Daily Archives: November 7, 2015


So, how many minutes, hours, days, weeks, months have passed since I last stood on the top step of the podium? How many Belgian stage races did I win? What lucrative sponsorship deal did I sign? It was me. I was Mr Tambourine Man all clad in paunch – hugging lycra bought on eBay, you read about last time round.

Since then? Everything has changed. No more yellow on my shoulders. No more adulation in my kitchen. My eyes are open now. Though my eyelids are chemical – heavy and I see only blotches of grey on my shoulders. Now I see the branches on the trees outside my bedroom window waving frantically at me. They already have my dull attention, so why do they wave so?

I only have to  shift my weight slightly under the duvet to see the ceiling gazing down at me, disinterested. What I see about me is what I know. I know that I thought I was Mr Tambourine Man. I know that I acted on that knowledge, and that those acts cannot be undone. The dizzy unreality of it all thrusts its pock – marked, frenzied face at mine and sighs, whispering ‘don’t worry, there’ll be a next time.’

I cannot bear to see him, her, them … you. Not now. Not while my clammy cheeks are throbbing hot with the shame of it all.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

My Hands are Still Shaking

Getting Back on Track

Thursday I met with the Campus Director of my son’s new school, Halstrom Academy. My hand shook as I wrote out the check for tuition. Haven’t paid for school since my son was in daycare back when I worked outside the home.

Starting Monday, my son will take one class a day, one-on-one with a teacher, different subject each day of the week, and will be responsible for completing a week of homework by the next week’s class. When he spends time on campus to complete his work, there is a tutor available to help. We are reintroducing him to a social school setting incrementally. By January, I hope for him to spend Wednesday afternoons there while I volunteer as a NAMI Provider Educator.

Honestly, my hands have shaken ever since Thursday. I hope and pray that this school works for my son. I’ve heard from my therapist and from my son’s neurologist that Halstrom works well for many kids. I have to set aside my bias in favor of socialization and public schooling to find the solution that works best for my son in overcoming social anxiety and getting back on track.

Filed under: Bipolar Parenting, Mental Illness Tagged: 504 accommodations, anxiety, education, high school, one-on-one education, private education, Section 504, social anxiety, special accommodations

Why Inflammation is good and bad…


We read about it all the time, diseases caused by inflammation, auto immune diseases, allergies, ulcers, and a host of other diseases (including mental illnesses) are thought to have the involvement of inflammation in their development!

1. Well, if inflammation is so bad, if it is involved in the causation of so may illnesses, then why does it exist?

Inflammation in and of it self is not bad. It is a process that out white blood cells carry out to protect our bodies from foreign invaders and repair our bodies after injury.

When we cut our finger, our white cells rush there, an enzyme called Bradykinin actually opens up holes in the blood vessels in the cut’s vicinity so that immune cells can get to the site of the cut!!! Bradykinin binds to mast cells (another of our immune cells) that have just come to the site of infection from the opened blood vessel. It is these mast cells that release the mediators of inflammation such as histamine, heparin, prostaglandins, leukotriene and other compounds. All these molecules are needed in the process of repairing the cut finger. If this process wasn’t functioning well or at all, we would not be able to repair damage to out own bodies.

Also when we have a viral or bacterial infection, our immune system again fights off the virus or bacteria. We have macrophages in our immune cells that will phagocytize (ingest) the bacteria or the cells that have been infected by viruses. Neutrophils and leukocytes are also involved here.

Also the immune system can recognize cancer cells that arise in your body. Yes, the immune system recognizes and destroys cancer cells. But cancer cells are wily, they use cloaking devices to hide from our immune system, so they can establish themselves and grow. But out immune system kills many, many cancer cells before one cell escapes it and becomes a tumor.

So the above is an extremely abbreviated description of what inflammation is and what it does. Inflammation is carried out by out immune cells, which are the armed forces of our body.

It is when these armed forces turn the ammunition against us, rather then against invading bacteria and marauding viruses, that the trouble with inflammation starts.

Take allergies, they happen when your immune system erroneously thinks that, for example, tree pollen is a dangerous invader and reacts against it like it would against Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague. The tree pollen in and of itself is not a problem, what is a problem is your immune system reacting against it as if it is something dangerous. The runny nose, sneezing, fatigue, sinus headaches/infections are the direct result of your immune system’s mistaken and hypervigilance.

Even more dangerous are the deadly nut allergies so frequently seen these days. For example, peanut allergies. In this, our immune system sees peanuts and thinks danger! All systems go, the production of histamine happens at such a high level that it closes up out breathing passages and throat. This is anaphylaxis. You can’t breathe, and unless you get an epinephrine shot, which will cause vasoconstriction, an elevated heart rate and bring you out of anaphylaxis!, you will die Steroids will also help, but they have to be administered before the anaphylaxis reaction starts.

Now to autoimmune illnesses, here the immune system finds something in your body, such as in your joints in rheumatoid arthritis, that it thinks is foreign. So perhaps a protein in your joints looks like an invader to your immune system, so it unleashes its full deadly response against this protein. The trouble is that it is not an invader, it is a protein in your joint, and your own immune system is destroying your own body! In rheumatoid arthritis it is joints and connective tissue. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, your immune system is attacking your thyroid. In autoimmune diabetes, the immune system destroys the beta cells of the pancreas. And there are many, many more autoimmune diseases, where your own body is erroneously attacked by your own immune system.

All the reports I see and post about steroids being able to stop the development of mental illnesses, of the immune system’s involvement in mental illness… who knows, we may ultimately find the immune system is intimately involved in the manifestation, and the development of mental illness.

In summary, inflammation is a critical process that is needed to protect and rebuild from pathological invasion and injury.

What we have to do is somehow to stop our immune system from turning upon our own bodies. Why is it happening more and more these days? Peanut allergies were unheard of not so many years ago! Is it the chemicals with which we douse our food? Chemicals in the air, in our water? If our immune system sees a poison sprayed on an apple as we are eating this apple, and it reacts against the poison in conjunction with the apple, then when we eat only an apple (no poison spray), will our immune system then react to the apple as well? Is that perhaps how all these food allergies started? I don’t know, just a brief explanation of inflammation and some thoughts.

Black Dog

As the days have grown grayer and shorter, the usual downward shift in my mood has set in and I am once again under the influence of Winston Churchill’s black dog, AKA depression. It’s not a bad one, and there are extenuating circumstances that make it entirely understandable, e.g. the stress of watching my husband’s health decline and the fact that my oldest daughter and her family are moving far away from us. Add to that the recent discontinuation of prednisone that I was given to combat my asthma, and I’m a bit of a mess.

But this is nothing compared with what I went through last year at this time.  I remember with utter clarity how close I came to giving up then. Gruesome fantasies played themselves out over and over again in my mind’s eye; even though I never actually went into the bedroom to get the gun, I imagined what it would feel like to hold it in my hand, look down the barrel, then caress my temple and my chest with the cold gray steel, wondering where I should place what I hoped would be the fatal shot. The alternative scenario was where I would gobble down as many Ativan as my stomach would hold and slip away quietly, without making a mess for my family to find or waking up in the ICU with tubes up my nose and down my throat.

If those mental images scare you, join the club. They scared the hell out of me too.

Thankfully this story had a happy ending. And as strange and ugly as life can be sometimes, I have no desire whatsoever to leave it. Last fall I was cold and scared and on the verge of homelessness; this year I am warm and fed and I know where I’ll be spending the winter. The possibility that I may spend it without my husband is what worries me…Will is not doing well at all and he may not be able to make the trip next month. And of course if he’s too sick to go, I’m not going either. This makes it hard to anticipate the vacation with any excitement. Part of me knows he’s hanging on for it, so I say nothing to him of my worries; he doesn’t need my negative energies. But I notice the small things that whisper of the coming changes…the increased amount of time he spends sleeping; the frequent nausea and vomiting; the fact that he hasn’t even touched his beloved models in over a month.

So yeah, I’m a little depressed. And this time I’m prepared to tell Dr. Awesomesauce if I need help. None of this “it’s only situational” nonsense—if I even start that stinkin’ thinkin’ again, I’ll be on the phone. I don’t want another hospital stay. I don’t want to feel like I did a year ago ever again. It’s expected, and even okay for the black dog to visit for a little while, but he’s not going to take up residence. I promise.

This Is What I Look Like To An Eleven Year Old

Aunt Bipolaronfire

This is what I look like to an eleven year old.  My niece, in fact.  Everything is in-the-moment, unfiltered, stream of consciousness.  “You have kind of a fat nose” she says, as she measures my nose with her pencil and goes back to the page and marks, a large mark.  Well YOU have fat TOES, I say, but only in my head, because I’m not That Mean Aunt.  “Your eyes are blue and mine are brown” she says accusingly.  “Yes.  That. Is. True.” I answer in my best robot voice.  She giggles.  “I’m just going to draw you how I want.”  You better not, I say menacingly.  You better sharpen that pencil and get going on every single wrinkle!”  “I don’t have that kind of time”, she says.  So goes a peachy-golden evening with my niece.  Happy Friday, y’all!

Filed under: Bipolar Disorder, Psychology Shmyshmology Tagged: Bipolar, Hope, Humor, Mental Illness, Psychology, Reader

Steroid Eye Drops Reverse Cataracts in Mice (Wow!!!)

http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/11/steroid-eye-drops-reverse-cataracts-miceI know this not about mental health, but this is very big! Cataracts, a condition for which one has to have eye surgery, can be treated by steroid drops, at least in mice! Cataracts, if left untreated, can cause blindness! Also eye surgery is not a minor thing, so if it can be avoided, well that would be wonderful! Really, this is huge. Read the article below. 

“More than half of Americans over the age of 70 have cataracts, caused by clumps of proteins collecting in the eye lens. The only way to remove them is surgery, an unavailable or unaffordable option for many of the 20 million people worldwide who are blinded by the condition. Now, a new study in mice suggests eye drops made with a naturally occurring steroid could reverse cataracts by teasing apart the protein clumps.

“This is a game changer in the treatment of cataracts,” says Roy Quinlan, a molecular biologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom who was not part of the study. “It takes decades for the cataracts to get to that point, so if you can reverse that by a few drops in the eye over a couple of weeks, that’s amazing.”
The proteins that make up the human lens are among the oldest in the body, forming at about 4 weeks after fertilization. The majority are crystallins, a family of proteins that allow the eye to focus and keep the lens clear. Two of the most abundant crystallins, CRYAA and CRYAB, are produced in response to stress or injury. They act as chaperones, identifying and binding to damaged and misfolded proteins in the lens, preventing them from aggregating. But over the years, as damaged proteins accumulate in the lens, these chaperones become overwhelmed. The mutated proteins then clump together, blocking light and producing the tell-tale cloudiness of cataracts.
To treat the condition without surgery—which is out of reach for many patients in developing nations—researchers have looked to drug treatments. Although boosting the function of CRYAA and CRYAB seems to be a good target, developing a therapeutic has been challenging. Most drugs that act on disease-related proteins work by changing how the protein functions, something scientists can measure by monitoring the protein’s enzymatic activity. CRYAA, CRYAB, and similar proteins are known as “undruggable” because their activity can’t be measured, says Jason Gestwicki, a biochemist at the University of California (UC), San Francisco, and a senior author of the new study, published online today in Science.
Gestwicki’s team decided to use a technology called differential scanning fluorimetry, which allows scientists to measure the temperature at which a target protein begins to melt. They analyzed CRYAA and CRYAB and discovered that in one type of hereditary cataract, CRYAB takes on a mutant form with a much higher melting temperature than its normal version. If they could find a molecule that would bind to the mutant CRYAB protein and lower its melting temperature back to that of a healthy CRYAB, they speculated, CRYAB should function normally and prevent damaged proteins from clumping in the lens. The researchers turned to a bank of 2450 molecules that exhibited similar properties to CRYAA and CRYAB. They added molecules to the mutant CRYAB, looking for one that would stabilize their target. They settled on compound 29, a steroid found naturally in the bloodstream but not in the lens, which has no blood supply. Mice with age-related and hereditary cataracts received drops in the right eye, whereas the left eye went untreated. After just a few weeks, the treated eye was visibly clearer, says Gestwicki, who conducted the work while at the University of Michigan. Cataract severity is measured on a scale of zero to four, with four being the worst case. On average, mice in the study had about a one-grade improvement in cataract severity after 4 weeks of treatment.
This is the second study this year to find that eye drops made from a class of steroids called sterols can successfully reverse cataracts. In July, researchers from UC San Diego reported that lanosterol, a steroid found in the human eye, reversed cataracts in dogs.
“It’s a me-too paper in the sense that this new study also treated cataracts with a sterol,” Quinlan says. “But they arrived at the same conclusion by completely different routes. That’s the way excellent science is done, and [it’s] something that should get philanthropists and pharma excited.”
One key difference between the two studies is the way the different steroids were administered. The dog study administered the drug both by injection into the eye and eye drops. The new study used only eye drops.
There’s still a lot to uncover before either study can move into clinical trials, Quinlan notes. The lens in the human eye is very different from those in mice or dogs, and neither study explains how the steroids work on cataracts. “Mechanistically, we really don’t know what’s going on here. It’s a black box.”
Figuring out how the treatment reverses cataracts is the team’s next task, a key step toward clinical trials, which Gestwicki hopes to launch in the next year. ViewPoint Therapeutics, a biotech company he co-founded in San Francisco, California, holds the license to the technology and will launch more animal studies soon.”

Reduced Work Hours

When I made my Plan for Employment Services with Vocational Rehab in the spring, I was only seeking 8 hours of work per week.  I could accept a job with more hours, but that was the minimum needed to be considered a successful placement.  The job I got should have exactly met the requirement.  It […]