Corporate Christ: Lives Less Ordinary

Corporate ChristLGBT musician and author Corporate Christ releases a documentary he made with Kalto Films about life growing up with depression and Schizophrenia. He was bullied as a teenager, developed a drug problem and ended up with Ulcerative Colitis, a bowel disease that nearly killed him, Corporate Christ explains how he took strength by the experiences he went through rather than despair at his endless misfortune.


Corporate Christ – 8 Hours Closer

In 2017, Corporate Christ released the video for “8 Hours Closer”. It is a song that documents the struggle he encountered after the suicide of Fred Derf, his ex-boyfriend. Following this was an extended period of insomnia that he needed sedative medication in order to get any rest. The song is taken from the Synthpop EP, “Adam Kadmon: When The Heart Implodes”. Track listing below:


  • 8 Hours Closer:
  • The Note:
  • Cabaret: 
  • Zyklon B:
  • Valentine’s Day:

The Point Of Depression

There has been a great deal of speculation about the evolutionary significance and origins of depression. What selective advantage does it confer?

Does it allow the patient to concentrate on complex and important problems? Is it a type of pain that, like physical pain, causes us to pull back from danger? Is it a type of behavioral quarantine, causing us to hole up in a safe place while dangers stalk around outside? Perhaps it reduces our libido and our appetite for social interaction in order to stop us getting or giving infectious disease? Is it a simple signal that we need help? Is it a sort of threat to others in our community that, unless they do something to help us, they will have a liability in their midst that could endanger them? Is it a sort of fuse, switching us off and causing us to back down when we are outgunned – so saving us from risky and costly conflicts with our peers?

These suggestions, and the many others in the literature, may seem insulting and insensitive. Isn’t it like asking the point of a disabling road traffic accident?

Well, possibly. But much disease is the result of the malignant transformation or manifestation of a physiological response that is usually useful. Auto-immune illness and allergy, for instance, are damaging consequences of facilities without which we would be dead. So the desire to squeeze depression into the neo-Darwinian paradigm is not necessarily misconceived. What is misconceived, I suggest, is the sheer fancifulness of many of these suggested explanations. Their authors are too clever, ingenious, and imaginative.

Here’s an alternative suggestion, which at least has the advantage of not being so smart.

We need to start by deciding what depression really is. It is, I suggest, an ontological disorder. The main pathology in depression is the erosion or truncation of the Self. Depression robs us of the characteristics that make us us. ‘She’s not herself’, we’ll shrewdly say. The job of a psychiatrist is to ‘put the patient back in their right mind’. Depression makes us sit all day in our bedrooms, facing the wall: cutting ourselves off from all the relationships which define us and make our lives our lives. And if the depression isn’t treated, the threat to the Self can become desperately dangerous. We might annihilate the Self with razor blades or by jumping off a bridge.

Usually, though, the danger isn’t mortal. Most manifestations of depression, for most of us, most of the time, are premonitory signs. They tell us that the Self is vulnerable: that it needs some urgent TLC – or else.

Perhaps it doesn’t need to be stated (it’s really tautological), but of course a sense of Self is vital to our biological survival (which is Darwin’s main interest). It’s my sense of Self that makes me compete for a mate; which makes me look for my next meal; which makes me avoid harming myself.

So: most of the time, depression is acting to preserve the self. It doesn’t just cause us to run away from nasty stressors, as some of the other theories suggest. It acts too as a health education program, teaching us about effective therapies. Once you’ve had a small dose of depression, you recognize the symptoms next time, and reach more quickly for the remedy (whether it’s pills, a holiday, a walk in the sunshine, or a massive dose of friendship).

Depression, then, is a thief of Self which has been cunningly recruited by evolution to frustrate its own burglarious project.


Taken From Blog.OUP.Com





Depression: Why Talking About It Is The First Step To Cure

One person commits suicide every 40 seconds, with suicide accounting for 800,000 deaths around the world each year. In India, suicide was the tenth biggest cause of early death in 2016, reported the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, mostly because of undiagnosed and untreated depression.

Globally, depression is the most common mental health disorder, accounting for around 40.5 % of cases, followed by drug and alcohol abuse, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, reported The New England Journal of Medicine

Depression affects 322 million people across ages worldwide, estimates the World Health Organisation (WHO), with 58 million living with depressive disorders in India. More women (5.1%) are affected than men (3.6%), yet women are less likely to seek support and treatment. Even when they do, they are less likely to get treated.

While symptoms vary, most people with depressive disorders experience social withdrawal, low self worth, disturbed sleep, changes in appetite, fatigue, listlessness, poor concentration and irritability. It affect a person’s ability to work, form relationships and function independently, making it the most common cause of disability after heart disease, infections, neonatal disorders and cancers.

Widening net

Increasing social isolation and the changes in the way the world communicates are increasingly leading to the signs being missed. Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, whose own struggle with depression in 2014 has turned her into a relentless crusader against stigma around mental health, says it took a visit from her mother for them to realize she was experiencing more than simple mood swings and needed diagnosis and treatment.

Close to 50% mental illnesses manifest by age 14 but signs of depression in young people are often missed because they are more likely to display symptoms of irritability, anger and withdrawal than sadness. That these signs of depression are often overlooked is evident from the more than a dozen lives that have been lost over the past few months to the blue whale challenge, the online game that goads vulnerable teens to commit suicide.

The shift in how people, especially the young, are communicating is also fuelling isolation in people with underlying depression. Online interactions are superficial than interpersonal bonding that make it more difficult to mask emotions, say experts, leading to increasing social withdrawal and dependence on online social support from groups and administrators who can then potentially make or break young minds.

Depressive disorders are caused by a complex interplay or biological and psycho-social factors. People who have been or are going through adverse life events – chronic illness, unemployment, bereavement, psychological trauma, etc – are at higher risk of depression, but the disorder also affects highly-functional people who may be battling feelings of emptiness and inadequacy without a causing ripple in their well-ordered life.

Drugs and treatment are a must if the condition is chronic and lasts for more than four weeks, or recurrent, when bouts of depression occur three to four times a year, or when mental demons interfere with normal function for more than two weeks.

Psychological treatments such as behavioural activation, cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy are recommended for mild depression. Antidepressants – such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) – are effective against moderate-severe depression, but are not recommended for treating depression in children and as the first line of treatment for mild depression in adults and depression in adolescents. New drugs, such as ketamine, are offering promise for the 30% people who do not respond to available treatments.

Mood lift

Rising awareness is prompting more people to seek treatment than ever before in urban and peri-urban towns. Physicians wrote more than 9.4 million new prescriptions for antidepressants in 2016, up 12% from 8.4 million in 2015. Antidepressants sales in value in India have shot up by more than 30% over the past four years, up from Rs 760 crore in 2013 to Rs 1,093 crore in 2016.

What has helped to destigmatise mental illnesses is India’s reformist The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 that decriminalises suicide and empowers people with mental health disorders to choose a mode of treatment, refuse institutionalization, nominate a person to ensure their wishes are carried out, and bans the use of degrading treatments, including shock therapy for treating children and using it only under anaesthesia for adults after approval from the district medical board.

Despite policy support and increasingly destigmatisation, psychosocial stressors – social attitudes, discrimination and deprived opportunities – continue to exclude people with depression from treatment, with well-meaning family keeping them locked inside home to protect them from the world. They don’t need protection, they need treatment so they can get on with their lives.


 

Taken From Hindustantimes.com




 

Can A ‘Depression Nap’ Actually Improve Your Mood?

Maybe you’ve taken one and didn’t know there was a name for it. Or you rely on yours and can’t go a day without it. Either way, the depression nap, a relatively new meme-worthy trend all over social media, has made it to Urban Dictionary and Reddit—so it’s officially a thing.

But is it a good thing? Most of us (except maybe defiant toddlers) would love to squeeze in a nap during the day. But experts aren’t so sure a depression nap—or a quick snooze when you’re feeling like the world is just too much right now—is actually a smart idea.

“If [napping] is being used to avoid doing or confronting difficult things or is being done excessively while connected to depressed feelings or low energy, then it may be a symptom of a psychological disorder such as depression, anxiety, or insomnia,” says Simon Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at the Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.


 

Some people who swear by depression naps might feel tired all the time, sleep more than usual, and sleep as a way of escaping what’s bothering them. The need to take a depression nap could signal clinical depression, as excessive sleepiness is one symptom of the disease.

On the other hand, sleeping too little can also be a sign of depression. Some people with depression feel restless and wound-up, leading to trouble falling or staying asleep. If you have a hard time dozing off at night, napping is probably off the table for you: Any daytime shut-eye may only make that process more difficult.

But napping can be good for other people. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a quick nap can improve alertness, strengthen your performance at work and cut back on mistakes and accidents, and, of course, help you feel relaxed and rejuvenated for the rest of your day. Some research even suggests a midday nap can lower blood pressure.

Waking up refreshed and ready to tackle a difficult task is different than using sleep to ignore that challenge entirely, though. “If you’re napping to avoid a task that is difficult, in many cases, that’s not an adaptive way of coping,” says sleep psychologist Kelly Baron, PhD, assistant professor in the department of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Rather than confronting what’s making you feel anxious and getting it over with, you’re procrastinating, which can make anxiety feel worse.


 

While it’s totally normal to feel a little sleepy during the day—especially in the afternoon, when there’s a natural dip in our circadian rhythms, Baron says—it’s probably not so good if you feel like you need a nap to get through the day, every day. “In these cases, it’s important to seek help from a licensed mental health professional,” Rego says. He or she may even point you to a sleep specialist, Baron adds, in case an undiagnosed condition like sleep apnea could be causing your daytime drowsiness.

If you need an occasional depression nap, there’s probably no real harm to taking a little break from it all once in a while, as long as you’re using that snooze to feel more alert and more productive when you wake. “While napping itself is not necessarily a problematic behavior,” Rego says, “it’s important to be clear on why you’re napping.



Taken from Health.Com


 

 

‘Road Rage’ Motorist Accused Of Stabbing Retired Solicitor 39 Times In The Head, Back, Neck And Lung ‘Had Been Wrongly Diagnosed With Asperger’s Instead Of Paranoid Schizophrenia’

DARREN COOL/CONNORS Brighton  01273 486851  Picture by Darren Cool Road rage stabbing incident in Findon, Sussex, UK. Believed to be the 39 year old man being arrested for the crime in Worthing, Sussex, UK. POLICE FACES MUST BE BLURRED.

A man accused of the ‘road rage’ murder of a retired solicitor had been wrongly diagnosed with Asperger’s, a court has heard.

Matthew Daley repeatedly knifed Donald Lock in the head, chest, back and neck after a low-speed crash in Findon, West Sussex, in July.

The 35-year-old denies murder on this grounds of diminished responsibility as he claims he was acting in self defence, because he’s believed he was about to be attacked.

The minor crash happened after great-grandfather Mr Lock, who was returning from a cycling meeting, was forced to brake suddenly after Daley made an emergency stop.

Lewes Crown Court heard that if Daley had been diagnosed sooner he might have been on medication that would have prevented him from stabbing 79-year-old Don 39 times.


Brighton and Hove Albion season ticket holder Mr Lock, who had recently been given the all-clear from prostate cancer, died at the scene as Daley sped off.

During his trial jurors were told that Daley was sent to maximum security HMP Belmarsh, where he was diagnosed for the first time with paranoid schizophrenia.

From the age of 25 doctors had believed Daley suffered from Asperger’s with some psychotic traits.

Dr Roderick Ley, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, told the court that Daley may never recover from his mental illness due to the length of time it took to diagnose it – and despite treatment he still hears the voices of children in his head.

He said: ‘Matthew is responding well, but he still says he is not suffering from a mental illness, but when pushed he reveals he still hears the high pitched voices of the children.





 

‘Although he is on medication and is being treated he hasn’t recovered from his underlying illness.

‘He had an untreated illness for a long time. It’s unlikely he will have a full recovery.

‘It is clear now that the diagnosis of Aspergers isn’t correct, it was wrong, he has an underlying paranoid schizophrenic illness that has been untreated for many years in my view that is irrefutable.’

Daley believed his mental illness was caused by an adverse reaction to penicillin.

David Howker, defending Daley, said: ‘He heard childhood voices, high-pitched, and voices calling from the TV.

‘He said he didn’t think he had a mental illness.


‘From the age of about 25 when he became unwell and thought he suffered a severe reaction to penicillin that caused him to be bed ridden for two months.

‘It was about that time he recalled starting to hear voices. He described them as young children, high pitched, in his head and terrifying.’

Dr Ley, who saw Daley on a regular basis since his admittance to Belmarsh and subsequently to Hellingly medium secure unit in November, assessed him in September.

He said: ‘He found the voices of children very disturbing and they upset him. He believed he was able to hear what people were thinking and believed he could interpret the emotions of that person.

‘This was how he came to explain his experiences. He believed he had an affinity with nature and animals and that he could pick up these emotions.’

From 2008 Daley was seen by the Early Intervention Services and Community Mental Health Team of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, but was not diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia despite reporting hearing voices.

Daley was only prescribed five to 10 milligrams of antic-psychotic olanzapine when he should have been on 15 to 20 milligrams to tackle his hallucinations and delusions, the court heard.

Dr Ley added: ‘He started suffering from paranoid schizophrenia from between 19 and 23 and over the years has a range of psychotic symptoms and auditory hallucinations.

‘It’s not straightforward making a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

‘Often there are a couple of years between first presenting with these symptoms and diagnosis, but for there to be a 13 to 15 year delay in diagnosis is highly unusual in my experience.

‘If someone is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia the way they engage with health services and the way they are managed is completely different.

‘If a paranoid schizophrenia patient presents without taking their medication and a range of symptoms they would be admitted to hospital. This was not the case as he was treated as if he merely had autism spectrum disorder.

‘Despite at times presenting to casualty and services, despite his parents being very concerned about his mental health, it didn’t lead to him being admitted to hospital.’

The court heard Daley would hide the nature of his illness because he was embarrassed and did not want to talk about it.

Dr Ley said: ‘This is an intelligent young man who managed to cope with his symptoms and was able to function without suffering a breakdown that needed him to be taken to hospital.’

During the summer of 2014 Daley had a fight with a man outside a pub, after thinking the stranger was making sexual comments about his girlfriend.

Dr Ley added: ‘He held the man down and asked him ‘do you yield’, friends of the man came out of the pub and started kicking him.


‘He also believed his girlfriend was coming into the prison and having sexual intercourse with other inmates.’

Staff at Belmarsh were concerned he would act on these thoughts and was kept in solitary confinement until he was transformed to Hellingly in East Sussex.

Since arriving at Hellingly, Dr Ley said Daley has been the victim of verbal abuse and taunts, but has ‘not acted in an aggressive manner’.

He added: ‘It is unusual for someone with psychotic symptoms to not report these episodes.

‘In my view his psychotic experiences affected his judgment and impaired his ability to make a decision about his actions.

‘If he had been diagnosed earlier things could have happened differently.’

Cross examining Dr Ley, Philip Bennetts prosecuting said: ‘Mr Daley knew what he was doing, knew he was stabbing and knew what he was doing was wrong.

‘There’s no evidence of Mr Daley being psychotic then, there’s not a witness who described him as acting psychotic.

‘The only account of Mr Lock’s reaction is from Mr Daley, he is the only witness to have seen his facial features.

‘Mr Daley reacted angrily. He described how he was happy earlier in the day. That is consistent with road rage isn’t it?

‘He had done a U-turn in that road before so it was inevitable this would cause someone arriving along that road to brake suddenly.’

Dr Ley replied: ‘One explanation is that this was simple road rage. But descriptions from the family is that he isn’t a violent man or had a violent nature.


‘Witnesses saw Mr Lock get out of his car acting calmly. So either Mr Daley is lying about what happened or he was suffering from psychosis.

Daley visited a prostitute called Hannah in Brighton the night before the killing of Mr Lock, consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Philip Joseph told the court.

Daley paid her between £60 and £80, and went straight home following sex, telling Dr Joseph in an interview that he ‘slept well’ that night.

All his previous sexual encounters had been with prostitutes, even using his girlfriend’s money for their services, jurors were told.

Since 2008, there had been records that Daley suffered from mental illness, which could be dated to around the time his parents’ marriage broke down while he was at university.

Dr Joseph said that when Daley first came to the attention of mental health teams, it was deemed that he had schizophrenia, but the diagnosis was later revised to autism.

In the months before the killing, Daley had stopped taking his medication, saying it affected his driving.

Regardless of whether Daley was paranoid schizophrenic or on the autistic spectrum with episodes of psychosis, the key question for jurors was whether he was psychotic at the time of the stabbing, he added.

Dr Joseph said he was satisfied on all the evidence he had seen that Daley was not psychotic at the time, pointing to the absence of audio hallucinations as an example.

John Daley described his father as a ‘nice guy’ who was affectionate to his family and animals.

At Lewes Crown Court, Mr Daley said: ‘He has never been violent. It’s never been in any of his family.

‘It’s so far removed from Matthew to say there is any violence in him. He was just so friendly to animals, his brother and sister.

‘He was just a nice guy.’

He added: ‘He was scrupulously honest in all his dealings with others, honest to a fault in that he finds it difficult to lie about things.’

Mr Daley spoke of how he first became worried about his son’s mental health when he reported hearing voices.

And as University of Portsmouth architecture graduate Daley’s health declined, his father started a journal, partly to keep track of his son’s treatment.

He told the court: ‘The second reason for having the document was, as time went on, it was clear that Matthew’s life expectations were draining away and I didn’t want to be in my 80s and look back saying, ‘What did I do’?’

Growing up, Mr Daley said his son was ‘an ideal child’ but was ‘quiet, shy and reserved’.

The hearing continues.


Taken From DailyMail.Co.Uk


Yeast Infection May Be Linked To High Risk For Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia

schizophrenia-addictionHaving a yeast infection is associated with a higher risk of developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a new study has shown.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University have found that incidence of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is higher in individuals with a history of Candida infections.

The researchers, however, warned that their study finding does not establish causal relationship but only shows that immune system susceptibility, lifestyle, and brain and gut association all contribute to memory and psychiatric health impairment.

Emily Severance, member of the university’s School of Medicine’s Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology and assistant professor of pediatric, said there is not enough evidence to say whether yeast infection alone can cause psychiatric illness. But it would be very crucial if doctors treating these patients become aware of such infections because it can be easily treated in its early stages.



Severance and her colleagues tried to establish whether or not an association exists between the infection and psychiatric illness particularly because new evidence suggests that schizophrenia could be due to immune system susceptibility.

To establish the connection, the researchers collected blood samples from 808 people from the Sheppard Pratt Health System. The group, with ages ranging from 18 to 65 years old, were divided into three groups: the control group included 277 individuals not diagnosed with any mental illness; the second group included 261 schizophrenic patients, and the third group had 270 individuals with bipolar disorder.

Blood samples were used to measure the presence of IgG antibodies, which are an indication of a past yeast infection. Other factors that may affect their findings such as age, medications, socioeconomic status, and race were accounted for.

The researchers found that having antibodies against Candida is not associated with mental illness. However, by isolating the numbers for men, they identified that 26 percent of individuals with schizophrenia had the antibodies compared with only 14 percent of the control group. No significant difference was found in the data collected from women, which may suggest that women have an increased protection for the infection.

It is also significant to note that male individuals with bipolar disorder were also more likely to have previous yeast infection at 26.4 percent compared to the control group at 14 percent. Researchers believe these numbers could be due to homelessness. They reasoned that changes in mood, diet and sanitation, and stress while out on the streets predispose someone to develop yeast infection.

The same could not be said for schizophrenia and the yeast infection, however.



Based on an earlier study that suggested neurological problems can arise from parasites and other infections, Severance and the team asked the participants to complete a cognitive task. The 30-minute assessment aimed to measure attention, language and visual-spatial skills, and immediate and delayed memory.

The team also found that in the control group, with or without yeast infection in the past, cognition was not different between men and women. But they noted that women with either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and past yeast infection had poor memory recall compared to those with mental illness but without previous infection.

“Although we cannot demonstrate a direct link between Candida infection and physiological brain processes, our data show that some factor associated with Candida infection, and possibly the organism itself, plays a role in affecting the memory of women with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and this is an avenue that needs to be further explored,” said Severance.


 

Taken From TechTimes.Com


 

Corporate Christ is a Musician and Author from Cardiff, UK.

CORPORATECHRIST BLOG LINK

Could We Soon Diagnose Autism And Schizophrenia By People’s Hand Movements?

autismJust the subtlest of differences in the movement of our hands could reveal our inherent personality traits, research has revealed.

By analysing and classifying these movements, health professionals could one day treat mental health conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

Researchers have shown we all have an individual motor signature (IMS) but people who display similar behavioural characteristics tend to move in a similar way.


A team of experts from the universities of Exeter, Bristol, Montpellier and Naples Federico II, studied how people mirrored each other and themselves as an avatar on a screen.

They suggest everyone has an IMS, or blueprint of the subtle differences in the way we move compared to someone else.


Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, who specialises in mathematics in healthcare at the University of Exeter, told MailOnline: ‘What we found is that each individual has their own preferred style of movement, or velocity profile.’

She said this was the case when participants were tested weeks and even months apart, so in the future individuals may be able to be identified simply by how they move.

The differences may be in the speed or weight of movement, but the study, published in the Royal Society journal Interface, does not go as far as classifying specific movements associated with certain personality traits




‘Although human movement has been well studied, what is far less well understood is the differences each of us displays when we move – whether it is faster, or lighter, or smoother for example,’ said Dr Tsaneva-Atanasova said.

However, she said ‘velocity is one of the main features and is sufficient to get a signature’.

Using a plain mirror game, in which two ‘players’ are asked to imitate each other’s movements, the team showed that while people’s movements were unique, those using similar movements tended to display ‘more organised collective behaviour’ to complete the mirroring task better.

They believe these findings indicate that people with comparable movement blueprints find it easier to coordinate with each other during interpersonal interactions.

‘This study shows that people who move in a certain way, will also react in similar ways when they are performing joint tasks,’ Dr Tsaneva-Atanasova said.

‘Essentially, our movements give an insight into our inherent personality traits.

‘What we demonstrate is that people typically want to react and interact with people who are similar to themselves.

‘But what our study also shows is that movement gives an indication of a person’s behavioural characteristics.’

The researchers think a person’s IMS, together with how they interact with others, could give experts an insight into their mental health and could pave the way for personalised prediction, diagnosis or treatments in the future.

So those who move in a distinctly different way, may have a condition not shared with the majority of a population.

People with autism or schizophrenia, for example, could potentially be diagnosed by performing a simple tactile task, rather than undergoing more invasive tests such as lying in CT scanners, Dr Tsaneva-Atanasova, said.

The research could lead to new therapeutic therapies being developed, such as a computer program where people shy of interaction with others could learn to mimic movements made by an avatar to improve their communication.

‘It could help people with social phobias become more interactive,’ Dr Tsaneva-Atanasova said.

The research is part of a wider EU-funded project called Alter Ego, which is still ongoing.

In the future, the team hopes to study the movements of healthy people and those with schizophrenia.



Taken from DailyMail.Co.Uk

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind

Struck by a brain tumour, she truly grasped how terrifying life can be for the mentally ill

 

brain-circulation-110818-02As the director of the human brain bank at the United States National Institute of Mental Health, I am surrounded by brains, some floating in jars of formalin and others icebound in freezers. As part of my work, I cut these brains into tiny pieces and study their molecular and genetic structure.

My speciality is schizophrenia, a devastating disease that often makes it hard for the patient to discern what is real and what is not.

I examine the brains of people with schizophrenia whose suffering was so acute that they committed suicide.

I always did my work with great passion, but I don’t think I really understood what was at stake until my own brain stopped working.

Early last year, I was sitting at my desk when something freakish happened. I extended my arm to turn on the computer and, to my astonishment, my right hand “disappeared” when I moved it to the right lower quadrant of the keyboard. I tried again, and the same thing happened: The hand disappeared completely as if it had been cut off at the wrist. Stricken with fear, I kept trying to find my right hand, but it was gone.

I had battled breast cancer in 2009 and melanoma in 2012, but I had never considered the possibility of a brain tumour. I knew immediately that this was the most logical explanation for my symptoms, and yet I quickly dismissed the thought.

Instead, I headed to a meeting with my colleagues. We were supposed to review new data on the molecular composition of schizophrenia patients’ frontal cortex, a region that shapes who we are – our thoughts, emotions, memories.

But I couldn’t focus because the other scientists’ faces kept vanishing. Thoughts about a brain tumour crept quietly into my consciousness again, then screamed for attention.

An MRI scan later in the day showed that I indeed had a small brain tumour – it was bleeding and blocking my right visual field. I was told it was metastatic melanoma and was given what was, in effect, a death sentence. I was a scientist, a triathlete, a wife, a mother and a grandmother. Then one day my hand vanished, and it was over.

Almost right away, I had brain surgery, which removed the tumour and the blood. I quickly regained my vision. Unfortunately, new lesions were popping up throughout my brain, small but persistent. I started radiation treatments. In the spring, I entered an immunotherapy clinical trial. Shortly before the end of this treatment, my brain really went awry.

It was difficult, at first, to pinpoint the changes in my behaviour because they came on slowly. I didn’t suddenly become someone else. Rather, some of my normal traits and behaviours became exaggerated and distorted, as if I were turning into a caricature of myself.

I had always been very active but, now, I was rushing about frantically. I had no time for anything – not even for the things I really enjoyed, like talking to my children and my sister on the telephone. I cut them off mid-sentence, running off somewhere to do something of great importance, though what exactly, I couldn’t say. I became rude and snapped at anyone who threatened to distract me. I would read a paragraph and forget it instantly. I got lost driving home from work along a route I had taken for decades. I went running in the woods outside my house, barely dressed.

Yet, I wasn’t worried. Like many patients with mental illness, whose brains I had studied for a lifetime, I was losing my grasp on reality.

I came up with elaborate justifications for my behaviour.

I had reasons for everything I did and, even if I couldn’t articulate these reasons, my certainty that they existed reinforced my belief that I was perfectly sane.

I kept sending my doctor detailed e-mail about how great I was feeling. I was excited that I had completed immunotherapy. I felt certain that there was nothing wrong with my brain. This wasn’t just wishful thinking or extreme denial; my world view made perfect sense to me. I still saw myself as a scientist – a master of the rational – and was, in fact, still working hard on other people’s brains, not able to see that my own was crashing.

One day, when I was acting particularly strangely, my family took me to the emergency room. A brain scan showed many new tumours, inflammation and severe swelling. My frontal cortex was especially affected. I had studied this area of the brain for 30 years; I knew what that kind of swelling meant, and yet I showed no interest in the scans. Instead, I believed that my doctor and my family were scheming behind my back and making a mistake by giving in to unreasonable panic. I was frustrated that no one saw the world as clearly as I did.

Despite my conviction that there was nothing really wrong with me, I took the drugs prescribed. Steroids reduced the swelling and inflammation. Then the visible tumours were destroyed by radiation. I was also placed on a new drug regimen intended to kill the melanoma cells in my body.

Gradually, my brain began to work again. Memories started coming back, as if I had awakened from a deep sleep. I could tell the days apart. I could find my way home from work. I began apologising left and right for my strange actions and insensitive behaviour. But the more I remembered, the more frightened I became that I might lose my mind again.



The underlying causes of mental illness are rarely as clear as metastatic brain cancer. And yet I felt I understood for the first time what many of the patients I study go through – the fear and confusion of living in a world that doesn’t make sense; a world in which the past is forgotten and the future is utterly unpredictable. I had tried to fill the gaps with guesses. But when my guesses were wrong, conspiracy theories crawled in.

As terrifying as it was for me, it was even more terrifying for my family. For them, it was not just the prospect of my death that was shockingly painful, but the possibility that my persona, who I was – my brain – might change so profoundly that I would, in effect, vanish before I was truly gone. Or as my daughter put it: “Mum, I thought I had already lost you.”

My latest MRI scan shows that almost all the tumours in my brain have disappeared or shrunk considerably. Against all odds, the combination of treatments has been effective. I still scrutinise my emotions and behaviours, examining my mind over and over for any loose ends. It remains an obsession.

But I am learning to delight in the fact that my brain works again. I can see the sunny street outside and make total sense of it. I can ever so casually extend my arm and call my children, and they will recognise my voice and sigh with relief.

I can flick on my computer and get back to work.


 

  • Barbara K. Lipska, a neuroscientist, is the director of the Human Brain Collection Core at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Taken from StraitsTimes.Com

I Have Schizophrenia And A Great Job — But For How Long?

schizophrenic-joemI am a woman with paranoid schizophrenia working in corporate America. Of the 25,000 people my company employs, I’ve never met anyone else with schizophrenia. Come to think of it, I’ve never met anyone else at my work with any kind of mental illness, and seeing as approximately 26% of Americans live with mental illness, I can only guess that corporate culture in this country is still stifling the fact that mental illness even exists, let alone how it affects people on a deep level in its own offices.

I personally know two people with schizophrenia and two with schizoaffective disorder (a schizo-type mood disorder — something like a cross between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia). One of the people with schizophrenia I know is my uncle. He hasn’t worked a job since his “nervous breakdown” (that was what my family called it at the time, back when schizophrenia or any other kind of serious mental illness was taboo) somewhere around 1995. I remember standing at the doorway of his apartment with my aunt, his then-wife, watching him talk to someone I couldn’t see. I figured he was just talking to himself — I do that all the time — and didn’t think much of it. The look on my aunt’s face, however, told a very different story.

It was unfortunate for him that his wife eventually left him, because living with schizophrenia is hard enough without having to deal with the regret of failure that indubitably comes along with divorce. When I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, my father told me that my uncle had been hospitalized more than once during that time. My father told me to never, ever, stop taking my medication. I didn’t listen, of course — why would I? — and that decision got me hospitalized, too.

Just because I don’t know anyone with schizophrenia who works in corporate America doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any. But if there were many, I would think I would have met at least one at some point through my mental health advocacy.

I haven’t.





I am also unique, because my all coworkers know I have schizophrenia. Considering I don’t know any of the other people affected by a mental illness at my job, it is likely there are a lot of mental health secrets being kept from management. Such is not the case with me, though.

My boss believes that making connections in an effort to build a circle of trust is what makes a great team. When he found out I was an author, he organized an impromptu conference-room book signing in an effort to build those connections. I was given the opportunity to talk about what made me want to write books. When I was asked about my interest in schizophrenia as it relates to one of my novels, Paper Souls, I told them the whole truth. I wasn’t going to lie about it.

“It’s me,” I said. “I have schizophrenia.”

The reaction is always the same. The room goes silent and people look at you as if you just said you killed somebody. But then they remember they are not supposed to stigmatize people with mental illness and their expressions soften. They nod and someone gives you a hug. “You are an amazing person,” somebody says. “I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through that.”

You would think that in the weeks, months, and years that follow an admission like that, people would treat you differently. They would give you special treatment and go out of their way to be kind to you, because you have a disability. Or maybe, they will fear you. But that’s not what happened, at least not with me. People go on with their lives. They don’t have schizophrenia, so what do they care — as long as you get your work done. People like me prefer it that way, I think. We’ve never wanted any kind of special treatment. We just want to be treated like everyone else. We just want to be treated like we didn’t actually kill somebody, because we didn’t.

That’s not to say life isn’t difficult for those of us lucky enough to escape the stigma in the corporate world (at least for a little while). I know that stigma is still very alive in many professional environments, because I have heard the stories from other advocates. I have been lucky enough not to face that at work.

Sitting at a desk surrounded by white walls while being expected to be normal is no easy task. It is quiet. Scary, sometimes. It is the perfect setting for a horror movie, really. Sitting in your gray cubicle with no sound except eager fingers banging away on keyboard after keyboard until a bloody monster with 300 teeth pops out at you and tells you to kill yourself — because if you don’t, he will kill you. It’s only one person with schizophrenia’s interpretation of the dopamine demon, but every person with schizophrenia gets it. A pressurized environment, packed tight with corporate stress, is a recipe for disaster in a person with schizophrenia’s mind. I live it every day.

There are things I’ve tried to do to make life easier on myself. I’ve attempted to take the dose of meds I’m supposed to take to live a somewhat normal life, but the medication they give people with schizophrenia is not designed to allow a person to wake up at 6 a.m. It is not designed to make a person work a specific shift. We need breaks. We need naps. The effects of the medication are similar to those of marijuana. It makes you tired and slower on the draw than the average person. Our brains aren’t slow; our reflexes are. Disorganized speech is a very real thing for those people with schizophrenia, medicated or not. We are paranoid about whether or not people notice. They know, we think. They know I hear voices.



Have you ever worked in corporate America? Do you think it would be acceptable if you sat in a conference room and watched a person stutter through a two-hour presentation in front of executive managers while looking behind their shoulder in fear? Do you think your boss would ever give that person a high-profile project again? Do you think you would ever get the opportunity to succeed again? Absolutely not.

This is my life. Am I stupid? Am I high? Am I not as good as the other people on my team? No. I have schizophrenia. I drink a lot of coffee to stay awake. My strengths are different than theirs, just as their weaknesses are different than mine. (I just had to ask my boyfriend what the opposite of strength is, because, anti-psychotic medication.)

I’ve tried to work with my doctor on what can be done, such as starting my shift two hours later or working a split shift, but that is not how corporate America works. It is a closed-minded environment that doesn’t allow for special circumstances. So, instead of collecting a disability check that no one would be able to live off of, I cut meds, like every other respectable person with schizophrenia, with a full-time job. I take about a third of what I’m supposed to take, which comes with the risk of a serious relapse I won’t be able to bounce back from. But we do what we have to. We all do, schizophrenia or not.

I don’t know what to do about my struggles as a person with schizophrenia working in corporate America, other than continue to struggle. I have a great job with great benefits that I need in order to survive financially in Los Angeles. Due to the weaknesses that come along with the illness and the debilitating medication, I don’t exceed the expectation like others — I barely meet it some days — but I do get by. My career will likely not go much further — I might even be fired — due to my issues connecting with people, focusing for long periods of time, and getting up early in the morning, but what do you do? Do I risk more stress with the threat of losing everything by plunging into the writing life, or do I just…try harder? It’s the age old question facing every 29-year-old, I think. What to do with my life?


Taken from Refinery29.Com