Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TO WRITE: Holiday Ups and Downs
So how do you really feel about this holiday season? It can be confusing. Family, friends, partners and mall stores may all expect bliss; magazine articles on SAD and newspaper editorials on the economic downturn may feel like harbingers of depression. Not an easy time for folks with mood disorders. I know I can feel up one minute and down the next for no apparent reason. So perhaps our goal should be to maintain some sense of stability, equanimity, groundedness. But how?

Play with this. . .
Write continuously for 20 minutes on: What helps keep you on an even keel at this time of year? Write as if you are sending this to a friend who needs your advice. For me, writing itself -- including being alone and quiet for 20 minutes -- helps a lot. So do occasional naps (even short ones), eating protein instead of too many Christmas cookies, not watching too much TV or surfing the net too much, and giving charitable gifts in honor of family members instead of just buying gifts for the sake of buying. What helps you?

This holiday period is likely to have both ups and downs for each of us. I wish all of you moments of joy, periods of peacefulness, and the awareness that life will likely settle down some soon, so persevere even if it gets tough.
With warm regards,

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Amazing New Treatment Approved to Treat Depression
It really can be amazing! I know personally. . . .

What is it? The US Food and Drug Administration has now approved the use of a technique that uses strong magnets for "treatment resistant" major depression. This is great news for anyone who has not responded to at least two antidepressant trials and who would prefer not to be treated with the main alternative, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy or "shock treatments"), which can damage memory and carries some additional risks.

The new treatment is TMS or transcranial magnetic stimulation. It involves placing a device that generates a strong but precise magnetic field against a particular site on the left side of the skull, and delivering magnetic pulses for 20 minutes, five days a week for two to four weeks. The patient is conscious during the procedure, which can be done in a psychiatrist's office. What does the patient feel? Not a thing. What side effects are there? None reported at all except occasional mild headaches that respond to over-the-counter meds. No memory loss!

TMS will soon become more widely available, which I feel is fabulous news. You see, TMS completely turned my life around -- after many years of requiring a series of ECT treatments when a suicidal depression struck every few months, I was allowed to try the experimental TMS. Now, I'm technically diagnosed as bipolar, though I mainly experience depression, so my TMS targeted a different area of the brain, this one on the right side. Nonetheless, my treatment was a resounding success, as the newly-approved one has now been for many with depression in clinical trials. By the second week of treatments, the profound depression lifted and I was merely very depressed, but functional. By the end of week four of the five-minute treatments I was well! Really well -- back to baseline.

Now I needed to repeat this four-week series every few months for a couple of years as the depression returned, but the intervals between series gradually grew longer. And I'm delighted to report that I have not needed TMS (or ECT) for over two years! I've had no serious depression symptoms, and I've gotten my life back after 14 years of being unable to work or have kids. I wrote a book last year (see profile), I published it this spring and have been promoting it and, most important, my husband and I adopted a child this summer. Obviously I'm a huge TMS fan.

I know that no treatment works for everyone, but I believe that having more alternatives to try is the key for those of us who've been through every drug trial and don't know where to turn. This is great news.