Category Archives: Mental Illness

Who wants to be Charlie Sheen?

With 2 million followers on Twitter since joining the site a few days ago, it’s unquestionable that Sheen’s celebrity power is worth enough money to fund his addictive, bipolar, goddess-filled lifestyle. America LOVES Charlie Sheen, in all his crazy glory. America LOVES to hate him as well, because he can get away with all the things the average person would be doomed by. His cocaine binges, his self-indulgent media whoring, his ability to become MORE famous for his crazy antics despite causing his show to shut down, makes him almost as invincible as he thinks he is.

I admittedly haven’t followed Sheen’s story closely, and have only caught glimpses of his interviews online, and have seen the stars glistening in my boyfriend’s eyes as he defines Sheen as “awesome,” half jokingly, half… well, half surely wanting to be Charlie Sheen. His 24-year-old blonde Goddesses clutching his side, watching his children, and undoubtedly providing a party in the bedroom, without asking him to grow up — after all, who needs to grow up when you have billions of dollars to blow through?

Our society both glamorizes this type of outrageous celebrity lifestyle, it’s easy to forget these people are human, not gods, and probably have as many downs as they do ups. Yet somehow — even with all the drug use and body-hurting behaviors — most live, and seem, well, happy. Especially Charlie Sheen — maybe he just fakes it well — but he sure seems to love being able to exploit his mania, and have the financial cushion to do whatever he wants in life.

Ok, so maybe YOU don’t want to be Charlie Sheen, but I might. Not to be HIM exactly, but to have enough fame and fortune to live a life of extremes and spontaneity. That may be unhealthy, but I’d agree to some extent that it IS winning. Then again, as someone who struggles with a more mild form of Bipolar, I lust for an even more extreme mania than the hypomania I occasionally experience with Bipolar II. I’ve never had a real manic episode, but — deep down my happiness seems tied to the ability to live manic. Why do I need a lot of money? I want to be able to, when in a manic-type of mood, go to a mall and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and other items. I want to be able to blow a few thousand dollars on a weekend trip to Hawaii, or London, or anywhere else in the world. And I want enough money to buy my friends, because then you don’t have to be the perfect friend, just the one who can afford to keep your selected company around.

I guess I do want to be Charlie Sheen, and with that being my goal in life, I don’t think my dreams are all too realistic. Especially since the female version of Sheen is Lindsay Lohan or something, and I wouldn’t want to be her.

Who would I be today if I stayed on Ritalin since I was 8?

After being prescribed Adderall IR yesterday and subsequently taking a rather high dose in order to understand my brain chemistry and the effects on the weekend, I’ve been up and then down on one prolonged ride. In seeking more information, I’ve read countless stories of people with ADD who say how they’ve been on Ritalin or Adderall since they were very young… 6, 7, 8… and I think to myself, wow, that could be me. And although I have a sinking feeling that I might have made permanent honor roll with the help of the medicine, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to be a little lost… to appreciate exactly why I’ve chosen to alter my brain chemistry now as an adult, instead of not knowing who I am sans medication as a child.

I don’t know how I have no recollection of the days… months(?) when I was on Ritalin as a kid. I was in 5th grade… I do recall the black and yellow pill, and how the nurse would open it up and put it in apple sauce for me to eat in the middle of the day. I liked the apple sauce, though the medicine texture was gross. I have no memory whatsoever of a chance in my ability to focus on the drug. Which is strange given how sensitive I am to meds, and the clear change I felt about 10 minutes after taking just 10mg of Adderall this morning. It  must have done something to me back then as well, but for whatever reason it didn’t turn me into an all star student, and I ended up stopping because it wasn’t helping… or maybe the dosage was never high enough, or I didn’t take it on a regular basis… I don’t recall.

But who would I be today had it worked? Who would I be if in 5th grade some pill worked like magic in saving me from my distractions and daydreaming? Maybe I would have ended up excelling in math and science, spent less time in art, instead dreaming of becoming a doctor or engineer… I’d have vivid memories of my life, as opposed to a film missing so many scenes.

And I’d also… never know who I am as an individual apart from the drugs. It’s sad that there are a lot of kids… and adults out there who had their parents keep them on the meds through the years. I’m excited to move on to this new phase of my life which will be medicated, just to see the person I become. I’m still very grateful to have had the chance to be the person that I’ve been… despite how messed up she is when she’s on her own.

Can’t Sleep Tonight

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve lost my job, which may be why I’m starting to slip into a state of freaked out / depression over the entire situation. It’s not that I’m depressed over losing the position, more so I’m terrified of how long it will take me to find something new. My experience is just so all over the map, with tasks completed that offer no means of quantifying the results.

So I’ve been spending the last 3 hours sending out cover letters and resumes to positions that seem remotely interesting. I’m not at the point yet where I’ll just apply for anything, though soon that point will come. And even then there’s plenty reason to believe I won’t get interviews or hired.
Worst case scenerio, I guess, is I have 6 months unemployment then live cheaply and use my emergency fund to last the rest of 2010 / 2011, all while applying for grad school and hopefully getting in with loans to support me through the coming two years. After that, maybe the job market will look up, or maybe I’ll actually be qualified for a job I want to do.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to freak out about this lacking a job situation.

Bipolar Study Update

As many of you know, I’ve been accepted into a study for Bipolar II depression medication at a local university hospital. The study provides me with 4 months of free medication, tracking of my condition, and a side benefit of $25 grocery store gift cards every time I go in for an appointment (once a week for the first 6 weeks then every other week for the remainder of the study.)

The study is designed to find out if lithium, zoloft, or the combination of both is best for Bipolar II depression. Since I’m obviously depressed (I’m still not certain I’m bipolar, but whatever, the meds are for depression anyway. I’m either ultra rapid cycling bipolar or just depressed with random extremely excited and elevated moods throughout my life.)

Lots of people have expressed concern that I won’t ever know what I’m on, since they can’t tell me what I was on until after the entire study is completed years from now. If the drugs work, then it sucks that I can’t know what I was on. If they don’t work, then it also kind of sucks because I don’t know what not to try in the future.

But the benefits of participating, I feel, far outweigh the negatives. Having ADD, I struggle to take pills on a regular basis. The structure that comes with participating in this study is really helpful. I was given this massive pillbox that where each day of the week and each time of day has a separate box for the pills I am supposed to take. I also have to track my moods on a daily basis, which is really good to do, especially when I’m on medication to see if it’s working.

I started last night taking one blue pill, which is either 300mg of Lithium or a placebo. I take that twice a day. I didn’t feel a lot of side effects last night, just some dry mouth that could have been from not drinking enough water.

This month I took one blue pill and one white pill, which is either 25mg of Zoloft or a placebo. I could be on both zoloft and lithium or just one of them, but I’m definitely on something right now. And I definitely am having some side effects. But I can’t tell which drug they are caused by…

Still, I’m having issues with dry mouth. I am extremely thirsty. I don’t drink a lot of water normally and I’ve already gone through almost two cups of it and I’m still very dehydrated. My mood, overall, is calmer than normal. But that might be due to half the staff at my office being out today, and looking forward to a 3 day weekend.

I’m curious what will happen when they up my dosage later in the study. SSRI’s and lithium aren’t supposed to really help your mood right away so either I’m really susceptible to the placebo effect or my brain chemistry is just very sensitive. I don’t have any other side effects yet that I can tell.

Have you been on either of these medications before? What were your side effects?

Get Your Free Drugs Here: Bipolar II Study

Well, I’m one appointment closer to getting free drugs to treat my Bipolar II depression. I qualified for a study at a local hospital where I’ll be given either Zoloft, Lithium or Both (I’ll be getting something, but I won’t know which combo) and went today to get blood work for the final check before they give me the meds. Assuming everything comes back normal (and after I take an EKG next week) I’ll be given the medication and set up to track my moods for the coming 16 weeks.

My psychiatrist gave me a prescription for Celexa but I’m holding off on buying that until I do this study. I think I’ll learn about myself and my mental state by carefully tracking my interaction with medication, especially since I won’t really know what meds I’m on.

In addition to getting free meds, I also get a $25 grocery store gift certificate every time I go in for an appointment (I’ll be going every week for the first six weeks of the study, then every other week for the remainder of the study). It’s not a bad deal… I can basically pay for my groceries for a month and get free meds. I do have to let them poke me with needles more often than I’d like and accept that I might be on a medication that may not be perfect for me, but with any mental health med you have to experiment to find the right medication and dosage. Plus, without knowing what I’m on I’ll avoid the placebo effect. I’m looking forward to seeing if these meds alter the way I think and feel in the coming months.

Group Therapy: Cost Effective, but is it Helpful?

As my loyal readers and those who peek at this blog on any given occasion know, I suffer from anxiety, depression and ADHD. That’s not to say my life is miserable, but I’ve gotten myself into one of those ruts and decided to seek help. Due to refusing to go through insurance for mental health therapy (until a healthcare bill passes that does not allow denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions), I have to be careful about my monthly costs to get help. Because it’s all out of pocket. (*since I have a high-deductible HSA account the only real benefit of going through my insurance company would be to have the fee go towards my deductible. Group therapy isn’t covered anyway, and mental health therapy for non serious conditions (ie ADHD, anxiety, minor depression) isn’t covered much either.)

There’s one doctor who is supposedly an expert in ADHD who, located nearby my work, charges $700 for the initial consultation. What? I know I live in a wealthy area but come on. That’s absurd. I found a career counselor and therapist who offered a free consultation. She normally charges over $200 per hour but has package rates. Ultimately, though, I decided I need to see a psychiatrist first to find out if I need to be medicated. I kind of feel emotionally out of control. And while I had going the pill route, at this point I’m willing to try anything. The psychiatrist cost $280 for one appointment. A short, 20 minute follow-up appointment will be $150. She prescribed me Celexa (which I still need to get and find out how much that will cost me.)

But I know weekly or biweekly therapy would help greatly. And given my current state, weekly therapy would be best. I shopped around and tried to figure out the most cost-efficient option. That led me to group therapy. While the rates were $75 per session, I was quoted $50 per session to get started, with her hope that I’d also seek out individual therapy twice a month.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it, “Group Therapy Offers Savings in Numbers.”

After two sessions of “process-based” group so far, I’m attempting to weigh the pros and cons of this treatment…

Pros:

– more affordable than individual therapy. $50 – $75 per 1 1/2 session.
– can afford to meet weekly, and its sometimes nice to just have that safe space that often.
– the value of your therapy doesn’t depend soley on your therapist
– you get to find out what other people think about you and your actions
– other people are counting on you to show up so you go even if you don’t feel like it
– you’re required to pay for every session in a month even if you don’t go, so you make an effort to go to every session.

Cons:
– even though the session is 1 1/2 hours long, it goes fast, and often isn’t about you
– you’re required to pay for every session even if you have to go out of town or get sick
– the benefit of the therapy depends on the dynamic of the group
– most people in group are also seeing individual therapists, it’s hard when you’re not
– the therapist has an odd role in trying to ask everyone how they’re feeling at the moment, but holding back on actual counseling (that’s for the individual sessions, which cost a lot more per person, after all.)
– while people are supposed to agree to at least 12 weeks when they sign up, people come and go. I can already tell the true value of the group comes from one that has been going a long time with the same people. Granted, bringing in someone new every once in a while and dealing with people leaving (abandonment) is theraputically good. However, too much of that and all you talk about is how you feel about people leaving and joining.

Have you ever had group therapy? What was your experience like?

Career Counseling, Psychiatry, Group Counseling, $$$

I went to a career counselor this morning. It cost $125 for an hour, but she knew I was trying to pack a lot into one session so it turned into more like 1.5 hours. She definitely didn’t have to spend that much time with me, and I think it was money well spent.

While I don’t have a clear picture on what my career should be yet, she did help me clarify why I’m not happy in my current job, and common themes that have been prevalent in my life (my inability to deal with authority, my love of creative pursuits, etc.) She sent me home with a ton of reading material including a workbook on communication, which she said is a birthday gift to me (oh, yea, it’s my 26th birthday today. I’m not sure how I feel about that.)

One interesting part of the session was when she had me identify, of the following four areas, which is most important to me, and rank the rest — people, ideas, data, and things.

I ranked them in this order: ideas, people, things, data

Then she asked me what order my current job had those things…

People, data, things, ideas.

Right, so I’m depressed because what I value most — ideas — is least valued in my current position. The question still remains – how do I find a job that values ideas most?

In the meantime, the counselor convinced me to try to stay at this position for as long as possible, or at least until I have a game plan for something else in place. Which makes sense, it would be stupid to quit right now. And even stupider to put myself in a position to get fired.

I might go back to see her again, but in the meantime she’s given me a bunch of tests and quizzes to fill out to find out more about myself and my values. I think I’m pretty aware of my values and wants, but it helps to put them all down on paper.

I also have an appointment with a psychiatrist next weekend, but I think I’m going to put that on hold because I just got accepted into the second phase of screening for a drug study on bipolar disorder. I’m not 100% sure I have bipolar disorder because I don’t necessarily have long periods of mania, but my mood is all over the freaking map at any given time of day. I know I have depression and depressive episodes, I’m just not clear on the mania. I don’t recall every being so hyper for days straight that I couldn’t sleep or that I’d do something risky. However, I do get super manic when I feel like I’ve accomplished something and it usually sends me on a skyrocketing mood trip for a few hours or even a day. A therapist I saw a few weeks ago thinks I might have rapid cycling bipolar. I don’t know what I have. Something is up with me and my moods, anyway.

So the option is to spend $285 on one appointment with a psychiatrist or to get screened for bipolar for free. I chose free. I have no idea what the quality of the screening will be, but at least they can tell me if I have bipolar or just depression. I can’t imagine I have pure depression because I go up and down. I know people who are always down, feeling empty and agitated. That’s just not me. I have my down phases, when I can barely move, I’m totally exhausted, and find no meaning in life. Then I have my up phases where the world can’t moved fast enough for me. Yet I feel “depressed” in my manic phases too, it’s just a total different kind of depression. I guess it’s more irritability and panic than depression. I just hate answering questions about when I had a manic phase or a depressed phase and how long it lasted. I have no idea. I just know that I’m not depressed as of this second.

In December I start group therapy, which is $50 a session. I think that may help me a lot, at least with my social issues. And my social issues are a HUGE problem which hinder my ability to live to my potential.

This is all costing a lot. On top of this, I’m getting some dental work done which is costing a few hundred dollars above what insurance covers.

I just know I need to sort out my mental health issues. I’ve gone through so much counseling / therapy and even some medication in the past, but it’s all been for anxiety or depression or ADD. I’ve never been treated for bipolar. Maybe that’s the problem.

the nightmare that is figuring out taxes and health insurance as a freelancer

the absolutely marvelous news is that i just landed a steady, well-paid, 30 hrs/week contract gig for the next three months.

the bad news it that now i have to figure out how on earth to get myself decent health insurance… and how to sort out my income and expenses for tax season.

contract work is great because of the flexibility, but all the additional “work” I have to do to be self-employed is rather terrifying.

first off — health insurance: i already know i will be denied if i tell the truth on my health insurance applications, because i took lexapro ONE MONTH for “major depression.” On the Tonik health insurance application, you get to click off your pre-existing medical conditions. Guess what category major depression falls into? “Bipolar disorder/Major Depression/Schizophrenia”

Um. I went to a psychiatrist for about two months, took meds for one month, and i kind of feel better now.

My psychiatrist kind of warned me about the potential health insurance issues, but she wasn’t very clear about it. She just said that she doesn’t like working with health insurance — because it takes her forever to get paid. And then when she was considering diagnosing me with bipolar, she asked me if it would be ok to note that on my diagnosis form, since most clients don’t want that on there, as it could hurt their chances of getting health insurance later on.

First off, I was rather ignorant at the time, thinking that health insurance existed to help you get better (wrong) and that it would be cheaper for me to use my $15 co-pay visits with a ‘major depression’ diagnosis as opposed to 50% pay for ADD or anxiety or anything else that I probably actually have (I doubt I have major depression. It’s probably recurring, but I go through phases in my life. Life is hard and sometimes i’m sad and sometimes I need someone to talk to, but I don’t think this is a life-long condition). Anyway…

So I got my $15 visits, which was nice for the two months I say my psychiatrist and my therapist. And now? Well, chances are I won’t be able to get health insurance. Because apparently whatever it is I have is just as bad as SCHIZOPHRENIA in the eyes of my potential insurers.

I spoke with a health insurance agent who, off the record, basically suggested that i take the risk and lie on my application, because that would be the only way i could get decent insurance. but, of course, then i could basically screw myself over by doing that, since health insurance companies could find out that i lied and make me pay for EVERYTHING since when i signed up for their insurance. that’s a scary thought.

Or – do I just be honest and watch as my applications get denied? I haven’t got my forms for Cobra yet, but I’m sure that will be ridiculously expensive. I had really good health insurance (Blue Shield PPO) through my employer with a $250 deductible, and now I’m looking at whatever I can get with a $1500-$5000 deductible and poor benefits. And to get that I might still have to lie.

But I should have health insurance. I realize it’s stupid to be living without health insurance. I just am not sure what kind to get. Basically I need the doctor to prescribe me Yasmin birth control pills each month (and hopefully for them not to cost me a fortune) — I need “Yasmin” specifically for hormonal imbalances and such, but unfortunately getting cheaper pills through something like planned parenthood will not let me get that brand.

Besides health insurance, there’s the issue of taxes. Gosh, I’m so behind of keeping tabs on what I’ve made in contract work this year. I know, bad me. I just set up a google docs spreadsheet to start taking detailed notes from hereonout, but I’m not 100% sure what I’ve made thus far this year. In any case, I know that taxes are going to take a HUGE CHUNK out of my income, which is fine, they did that before, but it’s just really hard to determine how much taxes will be when I don’t even know how much work I will have each month.

At least now I have a stable three month gig where I will be making $3300 a month, assuming they like me and want to keep me for the entirety of the contracted position. After that, either I get to stay on board, or it’s back to the drawing board. We’ll see. Meanwhile, my goal is to pick up one or two freelance web design projects per month, where I’d make anywhere from $500-$1000 per project (although I’m starting out with really cheap rates of like $200 per project.)

Anyway… for the next three months, my ‘income’ before taxes, minus any additional web design projects, should be $3700, which includes the contract gig and another ongoing contract project where I make $400 a month writing a few articles for my uncle’s marketing firm. $3700 a month is definitely not a bad wage, but after taxes, and health insurance, I’m not sure how much that actually is. It’d be something like $2700 a month or something? So after rent, that’s $1650 a month. Phone bill, gym membership and cable tv/internet are like, $200, so then I have $1450 left. Ok, not bad. Health insurance, assuming I go for a decent kind, will be like $300 a month. So that’s maybe $1150 left for food, entertainment and such.

Ok, I guess that’s not awful. But I just am scared about not understanding taxes and all the complicated stuff that goes into expensing things and such. Meanwhile, I just read that self-employed individuals pay a lot more in taxes because usually the company pays for like half of the taxes, but when you work for yourself you are your own company.

So. I guess I have a lot of figuring out to do. In the meantime, I have to wrap up three projects I’m working on. I’m writing some company for a startup (basically, I’m writing all the copy that will go on their site), then I have to finish this one website for a client, and then I’ve got to wrap up the basic design for a project I’m doing in a ‘trade’ deal with a personal trainer. 5 hours of web design for 4 hours of personal training. It’s not a bad deal, considering she charges $78 an hour and I charge $50. Anyway, I can tell she’s getting antsy to see the page (I already had three training sessions this week, but I told her I’d show her something this weekend.) Well, I’ve got to finish that. I’m trying my darndest to figure out Flash because A) she seems to really like pages with Flash in them and B) I need at least one site for my portfolio that incorporates Flash, so I can show clients that I can atleast put some basic animation on their pages.

Anyway.

Life is going pretty good, minus all of this confusion. My birthday is coming up next week. I’m turning 24. Happy, uh, confused birthday to me.

Ready for a little bit of a rant?


So, in short, my bank is driving me mad. I have no clue if all of this mess is my bank’s fault, or my fault, or Vanguard’s fault, but I’m really pissed off and to be honest I feel a bit bipolar about my whole financial situation right now.

Remember those two accounts I opened at Vanguard for $3000 each? The ones that were slowly but surely gaining interest that had me jumping for joy?

Well, I come home today to check my accounts over on my portfolio on BoA… and what do I see? They’re gone. Somehow my bank decided to buy negative shares back so now my investments are back to 0. I have no idea what’s going on. The mutual fund purchases were never posted to my checking account. But Vanguard’s site said they transferred. What is going on?

I called BoA and the woman I talked to didn’t understand anything. Of course it’s 8:30 on a Sunday night so customer service is closed.

Btw, two days ago they apparently turned off my debit card for “suspicious activity.” I’ve yet to have it turned back on. I decided that my transfers of $6000 to Vanguard must have freaked out BoA, but according to the person I talked to on their help line, the activity on my account should not effect my debit card and vice versa.

I appreciate my bank trying to protect me from fraudulent activity, but gosh, the reason I haven’t moved my cash to an online bank is because I like being able to go in to a banking center for help. Except the banking centers these days, at least BoA’s banking centers, are entirely useless. I mean, there are some nice people who work there, and I even found a BoA that has cookies to munch on while you’re waiting. That’s nice. I like cookies. But what I don’t like is how difficult it is to manage such simple things like transferring my money to an outside mutual fund. I mean, it seemed like such a concept was alien to this customer service woman. She couldn’t quite grasp the idea of someone transferring her money FROM a checking account TO a mutual fund.

Oy.

Ok, my rant is just about done now because there’s nothing I can do until the morning when I’ll have the opportunity to call up customer service and whine to them. I e-mailed Vanguard because maybe they can tell me more than what BoA doesn’t understand.

I’m really getting fed up with BoA. It sucks, because I do like having a local banking center where I can deposit my funds. And I LOVE my mini BoA debit card for my keychain – I use it all the time and… I really think I’m the only person in the entire world taking advantage of the miniature debit card because every time I present it as a form of payment, the person ringing up the bill laughs out loud and says something along the lines of “wow, is this real?”

Anyway, I’m just really sad that the $30 some-odd dollars I supposedly made last week on my mutual fund is no more. I’m not even going to get hopeful about Vanguard being able to somehow place the purchase date on May 30 so the interest remains the same.

*end rant.*