Thursday, January 3, 2013

Keeping it real: bureaucratic BS and psychiatry

I am drowning in a sea of bureaucratic BS. Get this- as part of my residence application to work in Austria, I need to have my birth certificate "legalized" which entails:

  1. Order a new birth certificate from Vital Statistics Canada. My current (and original) birth certificate is wallet-sized, but the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not accept said wallet-sized certificates. Pay for and have document sent to me in the US, for a fee.
  2. Send new full-sized Canadian birth certificate to the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for "authentication." So one organization within the Canadian government is certifying that another organization within the same Canadian government is legit. Seriously? This process is free (hallelujah), but there is a fee to have the documents sent back to me in the US.
  3. Send Canadian birth certificate, which has now been authenticated by a Canadian agency, to a Canadian Notary Public for copying and notarizing the copy. Pay for and have document sent to me in the US, of course, for a fee.
  4. Send Canadian authenticated birth certificate and notarized copy to the Austrian Foreign Ministry in Canada for "legalizing." Each paper costs $54 to legalize and $24 to send back to me. OMG. 
  5. Take full-sized, authenticated, notarized, legalized, birth certificate, among MANY other similarly complicated documents, to the Austrian Foreign Ministry in LA to apply for a residence permit for Austria. 
The cost alone, for the birth certificate process will be in the neighborhood of $210 Canadian dollars. Seriously. This is Madagascar-style stamping BS. Blah!

What does all this have to do with psychiatry? Nothing. I just feel like discussion both today.

I have seen many counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists over the years, for various issues. And, like other aspects of my mental illness, I kind of hate it. Somewhere deep in my not-too-deep head, I wish that I was "normal" and didn't need a therapist in the first place. But, that is just further patholocizing, and my rational side knows better. Anyhow, I thought I'd share why you may want to find a  psychologist or psychiatrist and what to expect if you do.

First though, note that a psychologist has a PhD in psychology, while a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has special training in psychiatry. I've had both types of therapists. I had a psychologist when I went for therapy to get over arachnophobia, and Ron and I have seen psychologists for relationship issues. I now have a psychiatrist who uses talk therapy and medication to keep my depressive tendencies at bay. Psychologists may have expertise in a particular area live phobias or obsessiveness, but if you need medication, you need to see your family doctor. Psychiatrists tend to be a bit more generalized (I am generalizing), but can do both talk therapy and prescribe medications. And they are way more knowledgeable about medications than your GP.

When you first meet a new therapist, it takes forever to go through your history and establish a relationship with them. This makes me want to put a fork in my eye. Seriously, you want to know about my entire life and extended family? -eye rolling- I just feel depressed, and not because of anything that happened in my childhood or my family. Why? Why? Why, must we go through my life history ad nauseum? Well, suck it up buttercup, cause you just do. You'd be surprised a seemingly small things that may come up, that you really bother you. Its a princess-and-the-pea thing, I guess. Plus, if you are like me and you are prone to depression, having little peas rolling about can wear on you and propagate behaviors or patterns that increase unhappiness.

So, you have to go through the history of your life crap, and maybe medication tinkering, but eventually you only have to go once in a while and its fairly painless. I see my psychiatrist every 6-8 weeks. Inevitably, when my bi-monthly appointment rolls around, I think I am too busy and that I don't need the appointment anyhow. I feel fine, so why should I go? But just knowing that I have that appointment coming up gets me to do a sort of self-check. How am I doing? Have I been sleeping? Getting exercise? Binging on chocolate cake? This self-check, along with being willing to be honest and modify my own behavior, has been the most successful tool for me to date. Oh, and I take SSRIs. But, one without the other doesn't seem to be a sustainable solution for me. Also, by keeping a ongoing relationship with my psychiatrist, she is able to best help/understand what's going on if/when I am not feeling so hot.

And that, my friends, is why you may want to seek out a therapist and what you can expect when you do. If you need help (or you and your spouse, or you and your family), there is someone out there who can help. And they aren't going anywhere. I've never been suicidal, but depression sometimes makes me feel like a lost cause. But I'm not. And no matter how bad you or I may feel at times, we aren't beyond reach until we are on the other side of the dirt, so to speak. There is nothing better than having your depression/anxiety/whatever-mental-illness subside and feeling like a whole person again. Trust me.

Much virtual warm fuzziness,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in review

A New Year is upon us, which got me to thinking about the year that has passed...

I rang in 2012 in Costa Rica, with a great group of field school students who kindly taught me about drinking games.

Osa field station NYE 2011, Costa Rica

I also got to visit with an orphaned baby sloth.

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, Costa Rica

And continued being generally awkward.

Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica

Some local bar, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Moved to Colorado. In January.


Did a LOT of work.

Which was fueled by a LOT of these.


Prepared for and survived the "storm of the century."

Made some new friends.

My humidifier. I was lonely.

Dabbled with snake poop.

Finished, defended, and revised Dissertation LaFleur. And got a little choked up when it was all over.

Took a trip to Portland, where I drank some beer, ate a few donuts, and saw some Anthropologists.

Got mad at CU.

Bastards. Medical mj is legal.

Saw the President speak.


Moved back to California, where I ate some tasty nosh and spent some time at the beach.

Crab, al la Ron
Caprese at Joan's on third

Whole Foods bakery. drool. La Jolla.
Fish tacos at Don Panchos,
Imperial Beach.

Huckleberry pastry case. double drool. LA.

Cherry danish in Solvang.
Bumbleberry pie in Julian.
Country Board at Meze Wine Bar, San Luis Opispo.

Torrey Pines (my favorite place on the planet!)

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines

Nursed one of Ron's many injuries.

Crushed distal fibula.

Had a few headaches, wherein Ron returned the favors.

Took a trip to Mexico, where I swam with WHALE SHARKS!

 Off of Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

Took a trip up the coast of California.
Elephant Seal Beach, near Big Sur, CA.

Pescadero, CA.
Carmel By-the-Sea, CA.
Hearst Ranch. Luckiest cows ever.

Took a trip to Vancouver Island, which I have no pictures of because I am an economizing angel and I didn't turn on my phone the whole time.

All in all, it was a good year. I finally (!) finished school and started getting paid to write. With the help of my psychiatrist, kept my depression in check. I put on 15lbs (oops), but it is now a New Year and there is no better time to work on cramming your sausage legs back into your way too tight jeans. And by "your" I mean "my." I started a non-profit and made great connections with other conservationists.

For 2013? I resolve to take on only moderately more work than is realistic (as opposed to WAY more). I will venture to Europe and back to Madagascar, while trying to stay happy and healthy.

Happy New Year to all, and to all a happy New Year!