Roadblocks to donating plasma with mental illness

All I wanted to do was donate plasma and make a little extra cash. I could use the extra cash since I was no longer working a side job. I have no problems with needles, no major illnesses that should preclude me from the donation process (so I thought) and I figured it would be an easy way to make some money. I did know that some of my medications may be an issue so I was honest about them. But DAMN, I had NO IDEA that having a mental illness was going to throw up so many roadblocks to being a plasma donor — as if my depression was catching or something. (It’s not.)

Take a look at this questionnaire that my doctor needs to fill out, saying that I’m “OK to donate”. This one medication that I take, Topamax, is what threw up a red flag in the system — it’s an anti-psychotic. I don’t take it for that reason, I’m taking it off-label for trichotillomania … which falls under OCD disorders, which is ALSO a red flag in their system. But look at this. Tell me this isn’t the most offensive thing you’ve seen regarding mental health. As if someone who has depression or any of these disorders (and is IN TREATMENT) is unable to understand what they are doing.

See, in order to even get as far as talking to the nurse, you’ve had to have your blood drawn (it took 1 1/2 months for me to get my hematocrit levels high enough to even get this far. I’ve been trying since June 26 to do this!) and then answer a 20 minute questionnaire. If you’re so mentally impaired that you can’t decisions regarding your medical care, you 1) wouldn’t have even been able to answer the questions or 2) drive to this center on your own. We have a mental illness, we’re not mentally disabled or developmentally disabled!! I’m utterly furious and offended by this and brought it up to the management. The manager I spoke to agreed with me, and said while she personally agrees that the language in it is utterly reprehensible, the company is bound for US FDA, CA FDA, Japanese FDA and a host of other regulatory agencies and they’re all not quite so “enlightened about mental health”.

I understand needing to know that the patient will be safe if some of their medications are taken out of them via their plasma. That’s cool. That’s making sure the patient will remain stable. But….legal guardian? I’m 50 years old and stable, thank you. I don’t need someone making decisions for my care. WTF.

So now I’m waffling between even having this filled out and returned by my doctor. I’m FINE with the one needed by my CPAP doc for sleep apnea, it’s not nearly as invasive. But this….this assumes I can’t make my own decisions. And all because I wanted to make a little extra cash. Just how badly do I need this money? That’s the big question now, isn’t it.

For the record, it’s BioLife Plasma that’s asking. I’m not sure if other centers ask the same but I imagine they probably do.

EDIT 2:20 pm. Just got a call from Biolife. Apparently my bleach allergy automatically disqualifies me. Seriously? It’s not even that bad an allergy … I only get sick if you pour the shit on me straight. Fuck this shit.

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Validation

It doesn’t always happen when you see your doctor, being validated. I’m not talking about your parking ticket here, I’m talking about being validated as a person, not just a diagnosis or a problem.  Even in the mental health arena, people don’t often feel as though they’re being truly listened to, especially in the American mental health system. It’s so broken, we’re seen just like every other doctor sees their patients — one after the other in a hurried fashion. There’s little time spent with you, so only the the basics are covered when you’re in for a medication consult with your psych MD. They’re not there to TALK to you…they’re there to prescribe your meds and make sure you’re stable and send you on your way. They talk to you just long enough to make sure the meds are working and whatever therapy you’re receiving from the talk therapists is helping and on track and that’s it. 

But my doctor listens. Or he listened to me. He stopped the usual banter we have, and listened. Granted, I had my journal with me, a bulleted list of points I needed to go over with him so he knew I meant business. And I’m also a suicide survivor, so when I say I’m in trouble…I’m in trouble. My ongoing depression hasn’t resolved, no matter what I’ve done – and I’m doing all the things. I’m doing all the healthy things, or at least trying to, as best as I can considering how heavy the elephant is that’s sitting on top of me. 

So I’m very grateful that my doctor took the time to listen to me, and validate my feelings. And not just throw some more medication at me, although we made some changes there. We determined that in one particular instance, I’m NOT crazy — or at least a specific kind of crazy — and that was a validation in and of itself. It feels like the elephant lost some weight – the depression remains of course, but a worry that was dumped in my lap isn’t mine to worry about anymore. That load can go, thank you. 

Feels good. Kind of. A step toward good. That’s good enough. 

Write Here!

I really am just going to start writing here. REALLY. (Part of this is due to The Bloggess’ post, part of it is me.) I don’t know why I don’t do it, preferring to just post snippets on Facebook instead of truly writing out what’s going on in a format that might actually, I don’t know….help? Especially since I write not for anyone else but for ME.  And maybe that’s why I don’t do it — because seeing my words out on a page, putting them down and pressing “publish” means they’re *out there* .

My mother always told me, “Never put into writing what you don’t mind seeing published in the New York Times,” and so I’ve always had this bit of a block against actually blogging or journaling my real feelings. I’ll talk endlessly about what’s going on AROUND me. If you read back through the few posts on this blog, or my public Facebook posts, you’ll see a pattern of “so this happened” and thoughts on the political climate and what I think about what’s going on in the world. But rarely do I talk about ME. I rarely share with the outside world (or, in the case of even friends-locked posts on Facebook) what’s going on inside my head. That kind of information gets tightly filtered, if shared at all. I play it so close to the vest that NO ONE knew how bad things were with me before my suicide attempt. I just don’t talk about it. 

I understand what my mother was getting at, especially in this digital age (though, this was WAY before it. She died in 1989. Maybe I’ll get into that. It’s part of my crazy.) Writing things down and sending it means it can be printed for all to see. You don’t put your private stuff out there to be used against you. I’m pretty sure this was just part of her paranoia, her own bipolar mania — or whatever damage HER mother did to her — and she passed it on to me. So now I have this odd “block” about writing in a blog because hitting send sends it out into the ether makes it permanent. The internet is permanent. It’s not even anonymous — as much as people think they’re hiding behind their screen names. I don’t ever use my full real name online but I’m sure if anyone wanted to figure out who I was, they could. 

But now, I’m past where anyone could use it against me. What could they do? I’m already disabled and on disability. I already live under the poverty line and struggle to get by. I’ve already had a person in authority over me use my words against me, use my mental illness against because I TALKED ABOUT IT.  And I’m OVER IT. 

I made my entire suicide experience and aftermath public on my Facebook page, in the hopes that if someone happened upon it, it might help that ONE person with their decision. And every time I open up and speak freely about what’s happening with me, more people say things like “me too” and “thank you, I needed to hear this” than “shut up” or “you’re crazy, stay away from me.” And writing it out helps me too. It helps to see it out and if I hit that “publish” button…maybe it’ll help someone else. Or not. Because I’m pretty sure no one reads this. And that’s OK. Because blogging again is going to exercise my brain and muscles that need to be worked. 

The fog needs to be lifted and it’s probably going to take some manual labor to lift it. Ain’t gonna be some wind coming by to blow it away. So here I am. I’m gonna blog again. Often. I’m even going to set some Alexa notification or alarm thingie to poke me to do it because I really am SO GOOD at making promises to myself and breaking them. It’s what I’m best at. 

CW: Suicide

So. You probably expected I might have something to say after the latest rash of celebrity suicides.

Hotlines, chats, even Facebook has prevention tools that are supposed to help reach out to those that might be contemplating ending their lives. These resources are great and I am so grateful to the people that man those hotlines — goodness the strength it takes to man those phones. (Aside: I worked as an insurance CSR and got a suicide call. They happen. We aren’t trained for them, not really. But my psychology degree and Priestess/pastoral training kicked in and I was able to do the right work while the supervisors worked to get the police in the town to do a welfare check on the person. I never did find out whether or not he lived through his attempt.)

My point, however, is that people deep in the throes of a suicide attempt don’t reach out. I’ve said (written) this before. We don’t. I didn’t. I was in therapy, on medication, and wasn’t even having suicidal ideation. (I’m not really going to talk about my attempt — I’ve written about it before. You can find it elsewhere). So often people are already in therapy and doing all the “right things”, taking their meds, and still struggling. YOU have to reach out to THEM.

  • And even if and when you do — they still might do it. 

It’s not your fault. You didn’t fail them if they succeed and kill themselves after you tried to stop them.

  • It’s not your decision. It’s theirs.

I know I’m going in a different direction on this than a lot of folks. I think I have a different perspective because I’ve quite literally been there, done that, and have lived to tell about it. Suicide is HARD to do correctly that’s for damned sure. I’m still here so I did it WRONG….*y’all don’t worry, I’m good. Not in any danger.* People who are doing “all the things” and still struggling, when they make the decision to end it — most of the time they’ve really thought things through and gotten their shit together to do it and how. They’ve been thinking about it for a long time, how they’re going to do it, and finally the right time presents itself and it’s done. They are not going to call a hotline or friend for help. They’re just not. I didn’t. (OK. For honesty’s sake, I had a moment there when I thought “hey, maybe I should try to stop this train” but it was really fleeting. I still wasn’t going to call anyone. I was on the ride chose.) That fleeting moment…if they manage to climb out of the abyss long enough to breathe…they might make the call. But so often, we don’t. The abyss’s hold is strong.

Is it selfish? You’re damned right it is. No one knows the internal struggle a person is going through – heck, even the therapist likely doesn’t know 100% what’s really happening because so often we can’t put it into words. Depression lies. It tricks even the person suffering into thinking we’re OK until all of a sudden, we’re not.

So now we’ve had two celebrity suicides. The media is going to talk about them with reverence and the spotlight will again be on mental illness and people will say, “Oh, we need to treat depression and mental illness like any other illness and End the Stigma™. ” That’ll last for a few weeks until the next big story and it’s forgotten. But suicides happen every day by non-famous people, and I’m going to hazard a guess that the rise in suicide in the US is going to up due to the crazy and toxic political climate. It’s terrifying, especially for marginalized communities.

And for those left behind? It’s not your fault even if you reached out and tried to help. But YOU have to reach out. YOU HAVE TO REACH OUT. YOU. 

And if you’re struggling yourself I know it’s hard. It’s so hard. Keep trying. Keep going. Gods, I know it’s hard. All that stuff I wrote above is for those other people that post trite “oh my god, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, boo hoo, they had everything!!” crap. Depression lies. Keep fighting, keep going just a little longer…and then a little longer than that. I’m here. I AM HERE for YOU. FOR YOU. Talk to me: My Facebook My Twitter

All is as it should be.

A year ago, I was headed to DC to march against the incoming administration and EXACTLY the kind of crap that’s happened. Let’s shut the government down because we’re not going to fund children’s healthcare or keep DREAMers unless the WALL is built *among other things*.
 
Today — not one march planned in my city, Birmingham. I’d have to travel to attend one and after being sick with the flu for too long, that’s not going to happen.
 
That doesn’t mean the #resist movement or women’s march is over. Or that I’m done and have given in. I’m still resisting, writing, calling, etc. But I’ve also come to realize something:
 
All is as it should be. 
As horrible, painful, heartrending and downright dangerous as it all seems — there is hope underneath it all.
  1. Sexual harassment and predation is finally being taken seriously and the discussion, while triggering to many, will hopefully lead to changes in how we treat each other as human beings. That is good. But change hurts.
  2. Racism and white supremacy is no longer hidden in the shadows or 4chan chatrooms. It’s out in the open where we can see it, address it face on and come to terms with what we thought we had moved beyond. Even if a lot of white people weren’t outright racist, they were likely complicit in their behavior and they are learning now. That is good. But change hurts.
  3. Same for LGBTQ rights, disability rights, {insert marginalized community here} rights. (I should state that I am part of many of these marginalized communities…being on the LGBTQ spectrum, disabled, of Jewish descent, Pagan, Latinx, but also white as the fucking snow.) I admit to not even knowing about certain things as it related to disability, and I’m learning more every day. And sometimes — I feel a twinge when I realize that I have been complicit or judgemental. But it’s good, and change hurts. It’s supposed to. 

We as a nation are being shocked and shaken out of our complacency. I’m not pleased about our administration — far from it. I voted against it. I think what’s happening is absolutely horrible and fight against it as often as I can but at the same time: It is what it is. We do as we can. Keep on keepin’ on and all those pithy sayings. They all boil down to what my therapist called “radical acceptance”. I (and the country but I can only speak for myself and my perspective) am in a terrible position and while I am pretty terrified of the future, I narrow my focus down to “what can I do now?” and “what have I learned from the past?” in order to deal with the now.

I have hope that we as a society and a species will pull out of this downward spiral, but I may not even see it in my lifetime. Rather than letting that thought dishearten me, I put myself out into the world as a beacon of light and hope to those that will turn things around. Acting with compassion and kindness and love, even when all is awful and terrible and scary (and I’m just as scared and angry — and oh, believe me — I’m angry. I yelled at Trump on the TV the other day, scaring my dogs *again*) is hard. 

Forcing myself to say, “No, I will not give in to hate” when I say to to the TV, “You motherfucker, I hate you. Go to hell.” or some other hateful words is hard. Instead I take a moment, let the feelings wash over me, breathe and move on to focus on making positive change. Which is good. And hard. And sometimes it hurts.

And personally … I now have come to realize that my entire life … as difficult, and full of strife and hardship and loneliness and whoo boy — some major shit …. is as it should be. Hard. The lessons I’ve learned and am learning, are as they should be. Doesn’t mean I like it, that I’m happy or that I think all is well. (There’s a difference between “all is well” and “all is as it should be”.)

Radical acceptance. Because change is good. And it really, really hurts.

Own Your Crazy, Help Your Friends

I commented earlier on a friend’s post: “Rein in your crazy, it’s hurting other people.” and realized that a lot of folks don’t or won’t tell their friends when their crazy slip is showing.

Why? We’ll tell people when they have spinach in their teeth or if their shoelace is untied. We’ll point out dirt on their face, or any other matter of embarrassing, offensive or potentially dangerous situation. But when they are behaving in manner that you know is related to their mental health problem, no one says anything. “Oh, that’s just Joe being Joe.” No…that’s Joe being manic and possibly off his meds and maybe someone that knows Joe really well ought to go talk to him and see what’s up for real.

Yeah, it’s hard. It can be as hard as having an intervention for an addict at times, depending on the mental illness. But do you care about your friend or loved one? If you do… speak up.

Knowing HOW to speak to the person is key. I’ve posted in the past about the very wrong thing to say to someone in the throes of a fragile episode. The post I referenced above is someone being obnoxious and offensive and doesn’t see it — because that’s THEIR brand of crazy. If you’re close to someone with a mental illness, you should know what it is, and how to deal with it. If not — approach with caution and care. Letting the person know that YOU CARE is the most important part. “Hey, I’ve noticed you’re not quite yourself. Is there anything I can do?” Just those few words can do so much more good than you’d know.

If you’re the one with the illness, own it. Don’t be ashamed. “Oh I’m just kidding. I’m just playing.” No, you don’t understand social cues. Or you have borderline personality disorder so you blurt out things without thinking. Or….whatever. Own it. At least then the people in your life know that you’re not just an asshole. You’re crazy — and it’s OK. You’re THEIR Crazy Asshole, and they’ll love you just the same. *mwah*

Things Better Left Unsaid

There are some things you just do.not.do to a person who suffers from depression and anxiety. Some things you just do.not.say. Believe me, we hear it all the time as it is — from our own minds. Our “sock monkeys”, “jerk brain”, “psychotic roommate”, “demon”, etc. Many of us have a term for those voices in our heads that, if we’re somewhere close to stable, have managed to dial down to faint hum but are always in the background, muttering.

Muttering things like, “you’re not good enough”, “no one wants you around”, “why even try?”, “maybe you should make another attempt, and do it right this time”. A friend of mine had a bad day, and posted about her anxiety sock monkey giving her a hard time. Her friends commented, boosting her up, sharing their experiences with the same kind of thing….doing what friends do. Doing the RIGHT THINGS for someone that was suffering and having a bad day. Another friend posted about having a tough time accepting herself — and the same thing happened. Compassion is a beautiful thing to see, especially in relation to anxiety sock monkeys.

Then I posted about mine. I said I was feeling lonely – and whether it was loneliness caused by my anxiety sock monkeys working overtime or some other reason…I was also treated with compassion and other friends shared that they too also felt the same way at times. It helped to a certain extent, knowing I wasn’t alone — even though the loneliness remained. There’s no magic pill that suddenly makes everything better, especially when you’re already suffering a downturn in depression.

(I’m coming to my main point, but this is an important tangent. Part of all this is that I was told I “share too much”. Really…I wonder how many of my readers — those who are actually on my Facebook and consider themselves my friends — know just how deep into a depression I’ve fallen. Have I shared that? Can you tell? Have I actually said anything, to anyone? I don’t think so. Not until this very moment have I said one thing to anyone…that’s how close I play it. I post a lot but rarely do I “core dump”. This….this is a core dump.”)

Ok, where was I? Oh yes. So I made the post, went on with my life. I didn’t expect anything from it – I was getting something off my chest, letting out a little of the darkness and I felt better. Now, one of the cardinal sins in mental health is giving an actual voice to those sock monkeys — literally say to a person who is suffering: “Maybe you’re lonely because you really are {insert anxiety reason here}”.

*record scratch* *blinkblinkblink*

WAIT. WHAT? SAY THAT AGAIN?

WTF Jackie Chan

It’s taken me an entire day to process this entire conversation. I’ve slept on it. Talked about it with other friends. Gone over it in my mind, word for word. Made sure I didn’t take it the wrong way. Nope. Armchair psychoanalysis is DANGEROUS, man. Dangerous. And it’s a damn good fucking thing I’m as stable as I am (even though I’m struggling, STRUGGLING, right now). I realize I’m struggling. I know I’m struggling and that I’m hurting and depressed and freaking falling and I know the abyss is over there, in the corner, beckoning. That’s STABLE, because I KNOW IT. I’m so fucking aware of how close to the edge I am. I’m grounding and centering and BREATHING and meditating and doing everything I can to keep myself together.

And I’m suddenly told, “Maybe the reason you’re lonely is because {insert anxiety reason here}”. Jeez, lady. Why don’t you just hand me the fucking gun? Why don’t you just put a pharmacopeia into my hand? ‘Cuz you just freaking pushed a suicide survivor (and you know the recidivism rate on those?) two more feet toward the edge….and “I like to psychoanalyze people so I’m really just trying to help you.”

First off: I have a therapist and psychiatrist, thank you. Second: I have a psychology degree and post-graduate education and training. Only thing you’re qualified to analyze is rocks. Third: Fuck you. Really…fuck you. Seriously? ARE YOU SERIOUS? You actually thought that saying that to me was HELPFUL? How, exactly, was that supposed to be helpful? I’ll wait while you come up with an answer. Especially since I’ve ‘overshared’ and you already know my past and the reasons I suffer from PTSD and all the shit….so, come on. How was that “helpful”?

Whew. OK. I’m done being pissed off and writing about this because people — really — THINK before you speak. Chris Cornell just committed suicide, so all the memes and posts about suicide prevention are going around again. As a survivor, I can tell you that when someone is really, truly ready — they’re not going to call a hotline or a friend unless they have a moment of clarity and those moments are fleeting. And if a person is struggling with the decision, or just struggling in general and are having thoughts — a careless, thoughtless, “helpful” person saying something like what was said to me just might be the ammunition needed to push them over the edge.

This is a warning, so to speak. If you have a friend or acquaintance that is depressed and suffering and you don’t know what to say or do, and you’re afraid they’re possibly going to attempt suicide — GO TO THEM. Don’t wait for them to come to you because they won’t. Don’t berate them, don’t list all their character flaws or all the ways they make you crazy or frustrate you. Don’t criticise them or tear them down. DON’T use their honest Facebook posts against them. DO tell them they matter, that you care, that you love them, that you want them around even if they’re sad or anxious or feeling like a slug.

Words matter. How you use them matter. The people you use them with, and to, matter. Think before you speak.