Wednesday, March 16, 2011

End Date

Taking a review of my health today, I came across the dreaded list of past diagnoses. Having been a relatively healthy girl, I check through the "No" column feverishly. I think my pen is starting to run out of ink. How many medical conditions are they going to list?
HIV? No.
Diabetes? No.
ADD? No.
Bi-polar Disorder? Well, there was that one time that I was misdiagnosed, but that doesn't count. No.
Cancer? No.
Heart conditions? No.
High cholesterol? Nope.
Nope, nope, noers, notta, nein, non, nah....
Oh, wait, here we go: Depression. Diagnosed when I was in my teenage years, I've been taking medication for it on and off since then. For about a decade, I've been on something to treat depression. I've tried Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Effexor, the latter I've been taking for approximately half that decade. I've attempted to discontinue medication and see how I would react to life, as a sort of experiment to see if I could cope with those constant feelings of sadness, hopelessness, lethargy, and the persistent achy feeling I succumbed to time and again that left me unable to enjoy anything that I usually enjoy doing. I'm sure you've seen the commercials with the little wind-up doll. No matter how much she was cranked, she was still incapable of leading a normal life. And, believe me, I was cranked up a lot, but to no avail. I always ended up going back on the Effexor, despite the odd dizzy spells it gave me if I missed a couple of doses.
Recently, however, since it's been approximately 4 1/2 years since I last attempted to discontinue my medication, I decided that I would try again. My thought process was that since I'm in a different place now, with a slightly different perspective and with different (more beneficial) people in my life, I might be able to deal with not having to constantly be on some kind of medication. After all, I don't want to have to be on medication my whole life. Let me at least wait until my body begins failing in old age before I have to ingest a constant stream of medication!
So about a week ago, I ran out of my Effexor, I didn't have any refills left at the pharmacy, and so I decided to attempt self-sufficiency. Despite the withdrawl symptoms of dizzy spells, slight vertigo, and quick dizziness that feels a little like "brain shocks," I don't think I've been this collected before in a long, long time. I feel good. Not only that, but I feel focused. Everything seems more vibrant. The sensitivity has returned to my body. I hadn't realized just how much my medication was dulling the experience of life for me!
But am I "cured"? Is there such a thing for depression?

The medical history chart wanted me to specify when the depression began and when the "end date" was. End date? Of course this chart is designed without individuality in mind, every type of medical diagnosis with the same "Start date" and "End date" next to it. But I really began to wonder: Is there ever an end date for depression? Sure, I feel much better. This doesn't necessarily mean that I won't feel a little depressed at some point in my life in the future, but I think that's normal for most people. The depression I once experienced was a constant, never-ending surge of sadness, cyclical negative thinking, and a complete drain of energy to the point of feeling pain at the notion that I would have to leave my bed at some point to put on a face of wellness for others. That depression has ended, or if anything, as paused in my life.
Will I ever know for sure that it's gone, that this kind of hellish sapping of my mind and energy will never return, or at least not in the full force that it once was?
Like a recovering cancer patient, am I "depression-free" now, with the chance of it returning at a later date? Or, as Ani Difranco has said of alcoholics in her song, "Fuel":
They say that alcoholics are always alcoholics
Even when they're dry as my lips for years
Even when they're stranded on a small desert island
With no place in two thousand miles to buy beer
And I wonder is he different
Is he different
Has he changed
What he's about
Or is he just a liar
With nothing to lie about
Am I always a sufferer of depression, even if I've felt fantastic for years? Am I still depressed, but with nothing to be depressed about? Is there an "end date" to depression? 

After mulling over this question for a few minutes, reluctant to even disclose my past depression, I said "fuck it," and scribbled in the date that I discontinued Effexor. Even if the depression is currently in remission, I think I have ended the streak of depression that plagued my high school and post-high school years.


P.S. - I do not recommend that anyone else discontinue their medications without first consulting their doctor. Some cases of mental or physical illnesses do require medical treatment, and is, in fact, not their physicians over-prescribing medication (though there are some cases of that as well). Be good and take care of yourself!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bristol Palin as an Abstinence-Only Speaker? *facepalm*

It has been confirmed that Bristol Palin (daughter of failed Alaskan governor, failed vice-presidential candidate, and failed reality TV star) will be the keynote speaker at St. Louis, Missouri's Washington University's Sexual Responsibility Week (aka "Sex Week") conference. In 2008, the keynote speaker was Dr. Drew Pinsky, radio host, TV personality, and an actual licensed physician and surgeon. My question is: how can Washington University go from someone who knows what the hell he's talking about to someone who has no credentials in the medical industry, and is, in fact, the perfect example of how you should NOT behave?

First of all, I would like to note that I'm not discriminating against every teenager that has ever gotten pregnant. As having been in that position, myself, in my teen years, I know how difficult it is. The difference is that I: a) educated myself on the details of responsible and healthy comprehensive sex education, something that my school was severely lacking in (which was blatantly evidenced by the numerous pregnant teens throughout the school grounds, many of which ended up dropping out of high school), and b) got an abortion as soon as I possibly could. The high school in which I attended most of my formative years taught abstinence-only in their health classes, misinforming the student body with inaccurate information regarding contraception, barely, if at all, discussing induced miscarriages, and exaggerating the consequences of sexual activity. The consequences of all this clearly showed through the numerous cases of pregnancies throughout the school. Granted, a lot of these kids had problems outside of school, which did not help their situations. That means that it's more difficult for them to speak with their parents about the realities of unprotected sex that the school was not able to provide for them.

What makes me utterly baffled is that Bristol Palin, poster-child of the failure of abstinence-only programs, will be speaking to college students about abstinence. What would make more sense is if she's going to discuss why it's ineffective, but my best bet lies on the notion that she will be speaking the very opposite.

Study after study shows that abstinence-only education is ineffective and, what's worse, misinforms students about contraceptives and fails to talk openly about abortion. (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/06/5/gr060504.pdf) And yet, according to the Washington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/26/bristol-palin-sex-week-washington-university_n_814153.html), Palin will be receiving approximately  $20,000 for her utterly useless speech on why she thinks the "abstinence only" method is in some way practical or realistic.
According to a Guttmacher.org article:
Research is beginning to suggest how difficult abstinence can be to use consistently over time. For example, a recent study presented at the 2003 annual meeting of the American Psychological Society (APS) found that over 60% of college students who had pledged virginity during their middle or high school years had broken their vow to remain abstinent until marriage.
 Also, many people who make the abstinence pledge consider themselves "abstinent" if they avoid solely vaginal intercourse. Everything else is in the gray area, like oral sex, masturbating a partner, anal sex, etc. What they are misunderstanding is the fact that one can still contract an STI through these practices. Finding loopholes in your abstinence pledge is not being responsible with your sexuality, your health, or the health of those that you are involved with.
Encouraging this tripe by paying the woman who is a clear example of why the abstinence-only method is ineffective to talk about abstinence-only is bullshit. It needs to stop. Yes, I will admit, I giggled when I first heard that Bristol Palin would be talking about abstinence, but after the initial facepalm at the irony, I began fuming about the situation. Not just her being paid twenty grand to speak about something that is just as retarded as promoting the use of a Coca-Cola Douche to prevent pregnancy (http://www.momversation.com/articles/9-most-bizarre-birth-control-methods), but the federally funded abstinence-only education nationwide. It all makes me ill.