Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Near Death Experience (Part 2)

OK.  It's been some months since my last post.  I was writing about my last severe episode of depression.  (Read up on my previous post for Part 1).
Dazed and Confused
So I'm sitting in the patrol car, desperate to find a way to carry out my plan on killing myself before they can lock me up.  Perhaps they'll just take me to the hospital, have the docs talk to me, give me some pills and let me go home with my husband.  Except I don't want to go home, because I can't face my family and because I already decided they'd be better off without me.  Now that I'm sane again, I can see how unreasonable my thoughts were.  But when you're in the pit, it's pitch dark, and the only patch of light is far away and out of reach;  and the sides of the pit are slippery and the inside of it is pitch black. And the pin point of light that you see impossibly far above you is probably just the froth from the wall of water as it pours  into the pit to drown you.  In other words, your thinking is skewed by the depression and you aren't seeing things as they really are, but through the hopeless distorted lens of mental illness.

I had been cycling between mania and depression for months-  I'm bi-polar, this happens.  Normally my medications help manage this tendency, this disconnect between what's happening in my life and how I react and feel emotionally and mentally.  But sometimes the meds aren't enough; they don't stop the demons from rampaging through my brain chemistry and playing havoc with my ability to think, reason and function during these episodes.

A Roller Coaster of Pain
With bipolar disorder, always after the highs come the lows.  Depression follows mania like a hangover follows a drinking spree.  And the higher the high, the lower the low. Sort of like riding a roller coaster that goes progressively higher and lower faster and faster until you are no longer enjoying the ride but scared you are going to be thrown off and out in the the nether.  After the high always comes the crash.   So following my final, highest hypo-manic episode, I came crashing down into a suicidal depression, and decided that my life was no longer worth living. I was tired of dealing with all my problems, and tired of my friends and family having to deal with all my problems.  I was and would always ever only be a burden to them and to society, therefore everyone would be better off without me.  Typical suicidal thinking.  'Stinking thinking' my pastor would say.  The pain of depression that severe is hard for most people to imagine. They think of feeling depressed because they don't have enough money to buy all the things they want.  They think of the sadness of breaking up with a boyfriend or lover.   These things are depressing.  Think instead of losing your child.  Think of dying  of cancer, the pain so severe that medication no longer relieves it.  Imagine being in so much pain that you end up begging to die;  begging for someone to help you to die to end the endless pointless agony.  Mental suffering can be every bit as painful as physical pain. Ask any bereaved parent or spouse.  The stress on your body can be as great.  Stress hormone levels in the blood from great mental anguish are measurable and are as high as in cancer victims.  People who suffer extreme severe depression are in that kind of pain.  They are desperate to find relief from their suffering.  They want it to end, and in their clouded thinking, the only way to end it is to end their lives.   This was the mental state I was in as I sat in that patrol car last spring.  Exacerbating  my depression was a good case of Seasonal Depression Disorder; the acronym being, aptly, SAD.  In this disorder, lack of sunlight exposure that typically occurs in the winter causes a deficit of the "feel good" chemicals that are released in the brain.  That, added to problems and misunderstandings in my marriage at that time all added  to create the "perfect storm" that led to my breakdown.

A Danger to Myself
So, to continue my story, I was brought to the emergency room, and while the nice policeman and I were waiting for me to be seen, I mentioned I needed to go the restroom (true).  The door was pointed out to me and I quickly made my way there, knowing full well that in hospital restrooms there is always a cord that hangs down to the floor that is attached to an emergency switch for use by a person who has fallen and needs help.  I locked the door, used the toilet, then took the cord and tied it around my throat as tightly as I could in a knot, sat down there by the commode with the cord still attached to the wall at one end and me at the other,  and waited to die.  It was peaceful, and though the cord pinched my neck, I could still breathe.  But it was tight enough to be cutting off my circulation, thus starving my brain of oxygen and  causing me to feel faint.  A pleasant floaty feeling came over me.  Just as the buzzing greyness of beginning unconsciousness began, the door burst open, I heard through the haze the officer exclaiming "now you've done it!", and felt him cutting through the cord around my neck with a knife.  I remember feeling very disappointed that I had failed in my attempt to end my life.  I heard the nurse say, "wow, just a few minutes longer and we would have lost her!"  Damn!  The nurse waved something very unpleasant beneath my nose that brought me to full awareness very quickly.  Truly, ammonia is a most unpleasant and shocking smell.  After that, everything that followed that evening is a blur.  The next thing I can remember is being told there wasn't room in the psych unit at the hospital and I was being taken to the next county's psych unit, an hour away, to be admitted for observation.  I knew the routine, I had been through it several times in the past.  I knew that they could only legally hold me for 72 hours; then they would have to get a court order to hold me longer, deeming me a "danger to myself or to others."  But I was indeed a danger- a serious threat- to myself.   So spent the first three days in the psych unit in what they call the isolation room and I call the "freak-out" room.  It's the room they put you in when you need to be watched more closely, and to provide you with the quite and isolation needed when you are out of control.  I spent my time there alternately crying and screaming and begging to be allowed to die.  I wanted out of my life and felt that I had served my "sentence" long enough and wanted it to end.  Except I didn't want parole, I wanted execution!  My life felt to me like one long, unending punishment.  Like I was serving time for some deficit I had or some crime I had unwittingly committed against the universe. I just couldn't imagine what I had done that was so bad that it would condemn me to a lifetime of anguish.  But I definitely felt that I had served long enough.  I was through.  Done.  So I kept screaming "I want out!  I've served my time.  Long enough!  I want out!" I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Tired of the constant struggle. So they gave me a minder; they call it "individual monitoring".  Basically, it's a staff member who's sole job on that shift was to babysit me night and day, 24/7.  That means when I'm asleep or awake.
No Privacy Allowed
I have no idea how my minders kept their sanity all that time.  They were with me as I ranted and raved in the freak-out room.  They were with me (albeit with their backs turned) in the shower.  And since the minder must ALWAYS keep you in sight, they also are supposed to be with you in the bathroom.  Not outside the door, but inside, while you are sitting on the toilet.  Although I can see why they were especially insistent on not leaving me alone in the bathroom (giving my little escapade at the emergency room), this last almost caused me to get violent. This was a deal-breaker for me and I absolutely refused to allow my minder in the bathroom with me. I could hardly tolerate having a female attendant with me in the shower room.  Having anyone, male or female with me in the bathroom was unthinkable.  I have strong bathroom issues, no doubt related to my childhood molestation, which mostly happened there.  Of course, it was inevitable that this impasse reach a crisis point.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.  At first no one said anything when I went into the little cubicle room that held just a toilet and a sink (no cord) and went inside and shut the door and locked it.  But a supervisor on the third or fourth day realized that I was in the bathroom alone. behind a locked door, which was definitely against policy for people on "one-on-one" monitoring.  So she came and insisted that my minder must go into the bathroom with me.  To make matters worse, my minder that shift was a guy.  Now I'm a non-violent person.  I don't believe violence solves anything, and exacerbates most problems.  It never entered my mind, for instance, to resist the police officer when he wanted to put me in his car, or to try to run from him or fight being taken to the hospital, or even to protest my commitment in the psych unit or it's rules.  (At least not until I found myself there- then I protested loudly!) But the bathroom issue was threatening to get physical, at least for me.  I told the nurse, no way, no how, not happening.  She tried to persuade me.  Uh uh.  She tried bribing me with extra privileges.  Nope.  She tried negotiation.  Nada.  I just couldn't wrap my head around any way I could tolerate another person watching while I performed my bodily functions.  And the thought of just being there with another person gave me a major panic attack.  I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was having a heart attack.  I threatened to crap my pants instead of going in there.  They just replied that they'd put diapers on me then.  Sadly, that almost seemed a better choice to me.  I was crying, the nurse stood stony-faced and unyielding, and everyone else just stood around looking concerned and compassionate and helpless. She seemed unable to think of any way to work around this issue without threatening to physically restrain me and force me to sit on the toilet like a toddler being toilet trained (except I would never dream of treating a toddler that way!). I had panicky images of me clad in a straight jacket and sitting bare-assed on the toilet while a hulking male attendant stood over me.   It says in my file that because of my childhood abuse history and PTSD, it is advised that I not be physically handled or have restraints or handcuffs if at all possible less  I be further traumatized.  And being tied up definitely would have sent me over the edge.  I was facing my worst nightmare! Finally, it was me who actually found a way out of the impasse.  I realized that they were only trying to insure my safety, even against myself.  If I were the charge nurse, I wouldn't want a patient given the chance to hurt themselves on my shift either.  So if I could think of a way they could be sure I couldn't hurt myself in the toilet, then perhaps that might satisfy their need protect me.  So I suggested that they tape the door latch open, so that it can't go into the opening in the side of the doorway, thus insuring I cannot lock the door, and have enough time to hurt myself before they can use a key to open it up. (like happened in the emergency room).  They taped it open with masking tape.  I agreed readily that my minder could stand just outside the door, ready to snatch it open at a moment's notice if he felt he needed to.  In return, I would use the toilet as quickly as I could, and if I were in there longer, I would say something so my minder new I was still OK.  Thank God.  I still don't know how things might have turned out if we hadn't reached that solution. But the charge nurse agreed to try it, and I never abused her trust; I cherished my privacy too much.

Diarrhea of the Mouth
 As a matter of fact, I rather enjoyed having a minder.  I had a captive audience at last, and used that opportunity to air my thoughts and views in an unending stream of chatter that was almost entirely one-sided.  A common symptom of bipolar illness is what the doctors call "pressured speech".  You might think of it as a sort of diarrhea of the mouth.  You can't stop talking, it's like a hole in the dam of your mind has opened up and the words just come spewing forth out of your mouth like a volcano in an unstoppable flow.
So I spent the first three days of my confinement talking the ears off my minders.  Poor souls.  Can you imagine the poor guy on the graveyard shift trying to stay awake while listening to me drone on and on ranting and raving all night long?  He must have thought he was in hell.  But they were all kind to me there, and understanding.  No one tried to tell me to shut up.  No one spoke harshly to me at all.  The charge nurse would just pop her head in around 3 or 4 AM to gently suggest I might want to try lying down and closing my eyes for a while.  I've been in hospital psych units in this county and in the next, and the staff have always been understanding, professional, and compassionate.  They have always treated me with respect and gentleness.*

I was to learn a little later that this kind of "hands-off" treatment isn't always the case.  My experience at State Hospital South, to which I was eventually committed, was somewhat different. Although I managed to alienate most of the staff at both the county hospitals, they were somewhat less tolerant and forgiving at the State level.  You only wind up there if you have been legally committed by a Judge. So they hold all the cards.  It eventually dawned on me that at State, if I wanted any privileges at all, or to keep the ones I had, and most importantly to eventually get out, I needed to shut my mouth and be less antagonistic and obnoxious there. While they tolerated a lot of crap from patients, it was a sure bet that mouthing off or protesting the rules only lost you levels and privileges.  They worked on a "level system" where you worked you way up the levels to earn more privileges. Everyone started at level 1.  Which means you basically sit in the unit twiddling your thumbs all day; no TV, no magazines or books, no pencils or paper, no going out on the patio, nada.  Even just being allowed to visit the hospital library or attend a class or watch TV was a privilege tied to what level you were.  But until my new medication routine kicked in, I in the grips of my illness and unable to keep my mouth shut no matter how much I wanted to.  So I was a real ass most of the time I was in either place, and at State, it took me almost a month before my meds starting working and I was finally to get some control back over my big mouth.

In the county psych unit, after several days of  "personal attention" with my babysitters, and some new medications,  I calmed down, and was no longer actively trying to kill myself.  Actually, I realized right away that the unit was secure enough, and the staff watchful enough that attempting to do the deed while I was in there was useless.  I told all the staff as much, so they deemed I was no longer an "immediate suicide risk" and called off my no-doubt grateful minders.  I was by then likewise no longer enchanted with the experience of having someone with you night and day without a break.  But they still weren't about to discharge me, although I asked to go home every day (by that time home was looking better and better all the time compared to the virtual prison I found myself in). I wasn't able to deceive the people whose job it was to examine me and determine whether I could be discharged or required further and longer treatment (commitment at State Hospital South).

Next post, I'll relate how I wound up at the State Hospital and about my experiences there.  Please feel free to leave me your feedback or comments!

*I was to learn a little later that this kind of "hands-off" treatment isn't always the case.  My experience at State Hospital South, to which I was eventually committed, was somewhat different. Although I managed to alienate most of the staff at both the county hospitals, they were somewhat less tolerant and forgiving at the State level.  You only wind up there if you have been legally committed by a Judge. So they hold all the cards.  It eventually dawned on me that at State, if I wanted any privileges at all, or to keep the ones I had, and most importantly to eventually get out, I needed to shut my mouth and be less antagonistic and obnoxious there. While they tolerated a lot of crap from patients, it was a sure bet that mouthing off or protesting the rules only lost you levels and privileges.  They worked on a "level system" where you worked you way up the levels to earn more privileges. Everyone started at level 1.  Which means you basically sit in the unit twiddling your thumbs all day; no TV, no magazines or books, no pencils or paper, no going out on the patio, nada.  Even just being allowed to visit the hospital library or attend a class or watch TV was a privilege tied to what level you were.  But until my new medication routine kicked in, I in the grips of my illness and unable to keep my mouth shut no matter how much I wanted to.  So I was a real ass most of the time I was in either place, and at State, it took me almost a month before my meds starting working and I was finally to get some control back over my big mouth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Near Death Experience (Pt 1)

     In case I haven't mentioned it, I have a mood disorder called Bipolar II.  The theory is (and most mental illness diagnosis and treatments are still considered theory because we still know so little about the workings of the human brain) that it is caused by a chemical inbalance in the brain related to the area that regulates mood.  The end result is that I experience swings of mood from hypomania (feelings of high energy and elation, fast-moving thoughts, etc.) and depression (we all know what that is!).  Only the mood swings of Bipolar are much greater in depth and height and frequency than those of  "normal" people.  Not fun.  Medications help correct this imbalance, but there is no cure, and meds only help to a certain extent.  Some people are helped more than others.  In my case, meds help most of the time, but not always.  And life events, while not causing Bipolar episodes, still effect the frequency and degree of the episodes.  When meds no longer work, the mood swings become uncontrollable and pretty scary.  After a long and dark winter (which is known to affect many people, especially those who, like me, suffer from SAD (seasonal-affective-disorder),  my disease was raging out of control and I began to cycle between mania (hypo-mania in my case, because I suffer from Bipolar II) and depression in a escalating roller coaster ride that finally caused me to crash and burn and resulted in my most recent hospitalization.  Here is what happened:
     I don't remember much about the days leading up to my suicide attempt, but I do know that it was triggered by my feelings of hopelessness regarding years-long unresolved issues in my marriage.  These issues weren't a problem for my husband, who believed they had been mutually settled  They hadn't:  I had only given up on trying to resolve them (at least to my own satisfaction), and over the years had been trying to resign myself  to the situation as it stood.  News Bulletin: unresolved issues in a personal relationship don't go away, they just go underground and eat at your self-esteem and continue to poison said relationship.  The meds weren't working any more (this happens every few years) and in the crevasse of my depression I decided life was just too painful and not worth the effort any more.  The blinders of severe depression were in place and my inability to see any alternatives to my current intolerable situation led me finally to a nearby river.

     I'm told I was found standing near said river in shorts, a tank top and flip flops on a cold and rainy March evening around 10 PM.  I don't remember this.  The official police report reads "...inappropriately dressed for the weather," and describes my attire in embarrasing detail.   Lucky for me (although I didn't feel so at the time!),  a policeman in his cruiser happened to be parked nearby.  The officer beckoned me over and asked me where I was headed.  The report says I answered "to the river," to which he asked "what are you going to do there?'  I replied flippantly "thought I'd take a dip."  Oh, I forgot to mention, to add to the weird impression I must have made, I had my miniature dachshund with me on a leash. So there I was, dressed for a summer holiday, standing in the cold pouring rain, dragging an unenthusiastic little wiener-dog by her leash on a dark and stormy night in March: which in my neck of the woods is still late winter.

     Was I really going swimming in the Snake River that night?  Logic tells me normal people don't go swimming in the Snake River in early March in the pouring rain.  The official report made by the nice policeman states that I seemed "confused and my manner of speech was slow and vague."   Nope.  I was going to drown myself in that fast-running river and take my little dog with me.  Knowing myself, I'm sure I was thinking that she was old and sick, and  I probably felt that taking her with me would be kinder than leaving her to the tender mercies of my husband, who I believed didn't want her or any of my other two dachshunds either.  He used to tell me jokingly (but I believed him none the less) that if I died before he did, the first thing he'd do is get rid of the dogs. (Ha ha).  Ergo my  plan to go to the great beyond together with my beloved pet.   

      He then said, "I have a better idea.  Why don't you get in the car and I'll take you home?"  Then he exited the cruiser and taking me gently by the arm, helped me into the backseat of his car and handed my dog to me and shut the door.   He drove me to the address I gave him and parked.  Then, instead of opening the door for me as I expected, (remember, the rear seat doors on cruisers can only be opened from the outside), he left me locked up in the rear seat, walked up to my front door and rang the doorbell.

(More later)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Error Detected

     The hard drive on my husband's computer is about to crash.  You know it because  it is extremely slow.  It takes forever for it to boot up, and long minutes for an application to open- if it opens at all.  The mouse is sluggish and the hard drive whines.  But that's not all.  The computer actually tells you it's dying.  When you start up the machine, before Windows even loads,  a message along with a lot of other code displays against the black screen:

     "Status Bad S.M.A.R.T.  Error Detected.  The IDE Hard Drive is operating outside of normal specifications.  It is advisable to immediately back up your data and replace your hard disk."

     Wouldn't it be great if your BRAIN could send such a message to you (or to your clueless doctor) that it had a bad "SMART" drive?  That the IDE (ID?) was operating "outside of normal specifications?"  Wouldn't it be even greater if all you had to do was back up your mind/data and replace your brain/hard drive? 

     Oh, if it were that simple!  But we aren't machines, although science keeps insisting we are a kind of biological "machine."  Our bodies and brains run on electrical impulses that fire neurons and nerves.  But we are so much more than that.  That's the tragedy of our brain disorders- they are unique in that they steal your most important sense: your senses of perception.  Arms can be replaced by prosthetics.  Heart valves can be replaced with synthetic valves, or even in some cases with valves from a pig or monkey.  It's been done.  Organs can be replaced with donor organs.  Even hands and fingers have been reattached in some cases. Or faces.  But the brain is another thing.  No replacement part for that.  The best they can do in the operating room is remove bad sectors, sort of like defragmenting a disk drive.  But once the brain cells go, that's all she wrote.  But what about a brain that just doesn't work right?  What about brains that have their chemicals all wrong and not firing properly as a result?  It's only been in the last 20 years or so that science has begun to address the chemistry of the brain.  Before that the standard of care for mental illness was psychotherapy.  Talk as medicine.  Trying to peel back the psychic layers and cure neurosis with behavioral modification.  That or locking you up.  A long time ago they use to throw insane people into pits filled with snakes.  The idea was to "shock" the insanity out of them.  If they weren't insane before they were thrown in, bet they were when they came out.  So how could they tell if they were cured or not?
     Science now has a better, if still foggy understanding of mental illness.  They realize that many mental illnesses are physiological in nature, not psychological.  It's easy to see why they use to be confused.  If your brain isn't working right and the neurons are misfiring, that would cause most people to react in a weird way.  I think a lot of insanity is really normal minds reacting to a sick brain.

     If you saw a normal person with bugs crawling on their skin and screaming and running around trying to brush them off, you would try to help them get the bugs off.  You wouldn't tell them to stop screaming and stop running and brushing at their arms and body.  But what if you didn't see the bugs?  You would call the men in the white coats.  Because obviously, you'd think that person is crazy.  Perhaps that person isn't crazy at all.   Maybe they are having a sane reaction, a reaction any "normal" person would have to being covered by disgusting bugs.  Just because you don't see the bugs doesn't mean the other person doesn't.  They see them.  So they are having a real reaction to a perceived event. I think mental illness is a disease of perception. My husband once saw bugs on his arms.  And on the walls of his hospital room,too.  Fortunately for him it didn't terrify him.  Rather he was bemused.  In his highly medicated state, his brain was telling him they were there.  He held his arms up and wondered at all the flyfishing bugs on them (he is a flyfisherman).  No one said he was crazy.  We all knew he was reacting to the medication.  "Too much happy" the nurse remarked, referring to the painkillers he had been given.  When the drugs wore off, the bugs disappeared.  If every person who saw bugs after taking drugs were diagnosed as insane, the world would be full of crazy people.  Maybe it is, after all.  Maybe we are all just a little "crazy."

      If I hear my husband screaming and yelling in the living room, shouting obscenities in an angry voice, I don't think he is nuts.  I know he's probably watching a football game and his team is losing.  Or winning.  Whatever.   I know this because this happens a lot during football season at our house.  But my visiting friend might think he is an enraged maniac if they didn't know.  They might run out the door in a panic, punching 911 on their cell phone before I could explain.  Now who looks crazy?  It depends on one's viewpoint.  To my husband, the crazy woman is the lady running in terror out of our house and screaming into her phone.  To her, my husband is the crazy person screaming and cursing and jumping to his feet, tortilla chips flying everywhere.  It's all a matter of perception.  There's that word again.

     A warning in black and white on your forehead would be great; it would lend a lot less confusion to the question.   "Your S.M.A.R.T. drive (funny how the drive's initials form the acronym for what we all want to be) is operating outside of normal specifications."    No room for doubt.  Better back up your data, because your hard drive is going to die.  Soon. The warning is clear and unambiguous.   Better do something now.  Because later may be too late to save your SMART(s).  We don't get such a warning with brain disorders.  No flashing neon sign.  Not even a message on our computer screen.  But when your perceptions start going wacky, when other people close to you express concern, that can be your sign to get  help, tell your doctor,  adjust or change your meds. When what your are perceiving is not logical or doesn't make sense to your mind, that can be your signal that you need to take action.   The warning implies hope.  Why warn if nothing can be done?   You're not a lost cause.  You can't replace your brain, but maybe there are medications out there that can help it work better.  Just don't throw away the mind with the bathwater. Take it easy on yourself.

     Meanwhile, use your mind to compensate as much as possible for your broken, "crazy" brain.  Because your mind isn't crazy, though that's what people tell you.  It's stressed out, yes.  Wouldn't anybody be freaked out by what goes on in a crazy misfiring brain?  It's my brain that's crazy, not my mind.   I know we call ourselves crazy, insane, daft, demented, lunatic. I've heard it all, and  it's easy to internalize what you hear all the time.  But really, it's just you trying to cope with the craziness going on inside your brain.  You are not your brain just as you are not your pancreas.  They don't call diabetics crazy, but have you ever seen one in a diabetic crisis?  They act crazy. They get irritable, emotional, irrational, paranoid and panicky.  It's because of the extremely low blood sugar.  Fix that, and they are fine again.  I wish fixing my bipolar brain were as simple as having a glass of OJ or a piece of candy!    Not that diabetes is that easy to control.  I come from a family of diabetics.  And I've watched their struggles with diet and insulin, always trying to keep the level of sugar in their blood within a certain range.  It's hard.  Thank goodness for insulin, before that diabetes was a death sentence.   I have a related problem, except mine is with hypoglycemia.  That's where I have a weird reaction to too many carbohydrates.  My blood sugar tends to go up slightly after I eat them, then overreacts by diving down too low.  So I know what I'm talking about when I describe a diabetic crisis (extreme low blood sugar level).   There's this sinking in your stomach and a feeling of impending doom.  You shake and shiver and sweat all at the same time.  Your knees get real wobbly and your brain gets fuzzy.  You can't think clearly and your perceptions change.  You get real irritable, even angry over the littlest things and feel like everyone's against you.  Actually, it feels a whole lot like hypomania.  Or the pause just before you crash into depression.  Familiar anyway.  And I'm not any more crazy when my blood sugar is low than than I am when I'm having a hypomanic episode or going into depressive free fall.  I have auditory hallucinations sometimes when my bipolar is acting up.  The first time it happened, it sounded like the devil was bouncing a basketball in some infernal gymnasium and laughing maniacally.  At first I thought it was real.  Then my sane mind realized it couldn't be and I thought I was going crazy.  I wasn't crazy, my brain was getting it's circuits crossed and giving me wrong signals, that's all.  But it made me feel crazy.  And scared.  It turned out to be a bad reaction to Lithium. 

     So while my brain is "crazy", and I can't always rely on the perceptions it gives me,  my mind is not.  My mind is fine, thank you very much.  It's gotten me through a shitload of grief dealing with my broken brain.  It's done a pretty good job, too.  I'm proud of my mind.  When my meds are doing their thing right, my brain cooperates with my mind and I'm on top of my game. Everybody's happy. Never know I was sick.  I have a brain disorder, not a mental illness.  It's not my mind that is broken.  I had a mental breakdown once.  Then it was broken. I was truly out of my mind for a while.  No one home.  Porch light out.   For a while, but not permanently.  It mended.  Minds can mend.  Brains can't.  Sometimes people have broken minds for a long time.  Sometimes even their whole lives.  Maybe that is true insanity.  When living with the craziness in your brain finally cracks your mind wide open.  When your mind joins your brain and leaves the building with it.  But a broken brain can often be helped. Hopefully before it drives the mind into insanity with it.   Hell, even people with broken minds can be helped.  Medications can adjust the chemicals that make your brain give wrong signals to the mind. then the mind can start to heal from the trauma of living with a "crazy" brain that distorts the perceptions it sends the mind.   Not a permanent fix, but at least control some of the major symptoms.  The scientists don't know exactly how most of the medications work, they just know they do.   So until they find a permanent fix for mental (brain) disorders,  a way to make your brain permanently work like it's supposed to,  remember;  insanity is all a matter of perception..  Anybody would act crazy sometimes if they had to live inside my brain.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How Much Did That McDonald's Hamburger REALLY cost?

I'd like to be able to post a link to the following instead of posting it in it's entirety here, but it was a comment someone left to an article on the CNN website about how the high cost of food, especially grain, contributing to the massive protests and riots in Egypt recently.  I have to admit, I have never really thought much about where and how my meat comes to my plate.  I am a meat-eater.  I like my meat.  Because of my gastric bypass, I have absorption problems concerning nutrients.  One of those problems concerns protein.   My blood level is always low on protein and especially iron.  I'm almost always somewhat anemic, and red meat is one of the ways I can get lots of iron and protein by only eating a small amount.  Oh, there's protein and iron in other foods too, but you have to consume a lot to get the amount a few ounces of meat can provide.  I eat a lot of chicken and fish and beans and legumes and spinach and other stuff that has protein and iron in it.  But for a quick protein fix, red meat does the trick. 

But after reading the below comment, I'm having second thoughts.  It never occurred to me that in order to put a single steak on my plate, cereal was taken from the mouths of hundreds of hungry children.  And not just in third-world countries, but in wealthier countries as well.   I always bought in to the party line that people were starving because there were too many people and not enough cultivatable land to feed them all.  Or famine and crop failure caused a shortage.  In other words, too many people and not enough food.  Boy, was I wrong. People are going hungry so that rich, greedy corporations can make big money providing meat to rich (comparatively) people like you and me.   Read the comment below and decide for yourself what the truth is.  But I warn you, if you like meat, you're not going to like this.  You won't want to believe it because if you do you'll never feel the same about that hamburger you get at McDonald's again.  I tend to believe it because he backs up his facts with  data you can check.  I looked up some of the statistics (I didn't like what I read either), and they were right there on the websites for me to see.  It's a long comment, but worth your time to read.  You owe it to yourself to know the truth, you owe it to the hungry people all over the world to at least eat that surloin with full knowledge of the true cost.  And maybe, once or twice a week,  have some salmon or tilapia or even better, a bean  burrito and spanish rice instead of that steak.  (I would love to read your comments about this issue, please leave some)

  • "
    ""  Global hunger could be directly attributed to meat-eating."---Chrissie Hynde

       "  Half the world's population does not receive an adequate amount of food to eat. Ten to twenty million die annually of hunger and its effects. The Institute for Food and Development Policy reports that, "Forty thousand children starve to death on this planet every day," or one child every two seconds.
    The livestock population of the United States today consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed over five times the entire human population of the country.
    We feed these animals over 80% of the corn we grow, and over 95% of the oats. Less than half the harvested agricultural acreage in the United States is used to grow food for people. Most of it is used to grow livestock feed.
    Ronald J. Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, in his 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, pointed out that 220 million Americans were eating enough food (largely because of the high consumption of grain-fed livestock) to feed over one billion people in the poorer countries.
    The world's cattle alone, not to mention pigs and chickens, consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people. It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef.
    According to Department of Agriculture statistics, one acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes. That same acre of land, if used to grow cattlefeed, can produce less than 165 pounds of beef.
    In his book, The Hungry Planet, Georg Bergstrom points out that protein-starved underdeveloped nations export more protein to wealthy nations than they receive. He calls this "the protein swindle."
    Ninety percent of the world's fish meal catch, for example, is exported to rich countries. One-third of Africa's peanut crop winds up in the stomachs of European livestock. Half the world's cereal crop is fed to livestock and the United States annually imports one million tons of vegetable protein from Third World nations--just to feed its farm animals.
    Bergstrom writes: "Sometimes one wonders how many Americans and Western Europeans have grasped the fact that quite a few of their beef steaks, quarts of milk, dozens of eggs, and hundreds of broilers are the result, not of their agriculture, but of the approximately two million metric tons of protein, mostly of high quality, which astute Western businessmen channel away from the needy and hungry."
    Jeremy Rifkin, author of a dozen influential books and President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, writes in his 1992 bestseller Beyond Beef:
    "Cattle and other livestock are devouring much of the grain produced on the planet. It need be emphasized that this is a new phenomenon, unlike anything ever experienced before.
    "Contrary to popular belief, the poor are getting poorer each year...Increased poverty has meant increased malnutrition. On the African continent, nearly one in every four human beings is malnourished. In Latin America, nearly one out of every seven people goes to bed hungry each night. In Asia and the Pacific, 28 percent of the people border on starvation, experiencing the gnawing pain of a perpetual hunger."
    "In the Near East, one in ten people is underfed. Chronic hunger now affects upwards of 1.3 billion people, according to the world Health Organization--a statistic all the more striking in a world where one third of all the grain produced is being fed to cattle and other livestock. Never before in human history has such a large percentage of our species--nearly 25 percent--been malnourished.
    "The transition of world agriculture from food grain to feed grains represents an...evil whose consequences may be far greater and longer lasting than any past examples of violence inflicted by men against their fellow human beings."
    In the 1970s, the United Nations Secretary General said that the food consumption of the rich countries is the key cause of hunger around the world. The United Nations has recommended that the wealthy nations cut down on their meat consumption.
    The Worldwatch Institute has released a remarkable report entitled Taking Stock: Animal Farming and the Environment, which lists nation after nation where food deprivation has followed the switch from a grain-based diet to a meat-based one.
    Most of the nations that now import grain from the United States were once self-sufficient in grain. The main reason they aren't is the rise in meat production and consumption.
    In Taiwan, for example, per capita consumption of meat and eggs increased 600 percent from 1950 to 1990. With this change, vastly increased amounts of grain have gone to livestock, raising the annual per capita grain use in the country from 375 pounds to 858 pounds. In 1950, Taiwan was a grain exporter; in 1990 the nation imported, mostly for feed, 74 percent of the grain it used.
    In mainland China, the situation is similar. Increased meat consumption has meant less grain available to feed people. Since 1978, meat consumption has more than doubled, to twenty-four kilograms. The share of Chinese grain fed to livestock rose from 7 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 1990.
    Over half Of Latin America's beef production is exported, and the rest is too expensive for any but the wealthy to purchase. From 1960 to 1980 beef exports from El Salvador increases over sixfold. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of small farmers lost their livelihood and were pushed off their land. Today, 72 percent of all Salvadoran infants are underfed.
    In Brazil, major portions of the Amazon tropical rain forests have been destroyed so that wealthy multinational corporations can produce beef for the wealthy.
    Corporations such as Volkswagen, Nestle, Mitsubishi, Liquigas, King Ranch, and Swift-Eckrich have bulldozed and burned literally hundreds of millions of acres, replacing the world's oldest and richest ecosystems, home to two million or more species of plant and animal life with a single crop--pasture grass for cattle.
    And here, the beef produced has not gone to feed hungry Brazilians; it has been primarily exported to Western Europe, the Middle East, and North America. In 1987, the United States imported three hundred million pounds of meat from countries in Central and South America.
    With the help of international lending institutions, Brazil has mounted an enormous effort to increase agricultural production, but this has been primarily meat-oriented production and for export.
    In the late '60s, soybeans were almost nonexistent or Brazil. Today, this crop is the nation's number one export--but almost all of it goes to feed Japanese and European livestock. Twenty five years ago, one third of the Brazilian population suffered from malnutrition. Today, the figure has risen to two thirds.
    Oxfam, the international charity, reports that in Brazil huge cattle ranches take up some of the most fertile soil in the whole country, yet 60 percent of Brazilians are malnourished.
    Oxfam estimates that in Mexico, 80 percent of the children in rural areas are undernourished, yet the livestock are fed more grain than the human population eats!
    The livestock are exported of course, to satisfy the developed nations' craving for cheap hamburgers.
    In Guatemala, 75 percent of the children under five years of age are undernourished. Yet, every year Guatemala exports 40 million pounds of meat to the United States. It borders on the criminal!
    In Costa Rica, beef production quadrupled between 1960 and 1980, but almost all this beef is exported to the United States, and what does stay in the country is eaten by a tiny minority.
    Though more and more Costa Rican land is being turned over to meat production, the population is not eating more meat for the change. The average family in Costa Rica eats less meat than the average American housecat.
    Throughout Latin America, land availability is a prominent social issue. Revolutionaries as well as reform-minded moderates have made land reform a major issue. Yet in many Latin American countries, forests are being leveled in order to create pastures for cattle grazing land.
    In a region where land availability is a central social issue, existing land is being gobbled up by livestock agriculture. The resulting social tensions have resulted in civil wars, repression and violence.
    Hunger is really a social disease caused by the unjust, inefficient and wasteful control of food. Our food security is not being threatened by the prolific, hungry masses, but by elites that profit by the concentration and internationalization of control of food resources.
    In country after country the pattern is repeated. Livestock industries are consuming feed to such an extent that now almost all Third World nations must import grain.
    Seventy-five percent of Third World imports of corn, barley, sorghum, and oats are fed to animals, not to people. In country after country, the demand for meat among the rich is squeezing out staple production for the poor.
    The same trend can be found in the Middle East and North Africa--increases in grain-fed livestock require more imported feed. In the early '70s, Egypt was self-sufficient in grain.
    Then, livestock ate only 10 percent of the nation's grain. Today, livestock consume 36 percent of Egypt's grain. As a result, Egypt must now import eight million tons of grain every year.
    In the late '60s , Syria was a barley exporter. But in the intervening years, livestock has consumed increasing amounts of the country's grain. Now, despite a phenomenal 1,000 percent increase in the land area devoted to producing barley, Syria must import the cereal.
    According to Buckminster Fuller, there are enough resources at present to feed, clothe, house and educate every human being on the planet at American middle class standards.
    The Institute for Food and Development Policy has shown that there is no country in the world in which the people cannot feed themselves from their own resources.
    Moreover, there is no correlation between land density and hunger. China has twice as many people per cultivated acre as India, yet less of a hunger problem. Bangladesh has just one-half the people per cultivated acre that Taiwan has, yet Taiwan has no starvation, while Bangladesh has one of the highest rates in the world.
    The most densely populated countries in the world today are not India and Bangladesh, but Holland and Japan.
    Many of us believe that hunger exists because there's not enough food to go around. But as Frances Moore Lappe' and her anti-hunger organization Food First! have shown, the real cause of hunger is a scarcity of justice, not a scarcity of food. "

  • Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Introducing..... ME!

         My name is Rebecca Randolph, but everyone calls me Becky.  I am 53 1/2 years old this month and it's been a wild ride.  I titled this blog "My Peculiar Life" because as I look back to my past, ponder my present, and  anticipatew my future, the one word that seems to describe all three phases is the word "peculiar".

    I have had many life experiences that are far from the norm.  I don't know anyone else who has had more than 8 step-dads, gone to over 15 different public schools, lived in a different place every year of my childhood (often several places!), had a nervous breakdown before age 16,  weighed over 450 pounds, was homeless, diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, had a gastric bypass, was married to a  paranoid schitzophrenic, had a loaded gun held to her head, lost 270 pounds, married a black man (I'm French/Cherokee), and lived to tell the story.  At least not all those things together.  But all those things are a part of who I am now.  Friends tell me I should write a book.  I don't know about that, each story in itself has been told by numerous and better writers than I.  But held together, I suppose my life does make for interesting reading, if for nothing else, for the weird factor.

    So this blog will include stories about my past to illustrate and explain how my life events now affect me and how I respond to them.  I feel I've gained a little wisdom through my varied experiences, and most certainly one's life experiences shape one's current view of the world.  This blog is about my reality, and if you find anything useful in my musings, then perhaps my efforts won't be a total waste of internet space.

    To begin, I'll start with the present.  I live in Idaho with my husband, my college-age son and our two miniature dachshunds, Valerie and Velvet.  I use to have two budgies, but they died last year.  Birds do that.  We moved here about 7 years ago from Redding, California after Randy (my SO) retired from his job at Pacific Gas & Electric.  I was a full-time homemaker up until then.  Now I work as a substitute teacher for the high schools here.  I love my job.

         Idaho is beautiful, but with long, cold winters.  I'm not a winter person.  Right about this time of year I start really missing California.  I use to think we had winters there because it actually did get cold and even snowed sometimes- once we even had snow on Christmas!  I was wrong.  I didn't know what Winter was until I moved here.  Now I know.  Winter means bone-chilling, teeth-aching cold winds that cut through you like knives.  It means snow not just falling down from the sky, but blowing sideways so thick you have to pull over because you can't see even one foot in front of you.  It means burst pipes flooding your garage and spending a good half hour digging your car out so you can drive.  Which is just about how long it takes for it to get warm enough to drive without arctic gear.  It means carrying your shoes in your bag to work because you need your snowboots to navigate the parking lot.  Now we have snow on Halloween.  My son would get all dressed up in a cool costume just to cover it up with his parka and snowboots.  In fact, since we've lived here, we've had snow in every month of the year.  Yes, even August.

    I've always had a little vegetable garden.  In California, you just threw the seeds at a clump of dirt and BOOM! 8 weeks later you had veggies.  Big, fat string beans, tall corn, huge squash, gigantic tomatoes, lettuce, spinich, the whole works.  Then you'd throw some more seeds at the dirt and 6 weeks after that you'd have a whole new crop of nice fresh veggies. Cukes the size of baseball bats.  canteloupes the size of vollyballs.  Strawberries the size of plums.  You get the picture.  Here, if you plant anything at all, it better be after Labor Day.  That's what our neighbors told us our first year.  Yeah, what do they know?  So we planted our seeds as soon as the weather warmed up as usual, and they did great- for 3 weeks.  The we had a freeze and everything died.  So we replanted, and it got cold again and froze everything again.  The whole garden wilted and dead.  Ugh.  We planted for the third time, and crossed our fingers.  No more freezes, thank God.  We weeded and watered and watched our garden grow, so proud we were!  I began mentally counting my canning jars of home-grown produce I was going to have proudly displayed in my pantry.  Did I say proudly?  By August, our garden was only half-grown, the fruit still green the lettuce and cabbages still tiny, the beans and squash still not even near ready to harvest.  And the corn?  A joke.  Never grew past 1 foot tall.  Then the weather started turning colder, and the newspaper put out a frost warning.  We ran out in the middle of the night to put old blankets on our tomatoes and leaf vegetables.  I even tore the spread off our bed.  No use, next morning everything has a frost beard. Thankfully, not all was lost.  We babied along the survivors until September.  Had to pick everything then before the freeze got them again.  Most of everything was still under ripe.  All that hard work planting, weeding and hoeing for a miserable 1 bushel total of harvest from our garden.  At least the apples and plums were good.  Lots of those.  Randy helped me process and can about 10 bushels of fruit between all 5 trees.  I made jam, juice, apple butter, applesauce.  We felt a little better after that.  The next year, we waited until Labor Day.  And bought these little plastic thingys that you put over the plants to protect them at night, sort of like tucking your little kiddies into bed.  Oh, yes, and we now plant some of it in little planters and start them indoors in April to give our garden a head start.  It's a whole different ball game trying to grow your garden in Idaho.  It was so easy to take things for granted in sunny California.  In fact, when I go to the pantry for some home-grown veggies, I think about how much work went into babying those things along and I hardly have the heart to eat them!  For fifty cents I can grab a can of any vegetable I want to eat without all the work.  So we've cut back to a much smaller, more select garden, and buy the rest at the farmer's market.  Besides, we want to spend more of the warm months traveling and having adventures.  But we do have a beautiful backyard, see?