Thursday, September 17, 2009

No MD? No problem

After meeting with my MD last week, I learned that I don't actually need a doctor's help to wean myself off of the antidepressant Paxil.

That's right.

I can do whatever I want; whatever method "works for me" to get off the drug. And in case it doesn't "work out" I have a year's worth of Paxil I can have refilled regularly at my local pharmacy.

It's a Brave New World in medicine.

Anyone who has ever received health "care" is probably already familiar with the "hurry up and wait" policy the medical industry has adopted. Get to the office early, wait; get in the examining room with the uncomfortable table and shiny stainless steel equipment, wait some more; see the doctor, get the hell out.

You're likely to have a more meaningful exchange with the "Sandwich Artists" at Subway.

I suppose it should come as no surprise; everything in society is on an "expedited" mode. Meals (fast food), conversations (do we every really STOP talking either via phone, Facebook, Twitter, blog), shopping (hello credit cards).

But really? Getting off Paxil can be painful... even when done correctly (see "withdrawal symptoms)

Her cavalier attitude was very troubling to me but I guess it is really just par for the course.

My next course of action: Contact a psychiatrist for real advice and a concrete plan of attack. Try not to be discouraged.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Life Less Medicated

I am thinking about ending an important relationship in my life.

It's a relationship that has lasted for nearly a decade - but I think it might be time to move on.

I tried once to break it off, but ending a relationship is kind of complicated when your partner is an antidepressant.

Paxil and I first became introduced the summer of my junior year of high school. Putting it simply: I felt bad, Paxil made me feel better.

The healthy way to end a relationship with a drug like Paxil is pretty much the opposite of the healthy way to end a relationship with another person: You have to do it very slowly, or it will be painful. For people, the reverse is usually true.

Now, you might be wondering why I would want to write about something so "personal" in a public blog; it's not my personality to be so free with information about certain aspects of my life. At one time, I may have been hesitant to mention that I am on an antidepressant - there was a stigma attached. But times have changed.

ABC recently (August) reported that the number of people taking antidepressants has doubled from 1996 to 2005.

In 2005, about 27 million people (10 percent of all Americans) were taking antidepressants.

So you see, I am in good company.

I was told a long time ago the reason I was depressed was because not enough of a certain chemical was being produced in my brain; this could be true. Since then it has never been confirmed, nor denied. How could it? As far as I know there is still no way to hack into people's brains and measure chemical production.

The Mayo clinic calls clinical depression a "chronic illness" like diabetes. If this is the case, I will need to be on medication for life.

But because there is no simple answer, no one single "cause" of depression, our friends in the medical community have to address it on a case by case basis.

My case: I started on Paxil during my teenage years. Some people might consider this a difficult time in life. I did.

I am a really different person from the person I was back then (as most people are) and my perspective has changed. Part of that change is attributable to the experiences of life. I would like to see if the person I am now, in a dramatically different environment, can live sans-medication. If I can't, count me as a statistic supporting the theory that depression is more biochemical and genetic.

I can live with that.

But first I want to know if I can live a life that is less medicated.
*To those nice people in my life who are inclined to worrying: I am doing this with medical oversight.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Don't Speak (says it all)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"To Blog or Not to Blog..." (you know the rest)

I will not be getting a raise this year, cost-of-living or otherwise; instead my company is giving me a blog.

I am happy because this is a total validation of my blog-worthiness; I am sad because I would rather have money.

I tried to explain this "raise" (in esteem, if nothing else) to my mother.

MOM: What is a blog?

ME: Like my personal blog, but for work.

MOM: I guess I don't really understand what a blog is...

She was not alone.

Others were equally puzzled:

OTHERS: So, what is the point of giving you a blog?

ME: To drive people to our Web site and engage readers.

OTHERS: Like, to drive revenue and advertising?

ME: Ummm... not specifically, but I suppose that could happen as a result...

While immense revenue opportunities may exist in "blogging" I am fairly incompetent when it comes to the business side of things. As far as I am concerned a blog is an Internet Soap Box where I can spew forth personal narratives (in this case, they would pertain to my 9-5).

My task was to devise an over-riding theme for this blog. My boss had a couple of ideas and so did I. None were all that compelling and I was still not quite accepting the idea.

As a journalist, you don't want to bare too much of your soul to your "readers" because then they can make inferences about you. I write about my dog, for example, and something I might find humorous (trying to pull tick-like bumps off of her body for several minutes before realizing they are her doggy nipples) and before you know it an angry reader will be reporting me to PETA and taking my dog away. (Come on, it's an easy mistake to make).

Of course I wouldn't dream of mentioning in a professional blog how Ella likes to rifle through the bathroom garbage can during my "time of the month" and sample used sanitary items; or how she had a bad habit of ripping the crotches out of my dirty underwear (now she just licks them until they are soggy and I can wash them clean). I would only write about such really disturbing things in a blog where I can maintain some semblance of (perceived ) anonymity.

But how can I write about myself and my very human life, when I need my "readers" to believe I am somehow above those human idiosyncrasies that can be quickly translated into credibility damaging biases.

Journalists are at best shamans, and at worst voyeurs. We can't do anything or join any clubs that might jeopardize our precious journalistic integrity. I recently found a club I was interested in joining, the League of Women Voters, which is essentially a government watchdog organization - much like the Fourth Estate. It promotes political involvement (as opposed to the prevailing public apathy). Supposedly the organization is bipartisan. However, leaders at the national level often take a stand on certain issues, and I can't have that coming back to tarnish my shiny journalistic standards.

Sometimes I feel like I am like Scrooge in a "Christmas Carole" - I can only see (and report) what the ghosts are showing me; I am not allowed to impact the outcome of the events I see.

But I should write a blog.

I can't help but believe that "sharing" with "readers" in this way will call into question my journalistic integrity in everything I write OUTSIDE of the blogisphere.

I guess it will be a "fun" little experiment.

Or the beginning of the end.