“What It Really Means to Have a Mental Illness, and What It Never Means”

Thoughtful article about what is mental illness and what isn’t.

It is true it’s suffering, it’s true it’s manageable but not curable. Pretty insightful.


What It Really Means to Have a Mental Illness, and What It Never Means

The MightyJune 14, 2018

It happens again and again. Every time I see or hear it, a small piece of my hope for humanity shrivels up and withers away into nothingness. A politician tweets about the correlation between mental illness and school shootings. A frustrated relative fumes, “You can’t have it both ways. You either have a mental illness and can’t function, or you have to be responsible all the time.” Another celebrity opens up about a recent mental health struggle and receives a tremendous outpouring of public support. Or an acquaintance consoles me with the words, “Everyone struggles with their mental health sometime in their lives. It’s tough, but everyone goes through something.”

These are just a few examples of the many misconceptions and disparities I encounter daily in my struggle with mental illness. Depending on who I ask, “mentally ill” may be a fitting way to describe the latest school shooter, or someone’s quirky friend who is “so OCD” because her desk always must be kept a certain way. Indeed, talking about mental health or mental illness might be a taboo concept for one person, but it can feel like an overused cliché to another. So, the question is: what really is mental illness, and how can it be defined? What does it truly mean to be “mentally ill?”

Related: The Hard Lesson I Learned About Reaching Out to Others Struggling With Mental Health

The formal definition of a mental disorder has evolved somewhat over the years, due to ongoing developments in our knowledge of psychological and pathological processes. However, the current academic consensus, as stated in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), defines mental illness as “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.” Note that the precise pathology of the illness is not specified; this is because mental disorders are of uncertain origin and classified based on symptoms. The definition continues with three other important criteria: a mental disorder causes significant distress or disability, it is not merely a socially or culturally acceptable response to a stressor or loss and it is not synonymous with socially deviant behavior unless it results from a dysfunction in the individual.

Related: Do You Want a Psychologist or a Therapist?

In other words, mental illnesses deserve to be taken seriously. Not every mental health struggle or stressor is comparable to a severe or chronic mental illness. When I hear young people say things like “I have so much anxiety” or, “I’m literally having a panic attack right now” because they procrastinated or forgot to study for a test, or post on social media “I’m so depressed” because they broke up with their fourth girlfriend this year, it is striking to me how unaware they are of the true gravity of the subjects they are discussing. Likewise, when people tell me to “suck it up like everyone else” or to “just get over it,” it is clear they have never experienced the level of torture and hopelessness I feel day in and day out.

It is just as important to understand that mental illness does not equal socially deviant behavior. Yet this is exactly the stereotype we see presented repeatedly in the media. Where did the serial killer in that movie escape from before he went on a killing spree? It was an “insane asylum.” What do they say could have prevented that high school shooting? The police should have caught the shooter early and institutionalized him. After all, he was a loner with depression. Do you know that erratic, narcissistic leader everyone’s afraid of? He must be mentally ill. What other explanation could there possibly be for such despicable behavior?

Related: 8 Types of Therapy We Don’t Talk About

In reality, violent or hateful intentions are not symptoms of any diagnosable mental illness. We have another, more fitting word to describe such people: evil. More importantly, most of the millions of people living with mental illness, and certainly all I have met, are loving, intrinsically valuable and often exceptionally bright and talented members of society.

Sometimes I even read claims that people who hold certain beliefs, especially unprovable religious beliefs or a sexual orientation that differs from the norm, are afflicted with delusions or other mental illness. Does this mean that everybody who believes strongly in something or feels a certain way is mentally ill? Of course not. We live in an uncertain world in which it is impossible to definitively prove or disprove anything that is not blatantly obvious to be absolute truth based on our limited human logic. Moreover, these feelings and beliefs do not satisfy what in my opinion is the most important criterion for something to be considered a mental disorder: it must cause some form of distress or disability in the afflicted person.

A person’s mental illness was never asked for and never desired; it just happened. Recovery is possible, treatment is available, symptoms are abatable, but mental illness never fully goes away. Many people claim that people who are suffering are just not trying hard enough, faking or exaggerating their symptoms, looking for attention or otherwise at fault for their condition. When the illness affects their functional ability, others view the person as equivalent in social relevance to a child. I have experienced some of this prejudice firsthand. Sometimes it seems as if people are only willing to accept the fact that mental illness will always have some impact on my functioning if I remain completely disabled, permanently dependent and eternally hopeless for the rest of my life. If I say I believe things will get better, then not even my most tenacious efforts to achieve recovery are considered enough. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

There are many things that mental illness is not, but really only one thing it is. Mental illness is not a death sentence; it does get better. Mental illness does not make someone obsessed with shooting people with guns or prone to violent, erratic behavior. The only lives it ruins are those of the people with a mental illness themselves, and the lives of those who truly care about them. Mental illness is not a joke, not a meme, not a trend and not a quirk. Mental illness is neither a figment of one’s imagination nor a product of their own doing. Mental illness does not equal everyday stress, common fears, different beliefs or uncommon feelings. Mental illness does not mean a temporary mental health struggle, but it certainly does not translate to “crazy psychopath” either. Mental illness does not always mean delusional or psychotic, but when it does, it rarely means dangerous and never means despicable.

Mental illness is unimaginable pain and incomprehensible suffering. Mental illness is a name given to a unique set of symptoms afflicting a human being. Mental illness is serious, and if left untreated, mental illness can be deadly. Mental illness is uncontrollable, but mental illness is always manageable. Mental illness is worth respecting, and mental illness is worth defining.

Anthony Bourdain dies at 61 in apparent suicide

I don’t know what to say, I’m stunned and devastated.


Award-winning chef, writer and television personality Anthony Bourdain has died in an apparent suicide. He was 61.

Bourdain was found dead on Friday morning in his room at a luxury hotel in the tiny village of Kaysersberg in the Alsace region of northeast France. He appeared to have hanged himself, according to Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, the prosecutor of Colmar in Alsace region, southeast of Kaysersberg.

The exact cause of death is under investigation. The hotel where Bourdain was staying declined to comment Friday.

Bourdain was the host of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” which has aired on CNN since its premiere in 2013. The travel and food series, which features cuisines and stories from around the world, has won several Emmy Awards as well as a 2013 Peabody Award, according to CNN.

He leaves behind an 11-year-old daughter, Ariane Bourdain.

‘One of the great storytellers of our time’

CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death in a statement Friday.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said. “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

CNN reported that Bourdain was in France working on an upcoming episode for his hit series when close friend and French chef Eric Ripert found him unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning.

“Anthony was a dear friend,” Ripert told ABC News in a statement Friday. “He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many. I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.” From running restaurants to hosting a hit series

Born in New York City and raised in Leonia, New Jersey, Bourdain went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978 and pursue a career in cooking.

In an interview with ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis last year, Bourdain said that, when he was younger, he had a kind of “live hard, die young” attitude.

“It came as sort of a rude surprise to me when I turned 30 and I was still alive,” he said. “I didn’t really have a plan after that.” Bourdain ran a number of restaurant kitchens in New York City. But he gained fame with his acclaimed nonfiction book in 2000, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.”

“Mine was not a particularly distinguished cooking career,” Bourdain told ABC News in the interview last year. “When ‘Kitchen Confidential’ was published, [it] was to my great surprise a success … I was determined not to screw this up.”

Bourdain authored several other nonfiction books on the culinary industry as well as accounts of his world-travel and food adventures. In 2011, he founded his own publishing line, Anthony Bourdain Books, at Ecco Press, a New York-based publishing imprint of HarperCollins.

“I’ve known Tony as an author and friend for many years,” Ecco president and publisher Daniel Halpern said in a statement Friday. “He not only revolutionized the memoir genre with his groundbreaking and iconic work, ‘Kitchen Confidential,’ he supported emerging voices and chefs with his imprint, Anthony Bourdain Books. His death is a great personal tragedy. Our thoughts are with his daughter and family at this difficult time.”

On CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain delved into different cultures across the globe by talking and sharing meals with locals. U.S. President Barack Obama famously appeared on an episode in Vietnam in 2016, during his final months in office. Obama and Bourdain discussed Vietnamese-American relations, among other things, while dining on grilled pork, noodles and beer at a small family-run restaurant in Hanoi.

Previously, Bourdain had hosted a TV show called “A Cook’s Tour” on Food Network and then “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” as well as “The Layover” on the Travel Channel.

<img alt=”PHOTO: Anthony Bourdain poses with Italian actor and director Asia Argento for the Women In The World Summit in New York, April 12, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters, FILE)” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xQEuz5XU6AvjUzcJ9nmIsw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTM2MA–/https://s.abcnews.com/images/Entertainment/anthony-bourdain-asia-argento7-gty-ml-180608_hpMain_16x9_608.jpg&#8221; class=”caas-img”>

PHOTO: Anthony Bourdain poses with Italian actor and director Asia Argento for the Women In The World Summit in New York, April 12, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters, FILE)


‘Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did’

In recent months, Bourdain garnered attention as an outspoken advocate of the #MeToo movement, with his vocal support of dozens of women — including his own girlfriend, Italian actress and director Asia Argento — who accused disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault or misconduct.

“I’ve been seeing up close — due to a personal relationship — the difficulty of speaking out about these things, and the kind of vilification and humiliation and risk and pain and terror that come with speaking out about this kind of thing,” Bourdain told Slate magazine last October. “That certainly brought it home in a personal way that, to my discredit, it might not have before.”

Argento posted a statement on her official Twitter account, saying she’s “beyond devastated” to lose her “love,” “rock” and “protector.”

“Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did. His brilliant, fearless spirit touched and inspired so many, and his generosity knew no bounds,” she said in the statement Friday. “He was my love, my rock, my protector. I am beyond devastated. My thoughts are with his family. I would ask that you respect their privacy and mine.”

During a 2015 interview with Wine Spectator, Bourdain was asked how he would like to be remembered.

“Maybe that I grew up a little,” he told the magazine. “That I’m a dad, that I’m not a half-bad cook, that I can make a good coq au vin. That would be nice. And not such a bad bastard after all.”

In a now-eerie interview with People magazine that was published last month, Bourdain said he’d rather “die in the saddle” than retire.

“I gave up on that. I’ve tried. I just think I’m just too nervous, neurotic, driven,” he told the magazine. “I would have had a different answer a few years ago. I might have deluded myself into thinking that I’d be happy in a hammock or gardening. But no, I’m quite sure I can’t. I’m going to pretty much die in the saddle.”

ABC News’ Kate Hodgson, Aaron Katersky and Paul Pradier contributed to this report.

Anyone in crisis, or who knows someone in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Kate Spade, American Designer, Is Dead at 55

Mental illness wins this one. Kate Spade, a super successful designer, billionaires, with a husband and young daughter. Oh god, how bad things must have been for her to take this action?

Mental illness, insidious, heinous, deadly, masked, terrifying.


The American designer Kate Spade was found dead on Tuesday, according to police officials.

The police said that Ms. Spade, 55, was discovered unresponsive at a Park Avenue apartment, where she had hanged herself. She had left a note, but the official did not comment on what it said. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:26 a.m.

A housekeeper found Ms. Spade in her bedroom hanging from a red scarf tied to a doorknob, the police said. She was unconscious and the housekeeper called 911.

Ms. Spade’s husband was at the scene. A police spokesman did not know the whereabouts of Ms. Spade’s daughter.

Born Kate Brosnahan in Kansas City, Mo., in December 1962, Ms. Spade was one of the first of a powerful wave of female American contemporary designers in the 1990s.

She built a brand on the appeal of clothes and accessories that made women smile, her cheerful lack of restraint and bright prints striking a chord with consumers. She herself was the embodiment of her aesthetic, with her proto-1960s bouffant, nerd glasses and kooky grin, which masked a business mind that saw the opportunities in becoming a lifestyle brand, almost before the term officially existed.

Ms. Spade, who had been the accessories editor of Mademoiselle magazine, founded Kate Spade with her husband-to-be, Andy and a friend, Elyce Arons, in 1993. Frustrated with the handbags of the era, which she found to be over-accessorized, she had wanted “a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,” she told The New York Times in 1999.

She did not know what to call the company at first and decided to make it a combination of the names of the co-founders. After the first show, she realized that the bags needed a little something extra to catch people’s eyes. She took the label, which originally had been on the inside of the bag, and sewed it to the outside. With that gesture, she created a brand identity and her empire.

Within a few years, she had opened a SoHo shop and was collecting industry awards, her name a shorthand for the cute, clever bags that were an instant hit with career women and, later, young girls, status symbols of a more attainable, all-American sort than a Fendi clutch or Chanel bag. Ms. Spade became the very visible face of her brand.

In 1999, the Spades sold the business to Neiman Marcus Group, and the company changed hands several times after that — in 2006, Neiman Marcus Group sold it to Liz Claiborne, Inc., which eventually shed its other holdings to become the publicly-traded Kate Spade & Company, itself acquired in 2017 by Coach, Inc. (After the Kate Spade acquisition, Coach, Inc. became the holding company Tapestry, which also owns Coach and Stuart Weitzman.)

By then, the Spades had been gone a decade, having left in 2007 to devote themselves to other projects. Ms. Spade dedicated herself to her family and to philanthropy, and in 2016, together with her husband, Ms. Arons, and Paola Venturi, a Kate Spade alum, launched a new venture, an accessories label called Frances Valentine. Ms. Spade was so committed to the project that she told interviews she had changed her surname from Spade to Valentine.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.


The placebo effect is real, sugar pills can have as much of an effect as medication. But how? This video attempts to explain how.  According to the video, it’s energetic. The answers are within us. Of course a wonderful thing to believe and attempt to do! Please comment on any experience you’ve had with the placebo effect or positive thinking. Thank you 😍😍😍


Scientists Have Identified The Physical Source of Anxiety in The Brain

Scientists have discovered “anxiety neurons” in the hippocampus of mice. They fire when mice are in anxiety provoking environments. And they can be silenced with light, at which time mice don’t exhibit anxious behavior any longer, but explore environments that would normally have been very anxiety provoking. Also these same cells can be activated with another setting of light and when that happens the mice exhibit very anxious behavior even in safe environments. And as of mice, so of men! So, hopefully this will lead to better treatments for anxiety for us humans. I’d be totally willing to be their guinea pig for new therapies for anxiety! I’ve been dealing with sometimes debilitating anxiety for at least two years now. Waiting for new treatments, as are a lot of others, I’m sure. Godspeed researchers!


And they can control it with light.


13 MAY 2018

We’re not wired to feel safe all the time, but maybe one day we could be.

A recent study investigating the neurological basis of anxiety in the brain has identified ‘anxiety cells’ located in the hippocampus – which not only regulate anxious behaviour but can be controlled by a beam of light.

The findings, so far demonstrated in experiments with lab mice, could offer a ray of hope for the millions of people worldwide who experience anxiety disorders (including almost one in five adults in the US), by leading to new drugs that silence these anxiety-controlling neurons.

“We wanted to understand where the emotional information that goes into the feeling of anxiety is encoded within the brain,” says one of the researchers, neuroscientist Mazen Kheirbek from the University of California, San Francisco.

To find out, the team used a technique called calcium imaging, inserting miniature microscopes into the brains of lab mice to record the activity of cells in the hippocampus as the animals made their way around their enclosures.

Anxiety cells (Hen Lab/Columbia University)

These weren’t just any ordinary cages, either.

The team built special mazes where some paths led to open spaces and elevated platforms – exposed environments known to induce anxiety in mice, due to increased vulnerability to predators.

Away from the safety of walls, something went off in the mice’s heads – with the researchers observing cells in a part of the hippocampus called ventral CA1 (vCA1) firing up, and the more anxious the mice behaved, the greater the neuron activity became.

“We call these anxiety cells because they only fire when the animals are in places that are innately frightening to them,” explains senior researcher Rene Hen from Columbia University.

The output of these cells was traced to the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that – among other things – regulates the hormones that controls emotions.

Because this same regulation process operates in people, too – not just lab mice exposed to anxiety-inducing labyrinths – the researchers hypothesise that the anxiety neurons themselves could be a part of human biology, too.

“Now that we’ve found these cells in the hippocampus, it opens up new areas for exploring treatment ideas that we didn’t know existed before,” says one of the team, Jessica Jimenez from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Even more exciting is that we’ve already figured out a way of controlling these anxiety cells – in mice at least – to the extent it actually changes the animals’ observable behaviour.

Using a technique called optogenetics to shine a beam of light onto the cells in the vCA1 region, the researchers were able to effectively silence the anxiety cells and prompt confident, anxiety-free activity in the mice.

“If we turn down this activity, will the animals become less anxious?” Kheirbek told NPR.

“What we found was that they did become less anxious. They actually tended to want to explore the open arms of the maze even more.”

This control switch didn’t just work one way.

By changing the light settings, the researchers were also able to enhance the activity of the anxiety cells, making the animals quiver even when safely ensconced in enclosed, walled surroundings – not that the team necessarily thinks vCA1 is the only brain region involved here.

“These cells are probably just one part of an extended circuit by which the animal learns about anxiety-related information,” Kheirbek told NPR, highlighting other neural cells justify additional study too.

In any case, the next steps will be to find out whether the same control switch is what regulates human anxiety – and based on what we know about the brain similarities with mice, it seems plausible.

If that pans out, these results could open a big new research lead into ways to treat various anxiety conditions.

And that’s something we should all be grateful for.

“We have a target,” Kheirbek explained to The Mercury News. “A very early way to think about new drugs.”

The findings were reported in Neuron.


It Can Be Done!


It Can Be Done!

What’s done is done.
What’s past is past.
Nothing to be done about it but learn from it.
And let it go.
Banish fear.
Live confidently, fearlessly, positively.
Be sure of your success in everything you do.
Live with positive thoughts and gratitude.
With confidence, make the present the best it can be.
Enjoy the moment and savor and relish it
Have confidence that you can do it.
Look to the future with hope.
With confidence that you will make it good.
And know you will handle what comes your way with love and grace.

With love and grace for my friends and family,