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Manic Depressive Geeks 178

goingware writes: "I think a relevant followup to your recent article Slashdot meets the Pinkerton Corp. is the article Friends in High Places in the March 30, 2000 edition of the Metro San Jose. Included in the article is a link to a letter I wrote to Dave Winer's Scripting News about the relationship between programming and madness. The ad in the Metro seeking bipolar tech workers for the story promised confidentiality, but I chose to allow them to run my name and photo because I run a Web site for manic depressive people to educate them and their loved ones about the illness."
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Manic Depressive Geeks

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    To get back on topic, I can add several things to your list.

    Inability to sleep
    Lack of motivation to do anything
    Extremely reclusive behavior
    Inability to concentrate on the things that are really important to you

    These are things both me and my father have noticed. We both fit the bill for type 2 bipolar diesease.

    It's not my spelling that count, it's that you understand what I'm trying to say.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Actually, I don't think programmers getting heavily into coding causes depression or the like. I think (from personal experience) that the abilty to "superconcentrate" on a project is a result of prexisting conditons.

    I, much like many other "geeks", have the ability to focus like a laser on a project and do superhuman things. This is probably due to the fact that, if I don't distract myself with other things, I get very, very, depressed. Hence, I have the abilty to concentrate on things due to my depression, not the other way around.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    on Monday. We could have had another Manic Monday, then

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This post is one of those which should be marked "Score: 0, Ignorance".

    As for the poster, I suggest studying a little on bioethics; all of these topics are treated, and in much more detail--if you're even really interested.

    Now, onto some refutation. Who defines what is "abnormal," you ask? Society, in a nutshell. What constitutes a mental illness, thus, is given to reflection and repeal now and then. For example, homosexuality was a mental illness up until the 1970s, when a large study done on trying to break homosexuals of their habits--it was then thought to be behavioral--failed to make anyone straight.

    People get depressed all the time; that isn't really a psychological "problem" in itself. But there is a line, and for most psychologists, that line is at 2 monthes: if you're depressed for that long, you're clinically depressed (and you've got to admit, that's a pretty long time to be down).

    Your point about the Columbine students being on antidepressants is somewhat one-sided, since you forget to mention that many on antidepressants stop taking them because they start to feel so much better that they "don't need it anymore."

    Finally, I find your last point rather interesting. You suggest that the mental health of a child is only of value when he or she is a danger to themselves, but that doesn't really explain depression. If you're child is depressed, he or she is probably not an immediate danger to him or herself or anyone else; they, however, are suffering. And, by your reasoning, suffering is O.K.

    Pretty harsh.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe children need mandatory psychiatric evaluations every six months or so. Given the current state of affairs amonst America's schools, this way we could weed out those with problems without resorting to snitch programs like WAVE.

    Psychiatrists are trained specifically to look out for signs of mental disturbances, and the sessions they would have with children would be confidential. Any children found to have problems could quietly be put onto psychiatric drugs in order to prevent them from becoming a danger to fellow classmates, or in extreme cases they could be removed from their school and placed in special locations designed to care for them.

    To many this may sound extreme, but unless something is done we are going to see yet more Columbine type incidents as our nation's youth becomes ever more disturbed.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is no connection. Slashdot has to pull something out of their asses and they can't do a story without mentioning 'geeks'. We already had a whole bunch of stories like this, think of some story that would appeal to a bunch of immature self-involved cry-babies, add the word 'geek' and you have an instant Slashdot thread. We've already had 'the world doesn't understand me, I'm a geek' and 'geek can't get laid', and countless others, soon we'll have 'Impotent Geek', 'ADHD Geek', 'Depressed Geek', 'Suicidal Geek', 'Geek on Prozac', 'Geek and Eating Disorders', 'Stressed Geek', 'Geek with Munchausen's Syndrome', 'Geeks with Dissociative Identity' etc. etc. etc. Theese whiny geek threads shouldn't be in the science section, they should borrow the green turd logo from Suse, since it's now called the Geeko...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Posting on the chance someone reading this thread gets some helpful ideas from my own experience/approaches For labeling purposes, I have generalized anxiety disorder with secondary depression. From my end, I'm a complete worrywart and have a hard time getting happy. Never been suicidal, though. The one time during grad school my anxieties went spectacularly bananas, I hunted up a psychiatrist immediately. The Prozac was worthless (I got insomnia FROM it, which gave me a net benefit of zero) but it helped tremendously to get into a group therapy program. Spending an hour or so talking to other people with similar problems, I got a clearer idea of my own condition. I also learned useful nuts and bolts for keeping things under control. I don't try to suppress my emotions or fight them, neither do I surrender to them. I simply accept what they are, stay away from things that set them off, but try to keep expanding the comfort zone and often succeed. I've been following the usual recommendations of getting more active (I volunteer, I take swing dance lessons) and getting more exercise. I do still have inability to get motivated and focused, but I don't think that's pathology - just burnout from isolation. The times I had the least problems with motivation, I had a bunch of friends I could do things with on a regular basis. After I left grad school, I lost social contacts and couldn't make 'em again. Now I'm in a new city and starting from scratch.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please save us the suffering and quit breeding people.

    Do you really think those trolls would waste the weekend posting if they could get laid?

  • Go with both. They complement each other.
  • It suddenly occured to me that it would probably be better to read this thread with a threshold of zero; anybody with any real experience with bipolar disorder is likely to be posting down at zero with all the grits trolls and the like.

  • Funny thing is, according to your criteria, Schumann (who suffered from manic depression during all of his adult life) wasn't ill until he actually managed to commit suicide. Needless to say, I doubt this conclusion.

    BTW, if anyone here really wants to read more about manic depression, from someone who actually has a clue, I'd recommend _Touched With Fire_ by Kay Redfield Jamison, which is a fascinating account of the interaction of manic depression with the history of the creative arts. She's also a co-author of the standard psychiatric reference to the illness, _Manic Depressive Illness_; and finally, she also wrote _An Unquiet Mind_, which is about her own struggles against the illness.

  • Yes, but the problem is, with your system, by the time someone needs help by your criteria, they've either killed themselves or someone else.

  • Insanity, wrap your warm and arousing arms around me and keep away the cold, pallid tendrils of sanctioned normalcy. Let the insane create, innovate and explore and leave the sane to sit in their offices counting numbers and selling their soul so they can go home and feed the mouths of their offspring for one more day. And insanity, for whatever humanity you posses, give their children the privilege to avoid normalcy so that they might enjoy life to its fullest.

    Depression and bipolar disorder does none of these things. Life is unbearable to people who suffer from them.


  • ...Even though I repeatedly told him to leave me alone, he never listened. To this day I feel stalked, since I still see him every day. I see him following around some people I know, and they are trying to get rid of him too. Although he may be a little stupid, he is not insane.

    I think we've all known people who have been socially graceless and are very clinggy. At least two people I've known have got over it. It takes a few years of respect and reasonably normal socialization. It's as though it were a lack of self-confidence and a desparate lonliness. Their social awkwardness always struck me as nothing more than social inexperience.

    A female friend of mine was chased around by one of these fellows... he wasn't as bad as some, but he lived in his own little world. 21 years old and he behaved like a 12-year-old. He would fall back on romance and chivalry all the time, sending cryptic poems via email, and kissing his lady's hand at any opportunity. She was civil to him, so were all her friends, and he eventually clued in as to how foolish he was when he did these things. It's not the romantic act, it is the complete inability to read her emotions, to sense her disinterest, embarassment and fear which is peculiar and wrong. Lonliness can distort people's preceptions and make them do very strange things.

    I know, it is all speculative and pretentious armchair sociology.

  • a danger to fellow classmates

    That just goes to show the ignorance and prejudice in society. Mentally ill people are far more likely to be a danger to themselves rather than anyone else (I think the ratio's about 100:1)
  • Right on brother. I'm only 24, but you've prefectly described my experience. I have nothing to complain about (money, talents, looks, travel) but sometimes life is seriously not worth living. The time I almost killed myself on vacation in Maui is a perfect example of the stupididity of it.

    But still, when I'm not in the depths of an episode, it doesn't seem like the worst deal in the world. My 'condition' has its downsides, but it also allows me to perform feats of computing that make mear mortals shiver. Without it, I wouldn't have the money, I wouldn't be able to travel, I wouldn't have the obcession to make it to the gym every day, I wouldn't have the balls for hostel travel and I generally wouldn't lead the interesting life I do.
  • Interesting.

    Are you an American white suburban person?

    I am, and while I won't defend "our" culture against a charge of emptiness -- that's better left as a separate exercise -- are you certain that the problem is a failure to muster the necessary character? I ask that in the face of "psychologists [who] tell us that its [sic] perfectly normal" while we're prescribed medications.

    Forgive me if I seem snide -- you've struck a raw nerve. Bipolar disorder is not imaginary. It is not a weakness of character.

    And it is quite unenjoyable. Even when I'm remembering to take my medication, I'm struggling against an insidious siren song to sleep 14 hours a day, on one hand, and spending useless money on study guides I'll never use, on the other.

    The attitude your remarks display is symptomatic of the durability of the stigma of mental disorders in "our culture" which you find otherwise empty.

  • Mad magazine's take-off of "The Man from Uncle" described Napolean Solo as a manic-depressive who's never depressed, so maybe a manic depressive accountant is a manic depressive who's never manic. :-)

    seriously, i'm sure that accountants are as likely or unlikely as anyone else to suffer this affliction

  • For more on this topic, see "Ancient Iraq" by Georges Roux
  • Most of us have up and down mental states.
    Its when they are so extreme that they intefere
    with basic living, then that is a problem.

  • Where the fuck are my moderator points when I need them?
  • I don't think this story has quite enough links in it.
  • Psychiatrists are trained specifically to look out for signs of mental disturbances...
    Psychiatrists also have an extremely skewed view of what constitutes a mental disturbance. Just look at how many kids are being prescribed Ritalin and or Prozac to make sure they stay in line.

    If psychiatrists started examining more kids for mania and depression, combined with some "break through drug" by a big pharmacutical company, I'd bet that you'd start seeing millions of moody adolescents on antidepressives to keep them from shooting their classmates.

    Typically, drugs are prescribed if someones mental state is abnormal or problematic; but who's to say what's abnormal, and what is really a problem? More than likely, it has to do with things like pissing off your parents or not doing well enough in school. Maybe the psychiatric community ought to fess up to their real purpose -- enforcing cultural ideals and regulating 'normality.'

    Incidentally, at least one of the Columbine shooters was on an antidepressive drug (I forget which); another school-shooter (I forget where) was also on an antidepressant. If you were statistically minded, you might say that there is a significant correlation between these incidents and the use of these drugs. Of course, whose to no whether or not the people in question would have commited these incidents were they unmedicated, but it's certainly interesting to consider. (heck, if you already felt as if you were an outsider in society and then a psychiatrist comes along and deems you "clinically abnormal" by prescribing medication for your mental failings, how would you feel?)

    Unless someone is clearly a danger to themselves or someone else, I see little value in prescribing these drugs for children (adults should be able to do as they please, of course).

  • Insanity, wrap your warm and arousing arms around me and keep away the cold, pallid tendrils of sanctioned normalcy. Let the insane create, innovate and explore and leave the sane to sit in their offices counting numbers and selling their soul so they can go home and feed the mouths of their offspring for one more day. And insanity, for whatever humanity you posses, give their children the privilege to avoid normalcy so that they might enjoy life to its fullest.

    My, what a marvelously romantic, naive view of bipolar disorder and mental illness in general. I'm sure that those who have lost their livelihoods, their homes, estranged from their families, living on the fringes of society, shunned and scorned by most folk who encounter them, would feel exactly the way you do.

    I agree, there may be a tendency for some to medicate anything which strays from the norm; however, when your mind fractures, all is not sweetness and light.

    Ask damn near anyone who actually suffers as a bipolar (or from any other similar disorder), and they'll probably have a markedly different opinion. I urge you to do some reading, learn more about these issues.

  • those who sit in their rooms in soiled boxer shorts all week writing diatribes against object-oriented programming, zaplets, and other such things are crazy!
  • When chemical imbalances in your brain make you so miserable that death starts to look good just so you wont have to feel anymore, that is illness. Your body is not functioning right and it hurts you. It is just like cancer or diabetes that sense. There is no question about that being illness. Just being sad because of external causes doesn't compare. It isn't the same thing to lose money, love, or family. Having been through some of that and clinical depression, I'd take the loss of money, love or family any day. Hell, I'd prefer it every day all day, because even at the worst points, you can look up from those loses, you can see life and light and goodness ahead. I'm not disagreeing with your notion that the label of mental illness can be applied too broadly. You're right about that, imho. But illness is illness, dude.

  • I'm not saying that it shouldn't be given to people who DO need it, I'm saying that I think there are a lot of cases where people who don't need it are given it.

  • I'm well aware of the differences between ritalin and anti-depressants. I also know quite a few people on one or the other. The thing that bothers me is seing how freely ritalin is prescribed. Surely you agree that people who aren't ADHD/ADD have no need for Ritalin. My point was that there are way too many kids out there on Ritalin - more kids on it than there are kids with ADHD/ADD, and that can be a problem. This situation helps feed the misconceptions and misunderstanding of mental illnesses and disorders, and that doesn't help anyone.

  • I hardly would call it ignorance, dude. I mean, look at the number of children (and I mean children, not teenagers) on Ritalin. It's just not right to be doping these kids up on speed on a whim - something that risky needs to be used as carefully as possible. Hell, anything that is used to alter one's mental state should be used carefully. In a lot of cases, the drugs don't cure the illness but mask the symptoms of mental disorders. If the kid has a problem, it needs to be solved rather than just doping to kid to the gills to make them easier to deal with without actually forcing the issue of resolving the illness.
    Also, I got a different impression of the comment about the shooters on anti-depressants. The previous poster seemed to say (to me, anyway) that it was due to mis-use of anti-depressants or mis-diagnosis of a problem that the shooters were on the drugs. In fact, I would suggest that the correlation involved might be one between people who have serious problems not getting the right help and school shootings.
    Final tidbit - there are a lot of people who stop taking whatever is keeping them semi-healthy because of side effects or lack of useful effects. From my personal experience, Zoloft kept the depression away, but it did so by making every emotion go flat, and the side effects of 150 mg a day were pretty brutal.

  • Years ago I worked at a Silicon Valley company which did a simple form of "geek profiling". Someone told the HR department that I was acting strangely (I was known at the time for having a large collection of books on homicide and forensic pathology). In the subsequent conversations, this was the explanation of paranoia that was told to me. They even had someone who used to work at the FBI behavioral science lab interview me. This is where I learned about how common this problem is.
  • Or better still, don't bother. Stormfront is a Nazi organization. Nuff said.

  • "Yeah but" - Attention Disorder only exists in the US, so far at least it doesn't exists in Europe : it is not on psychiatrists and psychologist list of mental diseases. How come you ask ? Well it seems nobody was ever diagnosed with this over here. Makes you wonder if either :
    a) we are ignoring the pain of millions of people (but why don't they complain then ?) or more likely :
    b) it is just another US drug-industry scam to feed active kids more pills

    It seems to be the trend in US to describe anything slightly out of the norm to be a mental disease or illness and feed people with pills just to keep them quiet and to not have to accept the way the way they are. (don't misunderstand me, there are legitimate use of psychiatric drugs, but a noisy kid is definitely not one of them)
  • What ? Helping people take care of themselves with government money ? You surely are not a true American (TM), people should be free to work at McDonalds for shitty salaries and have their kids put in jail. Anybody willing to help the poor with Good American (TM) taxes is surely a commie.

    Funny the average US republican candidate is ready to give millions to police but not a cents to help people in the first place. I think any election candidate should be put to work at Burger King and live in a trailer with this only income with 2 kids, for 3 or 4 months. Instead of that they all are rich tycoons living in their little golden universe. No wonder they are against welfare...
  • Well I can only speak for myself, but all the brightest people I met were not totally sane - while those with more "regular" intelligence looked quite "normal" as far as their mental health was concerned (they were also pretty boring, but that's another issue).

    Plus many famous genius are quite sick in their heads. I guess it takes some kind of crazyness to raise your mind above the crowd.

  • You'll notice that there are no medications to treat workaholism and "Overachievement Disorder," even if they compromise the ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.

    A few years ago, the University of Chicago had a program to teach little kids how to be little kids after having been over-programmed.

    Our secret is gamma-irradiated cow manure
    Mitsubishi ad
  • I really don't think most people are qualified to talk about mental or emotional illness unless they have it themselves, or at least have a degree.
    Actually, people who have a mental illness themselves but don't accept it are the least qualified to talk about it. It is much the same as the people who are most threatened and hostile when a guy decides to join AA are the guys own drinking buddies. Why? Because it makes them question their own self-destructive behaviour.

    It is sort of like the idea behind mainstreaming as opposed to special schools, is it better to put mentally handicapped people in a group where you can tend their needs or try to fit them into the general school population so they won't consider themselves abnormal? I think both have their problems.

  • If this thread is interesting, don't miss Shadow Syndromes by John J. Ratey and Catherine Johnson, which describes mild versions of several disorders such as autism and OCD.

    For info on how another mental disability can improve intelligence and creativity, check out The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis. (Oh, you want a URL? Try the Davis web site [] or stuff I wrote [] about it.)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Bipolar Disorder (aka manic depression) is one of the most evil diseases on the planet. I know this because I actually *am* bipolar (thus the AC status, I don't need that going around the office). It's hard to describe to a healthy person what it feels like, and why it's so bad.

    To give you an idea, while I was getting inpatient treatment for bipolar disorder, a number of the other patients were dual diagnosis (drug abuse and bipolar disorder). It was widely agreed that being manic is far more addictive, and far better feeling than any drug, including cocaine and heroin. Except it's natural, and you can't control it. My stupidest action? I spent $50,000 in 3 days and still don't remember what I bought. There's about $10,000 worth of stuff I had after this, but I haven't a clue what the other $40k was spent on.

    Now imagine depression unlike anything else you've ever felt. Depression that feels worse than the day after my high school sweetheart died. Depression that feels worse than the day after my mum died. It's hard to describe. Imagine being so depressed that you would lose a $100k/year job and not even care. You just want to die.

    Thankfully I have friends and family who are far better than I ever could've hoped for. My best friend happens to be a great person, and also have a master's in psychology. It's very handy, and I know it has saved my life.

    As for people who think 'the only people who lose it are the ones who don't take their meds.' no, you're wrong. I always take my meds. Always. If I feel great and life is perfect than this is proof to me that I need to keep taking the meds. The problem is the medication just isn't perfect. It's sort of like taking a tylonel for a headache. Ninety-five percent of the time the headache goes away, but the last 5% of the time... you're screwed.

    There are a long list of things one can do to help oneself if one is diagnosed with Bipolar, and I know I do everything that helps (regular exercise, healthy diet, etc).

  • It wasn't too long ago when FEMALE ORGASM was widely considered to be unhealthy by psychiatrists. Not much changed since those days -- psychology is still not a science, and everything is based on the opinions of "respected" psychologists that in their turn based their opinions on some rather liberal manipulations with their observation of horribly oppressed and brainwashed patients and opinions of other, respected in their time psychologists, and so on...

    Now they claim that they see how "physical" state of brain is related to all "diseases". No shit, Watson -- this is how emotions work -- but most likely only a small fraction of those cases actually are bad enough to be considered pathological, and even among those more often than not no one really knows any treatment that actually will benefit the person in the long run -- psychiatrists seem to be concerned with "balancing" people by fixing the symptoms, what can make more harm than good even if the diagnosis is correct and actually is a pathology.

    IMHO most of "psychiatry of normal people" is simply too unsafe to be used at the large scale even with individuals that voluntarily subject themselves to it, so its sweeping application to large categories of people who are KNOWN TO BE A NON-MAINSTREAM PART OF SOCIETY (artists, scientists, engineers) can cause a disaster.

  • If you don't think it real, try this, it's been done: get some dead manic depressives and put their brains in a blender. The ones who died of suicide will have dramatically lower levels of neurotransmitters in their brains than is normal for the human population, and the ones got themselves killed while manic will have an overabundance of neurotransmitters.

    If you don't think that serotonin, norepinephrine or dopamine affect your experience in a real way, why don't you eat a sheet of acid or a few peyote buttons and post a summary back here?

    Now, please, re-read what I wrote and compare what I said and what you are arguing against.

  • I'm happy to see Slashdot covering this and taking an interest in it. I don't see myself directly in this article, but indirectly- I have "Asperger's Syndrome" (sort of like a very articulate sort of autism), diagnosed by a helpful therapist and confirmed by Social Security making it pretty darned official ;)

    I know that I used to be quite depressed- and seemed even more depressed than I was, because I would completely fail to understand the concept that I should want to be alive- there's a 'self' that most people have which I continue to not be very in touch with. There are pluses and minuses to this.

    Regarding medications- apparently manic depression is very much the poster child for medication. Autism is not: there isn't medications to alter that. I actually like it that way, as I acutely distrust most psychiatric medications. However, I concede that there are some conditions that really require 'psychiatric vitamins' to prevent psychiatric scurvy ;P I can't help but feel personally involved, as I had always resisted psych meds politely and firmly, because I had a basic feeling that for me that wasn't where it was at. And my feeling turned out to be an insightful one.

    It's important to allow people to find their own paths- some people never need to learn the slightest thing about the dark side of the mind, some learn they need chemistry adjusting to be healthy (getting stoned does _not_ count, at least it sure didn't help me any) and some learn they need to be true to themselves, even if that's kind of awkward. I have family members who may never understand me- they aren't mentally ill. Their concepts of good things to do, how I should go about my life, could get me in a heck of a lot of trouble, over my head in out-of-control situations trying madly to fake being a normal, and inevitably having a big disaster of the sort that I _used_ to think was quite inevitable. It would be the same, I think, for a bipolar person with family who kept nagging about the meds and suggesting they be discarded. The end result would be 'same old disaster', worse and worse, as the psych-luser family goes 'tsk tsk' and suggest you're not trying.

    I don't have to live that way. With a bit of luck I can even manage to contribute to society. I'd ask nothing more. Some people can be motivated by greed and seek wealth and power- I am just amazed and delighted that I can survive at all, that there turned out to be a (poverty level, but stable) place for me in society at all. It didn't seem like there was, all the time I was growing up.

  • So get yourself out of that office.

    That's the whole point.

  • Just as a note -- There were HTML tags in the last couple of posts I made. But for some reason, they're suddenly not being interpreted as such (as the lack of emphasis and paragraphs suggests).
  • No, according to my 'criteria' you'd be ill if you were 'suffering' from depression and the like to a degree at which you were at risk of suicide. Two very different things. Just because someone is ecstatic one moment and 'down in the dumps' the next doesn't mean they're moments away from pulling out the keys to the car and a garden hose. People seem to glorify sickness too much these days. If you stub your toe, you have to write twenty pages of poetry about how it made you feel and publish a heart-breaking book compelling others to understand your plight of low self-esteem. If anything seems unhealthy, it's this extreme cathartic clinging to a label by people who think "hey, I fit that description -- I must be suffering from xyz disorder, too!" Where I am drawing the line is saying "your mood swings are drastic so you must be suicidal". If someone is eager and excited about things often, they suffer delusions of grandure. If they are pessimistic and foul-mouthed about most things, they're 'depressed'. Honestly, save such diangoses for people who are truly sick and need help. Most programmers and geeks who may suffer from such a manic state are nowhere near a true mental health concern.
  • Ah, but misdiagnosed people with labels spat upon them from some coffee-table shrink may very well do both of those things, because they fall within the range of non-clinical insanity. Those who ride the wide spectrum of emotions and conditions without necessarily coming to a level of impending suicide or violence.

    Hence the entire (apparently missed, but that's my fault) point of my post.

    Just because you're happy at 3:30 and sad at 3:45 and happy again at 4:00 doesn't mean you're suddenly bipolar. Even if the emotions are to extremes. If they are routine, severe and are devistating your life -- then that's something to be concerned with and of course, medical treatment should be sought.

    Now, one thing I do question is this: Where does the line lay which seperates one from experiencing a raw, painful bout of human emotional suffering and "sickness"? Is not even the most extreme flux of feelings still human? The only reason to treat it should seemingly be to save life (which perhaps could not be done before). And to this end, having such a bipolar capacity does not make one insane to begin with. Insane, in my mind, indicates something greater such as schizophrenic paranoia and halucination.

    But such conditions draw away from emotion and move into percieved realities of one's mind. Talking to people who are not there and scrathing through your skin to your bare bone to satsify your need to keep clean is an illness. Clearly. But having frequent and contradictory emotional variations to the point of great sadness and elation are simple human emotions, to a magnified degree. I'm not certain (in most cases) that this qualifies as a disease or a true illness (I know that statement will possibly offend some people).

    I'm also not yet convinced that the urge to commit suicide is an indication of an illness. A man who loses everything in the stock market and slits his wrist is not insane or sick. And if someone's entire family were murdered and they suddenly felt so depressed that they were near suicide, I would be hesitant to call that a disease or sickness. The compelling need in some situations to end your grief is obviously serving some underlying human function, just like blocking bad memories.

    But now I'm rambling on and likely confusing everyone. But I'm not a professional psychiatrist or a professional mental patient. And I've also never written a book on mental health, had my book pimped on Oprah or had my quiz on "10 signs to tell if you need prozac" published in Redbook or the Ladies Home Journal.

  • You know, I have to agree.

    Being an agnostic, it isn't exactly like I spend a lot of time in a church, but I know quite a few Christian's who are taking medications for mental illness and attend church regulary. If anything, I can see a lot more reason to be depressed and want to kill yourself precisely because of religion.

    I've never quite understood the reasoning behind people who negate the reality of some diseases. They remind me of people who claim that a woman who is raped is just getting what she deserves for her revealing clothing or flirtatious attitude.

    Are these people so dense that they actually believe everyone is just lying about the fact that they have true mental illnesses? Yes, I believe that there is a huge number of people who are misdiagnosed and welcome the label of whatever sickness they supposedly have with open arms, even though they're nothing more than people who maybe have a different range of emotion and things effect them differently. I would even argue that most severe bouts of depression are not worth treating with psychology and drugs (well, unless it's life threatening of course). But to suggest that everyone needs to "get over it" and "find god"? Whoa.

  • So would you suggest hooking electrodes up to everyone and anyone who's brain emits activity that places them above or below a limited static line must be suffering from something and should immediately check themselves into the nearest ward so they can be regulated back to normality with introspective therapy sessions and drugs? It's the people who glorify their illnesses (or perceived illnesses, as I could hardly lay blame on someone who truly is suffering from a legitimate illness) that need to be dropped onto the hard asphalt of reality. But this too, I'm sure you'll perceive as a veiled attack on honestly sick people. Despite my very clear statement that I'm not talking about them here -- as I also noted in my original post. Maybe you're a bit paranoid?
  • Yes, I understand the dilemma. But then how is saying "anyone who has waves of contradictory emotion should be considered a suicide or violence risk" any different than saying "anyone in this school who wears a black trench-coat and listens to KMFDM should be considered a risk"?

    There are a lot of moody people -- people who are even capable of really making you feel weird by their mental station, who are no nearer to violence or suicide than your average Joe Schmoe.


  • I have several dear friends who are crippled [] by either depression or by the anti-depression drugs they take. But as far as I can tell, their misery is mostly through having been convinced by the medical establishment that there is no hope for them except for drugs. One said "I've only got a few more kinds of drugs left before they put me on electroshock." How can depression be an accurate diagnosis if none of the treatments work?
    So much wasted potential. This system perpetrates crimes without the slightest concern for its victims - those who live near the edge.

    Anyway, I wanted to say this in the pinkerton article comments [] - what students should be doing is pressing charges of assault. There is no way they can lose these cases (except maybe the first few... which is an awful thought), and if enough people start dragging it into court, the schools will recognize that this culture of tolerated violence is badly fucked.

    I'm still suprised I managed to get away with things like leaping on the principal from a high-up window well, or singing loudly during math class... but then again, Canada is "more enlightened" []... for now.

    *Nick Wolfe
    I am weeping because this stupid planet sucks.

  • Everything I said above, I believe.
    But it should not be taken to mean that these diseases do not have physical origins. Depression is a chemical imbalance, yes. Sadly, and rather ineffectively, the current vogue is to medicate. Previously, and as I hinted, it was to lobotomize. I can only hope that the next "fad" treatment will be something more... useful.

    Anyone read Greg Egan's [] short story Reasons to be Cheerful []? Hm.

    Maybe we should call it "brain error".

    *Nick Wolfe
    dry eyes now, but still a heavy heart.
    and no, I don't want to talk about my mental history, thankyou.

  • What is 'mental health' has as much to do with the requirements for survival and adaptation within a society as with anything else.

    America has become one of the most competitive societies in history, because it has more class fluidity than any society in history. You can, with a bit of effort, the right temperment, and a bit of luck, move a few notches up the social and economic ladder from your starting point (helps to be well educated, of course). This means that any psychological characteristic or temperment which doesn't fit in with the Protestant work ethic and a go-getter attitude is going to be maladaptive, and parents may well see them as defects which need to be corrected. Since artistic, playfully distracted and introspective temperments (unless coupled with a scientific bent) are not well rewarded in our society and don't offer a lot of viable career options, those temperments are increasingly pathologized.

    You'll notice that there are no medications to treat workaholism and "Overachievement Disorder," even if they compromise the ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.

  • I think the problem here in dealing with people who have a mental illness is that there are still way too many stigmas associated with this problem.

    And that's despite the fact that modern medical research in the last 50 years has made it possible for people who in the past should have been locked up in a mental institution (or even worse, subject to this unhuman thing called a lobotomy) to function normally again.

    I mean, modern research into traditional herbal remedies like St. John's wort and the development of perscription medicines that act specifically on modifying how our brain chemistry works has dramatically reduced incidences of extremes of mania and depression. People that used to require physical restraints to stop their manic attacks or literally could not get out of bed to do anything now have a chance to act normally again.

    Unfortunately, we've also run into a problem of misdiagnosis and giving medicines for all the wrong reasons; there are way too many instances of young children being put on Ritalin and SSRI inhibitor medicines like Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, etc. just to stop Attention Deficit Disorder without a true, proper diagnosis that may not even require the child to be on medication.

    In short, while modern psychiatic medicine has definitely helped people who were deemed beyond help in the past, the overuse of them makes it too easy to turn children into the wrong type of person in the long run.
  • by Pope ( 17780 )
    The weather's getting nice

    Bullshit! It snowed today. I knew this whole "Spring" thing was a lie!

  • Human beings need sunlight, interaction, comfort, quiet, good food, clean air, and clear water. If any of combination of those turns bad, it will take a toll on you. It may not be when youre 15, or 20, or 25, but it will ultimately kick your ass.

    Shit. What's sunlight? Clean air? Does smoking menthol cigarettes count? Good food? I got my pork rinds and Mountain Dew...

    Human beings were not physiologically meant to intake egregious amounts of caffiene, engadge in countless hours of intense, non-stop stimulation and stress. The body simply isn't equipped to handle that sort of thing for extended periods of time.

    Really? Wow, that explains a lot, like why I have the shakes all the time and I'm so out of shape! Phew... All those years of Doom/Quake and Mountain Dew ... damn, my life is over!


  • You seem to be requiring a very high level of abnormality before you would classify someone as honestly sick,

    Abnormality has nothing to do with sickness. Functional failure has everything to do with sickness.

    I have met some very abnormal people in my life that have no sign of illness. They are certainly not your average Joe, but do not appear to be suffering from any condition, and function well within society. OTOH, in a society where everyone was manic-depressive, the one who isn't is quite abnormal and quite healthy.

    To me, this is a very important distinction. I don't believe I have any particular psychological condition, but I am abnormal. I think that all the best geeks are abnormal in some way because of the ways you have to twist your mind to do your job.

    For a good example of quite-abnormal-but-quite-healthy, I present "Weird Al" Yankovic. Face it; the man is odd. Imagine just trying to have a normal conversation with the man. But then again, what disease does he have? The man is perfectly functional, as far as we can tell.

  • When I argue with this particular type of Republican, I note that we will always be spending money on social programs. Law enforcement and the penal systems are social programs. I just figure that it is the most expensive alternative.
  • Pinkerton is doing a nazi-esque attempt to get
    people to report "odd behaviour".

    What the hell does that have to do with manic
    depressives? How the hell did programmers become mentally ill?

    I'm not denying the capacity for people with mental illness to create great works of art, solve complex problems or whatever...but just because I don't discount it, doesn't mean I believe there are more mentally ill coders than there are mentally ill small engine repair guys.

    And, again, what the hell does that have to do with the Pinkerton group? I'll admit, the mentally ill may be reported more often than other groups, just like ugly, oddball or outspoken students will probably be, but this seems to link manic-depressive disorder with 'nerds', that is people with technical proclivities.

    I'm sorry, it's different. The two sets overlap, but they are different sets.

    I feel strongly that the Pinkerton's ( most famous for 'busting strikes' by 'busting heads' and worse in the past two centuries ) can go shove their police-state stuff up their asses, but frankly the urge to link coders and the mentally ill is just as offensive to me.

    Geeks take flak in school. So do all the above other categories. Do I think it all comes from the same place in people, fear of the different? Yes. The urge to lump "strange" all into one bucket by high-schoolers even after they leave high school is a problem.

    But we shouldn't do the same thing.

    Coding != Crazy
  • Perhaps the most common mental disorder among geeks is paranoia. The term paranoia has several meanings, and is often misused. In this case, I do not mean the irrational fear of an imagined enemy, rather I mean the excited application of the rational mind to ward off unwelcome emotions, through both thought and action.

    The ability to marshall enormous mental resources to plan for and avoid imaginable undesirable outcomes is a gift that many geeks have. Unfortunately it can get out of hand. I'm aware of several world-class hardware and software engineers who have been afflicted with this.
  • Moderate that parent comment UP!

    Good point there. I think being a workaholic is fast becoming the norm in the USA, and it will cause nasty problems in the long run. My boss works 55-hour weeks. An irritating cow-orker told me that I'd never get anywhere if I worked "only" 40-hour weeks. The Future Management Types of America I have to deal with all the time are perpetually running, getting nowhere fast and learning things either superficially or not at all in the quest for the Next Big Thing.

    Bipolar disorder may actually be a way of coping with this sort of lifestyle. It's certain that biology/evolution has set it up so that humans can work amazingly hard for brief periods of time, then gronk out for roughly the same period; gronk-out happening soon after the mastodon's dead/the sales contract's landed. Bipolar people just have the pendulum swinging a little too far both ways.

    As for antidepressants, I was on a whopping does of Zoloft (150mg) for many months. It didn't make me feel any better, but people around me said they noticed an improvement. Ditched it; didn't need the side effects. (Who needs other people's opinions anyway?)

  • Ok, the people who are saying "get over it" are most likely mentally ill, themselves. In fact, they are far more likely to be mentally ill then the people who are "self-diagnosing" themselves as being pseudo-bipolar or whatever they think is wrong with them.

    These people are of course the most likely to end up in wacko fringe political and/or religious movements... which means they won't approve of suicide until the Leader says, "Jehovah-1 themightyandterrible is calling us home, everyone drink your Koolaid and cover yourself with the purple cloth as you leave your shell behind."

    Of course, this is why this story is attracting so many really vicious flamebait comments of the "get over it" variety (oh, and also the natural selection people, who are white supremecists of the fanatic variety. I don't have to tell you that those are people whose minds are suffering from the human equivalent of a Blue Screen of Death or a segmentation fault.) These people are seriously mentally ill, and don't want to face it. If they accepted that there was help for them out there and that they didn't have to descend into dementia and self-destructive behaviour it would destroy their constant mantra of "I'm normal, I'm normal, I'M NORMAL" that they repeat to keep out the voices in their heads.

    I'm serious here, one of the things you see if you've ever been unfortunate to spend time with anyone who was really, seriously mentally ill (as opposed to relatively healthy, slightly neurotic people who are really in pretty good shape) is the ugliness, and deformity that exists in their own minds. Honestly, we had a girl like this at one of the colleges I worked at, she'd latch onto memebers of the staff and just drone on and on about her demented view of the world. You had to be harsh with her or she'd start following you around, thinking you were her friend... or worse if you were male @.@ (I really think she needed to be institutionalized).

    I pity a lot of the negative posters on this thread... since they are obviously the people who need help most desperately.

  • > Insanity, wrap your warm and arousing arms around
    > me and keep away the cold, pallid tendrils of
    > sanctioned normalcy. Let the insane create, innovate
    > and explore and leave the sane to sit in their offices
    > counting numbers and selling their soul so they can
    > go home and feed the mouths of their offspring for one more day.

    Excuse, or don't excuse, the ill-temper of this reply. But I can't fucking wait for this guy to find his own self in that office, with that chronic clinical insanity of his so debilitating that he can't create innovate or explore shit any more these last few years, and all he can do is count numbers and feed his kids; then, as the mind-eating illness deepens, he starts to get to the point where he can't even do that; and then let's see how the fuck he likes it. Being depressed all the fucking time is shit, it grinds your life to mud, and there is nothing nothing nothing at all worthwhile or redeeming about it.

    Sincerely WDK -

  • Although this comment may sound repetitive, but I don't think the psychologists are as much to blame as society itself. They are merely people fulfilling a need. What I think the real problem seems to be is the eagerness people seem to have in medicating people who don't seem 'normal'.

    "Dear, I think Johnny has a bit too much energy",

    "That's okay hon, I just picked up that perscription the doctor wrote for us".

    "But honey, do you really think Johnny needs Ridalin?!?"...

    A saga played out every day in America. Some things may need medication, such as severe depression, or anxiety where the person is liable to cause himself or another harm. Telling them to just get over it, or to look to God, isn't exactly the best or brightest thing for them. Other than that (and that insulting drivel about dyslexic children being too lazy to read) I agree with you. Oh well, Im feeling cixelsyd today anyways...

    #!/usr/bin/perl -sp0777iX+d*lMLa^*lN%0]dsXx++lMlN/dsM0j]dsj
    $/=unpack('H*',$_);$_=`echo 16dio\U$k"SK$/SM$n\EsN0p[lN*1
  • I do disagree with one thing you said; people in manic phase generally won't rob banks etc in the manic stage if they're normally law-abiding citizens. Mania (as well as depression) is a change in affect, not in impulses. Like you said on your web page, there are millions of manic depressives in America, and I doubt there's been a true "manic" individual in recent history that has tried to rob a bank.

    While outright bank robbery is not very common among manic people, it does happen. One gentleman drank 18 bottles of beer held up a bank at gunpoint, took a bunch of money in a paper bag, walked across the street and sat in some bushes until the police arrived.

    When I was in the hospital, a fellow patient told me that a Los Angeles transit bus driver got the idea quite suddenly to drive his bus to San Francisco. He drove all the way up the coast in his stolen bus, expecting cheering crowds and a hero's welcome upon his arrival; instead he was arrested.

    While manic depression generally is largely a change in affect, in the extreme manic phase there is overwhelming impulsivity and at the same time a very unfortunate lack of regard for the consequences. Ideas just shower from the sky and one acts on them the instant they strike, with no sense at all.

    Probably the best advice one can give to someone who's getting manic, aside from getting treatment (it's not always immediately available, and the hospitals usually won't take you until you're a severe case because they're overcrowded, and the medicine takes a couple weeks to take effect, etc.) is to just sit tight and do nothing at all - probably the most difficult thing you could ask of someone in such a condition.

    Michael D. Crawford

  • The real problem here in the US is the lack or recognition that mental illness is a real disease.

    I don't remember where I found this, but I read in some usually reliable place that the US Food and Drug Administration does not consider bipolar depression an illness distinct from unipolar depression.

    Even though the two illnesses are wildly different and should be treated dramatically different, they do have one large thing in common - periods of intense depression. But drugs that are appropriate for bipolars generally have no effect on unipolars and it is extremely dangerous to give a bipolar antidepressants without also prescribing a mood stabilizer (antidepressants can lead to psychotic mania if not administered properly)

    The problem is getting funding for drugs solely designed for manic depression and getting the drugs tested and approved. The FDA, I understand, simply will not license a drug that has been tested only on manic depressives (even if the drug has no effect on other illness), and often antidepressants get approved without being tested on manic depressives at all.

    Although there are a number of new mood stabilizers, lets look at where they came from:

    • Lithium Carbonate - naturally occurring salt; took 25 years to get approved because there was no profit in manufacturing a common compound
    • Tegretol - originally used as a neurological medicine, just happens to help bipolars
    • Depakote (valproic acid) - epilepsy medicine
    • Neurontin - epilepsy and neuralgia medicine.
    Those are the most common ones. There are other mood stabilizers that are being found to help, but in every case that I know of, the drug was developed and licensed for some other purpose having nothing to do with manic depression.

    Michael D. Crawford

  • It's important to understand that, in the US at least, people with autism, manic depression and other disabilities are specifically protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your condition, I would encourage you to consult the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about it, who may well sue your employer on your behalf.

    I do know that the EEOC has filed some of these lawsuits for people with mental illnesses and won.

    The kind of employers who would discriminate against someone because they have a debilitating illness are not the sorts to be enlightened by educated posts on Slashdot and helpful web pages.

    No, for them we have the heavy hand of governments, the justice system and lawsuits.

    Michael D. Crawford

  • I do have an issue with some of the things the author of the article, Kelly Luker said in her story.

    The fact is, I did in fact tell her (and I've long held this to be true) that I can work effectively while sufferring fairly severely from the symptoms of manic depression.

    That's why I said that I can work effectively even when I'm wigging.

    I've been in offices programming late at night, doing up some C code in emacs, while being unable to bring myself to look out the window because I had an overwhelming sense that Nazi panzer divisions were having maneuvers in the parking lot.

    The first few years I was a programmer, I sufferred pretty heavily from symptoms of manic depression and I did pretty well both at teaching myself to be a programmer and at actually producing working code, in terms of shipping products.

    But one thing Ms. Luker really didn't seem to understand is that it is not desirable to be manic.

    A manic episode is a profoundly psychotic state. It is extremely frightening to experience. It can be very frightening for other people, especially those who really don't understand what is going on (hence my desire to educate by writing web pages and slashdot articles). It is physically exhausting - I've gone as long as a week without sleeping, and the lack of sleep escalates the mania in a vicious spiral. Really the best one can hope for is that a caring friend or watchful doctor will get the sufferer to a psychiatric hospital before something really bad happens.

    People who are manic:

    • Make abrupt changes to their college major, as I did, from physics to literature.
    • Get married to strangers
    • Have abrupt and ultimately deeply regretted sexual affairs
    • Blow their life savings on items that have no real value to them
    • Start massive projects and abandon them the next day
    • Rob banks, when they are otherwise law-abiding citizens
    I could go on but basically I really want to emphasize that being manic is a profoundly altered state and not something to be desired, any more than being manic is.

    Because mania has a pleasurable feeling, and people in manic states tend to bubble over with new ideas, Ms. Luker really seemed to have the idea that it was really great to be manic. She seemed quite taken aback when I pointed out to her that mania was really about the worst thing that one could experience, short of maybe actually committing suicide. But that emphasis did not make it into the article.

    I do say on my website [] (and I said to Ms. Luker) that manic depressive people tend to be very creative - but not while they are manic.

    There is a distinct difference between having racing thoughts and bubbling over with new ideas and being able to create.

    What really is good about being manic depressive is the creativity one gains from it. And there is a definite link between manic depression and creativity as evidenced in Kaye Redfield Jamison's book Touched with Fire []

    But what I've always emphasized, what it took me years to learn in the early days and what a lot of manic depressive do not understand until they've been through years of therapy (this is something that the medication which directly treats the symptoms doesn't help with), is that the real creativity comes when you have achieved a balance.

    You see, the manic depressive is most creative when he or she is "normal".


    Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow

    Michael D. Crawford

  • Back in the bad old days, people used to try to tell me sometimes that I wasn't sick. One friend said "You're not crazy, you're just special". Or they would say I was a round peg in a square hole, marching to the beat of a different drummer, or maybe should try herbs or something.

    Let me tell you brother, until you have experienced it, you have no idea what this is like. The extreme stages of mania and depression are profoundly altered states of reality. I am quite convinced that there is no physical pain that is as bad as being psychotically depressed.

    You might look at a manic-depressive's behaviour and say they're just acting different than is commonly expected by society. But you're not experiencing the world inside the manic depressive's mind. It is a powerful experience, it is extraordinarily frightening and it takes real work just to survive.

    And it's really weird. It makes no sense at all how one day one cannot imagine how anyone at all can have any reason to live (let alone oneself) and on another day one is a pleasantly productive member of society, and on another day one has a personal chat with God.

    If you don't think it real, try this, it's been done: get some dead manic depressives and put their brains in a blender. The ones who died of suicide will have dramatically lower levels of neurotransmitters in their brains than is normal for the human population, and the ones got themselves killed while manic will have an overabundance of neurotransmitters.

    If you don't think that serotonin, norepinephrine or dopamine affect your experience in a real way, why don't you eat a sheet of acid or a few peyote buttons and post a summary back here?

    At least the trippers get to come down at the end of the night. Imagine a hallucinogenic trip that just went on for weeks on end.

    Michael D. Crawford

  • Someone suggested today [] there really wasn't any link between manic depression and creativity, or mental illness and creativity. I posted a response that discussed this in some detail, with anecdotes about students and professors at CalTech as well as links to more substantive literature by medical researchers who study manic depression.

    That article is here []

    Someone responded that it should be moderated up. Not to toot my own horn or anything.

    (I had a classmate in physics at UCSC who is chinese. Pretty quiet, nice guy. Hadn't seen him for months, until one morning I was awakened by him standing by my bed in my room. "Is my head cut off?" he asked. The Tianmien Square massacre had just happened and he thought they were just killing chinese people everywhere, and in fact they had already killed him and he was walking around with a bleeding neck where his head used to be.

    Spent a lot of time with him keeping him company until his family could come up and put him in a psychiatric hospital. He eventually disappeared and I believe he is either one of the homeless mentally ill or dead now.)

    Michael D. Crawford

  • (Gotta trust Slashdot to provoke some colorful discussion...)

    Being a geek has a lot to do with mental illness. There's more to me than being manic depressive; I was always a social outcast growing up and quite long before I came down with manic depression I had plenty of problems with traditional psychological disorders, of the sort that are effectively treated with "talk therapy" (as was done with me as an adult).

    In my case as a child my illnesses, both physical and emotional, drove me into the extremes of intellectual inquiry that leads to such scientific and technical achievements as attending CalTech [] as first an astronomy major, then a physics major, then (while manic) switching to literature.

    I did research on the 200" and 60" telescopes at Palomar Observatory []. For my senior thesis at UC Santa Cruz [] I did some numerical analysis and particle detector shift work at CERN [] in Geneva.

    And I taught myself programming because I was too sick to continue school and eventually started my own software consulting company []

    You could say I was just one mentally ill person who happened to be smart, but I know I'm definitely not alone. I remember from CalTech that there were a number of people that I consider now to likely have been manic depressive (why did we have a full-time staff psychiatrist for such a small school?) at least one person who was schizophrenic, and a substantial portion of the campus sufferred from major depression.

    I know one guy who attempted suicide while I was there and eventually succeeded after leaving school, and I once hitched a ride from a pasadena paramedic who commented on the large number of particularly bizarre suicide attempts that he responded to at the school. I heard about the case of an astronomy professor who wrecked his sports car driving to palomar observatory. So he bought another the next day - cash. It was in that car that he killed himself on the way to the observatory. He held a speed record for the drive from campus to the observatory.

    Of course this is all just anecdotal evidence. More substantial arguments are given in the book Touched with Fire [] by Kaye Redfield Jamison, a psychologist who specializes in manic depression. The book gives case studies of many, many creative people who are known or thought to be manic depressive, people who committed suicide or exhibited manic behaviour during their lives, as well as statistical studies such as the attendees at a professional writers workshop many of whom killed themselves later.

    Jamison's own study quoted in the book involved some british academics who had been awarded some high academic honor, and also who had sought psychiatric help far out of proportion to the general population.

    (Jamison also coauthored the standard medical textbook on manic depressive illness [] and mostly kept her own illness quiet through her training as a psychologist and most of her career until she wrote a biography that emphasizes her and her father's manic depression, An Unquiet Mind []

    Something else I want to point out is, I've been around in the mental health game for a long time, been in lots of therapy groups, mental hospitals and such, and I've met people with many disorders. Everyone who wasn't manic depressive could be considered an average person; while I have known a couple unusually intelligent schizophrenics they weren't the usual case. On the other hand, I have yet to meet a manic depressive who wasn't extremely intelligent. This is not to say they are successful; often we are misdirected or we live in poverty because of our illness, but I don't know of a single manic depressive person who isn't really bright.

    But what I was really trying to get at though in my letter Programming and Madness [] is not that programming makes one crazy; it is precisely programming that made me sane. A huge part of my healing process involved finding a place for myself in the world where I could still live happily as a geek. Sadly I've never been able to do that in physics, my first love. But learning to program turned me from a world of sickness and desperation to a life of joy and prosperity.

    I still encounter mentally ill people in my work. I've worked in silicon valley companies where I met other manic depressives on the same hall. So in volunteering for the Metro article and posting this on Slashdot I'm trying to make life a little better for others who suffer as I do (and I still do, although not as bad - manic depression is treatable but not curable).

    One more factoid. Some study a few years ago found that manic depression was not as common in the scientific community as it was among the artistic and humanities communities. But that is not my experience; the study was done on career members of the communities (college professors in the case of the scientists). It did not include students. My experience of students is that mental illness is just as prevalent as it is among artists and writers. I think one doesn't find so many mentally ill scientists either because they are rejected by the community or because they are successful in hiding their illnesses. I think that is a shame and I'd like to do something to change it.

    Michael D. Crawford

  • To be perfectly honest, I don't see what being a geek has to do with mental illness. If anything, we're the sane ones. :o)

    Coding is actually a very healthy practice. It's mental exercise. It gets the right and left brains jogging at the same time.

    Maybe the whole problem is that geeks don't fit into society's view of what is normal. *shrug*. Seems to me as though that's a good thing.

  • Sure, lets send a kid to a phsychiatrist every sixth months and if they have a problem, drug them, or put them into a "seperate enviroment." Does that not sound insane? It takes people in the mental health profession months sometimes to find out what the roots of someone problems. Drugs aren't the answer most of the tim, for God's sake, a lot of the time, kids just need to be heard, and payed attention to. If we were to make this a mandatory thing, most of the population of the earth would be in a "safe enviroment." Like there'd be any Slashdot, and there wouldn't be any there would be no technology on this planet. God knows I would have been in a home, and so would most of the people I work with Also, the GAP children would be running the planet, and it'd be a pretty broing place to live. What we do need more of, is training PARNETS to pay attention to their kids, and teaching kids to NOT have kids of their own. The problem is education. Educate kids to be resposible, and to get what is goin on inside their heads out so people can hear them and not think they're 'different' from everyone else.
  • I apologize if my post may not be 100% on-topic, but while we're on the subject of mental health, there is something I have been wondering about for some time.

    Point one: Although I have never been profesionally diagnosed, I believe I have a mild to moderate case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I am in my mid-twenties, and I can remember my symptoms going back as far as when I was four or five years old.

    Point two: I also believe I am unusually intelligent. One possible indicator: Over the years, I have taken several "IQ" tests. (Binet's standard disclaimer: What is IQ? It's what an IQ test measures.) In every case, I finished with a perfect score, and thus "off the scale", or beyond the test's ability to gauge my IQ. My IQ is thus quoted as, for example, "145+", "160+", or "175+", depending on the specific test's upper bound. I estimate my IQ to be actually somewhere around 180.

    My question is this: Is there a correlation between intelligence and OCD? I have several friends who are highly intelligent, and also confess to having some symptoms of OCD. It would be interesting to hear whether Slashdot readers have observed such a connection in their own selves. A poll might be very illuminating -- but then again we all know how seriously Slashdot readers take the polls.

    On a more general note, it would also be interesting to learn whether there is a correlation between intelligence and mental disorders in general. I suspect the correlation might be rather strong, but hard data would be great.

    Comments, anyone?
  • Talking about mental illness in the geek community is a good thing. Especially if you have bi-polar disorder and work with other geeks that do not have bi-polar. If we can change some attitudes about mental illness and other hidden disabilites, work life will be much more easier for me. In the past, I have been passed over for promotions, discriminated, or fired for disclosing my mental illnesses and disabilites (autism-related).

    It's already hard dealing with a fscked up brain that at times rules my life. It's another story when some employer knows that there is something wrong and can't get beyond his/her ignorant assumptions of why I behave the way I do at times when my brain is not working right.

    My only hope is that the geek community can have an open dialogue (pardon the word) about mental and neurological disorders. I have met a few geeks in my life. Many of my family are of the geek makeup and have some sort of mental illness such as autism, ADD, OCD, bi-polar, major depression. Sometimes there is a price to be paid for the intelligence we have, it may come in the form of mental quirks that we have to deal with.

    My only hope is that we can get this out in the open because we are in a "cathedral mode" when it comes to dealing with mental illness on a social level.

    If design is not Bauhaus, it is Baroque.
  • hit close to home. ok, if you manic/depressive doubters want some empirical evidence go look in the Orlando Florida newspapers around 1986/87. Look for a story about a 17 year old girl who very publicly shot herself with her dad's .357 magnum. That girl would have been *my* girlfriend at the time. She was diagnosed manic/depressive, and was prescribed litium. When she took her lithium, she was fine (maybe I'm arrogant defining the term like that, tough shit. I was there, you weren't). Not drugged, not spaced, just totally normal. You would have never thought a thing unless you happened to see her take her pills. She was so normal (oft abused word, I know, but the general meaning applies) that she would wonder why the hell she needed to take the durn pills and inevetibaly (-5 pts for spelling) QUIT taking them, this is what happened when I got to watch her shoot herself at the ripe old age of 17 (after pointing the gun at me, which got oddly less traumatic after the end result) So - I have seen it, up close, in your face, and graphically. If you wanna think she was just "weak" or otherwise normal and just "stressed out" or something, you are Flat Wrong(tm). I genuinely hope this fella (who started this thread) can go on. I admit I don't know what it feels like, but I know what it LOOKS like. It made no sense to me - but guess what? I'm (nor you) are the ones it needs to make sense TO, I would also opine that it probably doesn't make sense to those suffering from m-d. Anyways, to the arrogant pricks who are saying stuff like "m-d is bs, you're just weak and can't take it" You have no idea how wrong you are.
  • If you look at it as exercising your imagination and creating original works, it's creative as hell. But some people compose really dry, boring music that sounds like a calculus theorum. That's not so creative.
    And some code works, but is over-engineered, redundant, and not well implemented; hard to read, hard to upgrade, hard to extend or port. Other code is beautifully written; a clever algorithim, a cunningly designed UI, an extensible architecture, the sort of code that is a pleasure to read and use. I once, at a job interview (don't ask) drew a connection between coding and playing music; both involve takeing a framework, a language, and putting them in a certain order. With both, you can follow the rules and put together something that fits the definition, or you can craft something beautiful. Either way, so long as it makes you happy. :-)
  • It's true, not everyone who is unhappy is depressed. Not everyone who is creative, anti-social, or otherwise kooky has a problem. However, there are many people out there who need help, and it is not just the ones who see visions and have suicidal thoughts.

    There was a pretty good movie several years ago, I think called "benny and June". It was a love story between a really kooky, creative, wacky kind of guy and a scitzophrenic (sp?) girl who was cared for by her brother. The best part of the movie was where they tried to run away together and she had a serious attack on a bus. It forced the awareness that there is a very real difference between creative and possibly eccentric people and those who suffer from truely debilitating mental illness. It was especially good to see as the movie came out after a string of films glorifying mental illness as just a unfettered creativity.

    In High School I was an antisocial, pep-squad hating, all black wearing, non conformist. I was also chemically depressed. In college I got treatment and began taking anti-depressives. Guess what? I'm still considered pretty anti-social, I wear a great deal of black, still can't understand "team spirit", and don't go out of my way to conform. I didn't go out and buy a Tommy Hilfiger jacket when I went on Prozac, I just stopped wandering across streets without looking (on the assumption that I didn't have the motivation to kill myself, but occasionally decided if I died by accident no one would care.)

    So to those who think medications steal our individuality, grow up! Lithium will not make 90210 worth watching, it just makes you life a little more worth living if you suffer from real mental illness.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • Let me guess - you co-authored Mein Kompf?? You consider yourself to be a member of the Aryan Race? Regardless - despite all the problems that the insanity brings, it makes our entire society all the more HUMAN to deal with it, humanely, with love, tenderness, patience and science. Engineer it out of yourself if you choose, all the more power to you. But if you choose to engineer it out of me or the ones I love I'll drop you where you stand. You have no right to dictate how or who someone is or may become, by sterilization, genetic manipulation, etc. Not only am I not with you, I am against your suggestion so strongly that I'd stop at nothing to stop you or anyone else who tried to carry out such a horrific plan. Absolutely nothing.
  • The only thing that is mentally unusual about programmers is that they tend to be able to more
    freely use both sides of their brain. This type of behavior could be interpreted as Schizophrenia,
    Manic Depression, and a variety of other "disorders." However, the very symptoms that seem to
    point to problems are really the same skills that are intentionally nourished by programming.
    Programmers train themselves to think in unique ways. These ways are usually different from
    how most people think. And therefore programmers are Manic Depressives. This type of
    premature evaluation and labeling can eventually lead to feelings of isolation among other things
    and actually cause mental problems. It's a self fulfilling prophesy.

    Also, assuming that many programmers are Manic Depressive only serves to reinforce beliefs that
    programs like WAVE are what the world needs. Pointing fingers at an entire class of people as
    having mental problems is nothing short of racism.

    I also noticed this article was put under the topic of science. However, it seems to me that
    psychiatry and the diagnosis of mental disorders is anything but an exact science. Does anyone
    else feel this way? The vast majority of psychiatry is based almost entirely in speculation. I'm not saying that psychiatrists are frauds, but I do think Slashdot needs a separate psychiatry category.
  • I should note that I an unipolar, not bipolar, but I have lived through severe depression, so I know what that is like. Add: Hypersomnia Overeating or not eating Reckless or indiscreet socialization Psychosis evidencing itself in an unwillingness to make any move towards recovery Significant personal irresponsibility and shifting of blame In response to paradoxium's asinine comments, be very careful, you who judge us. The pain which we have endured might crush you. The psychosis might kill you and has killed some of us. We, whom you judge as weak and sub-human, might just be the strongest and most human by virtue of the pain we have stood up under. We are most sane who see our insanity and endeavor to return to sanity.
  • In today's society, people are somewhat bought up with the notion that if something can't be seen and detected using "technology", it doesn't exist. Having known a friend that suffered, and eventually took his own life because of depression, I know all too well the realness of mental illness.

  • Actually I wouldn't be surprised if computer programers and other high-tech professions had a much higher incidence of mental illness. First of all people in these professions are much more intelligent and for some reason this seems positively correlated with mental illness.

    Secondly computer/scientific activity is by and large a non-social activity. Hence those who for whatever reason such as mentall illness are unable to fit in in their youth are more likely to turn to these pursuits.
  • Mental Illness is something that people should be educated about, and readily.

    I, myself, am clinically depressive, and one of my friends is manic depressive, and my first girlfriend, and my first love, was schizo affective/bipolar.

    Being around someone with a mental illness can really hurt, and confuse someone who doesn't understand the person's problem, and possibly make them do things they otherwise wouldn't do. When bipolar people are depressed they seem to always, and do a very good job at it, bring out the absolute worst in people. When they're on their high, its usually opposite or they are just totally annoying.

    My girlfriend awhile ago as I said is schizo affective/bipolar and it took me months and months to even "grasp" her mind. Nobody can truely understand someone with a mental illness, it's just impossible unless you feel the same. Eventually I was around her enough to be able to work with her problem and -fairly- well hold myself together (to this date, working with her and a couple other factors is why I am clinically depressive). Soon there after, I was opened to a whole new world of her.

    Inside, after you get past the illness, the person can be totally different to someone who knows whats happening. My girlfriend totally changed perspective in my mind, she became the most .. beautiful thing in my life, and shortly thereafter I truely fell in love with her .. and she was my first love.

    Awhile later, the relationship ended, and she is still working on getting better in a retreat.. A special school for people with those kind of problems. She is having -major- problems with knowing her self-wealth and actually beliving that she means anything to anyone .. She currently takes exolith, a sort of time release lithium, and a few other drugs to -try- to control her problem. I myself take 60mg of prozac and it works well in controlling the depression.

    I found relief in my depression similar to the link posted in this article, doing programming and other computer research takes my mind off myself and more into learning other things.. Helping other people really works well for changing your views if you are really down also.

    People with these sorts of mental problems usually have alot more problems in the job place then others. They are often judged too early, and turned down to a job they could be very successful at. Thought their mood may change, their goal usually stays the same.

    I guess all I am saying is that were not very different than anyone else out there, and have a pretty normal life. If people were educated about this kind of people (because there are alot of us-more than you might think) then maybe the whole world would be a better place .. hehe :) Just my .02 .. -meff

  • All along my mothers side of the family there is a history of depression and recently, as medicine has become more adept at identifing psychological conditions, both my mother and her father have been diagnosed as Manic Depressives, and are both taking medication to help calm them. Although I had never made the connection, the doctors that have spoken to me consider it quite likely that I and my siblings could be affected by Manic Depression as we grow older. I am 18 now, and find this whole thread quite disturbing. I find people recalling their own experiences, which startlingly parallel much of what I do today with my own life, as well as those few who refuse to believe that the 'mentally ill' are just lazy and looking for an eazy excuse to anything. My mother, struck hard by Manic Depression takes several medications daily to control this, and what does she do for a living? She programs. Which is where the direct connection to this story and thread comes into play. All that is bad, but I find myself paralleling many of the experiences that people are describing here. During my teen years I have grown more and more disgusted and distrought over the apparent selfish and pointless american society of Big SUVs, Pop dances, and, well, the stupidity of the average fellow student. Faced with this kind of existance, what have I done? Probablly what many others here have... Retreated from society as a whole, and now spend my time persuing things that make sence to me... things where I can understand and respect the logic. Things that challange me, where I like to try to solve an insurmountable problem. I have taken up learning my first programming language, C++ with a vengance, which I love to do. While admittidly, I cant program anything of the slightest use just yet, Spending my life devoted to such arcane technical aspects doesn't scare me away as Normal Life(tm) does. And I enjoy it. Which seems to be exactly the path that my mother herself took, where she is now considered one of the best programs ever where she works, and of course knows fluently about every language ever to exist. All of this leads me to think... Am I already destined to become another statistic on some some psychologists chart, following the path that I probablly inherited from my mothers genes, dependant on god knows how many drugs to avoid suicide inducing depression? or am I just another social reject who would think nothing of calling himself a geek. To be honest, I don't really know. Rich S
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 08, 2000 @04:44PM (#1144240)
    but he said it loud and clear.

    Manic phases don't make you brilliant.

    They make you think you're brilliant.

    It's not the same thing.

    I've observed the effects in a friend of mine. Yes, mania juices your brain with insane creativity. You're bursting with ideas. Some of them are good. Some of them are dumb. Some of them are pointless. And you can't tell the difference -- you want all of them.

    But that's not the tragedy. The worst of it is, you can't bring ideas to fruition. You know what you want, but you're constantly distracted by one more thing that's just beyond the horizon. This, in combination with decreased attention span, extreme jitteryness, and impatience and unwillingness to listen to the good advice of others, doesn't make for follow through.

    You don't get things done; you wander around "constantly on the cusp of something big."

    Speaking as a friend, it's pathetic, pitiful. Your friend who normally would be capable of recognizing a flash of insight and making it reality, can no longer tell between what's great and what's trash, what has substance and what's fluff.

    You're correct, though, that most people don't reach the stage of hallucination or schizophrenia. That's why so many people who have some form of bipolar disorder don't even know it.
  • by Threed ( 886 ) <nowhere.atall@com> on Sunday April 09, 2000 @05:41AM (#1144241)
    This post probably comes in a bit too late to get the moderation it will need to rise to the top, where it might be seen by someone who could benefit from it, but here's hoping...

    For those who are not themselves bipolar, but whose interest in the disease and its treatment comes from a loved one, there is a very helpful web/email support group: BPSO.ORG

    I'm almost loath to mention it at all, because there IS a lot of bigotry out there (that I am not entirely innocent of, but have through education changed my thinking about), but if you've been through it you can attest that it's a stone bitch up one side and down the other...

    Watching your sweetie blow through thousands of hard earned dollars with little to show for it.

    Having to make the decision of whether or not your parent, mate, sibling, or child has to spend the next month or so in the hospital, even though there's nothing visibly wrong with them. Having them turn on you for making the decision.

    Having doctors tell you that it's all up to them, there's nothing you can do, maybe this new medicine might help... Then dealing with the side effects...

    Wondering if they might try to do away with themselves, or YOU... Hiding the steak knives, not getting any sleep.

    The BPSO mailing list is a life line where any and all traffic about bipolar, the pain it causes, the worry, anguish, and rage against the disease and the diseased is all specifically ON TOPIC, and the list is specifically CLOSED to bipolars themselves.

    Final note: They can do all the research they want, they can test new drugs, they can attempt cognitive psychotherapy, and they can go on about "major depressive episodes with mixed mania", but all their clinical jargon does nothing but belittle the real and excruciating torture of the disease and the havoc it wreaks on those surrounding it. "recovery" "stability" "return to the work force" likewise belittle the true beauty of the victims themselves.

    Statistics show that most people don't really give a shit.
  • by Mullen ( 14656 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @07:38PM (#1144242)
    Hmmm...if my memory of history serves me right; sounds alot like Hitler.

    How gross. If *they* are not like *me* then off to the gas chambers. Wake up and smell the ovens, buddy.

  • by himi ( 29186 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @08:28PM (#1144243) Homepage
    "I'm also not yet convinced that the urge to commit suicide is an indication of an illness. A man who loses everything in the stock market and slits his wrist is not insane or sick. And if someone's entire family were murdered and they suddenly felt so depressed that they were near suicide, I would be hesitant to call that a disease or sickness. The compelling need in some situations to end your grief is obviously serving some underlying human function, just like blocking bad memories."

    Yes, that kind of thing isn't necessarily an indication of illness. But that _isn't_ what people mean when they talk about depression.
    What if I re-wrote your example so that instead of being a man who lost everything, it was a twenty year old student who had a high distinction average, good friends, loving family, and an incredibly bright future? Would that person be genuinely ill if they contemplated suicide? What about someone like Winston Churchill? Or Alan Turing? Or any of the other seriously depressed people who didn't have any reason to be depressed?

    Depression is _not_ where you're low because your girlfriend left you, or where you want to end it all because your whole family got murdered. Depression is where you have those mood swings, but without any apparent cause, and where you don't recover in due course.

    If you've never suffered from depression I don't think you can really understand it - it seems to me like you need to have been through it, or to be sucseptible to it to be able to grasp it's meaning. But just because _you_ can't grasp it properly doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

    The biggest problem with mental illness is that it's very hard to analyse definitively. By it's very nature it's vague and extremely variable. But, if over years of analysis and many thousands of cases there are a large number of similarities, and large numbers of those cases respond similarly to treatment (particularly if it's drug treatment, and where drugs that have similar biochemical effects result in similar responses), then you can't really argue that there isn't something `real' there. If you treat someone with uni-polar depression with one type of serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and then with another that's a completely different type of drug, but with the same effects on serotonin, and the clinical results are very similar, don't you think there's most likely a link between the serotonin levels and the depression? And if the same treatment helps someone with extreme, terrible, suicidal depression and also someone with relatively minor depression, don't you think the relatively minor depression might have a similar cause to the extreme depression? And if that's the case, how can you argue that only the extreme case is genuine, while the relatively minor case is just someone trying to glorify their emotional difficulties?

    Sorry for the rant - this is something that matters a lot to me, because I've gone through depression, and I know it _is_ a genuine illness. Your kind of argument is one that's used by a lot of depressed people, including myself - it took me years to accept that I had a genuine problem and to seek treatment for it. If I hadn't thought the way you do, my life might easily have been vastly different, and far less painful. And I would fit quite neatly into your classification of "non-clinical instanity" . . .


  • by himi ( 29186 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @07:38PM (#1144244) Homepage
    The problem with your argument is, where do you draw the line between "honestly sick" and "perceived illness"? You seem to be requiring a very high level of abnormality before you would classify someone as honestly sick, where most of the other people in this discussion are drawing the line much earlier - that's why people are seeing your coments as some form of an attack: your classification scheme would put a lot of people with serious problems into the "perceived illness" bin, where it becomes _their_ fault that they've got problems, rather than a result of a genuine illness.

    As for paranoia, yes, if you have gone through depression you tend to become a little bit paranoid about this sort of thing - when just about everyone around you thinks that you're being weak and pathetic, but you actually have a real, physical illness that is causing your problems, it's natural to get defensive. "I have an illness", rather than "I'm weak willed and pathetic" - it's an important distinction, and one that you're refuting. I react badly to that, and I imagine just about anyone who has actually suffered from depression would, too.

    Depression, in all it's forms, is not a normal part of life - occasional periods of sadness resulting from life experiences is, but not the ceaseless, causeless and debilitating depression that we're talking about here. You're effectively belittleling(sp?) a very serious problem - of course people won't react well.


  • by andyschm ( 74188 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @11:49AM (#1144245)

    What is it with today's amazing variety of so-called "disorders" which provide the vast number of shrinks in the US with enough money to live like kings? I mean first it was things like "dyslexia" which is just an excuse for children who are lazy or stupid to get away without learning

    I hate to say it but this comment could not be more incorrect. Unfortunately, a vast majority of people hold this ignorant view of mental illness. Unfortunate because in countries like the US, it leads to a massive human rights catastrophe for the millions of mentally ill who are denied treatement - who end up homeless on the streets - and a significant percentage end up dead.

    These so called "disorders" are for the most part actually physical disfunctions of the brain. I thought it was all nonsense also until someone very close to me emerged with schizophrenia and I did some research. In the scientific community, the validity of these disorders is -very- well established. Furthermore, it has been shown that treatment with drugs is often the most effective way of handling the symptoms because there is basically no known cure at this time. You can't just "get over it" when you are hearing audible voices constantly telling you that you are worthless shit.

    As to the link between programming and such disorders, this is a highly speculative statement... there is a sizeable percentage of people with mental illness, as high as 1% or more, so in any profession or activity you will find them. Some association has been proposed between highly creative individuals and mental disorders since both lead to "unorthodox" thinking, but it is largely unknown if this is actually correct.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 08, 2000 @07:32AM (#1144246)
    Really, this post is quite interesting, but I can't believe that so many programmers are manic. When the world is so wonderful and happy and bright, how can they possibly be sad?

    But in the nighttime of the soul, when your world crashes down around you and you realize it's not even worth living any more, you know how right this article is. Just reading this is sending me looking for a razor blade.

    But, look! The sun is shining outside! Why be sad! It's spring! The weather's getting nice, people are walking, the grass is green, and life is beautiful!

    But if I get sunburned, I'll just be unhappy all week, and I'll be in pain even from my clothes rubbing against my skin. But how bad is that, considering that pain is all life is? How do I go on?

    Oh, on such a nice day, how can I sit here reading Slashdot? I must leave, goodbye, goodbye!

    Yeah, what are you smiling about? Stupid optimists.....
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @12:20PM (#1144247)
    I'm not a diagnosed anything. Unless sarcasm counts as a mental illness (in which case, bring the straight jacket immediately!). But I'm not a dull pencil pusher eager to retire so he can sit in a rocking chair, either. I'm just a 22-year-old techie from the Silicon Valley with friends who are probably more or less aptly pegged in several different 'psychological categories' that they may or may not have come to accept -- but which I fiercely resent on their behalf.

    I'm not going to single handedly brush the entire board of mental problems off the table with any ignorant statement suggesting that anyone with a mental problem is a pansy who needs to get a grip and grow up. I mention this because there are people who do say this. A few years ago when I was still a teenager and oblivious to the complications of love, work, depression, loss and regret that people in the real world endure, I would have quite possibly asserted that very opinion.

    There are genuine people in the world with tangible illnesses. People who cannot live with themselves or in a society because of various reasons which lead them to become incredibly reclusive and withdrawn (as in, building a compound on my land and hiding from the black helicopters and United Nations troops who are trying to subvert American government kind of withdrawn), serial killers, mass murderers, wife beaters or even to commit suicide.

    It seems the goal of psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose in every human being some horrid mental illness or individual defect which sets them apart from the sedated, unaffected, diluted norm of society. God forbid you be unique. There is no consideration for the brilliant artists, writers, musicians, architects, poets, film producers and others for whom such 'defects' give them an edge to life and an illuminated view of so much which the blind cattle who succumb to daily life submitting to the whims of corporate dollars, managerial demands and dull suburbia are oblivious to.

    Unless you are affected to such a degree as to waver on the edge of being a sociopath capable and willing to kill (or physically harm) others, then you (again, in my opinion) suffer from no mental defect or chemical imbalance. Sure, chemistry plays an important roll in defining our propensity toward certain behavior. But that chemical composition and the propensity toward certain behavior is exactly what sets us apart from one another. To sedate by therapy, counseling or medication, that unique individuality granted to us by whatever cosmic coincidence or effort is a gross and heart-breaking attack on our humanity.

    Give me the lowest lows of depression and the highest highs of deluded ecstasy and the clouded judgment of a manic depressive mind in action over the cubicle confined nine-to-five inactive, emotionally sterile subservient work-a-day drone's mind any day.

    Insanity, wrap your warm and arousing arms around me and keep away the cold, pallid tendrils of sanctioned normalcy. Let the insane create, innovate and explore and leave the sane to sit in their offices counting numbers and selling their soul so they can go home and feed the mouths of their offspring for one more day. And insanity, for whatever humanity you posses, give their children the privilege to avoid normalcy so that they might enjoy life to its fullest.

  • by goingware ( 85213 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @09:30PM (#1144248) Homepage
    If you suspect that you have depression, I strongly recommend that you consult a competent mental health professional.

    If you cannot afford one, you may be able to get help for free through government-provided mental health agencies in your community.

    Even in the US which doesn't have free medicine, most places have some semblance of free psychiatric care that are funded by the states. You don't get a lot but it's better than not getting any help at all.

    If you're in college you may be able to get treatment through your school.

    Bringing it up with your parents may be a very difficult issue. In the long run it's best to involve your whole family in your treatment, but actually bringing that about may be very embarrassing and at worst they may have a very negative reaction. What's most important in the short term is that you share your feelings with someone you can trust who you think would be likely to be supportive and understanding - a close friend, teacher, minister, etc.

    Definitely do get informed. There are a lot of good books, browse around the psychology and self-help section of your local bookstore. The main manic-depressive website is Pendulum [] and from there you can find links to sites on regular "unipolar" depression and other mental illnesses.

    Other sites are:


    Michael D. Crawford

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 08, 2000 @12:39PM (#1144249)
    Depression is an interesting thing. While I've had it since puberty (over 30 years ago), the efforts to "cure" it have universally failed for me. I did the therapy, did the drugs, did the lifestyle and diet changes, did it all. Several times. That's not a "been there - done that" line: I actually changed my life many times, over many years, to try to find a path away from depression.

    So, while I am a person blessed with a good brain, good looks and a good personality, I tend to be a loner, unable to form and maintain relationships.

    The problem, for me, is emotional expression and communication in real-time. Conversations about "important" things are impossible. Parties and family gatherings are torture, despite the fact that I dearly love my friends and family. Yet, oddly enough, I am a talented teacher and a good public speaker. I am not at all "shy": I just can't converse or relate well.

    I did discover something interesting along the way: My depression allows me to bring amazing levels of concentration to bear on technical problems. It has allowed me to develop a career as a self-employed contracting software engineer for the past eight years. Depression, while taking me "away" from the world, also sheilds me from it, and all of its distractions, providing me an uncluttered mental field upon which I can wrestle with technical problems for days at a time. It is as though depression can, at times, double my IQ.

    When one depression treatment or another would have some temporary positive effect, I found that while I "felt" better, and could socialize better, my work would fall apart! That's not to say it couldn't fall apart anyway: Severe episodes of depression wouldn't even permit me to interact with the world enough to even get out of bed. Fortunately, those episodes are relatively rare, but when they do arrive, they can last for weeks or months.

    What to do? Give up? I have two brothers who have committed suicide, both of whom had mental disorders that included depression. The temptation is a siren song that promises peace and an end to pain. But it also promises an end to the few joys I do have in my life, and it is also an end to hope. And I'm a long way from running out of hope, and I doubt I ever shall!

    As you can see, depression does not prevent me from putting words together and making a point. But it does prevent me from doing it very well face-to-face.

    Combining the Internet with my technical skills has been a no-brainer. I am able to communicte just as well as any other Internet user, and probably better than most. With the Internet, I don't have to work during specific hours (though I do have to make the occasional meeting). I can do my work whenever I am able to, which always manages to include at least 40 hours a week. However, I seldom know just when those 40 hours will be... I really hate it when come in a bunch during a single weekend.

    On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're Depressed.

    And REMEMBER THIS: When I use the word "Depression" it is NOT a synonym for "sadness" or any other emotion. It is more like the meaning of the word when it is applied to a weather system, a "tropical depression". It is a mental "weather system" that enfolds and surrounds my mind, isolating me from the world and myself. During those times, I am restricted to living within the small peaceful "eye" of my depression. It's not really a bad place, but it is very small and confining, and I can see how it could easily drive people to deeper madness. Just as a sensory isolation chamber can do.

    Depression does not make me "sad": But it does make me miss the world and the people, the life, I've withdrawn from. And that, in turn, encourages me to seek to do the best I can until the weather changes.

    And, damn, I can sure craft some wicked code when the world does not intrude! Just so long as that "eye" doesn't get too small.

    Anonymously yours,

  • by trims ( 10010 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @10:12PM (#1144250) Homepage

    Not to disrespect the other cultures reading this, but I'm an American, and thus, this post reflects my culture. YMMV for your country.

    I've had at last count 4 friends with bipolar manic-depressive illness. One managed to succeed in killing himself: you may have known him []. I lived with a mildly (ie, not bad enough to be clinically diagnosed, but definately there) bipolar friend for 2 years, so I've seen exactly what this does to people.

    The real problem here in the US is the lack or recognition that mental illness is a real disease. Alot of the pseudo-bullshit "new" mental illness diagnosis that seem to pop up (with the sole purpose (or so it seems) to get compensation under the Americans with Disabilities Act) certainly re-inforce this view in the public's eyes. The shame that often goes with the formal diagnosis of mental illness merely is the last turn in a vicious circle.

    In answer to the Pinkerton WAVE thing, the NYTimes has a great article [] on so-called "ramage killers". Guess what? A majority of them were diagnosed with a clinical mental illness. Were they getting proper treatment? Nope. Were they being supported in a reasonable manner? Nope. Hmmmmm.

    A poster awhile back suggested that school children undergo mandatory psych exams, and that they be put on (drug) therapy if they showed any signs of being a "problem". Actually, I think the basic idea is a good one. Early diagnosis of a disease is critical to long-term survial (ask any doctor). The rest of the idea isn't so hot. But I think it would be a good idea if schools had everyone talk to a psychologist once a semester. It'd cut down the biggest barrier to helping those with mental illness - the stigma of asking for help. Kids would be able to get help without being even more of an outcast. And you'd have a great opportunity to bring in the parents, who are going to be the biggest help to the kid.

    I don't think anything could have help Marty, as much as I wonder if there was something I missed or could have done. However, I'm now really sensitive to people who show any of these signs, and do what I can for them - which is often hard, as accepting such help is often the last thing someone is willing to do. <sigh>

    Lastly, I don't see any particular concentration or statistical blip on bi-polar people being programmers/geeks. Sorry, but this is something that I've seen in virtually all sorts of people. It's a disease. Attempting to pigeon-hole bipolars as geeks (or vice versa) is incorrect. Period.

    5 years, 2 months, 8 days - Marty, you idiot.


  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @12:43PM (#1144251) Homepage
    A great article, but one thing worthy of note:

    A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a course in Abnormal Psych..One of the first things they told us before giving us our textbooks was, "Do NOT, I repeat, Do NOT thumb through this book, in an attempt to diagnose yourself. Chances are, there are 20 or 30 different illnesses in this book that you'll think you have. You dont. The process of diagnosing mental illness must be done by a qualified professional with years of training and experience.", or words to that effect.

    IMHO, its been a fairly common experience..Getting too heavy into anything, computers included, will eventually drive you to the brink of mental illness. Coupled with the sort of lifestyle that hardcore geeks tend to exhibit, its no big surprise.

    Human beings need sunlight, interaction, comfort, quiet, good food, clean air, and clear water. If any of combination of those turns bad, it will take a toll on you. It may not be when youre 15, or 20, or 25, but it will ultimately kick your ass.

    Speaking from experience (I've had my share of extreme episodes of burn-out..) Human beings were not physiologically meant to intake egregious amounts of caffiene, engadge in countless hours of intense, non-stop stimulation and stress. The body simply isn't equipped to handle that sort of thing for extended periods of time.

    Bowie J. Poag
    Project Founder, PROPAGANDA For Linux ( [])
  • by goingware ( 85213 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @07:43PM (#1144252) Homepage
    Heh... took me all this time to find the reply button so I could actually post a new topic rather than replying to an existing one...

    First, I'd like to thank all the people who have written to me at [mailto] regarding their experiences with manic depression. I'm afraid I'm getting a lot of mail today so I'm going to have to wait until tomorrow to respond to most everyone.

    But if you're thinking of writing, please be assured that I take the confidentiality of people who write to me regarding this very seriously. If you like you can encrypt your mail with my PGP key []

    I want to respond to a number of things that have been posted here and also clarify a few things that were written in Kelly Luker's article about bipolar high-tech workers [] in the Metro San Jose.

    A number of people have posted some very negative things about mental illness or about the mental health profession. While there are instances of bad doctors and certainly a long history of bad science and outright abuse in the history of mental health, there is no doubt that manic depression is a real illness.

    This is evidenced by positron emission tomography scans of bipolar patients during various phases. PET scans measure the consumption of radioactive sugar in various parts of the brain.

    Manic patients have strong positron emissions from the right hemisphere of the brain, showing that the right hemisphere is very active - suggesting a physical reason for the feeling of creativity and the overabundance of new ideas.

    Depressed people have a reduced level of positron emissions relative to a normal patient.

    A bipolar patient who is neither manic nor depressed will show a normal level of sugar metabolization.

    The illness is thought to be genetic in origin, but the genetic nature of it is not well understood. Several times researchers thought they'd discovered the gene for manic depression but the discovery turned out to be wrong.

    It happens that manic depression tends to run in families, but not always. It can appear spontaneously in a family, and after it does it will tend to be passed to successive generations and get worse with each generation.

    I don't understand fully why but this is thought to suggest that the disease is caused by a certain morphology of mutation rather than a certain genetic sequence, and that this kind of mutation tends to get worse over generations. Apparently this sort of mutation is understood for other illnesses that do this so they think bipolar depression may work this way too. I'm afraid I don't have a lit reference but I expect I can get some.

    Manic depression usually responds to medication. However it is very difficult to treat effectively. The illness varies quite widely in the severity and frequency of its symptoms among individuals, and each individual responds quite differently to the different medications.

    It took about twelve years to find the right combinations of medications for me. I didn't work continuously to find the right combo, and in fact I went several years without medication - but it's important for any bipolar reading this to understa nd that you can go years with good health and become profoundly manic or depressed quite suddenly, as I did when I was hospitalized during graduate school during a manic episode.

    Another problem is that doctors are often lazy or ill-informed about proper treatment. I was first prescribed lithium and nothing else, even though my most prevalent symptom was depression and I went years with fairly continuous suicidal feelings and no treatment at all for it.

    Early on the only direct treatment for manic depression was lithium, so the mental health community seemed to have gotten this idea that lithium was therefore completely effective for everyone. The Only Choice != Effective Treatment

    Another problem is that antidepressants tend to provoke manic episodes, especially if they are given without mood stabilizers like lithium, depakote or tegretol. Quite often the new patient's only complaint is depression and the doctor doesn't ask questions that would determine a history of manic behavior, so they prescribe antidepressants without anything to prevent mania, and the patient then has a psychotic episode, as happened to me when I was first given antidepressants and I spent six weeks in a psychiatric hospital.

    The doctors then overreact and refuse to prescribe antidepressants at all, and the result is either a miserable life or maybe suicide.

    Things are somewhat better now than when I was first diagnosed. Over time it was discovered that a number of epilepsy medications are effective mood stabilizers, and once the first such was found (tegretol) a large number of others followed (I take depakote, or valproic acid). This means that there is a choice for those who either cannot tolerate lithium (as I can't) or for who it is ineffective - lithium only reduces hospitalizations by about 50% overall.

    The wide range of medicine and I imagine the overall advances in biology and medical research have combined to yield an understanding of how manic depression actually works in the brain. This understanding has only come about in the last five years or so, so now I understand drugs are under development that effect the processes of bipolar depression directly, by rational drug design.

    Most of the existing medications were found to be effective by chance and no one ever understood how they worked.

    I understand lithium was discovered because someone noticed that lithium salts made guinea pigs less active so he just fed a bunch of lithium to all the patients in a psychiatric hospital and the bipolar patients happened to get better - most likely the reaction of the guinea pigs resulted from lithium's potent toxicity; regular blood tests are required when one starts taking it because the effective dose is pretty close to the toxic dose.

    But basically what got me better isn't just the medication, it was taking responsibility for and control of my treatment. Your doctor only sees you for an hour a week (or 20 minutes a month if you're in a typical state mental health program) while you get to experience your illness every waking moment (plus nightmares during sleep).

    So really, if you suffer from this, what you need to do is get informed and get the right treatment. What form that may take I cannot really tell you, but for almost everyone, there is an effective treatment which is not debilitating. If your current medications don't work for you, work with your doctor to find better medications; just give time for the new ones to fully take effect before switching again.

    I want to comment on the link between manic depression and creativity. Kelly Luker, the author of the Metro San Jose article, really didn't seem to get it when I explained to her that becoming manic was not a desirable thing. I really did take pains to explain it to her clearly.

    Yes, the early stages of mania, or mild mania (called hypomania) do feel pleasurable so she really thought this was something to be desired and all us bipolar programmers were all fired up on our jobs while going through manic episodes.

    But that's really not how it is. Mania is a profoundly psychotic state. One goes days on end without sleeping. Thoughts race and crowd the mind so fast that one is able to complete a concept in ones own mind - let alone say a complete sentence to another person. Manic people make extremely poor judgements and often act on them without any regard to the consequences - which all too often come to roost once the manic episode is over and depression sets in.

    Hypomania can be a happy and productive time but only in short bursts; it can't be maintained. And for me, severe depression invariably follows any manic phase whether it is mild or severe, so I work very hard to avoid getting manic.

    The important thing to understand is that while one feels creative while manic, true creativity only comes during the balanced times (I hesitate to say "normal"), and the work of the manic depressive to heal, as I have over the years in 14 years of psychotherapy, is to learn to live a balanced life without mania or depression.

    The link between manic depression and creativity is extensively (and authoritatively) discussed in Kaye Redfield Jamison's Touched with Fire []. She gives case studies of many famous poets and writers who were thought to be manic depressive (because of suicides, or manic behaviour) or actually known to be, and also quotes such studies as one about a prestigious writer's workshop, many of the attendees of which went on to commit suicide.

    Jamison is a coauthor of the standard medical text on manic depression [].

    Dr. Jamison kept her own illness largely a secret during her training and career as a psychologist. But she discusses her own (and her father's) manic depression in her biography An Unquiet Mind []

    The subject of my letter Programming and Madness [] wasn't about how programming drove me nuts - it was about how it made me sane.

    After I cracked up and left college I had no way to support myself, I was broke, hungry, miserable, sick, clinically depressed - not just sad but yearning to kill myself almost continuously, sleeping twenty hours a day.

    I needed to find a place for myself in the world where I could live contentedly as the geek I had always been. My first love was, always will be physics (I did research on the 60" and 200" telescopes at Palomar Mountain, and did my senior thesis work for UC Santa Cruz at the particle accellerator at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland). But for some reason I've never been able to survive in the world of physics.

    Working with computers, on the other hand, and in the community of computer programmers, I do very well.

    It's my experience that there are a lot of other people in the computer industry, and in the scientific and technical world in general, who suffer from mental illness. "Unipolar" depression is most common but manic depression is quite widespread too. I know this both because I see it in others and sometimes we come out of our closet and, at work or on the net, we share our experience with each other. It's been a really long and complicated process for me to get where I am, and a big problem I faced when I first came down with it was a lack of good information. I'm trying to do something about it.

    Imagine the day when you could ask a random stranger why the sad face and he'd feel perfectly safe in telling you "I'm clinically depressed". People will tell strangers about a lot of medical conditions, but mental illness still brings up images of Bedlam in a lot of people. And I'm afraid some of the worst stigma is actually self imposed; meaningless comments on the topic of mental illness can often have a devastating effect on someone who suffers from it, causing them to retreat far from the world of light for fear of exposing themselves when often their worst fears are mostly imagined.

    I've used this sig for many years, I take it very seriously. Generally only my good friends understand the painful irony in it. I started using it shortly after getting on antidepressants after my first suicide attempt:

    Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow.

    Michael D. Crawford

  • by Stephen VanDahm ( 88206 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @12:58PM (#1144253) Homepage
    I know it's flamebait, but I'll bite.

    What is it with today's amazing variety of so-called "disorders" which provide the vast number of shrinks in the US with enough money to live like kings?

    It's called progress. It's sorry-ass dumbfucks like you that oppose every advance society makes. If you were alive way back when, I'll bet you would have opposed heliocentrism, germ theory, and God only knows what else.

    As for the high salaries that some doctors can make, I have no opinion on that. But psychology isn't the path to easy money. While there are some who do quite well, there are many more who struggle through a Ph.D. program only to find that there are very few teaching and counseling positions open at any one time.

    I mean first it was things like "dyslexia" which is just an excuse for children who are lazy or stupid to get away without learning anything...

    I'm sorry, asshole, but I'm afraid that dyslexia is quite real. The lawyer hired by DOJ to prosecute Microsoft is very dyslexic and to this day has difficulty reading. But he certainly isn't lazy or stupid.

    There's something wrong about a country where so many people are brainwashed into thinking that they need therapy to lead a normal life...

    I don't think that Americans are brainwashed into believing that they need therapy. If anything, we are so provincial that we ignore medical science when it conflicts with our age-old prejudices, even though medecine science is the among most sensible and rational institutions in modern society.

    I personally think that we need to impose far stricter regulations on these snake-oil salesmen, because they seem to be working to create a society where anyone can do anything and excuse it on "Weekend Psycho Disorder" or some such nonsense.

    Doctors are already heavily regulated! I think it is good that they are, too, since they have so much responsibility. Further regulation, in the manner which you suggest, will accomplish nothing, because there is such overwhelming scientific support for the existance of mental illnesses that doctors will get the clearance they need to treat their patients.

    And as for depressed people, well, they need to get over it. It's not as bad as they think it is, and once they realise that they'll be alright.

    This proves that you don't have a damn clue about what you're talking about. Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself is not the same thing as clinical depression. When people are clinically depressed, they cannot eat or sleep normally, they lose lots of weight, and suffer from numerous other, very real, physical symptoms.

    Maybe they should look to the love of God's eternal presence for support in their darker hours.

    Talk about snake-oil salesmen!! I personally think that if there is anything wrong with the USA, it's that there are way too many ignorant, stupid-ass ultra-religious folks running around, claiming that God's love is the answer to everything. Well, try telling that to someone who just broke his arm -- God's love is pretty worthless when you have a spintered bone poking out of your skin. Likewise, when the chemicals in your brain don't work, you need medecine that can correct the problem.

    My suggestion to you and the others out there like you, is to move out of the trailer park, go to school, read some books, and learn to think for yourself. Just because Uncle Bubba said it, doesn't mean it's true.

    Take care,


    Stephen C. VanDahm
  • by MicroBerto ( 91055 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @11:34AM (#1144254)
    Manic-Depression is obviously a HORRIBLE illness in that such a high percentage of its patients commit suicide and succeed.

    It would seem like always-depressed people would commit more suicides, but they don't because they often lack the will or power.

    Manic depressants, however, have more of a reason to commit suicide:

    First, they know what its like to feel REALLY good, so when they are down, it REALLY sucks.

    Second off, when they're coming up or coming down, they have the energy and willpower to actually plan their suicide rather than just feel sorry for themselves.

    Third, in their manic states, they might do something like blow off their entire life savings on some crazy risk! When they come back down and realize how crazy they went, they have more of a reason to end their lives.

    Fourth, within due time, the gap between the depression and manic parts gets wider and wider. Think of a crazy rollercoaster going up and down. It gets BAD in this case, though.

    Fifth, it is harder to treat a manic depressant because when they get better, they don't think they need the medicine, stop taking it, get worse. Repeat cycle.

    Sixth, its one of those illnesses that's just tough as nails to treat.

    Please add more to the list... and realize how significant of a problem this is. And someone else can take the torch besides the suicide problems, that's what I focused on. There are many bad things with family life and jobs and everything else as well. See ya

    Mike Roberto ( [mailto]) - AOL IM: MicroBerto

  • by jeremyf ( 167087 ) on Saturday April 08, 2000 @04:03PM (#1144255) Homepage
    I commend you for trying to help people with Manic Depression on your website. However, I do have a problem with all of these articles that tend to glorify bipolar disorder. I'm not saying that people should not tell anyone or talk about Manic Depression if they have it, it's just that this is not a "good" thing to have, especially just for the goal of "writing code," and it definitely should be treated if it's true mania and depression. A lot of these articles are VERY misleading, especially for people who don't have any background in psychology. One of the people in the articles (I don't know if it's the same guy as who wrote the article) writes: "I can work effectively even when I'm wigging, even when I'm hallucinating, even when I'm severely depressed." While this may be out of context, in which case it's the article writer's fault, but this is AGAINST one of the very DEFINITIONS of bipolar disorder. While it may be true for this specific person, it's definitely not common. If a mental attitude is not debilitating in any way, it's not a "mental disorder." There are also some more quotes: "A life that I am convinced will be filled only with despair for the rest of my existence becomes serene and even joyful. The CIA stops tapping my phone." and "The mania snakes out of control like a runaway locomotive--restlessness, irritability, maybe violence or those voices that sound like they're coming from a cheap transistor radio, and eventually, lockdown." These are completely misleading. Hallucinations, and even delusions, are VERY uncommon for people who have bipolar disorder and, in fact, warrant a completely different diagnosis altogether. The "maybe violence" is, again, very misleading in that violence in a manic phase is EVEN MORE UNCOMMON than violence while hypomanic or "normal." There's obviously some confusion here between manic depression and schizophrenia, and random stories in movies and TV about what "mad" people do. Remember that although these may be very interesting, they're very rare in terms of "mental disorders" while other affective disorders (like depression itself) and others are much more common than these romanticized disorders. There's also a large lacking in the mention that bipolar disorder is largely, if not exclusively, hereditary. These articles are written by somewhat uninformed people who are writing to get "human interest" out of their audience. Even the citations come from self-help books instead of psychology literature. If you're interested in learning about manic depression read a psychology text or read some medical websites like WebMD [] or OnHealth []. And remember, most of all, it's not cool to be mentally ill.

    - Jeremy Fuller

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.