19 November 2010

New Blog

As you'll have seen from the previous post, I've more or less shut up shop here at Intermittently Rational.  Fortunately (and completely unexpectedly), the mental health stuff isn't such a day to day problem for me anymore and as a result I have a significantly reduced urge to blog primarily about it - it no longer fits.  However, I like having a blog, so I decided to set up a new one.

Now, more than a month later, I've finally actually done it!  Not much there yet, but there will be . . .

If you've been reading Intermittently Rational and would like to see my new blog, send me an email and I'll send you the address.  It would, of course, be simpler to just put a link in this post but I want to keep the two blogs separate and putting up a link to the new one would, well, link them. 


08 October 2010

Hello Out There

I've been done with my degree for a little more than a month now and while I have been reading everyone else's blogs, I haven't written anything myself.  This is because I am planning to bring this blog to an end.  I'm going to be cleaning it up over the next week or so and I plan to leave the blog itself up for now, anyway. 

I started Intermittently Rational almost two years ago when I was trying to finish my undergraduate degree and I was still in the middle of making a recovery from a very bad episode of depression.  I put the emphasis on my experiences as a student with mental disorder.  Now, many months later on, I seem to have recovered from mental disorder and it doesn't seem like it's going to come back anytime soon.  I haven't been cured, mind: I take my lamotrigine, I have bad days and mini-mood swings, I'm obsessively careful about keeping stress, late nights and alcohol to a reasonable minimum.  It has, however, remained all sub-clinical and hasn't interfered with me doing what I want and living my life.  I have a mental disorder but I'm not suffering from it anymore.

Because of this, I feel that what I have to offer on a blog doesn't fit into the nature of this blog anymore.  I still have things to say about mental disorder that are - at least in my opinion - interesting and I'm pretty sure that I will occasionally add something on this blog in the future.  I will not, however, be doing so regularly.  I plan to start a new blog (I like having one) with my real name (!) and a broader emphasis over the next month and I plan to continue to use this google account to read and comment on the blogs I've been reading, so I'll still be reachable at this address. 

Starting Intermittently Rational is one of the best decisions I've made.  I cannot thank all of you who have read and commented over the years enough for all the support.  It was a real and tangible help to me as I put my life back together (again).  While I'll miss being here, I hope some of you will come follow my new blog (I'll send out an e-mail with the address once I have one) and whatever happens, I'll still be following. 

01 September 2010

Thank You!

I'm now a fully dissertated former grad student.  While I'm really looking forward to sleeping for more than two hours at a time tonight, I'm really not happy that my year is over.  If I thought I could actually get away with living in the common room in the philosophy building - as I not infrequently threaten to do - then I would.  There are shower facilities and a kitchen in there, after all; I could make it work.

I'm really pleased with myself for getting my dissertation done and turned in.  It was a fascinating project to work on and hopefully it turned out well.  As I know I've said before, I was writing about mental health policy and legislation and I want to thank everyone who has ever commented on this blog and everyone who writes the blogs I read - I couldn't have done it without you.  I've been keeping this blog for going on two years now and the ongoing conversation has been a great help not only in crafting my dissertation but also in deepening and elucidating my own personal understanding of what mental disorder is and who I am.  Not the least important, I have enjoyed it! 

27 August 2010

The Bit I Forgot

I remembered what the third thing was!  (please see previous post) 

I heard of what seemed to me a rather good insomnia suggestion that I had never heard before.  Happily, I'm not suffering much from that particular problem these days but I'm ever on the alert for new ways to deal with it when it does arise.  True, the fact that I'm typing this at 12.22am might seem to belie this assertion but I'm staying up all night on purpose, which is dangerous, I know, but I haven't done it in an age and I don't want to stop working when I am so damn close to being done.  The end is tantalisingly close and I really, really childishly want to be the next person to put 'dissertation finished' as a facebook status update.  I know how silly that is.  I'm also terrified that I won't finish in time - I've been having a horrible time trying to work for the past two weeks and I really want it to end.  Tangential self-excusing over now.

The suggestion is this: if you cannot sleep and you know you're not going to sleep, try to spend some of your time meditating.  The meditation is not meant to relax you so that you can then go to sleep but rather as an obviously inadequate sleep substitute that is clearly a hell of a lot better than pacing, poking around on the internets or watching television.  That way, you can have some rest even if you can't have sleep.

Whilst it's not a viable option for all and any kind of sleepless night, it really appealed to me as a positive option.  I like that it is something that is not intended to lead to sleep but rather to ameliorate sleeplessness.  It's perfectly possible to follow all of the good, long term habits for sleep and still not be able to sleep: I'm pleased to now have sleep-loss amelioration suggestion.

26 August 2010

Extra Thoughts and Some Music

I've got what feels like less than enough time to finish my dissertation and so my brain has, naturally enough, kicked into overdrive.  As a result, I have a few things that keep floating up to the surface of my consciousness so I'm skimming them off here in the hope that that will lay them to temporary rest.

1)  I've often thought about the problem of being in a relationship and having a mental disorder.  I've written about it before, a couple of times.  Today, however, I started thinking about it in a different way.  I've been thinking about it only in terms of the way I feel as though I were "damaged goods": it's a cruel phrase, but it's the one lodged in my subconscious mind.  If one looks at it more broadly and with fewer innappropriate moralistic overtones, then on can reframe it as a relationship (potentially) between a neurotypical person and a non-neurotypical person.  It seems to me that this correctly captures the extra effort required with the additional advantage of making it perspicuous that the effort flows both ways.  The statistical likelihood is that if I (a non-neurotypical person) end up in a relationship, that relationship will be with a neurotypical person because there are a lot more neurotypical persons than non-neurotypical persons.  Thus, the expectation that I will have to make extra effort to accommodate a person whose neurological architecture is significantly different from mine is a strong expectation.  I do no, however, consider that the effort is too costly.  It seems fine and acceptable to me.  Whenever I have hitherto considered it from the other side, however, it has often felt like it would be asking too much of any person to bear the burden of accommodation for my non-typical neural architecture.  The effort, however, that that hypthetical neurotypical person would have to make is theoretically no greater than any effort I will have to make; it is just statistically less likely that any given individual neurotypical person would have to make that effort in any given relationship.  Thus, I can now see that I have been falling for an informal fallacy all these years!  I'm going to try to stop worrying about it, or at least to acknowledge the effort I would have to make as being equally important.  Liberating.

2)  Learning the music for a Handel oratorio, while a joyful and worthwhile end in itself, is not actually commensurate with writing a dissertation.  Must put mp3 player away now.

3)  There was another one but now I can't remember what it is.  Distracted even in my distractions.  Damn!  That's some distracted!  Oh well.

Here's some Handel for your delectation:

And some silly Handel with dancing by the ever-wonderful Mark Morris Dance Group:

Almost done!  Can't wait!  Day in bed with chocolate, Carson McCullers novel and Handel score coming up.  Then, my 30th birthday party.  How did I get this old?  Last time I checked I was still 25.

18 August 2010

Over-Educated Undead

I think grad school might be a species of zombie. 

1) If one is in grad school, one must write a dissertation.
2) Dissertations will eventually take over your inner running commentary; you will eventually realise that you are losing your ability to think about non-dissertation things and your ability to make complete sentences out loud.  Groaning constitutes a large part of your discourse.
3) Monomania, the inability to make complete sentences and the increase of groaning are all indicators that one's brain is being eaten.
4)If it is a thing that eats brains, it is a zombie.
5) Dissertations are brain eating things. 2, 3 Hypothetical Syllogism
6) Grad school is a brain eating thing. 1, 5 Hypothetical Syllogism
Therefore, Grad school is a species of zombie.  6, 4 Hypothetical Syllogism

Proof: I love logic.  Brain eating ceases 5pm 1 September.  Wish me luck!

06 August 2010

Pointless Spillover from Facebook

The plural of the noun 'fly' is 'flies'.

The verb 'fly' conjugates as follows:

I fly                     We fly
You fly               You fly
He/She/It flies     They fly

It is never, under any circumstances, spelled 'flys' or 'flyes'.

I want to put this in my status update so badly but I can't do it without hurting people's feelings.  Instead, I'm putting it up here.  Unbelievably, three different people have spelled either of the two incorrectly in their status updates over the past 72 hours.  What iz the world coming 2? 

Thanks for your patience with my orthography-bile! 

21 July 2010

Stress and Moodiness

I've been sort-of hard at work on my dissertation this week and last; sort-of hard at the socialising, too.  We have a draft due on Friday and I'm having a hard time getting the words onto paper. 

Unfortunately, I often have writer's block when it comes to submitting work to be graded.  This is still a relatively new problem for me.  In 2006, I had what can only be called (pathetic as this sounds) a traumatic grading experience.  It was the final paper for a class I had been doing very well in.  The professor who had previously been quite supportive and quite enthusiastic about the work I had done really did not like my final paper.  I, on the assumption that she would like it as much as the rest of my work, was careless about picking up the draft from her in a timely fashion.  It was the end of the semester, which is always a very busy time, and so I didn't get it back from her until about six hours before our exam period, during which she had decided we would present and discuss our papers instead of sitting an exam.  Clearly, this was not the best decision on my part but I do think that I was reasonably justified in expecting that, on the whole, any comments would be largely positive.  What I got instead was a barrage of mixed justified criticism and emotional hogwash.  It's not on to accuse someone of being species-ist in a ten page paper; it is acceptable to say that soemthing is too much of an assertion and not enough of an argument. 

The difficulty for me was that the argument and the idea behind the paper are objectively good.  I have had many good discussions about it, I have even had that very same paper accepted for a conference.  That class was the first class I had ever had with that particular professor and over the years I learned more about her.  I learned that she (being an arch second-wave feminist) really hates logic and thinks that it can only ever be used to oppress people.  My paper was based around a deductive logical argument and contained the word logic in the title.  I have learned, particularly from hearing more of her own work, that she is very invested in essential notions about sex and gender and really believes that women (have to) do philosophy in a significantly different way because they are women.  My paper was intended to be critical and possibly destructive about essentialist notions of sex and gender.  Knowing more about the way she looks at the world, I can see that she must have experienced that paper as a personal attack, designed to oppress her, written by a female student who obviously was a sex traitor for using logic and saying that women are not necessarily different from men.  From that point of view, it would have been philosophically coherent for her to react emotionally to my paper, rather than to try to argue against it or be objective about the merits of its content.

I am quite logically convinced that she is in the wrong, that the paper - while far from perfect - is not the fundamentally flawed piece of drivel she tried to make it out to be.  However, I only know this and it is hard to convince myself that she was wrong on the level of psychological belief or felt truth.  Thus, I continue to have writer's block and it continues to make life hard for me from time to time.  Whatever the merits of my paper, it was wrong and unprofessional of her to attack me in that way; I understand now that she felt that I had attacked her and that she was responding in kind BUT I didn't attack her, I attacked an idea and she knows it.  She just reacted in an ideological way to what I was saying.  She reacted in a way that I believe is a betrayal of the social contract between a teacher and a student, and a way that is an unhelpful disruption of the norms, ethos and mores of a university.  If she's that committed to that particular variety of second-wave feminism, then what is she doing teaching at a university?  They're definitely and demonstrably tools of male oppression in much the same way as logic!  She has a right to her beliefs about the world and the right to act on them and I have a corresponding duty to respect that; however, I have a right to my beliefs about the world and a right to act on them and she has a corresponding duty to respect that!

The whole experience has had some benefit.  It really deepened my understanding of how to practise philosophy and how to read another person's work and how to disagree and why philosophers disagree with one another in the way that they do (i.e. respectfully).  I am still having a hard time, however, with the writer's block.  It has gotten much, much better over the years - so much better.  I'm sure it will continue to get easier.  It is not, however, gone.  When a deadline gets close, I experience a lot of negative stress.  It's the kind of stress that comes tinged with self-loathing and self-harm ideation and this makes it very hard for me to work.

On a year to year basis (though not necessarily on a day to day one), I have been on an upward trajectory since I was in hospital a little more than three years ago.  Having an accurate diagnosis has helped me to understand what to look for symptom-wise and all that looking has helped me become increasingly familiar and accurate in understanding what's going on with me by what I'm thinking and what I feel, both emotionally and physiologically.  This familiarity in turn has given me an increased ability to look after myself well and effectively.  I have learned some ways to help myself get over or past various psychological stumbling blocks and how to deal with the stubborn symptoms that are really not under my control.  I'm far from perfect at it - the logical possibility of my ever being perfect at it is close to zero - but I'm much better than random and much better than I used to be.  This writer's block seems to be one of those things that I have some control over - limited control but susceptible to improvement. 

This week, the stress of writing through the self-loathing is pushing me towards the serious kind of moodiness.  It will be okay - it will be over soon and then it will be as though it never happened, or so I keep telling myself.  Nevertheless, I'll get to go through it again but a bit worse at the end of next month when the final paper is due and I'm going to be job hunting between now and then, which is usually a stressful and rather discouraging activity.  I'm also going back to visit the family for a week and this means long haul flying and jet lag which has, historically, set me off mood-wise.  That's an unusual number of risk factors and it worries me a bit.

Anyhow, I'm really curious as to what other people do to cope with things like this, especially writer's block.  I would really like to get rid of it.  Even if it isn't something you've done but rather something that happened, I would be very appreciative if you'd tell me about it.  What I've been able to do so far specifically for the writer's block is to just carry on writing through the teeth of it, look back on and analyse what happened and what it was that upset me and why it might have happened, seeking other people's opinions on the work (e.g. entering it for and presenting it at a conference) and letting time pass.  And I started this blog - really.  It seemed like having another reason to write and a different audience might help, as it has indeed done. 

This isn't the best post I've ever written - in fact, I suspect it's a bit boring; sorry about that - but this is a subject much on my mind at the moment.  Back to the word-arranging grind, now.

07 July 2010

Stuck on Repeat

Life is the thing that repeats itself.  I think that I have been broken, blown and burned but there I am, doing the exact same thing over again but thinking it to be different until it turns out not to be, again.  And again, and again.

Have I ever mentioned that women are confusing?  And that they distract one from one's work?  Bother.

I hate the month of July.

29 June 2010


I have been in a spectacularly cheerful mood ever since exams have ended.  I have, however, been worrying about the proposed ConDemolition government immigration cap.  It seemed highly possible that they would eliminate Tier IV conversion visas, which is the next one I need to get, and that I'd have to go back to America, which I really don't want to do.  Yesterday afternoon I was in the highly surreal position of attending a party in Parliament while the debates about non-EU immigration were going on.  There are little television screens in every room in Parliament, one green, one red, which tell you what's being debated in the Commons and Lords, respectively.  The whole time I was there trying to overcome my shyness and talk to people I don't know in order to try to find a job, I would catch out of the corner of my eye that Theresa May was speaking and that seven minutes of the debate were left.  It was unbelievable.

However, this morning, I read in the Guardian that students staying on to work after finishing a degree from a British university are exempt from the cap and that the old rules continue to apply!  Thank God!  I really don't know what I would have done otherwise.

22 June 2010

No More Exams!

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be done with exams! I haven't been in this good a mood for ages. It really is a good mood, too, not a scary good mood.

I took all the rest of last week off from pretty much everything. I slept (a lot) and ate real food and took some walks in the sun and read a bunch of novels and called friends in the States and went to some parties and just generally enjoyed myself. The fun has continued into this week - I'm off to Oxbridge later on and have a picnic and a garden party coming up - but I'm back at work on the dissertation.

I have been learning a lot about mental disorder from my dissertation research. I'm actually really quite excited about it - so much so, that I have decided to subject all of you to the best bits of it. My aim, for the next month or so, is to put up one or two posts a week on the things I've found out or that I'm thinking about that I consider to be the most interesting. Hopefully, this will have the double effect of preserving this blog from a slow death and keeping me going in my work.

I hope that everyone's having a good month!

14 June 2010

Gaudeamus Igitur

Exams are over! I'm now allowed to think about whatever I want and read whatever I want and do things that are not studying! Woohoo!

I may even write a real post before too long...

06 June 2010


Exams - Tories - Queue-bargers - Argh!

That is all. Just needed to get that off my chest.

29 May 2010


All is quiet on the Intermittently Rational front at the moment because I am revising for exams! It's horrible and wonderful and I can't wait for it to be over. My first one is on the seventh of June and the last is on the fourteenth. Wish me luck!

Thanks for being patient with the long silence. It started when my computer broke (horrible! inconvenient! expensive!) and by the time I had it back, study season had started in earnest. Things will go back to normal(er) on the fifteenth.

28 April 2010

Research Tidbit #1

I am in the thick of secondary dissertation research. We have a initial ten or so pages due on Friday, which I have just started writing because I am a very organised person. Yes.

I found a new article yesterday that was a research report into a sociological study (very well set up) that was initiated to determine what the actual deficit in ability to give informed consent was for persons hospitalised for mental disorder. I'm not going to go into the results just now because I want to keep this brief but in reading the study I found out something new to me that apparently is common to depressed persons. That is, a distinct deficit in capacity to make decisions successfully. As I was reading their description of what this meant, I did absolutely recognise myself.

According to the study, depressed persons typically were less able to communicate a decision and once a decision had been communicated, they were much more likely to experience distress or regret - often on the presumption that the decision must have been the wrong one. I do this all the time. I had assumed that it was just a part of my character - I still tend largely to think it is - but it is interesting to see that it is a characteristic correlated with depression. I know that it gets worse when I'm depressed but as almost everything seems to get worse when I'm depressed I didn't think of it as having any special relation.

This has, of course, started me wondering whether a diminished capacity to make and communicate decisions is also a reverse predictor. That is, if depression predicts a diminished capacity to make and communicate decisions, does a diminished capacity to make and communicate decisions predict depression? Obviously, that couldn't ever be a single predictor of depression - I can think of other things it might predict - but I wonder whether it might constitute another way to confirm or disconfirm a diagnosis of depression or perhaps be a good indicator of severity.

What do you all think? Does this reflect your experience? Had you heard about it before?

17 April 2010

For My Mild Homesickness...

...and your general amusement.

I'm having a mild and rather enjoyable case of homesickness for Asheville, my former abode, amidst all this politicking and policy-wonking. Looking at the video I took of Obama speaking in Asheville has reminded me of another political event of the same month: the visitation of Sarah Palin.

Asheville, being the dear, odd place that it is, has for many years been home to a group of people who like to get together every month or so for Zombie Walk. It is what it sounds like: they dress up as zombies and stumble around downtown groaning at passersby for no particular reason other than that they want to and they can. It's not my cup of tea but it's up there on the list of enjoyable local phenomena.

Anyhow, what day do you suppose the GOP picked to send Palin, by then a liability, to speak in Asheville? That's right: Zombie Walk day, Sunday before Halloween, barely a week before the election. Here's what it looked like:

I didn't have my camera with me that day, unfortunately!

15 April 2010


I am a bit of politics junkie, so I have been glued to the television tonight. Many people are worried (rightly, in my opinion) about the creeping Americanisation of British politics but, having watched both the chancellor's debate and tonight's Prime Ministerial debate, I don't think one need worry much.

The set up and form of the debate was quite similar to that of the American debates. The content and style were hardly anything like. In America, our major debate points the last time around were Joe the plumber, 'drill, baby, drill', and assorted personal remarks about the past lives of each of the candidates. We are also still debating the legality of abortion, whether same sex couples should be recognised in any way by local, state and federal authorities and whether everyone should have access to healthcare. In Britain, the major debate points were the relative validity of Keynesian economics and the contents of actual policies relevant to actual issues that actually exist, rather than ideological point-scoring.

However, I was disappointed in the quality of the oratory. On the whole, I would say that Britain's politicians are the better speakers. I love to watch parliament, especially question time while C-Span coverage of the House and Senate bore me to tears. It's not that any of them was particularly bad, more that none of them was particularly good. It would be good, before the next election, to consider finding a debate format that would better reflect the oratorical praxis of Great Britain. Then again, I've been a bit spoiled by watching this man speak*:


* I filmed this myself when Obama came to speak in Asheville. The shaky camera work comes courtesy of lithium.

02 April 2010

Appropos of Absolutely Nothing

I was looking at facebook this evening when this tryptich of advertisements caught my eye:

Just about sums it up, doesn't it?

26 March 2010

For Once, Something Curable

I now know why I've caught every cold around this winter and am always exhausted. It turns out, I'm anaemic!

It has been a long time since I had a medical problem that is both well-understood in its pathology and easily treatable. I'm quite chuffed, really.

As anyone who has been reading this blog will have realised, sleep is a big problem for me. However, for the past three months I have been sleeping ridiculously well and I've had little to no problem falling asleep. The past few weeks have been nine or ten hours a night and the past two have also been accompanied by daytime naps of three hours' duration. Normally for me a daytime nap means irregular and broken sleep for a week.

My fingernails have been displaying a marked propensity to break and I've been dropping things and walking into doors quite a bit more than is normal for me. I had been worried about the coordination issues - tardive dyskenesia sprang immediately to mind, although I know the way that manifests itself is a bit different in reality, as did neurological damage. I read the patient insert leaflets.

What I never read on a patient insert leaflet, however, was that lithium and various of the mood stabilisers have an effect on one's B vitamin levels which in turn has an effect on one's ability to absorb iron which combined with the heavier menstruation associated with such medications can give one an increased chance of anaemia, particularly if a female of child-bearing age. Apparently, this is the case. Spread the word.

I had been very perplexed. It's spring and I have a touch of the mild manias - nothing to write home about - but I've never known mania, however mild, to combine with sleeping 12 hours a day!

16 March 2010

In Absentia

So I think I'm a lucky person who abandons (more or less) her blog for a month and comes back to find four new followers: welcome!

There are some comments, too and I will respond to them soon. Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting even when I'm absent without notice. I have been a cheat, reading everyone else's blogs (mostly on my phone whilst on the bus, now that I've figure out how to do that) and not making anything to read for a month. I didn't realise it had been that long!

It's March Already

So, where have I been? Of late, my days have been:

Get up (6.30)
Drink coffee and read the Guardian (I've got it down to 40 minutes now)
Avoid getting dressed for as long as possible because it's so cold
Bus and Central line to Holborn (also takes 40 minutes: it would be great to combine it with the paper but often there doesn't seem to be enough room for my elbows even so no broadsheet reading on the train) (8.30)
More coffee
Seminar (10.00)
Lunch with philosophers who haven't stopped even though the seminar has
Walk twice around Lincoln's Inn Fields (or similar - there are many squares nearby)
Tea in the Common Room and more reading
Write an essay
Lecture (15.00)
Drinking with philosophers who are not able to wait until the seminar to discuss the lecture
Central line and bus home
Put something in the oven, switch on the water heater (20.00 - 21.00)
Sit on the couch, take shoes off and groan for a while
Wash dishes, fill hot water bottle and have a bath
Read something that isn't a newspaper or philosophy while my hair dries out some
Finish drying hair
Watch whichever inane yet bearable programme I can find on the telly (anything too interesting ends with me staying up too late)
Go to sleep (23.00)


Term ends on Friday.

14 February 2010

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I did know what I wanted to do when I grew up way back when I was still thirteen. Then I grew up and for so many reasons, it didn't work out. I gave up on it completely when I was 24 and have spent the past five years trying to figure out what else I want to be when I grow up. I think I have settled it.

When I grow up, I want to be a peripatetic metaphysical philosopher-poet. Peripatetic because the Parapatetics wandered around the different Greek city states teaching philosophy to the citizen youth and I have this sneaking feeling that I will continue wandering around the western nation-states. Philosopher because I will be teaching it (parapatetically) and I also don't think I can stop and I like it. Metaphysical because one has to specialise, and publish or perish! Poet because it is otherwise very, very hard to write metaphysics and I like poetry and I like to sing. I also like the metaphysical poets.

I think that it is one of the delightful occupational hazards of loving the study of ancient Greek that one would look to its culture in order to pick out one's career path. I'm not sure that I would want to change that even if I could and besides, it will make my newsagent into a soothsayer and who doesn't want a soothsayer to be their newsagent?

It does make things seem clearer. Teach, talk, sing and write, wander. I tend to do these things; now I need to figure out how to do these things with people and have them exchange money for it. I have a concrete plan in mind already.

The haze is clearing

12 February 2010

Regularly Scheduled

I have a mouse that comes to visit my flat and run (not very sneakily) across the sitting room floor every Thursday around 10.30pm*. The mouse is rather cute - a brown field-mouse sort of mouse - and over the weeks I have grown used to the mouse's visitations and I no longer shriek at it. I have named it Thursday Mouse because I'm a very original denominator**. I haven't the heart to set out mouse traps though I would rather that Thursday Mouse did not visit and the whole situation makes me miss my cat still more. I wonder if there is something that can be done to discourage him***. Mouse-discouragement powder or similar.

How does Thursday Mouse know that it's Thursday? How does Thursday Mouse know that it's 10.30pm? And how does Thursday Mouse know that that means it is time to visit me? I haven't been able to find a mouse hole and so I wonder how Thursday Mouse gets here but I really would rather know how a mouse manages to keep so regularly to a schedule. I long to bring this up in a Phil of Science seminar but I would be embarrassed for everyone to know that not only do I leave the library before midnight but I also have a mouse in my flat.

*There may be other visits about which I am unaware in addition to the Thursday night but there has been a Thursday night visit every week for the past nine weeks, which I think puts this statistically past the post of random.
**A few years ago my subconscious mind started offering automatic internal corrections to the endings/plurals of Latin words in English. In this instance it is calling out that it ought to be 'denominatrix', as indeed it should; however, I think that that would probably bring up unwonted connotations. I'm childish enough that it made me laugh.
***Beyond the obvious - I am not as careless a housekeeper as all that. My untidiness consists in books and newspapers and shoes and scarves strewn perpetually about+ but none of these things is a particular mouse-attractant.

+My couch is currently occupied by myself, my computer, four scarves, two hats, three pairs of shoes (technically on the floor beside the couch but close enough), two newspapers, six books and an article for my dissertation. This is why I can never find anything - I am usually sitting on the scarf I want and the book I need for the day is trapped inside the quilt. Thursday Mouse's hole is probably better organised than my flat. What can I expect, however? My footnotes have footnotes and this accurately represents my internal organisational principles.

06 February 2010

Now What?

I'm feeling pretty good these days on the whole (hurray!) but I don't quite know what to do with myself. Every time my mood changes in the larger sense (not just from having a bad day or a good day) the edges of various solipsistic information about the world show up. It's something like having a piece of paper that has been folded over places, then had the surface written on and then unfolded again, showing blank spots that were always there but previously unseen. It's simultaneously expanding and contracting - there's more paper but there's more blank space.

Now I'm here and I can finish my work in short order and I don't really have enough to fill my days now that it isn't painful to get out of bed. This makes me think I must be doing something wrong because I'm sure that grad students aren't supposed to have free time in such abundance. I could, of course, make myself busy with study. Perhaps I should. I doubt, however, that I shall. That doesn't feel like what's missing. I can't quite identify what's missing. I think I might doubt or fear my own agency. Any ideas? Any similar experiences?

29 January 2010

Third Post I've Written This Week But The First Time I've Published Instead of Deleting

It is almost undoubtedly a wanton display of hubris to say this but I think I am getting better at having bipolar disorder. And what do I mean by that? I'm not quite sure.

I think a large part of what I mean is that I don't experience so much conflict about it anymore. Instead of forcing other people or my own actions or external circumstances into awkward positions in order to have an explanation for feeling a certain way. Instead, I'm now able to say to myself that while it is true that I don't like X (and Y and Z), X (even combined with Y and Z) is probably not sufficient cause to make me feel this bad for this long; that it's probably a mood that has descended. It doesn't mean that X or Y or Z isn't actually bothering me - it's a recognition that X and Y and Z are not sufficient.* If I can tell the difference (and I seem to be getting better at it) then I save a lot of energy and a lot of time and a lot of discouragement.

It drives me absolutely up the wall when I feel miserable and the poor people who are kind enough to undertake to talk to me about it shower me with platitudes about tomorrow being another day and that everything will be okay and that this too shall pass and that I'll feel better soon. For a little while this became a bad problem when I would talk to my mother. She wants me to feel better and she says these things in order to be soothing and in order to make me feel better and she needs to be able to say something encouraging. I understand all this but (and again I'm going to blame philosophy) because neither she nor anyone else on earth has any strong or valid knowledge that I (or anyone else) will be all right in the future or feel better at any point (whatever 'better' is supposed to mean in that context), it only makes me more upset when people say these things to me because they aren't grounded in any kind of logic and if I feel that bad, any optimism I might have had has disappeared anyway. My reaction to such statements had, though, gotten to the point of being unfair to my mother, whose intent was certainly never to upset me, so I sat down and tried to think of something to be substituted that would allow her to express her wish to comfort me and would not offend my (overly honed for ordinary conversation) sense of logic. In the end, I came up with 'it won't always feel exactly like this'.

This alternative platitude has worked out well, largely because I can believe it. I might not feel better next week or next month (and I might not feel worse) but I know and can believe that I will not feel exactly the same. The intensity of whatever I'm feeling will alter, its emphasis will shift, my intrusive thoughts will develop variations. I will experience these changes as being better or worse and it is extraordinarily unlikely that I will not experience variation. Internalising this has actually helped. On the nights when it's 3.00am and I haven't been able to sleep and I'm lying in bed feeling horrendously guilty all out of proportion to anything I might have done or failed to do and everything seems completely hopeless and on the verge of falling apart I can tell myself that I'm not going to feel exactly as horribly suffocated by all the wrongness in myself and in the world forever. That perspective is not the new reality of life.

Hopefully that all makes some sort of sense. It's the way I have found out of the totalising meta-narrative that a depressed mood (or a manic mood) imposes. It's a way out that doesn't invalidate the emotional content of my moods - instead of saying that I don't really feel that way, it's a disease, I can say I do really feel that way, it's just not the way I am always going to feel nor is the totality of what I feel.

Anyhow, it has gotten me through the past six weeks, much of which I have spent fairly depressed, relatively unscathed. It helped stop me freaking out and flailing in all directions. It stopped me taking things out unfairly on others and stopped me chucking away things that I value in the long term but temporarily didn't know what to do with. I woke up this morning feel better with my life still intact and I'm happy about that and now I've written a post that I'm not going to immediately delete and I'm reasonably confident that I'll be asleep before three - hurray.

*I apologise: I go to a university where they make us read analytic philosophy all the time and then I talk to my fellow students who also read analytic philosophy all the time and at this point, we seem all to have started talking as though we were dictating analytic philosophy. My mind attempts metaphor but all that comes out are more variables.

This is what analytic philosophy looks like:

My writing style isn't quite as bad as all that yet but I imagine it's only a matter of time.

10 January 2010

January Haze

I've been spending quite a bit of time on facebook because I am "writing an essay and working on a presentation" which, these days, translates into five minutes of looking at something that is not academic work alternating with five minutes of looking at the academic work. The non-academic things are usually facebook and other people's blogs and my e-mail.

The start of this year has been marked by lassitude on my part and I was rather worried about it until I realised that this has been true of every early January I can think of going as far back as 1997. I think that at this point it would make sense for me to start expecting mental haziness in the New Year. The same goes for being disorganised. The same for New Year's resolutions.

Last year I resolved to lose all of the weight I'd gained while taking Seroquel, to graduate from college and to apply to grad school. I managed to keep each one of them, losing more than fifty pounds to be a healthy 140lbs (I'm 5'6"), graduated with honours and not only applied to grad school but gone to grad school. But I didn't get off to a good start with any of that during January - instead, I sat around spiritually if not physically, in my pajamas and read novels. I have been doing exactly the same thing this year. Now I just need to drag myself away from the duvet and hot water bottles and get back into real life. It will be a relief.

I have two resolutions for this year - one, to find a job that will let me stay here, which means it has to be a proper job (I've never had a proper job before - always art things that have a grand total of two or three women working for them except for the one time I worked retail at a local kitchen store with a grand total of twelve, including two men) and two, to make my life have more of the things I like in it. That is ill-expressed but I'm not quite sure how to put it.

For years now I have been concentrating on very immediate and necessary things, i.e. not killing myself, which moved on to making sure I slept and ate, then making sure that I got dressed every day, then making sure that I had enough social interaction, and then trying to help myself feel better than horrible, then trying to get to a point where I could say that I felt well instead of just 'not miserable'....and so on. That has been my focus since late February of 2007, which is when I started to lose my mind the most recent and most horrible time. By now, I have felt well without extraordinary interruption since September of 2008, I have my BA, I'll soon enough have an MSc and I feel like myself and likely to stay well for a significant period of time (for me, that means two or more years in the future.) The upshot of this is that I have started thinking more about what I want my life to be like because it seems worth trying to make myself happy rather than just trying to make sure I'm not miserable.

I am not a philosopher with an analytic bias for nothing, so I have been scratching out this train of thought in my journal and come to the conclusion that what I want out of life, what would make me happy to have in my life are more books, being around art (of any discipline) and people who make it (and also occasionally getting to help with it or make my own), public speaking (I don't know why I like it so much, it's a strange thing for a person as shy as I am, but I do), and love, in its many forms. Not all of these things can be forced, least of all the last on the list, but when I have to make a decision, I can try always to make the decision that most favours the possibility of these outcomes (and again, it's statements like these that make me realise that philosophy is always with me).

Oh bother. I meant this to be a shorter post because that essay and presentation I'm "working" on do actually have to be finished tonight. Anyhow, I was going to gracefully drag this back around to how I realised that I'm entirely out of it every New Year. I realised it while playing on facebook, of all things. I don't know how many of you that read this are on facebook but if you are then you are bound to have seen the application that will make a picture out of your status updates for the last year. Looking back at what I had up there (see pseudonymous but otherwise authentic version below), and looking back at the beginning of this blog* reminded me that I felt every bit as confused this time last year.

*This blog is now a year and seven days old! There will be a 'first year in review' at some point.

06 January 2010

Disorganised New Year

It's always a disorganised new year here at my house, I've realised. I enjoy putting off things that I don't want to do and the endless bank holidaying when nothing is open for days on end is an ideal time to do so. It never fails to catch up with me and send me into a tizzy but I have this year officially declared said tizzy to be a holiday tradition, which means it is now my duty to be display as appalling a lack of organisation as I can in the first full week of postal delivery in the new year. I am, so far, doing a bang up job of keeping the tradition.

I'm in a terrible mood at the moment but for once I'm fairly sure that it's not due to mental health conditions that are beyond my control. Yes, similar symptoms but in its totality it feels different. This is absolutely not a scientific distinction. It is an instinct that may be wrong. However, I can see actual reasons and circumstances that I know are making me unhappy and may of which I can actually do something about. I don't have enough energy to do anything just at the moment but happily some of these circumstances will come to a natural end with the start of term. I don't have to do anything to bring about the start of term, just get myself through the next few days. I can do that.

So this is my new year's first project: to try to sift out how and whether I can successfully distinguish between a bad mood due to circumstances and a depressed mood due to bipolar disorder and wherein the difference lies. I'm going to get back to Foucault, too, I promise.

Happy New Year!