling of pressure, like I'm I have an elephant sitting on my check.  I've named this pressure Roger, and call them my Roger days.

The obsessive thoughts are the most irrational of my behaviors, a hit on the rationality I try to pride myself on.  On these days I can convince myself that not only do I have a specific illness, but a life span to go with it.  On these days I'm prone to crying spells and anger.  In my head, I'm as certain that I have cancer than I am that the earth isn't 6,000 years old.

When I'm like this I'm not fun to be around.  I hurt the relationships I have with those close to me.  I wouldn't want to be my friend.  When I'm my old rational self though, I tell myself that illnesses never happen my kind of people.  Until they do, or at least of the potential.

In my obsessive state, I rarely come to terms with the actual words but think about them in the abstract.  Though I fixate on a certain illness, in my head I'm thinking "I have cancer and I'm going to die before the year is out". Thinking in this way artificially distances myself from any actual problem I may have.  Now that a real medical professional and not the internet is guiding me to see a dermatologist, and going to put on my big girl pants and say the words, even the dreaded "M" word.  I have OCD.  I have hypochondria.  I am going to see a dermatologist for a worry some mole that could very possibly be benign, but also has the potential to be Melanoma.