Imagine the scenario. Potential impurities are found in some HIV retroviral drugs that produce a small increase in the probability of contracting cancer over their lifetime. I think the last thing you would expect would be the immediate stoppage of the production of the antiretroviral drugs in question. Leaving a patient vulnerable to imminent death as HIV progresses to AIDS is of greater importance than a tiny increase in lifetime cancer risk.
Yet, in the world of mental health treatment, this type of scenario has recently unfolded with the stoppage of the supply of Bupropion (Zyban) in the UK, leaving me and many others without the drug keeping them out of depression.
I went into the Christmas period with the goal of not putting on weight. Long story short, I failed. In the past, I have been very fortunate to have a metabolism quick enough to remove the excess fat from my waist. It only required a slight modification in diet. In the last few years I have made the definitely new discovery, that, erm, metabolism slows with age.
No matter, I thought. I shall jump on the bandwagon with all the other health-focused people in January – hoping I don’t fall off before February. First stop, counting calories.
In the past, I have been refused treatments that eventually worked, and had interactions with past clinicians that unintentionally drove me towards suicide, rather than away from it.
It took me a very long time to find a psychiatrist I trust. Once I did, we landed on a combination of medications that have progressively eased my symptoms over the last couple of years. I take one of these medications off-label (this means that the medication is licensed for another condition, not the one I am taking it for). My current psychiatrist is the first I have met willing to prescribe this medication.
Referring to the article: A physicist’s experience of the mental-health system
and podcast: Start-up simulates quantum photonics devices, a physicist’s experience of the mental-health system
A while ago, my counsellor asked me to write something to give to a psychiatric researcher she knew from her work at a mental health hospital. She felt strongly that the things I was talking about in our sessions needed to be heard.
I obliged. I wrote a sort of manuscript looking thing. At that time I didn’t have the energy to write it in any sort of structure to help the reader. All I could do was splurge what was in my head onto paper. I cleaned it up as much as I could, then sent it off to her.
Starting a PhD is daunting to say the least. The gap in knowledge between research and undergraduate study is a rather large one. Therefore many students, like myself, have experienced ‘imposter syndrome’ – the feeling that it was a mistake on the academics to choose you for the PhD project but they do not know yet. Here, I suggest perspectives that might help deal with this phenomenon. Part 2 of 2
Opening up about my own experiences of mental health through talks had a surprising side effect. People started to message me about their experiences and problems, some I go on to meet. I have found these conversations fertile ground for new ideas involving mental health. An important one of the many reasons why discussing mental health is beneficial. In one such conversation, an individual came to me about imposter syndrome. During our conversation, I realised that seeing imposter syndrome from the point of view of the PhD supervisor may help those feeling afraid of asking for help.
Starting a PhD is daunting to say the least. The gap in knowledge between research and undergraduate study is a rather large one. Therefore many students, like myself, have experienced ‘imposter syndrome’ – the feeling that it was a mistake on the academics to choose you for the PhD project but they do not know yet. Here, I suggest perspectives that might help deal with this phenomenon. Part 1 of 2
My PhD supervisor and I were standing in the lab preparing a sample for the electron microscope. It is a semi-dull activity, rich in opportunity for conversations about the minutia of life. I mentioned to him I was worried about the viva. I have always struggled with thinking on my feet. When my mind is stressed in such a way it takes the option of shutting down completely, leaving the occupier (i.e. me) to stare blankly at the wall. After some much-needed reassurance and useful advice, he says something which piques my interest. He mentions the viva is a “test of your knowledge”. Curious, I respond “I thought it was a test of my understanding?”. “Well”, he says in a semi-throwaway manner, “what really is the difference between understanding and knowledge.”
This is the third of a series of blog posts on the context behind my Physics World article: A physicist’s experience of the mental-health system. There is a lot of backstory. So during the editing process, I sent documents to the editor to help explain some of the views I express in the article. I have decided to add them as blog posts.
It was during my rTMS treatment that I first encountered the rating scales. And, had I been completely honest, I would have said that I could not answer the questions. That I could not give a rating at all. Especially as every scale asked for an average over the last 2 weeks. I have thought of an analogy that I hope might get across the reason why I felt it was pretty much impossible to give a rating.
Say you have lived in Southern California USA for your entire life. You are used to warm, dry and sunny weather year-round. In the previous two weeks however, the weather has been very unCalifornian. On the first day it was foggy and a bit chilly out, the next few days were pretty warm for this time of year (winter) temps going up to 24 Celsius, with a lot of Sun. On the weekend though it rained persistently. Last week however started extraordinarily with snow, possibly the first time you had seen it in your life. The rest of the week then stayed pretty chilly, five or six degrees Celsius, before returning to warm and cloudy.
This is the second of a series of blog posts on the context behind my Physics World article: A physicist’s experience of the mental-health system. There is a lot of backstory. So during the editing process, I sent documents to the editor to help explain some of the views I express in the article. I have decided to add them as blog posts.
When things were pretty bad and no treatment had had a significant effect, I could not understand why no one was looking at my head. Where were all these magnificent brain measurement machines I had seen in the news and media growing up? My condition was so severe I was certain something would show up. I even asked one of the clinicians this (they did research as well as treatment and had an MRI machine on site), they replied: “we wouldn’t be able to interpret the images”. Which infuriated me as an experimentalist. Non-interpretable data is literally the start of any experimental investigation!
This is the first of a series of blog posts on the context behind my Physics World article: A physicist’s experience of the mental-health system. There is a lot of backstory. So during the editing process, I sent documents to the editor to help explain some of the views I express in the article. I have decided to add them as blog posts.
The Physics World article is focused almost entirely on the psychiatric system. In the original draft, I sent two articles – the second was focused more on the psychotherapeutic system, but was only loosely tied to physics. This blog post summarises my views of psychotherapy.
I don’t think therapy was bad at all. Through it, I became a confident, emotionally aware individual. The problem was that during the process it was abundantly obvious that I was not receiving treatment. I was receiving an education (as someone who has been in education my entire life).
In my view, treatments require the person receiving it to do very little work (usually to lift their arm from the pill box to their mouth), whereas education requires the person receiving it to do a lot of work, in order to learn a skillset.
Hello to everyone who happened upon this blog. My name is Alex Mendelsohn*. There isn’t much here in the form of sunshine and flowers (unfortunately, I couldn’t find those emoji’s – all I could find were these red flags: 🚩🚩🚩). Instead, you are free to feast on a collection of thoughts from a physicist going through severe mental illness. Yippee!**