A nice blurb for Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. Thanks, Alan!
The book is being published on April 16, in all formats — print, ebook, and audiobook. Here’s ordering information for all three formats. Enjoy!
A nice blurb for Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. Thanks, Alan!
The book is being published on April 16, in all formats — print, ebook, and audiobook. Here’s ordering information for all three formats. Enjoy!
And now, for those who learn better with visual aids, I offer: Should You Give Amateur Medical Advice to People With Mental Illness? A Flowchart. (This is my very first snarky flowchart: I’m proud of it out of all proportion, and hope to do more in the future.)
On Being on Anti-Depressants Indefinitely, Very Likely for the Rest of My Life
“The drugs are hurting us more than they are helping us”: How Not to Talk to People With Mental Illness, Episode 563,304
Why You Really, Seriously, No Fooling, Should Not Give Unsolicited Amateur Medical Advice to People with Mental Illness (Or to Anyone, Really), Episide 563,305
In response to my recent post, “The drugs are hurting us more than they are helping us”: How Not to Talk to People With Mental Illness, Episode 563,304, I received this comment from one Timothy Matias:
Just my two cents:
“It is seriously fucked-up to undermine people’s [efforts to improve the lives of mentally ill people] for the sake of preserving their ” relationships with their health care providers.”.
Here’s a bit more than two cents, based on my experience:
[link edited out, since I don’t want to reward him with blog traffic; if you really want to see it, I have not edited the link out of the original comment -GC]
Everyone’s entitled to their opinions. When you call them “fucked up” for expressing their opinions about medication, the only “fucked up” person is you!
This kind of closed-minded, self-righteous response is no different than a Christian telling an atheist that it’s fucked up to suggest that a person should quit God. HOW DARE they risk damning the person’s soul to hell because of personal experiences of feeling better living without God. HOW DARE they undermine the relationships and trust between Christians and their church elders and leadership?
This kind of closed-minded approach to medicine, and the application thereof, is nothing short of RELIGIOUS :/
I will say that again: I received this comment, in direct response to my post explaining why it was a bad idea generally to give unsolicited amateur medical advice to people with mental illness (or with any illness, for that matter), and specifically to tell people with mental illness to ignore their doctor’s advice and not take prescribed psych meds, and saying that the blog posts here discussing this matter were not the right place for these debates. (And yes, just to be perfectly clear, that policy applies to this post as well. Meta-discussion of how to discuss mental health care with people who have mental illness is acceptable (although I’ll be keeping a close eye on it); unsolicited medical advice to people with mental illness is not, and will result in the commenter being put into comment moderation.)
Okay. I’m going to spell this out as clearly as I possibly can.
Do you really not see the difference?
Apparently not. Okay, I will spell out the difference.
This is not the case with medicine. Medicine is a field where some people really do know more than others. Trained medical providers are very far from infallible, but they still know a hell of a lot more about medicine than Some Guy On The Internet. (It’s hard not to notice that the link you linked to doesn’t actually contain any research, or even any links to any research — it’s just your opinion.)
At the same time, medicine is a field in which some people have special training and expertise — but it’s also a field in which, by its nature, that expertise is often not precise or universal. This is especially true for psychiatry and mental health care. What works for one person often doesn’t work for another, and providers often have to proceed with some degree of educated trial and error to find a care plan that works for each particular person. Therefore, it is incredibly arrogant for Some Guy On The Internet to assume that they know what mental health care plan would work for me — better than my medical providers, who have detailed information about my particular condition and priorities and medical history, and better than me, who knows more about my condition and priorities and medical history than anyone.
It is depressingly common for sick people — people with mental illness, with chronic non-mental illness, even people with common colds — to get deluged with unsolicited amateur medical advice. At best, it’s annoying; at worst, it undermines your ability to make your own decisions, and your confidence in that ability. When you’re trying to make medical decisions for yourself, it’s already difficult enough without a barrage of uninformed, under-informed, and ill-informed advice filling your head. And it’s already difficult enough without advice that amounts to the message, “You’re doing it wrong. I know better than you. If you want to please me, you’ll do it my way.”
And for people with mental illness in particular, this is especially difficult. Mental illness has tremendous stigma, which people with mental illness often internalize, and we often (a) feel like we’re letting people in our lives down by having mental illness, (b) feel like having to get treatment for mental illness is a sign of weakness, and (c) are barraged with paternalistic messages telling us that simply having mental illness makes us incapable of making any decisions about our care. Unsolicited advice in this area is more than just annoying. At best, it is patronizing and demoralizing, which itself undercuts our mental health. At worst, it can lead people to make terrible decisions about their mental health care, with devastating results.*
I absolutely want for there to be vigorous, rigorous public discussion and debate about medical standards of care — especially when it comes to mental illness. I am well aware of serious problems in the medical system (especially in the United States), and people speaking out about those problems is how they get addressed. And I understand that there is serious debate, even within the medical community, about how to best handle mental illness. I want that debate to happen, and I want people in the general public who are affected by the medical system (which is to say, everyone) to participate in that conversation. But have that discussion and debate in public spaces, where people agree to discuss and debate. Don’t shove it in people’s faces who are trying to make good decisions for themselves, and who haven’t asked you for your opinion. People who want advice will generally ask for it. If they don’t, then offer empathy, and shut your cakehole about how much smarter you are than they are.
Which brings me to my other point.
Second: Even if you don’t accept this difference between debating religion and debating medicine? There’s a difference between simply debating religion, medicine, or anything else — and doing so in a space where the host has specifically said that they don’t want these debates.
Yes, I am a big advocate of arguing with believers about their beliefs in God (for atheists who want to do that, that is). But even I don’t advocate telling believers, “You’re wrong to believe in God, here’s why,” in spaces where people have specifically said, “I don’t want to debate this.” There are plenty of other spaces for those debates.
You have every right to express your opinions about mental illness and mental health care. You do not have the right to offer these opinions in personal spaces, to people who have not asked for them. And you definitely do not have the right to offer them in spaces where people have specifically said that they don’t want to host that debate.
You have violated my clearly- and repeatedly-stated request about comments. I am putting you into comment moderation. Future comments from you will have to be approved by me before they are posted.
* Here are a few particularly eloquent things that other people have said on this topic in these discussions here. Continue reading “Why You Really, Seriously, No Fooling, Should Not Give Unsolicited Amateur Medical Advice to People with Mental Illness (Or to Anyone, Really), Episode 563,305”
This is a guest post from Jason Bathon, one of the organizers of LogiCon.
LogiCon: The Little Convention That Could
We really need helps from the generous people in the secular community. LogiCon, a Secular Humanist convention in Northwest Arkansas, has some terrific speakers year, including Dorion Sagan, Darrel Ray, and Jerry DeWitt to name a few.
Unfortunately, the two primary funding sources fell through and we are scurrying around looking for alternate sources with very little time left.
So now, we are trying to do everything we can to raise the money needed to pay for the event. Our goal is $2,000. The majority of this goal is for the speaker arrangements and travel expenses. While we are taking donations of ALL kinds, we do actually have sponsorship packages still available that have perks and bonuses as well. These start as low as $100.
The Donation page link: is http://logicon.org/donate/
Anything you can do to assist us by donating, blogging, posting, whatever, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your efforts!
Silver Sponsor ($100-$249)
1. Name published in the “Silver Sponsors” section of the program.
2. Name on the “Silver Sponsors” banners.
3. Name in the “Silver Sponsor” section on LogiCon website
4. 1 LogiCon t-shirt
Gold Sponsor ($250-$499)
1. 1/4 page ad in the LogiCon program.
2. Name and website published in the “Gold Sponsors” section of the program.
3. Name on the “Gold Sponsors” banners.
4. Name and hyperlinked web address in the “Gold Sponsor” section on LogiCon website.
5. Ticket for 1 to the invitation only celebratory speaker dinner
5. 1 LogiCon t-shirt
Platinum Sponsor ($500-$999)
1. 1/2 page ad in the LogiCon program.
2. Name, logo, and website published in the “Platinum Sponsors” section of the program.
3. Name and logo on the “Platinum Sponsors” banners.
4. Name, logo, and hyperlinked web address in the “Platinum Sponsor” section on LogiCon website.
5. Tickets for 2 to the invitation only celebratory speaker dinner.
6. Free promotional table at the event.
6. 2 VIP tickets and reserved seating .
7. 2 LogiCon t-shirts.
Star Sponsor ($1,000 +)
1. Full page ad in the LogiCon program.
2. Name, logo, and website published in the “Star Sponsors” section of the program.
3. Name and logo on the “Star Sponsors” banners.
4. Name, logo, and hyperlinked web address in the “Star Sponsor” section on LogiCon website.
5. Tickets for 2 to the invitation only speaker dinner on Friday, April 18th.
6. Free promotional table at the event.
7. 4 VIP tickets and reserved seating.
8. Complimentary hotel room at TownePlace Suites for the event.
9. 2 LogiCon t-shirts.
10. Autographed book by the speaker of their choice.
11. Master of ceremonies plug at least four times during event.
The Donation page link, once again, is: http://logicon.org/donate/
So I’m thinking of putting together a collection of my non-fiction writing about sex. And I wanted to ask my regular readers (and indeed my irregular ones): Which of my essays, reviews, journalism, rantings, and other non-fiction writing about sex do you like best?
Actually, I’ll modify that question, and clarify it. Which of my non-fiction writing about sex (if any) do you think are most important? Which (if any) do you find most memorable? Which are the ones that you remember without having to dip into my archives? Which are the ones that, if you do scan my archives, immediately leap out at you as “Oh, yeah, I remember that one!”
They can be ones that you loved, ones that made you angry, ones that changed your sex life, ones that changed how you view other people’s sex lives, ones you just thought were hilarious. Whatever definition you have of “most important,” “most memorable,” or “best” — I want to know what they are. If you feel like telling me why you’re listing the item or items you’re listing, that’s cool, but it’s not necessary.
I don’t absolutely promise to include your picks. I don’t even necessarily promise to write this book — right now, I’m just pondering it. But if I do write this book, I don’t just want to rely on my own perspective. There may be pieces that I was somewhat “Meh” about but that lots of other people love. If that’s true, I’d like to know. So let me know. Thanks!
I realized that in much of my recent conversations about mental illness, I was showing a tendency to focus on, and reply to, the small number of comments that annoyed me, more than the many many many many comments that I found helpful. Partly, I think, this is a symptom of the depression, which is mostly waning but is still leaving me more easily irritated than I usually am. (And partly it’s a symptom of my often ornery, contrary, ranty nature — especially as a writer.)
But a huge amount of what people have been writing has been very helpful. So I wanted to bring out a few particular comments that have particularly stuck with me, and call attention to them. (If I don’t mention your comment here, btw, it doesn’t mean that what you said didn’t help — almost everything that everyone said, with a couple of obvious exceptions that I’ve already responded to, has been helpful, including “That sucks, I’m really sorry.” These are just the comments that particularly resonated with me, in my particular situation.)
I understand that the doctors use “chronic,” but try to think of it as “intermittent depression” instead.
YES, THIS, OMLOG SO MUCH THIS. Calling this “chronic intermittent depression” or “chronic episodic depression” instead of just “chronic depression” is already making a big difference in how I see myself in relation to this illness.
In your place, I’d see it as a mental health seatbelt.
We always use our seatbelts to reduce and avoid injuries. We don’t know for any particular journey whether it’ll be needed at all, or just to restrain us when the car brakes or turns sharply, or to save our lives in a major accident. Your medication at this dosage is ensuring you don’t have major problems from minor incidents. And that if you do have a major “incident” the system is all primed ready to reduce the impact on you and make it easier for serious rescue and repair work without waiting the obligatory try this one now couple of months to see whether/ which, what/ which dosage will help you.
A hugely useful analogy, which I will be using a lot.
Maybe instead of diabetes as your go-to simile, try using asthma.
I’ve had asthma for as long as I can remember. I’ve been on maintenance medication for it since I was in junior high. When I’m on the meds, I can run, exercise, do all the things that normal people do. When I’m not on the meds, running might put me in the hospital.
When I was diagnosed with chronic depression, I was thrilled. I was doing something about the thing that was holding me back from being the me I wanted to be. As far as I am concerned, it is just like getting on asthma meds. I fully expect to be on them the rest of my life, and I’m happy to do so.
I think the “chronic” part of “chronic depression” might be what is throwing you for a loop. It doesn’t mean you’re constantly depressed. It just means that you’re at an elevated *risk* of having an attack of depression. I.e., it isn’t the episodes of depression itself that the “chronic” is referring to. It is the elevated risk. In that way it’s a lot more like asthma. And just like my asthma medications help me be the person I want to be who can run and exercise and stay in shape, the medication for depression helps me be the version of me who has motivation, loves a challenge, loves to learn new things, and has decently high creative output.
-Commenter on Facebook (I’m keeping Facebook comments anonymous unless they self-disclose, out of a possibly misguided and over-cautious notion that people have a slightly higher expectation of privacy on Facebook than they do on blog comments)
Another really useful analogy — for me especially, since I also have asthma (pretty mild), and take meds for it prophylactically, specifically so I won’t have an episode.
Both my wife and I have chronic depression issues, so it helps us to sort of keep an eye on each other, rather than ourselves. That way, we don’t focus on our own anxieties and we can (hopefully) catch the other person before it gets worse
-UnknownEric the Apostate
Good suggestion, and one that a number of people made. I’ll ask the people around me to help me monitor, so I don’t have to do as much of it myself.
Count me among the people who find it very important to not monitor my mood too closely. I suffer from idiosyncratic short-term (few hours to few days) episodes of suicidal ideation and self-loathing. Comparing my current mental state to my “ill” mental state is too close to being in that bad state and can put me there. Like infophile, I use puzzles to distract myself as necessary, or sometimes research.
Instead, I monitor externalities. Did my appetite change? Does a shower seem like too much work? Have I gone a few nights without being able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour? Am I keeping up with housework? Those kinds of things help me know when a bad spell is coming.
Another good way to deal with the possibly overzealous self-monitoring. Thanks. Continue reading “Things People Said Here About Mental Illness That Were Extremely Helpful”
From Facebook, a comment responding to my post, On Being on Anti-Depressants Indefinitely, Very Likely for the Rest of My Life, in which I discussed my diagnosis of depression and the meds I’m taking for it.
If you haven’t read Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker it’s a must. The director of a leading psychiatry association finally acquiesced and said he was right. The drugs are hurting us more than they are helping us. I’ve been on a slow ween and feel so much better. I drive my husband crazy sometimes, more than I used to, but it’s nice to be me again.
(I’m not going to name the person who said this, since people on Facebook often expect marginally more privacy than they do on blog comments and other public Internet spaces. If they want to disclose who they are, they may do so.)
Here’s my response.
I realize that you probably mean well, but can you please not tell people with mental illness to ignore their doctor’s advice? Unless someone tells you that their health care provider is prescribing actual quackery (like homeopathy or something), or unless you have some more substantial evidence for your position than “I know that the established standard of care is (X), but this one guy disagrees and wrote a book about it,” it is seriously fucked-up to undermine people’s relationships with their health care providers.
What’s more, people with chronic illnesses, especially mental illnesses, get a bellyful of unsolicited amateur medical advice along the lines of “I know better than you how you should take care of yourself.” It is really not helpful.
If the preponderance of hard medical evidence starts shifting away from “A combination of meds and talk therapy is often effective at treating depression, and right now for most people it’s the best we’ve got” and starts shifting towards “Meds are not generally effective and they can actually do harm,” I will reconsider my treatment plan. In the meantime: There are appropriate places for debates about how the medical establishment should be dealing with depression and other mental illness. A personal post from someone with depression talking about their experiences with it is not one of them. Thank you.
So I have to rethink some things. Specifically, I have to rethink some things about mental illness and me.
As regular readers may already know, I had a recent bout with depression, starting in late 2012 when my father died and I was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo: I’ve had two or three other fairly serious depressive episodes in my life. But I’m not someone for whom depression is a staple of my everyday life. My depressive episodes haven’t been trivial, but they’ve been intermittent. If I added up the months that I’ve been depressed, I’d put it at about 10% of my adult life.
And until recently, I thought of myself as a basically mentally healthy person, with something of a vulnerability to situational depression.
But apparently, I have to re-think that.
Apparently, if someone’s had three or more serious depressive episodes in their life, the current standard of care (as my psychiatrist understands and interprets them, anyway) is for them to stay on anti-depressants. If someone has had three or more serious depressive episodes, the chances are very high that they’re going to have another one — and when that happens, it’s better, for a zillion reasons, to already be on medication. So the current standard of care is to stay on anti-depressants. Indefinitely. Forever.
I don’t mind being on the meds per se. Especially now that we’ve dialed down my dosage. I’m on Wellbutrin, if you’re curious, and the side effects for me are pretty minimal: I’m a little jumpier than usual, my attention span is a little spazzier, and my alcohol tolerance is lower (I can only have one drink per evening, one and a half tops). Big whoop. When I hear about other people’s side effects with their anti-depressants, I thank every non-existent god there is that I got off so lucky. The meds are fine. And I can absolutely see the reasoning behind staying on them. This is not a care plan that’s been foisted on me in any way: my doctor suggested it, but we discussed the pros and cons, and he made it clear that it was my choice. We decided on this plan together, and I’m completely in agreement about it.
But I’m definitely unsettled by it.
I’m unsettled because I now have to shift the way I see myself: from “basically mentally healthy person with something of a vulnerability to situational depression,” to “person with chronic depression who is going to be on medication for it for life.”
Some of that unsettlement is the stigma, for sure. There is a stigma attached to mental illness and the people who have it. As I wrote before when I first started on anti-depressants: Once I started taking actual psych meds for depression, it felt like I’ll have “Mentally Ill” stamped on me forever. That’s even more true if I’m taking those meds forever. But honestly, I’ve dealt with so many stigmas in my life, one more hardly seems worth worrying about. Given the stigmas against being queer, being bisexual, being kinky, being poly, being an atheist, and more — having a diagnosis of chronic depression, and being on meds for it, doesn’t add that much to the pile. I’m okay with that.
So now I’m trying to figure out how I can see myself as a basically upbeat, optimistic, happy person… who suffers from chronic depression, and who is going to be on medication for it for life. That almost seems like a contradiction in terms. I’m trying to find ways that it isn’t. (Maybe I could look at the meds as preventative, rather than as a treatment? Almost like a vaccine against depression?)
And I’m somewhat concerned about what seeing myself as someone with chronic depression is going to feel like: day to day, week to week, year to year. When I’m in the middle of a depressive episode, or when I’m coming out of a depressive episode and my mental health feels somewhat fragile, I make an extra-special effort to make time for mental health care — getting exercise, getting time outside, getting social time — even if I don’t really have time for it. Will I have to keep doing all of that forever? I mean, I like exercising and being outside and hanging out with my friends. But I also like staying inside for eighteen hours working and dicking around the house all by myself. I don’t want to have to give that up. Plus, when I’m in the middle of an episode or coming out of one, I do a lot of careful monitoring of my emotional state. “Is this a torpor that’s turning into a vicious circle, or am I just tired and needing to rest?” “Am I being anti-social and isolating myself, or do I just want to focus on my work for a day or two?” Do I now have to do that for the rest of my life? That seems seriously no fun.
In fact, it seems downright depressing. Seriously. I’m somewhat concerned that rigorous monitoring of my mental and emotional state, and constantly asking myself, “Am I depressed now? How about now? Okay, now?,” could itself contribute to my depression. And I’m somewhat concerned that simply seeing myself as someone with chronic depression might, in and of itself, be somewhat… well, depressing. Obviously, knowing the early warning signs of depression and knowing how to take action on them is a whole lot better, a whole lot less likely to result in a bad episode, then not knowing. I just need to find a way to do that — not just temporarily, not just while I’m in an episode or emerging from one, but as a permanent fixture of my life — that doesn’t result in hyper self-consciousness, hyper self-monitoring, and a re-assessment of my basic identity and character that is, in and of itself, depressing.
Of course I’m going to accept this reality. That’s what I do. Whenever I hear religious believer tell atheists, “You can just choose to believe in God,” I literally have no idea what they mean by that. I don’t understand how you could choose to not know something once you know it. So now that I know this truth, now that I know that I am someone with chronic depression, I can’t un-know it. Even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. And not taking the meds wouldn’t make that make this reality go away. In fact, it would make it a whole lot worse. I get that. I’m not questioning this decision. I’m just looking for ways to come to terms with it.
Thoughts? If you, yourself, experience chronic depression, how do you manage that? How (if at all) do you keep an eye on it without a constant self-conscious self-monitoring that is, in and of itself, anxious and depressing? And how do you accept yourself as a depressed person without it… well, being depressing?
Wellbutrin_SR_tablets_150mg image by SergeSF, licensed under Creative Commons, found at Wikimedia Commons.
The Karen Stollznow legal defense fund has been started, and is now in place. If you think victims of sexual harassment should be able to speak out without being silenced by lawsuits or fear of lawsuits, please donate — and please spread the word.
My name is Karen Stollznow. I am an author and researcher with a PhD in Linguistics. In recent months, I wrote an article for a Scientific American Mind blog in which I spoke out about sexual harassment I’d endured from a male colleague for several years. I did this to highlight the wide problem of sexual harassment in the workplace for women, including those in scientific and academic fields. Many people who read the article immediately identified my harasser by name, and spoke publicly about my situation on their own blogs and other social media. They knew who my harasser was because he had recently been disciplined by his employer for his behavior.
As a result, my harasser filed a defamation suit against me, trying to bully me into silence. Although he’s spent thousands of dollars on a lawyer to clear his name, he knew that I could not afford the same. In my attempts to settle out of court he has tried to bully me into signing a retraction, which claimed that I had lied about the whole ordeal, including his ongoing harassment of me, and assaults at one of our professional conferences. Although I didn’t sign the retraction, he posted the document on his very public Facebook page and announced victory over me. This also led to false public edits being made to my Wikipedia page.
I never lied about the harassment I endured and I have evidence and witnesses to attest to my experiences. The only crime I have committed is not being rich enough to defend myself. If you believe in justice and in protecting victims who are bullied into silence, please dig deep and help support this legal fund. I must raise $30,000 in the next two weeks in order to find legal counsel to fight these allegations and clear my own name. If my harasser succeeds in bullying me into silence, it will only serve to embolden harassers, and teach victims that they should never speak up, lest it ruin their lives.
Any money raised through this campaign that is not spent on these legal expenses will be donated to Colorado’s Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center.
Thank you for listening to my story, and please give as you can. To contact me about this fundraising campaign, email [email protected]
Again: If you’re troubled by the fact that victims of sexual harassment are staying silent because of lawsuits or fear of lawsuits, please donate. Even small amounts help — they really do add up. And please spread the word: on Facebook, Twitter, other social media, your own blog, and any appropriate places you can think of. Thanks.
EDIT: For those of you who may not be familiar with the details of this situation, here is a timeline.
“I didn’t write it, I never agreed to it, I never signed it, and I’m not the liar here.”
For those who haven’t been following, a very brief summary: Last year, Karen Stollznow wrote a piece for Scientific American, coming forward with her story of having been sexually harassed. (The piece has since been taken down: here is a cached version.) It came out later that the person she was talking about was Ben Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine, and a research fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Earlier this year, Radford sued Stollznow for defamation.
On March 22, Radford posted a letter to his Facebook wall, purported to be from Stollznow, supposedly retracting the accusation of harassment and apologizing for it.
Today, March 25, Stollznow went on Twitter to say, “I didn’t write it, I never agreed to it, I never signed it, and I’m not the liar here.” Her husband, Matthew Baxter, subsequently wrote on Twitter, “I wrote a joint statement, they morphed it into an apology, said that I worked on it with them, and claimed that @karenstollznow agreed.”
A timeline of the events related to this situation, with an analysis of it, is over on Jason Thibeault’s Lousy Canuck blog.
Thought you might like to know.