Prescriptions: Science Or A Guessing Game?

Prescriptions: Science Or A Guessing Game?

For the last 19 years, I have tried a plethora of drugs. Adding this one to that one or decreasing this one by one-half. Still not working? Let’s add this one to it and see what happens!

The truth of the matter is, mental health doctors have had no idea what specific antidepressant a patient is in need of. There is no “one pill fits all.”

It’s more like, “Pick a pill, any pill. Try it for 6 weeks and let me know if it helps. Not helping? Then, pick a pill, any pill. Try it for 6 weeks …

Medicine “tweaking” is the only way for the prescribing doctor to find that unique blend of medications that will hopefully bring some normalcy back into the patient’s life.

This is my story:

In an earlier blog, “Hey, You Smiled” I shared that I had begun to systematically change from one antidepressant to a different one. When Part 1 of my story ended I was slowly being weaned off of my twice daily dose of 3 Lamictal tablets. Discontinuing this antidepressant was a 3-week process. When the day came that I was totally off of the Lamictal I began taking the new antidepressant, Depakote.

With great anticipation, I looked for any kind of improvement. Six weeks later … it was nowhere to be found.

No, quite the contrary.

In a previously written blog post, I described what the dark pit of desolation looked like. Well, now I found myself, once again, heading right towards it! Every day I found myself moving just a little bit closer to that ominous pit. I tried digging my heels into the ground attempting to slow down that which appeared to be inevitable.

I was so scared. I was desperately in need of help but I chose to do nothing. I kept hoping that I would start feeling better again soon. Finally, I admitted to myself that I was definitely headed in the wrong direction. So I searched frantically for somewhere that I could make a U-turn.

Just then I felt my knees buckle causing me to start falling. Before I could blink I found myself gliding uncontrollably down a slippery slope into that horrible pit. Sliding faster and faster, my mind began re-playing some of my most frightening memories. Memories of what it had been like to be imprisoned in complete darkness. I just had to stop this downward free fall.

Through tears of fear, sadness, helplessness and rapidly depleting hope, I picked up my cell phone and placed a call to my Psychiatrist. Her voicemail beeped and I quickly acknowledged that the new medication was making me feel worse. Confessing to her that once again I was very depressed and I was entertaining suicidal ideation. That I needed help and I needed it ASAP!

In a timely manner, my Psychiatrist did call me back and expressed that she thought that the Depakote was not working. Really? I don’t have a medical degree and basically, I don’t know much about science but this was a no-brainer! She told me to immediately stop taking the Depakote. This was done “cold turkey.” There was no time for weaning me off. My Psychiatrist told me to get back on the Lamictal. I was to take 1 pill for the next 2 days then take 2 pills. Two days after that add the 3rd pill of Lamictal.

Got it! I started praying that this change was going to work because the options were not very enticing. Within 36 hours my spirit had been resurrected and my battery was being recharged.

Looking towards the horizon something captured my attention. As the haze and darkness continued to disappear I saw a faint outline of something that I had seen before. It was as if the sunlight was being reflected off of a mirror. As quickly as it came it was gone. There it was again. This time it remained a bit longer.

Yes! I now knew what it was. It was still small but none the less I could see it.

What was it you ask?

A glimmer of hope!

God, thank you, for hearing my prayers and for keeping me safe during this frightening and difficult part of my journey.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED

The grass is not always greener on the other side. The medication that works for some people doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to work for me. Suffering in silence is dumb. Remember the good times … they will come again!

Get Up…Get Going…Get Something Done

Get Up…Get Going…Get Something Done

I do not have the words to describe how amazingly appropriate and timely today’s devotional ended up being. Just minutes before, I had written in my journal a cool motivational diddy that had popped into my head: Get up…Get going…Get something done.

Then I opened up Oswald Chambers book, UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST. His key verse for today was “Arise from the dead…”  Ephesians 5:14. Just a few sentences into today’s reading he writes, “…someone may say to you, ’Get up and get going!’”

A coincidence? No. I call it an “Aha moment from God!”

God is telling me to get myself up and out of bed and begin living again. That God is not going to lift me out of the bed but I have to initiate (the willingness to take the first step) the process. God’s power will be made evident to me AFTER I put my feet on the floor.

“God does not give us overcoming life. He gives us life as we overcome.”

Oswald Chambers

In Matthew 12 there is a story of a man who had a withered hand. Jesus didn’t say to him, “Your hand is healed.” He told him, “Stretch out your hand.”

In John 5 a man who was lame told Jesus that he wanted to be healed and so Jesus told him to, “Take up his bed roll and walk.”

That man had no way of knowing if his legs would work but he would not know unless he took some initiative like getting up! Jesus didn’t reach down with His hand extended in order to help him get up. No, this man who had not walked in 38 years had to do it on his own. Jesus wanted him to realize that…

not only had God healed him but that God had empowered him

…to do the very thing that Jesus had told him he could do.

The second principle Chambers addresses is the death of a dream. A dream or aspiration (a hope or ambition of achieving something) that we had earlier in our life but we let it die.

Through God-ordained circumstances, He continually reminds me of the dream that He placed in my heart. Somewhere during my journey, the passion and vision I once had been kindled anew within my soul. My hope is renewed and my dream once again seems plausible. Why? Because I am experiencing the power of God which is compelling me to “Arise from the dead…”

Do I want to be healed?

Do I want to see my dream come to fruition? 

Then I must “Arise from MY BED  by taking it upon myself to put my feet on the floor willing myself to

get up … get going … get something done!

Do YOU want to be healed? 

“Arise from the dead”  by beginning to do those things that you already know you should be doing.

What is YOUR dream?

“Arise from the dead”  by reigniting and empowering that dream you have held at bay for far too long.

MAKE A PLAN and GET GOING!

Childhood Memories

Childhood Memories

As my husband Ron and I were exiting the movie theater after viewing, Saving Mr. Banks, I felt an overwhelming urge to write. I was deeply moved as I blended my own childhood memories with a couple of the scene’s that were portrayed in this movie.

Allow me to warn you, Saving Mr. Banks is not a “warm and fuzzy” film. It is the back-story of how Walt Disney ultimately received the rights to the book, Mary Poppins, that finally allowed him to make the movie. It took 20 year’s for Mr. Disney to convince Mrs. P. L. Travers that she should allow him to make her book into a movie sensation.

The author, Mrs. Travers was a  domineering and extremely unhappy woman. I found myself wondering how someone so unhappy could write such an enchanting story?

Mrs. Travers sad and lonely adulthood was shaped by some very traumatic and emotionally scarring events.

THE TRUTH ABOUT MY OWN CHILDHOOD

On the drive home from the theater, I attempted to describe to Ron what it was that had caused me to succumb to the film’s emotional roller coaster. A ride that didn’t stop until the final credits began to roll! During the movie I found myself sobbing during one scene, tapping my toes through another one and literally laughing out loud to something else.

I sensed that the Holy Spirit was attempting to get my attention. When I finally decided to listen He told me that it was time for me to begin working through some of my own painful childhood memories. Memories that I had purposefully buried many years ago. Why did God want me to dig them all back up again? What good could ever come from rehashing the past?

“Why did God want me to dig them all back up again? What good could ever come from rehashing the past?”

Well, with the guidance from Godly therapists I discovered why it was important for me to go back and dig up and examine some of those painful childhood memories. The truth was that

for 50 years I had allowed my childhood memories to define me.

Who I was and who I was not.

What I could do and what I could not do.

How I would or would not deal with emotional situations.

How close I would allow people to get to me.

How far away was far enough to feel safe?

The key question became, who could I trust?

In the movie, Mrs. Travers was portrayed as a sad, grumpy, lonely woman who trusted no one. She had a beautiful home where she felt safe and found personal comfort. She appeared to have been stuck back in the days of her childhood. Mrs. Travers had seemingly no new dream to pursue. She had stopped believing that one day that elusive brass ring would be within her reach.

No, for Mrs. Travers, her life ended many, many years prior.

I sat there, in my soft cushy theater seat, watching expectantly as the woman up there on that silver screen finally allowed her pent-up tears to begin falling from her once steely, cold eyes. As the tears continued to roll down her cheeks Mrs. P. L. Tavers could have been recalling how she, as a child, had never allowed herself to grieve the loss of her father.

Childhood trauma will never heal unless those painful events are brought out into the open. Truth is the gateway to freedom. Freedom from childhood pain, shame, and guilt. Truth is what can set you free. In the Bible, John 8:32 says, “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.”

Finally, her childhood memories were no longer being allowed to define her.  The truth had set her free.

God’s Word has taught me that feelings of shame, guilt and unworthiness are all lies that have been perpetrated by Satan. It was time for me to take a realistic look at my childhood wounds caused by being sexually abused and grew up with a mom who had an untreated mental illness.

I was ready to replace what I now recognized as a lie with the truth. My journey, from this point forward, would be centered on knowing and following God’s Truth.

How about YOU?

Is it time yet?

Is Suicide Selfish?

Is Suicide Selfish?

How would YOU answer that question?

With the recent passing of comedian extraordinaire, Robin Williams, the flood gates have been opened wide regarding the topic of death by suicide. Since that fateful day of August 11, 2015 I have read a plethora of articles and blogs and have watched numerous news reports and panel discussions all sharing their opinion or perspective on a rarely talked about subject, suicide.

Is it selfish for someone to end their own life? For centuries the overwhelming answer to that question has been, yes. Not only has death by suicide been labeled as selfish but it is the MOST selfish act.

Less than a year ago I was having lunch with a few Christian friends when one of them made the statement that “Suicide was the most selfish thing a person can do.” Now, I could have pretended that I did not hear what she said and just let it go or I could speak up and challenge the validity of that statement. I blurted out, “I do not agree. Suicide is a much more complex action than to simplify it as being selfish or unselfish.”  Opinions were shared as we discussed this volatile topic until we non-verbally agreed to disagree and moved on to something else.

As I returned home and drove into the garage it was apparent that my body had arrived but my mind was still at the restaurant. I could not stop thinking about the comments that were made. There had to be a way that I could accurately explain to people what it is like to make a healthy decision with a brain that only thinks unhealthy thoughts. How can I encourage people to learn more about this illness?

The Church and society must significantly raise the current level of understanding and empathy they have for those with a mental disorder. To help accomplish this, I wanted to find something that would portray the essence of what life is like for the ten’s of thousands around the world who are living with a mental disorder. Creating a word picture seemed like the right way to go.

I began this quest by looking for a word or words that would clearly illustrate, in vivid color and detail, what this disease does to the brain. Since I was looking for a word I went to the dictionary to see what it had to say about mental illness. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Mental Illness: a mental or bodily condition marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, and emotions to seriously impair the normal psychological functioning of the individual.

Even this simplified, bare bones definition concludes that one of the major components of a mental disorder is cognitive distortions. What? In every day English, the word “cognitive” means a person’s ability to think, remember, and reason. So as a rule, when a person has a mental disorder and he tries to think, remember, or reason his brain is only able to transmit a distorted view of reality. Basically, the brain lies.

It is these cognitive distortions (lies) that convince the depressed person that: he will never get well, hope is gone forever, no one cares and that his loved ones would be better off without him.

Like I said, the brain lies.

So my question is, how can the Church and society fairly judge the actions of a person who does what he thinks is right because that is what his brain has persuaded him to do? Truth and reality have been so severely distorted that what a healthy mind would label as a dumb idea is labeled as a great idea in the mind of the depressed person.

The definition above calls this distorted way of thinking a “…disorganization of personality, mind and emotion…” So I took my word quest a step further and went back to the dictionary to check out the meaning of “disorganization:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary:

 

Disorganization: to break up the regular system of, throw into disorder, a state in which everything is out-of-order (see CHAOS)

 

BAM!  That’s the word I was looking for!  

CHAOS!!!!!!!!!!

What visual picture does the word “chaos” create in your mind? Have you tried to make a wise decision while your life is upside down and in utter chaos? Were you capable of thinking clearly and rationally? Probably not. Yet we expect a person, who’s been medically diagnosed with a mental disorder, to make clear and rational decisions even though his “psychological functioning” (ability to think) is severely impaired. Talk about not making any sense!

Does ending one’s own life make any sense? Definitely not! And yet, every 40 seconds of every day someone does just that…why? The most common answer is that they wanted to end the pain. For a person who has no hope, no happiness, no purpose and knows that it will always be like this, suicide is not a choice, it is the only option left. This is his reality.

Suicidal ideation or thoughts of dying, are a byproduct of trying to process information with a severely impaired brain. Is it really fair to say that Robin Williams logically chose to end his life when in reality it was his illness that usurped his brain’s ability to discern between the truth and a lie, right from wrong or good from bad?

So is suicide a moral or medical issue? Can a person with a mental disorder rationally choose to die or not die? Is selfishness the motivating factor? Did the person give any thought to the ensuing consequences?

Now that you know more about mental disorders, would you answer these questions any differently than you would have? All I ask is that you properly educate yourself about this illness before making any judgmental statements. No illness is easy but recovery becomes easier when those around you are trying to understand what you are going through.

Education is the first step towards understanding. 

If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide call 911
or the

24-hour Suicide Hotline 

(1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433)

 

Who Will I Be Today?

Who Will I Be Today?

METAMORPHOSIS

“A great change in appearance or character.”

Merriam Webster

 

 

 

 

Metamorphosis.

“a great change in appearance or character”

Merriam Webster 

Well, since I began my journey with clinical depression my own metamorphosis has dramatically affected my life. I now live The Incredible Hulkdaily with two opposing lifestyles. One is healthy, upbeat, funny, energetic, a contributing member of society and an enjoyable companion. The other me is overly tired, lackluster, unmotivated, melancholy and not much fun to be around. I don’t even want to be around me when I am in this phase.

What is the cause of this dichotomy? Medicine? Hormones? Diet? Sleep? Circumstances? God? Satan? Family? Finances? Weather? Chemical disconnect? Aging? Escapism? Old habits? False beliefs? Poor boundaries?

Pick one or two. Pick all of them. Pick none of them. I am clueless. I have seemingly zero power or control to stop myself from flipping from one persona to the other. I apparently have no control over how long each phase remains and how quickly or slowly the transformation time takes.

sleeping tigerThe transition takes effect at night while I sleep. It is made evident to me when I wake up. Will it be a day filled with people, errands, a to-do list and a zest for life OR is it going to be one of those days where I have to muster up enough energy just to get out of bed to use the bathroom. Where my eyelids are super glued shut. It feels like my body has been tied down to my bed with huge chains. I become aware that my arms are feeble and weak. I am watching my life in slow motion.

The more sleep I get, the more sleep I need. Do I want to continue sleeping 15-20 hours a day? No. I like my active lifestyle and have no desire to run and hide. Missing events that I enjoy, because I am too exhausted to even get dressed, is very upsetting to me. My mind goes numb and instead of depleting all my energy by trying to think, I realize that it is much easier to succumb to other options like falling back to sleep.

Something is terribly wrong. Who do I go to for help? Family doctor? Sleep doctor? Life Coach? Psychologist? Psychiatrist? Ob/Gyn doctor? I have more medical people on my contacts list than I do friends!

These past few ‘quiet’ days have led to the asking of some good questions but it has also provided a stage for the return of my old mindset’s as well. When I am low, it is a scary time for me because I am aware that my thinking patterns are not truthful or healthy. It is easy for me to get on myself for allowing this journey to take so long. Eleven years should have been a sufficient amount of time for me to have obtained the upper hand with this illness.

The hopelessness of life is real and is easy to validate. It is a moment by moment battle. I am clinging ondark cloud to the hope that one day soon God will finally remove this shroud of darkness that continually hovers over me.

A verse in Ecclesiastes came to my mind and so I started to read what I thought was one of the shorter books of the Bible. Come to find out it actually has 12 chapters! I discovered that rereading this book, while in a different “mind frame,” was very enlightening. God used the following verse to speak to me.

Ecc. 6:12
“For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?”

This is what God was saying to me. “Why have you been in such a hurry to move on to the next step in your life? Do you not understand that where you are now, growing, healing, learning and becoming mold-able, is EXACTLY where I want you to be. Stop thinking that you will only become useful to My Kingdom AFTER you have finished your current journey with clinical depression and child abuse. I am demonstrating through your ‘story’ how things meant for evil can bring Me glory. Allow Me to change your MESS into your MESSAGE. A message of hope and healing.”

So, bring on year #12…I am good to go!

A Wild Experience

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