Daily Archives: April 20, 2015

Mental Illness: it’s all in your head

I could literally buy a villa in France if I had a dime for every time some “well meaning” ass said, “There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s all in your head.”
(And we all know “well meaning” is just a polite term for “ignorant troll”.)

Of course, it’s all in my head. Literally. That’s where the problem originates. My brain, for whatever reason, maybe because I used to inhale Pixie Stix as a child or mix Pop Rocks with Mt Dew…It sends out wrong messages. It’s a corrupted operating system and no amount of reformatting or upgrading is going to change that.
Odd how people have zero problem accepting that if the brain sends out wrong impulses, it can effect the use of your limbs.
Yet the notion that improper brain messages can disrupt your entire consciousness is too far out for them to comprehend.

The Donor used to say, “It’s not your mental illness, it’s your personality, you just won’t own it!”

Um…First off, I like my personality most of the time. I am feisty and I call a spade a spade and I don’t coddle people. Acquired taste maybe, but not really fatal.
Though I can see how the rage, mania, depressions, anxieties, can all amp up my personality so that it does seem to be the issue.
It requires intelligence to make the distinction.
Is she screaming and crying because she just wants attention?
Is she screaming and crying because her brain is sending out the wrong signals?
That is wayyy too much thought for mundanes to put into it.
It’s much easier to label us difficult personalities than educate oneself and face that the problem is very real.
The more mental health blogs I read, the more similarities I see amongst the diagnosis spectrum. How we think, how we feel, how we express it in our posts. For all our differences in experience, genetics, et al…The symptoms of the illnesses forever link us as some sort of relatives. One big biochemical mental maelstrom family.
I’d never have known this if people hadn’t left comments and lured me out of my self protective bubble. Once I started interacting, reading other blogs, I realized…Yes, it is all in my head, but validly so. I am not alone. None of us are inasmuch as the symptoms are so similar, we’d all have to be working in concert in some form of conspiracy to make it invalid.
Millions of people do not telekinetically link up, agree on what symptoms they want to exhibit, and work in tandem together.

Mental illness is very real.
Outside of broken bones and such, most physical problems start with the brain. The mental heath function lives in the brain. If goes haywire, it takes everything down with it.
It’s two plus two equals for and yet society is still out there trying to turn basic addition into some complicated algebra problem.
“These people don’t want to be better.”
“Mental problems are excuses for lazy people.”
“They just don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.”
“It’s a cop out, you don’t want to work.”

That ignorance is as toxic as injecting drain cleaner into the collective veins of the populace.
It’s gotten better, maybe because the internet has connected so many of us in a way that lets us know we are not alone and it’s not some character flaw. We talk about it, we share our experiences, we commiserate, we even joke sometimes. Because some days, that one simple snark on your comment page may be the one thing that makes you smile amidst all the bullshit.
It’s a start.
But I don’t think the mentally ill are the problem.

It’s the mundanes,aka those without mental illness, who can prove to be our worst enemy. Intentional or not, their ignorance, their lack of compassion and empathy, their harsh judgments…They’re as bad as the illness itself.
That’s the phantom we have to beat.
The only way to beat it is to keep talking. Keep writing. Keep fighting the stigma. Educate people whether they want to be or not. For every person that lets it go in one ear and out the other, there may be a person who takes it to heart. And occasionally, rather than be resentful they will be grateful.
Because mental illness is hard on those around us, as well. If they have more resources for understanding, their attitudes toward us might improve.

Of course, there will always be the assholes and you can only fantasize about them being stomped to death by a herd of pegacorn. Or would that be a murder of pegacorn?
Yeah, I am funny.

Keep writing about your experiences.
It’s our rebel yell.
And yeah…It IS all in your head.
Because it would be stupid if your brain was in your foot. Duh.

Winding Down

Just finished class evaluations and am on pins and needles to find out what they say.  Of course, it’ll be while before I see them, but I always enjoy reading them.  The students turned in first drafts of their research papers today, and I’ll be reading them over the next couple of days.  The semester is almost over, and I am looking forward to summer for the first time in a long time.  I hope to make it better this summer than I have been doing in the past.  My girls are going to be busy so that will help with the “I’m bored” syndrome.  But we will see how it turns out.

Waiting to see what the future holds.  I have lots of options opening up and need some prayer support to know which ones to take.  I don’t feel right sharing about them right now, but I just need to know what God’s will is for the next phase of my life.  I’m glad to have something to look forward to, but the final decision is going to have to be up to God because I really have good choices.  Candy-store problem, I like to call it-all the options are good; I just need to know which one to take.

Hope everyone  has a good week this week.  Keep dropping by and reading–I’d love to hear from you!

How Smartphone Apps Can Treat Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

This smartphone app, called Priori, monitors your behavior. It can listen to your speech, if it starts to becomes very loud, rapid and shifting from topic to topic, as it does in mania, then after collecting all this data, in the future, the app will warn you and your doctor of an impending manic phase or depressive phase. Startup companies, universities, and research clinincs are developing apps that will “Through the discreet and continuous recording of social and physical behavior, these apps can detect changes in mental well-being, deliver micro-interventions when and where needed, and give patients a new awareness of their own illnesses. In the long run, they may even diminish the stigma attached to mental health disorders.”

This can be a wonderful aid to people such as me, who have bipolar d/o and are very aware and cognizant of this fact when they are in a normal phase. But when mania or, to a lesser degree, depression, hits, this awareness goes down and eventually disappears. That is the nature of mania and severe depression, your brain is not functioning well, so it cannot recognize you are sick. That is the ironic and heart breaking part of having mental illness, why people commit suicide… If there is a tool which can help you recognize the fact that you are getting ill when your own brain is unable to do it, then it will help so much in managing bipolar d/o, depression, even schizophrenia. This is one app that I would readily endorse, and I would definitely label it smart!


“BRYAN TIMLIN ALWAYS carries an iPhone and an Android phone.

The 57-year-old is an app and graphic designer with a Michigan company called OptHub, but he doesn’t carry two phones for work. He carries the iPhone because that’s what he likes, and he carries the Android because it’s what he needs.

The Android phone monitors his behavior. Five years ago, Timlin was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by four or more manic or depressive episodes a year. Some episodes, he says, can last as long as eight weeks. “Being bipolar is like jumping out of an airplane knowing you don’t have a parachute on,” he says. “You know you’re going to be hurt, but the high is so euphoric that it’s worth the risk. You can deal with the consequences later.” With his Android phone, he hopes to deal with these moments in other ways.

At the moment, the app only collects data on his behavior. But the hope is that it eventually will use this information to warn Timlin and his doctor to an impending bipolar episode.The phone, provided by researchers at the University of Michigan, includes an app called Priori that runs constantly in the background, using the phone’s microphone to analyze his voice and track when he is, and isn’t, speaking. Mania is typically marked by speech that’s loud and rapid, often with erratic leaps from topic to topic. Longer pauses or breaks can indicate depression.

Priori is one of many efforts to address mental health through smartphone apps. Tools gestating within startups, academic institutions, and research clinics aim to help people manage everything from severe depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Through the discreet and continuous recording of social and physical behavior, these apps can detect changes in mental well-being, deliver micro-interventions when and where needed, and give patients a new awareness of their own illnesses. In the long run, they may even diminish the stigma attached to mental health disorders.

“The question isn’t whether or not this technology is going to be used in healthcare and monitoring individuals with psychiatric illnesses,” says University of Michigan psychiatrist Melvin McInnis, who developed Priori alongside computer scientists at the university’s College of Engineering. “The question is really: How?”

Most of these apps—which include CrossCheck, from Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, and Companion, from a Boston-based startup called Cogito—aren’t yet publicly available. But some projects have completed trials with small groups of patients, larger trials are underway, and preliminary results are encouraging. These apps are based on objective, contextual data, and they require little work on the part of patients.

But, certainly, there are many hurdles to overcome—most notably the potential for these tools to mislead patients and compromise their privacy. Finding ways of regulating such apps is as important as refining their technology.

“I think this will have a liberating effect, and will extend the boundaries of healthcare in a really enormous way,” says Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, psychiatrist in chief at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. “But there are also ethical and legal principles that will need to be established.”

Zero to Sixty in Sixty Years: A Bipolar Success Story

A success story (below). John Martin attributes his success to exercise, a determined will, a supportive wife, God, and of course medication. Love to read success stories, gives me hope too! If Mr. Martin can do it, so can you and I. Seems the formula for success is always the same, a supportive person/people in your life, medication, exercise, belief in yourself and a higher power (!) and meditation and a support groups are beneficial as well. We were not born to live an easy, airy life, but we were born with amazing strength and determination to be able to thrive in spite of this illness. Cheers to us!


According to the National Institutes of Health, bipolar disorder (formerly manic-depressive illness) is a “brain disorder causing unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” Affected people often have damaged relationships, poor school or occupational performance, and some commit suicide.

Sixty-seven year-old John Martin, who reads this column in the New Bern (NC) Sun Journal, has bipolar disorder 1, a form of the disorder in which the manic state dominates.

In a telephone interview, he said, “My symptoms started in 1966 at 18. I then made it through four years of the Navy, but boy did I struggle. I did my job, but (off work) sometimes stayed in bed for weeks due to depression. After the Navy, I put together two and a half good years at Oklahoma State, but the last semester I went crazy nuts.” After making up classes, he eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Over the years, Martin said his untreated manic periods often lasted two years each and included paranoia and delusions, after which he would have a couple “normal” months before slipping into depression. The cycle would then repeat. During manic periods, he had racing thoughts and was irritable, angry, paranoid, delusional, had insomnia, and, during one cycle, he drank heavily to dampen racing thoughts. To cope with insomnia, sometimes he boated on a local river in the middle of the night.

Martin said bipolar disorder often hurts family members most. For example, he and his wife married in 1983, separated several times before divorcing in 2004, and in 2008 re-united after his symptoms had improved considerably. He attributed his improved condition over the last decade to the Veteran’s Administration, exercise, a determined will, God, and a loving wife, Genevieve.

He said, “Over the years, I was in seven different (mental health) facilities in four different states.” To help others, Martin (using the name of John Lee Martin) chronicled his experiences in a 100-page book, Zero to Sixty in Sixty Years: A Bipolar Success Story.

He said, “Basically, I’ve outmanaged my symptoms. I read a lot about the disorder and got decent medication. I was always trying to get better. At one point, I was as bad off as anyone with bipolar disorder, but with some hard work, here I am. You’d be amazed how functional I am now (versus 2004).”

Nurturing Bath #1000Speak

Compassion – Nurturing – 1000VoicesSpeak.org As I desperately reached out in compassion for others this past 10 days, I’ve neglected myself. I fueled my efforts with hypomanic energy, all the while sick with gastroenteritis and caring for an even sicker son.…