Friday, October 27, 2017

Week 6 Reflection

I found this reading INCREDIBLY interesting since it discusses depression amongst a current population in a different culture.

Culture in Psychology
Chapter 10: Culture and emotions: depression among Pakistanis by Rabia Malik
            Malik begins her writing with a discussion of emotions and how they are defined generally, as well as in different cultures (Malik 147-159). Malik states “When we think of emotions we think of them in the first instance as powerful personal experiences or feelings which arise within the body” (Malik 147). Throughout the chapter, Malik compares concepts of emotional states being internal and external (Malik 147-159. Malik also states, “The social constructionist perspective allows too for the possibility that emotions may work differently in different cultures” (Malik 147). Following this perspective, it is asserted that Westerners have a far more individualistic concept of emotions, including how they play out within the individual and the effect they have on the individual (Malik 149-150, 154). This individualized concept of self is also referred to as “’egocentric’ [and] ‘indexical’” (Malik 149). Conversely, “The ‘sociocentric’ ‘referential’ self is usually associated with non-western cultures” (Malik 149).  “Laungani (1992) and Kakar (1982) argue that South Asian society cannot be seen in terms other than familial and communal” (Malik 154). Because the South Asian culture has such a different view on society, compared to the Western view of society, this also leads to a different view on distress/depression and ideas on how to treat these negative feelings.
            Westerners “theorise emotions as [solely] internal essences” (Malik 147). Contrastingly, non-westerners view emotions as having multiple causes, most of which are external to an individual. This individual, Western view of emotions arose from Descartes’s separation of mind and body (Malik 148). After Descartes, “emotions were now clearly located in the body and thought in the mind” (Malik 148). I’ve never really thought of emotions as having a “location.” If an emotion has a “location,” in the body, does this mean it contains matter/mass? This “location” of emotions in the body could help explain the effects emotions have on the body, like stress (increased blood pressure, tension in the neck/shoulder area, etc.). The physical toll depression/melancholy has on the human body could then be more widely accepted with this theory of emotions.
            The “indigenous” and British Pakistanis who were interviewed categorized causes of distress/depression “into circumstantial, relational (kinship), personality and supernatural causes. The predominant causes…were circumstances and relationships, which are external to the body” (Malik 153). It seems like indigenous and British Pakistanis have a much better understanding of the complexity of depression and its multiple causes, as compared to the rather reductionist American/Western view that depression is ‘simply’ a chemical imbalance. Maybe depression is a chemical imbalance, but what causes the imbalance? Maybe stressful relationships result in either an over or under production of a certain chemical which then results in depression/depression-like symptoms. Attempting to solely treat depression is futile; there seems to almost always be other underlying causes/factors to depression – isn’t this why individuals go to therapy – in an attempt to better their relationships/thinking patterns? I don’t think anyone would assert that therapy of any kind is a direct intervention on chemicals in the brain. As long as these other underlying causes/factors of depression are present, the depression itself will be present, no matter what antidepressants an individual is taking. It is necessary to examine the underlying causes/factors of depression and learn how to best deal/cope with them since they most likely cannot simply be cut out of the individual’s life.

            In contrast to this view on depression, “In Euro-American cultures, although theorists acknowledge that emotions are evoked in a social context, they tend to ‘psychologise’ them, presenting them as an index of a personal state, rather than of social relationships as in other cultures” (Malik 148). Could ‘psychologise’ be replaced with medicalize? This view puts all the blame of any negative emotion on the individual, rather than looking at possible causes, like that individual’s relationships, the individual’s culture/society, etc. In this view, an individual could be blamed for his/her own depression, contributing to the negative stigma associated with mental illness in Western cultures.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Week 5 Reflection

Depression: Integrating Science, Culture, and Humanities
            The beginning of Part II mentions “multiple models of depression” (Lewis 49). Why do we need multiple models of depression? Are there different models for different ‘types’ of depression? Do the different models have different causes/explanations for depression? The text later answers that the different models serve as “diverse approaches” to depression (Lewis 49). This ‘answer’ still feels fairly ambiguous to me. I think this answer also exemplifies the complexity of depression and that there is not one simple way to look at depression; there are many factors that cause and effect depression, which also means there are multiple ways to go about treating depression. None of the different treatment models or even view of depression are necessarily wrong – there is (hopefully) a reason why each are developed with different sets of evidence supporting each model.
            The story of Gilgamesh is “the oldest known depiction of intense sadness and depression” (Lewis 50). Gilgamesh’s “sadness and despair [are] tied to external events” (Lewis 51). These external events include the death of his close friend, Enkidu, and Gilgamesh’s distressing realization of his own mortality (prompted by Enkidu’s death), which then leads to a failed quest for a search of immortality (Lewis 50-51). Gilgamesh’s depression displays an element of existentialism as he becomes consumed with fear of his own death and hopes to prevent it by searching for a sort of elixir for this innate, inescapable human condition. This example of Gilgamesh also brings up the question of whether someone is ‘simply’ experiencing sadness, as to be expected after the death of a close friend, or if they are experiencing the more extreme depression. I think it is safe to say that Gilgamesh is experiencing depression since the death of Enkidu begins to take over his life as he (Gilgamesh) searches for immortality. Gilgamesh is unable to focus on anything other than escaping his own death (a morbid thought), so his condition could also be considered debilitating (a key characteristic of depression portrayed in texts previously ready for this course).
            There are multiple examples in literature of people suffering from sadness/depression either as a result of the death of a close friend/love one OR their own suffering. Although the text explains these difficulties as matters of “fate, bad luck, or the gods,” I think some people who prescribe to the Determinist point of view, would say that all events are the result of God/gods (Lewis 51). If God/gods really do determine/cause all events on Earth, why does these god/gods allow for such prevalent suffering? Does that mean a god is the source or cause of depression?
            Lewis then states “…if we really care about depression, we must change the social order to reduce human oppression” (emphasis added) (Lewis 52). Lewis gives “sexism, racism, [and] classism” as examples of “oppression” (Lewis 52). This argument, again, shows that depression is far more complex than a ‘simple’ chemical imbalance. This also relates to our discussion last week of women drinking wine in the morning, possibly as an attempt to help persist in the face of patriarchal systems. Could sexism be the reason more women than men are diagnosed with depression? Intersectionality would also need to be taken into consideration. Do Black women experience higher rates of depression? It would make sense, seeing as they face multiple forms of discrimination on a daily basis.
            Lewis then moves on from examples of depression in the Ancient World to examples in Classical Greece. Lewis provides Sophocles’ play Ajax as a prime example of depression, stating Ajax is “the most well-known depressive in Greek tragedy” (Lewis 52). Ajax felt “…he was denied rewards that he thought he deserved….” (emphasis added) (Lewis 53). This shows the popular theme/condition in Greek literature of hubris. Could an inflated ego or misplaced sense of entitlement be a source of depression? Who is to fault for an inflated ego or misplaced sense of entitlement? It is understandable that someone would get disappointed (possibly extremely, depending on the circumstances) when expectations are not met. The disappointment would be more extreme if the expectations were held for a long period of time. I think this is why so many college freshmen experience depression; they are primed from an early age to go to college and then they get there and it is either not what they expected it to be and/or far more challenging. There are multiple new variables when someone goes to college. They are responsible for their own daily well-being, they are likely in a new environment – whether it be a new city or state, and the classes they are taking are most likely the most challenging they have ever encountered. Add up all these (negative/challenging) variables, and you essentially have a recipe for depression, or at least despair. There is also a sense of control that I think is important to consider in cases like these. I think all humans like to think they have some sense of control over their lives, but as we have learned, all humans are susceptible to depression as the disease does not discriminate. It can be extremely disheartening to learn/feel that you have no control over your own life (like if you were to suddenly experience major depression). If something like depression can suddenly enter and take over your life, why pursue planning and working towards a rewarding life?

            In the Middle Ages, there are multiple examples of Christian authors who relayed depression as a punishment from God or a sign of the presence of demons (Lewis 55-56). This easily shows a source of stigma, particularly in “Christian nations,” like the United States, which was founded by Puritans. However, Marsilio Ficino found a “positive value of depression” in that it allowed for higher-level thinking and creativity (Lewis 58). Ficino asserted that melancholia was good because it allowed for higher-level thinking, but too much melancholia (depression) was bad because although an individual with this condition may be able to experience higher-level thinking, the depression they experience overshadows it to a point of debilitation (Lewis 57-58). Does this mean melancholy is necessary? Where would the human race be today without melancholy? What inventions/major works in human history can be traced back as a direct result of some state of melancholy?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Week 4 Reflection

I can't remember why I didn't post the last reflection in a timely manner, but I remember all too well why I did not post this particular reflection after I composed it and shared it with my professor: It was the first time I received any kind of criticism from my professor on any of my reflections. I have always been rather "sensitive" when it comes to any kind of criticism about any kind of work I produce but it seems since my depression diagnosis that this sensitivity has been heightened to the highest possible level, and every time I receive any kind of criticism, instead of hearing what the person is saying, which is generally something along the lines of "this work needs some improvement," I hear "you, as a person, are bad and need some improvement." This generally leads to a sort of self-imposed shame spiral and makes it difficult for me to continue with that work/course/etc.
My professor said that I did not provide enough context from the text to really allow him to understand my thought process(es), which I think you will agree with if you read the reflection below. He was able to ultimately figure out what I was trying to convey and he picked up on a common struggle I have with my writing: being able to explicitly articulate a thought rather than simply describe it and essentially dance around it in the hope/belief that those who read my writing will be able to easily decipher what I am truly trying to say. Anyways, what I'm really trying to get at in this reflection is: Do we have a need for an altered state (i.e. depression)?
Let me know what you think!

Reinventing Depression (Continued)
            Does Huxley think depression and/or anxiety are the result of American culture? American culture being: “Mass Production, Standardization, Capitalization, Individualism, Consumerism” (Callahan 104). How has globalization affected depression rates and vice versa? Did Huxley get the inspiration for his drug, “soma,” from Peyote? The text states he was inspired by “Native American folklore” (Callahan 104). At this time, (early/mid-20th century), people were “…. using hallucinogens as a pathway to greater perception and insight (Callahan 104). If hallucinogens are used, does that eliminate the need for/replace psychotherapy? How much insight can one gain into one’s own identity, being, etc. without another person present – no matter what chemical (or other) influences he or she may be under? Is this currently considered the benefit of various psychoactive drugs (MDMA, LSD, etc.) that are currently being researched to treat mental illness? Is it possible to extract the chemical compounds from these drugs that are considered beneficial while avoiding any compounds that cause negative side effects like hallucinating? Right now, this is a “hot” issue with cannabis. The text also refers to an “opium of the masses” and says this issue has been “an age-old concern” (Callahan 104). Does this mean that some, if not all, people think humanity needs to experience in an altered mental state in order to function on a regular basis? Could this be a reference to alternate realities? Is the cure to depression a “break” from reality? Does “reality” cause depression? Exactly what aspects of reality could cause depression? Does the rate of depression increase during wars? There seems to be a strong correlation/causation between anxiety and depression, yet these two diseases are always characterized as “looking back into the past” (depression) and “looking into the future” (anxiety); how can two these two phenomena occur simultaneously when they are so different/antagonistic? Do/can they occur simultaneously or do they just occur (at least sometimes) very close to one another?
            Is psychopharmacology trying to dull all senses, like anesthesia, but to a lesser degree? When on an antidepressant, a patient no longer experiences extreme lows but also no longer experiences extreme highs. They are simply “stable.” This sounds more like a robot than a human. Is the “problem” (in mental illness) an over-active mind? Is that why so many “geniuses” experience depression and/or anxiety? What about the other side of the spectrum – individuals with an under-active/under-developed mind? Do they experience something just as difficult but aren’t able to convey to others what they are experiencing or do not know it’s not “normal”?
            What exactly makes an antidepressant an antidepressant, versus a hypnotic or tranquilizer? Can hypnotics or tranquilizers be antidepressants? There is a “lack of replicability” when it comes to psychopharmacology research (Callahan 107). Is this “lack of replicability” referring to the fact that no two minds/brains are exactly similar?

            According to Callahan, “Anglo-American[s]” were the main prescribers of “Miltown,” which was sort of the first Prozac in terms of its popularity and its status as a cultural phenomenon (Callahan 108, 106). Why were White Americans the main prescribers? Was it because of culture – they were more accepting of taking pills to lessen their daily stresses? Did they simply have better access (SES)? Was it “cool/popular” to have one of these prescriptions? Was something wrong with you if you didn’t have a prescription? Drugs like Miltown, known as minor tranquilizers, came to be known as “mother’s little helper” (Callahan 108). This highlights the gender bias for mental illness but also creates a sense of normalcy around the use of prescription drugs. Patients who were prescribed these minor tranquilizers were considered to not have a “severe mental illness,” yet the drugs were extremely popular (Callahan 109). Does this mean that the majority of the population has a “minor” mental illness and that the stigma surrounding mental illness is not simply its presence, but rather, its severity?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Week 3 Reflection

I apologize for getting behind with posting these regularly/as I complete them. I hope to address the main reason for my absence in the next post. Let me know what y'all think about this one or any of the previous posts/reflections!

Reinventing Depression
Callahan states “depression is a killer.” He goes on to say that it is a killer NOT just in the physical (human body) sense, but also in terms of “dreams and marriages” “as well as people” (Callahan 3). I’m glad the author made this point (and distinction) because most people do not realize the impact depression can have (like killing dreams) and that it not only significantly affects the diagnosed individual but also almost every person that individual has any kind of relationship with. Callahan goes on to describe how depression does not discriminate and affects “both rich and poor countries” (Callahan 4). Unfortunately, treatment is generally very expensive, and despite the fact that there are most likely just as many people in poor countries with depression as rich countries, they are, generally, less likely to have any kind of access to treatment because there is most likely no option or opportunity for treatment of depression at all. I’m very curious to know information about the rates of depression in different countries – comparing GDP, healthcare systems/types, etc.
            Callahan feels that highlighting the physical aspects of depression makes the illness seem less abstract (Callahan 5). I would be interested to see data that supports this claim/idea. Callahan also separates depression into 1. The Disease, 2. The Symptom, and 3. The Experience (Callahan 5). This helps to show the complexity of depression.
            In 2002, WHO said they did not know what causes depression (Callahan 6). I found this interesting since it seems that the medical establishment, in the US at least, is very convinced that chemical imbalances cause depression. Apparently, there is also a “lack of supporting evidence” that neurotransmitters cause depression (Callahan 7). It sounds like these theories of chemical imbalances causing depression were created after most antidepressants (targeting neurotransmitters) were developed in order to support/validate their use/creation. Callahan also states that the idea that depression is a chemical imbalance is an “oversimplification” (Callahan 7). I wholeheartedly agree with this. There is so much more that goes into depression, which is why it can be so difficult to treat, let alone understand. There are definitely social/environmental factors that also cause/affect depression that can never truly be controlled. Instead, patients have to learn to cope with them. Callahan asserts that the neurotransmitter explanation is biological and validates mental illness as a “real illness” because it makes it similar to other illnesses’ biological causes (like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) (Callahan 8). Despite this biological explanation, which could be inaccurate, there is still a significant stigma surrounding mental illness.
            Callahan then explains why the continued study of depression matters: 1. Depression is common and disabling 2. Nature has a strong effect on/causes depression, which is not accounted for in the current treatment model 3. The current treatment model is limited (Callahan 12). Callahan’s argument shows that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to gain a better understanding of depression, and in order to treat it more effectively, and work towards a cure for a great number of those diagnosed with the disease. The way depression is treated needs to be significantly altered.
            Callahan then goes on to discuss depression treatment by PCPs and states PCPs in the mid-twentieth century felt a sense of “demoralization and deprivation” regarding their work because they didn’t have the resources they needed (Callahan 45). We have come a long way, but I think this is still true, at least to some extent. Did only American physicians feel this way? How does the current state of health insurance play into this? Would it be better or worse if there was universal healthcare? Also, how would a plastic surgeon versus a Doctors without Borders volunteer differ in their feelings – assuming they have different motives when it comes to their career? Maybe depression/anxiety is under/mis-diagnosed because doctors (specifically PCPs) themselves are depressed/anxious and/or cannot imagine anyone in a different career having any cause to be distressed/anxious because their own job is so incredibly demanding?
            The general United States culture has evolved into one where a “patient has a need to take something [medication],” rather than work towards a well-balanced diet and/or exercise, which applies to all illnesses, including, possibly at least, mental illness as exercise is one of the first recommended therapies for depression (Callahan 49).

            The different schools of psychology, and later psychiatry, led to different takes on how to best approach/treat mental illness in terms of whether the mind (brain) could be treated the same way as other “simpler” human organs, such as the heart or lungs (Callahan 94). This lends to the question of where the mind is located (the brain?) and if the mind/brain is attached to human consciousness, human personality, the human soul. If all of these components are located in the brain, I, personally, would be very apprehensive to supervise any deliberate alteration of the brain in any way.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Week 2 Reflection

Depressive Disorders
What exactly does the author mean by saying major depressive disorder is “the common cold of mental health”? Is this comparison referring to a lack of cure, simply its commonality/frequency in patients, or something else? The author also states that major depressive disorder involves mood. Q: What exactly causes mood? A: External things like events, internal things like brain chemicals (though this is currently under debate), and a patient’s past, such as memories/trauma, and current events that trigger thoughts of those past events/trauma.
            The author emphasizes the importance of individualized treatment plans. This is one of the reasons why the field of mental health is so complicated: every individual responds to various treatments differently. Maybe this significant variety in treatment response is inherent to the fact that mental health deals with a patient’s mind, which is highly personalized and can easily become trivialized when looking at a more scientific, impersonal, empirical view. It is imperative to remember the humanity involved in this field. The thing that distinguishes humans and makes us superior to other animals is our mind. It is not something to be treated lightly. Do twins often respond similarly to the same mental health treatment(s)? The resources a client has also have to be taken into consideration, such as support from others and finances. Will treatment require the patient to take time off from work/school (inpatient treatment, ECT)? Finally, a cost/benefit analysis should be done and the likelihood of treatment’s efficacy should be taken into consideration.
            According to WHO “depressive disorders were the leading cause of disability” (Dziegielewski 243). Despite this, there is a significant, sometimes debilitating, stigma associated with essentially all mental health diseases. Why is there a stigma if depressive disorders are so common? Maybe people think patients diagnosed with depression are being “dramatic” or are simply trying to get out of certain obligations by emphasizing their symptoms of depression. The author also states “50-80% [of patients with a depressive disorder] go unrecognized or misdiagnosed” (Dziegielewski 243). That is terrifying and is probably at least partially because the “symptoms of depression…[are] often one of the most ambiguous to define” (Dziegielewski 243). How is “disabled” in terms of the mental health field defined? If you have “clinically depressed mood,” does that automatically categorize you as disabled? How was the statistic on undetected depression in primary care found? How is undetected depression detected? Was it diagnosed and determined that it had a much earlier onset and thus went undetected for some time?

            The author mentions culture on page 244 in terms of depression in White Americans versus African Americans. Generally, White Americans face less stigma and are more open to treatment for mental health diseases. Alternatively, African Americans may simply not have the same accessibility to mental health treatment. Also, females are diagnosed with depression at a rate twice as high as men’s rate of depression diagnoses. Multiple sources have found and stated that this doesn’t mean more women than men are depressed but that women are much more likely to report depression. Women do not face shame when displaying/talking about their emotions. Alternatively, men have a higher rate of completed suicide, although women have a higher rate of suicide attempts because men are more likely to attempt suicide in a more violent form, such as the use of a gun, while women are more likely to take a more passive route such as medication overdose. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Week 1 Reflection

Mood Disorders
            James Morrison’s chapter on Mood Disorders in DSM-5 Made Easy: The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis, gives insight into the complexity and still relative lack of uncertainty when it comes to diagnosing mood disorders. While reading the first two/thirds of this section on the DSM-5, which supposedly makes it easy to understand, one comment continuously entered my mind: “Confusing!” If this is an “easy” explanation of the DSM-5, I would hate to try to interpret the original source.
            Many of the diagnoses mentioned in this section have an optional “other” category known as “unspecified.” This essentially allows a clinician to make a diagnosis for some type of mood disorder that is evident in a patient but does not meet the very specific criteria for a pre-determined diagnosis. I see both a benefit and a drawback to the incredibly specific diagnosis criteria: the benefit being that it limits/restricts diagnosticians from making a possibly significant and/or life-altering diagnosis without substantial evidence; the limit to the highly specific criteria for making a diagnosis when it comes to things like mood disorders is that these experiences can be highly subjective and even abstract or vague. So, these diagnosis criterions prevent unnecessary and possibly detrimental diagnoses from being made but also essentially attempt to create very concrete, objective, and empirical requirements for a medical condition that is highly subjective.
            Morrison includes some language, specifically on pages 119 and 122 that seems demeaning to the patients he describes with words like “outrageous” and the observation “they are so distractible.” I’m sure (or at least hope) that Morrison’s intention in writing this guide was to make the world of mental health more accessible, but by including such language in his work, he only contributes to the harsh, negative stigma the world of mental health cannot seem to shake.

            Morrison also reminds the reader that each edition of the DSM includes significant changes to its previous edition. Morrison highlights this point on page 143 under his description of cyclothymic disorder, stating “Note that this is a change from DSM-IV, which allowed a diagnosis of a bipolar disorder along with cyclothymic disorder.” Because the DSM changes fairly frequently and those changes are significant, it is apparent that mental health is still quite the enigma, even to experts in the field.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

     Long story short, I am taking a one credit hour independent study course this semester. The best part about it? I get to basically choose what I study/read/discuss with the professor who is overseeing the "course." It's pretty awesome. I am extremely lucky that I found a professor willing to support me in this endeavor and increase my knowledge about depression (that's basically what the "course" is about).

     Basically, I read scholarly articles, books, etc. each week and then write a short reflection on what I read and then meet with the professor and discuss the reflection with him. He initially suggested that I might want to start a blog to include my reflections. Well, my friends, as you can see, I already have a blog established that focuses on my journey with depression, so, is it okay with you if I post my reflections here? Will you read them? Would you want to???

     PLEASE!!!!! comment either here or on my Facebook or Twitter accounts (@dionerin), or send me a text, or email letting me know if y'all would be okay with this because I only want to share my reflections if you want to read them. Maybe this is too "academic"? Let me know what you think! <3

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Out of the Darkness

Two friends of mine have committed suicide. I do not want that number to become any bigger. Please help me memorialize my friends and prevent the deaths of others by supporting my involvement in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness Walk in Dallas on October 28. Please let me know if you would like to join me!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It’s Getting (A Little) Political [Up In Here, Up In Here]

Here’s the song to go along with this post to add a little fun:

This post is not in any way meant to be controversial or to try to change your beliefs; it is meant to encourage you to consider the power you wield as a US Citizen and to make you aware of one of the many things you can do with that power.

The city of Carrollton, TX is currently in a run-off for the mayoral election. The run-off is between Kevin Falconer and Steve Babick. Here is some info:

If you are a citizen of Carrollton, I strongly urge you to take the 30 seconds – 2 minutes to vote in this election. I also encourage you to do a bit of research before casting your vote.

I am disappointed in the Texas Democratic Party because they sent out two emails regarding run-off elections and they either did not mention Carrollton or simply stated that the former mayoral candidate who identified as a Democrat did not make the run-off but did not in any way encourage voters to participate in the run-off election. 

I get it. Your candidate didn’t win. That sucks. That doesn’t mean you throw in the towel. You see who the next best option is and whether that individual might be open to some of the concerns and/or ideas you have. Never. Stop. Fighting. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Never Say Never

I generally have a song or melody playing constantly in my head, and as I have been playing with various ideas to write blog posts about, I have found that a lot of them have a song that can easily be related. So, for this post, I give you The Fray’s “Never Say Never” I’m even listening to the song now J

My default song is Vivaldi’s Sonata No. 5, the Allegro Movement. I had the distinct pleasure of memorizing this song (I HATE memorizing anything – my brain just doesn’t work that way) and performing it in either seventh or eighth grade. I still remember the notes and fingerings, so I also find myself often “playing” the song on a desk, tabletop, arm, etc.

ANYWAYS, the POINT of this post. You really never know where life is going to take you. I know, kind of a clich√©, but it really is true, or at least it has been for me. I planned to graduate from UC Berkeley in 3 ½ years and do a semester abroad in Paris during that 3 ½ years. I had it all planned out. No, I literally knew what courses I was going to take every semester for all 3 ½ years during my first (and really, only) semester there.

Well, I think we all know that didn’t work out.

Instead, I just completed my first semester at UT Dallas. Yay! I made it through a semester! I actually COMPLETED two classes! For me, this is a big deal.

Even more surprising than the fact that I’m excited about completing a semester as a part-time student at UTD is the fact that I’m working towards obtaining an Associate’s Degree. If you had told me anytime prior to February 2011 that I would be getting an Associate’s Degree, I would have laughed so hard I would probably have ended up accidentally spitting in your face.

But that’s where I am. I actually have more than 60 credit hours (the requirement for an Associate’s), but, of course, there is one class that is part of the Texas Core Curriculum that I have put off…until now. I will take the second semester of Government through Brookhaven online this summer. Once I have completed that class, I (should) have completed all the courses/earned all the credit necessary to earn an Associate’s in Science Degree.

My psychiatrist has been suggesting for awhile that I look into getting an Associate’s. He knows that I have quite a bit of credit mainly in thanks to AP Tests and that I frequently get into places, for various reasons, where I cannot be in school. My psychiatrist first suggested this awhile ago, like over a year ago awhile ago, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I really considered following through on this idea. Why not have SOMETHING to show for all the work I have done for the past 7-ish years? An Associate’s Degree is a degree. Maybe it will even look pretty…

Thankfully, I found an advisor at Brookhaven, who I actually trust; he’s a former teacher from my high school. I just so happened to get assigned to him the first day I went to Brookhaven’s advising center, and when he called me over he said: “your name sounds familiar.” I never had him as a teacher, but my younger sister did have some interaction with him. I explained that I went to Turner and that my younger sister was in his program before she transferred to the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at UNT. He immediately put the pieces together and seemed kind of perplexed as to why I was there. I gave the brief version of my situation and he got to work figuring out how to get me a degree in the least painful way. Since I never thought I would try to get an Associate’s Degree, I never had my AP Scores sent to Brookhaven, so a lot of the required courses that I had credit for because of my AP Scores were not in their system. And because of bureaucracy (isn’t it a wonderful thing?), the school won’t process my AP Scores (that they have now officially received) until I’m a few weeks into the summer course. The advisor I have been working with has looked over my AP Scores and helped me figure out what classes they will count for, and based on our “calculations,” which were verified by some person above him, once I get this second semester of government (which I also need for a Bachelor’s degree at any Texas public college), I will have completed all requirements for an Associate’s in Science. J

Never did I think I would be kind of excited about getting an Associate’s, but here I am. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Dangers of a Used Book Sale

I intended to publish this post this past Thursday, 4/6, so y'all would also know about this book sale, but that didn’t happen. At the moment, I can’t remember why. Anyways….

The Friends of the Carrollton Library had a used book sale this past Friday and Saturday beginning at 10 am.

I was looking forward to this.

I had my annual appointment with my optometrist scheduled for 9 am Friday and planned to head to the book sale immediately after. My appointment didn’t take long, due in part to the fact that I take Klonopin daily, so my pupils were already dilated.

I arrived at the library to find a pretty long line already formed. It was around 9:40 am.

At 10 am, we were allowed to enter and it was similar to what I imagine a sample sale for a "hot" clothes designer would be like (i.e. mayhem).

Lots of people. Small room. Lots of books.

Thursday night, I prepared this spreadsheet based on my “Want to Read” list on Good Reads:

This is what I actually purchased:

(Nothing from my spreadsheet)

I got all of these for $31, though!

One pile contains books that I have already read but either don’t own my own copy or felt like a second copy would benefit me at some point (e.g. letting someone borrow it).

Another pile contains two books that will hopefully help me in my continuing college career. (nice alliteration Erin!)

Another pile has (two) books that I’ve heard of and want to read.

Another pile contains a couple of books with ideas for science experiments for high school science teachers I am either related to or friends with.

A few poetry books because Cheryl Strayed recommended in her book, Dear Sugar, that 20-somethings should get 10 books of poetry and read them over and over to help expose their mind to the world (or something like that).

Another pile contains a couple of books that will hopefully further enlighten me on the complexities of my mental health. 

Finally, I found a third edition copy of Campbell’s Biology. When I took AP Bio in 2008-2009, we used the sixth edition. I think the most recent edition is the 10th. There are some fundamental things regarding DNA and cells that haven’t changed since the early ‘90s (when the third edition was published) that I would like to brush up on for my new research position.

I would say it was a success!

What did I learn? Don’t let me go to a used book sale if there is a specific book or books you or I want.

If you would like more information about the Friends of the Carrollton Library, please click on this link:

I'm actually considering joining this organization...

Note: Thanks to @jessisreading (on Twitter), I discovered the word, tsundoku. I'm definitely familiar with this affliction.

OMG I managed to put a moving picture thing on my blog!!!! (I think it's called a GIF...)

Note: I used this handy website to ensure I used i.e. and e.g. properly. Hopefully I got it right.

Note: I caved and utilized Grammarly on this post. Do y'all notice any major improvements?

Monday, April 3, 2017

I’m baaaaaack in a lab!!!!!! *Bill Nye voice* “IT’S SCIENCE!!!”

DISCLAIMER: This post is repetitive. It was written very quickly. I just needed and really wanted to get these thoughts down and share it all with you! <3

I have not been/worked in a lab since November 2012. Don’t quote me on that date, but it was sometime around then that I last worked in a lab at UNT.


I was describing to a friend what I missed about a lab – things that I became familiar with during the AMAZEBALLS internship I had in the Bay Area: the smell of incubators that held petri dishes growing e. coli. At first this smell was gross but in a weird way, it became comforting.
Then, PIPETTES!!!!!! My boss/mentor at this internship made sure we all respected and were aware of the wonders of a Gilson pipette. He described the “physics” used in properly and efficiently changing the measurement setting.

A few years ago, I asked my mom for a set of pipettes for either my birthday or Christmas. She asked how much it would cost. I told her “a couple thousand dollars.” She looked at me like I was crazy and definitively responded “no.”

Since I left the lab at UNT, I have been thinking of ways that automated pipettes could be used in everyday life. For example, there is residual water in the detergent slot of my family’s washing machine. There isn’t really an easy way to remove it. I don’t know how it initially got there, but it’s there, and it won’t go away. Anyways, if I just had a large pipette (25ml) I could aspirate that H2O in no time. BAM!

Here is a segment from a journal entry made on February 22, 2017:

“…I love DNA, genetics, gene therapy, the concept that a code ‘writes’ life and that we can alter it. I LOVE classic Gilson pipettes, I think about how I could use Gilsons in my everyday life, I like the smell of bacteria in incubators, I have a great appreciation, thanks to [boss/mentor at Bay Area internship] for the structure of Gilsons and I know to adjust them horizontally with a relaxed wrist to benefit from the Laws of Physics, resulting in the most efficient procedure for adjusting a pipette. I read The Double Helix for fun [emphasis added] when I was a high school freshman. I received Craig Venter’s book, A Life Decoded as a Christmas gift…”

Some proof that I’m working in a lab again? I had 2 cups of coffee and a TRENTE black iced tea today. I have never ordered a Trente drink from Starbucks in my life. I literally went up to the barista (who was very kind and accommodating) and said “I want an iced black tea that is slightly sweet and is under $5.96 (the balance on my Gold Card).” He asked, “what size?” I said, “I don’t care. As long as it is under $5.96.” I think he sensed I was pretty exhausted so he said, “the largest would be $3.19“ I smiled and said “sounds great.” It turns out I actually had $5.94 remaining on my Gold Card – that’s how out of it I was – I was mixing up numbers. As a frame of reference, prior to working in this lab at UTD, my daily intake of caffeine consisted of one cup of coffee in the morning and was occasionally supplemented by a Diet Coke or Dr. Pepper in the late afternoon.

Here is a picture of the label I plan to affix to my very official lab notebook and the pen I will keep in the lab instead of always borrowing one of the graduate student’s pens. Hopefully this sends the message not to touch my stuff.

Can I get a virtual high-five for integrating a picture I took on my phone into this post, which was composed on my laptop?

I CANNOT believe I forgot to include this in my original post. I sincerely apologize because the following information is quite entertaining (in my completely unbiased opinion).

One of the main things I will do in this lab is cell culture, which I’m not very familiar with. I’ve had some exposure to cell culture but only via observation over a day or so. I’ve never been personally responsible for a “group” of cells.

So, I texted the PhD student I’m working under to make sure he had something for me to do before I ventured to the other side of campus where the lab is located. He said, “sure, you can pass cells.” Since I’m not familiar with the realm of cell culture, I didn’t know what “passing cells” meant or entailed. I thought I would enter the lab space with a joke to illustrate my lack of knowledge with cell culture. When the PhD student said “ok, let’s go pass the cells,” I responded “can we toss them?” It was SUPPOSED to be a joke in that instead of passing the cells (like moving/transferring them) we could “toss” the cells (as another method of transfer), like to their new location. I don’t think I’m doing a very good job at explaining this. Hopefully my joke doesn’t have to be explained. 

After I made my joke, the PhD student looked at me and, in a deadpan voice said “no.” I later learned that right before this interaction, the PhD student had a setback in his work, which I think put him in a bad mood. I also realized that he might have thought that by “toss,” I meant “toss (into the trash),” which would obviously not be good. Anyways, that was my poor attempt at science humor with something I’m unfamiliar with. Hopefully, this PhD student and I build a better relationship and he gets a better idea of how my weird brain works and my attempts to be funny.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I asked, and now I will try to make some money from this blog

Since the six votes regarding advertising on here indicated that y’all aren’t opposed to me allowing advertising on my blog, I’m going to try it out. Not really sure what’s going to happen or how it will work. I will be EXTREMELY happy if I make enough to buy a Large Vanilla Diet Dr. Pepper during Sonic’s Happy Hour.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Technology: Friend or Foe?

I think I’m one of the few Millennials who really isn’t a fan of technology, especially when it comes to upgrades of current products.

For example, when it comes to smartphones, the first thought/feeling that comes to mind is “Ugh.” They are great and all and allow us to do so many things, but when it comes to trying to learn something new on my phone or GOD FORBID change the setting of an app, I would rather see if there’s a simpler way to do it on my laptop, or some other avoidant “solution.”

I like instructions. I like guidance. Whenever I try to figure out how to do something on my phone on my own, I tend to change something I had no intention of changing, and most of the time, the change is negative. I know that when there are upgrades or you use something new, it is usually accompanied by some kind of guide or tutorial, which is nice, but if I don’t have five minutes to dedicate to sitting through that tutorial and really absorbing the new information, I’m going to skip it. Then, when I do have the time to dedicate to the tutorial I can’t find it anywhere (even though when the tutorial was initially introduced I clicked the button/link saying something like “Remind Me Later”).

I’m really excited about the new Nokia 3310, a throwback to one of the original cell phones. Unfortunately, the one thing I care about on a phone, the camera, pretty much sucks. That’s the only thing I get excited about on a new phone model – better zoom capabilities, higher quality photos, etc. Having a phone constantly ready at your fingertips is awesome.

The fact that my dad is SUPER literate in technology and always knows about the new stuff coming out, probably doesn’t help me because whenever I’m having a problem, I just go to him. This eliminates the need for me to figure out things on my own because I pretty much always have him as a resource.

After graduating high school, I was gifted a Macbook. It was awesome, but from day 1, there were little bugs. I took it in a few times to the Apple Store to get it looked at by the “Geniuses,” but they couldn’t figure out what was going on. Basically, it would just randomly go to sleep or shut down whenever it felt like it. This wasn’t really a problem until I was working on my final paper for my English class at Cal. It was the first research paper I had ever written, at 15 pages the longest, and the first paper that required footnotes. It was quite daunting, especially considering that I got a D (I think) on the first submission of the previous major assignment (I think I’m going to write a post about that whole experience later). So, I’m on like page 7 of this paper, which is also the equivalent of my final, and of course I didn’t save my work since I had made about a page of progress and my lovely Macbook SHUTS DOWN. I’m freaking out. For all I know, this is the end of my Macbook and not only was the newly typed page lost but all the previous pages as well. Luckily, after some frantic moments I recovered my document, “only” missing a page of my work. I was not happy. I visited the flagship Mac store in SF to consult another “genius.” I was so fed up at this point, that the thought of “accidentally dropping” my Macbook from the second floor of the store crossed my mind. It would have been nice to make a grand statement like that amongst all the Apple cult members. My mom urged me to not follow this impulse. When I finally had the privilege of consulting with a “genius” he said I would need to send in my Macbook to have whatever work done to it, and it would take a week-a month to be fixed. I looked at him in horror and said, “I’m a college student. I can’t be without a computer that long.” I didn’t get any sympathy from him. I had listened to all these Mac lovers exalt Mac and spit on the thought of a PC. I was really regretting the fact that I got a Mac rather than a PC. Sometime later, I described the problems of my Macbook to a friend from high school who was well-known for loving all things Mac. He kind of shrugged and said, “I think you got a lemon.” Of course I did. I, of all people, would get the one screwed up Macbook. The end of my Macbook came four years after it was purchased, in 2014, when the hard drive crashed. I made another pilgrimage to an apple store. The “genius” there told me that the hard drive would have to be replaced but that it would cost less than buying a completely new laptop. She came back with a quote around $1,000. I’m pretty sure my eyes bugged out. No, I was not going to spend $1,000 on this piece of crap. I then became more upset when I walked out of the store, through the front, and the new Macbook Air was on display for around $800. Thanks, “genius,” for your thoroughly accurate diagnostic. I could have bought a new computer for a lower price.

HAHAHAHAHAHA I think my current Lenovo is reading this piece because Word started “Not Responding,” and of course, I had not saved this draft yet, but, unlike my Macbook my lovely PC laptop quickly recovered and no problems ensued. I did immediately save my document though.

*Deep sigh of irritation*

So yeah, if I can avoid using new technology, I do. I don’t get excited when new products come out. I still use a small paper calendar that I keep in my purse for all my appointments and reminders. I get made fun of for it often, but it works for me and makes me happy.

(I’m not lost on the irony that this piece was written on a laptop and published on an online blog.) I don’t detest all technology, it’s great for some things – like this. I’m certain that I will use Moleskines for the rest of my life. They’re pretty irresistible after discovering Hemingway used them. I feel like knowing this gives me the thought that by using them, I will write something extremely profound. Also, I have always learned information in class better when I write it down. I encountered a problem with this in an Anthropology class I took at Cal (that was a very interesting class) because the professor went through information rapidly. I began taking notes on my Macbook and then went back to my dorm and wrote them all down in a spiral notebook. One of my friends, who was also in the class, couldn’t believe this practice I developed, but it worked for me.

I guess the one thing I’m really looking forward to is having a car that can parallel park itself because lord knows I can’t do that to save my life. (Spatial Relations was the one area on the Math TAKS where I would occasionally get a question wrong. I had to explain this to one of the assistant managers when I worked at Barnes & Noble when he tried to explain that recovering the shelves after the store closed was like playing Tetris.)

If anyone can explain to me why the number of Pageviews today on here is significantly higher than the number of Daily Pageviews for the post I published yesterday, I would greatly appreciate it. When you enter the url for my blog, it automatically takes you to the latest post, so I really don’t understand how those numbers are different at all.

I have a long way to go with all of this technology business.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

So, It's Been Awhile....

Hi! So, this is my first post since….last August? I’m really sorry about that.

I have ideas all the time for things to write about, but I either get scared to write a post because it won’t be “perfect,” or, much more simply, I forget.

I ask everyone I know who has read my blog for feedback. I want to know what you guys think! What do you like? What don’t you like? What should I do more or less of? Do you want everything to be about mental health/my life, or is it ok if I throw in some REALLY random stuff?
One person who I recently became friends with read my blog and said he was impressed, but he said he noticed some grammar issues and suggested I use At first, I was totally taken aback, because, if you know me, you know I’m a bit of a grammar Nazi/snob. I was especially surprised because he specifically mentioned that I had neglected to include an Oxford comma in a post. If you don’t know what an Oxford comma is and want to find out, here you go √†   Anyways, this was really surprising to me because I have this weird, unexplainable LOVE, ADMIRATION, and APPRECIATION for the Oxford comma. I really don’t know how to explain it…’s similar to my OBSESSION with mushrooms, particularly truffles. (One Christmas I got truffle oil in my stocking. Yeah, it’s that serious/weird). So, I thought about my friend’s suggestion, and as much as I want these blog posts to have proper grammar, spelling, etc. I also want it to be really true and natural to me. I think that checking my posts with Grammarly before publishing them goes against that. Plus, it’s a way for me to be vulnerable in a hopefully positive and healthy way. AND it helps me fight my ever-present and constant battle with perfectionism.

So, I will do my very best to be better about publishing posts more often. When I have a thought or idea that I think would make for an interesting post, I will try to write as soon as possible. Sidetrack: I started using Evernote recently, and oh my goodness, what a great way to keep track of my multitude of thoughts that are all over the place. Plus, the fact that I can use it both on my laptop and phone is awesome. My memory has taken a big hit since depression came into my life. In case you didn’t know, depression AND anti-depressants negatively affect memory. Yeah, it’s awesome. I have had to change the way I study for classes. The irony that anti-depressants also negatively affect memory is just…. overwhelming. It’s definitely one of those things that you have to laugh hysterically about.

I will finish this post by recommending that you check out I recently discovered Jenny Lawson thanks to a friend, and I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF HER. I’m currently reading Furiously Happy and just received her new, totally awesome coloring book, You Are Here, in the mail. I got a signed copy!!!! Heck yes!

Thank you all for your patience. I really and truly appreciate it, and if you have ANY kind of suggestion, comment, etc. please do not hesitate to relay it to me in some fashion. <3