29 August 2006

New Profile Pic

The image to the left, which I have selected as my new profile picture, is of a watercolor I purchased, and am anxiously awaiting delivery of, from a California artist named Mara McWilliams. Here is the link to her gallery. Check out her stuff.

I haven't read everything about Mara on the site yet, so you may learn more about her than me if you go there now. I'm waiting until I have the painting in hand to examine before I find out more. I bought her piece because I was interested in the art, not the bio. I've read enough, though, to know that Mara has battled bipolar disorder. She uses her art as part of her recovery.

It amazes me how many talented folks out there are openly discussing their struggles with mental illness. Leahpeah is a blogger who comes to mind, a lovely woman whose life was tragically affected by dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder.

Mara and leahpeah are both gifted artists who are shedding some needed light into the rank tunnel that is mental illness. Why can't depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia be viewed like any other medical problem? We are, after all, nothing more than this amalgam of atoms. If something goes haywire in the circuitry, whether it manifests physically -as in boils- or mentally -as in dissociation- isn't it really nothing more than a physical problem? A medical condition for which we have more questions than answers. Since we know so little, we prefer to treat mental illness as magical or, more precisely, demonic. It's nothing more than a screwy shuffling of some nanoparticles we haven't discovered yet, folks. That's all. Sex ain't "magic" and mental illness isn't "demonic." I sense a theme here, hmmmm?

Anyway, I didn't buy the watercolor (which constitutes my first purchase of an original art piece outside of jewelry and pottery, which don't really count anyway) because I wanted to make a statement about the stigma of mental illness in our culture. I bought the painting because I liked it. It spoke to me.

I like that the Complete Woman has roots which reach down into the ground beyond the boundary of a mere canvas. I like that she has a red, hot center. She has a furnace at her core in which to burn the flotsam and jetsam of life as her fuel. I like that her arms are opened wide to the world to embrace all that life has to offer. I like that her colors are vibrant and distinct yet simultaneously soothing, like the sea to which I am so tied. I like that she is so connected to everything around her yet Complete. I just like her. So now she's going to hang out in my bedroom. Would that real life would work so easily. : ) On second thought, I don't wanna pay for it. : (

For the record, my DSM diagnosis is dysthymia. I always thought dysthymia was just sort of a lesser depression. Hell, I don't care what they call it just so long as I'm getting through it. Now that I've gone to Wikipedia and read what dysthymia really is, I'm more depressed than ever!

Yes, I've been psychoptopicized, on Lexapro for a year and a half and have been on Wellbutrin in the past as well. Prior to 2004, I'd never taken any psychotropics (well, except for recreational purposes). I've made tremendous strides in the area of self-awareness and personal growth in the past two years. I have been with the same therapist since June of 2004. I had never been in therapy successfully in two brief prior attempts (in 2000 and 2002...it seems to be an even year occurrance for me).

Have I made progress in the past two years because of the psychotropics? Dunno. The effective talk therapy with a fabulous therapist? Unequivocal yes. Because I was finally ready? Dunno. Because I no longer had any distractions? Dunno. Because it would have happened anyway? I don't know. Would I have done as well, as easily without the psychotropics? I don't know and I never will. I chose (in a well considered and moderately educated fashion) to try the drugs.
I don't care. All I care about is that I feel better about myself now than I ever have in my life and what made that happen really isn't important. Feeling good about myself is all that matters to me.

Do I think psychotropics are overly and irresponsibly prescribed in America? Absolutely. It disturbs me that family physicians are prescribing anti-depressants on demand and that patients are demanding, often without benefit of any form of therapy with a qualified clinician. We have become the nation of "a pill for everyone and everyone on their pill." We want the quick and easy way out rather than having to do the real work of self-examination and growth. Therapy is HARD FUCKING WORK and don't you forget deserve it!

Wow! How did this turn into a treatise on mental health, huh? I just wanted to show off the new woman in my life.

Now, where did I put my Lexapro...

tags: art / bitchy / culture / depression / health / life / medicine / mental health / mental illness / pharmaceutical industry / psychotherapy


At August 30, 2006 9:58 AM, Blogger Jean said...

without benefit of any form of therapy with a qualified clinician. We have become the nation of "a pill for everyone and everyone on their pill."

Ah... mind meld. I've been trying to write a post about this for weeks. Seriously, my doctor at one point thought less of giving me some Paxil for some sort of general malaise that was never actually followed up than he did for prescribing those Ibuprofen horse pills for a back with a history of problems.

At August 30, 2006 1:40 PM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Every other person is on an anti-depressant. Maybe that's a study someone should do...how much anti-depressant use has increased since Bush took office. That could be telling.

In part, I think it's laziness on the part of practitioners. In part, it's an effort for all of us to make bad things go away without any real emotional work which, guess what...doesn't happen.

Scary, isn't it?

I hope your malaise is gone and tell the fool to prescribe some Percocet or Vicodin for that back when it's bothering you! ; )

At August 30, 2006 4:42 PM, Blogger Jean said...

Percocet or Vicodin

He gave me Flexeril last time. It did nothing.

But yeah, I think it's a little laziness on everyone's part. What killed me is that I was thinking it was something to do with my diet (long story), so I mentioned that to him, and five minutes later, I get a prescription for Paxil, and then I see my chart and it says I'm bulimic. I was like, "Uh, no... I was doing the Atkins thing. What?" The malaise is gone, but the back remains. Alas...

At August 30, 2006 7:24 PM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Did you take the Flexeril regularly? I know when I've had trouble in the past, and using my back is part of my job, if I took the Flexeril 3 times a day for a day or two (and planned to do absolutely nothing else, since it kicks my ass royally) the problem would improve. It doesn't work with one dose.

As much as Atkins might work, I hate that diet. It's so limiting. I, personally, would sooner die than give up carbs almost entirely. And I can't believe it's ultimately alright for the arteries...all that fatty protein.

I'm glad the malaise got fixed when you left Dr. Atkins behind.

At August 31, 2006 9:01 AM, Blogger Hedonistic Pleasure Seeker said...

This sounds just like my dad's side of the family, Cheryl. Our malaise comes and goes in cycles. With my dad, it seems to happen every 4 years and lasts a few.

With me? I've struggled off and on, but if it's dysthymia I suppose I should be hopeful because this means I've got less than a year left . . .

For what it's worth, if anyone out there is plagued by chronic inflammatory conditions (depression is one of these conditions btw), it might be useful to be screened for food sensitivities. Wheat and dairy are the usual suspects.

At August 31, 2006 9:32 AM, Blogger Cheryl said...

That's interesting. I never heard of depression being related to diet, though it makes sense. I can't imagine life without bread, donuts and milk, however, so I guess I'll just struggle through with therapy. ; )

Hope you're out of your own slump soon, too!

At August 31, 2006 2:56 PM, Blogger Jean said...

Interesting. Acutally, the whole idea of diet and depression was introduced to me (way before the Paxil episode) by a therapist who only wanted to medicate as a last resort.

As to the Flexeril, I basically took a dose, went about my business, did that for a few days. Hmm... it's probably worth trying again.

At September 01, 2006 12:13 AM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Well, that's true...so many other behaviors are affected by diet; why not depression?

I've only gone on anti-depressants on the recommendation of my therapist. I've been well-pleased with Lexapro and have had no side effects. I'm on the lowest dose.

As I said in the post, I don't know if it has helped or not but I'm not messing with something that's worked so far so I'll leave all the pieces in place until I feel I'm improved enough to let go the drug.

The therapy I'll continue, off and on, for life, probably. I can see me just touching base with Rowena once or twice a year forever, with periods of seeing her more often for a brief period to get through a hump, if needed.

And the Flexeril might be worth trying again, as directed this time, for a few days. There's a reason there are directions for taking medications right on the package.

::turns off bitch-evil sarcastic ER nurse mode now::

At September 01, 2006 10:02 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

It's very pretty!

At September 01, 2006 2:00 PM, Blogger Hedonistic Pleasure Seeker said...

I call Flexeril my "Gumby pills, dammit."

At September 01, 2006 2:19 PM, Blogger Jean said...

There's a reason there are directions for taking medications right on the package.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. ;) Truly, though, I will do that.

At September 02, 2006 1:33 AM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Jessica: thank you!

HPS: That is so funny! Maybe that's how I'll explain it to my patienst..."If the pills make you feel in any way like Gumby, you shouldn't drive or operate dangerous machinery."

Jean: Yeah, yeah, yeah. ; )


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