[Blogathon] Say Hi to Ally Fogg!

So this is a cheater post because I’m on a bus with spotty wifi at best, no place to put my laptop, and an overactive heater.


You should go check out Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men, written by the lovely brilliant Ally Fogg. He’s our latest arrival to FtB, and would probably like some shiny new commenters.

Go say hi!

[And in the mean time, keep an eye on my co-blogathonners, Mike, Chana, and Miri]

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!


[Blogathon] Say Hi to Ally Fogg!

[Blogathon] Wildly Inappropriate Things to Say to People With Eating Disorders

1. But you’re not skinny!

I swear to god, you’d think daring to have an eating disorder while not being rail skinny was the equivalent of wandering around yelling “I WAS MURDERED” while still breathing. No. Staaaahp.

2. But if you don’t think you’re thin enough, what does that make me?!

Bad at understanding mental illness? Lucky to not have an eating disorder?

When someone reveals their mental illness to you, this is not the time to excise your demons.

3. No wonder you’re so tiny!

I wasn’t on the receiving end of this one, but I heard it happen and fled the conversation. Just no. If you do this, you are BAD and you should feel BAD.

4. All you have to do is eat healthily!

In other news, depression can be cured by changing your brain chemistry, and calculus can be understood by using numbers.

It’s a nice effort, but at best you’ve said a word somewhat related to the consumption of food: “healthy” and decided that it’s as simple as just doing that!

5. Here, eat this!

Weird, but common. People will often immediately hand me food. It feels very uncomfortable to turn them down, but a lot of the time, I’m just not hungry right then either. Please don’t use me to assuage your feelings about my disorder.

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!

[Blogathon] Wildly Inappropriate Things to Say to People With Eating Disorders

[Blogathon] 6 Reasons to Own a Rat

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!

It’s virtually impossible to follow me on any social media and not know I own a rat named Boo. Been considering getting one yourself? You totally should.

1. The tails are not as creepy as you think. they’re not scaly, they’re not cold, they’re not snakes that have latched onto your rattie’s rear.

2. They clean themselves. Yes, like cats. There’s really nothing as cute as watching Boo ruffle his ears and straighten his whiskers.

3. Smell: which is to say, they don’t. Though I haven’t done it for Boo,  I’ve been told that rats can be litter trained. But if you don’t, you just have to change the bedding at a reasonable rate. (Every four days or so for me.)

4. They’re just really silly. They chatter their teeth when they’re happy, bounce around like squirrels, and will sit on your head.

5. A small animal that actually likes you. Rats are really affectionate. Unlike many rodent-pets, they’ll be excited to see you, won’t run away and hide from you permanently, and will probably give you rattie kisses. I’ve always found small furry animals appealing, but for many, I couldn’t see a the difference between “tolerates you because you have food” and “actually wants to see you”.

6. Behavioral experiments: I’d be the worst psych student if I didn’t try this, right? Something I’m doing this summer is building Boo a maze. Easier version: a water maze. In a large tub of water, set two platforms, one with a treat on it. After getting your rat accustomed to the water, put him on one platform, and encourage him to swim to the second. (Large pools and platforms located below the surface of the water make the ‘maze’ progressively more complicated.)

7. This face:



[Blogathon] 6 Reasons to Own a Rat

[Blogathon] Your Jerkbrain is a Puppy & Coping With Anxiety

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! This post was suggested by William Brinkman. Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!

An Exercise in Imperfect Analogies

Treat your jerkbrain like a puppy. Do you scream when your fuzzy pup pees a little on the carpet?

You just patiently take it back outside.

And it doesn’t work the first time–the damage is done, of course, and you might have to clean the carpet. But if every time he seems to be even remotely interested in the outdoors, every time he’s eaten, every time it seems he might be searching for a choice squatting spot on the shag rug, you take him outside, soon that puppy is going to be housetrained.

Look at this face. Would you yell at this face?
And that’s nice analogy for what I’d like more people to do with their uncooperative brains–treat them like puppies. Tug them back in the right direction when they loop into how everything is TERRIBLE and EVERYONE HATES YOU and ALL OF THE STRESS. (My brain at least, is an ALL CAPS WARRIOR when it comes to telling me bad things). Smile ruefully when they’re uncooperative and nudge them in the right direction over and over again.
It’s not foolproof, and it’s not easy, of course. Scare a well-trained puppy enough, and he’ll pee on the carpet, no matter how many hours of training he has.
But getting angry at yourself is self-defeating and exhausting and overwhelming. In short, everything that lowers your defenses for the next episode of Brains Being Sucky…and that’s no fun.
Like this? Don’t like it? Donate to the Secular Students anyways!
[Blogathon] Your Jerkbrain is a Puppy & Coping With Anxiety

[Blogathon] Bimodal Personalities and the Myers-Briggs

[Part 1 of a topic suggested by @mmace134]

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test is very, very popular. It’s used as a predictor of career paths, of relationship styles, of leadership ability. Basically, you take the test and answer a bunch of questions like “Do you enjoy having a wide circle of acquaintances?” (To which you can only respond “Yes” or “No”. Based upon tens of answers, you’re given a four letter code, like INTJ or ENFP. Each letter codes for a specific trait, with two possibilities for each.

I/E: Extraverted/Introverted

S/I: Sensing/Intuitive

T/F: Thinking/Feeling

J/P: Judging/Perceiving

This all seems fairly reasonable–we can all agree that some people are more extraverted and some are more introverted. Some people make decisions based on feelings and some people don’t.  The problem is, the test is based on the idea that people are one or the other–that is, that most people are overwhelmingly extraverted or overwhelmingly introverted. If that was the case, we would expect a graph of scores of introversion and introversion to look like this:



That’s a bimodal graph–one with two peaks. Those should represent the extraverts and the introverts (or the Thinking people and the Feeling people, or the Sensing and the Intuitive people).

The problem is, what we actually get is this:


…a unimodal graph. A bell curve. A normal distribution.

Most people fall near the center of  the Introversion/Extraversion, Thinking/Feeling, Sensing/Intuitive, and Judging/Perceiving spectrums.  Of course, there are people scoring very highly for one or the other–but they’re not the norm. This wouldn’t be terribly problematic if the Myers-Briggs didn’t insist on divvying people up into one or the other, which they do by splitting the responses down the middle.

That means if I’m just slightly to the left of center, because I’m pretty extraverted, but I don’t enjoy having a huge group of friends, I’m in the Introverted category, along with everyone who thinks gatherings of more than three people are hell. But aren’t I closer in type to people who are just to the left of center? Yep.

And nearly half of the research on the Myers-Briggs is done by institutions that benefit or publish the test in the first place. [*makes skeptical face*]

Want a validated personality test? Try the Big Five Personality Inventory

Have a post topic? Tweet me! Even more importantly, donate to Secular Students!

[Blogathon] Bimodal Personalities and the Myers-Briggs

[Pre-Blogathon] Of Dinosaurs and Saddles

Part of the reason I’ve been so inactive on the internet recently is that the indomitable Louise (@spa_yedimonster) and I spent part of this week in Kentucky at a certain museum (hint: it involves creationism) you may recognize…


…for a women’s conference.

A full write-up (with pictures!) will be appearing over at Friendly Atheist shortly.

In the meantime, I’ll be blogalogging over here for SSAWeek, starting at 10 Central. Have something you want me to write about? For a $20 donation to the SSA, you can pick a post topic!

Have a post topic? Tweet me! Even more importantly, donate to Secular Students!

[Pre-Blogathon] Of Dinosaurs and Saddles

Blogathonning on Sunday!

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This Sunday, I’m going to be blogathonning from 10am-6pm for SSA Week. Every hour, on the hour, I’ll be posting a new post! Also blogging will be Chana Messinger and Mike Mei. All posts will be written in the hour they publish, though I will be trying to clear out some topics from my Drafts folder.

Speaking of topics, please please comment with topics and/or tweet them in my general direction. Eight hours is a reallllly long time to keep thinking up things to write.

Update: I’m silly and forgot to include the most important part! If you donate $20 or more, I’ll write a post of your topic choice. (Up until I have too many ideas to finish in eight hours). Donate here! 

Update 2: Miri is joining us! 

Blogathonning on Sunday!

Monday Miscellany

Bitchtopia has a story you’ve heard before, written beautifully.
[Content note: suicide, self-harm, abuse]

Just because a story is difficult to tell, does not mean it should not be heard. Unfortunately, this story is neither unique nor rare. The odds of you having heard it before are high, perhaps you’ve even heard this one. But I want to tell it because I want everyone to know how proud I am of the girl in this tale. Because she did beat the odds. She did eventually “win”. And her side of the story deserves to be heard.

Chana would like you to stop FAPing, please. It’s [not] exactly what it sounds like.

Because I’m not heading into grad school right now, I get this less than Miri does, but seriously, stop telling me that social work pays badly.

Intent is, in fact, fucking magic. An argument against a phrase I see floating around the FtB commentariat.

Guys. Stop with the “chemical free” junk. That is not A Thing.

I hope I’m not being a bossy condescending whatever. I’m really sorry if I am, but I find the demonizing of chemicals deeply disturbing. When all chemicals are lumped into the same category, the world becomes an unnecessarily scary place. I’m not saying that none of them are scary. I’ve inhaled thionyl chloride and I thought my lungs were going to crawl out of my burning nose. It was a yet another case of “You know better, asshole” but I only needed 10 mL, so I thought I could just pour it really quickly outside of the fume hood and everything would be fiiiiiine. Thionyl chloride is used in nerve gas so everything was not fine.
“Chemical free” is a term made up by some marketing person to scare you.
Implicit Association Tests and Suicidality. Like the author, I’m a little skeptical, but happy that research into predicting suicide is being funded.
This is the ethos behind Sandberg (and Anne Marie Slaughter’s “Having it all”) kind of feminism: women should be able to chose a career and have the very same options as men. Here’s where I was wrong: this is not merely capitalist feminism. This is a neoliberal, libertarian articulation of feminism. It was John Stuart Mill who stated “that no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others“. Or, should I say, it was Stuart Mill who set the foundations of contemporary libertarian politics. This idea of personal freedom is then presented to us as “neutral and universal”. We all have the same choices (or so we are told). However, I want to challenge this idea of freedom just by bringing out the fact that slavery was abolished in the US only 148 years ago; in the colonial territories of The Netherlands, it was abolished 150 years ago; France abolished slavery in its former colony of Anjouan in 1899 (to give a perspective of how contemporary this event is, there is a man in Japan who was already alive when this abolition took place). So, our ideas of freedom are not only not universal but they haven’t been universally granted and, moreover, the choices available to us as a result of this freedom (or lack of it) are not universally equal either. These choices come with a heavy legacy of racial, class, ability and gender normativity histories, both personal and affecting our families, communities and heritages.
I’m in need of more blogs to read–ideally with daily or semi-daily content. What do you like?
Monday Miscellany

For Best Results, Trust in God and Use Large Sample Sizes

Earlier this week, Crommunist pointed me to this article in The Atlantic, People Who Believe in God are More Responsive to Treatment of Depression. And ohhh boy do I have feelings and crinkly skeptic eyebrows.

[As a side note, I’d like to thank The Atlantic for putting a link to the original research in their footnotes. Nice touch, actually including the science you’re talking about. Everyone else, take heed.]

While I wasn’t particularly impressed with the article in the Atlantic, there were some good things to be said about the original research (found here if you have access. At the very least you should see the abstract and summary).

First, a word of caution. This is a prospective study. In other words, a study that followed people over time, in real time. That means that there’s a small sample size (159 participants), because it’s hard to find funding for an following a huge group of people. Retrospective studies can offer the ability to have a large group of participants, but also mean that you can quite easily miss important variables. As a result, prospective studies are considered to yield data a cut above that of retrospective. The tradeoff is, the smaller sample size can cause the occasional news site to get super excited about what are pretty conditional results.

What did they do?

Okay, so what actually happened? Researches went to McLean Hospital (an excellent place to get psychiatric care, I hear), and talked to patients in their day program. These are clients who aren’t living in the hospital, but are coming to receive services all day and returning to their homes at night. (This sort of thing is also called partial hospitalization).

All participants were given a battery of statistically sound tests to measure congregational support, religious affiliation, depression, self-harm, and belief in God, as well as psychological well-being.

Of Note: No God was specified, the participants were simply asked “Do you believe in God?” and told to circle a number from 1 to 5, where 1 is defined as “not at all” and 5 is defined as “a strong sense of belief”.

No part of treatment was changed–the researchers were just interested in who seemed to respond best to treatment.

Who did they look at?

The methods section is a little fuzzy on whether they approached 159 patients and two refused from that point, or whether 159 was the total number of participants. Regardless, the sample size wasn’t terrible large.

On one hand, this is a group of people in a very well controlled environment–a hospital–one of the few ways you can have control over environmental factors during the study. On the other, anywhere between many and most–those are the scientific terms–of people with depression and anxiety won’t be hospitalized. So you’ve got a slice of the population with very serious manifestations of these disorders, possibly with presentations that aren’t responsive to traditional coping mechanisms or therapy. [Keep that last part in mind, it comes up again.]

On the other, you have a  very particular subset of people with these disorders. Partial hospitalization programs take your entire day–that means you’r either taking time off from your job or not working. While insurance usually covers partial hospitalization, you have to actually have insurance. That means that what we’re looking at here is a subset of people with access to this kind of care.

And what does the methods section say about the demographics?

 Most participants were Caucasian (83.6%) and single (61.4%), and there were a high number of college graduates (45.3%). Impairment in the sample was high in that 56% of participants were unemployed, and all patients presented with global assessment of functioning (GAF) scores of <45, representing serious symptoms/impairment.

…Sounds a lot like what we’d expect.

What was found?

Even after controlling for age and gender (Women and those who are older are more likely to believe in God), belief in god was related to having better outcomes in the program. Not related to outcome: religious affiliation. You didn’t have to believe a certain kind of God, you just had to believe there was a god out there.

Belief in God was also related to having greater support from the religious community, (I’m shocked, I tell you, SHOCKED), but not related to having a greater ability to regulate emotions.

So should you convert to vaguely-unspecific-god-belief? Probably not. Researchers actually concluded something entirely different than the title of the article would lead you to believe. It appears that there was an important mediating variable: belief in the success of the treatment process. People who believed in God were significantly more likely to place their trust in the ability of the program to help them.

Belief in treatment credibility and expectancy of success across levels of belief in God.
Belief in treatment credibility and expectancy of success across levels of belief in God.

And that, not belief in God, strikes me as the more important link. People who believe in the the ability of a type of therapy to help them are far more likely to see results of the therapy than those who are skeptical. And it appears that those who have faith in a deity are also more likely to believe in the authority of their psychologists and psychiatrists–perhaps an expected result?

Some words on race as it influences this research:

Eighty-three percent of these participants were Caucasian. In the United States, even when controlling for income, mental health spending for outpatient care (aka partial hospitalization) for Latino and black consumers is only 60-75% of that for whites. Add to that the long history psychiatry and medcine has of unacceptable medical experiements on minorities. Testing psychotropic drugs on black and Hispanic children, overseas pharmacological experiments, and on and on. Is it so surprising that we find significant differences in trust of physicians in ethnic minorities?

What does this mean with respect to this study? Research has shown that African Americans are more likely to avoid seeking early treatment, like outpatient care for their depression. (Research is contradictory on this phenomenon in Latino populations.*)

Black and hispanic rates of admission to inpatient hospitalization care are, as a result, much higher. Without the ability to trust in or access preventative health care, many more are going to need emergency services, including involuntary commitment, which can be an unpleasant process; first responders are often untrained in compassionate care of psychiatric patients. And so the cycle of distrust repeats. Which means fewer minority participants in studies like these, which means care tailored to non-minority clients.

General conclusions:

This is…an interesting study.

It’s not badly done by any means. But it is a small sample size, and not very generalize-able to the population of people with depression. I’d like to see more research that examines a cross-section of people in inpatient, outpatient, and therapeutic settings, with a careful eye to the influence of trust in psychiatry. Until then, I’m willing to reach a cautionary conclusion that for white participants who can and need access outpatient programs, belief in god is linked to belief in the promised results of treatment, which leads to better outcomes, with the caveat that the populations of People Who Can Access Outpatient Care and People Who Trust Outpatient Care In The First Place overlap heavily.

 * I know I’m actually just talking about two specific minorities in this section. Unfortunately, there’s basically no other research available. If someone say, had extra money to throw at research into other minorities and psychiatric care, they should do that posthaste. 

For Best Results, Trust in God and Use Large Sample Sizes

Your ED Friend: Six Years Later

[Obvious TW is really glaringly obvious.]

“I had an eating disorder.”

“I guessed.”

We were juniors, boyfriend and girlfriend, officially. Up late and texting, doing that flirting thing where you demand each others deepest secrets and pretend you’re giving yours away.

Except I did give mine away.

“I had an eating disorder.”

I was lying, of course. It wasn’t the past tense–it was the second year of an eating disorder, one that would get worse, more disorganized, and wreak much more havoc on my sanity in the coming four years.

But it was the first step.

And he had guessed–known, really, for months. He’s my best friend now, far and away in Texas. In this month, marking six years since I developed what would reach clinical-level anorexia, I asked him about it.  He doesn’t remember when he figured it out, really. It was, according to him, always part of how he knew me.

And I don’t think he’s wrong. It’s been six years ago, as of this month, since the behavioral side of anorexia started. Every time I’ve looked back and tried to think “back when I was stable/normal/didn’t have an eating disorder”…I realize I’m looking back at times when I was actually worse, when I wasn’t eating, when I couldn’t go ten minutes without invasive, obsessive thoughts about food.

Six years. More than a quarter of my life.

There’s this thing they talk about in therapy some times: grieving for the normal self. Because even were your disorder to remit entirely…you wouldn’t go back to being Old You. Your brain learns things. You grow and bend and shape yourself around coping mechanisms and triggers and ways of responding to the world. Old You is just gone. And Old You was a whole person, with plans and potential and places to go and things to do and ways of looking at the world. Maybe a little more optimistic, a little shinier and fresh-faced. You get to have all those things again, those plans and that potential, it’s true. But sometimes they’re a little dusty, a chipped, in pieces.

And I really liked Old Kate.

Therapy was a eulogy, stories of when I could look in mirrors, and dancing and days when I could just throw on clothes in the morning.

And now, finally, I think I’ve laid that Kate to rest.

A photographer friend took this for me--a lasting reminder that I can be happy in this body.
A photographer friend took this for me–a lasting reminder that I can be happy in this body.

I’m…this Kate.

I have this weird alternate life where I write things on the internet and people read them. On weekends I go to conferences and go by a different name, and on Monday the coach turns into the best pumpkin ever and I work at Fabulous Unspecified Internship.

I’ve gone skinny-dipping. I’ve gone skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan in the middle of winter. (Note: REALLY cold.)

I am emotionally able to care for another animal and I know this because I’m doing it right now.

I live in a city that I love. I’m in love.

I don’t dance anymore, and it hurts. But sometimes I actually see New Kate in the mirror, and that makes me think that someday I’ll go back into a studio.

I’ve learned some of two different languages, and I get to take classes about bioethics and astronomy and artificial intelligence and and and…and each day ends with just wanting more more more. More books, more research, more people who want to know anything about everything and everything about anything.

There’s something they don’t tell you about eating disorders. About how much you want more than anything to wake up and be in a different skin, how much you don’t want to feel your own body, to notice what space you take up.

But New Kate is still here, taking up space.

I’d like to keep doing that.

Your ED Friend: Six Years Later