Meds, Part One: An Overview

ErinMedication, Symptoms and Side-Effects2 Comments

I am a walking cocktail of medication and have been since I was diagnosed with depression. One by one pills have been added and subtracted to balance out my brain, some making me physically sick, some making me sleepy, some making me suicidal. Why put myself though all that? I do it because the alternative is worse. After years and years of trying medications that did not help, I’ve finally found pills that help me enough to function. It would be safe to say that without my medication this blog would not exist. Neither would my apartment or my art or the fact that I can function in day-to-day life.

I take seven pills at breakfast, three pills at dinner, and four pills at bedtime. Cymbalta and Wellbutrin are antidepressants to treat depression, Seroquel is an anti-psychotic I take to help me sleep, and Xanax is a PRN (Pro Re Nata – Latin for as needed) I take once in a while for anxiety. Those are the straightforward medications and why I take them.

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ErinMeds, Part One: An Overview

What I’m Learning So Far

ErinBlog Maintenance5 Comments

This blog now has seventeen posts, 39 comments and 12 subscribers. It has a piece of me woven into every word, sweat in every sentence and tears in every term. In short, this blog has become my life. So far it has taught me many things, these being the top:

1. I have more friends than I thought I did

I literally shook when I sent out Facebook messages, telling friends and acquaintances alike about my blog and consequently, my struggles, which have been mainly hidden up to this point. I was terrified but I knew that I had nothing to lose. What I did not expect was the outpouring of praise I received in return. I’m flabbergasted at how many people not only are interested in this blog but are willing to go out of their way to leave me a kind message of support. Thank you!

2. It is harder to write now that I have an audience

I can now count on my fingers which people will be notified the moment I hit “publish” after finishing a post. My goal for this blog is to reach and help as many people as possible but it was easier to write when I had only a vague idea of who those people would be. I worry about my readers learning more about my mental health history and being horrified. Yet, I can’t stop now so I will keep moving forward and hope not to lose readers instead of gaining them.

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ErinWhat I’m Learning So Far

PTSD & Tummy Troubles

ErinSymptoms and Side-Effects6 Comments

This summer, I’m eating every fruit like it’s the first time I’ve tasted it. Why? For three years I had really really bad digestion as a result of stress and it’s taken me this long to get it somewhat better.

In May of 2008 I got the flu and a week later my symptoms had subsided but my stomach stayed really sensitive. It felt like its skin was raw, like it had been scraped against the sidewalk. I went to the doctor and was put on medication but it didn’t help. I went to an acupuncturist but it didn’t help. Anyone I talked to was completely stumped so I was sent to the hospital to have an endoscopy done and they still couldn’t find out what was wrong. I was told it was probably stress but since I was already in therapy and on antidepressants I didn’t know what to do.

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ErinPTSD & Tummy Troubles

Clothing, Dark and Bright.

ErinDay-to-Day Life2 Comments

The other day I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show I completely loved as a younger teenager. Okay maybe I still do love it. Anyway, I was watching it and looking at the styles from 1997 made me giggle but they also made me nostalgic. When I was really into the show I was about fourteen and it was very important to me to wear only what was “cool,” style my hair the right way, and talk as wittily as characters on tv. It was so simple! I just had to pay attention and copy what I saw around me. My parents were pretty cool in letting me wear what I wanted and I loved going out to buy clothes.

Fast forward to age sixteen: I flew across the ocean and live in France for three months. All of my “cool” clothes were so far from what was in over there that I was truly embarrassed. That said, everyone knew I was from Canada so they didn’t judge my wardrobe as harshly as they would have otherwise. By the time I flew home to Canada I had a bunch of cool French clothes to mix into my wardrobe. Unfortunately, my depression really took hold around that time and upon returning to my high school after the exchange, I realized just how small minded everyone around me was. No one understood my new clothes and I could no longer relate to what was “cool” here in Ontario. It seemed so ridiculous to care about what was “cool” when cool changes constantly.

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ErinClothing, Dark and Bright.

What Is Mental Health?

ErinDay-to-Day Life, Diagnosis1 Comment

Before doctors diagnosed me with mental illnesses, I didn’t have a clue what “mental health” meant. I doubt I’d even heard the term before or if I had, I’d ignored it, thinking it would never apply to me. What I didn’t know was that if you have a brain, your mental health matters! Let’s assume that anyone who is reading this has a brain. Zombies, please exit now.

We all know that it’s important to take care of our bodies. We wash our hands daily and wear helmets when we ride our bikes. Just because our bodies aren’t ill doesn’t mean that we stop taking care of them, right? Taking care of them maintains our physical health. Our brains are part of our bodies, too. Not only do our brains control our movements and retain information, they also house our emotions and that’s where mental health comes in.

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ErinWhat Is Mental Health?

Language of the Uncomfortable

ErinThe Mental Health System8 Comments

After my recent post titled “The Noonday Demon,” a friend told me it was no longer politically correct to use the term “Third World Country.” Upon doing some research, I learned the alternative phrase some people are now using is “undeveloped.” While the terms of “First World Country” to “Fourth World Country” initially came about to classify political world views during the cold war, it eventually became misunderstood as people thought it was a ranking of the best to the worst. I meant it in this context:

“Despite ever evolving definitions, the concept of the third world serves to identify countries that suffer from high infant mortality, low economic development, high levels of poverty, low utilization of natural resources, and heavy dependence on industrialized nations.”

I encourage you to view the source of that quote here, a site that explores the root of that language and its future. It’s quite interesting!

I am glad that my friend brought the issue of terminology up not only because I love grammar and the evolution of language, but because this is a perfect segue to examining the language used to speak of mental illness. And holy shit, is there ever a ton to talk about there. People tend to rename things that make them uncomfortable, and talking mental illness certainly makes people uncomfortable!

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ErinLanguage of the Uncomfortable

Make Anxiety Work for You

ErinDay-to-Day Life6 Comments

Anxiety can give you energy, that’s why people bite their nails or drum their fingers or bounce their legs. Doing something physical to expel that energy makes anxiety easier to tolerate. How do you channel that energy into something healthy? I think by already looking at what we do we can learn a lot about how we already cope well.

By the age we had to sit in desks daily at school I became nervous that everyone was staring at me if I had no one to talk to. I quickly became accustomed to finishing homework if I had nothing else to do but sometimes I didn’t have homework. Reading was an escape of mine but sometimes I accidentally left a book at home. That’s when I started to write. It didn’t matter what I was writing, my peers naturally thought I was working and left me alone. I started to write as if I had an imaginary friend, someone to talk to who wouldn’t judge me. I soon found that that friend was in fact, myself. Even if I was writing down negative thoughts, beating myself up, something in me felt at home when I wrote.

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ErinMake Anxiety Work for You

How My Dog Made Me Like People Again

ErinDay-to-Day Life8 Comments

It was only a matter of time before I blogged about my pets. Anyone who knows me in the least expects a daily remark of some sort or wild story about my dog and two cats. They rule my life.

Anyone who has a pet knows what I’m talking about. There’s something that makes them better than human companions in so many ways. They are more loyal than anyone you will ever meet, they make us laugh about every hour at least, and they live in the moment one hundred percent. There are countless stories about the benefits of pets on one’s physical health, from therapy dogs in hospitals to cats recognizing disease before their owners realize it on their own. We can tell that our pets are good for our moods from the way we feel around them, but how far can it stretch?

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ErinHow My Dog Made Me Like People Again

The Human Condition

ErinRelationships8 Comments

When I was about eleven I remember watching this show on tv about the Guinness Book of World Records. They talked about a man who had over 90% percent of his body tattooed so that he looked like a leopard. When he shut his eyes, yellow leopard eyes peered from his lids. What stood out to me most was that this man lived in a cabin in a remote wooded area and hadn’t socialized with people for years. Upon doing a quick Google search for this post I learned that this man was named The Leopard Man of Skye. One could argue that the man isolated himself like that because of his tattooed self that society might not approve of, but he was also a war veteran and admitted to being unable to return to civilian life after wartime. As an eleven-year-old the story of this man stuck with me and I often thought of The Leopard Man living out there all alone.

As an adult I have learned the hard way that isolation is something I am drawn to and must try to avoid. My favourite activities, reading, writing, and art, are mainly solitary tasks and considering the length of my reading list, writing goals, and art projects planned it would be great if I could go about my day in complete solitude. If it weren’t for the loneliness that creeps in I would be productive and efficient, generating my will to live as I went.

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ErinThe Human Condition

The Noonday Demon

ErinBook Reviews1 Comment

I’m currently reading The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. At first glance it’s a huge book but upon flipping through it I realized that one-quarter of it is the bibliography and notes for the heavily researched text. Never before have I read such a complete book on depression. It recognizes how depression is not merely a chemical illness, or an emotional illness, or a spiritual one. Is it all of those and has many more influences as well. Sorrow and unspeakable pain has been a part of human life forever, and while it is not always diagnosed or spoken of in the same terminology, it’s a universal fact of life.

The book is really fighting stereotypes for me and teaching me more about getting well than I’ve learned before. For example, one thing I’ve heard many times was that depression is an upper middle class disease, something that drug companies made up to make money off of the natural feelings of life. My personal experience of depression has taught me that it’s a very real disease that is HELL to live through, and that all walks of life experience it. Despite learning those things myself, I’ve blamed myself for being so depressed when I know that people in third world countries* have it much worse. I’m ashamed to think about what I consider a bad day for me when I’m not in a war-torn country or starving to death.

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ErinThe Noonday Demon