Monthly Archives: August 2015

Seize the Fish! “Koi Carpe Diem” Out Now

2015-08-29 18.05.36

Victoria sponge (l) with toast rack (r)

“There are advantages to being known locally as an eccentric.” – from “Sherlock Jones & the Hound of the Basingstokes”

I am writing this whilst eating racked toast. “Racked toast”, as many connoisseurs of breakfast foods know, is toast which has sat in a toast rack. What can I say, except I’ve probably seen too many episodes of “Sherlock Holmes” (1), “Campion”, the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and the like.

You should see my teaspoon collection. Then again, perhaps we’ve not yet reached that stage in our relationship.

Fish Spoon

“Fish Spoon”: doesn’t everyone have a favourite teaspoon?

Recently, as well as washing up our new-to-us toast rack, I also made a cake, and got angry about some badgers. Specifically, I made a Victoria sponge (see photo at top), and learned that the UK government, in their non-wisdom, are apparently considering yet another cull.

According to some, badgers are responsible for TB in cows. Others, such as the wonderfully named “Team Badger“, say that vaccinating cows and badgers makes more sense than shooting the badgers.

I have not yet been sufficiently organised, or motivated, to hang out in badger-friendly areas late at night, with specialist goggles, and lashings of meal worm beer. (2) I do however support their right to bumble about their setts, safe from being  dug out, let alone shot.

Unlike some foxes, badgers haven’t gone in for urban living much, save for some more rural back gardens, and, of course, in the imagination.

Take, for example, Boswell Badger-Jones, friend and fellow sleuth to Sherlock Jones. Both are characters in “Sherlock Jones & the Hound of the Basingstokes”, one of the stories in my new collection, “Koi Carpe Diem: Five Tales of Paws, Claws, and Mystery“.

221B: London, 2014

221B: London, 2014

“Hound” takes place in an alternative London, where badgers read the “Times” for the book reviews, as well as news of any potential culls. The other four stories are set in my version of Yorkshire, where a cat is a sergeant in the police force, a goldfish trains to be a PI, the trees like to discuss cinema, and there’s a genie in the mirror of the local care home.

Cover art by the fabulous Tom Brown

Cover art by the fabulous Tom Brown

Fancy some carp to go with your chips this Bank Holiday Monday? Or, indeed, anytime you fancy some laughs served with a twist of mystery?

Five stories: over 32,000 words. Eccentricity guaranteed. Available now from Amazon. Suitable for reading whilst munching all good toast: racked, and otherwise.

Seize that fish, rack that toast.

Tote that barge, rack that toast.

(1) I’m thinking of the Granada series with Jeremy Brett, though I quite like “Sherlock”, too.
(2) My fictional badger is a temperate beast, and does not drink. He is however fond of meal worm flavoured snack foods.

Research identifies biomarkers of suicide across psychiatric disorders

The ability to predict suicidal ideation by looking at the amount of expression of certain genes is quite amazing in and of itself, but what is really amazing is that lithium alters sodium transport and may interfere with ion exchange mechanisms and nerve conduction. Fluid and electrolyte metabolism are believed to be altered in affective disorders and this may be related to the therapeutic action of lithium. SLC4A4 is involved in sodium transport, and it is this protein which is a biomarker for suicidal ideation. Could this also be one of the key proteins involved in mental illness? Why isn’t anyone but me asking this question? Oh my goodness, I’m going to call my psychiatrist and run this by him. These relationships are not random, there is something quite important going on here. Na+ transporter protein predicts chances of suicide, Na+ influx and outflux, possibly the pumps that do this, are affected by lithium which treats bipolar d/o!  Read on please!

Researchers identified biomarkers of suicidal ideation across multiple psychiatric disorders and developed an application to help clinicians accurately screen for suicide risk. These researchers looked at the expression of different genes and changes in their expression between a no suicidal state to a high suicidal state, to see if one of them would signal suicidal ideation in bipolar d/o, major depressive d/o, schizoaffective d/o and schizophrenia. They looked at 217 males with bipolar d/o, major depressive d/o, schizoaffective d/o or schizophrenia.

What they found was that SLC4A4 was the best biomarker for suicidal ideation across all illnesses! This gene encodes a membrane protein transporter which transports sodium bicarbonate across cell membranes. Sodium bicarbonate cotransporters, like SLC4A4, mediate the coupled movement of sodium and bicarbonate ions across the plasma membrane of many cells. This is an electrogenic process with an apparent stoichiometry of 3 bicarbonate ions per sodium ion. SLC4A4 predicted suicidal ideation among participants with bipolar disorder with an area under the curve (AUC) of 93% and future hospitalizations with an AUC of 70%. Using questionnaires such as the simplified affective state scale (SASS) and Convergent Functional Information for Suicide (CFI-S) which measure suicidal ideation along with the biomarker SLC4A4, the AUC was 92% for all psychiatric diagnoses, 98% for bipolar disorder and 94% for future hospitalizations.

Understanding and predicting suicidality using a combined genomic and clinical risk assessment approach.

Worldwide, one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide, a potentially preventable tragedy. A limiting step in our ability to intervene is the lack of objective, reliable predictors. We have previously provided proof of principle for the use of blood gene expression biomarkers to predict future hospitalizations due to suicidality, in male bipolar disorder participants. We now generalize the discovery, prioritization, validation, and testing of such markers across major psychiatric disorders (bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia) in male participants, to understand commonalities and differences. We used a powerful within-participant discovery approach to identify genes that change in expression between no suicidal ideation and high suicidal ideation states (n=37 participants out of a cohort of 217 psychiatric participants followed longitudinally). We then used a convergent functional genomics (CFG) approach with existing prior evidence in the field to prioritize the candidate biomarkers identified in the discovery step. Next, we validated the top biomarkers from the prioritization step for relevance to suicidal behavior, in a demographically matched cohort of suicide completers from the coroner’s office (n=26). The biomarkers for suicidal ideation only are enriched for genes involved in neuronal connectivity and schizophrenia, the biomarkers also validated for suicidal behavior are enriched for genes involved in neuronal activity and mood. The 76 biomarkers that survived Bonferroni correction after validation for suicidal behavior map to biological pathways involved in immune and inflammatory response, mTOR signaling and growth factor regulation. mTOR signaling is necessary for the effects of the rapid-acting antidepressant agent ketamine, providing a novel biological rationale for its possible use in treating acute suicidality. Similarly, MAOB, a target of antidepressant inhibitors, was one of the increased biomarkers for suicidality. We also identified other potential therapeutic targets or biomarkers for drugs known to mitigate suicidality, such as omega-3 fatty acids, lithium and clozapine. Overall, 14% of the top candidate biomarkers also had evidence for involvement in psychological stress response, and 19% for involvement in programmed cell death/cellular suicide (apoptosis). It may be that in the face of adversity (stress), death mechanisms are turned on at a cellular (apoptosis) and organismal level. Finally, we tested the top increased and decreased biomarkers from the discovery for suicidal ideation (CADM1, CLIP4, DTNA, KIF2C), prioritization with CFG for prior evidence (SAT1, SKA2, SLC4A4), and validation for behavior in suicide completers (IL6, MBP, JUN, KLHDC3) steps in a completely independent test cohort of psychiatric participants for prediction of suicidal ideation (n=108), and in a future follow-up cohort of psychiatric participants (n=157) for prediction of psychiatric hospitalizations due to suicidality. The best individual biomarker across psychiatric diagnoses for predicting suicidal ideation was SLC4A4, with a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) area under the curve (AUC) of 72%. For bipolar disorder in particular, SLC4A4 predicted suicidal ideation with an AUC of 93%, and future hospitalizations with an AUC of 70%. SLC4A4 is involved in brain extracellular space pH regulation. Brain pH has been implicated in the pathophysiology of acute panic attacks. We also describe two new clinical information apps, one for affective state (simplified affective state scale, SASS) and one for suicide risk factors (Convergent Functional Information for Suicide, CFI-S), and how well they predict suicidal ideation across psychiatric diagnoses (AUC of 85% for SASS, AUC of 89% for CFI-S). We hypothesized a priori, based on our previous work, that the integration of the top biomarkers and the clinical information into a universal predictive measure (UP-Suicide) would show broad-spectrum predictive ability across psychiatric diagnoses. Indeed, the UP-Suicide was able to predict suicidal ideation across psychiatric diagnoses with an AUC of 92%. For bipolar disorder, it predicted suicidal ideation with an AUC of 98%, and future hospitalizations with an AUC of 94%. Of note, both types of tests we developed (blood biomarkers and clinical information apps) do not require asking the individual assessed if they have thoughts of suicide, as individuals who are truly suicidal often do not share that information with clinicians. We propose that the widespread use of such risk prediction tests as part of routine or targeted healthcare assessments will lead to early disease interception followed by preventive lifestyle modifications and proactive treatment.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 18 August 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.112.


I don’t often post on Sunday, but today has been too strange not to comment .  I had another anxiety fit going to the grocery store today.  THis incident pointed up something that I’ve been ignoring in hopes it would just go away.

I’m NOT in remission.  I still can’t go to the grocery store without summoning every ounce of courage I’ve got.  I can’t take care of the house and everyday duties like a normal person can.  I still don’t think I can hold down a regular job.  These things are what remission means to me,  And I can’t do it.  I still want to sleep all day.  I’m not confident in my abilities to relate to people normally without getting manic, particularly men.  And I don’t know what to do about it except try to do better without any confidence that I will get better.

WHy can’t I believe in my own recovery?  WHy do I still hang on to some symptoms and habits that I should be rid of if I’m in remission?  Has this kind of phenomenon happened to anyone else?  I’m still on my meds and no suggestion has been made to take me off.  I’ve lived so long with bipolar disorder now that I don[t know what my life is supposed to look like if I no longer have it.  I’m truly conflicted by this.  I’ve wanted to be healed but I don’t know how to act like it anymore.  I just don’t know what to do.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273 TALK (8255)

One of the worst things to happen to anyone is to lose a precious, beloved family member to suicide. I know. I lost my 26 year old brother, Farooq, in 1991. It is not something that you ever get over. The loss, the emptiness, the heartache, the guilt, the devastation, they never go away. The “if only I’d …” been there, done this, held on to his hand so he couldn’t have walked away, the if onlys, they never go away. I wasn’t even in Buffalo when it happened. If only I’d been there, I may well have been able to help him. I would still give my right arm to have him here with us, with his beautiful, endearing smile, his goofy jokes, his sweetness, his sensitivity, his love.

September is Suicide prevention month. This article from NAMI is an excellent article, with a great amount of information to help people who are thinking of suicide, hotlines, it also has information for people who are friends or family of someone who is thinking of suicide. I hope my posting this will help people, will prevent this devastating loss from happening to people. Read on.


“September 2015 is also known as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month which helps promote resources and awareness around the issues of suicide prevention, how you can help others and how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.

Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and is often the result of mental health conditions that effect people when they are most vulnerable. Suicidal thoughts and suicide occur too frequently but should not be considered common and can indicate more serious issues. In many cases the individuals, friends and families affected by suicide are left in dark, feeling shame or stigma that prevents talking openly about issues dealing with suicide.

Crisis and Information Resources

  • I’m in crisis or am experiencing difficult or sucidal thoughts: National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
  • I’m looking for more information, referrals or support: NAMI HelpLine 800-950-NAMI (6264)

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately. – See more at:

World Suicide Prevention Day

On September 10, 2015 we observe World Suicide Prevention Day to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect indiviudals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to address suicide prevention.

What else can I do?

We believe that these issues are important to address year round. Highlighting these issues during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and World Suicide Prevention Day provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of the millions of Americans that can benefit from honest discussions about mental health conditions and suicide. In fighting for those living with mental illness there is still much more that needs to be done and more ways to get involved.

If you or someone you know may need a mental health assessment, anonymous online tools are available. Learn more and help yourself or someone you care about.

Awareness Resources

Share the images and graphics below during the month of September to help promote awareness of suicide prevention resources and promote discussion of suicide prevention awareness. You can also use #suicideprevention or #IAmStigmaFree on social media.

Facebook Cover Image and Badge:

Facebook Cover Image 851x315px

Facebook Share Image 1200x1200px

Twitter Cover Image and Badge:

Twitter Cover Image 1500x500px

Twitter Share Image 1012x512px

– See more at:

I Give Up (Again)

I Give Up (Again). I Admit Defeat. I Surrender. I Let Go.

Here is where I must admit defeat or acknowledge my limitations and sensitivity to social stimulation. I’ve been hypomanic since I began coming into the NAMI Orange County office to volunteer, and since I offered to help with social media. Apparently, both overstimulate me. I love everyone at the NAMI office and so want to help, but I must acknowledge my own limitations and slow down.

I still very much look forward to participating in my local NAMI Walks (please consider walking with or sponsoring me) & raising as much money as possible. I still very much look forward to being an Ending the Silence presenter in local high schools and a Provider Education panelist.

Of course, I will continue to shout out for NAMI and good mental health as myself and as a NAMI volunteer.

Sorry to my friends at the NAMI Orange County office. I always do this – take something on that I cannot handle & then back off.

In one of the coloring books my sister gave me a for my birthday to help me with my ramping hypomania, I found this apt quote:

Letting go helps us to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress. — Melody Beattie

My problem is that I want to help everyone, rescue all, offer of myself what I really cannot spare.

Filed under: Acceptance, Bipolar Disorder, Hypomania, Mental Illness, Mood Cycling, NAMI, Triggers to Mood Cycling, Volunteering Tagged: balance, limitations, overstimulation, social stimulation, Stress, surrender

A Dull Discomfort

Last year I found out I had high blood pressure.  Typically people don’t get symptoms from this, which is why having it checked regularly is important, but I did.  I had a near-constant headache, which magically disappeared as soon as I started taking blood pressure medication.  This headache was the type that isn’t really even […]

Afterthought on a few flies in the ointment

The biggest problem I’ve found is that no-one talks to each other – therapists, GPs, psychs, Primary- and Secondary Care professionals.There’s no ‘joined up thinking’ and loads of bureaucracy. And no targeted support. I’d have patients assigned to specific care providers who can manage their treatment and support. A sort of life coach, nopt necessarily providing treatment but giving support, information and guidance. It would be no different from having a GP or dentist or optician. They might have many patients each, depending on various factors, but at least you’d know who to go to for help. And know that that person has your complete record to hand rather than it being split up and divided between various people who don’t share all the information.

After a year of ‘treatment’ the only advice I’ve ever been given if I am ‘in crisis’ or suicidal is to go to Casualty (uh yeah, I’m trying not to kill myself but I’ll just drive to the hospital and try to find somewhere to park first shall I?) or ring 999. I’m sure an ambulance will be here within the hour or 2.

Peer support seems to be almost totally ignored as an aid. And surely that’s a cheap option too?

Add another problem to the list

I suffered miserably yesterday between an excessively low mood and the aching gums and jaw. It was like having a throbbing toothache where there is no tooth. Phantom pain. I started getting the sniffles. At one point my ears ached to the point I mashed my hands over them because my kid’s loud voice was causing me physical agony. I assumed it was my mental shit, it’s always the mental shit, mentally ill people NEVER have legitimate physical causes.

Until bedtime where I really started feeling like shit. Running nose, sinus drainage, almost choking on it all. Yep. A sinus issue. Cos the allergies and bites and nervous hives weren’t enough. The stress stomach aches weren’t enough. Let’s add something else to the list. I NEVER had sinus issues a day in my life prior to the spawn’s birth which gives credence to all my bodily functions being affected by the pregnancy. I slept a little after some quality time with the tissue box. Then I woke up again and was so itchy I had to throw myself into the shower. Yet I couldn’t handle bright light so I showered by candle light. By 1 a.m. I was desperate enough to take a Melatonin. And still, I kept waking up, jaw and gums hurting, head heavy with drainage. Ugh. Can’t catch a fucking break here.

Come morning and I can barely drag my ass out of bed. My kid is already screaming at me because something didn’t go her way and it’s all my fault. Absinthe just keeps getting sicker and I’ve tried to borrow money from everyone I know to take her to the vet and they’re all broke as I am so I can’t do a fucking thing to help her. The sinus issue is still in full force this morning though the pain in my gums and jaw has moved to the other side, so it must be draining. Happy Sunday frigging morning. On the plus side, peace has been made with the spawn now that she rode out her fit and ceded that I was right about how to put her shirt on.

My dad and stepmonster stopped by yesterday. Chatted a bit. They rarely come inside anymore because my scented oil and such make her allergies act up. Wahh, sue me for doing aromatherapy. Dad was on a tear again  about people who don’t work. It never ends with that man. Then I mentioned the school bus thing and he snarked, “Well, what you do IF YOU ACTUALLY DID WORK?” Um…I’m about to drink bleach right now, so I might have to bump it up to industrial acid. IDFK. He just has to be so nasty, like it is gonna help me. Yet my  20 year old “special ed class” brother still lives with them, no job, getting disability and playing video games all day. What the fuck. He wasn’t so special needs it kept him from going to a normal school, getting good grades, and graduating. When I quit school at sixteen, I was told I had X months to get a job or get out. Things have always been different for the siblings. It’s less jealousy and more outrage at not playing fair.

Then he mentioned something in the newspaper about “superlouse” going around the school which is resistant to ALL methods of lice treatment. Since then I have been itching and paranoid as hell, inspecting Spook’s scalp like some rabid helicopter scalp mom. Tempted to buy us both astronaut helmets.

I am aware it seems like all I do is fuss but I have been dealt a shitty few months and it’s taking a toll. That impacts my attitude and it paints me as somehow about to go over the edge. For those who have shown concern, I appreciate it. But this really is just a case of things being shitty and the seasonal coming on. If I get to the point where I am teetering on the edge, I will be emailing the femmes and butch for sage advice.

I see the doctor tomorrow. I’ve prepared (what I hope) is a concise list of my problems. Last time I did it he waved it off, wouldn’t even read it. Guess I am going to have to insist. I get so nervous and he takes it as hypomania and I just think he’s doing me a disservice. If he won’t listen to me, let him read.

And I guess that’s it for now. Day is young. Maybe I will be like  people who think blogging is akin to Facebook updates and post ten things a day about every tiny thing including what they had for supper. Sorry to be bitchy, but it really is irksome. If I wanted short mundane details I would use Twatter and Fuckfacebook.  Sadly, it’s not limited to a couple of people, it’s the way of the world these days. And it’s designed for more likes and to gain followers which comes off as super needy to me. R’s daughters are the worst at it. Every tiny detail gets written up like a post yet it amounts to being as interesting as watching paint dry. Maybe I ramble too much but 80% of each post has content more deep than “My kid went poop”.

Ahh, the familiar venom of oncoming pms. I am just getting hit from all sides. Yet it is a mystery why my posts aren’t shiny happy vomit spewage. I am a freak for having a blog tagged depression, writing about depression, and not painting it shiny.

I suck.



Suicide is a beginning, not an end

walking awayFor many that have been left behind, suicide is the beginning of self-recrimination. It is the beginning of self-doubt and self-blame, the beginning of anger and feeling shame at being angry. Suicide is the beginning of a profound grief with never-to-be-answered questions. I know this because when I first met my husband and told him I have bipolar disorder, he said “My best friend had that.” His use of the past tense and the small hitch in his voice told me everything I needed to know.

The end of despair was what I thought suicide would be. Less than a year ago, my planning began. For months I planned every detail, refining and perfecting until it seemed the “best” way for all concerned. Thoughts of my beautiful grandchildren, my daughters, my husband, my family, and my friends had no room to flourish in the inky darkness that had consumed my brain. My body was filled with real pain, centering in actual heartache. I just wanted a lifetime of fighting this pain and despair to end.

And then I was in the woods, barefoot, shivering, doubled over with that unbearable pain, and my husband’s arms wrapped around me. All he said was “I love you,” no matter how many times I begged him to let me go. He helped me back to the house, holding me up when my knees would start to buckle. He gently washed the mud off of my feet, lay down next to me in bed, not letting go until my sobs faded into sleep.

In the years that we’ve been together, I’ve often wondered if falling in love with me was a second beginning for him. Was it a beginning of fear and worry? All the times he says “When I look back, I should have known;” “I should have been there;” “I should have stopped him;” I wonder if he applies those things to me. Does he try to end his past grief by finding a way to avoid another beginning of his pain? Over the past few months he’s returned my medications and the blades I use for slashing bread. To me, that shows a beginning to a hopeful end.

Tagged: depression, hope, suicide

Those Science Fiction Crazies

There has recently been a huge kerfuffle in the science fiction community regarding the Hugo Awards. You don’t really need to know much about it and probably don’t want to. Suffice it to say that two groups had it out over the past and future direction of science fiction and fantasy, and the meaning of the asterisk.

The awards have now been given, but still the blogosphere is full of recriminations, sour grapes, and schadenfreude.

What does this have to do with mental health? Aside from the fact that very smart people can behave like vicious toddlers, it’s interesting to note that the various sides in this dispute did not always, shall we say, acted rationally. You probably guessed that from the asterisks.

This phenomenon is not unique to the Hugo Awards. If you have never been to a science fiction convention, let me tell you about it.

Most of the people there will be very intelligent, obsessive about their particular fields of interest, lacking in social skills to various degrees, and will have a history of being outcast or bullied in their youth.

Does any of that sound familiar?

I’m not a psychologist (nor do I play one on TV), but I can’t help thinking that if you tested everyone at one of these events they would score higher than a random group of people on the autism spectrum. Simply put, the SF community appears to have more than its share of Aspies – and a fair sprinkling of bipolar, depressive, and OCD people.

When their oddities are carried to the extreme – and they often are – SF fandom can devolve into incivility that results in unconscionable threats and exceedingly ugly online behavior.

When you see these kinds of behavior, it is tempting to dismiss science fiction fans as being the caricatures that the media have instilled in us – clueless losers who live in their parents’ basements, show up at jury duty dressed in Star Trek uniforms, and insist that Harry should have ended up with Hermione.

Admittedly, to a certain extent that is true. If you look around at a convention you will almost certainly see a number of people who conform to that stereotype. I myself have a relative who could be Queen of the Get-a-Lifes.

What you may not see is that, despite the cluelessness, rudeness, sometimes elitist or misogynistic behavior, obsessiveness, and disregard for the feelings of others, the science fiction community is actually, at heart, a place where the non-typical person can find a group of like-minded individuals to talk with, obsess with, bond with, and occasionally practice social skills with. It fullfills a very real social and psychological need. Without the science fiction community, whether online or in “meatspace,” many of these people would have little or even no place to have much of a social life at all.

Certainly the stereotype is not true of all members of fandom. Most hold regular jobs in technical, creative, or other fields, have families and close relationships, and negotiate their way through modern society as well or poorly as anyone else. But there are consistencies in their background. Most are incessant readers and have been since childhood. Many have been the targets of cliques in school and the workplace. A number would be described by their neighbors as quiet loners (though this is not to imply that SF fandom harbors more spree killers  than any other group). They have odd senses of humor or in some cases none at all. In a very real sense, sf fandom is for them, as one song would have it, made up of “My Thousand Closest Friends.”

So if you happen to be in a hotel and find the meeting space is overflowing with people dressed as Klingons, robots, and giant furry animals, remember that they are mostly harmless and enjoying a moment of fitting in to a part of society that celebrates and honors their differences and shares their pride in their oddness. Where they can relax and be themselves, without worrying about seeming weird or threatening or being put down, avoided, or scorned. Think of it as a support group with parties, art shows, panel discussions, music, costumes, movies, and chocolate.

A lot of us with mental disorders are glad to know that such places exist. A lot of us wish we could find or make such places, too.

Filed under: Mental Health, Uncategorized Tagged: books, creativity, friends, my experiences, public perception, science fiction, science fiction conventions, social skills, support systems