Monday, February 28, 2011

Standing on the shoulders of giants: famous people with depression

Is it just me or have things been really quiet in the blogsphere lately?. Well at least MY blogsphere, which granted is not very big. University is officially starting to hit me. My first assignment is due tomorrow. I have finished it but just need to type it up. Over the next few two weeks I am going to get hit with more assignments. So I don't have an actual post this weekend...luckily for me I have written a few posts but have never published them. The stuff I wrote below, I wrote some time ago and this will be my post for the weekend. Sometime soon hopefully I plan to research and do two posts on studying with depression and trying to find a job when suffering from a mental illness. These two topics are what I will have to be dealing with in my life for the next few months.


One day while riding a bus to work, soon after I arrived in England, I happened to be holding onto a £2 coin and started to inspect it. On the rim of this coin was the phrase "Standing on the shoulders of giants". Most £2 coins have it. I found this phrase very mysterious so I googled it. The Phrase finder describes the meaning of this phrase as this: "Using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before in order to make intellectual progress". It was believed to be coined by 12th century theologian and author, John of Salisbury and was also prominently used by Sir Issac Newton.

All the great discoveries and inventions that we have today are because someone forged ahead into the unknown. I was thinking of this in regards to mental illness. There have been great scientific discoveries but I believe that what really cracked the stigma  was when a few very brave and well known people came forward and spoke out. That's what has given the everyday man freedom. I am sure this has been done before, but the idea only came to me the other day: to research famous people with depression and mental illness. What I came up with surprised me. I have tried to select people that everyone will be familiar with.

Winston Churchill
This man is on my list of top 5 people I'd like to have a conversation with. There are so many things that I want to ask him. Churchill is believed to be the greatest prime minister England ever had and one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. He lead his country and the allies to victory in WWII. Yet through out his life Churchill often suffered prolonged and severe bouts of depression. He was the first person to use the term "Black dog" to describe his illness. He also had a speech impediment but many people believe that Churchill won the war by talking his way out of it. This may sound corny but often when I can't get out of bed I always think of him and wonder how the hell he did it. How did he get out of bed AND still go to war? This proves that depressives can sometimes achieve a whole lot more than non- depressives.

Vivien Leigh - Actress: Gone with the Wind/ Streetcar Named desire
If you have never seen "Gone with the Wind" where the hell have you been??. Vivien was a very talented, very beautiful Oscar- winning actress. But her whole life her health was marred by tuberculosis and what is now known as Biopolar disorder. This earned her the reputation of being difficult to work with. She was a recipient of ECT and once had to placed in a nursing home after a severe breakdown rendered her incapable of caring for herself.

J.K. Rowling - Author of Harry Potter
Rowling admitted in an interview that she had been diagnosed with clinical depression in the past and had experienced periods of being extremely suicidal. The feelings she experienced with depression inspired her to introduce " Dementors", soul- sucking creatures in the third book.

Drew Carey - Famous comedian
Drew Carey has tried to commit suicide twice by taking large doses of sleeping pills. He has said in interviews that he has always felt mad at the world and would use food and alcohol to try and numb his pain. He says he is on a "constant" road to recovery.

Brooke Shields- Actress
I really admire Brooke Shields because she spoke out about her experience which is still considered extremely taboo. Brooke had severe postpartum depression, which to me is probably the most devastating form of depression. She has said in interviews that she was overwhelmed with thoughts of harming her baby and the desire to commit suicide was with her every hour of every day. Fortunately she was surrounded by people who encouraged her to get help and she made a successful recovery. She has since been raising awareness for postpartum depression.

Kirsten Dunst - Actress
Kirsten has publicly admitted checking into rehab in 2008 to be treated for depression after being ill for about 6 months. She has said the reason for her going public was to highlight the struggle faced by so many successful women and to dispel rumors.

Kurt Cobain - Musician ( Nirvana )
I can remember the day he died so clearly. It was 1994 and the year that I first began feeling suicidal. Kurt had suffered a lifetime of depression, addiction, ADHD, bronchitis and was in constant severe pain from an undiagnosed stomach disorder. Yet it was these very killers of the soul that inspired some of the greatest music of his generation. We all know that depression can suck the life out of you...add everything else this poor guy had to deal with and and it was no wonder he met a very tragic end.

Abraham Lincoln - 16th president of the United States
Growing up in South Africa, the only American history I studied at school was The Great Depression ( ironic...), so I didn't know that much about Mr. Lincoln until recently. And what I first heard about him surprised me. Many people that knew Lincoln described him as a very jovial character ( what a contrast to those stony- faced portraits ) but had also said he was very prone to melancholy aka depression in today's terms. Some historians believe he was Bipolar...he was known to weep in public. He spoke of suicide as a young man. This never detracted from the fact that he was one of the greatest presidents in US history. I read a fascinating article here

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear New Zealand....

You are very much on my heart today as you deal with this terrible tragedy. The overwhelming beauty of your country and my love of the people as always inspired me, it's a place that I have long wanted to visit. A few weeks ago I checked my general stats and was surprised when I saw that an enormous part of my readership are actually in New Zealand so I just wanted to join others from around the world and let you know that I am so very sorry and I am thinking of you. I have met many kiwi's in my life and they were strong and proud people, I have not doubt that you will take on this challenge will all your might.

There is not much I can do from where I sit now. We have family in Wellington and I have a few friends in Auckland and Dunedin. We knew a couple who lived an hour outside of Christchurch who we haven't been able to get hold of. We are praying that they are safe and well.

I will be keeping very close watch on this story. I truly wish all of you the best...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The ramblings of a dull, bitchy mind

My hair is getting way to long…ginger curls that are suffocating in the heat and feel heavy. I go through periods of wanting to shave my head to be free of it.

I’ve been told by other red heads that I am lucky I don’t possess the epidemic of freckles that go with being a carrot top….they should see me after a day in the sun.

I had to get up early this morning to care for my elderly grandmother so my parents could go to church. Feed her, put her on the toilet and generally make sure she doesn’t freak out to much. Unfortunately she wet her skirt because I left her to long on the potty and she moved.

Why is it that I can still taste my medication two hours after I have taken them?

The meds have put into a four- year haze

I asked my Mom to bring me a bag of something nice when she got home. She brought me celery and eggplant. Both of which I like, but not exactly what I had in mind. My Mom’s fear of my landing up overweight like my Dad has been ruling my life since I was seven, when it became clear that I had inherited his genes.

I have been battling an eating disorder/ food addiction since I was seven.

I am tired of being raked over the coals by both atheists and Christians. To Christians I committed the ultimate sin: I lost faith and I denied God’s existence. To atheists I did the unthinkable I took my faith, as small as a mustard seed and decided I wanted to know God again. Both feel betrayed.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever feel normal again.

I just want to be normal again.

Define normal?

Some days it takes me two hours just to get to the point where I can get out of bed. Other days it will take me the same amount of time just to make my bed: I straighten one side stare at it for half an hour then straighten the other side.

I dread every time my sister comes home. She is always a reminder of what I have missed in life and what I am missing. We are not close and never have been.

Does anyone know how to put my banner in the middle? It's driving me crazy...

The realisation that I could loose my cousin is starting to terrify me. He hasn't got his results back yet but fear and imagination are a cruel thing. He's cool with everything. Why don't I know him better?. Regrets.

For university, it took me a whole day to get through half a study unit…which is normally only supposed to take four hours. I guess I can call it a success.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Singles Awareness Day!


So the day of red and white has rolled round ( well it is just ending for me hear...thank God). If you are a guy with a girl, today is not the day you want to be broke. If you are girl  with a guy now is a great time to show off to your friends....or cower in the corner. And if you are single, well on just this one day you will probably feel so much more...single.

Valentines have never been all that spectacular for me. In primary it was exciting because I would maybe find a chocolate on my pillow when I got home from school. Sweets in our house were rare. In highschool I was ignored, although I had a friend who used to bake heart- shaped cookies every Valentines- she saved me. And then of course there are those "young love" relationships were most of the time we were both to broke to do anything spectacular. I had a guy dedicate a song on the radio to me while I was living in London. That was the only highlight in my Valentine history.

Now this may sound unbelievable. But I am a very happy singleton and a very grateful one too. I can't imagine being in a relationship at this time in my life- the poor man!. I don't even have the desire to get married. But I am only human and on this day when where kitchy red hearts, over priced cards and stuffed animals are flying around I have the same feeling I have every year: I am wondering if there is something wrong with me. I almost feel guilty for not having someone in my life- even though it is my own choice. However, all is not lost I think I have found a way to combat this.

When Valentines rolled around last year I was still very sick with BIH. My Mom's two cousins popped in uninvited as they always do and I made Thai Green Curry for everyone. My Mom wanted to have a special dinner for my dad by the dam- which was the highest point on the farm and had magnificent views. So I cooked them roast vegetables and steak and made chocolate cake for desert. My cousins and I then dragged our braai ( a barbaque) up a steep hill for a fire. I set the table with a white cloth and silver candle sticks and had to practically do a bloody fire dance to get the fire going. The look on my Dad's face when my Mom brought him was priceless. My parents spent most of the evening up there. I went home and watched Titanic (don't judge me!).

I was exhausted but I felt happy and I realised it was because even though I didn't have a Valentine. I had created a wonderful Valentines memory for my parents. This year I did the same thing. I had to resort to ready made meals because I was so short on cash...but they didn't know that:). So if you get depressed on Valentines Day like I did try making doing something for somebody who isn't your lover but needs to be shown a little bit of love. Help a couple out that can't afford a nice Valentines. Let your loved ones know you love them.

Showing someone that you love them really rang true for me today. This morning we discovered my cousin was going in for a MRI because they suspect he has a tumor on the brain. He had not told anyone because he didn't want to add to the family problems. Having been through this myself two years ago I know how terrifying it can be and I can't imagine having to do it alone. We raced through to the hospital. I was able to hang out with him just before he went in. He was in this dodgy multi- coloured hospital gown. It was so funny, he looked like Joseph with his technicoloured dream coat. We were laughing and joking around and then I watched, with a heavy heart as he walked down the hall and disappeared. I didn't have a boyfriend today, I didn't get to go to a fancy resturant or on a romantic picnic but I can tell you with certainty that there was no place I would rather have been.

Here is a song I learnt in primary school. It is really beautiful even if it is a little corny. I love John Denver and the message in the lyrics is perfect for what I want to say:)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The mystery of the missing kitty....

Late at night and all is not what it seems....

The appears to be a strange lump under my duvet...and it's moving!

Suddenly a furry face pops out

Mystery solved!!
My kitty is actually a BOY (I don't know much about kittens okay!) and I have named him.....
:) :) We took him to the animal welfare on Wednesday so he could have his shots. It is ridiculously expensive in South Africa to vaccinate an animal and we figured that maybe they could give us a break. Well, they were actually really pissy with us for bringing him there because they only vaccinate the animals of the disadvantaged for a hugely reduced fee. And as the lady pointed out to us "You don't exactly look disadvantaged" and she was right but my Mom didn't take very kindly to her bitchiness. She told her that things weren't always what they seemed and she announced that I lived with her, I was unemployed, I had been ill over the last four years and I had no money. Yeah....that made me feel like shite. In the end they agreed to vaccinate Milo and de- worm him. Unfortunately there was no vet there to check him out.

Milo is a bundle of energy. He reminds me of one of those wind up toys that just keep on going and going except he never stops. He will play with anything, even his own tail will keep him amused for hours. He has used his litter box from the very beginning and will climb two flights of stairs to take a nap in his basket in my room. We have had him for just 10 days but the change in him his huge and he grown immensely. He his very cuddlable but doesn't stay still for 2 seconds to let you cuddle him. I am actually not getting a whole lot of sleep at the moment because when it's time to go to bed he thinks it's time to play and he starts chewing on my hair and toes. Then he'll wake me up with a paw slap on the cheek at 6am to get his breakfast.

Anyway we are enjoying him. He has provided us with loads of laughs and lots of fun. You'll never get bored with a kitten around!

More pics ( hopefully one day I will get a camera other than my Blackberry...sorry for the crappy quality)

Spot the kitty....again. He gives us heart attacks when he climbs trees especially when he gets to the very thin top branches, but he always gets himself down.

An unusual place to sleep....

Fast asleep with his favorite toy :)

I can walk around with him perched on my shoulder like a parrot

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An unexpected addition to the family

Something unexpected occurred this week. My parents rent a house on an apple farm about an hour outside the city. My Mom and I were returning from a funeral and as we turned into the entrance of the farm we saw a black tabby carrying a kitten in her mouth. At first I thought the kitten was dead because she was dragging on the ground. The tabby carried the kitten into the bushes at the base of the damn and sat staring at us. I then saw one of the farm managers was also watching them. When I got out of the car the tabby bolted up the damn wall leaving the kitten in bushes.

I felt so bad for scaring the mother off I got back into the car and meant to drive off, but the farm manager stopped me and said that he had heard I wanted a kitten and this was my chance to get onr for free. I reasoned that it was probably to early to take it from it's mother because she was still carrying it around. The farm manager then told me that if I didn't take the kitten it would be shot- that was their procedure with stray cats and dogs on the farm because they rent out their land to an organic chicken company who houses their chickens on the farm. I was furious and asked him if that was really necessary, couldn't he just round them up and take them to the animal welfare. He laughed and replied that no one had time for that. In the end I got him to reluctantly agree to send any cat or dog to me and I would take them to the welfare.

I got the kitten and after searching for it's mother on the damn for about an hour, eventually took it home. I think it may be a girl I'm not sure. She looks to be just under six weeks She spent all afternoon sleeping on my chest.That night I tried putting her in a basket to sleep but she kept squealing until I put her on my bed. Unless she runs off like her mother it looks as if this kitten will be staying with us.

Back when I had my rabbits the plan was to get a kitten and have the rabbits and the kitten grow up together. After my rabbits ran away I wasn't too keen on getting anything anymore. This baby has literally dropped into my lap. I have to admit it's a little strange. I still miss my little bunnies so much, even now, a month after Buttercup disappeared I still cry when I see reminders that she was here like the spot of paint she managed to bite off my cupboard, or where she slept or the ribbon she chewed on Christmas day. I still haven't forgiven my Dad for what he did, I haven't forgiven myself.

Having this kitten is just weird. She's not my Buttercup and this is going to sound mean, but I just don't feel like bonding with her. I'm taking really good care of her and she has attached herself to me- following me around, climbing into my bed when I am sleeping, chewing on my hair ( do cats even do that?! ). My Dad is not happy either and he has even started with the guilt trip thing AGAIN ("You chased her mother off, that's cruel") But it's not working this time and no one is taking any notice, as the farm manager said, if I hadn't taken her a bullet would have. I am still looking for the mother and the other kittens and I hope I find them before anyone else does, I don't actually trust them to bring any strays to me. I don't how those people can live with themselves.

Anyway here are some pictures of my new furry friend ( unfortunately I only have a Blackberry to take pics with at the moment so they are pretty crappy). I'm not going to name her until I've taken her to the vet to make sure she's healthy.

Spot the kitty!

In the car- those red marks on my neck are from her scratching me!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top 10 Bizarre Mental Disorders

I have had the WORST week you can imagine: I'm being weaned off meds, having other meds increased, my friend's father passed away, my grandmother got turned down by a home ( "she's too crazy for us"), I got stung by a bee (I'm allergic) and I have had some people be incredibly mean to me. It really has been the horrible. The perfect conditions for WRITER'S BLOCK.

Anyway I still want to keep this blog regularly updated while I am sorting out the mess that is my life but being unable to write at the moment I thought I would share something I came across on Listverse : It may not be appros to say this reading this actually made me grateful for just being afflicted with a mainstream mental disorder.

Top 10 Bizarre Mental Disorders

1. Reduplicative Paramnesia  (Stephi: We have had episodes of this with my grandmother)

Reduplicative paramnesia is the delusional belief that a place or location has been duplicated, existing in two or more places simultaneously, or that it has been ‘relocated’ to another site. For example, a person may believe that they are in fact not in the hospital to which they were admitted, but an identical-looking hospital in a different part of the country, despite this being obviously false, as one case study reported:

A few days after admission to the Neurobehavioural Center, orientation for time was intact, he could give details of the accident (as related to him by others), could remember his doctors’ names and could learn new information and retain it indefinitely. He exhibited, however, a distinct abnormality of orientation for place. While he quickly learned and remembered that he was at the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital (also known as the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital), he insisted that the hospital was located in Taunton, Massachusetts, his home town. Under close questioning, he acknowledged that Jamaica Plain was part of Boston and admitted it would be strange for there to be two Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospitals. Nonetheless, he insisted that he was presently hospitalized in a branch of the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital located in Taunton. At one time he stated that the hospital was located in the spare bedroom of his house.

The term ‘reduplicative paramnesia’ was first used in 1903 by the Czechoslovakian neurologist Arnold Pick to describe a condition in a patient with suspected Alzheimer’s disease who insisted that she had been moved from Pick’s city clinic, to one she claimed looked identical but was in a familiar suburb. To explain the discrepancy she further claimed that Pick and the medical staff worked at both locations.

2. Cotard Delusion  (Stephi: This one is just awful!!)

The Cotard delusion is a rare psychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that he or she is dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has lost their blood or internal organs. Rarely, it can include delusions of immortality.

One case study said the following:

[The patient's] symptoms occurred in the context of more general feelings of unreality and being dead. In January, 1990, after his discharge from hospital in Edinburgh, his mother took him to South Africa. He was convinced that he had been taken to hell (which was confirmed by the heat), and that he had died of septicaemia (which had been a risk early in his recovery), or perhaps from AIDS (he had read a story in The Scotsman about someone with AIDS who died from septicaemia), or from an overdose of a yellow fever injection. He thought he had “borrowed my mother’s spirit to show me round hell”, and that he was asleep in Scotland.

It is named after Jules Cotard, a French neurologist who first described the condition, which he called “le délire de négation” (“negation delirium”), in a lecture in Paris in 1880.

3. Fregoli Delusion

The exact opposite of the Capgras delusion – the Fregoli delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise.

The condition is named after the Italian actor Leopoldo Fregoli who was renowned for his ability to make quick changes of appearance during his stage act.

It was first reported 1927 by two psychiatrists who discussed the case study of a 27 year old woman who believed that she was being persecuted by two actors whom she often went to see at the theatre. She believed that these people “pursued her closely, taking the form of people she knows or meets.”

4. Capgras Delusion

The Capgras delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that an acquaintance, usually a spouse or other close family member, has been replaced by an identical looking impostor.

It is most common in patients with schizophrenia, although it occur in those with dementia, or after a brain injury.

One case report said the following:

Mrs. D, a 74-year old married housewife, recently discharged from a local hospital after her first psychiatric admission, presented to our facility for a second opinion. At the time of her admission earlier in the year, she had received the diagnosis of atypical psychosis because of her belief that her husband had been replaced by another unrelated man. She refused to sleep with the impostor, locked her bedroom and door at night, asked her son for a gun, and finally fought with the police when attempts were made to hospitalize her. At times she believed her husband was her long deceased father. She easily recognized other family members and would misidentify her husband only.

The paranoia induced by this condition has made it a common tool in science fiction books and films, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Total Recall and The Stepford Wives.

5. Jerusalem Syndrome

The Jerusalem syndrome is the name given to a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by, or lead to, a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination, but has affected Jews and Christians of many different backgrounds.

The condition seems to emerge while in Jerusalem and causes psychotic delusions which tend to dissipate after a few weeks. Of all the people who have suffered this spontaneous psychosis, all have had a history of previous mental illness, or where deemed not to have been ‘well’ before coming to the city.

6. Stendhal Syndrome

Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly ‘beautiful’ or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world.

It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

7. Paris Syndrome

Paris syndrome is a condition exclusive to Japanese tourists and nationals, which causes them to have a mental breakdown while in the famous city. Of the millions of Japanese tourists that visit the city every year, around a dozen suffer this illness and have to be returned to their home country.

The condition is basically a severe form of ‘culture shock’. Polite Japanese tourists who come to the city are unable to separate their idyllic view of the city, seen in such films as Amelie, with the reality of a modern, bustling metropolis.

Japanese tourists who come into contact with, say, a rude French waiter, will be unable to argue back and be forced to bottle up their own anger which eventually leads to a full mental breakdown.

The Japanese embassy has a 24hr hotline for tourists suffering for severe culture shock, and can provide emergency hospital treatment if necessary.

8. Diogenes Syndrome

Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher, who lived in a wine barrel and promoted ideas of nihilism and animalism. Famously, when he was asked by Alexander the Great what he wanted most in the world, he replied, “For you to get out of my sunlight!”

Diogenes syndrome is a condition characterised by extreme self neglect, reclusive tendencies, and compulsive hoarding, sometimes of animals. It is found mainly in old people and is associated with senile breakdown.

The syndrome is actually a misnomer since Diogenes lived an ascetic and transient life, and there are no sources to indicate that he neglected is own hygiene.

9. Lima Syndrome

The exact opposite of Stockholm syndrome – this is where the hostage takers become more sympathetic to the plights and needs of the hostages.

It is named after the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Lima, Peru where 14 members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took hundreds of people hostage at a party at the official residence of Japan’s ambassador to Peru. The hostages consisted of diplomats, government and military officials, and business executives of many nationalities who happened to be at the party at the time. It began on December 17, 1996 and ended on April 22, 1997.

Within a few days of the hostage crisis, the militants had released most of the captives, with seeming disregard for their importance, including the future President of Peru, and the mother of the current President.

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, all remaining hostages were freed by a raid by Peruvian commandos, although one hostage was killed.

10. Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of sympathy, loyalty or even voluntary compliance with the hostage taker, regardless of the risk in which the hostage has been placed. The syndrome is also discussed in other cases, including those of wife-beating, rape and child abuse.

The syndrome is named after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal, refusing to testify against them. Later, after the gang were tried and sentenced to jail, one of them married a woman who had been his hostage.

A famous example of Stockholm syndrome is the story of Patty Hearst, a millionaire’s daughter who was kidnapped in 1974, seemed to develop sympathy with her captors, and later took part in a robbery they were orchestrating.


Be sure to check out part 2 of their list of bizarre mental disorders.