Tag Archives: Mental health

“I Have a Mental Illness” Project

Please come visit my new posting site (and podcasting site) ihaveamentalillness.com. I am a cofounder, though not the initial founder, that honor goes to another.

We are trying to educate the community. Please visit, and leave comments so that we can be a better bastion as time goes on.


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The Square Circle: Consciousness, Mental Illness, and Local Understanding

In Dr. Sacks book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat“, in precisely the case of the man who mistook his wife for a hat, we see consciousness.

Or at least, insofar as I can perceive consciousness.

And this is precisely the problem. We cannot conceive consciousness for, if we did, it would be akin to conceiving a square circle.

There is a mathematical analogy here, and I beg my non-mathematician readers to allow me this as I do not know how to otherwise describe it without referring to persons, but as soon as I have done that I have forgotten the possibility of a square circle, indeed I may very well be, in some sense, actively supressing the square circle.

There exists, within the mathemato-cosm, an idea known as a “smooth manifold”. These are, essentially, surfaces on which we can create a calculus, in the same sense as we “create” a calculus in 3 dimensional space. Or, for those to whom calculus does not help understanding, imagine that we could generalize speed and acceleration and distance on this body.

“Locally”, in a mathematical sense, a 3 dimensional manifold looks like our common understanding of three dimensional space. We must be careful here in explanation because “Locally” and “Globally” are vastly different and often hard to understand.

Imagine that you were walking on a road and all of the sudden your understanding of speed and distance suddenly failed you, to such a degree that you could not even tell if you were moving. But once you reacclimated yourself to this spot, everything came back into view.

This is my current understanding of consciousness. Globally we are systems, locally we are individual persons. This would seem contradictory and backwards if interpreted incorrectly, so let me explain…

When I say locally here I do not mean one in a crowd or a persons feature. I mean the entire person. By global I mean, in effect, a surveillence under which personhood cannot be understood. Like the manifold it is not real 3 dimensional space, but rather only recognizable at local understanding. Similarly, from a personal view, that is a view that assumes ones own personhood, others are visible as persons. But insofar as we cannot understand our own personhood we cannot understand or comprehend personhood in the other either.

This allows for an interesting understanding of mental illness. If we saw “ourselves” as something that does not admit a legitimate understanding of “ourselves” mental illness would be self-understood to be an abberation in nature. That is we would perceive, rather than a distorted worldview, a distorted brain chemistry which affected this being that we cannot legitimately call “myself”.

The experience of mental illness is the experience of our understanding of self fighting for legitimacy as a being in a complete sense rather than an “Ikea Disaster” (if there really is such a thing as an “Ikea Success”).

Given this understanding the necessity of psychotherapy of some sort in addition to psychiatric care is readily apparent. Should we recover from the brain chemistry error, we must also recover from the self-conception error, an error developed in defense of personhood during a time of self-crisis.

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To my fellows on the battlefield

(I am not referring to war here, at least, not the kind of war people first imagine)

I want to send out a message of hope to my mentally ill compatriots, especially those who cannot speak about their illness for any number of reasons.

Keep fighting.

Stay strong.

I wish you the best, and hope that some day you can be relieved of the battlefield situation. But if you never do… you have my respect. And I hope that means something.

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Psychiatric Medication: A Primer In Medical Frustration

Imagine you have something like leukemia.

In order to know you have that the doctor has to in effect prove that you have it. Which can be done (though I know nothing of the complexity involved in diagnostic).

Now think if the doctor had to diagnose leukemia without modern instrumentation, so he’d have to just watch you and see what happens.

Look up the signs and symptoms of Leukemia and take out all those that require physiological testing outside of visual analysis.


“All symptoms associated with leukemia can be attributed to other diseases. Consequently, leukemia is always diagnosed through medical tests.”

So if you don’t have medical tests, you have nothing to go on.

Now think about the brain. How do we know what part of the brain does what? Two ways that I know of are analyzing case studies of people who had brain damage at a specific location and look for deficits or stimulate that part of the brain and analyze what the person says he or she is experiencing.

And that’s just the low level analysis.

Consider than how difficult it is to diagnose something like bipolar, which is diagnosed via the DSM IV (or V if it’s out yet).


  • The presence of a hypomanic or major depressive episode.
  • If currently in major depressive episode, history of a hypomanic episode. If currently in a hypomanic episode, history of a major depressive episode. No history of a manic episode.
  • Significant stress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.[13]\


How many of those do you think can be explained via medical testing? The answer is, at present, none. The other problem is that it’s not at all clear that bipolar II has the same cause in all cases.

So we now approach medication.

In our leukemia example, there are treatments that attempt to control it to the point of remission. Granted, this is very very hard to do and leukemia is a terrible disease, however…

How does a psychiatrist pick a drug for bipolar II?

He can’t. Or at least, he can’t obviously pick one. Except possibly in the case where only one medication exists for the specific noted behaviors. In bipolar II this is not the case. Further consider that a few of the major drugs for bipolar were originally used for epileptic patients to keep their seizures controlled or at least lower the occurrence.

This is not to say that psychiatric intervention doesn’t work. I myself am currently on a medical cocktail that seems to work (although lately I’ve been experiencing a level of depression that I haven’t felt in a while…).

But I’m on Pristiq, Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Provigil, Adderall, Cogentin and Abilify.

That’s a lot of meds.

Now what do I do when something goes bad like it has recently?

All of those drugs are working to keep my bipolar in check.

So how do you figure out which one is failing to help? Or how do you switch out one med for another?

It’s not easy. On the patient or the psychiatrist.

This becomes extremely frustrating.

And this is all without mentioning the fact that many of these medications have extreme side effects. In many cases the patient has to decide what they’re willing to live with. Do you accept the possibility of Tardive Dyskensia? Or do you accept psychosis? Do you accept the possibility that one of your drugs will stop working, because at the moment it works pretty well?

These are all hard questions.

And I don’t know the answers.



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Why am I sad???

Depression isn’t fair.
Mental illness isn’t fair.

We shouldn’t require happiness of ourselves. Depression is not about emotions, not at its core anyway. Depression is an illness, depression screws with brain chemistry.

It’s like if you had a glass of wine, and suddenly someone replaced it with a glass of cod liver oil. No matter how much we “should be happy” about getting wine, we’re not getting wine. We’re getting cod liver oil, and there’s no real way to choke down the stuff and think it’s wine (at least, I don’t think so, I’ve never had cod liver oil ><).

I see this in myself and in some of my compatriots at times, we’re mad at ourselves for not being happy in a good situation.

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Anger and Stress and Mental Illness

I must admit that this topic is not well decided/understood in my own mind, but I feel it’s important.

Anger and stress exacerbate my condition.

As does caffeine. Which I’m now attempting to rid myself of. I’m not moralizing about this, this is a connection that is present in my own mind, it’s helpfulness to others is debatable.

It leads to an interesting question though. How does an individual who has… well, an itchy trigger finger, have a conversation about conflicting ideas that does not end badly?

I’ve gotten better about it. But I see bettering myself from this point on as just avoiding unnecessary conflict. Which in principle isn’t a bad thing until you consider that a little bit of conflict is ok. Really a little bit of conflict is good for you at the idea level. It’s problematic though. I’ve turned off the comments on youtube (look up No Comment on google chrome for the add-on) because I get aggravated by stupid people. Even stupid people who are obviously trolls.

I don’t watch much TV anymore. I can’t stand it, though not for the normal reasons. I actually liked a lot of the crime shows, it’s just that as my illness has progressed, it became more and more evident that watching it was untenable as it left me in a very odd position. I can’t stand to watch people argue. I can’t stand to watch shouting. Weird thing is I’m pretty good at shouting. I have a huge, scary voice.

But, like a cornered pit viper, I hit hard to those things that push me into the corner. The worst part is I may even be right. It’s very hard to show people that you’re cool and calm and have the correct point of view when you’re shouting at the top of your lungs.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far… in case anybody’s interested

1) Physical Awareness: Don’t strain your body while straining your brain. Pain in the body will just irritate you more.

2) Avoid Law & Order: That just seems to be a must for me

3) Be self conscious about your language. Not in an obsessive way, and DO NOT require this of other people’s language. You can’t change them. But you can look like a cool and collected person rather than a bumbling fool like myself if you can keep your cool.

4) Apologize. This last one is specifically if you get in a fight with a friend and you realize that your manner was not controlled. You can avoid losing friends this way.

So two things in the end:

1) Sorry G, I’m shaking with irritability right now, so I’m sure I said some stupid shit that I didn’t even realize I said on top of that that I do know about.

2) Be well, and think twice.. or three times.. but not over seven.

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A Toast To Life

Life at times seems a petty thing to me. There have been and are days when I have no or very little will to live. Thankfully most of these have landed in the apathetic rather than suicidal side of things.

It’s very hard for me to keep blogging every day. But it’s worth doing. It’s worth doing because it gives me something to be doing and something I do because I believe it should be done not for the will of some other being or power.

Of course, anyone looking at the dates of the posts will see very quickly that I have missed days.

But I’m still trying.

And it’s this trying that’s the important bit. Depression or depressive phases can beat you to the ground, leave you lying on the cold pavement of life bloodied and bruised. There’s a movie with Cuba Gooding Junior where he has to walk some odd steps in a giant diving suit, and half way either his leg breaks or is badly injured it seems. But though tears of pain are on his eyes he keeps going. I think this is apt because of the pacing. He just had to make the steps. He didn’t have to do it quickly. If I were him I’d have to take it one step at a time. One burst of pain at a time.

We must toast to life.

And we must live life. One step at a time. Even if we break our legs we need to keep going to get to where they can be repaired.

If you’ve suffered depression you’ll know that there are days when getting out of bed seems damn near impossible.

But we just have to keep going. It is not in living that we should find our purpose but rather in the steps we make while living. The steps we make against the tide, through the pain, and toward tomorrow.

Let us make it to tomorrow.

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Starting an FAQ page

am developing a frequently asked questions page for this blog. The goal is to give answers to parents and associates of the mentally ill and give answers to the mentally ill themselves. I remember when I was diagnosed. I didn’t want to be. I thought it meant I was crazy. I literally screamed at the nurse that I wasn’t crazy before going to the fetal position and crying as I rocked back and forth. I repeated to myself “I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy.” So perhaps my leading question is:

Am I crazy? As asked by the newly diagnosed patient.

No, you are not crazy. Crazy is not really an appropriate term in this context, in that it is non-diagnostic and nebulous. What does crazy mean? Does crazy mean you may have a problem related to brain function that is causing visible issues that are directly and strongly affecting your life? Then I suppose I’m crazy. Hopefully that means “Oh, I’m in good company” rather than “Holy crap! How can I be in the same category as him??” But people often have this image of crazy that implies a person
A) doesn’t know they are crazy
B) acts without any rationale.
The first one is silly. When you are diagnosed and accept that diagnosis, you no longer fit that criterion even under the most lenient forms of “crazy”. The second is simply false. With very very few exceptions people act according to their present, sometimes evanescent, rationality. If you are manic for example, you may feel that you do not need to sleep. In this case it is perfectly rational at the time not to sleep. Is it deterimental? Often yes. But it is not irrational relative to the person making the decision. Perhaps we all need to realize this, even those of us who are mentally ill. We are still responsible for our actions in most cases, but we are not acting without reason. As an associate of a mentally ill individual one should not react as though their actions are random. They aren’t (except in some strange cases of schizophrenia and even that’s doubtful). We must understand that to that individual at that time what they are doing makes sense.

For example, there is a condition known as body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. This is a continuing and pathological state of believing oneself to be ugly and unattractive bodily. This is not the standard idea we associate here. This is much in the same vein as paranoia, at the time you don’t understand that this is wrong. You don’t even understand that there’s a possibility that this isn’t true. Rather than seeing attractiveness as being in the eyes of the beholder, you see it as, at least in your own case, factual and inescapable. Your friends, with good intentions, may try and convince you that you are good looking. In BDD this WILL NOT WORK.

So, I guess the take away is:

you’re not crazy. crazy can’t be mitigated. you are not crazy and therapy and if necessary medication are your best bet for stability.

If anyone has any questions they think should be on the page, leave your question in the  comments section and I will do my best to answer them.

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It’s just in your head

Mental illness is a condition. We must remember that. A recent comment on a post led me to make this a post, since it was getting a bit long for a comment and contained issues that I wanted to express to the general public readers.

Some people have “pulled themselves out” of depression. But what does that mean?

If you pull yourself out of mental illness and get back to normal functioning… I don’t know, I’d be hard pressed to call that mental illness. Sure, you might be able to get to some form of function, but completely recovering by yourself to the same place you were before in my opinion is not mental illness.

Clinical Depression is mental illness.

Mental illness is by definition highly debilitating.

“In addition, for a diagnosis of major depression to be made, the symptoms must not be better accounted for by Bereavement, i.e., after the loss of a loved one, the symptoms persist for longer than 2 months or are characterized by marked functional impairment, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms, or psychomotor retardation.”


One of the problems with depression is that people treat it differently than bipolar or schizophrenia, because for one reason or another only bipolars and schizophrenics are “crazy”.

For many people I would argue that they cannot get out of it themselves. I mean, think of a broken leg. Ya you can let it heal, but you’ll often be debilitated for life because of very badly healed bone.

People often do not treat mental illness and “physical” illness the same way. For some reason antidepressants are a “crutch” that isn’t necessary, while a physical crutch is at least temporarily necessary if you want to be able to deal with anything more than laying down. Antidepressants are more like a wheel chair in many cases. A paralyzed person can work without a wheelchair, but it’s damn near impossible. I don’t see why people assume depression or bipolar or schizophrenia is necessarily different.

There are cases of temporary mental illness, that is, mental illness that seems to be healed after a certain amount of time. And I do believe that can be real depression. Just like pneumonia is a temporary illness if you get it dealt with, in some cases depression can be temporary.

We must be careful though. Depression is not just the feeling or the apathy. If it is truly a brain chemistry issue, fixing your own physical brain is extremely difficult or possibly impossible. Depression can entail a lot of things that are very hard to deal with. In my case (with bipolar) I had psychosomatic aphasia and paralysis. I also have Tourette’s and OCD. Those two are often comorbid.

Attempting to deal with it completely by yourself is what people usually do before they get help. No one wants to think of themselves as mentally ill. You have to get to the point where you can’t get out of it yourself and are willing to admit that you’re ill. Or to the point where you’re a danger to yourself or others.

I really am not trying to single the commenting person. First, the position given was vague and I don’t want to impute intent or meaning when I’m not completely sure. Also it’s a common position and should be addressed to everyone. I’m not mad about what the person wrote. Honestly it gave me the inspiration to write this post. And I certainly do not impute all these beliefs to that person, I’m relatively sure that person didn’t mean everything that I wrote down. It just reminded me and I wanted to write out the possibilities thoroughly.

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On Therapy and Therapists: Introduction

I will be writing up some posts on therapists in the near future, but I really want to recommend this link




The author gives very clear descriptions of different sorts of therapy and I think it helps to help people understand what’s involved and not believe simplifications some people give to devalue the practice.

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