The Efforts of a Scientist and Compulsive Crafter

Hi! Welcome to my site!
Everything I post here is potentially a thing I could be commissioned to make a likeness of. Send me an email if you are interested, and I can send you an estimate on price and time! I can be found at: coletteisabella@gmail.com (put tumblr in the message title) or etsy.com/shop/coletteisabella
now also see my work at
www.facebook.com/AnatomyOfABeekeeper

 This has been my big project for the last 3 months. there are more pictures, but I could only upload 10, so I will perhaps put up more. I wore this to PAXPrime 2013, and got a surprising number of kind responses. I made the dress out of canvas, painted it with fabric paint, the earrings and hat are paper. To read the inscription, look up the Fez alphabet. The crux of it is: Holy crap, this was a beautiful game, which inspired so much love and creativity for me. The creator has had a really rough time of it, and I hope he sees this, and that his work was truly appreciated. 

Let’s Talk Definitions

​One of the key problems in the study of psychiatry is the difference between the discussed, studied, absolutist definitions in books like the psychiatric “bible” the DSM-V and peoples’ actual experiences. 

The latest publication of the DSM recently came out, and ​there is wide discussion on the changes, whether they are too broad, whether the manual is antiquated and should still be used, and whether the definitions essentially make it so that everyone has something​ that requires medical attention. That’s why I like to talk about this, because the broad range of mental structures makes this a complicated but important subject.

President Obama recently spoke about the need for destigmatization of mental disorders, he said a lot of good things, but there are 2 things I wanted to hear: 1 that he was going to make it easier and more affordable to seek help, and 2 that beyond battling the stigma, we need to change the conversation to a more productive and bold and less fearful, tiptoeing one.

During the speeches, Glen Close discussed the fact that “there is too much brain power being lost” to this affliction. I love this, because to a substantial extent, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, OCD etc. are affliction of intelligence. Most of our most creative and brilliant minds suffer(ed) from some level of this affliction, and as it starts being talked about, I hope we start seeing that this is not an affliction only of the people who have extreme cases and took out their problems in terrible ways (My heart breaks whenever the news story turns to “The bomber suffered from bipolar disorder”) Because who else does? Stephen Frye! One of the funniest, and reputably kindest people around. But that gets swept under hype.​

So I want to define the “clinical definitions” of some cases, and I want to do this, because at the end, I want to hear what these definitions mean to you, and if you feel they are fair, or we need a new system to discuss this without black and white labels, and more about how we can be healthier as a people.​

Depression:

According to the DSM 4:​ *1

Diagnostic criteria:

Depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least 2 weeks and at least five of the following symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning almost every day

1.Depressed mood most of the day.
2.Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities.
3.Significant unintentional weight loss or gain.
4.Insomnia or sleeping too much.
5.Agitation or psychomotor retardation noticed by others.
6.Fatigue or loss of energy.
7.Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
8.Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
9.Recurrent thoughts of death.
—— I would like to note that at the top, it says at least 5 of the following criteria, and I would like to note that if you have recurrent thoughts of death (your own or others) bypass all others, you need to talk to someone.

Bipolar:   

According to the DSM 4 *1

Bipolar disorder is characterized by more than one bipolar episode. There are three types of bipolar disorder:

1. Bipolar 1 Disorder, in which the primary symptom presentation is manic, or rapid (daily) cycling episodes of mania and depression.
2. Bipolar 2 Disorder, in which the primary symptom presentation is recurrent depression accompanied by hypomanic episodes (a milder state of mania in which the symptoms are not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or need for hospitalization, but are sufficient to be observable by others).
3. Cyclothymic Disorder, a chronic state of cycling between hypomanic and depressive episodes that do not reach the diagnostic standard for bipolar disorder (APA, 2000, pp. 388–392).

Manic episodes are characterized by:

A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary)
B. During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (4 if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:
(1) increased self-esteem or grandiosity
(2) decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
(3) more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
(4) flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
(5) distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
(6) increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
(7) excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)” (APA, 2000, p. 362).
—— I was initially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the medication made me very uncomfortable and subdued, until I found a doctor who recognized that it’s okay to get really excited about things sometimes, that doesn’t always mean there is a problem. The difference take serious analysis and a determination over whether you feel you have control over yourself at these times. … I am now on a medication that makes me jump up and down and cry with joy at concerts and the zoo. Yes, that is important to me.​

Anxiety

DSM-4 *1

B. Anxiety Disorders, including Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia (fear of public places), Social Phobias, and Generalized AnxietyDisorder

Symptoms of anxiety disorders are most often on the anxiety spectrum, but the chronic stress faced by individuals with anxietydisorders can produce depressive symptoms including irritability, hopelessness, despair, emptiness, and chronic fatigue.

​—- This is all they have in this edition of the DSM, my understanding is it is more extensive later. I just know I once fainted at a Convention because my breathing was so erratic. 
There is more in the DSM (As it is considered the official doctrine, I consider it the primary source, but there is so much misinformation about what is and what isn’t a disorder.​
The last term I wanted to note is the concept of “Neuronormative” ​
The idea is that there is an ultimate brain mode which is how an ideal person thinks. To a large extent, I have not met many psychiatrists who use this baseline, and it is a dangerous baseline. Nothing I have achieved or I have seen achieved by amazing people could have been done if we all thought the same. It is our neurological differences which make us unique. I’m not saying that if you feel the urge to go out and hurt people or yourself, go with it, because one of the things I am saying is that sometimes you can get help, and find a way to channel that and create amazing things which are more rewarding and make the world better. ​
What I want to say is that all my favorite people would not be categorized as neuronormative because they just don’t think like anyone else. Art, music and literature, and for years these people did not have options to help tamper the intensity of their amazing brains, and died young or found themselves in terrible places. I take medication to slow down my awesome brain so I can get the maximum effect from it. So do a lot of other amazing creative minds we have now, and because of that will have for a long time.
It’s not a weakness to work with your brain, it is a triumph.​ 
Dr. Waffles will return as my poster boy again, but it has been a mad couple of weeks in a wonderful way, but in a way that means he and I have not had time to talk much.​
Thanks for reading, and PLEASE comment with your thoughts on how we can make society better and healthier, not to mention your experience!​


*1
Obama’s Speech
A discussion on the DSM

Hey Everyone! I want to hear your story!

We’re creating a web of experiences and stories to show who we are as experiencers of very real illness, or allies to help people going through something that can be so hard to understand by everyone involved. Be as explicit or clinical as you like, this is your story, but if you want it private, you can let me know in the answers, and I and no one else will ever know who you are unless you want to.​

This is my survey, please check it out! In June, I’ll put up a new set of questions. These will still be available, but I want people to be inspired. ​


Tell us your story!

Apologies for the Break

Hey All, ​

I have been back in my home town for a week for some family things, so I apologize for the break. All will resume on Thursday, I hope. ​

I wanted to really quick jump in and share some of my favorite stress coping mechanisms for traveling, and other stress inducing experiences:​

Cinnamon Sticks 

I made myself a little case for these, and it has become my constant companion through all. I pull out a cinnamon stick and chew on it, not enough to break the bark, just as a thing to have my mouth doing so I am not chewing on my fingers or lips. I get people say: Oh ma’am, you can’t smoke here, and I say: It’s a cinnamon stick. And they say: Ah, so you are quitting smoking. And to avoid further awkward, I say: Sure. But it has been my new favorite nervous tick, because you can also fiddle with the sticks in your fingers. Aw yiss.​

Music

​I hope to do a further discussion on music and the science of its effect on your brain later, but for now, I will say this: Music has an amazing effect on your brain. It can make you feel like you can take over the world, or like you need to curl in a ball and hide. I have had intense neurological and emotional reactions to music, and there are only a few bands I can listen to without fail to make me feel centered. One is a band called Tycho. It is electronic calmness incarnate, what is important is, everyone has a musical calmness, so finding that, and allowing yourself to absorb that for a while, is huge.

Breathing

If you have ever done yoga or meditation, they have taught you a mindful breath technique. Something like: breathe in through your nose, into your lungs, down to your stomach, fill your stomach, then release through your mouth from your stomach to your lungs through your mouth. Each step taking a count of 5 so your mind can only process the order and organization of breathing. Even for just  minute, this can slow your heart rate and bring down your blood pressure.

Exercise

Even if it is some squats or push ups, or a walk, getting your heart rate up in a healthy way will kick your brain back into gear, and you will find that processing that stress is a lot easier. Just don’t stop too soon, make sure you feel it a bit so your muscles can remind your brain that there are more important things than stressing out.​

Herbal Tea

Little rituals like tea drinking, my favorite is peppermint, out of a favorite glass, breathing the smell, the steam, and sipping the warmth can also get you out of a stress rut.​ Drinking water or anything which doesn’t contain alcohol or caffeine can do this.

Worst Comes to Worst

I cannot recommend enough a bar of dark chocolate, and a handful of almonds. It seems silly, and basic, and maybe trite, but the molecules you get from these will do your body and brain better than anything. Watch a movie, or read, cuddle with a pet (or as I brought on my trip, a stuffed animal) and get ​out of the real world for a bit. As long as you don’t stay there, it can’t hurt.

Common Misconceptions about medicating

I need to start this with a preface: I am not necessarily a medication advocate. I am a scientist, further I have a degree in Molecular Biology, and in that, I have done a lot of research on the ways in which molecules react in the human body. Our understanding of the brain is woefully poor, we have a lot of really smart people working on getting this better, and what we have is quite amazing. 

If you follow the works by Ben Goldacre, and similar Doctors, you could be very afraid of the dangers of “Big Pharma”, but his work is making progress on research and better communication between researchers and Doctors. However, at this point, the work which we have is substantial enough to have several options which are far better than the “hope-it goes-away” option or the “power-through-it” option. I don’t believe that medication is necessary for everyone, but part of the key is knowing yourself, and knowing your body, which is why I advocate journalling as well as not just making a switch to medicating only if you find medication is the direction you would like to go.

Pharmaceutical Drugs are Scary. Let’s Work Through This.

This has a lot of parts to it, but we will start with the ones I hear the most:

Mental Health Drugs are dangerous: are dangerous:

It is easy to fear drugs which affect the brain for so many reasons. One being the list in fine print a mile long of possible side effects. The list is there because sometimes things do go wrong, or have gone wrong in trials, but what is important is that every time one thing goes wrong with one person, they have to add it to the list. 

So, the thing is, sometimes things do go wrong. It’s because every brain is different, but usually these are not the really scary side effects. For example, your Doctor will likely tell you the common side effects that most people have so you can expect them, and know that you can get through it. With Zoloft, many people have about a week of anxiety which comes on about a week after starting, then goes away. Mine lasted a little longer, but I kept track of it, and I am glad I stuck through it to find that it was the right medication for me. 

What’s important is, your Doctor will start you on the lowest dose, and move you up in increments by a week or two. The reason for this is that your body needs time to adjust to the new molecules, and it keeps side effects down. The thing is, if you decide that the medication is not working after you have increased in dosage, it is really important you don’t just stop taking it. Once you start taking a medication, you can always stop taking it and it will leave your system, but you need to step down (usually by 1/2 pills) to let your body adjust to not having the medication.

It’s just supporting “Big Pharma”:

The thing about “Big Pharma” is that it is what we have. What is frustrating is that if you choose instead to use Homeopathic or naturopathic medications, you could just as well be supporting an equally large and corporate entity. The difference is that we have tests and science to back up the efficacy of Medications, and less on naturopathic medications. We have a lot of evidence that Homeopathy is as effective as placebo which is not nothing, but may not be sufficient for everyone.

I am a huge fan of herbs, and natural remedies, we have data showing some good effects from Rhodeola Rosea, and some others like peppermint for anxiety. This is a cool chart to take with a grain of salt, as it is quite fun, and has links to real scientific papers, but I found it a little hard to follow as a precision informational graph: 

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/play/snake-oil-supplements/

Either way, herbs are real too, and it is very possible for there to be bad interactions between them and anything else you take, for example St. John’s Wort can have negative effects on birth control pills, so research is key, and keeping honest track of your own reactions is key since no matter how much you want something to work, sometimes it just can’t. So experiment, but make sure you know what you are doing by reading and talking to people who really know what they are doing.

Once you have tried a medication, it can mess up your brain forever.

This goes back to the first concern. The thing is, in order for these molecules to work with your brain and not be rejected by your immune system, it must be organic, which means it degrades over time. Each medication has a different decay rate, but as with every molecule in your body, it will degrade and turn into Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon and other happy atoms.

I have tried a lot of things, and none of them is perfect, but I am sure I can do it without drugs:

This is an argument which my husband described to me beautifully when I made this argument, he said that this is your depressive brain talking. It seems sometimes like there are two different people in my head, the me who comes out when I am up, and thinking clearly, and not exhausted and angry and scared, and then there’s the Depressive me which makes excuses because even the idea of effort just sounds impossible. The thing about this argument is that there are a lot of options which are not medication, but sometimes they are just not enough on their own.

Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar are real brain disfunctions which require attention in the same way an illness or lesion must be attended, it’s just more subtle, than take a couple pills or put a bandaid on and you’re done. I believe that it is completely possible to use medication as a preliminary push to get your brain boosted so that you can get to a point where you no longer need the medication, but it is important to understand that taking medication to help you be the person you want to be, is not a sign of weakness, it is a strength that you are taking control of your ability to function.

This is only part one, I know there are a lot of fears out there. What other concerns are out there? Let’s see if we can make sure you have all the information, so you can make the right decision for you!​

The Following Discussion is not Explicit, but it does accept the fact of sex, sexuality, and self-harm so if these are topics which make you uncomfortable, or you feel this does not concern you, then this passage is not for you.

Taking Anti-Depressants Will Lower your Sex Drive or cause Sexual Dysfunctions:

First the sex part:

The thing about most of our modern medications is that it seems very hard to take any thing which doesn’t have the possibility of affecting your Sexual Drive in some way most of the time. This doesn’t mean it is impossible to avoid. The thing is, remaining Depressed or Anxious may have the same effect, so to some extent, giving it a try, may make it easier, or not change that part of your situation. This goes back to goals. A very important part of my personality involves my sexuality, and being able to express it. In my experience with medications, I stopped taking two of them because after a few months, I did not find the subdued sexuality from the initial phase to go away. It took some work to find the right balance. 

Ultimately, the medication I take for anxiety, is a benzodiazepam which is amazing for calming me down, but greatly subdues my feelings of sexuality, I feel sort of floaty, so it is a great medication for anxiety, but not if I plan on staying in for a night in with my husband. That is a key with medications like Clonazepam, they are not designed for daily or constant use, just for needed situations. ​

Here’s the ​thing, for one, it may be that a lower dose of a medication which is doing really well for you might make you more comfortable. Also, if your trouble is not the desire but the ability to reach orgasm, the thing that seems to have the most efficacy is… practice! Mary Roach is an amazing author who pursues strange and wonderful science which is rare to find elsewhere. In her book Bonk! She discusses studies on women who found that when they were on a medication which lowered their sexdrive, they took Testosterone (or a Testosterone Precursor which you can get over the counter) I gave this a try, and personally, it has had an amazing effect on my energy level as well as feeling better about myself. There are other things to try, but this is the one I’ve found with the most research behind it. I also recommend the book, if you’re interested, beautiful science you won’t find anywhere else.

The Suicide Warnings on SSRI’s:​

All over the packaging for antidepressants, it talks about the dangers of increased suicidal thoughts and self harm. This is not to be taken lightly, if you find yourself getting to those places, you need to talk to your Doctor immediately. This predominantly occurs in teenagers before their prefrontal cortex is fully formed, it seems, but it is also fairly rare. As long as you remain in communication with your Doctor, with friends, with yourself, just remember that in all the movies and TV shows, when the person didn’t tell anyone, that’s when they got eaten by Zombies.

What we are doing here, is making it more okay to talk about. There are even hotlines if you are really worried about people being worried about you and acting weird. Either way, telling someone can only make things better.

    The Story of Anonymous Turk

    This is a perfect example of what I am doing this for. The perspective of Anonymous Turk (their chosen identifier) is a completely different experience than my own. Once again, the beauty of these is that they each show the fears, experiences and knowledge of people who are going through this scary world of getting one’s brain right for their ideal life. ​

    Anonymous Turk is 18 years old, there is a lot I can relate to in this story, and a lot that makes me hopeful. ​


    1. What have you been diagnosed with? If you have not been officially diagnosed, what is your experience?

    Social anxiety disorder.

    2. When did you first start experiencing symptoms? 

    At the end of summer 2012.

    3. If you decided to seek treatment, when did you realize you needed it, and what helped you decide to do it? 

    I decided that I needed it when I could no longer put up with the fight or flight responses that was going through my body. I was jeopardizing school and work and I realized that it’s time for a change.

    4. What life changes (if any) did you make after your diagnoses? 

    The biggest life change I made was I started to avoid majority of social situations from the fear of my anxiety being revealed. I built a prison inside myself.

    5. What forms of treatment have you tried? 

    I’ve tried talk therapy, medication (twice - however I’m anti-meds due to the scary addiction & withdrawal symptoms so I try to avoid it), exercise and I’ve also been to a naturopath who prescribed me herbal medication and taught me ‘correct’ forms of breathing.

    6. Did you set any goals for what successful treatment would look like?

    A successful treatment in my mind was when I no longer felt so tense and ansy all the time. I hoped treatment would conquer this but it didn’t. I still have highs and lows of anxiety symptoms.

    7. Is there anything you wish you could tell yourself when you first started experiencing symptoms? 

    Yes! I would have said, calm the fuck down. I would have also said, don’t do a lot of research and don’t diagnose yourself with anything before knowing the actual facts. They say ignorance is bliss, and that’s so true.

    8. What do you do now as a profession, for hobbies, and/or for fun, and do you feel your neurological experience has changed how you experience them, and why you do them? 

    I am a full time student. I don’t really have hobbies, however I use social media and browse the web frequently. I try to go outdoors too such as Greenlake, or any related park. My type of fun involves great food, and great (intimate) company. My neurological experience has changed me from a funny outgoing individual to a quiet hermit like individual. It basically RUINED my first year of college.

    9. How would you characterize your condition? 

    It’s definitely a battle and a burden. I feel as if I’m living in a nightmare and can’t get out. It’s also very exhausting. The planning, hiding, avoiding, preventing, and preparing. I avoid situations that trigger the anxiety which has everything to do with people. My flight or fight response is intense. The people I am comfortable around knows who I am, but the people who don’t see me as shy, scared, or disconnected person. It’s so frustrating to live this life when you can’t live up to your own potential, and when you’re living as if you’re someone else.

    10. Is there any advice you would give to a person who is friends or partners with someone going through your diagnosis?

    You’re not alone! Trust me. It seems as you’re going through this all on your own but that’s never the case. The more you open up with people about your diagnosis the more you’ll realize that other people are facing the exact same thing. It’s a battle. I’m going through it at the moment, but what ever you do, DO NOT give up!

    Is there anything else you would like to say about your experience? 

    Even though it’s putting me through hell sometimes, I feel as my experience has made me the person I am today. What doesn’t kill you can either fuck you up mentally, or it can make you stronger. You get to pick which one you want. When the road gets tough, keep going!

    Tell us your story!

    ​One of the reasons I started this blog was to make a place where people could maybe start to see that their situations, far from being hopeless, can actually be better because of their brain differences. 

    I have a lot of experience with medications, depression, anxiety and OCD, but that’s only one story. I have some questions, to get you started, but whether you are a friend or a person living through something, I want to hear your story! Maybe this way, someone else will see your story and feel a little better, and maybe you’ll see someone else’s story, and feel better for it. We change the conversation by making it.​

    These forms are completely confidential until I review your preferences to either be anonymous or open. The first is for people with Mental Health Experience, The second is for friends or partners of people who went through something. Answer any questions you feel comfortable with, and add anything you want to share. This is the first of a few story series I will do, so if none of these questions spark your interest, in a few weeks, you might feel that your story comes in with the next questions. Thank you so much!!

    Tell us your story!

    ​One of the reasons I started this blog was to make a place where people could maybe start to see that their situations, far from being hopeless, can actually be better because of their brain differences. 

    I have a lot of experience with medications, depression, anxiety and OCD, but that’s only one story. I have some questions, to get you started, but whether you are a friend or a person living through something, I want to hear your story! Maybe this way, someone else will see your story and feel a little better, and maybe you’ll see someone else’s story, and feel better for it. We change the conversation by making it.​

    These forms are completely confidential until I review your preferences to either be anonymous or open. The first is for people with Mental Health Experience, The second is for friends or partners of people who went through something. Answer any questions you feel comfortable with, and add anything you want to share. This is the first of a few story series I will do, so if none of these questions spark your interest, in a few weeks, you might feel that your story comes in with the next questions. Thank you so much!!

    This is my new wallet. Paired down for my reductionist kick. The grey and white curled up on the front is Miss Mollybee, and with a Chickadee on his head is Dr. Waffles. My cats seriously have become one of my biggest inspirations. 

    Also, I have finally put together a personal website: http://coletteisabella.com I am really excited about it. 

    By request, here is the prototype for a phone-holder arm cuff. It’s bigger, and a little heavier, but it’s stayed on pretty well so far versus jumping. This one is specifically sized for my iPhone 4, and I put some cards in as well to test out the level of usage. So a little more testing, and an experimental wash, and then I might be able to turn this into a thing for people!