Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Anti-Authoritarians Are Diagnosed As Mentally Ill

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about the medicalization of anti-authoritarian sentiment.  It's an important piece and well worth a read.

The author, Bruce Levine, PhD (psychology), asserts that to succeed in the medical profession or in academia one must subit to plenty of arbitrary authority.  By the time these professionals are in a position to practice in their fields, they're used to obeying, and people who don't make them nervous.  There must be something "wrong" with them, right?

And what about the anti-authoritarians?  Is it always invalid to diagnose us with mental, learning, and behavior problems?  Sadly, it's not.

When we try to make a good life for ourselves, we struggle to fit in, but our deficits are apparent -- look, it's ADD!  It's a learning disability!  But why do I have to be good at math, or for that matter any other academic subject?  Why do I have to pretend to be interested in math?  Who decides which subjects are "important" enough to be taught in school?  I come to this example again and again -- if I have LD in math, why don't other people have LD in art or music?  As for the attentional issues, isn't there something kind of coercive about deciding that any person must focus their attention in a direction not of their choosing?

This isn't fair.  It pathologizes a legitimate difference in my brain. Yet, I have to try to fit in if I want anything like a life for myself.  My choice is between medicating myself and having no life.

Levine's concern is that too many social critics are diagnosed and medicated before they come to political consciousness.  I count myself lucky that I'm not one of these people.  For that matter, there's a great discussion of social class and access to ADHD treatment going on at ADD Forums.  Check it out.  And be sure to check out Levine's article too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lamictal 300 mgs, Abilify 5 mgs, Exercise Problems

Lately I haven't felt motivated to exercise.  This is partly due to a shoulder injury, and partly due to the fact that I just don't feel like it.  It's unusual for me to "just not feel like it"; exercise keeps me relaxed, it helps me sleep, and it helps my brain function.

I think I've found the problem.  I learned from my sister's psychopharmacology book that Abilify can increase your risk of heat stroke.  They don't come out and say that in the bottle -- at least, not in so many words; they say things like "use caution in hot weather" or "do not exercise heavily" or "avoid direct sunlight" (OK, maybe I'm paraphrasing that last one).

See, caregivers get to know everything there is to know about the meds they put us on.  We're just the patients into whose bodies the damn drugs are being put.  Why spell it out for us?

I'd noticed for some time that when I tried to exercise, I wasn't sweating.  Not at all.  No matter how hard I worked or how many lbs I was lifting.  I felt hot, my skin might or might not turn red, but again ... no sweat.  I felt dizzier than usual, and more fatigued, and I simply couldn't do as much as I wanted to or indeed as much as I once could.

I finally put this all together the other day.  I had hiked up a staircase and I was breathing more heavily than I should have been.  I felt tired and dizzy.  And I wasn't sweating.  When my respiration increases during exericse, it's normal for me to be sweating.  No wonder I was tired and dizzy.

I don't remember this being a big deal last year when I was on Abilify and Zoloft, then Abilify and Lexapro (hissssss!).  I wonder if it's an Abilify lamitcal interaction?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Motivational Problems: (Or: My Life Keeps Getting Worse)

My cat is probably dying.

A few weeks back she lost her appetite, then seemed to regain it.  Since returning home from my trip, however, she's no longer eating.  Within 24 hours I was in the vet's office.  My cat, who's been 16 lbs most of her life, is now 8 lbs.

The vet recommended an x-ray, but the results, like the results of the blood panel and the urinalysis, showed nothing wrong.

Great news, right?  Not so much.  When you've got a cat who's obviously as sick as mine -- all that loss of weight and apetite -- you're probably looking at cancer.  The next step is to get a second opinion from an internal medicine specialist.  They would probably do an ultrasound, which would cost about $600, and be one more traumatic experience for my poor kitty.  Since I have yet to talk to anyone who's had a good experience giving their cat chemo, I would probably opt for palliative care.  I'll be talking to the specialist about this.

In the mean time, I've felt really unmotivated.  I need to clean the house, because it looks like a tornado threw up on it.  I need to sell some crap on Craigslist.  I need to work on my stained glass project.

I wondered if my meds needed adjusting, if somehow they'd started to fight with each other ... and then I realized: I am motivated to do one thing, and just one.  I am motivated to spend quality time with my cat.  I will sit on the couch for as long as she wants me to.  That's my motivation right now.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lamictal 300 mgs, Abilify 5 mgs: Bruxism is Back

When I first started lamictal I was overjoyed to find that I no longer ground my teeth.  After a few months on Abilify, the problems seems to have returned.  It's not as bad as when I was on zoloft, but it's still there.

Strangely (or maybe not), the problem really got noticeable when I switched to an ergonomic pillow for my neck.  My neck is pretty screwed up.  It will take any excuse it needs to tighten up and impinge the nerves in my arms and hands.  Hence the pillow.

The pillow seems to be helping my neck at the expense of my jaws.  I wake up, and my neck feels great -- but my jaws are clenched old school, and I can feel my teeth grinding.  When I was visiting my family last week this was even worse.  My mother uses these stiff damn pillows on the guest bed, which meant that both my neck and my jaws were screwed up.

I guess it's back to the mouth guard for me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lamictal 300: Why am I "depressed"?

Hotbrain wrote me a nice supportive note the other day about my mood problems (apparently my comment form is evil, which isn't surprising, since Blogger is run by Google).

I don't know whether my mood problems are caused by some sort of medication poop-out or not.  They may be.  I think it's more likely that my stress is situational.  This is still a problem when you have a clinical mental illness.  Situational stress drags down your mood, obviously, and unlike the mentally boring, we lack the resources to pull our mood up when the situation resolves itself.

I feel like my meds are working.  I feel stable, I'm not normal one minute and then sobbing the next.  But my life is depressing me.  I'm not meeting my goals for this year.  My cat isn't eating (but maybe she's getting better ... or maybe that's just what I want to see), which has led to a lot of unexpected expenses.  I find myself ruminating on these things.  It's hard for me to remember all that MCBT I learned ... and I'm not meditating like I should be.

I've stopped boozing.  I'm back to drinking one drink a few nights a week.  As when you throw away any sort of mental crutch, a painful realization followed: drinking had been one of the few things I enjoyed doing.  Painting seems like too much work.  Music?  Need to tune the instrument first, and harpsichords have A LOT of strings.

In all honesty, the prep for these activities are not that bad, but when you have ADD and depression, they seem overwhelming.  The thing I really want to do is work with stained glass.  But I don't have the tools, and doing it in your house is a great way to spread shards of glass all over it.  I'm thinking seriously of setting up outside on my deck and buying the damn tools.

Not having a part of your day that you really enjoy is ... well, it's depressing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Crazy Lamictal Recipe: French Toast Tuna Melt

Since starting this blog, crazy food morning food cravings has been a topic I've written about ad nauseam.  For some of you this might even be true in a literal sense.  Heh.

This morning I felt like having a tuna melt for breakfast.  I've only just discovered that tuna melts are worthwhile.  For years, they sounded really gross to me, but I now realize that's probably because I was introduced to them by my school cafeteria.  On Tuna Melt Day, it smelled even grosser than usual.

But a mere tuna melt wasn't enough this morning.  I wanted it with eggs. So I did the usual thing.  I put tuna on bread, then cheese on the tuna, and ran it under the broiler until the cheese was melted.  Then, I put some olive oil in a pan and put the bread in the pan.  I poured scrambled eggs over the top.

I wish I'd gotten the eggs to soak into the bottom of the bread a little better, but I'm not sure how to do that.

Anyway, if lamictal is also making you crave that salt/fat combination, this recipe is yours for the using.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lamictal 300 mgs: Down and Depressed

OK, partly it's because it's been gray and cloudy and gloomy.  But mostly, I've been slipping back into feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  I feel like there's no part of my day that I enjoy.  I feel like I'll never get out of the hole I'm in career-wise.  I'll turn 37 this year, and in spite of all the hard work I've done -- and I mean really hard work, I'm still cripped by mental illness by learning disability.

And RSI.  Did I mention I have RSI?  Yeah.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Disability, Relationships, and "Glee"

Last night, I watched this week's episode of Glee.  I watch it regularly.  This is somewhat about the music.  I enjoyed being in choir as a high school and college student, and I miss singing, and the occasionally perform something that isn't a pop piece of crap.

I watch it more for the subversion.  Two teenage gay couples who are in sexually and emotionally healthy relationships.  For that matter, two teenage gay couples whose characters are more than their sexuality.  Then there was the remark one of these characters once made about his atheism and the irrationality of believing in a deity.  I suppose the religious right was already pissed off at them, so why not hang a lampshade on it?

Yesterdays plot dealt with the relationship problems of two disabled characters.  The first concerns Emma, the high school guidance counselor, who has OCD.  She's had an ongoing romance with Will, the non-disabled choir director, who was thinking of proposing ... however, when he talked about his plans with her emotionally abusive parents, they talked him into questioning their relationship.

Emma and Will then had what I think is a pretty realistic conversation about the difficulties both partners face when one of them is mentally ill.  Will was concerned about Emma's ability to handle the messiness of having a house and children: "You need to control things in order to deal with your life, and you can't control people!"  Emma responded by saying that she's taking her meds and that things are getting better: "But can I promise that I'll get better?  I can't."  She told Will that if he didn't want to live with that, he owed it to both of them to be honest with himself and with her.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Side Effect #7: Lamictal and Exercise

Can you really call "exercise" a side effect?

Well, probably not.  But many of the side effects I've talked about so far -- particulalry sleep problems, appetite problems, and balance problems -- can combine to make exercise a challenge.  As I've mentioned before, I lift weights three days a week, and run intervals on my off days.  That is, I used to.

Problem #1:  Balance.  Easily Managed.

The balance problems have been a challenge from the get go, but I've been able to manage them.  I don't have a problem when I'm running, or when I'm lifting with both legs, but one-legged deadlifts and lunges have been a real challenge.  I have to concentrate a lot to keep from wobbling and falling over.

Problem #2 and #3:  Sleep and Appetite.  Not so easily managed.

But thanks to the sleep and appetite problems, I've had to take a six week break from exercising because of lamictal.

This came about because I had noticed that I was making no progress with my weight training.  I couldn't move up to heavier weights; in fact, I was having more and more trouble with the weight I was already lifting.  And push-ups?  I wasn't getting any better.  I was getting worse -- a lot worse.  The most troubling thing of all was that my back was beginning to bother me.

I just couldn't figure out what was going on.  I was lifting three days a week like I was supposed to.  I know I have decent form.  So why wasn't I making progress?  Why did it seem like I might even be risking injury?

Finally I trundled over to my workout book, The New Rules of Lifting For Women, which rocks.  I finally found a passage that explained everything: if you're not making progress, you're either drinking too much, eating too little, or sleeping too little.

Well, at the time I was doing more self-medication than I should have been, but I'd never noticed much of a problem with booze and exercise before that.  However.  I knew damn well I wasn't sleeping well enough or long enough.  As for eating?  I guess that a serving of yogurt and a slice of bread, consumed over the course of several hours, are not enough fuel to grow stronger muscles.  Who knew?

Well, I should have.

Solutions to Sleep and Appetite Problems: Blue Light, and Nutritional Hacks.

I fixed my sleep problems about a six weeks ago thanks to my blue light.  To solve my appetite problems, I've spent this week eating salty, fatty, proteiny things for breakfast, because my body wants them.  Alternately, I've been putting my yogurt in a blender with some water,  and doing the same thing with my greens.  Ive found that it's easier to drink my breakfast than to eat it.

From the beginning I've found that my appetite picks up around 4 pm (which is interesting since this is the time of my afternoon mood slump).  But without having a decent breakfast and lunch, there's simply no way to continue my exercise routine.  Here's hoping my solutions work.

Side Effect #5:  Bonus!  No More Delayed Onset Muscle Stiffness (DOMS)

My muscles have always been tight.  Ever since I joined the swim team in middle school, various coaches and physical therapists have been trying to loosen them up.  Even after two years of pretty intensive physical therapy, during which I learned to stretch properly and use a foam roller, they were still generally tight.  DOMS was just a fact of my life.  After workouts, everything would hurt every time I moved.

Most people who experience muscular side effects from lamictal experience soreness and tight muscles.  Given my history, I was concerned.  But I got lucky.  Since starting lamictal, I have more flexibility than I ever have before, and I no longer experience DOMS.  It's not that I don't get knots in my muscles; I certainly do.  It's just that I can use a foam roller without swearing in such a fashion as to make my longshoreman ancestors proud.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lamictal 300 mgs: Too Much Booze

The past several months have been pretty stressful for me.  There's been the relationship drama, the wondering whether I'd go crazy again, and then there's been some unexpected veterinary visits for both my cats totaling about $600.  One of the cats was simple -- yeast infection in her ears.

The other cat?  She has a weird collection of symptoms.  She's off her food, which is really concerning; there's a reason her nickname is "Piglet".  She's lost some weight.  A few weeks ago she was dribbling urine, but that was diagnosed as a UTI and cleared up.  She's having digestive issues.  They did a full blood panel and urinalysis.  It didn't really show anything wrong, except perhaps mild kidney dysfunction.

And she's still not eating.  Cancer can't be ruled out until a full x-ray and ultrasound is performed, and that would cost me $600 to $800.  I don't know whether I would do that test or not given that my next step would be palliative care.  Everyone I know who's treated a cat for cancer says it's traumatic for everyone involved.

Or, maybe my cat, who's pushing 17 pretty hard, is just showing her age.

That's the background information that explains why I've been drinking too much.