Intent to Write

I intend to write. I plan to finish my book. Yet, I keep avoiding it.

Here I sit in the Laguna Hills Community Center foyer, intending to write, to tackle my memoir and collection of short pieces from my blog.

I find myself stuck. Spend time on social media. Avoid the draft I have saved in Scrivener.

The pieces I’ve chosen to share as stand alone pieces documenting my blogging journal — those I’m comfortable with — at least for now. But, the cut and paste job I’ve done for the narrative introduction — that is a mess.

That cut and paste job I wonder if I should walk away from, or should I read the scraps, then write. Weaving duplicative snippets from various sources is more difficult (perhaps) than setting them aside and writing fresh prose.

Wish me well as I both avoid tackling this task, and tackle it. Late May, I’m going to a writers’ conference where I’ll be participating in the memoir track. I would like to have a completed draft of my book by then. That’s my goal.

Sarah Fader: Parenting a Special Needs Child

Guest Post by Sarah Fader

Being the parent of a child with special needs is inherently difficult. But when it comes to a child who has mental health problems it is another echelon of challenges. I never imagined that my son would have special needs. But I guess nobody knows that they will have a child with special needs when they’re pregnant. There are exceptions to this rule. People find out that their child has downs syndrome or spina bifida or an obvious disability that can be detected in pregnancy. But mental health issues, that’s a different story. There are exceptions to this rule. People find out that their child has down syndrome or spina bifida or a very obvious disability that can be detected in pregnancy. But mental health issues, that’s a different story.

My psychiatrist told me there was a 6% chance that my son would develop depression; that was my first pregnancy and I had no idea what I was in for. I knew that my family had a genetic history of panic disorder, depression, OCD, and anxiety. So there was a good chance that one of my kids would develop one of these issues or something else that was mental health related.

But I was naïvely optimistic and thought it would not happen to my kids. When I first had Ari I was a new mom and figuring things out. The last thing on my mind was whether he would have mental illness. I was concerned with developmental milestones and the chance of him potentially having autism because that is what is stressed when you have a child. Even in the hospital they don’t talk about mental illness they talk about shaken baby syndrome. They talk about caring for your infant and making sure that you satiate that baby’s needs. Doctors warn you about postpartum depression and the baby blues but they don’t tell you about mental illness for your child.

So when my nine-year-old son started showing signs of OCD I was nervous. When my baby boy who wasn’t a baby anymore showed me that he needed help and was oppositional and had irritability and rage, I didn’t know what to do. There is an extended timeline in which things happened and I felt like they were out of my control.

What was out-of-control wasn’t me. The thing that I could not control was what was happening to my son. I was doing the best that I could I am doing the best that I can trying to find the doctors to help my kid. Trying to fight with the flawed mental health care system and find out what it is that he needs and how I can provide that to him. But I am one person and asking my friends for help is getting exhausting for me and for them. I don’t want to be a burden on others. I don’t want to ask for something that people can’t give. All I want is for my son to find peace. I want him to live a life where he feels like he can be himself.

Speaking out about what I’ve been dealing with has been difficult because I faced much judgment from people online when I share my struggles. As the founder of a mental health nonprofit organization it is bizarre to me that people would criticize me talking about mental health issues even as it relates to my family and more specifically my child. Would people be angry if I was discussing my child diabetes? Would people be upset if I was talking about a child that had cancer? Mental illness is just as it indicates, an illness.

I’m writing this for every parent who has a child who is dealing with mental health issues. You are not alone and you don’t have to stay silent. You can do what you need to do to use your voice. You can be private about these issues or you can speak out. You can internalize them or you can tell the truth in whatever way you need to: whether that’s in your journal, call friends and family, or speak about it online. There is no right answer to this struggle. Just know that your experience is valid and your feelings are real. I’m listening. We should all be listening to your story, because one in four people in this country have a mental illness and one of them is my child.

Sarah Fader 10 Step Depression Workbook

Sarah Fader is the co-author of The CBT-based 10 Step Depression Relief Workbook, which is available on Amazon. She is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

www.sarahfader.com

Low Carb Low Fat Diet

Forbidden Foods

Saw my internist today. Here’s my new diet regimen to lower my triglycerides: 100 gram carbohydrates per day, 60 grams fat day, no more than 5 nuts (preferrably walnuts), no olive oil (save 1 tablespoon to pan fry), no coconut oil, no cheese, no red meat, no pasta, no rice, and no bread.

Wish me luck! I’ve already been using the LoseIt! app to track what I eat for weight loss along with fellow mental health blogger Dyane Harwood and my husband.


There’s a good reason doctors want to meet with you to discuss lab results. See, when you download them yourself, you may misread the results, like I did. I got all worried for nothing. My internist said that my liver panel was fine.

She suspected lab error for my high potassium level.

Often a report of high blood potassium isn’t true hyperkalemia. Instead, it may be caused by the rupture of blood cells in the blood sample during or shortly after the blood draw. The ruptured cells leak their potassium into the sample. This falsely raises the amount of potassium in the blood sample, even though the potassium level in your body is actually normal.

– Mayo Clinic

As my total protein, albumin, and globulin levels were all normal and my albumin/globulin ratio was just above normal, I have no reason for concern. I can keep taking divaproex sodium (Depakote) for bipolar disorder and atorvastatin (Lipitor) for high cholesterol.

The lab sent my internist the liver panel prescribed by my psychiatrist, not the metabolic panel she requested. She relied on my (exaggerated and anxious) self report of high triglycerides (and my charted clinical history of high triglycerides).

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember what the actual triglyceride number was. If I had read the results more closely, rather than catastrophizing, I would have noticed that my triglycerides are just above normal. (I faxed my internist the lab results once I got home.)

Anyway, as high triglycerides are bad news, she prescribed fenofibrate, a medication to lower my triglycerides, and a strict low fat low carb diet. Taking a medication is easy. Keeping to a highly restrictive diet is not.

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Too much of this type of fat may raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women.

MedlinePlus

Both my mother and my maternal grandmother suffered from strokes. My mother’s stroke resulted in vascular dementia and loss of language (severe damage to the left hemisphere of her brain).

My father now has a fatty liver and dementia, as a result of heavy alcohol consumption. Fatty liver can also be the result of high triglycerides. Got to take care of my heart and my liver. Got to take care of my body and my brain.

Liver Panel Lab Results

Anxiously Waiting to discuss liver panel lab results with docs

So, back in November both my internist and my psychiatrist wrote out lab requests for me to fill. Put it off until January because I was nervous as to what the results might be.

Metabolic panel showed high triglycerides. I fasted, but forgot not to take my fish oil that morning. I currently take atorvastatin (LIPITOR®) for high cholesterol and high triglycerides which I had been unsuccessful at controlling using diet and exercise alone. Unfortunately, atorvastatin is hard on the liver…

Liver panel showed high potassium and high albumin/globulin (A/G) ratio which may indicate liver or kidney problems. I take two medications which can damage the liver and kidneys: atorvastatin and divalproex sodium (Depakote®) — the antiseizure medication I take as a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder.

Thursday my psychologist, who works with my psychiatrist, cautioned me against catastrophizing, reminding me that there were solutions (reducing dose, changing medications, etc.).

Next week I have an appointment with my psychiatrist, and I plan to see my internist. The easiest solution is to go off atorvastatin and see a nutritionist to improve my metabolic blood chemistry.

Time to lower my bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides using diet and exercise. Wish me luck.

Health Care System Fails Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED)

The health care system has failed to address the needs of persons with serious mental illnesses (SMI) and serious emotional disturbances (SED). 4% percentage of the adult population, age 18 and over, living with SMI. 1 in 4 individuals with SMI live below the poverty line. 25x the suicide rate for individuals with mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder is 25 times higher than among the general population. 1 in 10 youths in SAMHSA's CMHI program had attempted suicide prior to receiving services. 2 million approximate number of persons with SMI admitted annually to US jails. Only about 1 in 3 people with mental illness in jails or prisons is currently receiving any treatment. 7% to 12% of youth under age 18 who have SED.

The Way Forward: Federal Action for a System That Works for All People Living With SMI and SED and Their Families and Caregivers

The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) has released a report detailing a plan for helping adults with serious mental illness (SMI) and children and youth with serious emotional disturbances (SED). The report includes current needs of individuals with these issues, advances in clinical care, as well as extensive recommendations for improving the way we address these challenges. (Quoting NAMI California email dated January 18, 2018)

Press Conference

Members of the ISMICC discussed the recommendations in their first Report to Congress during a press conference on Thursday, December 14, 2017. The findings and recommendations in the report have the potential to spur federal action to revolutionize behavioral health care by increasing access, quality, and affordability of care. (Quoting SAMHSA.gov/about-us/advisory-councils/ismicc)

Full Report
Executive Summary