Day 920

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He’s her son. His mother, Em, lives with Bipolar Disorder.
Here he describes how he feels about the depressive phase of her illness.
I know that feeling.

“As if it were a wild animal with flecks of foam at its mouth, I feared her depression.

Imagine you were walking in a pleasant meadow with someone you love, your mother. It’s warm and there’s just enough of a breeze to cool you. You can smell earth and cut grass and something of a herb garden. Lunch is a happy memory in your stomach and dinner awaits you – a three course meal you have devised – all your comfort foods. The light is golden with a touch of blue, as if the sky were leaking.

Suddenly, your mother steps into a patch of quicksand. The world continues to be idyllic and inviting for you but your mother is being sucked into the centre of the earth. She makes it worse by smiling bravely, by telling you to go on, to leave her there, the man with the broken leg on the Arctic expedition who says ‘Come back for me, it’s my best chance, ’because the lie allows everyone to believe that they are not abandoning him to die.

Some part of you walks on and some part of you is frozen there, watching the spectacle. You want to stay but you must go. The imperium of the world’s timetable will allow you to break step and fall out for a while, but it will abandon you too if you linger too long by your mother, now a curled up foetal ball, moaning in pain, breathing only because her body forces her to.

Granny loved Em and she thought that should be enough. It wasn’t. Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself. You can only stand outside it, as a woman might stand outside a prison in which her lover is locked up. From time to time a well-loved face will peer out and love floods back. A scrap of cloth flutters and it becomes a sign and a code and a message and all that you want it to be. Then it vanishes and you are outside the dark tower again. At times, when I was young, I wanted to be inside the tower so I could understand what it was like. But I knew even then that I did not want to be a permanent resident of the tower. I wanted to visit but visiting meant nothing because you could always leave. You’re a tourist. She’s a resident.”

Source: ‘Em and the Big Hoom’ a profoundly moving book by Jerry Pinto, winner of the Crossword Book Award 2013.

Day 904

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“Ut amem et foveam” (To love and cherish) reads one of the tattoos on David Beckham. “Quod me nutris, me destruit” (What nourishes me destroys me) reads one of Angelina Jolie’s. Dragons, spiderwebs, birds, butterflies and many other forms and words cover many a body, silently relaying many stories. Mine simply reads ‘Saagar’ – an uncompromising statement, ink sealed beneath the skin as a permanent marker of what matters most. I got it in this very town on the 3rd of October 2016 (Day 718). Yes. It was painful but well worth it.

Tattoos once signified tribal affiliations and hard line expressions of devotion to a particular gang or cult. They serve as potent conversation starters and quiet sources of strength and hope. Some people with depression pick themes such as ‘Amour’, ‘Stay strong’, the picture of an anchor, “Grace’, a butterfly signifying if I could get through this I could become something beautiful on the other side, a dream catcher and ‘Sometimes you’ve got to fall before you fly’ and many such quotes and song lyrics.

They are a form of self-expression but when all over, I wonder if they are also a form of self-harm as they do hurt, especially when combined with multiple piercings. They certainly are an effective way of covering up scars from self-harm and may inspire people to invest in treatment and recovery.

A 2015 survey of tattoo owners in Britain showed that 40% of them regretted at least one of their’s. It is no surprise that tattoo removal parlours are the largest growth sector in the cosmetic industry.

I suppose it means different things to different people. Some say you can never stop at one but I am happy with one and I know that I will never regret it.

 

Day 890

UNIVERSITIES MISS CHANCE TO IDENTIFY DEPRESSED STUDENTS
– A study from Chicago, by Marla Paul in Jan 2011.

This study surveyed 1,622 college students. One out of every four or five students who visits a university health center for a routine cold or sore throat turns out to be depressed, but most centers miss the opportunity to identify these students because they don’t screen for depression, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

About 2 to 3 percent of these depressed students have had suicidal thoughts or are considering suicide, the study found.

“Depression screening is easy to do, we know it works, and it can save lives,” said Michael Fleming, professor of family and community medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “It should be done for every student who walks into a health center.”

The consequences of not finding and treating these students can be can be serious and even deadly. “These kids might drop out of school because they are so sad or hurt or kill themselves by drinking too much or taking drugs,” Fleming said.

“Things continually happen to students – a low grade or problems with a boyfriend or girlfriend — that can trigger depression,” Fleming said. “If you don’t take the opportunity to screen at every visit, you are going to miss these kids.”

The frequency of depression and suicidal thoughts among campus health clinic users was nearly twice as high as rates reported in general college samples.

Depressed students need treatment, which may include counseling and medication. These students are more likely to drink, smoke and be involved in intimate partner violence, the study found.

With new technology, screening students is simple. While waiting for an appointment at the health center, the student could answer seven simple questions – a depression screening tool that that could be immediately entered into his electronic health record. “They can answer those seven questions in a minute,” Fleming said. Universities typically separate mental health treatment from primary care treatment. If a student comes to a campus health center and complains about depression, he is referred to a counseling center.

“If we screen, we can try to find every student that is depressed.”

Historical perceptions and biases against preventive screenings are that kids who need treatment the most don’t go to campus health centers, and they won’t tell the truth about their depression.

That’s wrong. “Students will tell you the truth,” Fleming said. “If they are sad and depressed, they will tell you that. And, kids who are drinking too much or who are suicidal do go to the campus health centers.”

 

Day 881

The school project entailed each student discussing what they would put in Room 101 and why. Room 101 is where the bad things go.

For Saagar, it was translucent curtains. He thought they were pointless. They didn’t keep the sun out. They didn’t hold any warmth in. They blew in the wind. They annoyingly got in the way. Close up they were see-through. They twitched in the hands of old ladies. Their flimsy paperiness didn’t have a pleasant texture. They collected dust. They looked like nothing much. As far as he was concerned, they didn’t serve any purpose They definitely belonged in Room 101.

When I look back to my younger days, I can see me making similar arguments. At that time things fell into distinct boxes – good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, royalty and commoner, black and white – concepts inspired by fairy tales, cartoons and films, Cinderella and Snow White to name a couple.

As the years went by, I learnt that a lot of life happens in grey zones, many rights and wrongs are based on a given context, some things can be beautiful and ugly at the same time, royalty can be common and the good and the bad resides in all of us.

Maybe his young mind told him there were only two available choices – life or death. Maybe if he was a bit older he would have known that there are other choices, one of them being, waiting it out.

“Nothing worked but the passage of time … It’s an illness and it ran its course. I had always described myself as melancholy or depressive but I hadn’t a clue. Anything I had before was a blue day by comparison. This was altered perceptions, a mental illness.” Says the Irish novelist, Marian Keyes, 53, about her severe depression in 2009. Writing was her “rope across the abyss”. She started with short stories and her 13th novel is soon to be released.

 “Have patience with all things but first of all with yourself.”
-Saint Francis de Sales.

Ref:

Room 101 : http://www.definitions.net/definition/ROOM%20101

Novelist Marian Keyes reveals fight against constant ‘suicidal impulses’ : https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/12/novelist-marian-keyes-reveals-fight-against-constant-suicidal-impulses

Day 851

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“The university did not ring and tell us that she had been admitted to hospital critically ill. We were in the dark for hours as to what had happened. We found out off Facebook” says Nikki, mother of Miranda.

Miranda Williams 19. Student of Philosophy.
Daniel Green 18. Student of Law.
Kim Long 18. Student of Law.
-Deaths by suicide, first term of first year at the same University.

Lara Nosiru 23. Student of Neurosciences.
-Died by suicide, Final year at the same University.

All these lovely young people died within a few months of each other. On the surface of it the deaths do not seem to be related to each other.

At least 1600 families face this nightmare every year and at least 1600 beautiful young lives are wasted year on year with no sign of a drop in numbers, only a rise.In 2007, there were 75 university students died of suicide in England and Wales. In the ghastly year of Saagar’s death, 2014, the number went up to 130, nearly 75% higher.

Why?

Underdiagnosed anxiety and depression at school.
Problems identified but not dealt with.
Stigma stopping young people from asking for help.
Unfamiliar surroundings.
Being away from home/family/friends for the first time.
Excessive drinking culture.
Trying their best to start off Uni on the right foot.
Debt / financial pressures.
Academic pressures.
Suddenly being treated like ‘adults’.
Trying to cope with pressures all alone.
Too proud, worried or ashamed to ask for help.
Not enough help available at Uni.
(“During Kim Long’s inquest this week, it was revealed that more than 600 Bristol University students were referred to support services by their tutors last year because they were deemed at “high risk”.)
Improper use of ‘Confidentiality’.
New students not being identified as high-risk.
Poor understanding and management of depression in the community

1600!!!

Ref: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2838174/is-a-cocktail-of-ballooning-costs-stigmatisation-of-mental-health-problems-and-academic-pressure-killing-our-kids/

Day 779

Psilocybin is the active hallucinogenic compound in ‘magic mushrooms’. It was banned in the 1960s but recent preliminary research has shown that it may have potentially beneficial effects in patients with anxiety and depression. The subjects for this research were cancer patients, 40-50% of whom will have a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression.

A team at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore conducted studies where patients were randomly administered the drug or a placebo. They were then encouraged to focus on their internal experience. Those who received Psilocybin had a significant improvement in depression, anxiety and mood disturbances. They also showed a higher level of optimism, a better quality of life and acceptance of death.

The main feature of the experience was a feeling that everything is connected. People felt they’ve learnt something that is of deep meaning. It caused a change in their value systems, in how they approach life and interact with other people. Some patients described the experience as a spiritual awakening.

The single feeling of connectedness with everything is the key to well-being. Many spiritual practices aim to manifest this feeling of oneness with all creation. My beloved spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, ‘From somebody become nobody and from nobody become everybody.’

Ref:https://www.drugs.com/news/magic-mushroom-compound-triggered-positive-personality-change-study-33958.html (ps: This study is far from conclusive and does not wish to encourage the use of hallucinogens. )

Day 738

“How are you?”
“Exhausted!”

This is the answer I get more often than not. It seems like a wave of tiredness is sweeping across town. 20% of road accidents have fatigue as a contributing factor (Source: Dept of Transport). 15% of Britons suffer from fatigue lasting at least 6 months (Source: Fatigue Science for Human Health). 5.6 hours per week of productive work is lost through fatigue (Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol 49).

Apparently this is not a new phenomenon. Over the centuries, it has been attributed to the misalignment of the planets, ungodliness and even a subconscious desire to die. According to Freud, a very strong part of us longs for a state of permanent physical and mental rest.

Lack of good quality sleep, sensory overload, inappropriate diet, low physical activity, disregulation of the Suprachiasmatic nucleus (responsible for maintaining the circadian rhythm), hormonal imbalance (low dopamine and/or low serotonin levels as in Parkinson’s Disease and depression) are the usual culprits. Inflammation is emerging as a common pathway linking all the above. But it is not the complete answer as fatigue is seen to persist even after the inflammatory markers have normalised.

Fatigue sits perfectly in the mind-body spectrum of conditions. It is not surprising that it is poorly understood and has been the subject of very little serious research. This article by Harrington offers some answers: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3479364/

Many ‘boosting remedies’ and ‘re-energising potions’ line the shelves of pharmacies – Iron, Vitamin B and C, Flavinols, hormones, pro-biotics and and other magic supplements. Dehydration , even mild is said to induce tiredness. So, aqua is a simple remedy.

While the search for an optimal solution is on, we struggle on, waiting patiently.