Saturday, March 31, 2012

Advocacy Class: H.R. 6983 Mental Health Parity Act

This act, named for Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici, was introduced in 2008 and is currently tabled. However, it highlights the inequality between insurance coverage regarding mental health concerns versus other health concerns. With the passing of this act, it would help to ease the fallout from mental health stigma. Insurance plans that cover mental health treatment less than other types of treatment are essentially saying to those that they cover that issues concerning mental health  (including addiction) are their own problem and not a legitimate health problem. Without proper coverage, many people may then not seek the proper treatment because they are unable to pay the out of pocket expenses. 1 in 4 adults suffer from a mental health disorder any given year.

Here is a brief excerpt from
Section 2 -
Amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code to require a group health plan that provides both medical and surgical benefits and mental health or substance use disorder benefits to ensure that: (1) the financial requirements, such as deductibles and copayments, applicable to such mental health or substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan; (2) there are no separate cost sharing requirements that are applicable only with respect to mental health or substance use disorder benefits; (3) the treatment limitations applicable to such mental health or substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant treatment limitations applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan; and (4) there are no separate treatment limitations that are applicable only with respect to mental health or substance use disorder benefits.
 Check out Mental Health America's Action page and learn more!

Parity law can be confusing, but many organizations have broken it down and formed coalitions in support of appealing to denial of insurance claims for mental health services. Toolkits are available, including sample appeal letters. You deserve the best treatment and care possible!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Depression in Fiction: Ducks in a Row By Yours Truly

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Here is another little piece of me. A short story I wrote a few months ago, about two friends that suffer from depression. It's the first time I ever really tackled anything 'serious' in my writing, but it felt really good to get out. I'm able to sort out my thoughts and emotions a lot better through writing, than I ever feel like I can through talking. I feel like I can pause, reflect, erase, re-word. But once you say something, you can't un-say it. Plus, I always turned to writing because I could say all that I wanted without being ignored. My characters were able to have conversations that I wanted to have, they were bolder and accepted and listened to. I didn't want to write about 'real' things because I needed an escape from my awful reality. Now, I find, that I really do need to reach deep down and pull out this stuff in order to write something that is meaningful to me.
Here is an excerpt (it's short because the story itself isn't terribly long):

                "Sam didn’t want to take meds, didn’t want to see doctors. She knew that was the long journey and it didn’t guarantee she would ever stop feeling useless and undeserving.
                That was all I could guess anyways, about why she’d tried it.
                The rumors were much more gruesome, blood and razors. I knew different, thanks to a grim conversation many months before. I missed her birthday party and she was so angry, I came clean about my meds, having just switched over and feeling too nauseous to attend.
                Everything spilled out then. She had thought I was the paragon of normal, albeit a little antisocial. Then she shocked me further by revealing how apathetic she felt sometimes—like so little really mattered.
                As our conversation unfolded, I was both cheered and distressed. We were closer than ever, but more similar than I was used to. "

 The full story can be found at 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Today I Feel...Defeated

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"The only way out is through..." somebody famous, or semi-famous said that, and I am the queen of trying every other way possible, usually multiple times. In another life I was most likely a turtle, or a hermit crab, frequently retreating to the safety of my shell for comfort and hiding from the rest of the world. I manage to spend a lot of time going in the opposite direction, even when I can clearly see the right way to go...

Okay, enough metaphors. I obviously started this blog for a reason, but have managed to skirt around my own personal stake in it...I struggle with depression. I have since I was 14 years old, but this current bout has been the most serious and difficult. I've only opened up about the worst of it to a few close family members and friends, but mostly, I feel like I'm in it alone. Starting with a base of someone who is introverted and lacks a lot of self-confidence, my depression is often really crippling. I don't want to get out of bed, partly because I don't see the point, and partly because it is the place that I seek comfort. I don't answer the phone just because I can't take the minimal small talk I know I will have to make. Those people on the other end, they have purpose, jobs, lives. And I do not. I cannot deal with their hypothetical happiness.

When I manage to successfully cope my way through the day, what is my reward? Often times, I get to reflect on the "real" things I did not accomplish. Homework. Looking for a job. Anything productive. Which unfortunately, brings me back to feeling awful about myself again. Being hard on myself, unfortunately, is not a realistic long-term goal. I can't "hate" myself into changing.

So what am I doing about it? I've been going to therapy for just over a year and also testing out medications for almost 6 months. Before today, I actually had a really amazing week (the first in many, many months) of feeling normal and sleeping regularly (normal hours and through the night). But today, not so much. I feel the whole troubling spectrum of emotions...anger, panic, sadness, hurt, frustration, stress.... Mostly, I feel defeated. I'm in the self-blame game where I'm the ultimate loser.

I wanted to wait until I felt brave enough to share all this, but then I thought maybe it's better if I don't. Even if I didn't do all that I was supposed to today, at least I did this for myself, and this was very important. This is me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Depression in Fiction: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Photo from
This debut novel by Jay Asher caught my eye as a book lover by continuing to resurface on the New York Times Best-Seller list. I am a big fan of young adult fiction, but initially I wasn't interested in reading a book dealing with teen suicide.

From the official book website:
"Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers."

The premise made me nervous. I imagined an angry, depressed teenager planning revenge against her tormentors, hoping to crush them with guilt after her death. How was this kind of bitter story going to help?

However, the book kept resurfacing, and I knew it had to be a richer story than that. I actually listened to the audio version, which was extremely powerful, like I was hearing Hannah's tapes along with the other main character, Clay. As the story unfolded, we are taken on a journey of chain reactions. Rumors compound with bullying and accusations and self-perception. Ultimately, we see both the power of speaking up and reaching out. Through Clay, we gain hope for the future. I would definitely recommend this book as it is so layered, and would be a great catalyst for discussions (a discussion guide is conveniently posted on the official website).

The book's website also has a great community based on reactions to the book, called 13RWproject, where readers are encouraged to share their stories.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Personal Experiences: Mental Illness Happy Hour

I stumbled across this podcast while looking for appearances/interviews of two of my favorite comedians, Adam Carolla and his former radio show co-host, Teresa Strasser. The host, Paul Gilmartin, most famous for TBS' Dinner and a Movie, is often a guest on Carolla's top-rated podcast. Gilmartin admits on the podcast to being a long sufferer of depression and talks with other comedians, entertainers, and every day folks about how depression, anxiety, addiction etc. manifests itself in their lives and in many ways how it contributed to their creativity.

It is interesting to hear other people's perspectives, experiences with medications and talk therapy etc. in an ultimate effort to let others know "You Are Not Alone." Podcasts are also one of those intimate mediums where you feel an immediate connection with those you are listening to, as if you were simply overhearing a conversation between people you know. The best part is that as Gilmartin and guests are not 'mental health professionals' you are spared any clinical talk.

I highly recommend a visit to his website,, where you can stream the episodes and is also a forum to discuss the shows.

(Image courtesy of