TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE
Moods, Meds and Healthy Minds
by Ruth Z. Deming, MGPGP
November 29, 2007
Ruth Zali Deming is an award-winning writer, poet and mental health advocate who at age 61 has been 4-years free from manic depression and meds. Her main drugs after her diagnosis at age 38 were lithium and Klonopin. When she got manic-psychotic-paranoid, she recognized her symptoms and took the antipsychotic-of-the day, Haldol, Risperdal and Navane plus side effect meds. After being removed from lithium because it harmed her kidneys, she took Lamictal, which contrary to popular notion, is an antidepressant rather than mood stabilizer, and which revved her into mania and obsessive thinking.
Diagnosed at 38, Ruth was involuntarily committed and put in 4-point restraints (ankles and wrists) at then-Bldg. 16 at Norristown (PA) State Hospital. Through her own personal experiences, she learned to rise above her illness and achieve much of her potential. Her fondest desire is to help YOU do the same. We ALL have gifts and talents and must utilize them. Feel free to contact her at 215-659-2142 or RuthDeming at comcast.net. Our website is NewDirectionsSupport.org.
Know your diagnosis and symptoms. An alarming number of people DO NOT KNOW the definition of their illness. It takes only 15 minutes to familiarize yourself with your illness. Go to the Web – National Institute of Mental Health for definitions and symptoms. Learn the difference between depression, bipolar disorder (aka manic depression), and anxiety. Anxiety – an overwhelming restless feeling like you’re jumping out of your skin – is found in both depression and bipolar disorder or all by itself.
Familiarize yourself with every medication available for mood disorders. Know the categories – mood stabilizer, antidepressant, antipsychotic, antianxiety. Your doctor should be open to your trying new meds. Remember that what works for one doesn’t work for all.
We live in a drug culture. We are erroneously taught that drugs fix everything. It is far healthier to fix ourselves as much as possible without medication. Therefore if you have trouble, for example, sleeping, look for alternative means other than popping pills. Only use meds if everything else fails. Obviously antidepressants and antipsychotics are necessary. Learn to catch your psychotic symptoms and take an antipsychotic or antianxiety when you’re on the verge. Mania is dangerous.
Report all side effects to your physician. If they are serious, you should go off the med, even if your doctor has never heard of such a side effect. Our brains all work differently. Also, ask your physician to report your side effects to the drug company so they will have a record to report in the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR). This is especially important as a guide to women who wish to become pregnant. Many meds need to be weaned off. It’s dangerous to go off some cold-turkey.
Bipolar Disorder is an emotional-processing disorder. Due to flaws in our brain chemistry, our brains don’t process emotions correctly. Neurotransmitters don’t work properly: dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, as well as hormones such as cortisol (“the stress hormone”). Meds seek to normalize these. Many people unwittingly become illegal drug addicts because they search for a drug to make them feel normal.
Feel your feelings. We must process our emotions and not stuff them inside and let them fester. When something good or bad happens, talk about it with a trusted friend or therapist. Bond and network with people in ND and call them in good times and in bad. Also channel your feelings into art or poetry or journaling.
Healthy relationships. Our group is a good place to establish healthy relationships with people who understand you. The fundamental relationship is between parent and child. Many – but certainly not all of us – are the product of poor parenting. The relationship you have with your therapist is an opportunity to re-parent yourself and give you confidence to relate to others. Your relationships with friends and family should ideally be loving and positive. While it’s difficult ridding ourselves of unhealthy relationships, it can be done, and a happier life will await you.
Work. Our minds are wired to work. Working in a gas station is better than waiting for the perfect job to fall into your lap. Don’t sit around and wait. Nothing happens except we feel worse and become anxious. Be proactive. Ask for help if necessary.
Interests. The more interests you have the better. Create new brain circuitry by trying new things. You don’t have to be good at it. My 33-year-old novelist daughter signed me up for my 62-nd birthday to an online novel-writing class. I’m scared shitless but I’m excited as well. It makes use of deadline pressure, which is the only way most people can accomplish things.
Healthy habits. Aerobic exercise keeps us youthful and energetic. It also helps neutralize effects of weight-gaining meds. Eating right. Fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, cheese, fish, plenty of water. You know it all. Say No to junk food.
Suicide. Many of us including myself have been severely suicidal. We don’t really want to kill ourselves but at the moment see no escape. Have a plan of action if you become suicidal. For me, it was necessary that I leave home to be away from lethal weapons (pills). I also called people who could understand and walk me out of the temporary suicidal state. Have a list of people you can phone or visit.
We need your help. ND is the terrific group it is because of YOU: our members. We take pride in taking care of one another. If someone piques your interest, don’t be shy: get in touch with them. Be aware that while most of us are open to new friendships, not everyone has the time or energy to take on a new friend. There’s plenty of other folks to choose from.
Promote us! Put our brochures in your local library. Give them to your therapist and psychiatrist. Contribute money to us and encourage your family to do so. We need money to continue our lifesaving work!
Have fun! At ND, we love to have fun. Our fun activities include Ada’s Wednesday Monthly Outing, a Bonfire, Coffeeshop Gigs held at the Coffee Salon in Hatboro where we feature talented members of our group who perform (sing, read poetry, tell stories) and Movie Night. Life can be wonderful. Let’s go!