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.