Category Archives: Chronic Illness

It Must be Depression

Hard to believe one lousy little blue pill can make so much difference. And I’m not talking about Viagra either.

I spent 4 and a half months unemployed and UNINSURED. Was spending five hundred dollars a month for my medication, but couldn’t afford that little blue pill (It cost more than all my other meds combined). So I thought I could get by with the two antidepressants I could afford. Alas, I’ve come to discover since being employed and having medical coverage that I really do need that drug. It does make a significant difference in how I feel.

I sure could have used that medication as I have had a lot to cope with over the past four months. Apparently I have been too depressed to blog as well. But I was also dealing with a family crisis. My mom was critically ill and hospitalized for nearly two months. She is recovering quite well now, thank goodness, but I spent many hours by her bedside, thinking and praying. I realize now that perhaps I could have coped better if I had all my medication. Damn biochemistry!

Anyone else struggling?

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Dramatic Increase in Antidepressant Use

From Medscape Online:

October 20, 2011 — Antidepressant use by Americans has risen dramatically in the last 5 years, with almost 1 in 10 individuals older than 12 years now taking these agents, according to data released from the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

However, the survey, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also showed that less than one third of those taking a single antidepressant between 2005 and 2008, and less than half of those taking multiple antidepressants, visited a mental health professional in the past year. Those who did make such visits were significantly more likely to be men than women.

“Females are more likely than males to take antidepressant medication at every level of depression severity,” writes lead author Laura A. Pratt, PhD, from the Office of Analysis and Epidemiology at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in Hyattsville, Maryland.

The study was published online October 19 as an NCHS Data Brief.

400% Increase

According to a 2010 report released by the CDC, antidepressants were the most frequently prescribed prescription drug between 2005 and 2008 for adults aged 18 to 44 years, and the third most commonly used drug for all ages.

That report also showed that use of antidepressants increased by almost 400% for all ages from between 1988 and 1994 to the period between 2005 and 2008.

The NHANES is a continuous survey conducted by the CDC’s NCHS. It focuses on the health of the US population and consists of a household interview and a visit to a mobile examination center for a physical examination.

For this analysis, data were examined for 12,637 participants aged 12 years and older between 2005 and 2008.

Questions from the Patient Health Questionnaire were included in the NHANES to assess depression symptom severity.

Results showed that almost one third of people with severe depressive symptoms took antidepressants during the study. Although more than 60% of these individuals took this class of medication for longer than 2 years, 14% had taken it for more than 10 years.

“In general, there was no significant difference between males and females in length of use,” report the researchers.

Other findings included that:

  • 10.8% of all Americans older than 12 years take antidepressants;
  • 15.4% of women older than 12 years take antidepressants vs 6.0% of men;
  • those numbers increase to 22.8% vs 8.5%, respectively, for those aged 40 to 59 years;
  • for all ages with severe depressive symptoms, 39.9% of women and 21.0% of men take antidepressants; and
  • whites are more likely to take antidepressants (13.6%) than are blacks (3.9%) or Mexican-Americans (2.7%).

No variation in use was found between different income groups.

“According to the American Psychiatric Association guidelines, medications are the preferred treatment for moderate to severe depressive symptomatology,” write the investigators.

“The public health importance of increasing treatment rates for depression is reflected in Healthy People 2020, which includes national objectives to increase treatment for depression in adults and treatment for mental health problems in children,” they add.

2005-2008 NCHS Data Brief. Published online October 19, 2011

Uncomfortably Numb

Deep experience is never peaceful. —- Henry James

I’m doing most of what I’m supposed to be doing…getting enough sleep (probably too much), taking my meds, seeing the therapist, eating so-so, being somewhat social. I just feel blah. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do anything outside of going to work. I’m not particularly fatigued, I’m just very unmotivated and I don’t care.

My depression seemed to worsen when my son left for college. He hasn’t gone that far, just downtown to the urban art school campus, about 30 miles away. I still get to see him once in a while and we talk/text regularly. But living alone has been a huge change for me. I don’t seem to be adjusting very well at all. I’ve been lettting the cleaning go, avoiding the kitchen as much as possible, and spending a lot of time vegging. This is so not like me. I’m typically a very tidy person, like to cook, and like to be productive. I feel so out of sorts.

I had great plans for cleaning up the house when my son left. Having him and his friends tramping in and out tending to make for more cleaning up, and I thought of it as this great opportunity to really get things clean. I haven’t even been up to his room except to go to the attic and retrieve a few things. It just seems too overwhelming.

I guess this is what they call empty nest syndrome. I never imagined it could be such a setback in my mood. I’m sure I could be getting more exercise and all of that good stuff, but now I don’t see anything shifting me out of the numb spot. And it’s not very comfortable here either.

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week  takes place October 2-8 and is an
opportunity to learn more about serious mental illnesses such as major
depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Mental illness is a medical problem. One in four adults
experiences a mental health problem in any given year. One in 17 lives with
serious, persistent mental illness.

The good news is that treatment does work and recovery is possible. Unfortunately, less than one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with a diagnosed illness receive treatment. The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it.

That’s why Mental Illness Awareness Week, sponsored by NAMI, is so important. They want people to understand mental illness and join a dialogue in our community. The more people know, the better they can help themselves or help their loved ones get the help and support they need.

The Price of Health

I just need to rant a bit about the cost of health insurance. Having been between jobs, I have had the misfortune of paying for my health insurance through COBRA. To maintain health insurance for myself and my son is costing me approximately $1200 per month. That’s just obscene. And yes, I have tried to apply for an individual policy and have been rejected twice due to having “too many medical problems.” I’m guessing having any problem is too many for an insurer. They only want to insure the perfectly healthy of course. I didn’t choose chronic illness. I didn’t choose to have to take three different and expensive medications to manage my Depression. It’s not like I have cancer or something really expensive to treat. Of course they probably look at the possibility of needing medication, therapy and the potential for hospitalization as just too much risk.

So, needless to say, I am a bit depressed about the enormous amount of money I am spending on insurance. And I still have copays for medications (ranging from $15-60) and for doctor visits ($30). So I am probably spending more like $1400-1500 a month on health care. I truly can’t understand why we can’t have universal health care.

I’ll be using up almost all of my pitiful retirement account to pay for the insurance for the next three months…until I can get on my new employer’s plan. I just hope I don’t have any really serious health problems in the meantime. They say that’s how most people lose their homes, etc. is due to catastrophic illness/injury. I’ll just have to say my prayers.

The Most Common Disability

From NPR’s health blog, SHOTS:

More than 1 billion people in the world are living with some sort of
disability, according to a new international survey. That’s about 15 percent of the world’s population, or nearly one of every 7 people.

The numbers come from a joint effort by the World Health Organization and the World Bank. The last time anyone tried to figure out the prevalence of disabilities was back in the 1970s, when WHO figured it was about 10 percent. The current report suggests the 15 percent estimate will grow as the world’s population ages.

Like the 1970s numbers, today’s figures are at best an approximation. Many
countries don’t collect numbers carefully, and definitions of disability differ
from place to place. The World Bank/WHO folks sought out tabulations of people who have trouble seeing, hearing, walking, remembering, taking care of
themselves or communicating. Worldwide, the most common disability in people under the age of 60 is depression, followed by hearing and visual problems.

The post goes on to say that although identification of accurate numbers is an issue, the bigger issue is providing accommodation. While great efforts have been made since accommodation has been legislated through the Americans with Disabilities Act, not much has been done to address the not so visible disabilities, such as Depression. Of course there may not be a standard accommodation for everyone. Each person has a unique situation and is affected differently by their illness, so accommodation needs to be individualized. The only way this will ever happen is that more people with Depression need to speak up about their illness and ask for accommodations if needed. Don’t suffer in silence.

There are plenty of us out there.

The Pills That Quell Despair

Everyday part of my routine is to ingest a handful of pills morning and evening. Part of that handful are three specific medications to treat my Depression. One a pretty bicolor capsule, one a small blue pill and one a medium-sized white tablet. Without these, my world would be full of gray, melancholy thoughts, escaping into sleep, and thoughts of suicide. Not a pretty picture for sure. Meds make me feel at least baseline functional. They aren’t “happy pills” by any means. Believe me, I wish there was a pill for happiness, I would be queuing up for that one.

How did I get to be on so much medication? Well, I’ve been on lots of other medications along the way. Started out on the miracle drug Prozac when I was initially diagnosed in 1995. Boy was that a life saver. At the time, I was suicidal and homicidal. Scary even to talk about those really dark days. The thoughts were obsessive, and I felt terrorized day and night. Had the most horrible nightmares too. Plane crashes, fires, murders, any kind of violent mayhem you can think of…it’s any wonder I could cope at all. Prozac took all of this away, so I could participate in therapy and work on things I needed to change. It was such a relief not to have those intrusive thoughts, the kind that make you feel really unglued.

But sometimes the drugs stop working for no apparent reason. So I’ve been through a number of antidepressants to manage my symptoms. I’ve been on four or five different medications between Prozac and my current mix. I’m not one of the lucky ones that can be weaned off medication, but I can say I’ve never been hospitalized. I’ve always kept trudging on, maintaining the status quo the best I can. That is part of my disease, I put other’s needs before my own, so that was one of the main reasons for never checking out…people were counting on me!!!

I understand not everyone benefits or even approves of the use of medication. And I’ve certainly done my share to contribute to the wealth of Big Pharma by taking the newest meds on the market. But medication works for my symptoms, and I need to use them in  combination with therapy to get and or stay well.

Wellness is the ultimate goal, right?