Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Slow Road to Dementia?

April 3, 2017

ice_mountain_by_bellarie

Cognitive Impairment in Middle Age

Slow Road to Dementia?

There is only one thing scarier than dementia and that is early onset dementia. But both of these disorders have a neglected second cousin: a neurological condition known as mild cognitive impairment. It has been established that cognitive decline can begin in your forties. The condition consists of ‘subtle deficits in cognitive function that nonetheless allow most people to live independently and participate in normal activities.’ It can be, in rare cases, a precursor to full on dementia.

I am on a variety of psychotropic medications. so I am susceptible to this condition.  I am taking more than the British National Formulary permits. At the moment I am experiencing memory loss, inability to think logically, inability to read fiction. Non fiction is okay. Strangely enough this is not listed as a side effect. Ironically, among the books I can read are those of my old nemesis Theodore Dalrymple. My brain empties of thought. I am forgetting words and names. I run out of material in the middle of a conversation. The conversations and concerns of others are perplexing. I am feeling  increasingly detached from the world around me. It feels as though the world was designed for the young. Then people started pulling away, which leads, in turn to a fear of intimacy. Suddenly I am middle aged and increasingly useless. I feel helpless in the face of this. All I can do is write about it.

Plagued by insecurities and doubts I did the worst thing imaginable.: I googled my symptoms. I can feel my brain slowly atrophying. Am I facing premature dementia? I am in my early forties. I am terrified. I see class action law suits against the company that manufactures my medicine. I read about weight gain and feel my flesh expanding. I read about pancreatitis and feel a sharp pain in my left side. How much is real? How much is psychosomatic? I have been perusing articles on the web dealing with cognitive decline. Just because you are paranoid, they say, it doesn’t mean that nobody is out to get you. I feel as though I have lost myself.

I have been researching solutions. Can this be overcome/ameliorated? What can medicine offer? I often panic when I am confronted with brain fog. This exacerbates the situation so calming tactics such as meditation and mindfulness are useful techniques. I also considered vitamin B12 deficiency. I am in the risk category for this condition. I am vegetarian and often neglectful of my diet. Blueberries are apparently a miracle fruit that may even be able to reverse cognitive decline. Physical exercise, even walking, can alleviate the condition.

Other problems that mimic cognitive decline are depression, medication side effects, or an underactive thyroid. I am praying it is the meds. I am also praying that it is reversible.

edit: in case anyone is interested the illustration accompanying this piece is entitled ‘Iceberg’.

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Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

May 1, 2013

25z

A young woman has lost her mother toç. She is my friends and she is bright and vivacious in a way that belies the psychiatric diagnosis that lurks beneath the surface.  My friend was devoted to her mother, in old age at least.  After years of bitter family infighting they had at last arrived at a form of rapprochement.  They parted on good terms

Then she remembered the back handers that left her face momentarily claret coloured.  Her mother took care never to leave bruises.  She recalled the conversations she had had with her, unforeseen, curving, shifting, turning.  You never could tell when she would snap, when she would reach out and push her over the precipice and then you would be falling, falling down some vast canyon.  And still the blows reigned down like bits of masonry and falling stone.  It was not a fair fight.  She was far too small to retaliate.  And then she would detach herself from reality.  She would escape inwards, into a land with valleys and swelling rivers and the sharp peaks of mountains.  A higher land of bent trees and shrunken shrubs. Then in her dream world the banks of the river burst and when she came round her mother would be grabbing her hair and slamming her head against the wall.  And then she was well and truly back in reality once again. She could feel her fondness for her mother fading.  There was a grotesque chasm between them.  They would never be close again.  And that made my friend’s heart feel like it was about to crack open.

But then we must never speak ill of the dead.

And Do the Dumbest Docs Become Psychiatrists?

March 25, 2013

Perhaps ‘The Lancet’ should publish a paper on that:

http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/03/23/does-military-service-cause-men-to-become-criminals/?singlepage=true

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http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/03/23/does-military-service-cause-men-to-become-criminals/?singlepage=true&show-at-comment=121304#comment-121304

http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/03/23/does-military-service-cause-men-to-become-criminals/?singlepage=true&show-at-comment=121488#comment-121488

Medical Student 1: You know, they really should abolish psychiatry.  It’s an embarrassment to the medical profession.

Medical Student 2: But then what would all the dumb docs do?

Medical Student 1: (shrugs) They could always become lawyers.

Addendum: I am rereading a rather interesting little book entitled: Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942 reproduced from the original typescript, War Department, Washington D.C.

415QH1Y8AJL._SL500_AA300_

The blurb on the back cover reads:

‘…The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee.  You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea.  It’s a even swap…”

“…When you see a girl in khaki or air-force blue with a bit of ribbon on her tunic–remember she didn’t get it for knitting more socks than anyone else in Ipswich…”

“…It is always impolite to criticise your hosts; it is militarily stupid to criticise your allies.”

I love primary sources.

‘Laters’

In Response to the Telegraph’s Latest Coverage of Mental Illness:

February 7, 2013

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/9847928/An-embarrassment-on-the-country-man-who-threw-bottle-at-Olympics-100m-final-during-manic-episode-escapes-prison.html

Or, more specifically, to this poster:

JacksonAliBaBa

2 days ago

People with “medical conditions” should be forced to wear high-visibility vests whenever they leave their homes. Then, the instant they start acting like twats, someone can immediately fill them in and/or hoik them off for a stint in the loony bin. For those who choose not to do so, they should be banged-up in jail. I hate the law allowing people to get off on all sorts of ridiculous technicalities.

Louise

just now

If you don’t believe that mental illness exists, my friend, then get out there and campaign for the cessation of the public funding of psychiatry.  Go on, I dare you.  Take on the generals instead of the foot soldiers.  And the protection of the mentally ill is enshrined in law.  That is why we have psychiatric hospitals and secure hospitals.  We’ve recognised that mental illness can cause people to lose control of their behaviour since the McNaughton Rule was devised.  So in 1843 the law was more compassionate to sufferers of mental illness than it is now?  I find that quite funny, in a really sick way.

By the way, you mention ‘medical conditions’ rather than mere mental illness: does this mean that you would force an elderly alzheimer’s sufferer to wear one of these ‘high-visibility vests too?

Just a taste of what some forms of mental illness can be like from the inside:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

Bipolar sufferers sometimes experience auditory hallucinations too. 

The reaction to this story is truly quite horrifying.

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The Magic Mountain

January 17, 2013

unity2m

When I was in hospital I was befriended by Michael, an ex squaddie who had left the army after a nervous breakdown. He had been homeless ever since. drifting from bedsit to shelter and back again. His chaotic lifestyle was punctuated by visits to the psychiatric hospital.

The army was his reason for living and, in his view, someone had stolen that away from him. Now he had nothing. Just a lifetime of desolate acute wards and endless corridors. This was when I realized that the longer I remained on this hospital ward the harder it would be to leave. And that terrified me. Becoming like Michael terrified me. ‘This is like being a prisoner of war,’ he told me. ‘Worse probably. At least they have the Geneva Convention.’

Michael was a mountain of a man. He did not join the other patients waiting calmly, obediently in line for their medication. He rejected the powerful neuroleptic they offered him. I once overheard a nurse saying to him: ‘You really have no idea how ill you are, do you?’ He had a reputation for being ‘non-compliant’.

Nursespeak, my mother had once told me, for ‘awkward old git.’ He viewed the staff with open hostility and they viewed him as a problem to be solved. But he also had a generosity of spirit that was rare in these parts.

This was a side of him that the staff chose not to see. All they saw was an obstreperous, middle-aged, red-faced man standing before them. The one that, no matter what they tried, refused to take the medication prescribed to him by his all-knowing consultant. So every night he was forcibly medicated. It was quite a spectacle.

Michael would wedge himself into the easy chair nearest the television. ‘Are you ready for your meds, Michael’. This question would be repeated three times and would elicit no response. The staff nurse would then call in the charge nurse who, in turn, called in his minions – male auxiliary nurses from the intensive care unit. The biggest, beefiest men they could find. Men who were only here, according to Aaron (the pretentious overgrown public school boy) because they enjoyed roughing people up.

The patients in the dayroom looked up from their books and boardgames. They turned their heads away from the television. They snapped out of their collective stupor. Then they arrived – six burly men with heavy, clumping boots. They did not try to argue with Michael, they did not ask him to come quietly. Moving in tandem they seized him and pulled him out of his chair. But he did not give in without a struggle. He kicked out with his feet and struck out with his fists as they dragged him out of the room and walked him down the corridor. It was not a fair fight.

‘See what they’re doing, ‘ he shouted. ‘They’re oppressors. Government oppressors. They are an army of pawns.’ They were followed by an elfin female nurse with a needle in her hand. The doctor who had authorised this procedure watched from a distance.

‘I’d love to shove a needle up his arse,’ said Aurora (the ward’s beautiful but rather vulgar narcissist) who was no stranger to forcible medication.

First Extract of the Year

January 3, 2013

The Daughter’s Tale

Towering Oaks

againstthebrightmoon

1993

The oaks towered above me in the hospital grounds.   I explored everything that week. I explored the bowling green, the tennis court, the gym, the crumbling main building, the sloping lawns and the green, neatly trimmed hedges. There was even a hospital cat – a flash of white that streaked through the grounds. Before it became familiar and tedious.

That first week at the hospital was awash with sunshine.   The rest of the world, the city with its bustling crowds seemed centuries away. Had it ever existed?   Or was it only in my imagination.   The hospital was a separate world with its own language, its own rituals, set apart from everything else – alienated, set apart from everything else.   Some of my fellow patients revelled in being different, revelled in being apart from everything else.   Trains crashed, planes crashed, volcanos erupted, wars broke out all over the planet. Explosions in the middle east rippled round the world, barely touching us. We were far, far removed from that.

The hospital would not exist for much longer, I was told.   Tesco had made a bid for the land.

I sat in the patients’ lounge in the morning meeting, the sun on my back.  Someone was talking about bathing his face in the morning dew, about how healthful it was.

‘I won’t be here for much longer,’ I told a nurse who responded: ‘You may not have much choice in the matter.’

I would come to look back on those first sun-washed days at the hospital with nostalgia.   I was lethargic from the medication but strangely happy.   There was nothing to worry about: no essays, no tutorials, no lectures.

I felt free, liberated of all responsibilities.  Nothing bothered me.   I was oblivious to the rotund man with the hearty laugh and the toothless old crone in the corner.   I did not see the man who called himself Nostradamus Reincarnated and ran round the ward shouting: ‘The world is a process of disintegration.   The world will end. The world will end.’

I felt serene. The orange flowed gently through my veins. I had no desire to do anything but lie on my bed with my palms upturned, staring at the ceiling. June was nearly over, term was over.   There was nothing left but myself – the only character in this one act charade.

I could barely move.   My limbs were leaden and yet in some strange, sick way I enjoyed feeling like this.

I enjoyed the feeling that boundaries had been established.

One can only handle so much freedom.

I could not walk without assistance.   I felt the hand of the nursing assistant around my arm. There was no flesh, her hand gripped only bone.

The medication had temporarily banished history.   I sat up in bed. However they did mean that on some mornings I woke feeling as though someone had bashed me on the head with a sledge hammer.

I had lost herself. I was a floating sheet of paper.   Blank, of course.

I was having my life cut and spliced by the omnipotent author governing the universe. Who was this being?   I imagined it as a monolithic video recorder. That recorded every word you voiced, every action you initiated.   I hoped it included features like play, pause, forward, back and, of course, erase.

And when I slept, I dreamed.

I dreamt of walking on a beach with my father, hand in hand, the sand yielding beneath our bare feet.

‘It’s been a long time,’ my father  said.

‘Too long,’ I replied.

The magical kingdom was still within I. Roses blossomed. I was being smothered by so much beauty.   Music poured out of the speakers.   Voices whispered: ‘You are special.’.

I was coasting along, floating.   I had escaped academia.   The academic layer of my being had been painlessly peeled away.   No more screaming over unfinished essays.   Apparently my tutors had all granted extensions for me.   I was willing to bet that I wasn’t going to be a name on their Christmas card list. But all this was done but at a price: I was sacrificing my personality and possibly my very self.

Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

November 6, 2012

 

Why is it that drunkenness is regarded as a predatory monster that has crept up on us over the last decade or  so?

My mother vividly recollects the 1970s when she was in nurse training. She remembers accompanying her hard drinking friends to night clubs, resting her head on a beer stained table and falling asleep. She was a cheap date. She found it impossible to keep up with them. I live in a university town and the medical students are renowned for their hard drinking behaviour. But this has always been the case. Nobby’s son is a taxi driver who remembers a time in the early seventies when medical students behaved so disgracefully as a result of inebriation that the local taxi companies refused to carry them. And in our hospitals health care staff: from the consultant to the office cleaner would take any drug they pleased from the medication trolley. There was a nationwide investigation into this and security was tightened. The nurses ran the ward, just like the NCOs run the army.

And it would still be like that now if it were not for those pesky managers.


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