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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tales from the void: "I'll take slightly crazy over slightly dead any day"

To put a lighter spin on an otherwise darker time in my life, I have labeled it "the void."
Copied from Facebook:

David Lloyd
Feeling Stronger

(Actually, I don't feel that great at all. I have unaccountable muscle pain all over, which would be good if I had been working out yesterday, and I may be coming down with bronchitis, but that's not the point of this post.)

For the first time in a long time, I woke up with what I consider my "normal" morning attitude, which is positive, "strong," and capable. For a long time since my head injury last June, I have privately wondered whether I would be going to bed by nighttime, or if I would awaken in a hospital or worse....

I also woke with a set of epiphanies about various topics I had been considering the previous day, which is also normal to me, but not recently.

I had a thought about how sophisticated user-level cloud-based file sharing, in which the creator of an individual file, and the people designated as collaborators with various levels of access is replacing traditional computer network security. I wondered whether the IT community had fully grasped the implications of this phenomenon to their monolithic security structures. I resolved to review the various IT blogs in my reader software to check what others are thinking.

I had a thought about a new paradigm about mental health in which health is evaluated across multiple spectrums, rather than the current nonsense of equating the ability to name a set of symptoms with a "diagnosis," which I discounted about ten years ago as nonsense. If you have a label, you do not really know any more about yourself than you did, but you also no longer feel "normal," nor do you tend to feel capable, regardless of the label. But if instead, we reported simplistic scores on a sliding scale across four dimensions, we not only could understand ourselves better, but we would see ourselves and our potential in a much healthier way in terms of taking charge of our own mental health.

To grasp my paradigm, suspend your private views of what constitute "reality," and assume (as I do) that our perceptions of reality have more importance to us individually, than the objective reality around us that none of us are capable of fully grasping. My paradigm accepts a relativistic view while affirming a "solid" external reality also. An individual's grasp of reality then, can be evaluated based on how well that person connects with others, and on how "profitable" their view is to their own success; however each person individually defines success. For example, whether or not "they" are out to get me, it is likely "they" have enough concerns in their own lives to have little energy left to focus on my life. Chances are that if my interactions with them are honest, positive, and co-beneficial, that they will drop their "conspiracy" and become my allies. Not all beliefs about reality are useful to me. A little "honest" self-deception about my outlook can go a long way toward improving my actual prognosis.

So, back to dimensions of mental health (Needs expansion and consolidation):

Alertness and awareness
Confidence and optimism
Connectedness (the extent to which my "reality" derives from my connections with others and with God)
Happiness and pain

Empathy (the extent to which I understand others)
Confidence (my willingness to take risks)
Optimism (beliefs chosen for profitability AND truth)
Sympathy (the extent to which I exist to serve others)

Instead of fixing depression, drop the label, and focus on how the score across these four (or more) dimensions, compares with what the individual would consider ideal.

Instead of fixing severe symptoms of altered reality, focus instead on general physical health factors that may be influencing fear responses and general awareness. I suspect all phenomena we label as altered reality, "voices," or hallucinations, are part of the awareness spectrum, but also influenced by the connectedness spectrum. Essentially, the schizophrenic is experiencing a feedback loop in which dreams perceived as reality excite fear which the dreaming mind attempts to interpret and explain.

Just attempting to break the cycle by artificially lowering dopamine levels may make the patient more comfortable and more manageable, but may actually strengthen the problem of wakeful dreaming, because low dopamine levels contribute to less awareness. A better approach may be to help the "dreamer" understand the process of wakeful dreaming in a safe environment, while verifying no marginal health issues such as low but "normal" thyroid levels are affecting wakefulness.
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      David Lloyd Wow. This seemed so insightful this morning when I wrote it.
      It must be the drugs.
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      David Lloyd Note to self: After the doctor adjusts meds, save "brilliant" essays at least 12 hours before posting them...
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      David Lloyd Regardless, I'll take slightly crazy over slightly dead any day.
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      David Lloyd Last night, Audra assured me that my ideas are not crazy, just insufferably dull. Then she scolded me for the self-critical comments, gave me a hug, and she went to bed.
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      David Lloyd Betty and I have the best kids ever.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tales from THE VOID: Clueless

(see THE VOID)

I originally posted this comment on Facebook on February 9th, 2012, a day within a span of about three months from the end of December through the beginning of March for which I have almost no recollection. I averaged 20 hours of sleep per day during those months, and even the time I was "awake," no meaningful work was accomplished, and I have almost no memories from that period of time. Those months seemed like a span of a week or two. I purposely did not attempt to answer mail during that period because I knew I was not capable, and because I had a distorted impression of the amount of time going by. I never considered that I could be missing important deadlines. When the period was over, I became overwhelmed with bills that had not been paid, and official Government deadlines that had not been met. I also flunked the capstone course in a Master's Degree program in which I had been maintaining a high "A" average. My projected final GPA at the time was 3.95. (10-13-2012)

In the midst of that terrible period, I wrote this comment (which did NOT prove helpful*):
Today I made a discovery about my symptoms that make me hopeful I will be able to proceed with my school work (and other endeavors) at a stronger pace. I took a strong dose of ibuprofen around 2:00 pm because of extreme neck pain, and within a half-hour, the neck pain was bearable, and I was feeling alert and able to work. I have long suspected that my head injury had caused swelling that was the cause for my extreme sleepiness, but it never occurred to me that something as simple as ibuprofen could fix the problem. I'll be taking another stiff dose of ibuprofen tomorrow morning, and hopefully I'll have a productive day tomorrow! (and, of course, I'll be discussing this discovery with my doctors, if tomorrow goes as well as this afternoon)
 * (written 6/19/2013) I struck out the comment "which did NOT prove helpful" because I may have been premature in that assessment. I thought I had ruled out Ibuprofen's possible benefit for memory because continued use did not provide continued benefits, but in hindsight I realize the problem may have been with the amount of Ibuprofen I was taking. Recent studies have shown a previously unsuspected link between brain inflammation and diffused axonal damage, which is the most common cause of continued decline in "mild" TBI cases. Ibuprofen is probably not going to prove to be a preferred choice for TBI patients, because the dose required to bring about improvement is too high for most people to tolerate, but some other anti-inflammatory drug, one that can pass the blood-brain barrier like ibuprofen can, may be useful.