Monthly Archives: November 2015


Back to Zombie-Life

I am so zonked out today.  I refilled my Pristiq and hope that will make it better.  It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open this morning. I went grocery shopping and scared myself driving.  And actually sleeping doesn’t make it better. I wake up just as tired as I was before.  I’m going to investigate and see if I can’t buy a prescription drug plan that will cover my Ability.  I don’t’ know how much longer I can go like this.

Did find out I made an A in my October class I went to at the W.  Got all the components graded and wound up with an A in each.  SO I’m pretty proud of that. Still have an A so far in my semester long class and hope that will hold up through the last three grades I have coming through there.


Loneliness May Warp Our Genes, And Our Immune Systems

Loneliness. Sometimes I like to be alone, but I never like to be lonely. I am happiest surrounded by my loved ones, laughing, doing, cooking, like at thanksgiving just a few days ago. I am always talking about living in a community where all my family members are my neighbors. There is no one closer than family, but our Western culture espouses individualism, so much so that community and extended families are nonexistent. And that makes me feel alone. And being alone is really bad for us, we intuitively know this, during caveman days, being alone meant being eaten by lions, tigers, or bears! The article below also offers scientific proof about our immune systems, more prevalent illnesses, that explains why being alone feels bad and is bad for us. I love my family and my friends and I love to spend time with them, building community is also important. Long live human associations!

Loneliness has been linked to everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s disease. Depression is common among the lonely. Cancers tear through their bodies more rapidly, and viruses hit them harder and more frequently. In the short term, it feels like the loneliness will kill you. A study suggests that’s because the pain of loneliness activates the immune pattern of a primordial response commonly known as fight or flight.

For decades, researchers have been seeing signs that the immune systems of lonely people are working differently. Lonely people’s white blood cells seem to be more active in a way that increases inflammation, a natural immune response to wounding and bacterial infection. On top of that, they seem to have lower levels of antiviral compounds known as interferons.

That seemed to provide a link to a lot of the poor health outcomes associated with loneliness, since chronic inflammation has been linked to everything from cancer to depression. The human body isn’t built to hold a high level of inflammation for years. “That explains very clearly why lonely people fall at increased risk for cancer, neurodegenerative disease and viral infections as well,” says Steve Cole, a genomics researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author on the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

But it still doesn’t explain how or why loneliness could change our bodies. To find that out, Cole and his collaborators tracked 141 people over five years. Every year, the researchers measured how lonely the participants felt and took blood samples to track the activity of genes involved with immunity and inflammation. They also tracked concentrations of the hormone norepinephrine, one of the two main signals during the flight-or-fight response.

Cole noticed that when people felt lonesome, they had significantly higher levels of norepinephrine coursing through their blood. That could explain all the other immune changes that happen when people suffer from social isolation.

In a life-threatening situation, norepinephrine cascades through the body and starts shutting down immune functions like viral defense, while ramping up the production of white blood cells called monocytes. “It’s this surge in these pro-inflammatory white blood cells that are highly adapted to defend against wounds, but at the expense of our defenses against viral diseases that come from close social contact with other people,” Cole says.

At the same time, lonely people seem to be shutting down genes that would make their bodies sensitive to cortisol, which lowers inflammation. That ramps up the defensive inflammation response, Cole says.

Loneliness gif

Loneliness would hit the switch on a defense plan our bodies initiate in the face of mortal danger, Cole thinks, if isolation is somehow truly lethal. “At this point, my best guess was that loneliness really is one of the most threatening experiences we can have,” he says. “Though I didn’t think of loneliness as being that awful. It’s not pleasant, but not something my body should be getting all up in arms about.”

In the world of cubicles and studio apartments, loneliness is everywhere. We find it in both crowds and empty rooms. We change cities and lose friends. Even in marriage, people can be strangers to one another. But things were very different for our ancestors. When humans were evolving in a prehistoric environment, they banded together for food and for protection.

To be ostracized from your tribe was a death sentence, says Charles Raison, a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison who did not work on the study. “Literally they would die. There was no human way to live in isolation,” he says.

Being alone in the wild meant you could be mauled by animals or even other human beings. Then your body would need extra defenses against wounds and infection, but less protection against viruses you get from other people, like the flu. In that case, the stressful response to loneliness would simply be the body’s way of trying to survive exile.

But this fight-or-flight immune response is really nonspecific, says Turhan Canli, a neuroscientist at Stony Brook University in New York who was not involved with the study. Loneliness might not necessarily have to do with ancient survival, he says. Our bodies basically have one panic button, and any kind of adverse condition can trigger this response. “I think loneliness is a kind of psychological stress,” he says. “The change in the immune response is part of biological changes that come with a stress condition.”

What Canli finds really interesting about Cole’s results is that people who felt lonely one year had increased gene activity around inflammation and norepinephrine later on. And people who had increased inflammation felt lonelier the next year. “It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Loneliness predicted biological changes, and biological changes predicted changes in loneliness.”

So the shock of social isolation could fuel inflammation in the body. And the immune system may affect a region of the brain processing fear and anxiety. “Inflammation can change people’s experiences of the social world and what they’re thinking,” says Naomi Eisenberger, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study. That could make us more apprehensive about social interaction and lead to more isolation.

If the cycle continues, that could explain chronic isolation and the subsequent depression and illnesses plaguing the lonely. “There are things we can do to get out of a depressed or lonely state, but they’re not easy,” Cole says. “Part of the reason is because these negative psychological states develop some kind of molecular momentum.”

But that doesn’t mean the loop is permanent. “Inflammatory biology is one thing, but it’s not the only thing,” he says. All it does is push our proclivity for social activity one way or another. But loneliness is deep. It’s encoded in our genetics, and it’s not easy to shake.

“5 Reasons Why I’m Not Ashamed of My Mental Health Condition” by Rachel Griffin

This is a great article! I agree with all the points she addresses. I would add one more: How strong I am to overcome this illness and live a life that is loving, kind, helpful, positive and hopeful.

How about you? What do you agree with, disagree with and what would you add or change?

I used to feel ashamed of my mental health condition, but now I refuse to let stigma and stereotypes dictate how I feel about myself. If you stigmatize me, that’s yourignorance, not my truth. Cool people, who are educated about mental illness and confident in their own mental health, don’t stigmatize. Stigma is dated, cruel and just plain wrong. Get educated about mental illness and come over to the cool side.

People with mental illnesses are not less-than. They are not damaged. They are not what you see on TV, the news or in movies. They are people; brothers, mothers, fathers, daughters… People. They are valuable, vibrant, brilliant members of your community. They are 1 in 4 people, not some freaky monster you’ve never met.

I have an awesome, successful, happy life… and a mental health condition. Big deal. Get over it. Just because I’m different, doesn’t mean I’m broken. In fact, I like being different.

Shame is toxic to the human spirit. I’ve let it go and replaced it with pride and acceptance. You can shame me all you want and have a big ol’ shame party, but it’s my choice whether I attend or not. (I’m always busy with better, more important things to do than sit with shame.) Shaming yourself and others are both exhausting, heavy, soul-energy-sucking things to do. I’ll be by the pool with joy and acceptance if you want to join us.

I hope you’ll also let shame go and move forward with pride. Here are 5 reasons why I’m not ashamed anymore:

1. It’s not my fault. 

I didn’t choose this. It’s genetics. It’s not a character flaw or a negative personality trait. I’m not guilty of something. I don’t have a mental health condition because I’m weak, don’t try hard enough to change, don’t have enough willpower, eat too many donuts, like the attention, or haven’t read enough Oprah. It’s my brain being my brain. (For the record, though, I eat healthy and I’ve read a lot of Oprah. I’m eating cucumbers and having an aha-moment right. now.)

Depression is extremely different from normal sadness. Anxiety is not “just worrying.” People who have mental health conditions can’t just snap out of it. Know the facts.

2. My brain is actually awesome, and I’m in good company.

I’ve grown to love my brain. Ya, I have anxiety, I’m a human sponge for everyone’s feelings, and I’m so sensitive I’ll cry at a cheerios commercial, but the ability to feel so much is also gift. I have an extraordinary amount of empathy. My brain is out to lunch in some areas but it has extra mojo in other areas like creativity and imagination. I am an award-winning composer (writing a mental health musical!) music teacher, Dramatists Guild Fellow, and a published writer. My imagination may take me places I’m not so fond of (but I’m used to that by now) and it’s worth it for the beautiful places I can travel to. I’d rather trudge through mud and then dance in seas of glittery stars then walk on flat, easy plain all the time. It’s who I am and I’m also learning to appreciate the mud.. Hey, mud-pies! Mud-facials! Mud-baths!

People with mental health conditions are not doomed. Their future isn’t bleak and miserable. With treatment, they can live normal, wonderful lives and have happy, successful relationships!

People with mental health conditions are in good company! Think about all the people who made unbelievable contributions to the world who also struggled with mental health conditions! (Lincoln, Beethoven, Mozart, Tolstoy, Michelangelo… the lists goes on and on)

3. We all have weird minds.

Um… everyone’s mind is a little wonky. No one is thinking about unicorns skipping on rainbows (while it rains candy) all day. People with mental health conditions are not super strange aliens from a far off galaxy. (We are more like super heroes from a far off galaxy) We all have problems and struggles in life. No one is perfect. No one has a unicorn mind all the time.

4. I’m proud of how far I’ve coming and how I’ve helped/am helping others. 

It takes a lot of bravery to get help for a mental health condition and stick with treatment. It takes a lot strength to tell your story for the millionth time, advocate for yourself when your care is crappy, try a bunch of medicines until you find the right one (while the cray-cray list of side effects on the commercials plays in your mind) put up with everyone telling you what you should do to get better when they aren’t qualified to do so, have your claims denied by rich insurance companies when you can’t pay your bills, and be treated like a child and talked to in an odd condescending tone when you have a masters degree.

People say hope is right in front of you, but depression is a blindfold. It takes so much strength to keep searching in the dark.

Recovery is sort of like making an huge collage. You are always looking, finding, and pasting things that help you. Your your own work of art, a constant project. It takes a lot of energy and willpower. It takes being bad-ass. I’m proud that I am speaking out (not an easy decision) and trying to help others.

5.  My pain has become my power. 

I’m not ashamed of my pain. I think it’s made me a more compassionate person. I think it’s given me wisdom and inspiration. I believe pain can be like a question mark, asking us, “What will you do with me? Destruct or create?” It’s energy we can transform and put to use. I believe that our struggle and pain softens when we use it to create, and then with our art/work/writing we are able to soften pain living in others.  It becomes our power. It becomes our flashlight to hand to others who are still tripping in the darkness like we once were. I believe when we break down and lose everything, often we rebuild a stronger, wiser, more beautiful version of ourselves. I believe pain can be an asset. High-five, illness!

What are you proud of? I challenge you to #letshamego You have nothing to be ashamed of! You’re amazing.

Lower availability of omega-3 fatty acids in the body associated with bipolar disorder

Omega-3 fatty acid can exist in two forms in the blood, 1) free, 2) bound to protein. It is the free form of omega-3 fatty acids that can cross the blood brain barrier. The ratio of free omega-3 fatty acids to bound fatty acids is lower in people with bipolar disorder (BPD). This means that we, people with BPD, have lower levels of these fatty acids available to be transported to our brains.

Fatty acids are very important as they form the cell membranes of all cells. This is especially important in the brain, as they form cell membranes of neurons as well. And neurons, the cells of the brain, are the ones that have ion channels in their membranes that allow Na+ and K+ to pass through creating ionic gradients across the cell membranes, allowing action potentials, which lead to nerve impulses, which is how information, emotions, sensory information, motor directives, everything is disseminated.

Omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in the inflammatory response. (Another immune system/brain connection!)

This study is important, and they are going to further study the effect of this lower concentration of fatty acids, and hopefully come up with dietary recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids for people with BPD.

People with bipolar disorder have lower levels of certain omega-3 fatty acids that cross the blood-brain barrier compared to those who do not, according to researchers from Penn State College of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. The finding could have implications for dietary interventions for the disorder.

Fatty acids are a major area of interest in bipolar disorder and depression because of their biological importance in the brain. Studies have shown that fatty acid supplementation may be useful for unipolar depression, but the data has been more mixed for bipolar disorder.

The researchers, led by Dr. Erika Saunders, associate professor and chair of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine, compared fatty acids in 27 people with symptomatic bipolar disorder and 31 healthy control subjects. The group measured levels of different forms of the polyunsaturated fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. They also collected self-reported information on fatty acid consumption and bipolar medication use. Their results were published in the journal Bipolar Disorders.

Free fatty acids are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, while fatty acids bound to proteins are not. In study subjects with bipolar disorder, the ratio of a free-circulating omega-3 fatty acid called EPA to bound EPA was lower than in other people.

“This means that the availability of omega-3 in the body is lower in bipolar subjects,” Saunders said.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a large component of brain-cell membranes and are important for cell-to-cell communication in the brain. In the study, the ratio of free to bound EPA correlated with clinical bipolar symptoms, specifically mania and tendency towards suicide.

Fatty acids also play an important role in the immune system and the inflammatory system.

“Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can shift the balance of inflammation, which we think is important in bipolar disorder,” Saunders said.

However, the researchers did not find altered ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in bipolar subjects.

Although the researchers did find lower levels of omega-3s in patients with bipolar disorder that correlated with symptoms, Saunders said it’s too early to advise dietary changes or omega-3 supplementation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish, vegetable oils, nuts — especially walnuts, flax seeds, flaxseed oil and leafy vegetables.

There was no difference in self-reported fatty acid consumption between bipolar and healthy patients.

“Is that because we only included certain foods in the survey? Or is it because people couldn’t accurately recall what they were eating?” Saunders said.

Another possibility the researchers are considering is that there are differences in how healthy people and people with bipolar disorder convert fatty acids from one form to another. Drugs that treat bipolar disorder are known to affect these conversions, but no association was found between fatty acid levels or ratios and self-reported medication use in the study.

Saunders is currently investigating if modifications in dietary intake of fatty acids could be useful in bipolar disorder.

“We are actively pursuing the next step in this line of inquiry to get to the point where we know what changes in diets are going to help people with bipolar disorder so they can have another option beyond the medications that are currently available,” she said.

A number of trials have turned up no benefit of omega-3 supplementation in bipolar disorder, a brain disorder that causes manic episodes of elevated mood, energy and cognition, and major depressive episodes of lowered mood, energy and cognition. Bipolar disorder affects between 1 and 4.4 percent of the population.

“I think our work, along with the work of others, shows that this is an important area for us to continue to study,” Saunders said. “It’s complicated and hard to study, and there are a lot of factors, but it’s an area we need to keep pursuing.”

Most research on fatty acids in bipolar disorder measures levels of fatty acids in cell membranes. Saunders’s group instead looked at circulating fatty acids in the blood, which is a better indication of dietary intake. Fatty acids in the blood are also the type that crosses the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Erika FH Saunders, Aubrey Reider, Gagan Singh, Alan J Gelenberg, Stanley I Rapoport. Low unesterified:esterified eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plasma concentration ratio is associated with bipolar disorder episodes, and omega-3 plasma concentrations are altered by treatment. Bipolar Disorders, 2015; 17 (7): 729 DOI:10.1111/bdi.12337

Brain Rust

Was watching a show in which someone tossed out, sarcastically, the term “brain trust”. And all I could think was, drop that, cos my brain’s used so little these days, it is rusting. Everything I do is so auto pilot these days. I’m running a default program, little intelligence required, just basic muscle memory.

It’s because I’ve not written fiction soup in a year. It’s killing me slowly. My brain is rotting inside my skull and for once, it has nothing to do with the fucked up chemicals. I NEED to exercise my brain. Hell, I’d even settle for being able to read for more than ten minute increments, just let me use my damned brain. Wait….whaaat’s that sound…Oh, yeah, that’s my brain corroding and rotting inside my skull.

I am not sure if I went hypomanic last night or if I was just in a good place, but I was awake til 5 a.m. Not doing much of importance, yet also not ready to give up “happy medium” time. And when I decided I HAD to try to sleep…scumbag brain kicked and screamed and swirled. My kid woke up so she was all yappy, that didn’t help me calm down. I refused to take a sleeping pill, absolutely refused. I did, around 4:30 take .25mg xanax, just to slow my brain. Suffice it to say, I eventually slept but the alarms went off way too damn early.

One more cool wet gray day. This is like five in a row. The damp cold has settled in my bones, I can’t seem to get warm unless enveloped in blankets. The weather report ALLEGES it will be warmer and sunnier tomorrow. I will believe it when I see it. I really need to take my outdoor Halloween stuff down (Yeah, I’m a month late, fuck it) and the yard needs raked…I finally get caught up inside for the most part and now the outdoors stuff rears its putrid head. Blarg. MY kid asked if I’d put up some Christmas lights. I don’t have any outdoor outlets and I am not running a cord out the window, so she’s gonna have to live with some garland strung up out there. And hopefully I can my santa hat skull door knocked, that always brings me a smile. I can’t even fathom the tree thing right now, we have limited space and I have limited give a damn about this holiday shit.

Call me Grinchzilla.

Haven’t done much since I dropped her off except…well, I’d say “piddle about” but that sort of sounds like a puppy peeing on the rug. I am watching The Def Leppard story. Yeah, I was gonna do that last night but….

My idiotic dad and crew let my kid drink pop so when she got home she spent ninety minutes moaning with gas pain from the carbonation. Everyone thinks my ban on soda for her is some caffeine or sugar thing but frankly, if it hurts her, I am against it. And I’ve had to cut my own intake back cos the carbonation hurts my stomach. So she moaned and groaned and when I asked her why she drank pop when she knows it hurts her tummy…and she said, “I didn’t want to be rude and say no when they gave it to me.”

That age old bullshit, same shit R pulls me with me. “Oh, Niki won’t eat supreme pizza, she’s so picky.” No, Niki won’t eat food with peppers and end up in gastric agony and chained to the bathroom for two days. Not picky, not impolite. If it hurts…don’t fucking do it, jackasses.

So what was truly amazing about last night was…I not only blew up my own box, I set the ashes on fire. For so long I have been immersed in true crime shows, my funny bone MIA. I decided for a change to try a comedy, one of my old faves. Scrubs. It felt awkward at first. Depressed people can’t laugh, right? As it happens, we can. And normally, I max out at two episodes of comedy. I watched ten back to back episodes of Scrubs and was reminded why I always liked it so much. (Dr Cox is my favorite.) Kinda like Ally McBeal and the over the top dramatizations in the character’s head. (Her getting dumped by a guy and being shown getting dumped, literally, into a dumpster, was accurate and hysterical.)

So my funny bone is making a comeback. I’m not gonna do any cartwheels cos I could just be on a hypomanic kick after the weeks of being sick and cramped and all. It could be illusion. Respite. But…under all the darkness and “what future” bleakness…I am in there somewhere, still.

Which does not mean throw a parade for me ( I WILL rain on it and blow up the fucking floats out of meanness) or use words like “happy” or “doing good”.  Because the jury is still out and I am still just bobbleheading above water here. I’m a day or so removed from curling under the covers at 8p.m. completely demoralized and beaten down.

But…Dishes are done. All laundry is caught up and put away. Cat boxes are clean. Fridge is full of food. Life isn’t that damned bad. I really loathe that aspect of the depression, taking molehills and turning them into insurmountable mountains. Except even that is a misrepresentation because some days…there are no molehills, only a misfiring brain sending you mirages of every reason life isn’t worth living.

I am still not sure life is worth living.

What the hell. I’ll hang around just to see what happens next.

With any luck..Nothing will happen. Nothing is always good.

Now maybe I need to run to the store and buy a bottle of Coke and try to pour it into my ear, maybe it will eat away some of that brain rust.


When mental illness turns physical

When fighting a mental illness, sometimes it’s not all just in your head but it turns physical as well. This is especially true when dealing with medication changes. My mood has been stable for about two weeks (yay!) and I have started taking Lamictal, an anti-epileptic drug used to treat bipolar disorder. Starting Lamictal is […]

Ten Things of Thankful — Found It!


With a little push to my brain, and fingers flying fast over Google Search, I remembered the key words that I needed to find this prompt last week (that I unfortunately couldn’t find until about five minutes ago), and am now back in business doing a link-up for thankfulness.  Woot!

So because the point of this post is to get down the the nitty-gritty right away, let’s talk about what was keeping me thankful and grateful this week:

  1. Sunlamps, and the realization that I do NOT have to keep skipping out on my psychiatrist.  I am supposed to go in when I am feeling bad or off, so that is what I will do!
  2. The knowledge that a dear friend’s Thanksgiving went much better this year than in year’s past.
  3. Knowing that volunteering ourselves to go to the big shindig for the Big Dawg’s side of the family probably got him out and away from the TV and a frozen dinner.
  4. Was able to see my nephew and really bond over the last week, and have plans to see him again on Wednesday.
  5. Much less discord between LarBear and I, which I attribute to both of us listening more, communicating more, and being more patient…also thanks to therapy, for the both of us.
  6. The YMCA pass Dad is providing LarBear and I.  I did water walking yesterday and am very sore, but determined to keep up with it.
  7. A little extra money (I hope) to get caught up on buying some personal hygiene items.
  8. Two happy, healthy dogs
  9. It appears the new infusion that LarBear is taking for Crohn’s is working.
  10. Starting to have relationship again with stepdad



Filed under: Gratitude Tagged: graditude, Ten Things of Thankful, thankfulness

#FeatureFriday: Dyane Leshin-Harwood on POSTPARTUM BIPOLAR

Originally posted on Our Lived Experience:
We’re kicking off our new Feature Friday slot with a great friend of ours and a topic that is her particular field of expertise. BIPOLAR, PERIPARTUM ONSET (POSTPARTUM BIPOLAR): THE IGNORED PERINATAL  MOOD AND ANXIETY DISORDER by Dyane Leshin-Harwood I live with a form of severe mental illness that few people…

Jesus fish

So I read the Wikipedia article on Ichthys so I'm totally informed now.

But what the fuck is up with the fish that has JESUS written inside it?  It's already a symbol of Christ and Christianity.  What else has two references.  Road signs.  That's all I can think of.  So the Jewish version of this symbol would be something like that below?  Or would it be Elijah?  I dunno.  Either way, seems kind of silly.  I saw the first symbol.  You don't need to show me the second.

Another example