Archive for the ‘doctor’ Tag

Celebrating Suicide Prevention Day – Don’t Forget Your Noisemakers   Leave a comment

Today I learned that September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day.   What struck me is the ridiculous nature of it.  November 22nd is the big National Smoke Out when everyone is supposed to give up cigarettes.  The line of reasoning makes perfect sense.  You’re a smoker, so you try to quit.  Most people know you’re a smoker so they rally around you offering support and stupid suggestions to help get you over the hump.  And the smoker has something positive to work toward, like not smelling like an ashtray and being able to breathe without their lungs sounding like two paper bags crumpling inside their chest.

But Suicide Prevention Day?  First of all, most people do not know you are suicidal nor do you want to let them in on the secret.  So who is going to rally around you?  Is your psychologist going to spend the day at your house having a barbecue?  Instead of throwing out your Marlboro Reds, do you pitch the gun you were going to use to shoot yourself in the head?  Is Suicide Prevention Day when you take an oath not to be in a suicidal depression, like it is something you have control over?  Are the people who do know your tenuous mental state going to give you little tips like; “don’t drive over any bridges, have your landlord mete out your daily medication and not a pill more, or, check into the mental wing of your local hospital for the day?”

Or, is Suicide Prevention Day intended for the general public to prevent suicides.  For instance, does the Suicide Hotline start making outgoing calls to people checking in to see if they are planning on killing themselves that day?  Maybe focus on Kentucky whose official motto is “Come to a State of Depression?”  Are people going to police roof tops, bridge railings and hardware stores that are selling an unusual amount of rope?  Will they lock up US Postal Service employees for the day so people with a death wish won’t antagonize them hoping to be shot by a lunatic mail carrier?

Why do we have to have a special day for suicide prevention.?  Shouldn’t every day be a day focused on keeping people from killing themselves?  Personally I do not think the general public has enough education on mental illness to know how to spot the danger signs of severe depression and suicidal behavior.  We all know the signs of a heart attack or stroke.  Everyone knows the signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.  But how many people know the danger signals of a severely depressed person about to commit suicide?  Or, an individual who may appear perfectly happy who is actually dropping little cues that things are amiss and are going to snuggle up that evening for the last time with a .45 Caliber automatic pistol?

And, as I’ve discussed at length in my blog A Tisket.  A Tasket.  I’ll Decide When I Want to Get In My Casket, why should all suicides be prevented?  Some people have suffered enough, have been through the medication meat grinder and legitimately see no hope of recovery, so have decided to relieve themselves of their earthly burdens.  Who are you or I to say they do not have that right?  Suicide is not bad word.  It simply means “killing ones self.”  It doesn’t mean “killing yourself because you’re a loser and can’t make it in life-like everyone else.”  It also doesn’t mean “cop-out,”  unless you are a corrupt cop and you really want out.  It’s just a noun.

What happens after Suicide Prevention Day?  Everyone can relax and it’s ok to kill yourself?  People can let down their guard and stop being vigilant about being more in tune with the people around them ?  The kid on the other end of the Suicide Hotline can go back to playing video games on his i-Phone and intermittently tell the suicidal caller “it can’t be that bad.”

This September 10th I am going to make a conscious effort that everyone I meet knows it’s Suicide Prevention Day and ask what they are doing to celebrate the occasion.  I think it should be a big party because if everyone is happy, nobody will want to kill themselves.  So if I happen to see anyone depressed and out of sorts, I’m going to reprimand them for not being in the spirit of the day.  The last thing I want is for somebody to see a depressed person.   That’s why every city and town across America should have parades of depressed people from hospital mental wards on pill bottle-shaped floats going down good ole main street waiving at the crowds with songs from the late Elliot Smith blasting out of huge loud speakers.

I can see it now spawning a new American classic movie called “Depressed on the Tenth of September.”  Tom Cruise can play a guy who tried to cut his wrists and spent two years in a mental hospital in Vietnam.  Now he has come home to a world of happy chucklehead backslappers telling him to “snap out of it.”  But all he wants to do is hang around with his mental ward buddies and give each other electro-shock treatments until they all pass out in their wheel chairs and piss themselves.

Just do me one favor;  Don’t make September 10th the only day you take the time to ask a friend who seems a little down how they are doing.  That might be the question that saves their life.  Now don’t forget your noisemakers.


Do Doctors Take the Mentally Ill Seriously?   1 comment

Yesterday I had a heart attack.  Well, at least I thought I was having a heart attack.  I was with my fiancée (I hate that word – so pretentious) and her parents at their home in a beach community in central  California.  We were having lunch.  I’d been feeling a lot of pressure lately from some relatively major events going on in my life.  I’d also started smoking again and I could feel the damage it was doing to my body with every inhalation of that toxic goodness.  I was sure my lungs were filling with cancer and arteries in my heart clogging every time I enjoyed a cigarette.  To top it off, the day before, my future in-laws both recounted their heart attack, angioplasty and open heart surgery experiences for me in great detail in a random conversation.

I was ripe to drop dead.  That morning my heart was beating slightly faster when I awoke.  So naturally I drank some coffee to slow it down.  Then I went outside on the front steps and smoked a cigarette, because you can not drink coffee without a cigarette.  It’s a rule.  They should put Starbucks coupons in every pack of Marlboro.  Finally I sat down and enjoyed that nice shortness of breath feeling as I checked my email.

Soon we had lunch.  At the table I looked at my future father in law to the left of me eating ravioli, but instead saw him lying on the operating table, chest ripped open having heart surgery.  Then I looked to my right.  My future mother in law was piling more ravioli on my already overflowing plate, but I saw her lying on an operating table amidst all kinds of flashing and beeping monitors with a wire being run through her arteries having angioplasty.  Suddenly I felt the pressure on my chest, pain in my heart, a pinching sensation on my left arm I announced “I hate to be a hypochondriac, but I think I’m having a heart attack.”

My future father in-law is the best.  I was at the hospital ER less than a half hour later.  Hooked up to a million monitors and an IV, I must have looked like a marionette.  And when given nitris tablets my pulse slowed down and my pain and discomfort subsided.  But it was determined it probably wasn’t a heart attack.  All my tests were normal.  I was told to call my doctor and get a stress test when I got back to San Francisco.  I still could have a blocked artery.

However, I got the impression when the doctor heard about the cocktail of bipolar medications I take, he surmised my heart attack may be psychosomatic.   I definitely felt the level of urgency knocked down from a code blue to a code magenta when he saw I was on six different bipolar medications.  Did he make a mistake letting me go because he assumed I was just having a panic attack or some sort of bipolar episode?  How many people with life threatening illnesses are not taken seriously by their doctors because they have bipolar disorder or another form of mental illness?  Is my heart a ticking time bomb due to the ER doctor making an inaccurate assumption that I was probably just having a panic attack?

As bipolar individuals, do we often feel or are made to feel incompetent because of our mental status?  Personally, I have experienced this many times since my original diagnosis of severe depression, back in the early 1980’s, before bipolar disorder was formally identified.  Doctors (non-psychiatric) always treat me with kid gloves, as if I may not fully understand what they are telling me.  They question the amount of medications I am on, even if they are only general practitioners.  Their nurses speak louder and more clearly to me after they read my psychiatric history, as if mental disorders have something to do with intelligence, auditory and visual perception.

Dishearteningly, family and friends can be the worst offenders.  Do something a little extravagant, like buy two new cars in one year, and everyone is asking if you are alright.  Have you spoken with your doctor lately?  Are your medications working?  “No Goddamn-it, I just made made a really stupid car buying decision!”  My father was beside himself when I got a divorce because he felt my ex-wife was level headed and would make sure “I didn’t “get into any trouble.”  He went as far as  trying to patch things up on his own, as if that was possible, just so there would be someone to keep tabs on me.

Let’s be real, there is and probably always will be a stigma about any kind of mental illness.  Even if you are bipolar but perfectly stable, when you take a drink of water right away some people see sit it as a sign you’re becoming dehydrated,which is a signal of an impending manic episode.  So, they strap a helmet to your head so you can’t hurt yourself when you start banging it repeatedly against a wall.  They even have the disease paired with the wrong symptoms!

My philosophy is allow people to have their misconceptions and fears.  I go about my life doing what I do and if someone wants to attribute my behavior as abnormal due to bipolar illness,  let them run with it.  Addressing irrational thinking only magnifies it in their minds.  And if it’s a health professional, I tell them exactly the medications I take and for what they are prescribed.  Then I say “I’m stable, feel fine and the drugs are working fairly well.”  With that we are almost always on to the next question.

Never ever let a doctor or an individual make you feel like you are less of a person because you have to take medication to treat your mental illness.  You are actually more of a person because you are confronting it and stabilizing it on your own accord.  You are actually courageous for fighting through adversity most people can never even imagine.  Don’t be ashamed of having what some feel is a weakness, but instead be proud for having the wherewithal to battle against it.