Tag Archives: depression

Just Say No to Drugs?

So I just heard that Jen McCarthy and Jim Carrey have broken up after five years.  And while I am certainly bummed that these two couldn’t work it out, it’s the reason why they broke up which I find more upsetting than anything else. 

Supposedly, Carrey is having another serious bout of depression, disappearing for days at a time, or holing himself up at his home, and not taking any calls.  Additionally, he is refusing to take any meds, despite of having a lifelong history of depression.  He has taken Prozac for short durations, but refused to be on any anti-depressant long-term,  as stated in a Larry King interview in 2008:

KING: Didn’t you suffer from depression?
CARREY: Yes, yes. I’m on a manic high right now. Can’t you tell?
KING: How did you get through that to this?
CARREY: Well, that’s another thing. You know at the risk of like opening up the whole Tom Cruise Prozac argument, you know, I don’t disagree in many ways. I think Prozac and things like that are very valuable to people for short periods of time. But I believe if you’re on them for an extended period of time, you never get to the problem. You never get to see what the problem is, because everything is just kind of OK. And so, you don’t deal. And people deal when they get desperate.
KING: So how did you do it?
CARREY: I take supplements.
KING: Vitamins?
CARREY: Yes — well, it’s not — well, it is vitamins. But it’s also certain elements of the brain like Tyrosine and hydroxytryptophan that they’re treating depression with now. It is a natural substance that’s in your brain. Instead of being a Serotonin inhibitor, which just uses the serotonin you have and Prozac and things like that — it just uses the Serotonin you have and it doesn’t allow it go back into the receptor. It metabolizes your serotonin after a while and you have to keep taking more and more to feel good. This actually creates dopamine and creates serotonin. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s amazing. I’m going to talk a lot about it in the near future.
KING: You’re going to write about it?
CARREY: Yes.

I don’t know, is it me or am I the only one who’s really getting tired of actors pretending to have medical degrees?  There’s nothing wrong with becoming an educated patient, and I believe each of us must be our own best advocate, and not solely reliant on a hierarchically organized, paternalistic medical model.  That said….um DUDE…you suffer from depression, a scientifically studied, neurologically oriented mental health disorder.  And a couple of chewable Flintstones ain’t gonna cut it. 

I also know some are going to blame his former girl Jen for his anti-drug stance, because most people believe she’s anti-vaccine when in actuality, she does believe in vaccines – just on a more delayed schedule and without unnecessary additives.  That said, she’s another one who comes off as a medical expert on the talk show circuit, and the last time I checked, you don’t get an MD from having hosted MTV. I’m just saying…

Usually, I take things that celebrities say about as seriously as I take the babblings of a toddler, but in this case, I take issue with what’s going on here.  I don’t think he doesn’t take his meds because he wants to deal with the root cause of his problems, I think Jim Carrey doesn’t take his meds because he’s uncomfortable with the stigma attached to mental illness.  Because by taking his meds – and taking them for the long-term – that means he has to put himself into the category of people who are chronically mentally ill…and I guess while it’s ok to wear your girlfriend’s thong bathing suit in front of the paparazzi, it’s not ok to have to take ‘crazy pills’ for the rest of your life.

I guess I’m taking this personally because I used to be Jim Carrey.  I too have suffered from depression on and off throughout my life, and for thirty-plus years refused to take any meds (something I wrote about here).  I get how difficult it is to accept that depression is the shadow which will haunt the corners of your house for the rest of your life.  I understand how terrifying it is to think that others think you ‘crazy’ or ‘unstable’.  I also understand that when you’re in the midst of your disorder, your normative, cognitive rationale will fail you, and while you think you’re handling your disorder just fine – without therapy, without medication – everyone around you bites their lip while watching you flaying in the ocean of your own despair.

After thirty-odd years of being so staunchly against antidepressants, you know what finally turned me around to at least giving them a try?  It was a fifteen-year-old girl. 

I was at my cousin’s bar mitzvah, and his older sister – who is beautiful and charming, smart and funny – stood in front a synagogue audience of about 500 people and talked about not only how much she loved her little brother, but how she envied him his social ease and his laissez fare attitude.  She talked about her need to take anti-depressant and anti anxiety meds, and how she wished it all came as easily for her as it did for him.  Fifteen years old. 

And I sat there in awe of her as she joked about her struggles in front of family and strangers alike.  And if it was even possible, I loved her more…which made me realize how ridiculous I had been all these years, fearing that others would judge me.  Because I certainly didn’t judge her.  In the end, by releasing my own need for control, I regain a part of myself that would have otherwise alluded me…the part that feels joy and gratitude, even in the middle of the chaos…the part that is able to distinguish real problems from distractions….the part of me others feel at ease around.

I wish that for Jim Carrey. I wish that for us all.

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An Ode to Psychopharmacology

vintage_cymbalta.jpg Get your dirt in. image by thessa67

I used to be one of those people that was very anti-psych-meds. 

I grew up around an array of fabulously charismatic and complicated women, who seemed to pop a pill at the drop of a hat – and a glove, a scarf, a handbag, or a kid.  Of course, oftentimes these mothers-little-helpers were often washed down with a bucket-sized glass of wine.  I was the only kid in high school I knew that would invite her girlfriends over for an afterschool wine & cheese party and think nothing of it. 

We were like a cross between Valley of the Dolls and Bev Hills 90210.

Anyway, even though I myself have also suffered from depression on and off for years (having two major depressive disorder episodes to boot), I was still staunchly anti-meds…afraid I was going to turn into one of the cast of characters, starring me as the neophyte of the serotonin-sauced, witchy women, family coven.  I loved these women to pieces, but I was afraid that the drugs would cloud my judgements – make me put up with people and situations longer than I should.  Always letting the good fight die for the sake of peace.  So I resisted, and I suffered needlessly.

girl.jpg girl fight image by saysaysara

(A day in the life of the demons in my head)

But when my last episode almost led to the collapse of my marriage, I gave up the fight that didn’t seem to be doing anyone any good anymore. It took me a while to get it right too.  I started off with Zoloft, and while it certainly worked well, I also gained close to twenty pounds while taking it (why do they even offer possible weight gaining drugs to women? Don’t we have enough to contend with??).

mytattoo.jpg chubby fairy girl image by braddog98

Then I tried Lexapro, which did absolutely nothing for me.  Now, most would have given up by now, but I held on – largely because with a husband and two young daughters, I couldn’t afford NOT to find a solution.  I didn’t want my girls growing up with a depressed and lacklustered mom as a role model.  I didn’t want them programmed to think that life is something to be endured and survived. So onto med #3.

cymbalta.jpg cymbalta image by casperthefrendlyghost

Meet my new best friend. Cymbalta.

It took a little while to kick in, but man…was it worth the wait. Unlike the others before her, Cymbalta increases levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine, which helps enhance my general feeling of well being, and even gives me an occasional sense of euphoria.  I have a pretty good life, and that in and of itself contribute to these feelings, but I also notice that I’m able to let the little things go, and actually fight the big fights with a sense of optimism and hope instead of futility and rage. I used to ruminate the same idea in my head over and over and over, making myself batty in the process. 

Now, I find if I can’t figure something out, or plans are not falling into place like I want, I have an extra layer of patience and fortitude I didn’t have before. Of course, some of that is maturity, but I can’t negate the positive chemical enhancement as well.  Instead of masking my life, I’m actually able to see it – and the people I love within it – more clearly.  By giving up the illusion of control I actually gained a better version of myself.  Which is even better than control – it’s being on top of the world.

So, there’s that.