6. Prozac Monologues: April 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

On the Road Again With NAMI Walks



In honor of Earth Day, this is the second annual Blog Post Recycling Day.  I think it is the second annual Blog Post Recycling Day.  Somebody declared one last year, and I recycled then, but I haven't actually seen anything about it this year.  Maybe because my Facebook friend who posts that kind of stuff is in church today?

Anyway, it's timely -- just one week from Johnson County, Iowa's NAMI Walk.  So my recycled blog from a month ago comes with one more plea to contribute to the organization that has contributed so much to me, making my contribution to you, dear readers, possible.

Please, please, please, click on the button to


To find out why, read:

 

Friday, March 25, 2011


On The Road Again -- NAMIWalks 2011


It's that time of year again.  Across the country people with mental illness, our friends, family, care providers, even law enforcement officials are pulling on our walking shoes to raise money for NAMI -- National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Last year soldiers in Iraq pulled on their hiking boots and their 40 lb. packs and ran while NAMI San Diego walked.

So what is this all about?  Here, my friends, is my testimony.

A couple years ago, I wrote a post on holiday gift giving for your favorite normal.  I asked my spouse, What would be a good present for the family member of somebody with a mental illness?

She didn't even look up from her computer.  Without missing a beat, she said, A cure.

A cure.  I know that mental illness is a family illness.  The whole family lives with it.  But her words caught me.  What she wanted was for both of us, a cure.

It's something she can't give me.  I can't give her.  My doctor can't.  You can't give it to the person you love.

We can, however, learn to manage symptoms.  We can claim the very best lives we can live.  We can live in recovery. 

Peer To Peer Program

I learned about recovery from NAMI, from their Peer to Peer program.  P2P is a ten-week course taught by people with a mental illness for people with mental illness about what we do after the doctor hands us a diagnosis and a prescription.

P2P teaches us how to live.  It is why I bust my butt for this walk.  It's not a cure.  But it's a lot.

That first class, I heard that I am not alone.  The very first note I took said, More unites us (our experiences) than divides us (our diagnoses.)

Next P2P showed me the immense dignity of those who live with mental illness.  It made me proud to know and be known by and be in community with others who live with mental illness.

It supplied tools like dialectical thinking, mindfulness, relapse prevention planning, techniques for emotional regulation and getting a good night's sleep, strategies for staying safe and coping with hospitalization.

P2P gave me something to do when medication didn't give me a cure.

And it opened for me a path into my future.  It reminded me that I am an advocate.  That is who I am.  I still have an identity, after all

So I bust my butt for this walk.  It is how I give back.

NAMI Walks

Now, the first time I did a NAMI walk, to tell the truth, I was scared.  Would it be grim?  A protest and a wailing against what is not possible, what we have lost and what we have to face?

If you have walked for NAMI, you are laughing here.  You know a NAMI Walk is so -- not grim.  It's a party!  With balloons and babies and dogs, music, belly dancers, football players, great food.  In Johnson County, Iowa, the Old Capitol City Roller Girls lead off the walk.  In San Diego, you are likely to hear a didgeridoo.

Bottom line, a NAMI walk is a gift.  It's a public demonstration to our families, friends, politicians, our neighbors, coworkers, the people in our places of worship, the viewing public -- a public demonstration that we are here for each other.  We take a break from all that wailing.  And throw a whale of a party.

At the same time, we raise funds for the programs that help us help ourselves and one another, the things that nobody else will pay for, for people who have fallen off the bottom of the budget.  NAMI does the stuff that makes a difference the day after the doctor hands us a diagnosis and a prescription.

Team Prozac Monologues debuted last year, with results that were not too shabby.  We raised $2640.  Mazie's sponsors contributed $250 toward that total.  Helen is walking in her stead this year.  Sponsors can contribute in Mazie's memory here.

Why I Walk

Me, I am walking for everybody who used to be on a three month wait list for an intake interiew at the local community mental health center; but this year that became a six month wait list at the center the next county over.  I am walking for everybody who used to  be on a four year wait list for sheltered housing; but this year the shelter shut down.

I am walking for those who are not crazy enough to pull out a gun and get the sheriff to buy their meds; they're just crazy enough to sleep in the alley behind the homeless shelter after they have stayed their ninety-day limit.

I am walking for family members who go to work wondering what is happening at home with their loved ones, now that the day program is closed.

I am walking for the resident on call in the ER who has to send home the merely suicidal, while the flaming psychotic waits for 36 hours in the hallway for the next available bed.  And for the newly diagnosed and dazed person who just got released with not enough meds to make it through the weekend, to make room for the flaming psychotic.

I am walking for the young people I know whose brains are even now being damaged in a war that we got into for oil.

I am walking in gratitude for law enforcement personnel who are trying to figure out how to do this new job, and need new training, to take care of those who have been discarded so that the very richest people in the world can get a tax cut.  I am walking in prayer for those who get caught up in somebody's suicide by cop.

This would be the place to note that the co-chairs of Johnson County's NAMI Walk this year are Janet Lyness, County Attorney, and Lonnie Pulkrabek, County Sheriff.  Props to them and to the competition between their two teams!

I did say that the Walk would be a party.  So even while I am angry that so much suffering comes not from the illness, but from the neglect, I will nevertheless celebrate those who do what they can do.  (That sentence would be an example of dialectical thinking, by the way -- see above, the curriculum of Peer to Peer.)

I am walking in wonder and amazement at the strength of the human spirit.  I am walking in deep appreciation for those who have helped me personally, for peer teachers, support group members, care providers, friends and family.

I will be walking with tears in my eyes, that my son and daughter-in-law will travel from Madison to Iowa City to walk beside me.

I am walking on April 30, 2011 in Iowa City, Iowa for all these reasons.  And I am walking also for you, dear reader.  I ask you to support me in this walk.  Click here to make your tax deductible, safe and quick contribution to NAMIWalks Johnson County.

Closing Shot

There are many versions of this song on Youtube.  I chose this one, despite the credits that run over it, because the ragged bunch of friends who sing it, some not sure of the words, illustrate the point.  We are a ragged bunch.  And pretty wonderful because of it.



The Scream by Edvard Munch in public domain
photo of Team Prozac Monologues by Judy Brickhaus
photo of homeless vet by Matthew Woitunski and used under the Creative Commons licencse
photo of New York City police officer by See-ming Lee, copyrighted and used by permission

Monday, April 18, 2011

Treating Bipolar Disorder Part III -- The Interpersonal Therapy Part

Lately I have been reviewing Treating Bipolar Disorder by Ellen Frank -- the recommendation of a friend who is researching hypomania.  Part I described the basis of Interpersonal Social Rhythms Therapy (IPSRT) in circadian rhythms that control the many physiological symptoms of mood disorders.  Part II outlined the Social Zeitgeber Theory and described the early stages of the therapy process, history taking and stabilizing social rhythms.  Today I pick up with the later stages, interpersonal therapy and maintenance.

Interpersonal Social Rhythms Therapy came to Ellen Frank in an epiphany on her birthday, July 14, 1990.  Personally, I like that.  I especially like that it was the day that she participated in a conference for people with bipolar, and listened to them.

Frank and her colleagues were already using interpersonal therapy for people with recurrent unipolar depression.  Their theory was that certain life events, particularly losses could result in lost social zeitgebers, (timekeepers), with subsequent disruption of circadian rhythms, leading to eventual relapse into another episode of depression.

IPSRT took up from there as an adaptation specifically for people with bipolar disorder, integrating the work on issues (as in, you've got issues) with greater focus on behavioral changes to achieve and maintain daily rhythms, time of rising, time of first human contact, work, main meal, etc.  The purpose of IPSRT is to help people achieve stability and then to avoid relapses into either depression or mania/hypomania. 

Why Do People Relapse?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Treating Bipolar Disorder Part II -- The Social Zeitgeber Theory in Action

So you have bipolar.  You know you have bipolar.  You are way past the denial stage.  You are into the pulling out your hair, screaming with frustration stage.  Or maybe moved on to despair stage.  Because:
  1. The medication sucks.
  2. You keep getting sick again anyway.
But contrary to what everybody has been telling you, medication is not the only thing that works.  It may be essential to your recovery and continued functioning.  But you can do better if you do more.  From my last post:

IPSRT [Interpersonal Social Rhythms Therapy] is one of three psychotherapies tested by the National Institute on Mental Health in its recent major study of best practices for treatment of bipolar disorder.  The Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder, STEP-BD discovered that Patients taking medications to treat bipolar disorder are more likely to get well faster and stay well if they receive intensive psychotherapy.

Do I have your attention?  Today we continue with Ellen Frank's Treating Bipolar Disorder, in which she describes this therapy of her invention.

What Happens In IPSRT

Monday, April 4, 2011

Treating Bipolar Disorder Part I -- Interpersonal Social Rhythms Therapy

Medication And Mental Illness

Medication for mental illness is just like medication for anything else.  It works better when you don't ask it to do all the work itself.

In the case of bipolar, once lithium and the chemical imbalance theory came along, the thinking was that medication was the only thing that worked.  Therapy by itself certainly didn't.  I wonder if therapists, worn out by their bipolar patients, were simply relieved to believe that medication was the only thing that worked.  I wonder if therapists today, worn out by their recurrent depression patients, are secretly relieved to terminate when the diagnosis changes to bipolar, because medication is the only thing that works.

Frankly, there is a lot of wishful thinking out there in pharmacotherapy land.  If only our brains were a chemical stew and the illnesses of the brain could be treated by adjusting the recipe.  If only.

But people with mental illness, especially people with bipolar, can't afford the wishful thinking behind the better living through chemistry fantasy.  Sometimes the medications do work.  But not as well nor as often as your doctor would like to think.

I have a friend who is a psychiatrist.  He challenges his colleagues who keep trying to solve this noncompliance issue, to get their patients to comply.  He reminds them, if the medication (antidepressants, in this example) worked for 40% of those who took it in the trial, and the placebo worked for 30%, that means only three out of ten people benefit from the medication itself.  So what's the big deal about seven who quit?

He says they just look at him funny.

Treating Bipolar Disorder by Ellen Frank

This same friend, God bless him, loaned me a book about a psychotherapy designed specifically for bipolar disorder titled, appropriately enough, Treating Bipolar Disorder.  The author Ellen Frank, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Depression and Manic Depression Prevention program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and her colleagues invented Interpersonal Social Rhythms Therapy (IPSRT), a kind of mash-up between talk therapy and regulating circadian rhythms.  It gets my next few posts.

In A Nutshell... 

IPSRT [is] a treatment that seeks to improve outcomes that are usually obtained with pharmacotherapy alone for patients suffering from bipolar I disorder by integrating efforts to regularize their social rhythms (in the hope of protecting their circadian rhythms from disruption) with efforts to improve the quality of their interpersonal relationships and social role functioning.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Termites Ate My Blogpost

They ate my baseboards, actually.  But the effect, as zeitstorers, was the same.  My apologies to regular readers who are waiting for my next post.  It will tell you what zeitstorers are, in the first installment of a review of Ellen Frank's Treating Bipolar Disorder.  The image here is a hint.

Coming soon...