Treatment begins

The medication wasn’t working,  God wasn’t working, life wasn’t working. Suicide sounded good.

But suicide was not the answer.

I have a loving, Godly wife and two wonderful children. Many friends and a whole life ahead of me. Suicide was NOT the option I wanted to take.

The doctors asked me if I would consider ECT or Shock Therapy as it’s commonly referred to. I said no as I didn’t like the sound of the possible side effects. He then told me there was another treatment…rTMS or Rapid Trans cranial Magnetic Stimulation. Its non intrusive, the side effects are minimal…..why not. I decided to give it a go.

I wrote about it earlier on. I also delve more into my situation and the development of my eldest daughters ever increasing problem. Click the link to read it but don’t forget to comeback to finish this blog entry.

https://ihigallery.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/thoughts-of-madness-and-beyond/

So in short the rTMS pulled me out of the suicidal thinking and depression. It was a success but not 100%. I still had to go every few weeks for a maintenance treatment. Life was better but God still really wasn’t there. I was just flirting with Him.

Then when the situation with my daughter got worse my anxiety and depression increased to a dangerous point. I could no longer handle a stress at work that I had been dealing with for a couple years. Everything just crashed on me. Paranoia set in, agitation, anger, and that Damn suicidal depression returned. I left work and went on disability and the depression deepened. Driving home from a trip up north I decided to end it. I undid my seat belt, accelerated and rolled the windows down. In my mind, rolling the car in hopes that I would be ejected onto the highway was the best solution for me. It was done. The end………..

Well through the tears that flowed out of me, I glanced over and saw a hospital sign, next exit…I thought of my kids, my wife, and my friends. Through strength probably only possible from God, instead of cranking the wheel I wiped my tears and headed to the next exit.

I went to emerg and checked myself in. I spent the mandatory 72 hours in lock down on the psych floor and I vowed never EVER to try that again.

Life went on for several months with no real improvement. The doctor convinced me at that point that Shock Therapy was the next step to recovery. I desperately wanted to break free from the bondage of depression so I agreed.

12 treatments, 2 a week progress progress progress…and like the rTMS, the Shock Therapy was a success. It pulled me out of the pit. Some things remain,  like the stressful thoughts of returning to work and being robbed. THAT paranoia has not disappeared but the depression seems to have taken a hike.

Side effects? Oh Yes.

I did Bi-Lateral ECT, in which they shock both temples. Its more effective than Uni-Lateral ECT ( only one side of your head is shocked) BUT the chance of memory loss is greater…..and so it is.  Forgetting events, people, details, appointments, the past…its all affected but the doctors assure me it will return within about 6 months. Thank goodness because its very frustrating.

So here I am. Recovering from ECT. Depression gone. Work stress still there ( to be dealt with) and now I’m just waiting to tell you about the next leg on my journey but not today………..Stay tuned folks, this is where it get’s exciting……

To be continued………

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God, are you with me?

Is God really with me? Why did He do this too me? Am I being punished? Am I not good enough? As someone who lives with Bipolar Disorder, these are questions that I struggle with. Ive always wondered about God but I never did anything about it. In fact it was a Pastor that basically forced my hand – “You must attend Church for 6 months before I’ll read your wedding vows” Now I had to go, I wanted to get married, so I had to go. The church my future wife was attending was pretty charismatic so it was pretty intense for this newbie every Sunday. Finally by brother asked me to check out the Church he and his family were attending.

We did and we stayed there for 13 years. It was there that I decided to get baptized. 2005 was the year. 2005 was the year this emotional and spiritual roller coaster began. Not only did I begin my new Life with Christ it was then that I began to walk away from Him as well. Confused? Let me try to explain.

I began my new life as a Christian but I also started noticing that life wasn’t fun. I should be happy, but I was sad. Sad all the time it seemed. Agitated. Not how a “New Christian” should feel. Off to the doctor I go. “Your suffering with depression” the doctor said and a prescription was written to cover that problem. This went on for a couple years. script after script was written but none of the pills really worked. I fell away from God, leaving my wife to attend Church by herself.

The depression turned into bouts of struggling, then times of great highs where I would spend money like crazy and act like I was a single man around other women. Then when the credit card statements would come in at the end of the month I would see the damage and the crippling depression would start all over again. What a vicious cycle. Where was God? I don’t know. I think He left me. I wasn’t a model Christian at that point. He couldn’t be with me.

This went on for some time. High, low, high, low. The doctor sent me to see someone in the Niagara Mental health system. I’ll leave names out. They had no idea ( in my opinion) what they were doing.

They told me that my whole and ONLY problem was the fact that we were in so much debt. They sent me to a financial planner who told us they would pay off all our debt and we just had to make one easy payment to them each month…Problems solved…We said no and we walked.

More time goes by, months? years? I cant recall. I struggled constantly, both with my mental health and my walk with God.

One day at Church an assistant Pastor suggested I go seek Christian counseling at a nearby center. So I made the appointment.

It was then my life would change. I would finally get some answers. I credit Pastor Darrell Mills ( who by the way never gave up on me but I walked away from him with this depression) for suggesting I seek counseling and I credit counselor Kim Christink for suggesting that I suffer with Bipolar Disorder and for getting the ball rolling to future counseling and care. I guess God was with me by placing these two men in my life although at the time I didn’t see it.

Fast forward several years, here I am today. During that time I resisted God, was angry that He did this to me.

I spent a period of a couple years basically in robot mode…..go to work, come home and spend most of my time in bed. Suicidal thoughts were always on my mind. I had a carefully thought out plan. It was a constant on my mind. God? Ya…forget it.

Life was Hell. God left me, or did I leave God? Regardless, between the depression and very unhealthy leadership at Church, going was the last thing on my mind.

We left that Church and started to attend Lakemount, well OK my wife started to attend I was walking far away from there. I just couldn’t go…after all what sort of Christian was I? I couldn’t read the Bible, my concentration wasn’t there. I couldn’t pray- why? My  concentration wasn’t there and finally ( and this is a big one) the last thing I wanted,  was to be around people. All I wanted was to wallow in my depression. It’s all I could do. It was my familiar place. The meds weren’t working God wasn’t working, life wasn’t working. Suicide sounded good.

To be continued…….

Half Empty Half Full

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

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Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down! -author unknown

Breezy Point, devastated but full of love, hope and determination.

I am finding it hard to pen the thoughts and emotions I am feeling after my weekend in New York. A weekend filled with sorrow yet hope, anger, tears and laughter, prayer, fellowship, love, teamwork and determination.

A weekend where men and women came together for a common cause – to help those in need. Those that have had their lives and homes turned upside down over night.

People in need. Proud people. People full of determination and hope.

I spent the weekend In Long Island, New York alongside a wonderful group of Firefighters from Tennessee, Ohio, North Carolina and New York. All brought together by the FF Steven Coakley Foundation and the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Run Charlotte. Brought together to help citizens affected by Hurricane Sandy. The FF Steven Coakley Foundation is in memory of  New York Firefighter Steven Coakley  Engine 217 who lost his life during the tragic events on September 11, 2001. They provide scholarships and donate fire equipment and funds to local emergency services for increased safety. The emotions of the weekend started there as I stayed in his home. You couldn’t help but feel his presence. It was pretty amazing.

FDNY Firefighter Steven Coakley Engine 217 .

FDNY Firefighter Steven Coakley Engine 217 .

The firefighters volunteering with me gave of their time and energy to provide free labor to homeowners needing demolition work done. They truly put their hearts and souls into this task. They also arrived with a tonne of donations from gift cards to cleaning supplies and toys. All graciously donated by Churches, Schools, Individuals and Businesses.

Some of the various items donated.

Some of the various items donated.

The group, given the name Task Force 17 were given work orders each day by Disaster Relief Management specialists. The one being Operation Breezy Gut and Pump and the second coined Camp Bulldog.

We would take our orders split into teams and venture out to the jobs at hand. The jobs consisted of the removal of water damaged drywall and floors. Another task was to remove hundreds of pounds of sand that made its way into homes during the storm. Bucket by bucket it was removed.

The teams worked tirelessly without complaint each day. From house to house to house. Once the work order is completed you pack up and move to the next. They worked from early in the morning until the sun started to go down. Most homes had minimal power.

Task Force 17 volunteers remove a floor in a home.

Task Force 17 volunteers remove a floor in a home.

During Saturday morning I spent some time by myself wandering through the completely devastated burn zone in Breezy Point, in New York City’s Queens borough. Over 100 homes were wiped out due to a massive blaze the night of the Hurricane.  Flooded streets prevented firefighters from getting the trucks and necessary equipment into the area to fight the fire and high winds just fueled it, causing it to spread across the neighborhood.

Ive never been to a war zone but that’s all I could think of as I gazed upon the damage. Foundation after foundation. That’s all that remained of the homes. Scattered debri and cherished memories strewn throughout.

Completely devastated

Completely devastated

I was just numb. It seemed too much to fully grasp. Surreal. A very large area of this beach front community was wiped out. All that remains are concrete foundation walls and the odd chimney stack. Despite all this devastation though there were numerous symbols of Hope and a determination to rebuild. I spoke to a homeowner and as sad as she was she told me they weren’t through there. They will survive… Hope… Amazing.

Rebuild

My sadness lingers on for these people but knowing there are people out there like the men and women on Task Force 17 brings a felling of happiness and a renewed passion for human kindness.

Those affected by the storm will rebuild and they will become stronger and closer in the process.

I want to thank the people responsible for bringing this effort to my attention and starting the ball rolling to get me down there and to the FF Steven Coakley Foundation and the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Run Charlotte for the work you are doing to help those that need it.

Thoughts of Madness and Beyond

Lying there hopeless. Gut wrenching anxiety. Thoughts, screaming through my head. Visions. Panicked movement. Tears. Noises. Thrashing. Fiery terrors. Flashes. EXPLOSIONS. Silence. Relief. Stillness. Light. Peace. Emptiness. Alone. Deserted. Gone. Eternal. Forever. Dark.

The moment it happened, everything shattered. Months worth of planning, ideation, dreaming. Scheming. A fool proof plan. Over so fast. Never returning. The end, with new terrors beginning.

My thoughts, My plans, My life altering scheme to end my problems and in my thought pattern, to give my family a better life. One without me. Without co-existing with a Bi-Polar Disordered father, husband and man.

Days in bed, turned into weeks in seclusion. Week-ends spent in and out of a sleep filled daze as my family lived their lives as best as they could. As my children grew older without me, as my wife held the family together. As I lay dieing inside. The bed and couch became my friends. Falling deeper into depression brought on more desperate needs to escape. Satan had his powerful grip around my soul, his breath was filling my lungs and his voice was filling my head with beliefs of peace and tranquility.

This is how I spent a better part of several hellish years. My wife would force me to take my medication and she would force me to put a game face on and socialize with family and friends. I’ll admit sometimes it did help. Sometimes it would pull me out of my mood only to return to my Hell after we got home. I would sleep so much that I was the talk at family functions. I went from about 175 pounds to over 250 pounds because of lack of exercise and of course it seemed that every medication that is supposed to make me feel better, caused weight gain which depressed me even more. Adding to that all the negative comments and snickers about my size and belly. A vicious never ending circle. Then there are the the thrill seeking moments when I’m in a Hypo Mania stage. I spend money like it grows on trees which of course only sends me into a deeper depression when the bills come in. I get flirtatious and hyper sexual…not very becoming of any Christian man and not a situation any loving wife should have to deal with. I get arrogant and live from the top of the world. I’m lucky nobody has knocked me down a peg or two over the years. Am I proud? In a word, No but I know its the illness and not the real me. An excuse? No.

I’ve cursed God for this. I rejected him and I guess if I’m being honest, I still do to a certain degree.

I owe a lot to my psychiatrist, he got me through a lot. He diligently worked with several medications until he found just that right mix. That cocktail that would even the moods out. The one that brought down those mania phases. It worked, but there was a problem. The mania disappeared but the depression stayed and got worse. We tried several add on medications but nothing was working. I could almost sense the frustration in him. During one visit he asked me if I would consider ECT or Electroshock Therapy. From what I recall him saying it was a twice a week treatment where you went into the hospital and an anesthesiologist would put you under and seizures are electrically induced to try and get you out of the depression. Side effects MAY include memory loss, muscle soreness and any ill effects associated with general anesthesia. It was also recommended that I take the entire treatment time which was about 8 weeks off work. We didn’t really like the sounds of ECT and I just couldn’t get the thought of Frankenstein out of my head.

There was another option. A placebo clinical study was being performed at the time with a procedure called repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or rTMS for short. I was asked if I would like to take part in it. Being that it was a placebo study there was no guarantee that I would receive an actual treatment but I was assured that if I went through the study and it was deemed a sham they would put me through again for the real deal. So what is rTMS? It is a procedure in which a magnetic pad is placed on a certain part of your skull so when it’s activated a magnetic field is focused onto a specific area of the cortex ( surface ) of the brain in which they believe to be affected by depression. This magnetic field is activated several times ( maybe about 80 times) during each interval and each treatment session is about 20 intervals. In doing these it stimulates electrical activity in the neurons or (brain cells). RTMS is not a permanent cure for depression and other mood disorders and it may not work for all.

Side effects? Well besides for a possible headache or possible soreness in the face and jaw from clenching while receiving the treatment there aren’t many. We were told there is a risk of being put into a seizure but stats show that’s less than 1%

But the biggest fear was the fact that I had to come off my anti depressants…not good. But to give a true indication of the effectiveness of rTMS I couldn’t be on them.

So…we agreed, signed the paperwork and the study began. I first had to have a ECG? Or was it a EKG? I can’t remember…lots of wires…

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Then I had to go through a memory test and a dexterity test and about a thousand questions…or so it seemed.

Not knowing what to expect I nervously went in for my first treatment. Before they can begin your treatment they must first find out what your threshold is. This is done by placing a probe between your thumb and index finger on your right hand and they pace the magnetic pad on your head. Then they start activating the magnetic field. One at a time. Each time more powerful than the last, until your right hand twitches. It was humorous looking back at it now because my hands are always shaking do to the medications I’m on so they couldn’t tell if it was shaky hand or a threshold twitch. They finally got it but they were frustrated and so was I.

So I began my first round of 10 sessions, 20 treatments each time. Loud like a Jackhammer!!!

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Then I did more questionnaires and I believe a memory test and they showed that I had improved but marginally so they offered another 10 treatments. So I started another round of 10 sessions. This time much better improvements were achieved and then we realized I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts and I was off my anti depressants as well. It worked!!

I did the memory and dexterity tests and both of those results showed an improvement.

As I stated earlier rTMS is not a permanent cure but it did pull me out of that deep pit of depression and that cyclone of never ending suicidal thoughts. I still go every few weeks for compassionate maintenance treatments but I hardly ever think of suicide anymore. Thank you to all the great doctors who have helped me. You know who you are.

Its not all rosey and good though. Yes the rTMS has helped exponentially but I still have my issues.

I still live with the obesity from the medications and lack of exercise, my hands shake something fierce at times ( I was sent to a Neurologist and Parkinson’s was ruled out. It’s her belief that it’s my mood stabilizer causing the tremors. She has put through a recommendation that my mood stabilizer be changed…another scary thought…) I lack concentration and decision making skills, something my wife has had to bare the load of and I become emotional for no reasons. Something that most people view as a weakness or view me as a bit of a softie.

I don’t wish this upon anyone but I do often wish that people would understand. You see, when there is no visible disability you are often discarded as faking it or exaggerating. Heck I’ve had a Lead Pastor at a Church tell me that I just need to trust in the Lord and stop all my medication. Trust in the Lord and allow the Pastor to work with me and all things will be cured. He is right, all things would have been cured. I would have put my well thought out plan of Suicide by Cop in place and I would be dead…and I guess…cured…

So why am I telling you this you ask? To make you feel sorry for me? To toot my horn? No…Not at all. I was once told a statistic and that is :30% of my people commit Suicide. WE ARE Bi-Polar and THEY chose not to talk about it.

Well I choose to talk. And talk…to whomever will listen.

Suicide has had its ugly grip on me for years. Mental health is real and its VERY much apart of today’s society. Since January of this year ( 2012) I’ve known of 7 teenagers…count them…7, within a 100 KM radius from me that have committed suicide and 2 that I know of who have attempted suicide. How many more are there out there that go under the radar. That go quietly. Something has to be done. It’s rampant. The hospitals are full, the support services are over whelmed and the government is dropping services left right and center. WE NEED HELP!!! And we need it now.

Earlier I mentioned that I’m a Christian man. I mentioned that I cursed God for the illness. Why me? I would ask. Why did you give me a Mental Illness?

Well I found out why, during the late winter months of this year.

Research shows that kids of depressed parents are also at a high risk for becoming depressed. Well our eldest daughter entered into that statistic.

In February of this year she came to us and told us she had been cutting herself and had feelings of suicide. Obviously afraid, we admitted her into a hospital where she began treatment for depression. I stated earlier that I know of 7 teenage suicides and 2 attempts, well one of the attempts WAS my daughter…twice. She is recovering now and doing much much better. Its been a slow journey with both ups and downs and dealing with a system that sometimes isn’t perfect, but we are slowly moving forward. She has had friends die. This is not right. It’s not fair. Teenage children are making a conscious decision to do the final, permanent act and end their pain, what ever that pain be. Bullying, abuse, sexual lifestyle…what ever. It’s beyond sad. Kids should not have to be a witness to this.

I believe that social media in part has contributed to it. When I was a teenager in school, if you got pissed off with someone…you fought after school and the issue was resolved. Period. You went home after wards and you had a break from 4:00pm until school the next morning. Then on weekends you once again had a break. From Friday after school until Monday morning.

Nowadays the kids are bombarded…Texting, Facebook, Tumbler, Myspace, Xanga, Twitter and the list goes on I’m sure, I’m just to old to keep in the loop. There is NO break from it all…it’s 24/7 365. STRESS…Constant STRESS.

So all this being said I believe God gave me this mental illness so I would be equipped and have a little knowledge to understand my daughter. To understand those demons that attack her and I hope that she could have the trust in me, giving her a solid shoulder to rest her head on, knowing that I to, understand the battle, not her issues as a growing young woman but the battle of depression,  as I live it too.

I love you, daughter of mine, we all do.  Your strong,  your determined and your going to fight this and WIN. If you ever feel that grip again then come to me. Together we will slay the beast.

To ANYONE out there, reading this and realizing your in the same situation PLEASE call your local crisis line, the police or your doctor. There is Hope. There IS a light at the end of that dark tunnel. You can work through the sometimes long hard battle but you can win. You may never escape the illness just as I have to live with BiPolar for the rest of my life but it can be managed. Please don’t give up. Make that call.

God Speed.

Stay strong and God Bless.

-30-

Chase Jarvis and Dasein: Invitation to Hang

If you have been following Chase Jarvis you’ll know he is working on a special project right now in New York City called  Dasein: Invitation to Hang.

An Excerpt….

Dasein: An Invitation to Hang is part of an interactive, month-long artist in residency at the Ace Hotel New York in celebration of the snapshot. It was conceived as a living, breathing, interactive work of social art.

http://www.invitationtohang.com/

My phone booth picture made it to the wall for the show!!

Here is the actual image

Good Times

Thanks Chase