Daily Archives: December 7, 2014

In the Clear

As I sit here a week and a bit into December, I am thinking that I am in the clear after NaNoWriMo. In addition to being so much less stressed about it this time, I’m also on an antidepressant. I wasn’t last time, and I think between that and the ‘discipline’ of writing regularly, I did myself a bad turn.

It’s also encouraging, because it means that maybe, just maybe — I can expand what I do. Slightly. I think a lot of us with mental illnesses know that it’s a bit too easy to overstretch and do ourselves a bad turn, and so it gets to a point of avoidance. That I was able to do something challenging without breaking myself… well, it feels pretty darn good.

I still have to be mindful though, obviously. I know how easy it is to push past the point of reason. And, I know, I’m still totally in recovery from NaNo. I find myself a bit more easily frazzled, though that could just be situations being more frazzling (like having to stop in the middle of this post to take my computer apart to clean the graphics card fan so my computer quits shutting off).

Past that, I’m just enjoying life in general. Lots of knitting, lots of gaming, and lots of kiddo snuggles — it’s hard to top that.I’ve always liked the simple things, and a life full of them is a life well spent to me.

I’m also getting better, slowly, at not jumping up and volunteering to do all the things for things that I like. For instance, I am trying to find someone to take over as leader of my kinship in Lord of the Rings Online. It wasn’t mine in the first place; it sort of fell on my shoulders after the leaders wandered off to another game. I mean, I didn’t have to take over, but I felt like I had to this time a year ago. I think I’ve got my replacement lined up, which is bliss. I definitely am not enjoying the game as much being the boss person. It’s the same with NaNoWriMo — I have felt a few knee-jerk ‘ooh, let’s be an ML (municipal leader), but I’ve managed to slap that down. Really, if I can winnow it down to just the network (and if eval requests come in not-gluts), that would be keen. I’ve been so brain dead that I’ve been doing the same singular eval for like, weeks now. But that’s okay! I’m not beating myself up about it, and that’s pretty awesome.

Hope everyone is doing well out there. Will try a bit harder to make the blog rounds and say a proper howdy.


All in Our Heads

Well, mental disorders probably are mostly in our heads, or at least our brains (and genes), but I keep seeing news features that “offer hope” for new diagnostic tools and treatments that “may someday” alleviate the suffering.

Here’s an example from the University of Pennsylvania:

Many factors, both genetic and environmental, have been blamed for increasing the risk of a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Some, such as a family history of schizophrenia, are widely accepted. Others, such as infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite transmitted by soil, undercooked meat and cat feces, are still viewed with skepticism. A new study used epidemiological modeling methods to determine the proportion of schizophrenia cases that may be attributable to T. gondii infection. The work suggests that about one-fifth of cases may involve the parasite.

Great. I am sure that schizophrenics will be comforted by the thought that their problems are caused by brain parasites and cat poop.

I noticed that the study showed that only 20 percent of schizophrenia “may” involve the parasite. What about the other 80 percent? Are those cases caused by some other parasite? And how will the parasites be detected? Blood test? Brain biopsy? Could be a world of horrors there for the already mentally unstable. And, perhaps most important, will real-world results back up the computer simulations?

Schizophrenia is far from the only illness being studied. Bipolar disorder and our old pal depression come in for their share of lab work too. USA Today recently reported on a procedure that might help with depression:

The treatment — transcranial magnetic stimulation — was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for the treatment of patients with medication-resistant depression.

Magnets generate a directed, pulsed magnetic field — similar to an MRI in strength — to the prefrontal cortex, the front part of the brain behind the forehead. The magnetic fields induce small electrical currents, which encourage a mood-lifting chemical reaction in the brain.

The treatment is daily, for four to six weeks. If the patient improves enough, the treatment is then provided as a periodic booster.

Never mind that it’s entirely subjective when a patient has improved “enough” or even shows anything other than a placebo effect. And never mind the effects of having 42 MRI-strength treatments in a row.

Apparently scientists and insurance companies are battling it out on the money front (there’s a surprise).

Plus, as always, there are nay-sayers:

The National Institute of Mental Health describes the treatment as effective for some patients, but notes that studies of its efficacy have been “mixed.” The American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines for depression treatment states the procedure conveys “relatively small to moderate benefits.”

To the desperate, any potential “cure” or even palliative treatment eventually seems worth a try. I should know. I came that close (imagine several millimeters here) to having a go at electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). Formerly know as shock treatment.

The thing is, you only hear about theories that “might” be correct and treatments that “may” help. Studies are hardly ever published that say, “You know that treatment we said was going to relieve the suffering of millions? Turns out, not so much.” If the general public even gets to see the negative results, they may still cling to the hope offered by the earlier reports.

Just look at the anti-vaxxers. It has been repeatedly proved that childhood vaccines do not cause autism. The experiment that reported that finding was a fraud and the author (Andrew Wakefield) has been discredited – investigated and found guilty of “four counts of dishonesty and 12 involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children.” Basically, he’s been kicked out of medicine altogether and given the Lifetime Achievement in Quackery award by the Good Thinking Society. (I’m not making that up.)

And yet epidemics of measles and other deadly diseases continue to rise as parents yield to fear and refuse to have their children vaccinated.

I’m not trying to say that a parasite doesn’t cause some cases of schizophrenia or that magnetic therapy will never relieve anyone’s depression.

I’m just saying that if those theories are proved false, we’ll likely never hear about it from the popular press.


Looking After Myself

so this week I got my hair cut me today I went and saw the eye doctor and got some new glasses ordered. It’s time I started taking care of myself. You know how it can be, you get in such a funk that you just stop caring. You stop washing, you stop eating right. No more of that.

i will start taking care of myself. I’m even gonna get a manicure.. Go me!

Review: An American’s Resurrection

An American's Resurrection: My Pilgrimage from Child Abuse and Mental Illness to SalvationAn American’s Resurrection: My Pilgrimage from Child Abuse and Mental Illness to Salvation by Eric C Arauz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On November 9, 2014, I had the pleasure of hearing Eric Arauz’s presentation on Conscious Storytelling at the International Bipolar Foundation’s Annual West Coast Meeting. He gave us each a copy of his autobiography, An American’s Resurrection: My Pilgrimage from Child Abuse and Mental Illness to Salvation, which I greatly enjoyed reading. The first thing I did once I grabbed a copy of his book was to check out his End Notes and his Arauzian Original Concepts. I was impressed and immediately knew I was going to like a guy who referenced Dante, Hesse, St. Augustine, Camus and Emerson among other great minds. This guy is an intellectual powerhouse. As I reading his book, I was most impressed by the quality of his writing. For those of you who love well-crafted story-telling with an intellectual punch, read his book. For those of you who live with bipolar disorder or who are survivors of traumatic psychiatric hospitalizations, this is a must read. Arauz is a man on a mission. His mission is to spread the message to sufferers everywhere that resurrection is possible. Thank you, Eric Arauz, for answering the door when your resurrection knocked.

View all my reviews

Arauzian Original Concepts developed in this book:

Applied Existentialism: Is an active philosophy of life. The goal of Applied Existentialism is to build your own meaning of existence and then take the daily actions to fulfill your self-created destiny. This applied philosophy is built by searching for lessons of living left for us across time in disciplines such as literature, art, music, science, psychology, religion, astrophysics etc. and actively applying those lessons in your daily life.

Dante/Virgil Support Model: A model created out of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. In this work, Dante journeys through Hell and is able to observe the damnation and find his way out because the great poet Virgil is there with him. Virgil lives in the underworld and, therefore, does not fear the journey. In this model, two people journey together through the pain, shame and suffering of recovery. They support each other and stay connected throughout the journey. It is not a therapist/client model like the therapeutic process or the sponsor/sponsee model from the twelve-step programs. The participants are equals and the roles interchangeable.

Filed under: About God, Bipolar Disorder, Dual Diagnosis, Gratitude, IBPF, Involuntary Hospitalization, Mania, Mental Health, Mental Health Advocacy, Psychosis Tagged: An American's Resurrection, Eric Arauz

The Honesty Tax Again

Ladies and Gentlemen, gentle readers: I adjure you to tread softly when you review books on any site where books are reviewed.

As most of you know, I am autistic.  I have little to no ability to soft-pedal, and no ability whatsoever to suck up to people, whether they are potential customers for something I might be selling on eBay, or whether they have written a book that has drawn accolades from well-known reviewers.

And so it was that, having bought a book from an online bookseller, having read that book, and having been asked by the bookseller to review it, I did so.

The book didn’t float my boat.  In my opinion, it lacked a good deal.  My review was much more reserved than my full-on opinion, but in the interest of giving the author a break and not putting potential readers off, I went easy.

It seems that my review wounded the author’s feelings, and he sent me a letter.  This surprised me.

I have never considered myself an important writer, and certainly not an important reviewer.

The letter I received from the author of said book made me wonder if I had morphed overnight into some lauded writer, whose “C+” review might actually mean something.

It accused me of everything from sullying the author’s reputation, to negatively affecting his income, to damaging his health.

Good grief!  The next thing, I fear, will be a letter from said author’s attorney, or worse yet, a summons of some kind.

Grief, grief, grief.

The reason I am sitting here in this barn–yes, I do mean barn, literally, not figuratively–is that fourteen years ago, I opened a registered letter.  It informed me that I was being sued for half a million dollars, and that I was summoned to a hearing in a far-away state.  I barely had the means to put beans on top of rice, not to mention traveling!

At that time, gentle readers, I had just lost my job; my child was desperately ill;  and I was already spiraling into the depths of a depression that was resistant to every antidepressant on the market, because it was a Bipolar Depression, which behaves differently from Major Depressive Disorder.  Antidepressants just make things worse.  The specter of ECT loomed on my horizon.  I fought it off with brooms, and cans and cans of Raid™.

That Registered Letter was the straw that catalyzed my first hospitalization.  But that did nothing to avert the rumble of the approaching juggernaut of the pending lawsuit.  Stomp, stomp, stomp, like a bad Japanese movie.  Only this was no movie.

All of the lawyers I contacted said the suit was a frivolous attempt by the plaintiff to gouge money out of hundreds of caregivers, and that I would certainly be exonerated, and could then file a countersuit for damages.The only thing was, the lawyers wanted a retainer of $25,000-$35,000 up front.  And I was penniless.

So I did the only thing I could do: I went bankrupt.  The few things of value I still had to my name went away in one horror-struck day.

I will never forget seeing the repossessors come and haul away the little car that I had used for work and house calls.  My big horse trailer went too.  Anything else of value was carried off in due time.  I was left sitting in a mostly empty single-wide trailer, on land that was thankfully untouchable by the vultures that swirled around my head.

Now that I am in fact homeless, I feel more at ease, because I don’t have anything to steal.  I don’t even have a reputation to feed and care for.  I am Just Me.

I no longer accept registered letters.  If it’s a check from Publisher’s Clearing House for a million dollars, I imagine they might call.  Or maybe not.  What does it matter?

At this point, my energy reserves are at their nadir.  I have just spent nearly four years helping my father to die, in great pain and suffering for both of us.  I’m happy that his suffering is over; and I must say that it is a great relief, as I feel very sure that he is in a good place and out of pain.  But it’s taken an enormous toll on my own resistance to diseases, physical and psychological.

The aforementioned author’s thinly veiled threatening letter has set off a cascade of paranoid thoughts: what would I do if he decided to sue me for….for….um, for honestly reviewing his book?  What has the world come to?

What would I do?

I am weary.  I don’t know how much more I can take.  There are times when I long to go up on some high mountaintop with a fifth of good single-malt, and drink it until I become numb, and let the bitter cold of the night take me Home.

And then I think: how well do I know the evils of this world!  But–what if there really is an Afterlife?  What if there really is a God, who gave us laws?  What if suicide is seen as murder, in that Other World?  Meh.  I just want This World to be over.

I am sick and tired of paying the Honesty Tax.

I wanna go Home.