Friday, August 31, 2007

The Runner is Back

I've been under the weather recently, and fighting a depression since Kyle was released from the hospital. It sunk in that no matter how hard we try, we can't protect him forever. Fortunately, he came away from this experience far better prepared for life than I've ever seen him. I'm very proud of how he's responded to the crisis he faced.

The day after he was released he laced up his running shoes for the first time in years and ran 12 miles. He ran 2 full marathons when he was still in high school winning his age group in one of them. It is great to see him running again. Last night Kyle, my 12 year old daughter, and myself all ran 3 miles. Even though I'm fighting a sinus infection it felt great to run with my kids. The most enjoyable thing I've done in months.

It's good to have him home.

Schering-Plough Defends Suits Over Marketing of 'Off-Label' Drug Uses

Schering-Plough Defends Suits Over Marketing of 'Off-Label' Drug Uses

While this particular suit is not targeting psychiatric medications, their aggressive sales staff is offering cash kickbacks for off-label drug prescriptions. This has become an epidemic in the industry.

Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Orleans Mental Health Crisis

I really had no idea it was this bad...

New Orleans Suffers Crisis in Mental Health Care

It's a lengthy NPR audio piece, and prepare to be disturbed.

I should expect this by now, especially in post-Katrina New Orleans. But it's still enough to bring tears to your eyes.

New Orleans has gone from 240 mental health beds to 30. 240 beds was not enough pre-Katrina, as they were fully used and rarely had openings. Patients being brought in by emergency workers are met with open hostility by ER personnel, and are often turned away before being seen. One story involved being turned away by an angry doctor before even getting on the ramp at the ER.

This is a story that needs to be heard by all with even a passing interest in mental health issues.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Life Comes At You Fast...

I say this every few weeks, but I appreciate all the emails and messages. I am still here, but I'm just not able to write as much any more. Life has gotten hectic, time has disappeared, and stress is constant. I've been bordering on mania for quite a while now.

My son Kyle is going through an experience. It was a life-threatening, and we hope, life-change experience. I wrote about it here:
All of us are still dealing with the stress of this. I'll have more to report when we find out what the options are. Right now we really don't know how everything is going to shake out.

On the positive side, after over 7 years I finally quit my second job. For me, work has been a coping mechanism. If I'm working hard and moving fast, I'm not thinking too much, and not getting into trouble. It's always been one of the things that has kept me stable. I'm going to try this, we'll see how it works...

I hope all is well with everyone out there.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life Sentence

I'm not usually a fan of this type of story, but this got to me. Well written, the pain and emotion came through. I had tears running down my cheeks.

Life Sentence

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Positive Place

I woke up this morning, still under the weather with a minor flu that's kept me down for a day and a half, but finally with some creativity and motivation. These days my cycling comes around to give me ideas and energy way too infrequently. I'm excited, and hope to get caught up on blog posts, BipolarConnect shareposts, and making the rounds of other's blogs. I may even get a chapter or two written.

I love it when this frame-of-mind rolls around.

8 Random Facts

I rarely do memes, but after being tagged by BamaGal, I couldn't say no.

8 Random Facts about me:

1. I have been on TV several times, most memorably serving as a guide for the Governor for a televised fishing competition.

2. I have never been arrested, an amazing fact given my past history of alcohol and substance abuse, and wild & crazy behavior.

3. I have hunted with a famous and controversial rock and roll musician who shall remain nameless.

4. I am in the process of writing 3 books, all of which are in various stages of progress.

5. One of my greatest pleasures in life is listening to good music. Out of the hundreds of shows I've seen, one of my all time favorite concerts was The Doobie Brothers, with opening act Bob Seger, in 1976. My younger brother gave me the tickets for my birthday, and I took him to the show. Seger hadn't exploded into stardom yet, and he kicked ass. The 'Doobs still had Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on guitar, one of the greatest guitar players ever, and they kicked ass. And - I saw the show straight. Quite an accomplishment given my personality back then.

6. It took me 5 years to graduate from college, the first few years being on and off academic probation. After year 3, with a GPA under 2.00, I decided it was time to get serious. I set a goal, and made it - graduating with a GPA of 3.001, one of the accomplishments in life I'm most proud of. I have since taken many classes, including the equivalent of an associates degree in programming, never getting a grade other than "A".

7. I used to drive a '72 Chrysler Imperial, the longest production car made at over 22 feet. I loved that car. Once I got it over 135 mph on a lonely interstate in Illinois while my wife slept sprawled out on the huge front seat beside me. Given the condition of the tires at that time, we're both lucky to be here today.

8. I used to own a retail store, with some of the most amazing and memorable customers you could ever imagine. They included:
- A scientist on a nobel prize winning project.
- A cold-blooded murderer.
- A lottery winner.
- An elderly couple who were never apart since she was a precocious young lady who won the heart of a priest who left the priesthood to marry her.
- A musician who played with and headed up bands backing virtually every major R&B and jazz musician since the fifties. He told some amazing stories.
- 2 people shot dead by police in separate incidents, one semi-deserved, the other a screw-up by a young officer that spawned a cover-up involving planted cocaine.
- Countless others, from gang-bangers to federal agents, Hells Angels to homeless people, professional athletes to politicians.

I won't tag anyone else to do this meme, but I couldn't let BamaGal down. And, I kind of enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Linux Experiment

A while back I picked up a Dell Workstation that wasn't working. Great system, P-4, fast, but I had to fix it. After it sat around for a year, I finally got motivated to fix it, loaded up an old copy of Windows 2000 I had laying around, and ended up with a cheap, but excellent quality system.

I started to get this idea that I'd like to play around with Linux, and this was a great opportunity to do that. For those who don't know, Linux is a free, open source, operating system. It's used instead of Windows. Where a full copy of Windows XP or Vista might cost $200, Linux is free. Of course, programs made for Windows won't always run on Linux, such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, and so forth. But there are options - Firefox browser, Open Office, and others take their place, and are also free. And the best thing? It's not Microsoft.

If there is any interest in this subject at all (doubtful), leave a comment and I'll start listing some geeky details.

As I move forward with this I'll let you know how things are going in the great Linux experiment.

By the way: This post was made using my new Linux system - Linux Mantriva Gnome, Dell workstation, D-Link wireless PCI network card - I could go on...

Church response to the mentally ill

An excellent article I found via Liz Spikol's blog.

Church response to the mentally ill

By Peter Andres

Are people of faith with a mental illness different from those who have a physical illness? Much about mental illness still remains a mystery. That's one of the reasons people are tempted to spiritualize the problem. They hope that the person with mental illness would be able to gain spiritual strength and thus gain victory over the illness.

What remains hard for many to understand is that having a mental illness and being a strong person of faith is no different than having a serious physical illness and being a strong person of faith.

How can church leaders encourage support of people with a mental illness? What does a person with a mental illness need to help him or her feel accepted and part of the congregation? How does the Christian message and experience take on meaning under these circumstances? What exactly is mental illness, anyway?

Marja Bergen, in her book Riding the Roller Coaster (Northstone, 1999), describes her experiences living with bipolar disorder. She talks about the many important factors that helped make her life with this illness tolerable and manageable. Having a supportive husband, friends, and service systems were critical, but she also acknowledges the importance of a spiritual home.

Her church friends learned to understand her illness and provided spiritual nurture, especially during difficult times. She speaks about friendships which include a common belief as being the most valuable ones she'll have. But she also admits that she was fortunate in this regard.

Sadly, many people with mental illness who look for spiritual help during difficult times face ignorance, stigma, avoidance, and judgment. The spiritual counsel and prayer these people receive frankly do more harm than good.

Understanding mental illness, even from the professional, scientific perspective, is still very much a work in progress. Schizophrenia and its related disorders, bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), major depression, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders, are all considered mental illnesses. It is estimated that between 15 percent to 20 percent of North Americans will, at some time in their lives, experience a mental illness. Most of these will suffer debilitating depression.

Evidence suggests there are probably organic (biochemical) reasons for the illness, or psycho-social origins -- or a combination of the two. Treatments that deal with the symptoms include medications, psychotherapy or a blend of both.

What is clear to people working in the field is that the experience of the illness goes far beyond living with the symptoms. While a person who has a physical illness -- even cancer -- suffers discomfort and anxiety related to the illness, those who have a mental illness suffer from a constellation of additional issues. These all affect their ability to return to wellness. One of them is stigma, both internally and externally imposed. There's also the loss of self-worth and self-efficacy that might come with a loss of job, friends, marriage and the feelings of being separated from God.

How can the church assist someone in a situation as devastating as this?

1. Church leaders and church members need to know that a mental illness is not the same as a spiritual crisis. Nor is the absence of healing, especially after fervent prayer, a sign of judgment or lack of faith.

2. There should be no judgment about the use of mood altering medications. Medications are commonly needed to treat the bio-chemical causes for the disorder and radically help many keep their symptoms under control.

3. Quality of life for a person suffering from mental illness does not depend on a complete remission from the illness.

What church members need to know is that many experience a recovery which allows them to return to an active and fulfilling life -- but still continue to experience times that are difficult. Recovery from mental illness means: the return of a positive sense of self, usually through meaningful endeavour (work, vocation), a circle of meaningful relationships, a place to live that the person can call his or her own, and a spiritual life that feels a reconnection with God.

The recovering person can be experiencing personal brokenness and limitations, yet have valuable gifts to offer to the church community.

Peter Andres is a regional director for MCC Supportive Care Services, a non-profit charitable organization which supports people with disabilities -- including people with mental health issues. He can be contacted at

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Psych News Headlines

It's been a while since I've perused the world of Psych headlines, and I needed a good laugh today. So here we go...

Facial Expressions May Confuse

A new Northwestern University study of electrical activity in the brain supports this ibelief confirming that deciphering the facial expressions of a person who is trying to conceal fear or other emotions is tricky business.
Ah yes, a well funded study that confirms what every married man knows - when you think you've read her correctly, you're usually wrong.

Breast Implants and Suicide
A recent study suggests the risk of suicide is tripled for women who have undergone cosmetic breast implant surgery.
C'mon - is this trying to tell us that implants really aren't the key to true happiness?

A Mouth Full Of Stress
Experts in the field of periodontology have discovered a strong association between stress and poor oral health.
Smile, and show those pearly whites!

How Women Perceive Men
Do we REALLY want to know?

Hostility Puts Men's Hearts at Risk
Ten years of frequent hostility and depression may harm men's immune systems and put them at risk for heart disease, a U.S. study found.
So it's not a stereotype, the high-strung, hostile men really are at higher risk for heart attack? How much did this study cost?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

This Is A Health Central Top Site!

I'm stoked right now. I received a Top Site award from The Health Central Network. The Health Central Network is one of the world's premier health information web destinations. I've been writing for them for over a year, but had no clue this was coming, or that they even knew of my personal blog. From their site:

Bipolar Top Sites
Below are the web’s very best sites dedicated to bipolar disorder and depression as determined by our team of experts. These sites include small websites and individual blogs and were chosen based on their candid and informative content.  In giving these awards, we hope to recognize the individuals and organizations who share our vision in providing comprehensive, interactive and personal healthcare advice. would like to congratulate our 2007 winners and sincerely thank them for producing high-quality, influential sites in the Bipolar and Depression community!

The Trouble with Spikol
Liz Spikol, managing editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has translated her award-winning column into a blog humorously highlighting everything from struggling with mental illness to how to use a mop.

Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb posts fresh, interesting, and current issues and articles that impact the human psyche.  

McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web
Health Central expert John McManamy devotes McMan's Bipolar Web to helping intelligently manage depression and bipolar disorder.

Wing of Madness
A current and informative Web site and news blog on mental health topics by site creator and HealthCentral Depression Expert Deborah Gray.

Bipolar World
Providing a friendly, interactive environment for members to obtain information, news and support.

Depression Fallout
Anne Sheffield's wisdom, support and compassion helps spread her vision of knowledge as power.
Dedicated primarily to Bipolar II, provides, "quality education on topics where information on the Internet is scattered or non-existent".

Mood Garden
Secure, interactive community providing "Information, Support and Fun" 

Living with a Purple Dog
Patient Expert G.J. Gregory's site covers everything from living with bipolar disorder and raising a bipolar son to musing on current events, music, technology and pop culture.

Nassir Ghaemi
Psychiatrist and writer Nassir Ghaemi's blog is a mix of literary exerpts and current news commentaries written from a philosophical, psychiatric, and mental health perspective.

Slippery Slope

I know this isn’t uncommon, but unfortunately we often don’t pay attention until it happens in our backyard.

Omaha psychiatrist attacked at Lincoln Regional Center dies

Dr. Louis Martin spent the last 18 years examining the minds of the criminally insane.

Thursday, he died from the severe brain injuries that authorities say he suffered at the hands of one of those patients.

Dr. Y. Scott Moore, a fellow clinical director at the regional center, said Martin was tirelessly dedicated to his patients...

"He was very concerned for his patients," Moore said. "He leaned over backwards to make sure he had made an honest evaluation of a patient.

"He was extremely careful — and very empathetic with his patients. This was his life."

Ultimately, it was his death, too.

Eric F. Lewis, 35, had been charged with first-degree assault in the attack on Martin. Lewis, one of Martin's patients at the regional center, had made several vows that he would not be force-fed medication for paranoid schizophrenia.

After Martin testified at a hearing two weeks ago, a Douglas County district judge ordered that Lewis be forcibly medicated so he could regain his competency to stand trial on charges that he sexually assaulted two Omaha women.

Upon his return to the regional center, Lewis wrote an 11-page letter saying he wouldn't take his medicine.

The morning of July 22, a State Patrol investigator said, Lewis then piled his belongings at the front door — and ambushed Martin as he walked inside.

It was an attack that regional center officials say they couldn't have predicted or prevented — despite a history of threats and assaults by Lewis. That history included two assaults on patients at the regional center and a third assault in which he is alleged to have jumped and attacked a Douglas County inmate.

Society has the right to not fear an attack by a person with a history of schizophrenia, who has exhibited violent behavior in the past. But the person suffering from schizophrenia has the right not to be forced into a medicated state against his will. Where on this slippery slope do you draw the line? Or do you?