The diagnosis

In 2000 I was diagnosed with “Bipolar II” disorder, which is like regular Bipolar disorder but not as bad. The “manic” episodes are milder and called “hypomanic.”

At the time, I had heard a little about bipolar disorder, but I didn’t know much.  I asked the doctor–I’ll call him Dr. W–if he could recommend a book for me to learn more. He recommended Bipolar Disorder by Francis Mark Mondimore (not the exact edition I linked to, but whichever one was current in 2000).

Reconsiderations

I read the book. What it described didn’t seem like what I was going through. While there were some superficial similarities between my situation and the malady the book described, the diagnosis mostly seemed wrong.

I tried to imagine episodes in my life that could plausibly be called “hypomanic,” but they didn’t  seem to match what the book described as hypomania. I may have had some episodes that could be described as “depressive,” but those, too, didn’t quite fit what the book said.

I came to believe Dr. W had made a hasty diagnosis. At least one of the questions he had asked seemed in retrospect leading. He asked, “do you ever have racing thoughts?” (“Racing thoughts” is a symptom of mania or hypomania.) I took the question to mean something like, “do you ever have a lot of ideas that come up at the same time so that you have a hard time staying focused on one of them?” I am an intellectually curious person who really likes to read. When left to myself and with nothing else to do, I think about a lot of things–things I’ve read, things in the news, ideas I’ve learned about. I let my imagination run and yes, sometimes I don’t focus on just one thing and my thoughts therefore plausibly seem to “race” from one to another.So, I answered “yes” to the “racing thoughts” question.

I also had also answered one of his questions wrong. There had been a period in my life (in 1993, about 7 years before I saw Dr. W) in which I got very little sleep because I was taking 19 credit hours in college and working about 30 hours per week. Dr. W asked if I had been tired. I foolishly answered “no” when I should have said, “yes.” Looking back, I was always tired. I’m not sure exactly why I said what I said. But I said it, and Dr. W interpreted that as a hypomanic episode.

And finally, I don’t recall us discussing any other alleged hypomanic episodes since 1993. I’m no expert on bipolar disorder, but 7 years without a documented hypomanic episode seems like it should be a long enough time to make someone wonder if Bipolar II disorder is the presenting problem.

The 15-minute revisit

Up to that point, my sole interaction with Dr. W had been a single one-hour appointment. So I decided to go back and discuss some of my reservations about his diagnosis. We met again for 15 minutes. (Fifteen minutes cost less than the full one-hour appointment, and I was uninsured.) During that 15 minutes, I tried to explain that what the book he recommended described didn’t seem to match match my situation.

Dr. W treated me as if I was desperately in denial, as if by simply raising the possibility he might be mistaken reflected my refusal to face reality. He lectured me about my 1993 “hypomanic” episode, saying that’s not what happens with healthy people.

In fairness to him, I did not relate my reservations as clearly as I have in this post. I didn’t mention I found the “racing thoughts” question too leading, and I didn’t try hard enough to change my answer about being tired seven years before (neither did I remind him that I had been 19 years old in 1993 and possibly just had more energy at that age). In light of my failure to bring up these two points, you could be forgiven for thinking that he simply didn’t have the information to reconsider his diagnosis. All I can say–and I have not proof other than my own testimony–is that he struck me as very dismissive of my concerns.

Second opinion

The irony is that I had actually wanted the diagnosis to be true. It gave a name and some legitimacy to whatever it was that I was going through. And, to use a cliche that understandably irks people who actually suffer from bipolar disorder, the illness itself seemed “interesting.” Looking back, I now believe that one of my primary problems at that time was a lack of emotional maturity and my refusal to take responsibility for my life choices.

At any rate, when my 15 minutes with Dr. W were up, he suggested I get a second opinion. Here my memory is suspect, but I believe he said something like “don’t tell the other doctor you came to see me.” (However, he might have just said, “don’t tell the doctor about the diagnosis I gave you.”) I interpreted that statement to mean “lie to the next doctor you go to about having seen a psychiatrist and see if he comes to the same conclusion.”

I did get a second opinion. About halfway through the first session I felt so guilty about not telling the guy that I had already seen another doctor, that I spilled the beans about everything. I apologized for deceiving him and explained I was just looking for a second opinion. This new guy accepted my apology graciously. He also, after several sessions and several uninsured payments later, eventually concluded that I don’t have bipolar disorder.

This post is not about bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a real thing. Those who suffer from it face real challenges. I’ve known a few people in person and online with the disorder, and from everything they’ve said, it’s no picnic and it’s definitely not an “interesting” personality quirk. I’m not against treating bipolar disorder as something serious. When I said above that I now believe my main problem was “lack of maturity,” I in no way mean to say that people who suffer from the disorder or other disorders lack maturity. I’m just talking about my own situation as I see it now, seventeen years later.

When I reflect on the experience, I still get angry with Dr. W. It’s not because he was (as far as I can tell) wrong. Anyone can make a mistake. Instead, it’s that he didn’t seem even to acknowledge that he might be wrong or that I had anything legitimate to add to the discussion.

My readers are at a disadvantage here. I’m asking you to believe my account when Dr. W isn’t on this blog to defend himself or explain his thinking. After all, I did say I had racing thoughts. And just because there was only one documented “hypomanic” episode from seven years prior doesn’t mean that there hadn’t been others since then. I also haven’t told you other “symptoms” that may have led Dr. W to his diagnosis.

There are a few different lessons I could take this situation. One is, “always get a second opinion (if you can afford one).” Another is “be wary of getting a first opinion if you can’t afford it.” Yet another is, there’s a little bit of Dr. W in all of us and maybe we should be wary lest we come off as dismissive of others’ legitimate concerns.

At any rate, I just wanted to tell my story.


Category: Hospital

The truth is that the translators have gotten ridiculously better than they used to be. I used to actually rely on them being kind of bad, and I’m not sure if I can anymore. We’re going to find out at the end of this post.

When I was in college, my roommate Dennis started a simulated wrestling league, with the WWF wrestling game on the N64. Everybody got two and eventually three wrestlers, though I would eventually take over for other people and then I’d have more until I had eight or so. Three of them were non-Americans. My premier wrestler was a guy from an undisclosed country. Nobody understood what he was saying so his manager made stuff up. One was a Best Buy security guy who immigrated from Germany, who spoke in Ahnold-speak. The last was a middle-eastern guy who spoke in broken English.

How did I produce the broken English? Through translations of course. What I would do is I would take what he had to say, run it through Russian (I think) and then back to English. The result was English words that sort of made sense but something had obviously gotten lost in the translation. Bounty Hunter got re-translated to “Hunter of the Cousin.” Words with dual meaning plus syntax and it really worked out pretty well. I want to say that I used Russian because Spanish didn’t shake things up enough and other languages weren’t available.

So today we’re going to find out if that would even work by running this post through three languages. Spanish, because obviously, Russian because that’s what I think it used, and Arabic because that’s what I would use today:

Russian

The truth is that the translators got ridiculously better than before. Previously, I relied on them as a bad thing, and I’m not sure if I can anymore. We will find out about this at the end of this message.

When I was in college, my roommate Dennis started a pretended wrestling league, where the WWF wrestling game on N64. All got two and, ultimately, three wrestlers, although I will eventually take on other people, and then I will have more until I have eight or so. Three of them were non-Americans. My main fighter was a guy from an undisclosed country. Nobody understood what he was saying, so his manager earned. One of them was a guy from Best Buy, who immigrated from Germany, who spoke in Ahnold-talk. The last was a middle-aged guy who spoke broken English.

How did I make broken English? Of course, translations. What would I do, I would take what I had to say, run it through Russian (I think), and then return to English. As a result, there were English words that made sense, but something clearly lost in translation. The Bounty Hunter was transferred to the “Cousin Hunter”. Words with a double value plus syntax, and it really turned out pretty well.

Spanish

When I was in college, my roommate Dennis started a simulated wrestling league, with the WWF wrestling game on the N64. Everyone had two and eventually three fighters, although they would eventually take control of other people and then have more until they had eight or more. Three of them were not Americans. My first fighter was a guy from an undisclosed country. No one understood what he was saying, so his manager did things. One was a Best Buy security guy who emigrated from Germany, who spoke in Ahnold-speak. The last one was a Middle Eastern guy who spoke in broken English.

How did I produce broken English? Through course translations. What I would do is take what I had to say, run it through Russian (I think) and then go back to English. The result was English words that made sense but something was obviously lost in the translation. Bounty Hunter returned to translate to “Hunter of the Cousin”. Dual meaning words plus syntax and really worked pretty well.

Russian

When I was in college, my roommate Dennis started a pretended wrestling league, where the WWF wrestling game on N64. All got two and, ultimately, three wrestlers, although I will eventually take on other people, and then I will have more until I have eight or so. Three of them were non-Americans. My main fighter was a guy from an undisclosed country. Nobody understood what he was saying, so his manager earned. One of them was a guy from Best Buy, who immigrated from Germany, who spoke in Ahnold-talk. The last was a middle-aged guy who spoke broken English.

How did I make broken English? Of course, translations. What would I do, I would take what I had to say, run it through Russian (I think), and then return to English. As a result, there were English words that made sense, but something clearly lost in translation. The Bounty Hunter was transferred to the “Cousin Hunter”. Words with a double value plus syntax, and it really turned out pretty well.

Arabic:

When I was in college, my friend Denis started to simulate the league wrestling, with the Wrestling Wrestling game on the N64. Everyone got two eventually three wrestlers, although I would eventually take over to other people, and then I would have even more had me eight or so. Three of them non-Americans. The premier wrestler was a man from an undisclosed country. No one understood what he was saying so that his manager made things. One of the best security man was to buy Hagar from Germany, who spoke in Arnold’s speech. He was the last man in the Middle East who spoke in broken English.

How did English produced a break? Through the translation of course. What I will do is that I will take what he had to say, run it through Russian (I think) and then return to English. The result was English words that were sensitive but something had obviously lost in the translation. Hunter’s reward got re-translated into “hunter cousin”. Words with double meaning plus syntax and they really worked very well.

Verdict:

Well, Spanish works too well to work, but that was the case back then, too. Russian worked well enough at the time, but now wouldn’t work. But Arabic would work! There is work to do there, apparently. The sign in question above was in Hebrew, which would probably (?) have some of the same liabilities.


Category: Theater

So last week, we had an eye appointment to check up on Lain’s intermittent lazy eye. Coincidentally, the day of the appointment, Lain started getting some redness and puffiness around the eyes. Not “she’s been crying” redness/puffiness. More like an allergic reaction or some sort. One thing about Lain is that she doesn’t talk much. We have made some progress there, but it’s still a struggle. It can be easy to think that because she doesn’t she can’t hear or understand. But she understands. And she understood her mother and I were talking about some sort of problem with her eyes. And then talking about more problems with her eyes.

After we got there, Lain got an eye test. Before that happened, the tech asked what the concern was with her eyes. Lain, usually the quiet one, spoke up in defiance, “It’s only bad when I don’t blink. When I blink it’s okay” blink blink. So, evidently, she had been dealing with some dry eyes? That might have helped explain the redness. In any event, she seemed to do okay with the eye test and identifying the little images. We were lead to a waiting room where we waited for quite a while.

The next round was with the doctor himself. She got her eyes dilated, which we were not really expecting. He checked her eyes and discovered that the bow-eye really had returned, except (a) it was not nearly as bad as before and (b) this time it was both eyes. That second part is actually better than one eye because they sort of play off one another. I started to notice something in her demeanor, however. She started looking… guilty. Like she had done something wrong. Or she was bad. I can’t quite say how I picked up on those signals, but I did.

The dilation made her vision blurry and uncomfortable. As we were driving home she said “Closing my eyes doesn’t work anymore!”

To recap:

  1. She overheard us talking about problems with her eyes. On some level, took it as criticism.
  2. Had eyes that didn’t feel especially well.
  3. Took an eye exam which involved being asked to identify things she couldn’t identify (Because, of course, they keep going until you can’t get them anymore.)
  4. She gets these things put into her eyes. Further information about her eyes having a problem.
  5. She can’t see anymore.

Needless to say, it ended up being a pretty traumatic evening. I really can’t recall if they’d told me that they were going to dilate her eyes. I wasn’t even sure that was what happened until afterwards, because they never gave her the famous sunglasses you wear after. In any event, she hadn’t really been prepared for anything except the implication of not being able to see. Then, of course, she couldn’t.

So, not my best day.


Category: Hospital

Politico caught a lot of grief for this cartoon:

The Washington Post explained why:

The first problem with the cartoon is its crassness. People are still being saved, and it’s making fun of those same people.

The second problem is the stereotypes. It’s almost a caricature of what you’d expect a liberal cartoonist to draw in response to conservative Texans relying upon the government in their time of crisis. The Confederate flag T-shirt. The Gadsden Flag. The reference to being saved by God (which seems extremely dismissive of Christianity). The Texas secession banner. It’s all kind of … predictable?

The third problem is that, while this tragedy struck Texas, a red state, the most acute devastation in a populous area is in Houston. Harris County went for Hillary Clinton by double-digits, and neighboring Fort Bend County was blue as well. The population of both combined is more than 5 million — about one-fifth of the entire state of Texas.

This overlooks the fourth problem, in my view, which is that it didn’t match what the nation saw. In fact, there was so much of a disconnect that I think he drew (or at least mentally designed) before the hurricane even hit.

He had an image in his mind of how it was going to go. All those once proud Texans would sit around waiting about the federal government to come get them, complaining that the feddies didn’t save their fat, confederate-flagged arses sooner. And everybody else would see his cartoon and say “Yes! That is exactly it!’

Instead, what we saw was something different. The (mostly local) authorities did all they could, which by virtue of being not nearly as dysfunctional as New Orleans was not nothing. But people came from all over Texas and Louisiana to lend a hand. Slate can talk all it wants about how this is to be expected, but it’s not what people were expecting. This cartoonists expected fat-asses. A lot of others were gearing up on a wave of expected looting. Instead we saw an awful lot of Texans helping Texans.

All of which makes the piece bizarre outside of an exercise in confirmation-bias and, I can’t not say it, cultural sneering. He can say that it was just about secessionists and confederates and only “bad” Texans, but those were the Texans he chose to showcase.

Politico would go on to announce the death of Texas individualism, which misses a similar mark in that individualism is not really what we saw. Of course, what is meant is at least partially the federal funds that are about to go the state’s way. I think it’s completely fair to take Ted Cruz and their congressional delegation to account for their foot-dragging on Sandy relief, and to point out that generally the states rely on one another, but it’s also worth noting that Texas (like NY/NJ) has been paying into that pot for years, and while the temptation is to think that because it’s a red state it takes more out than it pulls in but it’s one of the exceptions to the rule. Not that it should matter. But by all means, rake Ted Cruz and company over the coals if they don’t successfully demonstrate that it actually was about the pork. But leave it at that.

Which, I should add, is what people have been doing for the most part. In fact, I have been pretty pleasantly surprised at how few people responded the way that cartoonist did.

Good job, America.


Category: Elsewhere

Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2007.

Tavris and Aronson explore how and why we “justify ourselves and avoid taking responsibility for any actions that turn out to be harmful, immoral, or stupid.” [p. 2] They demonstrate the role confirmation bias plays in how we suss out what is and is not true. They point out that we each have “blind spots”–prejudices, for example–in the way we view the world. They examine the way that we construct our own memories, so that what we “remember” is not necessarily what happened, but what is consistent with certain narratives we adopt to explain ourselves. They look at the strategies we use to deny our own role in our mistakes. In the last chapter they look at ways to go beyond the self-serving self-justification.

When I Google this book, the reviews praise it to the nines. One partial exception, a review at Metapsychology Online, praises it only to the eights, listing a few of what the review’s author sees as its ultimately inconsequential weaknesses I agree that this book is overall good and should be read.

The book doesn’t deserve that much praise. I found its authors’ approach frustrating and at times misleading. Tavris and Aronson don’t acknowledge the paradoxes of their argument, and they oversimplify what strike me as complicated processes. None of that invalidates the points they make. But if they had shown a little more introspection and more willingness to acknowledge counterarguments, their book would have been richer.

(more…)


Category: Coffeehouse

One of the things I didn’t realize I did was blame virtually every health ailment on my smoking. Snoring? It’s probably the smoking. Shortness of breath? It’s probably the smoking. Cold? Smoking, probably. Sore throat? Smoking, probably. Coughing? Puh-leeze.

Granted, if you had ever asked me I wouldn’t have said “But for smoking, I would be the picture of good health!” but for any individual problem, I’d attribute to the smoking.

Smoking was responsible for quite a bit of it. Especially, as you can imagine, the lung stuff. I learned this when I switched from smoking to vaping. It took longer than expected, but eventually a lot of the problems I’d had did start getting better. But not all of it. Which is consistent with using a product that has some of the dangers of smoking but not most of them.

Now I don’t vape anymore. And some of the remaining problems went away. I don’t know how much of it is attributable to quitting the ecigs and how much of it was attributable to other lifestyle changes that occurred at the same time. I quit vaping and started eating healthier at about the same time. This wasn’t a coincidence – I wanted to make sure I didn’t start putting on weight I couldn’t afford to put on. So I’ve lost more than 20 pounds and am rarely gorged out. The combination of the two has given me new levels of energy. I feel a lot healthier.

Right now, though, it hurts to swallow. Eating isn’t especially pleasant. My uvula is swollen something fierce. It’s the exact sort of thing that used to happen not-infrequently when I was smoking. The solution has always been “cut back on the cigarettes.” I would and it would get better.

But I can’t cut back from zero. My fallback problem and solution is gone and I don’t know what to do but… I don’t know. Wait I guess? So weird.

I am also reminded of all those times I cut back on smoking when it may have had nothing to do with smoking at all because the swollen uvula happens anyway.


Category: Hospital


Category: Elsewhere

In the overall, Hank was a nice guy. He was also a bit of a “nice guy.” That is, he is a guy who would hover around too-attractive-for-him ladies, befriending them and hoping it would turn into something more. He wasn’t terrible about it, but it was obvious he was doing. It seemed like 75% of his friends were female, and he was playing an odds game hoping just one of them would pan out. Being the nice guy that he was, he knew that if he ever got a hold of any of these girls, he would be able to hold on to them.

Then he hit the jackpot. Susie was a step or two ahead of Hank in the attractiveness department but closer to him than most of his female friends in that regard. If you saw them on the street, you wouldn’t necessarily say “What’s up with that?” Susie found out her boyfriend had been cheating on her. Again. Susie had a history of relationships with not-great guys. They were typically guys a step or two ahead of her in the attractiveness department that she managed to get by being very available for them.

In that sense, Hank and Susie were actually well matched.

Now, I probably give you more information on Hank and Susie’s background, which is not especially important for the political metaphor.

The strangest thing happened after they got together. Hank had been the happiest guy alive and then… well, he flirted with another girl. This one was a step or two up from Susie. He didn’t make a move or anything, and it’s unclear that he would have. But multiple observers said it was inappropriate. Especially the part where he very conspicuously did not tell this girl that he had a girlfriend.

Susie found out and she dumped his ass.

He, for his part, never argued that he had not done anything wrong. he admitted that he had. He had apologized for it. He had promised that it would never ever happen again. Between you and me, I think he meant it. But after he was dumped and it became apparent that he would get no second changes, Hank was mighty pissed off. I mean really, really pissed off. At Susie.

What made him angry was that Susie had given her previous boyfriend Roger like eight chances and she kept taking him back. And Roger didn’t just flirt. Oh no, he did more. Roger did objectively worse at least half of those times. Then, before Roger was Derique. And Derique wouldn’t even agree to exclusivity. So technically he never cheated on her, but it was the same difference when he was making out with several girls while she was at his beck and call. So why the hell does he get dumped after one stupid flirtation? What the holy hell? That was when she decided that he wasn’t dumped for anything he did. He was dumped because she was superficial and really kind of hypocritical when you think about. Roger and Derique were cooler. And that was terribly unfair.

Susie’s point of view, however, was different. Susie may be more attracted to the Roger’s and Derique’s of the world but that’s her right. After much cajoling, she gave Hank a chance with one thing in mind: Reliability. Roger had the car. Derique was on varsity basketball. Everybody had their selling point. Hank’s selling point was that she would never have to worry about him being a dick and going out and flirting with other women. Without that advantage, Hank really didn’t have that much to offer.

Hank strongly disagreed. He could point to all sorts of things like success with video games and his ability to draw. He was smarter than Roger or Derique, too. He had a lot of traits that should matter to Susie.

Whatever, replied Susie, you had your chance and you knew it.

Hank reiterated the unfairness of it all and how he was being held to a higher standard.

If you can figure out the political metaphor, good for you. There’s one that I have in mind, but it actually works in many contexts. If you can’t, that’s okay. If you get bogged down in the details and say that you totally aren’t Hank (or Susie) here, I won’t be able to convince you otherwise. And the world will keep on spinning. Personally, I think the story of Hank and Susie is interesting and kind of important in its own right.


Category: School

National Park Service ends policy encouraging parks to ban plastic water bottle sales (The Hill)

The National Park Service has ended a policy encouraging national parks to end the sale of plastic disposable water bottles that was aimed at reducing pollution and plastic waste.

In a statement, the NPS said they were lifting the policy to “expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks.”

“While we will continue to encourage the use of free water bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park, particularly during hot summer visitation periods,” acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds said in the statement.

I find the arguments against bottled water to be pretty compelling in general, but I think Trump is in the right on this one. Symbolic legislation has its place, but this is the government making bottled water less accessible where it’s most useful. Most bottled water is consumed around the house, where people can really come up with alternate arrangements (such as tap and filter) easily enough. Even those used outside the home are in places where there is a degree of flexibility waiting for the next water fountain. On the other hand, national parks tend to be places where you’re most likely to be concerned with hydration. You don’t want to stand in the way of people and their water because they forgot their bottle.

The policy formulation strikes me as “Bottled water is bad” and “We have control over the national parks” therefore “We should ban bottled water there.” Which is true, true, and false.


Category: Newsroom

I had a dream last night – bear with me, this is not just a post about my “weird dream” – that I was out somewhere and there were these cute baby goats. I kept trying to take a picture of the baby goats with my phone but the camera on my phone just wouldn’t work. I never got a picture of the goats and, in fact, even said to myself “There are no goats. This is a dream.” right before I woke up.

But the goats aren’t the important part. The camera is. As it happens, I’ve been having some difficulty with my camera phone lately. So the problems in the dream were not usual or off-the-wall. But I’ve had this dream before. This is the first time it has involved goats, but my inability to take a picture has become a recurring thing.

I wonder if anyone else has had that happen in a dream. Or more than one. And if so, what that might be tapping into.

Collective dreams are not that uncommon. A lot of people have dreams of losing their teeth, showing up naked, or that class that you’ve never studied for and there is a test. That last one is of particular interest because it is the most situation or society specific. Losing teeth is one of the oldest problems in the history of problems. Being naked goes back to whenever we first started wearing clothes. But school? As a universal thing? In the greater scheme of things, that’s pretty recent. Yet our collective subconscious has adapted it into an exemplar of unpreparadness.

These social dreams are interesting because they don’t appear to be something we get from one another. It’s not that we hear about someone having a dream about X and our subconscious says “Ohhhh, that’s a good way to rag myself over lack of preparedness.” A lot of us have these dreams for really long times before realizing that other people are dreaming them.

Do any of you have dreams involving cameras or other modern inventions malfunctioning?


Category: Bedroom

Please ignore anything below this, there is experimentation in progress

Espresso


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Queenland

Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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