Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Viral Depression?

The psychiatric world is obsessed with figuring out the precise mechanism by which people become depressed or bipolar or schizophrenic etc. Well, this guy notes that the Borna virus, a nasty infection that causes behavioral changes in animals, afflicts nearly 100% of the mentally ill community while only 30% of mentally stable people have had the virus.

He hasn't found a causal link, but the theory is intriguing.

In news de Becky, I'm a benign mixture of happy and slightly overwhelmed. First off, I really need to get myself a job that pays more. Secondly, my house looks like an elephant had its friends over and last, but not least, it's finally spring!!! I love spring. The weather has finally changed. It's wonderful.

Well, the downside is that I sometimes fall asleep when it's still light outside. Alas.

I've spent a lot of time ignoring my moods lately because I don't think it's very productive to wallow in a cavern of endless sorrow. I've been living a bit like a robot, just going through the motions because I have to move to survive and someday, I won't feel so bummed. That day is today, but I find myself covered in the residual slime of a rather arduous and draining depression.

Hopefully the spring sunshine will light all of those dark places in my mind and rip away the cobwebs and dust that have gathered there all winter.

And I'm going to feed some ducks.



Thursday, March 24, 2005

Rat mania?

So, researchers have taken another step toward finding a better way to treat bipolar disorder. These white coats pondered why lithium has worked so well for many bipolar patients. And their solution is way too tricky to explain, so click the link!

As for me, my doc put me on Concerta (I think he thinks that I'm narcoleptic or something) to help increase my wakefulness. I find that it's making me a bit more cheerful, but not particularly unsleepy.

I think part of the problem is that I just love to sleep.


Monday, March 21, 2005

To irritation and back again

I knew today wasn't going to be entirely stellar when I kept waking up last night with a funny pain in my neck. Of course, you're irritated, every pain becomes the end of creation and suddenly, the fact that you have a muscle ache means that everything in the world is DOOMED.

I've had a slow, undulating headache all morning and if I close my eyes, I feel my body wanting to rock back and forth like my office is really a boat. The great thing about headaches is that noises become more palpable. When someone across the hall shreds paper, they might as well be sitting on your head.

I'm also irked because, although I lost weight this week (hurray!), I'm still pudgey and even though my skirt is huge, when I sit down it doesn't cover my ass completely. So naturally, I'm having what feels like hot flashes all morning and my freakin ass keeps getting STUCK to my office chair. Dammit.

To boot, I checked out the lunch I so laboriously packed at 7:15 this morning and realize that in my sleepy morning, brain dead haze that I forgot to pack myself any kind of main course. Not that I have anything against bananas, but they just don't fill you up like a sandwich.

And last, but not least, in the midst of all of this intense irritation, my boss decided to make changes to his schedule without telling me. The problem is that I schedule all of his advisement appointments. So, naturally, we've double booked some of his time and I feel so bummed out to have to email these student to change their appointment times. They are so busy and most of them are taking the MCAT in April so they're freaking out and stressed and the last thing they need is this minor annoyance sideswiping them in the middle of their day.

Hmmm. I suppose that last paragraph speaks more to my mindset. There are definately some stupid little chores that feel entirely overwhelming to me. Like laundry. Or washing the floor. It's awful. I really wish that I could have a better attitude about these things.

Maybe I'll have to confront some of the chaos in my world this week.



Friday, March 18, 2005

The Constructive and the Deadly

Upon reading this story about a comedian who killed herself, I find myself thinking about why some thoughts become actions and some don't. Obviously, this comedian was having serious issues with getting her medication and as anyone who has changed medications could tell you, coming off a med is not a stable time for anyone. Coming off a med unexpectedly is plain old stupid and intensely uncomfortable.

But alas, I digress. I think I have a lot in common with this here comedian. I'm sure that we're both sad because the weather sucks. Depression breeds hopelessness which breeds negativity which infects every happy scenario you could think of. Seriously, I get so negative sometimes that when my brain is like "you should go take a walk. that will cheer you up." I just sit there and think, "I could take a walk, but I'd probably get hit by a car, and end up a quadraplegic for life." D'oh!

Anyway, my whole point here is what people do with their thoughts. Sure, I might be really down and really sad and really hopeless and negative, but when I feel like I can't take it anymore, I go lay down in my nice comfy bed. Inevitably, one of my cats will come join me for a nap and then I tell myself that when I wake up, things will be better. Typically, that works. I mean, no one has enough mental energy to stay in a hyperactive depression for very long. Besides, life can't be that bad with an adorable, drooling kitten snuggling up to the small of your back.

I guess my point is that there's a point that comes around when you have the choice to start thinking about jumping off the Sears Tower or to think about how, someday, you'll have the coolest marine aquarium around. Sometimes all you can do is distract yourself until it passes.

I often think that bipolar is like a thunderstorm. In the worst parts, you might want to shrivel up and sink into a black hole, but then you'd miss how the air smells after the storm. Awww. This reminds me of how my kittens are afraid of thunder, but curious about rain and when we have thunderstorms, they'll RUN under the bed and HIDE when it thunders, but they'll venture out to see the rain. And the process repeats itself.

Awww. See, I started writing this post all sad because another person with bipolar took the easy way out instead of fighting the good fight and I'm ending it with the adorable image of my kittens peaking their heads out from under the bed to be sure everything is safe.

That's why we need to be patient. This too shall pass and when it does, the light will look even more beautiful.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Such a Shame

For those of you who don't read McMan's excellent newsletter, here's a rather sobering story.

"In November 2004, Iris Chang, author of the heart-wrenching The Rape
of Naking and other books, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound,
leaving behind a husband and two-year-old son. Last week, her family
finally spoke out. Speaking at an event to raise mental health
awareness among Chinese-Americans, her parents and her brother
described Ira's shame after a psychotic breakdown and how she
resisted taking meds.

Said her mother, Yin-Yang Chang: "In Asian culture, it's considered
shameful to have some mental patient in your family. But mental
illness is a disease, a chemical imbalance in the brain. We should
treat it just like a heart attack or diabetes."

Ira was at work on a book about the Bataan Death March during the
time of her breakdown. Asked if the disturbing subject matter of her
books may have contributed to her depression, her father, Shou-Jin
Chang said it was "certainly a contributing factor."

Disease is the great equalizer. Black, white, Asian or Indian, we all have the same basic bio-chemistry commanding our brains and indeed, we all suffer from the same stupid mental illnesses. Kind of sucks. How cool would it be if say, Hispanics or the Aborigines, didn't get bipolar? Then we could study their brain chemistry and try to figure it out. But alas.

I'm a bit cranky myself. Why is it that bipolar treatments are almost as bad as the disease itself? I mean, when I started this oh-so-fun journey, I had a normal BMI, clear skin, and a healthy dose of ambition. Now? I've shifted from an overweight BMI to an obese one, I have acne and if life would allow it, I think I would prefer to stay in bed all day instead of doing anything. Seriously. Even watching TV takes too much effort sometimes.

While I can confess that I definately had difficult periods while living in Phoenix and LA, South Bend contributes additional complicating factors that I haven't had to deal with before. For example, in Phoenix, when I wanted to go outside, I'd grab the dog and go outside. We'd go to the dog park and I could play with puppies and that would cheer me up. In South Bend, when I want to go outside, I look out my window and see a neighbor walking through my apartment complex all bundled up and miserable and I just stay inside. So, not only is the dog disappointed and lonely, but I'm forming ass grooves on my couch.

Because I'm on the max dose of two antidepressants, my doc decided that perhaps my problem has more to do with daytime sleepiness than with an all consuming depression. So, our current thinking is: "bring on the stimulants." Of course, I'm prone to anxiety, so I'm not sure how well this experiment is going to work.

I think my primary concern with taking stimulants is that I'll have to endure this depression wide awake. I keep questioning if the status quo isn't better than having to be fully cognizant that I have a job out of sync with my education level, that my house is a disaster area and that despite working 40 hours a week, my finances are chronically in the red. To bitch, my father makes about 40 times what I do in a year, and he's retired. Investments.

At least when I think about it, life could still get worse. My cats could get sick. Brendan could break his arms and not be able to blog.

A part of me wishes that I had just stayed at ASU for my doctorate. I would still be living in AZ, I would be making more money than I do now working part time, and I would have the stability of my house and not having to relocate again. I feel like I can't settle here. I'm suspended here for 2 more years and I feel like laying down roots would be a waste of time.

I'm being stubborn really. If I were smart, I would embrace South Bend with open arms. I would explore its nooks and crannies and learn to love its idiosyncracies. But I don't. Maybe I should've moved here in the spring.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Introspective Distortion

Shall we dance?

One of my listservs has instituted a daily mood check. I don't always submit mine, but the practice has forced me to acknowledge how little I consciously think about my moods and managing their impact on my life. I tend to ride the wave and after I've swept up on the beach, I look out on the ocean and think, damn, that was one helluva wave.

Wouldn't it be nice to know that I'm riding the wave while I'm doing it? Brendan and I were talking today and I got to thinking that I'm actually in a horrible mood and I have been for quite some time. I can't blame myself. I've been gaining weight, living in a town that I despise and my only conversations are with my fish.

I had so much more to say when I started this post, but my thoughts died faster than an ant sizzling under a magnifying glass. Oh well.