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North Carolina
Mental Health Blogger
Interests: Tennis; pop psychology; mystery novels; hiking, biking, and beachgoing in beautiful California
Recent Activity
I continue to get inquires about this site but don't check it a lot, so the best way to get in touch is by looking me up on FB. I've continued to write about healthcare reform on my public FB wall. Currently I'm working with a start-up mental health charity in North Carolina. Check out the recent panel on Mental Health and Faith we hosted with Active Minds: Looking for other media? My posts should all be here, and my Project Happiness podcasts can be found here: Take care, Nina Poe Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at Reflection on Depression
After blogging for more than 1.5 years (after commiting to blogging for 1) I'm going to close this blog. It's been fun, and sometimes hard, to address these issues. Hopefully the posts I've left behind will help those of you facing a mood disorder. Good luck and feel free to messsage me anytime. Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2013 at Reflection on Depression
CNN published a great article on childhood OCD this week. One reader left a heartbreaking confession in the comment section: "I had this [OCD] when I was little, too. I'll never understand why an "all-loving" god would put a defenseless child through this inescapable hell. I still deal with OCD to this day, albeit not in physical displays. There's absolutely no excuse for suffering like this. Just further proof that we're all alone in this Universe." I thought exactly the same thing when I was 15 -- and I still wonder why a benevolent God would permit this kind of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
I'm getting back into the groove after being back on the East Coast for a few days, so I'll just point out two awesome news stories: The first is the creation of UNC's Center for Women's Mood Disorders (bonus -- UNC is my college alma mater). It includes the first freestanding inpatient perinatal psychiatry unit in the country. The unit is specially designed for new mothers, with things like rocking chairs, breast pumps, and extended visiting hours so that moms and babies can maintain a close bond even while a mother is hospitalized. On a related note, I also read... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
This article made me laugh -- the author lost weight during a flare up of lupus and ended up getting a lot of compliments from envious friends. She says: "I was a walking skeleton and eventually wound up in a wheelchair . . . [b]ut the crazy thing was people thought I looked great because I was so thin. They'd ask if I was working out and I didn't have one muscle. You could see every bone protruding out of my shoulders, my elbows, my wrists." "[P]eople suffering from broken jaws, gastrointestinal woes — even cancer — have all had... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
My impression from following open clinical trials (in order to participate) is that the bulk of antidepressant research is conducted on outpatient subjects -- people who can drag themselves to a research facility, sign up for a study, go through an intake process, and risk a 50% chance of placebo. Because few severely depressed patients can do all of that, I suspect that severe depression is underrepresented in the subject pools. No wonder, then, that the trials show low efficacy; it's well known that the drugs work best (or only work) in cases of severe depression. The last time I... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Last weekend an article titled "In Defense of Antidepressants" appeared in the New York Times. It's refreshing to finally see a newspaper provide balanced coverage of the antidepressant debate! The author, a psychiatrist at Brown University, examines the controversial study I discussed in my last post -- a study that many news organizations sensationalized and oversimplified earlier this year. He also describes the limitations of antidepressant research generally, including the inclusion of non-depressed patients in studies, the conflation of different types of depression, and the danger of ascribing too much authority to single trials. Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Below is a link to a Stanford Medical School podcast of an interview with Robert DeRubeis, the lead investigator of a meta-analysis which revealed that antidepressants are no better than placebo in many cases of mild, moderate, and even severe depression (essentially, in all but the most severe cases of depression). DeRubeis discusses media coverage of the study, the reactions of primary care physicians, and his interpretation of the study's results. See here for the podcast. The results of the study align with my own anecdotal experience. During my most acute depressions--those times when I truly felt like I was... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Here's a link to an extremely salient clip of a teenager struggling with severe depression. The 8 minute clip is an entry from her video diary. From what I can tell she's at a residential treatment program for eating disorders. Most of the clip, however, is about her struggle with severe depression. The clip brought tears to my eyes because it reminds me so much myself when I was 16 (she even looks like me when was 16!). Her pain is palpable. She hates every part of herself. When her therapist asks if she can appreciate any part of herself... Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
I was back in North Carolina for my grandmother's funeral yesterday. Her death was sad but peaceful. She lived a great long life, and was ready to go. The funeral was perfect -- the eulogy, service, flowers, and presence of her friends and family reflected her life and were just what she would have wanted. I prepared a post last week responding to CNN's recent coverage of America's "pill problem" and it seems timely in light of my grandmother's death. My grandmother spent the last few years trying to control excruciating pain with powerful painkillers. Her meds improved her quality... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Scientists at two universities, working independently, studied families with a history of severe recurrent depression and found that variations on a region of chromosome three are linked to the disorder. The discovery is hard evidence that depression (at least this type of depression) is partly a genetic disorder. The researchers are now looking at this region of DNA to identify the specific genes involved. Although treatments based on this research are probably more than decade off, it's exciting to find such a specific causal factor. Major breakthrough in genetic research into depression Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Here's a link to Steve Jobs's 2005 Stanford commencement address. I stumbled on it last night while watching TED talks (I guess it has been posted as a sort of honorary TED talk). It's worth a look, and it's only 15 minutes--not like the painfully long commencement address at my college graduation. Although not directly related to depression, it provides great advice about how to live life -- both life before illness, as well as life after survival. Jobs talks about following his gut even when it means veering off the well-worn path, handling loss and rejection after being fired... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
I don't rejoice in the death of another human being, and I'm agnostic as to whether we should respond to killing with more killing. Even so, I was elated to find out that Osama bin Laden is dead. It wasn't a joyful elated, but rather a relieved elated -- a little like finishing the last exam of a grueling semester but orders of magnitude more significant. Terrorism is uniquely calibrated to instill a sense of powerlessness in its victims. It is unpredictable, and seemingly unpreventable. The measures we took over the past decade -- confiscating water bottles at the airport,... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
A few years ago I was was seen by a medical resident at Stanford's student health center while in the midst of an acute depression. The arrangement was temporary--I was new to her practice and still in the process of finding a permanent doctor; she was in the infancy of her career, completing her residency. Despite my transience and her inexperience, she rose to the occasion, alleviating my worst depression in fifteen years. To show my appreciation I brought a small thank-you gift to our penultimate session. After all, I'm from the South, where appreciation often manifests as a tin... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
I hope everyone had a great Easter! Remember that depending on which scientific study you read, chocolate may or may not cure depression, or may cause it--that's medical research for you! One thing I'm sure about: it's my favorite food. My computer problems are finally resolved so I will be back to blogging this week :). Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Please be patient while I work through some computer issues. I hope to be back to blogging in a few days! Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
A lot of kids need help with emotional regulation--whether it's to control aggression, anger, depression, or anxiety. Ron Artest is a role model for them all. He's a major champion of counseling and mental health services, especially in public schools where mental health resources are scarce. Artest even auctioned off his championship ring and pledged most of his $7 million 2011 salary to help put more psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists in schools. That's a lot of money, but Artest noted that he's lost that much money before--namely, in 2004 when he received the longest suspension in NBA history after a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
I suspect that it's hard for mental health professionals to assess a patient's level of discomfort. After all, there are no psychological x-rays to reveal the extent of mental pain, and the piercing cacophony of morbid thoughts in a patient's head may only come across as a whisper to the world outside. William Stryon alluded to the limitations of clinicians in his memoir of depression, Darkness Visible. In it, he recounts a time when his psychiatrist was painfully out of touch with the severity of Styron's condition: "Further, Dr. Gold said with a straight face, the pill at optimum dosage... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
I've advocated before that parents and doctors take childhood mental illness seriously. The developmental stakes are high, and an untreated mental or emotional illness can affect a child's academic, social, and emotional development for years to come. Also, an early age of onset is often a sign that a case is especially severe, warranting aggressive treatment to reduce the child's suffering. Prompt and effective treatment can also prevent or minimize the trauma of severe mental illness. The initial onset of mental illness can be so painful, so frightening, and so damaging to a child or adolescent's understanding of themselves that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
This talk by Dr. Owen Wolkowitz at UCSF is one of the best talks on the science of depression that I've ever seen. Even though it is targeted to a general audience it gets across a lot hard science, including some of the newest research on epigenetics. Very interesting and worth a watch! Dr. Wolkowitz on the biology of depression Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Last night I saw Piers Morgan interview Howie Mandel on CNN. Mandel described his OCD as "torture" and explained that he doesn't consider it a laughing matter, even though the popular media makes OCD jokes at his expense. Voicing concern over the entertainment value the media has found in Charlie Sheen's breakdown, he noted that addiction and mania are serious mental illnesses like OCD and should be treated accordingly. Madel's story inspires me. Living with irrational thoughts (whether manic, paranoid, depressive, or germ-phobic) is not an easy road to hoe, but he copes. His approach to OCD reminds of Montel... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Charlie Sheen's recent shenanigans have eclipsed, in sheer eccentricity, other celebrities' outrageous antics--even Tom Cruise's overzealous couch jumping and Mel Gibson's disturbing public tirades again Jewish people and women. In the words of Shrek, The Musical, Cruise and Gibson let their freak flags fly. Sheen, on the other hand, may think he can fly. Whether it's real or contrived, Sheen's fall from grace is a good example of what mania can look like. His statements border on the bizarre (he has "Adonis DNA" and "can cure addiction with his mind"), his speech is pressured, and he connects words that sound... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Last week, police shot and killed a mentally ill man in San Mateo (a few miles from Palo Alto, where I live). Click here for the story. Robert Caron, 35, apparently threatened CVS employees when he was unable to pick up his medication (Caron reportedly had schizophrenia but it's unclear what the medication was for). He then returned to his house and, according to a neighbor, was brandishing a weapon in his backyard when police surrounded the property. A police negotiator tried to engage him but Caron was killed by police fire after he discharged his own gun. Several questions... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
Last week I read about a couple who lost their daughter to suicide after she "stuck with a single therapeutic mode and her prescribed medications even though the combination seemed to just make her worse". Her conscientious adherence to a single therapeutic regime even when it wasn't working reminded me of the importance of changing or supplementing treatments when one isn't working. In my experience, patients are too hesitant to change treatments mid-course if progress stalls. There's a misconception that recovery requires holding fast to any treatment prescribed, and it's exacerbated by the tendency of psychiatric patients to blame themselves... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2011 at Reflection on Depression
After six weeks of once-a-week sessions with a personal trainer I'm seeing amazing progress. Yesterday I learned that my heart rate is twenty beats per minute lower than it was two months ago, and my blood pressure is back within the the optimal range (it had been mildly elevated ever since I started one of my current medications). The emotional benefits of exercise have been less dramatic, but still noticeable. I do feel better immediately following a workout, and I have more energy most days than I did before. It's nice knowing that, at the very least, exercise is helping... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2011 at Reflection on Depression