Relapse

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Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things do not work out. Sometimes it’s something small, like not getting through that light coming up. Sometimes it’s something big, like breaking up with a long-time partner. Sometimes, despite taking medicine and going to therapy religiously, our mental health continues to deteriorate.

In the past week, symptoms have slowly begun creeping back into my life. The auditory hallucinations are worsening, and I’m now starting to see things as well. My cognitive symptoms are also returning, and I’m having small bouts of catatonia. So far, it is not as bad as my initial breakdown, but I fear it may become worse as time goes on.

My fear stems from two corners. In one corner, I am terrified of becoming sick again, and, more specifically, staying sick. In the other corner, I’m scared of going to the hospital. So great is my fear that I am planning to  suicide if it gets to that point.

I don’t want to write about this, and I’m sure most of you don’t want to read it, but this is my week to write an article and dammit I’m going to write one. I’d like to write about something nice, something to educate you or make you feel better about yourself, but I can’t do that this week. This is the only thing I can think about, and hence, it’s what this article must be about.

Tomorrow I see my therapist. After much deliberation, I have decided to tell her about my plans to kill myself. I’m not sure what’s going to happen after that, but I have a strong suspicion. That suspicion is the reason I am posting this on today rather than the usual Friday, before I go to my therapy appointment. If I don’t post my article week after next, you’ll know where I am.

I know I’m not the only one in this boat. I know there are more of you out there who are terrified of reaching out for help, or deathly afraid of the hospital like I am. I wish I could give you some uplifting pep talk, but I know from experience that there are no magical words that make everything better.

All I can tell you is that right now you are pulling a heavy wagon up a steep hill. The only way to get to the top is to get help pulling. Getting  down  that mountain won’t be a cakewalk either, with rocks and pitfalls along the way, but as long as someone’s next to you pulling, you have a chance.

I want to sincerely thank all of you who have, and continue, to read my articles. It really means a lot to me that you find it worth your time. I hope to write many more for you in the future. Thank you.

 

Joy

To begin this article, I would like to wish everyone that celebrates it a merry Christmas, and to everyone else, happy Holidays. This time of year is one filled with joy, wonder, and wishes. December itself is enveloped by this sentiment. I believe joy is something that is vital to all of our lives, and for not just one month, but for all of them. Joy is unbridled happiness, it is not hindered by logic or reality, in that moment, when you are joyous, nothing else but that emotion matters. Joy is pure.

I had an early Christmas present this year. It came in the form of a 37 pound black, white, and brown, bundle of energy named Jack. Jack was a shelter dog and had been there, much to our surprise (because of how sweet he is) for over 3 months. We immediately fell in love and brought him home. I bring up the story of Jack, which I’m sure must strike most of you as completely unrelated, because, as all dog owners know, there is nary a purer, more unadulterated source of joy than a dog. As a favorite show of mine (Limmy’s Show for those interested) said in one episode, a dog does not overthink things, he does not sit in a car going 70 miles an hour thinking “how is this possible?”, he just sticks his head out the window and enjoys the wind blowing in his face. That is joy.

Jack does not think about the 3 months he spent at the Humane society, in what surely must have been a terrifying experience. He does not think about the time he spent in a high kill out-of-state shelter, which I’m sure was much worse. He doesn’t think of the heartbreak he had to have experienced when he was adopted out for a week and then brought back because the owner “didn’t have time”. No, Jack does not think about any of that, Jack just runs around our half acre yard at full speed, trips, sending him somersaulted across the yard, gets back up, and keeps running like nothing happened with a huge grin on his face.

Jack is joy, and I think we could all learn something from him.

 

Exploring the Science of Bipolar Disorder

Melancholy_2

Too often the general public relegates mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia to just that, mental illness, diseases of the mind. However, with modern science, we are beginning to see more and more the folly of this simplistic viewpoint. We are now seeing the science behind these illnesses;  the changes in brain form, function, and chemical balance that alter how our brain functions and perceives the world around us. For the next month or so, in my “Exploring the Science of…” mini series, I will be talking about how what happens in our brain impacts what happens in our mind. In this post, I will be talking about how subtle changes in the brain can lead to bipolar disorder.


What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder consists of hyperactive episodes called “manic” episodes, as well as episodes of depression called “depressive” episodes. During manic episodes, a person may feel unstoppable, stop sleeping, and generally feel extremely happy, active, and outgoing, sometimes engaging in high risk behaviors. Depressive episodes are similar to those found in depression, and the person may feel tired, in slow motion, or hopeless for extended periods of time.

There are several sub-diagnoses within bipolar disorder. These include Bipolar I, categorized  by full blown manic episodes, as well as Bipolar II, in which depressive episodes and more mild manic episodes are present. Other diagnoses include Cyclothymia and Bipolar Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS).

It’s All in the Genes

Like so many things, mental illness is often impacted by genes. This has been shown through familial studies for mental illness, along with ever helpful twin studies. These studies give a strong case for mental illness having a genetic component, helping to explain why mental illness so often runs in families. Bipolar disorder is no exception, in fact over half a dozen genes have been implicated in the formation of bipolar disorder. These genes affect everything from your biological clock to how your body handles neurotransmitters like serotonin. Mutations of these  genes can cause anything from anxiety, to depression, to increased chance of alcohol abuse, and leaves the person at a higher risk of developing bipolar disorder.

Those of you who have extensively studied mental illness may have noticed an underlying similarity between the symptoms of many disorders. For instance, psychosis can be present in schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and sometimes even (in milder forms) extreme anxiety. Similarly, some of the gene mutations in bipolar disorder are the same gene mutations implicated in schizophrenia. Furthermore, mutations in specific genes cause the same symptoms across both disorders. For example, a mutation in a certain gene causes hallucinations in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Think On It

As mentioned previously, often people with bipolar disorder engage in high risk behaviors during manic episodes. With modern technology, we are now getting a glimpse into why this might be. The (potential) answer lies in two parts of the brain, and their function relative to healthy subjects. These two parts are the medial prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision making and memory, and the anterior cingulate gyrus, correlated with emotional response and control.

In those with bipolar disorder, the medial prefrontal cortex is under active compared to healthy controls, while the anterior cingulate gyrus is overactive. This basically means that less energy is going into decision making, and more into emotion. This difference, however subtle (we’re talking about minor differences in tiny parts of the brain), may lead to clues about the poor decision making often found in bipolar disorder.

Tick Tock

Sleep is an integral part of our mental health, especially so when it comes to bipolar disorder. A decrease in sleep is almost always correlated with an increase in bipolar symptoms, and a return to a normal schedule is usually met with decreased symptoms. But what explains this phenomenon? What exactly is going on in our brain when we go without sleep?

The most important change that happens when we forgo sleep happens inside our amygdala, the brain’s center for emotion. Without sleep, the amygdala becomes overactive, meaning it is more sensitive to emotional stimuli. Remember when we talked about overactivity in the anterior cingulate gyrus which also controls emotion? Now imagine that plus an overactive amygdala. That spells trouble. It’s no surprise then that going without sleep worsens symptoms in those with bipolar disorder.

The Takeaway

Bipolar disorder is a complex disease that is just beginning to be understood by scientists. As we begin to learn more about this disorder, we may find clues into the treatment and early identification of the disorder. With this information, we can help better the lives of millions who have bipolar disorder. Also of interest is bipolar disorders link to other disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. Already scientists have discovered similar genetic roots for these disorders, and who knows what the future holds.


Works Cited:

PsychEducation

The National Institute of Mental Health

Enter the Beast

Hello everyone. My name is the Beast. I am writing to you today to introduce myself as a new author on the blog. Daniel has kindly allowed me to share my writings here alongside his own. As of such I will be writing about one or two articles a month for the blog. Since I will be writing for you, I would like to tell you a little about myself.

I am college student majoring in biology. I also have a strong interest in writing, orchids, and photography. I have been diagnosed with prodromal schizophrenia, and am currently undergoing treatment (I talk more about schizophrenia here if you want to learn more).I will be writing primarily about mental health, mental illness, and mental health stigma.

I look forward to writing for you all, and hope that you will enjoy my articles.

You can like me on Facebook here, and follow me on twitter here.

Thank you.

Exploring fat acceptance, fat hate and healthy living from the perspective of an overweight man

I came across a video this weekend that I felt really helped explain the current radical perspectives among the groups arguing about being “fat”.  This video is of a 40 year old over-weight YouTuber who speaks both from a personal and objective experience on the subject: