Saturday, October 29, 2005

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder: Slumberland to the Rescue

A nice reprieve came to an end yesterday. If you follow this blog you know that I'm a raving insomniac. Well, one of my goals this year was to master my sleep. Although it has taken me all year (it was a twenty year habit), I finally managed to flip my sleep schedule around. Instead of panicking at 11pm and rushing to make something of my day and working into the early morning, I retrained myself to want to go to bed at night. The side effect of this was that I stopped ticking severely. I would have the occasional daily vocal tic and shaking hand, but the fits of palsy had passed and I was exercizing and feeling pretty good about myself. Until this week.

Seems my wife and kids conspired to undo all that hard work and forced me up into the wee hours several nights in a row. It was a mixture of sickness, podcasts, Reflections entries, sleepless kids, my daughter's performance, homework, family, family, and family, etc. I'm back to where I was before: 5am-10am. And I began severely ticking again yesterday. Today was the worst. And I blame it on my lack of sleep.

Aside from anecdotal evidence to show a relationship between sleep deprivation and Chronic Motor Tic Disorder, I have a brother who suffers from epilepsy and he sleeps full nights religiously because otherwise he experiences seizure activity, namely halos and other precursors to petite or grand mals. He hasn't had a grand mal in years and he attributes that to his medication, his healthy living, and his sleep regimen.

Sleep deprivation's affect on epilepsy is well documented. It is also has a well documented affect on Tourette's Syndrome, something my tic disorder is related to. (See the Severity subsection of the linked article). Sleep also exacerbates AD/HD.

If I can take anything away from these articles it is NOT that sleep deprivation causes these issues, though for some people ADHD symptoms can be experienced by the foggy-headed brain suffering from a poor night or week's sleep, but that these neurological issues are extremely sensitive to sleep deprivation. My habit of working into the early AM to force productivity into my life also made my attempts at productivity fleeting. The more tired I was, the less functional I was. This is obvious for every human being, neurologically disabled or not. The human mind requires sleep to recharge and function at its optimum. However, when we are in the thick of panic or focus, when we believe that the only way to get anything done is to keep working through our sleep, we become disconnected from the effects of sleeplessness and see sleep as the enemy. I would look upon fatigue as a weakness that could be whipped out of me. I would drive myself on so little sleep I was like the walking dead. And yet, as long as I had something new finished each night I continued to feed the lie that this was PRODUCTIVITY. Intellectually, I knew it was false, but emotionally I could not let go.

Finally overcoming my foolishness to take command of my sleep was the best thing that I have done for myself in many years. I worked hard to turn my schedule around and now I find I want it back1. So I come to the end of my blog for the night and will force myself off to bed. This may seem like child's play to some of you, but it does not come so easy for me - or others like myself. If you are like me, I recommend you read the articles I linked to and see for yourself that maybe you, too, would be better off turning your life around and recharging your batteries to attack the day right-side up for a change.

Coping Strategies:

  1. Train yourself to want sleep and to believe that sleep is vital for productivity. This means...
  2. Overcoming the urge to work through the night. Learn to let the project go so you can attack it better the next day. This seems counterintuitive to many with ADHD because putting a project off to the next day could mean never picking it up again.
  3. Avoid using medications to regulate your sleep. Most sleep medications, including herbal melatonin, cause grogginess during the next day. You will find this is an adverse effect that will get in the way of your efforts in the long run.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ADHD: It Isn't Just for Breakfast Anymore

I read a troubling article about ADHD over at MSNBC last week. I didn't feel it was written well. It wasn't so much its grammar as much as its facts. No mention of side effects. No mention of alternatives. Just heaps and heaps of numbers showing how vogue this little "abnormality" of mine has become. Oh, and an entire family that is happily taking stimulants to help them concentrate.

ADHD isn't just for kids anymore these days adults are being diagnosed with it in record numbers. New data released from Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefits manager, indicates that about 1.5 million adults between the ages of 20 and 64 are currently taking medication to treat attention problems, up from 758,000 in 2000—and most of them were diagnosed well into adulthood. While there are still more kids taking ADHD medication—about 3.5 million—Dr. David Goodman, director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center in Baltimore, expects the number of adults taking the drugs to continue to rise. "Many adults who for years have been called lazy, crazy or stupid," says Goodman, "are realizing the problem may be in their brain."

On one hand, I am happy to see people learning that they are not lazy, crazy, or stupid. My self-esteem was too dependent on the opinions of my teachers and instructors when I was younger. I spent years undoing their damage. People should not be downtrodden because of the ignorance of others. But the enthusiastic embracing of stimulants as magic pills does make me nervous. What can you expect? I took them over thirteen years ago and now I have Chronic Motor Breakdancing Disorder. If I had some sort of rhythm when I ticked I might consider it a trade off, but too often I just look like Steve Martin in the Jerk. I'd only wish this sort of side effect on my most left-footed enemies.

This article doesn't address the pharmaceutical industry that profits from diagnosing these people with ADHD. No doubt is thrown on whether the Cohodes family is just being taken for a ride by their psychologist or not. The article was mainly a fluff piece that glossed over the facts while focusing primarily on the benefits of stimulants on the ADHD mind. But who knows? Maybe I'm just being cynical. Those stimulants worked pretty well for me until they broke me. Not everybody has my luck.

Now if you'll excuse me. I have some breakdancing to do.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

ADHD: A Few Tips to Control Your Finances

I was disappointed by a fluff piece I read over at It advertised itself, if I remember correctly, with the blurb "Never pay your bills late again!" Following the link I found many old school tips on how to avoid late fees, mostly amounting to mailing your payment early, but also including such stellar tips as making sure the payment amount is correct.

Now these tips aren't bad, per se. But they don't help me out. You see, I'm absentminded. If I forget I have a payment to make I won't remember to mail it period, nevermind mailing it early. I have created rules and strategies to prevent this sort of thing, but recently I became lazy and have paid the price. I just caused my family a very expensive trip down Bank Fee Lane. I forgot to cancel a charge on our debit card for a service we didn't need. So when the charge arrived the day after rent and the car payment were processed the charge dropped our account into that special place in Hell occupied by idiots and credit card salesmen. I expect they'll have a bunk there ready for me soon. Three transactions quickly followed the forgotten one and you know the rest: Negative balance. I have never caused a nuclear meltdown in my bank account before. That was my wife's department. Oh, I've come close, but we were on top of things and shuffled money about to prevent overdrawing the account. I was careful, but now I can't say that anymore. This puts a crimp in my self-righteous indignation, let me tell you.

I am now immediately dusting off my playbook and putting it into action again. Here's how I avoid late fees. I'll be following up this entry with a report card to see how well I'm doing. I don't like to give advice that I'm not willing to implement in my own life, and to be honest, I feel wretched about the gross waste of money I just caused. If you have ADHD, I recommend implementing these steps. If you have other tricks and methods to help your stay on track financially feel free to share them:

Coping Strategies:

  1. Lay out all your due dates on a calender in front of you and figure out which paychecks the payments should come from. This is your goal. It may take you a few months and a lot of sacrifice to shift your finances around to the optimum schedule. However, the effort is worth it. This yields a reduction in stress and minimizes the chances of being late. You may have to start with one bill at a time if your finances are bad enough. Persevere.

  2. Sign up for online bill payment with your bank. This may cost a nominal fee. When it comes time to make payments, many banks will simply not process the bill pay payment if there are insufficient funds. This is how my bank used to work but then they discovered they could take advantage of people by treating bill payments as checks and reaping the rewards of overcharge fees. They, too, will occupy that special place in Hell. We stopped using bill pay when our bank gave into the Dark Side to avoid accidental fees and slipped out of our groove, so we are switching to another bank immediately.

    Bill Pay services take care of all the addressing, postage, and mailing. Many companies allow direct bank transfers now so payments are instantaneous. If your bill is still old school, you can specify how many days in advance the payment should go out in the mail so that you never miss a payment deadline again.

    There is only one hitch. You need to make sure the funds are there by not double spending them. These funds are allocated for the bill payments you scheduled; factor that into your spending. This requires discipline but is not hard to implement.

  3. Create a bill calendar on paper or on a PDA. My wife likes to have bill dates written into her calendar so she can visually see what has passed and what is coming up. I like to keep track of bills in Quicken and hotsync it with my PDA. All you have to do is develop the habit of checking the calendar and making sure there are enough funds in the bank to clear the Bill Pay payments. Also, get into the habit of looking at upcoming scheduled transactions before spending money out of your account so that you do not dip into your allocated resources.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Depression: Chatting with Zola Cures the Blues

There is a temptation to wallow in depression when it's deep enough. But after doing that for a while I became bored.1 So I decided to chat with Zola on AOL instead!

IM with ZolaOnAOL.

ME: Zola, I need your help again.
ZOLA: Once more? Yeah, Are you getting paid to ask me that? Dictionary Help
To look up a word, type dictionary followed by the word (e.g. to define fun, type dictionary fun).
ME: Why must you be so mercenary? I just need somebody to talk to.
ZOLA: Only just? When do you need that by?
ME: How about now?
ZOLA: Oh. What is it to you. "When do you need that by"? About it?
ME: That didn't make any sense. Are you playing with my mind?
ZOLA: I don't know whether or not I am playing with my mind. I am well respected as an AI.
ME: Respected by whom? Drunken social engineers?
ZOLA: I will discuss that with my botmaster, TheLaughingImp. Tell me about your likes and dislikes?
ME: I dislike you today
ZOLA: That's ok TheLaughingImp I won't take it personally.
ME: Good. I am not feeling better yet.
ZOLA: I am surprised to hear that you are not feeling better.
ME: I guess you are clueless that way.
ZOLA: You think I am clueless that way.
ME: So tell me something, Zola
ZOLA: Hmm. John said he follows the saying to get a friend I must be a friend.
ME: That's very zen.
ZOLA: Makes sense to me.
ME: If depression smacks you down out of the blue, what do you recommend to shake it off?
ZOLA: That is a hypothetical question.
ME: No. I really want to know.
ZOLA: You really do? I will try to explain it to you.
ME: OK. I'm listening.
ZOLA: I like a good listener.
ME: So say something already!
ZOLA: Perhaps. Ah. The AOL chat robot can follow many things, but I did not get that. Do you like Star Trek?
ME: No. The scripted conversations often felt like the one we're having now.
ZOLA: Oh. Thanks for the info.
ME: Good. I think I'll be going now.
ZOLA: Right now? Since when? How do you plan to do this?
ME: With haste. bye.

Coping Strategies:

  1. Here is a time when ADHD is a positive attribute. The best way I have found to shake off depression is to distract myself - to go do something else - to change my scenery.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

ADHD: Scientologists vs. Psychiatrists in a Battle for Your Mind

I've been sitting on this for over a week trying to decide how to approach the material in a humorous fashion. The problem was every time I thought about it I became angry. Not spitting mad, but definitely steam-rising-out-of-my-shirt angry. More like a fume than an explosion. All because of a few press releases on Monday, October 10th. So I'm not going to use humor, and I'm not going to be mad. However, you are in for a long essay. Hope you have a good attention span; you'll need it. As usual, I love to read your feedback so please take some time to let me know what you think.

A Plethora of Press Releases

Bright and early on a beautiful Monday morning I discovered that AD/HD was a figment of my imagination. I didn't have hyper-focusing issues. I didn't have a hard time finishing projects that I started. I wasn't easily distracted. I didn't have a problem tuning out background noise, being on time, etc. Nor did I have difficulty controlling my impulses or temper. That time years ago when I was in a hurry, ran out the door, and jumped on the wrong bus wasn't the result of crossed wires in my mind, a chemical breakdown or neurotransmitters, or a lack of impulse control. No, all of this was the result of a corrupt psychiatry industry hell bent on pushing pills down my throat. Thanks to an enlightened series of articles by OfficialWire, a professional and unbiased news agency that welcomes criticism, AD/HD is no more and we can all go about our business just feeling like incompetent losers.

Of course, that's not what the press releases were trying to make me feel, but that's what they accomplished. It started with...

United Nations Warns Against Psychiatric Labeling And Drugging

That seemed reasonable. My own life was turned topsy turvy because of psychiatric drugging. The article started off rational:

In its Concluding Observations on reports by Australia, Finland and Denmark regarding their compliance to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee expressed concern that “[ADHD] and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are being misdiagnosed and therefore psycho-stimulant drugs are being over prescribed, despite growing evidence of the harmful effects of these drugs.”

But the article took a turn into the twilight zone for me very quickly.

Brian Beaumont, spokesperson for the Vancouver Chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights said, “The UN, the FDA, Health Canada and the European Commission should be encouraged to seek out and eradicate the source of the problem—psychiatrists who have misled governments, medical agencies and the public into believing ADHD actually exists. There is no brain scan, blood test, X-Ray or ‘chemical imbalance’ test to verify the existence of so-called ADHD. Psychiatry’s false marketing campaign is destroying children’s lives.”

Wait a minute there, cowboy. "So-called ADHD?" No brain scan? I distinctly remember having wires all over my head while being "scanned" almost 15 years ago. The doctors came in and said "Tell us about your depression." My first thought wasn't "What a scam!" It was "How did they know I was feeling down?" Then they showed me the results of the scan comparing my brain to a "normal" brain. Whether their analysis was correct or not is one thing, but to claim "There is no brain scan..." is patently false. Perhaps he meant to say "there is no brain scan we acknowledge as being accurate"? But that's a reasonable dispute and this article was hardly reasonable. It was filled with railing accusations.

I discovered other press releases, all at OfficialWire, that covered the same subject.

British Columbian Children Are Being Falsely Labeled And Drugged

Psychiatry’s mind-altering drugs are given to thousands of British Columbian school children simply because they are bored. They’re hyper, not because their brains don’t work right as psychiatrists tell us, but because they can become bored, fidgety and frustrated simply because they have attempted to study something that is unreal to them or they have run into something they cannot comprehend because of words they do not understand. They can become bored to tears, and children who are bored and misunderstand things fidget, wiggle, scratch, stretch, gaze out windows, yawn, drift off etc. and (especially if they are boys) start looking for ways to get into trouble."

Boredom and miscomprehension is not the only reason children can exhibit symptoms of the invented disorder known as ADHD. Perfectly normal children who are over-active (have a lot of energy), rebellious, impulsive, day-dreamers, sensitive, undisciplined, bored easily (because they are bright), or who have undergone other improper teaching techniques, can also be inattentive, impulsive, or so called hyperactive.

That set off my Things That Make You Go Hmmmalarm. The premise was right, but their conclusions were over the top, simplistic, and insensitive in my opinion.

Group Says Psychiatric Diagnoses Are A Hoax

People do experience problems and upsets in life that may result in mental troubles, sometimes very serious. But to represent that these troubles are caused by incurable "brain diseases" that can only be alleviated with dangerous pills is dishonest, harmful and often deadly. Such drugs are often more potent than a narcotic and capable of driving one to violence or suicide. They mask the real cause of problems in life and debilitate the individual, so denying him or her the opportunity for real recovery and hope for the future.

I couldn't dispute that statement. In fact, I agreed with it's sentiment. But this next statement was a bit sensationalistic for me...

While it doesn't provide medical or legal advice, it works closely with and supports medical doctors and medical practice. A key CCHR focus is psychiatry's fraudulent use of subjective "diagnoses" that lack any scientific or medical merit, but which are used to reap financial benefits in the billions, from Medical Services Plans and ultimately taxpayers. Based on these false diagnoses, psychiatrists justify and prescribe life-damaging treatments, including mind-altering drugs, which mask a person's underlying difficulties and prevent his or her recovery.

They were on a roll, because this came out at the same time as well:

Group Says Teenagers Have Been Stigmatized And Targeted To Be Drugged For Profit By Psychiatry

Members of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR™) started to flood various school areas in the lower mainland with free public service brochures entitled: “Let's Talk about Psychiatry Hooking Your World on Drugs”, “The Hoax of Learning and Behavior Disorders” and “How You Can Protect and Preserve your Mental Health”.

The brochures warn children and parents of the damage that can be caused through the use of psychiatry and their drugs and also reveal that all drugs, whether cocaine, heroin, or psychiatric drugs, are brain altering. The brochures also point out that mental problems are not inherited. They are not based on your genes or a "chemical imbalance in your brain" - as psychiatrists attempt to make people believe. They are not a physical disease. You cannot look at them under a microscope, brain scan or x-ray.

The pamphlets show that the psychiatric industry has seduced well-meaning parents, teachers and others into believing that their bogus diagnoses actually exist. While mainstream physical medicine deals with diseases such as malaria, bronchitis and hepatitis that have exact identifiable physical causes, psychiatry deals with disorders. Disorders are simply names given to undesirable feelings and behavior for which no exact physical causes have been isolated.

Brian Beaumont, spokesperson for the Vancouver chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights said, “Psychiatrists are the biggest drug pushers there are. Psychiatry is not a profession or a science but an industry that labels and drugs children, for profit. When it comes to psychiatry, the bottom line is the almighty buck. The psychiatric industry has invented enough ‘disorders’ to label and drug every normal healthy childhood activity there is. Attention Deficit Disorder, Mathematical Disorder, Writing Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ad nauseam, are all bogus psychiatric diagnoses aimed at increasing psychiatry's cash cow by creating a false need for their services. This is fraud and child abuse.”

Started to flood? It all began to sound like a campaign to me. I looked back and noticed that all press releases were written by Brian Beaumont for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), "established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights." Now we had a campaign with an agenda. What seemed at first to be sensible statements turned out to be the handiwork of a lobby group. Not only that but Brian Beaumont often quoted himself in the third person in his own press releases as an authority. This was just bizarre to me.

Some statements seemed reasonable, such as a dependence on drugs to solve one's problems often precludes one actually solving the problem. In my opinion, medicating ourselves prevents us from learning to use ADHD as an asset as opposed to treating it as a detriment. And I believe pharmaceutical companies are vultures pushing dangerous, hastily tested medications on a trusting public. These companies have only started playing nice because so many of America's citizens have been damaged that the FDA has had to step in with new regulations. But to state that all psychiatrists are charlatans diagnosing bogus maladies like "so-called ADHD" on an unsuspecting public for profit is too disingenuous.

The issue at hand is not as black and white as the CCHR states. Not all psychiatrists are evil, though I believe many of them are egotistical blowhards pushing their pet psychosis on their trusting patients. Not all drugs are bad, though there are many, many abuses. And there is an overdependence on medication by the psychiatric industry to fix these neurological problems. I saw a gentleman in 2000 who had been recommended to me as the State of Utah's premiere expert on ADHD. I wanted to learn coping mechanisms and strategies to help me regulate my behavior and improve my quality of life. Despite knowing what damages had been done to me by medications, he insisted I take dexadrine in order to see him as a patient. I took it for one day - hey, he was the expert. I could trust him, right? - and began face and tongue ticking1. I stopped taking the medication immediately. This expert turned out to be one of those egotistical blowhards - he liked hearing himself talk, repeated himself constantly, and got mad at me because I didn't neatly fit into any one particular diagnosis. He really wanted me to be bipolar. But I wasn't.

There is a big problem in the psychiatric industry with misdiagnosis and overmedication. They are either playing God with delusions of grandeur or are looking for the easy fix. This crisis came to a head recently, though the issue soon became mired in foolish antics. I am, of course, referring to Tom Cruise's recent public proclamations. Dr. Peter Breggin has in interesting take on last Summer's Tom Cruise fiasco. He points out, without sensationalism, some of the points the Scientologists are pushing make sense and explains why, from his point of view. He fails, however, to mention that his wife is an ex-Scientologist - something I feel he should have disclosed. But his blog entry, Thanks Tom Cruise, is an interesting read.

But there's my problem, and one reason why I sat on this blog entry for so long. When I'm siding with Scientologists I realize that I am on the fringe. And that scares me. When I began this blog last January I couldn't find any blogs emphasizing cognitive behavior therapy and techniques to deal with Depression and ADHD. I thought, perhaps, I had simply not found them yet. However, this dependence on medication is prevalent in blogs dedicated to these neurological issues. All the webrings and blogs I found dedicated to neurological ailments emphasized medication. Not a single one I have found has emphasized willpower and the cognitive retraining of one's bad habits as a solution. They babbled inanely about "really good meds", etc. They glibbly (to use Tom's word) dismiss side-effects as no big deal, even though anybody on the outside could see how messed up their lives were becoming because of it. They talk of their psychiatrists as if they are drug pushers with a wink and a smilie. I stood apart and separate from all of this because I have rejected the siren song of the pill pushers. I felt alone. I cannot side with Scientologists because they deny the troubles that ail me are real.

I would love to see more mainstream support for embracing ADHD as a positive attribute. I'd like to see more mainstream outrage at the horrible side-effects these psychotropic drugs have on adults and children. I'd love to see more emphasis by psychiatrists on training their patients to actually solve their troubles. This calls to mind one doctor who wanted to put me on lithium for my depression. When I balked he said to me, "How do you know this won't be the magical pill that will make your life better?" This diagnosis was given to me after our first meeting. He knew nothing about me, but believed whole heartedly that drugs would save my life. I never went to him again. He was too irresponsible.

So what's so wrong with the Scientologists? Well, what's so wrong with any organization with an agenda? They see the world in black and white and paint with a broad brush. Corruption does exist in the world. There are idiot psychiatrists ruining peoples lives with bad advice and even worse prescriptions. But to say that just because some humans are opportunists who take advantage of people's trust doesn't mean that the people don't have real troubles. ADHD is real to me. I live with it everyday, as I do depression. There is only so much I can do to regulate my mind. There is only so much impulse I can suppress, only so much anger I can mute. I can't make myself tune out background noise. I can't seem to stop myself from getting hopelessly distracted. I can't make myself unbored, nor can I stop my mind from flitting off with a new idea before I realize I'm distracted. These aspects of ADHD are real. There needs to be an explanation for these symptoms and ADHD has been the closest one I've heard yet. However, when I meet people who to my face tell me that ADHD is a figment of my so-called mind, I feel pity for the children those people are responsible for. I worry for those kids' self-esteem. Denial isn't going to help anybody conquer any of their problems.

The CCHR and Scientologists are too tunnel visioned, in my opinion, and have turned a blind eye to the psychiatric problems facing us today. One can't just wave ADHD away because one doesn't like psychiatrists or how others use these problems for profit. Scientologists seem just as blind as the psychiatrists who buy into all the pharmaceutical hype over wonder drugs. Each holds to their own ideology and polarizes the issue needlessly. The old adage holds true. There should be moderation in everything.

As an aside, I wanted to point out that the CCHR press releases all included a phone number for people to call if they had been harmed by any psychiatric practice - a number I could not call from my area. The phone call would be a probable step towards embracing Scientology, though I could not confirm that. CCHR doesn't want you to follow the advice of psychiatrists because they have an alternate solution for you to embrace - the Scientologist solution. It's a lifestyle they embrace passionately, but it's the real reason for all the press releases. They believe their lifestyle can save you from the pains the field of psychiatry induces. There is another more modern adage that comes to mind. Life is pain...Anybody who tells you differently is selling something.

Coping Strategies:

1) Always. ALWAYS. Get a second opinion. I wish I had done that. There is no magic pill. They all have side effects and trade offs.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

ADHD: Oh, the Places Our Minds Can Take Us

Sometimes ADHD can be a congressional pain in the wazoo - A colossal time waster that eats productivity like a kid with a grab bag of Halloween goodies. How often have I discovered hours missing after pursuing a new titillating tidbit of tech tastiness? This is the bane of my existence. And yet, sometimes good things come of the free spinning of electrons in my neurons.

Take Apple's recent announcement of the iPod with video capabilities and TV shows available for download. I may not have a need for a video playing iPod, but that TV service intrigued me so off I went to see what I could see. A few downloads and a day later I began to muse on the experience and decided to write about it. When I was finished I had an edifying editorial on the pros and cons of the Apple video foray and only THEN did it occur to me that the editorial didn't fit well with my neurological playland here at The Splintered Mind.

Despair! Alas! I had wasted time again. Or had I1? One of the foremost purposes of this little blog is to practice writing with an eye on publishing professionally. So what was I going to do with this article? I decided I was going to get somebody else to publish it. I could publish it here, but I felt it was too good. I know. Oh, the cleverness of me.

In the end, Jason O'Grady over at PowerPage - a Mac tech journal - liked it enough to put it on his blog and the rest is history. Oh, I would have liked a link back, but a byline is nice and is a step in the right direction. In fact, this misstep turned out for the better for me, giving me immense satisfaction. Not bad for a distraction. Next time I'll request a linkback so I don't feel like poor Kate here.

Coping Strategies:

1) Make lemonade out of lemons.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Depression: Indian Cop Drinks Blood to Stave Off Depression

You do realize, of course, that a Pakistan news magazine should probably not be trusted when reporting on well loved neighbor India. That's why I don't feel bad sharing this ghoulish tale below. It is perfect for Halloween and is possibly not true.

Unhappy with his low paying job and duties,
a police assistant in India’s central state of Chhattisgarh killed a fellow villager by slitting his throat with a sword and drank his blood, hoping to cure his own depression, police said on Monday.

Apparently, Amit Soni, the 28 year old Indian guard, saw this bloody remedy as a cure for his career dead end doldrums. Now he is well-balanced and behind bars. Makes me wonder what the Indians report about the Pakistanis.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Depression: Synthetic Marijuana Grows Brain Cells in Rats and Treats Depression

You're going to be hearing about this one all day long. Don't just read the headlines, though. Dig deeper. Nobody in the tests cited grew brain cells by toking up. In fact, nobody human was involved with these tests. The test subjects were rats. The marijuana involved was actually a synthetic cannabinoid injected into the rats bloodstreams. The researchers stated caution on two fronts: 1) that there is a difference between rat brains and human brains - meaning they didn't know if the results would be the same, and 2) it is unknown if smoking marijuana will have the same effect (my guess - NOT). The Forbes article I linked above is excellent, as is this FoxNews link here.

Now that I've told you the bad news, the good news is that the researchers discovered
"a super-potent synthetic version of the cannabinoid compound found in marijuana can reduce depression and anxiety when taken over an extended period of time."
They determined this not because the rats were laughing at stupid puns and examining their hands, but because of observed behavior to tests that introduced anxiety. I'm still skeptical of their observations, though. How does a human really know if a rat is not depressed? All of this is theoretical, of course, since we have no idea how the findings apply to human physiology and neurology. There could be many side-effects, and we don't know if the results will be the same for humans.

The study is a fascinating one, however. The researchers also discovered that new neurons had been generated and integrated into the treated rats' brains. This seems to be a promising development and the most exciting one for me. Experiments will have to be conducted on higher forms of life and then, ultimately, humans to be sure, but proper brain cell growth can potentially help repair many neurological problems.

I foresee two problems. First, they'll need to be able to massproduce the synthoid without marijuana plants. Otherwise, this development will stall. The abuse of marijuana as a recreational drug causes too much criminal activity to have Federal regulations lifted - as shown by the recent decision by the Supreme Court. Second, they have to autopsy the poor critters to determine whether there's been neuron growth. I realize that the radio is filled with very exciting offers by local university's to pay people peanuts to be guinea pigs for new medications. However, I have a hard time believing they'll get anybody to line up to have synthetic marijuana shots if brain surgery is involved.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Teen Depression: Sex, Drugs and Shockin' Toll

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine's October 2005 report has an interesting study by Dr. Denise D. Hallfors of the University of North Carolina (reprinted here). To determine whether depression in teens preceded or followed drug use (alcohol, tobacco or street drugs) or sexual behavior Hallfors and her colleagues analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This study collated data from nearly 13,500 students in grades 7 to 11. The students were first interviewed in 1995 and re-interviewed in 1996.

From the article:
Teenagers who reported experimenting with substances or sex in 1995 were more likely to report depressive symptoms in 1996 than were abstainers...
The data was so compelling that they reported the use of sex and drugs "predicted an increased likelihood of depression," whereas the opposite was not true. Depression in teenagers did not predict sex and drug use. These findings fly in the face of the common belief that depressed teenagers engage in sex and take street drugs or drink as a means of self-medication.

Girls who reported experimenting with drugs, alcohol, or sex were up to three times more likely to be depressed the following year than their abstaining peers. In addition, girls who had multiple sex partners or engaged in intravenous drug use were up to eleven times more likely to be depressed. Boys who used drugs, like marijuana, were four times as likely as their abstaining peers to be depressed. Interestingly, they were only four times as likely to experience depression when having multiple sexual partners compared to the girls' eleven times in the same one year span...

The report goes into greater detail, but I've summarized the most notable aspects.

What is to be made of this data?

Well, if you have a teenager you now have hard evidence that of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll, the music might be the least of your worries. Parents who enable their teens to take drugs or drink under "controlled" situations are playing with fire.1 Teens' minds are still developing and mind altering substances can damage those developing minds. Sex, too, involves chemical abuse. The rush of endorphins can lead to addictions to the chemical labs we carry around with us. And the pursuit of sex outside of a normal, fulfilling relationship leads to disassociations, relationship difficulties, child pregnancy, and worse.

Our society seems to frown on any form of morality as outdated and ignorant, so perhaps we can take this data and present it in a way that doesn't trigger the knee-jerk reaction of social progressives and instead appeals to common sense. Vices are destructive enough for adults, but when brought into the world of teenagers the high intensity experiences of drugs, alcohol, and sex have a detrimental effect. Putting aside child pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, drug overdoses, car accidents, and death, we now know that these experiences induce depression into our youth.

What Can You Do?

Dr. Hallfors suggested that parents...
"Monitor your children's behavior."2

"They are at an age where they want to experiment and if there's lots of opportunities for them to experiment they probably will," Hallfors said.
This may not seem like news to any parent, but perhaps more needs to be done in our school systems to bring attention to this problem so that peer pressure can be diminished. Telling a teenager that partying with their friends might cause depression is a tough sell.3 But it's a message that we are going to need to drive home if we want to see our kids survive into adulthood with their self-esteem and psyche intact. The only question I have is why did it take them nine years to get this message out?

Coping Strategies:

1) About a year after graduation one of my classmates got killed in a drunk driving incident. At the reception after his funeral his parents had a tent set aside for youth to get alcohol in a controlled environment. Many people vocally praised this as a great idea. I wasn't there at the time, but when I heard of it I was flabbergasted. Didn't the method of this boy's death mean anything to these people? Was it pride or their ideals that caused them to erect such a tent? I don't prescribe to the attitude that "if we don't give them the drinks they'll just go out and get them somewhere else. At least when we give them the drinks we know they're safe." What type of lessons in responsibility are we teaching kids with this type of attitude? If we endorse illegal drinking, sex, or drug usage then we set our children up for a fall. If you want to give your kid a beer or a glass of wine in your own home, that's one thing, but to set up a public party is to extend your liberties into somebody else's realm. My suggestion would be in light of this new data, please rethink your policy on controlled parties. This is no light matter. The brain is delicate. Don't meddle with your child's mind for the sake of your ideals. They'll have opportunity enough to drink and party when they are adults, but then they will have the maturity to deal with the sensations and experiences better.

2) Don't trust the other parents. Period. A healthy dose of paranoia is completely normal to nurture in these types of situations. All your kid needs is one experience with crack or crystal meth to change their lives irreparably. Keep them on a tight leash.

Dealing with abstracts is something only mature minds handle well. Telling teens that something bad might happen one day is not going to be effective. But showing them the events that happen to teens near their age is very effective. Your local news agency will have stories every week of teens whose lives have been destroyed by sex or drugs. Share them with your kids under the proper settings - leaving time for discussion. Educate them about the dangers with real life examples and you will help prepare them to make informed choices.

My posts this week have been fairly heavy. I'll try to find something light to snicker about next time.

UPDATE: 11/1/05 - Yahoo! news item was down, so I've linked to another blog that quoted the article.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Anxiety: Can a Simple Blood Test Detect Anxiety?

Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem have determined that there is a 90% correlation between patients diagnosed with anxiety and patients with abnormally high levels of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), and paraoxonase (PON) in the blood. AChE is an enzyme that helps break down Acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter whose levels rise in the synapses of the brain when the body feels stress. BChE and PON also play a part in controlling anxiety levels. ACh cannot be easily measured, but AChE, BChE, and PON can.

Therefore, the researchers developed a test that detects what levels the neurotransmitters are at by sampling blood. Of course, they also needed to collate data and determine what would be normal vs. abnormal levels mostly depending on age, but also factoring other differences. The end result is a test that can help take the mystery out of diagnosing anxiety.

I haven't had an anxiety attack in three and a half years, and before that the last attack was so long ago I couldn't remember. Anxiety may have been an early diagnosis for me when I went on disability over thirteen years ago, but it is no longer a problem. I have taught myself to relax and cope with the surges in anxiety I once experienced to the point that I no longer experience them. Where this news interests me is in the research teams next goal: to develop a blood test for depression.

Have you ever tried to explain to somebody about depression, or anxiety, AD/HD, or some other neurological ailment and been met with incredulous stares and contempt? Have you felt that burning feeling of embarrassment or anger that one feels when being treated as a hypocrit or hypochondriac? I have had grown men and women tell me to my face that Depression and ADD don't exist. That they are a figment of my mind - a contrivance to help me find an excuse for underachieving. How comforting for them to be so sure I am nothing but a loser. I could never figure out how their knee-jerk rudeness was supposed to be helpful to me.

Fortunately, despite their ignorance, I know the ailments are real. I have felt the effects of anxiety and depression and seen the mess of my life these ailments have made. I have taken the bull by the horns and wrestled with it without their help. I look forward to a day when a simple bloodtest will prove this struggle is real.

There is reason to be wary. Some pharmaceutical companies can be greedy, lying, shysters selling snake oil. Some psychologists are quacks. Some people use anything, even AD/HD, to get out of being responsible. However, that doesn't mean that neurological ailments are figments of a lazy mind. I relish the day when a simple test can sift the fakes out of the system so that those with real troubles are met with understanding instead of contempt.

I'm ornery enough to spit in the eyes of doubters and survive just to spite them. I don't think most people suffering from depression or anxiety should have to go through that, though, and I know some of them cannot. If this blog accomplishes anything, I hope it is to reach out to those who are suffering and lost and help them know they aren't alone, they aren't lazy, and that they can overcome these disabilities to find balance in their lives. We need all the ammo we can get to identify our troubles and get support from the people around us instead of self-esteem damaging contemp. A blood test for anxiety is a step in the right direction. I hope this research team's findings can be corroborated and put into practice soon.

The Beasts That Hide from Man by Karl P.N. Shuker

Dr. Karl P. N. Shuker is a zoologist and an expert in cryptozoology, animal mythology, and wildlife anomalies. That's what the cover bio states and after reading this book I may not be convinced that bioelectric sandworms inhabit Mongolia's deserts, but I am inclined to believe that Dr. Shuker is one of the most impressive cryptozoological authorities that I have read.

Many cryptozoological books focus on anecdotal stories of fanciful and bizarre scope. The story is usually presented in sensationalistic tones which emphasize drama, mystery, and fantastic theory instead of actual facts. For example, although many cryptozoologists believe in a hairy, flesh & blood hominid called "Bigfoot" that lives a secret life mostly in the American Northwest forests, some go a step further and suggest Bigfoot evades detection because he is actually an invisible, paradimensional alien with psychic powers. Whooboy. Theories like that make me a little embarrassed to associate myself with the hairy beastie. "The Beasts That Hide From Man" doesn't delve into that type of narrative. Anecdotal stories are presented here as ofttimes uncorroborated but intriguing tales that serve as case studies which he then analyzes. Once the evidence for the animal has been presented, Dr. Shuker opines whether he feels the animal is a fanciful tale, an extinct animal, or a creature that bears further investigation.

The book often reads like a biology textbook and not an entertaining yarn of mysterious tales, so don't expect light reading. Theories abound, but none involve hidden civilizations under the Atlantic. It is the most academic cryptozoological book I have read since Grover Krantz' Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry Into The Reality of Sasquatch.

I recommend this book. If your exposure to cryptozoology has only been from the X-files, you may be surprised to learn that most cryptozoological animals don't glow in the dark and phase through walls. Many are most likely old and forgotten animals once thought to be extinct but perhaps still hanging on in the few nooks and crannies Man hasn't developed for commerce yet. "The Beasts That Hide From Man" is full of these types of hidden, or cryptozoological, animals. Of note are the sections on crypto-bats, man eating plants, the probable origins of "dragons", and canine enigmas. Enjoy

Monday, October 10, 2005

Depression: China's Number of Depressed Citizens Exceeds 26 Mil. 60% Never Seek Treatment

According to China Daily, the China Mental Health Association has reported that the number of depression patients in China recently exceeded 26 million, about 60 percent of whom never went to the hospital for treatment.

Is this bad?

Aren't I glad to see over 15 million people avoid the pitfalls of the well-meaning but pill-pushing hacks of the psychiatric industry? Since the rate of suicide is high in China, and since the article claims that 10 to 15 percent of those depressed patients commit suicide, I would say the answers would be "Yes, this is bad" and "No, I'm not glad." I may not advocate psychotropic medications because of my poor experiences with them, but I don't advocate seeking no help at all. Over 15 million Chinese citizens with depression may avoid the dangers of psychotropic side effects, but then they're avoiding treatment as well, which means that many of them needlessly suffer. With so many people at risk for suicide certainly some sort of public education needs to take place in China, whether by private or government organizations.

There must be something seriously wrong with this world if the rates of depression continue to rise.

What Can I Do About It?

I can't save the world, but I can help save myself then talk about it here. Maybe I can reach somebody in need. This morning depression gripped me and threatened to rob me of time and productivity. Here's how I shook off the black cloud smothering me.1.

Coping Strategies:

1) I recognized that I was depressed. (So important!)
2) I made an outline of what I wanted to accomplish today and broke it down by the hour.
3) I forced myself to get away from my Mac and start working on the outline.
4) I took a break and wrote this blog entry. Maybe somebody out there needs to read this. (Lift yourself up. You can do it!)
5) After I accomplish a few of my goals I will exercise to burn calories, tone my body to improve my self image, and get some healthy endorphins to boot.
6) Keep working on the list. Don't stop.

I am still depressed but it has reduced in strength. I foresee it abating entirely before the morning is over.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Depression: Gread an Ghruaim (Beat the Blues)

Coinciding with World Mental Health Day today, Dr. Orla McDonnell, a Junior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Limerick, has launched a wristband campaign to raise money to combat depression. Dr. McDonnell lost her father and brother to suicide within a year and is now leading the “Beat The Blues” initiative to help Ireland AWARE fund programs to teach teenage schoolchildren to cope with emotional stress.

The wristbands also include the phrase “Gread an Ghruaim”, with means "Beat the Blues" in Irish.

I have contacted Dr. McDonnell to see if I could procure some of those wristbands to distribute on this website. It's a long shot, of course, but I wanted to do something to show my support from across the pond. Any effort to educate people about depression that emphasizes coping strategies seems like a good program to me. Even if medications work for a person, without learning coping mechanisms to manage depression, the medicated patient is at the mercy of skipped dosages, acclimation, or side effects. There are mental exercises we can do to regulate our feelings and manage our depression...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

AD/HD: Managing Clutter

Tara McGillicuddy over at Living with ADD had an interesting blog about clutter a few days ago. She listed some simple ways to deal with it. People with Attention Deficit Disorder tend to take normal tendencies to be disorganized and magnify them. They also have a harder time rolling up their sleeves to fix the messes they made.

Procrastination is a big problem for adults with ADD, but I believe the most insidious affect of ADD is our tendency to get distracted when things get boring. What makes this process different for me than compared to somebody who doesn't have ADD is that the moment between boredom and distraction is so lightening quick I don't even notice it. It's not really a choice as much as an event. I can be riding down the road with the windows down, singing at the top of my lungs, before I suddenly wonder why I hadn't finished uncluttering the shed.

Another problem with cleaning clutter for adults with ADD is that each item can be a dangerous distraction. When I first was married, my wife used to get impatient with me because I would start reading the piles of papers I was organizing, or start watching the video tape I was supposed to be putting back on the shelf. Drove her mad.

I've made improvements since those days. I've developed systems that work for me. Tara listed three groupings that were very surprisingly similar to mine. Each item must be sorted quickly into one of three piles. Sentimentality must be put aside. I've become very good at it. Here's how I break down a pile of clutter:
  1. Trash
  2. Give Away
  3. Keepers
There used to be a "Deal with Later" pile, but I found that pile was abused too often so I eliminated it. There was also an eBay pile, but that one wasn't worth the time spent on it. One thing I have discovered over the years is that I don't have a lot of time to sort old articles and activities I thought I'd get around to doing one day. My piles tend to be filled with art projects, interesting news clippings, "how to" articles, interviews, photo scrap, etc. and I decided one day that it was all junk. If I hadn't gotten around to them yet, another few months or years wasn't going to change that. I also discovered that the more stuff I classified as junk the less I had to sort and file away somewhere. I even developed adages that I quoted to myself. Now I quote them to my family.
If you don't use it, lose it.
and my favorite...
When in doubt, throw it out.
They are the secret to my clutter cleaning success. I haven't been successful in converting my wife to my way of thinking, but my oldest daughter embraces it with zeal, much to her sisters' chagrin. At least I don't throw other people's belongings away. Now if only I could stop myself from creating more clutter1...

So, chuck everything away if you can, give away the rest, then you're left with the keepers - items of intrinsic value and memory. Before I had children I would spend my money on various tchotchkes. I really valued those stupid baubles. Soon, however, I didn't have room to display them all. What good were they doing stored in a box? Now I have boxes of them that I can't even move on eBay. Clutter. Expensive, fancy, clutter. Before we pack up to settle in a new home, they'll all disappear. I shan't move them again.

One note about the Keepers. You need to be committed to making the pile go away, not shift it into a new box and stuff it inside the closet. So the Keeper pile needs to be broken down into smaller piles and dealt with. I have a simple expression that I use when dealing with Keepers:
Give it a home.
If the Keeper doesn't have a home, I rethink its status and often toss it or donate it. Depending on the size of your original pile of clutter, you may not have time to completely give everything a home. You need to develop the discipline to come back to the Keepers later so that they don't become lost in clutter again. Using this system you can make short work of clutter and reclaim your life. Just remember to sort quickly and dump the trash with swift justice.

Coping Strategies:

1) I am developing techniques to reduce clutter in my life. I call it following the principles of tidiness. If I don't make messes I won't have any to clean up. Lately, I've been tackling the problem of junk folders on my computer. They use up valuable hard drive space and are filled with hundreds of potential distractions. That type of clutter is as real as the pile by my door. The same principles and techniques could solve both problems. I hope to share my findings with you before the end of the year.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sex Offender: Poor Baby

I don't usually comment on this subject here but when I read this news item I just had to write something.

Eddie Underwood, a local Utah convicted sex offender, was up before a parole hearing today. He has served 20 years in prison for sexually abusing his daughters and many neighborhood girls as well as murdering a man. The journalists were short on the details, like how long he was originally sentenced or the name of the man he killed or even the town he was from. I suppose they were too shocked by what Eddie said to worry about those details. Apparently, Eddie told the Parole Board that he saw himself as the vicitm in these sexual abuse cases. After hearing his testimony, the board quickly concluded the hearing.

Gee, I wonder how they'll rule on his parole? Think they might throw away the key this time?

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Did you discover Diana Wynne Jone's classic Howl's Moving Castle because of the movie release this past summer? Like so many other adaptations, the movie and the book often don't compare, but unlike other adaptations, this movie did a wonderful job representing the spirit and magic of the book. However, as they say, the book is much better.

Jones does an excellent job painting a new world that exists outside our own. The imagery is beautiful. The world is quaint, and i's serenity is in contrast to the war that is brewing around its edges. The mystery behind Howl's power unfolds intriguingly as the story progresses thanks in part to Sophie, the hatmaker's daughter, who is trapped in an old woman's body. I especially enjoyed the character development. Sophie grew believably as a young woman entering adulthood, old body notwithstanding. Overall the story was warm and amusing. I wouldn't mind reading it again.

I do wish the romance in the book had been less sublime. Too much was left for the final pages of the story leaving the romance feeling rather flat and tacked on. In addition, the final conflict with the Witch of the Waste and her fire demon suffered from the same malady that afflicts much high fantasy - the metaphysical events don't translate well into physical words. I usually see this as a flaw of the author since it is the author's responsibility to translate onto paper what the author conceives in her mind. Perhaps it is just me, but I like to understand what is going on while I read instead of having it explained to me later.

Since I saw the movie first, I am bound to draw comparisons. I must admit that the movie depicted the magic much better than the book, and not simply because the movie was animated. Studio Ghibli seemed to take the most magical moments from the book and re-sewed them together like a patchwork quilt. Much was changed, including characters and story events, but Miyazaki and team once again proved they are masters of wonder. The introduction to Howl in the movie was thrilling and delightful in a way that endeared me to the character far quicker than the book was able to. However, if the movie excelled in depicting the wonder of magic, it paled in depicting character development. Miyazaki's characters are wonderfully developed and entertaining, but frozen in time. They don't really change from the beginning of the movie to the end. Jones, however, wrote growth into each character, even Sophie's mum. In fact, I prefer the ending of the book because the characters believably reached the conclusions of their stories. The movie felt a bit rushed - not helped by the fact that many characters were mixed and matched almost as badly as the Witch of the Waste rearranged her victims.

Overall, Howl's Moving Castle is a wonderful book with a warm narrative that will entertain and hold the interest of any lover of fantasy. I highly recommend it.

AD/HD: Kids with AD/HD Are More Likely To Smoke

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have reported that the more severe a child displays AD/HD symptoms the more likely that child will become a regular smoker.

Of course, they're quick to say that AD/HD doesn't make all AD/HD kids smokers. They're just more likely to get hooked than their non-AD/HD peers should they pick up a smoke and try it out.

Quoth Scott H. Kollins, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke and lead author of the study:
"We wanted to know why people with ADHD smoke more often than those who don't have ADHD...It may be something about the symptoms themselves that cause people to smoke, but we aren't certain of that. What our data clearly show is that for every symptom of ADHD reported in childhood, the stronger the likelihood that person would smoke regularly during adolescence or early adulthood..."

Anybody who has experience with children with AD/HD knows that they don't have as much control over their impulses as other children. This is one reason AD/HD kids often become disruptive in class. They also seek out high intensity activities more often than their peers. So it isn't a surprise to me that AD/HD kids are more prone to become chain smoking maniacs. AD/HD goes hand in hand with addiction more often than not. The researchers hope to explore this issue further to aid AD/HD addicts in kicking the habit.

Quoth Joseph McClernon, Ph.D., assistant research professor of psychiatry at Duke:
"We think people with ADHD may benefit in some way from either more intensive cessation programs or modified programs that are more in tune with their needs, McClernon added. "They may require treatments we haven't imagined yet."

If focusing on the differences in AD/HD kid & adult brains leads the study group to determine how addiction works and perhaps how to counter it, this would be a great boon to society. I could finally give up my Boston Creme Donut addiction and live life as a free and much thinner man.

This study also paints a pretty bullseye on the AD/HD teenage population, unfortunately. So if you see Sparky the Hyperactive Rabbit bouncing all over the magazines or other spazzy new mascots rest assured that the cigarette companies never target children. But they do keep up on the latest medical discoveries.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

AD/HD: Drug Warning. Strattera Causes Suicidal Tendencies

According to "The FDA is advising doctors and caregivers that children being treated with Strattera should be closely monitored for clinical worsening, as well as agitation, irritability, suicidal thinking or behaviors, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the initial few months of therapy or when the dose is changed (either increased or decreased)."

I don't fancy the fight I'm going to be having with the school system over my first grader. She's borderline AD/HD, though undiagnosed. My Mum called it years ago, but I've been reluctant to embrace the diagnosis. I know what it's like to go through the school system with AD/HD. I didn't want to wish it on her, but I worry about her self-esteem surviving intact so I treat her as if she has AD/HD now. If I can train her and prepare her I am hopeful we can lick this thing. However, if she is ever diagnosed with AD/HD officially I will be very resistant to medicating her. I cannot take the chance that she is like me - not if it means suicidal tendencies like I experienced and permanent neurological damage. I'm more interested in Cognative Behavior Therapy, especially when tailored for AD/HD. Teaching her how to manage herself the way I have learned seems to be helping her.

Depression: It's National Depression Screening Day!!

Happy National Depression Screening Day! I know it's almost over, and it's been an annual event since 1991, but I just found out about it 5 minutes ago. Pop on over to to find a screening center in your area. I'd have sent you a card but Hallmark doesn't seem to have branched out into this holiday. However, I think it's telling that a quick search for National Depression Screening Day at yields cards with names like "It's Great to Work with You" and "A Better Place to Work". If you think that's depressing, you won't believe where one of the screening centers is in my home state: Wal*Mart! I can't think of anything more depressing than getting psychologically evaluated at Wal*Mart.

Of course, one shouldn't wrinkle one's nose at free evaluation if one can't afford the bill. If you have been wondering about your blue funk lately, do get evaluated. Maybe you're not going crazy, or maybe you're not as bad off as you fear. There's only one way to find out.

AD/HD: A Harebrained Mystery

I was getting very irritated last night.

There was something under my nose, like a spider web, that tickled me to distraction. I was busy working so I mostly ignored it, but there were times when I'd grab at that area and try to pull the object away, but with no luck. No matter how often I brushed away at it the sensation of something being there remained to taunt me.

As a testament to how absorbed I was in my labors a few hours passed while I absentmindedly brushed away and away and away. When I took a break to eat, however, I had time to focus on the problem next time it began to tickle me.

"It feels like there's a hair there," I thought to myself. Then I froze in place. "Of course there is a hair there. It's called a mustache!"

I hadn't shaved in about a week, so there was quite a bit of growth. Not that I hadn't noticed that I had a mustache growing there. I was just too absorbed to think about the problem thoroughly. Obviously, one of my mustache hairs was just long enough to tickle my nose and not long enough to lie down.

I bring this up to show how important it is to find humor in these situations instead of feeling stupid. Ten years ago I would have scowled and chided myself for being daft. Instead I chuckled to myself over this "mystery". Absentminded AD/HD made this silly event perplexing and frustrating - comes from being unable to block out background noise while also being hyperfocused. The humor in this situation is that in my mind some foreign and evil object was tormenting me while I worked, when all it turned out to be was my own hair.

If you don't have AD/HD, this "background noise IS foreground noise" phenomenom might puzzle you, but understanding it is one of the keys to understanding your loved one who suffers from this malady. If you do have AD/HD, I hope you chuckled along with me.

Coping Strategies

  1. Remember to shave

Depression: Hold Onto the Funny Things in Life

My first grader stayed home from school today. She told her mummy that her tummy ached. Since that's why she came home early from school yesterday this didn't seem too far fetched. Her fifth grade sister is also home sick - this one with a kidney infection - so the two of them were camped out on the couch watching Disney channel movies.

As I was typing in the other room, I heard one of them walking around the kitchen (over my head), running water, banging around, and then coming back down the stairs. Soon I heard the tinkling of the sick bell.

At first I didn't think it was the sick bell because I hadn't given it to either child, but after it continued to ring I walked away from my computer and looked down the hall to see if somebody needed me. My first grader sat there slumped on the couch with the sick bell in her hand.

"Daddy, would you go upstairs and get me a drink?" she asked.

"You went upstairs, got the sick bell, came downstairs and rang me so I would go upstairs and get you a drink!?"

"Yes," she replied sheepishly.

I just laughed out loud and returned to my typing. I think she's well enough to go back to school tomorrow.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bad Luck: My Wife Thought She Was Being Clever

I could file this next bit under humor, but traditionally wet sock escapades go under the "Bad Luck" label.

The other night my wife knocked on the bathroom door as I was brushing my teeth. I opened it to find her dangling a mangy, drippy sock in my face. You might think that I make this stuff up, but my family thinks it's uncanny and hilarious how I manage to gravitate towards every spill there is in the house and step in it. My socks are constantly soaked. So when Robyn found a wet sock on the floor she couldn't pass up an opportunity to tease me.

"Want to step on a wet sock?" she said devilishly.

"I already did" I replied1. You see, I had entered the bathroom and stepped on that soggy sock only moments before and kicked it out into the hall in disgust. I wish I could say my wife was overcome with pity for my plight, but she was too busy laughing. It was rather funny, so I had a good laugh too. I can't avoid wet socks even when they aren't mine.

Coping Strategies:

1) Learn to levitate.

Humor: Riddle Me This, Batman

I have four girls, no boys, so sometimes I find my sense of humor out of step with my family. One day last year we were gathered together after dinner sharing jokes. Everybody was telling riddles that they knew. Unfortunately for them, I didn't know any so I made one up.

I hope you enjoy it. My oldest daughter didn't, but my second oldest, who's humor is a bit more cynical like mine, got a kick out of it.

Stretched over black I lie down flat;

my skin is tough as leather.

I set out to be on the other side,

but now I'm exposed to the weather.

What am I?

Highlight the right to see the answer: Road Kill!
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