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Monthly Archives: July 2013

addiction

addiction (Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

I’m currently in addiction therapy attempting to manage my bipolar disorder. Whether a person’s doing meth, popping pills, smoking crack, shooting heroin, snorting coke, enjoying a beer, drinking coffee, eating paint chips, or sniffing sharpies, addiction is addiction. What is an addiction? A habit that is difficult to stop doing because it’s amplified by cravings.  People go into treatment for addiction because some of the substances they crave lead to self-destruction. With bipolar disorder, I want to avoid addiction and need all of the help I can get.

First Salad of the Season

First Salad of the Season (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

When one goes to treatment, what is it that person is expected to do? Forget about the sharpies and accept aroma therapy as an alternative. Using meth? Time for regular urine analysis! Like pills? Try meditation! Want some crack? Come to excessive meetings to discuss addiction instead! Need heroin? How about learning some breathing techniques? Wipe that powder off your nose and pursue an interest! Stop drinking that coffee, opt for Green Tea or decaf and don’t even think about that beer or those tasty paint chips, choose to eat a salad instead. In other words, it’s a trade-off because the addiction is still there; it just takes on a different form. I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the thought of a person dealing with a situation that makes him or her angry and emotional, then ending up furiously chewing a salad in order to stave off some sort of a craving. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice thought; but, is it realistic?

A depressed man sitting on a bench

A depressed man sitting on a bench (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to say that I’m doing the best I can to participate in the group therapy adequately; however, I’m saddened to report that going to group therapy has proven to be a trigger which makes me want to drink. This last session, it was a lot of work to get the gist of the information offered to me while experiencing skyrocketing anxiety levels. The topic of the discussion was the expectation of flexibility in exchange for NO COMPROMISE. After a 90 minute lecture presented in an “it’s my way or the highway” format, I came home from group therapy feeling quite teary and depressed, so I withered away into my bedroom.

Another reason why addiction is so difficult to beat is because when one is an addict, finding a substance to abuse is fairly easy. If an addict has a substance within his or her possession, then it’s simply a matter of using it. In many cases, the substance conforms to the user and is far more convenient than attending a regularly scheduled group to conform to. To put an addict in treatment is to require that person’s “presence” and participation. Often times, an addict will relapse following treatment because once treatment is finished, then the structure is gone. Why? Because the user is no longer required to be “present” and his or her problems still exist; therefore, this leaves the addict with a doorway of escape.

This is where continuing individual therapy picks up the slack. Personally, I do much better with individual therapy depending on the therapist. Individual therapy goes beyond the over simplified “what’s in the box, what’s not in the box” exercises in group therapy; however, I have a tendency to see both sides of most situations. My therapist told me to once a day, at least be aware of my presence. Yesterday, I sat on my back patio admiring the plants I have in containers and counting my son’s tomatoes. Then, I looked at my hands and noticed how my middle-aged skin is wrinkling up. I became aware that where I’m living doesn’t belong to me and the patio isn’t mine, either—even if this place did belong to me, it’s something that can be taken away. In fact, everything in my life can disappear. I felt extremely vulnerable and began to swallow a large lump I felt welled up within my throat. Then death began to speak and said that if I could die in this moment, I could be content. This is “what’s in the box” right now.

Grim Reaper (advertisement)

Grim Reaper (advertisement) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What isn’t in the box anymore is my life prior to 2007. I was in a marriage I didn’t feel valued in no matter how I tried; but, the lights of my life have always been my family members. I grew very tired of the situation and decided to attend college as an alternative to feeling worthless. My then husband didn’t support my decision to better myself and the marriage ended. I think perhaps he was fearful of the student loans I would amass and he had no faith in my ability to achieve a degree while suffering from a mental illness. He greatly underestimated my intelligence and what he didn’t realize is that I needed an alternative to depression.

I witnessed how treatment for my bipolar disorder added up to a very large sum over the course of just one year. I walked away from a ten-thousand dollar, three-day hospital stay with a costly prescription, a recommendation for ongoing therapy and a diagnosis for an expensive, permanent disease in which I was left to manage with no education and no budget to do so.

Becker College Class of 2011

Becker College Class of 2011 (Photo credit: Office of Governor Patrick)

Although the structure of college classes was also costly, it was useful therapy as it added up to a degree and I walked away with something; however, graduating is as if I dropped out of therapy and now that structure I came to depend on is all gone. Currently, I find myself no better off with a degree than without it. On a positive note, I would likely find myself in this exact same predicament had I chosen the medical route instead of a degree. I feel I made the right choice; however, I find I’m able to score employment within low paying, highly stressful environments filled with conflicts in which I have no capability of handling or provide input to help control –and I didn’t even need a degree to be hired. What’s worse? I’ve concluded that my wages are likely going to be low anyway, so I’m willing to let go of some stress for an even lesser wage; however, those are positions in which I’m over qualified.

Overqualified (novel)

Overqualified (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I neglected to think about when I enrolled in college is that having a degree in no way offers any means to manage real-world anxiety better. I’m not sure that drugs or ongoing therapy will either, as I’ve attempted these routes with little success.

Fortunately, my individual therapist isn’t a big advocate for medication and I feel there should always be alternative treatments. My perspective is that in medicine, a patient walks away with an expense in exchange for a chance of “feeling better” while a practitioner walks away with his mortgage payment. My entire motive for getting an education was to contribute to society rather than sucking away from it one prescription at a time. My perspective is that I have a responsibility to accept the fact that I have a permanent condition known as bipolar disorder and attempt to work with it because there is no drug in the world that can change it. Not everyone who has bipolar disorder is unmotivated. What one may see as delusions, another may perceive as hopeful inspiration or creativity.  What one may be viewing “inside the box” are solid items, whereas another observer may notice a distinct relationship between the very same items. Just because there appears to be empty space between the items doesn’t mean the space itself doesn’t exist.

Pie

Pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think perhaps I need a different type of group therapy; although I’m not sure what. I do know that I’m tired and my resources are limited. I very much dislike someone else dictating to me what is and what isn’t in order to prove a point; for example, having someone point out that everything I see in the box is actually a trigger; yet, for the sake of convenience and correctness, not all places that sell alcohol are triggers. A gas station that sells beer is not the same kind of trigger as a liquor store because it sells gas, snacks and other things; therefore, it isn’t in the box and not a trigger. On the other hand, a person who eats paint chips and a meth user are both addicts and it’s one in the same. All addicts are addicts, so a trigger is a trigger! How is telling a struggling addict an opinionated idea of what is and is not a trigger helpful? It isn’t. A pie is a pie, no matter what flavor it is or how you slice it.

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English: An Indian call center

English: An Indian call center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some corporations have questionable strategies of funneling their tax dollars by influencing each employee’s need for assistance. Wal-Mart is known for such practices; but, keep in mind that there are some other major corporations which are more talented at covering their tracks by contracting other companies to pick up the workload and save face. On the other hand, some of these contracted companies which are hired by reputable corporations have operations overseas. Do you want to know why it is that when you call into a customer service agent, you aren’t likely going to be transferred? You’re being placed on hold for long periods of time and you’ll continue to speak to the same agent because that he or she is discussing your account and issues with an “internal department” while acting as an interpreter. In many cases, the agent you’re speaking with isn’t paid a living wage. Additionally, the internal department which is located on foreign soil likely has access to all of the personal information you provided upon opening your account. Why is this bad?

“There is no statutory obligation or cybercrime law which hinders or prohibits law enforcement assistance or prosecution for callers or the offshoring company (See more at here at this link).”

I guess that’s one way of getting out of being responsible for your employees without the government frowning on it too much, after all, in order for one to qualify for any government assistance, one would have to be a U.S. citizen!  Such “reputable” corporations are free from providing a living wage and can still maintain an offshore operation through a patsy call center. Who pays for it in the long-run? The customer who mysteriously has his identity stolen due to such practices is only the tip of the ice burg.

Español: Un Wal-Mart remodelado en la Ciudad d...

Español: Un Wal-Mart remodelado en la Ciudad de México,México. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wal-Mart is taking a lot of heat for not providing responsibly for its workers. Why? Because of the corporation’s direct method of contact with its consumers and onshore employment practices; therefore, it’s among the easiest type of corporation to catch (see more here). Additionally, more call centers have confidentiality requirements, so good luck finding out who contracts call centers that offshore (see an example here). Wal-Mart isn’t the only “poverty job” in the U.S. today. Here is a list of poverty guidelines in 2013:

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE 48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,020 for each additional person.
1 $11,490
2 15,510
3 19,530
4 23,550
5 27,570
6 31,590
7 35,610
8 39,630
2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR ALASKA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,030 for each additional person.
1 $14,350
2 19,380
3 24,410
4 29,440
5 34,470
6 39,500
7 44,530
8 49,560
2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR HAWAII
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,620 for each additional person.
1 $13,230
2 17,850
3 22,470
4 27,090
5 31,710
6 36,330
7 40,950
8 45,570

SOURCE:  Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 16, January 24, 2013, pp. 5182-5183

Any employer who doesn’t pay its employees a wage higher than these standards can be considered a “welfare corporation.” All employees who fall within the above guidelines will qualify for some sort of government assistance; but, is it their fault if their employers refuse to pay a living wage, refuse to schedule the employee enough hours  and pay enough for employees to qualify for health insurance? Is it an employee’s fault if the employer refuses to compromise an employee’s schedule if he or she is attending college or working a second job? If the employee opts to work two part-time jobs to equal full-time hours, how likely is it that he or she will have access to any health insurance? Not likely.
English: A little girl leaning against a sofa.

English: A little girl leaning against a sofa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s invent the realistic scenario of “Jane”. Jane is the single mother of Aiden who is two years old. Jane needs to pay $350 a month in order to afford suitable childcare for her daughter. After a two year relationship, Aiden‘s father is difficult to find and has no interest in his child. Aiden’s father plans to sign away parental rights in order to avoid responsibility to his daughter as soon as Jane remarries.

Jane scores a job that pays $7.25 an hour because she wants more for her daughter and needs to buy clothing and other things. Due to the Obamacare mandate, the corporation that Jane works for will only schedule her for 29 hours per week. The problem is, Jane can only leave her daughter in childcare for up to 40 hours per week and it’s closed on Sundays; therefore, Jane’s unable to find another job that will hire her for only 11 hours.
Jane qualifies for housing, which will help her with 1/3 of her rent portion of $700 per month. Jane lives in apartments specifically built by a corporation to house low income families. For $700 a month, Jane and Aiden will live in a basic two bedroom apartment that doesn’t have washer/dryer hook-ups or a dishwasher. They live in an area where air conditioners aren’t required, so they don’t have one of those, either.
Food Stamps

Food Stamps (Photo credit: NCReedplayer)

Jane will receive $367 in food stamp benefits, she will receive a grant for her childcare, and an additional supplement of $399 per month. Jane won’t need to pay for her daycare unless Aiden gets sick. The childcare grant will not cover for days Aiden is not there; however,  the daycare requires the slot in the daycare to be paid for no matter what. If Aiden gets sick (which in daycare it happens a lot), Jane does qualify for medicaid for her daughter which will pay for all of her doctor’s visits and medications.

Presuming Jane doesn’t miss any work hours and has a support system to care for Aiden when she’s sick, Jane will gross $10,092 in earned income. Jane will receive a tax refund of  $5318.

All of the benefits Jane will receive for the year from the taxpayers will make her earned and unearned income add up to $24.938 + medical for Aiden. This figure doesn’t include the rent grant.
In other words, the corporation that receives Jane as an asset contributed $10,092 and the government contributed an excess of $14,846 that year.
Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporati...

Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, Calif. Shown checking electrical assemblies (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Let’s presume that Jane scored a better job that paid her $12 per hour and worked her 34 hours per week. Jane won’t receive supplemental cash or food because she makes too much. Jane pays the full $700 in rent, too. Fortunately, Jane is within the corporate guidelines to qualify for their insurance policy; however, she’s required to pay $120 a month for her health insurance and has a $2000 deductible before it kicks in to pay a portion of her services. There is one catch though, the insurance policy only allows for up to 5 office visits and will not cover maternity costs. Jane paid $1500 out of pocket for medical care for the year and she only saw the doctor once.

Jane’s gross earned income is $19,584 for the year. She received $4200 in childcare grants and will receive a tax refund of $4942. The total combined benefits add up to $28,796. Keep in mind that in this scenario, Jane is able to pay her own bills with the exception of childcare and Aiden’s medical expenses, which are covered through Medicaid.
Is that enough math for you? If corporations paid citizens enough money to pay their bills, that would help with the availability of Social Security to the people who are disabled and elderly who have ALSO paid into it. We know how Mitt Romney feels about them:

Obviously, when corporations will opt to offshore jobs in pursuit of profits, it results in less employment opportunities on American soil; however, these corporations won’t dip into assistance programs through their employees directly, they will do it through whomever they contract as an American facade and through many complicated loopholes in which their clients do not see.

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The Tom's of Maine Logo

The Tom’s of Maine Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was early in the spring of 1999 when I realized my Tom’s of Maine deodorant wasn’t only expensive; but, it also wasn’t working very well. That was a time in my life when I began to understand the importance of making environmentally friendly decisions as well as have a better consciousnesses of whatever I chose to slather on my body.
In my exploration of better deodorant  products that would last longer as well as have antibacterial properties, I ran across a generic salt crystal in which I paid about $8.
Excited to try my newly acquired product, I rushed home and had a shower. I shaved my underarms as I normally would do, unscrewed the lid to the salt crystal, and proceeded to rub my pit in the same manner as I had done with other products in the past. Of course, I screamed at the dry salt crystal on my tender, raw skin and thought to myself “Is the salt crystal supposed to hurt THIS bad?”

Crystal Stick

Crystal Stick (Photo credit: greggoconnell)

Unfortunately, the packaging for the salt crystal didn’t have any instructions, it just touted how wonderful and responsible it was to use it!
A few days had passed and I was disappointed; however, I’m not one to give up easily. I thought I’d just have to get used to it while I winced at every application. I consulted my best friend and through her snickers and chuckles, she informed me that I was supposed to WET the salt crystal then apply it instead! I felt like such an idiot! Wetting the salt crystal helped a lot. I don’t use the salt crystal anymore; however, I was very relieved when Tom’s of Maine began to market their products with baking soda, it works so much better! Needless to say, I won’t likely buy a salt crystal for my underarms in the future. My point in posting this story is to hopefully encourage others to try using the salt crystal as a deodorant. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

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I’ve been working on expanding my knowledge about photography technique in hopes of perfecting my skills. I did some research about light painting, which is a very interesting low light technique. Light painting is more difficult than one might think; for example, if you’re wanting to draw figures in the air, you won’t be able to see your lines at all and it’s really dark! I have found that it’s best to have a small group of willing participants to assist with these photographs. You can research online what settings you need to use, what equipment you’ll need to have, etc.. Here are some of the results from last night’s shoot, I hope you enjoy them!

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This is how I feel about Depakote. Do you know anything about it? Depakote is a drug initially created to help Epilepsy patients but it’s also prescribed as a mood stabilizer to patients with Bipolar Disorder. Depakote is hard on the liver and the pancreas. Unfortunately, Depakote makes some people gain weight. For someone battling depression, are weight gain, liver, and pancreatic problems the best side effects to deal with? What about  the whole slew of weight related health issues if a patient is on the drug long-term?

Having taken a variety of medications prescribed for Bipolar Disorder, I have to say that I felt a creative block. I don’t know how many other Bipolar Disorder sufferers have experienced the same feelings and side effects as myself or not. I can say this, I’m not on any medication at the moment as I can’t possibly afford them; thus, I’m struggling between wanting to laugh and scream. I think I need medication; yet, I’m very hesitant as the medications destroy me. While on medications, I can neither laugh nor cry. I wonder what would’ve happened if Depakote existed in the mid 1600s and was administered to Sir Isaac Newton? This is pretty much what I came up with…

Sir Isaac Newton, Depakote, Bipolar Disorder

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Lilith

Lilith (Photo credit: rami.sedhom)

Having earned my degree, I’m trying very hard not to dwell on depressing situations. Achieving my academic goals is something I’m very proud of in addition to being a miraculous feat considering the challenges I’ve had to overcome in order to attain them.  After surviving in this world for nearly 35 years, I suffered a bout of hypo-mania and was hospitalized for three days. Even though in hindsight the diagnosis makes complete sense, I had great difficulty in accepting that I have something which is incurable and I still struggle with it. College was awesome, it was great “therapy” for me; however, it’s over– so now what?

Twins

Twins (Photo credit: Amanda D. Olson)

My whole life I have tried to lead a “normal” existence; however, nothing about my life has been very normal. In fact, there have been several tragedies and traumatic events occur before I even reached the age of ten. Such events I’ve been told, are considered beyond the handling capabilities of a “normal” person. In other words, one would’ve had to be slightly cracked to have survived. My family and loved ones did their very best to safeguard me and my sister from hurtful things; but, they could only do so much to protect us. My sister is very outgoing and successful, she makes friends far more easily than myself as I’m quite withdrawn. Even with small variations here and there, we come from the same family so we have pretty much the same background.  If it weren’t for my sister, I wouldn’t know what having a friend might be like as she has always been so kind in sharing hers in addition to being my best friend. My sister has a wonderful spirit in which I admire and envy (in a good way, of course)! So, I wonder how it is that we’re so different? I have Bipolar Disorder and she is my giggly, wonderful, sweet, AWESOME sister! I’m grateful more and more each day that I have her because who knows where I would be without her? I truly wish I were more like her; but realistically, I don’t think there’s a medication out there which can help me achieve that.

Abraham Lincoln's apotheosis

Abraham Lincoln’s apotheosis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unlike her, I’m not a very well spoken person at all. Sometimes multiple ideas will ruminate so quickly in my mind that I  can’t hang on to a single train of thought, so I choke on my words and even stutter. I’ve tried several medications to help me to become normal; however, the side effects of the medications seem to amplify the fact that I’m different. What can possibly be normal about excessive weight gain (Depakote), walking around as though you’re a comatose zombie or sleeping all of the time (Seroquel), having freakish facial twitches (Geodon), or having everything you eat taste metallic (Lithium)? Who could conceivably entertain a single, useful idea while drowning in these side effects? Can one imagine a world without  the Law of Gravity by Sir Issac Newton, who was posthumously diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? Can one imagine a world without Abraham Lincoln’s ability to rise into the collective consciousness and grab the idea to end slavery? Can one imagine a world without Jack and Sally, or any of the other Tim Burton characters? Would the medications offered today have had a positive impact on any of the people I’ve mentioned or not? 


Not everyone who has Bipolar Disorder is cut of the same cloth as those famed for their contributions to mankind and are able to put food on their tables. Everyone has different aspirations and talents. I could only aspire to be influential within my own micro-world and hope for more. Some things I do have in common with the above mentioned individuals are that I’m very sensitive, I have a creative edge, and I truly do have a different way of viewing the world. I hope to embrace it rather than have it drag me down. 

Road

Road (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

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