A checkup in which I come out to my psychiatrist 


So I went for my routine checkup at the hospital today.

I related to my doctor how I felt really sad last week for a period of 3 days leading up to my menses and how it’s been coming only once every two or three months.

After discussing if it’s the effect of the psychiatric medication that I’m taking and ordering a blood test to find out, we got down to serious business.

She was concerned if I’d hurt myself the next time an episode like that happens and asked if I felt like there was light at the end of the tunnel during the crying spell.

I replied saying that it’s hard for me to say because I’m fine now but when I was in it, I felt really sad and perhaps during that time I felt hopeless about the situation but maybe not life in general?

We went on a bit about how I might deal with that in the future and I told her that talking with my friends helped.

I casually mentioned that I didn’t know how I might deal with it in the future, it depends on the precipitating event, i.e. the trigger, but I had encountered this in the past and thought I ought to discuss this with her.

It felt a bit unwieldy to keep mentioning “the precipitating event” so I said I might as well tell her what it was this time round.

“I felt a profound sense of rejection by the church for being gay,” was the sentence I managed to coherently form.

“And you are still sad, aren’t you?” the good doctor observed, giving me a concerned look.

“Well yeah. I guess. A little,” I volunteered.

We went on to discuss about the conservative church, how an orientation isn’t sinful, and a couple more things.

I also shared how it was a series of micro-aggressions during sermons preached, that when accumulated over time led to this.

She was really understanding and offered some helpful advice.

She mentioned that it is during periods of depression that people most need to reach out to others. Connectivity is what keep folks alive. Because often people who eventually kill themselves are disconnected from people and feel like their loss does not matter to anyone.

That’s a piece of advice I took to heart.

Indeed, during my third day of crying at random, a friend tried to comfort me after I told her the reason for my melancholy. And I did feel slightly better.

I wouldn’t recommend coming out to any old psychiatrist, there may be some homophobic ones out there, but as for me, after getting to know mine for the , I felt like she would understand and thus took the chance.

I left her office and she said she hoped she didn’t make me feel worse, I reassured her saying that I felt mostly the same. Then went on to pay and do a blood test for my prolactin levels (to see if Deanxit (one of my meds) is the cause).

All in all I’d say that it’s been a satisfying visit to the doctor and I thank God for being assigned such a compassionate one.

Till next time, goodbye!

Relapse

pokemon mania

So, I’ve probably been hypomanic for 6 months now and I just updated the doctor again during my regular checkup yesterday. (For the uninformed, mania is kinda like the opposite of depression where you get all hyper and happy and everything. And hypomania is a low dose of that.)

Anyway, my doctor was pretty chill. We eventually determined that the dosage of medication was alright and continued on it. She asked me how it felt. I said it’s alright, I was more productive than usual, needed less sleep (8 hours instead of my usual 10), and my mood was generally stable. I also told her that this is probably my baseline.

She surprised me by saying (okay not really, because she said it before), that she wouldn’t mind being hypomanic herself. Not what you’d typically expect a psychiatrist to say, but hey, she’s a Senior Consultant, so I’m not arguing with her.

That was the first thing I wanted to discuss with her.

The second thing was that I’d read a book and determined that I’d had a touch of OCD. I told her I couldn’t step on cracks (on the pavement) or had to step on cracks, and then she asked me a couple of questions about hand-washing. I mean I don’t wash my hands for 10 minutes, but I do it much more thoroughly than the average person would after going for a course to help minister to HIV patients because that was what they emphasised on – handwashing.

She told me that if the total time of the compulsions (walking on cracks and washing hands) didn’t take up more than 30 minutes of my entire day, it probably isn’t a cause for concern. Plus I don’t have obsessive thoughts. It’s there, but it’s not debilitating. So she’d leave it.

Which left me with my most important and third issue I had to bring up to her. Which was this: How do you differentiate between hearing from God and hallucinations?

Let me give you some context. As Christians, most usually believe God will guide them or lead them through either inner promptings or with an audible voice, the latter usually being rarer. An inner prompting is usually a thought to do, or not do, something.

I explained how I’d read many books that talked about being led by God, but was also disturbed by newspaper articles of people being charged in court for doing something illegal because “God told them to do so”.

She listened patiently and then told me a couple of things that made a lot of sense:

  1. Usually what God tells the person to do is consistent with Scripture.
  2. Also, it is also consistent with the person’s lifestyle.
  3. In charismatic churches, there can be an effort to make one psychologically suggestible, especially in a group setting.
  4. A calling is usually different. When someone is called to a certain occupation, one tends to do it with passion, even after many years, and one usually doesn’t execute it mechanically, but from the heart.
  5. A calling must be discovered.

Wow! Am I thankful for this psychiatrist I’ve been assigned to from the first day I entered KTPH.

Okay, that’s all for today. For those concerned, I’m taking my medicine regularly, 2 pink tablets of Deanxit (Flupentixol & Melitracen) every night, one yellow Votazine (proMethazine Theoclate) topped off with a Melatonin tablet to help me sleep. The hypomania is under control, and I’m due to see my favourite doctor in 8 weeks.

So that’s all for today.

See you next time!

Book Review: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought

I was browsing in Popular Bookstore when I chanced across David Adam’s The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought. It looked intriguing and I was just about to buy it before remembering a promise I made to a friend that I would check out the library before buying books (I have stacks of unread books at home).

 

Lo and behold, our extensive National Library stocked the book and I promptly borrowed it and finished it within a week.

 

The book is part memoir, part investigative research on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. You’d have probably heard of people describe themselves as having OCD but the truth of the matter is, it is not just a behavioural quirk, it is a very serious mental health issue that has proven to be very debilitating for the people involved.

 

I must admit, as I read the first half of the book, I got rather worried and slightly depressed because it seemed like I have some of the traits described by the author. Ever since I was a child, I have always avoided stepping on cracks while walking on the pavement. If I did step on a crack, I would have to step on a crack on the other foot to “balance” things out.

 

This is illogical and somewhat weird, which is probably why I’ve never told anyone about it. You can understand my concern as I read this book. However, I reasoned, as this did not seem to impair my life that much (some diagnosed spend up to 4 hours a day bathing to get rid of dirt), I figured I was alright.

 

What was very interesting was the last third of the book where the author outlined a wide variety of treatment methods. He first talked about the group therapy he attended in UK. The therapist employed elements of Cognitive-Behavoiral Therapy which had positive effects on the author. In addition, we learn about the effectiveness of exposure therapy and extinction decay. On top of that, he shares about how medicine seems to be able to control the condition and even touched on the touchy subject of lobotomy. Fascinating stuff.

 

The author seemed to have gotten better after several rounds of group therapy and the conclusion was pretty hopeful.

 

I’m sharing this book review because I would like to raise awareness of OCD. Depression and anxiety seems to have gotten much better press lately but sufferers of OCD is usually made fun of and the topic is treated with much levity because of how it’s manifested.

 

It’s not funny at all.

 

I would encourage everyone to get a copy of this book to find out more about OCD and if they spot symptoms in a loved one, to encourage their family member or friend to visit a psychiatrist to seek treatment. Click here to get it on Amazon, Book Depository or even Popular Bookstore if you’re living in Singapore.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

My last day in therapy

So the psychologist that I’ve been seeing at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital officially released me from therapy today. I guess that’s something to cheer about. We’d been discussing this a couple weeks before but I didn’t realise that this would be the last session until we discussed it when we met earlier.

 

I went to get a referral to see her in the beginning because I felt that my bipolar meds weren’t working, especially when I had an episode (both depression and mania). But subsequent chats with my psychiatrist convinced me that they did work. Nonetheless, I’ve learnt several helpful things with my psychologist:

 

It ended on a good note and she gave me an “Open Date Appointment” which meant that I could go visit her anytime within the next one year.

 

When I first started seeing my psychologist last year in August, I knew it would be helpful, but I did not expect to be completely blown away by the level of care and attention I’ve been given.

 

I would definitely encourage anyone in distress over their mental health to seek help with a psychiatrist and/or a psychologist and if money is an issue, get a referral from your polyclinic like I did.

 

And I’ll definitely recommend KTPH.

Talking about anxiety and depression on YouTube

I’ve been following YouTube star charlieissocoollike since a year or two back after chancing on some of his videos while randomly surfing YouTube.

 

I subscribed because he struck me as a sort of witty dude who had an English accent to boot (I dig English accents).

 

But then he disappeared from YouTube.

 

Until now.

 

He posted a video detailing his experiences with anxiety and depression 3 weeks ago because “on YouTube there is only a certain kind of bumming out you’re allowed it seems”.

 

“And for a long time I sort of felt that those we sort of things that I was. I was just an anxious person. I was just a bit of a depressed person sometimes.”

 

“But I also kind feel like I wasn’t comfortable admitting that I had any real problems, you know? I honestly thought I was just being a bit whiny?”

 

“It’s not that I’m depressed, I’m just lazy. It’s not that I’m anxious, I’m just a bit scared and need to man up and deal with it.”

 

This was exactly how I felt when I was first diagnosed and I’m glad that he’s come out to talk honestly about dealing with anxiety and depression. With 2.4 million subscribers on YouTube, he has a tremendous opportunity to spread the word and reduce the stigma still attached to mental illness in this modern day and age.

 

He admitted that when he first started sharing on Twitter about it, he thought he’d be helping people. But instead, he received an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement that he’s not gotten in a long time.

 

I believe that everyone has a story to share and every single one of them has the potential to bring change to someone’s life. Admitting you have a diagnosis of mental illness is like owning it and sharing one’s story brings hope to another who might otherwise be closeted in shame and fear.

 

So check out his video and I hope you’ll share it with someone today!

A cure for insomnia (Part 3) – Sleep with me podcast

It was 2:42 am and I was still awake, lying in bed scrolling Facebook after I was done with Instagram and Snapchat.

 

It was then that I chanced upon this article by The New Yorker that heaped praises on the Sleep with me podcast hosted by Drew Ackerman.

 

“No harm trying,” thought I, and promptly downloaded it.

 

The first 10 minutes were advertising by the founder and host but it was pretty calming and the slow drawl was surprisingly soothing.

 

When he started the podcast proper, I was prepared for a long and meandering story. In the beginning, I followed his introduction pretty closely, alert and interested in what he had to say.

 

The next thing I knew, it was 10 in the morning.

 

Wow. I was pretty impressed with this. Maybe I’ll try this the next time I can’t sleep.

 

You can download the Sleep With Me podcast here and also check out A cure for insomnia (Part 1) and A cure for insomnia (Part 2).

 

Hope it helps you to sleep!