Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recognition at Last!

Chato B. Stewart, whom I met at the recently-concluded DBSA national conference in Houston, TX, has honored me with a cartoon in Mental Health Humor. In the drawing, my hair appears to be blacker, thicker, and curlier than it really is (maybe I became subject to reverse heritability from 2 great-nephews who are part African-American.:-) Yes, I claim full responsibility for the narrative that accompanied that cartoon.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Test Your Knowledge of Moods

WebMD has an interactive quiz on mood disorders that could prove to be as educational to you as it was to me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Look What I Found on Facebook!

Bipolar Disorder Batesy, an insider's view of bipolar disorder, is the newest addition to our Blogroll.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Largest Colorado Delegation in Years Takes on DBSA National Conference

Not less than 7 DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) members and 2 service dogs from the Colorado Springs area converged upon Houston, TX for the DBSA national conference at the Westin Galleria Hotel. Here's a narrative of what happened, compiled from assorted e-mails and eyewitness accounts:

Dated 21 May 2011: Yesterday we showed up at the Westin Galleria hotel in Houston, got the 2 women in our party settled in the hotel, picked up our registration packets, and got ready for Saturday's events.

As the Coloradan with the most experience in attending DBSA conferences, I feel obligated to share my knowledge with the others. I'm scheduled - and pumped - to give the presentation "Supporting Veteran-to-Veteran Recovery" this afternoon. It's the first in recent history to address the mental health experiences of active-duty and former military personnel. Fellow veteran Clarence Jordan, one of the keynote speakers, will be given some time to address the class before I do my thing. During the rehearsal for comedy night, we were pleased to see how much progress we had made over the months, and professional comic David Granirer once again was helpful in offering suggestions for improvement & words of encouragement. This is when I decided to stick more faithfully to my script and not give in too often to the temptation to ad-lib my way through 5 minutes of fame. George Pollard, a member of our delegation, was quite impressed by the facilitator seminar, which is very much like a summit meeting of experienced support group facilitators from all over the United States.

The host for our latest visit to Houston is David Hender, whom I have known since January, 1999. We first met during the dark days when both of us worked in the call center from hell [Cheap Tickets]. David had my back 12 years ago, and one of the ways to show my gratitude for, and confidence in him was to pay for his registration fee and ticket to the comedy show. We're staying at a comfortable house in Katy, TX which is known in some circles as "the fastest-growing city in America." This is believable, as entire neighborhoods had changed beyond recognition since my last visit to Houston.

My newest digital camera, the Nikon L120, is exceeding expectations, and I plan to give it a lot of exercise during the day, while using it as a prop during the comedy show.

A word about the Galleria: the largest shopping mall in Texas appears to be doing well, and is bustling with activity. I found no vacant store spaces, and the one that was boarded up happened to be under renovation for a new Microsoft store opening up soon. MAC Cosmetics, where one of my nieces worked while she lived in Houston, is still in business, and the skating rink continues to be a popular attraction.

21 May, Part B: The vets presentation was quite successful, and the people in a neighboring room had to close its door to block out the enthusiastic audience reception. Clarence Jordan, whom I saw face-to-face for the first time after lunch, spoke for 10 minutes before I started on my presentation, and was a big help to me. His passion, leadership skills, and command of details were evident to everyone who heard him, either in my class Saturday afternoon, or when he appeared as the final keynote speaker on Sunday morning. This conference marked the beginning of what I hope will be a long and productive friendship. Incidentally, it was quite reassuring to be able to fit in the same desert camouflage uniform I obtained 20 years ago!

Our host in the Houston area, David Hender, proved his worth enough times for me to designate him the "8th member" of the Colorado delegation, and I felt justified in paying to get him into the conference. Although he became sick and couldn't attend the comedy show, he obtained an understanding of our content by sitting through the final rehearsal.

On Saturday night David Granirer presented 8 amateur stand-up comics, including myself, to a warm and supportive audience. This comedy show has become a regular feature of DBSA conferences, and despite the predictions of a religious crackpot, the world did NOT come to an end on Saturday night! As a trained librarian, I was able to read the audience like a book (this is what librarians do), and found the people to be warm and eager to encourage our efforts. Our production was the culmination of many hours of work, either individually or as a group. David Granirer was quite patient, helpful, and professional in guiding us to develop our scripts.

Ingalill Atala, another one of the 8 amateur stand-up comics, wrote the following summary: "The roses and trophies were such a nice touch. I don’t know about anyone else but the audience was amazing and made me feel so special. Each fellow comedian was incredible and so brave to “get out of the box”. If it were not for the other 7, I could not have done it. If it were not for David and the DBSA, we could not have done it. My mother is so my mother. On Sunday she declared, 'Ingalill you need to be a Stand-Up Comedian.' Maybe now you all understand my ending."

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Yes, I could appear in a future comedy show, but would rather step aside and let someone else experience this art form. By participating in this program, you develop many of the skills that are essential to the recovery model: overcoming phobias, communicating with other people, focusing on a project from beginning to end, learning from mistakes, and working with other team members who are just as eager as you are to entertain an audience.

22 May: My 63rd birthday was noted in passing, and we mourned the death of Sadie, shown on right, one of the two therapy dogs we brought to the conference. She and her partner Smokie (a male Dachshund) served as goodwill ambassadors for service dogs and opened the eyes of many people to their value in helping out people with psychiatric disabilities. There was an outpouring of compassion and support from organizers and attendees at the conference, and at least Sadie was able to die among friends and be treated with proper dignity as arrangements were made to cremate her remains in Houston and send the ashes to Colorado.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is Academic Psychiatry Out of Touch with Reality?

John McManamy and I may be of different political persuasions, but are fighting on the same side in the never-ending struggle against our common enemy, mental illness.

In his "Knowledge Is Necessity" blog, he raises this intriguing point:

"A lot of what passes for academic psychiatry these days is performed by researchers who don’t even see patients. This explains why the DSM symptom lists are so spectacularly out of touch with clinical reality...."

1. McManamy has acquired an awesome level of knowledge as an informed layman, to where he can impress psychologists and psychiatrists at their professional conferences.
2. Rare is the psychiatrist who does therapy anymore, and this disconnect is as catastrophic as separating the mind from the body instead of treating both as an inseparable unit.
3. Divorcing research from clinical observation makes it infinitely harder for science to come up with answers, or to even ask the right questions.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Contrary to Popular Belief, Men Think About Food and Sleep More Than Sex

The Daily Mail (U.K.) has published an article that debunks some widely-held assumptions.

Rumor has long had it that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

And it turns out it’s true. Men spend more time thinking about food – and sleep – than they do about sex, a study shows.

They think about all three more often than women do.

The research found that, contrary to popular wisdom, men do not think about sex every seven seconds.

In reality, it is more like once every waking hour.

The study was carried out by Professor Terri Fisher, a psychologist at the Ohio State University in the U.S....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Feel Your Schmerz

Just as the German word der Schmerz can refer to physical or mental pain, modern science has discovered that there is a definite connection between physical and intense emotional pain. A WebMD article says:

Rejection really does hurt. That’s the message of a new study that suggests physical pain and the pain of rejection may “hurt” in the same way.

Researchers found that physical pain and intense emotional pain, such as feelings of rejection after a bad breakup of a relationship, activate the same “pain” processing pathways in the brain.

"These results give new meaning to the idea that social rejection 'hurts,'" says researcher Ethan Kross, PhD of the University of Michigan, in a news release.

"On the surface, spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and thinking about how rejected you feel when you look at the picture of a person that you recently experienced an unwanted breakup with may seem to elicit very different types of pain,” says Kross. “But this research shows that they may be even more similar than initially thought...."

Colorado Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council (MHPAC) to Expand MIssion by Next Year

The Colorado Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council (MHPAC), which is involved in soliciting input and drawing up applications for federal block grant funds, will be morphing into something quite different in the coming year. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that the FY 2012 block grant will combine substance abuse and treatment with the mental health block grant. This will entail responsibility for a much larger amount of money, and a major change in the composition of the Council. The best-case scenario: more cross-pollination between two interrelated but separate operations that should be working more closely together. On the other hand, such a major change could slow down the momentum established by the current Council, which has been operating smoothly and harmoniously for the past several years.

A Great-Books Program for People with Limited Time

Brian Johnson, in an interview with Dr. David Van Nuys in Shrink Rap Radio, describes how he distilled the essence of books on philosophy, psychology, and motivational literature in a Web site called "Philosopher's Notes" (sliding scale charges for material).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

David Duerson Gave His Brain to Science for a Reason

CNN has an article about the late Chicago Bears safety David Duerson, who left a note requesting that his brain be studied before shooting himself in the chest.

As with other athletes exposed to repeated brain trauma, Duerson's brain showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a dementia-like brain disease.

"Dave Duerson had classic pathology of CTE and no evidence of any other disease," said Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist with the Bedford VA medical center, and co-director of the Boston University School of Medicine Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. "He had severe involvement of areas that control judgment, inhibition, impulse control, mood and memory."

CTE has been found in the brains of 14 of 15 former NFL players thus far studied at the Boston University center....