Daily Archives: December 22, 2015


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My expired Pakistani passport, issued in Paris, in 1978! :-)

Well, it looks like I am going to Pakistan after all! Breathing! The process to get a visa has been tortuous, and until an hour ago, I wasn’t sure they were going to give me one. I sent my American passport by mail to the Pakistan Consulate in New York City, in itself scary, along with all the forms from their website and a cashier’s check for the fee. I did this a while ago. Then my sister, who is in NYC, went to get her visa from the consulate a few days ago,  I asked her to pick up my passport and O/N it to me. They said I hadn’t sent a copy of my expired Pakistani passport with my application so my application was incomplete and they were holding on to it. Hm! Never before was I asked to provide an old Pakistani passport…  and even now, it says that, where on their website? Exactly nowhere. For the longest time, I didn’t even know where my old (from 1978) expired passport was. I randomly found it while unpacking boxes when I moved to Louisville. It makes no sense to ask someone for their expired passport, I sent them a valid US passport and I needed a visa on that to go to Pakistan. But who’s going to argue with them? Not me, I needed a visa. So I got their email address, 2 of them, and emailed them scans of my expired Pakistani passport. I called to make sure, had to call about 10 times before anyone picked up, they told me they hadn’t gotten any emails from me. Ok. I emailed them a few more times, attaching the files in different ways, hoping they would get my email. This morning I got a phone call from them saying they never got any emails. Ok, so what do I do? Fax? Yes, I faxed them the documents, had to go to a UPS store because our fax machine’s cord was nowhere to be found… Fax went through after trying 3 times. Whew. They gave me the receipt and nothing, I tell you nothing was visible/legible on what they faxed. Starting to panic now, looks like my trip is off… Sent my sister emails and texts of my Pakistani passport to take to the consulate. My aunt knows the Consul General, so I sent her scans of my expired Pakistani passport, asked her to help.

Just got an email from my aunt and a phone call from my sister. My visa has been granted and my sister will O/N my passport to me in about an hour. I should get it tomorrow, fingers crossed.

Gawd! Does everything have to be this difficult?

Oh and my ticket, haha… that’s another story… for another time…

Wish me Bon Voyage! And I’m breathing…

I Got Up!

xmas 012Thought I’d give you guys a little update.

I got up this morning and took a shower. I wasn’t very happy about it, but I did it. I felt overwhelmed when I knew I had to dry my hair, but I did it.

I actually drove. My husband and I had several stops to make. I drove through and got a diet Coke at McDonald’s. I drove to the drugstore. We picked up a bunch of stocking stuffers for the kids.

Then we drove quite a way to another store. I had to drive through a roundabout which I was unfamiliar with. I didn’t do too well there and got flustered. So I let my husband keep driving. We went to a specialty store and got items for appetizers for Christmas dinner.

We made another stop and got more food. I decided I was worn out and we came home. I put my feet up and am writing to you. It’s sort of cold today so I think I will turn on the fireplace.

Thank you to all of you who wrote yesterday and encouraged me. It means a lot.

Tomorrow I need to call my aunt in Florida and wish her a Merry Christmas. Other than that I plan on maybe sewing (working on my new quilt). Even if I just sew one-half hour it would be something. Then I want to listen to an audiobook.

Christmas Eve I promised to take my daughter to a big furniture store here. She is in the market for new bedroom furniture. In exchange for that, she is going to help me set the table for Christmas dinner.

I still need to get a ham.

Today life felt normal. Thank you God.



How To Survive Christmas Without My Kids

The other night, I sat on the floor in front of my Christmas tree, listening to holiday standards, while wrapping presents for my kids, and cried.  Big, splashy tears that streaked my shirt; snot ran over my upper lip.  I won’t be with my kids this Christmas; they’ll be with my ex-husband and the girlfriend, and my now lost family in Wisconsin. 

Year on, year off. It seemed like such a sensible solution when we wrote up the divorce settlement: we each get the kids, every other year, for the holidays.  Easy (or easier) to divide everything up rationally, “equitably,” yours and mine.  Except when you’re holding the (spoiler!) Star Wars Millennium Falcon Lego Set, and Frank Sinatra is crooning, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.  Let your heart be light.  From now on our troubles will be out of sight,” and you realize this totally, amazing, awesome gift for your son might turn out to be THE duplicate gift because someone else already gave it to him on Christmas Day.  This is the paranoia of grief and longing.

But what I’ve learned this year (besides the fact that divorce is painful and lonely, but liberating) is how good I have it when it comes to my friends (include family here).  The night when I was a puddle on the floor, my sister called to tell me that she sent a “Christmas Family Movie Night” gift box: gifts to be opened in conjunction with a movie, at coordinated times.  Twenty-one gifts.  She wanted us to have an early Christmas together before we had to separate.  

My kids, who no longer believe in Santa, are giddy with excitement, and circle the box, feeling the wrapped gifts, trying to guess what each might be. 

“#2, says to put it in the microwave,” Sophia said.  “Popcorn!” 

Alexander shook it.  “Definitely!” 

In the grand scheme of things, Christmas is just another day.  At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself--another day to get through.  But my sister sent a box of joy.

This is how my friends have surprised and sustained me all year.  Not necessarily with actual gifts, though there have been those, too (yoga lessons when I couldn’t afford them, flowers, books), but with their unwavering presence.  By presence, I don’t just mean their bodies on the couch beside mine, though that, too, as a hand, a shoulder, and a hug are pretty good antidotes to the flattening loneliness of the weeks by myself.  By presence, I mean their loving, supportive, patient attention.  Listening to me, walking with me, running with me, feeding me, answering the phone, the texts, the need I have had this year for love, proof of love, after its absence for so long.  Heartbreak is greedy and the broken self clamors for reassurance: who am alone without (his) love?  My friends remind me that I am necessary to them, that I am worth the irritation and frustration and disappointment because most essentially, I am funny and intelligent and compassionate and help complete their world.  My history, to them, is part of what makes me enough.  

“Really, who is going to want to stick around with me after I tell him about [insert here: Bipolar/Anorexia/Alcoholism/Disability]?” I said to my sister one night. 

“Stop it,” she said.  “The right person will come along and none of that will matter because it’s part of you.  He’ll love you for living through it and not giving up.”

My friends often interrupt my doom-laden forecasts with equally absolutist optimism: “Stop it. The universe has a plan for you.  It won’t always be this painful.  It won’t.” 

David Whyte, in his book, Consolations, writes this of friendship:  “In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.”  

Movie night boxes.  Netflix binges.  Countless cups of tea and seltzer (my friends always ask if I’d rather they not drink around me).  Pasta dinners with my kids.  Vegetarian haute cuisine when I’m alone.  Time, so much of their valuable time (they have families and work, too) given to me.  It is why I will make it through this Christmas.  My brother and sister-in-law bought me a ticket home to New York for the holiday so that I will be with family, instead of waking up in an empty house, with gifts under the tree that won’t be unwrapped for days.  It is why I am blessed instead of merely broken.    


I have taught Spook (because I stream stuff so much) “What is that filthy word?” And she laughs and says, “Buffering!”

That’s when it hit me. My entire life, with bipolar and all the other mental bullshit, is like a video that constantly keeps buffering. I get a forty second clip of the show, then more buffering…To the point I say “fuck it” and have to start all over with a new link or at a different time when maybe the server’s not so busy or my cable company isn’t upgrading and being douchey.

I can’t count how many times I have “stabilized” even if only for a few months.

I can’t count how many times (pretty much every winter, so yeah, thirty plus years of it) I’ve come crashing from “functioning well” to “barely functioning.”

So my life is an endless cycle of buffering and to me it seems, this is a common theme with many bipolar people. Up, down, stable, manic, depressed, down the rabbit hole. Over and over again.

We all hear the stories of “bipolar is manageable disorder and patients can lead productive normal lives.”

I suppose a solid single diagnosis like bipolar axis 1 might make that true.

But once you’ve crossed the line to bipolar 1,2, etc, throw in anxiety, ADD, panic attacks, paranoia, and everyday stress on top of things from the past that haunt you (ya know, the manic episodes, the depressive bouts, how you messed up at so many things and hurt people)…It ceases to be “easily manageable” and becomes “barely survivable.”

So here I am, trying to watch my movie, ie; live my life like all the other normal people, and instead I just spend every moment in a constant state of buffering. It’s frustrating.

Today…Yeah. Cloudy, damp cold, and my kid was up before 7 a.m. I had another rough night, trying to get to sleep, trying to stay asleep, failing. Woke around 2 a.m. and didn’t manage sleep again til after four. (I took my full daily dose of Xanax all before 8 p.m. so I was determined NOT to add any more pills even for sleep.)  Needless to say hyper morning happy child did not inspire me to crawl out of fort blankie. But I had to so I could put the trash out for pick up. Meh.

So far…I put on pants I didn’t sleep in, but the shirt…Meh. I made the bed, fed the cats, gave my kid pancakes. (She only eats the frozen ones you nuke, she will not eat pancakes when I make the real ones.) Feet had one of her dolls in his mouth and was either making love to it or eating it, not sure which. But when I told Spook she shrugged and said, “It’s the boy baby, let him eat it. Girls are what count.” Hmmm…Then she snapped her generic Barbie in half and broke it so I couldn’t even snap it back together. She said, “That’s okay, the aunt fairy doll will take care of the kids.”

Oh and to top it off…She drew me, her, and me vampire leprechaun husband who I will meet in Unicorn land, get married, and have another baby. She has my future all planned out.

Then she asked if she could draw a picture of a girl with no clothes.

Now,this hit me odd because I don’t talk about naked girls. And it hit me…She confirmed it. My brother has a mug with naked girls all over it and apparently, whatever video game she was watching him play had naked girls in it. Awesome. And dad and stepmonster had her spending most of the weekend with my brother entertaining her so god knows what else she picked up. Like the green and brown cowboy boots weren’t disturbing enough (they are supposedly going to buy them for her for x-mas.)

When Spook was there the other day, Dad called me and I heard stepmonster in the background, “Well, she told me not to let your brother watch Spook but he drove her to the park and lalalalablahblah..” Um…They’re the ones always carrying on about his angry outbursts, laziness, and inability to pay attention to surroundings because he’s so wrapped up in his video games. Why would I want my child left alone with him? I don’t care if he’s turning 21 next year, or that my kid adores him. He has the mental capacity of a 12 year old so don’t guilt trip me for thinking my kid needs more supervision than that.

Her or Dad called last night. I didn’t answer or call back. Still pissy about the xmas card thing. I shouldn’t be, it seems petty. For all I know they’re going to give me a card later on. Still…It makes me want to write “Dad and (brother)” on their gift and leave her out. See how she likes it. It doesn’t matter cos in this fucked up so called family I will always be wrong, always the bad guy. Pfft. And I don’t get it cos I keep to myself so I can’t be doing much to deserve their crappy treatment.

All this started with me confronting stepmonster about all her “don’t tell mommy this and that”. The hang up was fucking mature. If she’d let me explain myself, I would have heard her out, too. Hell, even if the wording had been different…”I can’t tell you, Mommy, cos it’s a surprise for Christmas.”

I just think teaching kids that small to keep secrets from their parents because “I’m the adult and I say so” is a breeding ground for a kid who would keep quiet were they being abused. Is that wrong? Because that’s the first thing pedophiles tell a child, “Sshh, don’ tell mom and dad, this is our secret…”

Just creeps me out. I’m a mom and allowed to be paranoid when my kid’s well being is concerned.

It hit me earlier that were I to keel over…I have no true options on who I’d want to raise Spook. The stupid law would probably use that biological parent trumps all thing and give her to the donor. Much as I loathe him for abandoning her and always getting away with his shit…Would he be any worse than stepmonster and my dad turning her into a bumpkin same as they did my brother rather than allowing the kid to form her own identity? And mom’s not in great health, leaves her out. My sister, I love, but do I want my kid growing up in a house where some days the only thing to eat is ramen yet they have a fifty inch 4k tv and her husband plays video games all day and night, peeing in empty soda bottles so his game isn’t interrupted?

I know who I’d choose if it were feasible and this may come as a shocker….

R. He raised three girls as a single dad. He is good with kids. He’s shallow and narcissistic but he’s a hell of a lot better than my family. And he’d do it in a heartbeat EXCEPT…Mrs R has made it clear she doesn’t want to take care of small kids for more than an evening a week so she wouldn’t agree to raising Spook.

I guess that means I can’t die for the next 12 years at least. So I best be uber careful when I take my slaughter-0-matic for a spin. (Yes, stab-o-matic has been upgraded.)

Now back to choking on my sinus drainage and also, I apparently have to perform a wedding ceremony for Spook. She’s marrying her teddy bear.

Well, it’s better than marrying your cousin. Which stepmonster would probably have her do cos it’s the hillbilly way.

I gotta start limiting her exposure to those idgets,



Please sedate me or pay to relocate me…

I had a forty minute upswing today where I was feeling okay. My kid was running me ragged with her demands and pissing me off with her lack of gratitude and respect…It didn’t last long.

Once I recovered from that crassssshhh into the abyss…

The mail arrived. Christmas card from my dad’s faction.


That set me off into a pms zone of tears and a stab-0-matic zone.

Almost twenty years dad’s been with that…that…hillbilly…and this is the FIRST year ever that the card hasn’t been addressed to both of us.

Am I wrong to be offended??????

I mean, stepmonster labeled it using MY family last name (as in my mom, dad, sister’s, half brother’s) yet dad never married her so technically and legally it is NOT her last name…And it’s addressed solely to my child at our address…So what is she trying to prove here:? Setting me off so I look like an unfit mother and she can sweep in and take my child to keep her company now that dad has one foot in the grave and her own child is pushing 21????

A m I paranoid? Menstrual?

FIRST time in twenty years the x-mas card has only been addressed to my child rather than both of us.

As if I am no longer family.


I faced my own mother’s wrath and hatred when I had Spook and listed stepmonster, along with my  dad, as grandparents in spite of her not being blood relation or even related by marriage. I have done EVERYTHING to include her and my half brother even while mom and sis excluded and hated them. To say this made me a black hated sheep would be an understatement.

So to have this woman send a card addressed only to my kid, as if I don’t exist, when every other year for so long it was both of us….

I wish she’d die in a fire.

Ya think I am joking or dramatizing or hormonal?


Going to war with my mother over this for the last twenty years put more stress and anxiety on me than anyone deserves. It made my sister even more the favorite. It pretty much turned me into a pariah.

One disagreement, stepmonster hangs up on me like a child, and next I know…I’m not even on the family Christmas card.

And yeah, okay, why would I even care, or want to be included with those psycho hillybilly hosebeasts…But in all fairness…I am my dad’s DAUGHTER. I was here first. I have done nothing wrong to be so disrespected and left out.

On top of that, I’ve been forced to hear my child reiterate many times in 25 hours that “hillbilly  mum” doesn’t like this, or that, doesn’t want her t0 wear baggy clothes, doesn’t like the way I do this or that, and she fears hillbilly grandmum too much to speak up and now after years of hating jeans and cowboy boots suddenly she wants to wear them cos my half brother and hillbilly stepmum have told her it is the “right way to do things.”

Maybe I get a giggle when my kid sings heavy metal, quotes Llamas with hats, or wears black and a Jack Skellington shirt…But I have NEVER EVER insisted she do, or like, anything but what is true to her. She is free to be her own person (she even wore a Bieber shirt at one time and Hannah Montana but that was her, not me) and I want that for her. I want her to feel free to develop her own identity and not feel pressured to be what others, including me, might want her to be.

Now suddenly it’s all “hillbilly stepgramma hates this, she doesn;t like this, she says you do this wrong, she wants me to do this this way…”

Think I am hitting the wall here. I knew better than to let any faction of my family spend any amount of time with her was a kiss of death yet I wanted to be fair and non neurotic and Spook loves them but…

Lines have been crossed, I have been disrespected, excluded, and usurped.

This is not acceptable.

I am drowning in anxiety and depression as is (and also freaking out that hillbilly stepmum plans to use that against me to take custody of Spook cos they have “more” than I do)…How I wish I could say I was wrong. But for all these deviations and changes to come on right as my support hearing comes up…I don’t fucking trust them. Maybe I am wrong but dad is old, my brother is an adult, and I just have this sick feeling stepmonster fears being alone so she is plotting against me to take my child.

Yes, I know it sounds insane. Right up til it happens. I always had a paranoid feeling the donor would ditch us and ya know what? it happened.

The gut is not always wrong and it’s not always insane.

I have little doubt if called on it, stepmonster would have a “valid” explanation and my dad would back her up. I am, after all, the “crazy” daughter who doesn’t work because I am “lazy”. His loyalties have been made clear and it doesn’t involve me at all. Whatever.

I just can’t abide rudeness. How would stepmonster feel if I sent a card addressed only to “blood relatives”??? Bet she never considered that for that would require maturity and intelligence.

(Cripes, this thing has had me breaking out in itchy welts all day, I may as well have done battle with a swarm of mosquitos and fleas!)

So I have tried to talk to stepmonster, tried to talk to my dad, and they are sided together which isn’t new. I am always the family fuck up no  matter how much right I do. Mindfulness means fuck all when those around you won’t let go of the past. Yeah, I spent years fucking up. For seven years now, I have busted my ass to make up for it and do right. For all the good it does me with my family. Dad is still on my ass about the car being in mom’s name, which I do NOT get at all cos it has NOTHING to do with him. It’s between me and mom, he’s not legally responsible. Besides which they have FIVE vehicles for three people so if it’s such a big deal how about selling me one of those on payments, you asscuntmotherfuckers?

Yeah, filthy mouth cos I am hurt and pissed off.

I don’t wanna be, but the hormones are dictating responses now, the anxiety in second place, and….To quote the awesome Ramones….


And if I can’t be sedated…I really need a gofundme campaign to help get me the fuck out of here, far far away from these oppressive people called family who are eventually going to drive me to off myself.

Maybe not today, tomorrow, or the next five years. But all this time, them chiseling away, not trying to turn my kid against me….

Sedate or relocate seem to be the only options.

I am quicksand, screaming for the cats to go get help, and they are ignoring me, cos it’s what cats do.

Really shoulda let Spook have a dog, but then again…With her attention span on feeding pets and my inability to keep up with their walking/grooming/etc…The dog would likely be a petrified skeleton and as much help as the cats.

Everyone wonders why people do illegal drugs that destroy their lives.

THIS. My life. How much torment can you handle day in and day out before you crack your lids? Who wouldn’t want to escape?

My only saving grace is being too poor to buy drugs and too panicked to go looking for them to take out in trade.

If the legal ones that are supposed to save you just fail you and drag you down further…Hating everything seems to be an appropriate response as far as I am concerned.

“We’re all mad here” said the cat.

Truer words were never spoken at this moment. Pissed off or insane…I am both.


Once the hormone surge passes and the holidays are over I will likely be okay…Until then…I’m the equivalent of dry socked of a tooth, only this is dry socket of my entire psyche.

TragicH8teball predicts this week will not end well if I can’t find a magical way to hold my tongue.



How to Cultivate Your Creativity


Fascinating! Read it please! I’m not summarizing it, it’s too long, but it is informational and fascinating reading! And Dopamine is intimately involved, really, it is.



Being Open

  • Openness to new experiences is the strongest and most consistent personality trait that predicts creative achievement in the arts and sciences.
  • Higher dopamine levels drive our motivation to explore and boost creativity but are also associated with an increased risk of mental illness.
  • New experiences can shift our perspective and inspire creative leaps.
  • Around the time that his cult-classic, drug-culture novel Naked Lunchwas released, author William S. Burroughs was experimenting with a writing strategy that he called the cut-up technique. Burroughs would chop up random lines of text from a page and rearrange them to form new sentences, with the aim of freeing his mind and the minds of his readers from conventional, linear ways of thinking.

    Beat Generation writers such as Burroughs sought to dismantle old belief systems and to encourage alternative ways of looking at the world. They celebrated intellectual exploration, engagement in art and music, unconventionality and deep spiritual questioning. Perhaps no artist captured this spirit more than Jack Kerouac, whose novels have become manifestos for adventure and nonconformity.

  • The revelations and methods of Burroughs, Kerouac and other Beat writers illuminated an important truth about creativity, which is now backed by scientific research: we need new and unusual experiences to think differently. In fact, cultivating a mind-set that is open and explorative might be the best thing we can do for our creative work. As Kerouac famously wrote, “The best teacher is experience.”

    For not only artists but innovators of all stripes, novel experiences provide the crucial tissue of real-world material that can be spun into original work. Openness to experience—the drive for cognitive exploration of one’s inner and outer worlds—is the single strongest and most consistent personality trait that predicts creative achievement.

    Among the “big five” personality traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism), openness to experience is absolutely essential to creativity. Those who are high in openness tend to be imaginative, curious, perceptive, creative, artistic, thoughtful and intellectual. They are driven to explore their own inner worlds of ideas, emotions, sensations, and fantasies and, outwardly, to constantly seek out and attempt to make meaning of new information in their environment.

    Seeking truth and beauty
    Openness as a personality trait hinges on engagement and exploration, but it is also more complex and multifaceted than that. Openness to experience comes in many forms, from a love of solving complex problems in math, science and technology, to a voracious love of learning, to an inclination to ask the big questions and seek a deeper meaning in life, to exhibiting intense emotional reactions to music and art. Visionary tech entrepreneurs, world travelers, spiritual seekers and original thinkers of all types tend to have highly open personalities.

    Research conducted by one of us (Kaufman) for his doctoral dissertation suggests that there are at least three major forms of cognitive engagement making up the core of openness. Intellectual engagement is characterized by a searching for truth, a love of problem solving and a drive to engage with ideas, whereas affective engagementhas to do with exploration of the full depths of human emotion and is associated with a preference for using gut feeling, emotions, empathy and compassion to make decisions. Finally, those who are high inaesthetic engagement exhibit a drive toward exploring fantasy and art and tend to experience emotional absorption in beauty. Kaufman found intellectual engagement to be associated with creative achievement in the sciences and affective engagement and aesthetic engagement to be linked with artistic creativity.

  • Kaufman’s research led him and his colleagues to another fascinating observation about “open” personalities. The desire to learn and discover seemed to have significantly more bearing on creative accomplishments than cognitive ability did. He found that people with high levels of cognitive engagement with imagination, emotions and beauty were more likely to make significant artistic creative achievements than people who were only high in IQ or divergent thinking ability (the ability to explore many possible solutions to a problem). Intellectual engagement was sometimes even a better predictor of scientific creative achievement than IQ was.

    Looking at creativity across the arts and sciences, Kaufman and his colleagues found that openness to experience was more highly correlated with total creative achievement than other factors that had been traditionally associated with creativity, such as IQ, divergent thinking and other personality traits. Together these findings suggest the drive for exploration, in its many forms, may be the single most important personal factor predicting creative achievement.

    Indeed, openness to experience speaks to our desire and motivation to engage with ideas and emotions—to seek truth and beauty, newness and novelty—and the act of exploring often provides the raw material for great artistic and scientific innovations.

    The dopamine drive
    This engagement starts at the neurological level, with the way the brain reacts to unfamiliar situations and new information. What unites each individual form of openness to experience is an intense desire and motivation to seek new information that is rooted in the individual’s neurophysiology and forms the very core of his or her personality.

    The drive for exploration hinges on the functioning of dopamine, which is probably the most well known of all the brain’s neurotransmitters. As you may know, dopamine plays a strong role in learning and motivation. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about dopamine, which is commonly seen as the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” neurotransmitter. Despite many popular descriptions, dopamine is not necessarily associated with pleasure and satisfaction.

    Instead dopamine’s primary role is to make us want things. We get a huge surge of dopamine coursing through our brain at the possibility of a big payoff, but there is no guarantee that we will actually like or enjoy what we obtain. Psychologist Colin DeYoung of the University of Minnesota has explained that “the release of dopamine … increases motivation to explore and facilitates cognitive and behavioral processes useful in exploration.” DeYoung has called dopamine the “neuromodulator of exploration.”

    At the broadest level, dopamine facilitates psychological plasticity, a tendency to explore and engage flexibly with new things, in both behavior and thinking. Plasticity leads us to engage with uncertainty—whether it is pondering a new app to meet a consumer demand or questioning the next step in our own life path—exploring the unknown and finding reward in seeking its positive potential. With plasticity comes enhanced cognitive and behavioral engagement and exploration and, frequently, a commitment to personal growth. Of course, there is no guarantee that our open engagement will yield a positive outcome. For most creative people, however, the engagement itself is enough if it provides fodder for innovation. Indeed, research shows that psychological plasticity is associated with high levels of idea generation, engagement with everyday creative activities and publicly recognized creative achievement.

    Plasticity consists of a blend of both extraversion and openness to experience, and dopamine is a source of exploratory motivation. It is easy to see why this might be the case evolutionarily; the drive to explore, the ability to adapt to new environments and the ability to thrive in the face of uncertainty all provide important survival advantages.

    Nevertheless, there are crucial differences between extraversion and openness to experience. Extraversion, the personality trait that is most strongly associated with high sensitivity to environmental rewards, manifests in qualities such as talkativeness, sociability, positive emotionality, assertiveness and excitement seeking. Extraverts tend to be more likely to explore and pursue more primal “appetitive” rewards such as chocolate, social attention, social status, sexual partners or drugs like cocaine. But dopamine, which is indeed important to extraversion, also has projections in the brain that are strongly linked to numerous other aspects of cognition. Individuals who are particularly open to experience get energized not merely through the possibility of appetitive rewards but through the possibility of discovering new information. It is the thrill of the knowledge chase that most excites them.

    This motivation for cognitive exploration engages and energizes us while influencing our drive for creative expression. We see the quality play out again and again in different realms of the arts and sciences. After all, it is difficult to imagine any great creative achievement that wasn’t sparked by the drive to explore some aspect of the human experience.

    “Leaky” filters and messy minds
    It is hardly a stretch to say that dopamine is the mother of invention. In addition to facilitating cognitive exploration, the neurotransmitter is associated with a number of processes that facilitate creativity, including dreaming. We know that both daydreaming and dreaming at night are invaluable tools to help us access deeper realms of creativity. People who are high in openness to experience report dreaming more often and having more vivid dreams than those who are less open, possibly because of their higher dopamine production.

    One intriguing possibility is that dopamine surges into the right hemisphere of the brain support both openness to experience and dreaming. Dreaming inspires creative insights, and those who have more creative insights show more activation in the brain’s right hemisphere. Among people who are high in openness, the brain’s dopamine systems are working day and night to inspire creative insights.

    Another important cognitive process associated with creativity is latent inhibition—a mechanism in the brain that “filters out” objects in our environment that we have seen many times before and therefore consider irrelevant to our current goals and needs. In 2003 psychologist Shelley Carson of Harvard University and her colleagues discovered that the university’s eminent creative achievers were seven times more likely to have a reduced latent inhibition—meaning that they had a harder time filtering out seemingly irrelevant information and continued to notice familiar things.

    But here’s the thing: the information did turn out to be relevant! In related research, Kaufman found that those with a reduced latent inhibition had a greater faith in their intuitions, and their intuitions were, in fact, correct. Reduced latent inhibition speaks directly to the concept of a “messy mind,” often associated with creativity, because it reflects the tendency to tune in to greater amounts of information from our surroundings rather than automatically filtering and compartmentalizing.

    The downside of this quality is that it might make creative people more prone to distraction than others. Researcher Darya Zabelina of Northwestern University found that people with a “leaky” sensory filter—meaning that their brain does not efficiently filter out irrelevant information from the environment—tend to be more creative than those with stronger sensory gating. Zabelina also observed that highly creative people are more sensitive tonoises in their environment—a clock ticking, a conversation in the distance—than less creative people. “Sensory information is leaking in,” Zabelina has explained. “The brain is processing more information than it is in a typical person.”

    This brain quirk was a known characteristic of many eminent creators, including Charles Darwin, Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, who each expressed a hypersensitivity to sound. Proust kept his blinds drawn and lined his bedroom with cork to filter out unwanted light and noise and wore earplugs while he wrote, whereas Kafka said that he needed the solitude not of a hermit but of a “dead man” to write.

    And although it may sometimes be a hindrance to creative work, this distractibility also seems to be distinctly beneficial to creative thinking. Sensory hypersensitivity most likely contributes to creativity bywidening the brain’s scope of attention and allowing individuals to take note of more subtleties in their environment. Taking in a greater volume of information increases your chances of making new and unusual connections between distantly related pieces of information.

    Genius or madness?
    These findings have deep implications for the long-standing mental illness–creativity debate. Research has linked dopamine production with not only reduced latent inhibition and creativity but also mental illness. To be clear: mental illness is neither necessary nor sufficient for creativity. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a nuanced link between the two because having an extremely open mind makes flights of fancy more likely. In support of this idea, there appear to be variations in the expression of dopamine receptors in certain areas of the brain among both creative individuals and those with psychotic symptoms.

    In 2010 neuroscientist Fredrik Ullén of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and his colleagues found that dopamine systems in healthy, highly creative adults are similar in certain ways to those found in the brains of people with schizophrenia. In both cases, they observed alower density of dopamine D2 receptors in the thalamus—a brain area associated with sensory perception and motor function that also plays an important role in creative thought, suggesting one possible link between creativity and psychopathology.

  • Having fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means that the brain is filtering less incoming stimuli, leading to a higher flow of information being transmitted from the thalamus to other parts of the brain. In individuals who are not also suffering from the damaging symptoms of mental illness, this flow can lead to an increase in creative thinking and may very well underlie several cognitive processes that determine creative achievement. “Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box,” Ullén and his colleagues said in the study.

    An excess of dopamine may cause an influx of emotions, sensations and fantasy, so much so that it causes substantial disruption to functions also important for creativity, such as working memory, critical thinking and reflection. Too little dopamine, however, and there may be less motivation and inspiration to create.

    Dopamine aside, research has suggested similarities in brain activations between highly creative thinkers and people who are prone to psychosis. In 2014 neuropsychologist Andreas Fink of the University of Graz in Austria and his colleagues found that people scoring high in schizotypy—a personality continuum ranging from normal levels of openness to experience and imagination to extreme manifestations of magical thinking, apophenia (perceiving patterns that do not really exist) and psychosis—showed similar difficulty deactivating or suppressing activity in the precuneus region of the brain, an area associated with self-consciousness, a sense of self and the retrieval of deeply personal memories.

    In reality, all of us lie somewhere on the schizotypy spectrum, and the existence of schizotypal characteristics does not necessarily indicate schizophrenia. Psychologically healthy biological relatives of people with full-blown schizophrenia tend to have unusually creative jobs and hobbies, compared with the general population, according to a 2001 study by Saybrook University psychologist Ruth Richards and her colleagues. Similarly, Simon Kyaga and his co-workers at the Karolinska Institute reported in 2013 that among more than 1.2 million Swedes, the siblings of patients with autism and the first-degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia were significantly overrepresented in scientific and artistic occupations.

    It is possible that relatives of people with mental illness inherit creativity-boosting traits while avoiding the aspects of the mental illness that are more debilitating. In support of this observation, researchers have found that schizotypal characteristics—particularly the “positive” ones, such as unusual perceptual experiences and impulsive nonconformity—are related to creative personal qualities—individualistic, insightful, eclectic, reflective, resourceful and unconventional—as well as everyday creative achievements.

    Go with the flow
    Schizotypy is related to so-called flow states of consciousness and absorption. Flow is the mental state of being completely present and fully absorbed in a task. When in a flow state, the creator and his or her world become one—outside distractions recede from consciousness, and the mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. This happens, for instance, when a playwright sits up all night crafting a new scene without realizing that the sun is rising or when a filmmaker spends hours in front of a computer editing a rough cut.

    Flow is essential to the artist’s experience. In a study of 100 artists in music, visual arts, theater and literature, researchers Barnaby Nelson and David Rawlings, both at the University of Melbourne in Australia, found that those who said they experienced more flow during the creative process were also higher in schizotypy and openness to experience. Nelson and Rawlings linked their findings to latent inhibition, arguing that a leaky sensory filter is a common thread running through schizotypy and openness to experience—and, perhaps surprisingly, flow and absorption. The failure to precategorize incoming information as irrelevant, which is experienced by individuals with reduced latent inhibition, can, the researchers wrote, result in “immediate experience not being as shaped or determined by preceding events.”

    In other words, an exceptionally large amount of information, far more than for those with higher levels of latent inhibition, enters their field of awareness and is explored by their mind. As Nelson and Rawlings explained, “it is precisely this newness of appreciation and the associated sense of exploration and discovery, that stimulates the deep immersion in the creative process, which itself may trigger a shift in quality of experience, generally in terms of an intensification or heightening of experience.”

    So what determines whether schizotypy goes the way of intense absorption and creative achievement or tips over into mental illness? This is where a number of other factors come into play. If mental illness is defined as extreme difficulty functioning effectively in the real world, then the complete inability to distinguish imagination from reality is surely going to increase the likelihood of mental illness. If, however, one has an overactive imagination but also has the ability to distinguish reality from imagination and can harness these capacities to flourish in daily life (with the help of things such as motivation, post-traumatic growth, resilience and a supportive environment), then that is far from mental illness.

    Mental processes on the schizotypy spectrum may interact with protective mental qualities such as greater intellectual curiosity, improved working memory and cognitive flexibility. Indeed, in 2011 neuroscientist Hikaru Takeuchi of Tohoku University in Japan and his colleagues studied people with no history of neurological or psychiatric illness and found that the most creative thinkers among them were those who were able to simultaneously engage their executive attention in an effortful memory task and keep the imagination network in the brain active.

    You never know—some of the most seemingly irrelevant or “crazy” ideas at one point may be just the ingredients for a brilliant insight or connection in a different context. It bears repeating: creativity is all about making new connections.

Differential metabolism of drugs, therapeutic effects and side effects.


We all have an enzyme system in our liver called the Cytochrome P-450 (CP-450) system. It evolved to metabolize poisons, but it is the major enzyme system that metabolizes drugs. This means it breaks drugs down into their metabolites, (or adds sulfate, acetyl, methyl, glucuronidyl gorups) which makes them more water soluble, and gets rid of them.

There are many forms of CP-450, ones that are fast, medium, slow, or super slow. The fast CP-450 breaks down the drug you’ve taken quickly. This hopefully allows enough time for the drug to interact with the proper receptors and have its desired effect before it is removed from your circulation. The slow and super slow CP-450 can be problematic in that they remove the drug so slowly that side effects and worse, adverse effects take place.

I have had genetic testing done to see which form of CP-450 I have. I have the slow form. This explains why I have all the side effects plus some whenever I am on a new medication. My liver doesn’t remove the drugs quickly enough, so they stay in my circulation for too long and I have many side effects and many adverse affects. Also I can take very small dosed of medications and have an effect.

Now, knowing this helps my psychiatrist prescribe low doses of some medications, because I cannot take a lot of them. Trying out new medications is always a scary thing for me because I never know how bad the side effects and adverse effects are going to be.

I have only been able to tolerate Zoloft (no more SSRI’s) Lithium, and Seroquel. But as my friend who is a psychiatrist says, these are some of the best ones to be able to tolerate.

I would ask all of you to get this genetic testing, but it is quite expensive ($1500) and it is not covered by some insurance plans, like mine… Anyway, I had it done, and the information gleaned form the testing is valuable. Hopefully insurance companies will start paying for these tests. Because in the final analysis, it saves you money, because you don’t have to take drugs you know from the testing are not going to work for you.

Happy Holidays!

FullSizeRender (8)I couldn’t let this week go by without wishing everyone some sort of happy holiday.

I suppose we have blog readers that celebrate all sorts of different holidays this month. We probably have a few that celebrate nothing. One of my depressed friends lives with her father and she says they don’t celebrate at all. I thought she was sort of making that up, but now I believe her. And I can see the benefit in just doing nothing. But when you have kids, a husband, relatives, and friends, you can’t totally drop out of the season.

Christmas can be a heck of a lot of work. I cheat as much as I can. I buy a lot of the food and I get my family to put up a lot of the decorations. I put a lot of the presents I buy in gift bags or boxes because I hate wrapping. I get a fair share of gift certificates. We also give the kids money for the bulk of their presents.

One part of Christmas I like is church. The sanctuary is absolutely stunning. This isn’t the best photo in the world but it gives you the idea. Our church is pretty small, but they do a great job of decorating.

I’ve been crying when we sing at church. My therapist says this good…it shows that I am not numb.

My meds have been changed but I still feel apathetic. I am doing the minimum and barely want to do that.

I feel exhausted. I feel tired of dealing with myself. I feel like just a piece of a person and like my life will not get any better.

My best friend is a challenge. She once told my husband I needed to get other people to support me when I am depressed. So now I feel like I can’t be honest with her. Ick. But thank god I have others to support me. I had a friend call today and we laughed. Her son is driving her nuts and I could identify.

I have other friends who want to support and see me. I have big plans in January to patiently go through them and see them. But I’ll probably just wind up laying on the couch or canceling.

I HAVE to get up and do things. I HAVE to get a shower and go out. I have to get over my fear of showers and health problems, and driving. I am not even being a person.

Last night I went out to my son’s graduation dinner. The dinner turned out wonderful, but I felt so blah. My face looks old, my hair looks bad, and I am overweight. I did have a nice outfit so I felt good about that.

This sounds crazy but I can’t seem to get a good hairdo. I have a stylist who get the gray out and does the highlights, but the hair style is never something I can do at home. I need to go in again. I am a little nervous to make an appointment because then I will have to drive there.

I have shrunk down to the next smallest size of jeans so that is progress.

Why oh why, is life so hard?





We’re having a Christmas party for my middle one’s friends–they swapped presents and are watching a sappy Christmas movie and talking.  They just finished our copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and had a nice time with that, they seemed to.  They’ve done pizza and cake and are enjoying themselves.

It’s a drizzly day here not much for holiday spirit here in Mississippi.  But we need the moisture and the colder temps to get the bugs down in the spring and summer.

Last night we spent  the night at a cousin’s house playing Bingo for presents and fellowshipping together. It’s was all my mom’s nieces and nephews and their relations and we had a good time. It was just me, the oldest, and the youngest from our branch because the middle one was still down with her teeth and Bob stayed with her to take care of her.  My mom sent down a couple of packages since she was left out for the Bingo gifts.  She got a Dale Christmas ornament so that made her very happy in her medicated state.