Saturday, 29 November 2008

Moony

The subject of the full moon being a trigger for manic symptoms, or an amplifier of manic symptoms has come up a couple of times in my comments, here, and here, and it set me wondering, and I decided to work those ideas up into a post. It's all conjecture, not research, so view it as a layman's guesses at possible directions towards sensible hypotheses. (Yawn, disclaimer out of the way).

My first musings:

As for full moons - so many people seem to be affected by it, but there seems to be so little actual research or evidence out there. In fact the first result I found says: "Belief that the full moon is associated with psychiatric disturbance persists despite 50 years research showing no association."

http://www.bipolarworld.net/Phelps/ph_2005/ph1355.htm

Goes on to remark that "Prior to the advent of modern lighting the moon was a significant source of nocturnal illumination that affected sleep-wake cycle, tending to cause sleep deprivation around the time of full moon. This partial sleep deprivation would have been sufficient to induce mania/hypomania in susceptible bipolar patients and seizures in patients with seizure disorders. The advent of modern lighting attenuated this lunar effect, especially in modern urban areas, where most 20th century studies of lunar effects on the mind have been conducted."

Well, it's very dark where I live! But of course we have lighting indoors...

There must be some old association with moonlight - it is a very intense and strange light - magical even, to go down the road of cliche. But for there to be some ingrained connection predating modern lighting, one would have to posit some evolutionary advantage to going up during the full moon? Perhaps people got more done, made more babies, killed more animals, improved their survival prospects? Who knows, I just know that silver light feels like electricity going through me.


Anyway, I started thinking, and thought if there is a lunar connection, it probably has something to do with the ovulatory cycle. Lo and behold, some studies (generally the ones done in the 3rd and 2nd world, away from all-pervasive light pollution) show a link, with ovulation occuring around the full moon, and menstruation around the new moon.

There is also some research that shows that light affects melatonin production in the pineal gland - specifically, melatonin goes up in the dark, and falls in the light. This is part of our normal day/night circadian cycle - part of what resets our bodyclocks. Melatonin suppresses dopamine. There is some research (not enough, but some) to show that the lunar cycle has a secondary effect on melatonin.

Melatonin, menstruation, and the moon.
Sorry, it's a rat study.

In other words, we seem to have evolved to make babies at the full moon, he said, very tentatively and unscientifically. And if making babies in our hunter-gatherer times meant taking risks, staying up late, killing animals in lieu of a nice bunch of roses, and having the... erm... inclination, then maybe there is a hint of a possible natural explanation.

It may be argued that living in cities, exposed to light indoors, staring at glowing screens night and day should wreck our internal clocks, and that is certainly borne out to some extent by 1st world studies on ovulation and the lunar cycle. However, if one is exposed to the moonlight to a reasonable degree... be it just enough to make you feel it's sunny at midnight for a few days - even if it's a glimpse walking home in the evening, or shining through the curtains as you fruitlessly try to sleep, well, it may be enough to keep the cycle roughly set. Certainly where I live (no streetlights, barely any houses), and I don't smoke indoors, so spend a fair amount of time standing in the garden in the night, I would say I get a fair bit of lunatic exposure.

Something else that strikes me, regarding moonlight versus tungsten lighting (lightbulbs) - moonlight is quite white-blue opposed to the yellow-red of tungsten. I read somewhere a study on blue light being more effective at keeping people awake than yellow light.

Blue light.
Light and dark.

Of course, this accounts for people (all people) being higher at full moon. If you're high to start with, then it may well explain why things get a bit too much to handle.

Ok, enough pseudo-drivel for one night. Don't say I never try!

p.s. Final note: the women of the Sandawe apparently have a fertility ritual at the full moon where they would wave their exposed buttocks invitingly at the men. It was reading this, I'm afraid, that gave me the dreadful pun for the title for this post.

Bleeeeep

I've been ***ing swearing far too much on here recently. Apologies.

Still no news from the dvla. Still going up and down. I feel like a tedious little boat, but at least the weather isn't too rough at the moment. Had a few days of being in the slump, or the sump, or something. Torpor and lassitude, but thankfully no blackness or bleakness (well, nothing worth mentioning). Think the old pinball has slung itself around the bend and is heading back up, scurrying for its appointment with the next full moon.

Oh well. Keep safe all.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

f31.6/296.64

Well, I asked the fucker for a label and he duly delivered one.

Dear Sir, (quoth he), "You are nothing but a number. You are f31.6/296.64. Allow me to tattoo this on your arm/forehead."

Otherwise, I'm doing fine.

Hope you all are too.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Bankruptcy, Accounts, Hypomania.

Saw cpn today. Told him I've been a bit up the last few weeks, but nothing to worry about. He said, "so not bursting the banks", which was pretty much accurate. I've had a fantastic focus for a few days coming down from a bit of a shambolic peak. Or perhaps I'm still going up. I don't know. Been finally sorting out the business accounts. (My tax return was due last Jan....)

I had a sticky moment trying to chase down about 13K that didn't add up and was going to be an absolute disaster on the tax-bill (whenever that happens) as opposed to just a disaster. (Yes, I have considered bankruptcy.) Any good accountants out there who have experience of the books of manic types? Thank god I found I'd entered a sale twice... arrrgh! The worst of it is that I had no business planning sense throughout 2007, and sent out so many invoices, the profit/loss account is going to give me a mammoth bill, but the cash account tells a very different story.

Being off the pills I'm cycling roughly monthly from normal to hypo. On the pills I was cycling from depressed to hypo. Go figure.

Been reading some depressing stuff: (nazi mental eugenics) and Models of Madness

I've decided I don't hate psychiatrists. I really hate them.

On another note. I mentioned to the cpn I was wondering whether to appeal/get a second opinion on my diagnosis. After all, the 'acute' peak over last autumn/winter/spring feels like the seventh wave - doesn't come round too often. He laughed, and said that it would be a waste of time. And also to pity the poor fucks who are the psychiatrists. Forgive them for they know not what they do. I like my cpn a lot. He's a fucking star.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Recent advances in understanding mental illness and psychotic experiences

An interesting view from the psychologists as opposed to the psychiatrists: here.

A snippet on diagnostic categories:

Another way of examining the validity of diagnostic
categories involves using statistical techniques to
investigate whether people’s psychotic experiences
actually do cluster together in the way predicted by the
diagnostic approach.The results of this research have not
generally supported the validity of distinct diagnostic
categories. For example(58) the correlation amongst
psychotic symptoms has been found to be no greater than
if the symptoms are put together randomly. Similarly,59
cluster analysis – a statistical technique for assigning
people to groups according to particular characteristics –
has shown that the majority of psychiatric patients would
not be assigned to any recognisable diagnostic group.
Statistical techniques have also highlighted the extensive
overlap between those diagnosed with schizophrenia and
those diagnosed as having major affective disorder.(60,61)

The central issue in diagnosis is one of classification – the
idea that particular psychological problems cluster
together and can therefore be considered together. This
has been termed ‘carving nature at the joints’. (62) This
means that it is assumed that the problems called
‘schizophrenia’ are different from the problems called
‘bipolar disorder’ in the same way that birds are different
from reptiles.On the basis of the evidence reviewed
above, many psychologists believe that these distinctions
are invalid, that diagnostic approaches to psychological
problems do not reflect real ‘joints’ in nature.

Note to self

Still zooming

All the rest of you keep safe - none of us know or appreciate how the other, the reader, the stranger, cares... but they care nonetheless.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Shostakovitch continued

Ok, so I told you where we went yesterday on the last post. Today I'll try to describe it. I've been a bit up the last week. Our seats were front row, centre. For that sort of chamber music, I always think get as close as possible. I could have spat on the 1st violinist's foot, we were that close.

I welled up during the Beethoven, and got control. Then came the Shostakovitch. The string quartet number eight. Within a minute I knew I was going to blub. I stared and stared at the grey painted stage boxes in front of us and tried to think of anything but the music I was hearing. I lost five minutes of the performance in my head simply to not make an exhibition of myself. But I ask! Why shouldn't I have made an exhibition of myself? For christ's sake, it's one of the most tragic pieces of music from the 20th century. I've loved it for years and wept to it many a time at home. The reason - the utter reason I wanted to hold myself in is that we were so close I didn't want to put the musicians off if I let the tears roll down.

Does this sound ridiculous?

I don't know.

Anyway, after the performance, there was one of those German Christmas markets in the centre of Brum, so we wandered around, had a drink, mingled, etc. My head was flipping a bit. I don't know if I can explain this correctly, but sometimes I get a visual feeling that I'm looking through rippling water. Had that bad. It was very pleasant. I've learned to enjoy my experiences when they're harmless enough. We ended up stood at a table with some tattooed skinheads. At some point they accused my wife (all jocular like) of knocking their "bag of biscuits" over. I gave them a belligerent smile because I could have knocked all their blocks off in the mood I was in and helped them up afterwards, and strangely everything was fine. There was a helter-skelter that I was dying to go on, but kept control of myself, and a merry-go-round that was the real biz. And there was a stall smothered in these frankfurters... like huge scarlet heaps of horse cocks! We both regretted not having one of them! Oh dear, I'm damning myself with every word I write. What the point is, is that we had a great evening, and even though I was fizzing like a bad one, or a whole pack of alkaseltzers in a shot glass, we still were good, contained, enjoying, etc. Why do I bother writing this shit down?

Anyway, I'm in the mood for opening up. Here are poems, and here are photos. As the statement up on the top left has it - respect my anonymity, but here are a couple of windows.

Keep safe everyone.

---- p.s. I forgot to mention the sensation of feeling a thousand filaments coming out of my head connecting to all the other people - not in a communicative manner - just a safe solidarity of sorts.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Shostakovitch

Went up to Birmingham Town Hall to see the Brodsky Quartet play Beethoven, Shostakovitch, Stravinsky and Tchaichofsky this afternoon. I especially wanted to hear the Shostakovitch, the 8th String Quartet - one of my favourite pieces of music.

My favourite rendition is the one by the Borodin Quartet: the lp notes give some background:

There are many autobiographical and historical references in Shostakovich's large output of music. One cannot claim that these invariably help to produce works of permanent artistic merit, but one must recognise him as an artist of intense feeling, certainly no mere official chronicler. His 8th and latest String Quartet is a very fine artistic as well as profoundly emotional work. It is in five movements played without a break. As Bach some times musically signed himself BACH (B being the German for B flat, H for B natural), so Shostakovich like to include his monogram and does so in the Violin Concerto and the Cello Concerto. This quartet too opens with D (for Dimitri) E flat (in German - and Russian - Es, pronounced like the letter S), C, H (B natural). There is a gentle, sorrowful Largo which leads to a fierce, heavily punctuated Allegro molto. The legato theme introduced by the violins in octaves is taken from the Finale of the Piano Trio. THe third movement, a sad, rather Oriental little Waltz, also opens with the D. Sch monogram. Strange cries from the second violin, and rhythmic changes (which quote the Cello Concerto) interrupt its flow. At the end of the movement the G string of the first violin, vibrateless and hollow, becomes the drone of a hostile bomber aircraft. Shostakovich composed this quartet in Dresden in 1960. Surrounded by devastation, he remembers, deeply moved, his own experience of the war - as every listener will.

The evil drone is interrupted by sharp gun fire. Then we hear a momentary Dies Irae and the simple confident melody of an old Revolutionary song. After a brief question from the 10th Symphony, in the most poignant part of the work, the composer is carried back to the years of his youth, as the cello sings an air from his early opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtensk" (1934). But the bomber and the gun-fire remain until the 5th movement, a return to the opening Largo, which closes the work, sad but serene.

The Borodin Quartet played this work to the composer at his Moscow home, hoping for his criticisms. But Shostakovich, overwhelmed by this beautiful realisation of his most personal feelings, buried his head in his hands and wept. When they had finished playing, the four musicians quietly packed up their instruments, and stole out of the room.




Anyway, here is the Brodsky (not the Borodin) Quartet playing it:

Saturday, 15 November 2008

So...

This blog is supposed to be about mental health? Wrong. This blog is about whatever I like. I don't have any problem with that. Why do people obsess over these things?

As for health, very quick update - head is ok, though careering off the walls a little. Pukey shitey virus has gone away mostly, though bowels are a trifle unsteady (I knew you'd all relish that nugget of information - ah, a nugget, a nugget, my kingdom for a nugget...)

Still no news from the wankers at the DVLA. Still endless struggles with the IB and the IS and HMRC.

Want to run off over the fields but know (from past experience) that all one finds are more dark muddy fields. Christ I wish I lived in a city. I hate them too, by the way. Nasty smelly places full of people to fight with. But here it's just rabbits screaming their death-throes in the dead of night. IF YOU'RE LUCKY!!!!

The stuff I used to do in an hour takes a day or two. With tears and rages. It's getting a damn sight better now I'm not taking the pills. I have to keep an eye on myself though.

Interestingly, what effect does being effectively segregated in the middle of the howling mud have on someone who used to be all over the country working, in meetings, etc? Drives me fucking insane to be honest. Have a little spell of doolally, get shopped to the idiots in the white coats, and then they do their utter damnednest to drive me insane! It's driving me nuts!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Still Here

Just a bit zoomy. Full moon perhaps. Someone I knew just died. I've not slept much. My head is feeling peeled. But I am hanging on and keeping a grip of myself. If I start trying to write anything interesting there will be pages of unutterable shite that I'll feel compelled to delete. But I just thought I'd pop my head up and say I'm still here, and have been enjoying reading your blogposts etc. I feel like I need nailing to the floor to be honest. Ok. Deep breaths. Pretend it's just the flu.