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Friday, December 24, 2004

Someone on ETS responded yesterday to my post with a private message saying he was sorry about my mother. The guy who wrote the message is about as pretentious as you can get, so I was kind of short with him, but I did include this in my reply:

"I am who I am because of where and who I've come from, and if my mother weren't manic depressive, I wouldn't be as smart, as creative, or as independent and resilient as I am. I am not a victim of my experience or my genes. Even my mother recognizes that bipolar has an evolutionary purpose and doesn't regret her disorder (she regrets taking lithium for 11 years, as she missed experiencing my childhood while all her emotions were wrapped in a wet blanket). She wouldn't be who she is without it either."

I used to be literally terrified of madness. My uncle on my father's side also has a mental disorder, probably bipolar, and has been hospitalized a couple of times. I've considered genetic counselling, but I've never gone through with it, claiming either that I don't want to know or I don't care to know.

Actually, there's a really neat experiment I heard about a few years ago, developed by a neurobiologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane called John Pettigrew (or Jack Pettigrew). I always wanted to hunt him down when I was in Australia and offer myself up for experimentation, but I never had the nerve. Without getting too much into the science of it (you can read more here), he found that if one eye is shown vertical stripes and the other eye horizontal stripes through polarized lenses, the brain sees not a mix of the two, but a few seconds of horizontal and a few seconds of vertical stripes. It kind of "switches" between right and left hemispheres of the brain. He also discovered that when he performed this experiment on himself, it took about ten times longer for his brain to "switch" between the two images - he would see, say, thirty seconds of horizontal stripes and thirty seconds of vertical stripes. John Pettigrew has bipolar disorder. Preliminary experiments seemed to show that other bipolar sufferers experience the same thing under the same conditions. Unfortunately, he's facing some opposition concerning his research from the field of psychiatry, which seems to think that neurobiology has no business interfering in the diagnosis of mental disorders. But I still think it's pretty fascinating. I wish more people would pay attention to this study.

I'm obviously going through a mini mental health interest phase. I've just started reading Daughter of the Queen of Sheba.
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