Always apologizing

Why is it that only people with mental illness have to apologize for their symptoms? Well almost always. No one ever says “I’m so sorry for having a high blood count, but I have leukemia” do they?

I’m sorry I’m so gloomy (and I’m having suicidal thoughts, but you can’t admit that to anyone), I’m in a depression.

I’m sorry I’m such a wreck, I have really bad anxiety.

I’m so sorry I walk too fast, talk too fast, drive too fast, have hyper sexual thoughts but I’m in a manic phase.

I’m really sorry I’m so irritable, I’m in a mixed mood phase.

And anger, don’t forget anger, it comes with all of the above! Anger deserves its very own post.

No, I’m not a drama queen, I have a mood disorder.

I can be very emotional, but that also makes me very empathetic towards other people’s suffering. To use a woowoo term, I’m an empath.

If only I just didn’t have this damn disease so I could bloody well stop apologizing and go on living my life as others without mood disorders do. If only…

And as for self isolation, well I’ve been doing that for years, quite an expert at it!

Ugh! What a joy it must be to live with me!



Also known as health anxiety, or somatic symptom disorder, Hypochondriasis is an anxiety disorder in which the sufferer worries that they have a life-threatening disorder. Often times triggered by normal bodily aches and pains, a person suffering from Hypochondriasis will perceive these normal pains as signs of impending doom, and might make multiple trips to doctors or hospitals to gain reassurance. Oftentimes, even when the sufferer is cleared by a doctor, their fears will persist and they will have to seek multiple opinions which never seem to be conclusive enough to quell the anxiety they feel. It is common for those suffering from this anxiety disorder to worry they may have AIDS, HIV, ALS, Lou Gehrigs disease, or other types of neurological or fatal conditions.


Common compulsions in Hypochondriasis

·       Excessive googling or time spent on WebMD looking at symptoms

·       Constant checking or touching of the parts of the body where the pain is perceived

·       Seeking reassurance from friends, doctors and family members

·       Ruminating on what you felt like before the pain started

·       Ruminating on what life could be like after your feared diagnosis

·       Hyper-vigilance towards any perceived change in body sensations or levels of fatigue


A difficult issue in hypochondriasis is that when we concentrate on a certain body part excessively, or touch or prod it repeatedly, we can actually create sensation there. The sufferer will see this as a sign that their symptoms are getting worse and can become quite anxious and distressed. Health anxiety can be co-morbid with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other anxiety disorders. Hypochondriasis is highly treatable and can be addressed with a combination of Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT), Mindfulness and Acceptance practices, and Exposure and Response prevention (ERP). With the proper treatment strategy, the client will learn how to manage the intrusive thoughts (ex: “what if I have ALS?”) and will begin to slowly accept the presence of their unwanted emotions.




Depression and anxiety

I live simultaneously in the past and the future, so that is why I suffer from depression and anxiety. Always regrets about the past, always if only I hadn’t done this or I had done that. Always oh I wish I could go back there, I miss it. Contradictory thoughts, I know. But they seem to control me, not the other way around.

And fears about the future, what if this happens or that happens, what if this or that doesn’t happen? Oh my god what is going to happen? Fear in my heart, sometimes I just break down sobbing, wishing I didn’t exist.

This last year has been the worst as far as anxiety is concerned. I don’t know why. It could be hormones, my estrogen and progesterone leaves are quite low. We’re trying to get approval from my insurance company for an estrogen/progesterone patch. Let’s see if that helps.

I’m on Lamictal besides Lithium and Seroquel. In the distant past, Lamictal alone had thrown me into mania for all five years that I was on it. But this time I’m taking it with Lithium and it has not done that. In fact it’s improved my mood quite a bit! It was difficult and scary staring it again, but I’m glad I did.

So, I have a question for my readers: is it that you live in the past that you have depression, and you live in the future so you have anxiety?

Or is it your thoughts about the past that cause you to be depressed and your thoughts about the future that cause you to be anxious?

That is, what comes first? The thoughts or the depression and anxiety?

Kind of like a chicken and an egg question.

If the depression and anxiety come first then it might be an issue of medication primarily.

If the thoughts come first, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May have a big impact along with meds.

Let me know what you think.

Also why can’t I seem to live in the present moment, really that is all we have and peace is found here? Why does my mind take me to the land of regrets and fears instead of leaving me in peace on the shores of the present moment? Is that because of my illness, bipolar 1, or because of severe stress suffered in childhood? I don’t know. I just know I wish it was not the case and I could live in peace.

Lithium, the gripping history of a psychiatric success story.

Lithium: the gripping history of a psychiatric success story

Black and white picture of John Cade in a jacket, tie and glasses, holding a white pill.

John Cade, pictured in 1974, was the first person to test lithium as a treatment for biopolar disorder.Credit: News Ltd/Newspix

Lithium: A Doctor, a Drug, and a Breakthrough Walter A. BrownLiveright (2019)

Some 70 years ago, John Cade, an Australian psychiatrist, discovered a medication for bipolar disorder that helped many patients to regain stability swiftly. Lithium is now the standard treatment for the condition, and one of the most consistently effective medicines in psychiatry. But its rise was riddled with obstacles. The intertwined story of Cade and his momentous finding is told in Lithium, a compelling book by US psychiatrist Walter Brown.

Bipolar disorder, labelled manic-depressive illness until 1980, affects around 1 in 100 people globally. Without treatment, it can become a relentless cycle of emotional highs and lows. Suicide rates for untreated people are 10–20 times those in the general population. Fortunately, lithium carbonate — derived from the light, silvery metal lithium — can reduce that figure tenfold.

Brown’s telling of Cade’s eventful life covers much of the same ground as Finding Sanity (2016), a rather hagiographic biography by Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore. What Brown does superbly well is to show that Cade made his discovery without access to advances in technology or to modern facilities — and almost despite them. His finding was the happy result of being forced to work with the simplest of means.

During the Second World War, Cade was interred for more than three years in the notorious Japanese prisoner-of-war camp at Changi in Singapore. He was put in charge of the psychiatric section, where he began to note the decisive link between certain food deficiencies and diseases in his fellow prisoners. A lack of B vitamins, for instance, caused beriberi and pellagra.

After the war, he pursued his investigations. Working from an abandoned pantry in Bundoora Repatriation Mental Hospital near Melbourne, Australia, he began to collect urine samples from people with depression, mania and schizophrenia, aiming to discover whether some secretion in their urine could be correlated to their symptoms. With no access to sophisticated chemical analysis and largely unguided by theory, Cade injected the urine into the abdominal cavities of guinea pigs, raising the dose until they died. The urine of people with mania proved especially lethal to the animals.

In further experiments at Bundoora, Cade found that lithium carbonate — which had been used to treat conditions such as gout since the nineteenth century — reduced the toxicity of patients’ urine. Cade also noticed that a large dose of the medication tended to calm the guinea pigs. He could turn them on their backs, and the normally restive rodents would gaze placidly back at him. He wondered whether lithium could have the same tranquillizing effect on his patients. After trying it out on himself to establish a safe dose, Cade began treating ten people with mania. In September 1949, he reported fast and dramatic improvements in all of them in the Medical Journal of Australia (J. F. J. Cade Med. J. Aus. 2, 349–351; 1949). The majority of these patients had been in and out of Bundoora for years; now, five had improved enough to return to their homes and families.

Lithium carbonate pills

Lithium carbonate is now on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.Credit: Charles D. Winters/Science Photo Library

Cade’s paper went largely unnoticed at the time. Soon, moving along the rows of the periodic table like a beachcomber on a shore, Cade began to experiment with salts of rubidium, cerium and strontium. None proved therapeutic. In 1950, he also abandoned his experiments with lithium. The therapeutic dose of lithium is dangerously close to a toxic dose, and that year one of his patients — “W.B.”, a man with a 30-year history of bipolar disorder — appeared in the coroner’s records as having died from lithium poisoning.

Brown also weaves in the story of Mogens Schou. The Danish psychiatrist was as much a hero as Cade, fighting long and hard to get lithium accepted as a treatment for bipolar disorder. He knew the condition intimately, because his brother had it. Starting in the 1950s, Schou teamed up with fellow psychiatrist Poul Baastrup to conduct a series of lithium experiments with ever stricter conditions, culminating in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Published in 1970 in The Lancet, this established beyond doubt that lithium was effective for most people with bipolar disorder, including Schou’s brother (P. C. Baastrup et al. Lancet 296, 326–330; 1970).

Today, lithium helps to stabilize the moods of millions of people with the condition, although the dose must be carefully controlled and it can have unpleasant side effects, such as nausea and trembling. Its mechanism is still something of a mystery. Most research targets the delicate chemistry supporting the functioning of neurotransmitters; but as yet, definitive results are lacking. Nor has the cause of the disorder been established. It is clear that there is a genetic component: if one of a pair of monozygotic twins (who share all their genetic material) has the disorder, there is around a 60% chance that the other will have it. In dizygotic twins, the figure is 10%.

Finishing Lithium, readers are left with a sense of paradox. The drug that set off the ‘psychopharmacological revolution’ of the 1950s, with antipsychotics and antidepressants arriving in its wake, is in many ways a stunning success. Yet it was developed in a ramshackle pantry, and the bottled urine samples were stored in the Cade family refrigerator. Moreover, in retrospect, the discovery of lithium seems in part related to an erroneous interpretation on Cade’s part. The ‘tranquillized’ guinea pigs were probably showing the first symptoms of lithium poisoning: lethargy is still a warning sign of an overdose. And the step from guinea pigs to humans was a “conceptual leap”, as Brown kindly puts it — hardly a deduction from sound theory. It is unlikely that a modern researcher would get permission for experiments such as Cade’s.

Cade’s findings could easily have foundered if Schou and others, such as US medical researcher John Talbott, hadn’t followed up on his 1949 paper. Thus, hailing Cade as a trailblazer is valid — but without Schou and the rest, there would be no trail. Thanks to them all, this ubiquitous element, easily manufactured and never patented by pharmaceutical companies, remains both cheap and invaluable as a treatment for a troubling disorder.