Daily Archives: June 1, 2016

Family Dinner 2

Tonight is the night mom & sis in law come over for dinner. I’m actually looking forward to seeing some people. I have been dreading it before now.

Physically I am starting to feel a little better. It’s nice to not wake up with a head full of cotton for a change. My allergies are so shitty.

Today I’ve swept the front porch and ordered my new cell phone. I rocked that call. I was funny and outgoing it seemed like I was a completely different person.. Well I’m always a little funny.😛

I’ve decided when I get my new phone I will start going out at least once a day and taking a picture of whatever I see. So there will likely be photos along with my blog posts.  I’m posting the idea here because it makes me more accountable. Me and my BFF did this once before. It was on my other blog, but I’m trying to work on just this one for now.

I miss her so much. She was so good at kicking my ass and keeping me motivated. I want to do this for her, I want her to see from where ever she is now and be proud of me.

Happy, happy, happy! Blogging for International Bipolar Foundation now!

Please excuse my effusiveness, but it is appropriate to the occasion! I have been invited to blog for International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) by its founder Ms. Muffy Walker. Thrilled and excited about this development. Of course, I’ll post my blog posts from IBPF here on my blog:-)

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I saw a psychiatrist every day for a few minutes.  He wasn’t my regular doctor, who was still out of town. But he seemed nice and competent enough. I told him my story about losing my mood stabilizer, Abilify, when we changed insurance companies in October and described the long slow slide I had been on ever since then.  I told him we had tried Geodon, Xanax, Lexapro, and an increased dose of Pristiq (my antidepressant) to replace it.  But here I was.

Bob had told me before I went in that if it came down to it, we’d just start paying the $1,000-a-month bill for the correct medicine.  That was reassuring and terrifying at the same time.  How long could we afford to do that? Was I that desperately sick without it?  It seemed that I was.

I stayed this time for five days.  All the doctor had to do was restart my Abilify.  By the time I left, I was thinking logically again and glad that I had had the courage to go to the hospital when I needed to—and that the doctor I saw on my hospitalization filed paperwork that convinced my insurance company to cover my Abilify through the year 2039.  So it was worth it to call and go in if for that reason alone.

Yes, if you go to the mental ward, you lose your physical freedom for a period of time.  Yes, you miss your family and the comforts of home.  Yes, you are deprived of many of your personal coping mechanisms.  But it’s not as scary a process as it could be, thanks to modern pharmacological treatment methods designed to take you down from your psychosis and give you clarity of mind.

Vlog Ramble & The Ketogenic Diet’s Bipolar Buzz

Once in a blue moon I record a vlog.           After watching mental health advocate/blogger Kitt O’Malley’s insightful vlogs yesterday I was fired up to get in front of Photo Booth and yap away. With my canine muse Lucy by my side, I report on how I haven’t reverted to my daily pint of gelato, … Continue reading Vlog Ramble & The Ketogenic Diet’s Bipolar Buzz

Further adventures in the public mental healthcare sector

Originally posted on Our Lived Experience:
I still haven’t had ECT. I haven’t had it because the head anaesthetist at the hospital won’t do the general anaesthetic for it, because he considers it barbaric. He goes to Siberia annually to hunt bear – I am not kidding. Anyway, apparently they can get someone in to…

Further adventures in the public mental healthcare sector

I still haven’t had ECT. I haven’t had it because the head anaesthetist at the hospital won’t do the general anaesthetic for it, because he considers it barbaric. He goes […]

Beneath the Surface: Exploring Mental Illness.

DSCN0356Mental illness, it’s invisible. There are no bandages, no casts, no crutches, no external wounds. How do you know someone is suffering from one? We, the afflicted, talk about feeling bad, talk about our depression and anxiety woes. You, our friends, look at us with bewildered eyes. You think to yourself “This person is all put together, she has makeup on, is dressed well, there are no signs of illness. I don’t understand.”

It’s not easy to explain mental illness to people who don’t have it. You can’t show them anything that is broken, or any flulike symptoms, or anything visible at all.

The key is listening, trying to understand where your mentally ill friend is coming from, what your mentally ill friend feels like, what they are trying to explain to you. And many will not even explain anything, because of the stigma, because they don’t want to appear “crazy” or abnormal.

Yes it’s confusing. I’ve had bipolar disorder since 1985, and sometimes it’s still confusing for me, so don’t anyone beat themselves over this. Basically the only empirical thing you have to gauge mental illness by is behavior. For example, in mania, people talk a lot, have very high energy, don’t sleep much, may have delusions of grandeur, may have a lot of anxiety. In depression, they have no energy, may sleep a lot, or not, are in a downcast mood, hopeless, and may also have a lot of anxiety. Paradoxically, in hypomania (the stage before going into full blown mania), we can actually get a lot accomplished, we are energetic, focused, not over the edge yet. This might be considered the “industrious” phase of bipolar disorder.

So the way your friend is behaving, a departure from their normal self, is a clue to their mental illness. What they are saying and how they’re saying it is as well. Are they being grandiose, talking non stop, switching from subject to subject (flight of ideas,) these are all clues.

In schizophrenia, people can have auditory hallucinations, where they hear voices, that’s definitely a clue, if they tell you, if they are aware that this is happening and admit to it… Yet most of the time, looking at a mentally ill person, you’d never know anything was wrong at all. It’s all below the surface, in their brain. Just like in a sea, where the water looks still and calm but a savage riptide is flowing under the surface.

Signs and signals, feelings and observations, those are clues to understanding mental illness. Just being an observant and understanding friend who listens and tries to comprehend what is being said and shown to them, that my friends is what is needed to understand the illusive nature of mental illness.

Researchers find new signs of stress damage in the brain, plus hope for prevention

Two words: Medial Amygdala and Acetyl Carnitine… ok that’s 5 words, but it’s still two concepts:-)



Chronic stress can make us worn-out, anxious, depressed—in fact, it can change the architecture of the brain. New research at The Rockefeller University shows that when mice experience prolonged stress, structural changes occur within a little-studied region of their amygdala, a part of the brain that regulates basic emotions, such as fear and anxiety. These changes are linked to behaviors associated with anxiety and depressive disorders

There is good news, too: an experimental new drug might prevent these changes.

“There have been hints that the amygdala displays a complex response to stress,” says lead author Carla Nasca, a postdoc in Bruce S. McEwen’s lab. “When we took a closer look at three regions within it, we found that neurons within one, the medial amygdala, retract as a result of chronic stress.

“While this rewiring can contribute to disorders such as anxiety and depression, our experiments with mice showed that the neurological and behavioral effects of stress can be prevented with treatment by a promising potential antidepressant that acts rapidly,” Nasca says.

In the research, published in Molecular Psychiatry, her team found this protective approach increased resilience among mice most at risk for developing anxiety or depression-like behaviors.

A close look at the amygdala

The brain’s limbic system controls emotions and memory, and it comprises a number of structures, including the amygdala, which is found deep in the brain. Scientists interested in the neurological effects of stress have focused on several structures in the limbic system, but the medial amygdala has thus far received little attention in stress studies.

To see what was going on in this area, as well as two other parts of the amygdala, Nasca and her team first subjected mice to 21 days of periodic confinement within a small space–an unpleasant experience for mice. Afterward, they tested the mice to see if their behaviors had changed–for instance, if they had begun to avoid social interaction and showed other signs of depression. They also analyzed the neurons of these mice within the three regions of the amygdala.

One area saw no change with stress. In another, the basolateral amygdala, they saw that neurons’ branches became longer and more complex—a healthy sign of flexibility and adaptation, and something that had been shown up in previous work. But in the medial amygdala, the neuronal branches, which form crucial connections to other parts of the brain, appeared to shrink. The loss of connections like these can harm the brain, distorting its ability to adapt to new experiences, leaving it trapped in a state of anxiety or depression.

Protecting neurons

This effect could be prevented. The scientists repeated the stress experiment, and this time they treated mice nearing the end of their 21 days of chronic stress with acetyl carnitine, a molecule Nasca is studying for its potential as a rapid-acting antidepressant. These mice fared better than their untreated counterparts; not only were they more sociable, the neurons of their medial amygdalas also showed more branching.

Stress does not affect everyone the same way. This is true for both humans and mice—some individuals are just more vulnerable. Nasca and her colleagues’ experiments included mice at high risk of developing anxiety- and depression-like behaviors in response to stress. Treatment with acetyl carnitine also appeared to protect these mice, suggesting that a similar preventative approach might work for depression-prone people.

Both humans and rodents naturally produce acetyl carnitine under normal conditions and several depression-prone animal models are deficient in acetyl carnitine. In a separate study, Nasca and colleagues are examining whether people with depression have abnormally low levels of the molecule.

“Chronic stress is linked to a number of psychiatric conditions, and this research may offer some new insights on their pathology,” McEwen says. “It seems possible that the contrasting responses we see within the amygdala, and the limbic system in general, may contribute to these disorders’ differing symptoms, which can range from avoiding social contact to experiencing vivid flashbacks.”



Psychological vs Physical Pain


When we feel physical pain, we have no qualms about going to a doctor and getting it looked at and treated. For example, if we break an arm, there is no hesitation at all in going to see an orthopedist, getting it x-rayed and putting a cast on it, no hesitation in taking pain relievers to stop your arm from hurting. No negative self talk or blame, we don’t say things like “You are an idiot, your are so weak, you can never do anything right, you broke your arm out of sheer incompetence.”

But when we feel psychological pain, we don’t ask for help. We deny it. We try to do other things, like watching TV, reading a book, or even self medicating, rather than going to see a professional about it. Why is that? Why is it harder to simply take the psychological pain at face value and get help?

Well for one, you can’t see psychological pain, you can’t take an x-ray of it like you can of your broken arm and know that something’s wrong. Also, a broken bone is a broken bone, but each person’s depression can have different symptoms, or present in different ways. Psychological pain is more nebulous. Not only do other people have trouble believing that you are suffering, but you yourself doubt there’s really anything wrong. One minute you feel awful, the next minute you’re feeling better. And of course, there is a lot of negative self talk, you are a loser, you will never amount to anything, it’s all in your head, come on just snap out of it and on and on and on. And then, because you don’t want to admit to anyone else that you aren’t feeling well, there is the self medication, the distracting methods like TV, pretending to be fine with happy people, etc. etc.

Well, what if when you didn’t feel good psychologically, you did take yourself seriously, what if you didn’t run away from or try to mask your feelings? I know this is painful, to face the pain! It’s not for nothing that it is called psychological pain! But facing your pain, even though it is uncomfortable, even though you are afraid, what if you went for help to a psychologist or psychiatrist and examined those painful feelings or talked about the issues and even got some appropriate medication? What if you didn’t engage in negative self talk, self abusive talk?

Yes the problem may be more nebulous, but you know when you don’t feel well. Perhaps mental illness runs in your family, what if you accept you are feeling unwell, and be compassionate with yourself and get help from a professional.

Yes these issues are nebulous, and things like “inner child” work is non specific, but these things really work. Medication, even if you have to try a few, really works. All these modalities can only help you.

We must be as motivated to ensure that we feel better from psychological pain as we are to feel better from physical pain.

The brain is the most complicated organ in the body. So when you have a disease of the brain, which is what a mental illness is, it is more difficult to gain an understanding of what is going on than in our example of the broken arm. Certainly there are complicated physical illnesses such as cancer, but any neurological or mental illness in general is very (even the most) complicated and difficult to understand and treat.

Knowing this, knowing we are dealing with a complicated illness, and we as people with mental illness are also trying to understand our illness with the same organ that is suffering from the illness, namely the brain, we can approach mental health professionals, experienced people in treating mental illness and make sure we get help and treatment.

What if we can say to ourselves that we have an illness of the brain. The brain is a physical organ, so as far as I’m concerned, there is no such distinction as psychological pain vs physical pain. It is all pain due to one organ (eg. brain, pancreas) or body part (eg. broken arm) or other. Can we not get past that psychological vs physical dichotomy? If we could, we would then say “Oh, I am not feeling well, I am experiencing psychological pain, I need to see a doctor who specializes in treating such illnesses of the brain.” And we would get treated without stigma, without beating ourselves up, and we would get better and feel better. Amen!