Friday, October 30, 2015

October 2015 Review

Photo of the month: pumpkin selfie

Wow. This was quite the month. Most of it is fuzzy due to my bipolar mixed state which gobbled up most of my conscious activity. But I'm starting to emerge, thankfully.

At some point, I decided to choose this crying piggy bank as my monthly topper - probably because I spent a huge chunk of money on my new contact lenses, but it may also have been because the picture's really darned cute. I've decided to include it now, even though it doesn't summarize the month as well as I'd expected at one foggy moment in a long foggy month.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Tide, by Anthony J. Melchiorri

The Tide, by Anthony J Melchiorri, narrated by Ryan Kennard Burke
Captain Dominic Holland (Dom) is head of a covert operations team which investigates bioterrorism. As he and his team check out some suspicious activity on what was believed to be an abandoned oil rig, bone-armored mutant men begin to wash up on shores of countries around the world. Soon, citizens become crazed - brutally attacking and devouring people. Dom's team rushes to find a cure to the bioweapon, as civilization crashes around them. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Let Me In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Let Me In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist, narrated by Steven Pacey

Oskar, a 12-year-old boy, is bullied by his schoolmates. He spends his time fantasizing about revenge and stabbing trees with a knife. He obsesses about violent crimes, keeping a notebook of newspaper clippings. One day, a strange girl and her father move in next door. She seems quite unaware of social norms and completely immune to getting cold. Her father and she argue loudly and frequently, which Oskar can hear through his wall. Despite the fact that she tells him they can't be friends, Eli and Oskar soon form a bond. She encourages him to stand up to his bullies, and he starts growing in self-confidence. But strange murders are suddenly occurring in his neighborhood, and Oskar begins to suspect that Eli is more than he thought she was. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hoarding and Body Dysmorphic Disorders

Obsessive compulsive disorder (discussed in a previous post) is grouped in a DSM-5 category called "obsessive compulsive and related disorders." Other disorders included in this category are hoarding, body dysmorphic, trichotillomania (hair picking), and excoriation (skin picking) disorders. 

Upon publication of the DSM-5, there were a lot of ignorant people laughing at the "new" disorder "hoarding," and giving it as an example of how the DSM-5 encourages over-diagnosis of "normal" individuals. Such people do not understand the dire nature of this disorder. An individual with hoarding disorder finds it extremely distressful to discard objects, regardless of their actual value. These objects fill up their living spaces, leading to impairment of the individual's ability to live a healthy, functional life. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland

My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland, narrated by Allison McLemore

This book was a huge surprise to me. I was told it was fantastic - funny, fun, good plot - but I didn't really believe. I mean, there are so many zombie books out there, right? But it really was hilarious and fun. I'm glad I gave it a chance.

Angel Crawford is a down-on-her-luck, pill-popping, high school drop-out who can't hold down a job and is being dragged down by her alcoholic father and deadbeat boyfriend. One day, she wakes up in a hospital - told that she overdosed and was found naked on the side of the road. Humiliated, she is about to return home when she gets a mysterious note telling her to drink a mysterious power-shake each day, and that she now has a job picking up and helping autopsy dead bodies. She's told she must keep this job for at least a month, or she's going to prison for parole violation. Angel is terrified of prison, so she begrudgingly starts her new job. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Most people are familiar with obsessive compulsive disorder as is popularized in many TV shows and movies. My favorite is Monk, a TV show about Adrian Monk, an investigator who works with the San Francisco police department. Due to Monk's severe OCD (along with other disorders), he was forced into retirement as a detective with the San Francisco PD. The show is unflinching about the negative effects of Monk's disorder, but of course it introduces humor into his predicament. 

According to the DSM-5, obsessions are "recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images" that are intrusive and cause distress. The individual attempts to ignore the obsessions, but is generally unable to. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors - such as hand washing, checking, praying, counting, or word repetition - that the individual feels compelled to perform in order to reduce anxiety and distress.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Severed, by Frances Larson

Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found, by Frances Larson, Narrated by Reay Kaplan

As soon as I heard about this book I just had to read it. I tried to convince my book club to read it for next month, but alas, the subject was too upsetting for them. So I chose to read it anyway. And I most certainly am glad that I did so. 

Severed is about Western culture's fascination with severed heads throughout history. The book begins with Larson's own fascination with the shrunken heads in Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, where she worked. Apparently, they are quite an attractive exhibit there, drawing lots of fascinated people - adults and children alike. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Panic Disorder

Fear is an emotion that elicits the "fight-or-flight" response of the autonomic nervous system. It is an immediate (uncontrollable) response to a direct danger - such as a rattlesnake, a gun pointed at your head, or a fast car driving right at you. Fear is generally a helpful response that allows you to protect or remove yourself from the imminent peril. 

Sometimes the fear response can occur in the absence of any obvious stimulus - this can lead to a panic attack. Panic attacks are terrifying physiological and psychological events in which your autonomic nervous system ramps you up for fight-or-flight. Often, the person becomes terrified that they are dying - usually of a heart attack. Like intense fear, the heart starts pounding, adrenaline flows, breathing races. Sometimes the victim will run from the room - perhaps to a hospital or perhaps with no direction at all - to escape the unseen threat. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Carmilla, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, narrated by Megan Follows

Spoilers. Sorry. :( It's hard to discuss a book well without spoilers.

Despite the very modern look of this cover, this novella is one of the first vampire books, predating Bram Stoker's Dracula by 26 years. It was a serial story published in the magazine The Dark Blue from 1871 to 1872. Carmilla is narrated by a sweet, lonely girl named Laura, who is stuck with her father in a castle far from any company. She is eagerly expecting the arrival of a new friend, ward of her father's friend General Spielsdor. Just before their expected arrival, a letter informs Laura and her father that the girl has died suddenly, and the General is on a quest to discover the murderer. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome - the Basics

I think we all have some idea of what we think PTSD is, but it turns out PTSD isn't as clear-cut as I thought.

Apparently, when PTSD was first introduced into the DSM, the diagnostic criteria required a traumatic event "outside the range of usual human experience" that would cause "significant symptoms of distress in almost anyone." That fits pretty well with my own perception of PTSD. Rape, war, torture, violent experiences...these all fit into that description. PTSD is a normal response to an abnormal stressor. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Beware! Here there be spoilers.

Again, in the second of the three Hobbit movies I expected the story to end the first time I watched the movie. So, as when watching the first movie I was a bit disappointed and confused the first time through. After reading the book, I watched it again, and this time I enjoyed it quite a bit more. 

The Desolation of Smaug covers approximately the second third of the Hobbit movies. After their narrow escape from the orcs, Bilbo and the dwarves (again without Gandalf, who's wandered off with Radargast the Brown again) tramp through the forest, get overrun by a pack of hungry spiders and are saved/captured by wood elves led by Legolas. Bilbo manages to escape notice, and slips secretly into the elvin keep, following his captured friends. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Does the DSM-5 encourage overmedication?

Oh, the irony of life - I clicked on a link to read an article by Dr. Allen Frances (chair of the DSM-IV task-force and author of Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life) - and I was forced to wait through a 15 second advertisement on a psychiatric medication. This is exactly the type of thing Dr. Frances complains about. People have "too much" access to information that they are not trained to understand. Dr. Frances urges the public to beware self-overdiagnosis. (This could also be referred to as cyberchondria.) 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

This is a book of horror / dark fantasy stories by the amazing author Ocativa E. Butler. Believe it or not, this is the first book by Butler that I have ever read, and I was amazed at her brilliance. 

Her stories were incredibly creative. They covered important issues like race, slavery, sexuality, and identity, all in the guise of alien occupation or dystopic disease and other dark fantasy themes. Her prose was smooth and eloquent.

The most interesting of the stories was her novella Bloodchild, which is about a child that is about to be "sexually" adopted by some alien worm-thing. The story encompassed the feelings of the boy, his mother, and the alien - providing some very startling insight. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Girl of Nightmares, by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares, by Kendare Blake

After listening to the audio version of Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake (and disliking the narrator), I decided to pick up an old-fashioned copy its sequel Girl of Nightmares

Cass Lowood has now become used to life in Thunder Bay. He's finished a school year in the same school for the first time in years. He has friends: the beautiful and popular Carmel Jones and nerdy voodoo teenage witch Thomas Sabin. The three have tried to move on from the devastating events in Anna Dressed in Blood. They've been going to school by day and killing ghosts by night. But when Anna starts haunting Cass, he becomes obsessed with saving her from whatever hell she is suffering. His quest to save her drives a wedge between him and his friends, and leads him across the ocean to follow ominous clues sent by anonymous people.

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake; narrated by August Ross
Anna Dressed in Blood, Book 1

Cas Lowood has always worked alone on his quest to dispatch murderous ghosts and discover the demon who killed his father. Imagine his annoyance when he moves to Thunder Bay to kill the intensely horrific ghost Anna Dressed in Blood and he accidentally picks up a couple of teenaged tag-a-longs. When he attempts to dispatch Anna, he discovers that she's unlike any ghost he's ever fought before. She's frightening and mesmerizing in her power. Cas digs deeper into Anna's story and begins, for once, to see a ghost as an unwilling victim rather than simply a supernatural murderess.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Clinical Mental Health Diagnosis - Psychological Assessment

In my post about the biological assessment of mental health diagnosis, I mentioned that there are three ways a clinician can focus a mental health assessment: biological, psychodynamic, and behavioral. In this post I will discuss the psychodynamic and behavioral assessments of patients. 

I'm not sure what a psychological assessment feels like to the clinician, but I have been through several assessments as a patient. Some of them have been very grueling and embarrassing - my 2 hour long assessment for dialectical behavioral therapy comes to mind. Generally, the mental health worker will ask a series of questions to determine personality (am I maladaptive?), social context (am I from an abusive family? caring for an sick family member? a bullied teen?), and culture (I'm a WASC) .

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Clinical Mental Health Diagnosis - Biological Assessment

One of the most difficult tasks for mental health workers is to clinically assess and diagnose mental illnesses - especially when comorbidity (having more than one mental illness) is so common. It usually begins with a psychological assessment through tests, observation, and interviews so the clinician can catalog the symptoms. Then the DSM-5 is consulted to give the diagnosis. 

A clinician may focus the assessment in three ways - biological, psychodynamic, and behaviorally. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Spoiler alert (for movie and book)!

As most of you know, the short children's book The Hobbit  was stretched impossibly into three movies. An Unexpected Journey was the first. When I first saw this movie, I expected it to be stand-alone, so I was a bit shocked at the ending. This time around I knew what to expect, so I was better prepared to enjoy the movie.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, narrated by Inglis

Caution: There will be spoilers!

A couple of months ago I had the immense pleasure of listening to the Rob Inglis narrations of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. If you ever have the slightest wish to listen to these books, just do it. Inglis' voices are fantastic; he even sings the songs! It was a true delight. 

A humble hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is unwillingly thrown into a "nasty adventure" when the wizard Gandalf thrusts himself into Bilbo's home, a troop of dwarves in his wake. Gandalf has misinformed the dwarves that Bilbo is a burglar - the dwarves want Bilbo to burgle a gigantic horde of treasure from the dragon Smaug, who had stolen the treasure (with their mountain kingdom) from the dwarves' ancestors decades before. This is a strange coming-of-age story, since the character is 50 years old already (which is youngish for a hobbit, but still firmly in the adult range). But as the story progresses, Bilbo recognizes that he is a brave hobbit, an adventuresome hobbit, and a very sneaky burglar. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Knights of Badassdom

In the spirit of the Halloween season, I watched The Knights of Badassdom with my boyfriend. As expected, it was both cheesy and hilarious. For those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon, here is the YouTube official trailer.  In summary, Joe is an intelligent underachiever who lives with his accidental millionaire friend in a castle. When Joe is dumped by his long-time girlfriend, his friends decide it would be a great distraction to kidnap Joe. He wakes up at a LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) expedition at the "Fields of Evermore" (a large parking lot near a forested park). There, an "epic battle" is about to take place. It's all going pretty well until Joe's sorcerer friend accidentally summons a succubus that looks exactly like Joe's ex-girlfriend. The succubus wanders around the forest attacking LARPers, who mistake her for a lost LARPer soul who has stumbled upon the "wrong" LARPing event. Joe and his friends must send the succubus back to hell.

My Bipolar Mixed State

Hi All! My plan is to give a monthly update rather than a weekly (or biweekly in this case) update, but I had some interesting developments in my life over the last couple of weeks and thought it was a good idea to share - since one of the goals of this blog is to decrease stigma of mental illness, I should share my own experiences.