Saturday, June 9, 2007

Please see me at my new blog:
Thanks to all who visited and showed support. Check out my new look!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


This site is dedicated to those individuals living with mental illness, affecting them most deeply along with spouses, family and friends.
Many forms of mental illness take their shape in Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia, just to name a few. A major note is that mental illness is neither one’s fault nor a character flaw.
Catch up on what’s in the news dealing with mental health issues, articles written by myself, articles discovered in medical sites and magazines – all aimed to inform you.
So, grab a cup of coffee, take a wee browse, learn something new – and most of all - just enjoy. Leave a comment or two if you would like. Thanks for taking a peek.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Mental illness is surrounded by a glut of half-truths and untruths. If you tell someone that you've been diagnosed with, for example, bipolar disorder, they are likely to roll their eyes and say, "I don't believe it - you don't look mentally ill...?"

Which brings me to my question: Do I perchance look like I have Bipolar Disorder? I don’t think I do. Am I perhaps making something out of nothing? Self-confidence and self-esteem slid into the basement and remained there for too many years. Trudging through the mud down there, and finally locating some stairs to climb up, rung by rung, I achieved the surface.

To look at me, I hope you'd never guess I'm bipolar and PTSD. There's no sign around my neck, but if you worked with me, for example, you'd soon notice that I'm "different," or a little "odd".

For one thing, "I'm somewhat negative at times, having difficult moments following directions and have to write everything down. Sometimes I can’t keep focus, and where other people find new work assignments challenging; I sit in self-doubt and bewilderment. My self-confidence feels in jeopardy each moment. I am the one who takes their performance review to heart. Out of nine rights, one negative is discussed, for which I feel total devastation, berating myself repeatedly. A true perfectionist, at least I try to be, however letting myself down is somewhat of a crucifixion. But, I am your dependable employee, the gleeful one, the one who shows little anger, and the one touted as one of the paramount in customer service. I must apply a mask for the most part.

Although felt as if a hex was put upon me years ago, I feel slightly different now. I’m still bitter about the illness at times, but realizing that THIS is ME.

Written by:

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mental Illnesses Affect Spouses, Family & Friends

Did you know an estimated 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older – about one in five adults – suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder?

Depressive disorder affects approximately 18.8 million American adults, or 9.5 per cent; major depression, 9.9 million adults, and bipolar disorder (manic-depression) about 2.3 million adults.

For a decade, I literally “lived” in and out of hospitals. My husband of 27 years stood by me through these turbulent years. Years of endless hospitalizations, electro-convulsive therapy (shock treatments), suicide attempts and a myriad of medications became a way of life.

My immediate family were always there for me also, always a gentle hand and listening ear.

Friends? They were supportive at first and came in droves to the hospital for visits. But as the years lingered on, they started to dwindle. If this had been cancer or heart disease, would they have been by my side?

I believe it is the stigma attached to mental illness that drives people away.

Are mentally ill people dangerous? No! A family member totally cut ties with my husband and I during the early years of my major depression and hospitalizations, as he thought I was dangerous and feared for his children. At Christmastime, only my husband’s name appears on the Christmas card – my name is excluded.

One family member visited me in hospital and stated I had a “bad case of the nerves”. I hardly had bad nerves – depression was holding on to me.

My husband was very lonely and frustrated during my hospitalizations, as I seemed more ill with each admission. On occasion he said I looked like a person heading towards death. I lacked motivation and my facial expression was tired and drawn.

In a strange way, while I was in hospital, I wished to break free and be home, but when I was home I wanted to go back to hospital. I think they call this conditioning.

What frightened my husband the most during those endless years were the suicide attempts. He felt powerless and angry that the system was letting me down and I was becoming worse. While on passes from the hospital, he never knew what he’d find when returning home from work.

Finally, at a dead end with my psychiatrist of six years, a wonderful psychiatrist who was an authority on bipolar illness rescued me. The secret though is you MUST stay on your medication and avoid alcohol or drug use to stay healthy. Life is so different now – a complete 360ยบ turn. There IS life with mental illness, however, the stigma still remains.

Written by:


I describe bipolar as a house with three levels. There is the upstairs (mania), main floor (even mood) and of course the basement where the shackles of (depression) are clasped around your ankles. I seem to wind up in the basement much more often than upstairs. I was diagnosed with Bipolar in 1995. (These are recollections on the cruel portrayal of the bipolar illness).


Why is this mood of mania so good to be true?

How can a human being gather such joy, such stamina, such exuberance, such astuteness over a short period of time?

I didn’t plan on buying a car, but purchased one today. Travelled from car lot to car lot and at last found the one for me. It’s brand, spanking new with all of the features. I’m unsure how much I paid for it – I’ll fret about that afterward.

Had an appointment with my psychiatrist today. He said I’m cycling too high, too fast and will hit pavement if this is not taken care of. I was given another appointment for the end of the week, handed some medication, but tossed the meds away – I want to fly, no, soar as high as I can go. I refuse to give this rejoicing up.

Visited the bar tonight. Made lots of “friends”. They said they have never seen someone so “up”. One problem though, I prefer to talk, than listen. I was on top tonight and even bought a few rounds of drinks and plenty for me too. I really entertained them. Top notch. I’m proud.

Suddenly, the urge is there to shop. Shopped ‘til I dropped at Walmart and spent, spent, spent on miscellaneous items. The excitement was there big time.

Days pass. I can’t sleep, but who cares, who wants to sleep? I don’t, and miss this wonderful world? The pacing though, I can’t stop. I sit down – get up. Repeat. Repeat. Is this madness? I don’t want to be ‘normal’, I prefer the sweet taste of ‘high’.

Time passes by. I’m slowing down, and begin to spiral downwards. I’m crashing. I’ve hit cement.

I’m in blackness – in the basement.



Dreaming. In calm waters. I’m sitting in my dinghy cross-legged, floating. The sea and sky are black.

I awaken. Black. Black is black. The room is black, but it must be morning. I’m all mixed up. I thought I heard the food trays arrive. I sneak a quick look out my room, and yes it is morning, but the halls too look black. All I sense is dread. Am I in a dream world? I shuffle back to bed.

I recollect particular events, my hospital admission for one. My family expressed they had no alternative, I was incoherent, seated in my rocking chair, rocking back and forth, back and forth, tightly wrapped in my orange and lime green crocheted afghan. I hadn’t called anyone for days, nor answered the telephone. They were apprehensive upon entering the house. Phew! I was alive they said.

Unable to actually climb out of bed now, I am encased in stone. My heart is thumping so I must be alive, but this dreadful veil covers me like death. I feel chilly. Suicidal thoughts dance in my head. Is this punishment for my ‘high’? Life is unfair.

~~The Learning Curve~~

Treated with anti-depressants, I was able to recover from my bottomless depressive state.

There were times when I totally wished to toss in the cards, so to speak and admit defeat. Take me, enough of this garbage. What did I do that was so immoral to be selected and handed this illness?

This is not my initial time ‘high’ and believed I was in a position to stop taking medication. What was the point? I felt incredible. When you’ve hit bottom one still doesn’t realize why hell has welcomed him. But, you’re given a kick and memory surfaces. The fog clears and you recall abusing alcohol and refusal of prescribed medication. This spells disaster for persons with mental illness.


I am working diligently now to surface and achieve an ‘even mood’. It requires enormous effort. Back on medication, faithfully ingesting the prescribed dosages, I am told it will take some time to get back on my feet.

In retrospect, obviously I made some irresponsible choices, but while manic your thoughts and judgment are impaired. It’s unproblematic to scale to the peak of the mountain, but plummeting and sitting in the dungeon is excruciating.

Written by:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

DEPRESSION: Signs and symptoms

These are just some of the signs and symptoms of DEPRESSION, but each person is different.

  • Persistent sad feelings or a mood, low, gloomy for no explanation. Crying spells.
  • A lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed, such as socializing with family and friends.
  • Thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death.
  • Difficulty with sleep. Sleep behavior altering from difficulty falling asleep, restless, broken sleep, or over sleeping.
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions.
  • A change in appetite -- either eating more or eating less.
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
  • Feeling intensely agitated or irritable with restlessness.
  • Frequent or constant tiredness or feeling run down with very little activity.

Several of these symptoms, for two weeks or more, should be brought to the attention of your doctor or health care professional for an assessment.

Symptoms in children, teens and the elderly vary slightly. For example, children and teens often seem irritable, perhaps refusing to go to school. Although depression may be a debilitating illness, many medications are now available for effective treatment.

Written by: Me

Depression and Children

Know the Facts:

~~ As many as one in every 33 children may have depression.
~~ Once a young person has experienced a major depression, he or she is at risk of developing another depression within the next 5 years.
~~ Children under stress, who experience loss, or who have attention, learning or conduct disorders are at a higher risk for depression.
~~ The rate of depression among adolescents is closer to that of depression in adults, and may be as high as one in eight.
~~ Two-thirds of children with mental health problems do not get the help they need.

Learn to Recognize the Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of child and adolescent depression vary in severity and duration and may be different from those in adults. Young people with depression may have a hard time coping with everyday activities and responsibilities, difficulty in getting along with others and/or suffer from low self-esteem. Child and adolescent psychiatrists advise parents and other important adults in a young person's life to be aware of signs such as:

~Missed school or poor school performance
~Changes in eating and sleeping habits
~Withdrawal from friends and activities once enjoyed
~Persistent sadness and hopelessness
~Problems with authority
~Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness

What Can Parents/Adults Do?

If parents/adults in a young person's life suspect a problem with depression, they should:

~Be aware of the behaviors that concern them and note how long the behaviors have been going on, how often and how severe they seem.
~See a mental health professional or the child's doctor for evaluation and diagnosis.
~Get accurate information from libraries, hotlines and other sources.
~Ask questions about treatments and services.
~ Talk to other families in their community.
~Find family network organizations

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for children with depression. Children who exhibit symptoms of depression should be referred to and further evaluated by a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who can diagnose and treat depression in children and teenagers. The diagnostic evaluation may include psychological testing, laboratory tests and consultation with other medical specialists. The comprehensive treatment plan may include medical psychotherapy, ongoing evaluations and monitoring, and in some cases, psychiatric medication. Optimally, this plan is developed with the family and, whenever possible, the child or adolescent is involved in the decisions.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymia or cyclothymic disorder, is a chronic mood disorder that results in short periods of mild emotional and behavioral "highs" alternating with short periods of mild to moderate depression. People with cyclothymia also experience intermittent periods of emotional and behavioral stability.

Cyclothymia is a less severe form of bipolar disorder, the latter of which results in extreme swings between manic or hypomanic episodes and major depressive episodes. Although people with cyclothymia may develop bipolar disorder, the less severe condition isn't simply the onset or an early alert of the more severe condition.

The estimated prevalence of cyclothymia is between 0.4 percent and 1 percent of the general population in the United States. It usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood.


The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.

Many new moms experience the baby blues — a mild, short-lived depression — for a few days or weeks after childbirth. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 10 percent of new moms experience postpartum depression — a more severe form of depression that can develop within the first six months after giving birth. For women with postpartum depression, feelings such as sadness, anxiety and restlessness can be so strong that they interfere with daily tasks. Rarely, a more extreme form of depression known as postpartum psychosis can develop.

Experiencing depression after childbirth isn't a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it's simply part of giving birth. If you're depressed, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your baby.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Suicide: definition…is an act of willfully ending one’s life

Males die much more often than females by suicide, while females attempt suicide more often
U.S. Caucasians commit suicide more often than African Americans do
People commit suicide more often during spring and summer

Suicidal ideation produces the perilous side of mental illness, acting as both a friend and seducer. Even though thoughts of dying encapsulate our mind on one hand, we yearn to remain living on the other. We desire just to feel better.

Depression, best known of all the mental illnesses, is difficult to endure and treat. It renders one feeling hopeless and helpless. Experiencing a sort of wintry solitude, completely immobilized with any light of optimism dimming. It creates emotional and financial fallout, coupled with a horrible emptiness and black death-like existence. Life tastes sour.

Journal entries:

Wednesday 7:30 am

I am seated in my corner by the window again. I like it here, even though it is a hospital room, it allows me to believe in the plan. Should I proceed with the plan today? I’m sort of frightened, yet energized at the same time. Each day that I plan, gets me through the darkness. This hole of depression is certainly swallowing me up and I’m drowning. Effortless tasks take major energy. Heaviness and hollow sadness are with me daily.

I feel geared up. Today is the day. I am positive that this is the answer, why question, why live one more day in this black subsistence. What did I do that was so wrong to deserve this?

Wednesday 11:00 am

My pass is approved. One bus ticket home. One to make it back? Who cares, I’m not returning to the hospital. The bus ride home is excruciating. Crowded. Countless stops. I am irritated. Finally - home.

Casey greeted me at the door, his tail wagging. I’ve missed him since my admission last month.
I plopped down on the couch, left the coat on and just stared. Stared and stared for what seemed like hours.

It’s time.

Wednesday 2:30 pm

The stash was still in the closet. A whole bunch of pills & colors, mostly white. They are large, small, round, oval - all still in their bottles. I chose the white ones. Seems as if they will be the most effective. With a huge glass of water, I ingested a handful. Difficult to swallow, but they went down.

I returned to the couch and sat and waited for death to come. I feel like I accomplished something today. I’m proud. I am in somewhat of a dreamlike state now, breaking free from the demons of depression, free of the shackles around my ankles. All of a sudden I feel panicky. Perspiring. What have I done, I am not supposed to experience this. This isn’t in the plan, which was so well thought out. Oh my god, what do I do now. I do not feel sleepy, however, a bit nauseous and my brain muddled. Who should I call? Minutes pass and I am pacing the living room. Ok, 911.

The ambulance arrives. Here I lay on a stretcher. I am berating myself. You are such a loser, can’t even get this right, why did you have to call, back to square one again, you had the chance, you blew it, another disappointment, a huge loser. You planned this for weeks, how everything would be so easy, you are such a cop out, you deserve to be sick. Audrey went through with her plan, you admired her so much for being so brave, you said you wanted to be with her; well you are stuck now among the living. Loser.

Wednesday 6:00 pm

So, the plan was a failure. Ingested a huge quantity of charcoal, which felt like black paint going down. Terrible stuff, spreads between your teeth. They said this is to prevent the meds from doing damage. Most people vomit, but not I. And here I sit once again, in my corner, in the hospital, in my depressive darkness. Imagine blaming oneself for having an illness. Imagine having to apologize for having an illness. That is the cruelty of depression.

Fortunately, there are effectual prescription medications on the market to treat depression. It is imperative to stay on your medication to remain well. A knowledgeable, attentive psychiatrist is also key in recovery.

Written by:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Love this photo


Did you know 25% of women and 8% of men suffer from migraine at some time in their lives? There is a well-known association between migraine and affective disorders, but the information is sparse concerning the prevalence of migraine in subgroups of the affective disorders.

I am a statistic.

Lying in bed in a fetal position, my hands grasp a throbbing head. The frozen ice pack from two hours ago has become warm.

The room is in darkness, however, daylight peeks through the sides of the pull-down blinds. This has been my sanctuary for the last three days. Excruciating pain finds me with a headache that is termed a migraine. Walking downstairs and entering the kitchen to trade ice packs from the freezer, I settle in on the living room couch, hoping a change of scenery will loosen the gap of pain in my head. It doesn’t, and I saunter back up to bed.

The headache is spreading to the left side, right side, now on top, now throughout my face.

Horrendous pain. I am “eating” too many non-prescription meds, praying each time that “these ones” will subside the pain. Nausea follows; nothing is effective and it’s impossible to function. Due to allergies, I am unable to ingest certain pain relievers.

Day four and five – no change. In bed mostly, hiding from the world, living in darkness. I am becoming somewhat used to the pain.

I make an enormous decision to visit the hospital ER. Five days with a migraine has taken its toll.

ER - Two hours pass in the waiting room, someone signals me to “Section C”, where a nurse ushers me to a hospital gurney. I am instructed to undress and replace my clothing with a backless blue gown, and wait to be examined. This will be my new bedroom for the next while. Bright, florescent lights irritate me and exacerbate the pain.

An hour passes and a resident finally sees me. He asks my medical history, and many typical questions; when did the pain start, how do you know if it really is a migraine, have you had it before, what meds are you on etc. etc. He then disappears.

I’m obviously not a high priority patient, and I recognize that. Still, the hours tick by at a snail's pace and at last the senior physician enters. Prior, I eavesdrop on the doctors chatting. The senior states: “Perchance a stroke – better check”. Another load of questions, followed by a ‘stroke’ exam, and although in pain I am impressed by their thoroughness.

A nurse is summoned to insert an IV. I caution her of my poor veins. “Ouch”, she is not gentle, and one poke turns into three. I wince in pain but at last the IV is in place. The “anti-pain” meds are entering my system, where with any luck they will toss me into normalcy.

Three hours follow. The first med is unsuccessful; therefore, a second is administered. I glance at the IV. Drip, drip, drip. A further hour passes and for the first time in five days I feel relief. The pain hasn’t entirely vanished, but absent is the throbbing. Hallelujah! I almost feel like dancing!

I am free to leave.

I bear the wounds of my experience shown with black-and-blue arms where the poke for veins took place. Anything is worth reprieve.

Pessimistically, as a classic migraine sufferer I always await the next attack. But, for now I am thankful to be without pain.

Written by: Me


What is a nervous breakdown? What causes people to have them?

Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel Hall-Flavin, M.D., and colleagues answer the question.
Answer: The term "nervous breakdown" is used by the public to characterize a wide range of mental illnesses. Nervous breakdown is not a medical term and doesn't indicate a specific mental illness. Generally, the term describes a person who is severely and persistently emotionally distraught and unable to function at his or her normal level.

Often, when people refer to having a nervous breakdown, they're describing severe depression.
Signs and symptoms of severe depression include:
~~Agitation or restlessness
~~Difficulty or inability to stop crying
~~Sleeping difficulties
~~Dramatic appetite changes

The causes of mental illness usually aren't clear. But these factors may play a role:
~~Drug and alcohol use
~~Coexisting medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders and certain vitamin deficiencies

Monday, April 23, 2007

ALZHEIMER and DEMENTIA: Brain Structure Changes

Alzheimer's And Dementia: Brain Structure Changes Years Before Memory Loss Begins

Science Daily — People who develop dementia or Alzheimer's disease experience brain structure changes years before any signs of memory loss begin, according to a study published in the April 17, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Researchers say these findings may help identify people at risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which leads to Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers performed brain scans and cognitive tests on 136 people over the age of 65 who were considered cognitively normal at the beginning of the five-year study. Participants were then followed annually with neurologic examination and extensive mental status testing. By the end of the study, 23 people had developed MCI, and nine of the 23 went on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The brain scans of the 23 people with memory loss were then compared to the 113 people who remained cognitively normal.

Compared to the group that didn't develop memory problems, the 23 people who developed MCI or Alzheimer's disease had less gray matter in key memory processing areas of their brains even at the beginning of the study when they were cognitively normal.

"We found that changes in brain structure are present in clinically normal people an average of four years before MCI diagnosis," said study author Charles D. Smith, MD, with the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington and member of the American Academy of Neurology. "We knew that people with MCI or Alzheimer's disease had less brain volume, but before now we didn't know if these brain structure changes existed, and to what degree, before memory loss begins."

In addition, the study found those people destined to develop MCI had lower cognitive test scores at the beginning of the study compared to the group that didn't develop memory problems, even though these scores were still within normal range.

"These findings of structural changes in cognitively normal people before memory loss begins aren't surprising given Alzheimer's disease may be present for many years before symptoms of the disease begin to appear," said Smith.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging Alzheimer's Disease Centers Program (ADCs).

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American Academy of Neurology.

PAIN & DEPRESSION: Are They Linked?

Can depression cause physical pain or discomfort?

Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel Hall-Flavin, M.D., and colleagues answer.

Yes. Doctors who treat chronic pain and depression have known for many years how closely these two conditions are linked. Some research shows that pain and depression share common pathways in the emotional (limbic) region of the brain — which may, in part, explain their association.

Depression may increase your response to pain, or at least increase the suffering associated with pain. Conversely, chronic pain is stressful and depressing in itself. Sometimes the two create a vicious cycle. In addition, both chronic pain and depression are influenced by genetic and environmental factors as well.

Certain antidepressants may relieve pain in some people by reducing their pain perception, and improving their sleep and overall quality of life. A discussion with your doctor can help you sort out whether this option might be right for you.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

CHRONIC STRESS: Can It Cause Depression?

Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel Hall-Flavin, M.D., and colleagues answer.
The cause of depression is not entirely clear. However, genetic and environmental factors play a role. Some people may be more vulnerable to stress because of their personality characteristics or temperament. Persistent or chronic stress has the potential to put vulnerable individuals at a substantially increased risk of depression, anxiety and many other emotional difficulties. Scientists have noted that changes in brain function — in the areas of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland — may play a key role in stress-induced emotional problems.

Maintaining good mental health requires getting enough sleep, eating sensibly, exercising appropriately, avoiding the harmful use of substances such as alcohol and effectively managing stress. If you have persistent stress, consult a doctor or therapist to discuss effective ways to minimize stress and its negative impact on your physical and emotional health.

ANXIETY: When Is It A Problem?

What is the difference between normal worrying and an anxiety disorder?

Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel Hall-Flavin, M.D., and colleagues answer.

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps you cope with tense situations. It also helps you focus on the task at hand and motivates you. Almost everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Typically, anxiety goes away when the triggering event is over.

However, anxiety is a problem when it becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, such as riding an elevator or leaving your house. People with anxiety disorder experience excessive fear and worry that are out of proportion to the situation. These feelings are more intense and last longer than normal feelings of anxiety.

If you find it difficult to control your worry or stress or if anxiety interferes with your daily activities, consult your doctor or a mental health professional. If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, effective treatment is available.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs for the week-ending…..April 21, 2007

I ranked #31 out of 50!. Two weeks ago I was included in "honorable mention", so I am very excited by this!! Wow – round of applause, please. And, I actually nominated myself for next week…so, fingers crossed to see what happens.

I’ll keep you all posted.

Thanks to David McMahon for presenting these blog awards.


I have been living within the mental health system since early 1994, and diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (manic depression) in 1995. Bipolar is characterized by mood swings, sometimes swinging drastically into a deep, deep depression or upwards into mania. Psychiatrists are key to dealing with mental illness, for without their monitoring of medications and in-patient/out-patient counseling, the illness can lead to an unmanageable life. Living with mental illness at the best of times is difficult, however, untreated BP disorder can only lead to a life sentence of “jail time” filled with black, endless depressive days or mood swings upward, and out of control.

My most memorable experience was changing psychiatrists in the mid stages of my dark depression. Getting nowhere with my present psychiatrist, whose patient load was incredible and monthly appointments lasting a mere 6 minutes, I went on the search for a new doctor. I questioned many of the mental health staff at the hospital if they knew of a doctor accepting new patients, however, NO was the answer from all. So I went on the hunt on my own, starting with the Yellow Pages. Phoning doctors on my long list proved futile, until I thought I hit the jackpot with a Dr. H. He was accepting new patients. Bells should have gone off in my head – why was he accepting new patients when no one else was? I was to find out why…

Visit #1 – I was geared up and in fact excited about a new start. I craved only the attention it would take to repair the damage that depression had left me with and bounce me back onto the road to recovery.

Only a half-hour appointment for the initial assessment, Dr. H introduced himself, shook my hand and offered me a chair. He was a larger sized man sporting a white shirt and wool-patterned vest. My eyes encircled his mid-sized office, noting the tall bookcase over-flowing with mostly thick books, and on top of it, a poor spider plant on its last legs crying out for water. His desktop also made room for additional books, but I sat in wonderment at the heaps of files. Were all of these patient files permanently living there for impressive purposes or did this man lack bad office filing skills? I hoped the latter.

Atop his desk sat four green ceramic turtles each the size of a small onion. I welcomed these as I felt nervous and they proved somehow to have a soothing effect. He made himself comfortable in his brown leather chair, asked many questions, and made no notes but was quick to mention how he and my former doctor had studied together. This gave me a chill. Was this a positive or negative thing? Before long the appointment was ending and I had to return the four turtles to his desk. “Next week, we’ll resume our discussion”, he stated.

I felt as if I had achieved nothing really, just a change of doctors, and he was not the breath of fresh air that I was so much hoping for.

Visit #2 – This appointment went without incident and I felt I accomplished nothing once again. The four turtles helped, but I was raw with emotion from the depression. Living with crying spells and walking the tightrope of deep suicidal thoughts all week, I was hungry for some concrete advice.

Dr. H. seemed uninterested in my depression woes, offering the same advice as my previous psychiatrist and adjusting my medications slightly. He spoke slowly and softly and I had to lean forward to understand what exactly he was saying. I left the office perplexed, asking myself is it the doctor or me? The appointment, an hour this time, concluded right to the second.

Visit #3 – Another week passed and depression was holding on to me. Dr. H. asked me how my week was and I started to recount the relentless days of depression. Holding dearly on to the turtles, I glanced across the desk and startled by what I saw - Dr. H. was napping! Fast asleep, slumped over in his brown leather chair, and here I am the patient asking myself what my next move should be. Do I: A) call the secretary, B) nudge him awake, C) escape while the going is good? Suddenly, Dr. H awakens from his slumber, glances at the clock and states, “we must close for today”.

To conclude this waste-of-time appointment, I receive such an uninspiring statement while exiting the office. Dr. H. asks me “did you know that your eyes are large – you should have that looked into”. Huh? My eyes? I have enough problems right now with mental health issues; I hardly wish to look into a possible eye deformity. I know that my eyes are ‘big’, but hey, I’m no Marty Feldman!

So right then and there it was adios to Dr. H. Perhaps the reason why was accepting new patients was due to his slumber problems with former patients.

I never called or returned to confront Dr. H, and he never followed-up with me. It was a strange relationship, seemed like a movie of sorts.

Unfortunately, but fortunately my previous psychiatrist accepted me back. Once again I was met with six-minute appointments on a monthly basis and ineffective medications.

Shuffled from the mental health unit at the medical hospital, to home, to psychiatrist office, to mental institution, the years dragged by and my condition sustained a downward spiral. I prayed for death so many times. Who would desire a black death-like life, living each day weighed down by mental illness?

Throughout the next few years, I met with several other psychiatrists. Some were helpful; most seemed exhausted by my resistance to their treatment. I felt as if I was to blame for this illness, but would soon shake my head and come back to reality thinking, “Why would someone wish themselves an illness?” Just when all hope was lost and I had conceded to the fact that the illness had won, and every hope for the future was lost, a new psychiatrist entered my life.

During one of my many hospital admissions, my outpatient psychiatrist was on holidays, and another filling in. I was not optimistic, walking down this path before with negative results.

Scratching my head after this psychiatrist’s first visit, I was left bewildered by the preliminary consultation. Dr. J. in fact took 1½ hours to interview me, seemingly puzzled by my ongoing years straddled with untreatable bipolar disorder. I was to learn he was an expert in treating BP, and throughout my stay visited and planned a new strategy of medications right for me. I remained in hospital for another week, and during my stay requested if Dr. J. would see me as an out-patient when discharged. Although I was informed of his heavy patient load, he agreed, and as they say “I never looked back”.

It’s been over three years under Dr. J’s care. Medications are working successfully and I exist with an almost “even” mood. I still experience mood swings, but they hardly compare with the drastic swings experienced years ago. Hard work and determination have paid off, but one cannot achieve such determination when life is dealing you a black hand and nothing is working in your favor. Easy for people to say “pick yourself up, don’t always think negative, and quit complaining”. Hmmm…I used to want to reply, “If I could, I would”.

Standing in our way though, of course, is stigma. An unpleasant word, but it sits in our society almost like a hex over individuals with mental illness.

I did not write this article to paint a negative tone about the doctors of psychiatry. I can’t stress enough, however, that they are our ‘life line’ to mental health wellness.

Written by:

Friday, April 20, 2007


LOS ANGELES, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A growing number of U.S. pets and zoo animals are overcoming anxieties and mellowing their behavior with the use of human anti-depressants, a report said.

The Los Angeles Times said over the last decade, Prozac, Buspar and Amitriptyline have been introduced into the veterinary world to treat cats for indoor spraying, dogs and birds for separation anxiety and self-destructive compulsive grooming.

Veterinarians who prescribe psychoactive drugs, such as Dr. Elyse Kent, owner of Westside Hospital for Cats in Los Angeles, do not immediately pull out prescription pads. Instead, they do medical work-ups on animals to rule out physical causes for destructive or neurotic actions and prefer to use behavior modification instead of, or along with drug therapy. "We try to use these medications short-term," Kent told the Times, "because they are not without side-effects."

The Los Angeles Zoo had a male orangutan with respiratory problems, and after consulting with a psychiatrist, put the primate on the antidepressant Remeron in 2005. The ape's appetite improved. It fathered a healthy baby in 2005 and is now being weaned off the antidepressant, the report said.


Psychopharmacology is the study of drug-induced changes in mood, thinking, and behavior. These drugs may originate from natural sources such as plants and animals, or from artificial sources such as chemical syntheses in the laboratory. These drugs interact with particular target sites or receptors found in the nervous system to induce widespread changes in physiological or psychological functions. The specific interaction between drugs and their target sites or receptors is referred to as drug action. The widespread changes in physiological or psychological function is referred to as drug effect. In psychopharmacology, researchers are interested in a wide range of drug classes such as antidepressants and stimulants. Drugs are researched for their pharmaceutical properties, physical side effects, and psychological side effects.
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Bipolar: Suicidal Behavior Varies Among Different Phases

January 1, 2007, HELSINKI, Finland ~~ There are marked differences in suicidal behavior during the different phases of bipolar disorder, new research has found.

Researchers from Finland screened more than 1,600 psychiatric inpatients and outpatients for bipolar disorder and examined how suicidal ideas and risk varied among the different phases: depression, mixed, manic, and hypomanic.

The study found marked differences between the phases in terms of suicide attempts and suicidal ideas. Hopelessness predicted suicidal behavior during the depressive phase, whereas severity of depression and a younger age predicted suicide attempts during mixed phases.

While the researchers said there was a relatively small sample size of people in some of the phases, their study could serve to alert clinicians to warning signs of suicide during the different phases of bipolar.

The study, which appeared in the Journal of Affective Disorders in January, was entitled “Suicidal behavior during different phases of bipolar disorder.”

Article Source: BP Canada Magazine (Spring 2007)

Brain's 'Default Mode' Awry In Schizophrenia

Source:Yale University
Date:March 14, 2007

Science Daily — The “default mode,” or baseline condition when the brain is idling, is not properly coordinated in patients with schizophrenia and this aberrant activity may be caused by poor connectivity between brain networks, a Yale School of Medicine researcher reports.

Co-author Godfrey Pearlson, M.D., professor of psychiatry, said he and his colleagues found that regions of the brain known previously to be individually abnormal in patients with schizophrenia, also function abnormally in concert in the default mode network. “In addition, the extent of the default mode abnormalities correlated with the severity of auditory hallucinations, delusional thoughts, and attention deficits that are hallmarks of schizophrenia,” Pearlson said.

Although the exact role of the default network is unknown, it is thought to involve response to stimuli as well as self-referential and reflective activity that includes memory retrieval, inner speech, mental images, emotions, and planning of future events.

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that alters patients’ perception, thought processes, and behavior as evidenced by hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech or behavior, social withdrawal, and varied cognitive deficits. Episodic memory and attention are significantly impaired in schizophrenia.

A central feature of schizophrenia is disturbed integration of activity across multiple brain regions, or dysfunctional connectivity between frontal temporal brain regions. Symptoms of schizophrenia have been attributed to a failure of functional integration or aberrant connectivity among regions or systems of the brain.

The study included 21 patients with schizophrenia and 22 healthy subjects. The group performed a straightforward task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging in which they were asked to detect an infrequent target sound within a series of standard and novel sounds. In the healthy subjects, the default mode network resonated slowly and regularly as observed by blood flow. In the patients with schizophrenia, the activity in the brain increased and was significantly more irregular, although they performed equally well on the task.

Abigail Garrity of Trinity College was the lead author and Vince Calhoun of the Institute of Living/Hartford Hospital was the senior author. Co-authors included Dan Lloyd of Trinity College and Kristen McKiernan and Kent Kiehl of the Institute of Living/Hartford Hospital.
The study was supported by, among other funders, the National Institutes of Health in a MERIT grant to Pearlson.

Reference: American Journal of Psychiatry 164: 450-457 (March 2007)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Insomnia and Depression are Linked

Research has shown that insomnia is actually a risk factor for depression. Studies indicate that people with insomnia who got help for their sleep problems had a lower incidence of major depression a year later than those who had left their insomnia untreated. One of the aspects of depression is feeling powerless over your life. Feeling unable to manage your sleep only adds to that feeling. In addition, people who are taking stimulating antidepressants as part of their treatment for depression may have trouble falling or staying asleep. In some cases another type of antidepressant with sedating properties can be added at night.


Author: Eric Sabo
Medically Reviewed On: December 13, 2005

What causes someone to go from thinking about suicide to attempting it?
Dr. David Shaffer, the director of child and adolescent psychology at Columbia University and a leading expert on suicidal behavior, says that the causes may be complex, but the patterns are usually straightforward. In recognizing the early warning signs, it may be possible for family and friends to help prevent suicides. Dr. Shaffer explains the risks and what you can do.

At what age do people begin to have suicidal thoughts?
We don't have a lot of information about the frequency in pre-high school kids, but I think that suicidal thoughts probably begin just before puberty or around puberty. But you do get very young kids saying that they wished they were dead or that they are going to kill themselves and things of that kind. But it's very, very rare for young kids to act on those thoughts.
What prompts this type of suicidal thinking?
Suicidal thinking, obviously, is a very mixed bag. There are kids who just say it for effect. There are kids who say it when they're feeling low. There are kids who say it when they really mean it, and so on. And because it's so common, it's not necessarily very indicative of what goes on underneath.
Do these thoughts often lead to suicide attempts?
Suicide attempts are very common, and in depressed kids, who are the kind of kids who end up in treatment, you're getting about 40 to 50 percent who will have thought about suicide and about 30 percent will have made a suicide attempt.
Who is most at risk for committing suicide?
First of all, kids are more likely to commit suicide as they grow older. So, the teenagers who are most likely to commit suicide are 18- and 19-year-olds. They account for half of all teen suicides. Secondly, most suicides occur among boys. It's about five times more common in boys than girls. Thirdly, family history may be important. Suicide is about twice as common if there's a history of suicide on one side of the family. The kind of person who's at greatest risk is a kid who is very impulsive, loses their temper quickly, is prone to very extreme emotions and who may also have some depression or substance abuse. There are two emotions that seem to underlie suicide: one is the inability to control your emotions, feelings and acts, and the other is hopelessness.

What causes a teenager to go from thinking about suicide to attempting it?
The events themselves are of two kinds. They're not very special, and they're events which are experienced by tens of thousands of kids every day and hardly ever result in suicide. Usually, it's getting into trouble and being found out: maybe they are found cutting classes, cheating or stealing something from another kid. The death will usually take place very shortly after the discovery, before the person knows what the consequences are going to be. And during that period of uncertainty, there's probably a great deal of fear and anxiety and that seems to be what drives the suicide. They just want to get away from that very bad feeling.
Other triggers are probably common teenage experiences, including breakups with a boyfriend or girlfriend or some kind of public humiliation like a losing fight or being insulted in front of others.

Parents and friends should be on the lookout for what warning signs?
The most important things to look for are really the features of depression. Some of the classic things that you're taught are warnings such as writing a will and giving your possessions away. These are very, very infrequent, and they hardly ever occur before a suicide. But the classical features would be a change in which the kid becomes less sociable with their friends, preferring to stay at home and more self-critical. A kid may be really passionate about a particular kind of sport or something else and then they just stop doing it. Sometimes the kids will say that the work they've done is lousy or that people don't like them or that they're ugly. Sometimes the kids just get very irritable and snappy and, if their parents question them, they'll snap back.

Can teenagers grow out of this suicidal behavior?
Suicide attempts are much more common in adolescents and then they decline. Once you get into adult ages, the meaning of a suicide attempt is quite different.
How can parents and friends help prevent a potential suicide?
I think that you prevent it by increasing awareness of depression. Most adolescents don't know what depression is; they just feel that they're bad people. They don't think they're depressed, and most of their parents think that the kids are just being teenagers, so it's very, very under-identified. The thing that you can do to help is to routinely try to educate kids about the warning signs