My Pyramid Tracker, plus Another Medication Change

Before I tell you about the most recent medication change, I want to let you know about  My Pyramid Tracker at  http://www.mypyramidtracker.gov, a website of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. My Pyramid refers to the new and improved USDA food pyramid (http://www.mypyramid.gov) which, by the way, recommends only five and a half ounces of meat or beans a day, which is just a little over a quarter of a pound. The pyramid tracker website is one I highly recommend, however, especially  if you are interested in losing weight or in keeping track of what you eat and how much you exercise. In fact, it is a website worth looking at even if you are only curious about how many calories you expend in everyday activities. You can use it  every day or once a week or on any schedule you choose, and all you need to do is follow the easy instructions at the end of any given day to see how you did, though it helps if you jot down what you eat during the day, so you don’t forget entirely. Every time you log in, the site keeps track, so you can see stats later on about how you are trending.

My Pyramid and the Pyramid Tracker are great sites for general nutrition info, calorie calculation and the general calculation of energy expenditure in your daily life. You can compare what you expend to your daily calorie requirements. That is, by counting such activities of daily life as dish-washing and childcare and yard-work as forms of exercise the site will tell you how many calories you expended on them. It also calculates your BMI — body mass index — your ideal weight, and how to achieve it as well.

Click this

If you happen to be interested solely in finding out how many  calories are in a given food, however, the Nutrient Data Lab website is great. It has a large number of brand name foods as well as fresh and raw foods as well: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/index.html

Should you be on medication that causes weight gain, or makes it difficult to lose what weight you formerly put on, check out those sites (above). They could make a big difference, or at least be a helpful tool in your efforts to keep your weight under control. But two things nonetheless are very important:

Please, do not beat yourself up if you cannot lose weight.

Remember that will power is a matter of chemistry, not bad character.

In fact, in FACT, it is your meds and the chemical changes that they produce in your brain that has caused you to gain weight. It is NOT your schizophrenia and it is NOT your fault. Do not believe whatever they say about research “proving” a close link between your diabetes and your having schizophrenia. That is utter B.S. Diabetes is on the rise everywhere in the country and its increase is directly related to obesity: one gets obese because one eats more calories than one expends. Being more than a little overweight is known to be a huge factor in Diabetes, type II (insulin insensitivity).

Now it is true that you might have been or become overweight without the meds, but I assure you that certain meds all but guarantee it. When researchers have the gall to say that somehow obesity is directly or in some sense causally related to schizophrenia, or that diabetes is genetically connected to schizophrenia, that is a load of hogwash, and I suspect those researchers are on the take from certain well-known drug manufacturers. I’ll bet that for many of you who were once thin before you took medication, whether it was the older drugs or the newer atypicals, it was only when you started taking antipsychotics (and some antidepressants as well) that you began to gain weight, sometimes massive amounts. But “they” want to tell you that it has “nothing to do with the meds” no, it is YOU, it is your illness, not the Zyprexa or the Seroquel or the Risperdal that caused the weight gain, or for that matter, not the Thorazine or the Mellaril or the Prolixin. We know better. They also want to tell us that if we die 25 years earlier than our peers, that is our mental illness speaking or our own fault (somehow) and not their iatrogenic — that is to say, medically-caused, doctor-caused —  drug-related obesity, diabetes and heart disease. I won’t even mention the generally dismissive attitude of many doctors towards the physical complaints of anyone with a major psychiatric diagnosis, it is no minor problem.

So, what to do? Well, there is not much you can do at this time, if you have found a med that works well for you and are able and willing to tolerate the weight gain and potential side effects from it. In some ways I admire those who will make this trade-off, though I worry that they will lose their new found lives early because of it, in which  case is it really worth it? But I know that for some people it indeed is, and I would never question their choices. For me, I am lucky enough to have responded to at least one less-weight problematic drug besides the miracle drug/drug from hell Zyprexa, which is the combo: Abilify/Geodon. The Geodon by itself seemed to me virtually worthless, at least it seemed to do almost nothing for me in terms of improving my cognition or creativity. The Abilify vastly increased my cognition and such, but at the expense of extreme irritability and rage. However, the serendipitous co-administration of the two solved the problems of each so that now I can feel creative and cognitively less impaired (I still cannot read, alas) and yet I am not at all irritable or enraged. Added to that is the fact that my appetite is under control again. While I have not yet started to lose weight, which is already at a decent level, according to most people (just not me) I no longer find myself raiding the fridge constantly or exhibiting uncontrollable food-seeking behavior all day, hungry or no. It feels much better not to feel yanked around by the nose by a med that never let me feel in control of myself…

But what happened to the Saphris? Well, two things: one, I simply could not sleep, and that is a weird thing for someone with narcolepsy to complain of! It was great to be awake all day, but I was awake all night as well. I would but up except for an hour or two for days on end, and it was exhausting. But worse, according to my psyche, was the fact that I ate less than 700 calories a day, walked 8 miles a week, — keeping track via mypyramidtracker.gov and the nutrient data lab — and yet after 2.5 weeks, I didn’t lose a single pound. This was so terribly depressing that I had to change it, had to go back to the Geodon and Abilify on which I got to the weight I was truly comfortable at a couple of years ago…Now, though, I have to try hard, and i will, because I am determined to get there. My father is always saying, Appetite comes in eating. Well, he is absolutely correct. But the opposite is also true, because the less I eat, the less I want, and the more I forget to eat, the more I, well, forget to eat…As far as I am concerned that is fine with me.

I think that is all that I have energy for today, because I want to continue to read Karen Sorensen’s site and blog, which I haven’t seen for a long while. Her art is so creative. It might be called, as my professionally trained artist friend said, Outsider Art, but nevertheless she has such an imagination that I feel stunned. I simply cannot let myself go and “let it all hang out” as we used to say in the “old days.” I don’t know how to do it, not graphically. Not pictorially. I am so hung up on getting my pictures and portraits perfect that I cannot relax and let my mind run free. I can do so in poetry, let things happen, and to hell with what my inner self is “really” saying, Let the shrinks figure it out! But in a painting or collage, I have to be in control, I don’t know why. Perhaps because I am so new at it…?

Thanks Karen. I love your gallery, where I can “flip through” your art works and see them en masse.

I also have to visit Kate Kiernan’s  Ying and Yang blog as her writing is as good as her art, which is saying a great deal. I am not sure which I like better, though I don’t really need to choose, as her writing is very different from her paintings. Kate is also a terrific songwriter/singer as well. On her blog you can sample all three. She is truly one of the most talented people I know.

You can find both Karen’s and Kate’s websites on my sidebar.

Klimt Collage: “Using Klimt” (updated post)

Hi

Sorry for not writing for so long. I will get back here soon, but for now I wanted to post my most recent art work, at least as it stands now.

Using Klimt

This collage was made by tearing apart several posters and calendar reproductions of Gustav Klimt’s works then making a collage of my own out of them. If you know Klimt’s works you may recognize some of them in this work, though of course the picture itself is my own…That is why I call it “Using Klimt.” It is 20 inches by 30 inches though I was not able to get all of it into the photo. The head was cut off a bit as were part of the legs…

Oh yeah, I meant to add that the position the couple assumes is based on the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo taken on the occasion of VJ Day (Aug 15, 1945) when he wrote that his camera happened to catch a sailor spontaneously grabbing an unknown nurse (Edith Shain just died, 6 days ago, at 91) and smooching her, a glorious photo that is possibly the most famous one ever taken. Certainly, not one person I have mentioned it to has not immediately known what I was talking about. In fact, several people even commented that this collage brought it to mind…How perspicacious! Mine, if you notice, has the couple reversed, though, with the man to the right instead of the left…You would have to remember the original photo to understand this.

The OCD Project on VH1

I have to tell you that I do not usually watch VH1. In fact, thinking that it was always and only a music channel, and moreover that it featured music of the sort I do not generally enjoy, I have never watched it. But I was up all night last night because I couldn’t fall asleep and I was channel surfing, trying to “bore myself to sleep,” only to come across their amazing program, The OCD Project. Yes, it is comes under the rubric of a “reality show” and the OCD sufferers featured might in fact be “on stage” in the same way that I suspect those  “Housewives of New Jersey” on Bravo Channel are (the dames in that show must be acting, they are so ridiculous!). But it is hard to believe this is the case. Even if I am wrong, it doesn’t matter, because if they are performing in any sense of the word, the enactment of the disorder of OCD is so compelling and the treatment so gritty and potentially life-changing that I am going to recommend it to everyone who happens across this post.

Please, whether or not you have schizophrenia, bipolar or Lyme and you have come to this site because of those: if you have any interest in or symptoms of OCD, check out THE OCD PROJECT at the following link. Once there, scroll down to the links to the full episodes. Click on Episode 101 first, then the clips to 102, then the full episode 103 and you will be all set for Episode 104 when it appears either on TV or on the website.

Good viewing! I think you will be impressed and may learn a lot. I know I did. Let me know what you think.

Perhaps more important, let the producers of the show and of VH1 know your feelings, because such programming about mental illness is so very important and their efforts in that direction ought to be encouraged.

http://www.vh1.com/shows/the_ocd_project/series.jhtml

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Brief update:

The Saphris and Abilify continue to do me good without causing any particular harm or objectionable side effects. Except for the pills’ bad taste and brief oral anesthesia after taking Saphris –surely a tiny price to pay for what seem to be big benefits — I can’t think of anything I would improve about it. Perhaps it would be good to feel inspired to get back to “doing artwork” again, which has not happened. Not yet.  But I think this may be due to the fact that I have been focusing on writing poetry to the exclusion of almost everything else. On the other hand, I can read, a little, which is good, though it takes some effort to sit with a book and concentrate. When I decide to make the time and do it, I can. I am also, I think, losing the weight I gained on Zyprexa, slowly but surely, which is only to be expected, since the Abilify has all but caused my appetite to vanish completely. I am back to forgetting to eat, rather than emptying the fridge at all hours of the day and night.

That brings me to the subject of another post I will write soon: how drugs affect the appetite and how my experiences with Zyprexa and Abilify make me certain that while appetite may be all in the brain, it is “brain-chemistry” for everyone, even for those who do not take medications. It has virtually nothing to do with so-called willpower.

Saphris trial plus Poem

Sorry for the long absence. I was in yet another Connecticut hospital for 6 weeks,  and as usual it was horrible. I admit that they — the staff — must have hated me as much as I hated most of them as well. I do not think that they understood quite how much I was “not myself”  most of the time I was there. Luckily, perhaps, the weekend doctor was one who had treated me years ago and for several years at that, and she said quite openly that she had never seen me like that and knew something was wrong. But the other staff did not know me and so they took my rage and irritability as “bad behavior,” as one nurse called it. Why it didn’t occur to them that there was something strange about the fact that I didn’t even remember from day to day what had happened or what “I did” I do not know.

Anyhow, now I am  on a trial of Saphris but I do not think it is going well. I cannot motivate myself to do much of anything, including writing, reading or any kind of art. I even look at my beads and wonder what on earth ever possessed me to want to do jewelry making. I am hoping that I will be switched back to Abilify soon (not Zyprexa on which, after the hospital, I gained at least 10 pounds). At the very least it must be added to the mix. Otherwise I do not know what I will do. Dr B and the visiting nurse probably will not agree, feeling as they do that it does not work for me. But I think it does and frankly I will not take anything else, so it is the Abilify and the Geodon, or the Abilify and the Saphris, or nothing at all.  There is nothing else that works at all that I will take.

I will also add that after struggling to feel that Dr B was helping me, and that he “cared,” I have decided that we do not work well together. Maybe some other male psychiatrist and I would, but for now I am switching over to a female doctor, Dr C.. She seems very nice, and if she and I do not work out, there is yet another that seems promising. But so far I felt very good about Dr C right from the start.

So for now that is all that I have the energy to write. For the short time that I was on Zyprexa right out of the hospital I wrote a poem called, “How to Swim: Poetry Manual #2”, and I wish I could share it here, but I have sent it out for possible publication and I do not think the magazine would appreciate it if I printed it here first (they are fussy about things like that, alas.) So I will leave you with one that I think will go into my second book but which I probably won’t publish before then instead.

ARTICLES OF FAITH

Black ice. An accident’s chain-

reaction like toppled dominoes,

and you steer into a skid

on the frictionless slick

missing, by the merest sleet needle,

a chrome-crumpler 28 cars long. It’s night,

your face glows dashboard green

touched with gold as we pass

streetlights in review.

Someone up there

must be watching out

for us, you say, meaning you,

me, and this carcass of a 1986 Chevy,

in ‘03 still too good to let go.

But it is something more than

mischief in me when I remind you

of the 28 drivers whose cars accordioned

in the whiplash of impact.

Was the the big guy upstairs

not watching out for them, then,

or worse, deliberate in his neglect?

But this is not a theological poem,

it is only a prayer whistled

devil-may-care into the void

by a nonbeliever who knows nothing

is guaranteed save that none of us

will survive our lives. The pile-up

behind us, we’re wowed breathless

by the nearness of our miss

and though there’s still

the matter of those hapless 28,

even I whisper Thank God!

to still my trembling hands.

(When I pasted that in it came out in double space, but it was meant to be single spaced. Not sure  how it will appear in the blog…)

That’s all I have the energy for tonight. When I have a little more, I will get back to you. Please do not give up on me. Thanks.

Pam