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Descent into Madness
Kay Redfield Jamison is a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she also do-directs the Mood Center. Once a manic depressive herself, she is now a prominent expert on mental health, suicide, and creativity.
Her books include Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament; An Unquiet Mind; Exuberance: A Passion For Life; and Nothing Was The Same.
Question: When did you first realize you were manic depressive?
Kay Redfield Jamison: Well I suppose it's funny, it's a little like the waves of grief. I think you have waves of awareness and one of the things that I found with grief was actually -- I was well prepared for it by the cyclicality of my manic depressive illness because I was used to things coming and going and so forth. So I think that my awareness of having bipolar illness really—I was 17, I got very, very depressed and I was psychotic and I didn't have any energy and I was totally—I just—but I didn't have the words. People didn't talk about it at that time and people certainly didn't have the words “bipolar illness” or “manic depressive illness.” So I just was terrified. I had no idea what had happened to me and I was very frightened and I was frightened it would come back, but I got well and then I did what everybody, or most people do when they get well, I sort of put it behind me again. Then it would come and hit me again and again.
So I knew there was something wrong. I started to see a Psychiatrist, tried to see a Psychiatrist when I was in college and I ended up just running away and I couldn't tolerate the idea of doing that. But then when I was—I took out my degree and I joined the medical school faculty at UCLA, I became ragingly manic and very psychotic, hallucinating, delusional. I didn't have any choice. It's the great advantage of having an illness as severe as mine is that you are automatically brought in to the medical care system. If you have—as long as it was milder, I could kind of get by with actually without to face what I was—the severity of my problem. I knew the person I wanted to see, it was somebody I had trained with. He was my clinical supervisor and I had seen with patients and I had seen that he was tough and smart and compassionate and humanize, but also knew science and medicine.
So I went to him terrified and he was just absolutely firm in his diagnosis; he just never wavered and he just said that's the way it is. But he was kind about it, but he didn't back off from it and he was a great Psychotherapist. So one of the things I've tried to do in my professional life, like a lot of my colleagues, is to emphasize that medications just aren't enough for many people with these illnesses because, exactly what you are saying, how do you become aware of an illness. You become aware of an illness by understanding yourself and understanding the meaning that that illness has in your own life, symbolically and, more importantly, quite literally.
Question: What was it like to be psychotic?
Kay Redfield Jamison: Well, I primarily have been in the psychotic [state] when manic, which is not uncommon with mania, and it's been mostly when I've been manic it's been a very exhilarating sort of thing, including the hallucinations. I've went around the solar system, I went to Saturn in my mind's eye. I went through star fields. It was a glorious sort of ecstatic experience, which is frequently the case with mania. When you think about a lot of the great religious ecstasies is a very manic quality to that and a very grandiose as they tend to be very universal, cosmic, related to everything is related to everything. But I also had some very bad ones. I've been hallucinating myself as dead or just covered with blood. Mania can be as terrifying as it gets. It is certainly as insane as one gets and so it's frightening when it gets out of control, but there are periods of mania when it can be extremely attractive.
Question: What were your depressive states like?
Kay Redfield Jamison: In depression, your capacity to feel just flattens and disappears and what you feel is pain and a kind of pain that you can't describe to anybody. So it's an isolating pain, a completely isolating pain. It's for people with bipolar illness in particular, it is a deadening lethargy coupled with an agitation and restlessness at times, but it’s the sense of having no energy, no interest, no passion, no life.
So, for me, like everybody else who gets severely depressed, there comes a point when you say, "OK. If I can't feel, if I can't care, if I can't think, I can't concentrate, I can't remember, I can't read, if I can't love, where am I? Who is in there? Where is the humanity? It's gone." And the pain is agony, it just is unrelenting. In my case, I had stopped my medicine, my lithium, and I had gotten wildly manic and then I got paralytically depressed for 18 months. There was not a time during those 18 months that I can remember feeling OK. At some point I tried to kill myself. I think, again, it's very hard to describe the kind of pain that goes on in severe depression because it's just the words are not there.
Recorded On: September 30, 2009
What happens when life loses any semblance of stability and one is subject to waves of cosmic and sometimes terrifying hallucinations? For Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinically bipolar professor of psychiatry and a mental health expert, this uneasy consciousness was a way of life.
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Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
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- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
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- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
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- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.