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Entries in culture (3)

Wednesday
Jun062012

Score!

So, my highest scoring Scrabble word:  "Gauntlet".  82 points because it traversed two double-word score spaces and I used all of my tiles (50 points). The "n" was already on the board. Yay!

Wednesday
May232012

Egregious Deficit in American Culture

I have become aware that even people with whom I associate regularly are glaringly unaware of some basics of American culture--TED Talks and carrot-ginger soup. 

I urge you to check out TED--he's become my late-night companion for intellectual stimulation.  In his own words he's:

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

TED has compiled the presentations from the conferences on his website.  These talks are about 20 minutes in length (some are only five) by people who are on the cutting edge of their fields and most of them are fascinating. 

As to the problem with the carrot-ginger soup, I have two solutions. First is to get it at MayDay Cafe.   However they make it seldom so you really need to go every afternoon until you happen to be there on a day they make it.  Second, you can try making it yourself (doesn't seem to come out as well, I find).  Here is a recipe. For any of the recipes you find, I suggest quadrupling the ginger--it never seems potent enough.

Wednesday
May232012

Caffeinated Sedation in a HyperSensational, HypoSensual Dimension

This is a post I wrote for another blog on 22 Dec 2009:

I just read "Regular & Decaf: One Friend with Schizophrenia, One Friend with Bipolar, One Ongoing Conversation, One Cup at a Time" by Andrew D. Gadtke.  It's a good review of some basic premises behind mental illness and lends a personal bent to the stories.  Andrew, the author, has schizophrenia.  His best, and only, friend, Benji, has bipolar (manic/depression). They recount their experiences with prodromal phases (early symptomology before getting diagnosed), the diagnoses, the hospitalization, changes in relationships and work.  

Two things struck me as I read.  First, it reminded me of that first-year psych student syndrome where one believes one has the disorder because symptoms are exaggerated from normal and because  there is a range of symptomatic behavior.  Andrew recounts that his mother didn't want to believe that he had schizophrenia--she could account for his behaviors within contexts.  Those contexts, however, were too far-fetched and his behaviors too pervasive.  I was reminded of the range of behavior and of that precarious line that separates normal from diagnosable.  In particular, I found sympathy with the paranoia, obsessiveness, and narcissism of mental illness in general.  Most mental illnesses have elements of these characteristics.  It depends on the pervasiveness and how they are manifested, as to the diagnosis.  Too, most "normal" people experience aspects of these elements.  So, when psych students are learning about specific disorders, it is common for them to empathize with the disorder (or think they have it) because they have experienced the symptoms.  However, they lack the persistence of symptoms, the pervasiveness of symptoms, or they lack the distress caused by the illness (to themselves or others) to qualify for a diagnosis.  This experience, however, of feeling as though one could have a certain mental illness is instructive in one's approach to treating. If students could take hold of this uncertainty as part of their approach to healing, they would do well toward servicing their patients.  Practitioners might offer a more balanced, realistic approach to care.

The other thing that impressed me in reading this book is the similarities between mental illness and trauma.  The depression (as a symptom), the fatigue/weakness, the lack of motivation, the despair, the side effects from drugs are all commonalities between mental illness and trauma--and few people, including the doctors or practitioners treating these, really understand the basic experiences of their patients.  I would have guffawed at it before I experienced it, but there is a level of exhaustion that one can only understand if one has experienced it first-hand.  It has nothing to do with laziness and everything to do with changes in physiology.  I really appreciate their (Andrew and Benji) belabouring the point. 

One place I must disagree with Andrew and Benji is in instituting segregated church programs for the DD (developmentally-disabled) as a "step in the right direction" (p. 214).  I find this problematic in many instances.  I understand that some DD people create disturbances to the general public.  I get it--I've worked with them.  There are those people who are simply not able to be in crowds.  But programs that segregate all DD people into special programs seems like a way to segregate people while feeling like you're doing them a service--a double standard one can feel all warm and fuzzy over.  'It's for their own good, after all.'  Yesterday I accompanied a Downs-syndrome couple to a segregated program at a mega-church in a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis.  I was appalled at the paternalistic setting designed mostly to serve the needs of the volunteers.  Most, if not all, of these people could have easily sat in on the regular service (which was going on at the same time) without being too much of a disturbance (if any) to the people around them.

Andrew writes, "To me, the lonliness of mental illness is immeasurable.  I ache in my body for relationships with others, but virtually to no avail." (p. 175).  I know that historically mentally ill people, and really anyone deemed 'different' was ostracized.  However, I can't help thinking that rather than getting 'better' or 'more advanced' in this regard, we've actually taken steps backward.  This statement not only applies to mentally ill people, or the developmentally-disabled, but to anyone living alone or otherwise marginalized by mainstream society.  We've created a deliberate social diabetes--loneliness within a sea of beings.  (Diabetes is often described as a disease of starvation amidst plenty.)   Loneliness--it's not just for geeks anymore.

Andrew Gadtke recommends "Proof", the movie, as a decent representation of the prodromal phase of psychosis.  I'll be writing of that in the next weeks as I view it.