5 beautiful things from today

mehI’m trying to force myself to be more engaged with the world, which can be difficult to do when you’ve got the imaginary pressure of “must write something brilliant” when really you just aren’t feeling brilliant at all.  Instead, see all of these other brilliant things.

1. Modern Art in Cake

Caitlin Freeman makes awesome cakes inspired by modern art.

 

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2. Lenticular Rabbits

Street art by Roa, making use of the nature of the available canvas.

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3. 21 tips for depressos

17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only.  Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.

I take this advice very seriously in my life.

4. 2D/3D Goldfish paintings

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5. The Astronomical Kid raps

Music video for Astro aka The Astronomical Kid performing “He Fell Off”, the first video off of his mixtape “Deadbeats and Lazy Lyrics”. © 2013 Grade A Tribe (h/t Emmett)
https://twitter.com/astronomicalKid

Boston and the bad that reveals the good

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Fred Rogers

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” — Patton Oswald

bostonI have been really struggling this last month or so with anxiety and depression — they tend to come together, in deeply fatiguing, self-reinforcing cycles of emotional exhaustion.   The pressure of the end of my coursework for my PhD, impending comprehensive exams, being disowned, recurrent illness, having to move suddenly, death and rape threats, and coping with break-ins and stuff being stolen has all been just a lot for me to deal with.  And while I have more or less coped, sometimes I’ve been a lot closer to less than to more.

It used to be that things like what just happened in Boston would make it worse.  It would set off my anxiety about being in public spaces, irrational fear about things truly unlikely to happen to me, and the fact that humanity was capable of such things would depress me.  It’s called terrorism for a reason, and being prone to feeling terror at minor things like telephones ringing, it makes sense that I’d get it from major things like people being attacked.

I felt a little sad today, as I read about what happened, but I mostly felt a rush of love for Bostonians and those at the marathon who immediately set about trying to help those who had been hurt, tell others what was going on, and figure out what had happened.  This is probably partly detachment, but it is also that I see the events much more differently than I used to.  The truly amazing thing about when things go wrong isn’t that things could or did go wrong, but that so many people risk their own safety and lives, often instinctively, to help strangers.

And actually, as difficult as my last few months have been and as much as I haven’t gotten my depression and anxiety fully under control, other people have repeatedly shown their fundamental decency and desire to be the person who makes things even just a little bit better for me.  People can be terrible, but most of us are just waiting for a chance to be wonderful to one another, it just sometimes gets lost in our own daily struggles.  But not always.

See people run towards the explosion, see the message from the Red Cross that they had enough donated blood only hours after the explosions, see strangers opening their homes to out-of-towners evacuated from their hotels. Know hope.

Brain Self-Help: An Incomplete List of Resources

Yesterday Andy pointed out that a list of non-going-to-therapy resources would be useful. Insurance, time, frustration with therapeutic experiences, inability to tell parents, etc, can make seeing a therapist either impossible or unappealing. Here’s a (totally incomplete) list. Please please please add other suggestions in the comments! I’ll keep updating.

Relevant disclaimer: I’m not a therapist. Most of the linked blog posts are not written by therapists. (Though most of the books are written by someone with a psych degree.)

The below are first general resources, then sorted specifically by disorder, followed by some resources if you do decide to seek therapy. If I could pick three I endorse the most, I’d say Boggle, How To Keep Moving Forward, and Don’t Tell Me To Love My Body. All three are italicized in the list.

Miscellaneous/Multi-Disorder Help & Information

DBT Workbook
This is one of many, but it’s received very positive reception from the psych community and did get an award for being evidence based. DBT is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on mindfulness and combines many principles of Zen with therapeutic techniques.

Mindfulness Course
8-week course on mindfulness, suggested by commenter kabarett.

CBT Workbook
Again, one of many, but I’ve looked through this one, and liked the formatting and set up. I’ll amend this with critiques or other suggestions if you have them. CBT is an evidence-based therapy and works for many people, but not all.

What It’s Like in a Mental Hospital

Breakup Girl
Advice and relationships. Suggested by Keith David Smeltz

Dr. Nerdlove
“dispenser of valuable love and relationship advice to nerds, geeks and neo-maxie-zoom-dweebies.”

How To Keep Moving Forward Even When Your Brain Hates You

Books Which Received the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Seal of Merit

The Bounce Back Book
Recommended by Miri–I’ve not had a chance to take a look at it.

Depression

Mood Gym

#450: How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed.

Boggle the Owl.
Boggle is an owl. And he is worried about you. Seriously, the best resource on this list.

The Secret Strength of Depression
A general self-help book, highly recommended to me.

Depression Subreddit, r/depression
Because nobody should be alone in a dark place.

I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression Have a close friend or partner who is a man with depression–or are one yourself? I don’t actually have either, but I’ve heard good reviews from friends who read this. And we really don’t examine depression in men nearly as well as we should. For instance, it often manifests in feelings of numbness, or unexplained rage–not things we normally associate with depression.

Anxiety

Boggle the Owl

The Take This Project
It’s dangerous to go alone. Designed by videogame developers, suggested by commenter michaeld.

Substance Abuse/Addiction

SMART Recovery

Suicidal Feelings

What to Expect When You Call a Hotline
I
 really like knowing how things go before I try them. This lovely little guest post from someone on the other and of those phone lines tells you what to expect in terms of conversation (you don’t have to know what to say!) confidentiality, and experience.

Samaritans Help Services

IMAlive
Fabulous IM styled chat where all volunteers you work with are trained in suicide prevention. Strongly recommend for people who don’t do phonecalls well or find dialing for help hard.

Befrienders Worldwide Directory of Hotlines/Help Web-Chats

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws
Written by Kate Borenstein, this book is not teen-specific, though it’s friendly to all ages. It operates on harm reduction, which is the philosophy that less-dangerous-but-still-risky behavior is always better than more-dangerous-and-risky behavior. I really like it, and do subscribe to harm reduction (it’s supported by evidence!). You also don’t have to read Hello Cruel World from end to end–it’s very easy to just open to a page and go from there.

Eating Disorders

Beyond Body Acceptance: This blog by Pervocracy is…therapeutic. Lovely. Beautiful.

Elyse at Skepchick: Don’t Tell Me To Love My Body

Science of Eating Disorders
I
n my pre-therapy days (also the worst times in terms of mental health, and when I did the most work to unlearn disordered habits) I often taught myself what not to do by learning all about my disorder. For instance, if most patients with anorexia ate Small Number X calories per day, I decided I was going to eat more than that every single day. To this day, I unlearn behaviors by starting from a research perspective. Also, lots of research focuses on what treatments work and which don’t do as well, which can give you some ideas for coping strategies.

Weightless
Not my flavor of help, maybe yours? I might just be picky.

If You Do Look For Therapy

Green Flags: What You Want in a Therapist

Braaaains! Being a Skeptical Mental Health Services Consumer
[
shameless plug]

Gaylesta: Find a member of the LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association in your area. (Your mileage may vary–I’ve not tested this IRL.)

Psychopathology Sum-Up: Types of Antidepressants

Weekly series! As per previous discussion, I will be publishing a big information blog on each Friday. Unfortunately, it’s midterms for me, which means a shorter post for you. Blame the paper(s) and exams and readings and stuff. I promise to be back on schedule next week. Also, I’ve commissioned a post on bulimia from Tetyana, who runs the spectacular Science of Eating Disorders blog, a skeptical look at research on ED’s.

Anyways, today we look at the types of antidepressants.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s)

[Note to neurobiologists: I am simplifying massively here. I know that.]

These are the most popular medications for depression, and include a bunch of names you probably recognize: Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro.

How do they work?

A general sketch of two neurons.

A general sketch of two neurons.

Neurons don’t connect directly to each other–they have a very tiny space (the synaptic cleft) between each end of one and beginning of the next. Neurotransmitters (like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, etc) are released from the presynaptic neuron, and partially absorbed by the postsynaptic neuron. The neurotransmitter that isn’t absorbed is mainly taken back by the presynaptic neuron. SSRI’s work by blocking the reuptake mechanism for serotonin, leaving more available serotonin in the brain, which seems to relieve depression in some people.

But, this is grossly oversimplified, and depression is not as basic as not having enough serotonin. In the words of Ozy, brain chemicals are not fucking magic.

Side effects of SSRI’s can include lack of sex drive, hyperactivity or lowered energy, etc. In some, these are so life-disrupting that other medications are preferred.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI’s)

SNRI’s include Cymbalta, Effexor, and Pristiq. They work very much like SSRI’s, except they inhibit both the reuptake mechanism for norepinephrine and serotonin.

The effectiveness of SSRI’s lends support to the Monoamine Hypothesis–an incomplete explanation for depression, suggesting that several neurotransmitter systems (including serotonergic) are responsible.  The hypothesis does hold up to scrutiny, but doesn’t explain why many antidepressants also help with anxiety and obsessive-type disorders.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Color me happy to have done my research before publishing–turns out I didn’t have all of my facts straight. Tricyclics are antidepressants that operate somewhat like SSRI’s by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin–but they also have a laundry list of possible side effects, and, like MAOI’s, are used more and more rarely.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI’s)

MAOI’s can be super effective! However, they come with hefty diet restrictions, and resultingly, are used rarely–mostly as a last resort.

People taking MAOI’s need to avoid all sorts of things, like pickled foods, most cheeses, wine, decongestants, and SSRI’s. Failure to do so can cause a stroke–the result of buildup of tyramine in the brain. Since other antidepressants are available, MAOI’s have fallen out of favor.

Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)

Wellbutrin! NDRI’s are good because they usually don’t have the sexual side effects. They too, lend support to the Monoamine Hypothesis, by altering the dopaminergic and norandronergic pathways.

St. Johns Wort

Okay. This is alt-med, but it’s been gaining mainstream popularity. It’s one of those that might work on mild to moderate depression. And if taken without doctor supervision and with other medications it can cause you all sorts of problems. In combination with SNRI’s, it can cause Serotonin Syndrome–an excess of the neurotransmitter which overloads the central nervous system. It also appears to decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, might cause problems if you’re breast-feeding, and oh, right, as an herbal supplement, isn’t all that regulated. What I’m saying is, self-prescribing this stuff is not a great idea, and right now, there’s not evidence that it works for major depression. But some people do use it, so I’ll include it.

Psychiatric Diagnoses are not voodoo

The Hazards of Psychiatric Diagnosis

Read the whole thing if you want to understand my rage. Here’s the paragraph that made me stabby:

Medical diagnoses are real. When you learn you have pneumonia, diabetes or even cancer, you quickly discover that there are potential remedies. There are scientific tests and studies to diagnose the disease and to evaluate its treatment. Medical diagnoses don’t demean your mind and your soul, they describe your bodily impairments.

1) His complaint that there are no positive psychiatric diagnoses. May I ask when the last time someone was diagnosed with a most excellent spleen? People usually go to doctors because they have a perceived lower quality of life, not for validation. They get diagnosed when the doctor sees something wrong. Or are people rampantly being diagnosed with good cholesterol and no one’s telling me?

2) A diagnosis gives you something positive in that it allows you to work towards a specific goal. “I have ADD, therefore I need to take particular care to learn patience and find ways of learning that are hands on and interesting.” Instead of being like oh my life sucks and there’s nothing I can do about it you can instead be like, hey here’s what’s been wrong with me all this time and there’s something I can do about it.

3) If someone’s life sucks and getting a diagnosis is going to get them medication that will make it suck less, that’s a positive. Not everyone can look at life with sunshine and roses and hugs in their hearts, and it’s absolutely shitty of that guy to imply that people’s real problem is that they’re just not trying hard enough to face life with warm fuzzies and empathy.

4) By his definition, all drugs are toxins because the point of a drug is to try to chemically alter the body to improve symptoms. Damn those asthmatics and their toxic inhalers, how dare they want to live. Damn those depressives with their anti-depressants, how dare they want to stop being suicidal. How dare anyone take any of that voodoo medication that’s been carefully studied in clinical trials to help the symptoms these people have? Everyone knows if you treat a headache, all you are is that symptom, not some sort of human being who had a headache that needed some ibuprofen.

5) He’s just furthering the bullshit argument that psychiatric problems aren’t as “real” as other health problems. His worry that someone might be one-dimensionalized by a diagnosis is because people like him keep saying that the only important thing about a person who has been diagnosed bipolar is that they’re bipolar. As though getting a mental condition under control is going to make someone less able to live normally because they have to recognize they have issues. Yes, let’s let all the schizophrenics and autistic kids have terrible lives, but at least no one will call them schizophrenic or autistic.

6) Just to be clear, fuck that guy.

5 random things I’ve been thinking about

1. Toilet seat sheets.  If you’re too grossed out to sit on the toilet, is a sheet really going to make it better?

The show I’m working on, these two women who were otherwise not like high maintenance said they would never use a toilet that wasn’t their own without a toilet sheet.  What?  Seriously?  Was I raised by weirdos because they never said don’t put your butt on the toilet?

2. Ableism and online dating.  Particularly in the mental health department, but also in general.

Now I appreciate that online dating attracts a somewhat skewed group that has the semi-anonymity of the internet to make unusual demands, but I have seen so so many guys profiles where they say they don’t want to date “anyone who’s ever been on anti-depressants” or “I don’t want to date anyone who has had any health problems”.  These are not necessarily guys who, in my opinion, have girls knocking down their door and they’re just trying to filter out some people by being picky.  And I realize we’ve all got things where we aren’t able to have a nuanced viewpoint, but here are guys lumping in people with asthma with people with cancer, or people with well-treated depression with untreated schizophrenics.  I get how taking on a significant other with terminal cancer or an untreated illness might be difficult, but are we going to scratch out every one with a health quirk?

At first I thought, oh it’s just this one guy who had a bad experience, but I’ve seen it so many times I just don’t know what to think.  Is it really that awful to date someone who at some point in their life was depressed or has some other chronic illness that’s well under control?

3. Also related to online dating, why do guys who are super Christian message me advertising their good Christian morals when I state that I am an atheist?  I mean, I know why, they don’t read, but I mean really.

4. Equating religion with race.  There’s a super long thread over at Pharyngula where people are accusing PZ of being a Nazi for posting a picture that a cartoonist drew of Muhammed because there are people in Europe who are racist against Muslim immigrants.  I’m just not sure “racist” is the right word.  “Religionist” maybe?  Anyway, critiquing a religion isn’t a violent act, no matter how crudely done, and I don’t understand how blasphemy is racist.

5. How difficult or impossible it is for the religious to understand that there is value and meaning to life regardless of whether there is an afterlife.

Useful Links:

Dirty Toilets

PZ

Sully on Tragic Atheism

The most horrifying thing ever:

(((:~{> Muhammad approves this message

Hollywood: Not for the weak

I very rarely get into anything particularly personal on this blog.  One, because it’s public, and two, because it rarely seems relevant to my career, which is the focus here.  But sometimes the personal and the public are a bit intermixed, and that’s what I want to talk about.  My health versus my career.

I have for the last few months been really struggling with extreme fatigue, dizziness and nausea.  This isn’t totally out of the norm for me, I have several chronic conditions which often take the wind out of my sails: allergies, asthma, depression and hypothyroidism.  Any of those on their own is usually manageable, but they pack a bit of a wallop all together.  On top of this, I’ve been to the doctor a half-dozen times since this started and they’ve tested for everything they can think of and they can’t find anything wrong.

This last week has been totally lost.  I was so fatigued that I cannot actually remember most of it.  It is extremely frustrating.  I manage to go to work which fortunately is a very low energy sort of job, but I struggle even there.  I haven’t managed to do much editing because I stare at the project and get overwhelmingly tired or motion sick.  I basically come home and lay down.  Last night I went to bed at 10pm and got up today at 1pm; it’s not yet seven and I am barely awake.  Obviously it is quite difficult to be productive, in writing or in anything else, when you’re that exhausted.

Film and TV are not careers for people with low energy.  If your personality doesn’t naturally exude the sense that you’re on speed, it’s a really tough business to be in.  It is probably a miracle that I got through the two years of film school with as little collateral damage as I did — one broken bone, one major case of bronchitis, three total emotional breakdowns, and three months of vomiting for unknown reasons that led to my current state as a vegetarian.

I could imagine nothing worse than letting my health dictate what it was I could and could not do with my life.  But sometimes, especially after weeks like this, it’s very difficult to believe that it’s not going to do just that.  Sometimes it’s hard not to go to the dark place and wallow in self-pity.  Hard to remember that this is just my struggle, and, though it’s different for each of us, it’s never easy.  I want to be able to offer advice to others, to make it and say, “See, my health didn’t stop me, and it won’t stop you!”  But all I know is that right now it’s really hard and sometimes fighting to survive in the film business just sucks.

But here is something nice, from a fellow writer at myothercareer.wordpress.com

Life in LA; It’s the Economy Stupid

Sorry I’ve been quiet a while, crazy couple of weeks. I went to SC this weekend. I’m trying to put together a budget and business proposal for Bible Con, with plans to shoot it in SC. I think it can be done on a low enough budget that raising the money myself is feasible. I don’t know that I’ve described the story here, so have my logline:

Bible Con — Comic Con for Christians — goes straight to hell when Jesus and Mary Magdalene fall in love, the keynote speaker turns out to be an atheist, and the event is besieged by DaVinci Code fans.

It’s Best in Show meets The Life of Brian.

Nicholl Semi-Finalist, Movie Script Contest Finalist

I’m trying to do a rewrite now, but the drama in my life is making it difficult to concentrate on. I know too many unemployed people is basically what the deal is. One of my roommates is having to give up on LA and drive back home, selling all of her possessions to afford the trip. My other roommate is also unemployed, but theoretically has something coming up. Obviously, not a happy situation. And my closest friends can’t find jobs either.

And as much as I hate logging, and as much as it doesn’t pay me enough to live off of, I guess at least it’s something. Admittedly, the idea of getting my own project off the ground is probably all that’s standing between me and the cratering depression my current economic state brings on.

I’ve gotten a couple more requests that I haven’t kept up on posting. Maybe I’ll do that at some point.