Archive for May 2012

Bipolars in Memorium   Leave a comment

If you can, think back to the 1950’s.  If you can’t, pretend you were alive then.  Big winged chrome adorned cars.  Ranch homes with long wooden HiFi-record player  consoles, black and white TV’s with rabbit ears on which to watch The Honeymooners and Leave it to Beaver, men wearing dark suits with narrow ties even when eating dinner at home and wives always in long hoop skirts with their hair looking like it was done from a mold.  All this with a soundtrack of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and some Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to shake things up.

Then imagine you are a severely depressed woman to the point you are having trouble getting out of bed in the morning.  You can not understand why everyone else is so happy and you are always so sad.  People have been telling you to “snap out of it,” but you can’t seem to crawl from beneath the heavy wet blanket of depression that has descended upon your world.  Everything you see, school buses, people walking to work,  the late afternoon sun, inexplicably bring on despair.  Every smell recalls unwanted memories.  Just taking a breath is exhausting.

Your husband forces you out of bed in the morning and pushes you to do to household chores, but even getting dressed brings you to tears.  Your clothes feel confining and uncomfortable.  They remind of going outside, which terrifies you. You can’t help but ask yourself over and over, “Why is this happening to me?  Does everybody get depressed like this and I am too weak a person to cope?”  You question whether you need to see a psychiatrist, but abandon the idea instantly when you think of the negative stigma it could bring on you and your family.  Only crazy people go to psychiatrists.

As soon as your husband leaves the house you climb right back in bed and sleep the day away.  Being unconscious is the only thing that brings you any relief from this painful existence.  Around five o’clock before he returns you force yourself to get dressed and through confused tears pour yourself a martini.  It’s the only thing you look forward to these days.  The warm sensation of the gin going down your throat into your empty stomach is comforting.  So you have  another.  By the time your spouse arrives home the alcohol partially washes away the sadness and you can lie about the productive day you had at home.  You light a Chesterfield King and stand in the kitchen with your apron on as if you were getting ready to cook.

But your husband sees through it all.  It’s obvious you are drunk and it triggers an argument, which leaves you running into the bedroom screaming, the martinis turning your mood from drunk to major funk.  You’re at your wits end.  Life is getting too painful to live.  There is nothing good left in it for you. Nothing makes you happy. And the alcohol in your system gives you the confidence to take an entire bottle of aspirin, the only available pills in your domicile.

So, you gulp down the chalky tasting pills with some water and lay down on your bed waiting to die.  Pretty soon it will all be over.  You can hear Gene Autry singing his cowboy music softly playing on a tinny sounding AM radio in the house across the street.  It’s almost surreal.

Suddenly you are jolted awake by an imaginary alarm in your head.  You find yourself strapped to a gurney in a padded room with the door closed.  Your stomach aches like you did one thousand sit ups, your esophagus burns like some one tried to strike a sulfur match on it and your head is pounding to the beat of your heart.  You also realize you’re laying in the moisture of your own urine.    It is slowly becoming clear that you are in a hospital.  People keep walking by and pressing their faces to the little square glass window on the door as if to see if you are still there.

Finally after about twenty-minutes the door opens and two orderlies in white coats looking more like truck drivers and a nurse in full uniform walk in.  The nurse tells you they had to pump your stomach last night as you tried to kill yourself.  Your husband had described the months of depression to the doctor and everyone has decided the best thing to do is shock therapy.

You almost break the restraints as you let out a scream.  “No!!”  You’ve heard about shock therapy.  You could lose your memory, become inert or your whole personality can change.  They tell you it’s modern medicine and not to worry, but you just scream even louder.

A shot to the arm of something almost immediately puts you in a state of partial awareness, but you are too drugged to stop what is about to occur.  As they wheel you toward the place where they do the procedure, you see patients in the day room wearing hospital gowns.  Some are talking to themselves, others sit and just stare.  A few are watching static on a television, smoking cigarettes and laughing.  A person you can’t see shouts “Good luck.  You’re in for the shock of your life.”  You can hear laughter from all corners.  The entire ward smells like a bathroom.

I can go on forever with this scenario.  The bite guard they shove in her mouth before they put the electrodes on her head.  How little doctors knew about shock therapy in the first place in the 1950’s.  The readiness to do it.  The cataclysmic outcomes.  And this being a better choice than a lobotomy, which was the treatment des jour until electroshock became a more sophisticated technique.

This is an imaginary scenario, but I promise you it mimics what went on in the 1950’s when someone suffered from severe Bipolar Depression.  Actually, this was probably a tame version.  And the stories get worse the further back in history you travel.

I took Memorial Day not only to think back on all the soldiers who have fought and died for our country, but for all the bipolar people who have suffered with the illness, bore the unnecessary shame and got no support.  And when things got bad ended up in the hospital for shock therapy and or enough medication to make them not have any feelings at all.

Or, the ones who self-medicated with alcohol or anything else they could get their hands on. These unfortunate souls ended up on the street seemingly crazy from drugs until they got arrested and put in the hospital for the criminally insane, died of an overdose or committed suicide when they couldn’t get anything else to quell the profound sadness.

Even if we are having a difficult time with our medications, depression or manic episodes, Bipolar Illness is an identified disease, there are many medications that can help curb the effects, mental wards are not archaic and shock therapy is a very last resort and done in an extremely scientific manner minimizing discomfort to the patient.  Most importantly, although mental illness still has a stigma, your sister going to a psychologist does not mean you will have to kill her for disgracing the family.

So when you get a chance, take a little time to remember those bipolars who have gone before us.  It was a lot rougher even in the 1980’s. While the happy go lucky were getting mullets, bipolars still suffered without the medications available today.  I’m not saying we should all be glad to have the disease, but let’s be glad we have it in 2012.  Because, I think I’d be the guy on the street in the 1950’s… Self-medicating, depressed and dying in some alley, with no idea help was just around the corner in another 60 years.

A Day in the Life   1 comment

I spent this past Sunday alone.  My girlfriend had to work all day and I had no plans.  And instead of sleeping until mid afternoon, I decided to get up at 9:30 and see what kind of trouble I could get into.  The early morning light hurt my eyes.

First of all, I don’t mind being alone.  I had an entire day where I would get to do what I wanted whenever I wanted.  I think in life as bipolars we have to make so many compromises.  You take the medication to feel better, but the side effects ruin your sex life.  Or, they make you so fat you think nobody will be interested in having sex with you.  So last Sunday I wasn’t even compromising on my coffee.  Had to have a Peets Dark Roast.  Black.  Why emasculate the flavor of those bold beans with Equal and 2% fat milk?  Go drink a Slim Fast Frappacino.

So, when I left Peets I decided to go to Union Square, more or less the center of San Francisco’s shopping and financial district, and pop into Macy’s to buy some cologne.  The drive down was delightful.  Windows open.  The Eagles “Lyin Eyes” on the radio making me think of past girlfriends that have done me wrong, the sky was crystal blue and the fresh air felt great.  And right as if a horseshoe perfectly rung the pole with that distinctive clanging noise, my mind shifted to the fact that my car registration stickers had been stolen so I needed to avoid the police.  Suddenly I felt like less of a citizen than everyone else.  Like I really didn’t have the right to be on the road.  Even though it wasn’t even my fault. It was a familiar feeling of not belonging.  A sensation I’ve felt many times as a bipolar trying to suppress my anxieties in order to function normally in public.

So I pulled into a parking garage and got as far away from my car as soon as possible just in case the SWAT Team were training their sites on it.  California is anal about raping you on fees, fines and flat out make-no-sense tickets. I have so many parking tickets I have yet to deal with I was sure the Department of Motor Vehicles was going to give up on getting my money and just destroy my car one day.

I ended up getting a jumbo hot dog, desecrating it with onions, mustard and ketchup and a can of chemicals; a Diet Coke.  I sat down on some steps in Union Square, ate my hot dog and watched the tourists.  I was trying to figure out which tourist was most like the kind of tourist I would be if visiting San Francisco.  So I looked for the person trying to have fun a little too hard.  Often when I go on vacation I’m a little insecure about being away from home and wonder if I am acting properly in this new venue.  Plus I want to act interested in my surroundings and gracious to the locals.  I’m terrified of being asked to leave a city or state for not conducting myself properly.  Bipolar Illness  makes us doubt our outward persona because we have such a skewed version of ourselves in our heads.  It leaves us with an estimation of what we think is proper conduct.  And we often over-compensate by being too nice, helpful or pretend interested.  Then we ruminate on whether anyone noticed.

San Francisco was over-run with tourists that day because it was Bay to Breakers weekend, when thousands of runners in and out of costume and various degrees of nakedness run from the bay to the ocean.  Then they drink and party all over the city for the rest of the day still in full race attire.  It’s not even really a race, because some people are drunk, others pushing floats full of people or some just walking and gawking.  I used to run in Bay to Breakers, but I am not in top running form anymore.  And every time I saw a serious runner walking around it reminded me of why I am not running.   I know running is an exercise excellent for relieving depression.  However, when I’m tired and depressed all the time I don’t feel like running.  So now I’m out of shape which makes running seem even more foreboding.  This is one of the most common aversions to exercise I hear from other bipolars.  You want to exercise but are too depressed to get out there and do it.  It’s simpler to figure out than a Rubics Cube.

Macy’s was packed and I did not want to deal with it.  Since it was my day, I decided to go to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco famous for it’s 1960’s counter-culture to visit my favorite CD store.  It was awash with racers in costume, partial costume, conscious, partially conscious and every state in between.  It was impossible to move down the sidewalk without bumping into someone.  And I was enjoying every minute of it.  I love the diversity.  But of course I began to wonder where I fell on the spectrum.  Did I look hip?  Did I look too straight?  Was I dressed grundgy enough?  I felt like everyone on the street was judging me.  I couldn’t understand why they were so concerned with how I looked and carried myself?  Why did I have to be evaluated?  Nobody else was drawing so much attention.  Then I realized; nobody was noticing me.  I was a small face in a sea of drunk and high people.  The last thing anyone cared about was evaluating my right to be on Haight St.  It was my bipolar head talking again.  Just like I feel inferior to high achievers, now I was distraught that I may not be degenerate enough to be a low achiever.   I don’t have that red and irritated gaping mouth and bad skin of a true Haight St. dude, out to score some weed and listen to his favorite indie band.  But in this case I had to smack myself.  Did I really want that?  Or, did I just want to belong.  To anything.  Just so I fit somewhere.  The insecurity caused by Bipolar Illness can leave you with an alienating identity crisis.

After I got my CDs, which I always buy used, I wanted a beer, but all the bars were four people deep.   Just waiting to throw up on the side walk was four people deep as well.  I ended up buying a couple of six packs and headed home.

I hate my neighborhood.  It’s in no-mans-land out by the Ocean.  The neighborhood is mostly Asian and all the shops and restaurants are run like flea markets.  You can buy underwear and deodorant at the green grocer.  The local coffee shop is completely counter-intuitive; for there is no wifi because they don’t want you to sit down with your computer and the coffee tastes like instant.   To make matters worse, driving is an obstacle course between of people slowly creeping along cross walks against the light like bowling pins asking to be knocked down.  Plus, drivers just drift aimlessly from one lane to another at no more than fifteen miles an hour creating bottle necks everywhere.  I keep thinking maybe driving on the sidewalk is safer.  I questioned myself for being too critical of others.  Now I was a bad person.

When I got home I flopped down on my bed face first.   Another day of being bipolar.  Even a day all to yourself becomes all about yourself.  The thoughts I was having were not new.  But suddenly I understood why some people with Bipolar Illness become agoraphobic with terrible social anxieties.  So terrible, that they can’t even go to work.   I know some agoraphobics, and it made me want to call them and say, “I finally understand.”

In my skewed view, just understanding something new is a red letter day.  There are so many things people with bipolar illness don’t understand.  What it feels like to walk around without a care in the world.  To function normally without having to try, and then second guessing your performance.  The constant thoughts of never being as good as non-afflicted people.

However getting a better understanding of Bipolar Illness, even if it’s just a peak through the window,  is invaluable.  I believe the more we understand our bipolar selves, the better we can manage our lives.  It’s like having a general understanding of how an airplane works.  When the plane start to shudder a bit during take off, you know it’s normal turbulence.  You may not like it, but you know what it is, making it a lot less scary.

Everyday a bipolar person’s life shudders during take-off.  Knowing what it’s about makes it a little less scary as well.

Posted May 24, 2012 by Buzzkill - Official Booksite in Uncategorized

“You Just Can’t Do It On Your Own!”   3 comments

A few weeks ago I had to take a physical.  I hate that paper they put down on the examining table.  It comes on that big roll just like the guy behind the deli counter uses to wrap your fish and meat.  It seems so antiquated.  Plus, I don’t feel it an effective front line defense against disease.  Haz-Mat people don’t wear protection gear made out of paper.  They use special plastic that does not tare easily.  And this is a doctor’s office.  Sick people are oozing all over these examining tables right through the paper.  It’s positively gross when you think about it.

Anyway, I’m laying on the meat and fish wrapper without my shirt as a very pleasant female technician in her early fifties gave me an ultra-sound.  As she rolled this device around my chest in this sperm-like goo she shot all over me for traction, she said she was glad I didn’t have implants. Apparently they make it hard to get a good image.   I said, “breast implants?” and laughed.  And she said, “No, men with chest and abdomen silicon implants.”  I ripped the paper.

Apparently not just a few, but a lot of guys have opted for surgery over the gym.  To me it seems like cheating.  You can get six pack abs and a Superman chest if you spend some time in the gym and eat right.  However, not all guys are meant to look like unnaturally mutated body builders. But they can still be in good shape.

I can understand women with the breast implants, because they can’t do curls and bench presses with their boobs to achieve a larger size.  Implants are their only resort.  I’m even alright with ass-implants.  If a woman has a flat ass, there isn’t much she can do to change the shape.  Of course there are always the cases of women going overboard with breasts, each needing their own wheel chair, and butts so big you can rest a glass of beer on their man made shelf.

Then I go home and am watching late night TV and see this dis-infomercial for Lipozene.  It’s packaged to look like a real prescription drug.  And the doctor-like girl in the white coat, similar to the one like the guy at the deli-counter wears, is telling you it’s a weight loss drug “only for people serious about losing body fat.”  I was distraught when I heard that because I just want to lose my double chin.  Not body fat.  Was I disqualified as a customer?

Then came the parade of head shot only testimonials.  My favorite is the black woman who just looks in the camera and croaks “You just can’t do it on your own!”  And this takes us back to the guys who have chest and stomach implants because I guess “they just can’t do it on their own” either.

Oh, and by the way, only two packages of Lipozine per customer.  The company doesn’t want you losing a dangerous amount of weight and is willing to curtail their profits for your safety.  Have you noticed Lipozine sounds like the fat sucking procedure liposuction?   I think it’s just a coincidence.

How does this relate back to Bipolar Illness?  It’s simple.  Managing bipolar is something with which you have to take active participation.  There is not one pill or a cocktail that will make it all go away.  You need therapy, exercise, enough sleep, to stay away from triggers and to take your medication.   The implants are like taking drugs, drinking, smoking pot or whatever else you do to not experience the side effects or the ups and downs of bipolar depression.  They’re for individuals who don’t want to get a handle on their condition by thinking it through and doing the right things.

Lipozene is just a ‘hail Mary” for people who have given up on finding the right drug(s) and or therapy.  They want someone to tell them they can’t do it on their own so they can give up trying.  When bipolar people head down this path they basically stop trying to control their moods and go on a fishing expedition for whatever they hear works for their illness.  They’ll tell you nothing medically has worked so they are managing their disease their way.  And every moron with an idea they think makes perfect sense for curing mental illness will lure them into their lair for a good does of false hope.

The point is, nothing comes easy.  And when you suffer from Bipolar Illness, things come even harder.  And it’s so tempting to take the easy way out, except there isn’t one.  Silicone pecks and a six pack won’t cure it.  Amazon woman breasts and a drink holder butt won’t cure it.  Lipozene at best is a caffeine-laden laxative, except it does cure engine knock when used as a fuel additive in your car.  And running around defeated taking non-prescribed mood altering drugs is the easy way out and never solves any of your real issues.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I like to drink a little and indulge now and then in mother nature.  I see nothing wrong with that if it has no ill-effects on my medication and mood.  But these things can not be what get you through the day or substitutes for the real medications you are supposed to be taking.

In a way, the Lipozene woman is correct.  Yes, you can not do it alone.  To fight Bipolar Illness you need a good psychiatrist and therapist.  You need the right medications.  You need to do the right things to keep yourself healthy and functioning at your peak.  This is one of those diseases that you constantly have to work at.

What really irks me about silicon implants for normal men and nonsense drugs like Lipozene is they take the responsibility completely off the individual.  They tell men it’s OK to be an out of shape bastard because it can be fixed with silicone.   And I’m positive deep down inside the guy with the artificial six pack abs and huge artificial chest doesn’t feel completely legitimate.  He is not any stronger, he just looks it.  Nor does the person taking Lipozene because they know if you can buy it on TV it has no pharmaceutical value.  But they hope, however hoping is for people who are not out there doing.  Furthermore, if you are just floundering around going on all kinds of wild nonsensical tangents to cure your bipolar, deep down inside you know you are just wasting time because you don’t want to do the really hard work it takes to get better.

I am not perfect.  If you read my blogs, you know I have made some pretty ridiculous mistakes.  But whenever I see that stupid Lipozene commercial with the woman exclaiming right into the camera, “You can’t do it on your own.  You just can’t!”  I end of calling them.  It’s automated so you have to pretend you are having trouble entering your credit card number to get a live moron.  When they finally answer and tell me my call is being recorded, I ask, “I need to lose weight in my right arm.  But that lady on TV said I just can’t do it alone.  How many boxes of Lipozene do I need to get rid of my arm fat?  Just the right arm.  I think I need a case of that shit.  You know, I tried exercising but you just can’t do it alone.”

Posted May 21, 2012 by Buzzkill - Official Booksite in Uncategorized

Apologizing for Being Right: A Bipolar Coping Technique   10 comments

One of my father’s friends insulted me.  She accused me of uncontrollably buying cars and jewelry at the expense of my family.  She inferred I was going through some kind of bipolar mania. The venom she spewed came directly from my father.  Where else would she hear that Mormon-like rhetoric spouting from the world’s most accomplished Jew of convenience?  A man who says “God willing he’ll remodel the bathroom” when he returns from his European Cruise. My dad goes to synagogue barely three times a year and thinks God is going to bless his bathroom redesign when he returns from vacation.  You have to go at least ten times a year for God to bless a bathroom redesign.

This woman, who looks like a Jack in the Box with the huge head and smaller body, also got her facts mixed up and had no business commenting on my finances or my current state of bipolarity.  “So, I told her she had a big mouth.”  Apparently she was mortally wounded and is still carrying the grudge six months later.  I said this in an email.  It would have been funnier to see the dumbstruck look on her face if I had said it in person.  She is the kind of person who tells other people to shut up.  You don’t tell her.

It’s a great feeling when you know you are right and put someone in their place.  Or, it’s supposed to be a good feeling.  The problem is when you are bipolar you often second guess yourself; “What if I’m wrong and she goes to her death bed having been unjustly criticized?” “What if I was too harsh and my words gave her a heart attack?  Could I be brought up on attempted murder charges?” “What if  I just kept my feelings to myself in the interest of keeping the peace?  People don’t always have to say everything that pops into their heads.”  “Maybe I could have corrected her in a nicer way.”  I could hear Ward Cleaver telling me,  “Hey mister, that kind of talk was uncalled for!”

I’m not sure where this second guessing comes from in people with Bipolar Disorder.  Maybe it’s the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder making you doubt whether you turned off the stove over and over again even though you are 100% positive you did.  In this case I am doubting my judgement even though this woman was completely out of line and insulting.  Was telling her she had a big mouth going overboard?  Do I have to keep going over it to make sure I was justified and did the right thing?  Is telling someone they have a big mouth ever the right thing to do?

On this one I entered what I call “The Bipolar House of Mirrors.”  In this hell-house no matter what you said, how right you were, how tactfully you phrased it, your mind forces you to go back and dissect the situation down to the last syllable.  Every room you go into looking for an answer distorts your comments in a different and more bizarre way.  Enough rumination and you get to the point where you aren’t exactly sure what you said, just that it was very bad.  So awful you’ll do almost anything to get out of that rusty shack.

I detest “The Bipolar House of Mirrors.”  So, I’ve developed a technique to head off having to go there whenever possible.  I simply apologize for everything, even when I’m right.  Six months ago a van backed into the front of my car while it was parked.  I apologized to the driver for him not seeing my car because it sits low to the ground and is hard to view from a van.  A waitress dumped a tray full of hot coffee on me at a breakfast seminar. I apologized for my seat being too close to the aisle and for wearing a light colored suit making the spill look overly dramatic.  Or, there was the time a cop was giving me a ticket for something I really did not do, but I apologized and thanked him anyway.  Anything but those mirrors.

Often I question why are people so concerned with what others think.  I don’t believe this is a trait restricted to only bipolar people, but I do think people with Bipolar Illness have the hardest time with it.  Normal people are able to accept reality and let things go with seemingly more ease.  But those afflicted with bipolar spend a lot of time fighting the demons in their heads.  Things get distorted and we are not sure we have an accurate picture of how we present in front of others.  We can’t help wondering what people think, because the last thing we want them to know is that we are mentally ill.  Bipolars have to constantly meter and evaluate their behavior so they can do things, like function normally in the work place. We have to catch ourselves before we start fondly reminiscing about a computer we once owned to the IT guy for an entire hour in front of the whole office.

The one thing you’re probably still asking yourself is why my father talks to his friends about my finances and spending patterns?  I think everyone has someone who takes great pleasure in life criticizing your choices, spending habits and lifestyle.  My father happens to be my nemesis.  But as my grandfather always used to say, “blood is not thicker than water.”   So I guess it’s par for the course.

I had a co-worker just like my dad who used to call it out to the whole building every time I bought something new.  “Hey, Pete just got a new Shelby Mustang in a down economy.  You should see it.  It’s crazy.”  Or in a meeting, “Pete, show everyone what’s under your shirt sleeve… Oh, a new Omega Planet Ocean.  What are they around, four thousand?  You’re kidding me, in this economy?”  And showing your indiscretions, or what they perceive as such, points out the careful management of their resources.  But deep down inside they are actually bitter because they wish they went for the ridiculously fast car and flashy watch.

So here’s what we’ve learned.  Never speak up, even if you are right.  If you do say something, you’ll spend the rest of your life feeling awful about it.  However, you can always apologize for being right and make the situation go away.  But, if the incident happens with someone at work, make sure not to talk to the IT guy .  And if someone still tries to bully you by pointing out all of your purchases and decisions as being ill-fated and comical, you can always seek refuge with your family.  Unless of course you have my father, who will perpetuate the whole thing by telling friends and family alike all your purchases and decisions are ill-fated and comical.  Then you should actually start making purchases and decisions that are ill-fated and comical.  Like I always say; if they cast you for the part, you might as well play it.

BUZZKILL by Peter Goodman Official Blog Site   9 comments

Book Cover

Posted May 16, 2012 by Buzzkill - Official Booksite in Uncategorized

They Can Cure Your Bipolar Illness: “Where’s the Beef?”   5 comments

A couple of years ago I was out with a friend and he asked if I minded if we stop at his chiropractor’s office so he could get a quick adjustment.   He said it like he was going to get a quick car wash.  I’m waiting for the day when chiropractors actually have drive through service.  They can administer back treatments while patients sit comfortably in their cars.

Actually, I did have some idea of what is going on in those pseudo medical offices.  Doctors of Chiropractic, not to be confused with Medical Doctors who went to medical school, believe all illness comes from the back being out of alignment.  They find these things call subluxations, tell you they are keeping you from realignment and schedule you for as many follow up treatments as possible to straighten out your back and liposuction the fat out of your wallet.  They use contraptions that vibrate your back to loosen things up, apply moist heat and administer a good ole fashioned cracking now and then.

Chiropractors usually tell you things like one leg is shorter than the other and that’s why your back is so out of alignment.  The one I went to told me my left leg was the shorter one, which was causing all the problems I didn’t know I was having.  When I slightly changed my position on the examining table, my right leg suddenly became the shorter one.  I was going to keep flipping back and forth between legs but I thought the chiropractor’s head would explode.  The whole thing was harmless.

But when a chiropractor told me he could cure my Bipolar Illness and that the psychotropic drugs that have been keeping me from killing myself were actually killing me, it practically blew my shorts off.  This was dangerous talk.  What if some poor clinically depressed soul ate this pablum, went off their medications and got so depressed they found themselves with their lips wrapped around a 357 Magnum trying to get up the courage to end it all?  This is where chiropractors need to stop playing doctor and call in a real one.

Recently I’ve noticed there are less chiropractors and more Holistic Cure Practitioners popping up.  Some of them also have chiropractic credentials which make them the Harvard Scholars of alternative medicine.  Some I really like.  They simply believe eating differently, taking some food supplements and vitamins will increase my overall health, I’ll feel less tired and more alert.  And I wholeheartedly believe that.  It’s the militant ones who have it out for the medical community calling any type of treatment unnecessarily invasive and yes, even deadly.  I often wonder how they non-medically treat themselves if they shatter an ankle while making a holistic house call?  A little eye of newt?

But apparently the holistic health practitioners have joined the chiropractors who first blazed the way for non-medical professionals  to wear white coats.   They purport they can cure a cadre of serious illnesses, including Bipolar Disease, using natural remedies.  Again, it’s this suggestion to discontinue medical treatment in favor of 100% holistic treatment that can be deadly.  Lets face it, we all know not one of these holistic miracle treatments or chiropractic “procedures”  have ever done anything to cure Bipolar Illness.  If it could, there would have been hundreds of studies and tests done to validate this claim.  And the chiropractor or holistic practitioner who discovered it would reap great fame and fortune.  I’d like to ask one who “has the cure” for Bipolar Illness why they have such an aversion to winning the Pulitzer Prize in medicine with their cure?

Do not assume it’s only the gullible who fall for these holistic cure-alls.  It’s also people with terminal diseases conventional medicine can no longer help.  And why not?  It’s harmless, probably good for the body and makes patients feel like they have a fighting chance.  I would go holistic too if I were in such a situation.

The other group of people who get taken in by the “I can cure your depression or Bipolar Disorder” holistic practitioners are the really smart individuals.  A lot of them are severely depressed and at the end of their rope.  Maybe they haven’t found the right medication yet.  Or, they don’t want to accept what their doctor is telling them, like they will have to be on medication for the rest of their lives.  It could be that the side effects are extremely uncomfortable, maybe unbearable.  Whatever the reason, they are frustrated with conventional treatment and holistic medicine is so simple and seems to make perfect sense.

A close friend of mine who is highly educated and definitely an independent thinker ran into a holistic practitioner.  She mentioned she suffered from depression and as I’m sure what is now a reflex, the practitioner said he could cure her.  I can not recite verbatim everything she told me he said, but apparently her depression came from her back.  I thought, “Wow, this guy is old school.” And, of course the remedy is eating raw foods, no sugar and taking these holistic poultices which I’m sure are not inexpensive.  But what was amusing about this guy is he had a prop.  My friend showed me a piece of paper he wrote on that looked like it was in Arabic.  Apparently it contained all kinds of diagnosis, instructions and names of horrid tasting concoctions to dump down her throat.  I think it was supposed to look like a typical doctors prescription with sloppy handwriting and medical symbols a patient is not supposed to understand.  In this case, a doctor could not understand them either.

I wondered;  did this guy have any kind of degree?  If so, did the degree relate to holistic therapies?  And what is his basis that the medical community is treating Bipolar Disease incorrectly?  I know medication keeps me from constant suicidal thoughts and I can more or less function quite well in the world.  I am satisfied with my progress at this point in time.  Does any rationally minded person really think taking me off my medications and making me eat raw foods and herbs will cure my Bipolar Illness?   Please,  just show me two clinically diagnosed Bipolar II patients who were cured in this manner and I’m a believer.

This blog is not to condemn chiropractors and holistic heath practitioners.  Some work in conjunction with medical doctors and I think it’s an incredible combination.   It’s a team that treats the body and the soul.  And I do believe in holistic remedies for certain ailments or just to keep healthy.  Plus, I’ve met some amazing chiropractors working in physical therapy centers using their knowledge of the skeletal and muscular systems to be highly effective as trainers and rehabilitation experts.

I’d just be ware of anyone trying to look like a doctor but really isn’t.  Or someone who is not a doctor telling you they can cure Bipolar Illness naturally.  No matter how frustrated you are with your current bipolar treatment regimen, ask the practitioner for credentials.  Ask for explanations on all procedures.  Ask why they aren’t covered by insurance?  Ask if you can meet other Bipolar patients like you they have completely cured?  Ask why the medical community doesn’t recognize their cure for Bipolar Illness?

Once you get the answers, the right decision will be immanent.   In my opinion, in regard to non-medically based cure-alls for Bipolar Illness you have to think about what Clara Peller said in those 1980’s Wendy’s television commercials. “Where’s the beef?”

Statistics: The Thing Standing Between Bipolar Treatment and The Truth   7 comments

People were so gullible back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  “9 out of 10 doctors recommend Pall Mall Cigarettes because they are less harsh on your throat. ”  “In a side by side comparison, Lincoln is better than Cadillac.”  “More people trust Goodyear than any other tire.”  I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.  And people believed this stuff.  Nobody was calling out for Google Analytics, or even for Pall Mall to simply show how they conducted their survey.  All you had to do is make the claim and everyone assumed it was fact.

Before you start musing at people’s low level of bullshit detection back then, we are still eating up the same statistical nonsense in 2012.  It’s just packaged differently.  Take the Bipolar Disorder drug Lamictal.  According to Wikipedia, between 5% to 10% of patients taking Lamictal will develop a rash, but only 1 in 1,000 patients will develop a serious rash. Plus only 1 in 50,000 patients die from the rash.  This is an un-cited claim according to Wikipedia.  The information powerhouse aggregator went on to say that 9 out of 10 doctors smoke Marlboro Cigarettes because the brand gives them steadier hands in the operating room.  Personally, I’d like my doctor to smoke Marlboros while he’s actually operating on me to insure the very best outcome.

Most people reading this aren’t looking for citations.  Wikipedia has credibility because it says so.  And if 1 in 50,000 actually die from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (the killer rash), those are pretty good odds.  They are willing to take the gamble if they are suffering from bipolar symptoms and Lamictal is their greatest hope.

Wikipedia downplays the killer-rash statistic, as does its manufacturer GlaxoSmithklein.  But just getting the rash must be scary.  The patient doesn’t know if it’s “the big one.”  And 5% to 10% of patients will get it.   That’s at best 1 in 20 people.  Maybe 1 in 10.  I see these very same statistics influencing people not to try Lamictal,  So you see, we really have not evolved from the 1950’s and 1960’s vulnerability to marketing mind melding.  Any statistics can be made to lean in any direction you favor.  It’s the interpretation you chose to believe that makes up your mind.  However,  I don’t think anyone can argue the Lincoln is a better car than the Cadillac.  Everyone says it has a better ride.  Everyone.

Personally, I chose to flirt with death and take Lamictal for my bipolar symptoms.  Fortunately, I did not get the rash.  I also didn’t know any of the rash statistics.  I just trusted my doctor when he said getting Stevens-Johnson Syndrome was very remote.  And the minute a rash developed he’d stop the medication.   Notice how I used the phrase “I trusted my doctor.”  I think when the drug manufacturers and web sites are whipping statistics at you for their own less than altruistic reasons, you need a doctor or knowledgable advisor you can trust.  Someone from the real world who can talk from experience, not an Excel Spreadsheet.

Years ago when I was just out of college and had started my first job, I had a crippling attack of depression hosted by my bipolar illness.  It was a Friday night and I was rolling around on the living room floor shaking, unable to keep still and telling my then girlfriend that I wanted to die.  I couldn’t get through to my usual psychiatrist and I needed something to help me sleep and keep me from killing myself over the weekend.  One of my Dad’s friends had a brother who was a psychiatrist who I called at home and he said he’d see me first thing Monday.  But to get through the weekend he wanted me to have a glass of wine and a couple of Benedryl whenever I needed it to calm down.  He hadn’t met me yet and did not want to start pumping drugs into me site unseen.  From 30 years of practicing, he knew this was unorthodox but safe and effective.

I didn’t do it.  I was so depressed I ended up overdosing on sleeping pills and was taken to the hospital.  But I admired the doctor’s practical grass roots approach to getting me through the weekend.   He had excellent credentials, 30 years experience and a solution, albiet a little off beat one.   I trusted him more than a statistic.  I’m sure there are many statistics telling you not to mix even Sweet Tarts with alcohol.  However, we all do it now and then usually to no ill effect.  The doctor knew this.  He was being practical and compassionate toward my deteriorating condition.  He also definitely agreed more people trust Goodyear than any other tire.

For these reasons, I am not a big fan of the statistic, especially when it is not cited or the fine print is a disclaimer for it probably being inaccurate.  I also detest when people just make a claim citing everyone as their source.  My grandfather, a Philadelphia native and its biggest cheerleader, used to tell me things like “Philadelphia has become the restaurant capital of the world.”  I’d say “Pop, where the hell did you hear that?”  And he’d say, “Hear it?  Everyone knows it!”  He also smoked Lucky Strikes because LSMFT.  (Lucky Strikes Means Fine Tobacco).   How could you argue with that kind of logic?

So when negotiating the bipolar landscape of doctors, medications and therapy, do your research.  But don’t believe everything you read, even the statistics.  Find people you trust and talk with them.  Statistics are not real.  They are man made.  Experience is real.  And someone you trust to help you evaluate it is invaluable.  Just please always remember, Michelob is the right beer when you’re having more than one.  At least that’s what they say.

Beating the Bipolar Jinx   Leave a comment

I sat on the couch with a small mountain of fresh from the mailbox bills, late payment notices and parking fines heaped infront of me on the coffee table.  I dreaded opening them as they were chiseling away at my non-existent bank account.  Then I checked my email.  The bank was sending me an overdraft notice and a fine for not dental flossing regularly.  My heart was pounding out of my chest in pre-panic-attack-mode when I realized I wasn’t going to be bringing in any money for at least two more weeks.  I’d have to do another juggling act.  The stress was unbearable.

I decided to go across the street and get a cup of coffee in an effort to slow down my heart rate.  On my way over I stuck my head inside my apartment building parking garage to make sure my car wasn’t hooked up to a tow truck as I was late with my rent.  They sent out the tow truck the second your payment is overdue.  I think the towing company had a special agent just assigned to my car.  Thankfully there was just a sign on the windshield announcing a tow later that day.  Now on my way back I’d have to hide my car.

 “What else could possibly go wrong today?” I muttered to myself.  Then I stopped dead in my tracks.  I felt an electrical current race through my body from head to toe.  I had just jinxed myself.  Not only can’t you think that, but you dare not speak it.  I knew the power of the jinx.  I was done for.

As I cautiously continued on and crossed the street into the Starbucks parking lot, my cell phone rang an 800 number.  Foolishly I answered.  It could only be a bill collector with an 800 prefix.   It couldn’t be Publisher’s Clearing House.  They don’t call, just surprise you at your front door with an oversized check.   It was my car finance company asking why my payment was a month late.  I was flabbergasted.  I thought I was on time.   Now I would have to come up with two payments this month of squalor. I didn’t even ask the woman at the end of the line to check and see if it was a mistake.  Nothing ever worked out in my favor.

The jinx went way beyond decimating me financially.   In my case it also never let me have anything new stay that way.  Once, I finally found the exact black boots for which I had been yearning. I bought them and the first time out I tripped on a sewer grate and literally ripped a hole in the right boot’s toe.   Even the shoemaker said he had never seen that kind of wound, and he was a medic in the Vietnam War.  Then whenever I got a new car the jinx was alive and well.  Within a week I’d grind a wheel into the curb while parellel parking, the freshly shredded rim ruining the whole new car feeling of pride.  And when I moved into a new house, I noticed a stain on the wall.  After hours of careful rubbing with various solvents it became bigger and permanent.   You want more? I was wearing a brand new v-neck black sweater.  I walk into the living room and my dog randomly jumped up and with one swipe of her claw rips it right down the front instantly making a sweater vest.  Without a word I just slipped it off in disgust and tossed it in the trash.

I’ve actually spoken with other bipolar people and they have felt jinxed as well.  That same feeling I have where nothing ever seems like it can go right without a hitch.  However, I’ve come to the realization that believing in the jinx is closely related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from which many people with Bipolar Illness suffer, including myself.  We want new things to be perfect and can’t stand when they don’t go as planned in our lives.  That’s why we incessantly count things, only sit facing East, don’t step on cracks, etc.  We feel more in control.  We are obsessed with keeping new things in pristine condition. A “bad count” or ripping a brand new boot means we have lost control.  If you don’t have OCD, it feels like a big truck once drove by your house and the vibration made every cabinet, closet and drawer open, the contents spilled onto the floor, some broke and everything mixed together with the kitchen trash.  Then you had to put everything back where it belonged and spend the rest of your life going through rituals to make sure a big truck never drives by your house again.

But when you’re out in the world things happen.  And no matter with how much vigilance you try to keep your new i-Phone from getting scratched, keep that new silver bracelet from oxidizing or keep your new leather jacket out of the rain, “shit happens.”  Many bipolars think it is only happening to them.  That they alone are jinxed.   It seems all the things they try to keep looking new always meet with the “jinx wrecking-ball.”  “It just cannot be random.  There are too many instances.  The jinx becomes as real as a bad 1970’s Malter Matthau movie.

I felt this way too.  Until, I started looking around.  I began to notice everyone’s i-Phone has been dropped and scratched a few times.  And even the nicest homes have a stain or some imperfection.  Most commonly, half the cars on the road have mashed up at least one tire trying to parellel park.  And boots go on your feet.  Of course they are going to get dirty and meet up with an occasional hazard you are unable to negotiate.  So I began to realize, these things were out of my control.  But they were also not because of a jinx.   They happen to everyone.  If I was going to get hung up on every little imperfection, my OCD was going to win out.  The jinx would  be my reality.

I don’t think you are ever completely cured of OCD.  But I did realize the jinx is just a manifestation of it.  I’m not going to lie and say when I scratched the crystal on my best Swiss watch I didn’t have a mild mental meltdown.   However, I reminded myself this happens to everyone, and I’m not the only one with an imperfection in my ensemble.   I looked and saw all the people and cars surrounding me with their own imperfections.  Most cars I saw had a dent or a scrape.  And everyone had something funky going on with their hair, clothes or jewelry.    Nobody was lying in the street moaning about stains, scratches and tares.

So, I’m convinced the jinx is just a mindset.  There isn’t a little troll following me around waiting until things are going well and then he lobs a heart attack at me, makes the cleaners ruin my favorite shirt or snaps a mirror off my car.  I believe since the jinx lives within in our minds, we at least have the power to understand it’s not real and is actually a mutated form of OCD.  When you truly get your head around this, you can deal with the real issue, which is your OCD. Unless of course you think you got OCD because you were jinxed.  Then things get ugly.

The Magic of Guilt   4 comments

I remember watching  Master Magician David Copperfield tie himself up in chains and have someone sink him in a tank of water to make his miraculous escape in front of millions of gaping mouthed television viewers.  My mouth was gaping too, because I was lusting over a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.  Same thing when he had someone saw him in half while in a coffin.  While everyone oohed and aahed I was in the bathroom trying to pop a zit.  The guy had a cover over the escape tank and who knows how many trick compartments were in that coffin?  Now having David Copperfield simply stand there naked on stage while a random audience member holding on with both hands runs a chain saw through his torso and he remains whole, that would have been a real feat of magic.  Or, a really gory viral video on YouTube.

However, I do believe we all posses a magical power within us.  Some are really adept at using it and others just let it chain them up and drown them.  It’s called guilt.  You can use it to manipulate others to do what you want or others can control you with it.  And it doesn’t involve slight of hand, fire, white doves, rabbits or coffins.  Anybody can use the power of guilt with little to no instruction.  In fact, it’s an innate ability some say given by God.  God is actually the embodiment of guilt.  If you don’t believe, bad things will happen.

Coming from a Jewish background, tossing around guilt was practically a sport in my family.  I remember around twelve years old I formally started studying for my Bar Mitzvah.  Even at that tender young age religion and God just didn’t seem believable to me.  I needed to see something concrete.  However four years earlier I’d say the same bedtime prayer up to ten times in a row until it was perfect.  I wanted to make sure God accepted it so all the people I wanted him to bless would not die the next day.  Notice a little OCD working here?

So since I had no more faith, getting Bar Mitzvahed seemed like nothing more than a chance for my battling divorced parents to throw a big party so my embittered waring relatives could shower me with money and gifts and kill each other in a caged wrestling match.  And when I began to push back about having to sing from a prayerbook written backwards and in Hebrew and walk around the synagogue holding a Torah over my head which looked like a double roll of paper towels in an ornate blue velvet and gold cover, my parents threatened me with no Bar Mitzvah.  I took a deep adolescent sign of relief and thanked them.  Now I had more time to masturbate.

Then came out the magical powers.  “How could I be so selfish.  I would break my great grandfather’s heart, who was smuggled into this country from Russia on a boat, not to see his great grandson Bar Mitzvahed.   And being one of only a handful of Jews in my private school, it was my duty to stand up  and accept manhood as a Jew.  It was up to me to represent my religion.”  Then my father snapped his fingers and my mother wiggled her nose like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched and I was guilted into having a Bar Mitzvah.  They never even pulled the word God out of their parental quiver.

But here is the thing that many people don’t realize about guilt;  You don’t have to feel it.  You allow yourself to be guilted into something.  If you don’t feel guilty about something, nobody’s words can make you adopt the emotion.  Feeling guilt is your choice.  But please don’t misunderstand, just because you can chose not to feel guilt, it doesn’t make it an invalid emotion.  If you steal, you should feel guilty.  You took something that wasn’t yours.  If you don’t feel guilt there is something wrong with you.  But if you decide not to go to a party because you’re depressed and really don’t have the capacity to interact with others, you should not assume guilt over being bipolar and needing to take care of yourself.

Now of course there are selfish people who do whatever they please and don’t feel a lick of guilt, even when they should.  I have a friend who has cancels on me every single time we are supposed to get together.  This has happened at least ten times.  I’d be utterly embarrassed if I were her.  I doubt she feels guilt or she wouldn’t treat me like this.  The worst part is I really don’t have a burning desired get together with her in the first place.  She was asking me to help her with something.  The humorous part is that she is a deeply religious Christian.   Christians are almost as good as Jews with at assigning guilt.  Doesn’t she know  “Jesus died for her sins.”  That’s some pretty powerful guilt.

I think bipolar people are more susceptible to taking on guilt.  So many times because of depression, medication side effects, mania or just needing to rest our complicated brains, we opt out of social activities and now and then work related events.  We feel guilty because we lie about why we did not participate.  “I have food poisoning.”  “The house flooded and I have to stay with the plumber.”  “My car died.”  Why should we be required to broadcast to the world we are bipolar and need some time to get our heads together?  Women having painful cramps don’t announce their periods in public.  It’s fine to just say they are a little under the weather.  I doubt they feel any guilt.  But because you can’t see Bipolar Illness, we allow ourselves to feel guilty when we have to opt out of certain activities and tell a little white lie. This is the kind of guilt we should chose not to feel.

Unfortunately, one of the fun things about being bipolar is that we often feel things we do not want to feel but they stick in our minds disproportionately magnified until they dominate our thoughts.  We second guess everything we do or say and play it over and over in our heads ad infinitem.  And if someone drops the guilt bomb on us, or we do it to ourselves, we find ourselves in a web of mixed emotions from which not even Spiderman can untangle.  If you are bipolar, it’s very hard to simply chose not to feel that kind of guilt no matter how justified.

It’s like when someone walks up to you who knows you are bipolar and says, “Snap out of it.”  My new response is “Sure, and let me tie you up in chains and submerse you head first in a tank of water like David Copperfeild.   That’s kind of what it feels like to be bipolar.  Then you can show me how easy it is to snap out of it.”   Of course I’ll jump in and save him before he drowns.  Can you imagine the guilt I’d feel if I let someone die in one of David Copperfeilds magic props without permission?

The Suicide Not-Line   Leave a comment

Twenty years ago, when I first moved to San Francisco from Philadelphia, I found myself in the City by the Bay not knowing a soul.  I had just started a new job but had not formed any relationships with people meaningful enough to socialize with outside the workplace.  So I spent my evenings and weekends in my tiny studio apartment staring at my telephone waiting for it to ring.  It never did.  If cell phones were commonplace in those days, I would have called myself just for the thrill.

I was starting to get lonely and depressed.  I didn’t want to go back to Philly, I just wanted to have more of a life in San Francisco.  Then it occurred to me to try doing some volunteer work.  I could do something worthwhile and hopefully meet new people at the same time.  Moreover, I wouldn’t be sitting in my apartment ruminating on the fact I was sitting in my apartment.

Since I was feeling a little suicidal myself, circular logic told me the best place to volunteer was the San Francisco Suicide Hotline.  In my state of mind I was a little worried I might not be able to talk anyone down and actually tell someone to “go for it,”  but I decided to see what it was all about.  The orientation was a disaster.

I came right from work in a double breasted suit and silk pocket square looking like a little mafia boss.  Everyone else was counter-culture San Francisco with tattoos, floppy hats, rings, piercings, ripped jeans and serious looks of consternation on their faces.  They all looked like society was torturing them in some way.  And all mobbed up I probably looked like a commercial for everything they were against.  However I couldn’t understand how they were going to keep people from killing themselves.  I imagined someone calling the hotline with thoughts of suicide and the slacker on the other end saying, “Man, stop feeling bad for yourself.  People are homeless in San Francisco.  And, they cancelled the Clean Needle Program.  But all you can do is think about your own problems.  Maybe if you cared about other people you’d realize there are other things more important than you and your silly suicide.”  Other end of the line.  “Click.  Bang!”

There really wasn’t much of a training.  That would come on the job.  Now that I thought was kind of dangerous.  You can learn to make fries at McDonalds on the job, because if you burn them you simply wasted some frozen-processed potato like things.  The assistant manager doesn’t die.  And everyone wanted “phone time.”  The Suicide Hotline actually had more people than shifts and I can’t imagine the phone was ringing off the hook.

The most insulting part was that some volunteers and a coordinator actually spoke up against me being part of it.  Probably because I was wearing a suit and didn’t look disheveled,  convinced everyone is a fascist and wasn’t angry at the city of San Francisco for one reason or another.  In their innate ability to read people, it never occurred to them I chose to work at the Suicide Hotline because I was bipolar, had attempted suicide in the past and felt I knew the right way to help someone in crisis.  It probably also didn’t cross their minds I had a job and was required to dress like John Gotti.  Well, I was required to wear a suit.  I just preferred the double breasted mobster look.  Don’t ask.

So the San Francisco Suicide Hotline would have to save lives without me.  I later went on to volunteer for other non-profit groups which I found very welcoming and fulfilling.  But that was not my last experience I had with suicide hotlines.  Several years ago I was to become a customer.  My medication was not pulling its weight so I was extremely depressed, in financial turmoil, my business was drinking saltwater, my girlfriend and I were at odds on couple of major issues and I felt I was ready to check out.  So I got drunk, climbed inside my too fast for its own good Mustang and headed for the 280 Freeway where I knew of a suitable cliff to drive off incurring certain death.  And getting drunk was the only way I had the nerve to do it.

I drove like a madman toward the freeway and stopped short of the on-ramp, pulling over to the side into a parking lot.  I was scared to die.  I called information and asked for the suicide hotline.  I don’t know if it was national or local, I just took what they gave me.  And I got a kid who couldn’t have been more than 25 years old asking me what was so horrible in my life that I want to end it all?  I was 44 years old.  I owned a failing business.  I’d been married and divorced.  I had a 11 year old daughter.  My finances were in severe peril.  And, a guy who probably still lives with roommates and smokes a bong the size of an alto saxophone is going to tell me it’s not all that bad and I’ll be OK?  I thanked him for saving my life, disconnected him and laughed aloud at the whole situation.  Then I fell asleep in the driver’s seat.  It was not my night to die.

I think suicide hotlines and the volunteers who man the phones are doing a noble thing.  The problem is, they have to be peer to peer, matching the right volunteer with the right callers.  Someone they can relate to, if nothing more than just being in the same age range.   Now I know suicide hotlines don’t have a stable of volunteers with numbers on their backs just waiting to be called up for the right situation, but there must be some way of asking a few quick questions when the person in need calls to better match them with an appropriate lifeline.  One size does not fit all.

Teenagers want to talk to other teenagers.  Thirty-somethings want to talk to other thirty-somethings.  Guys in their forties want to talk to girls in their twenties.  We all want to talk with someone with whom we can relate.  Or at least someone who has the same frame of reference.  You both remember Woodstock, saw Michael Jackson missing a glove in concert and O.J. Simpson not fitting into his in court.

So thank you suicide hotlines for the good work you do.  I’m thankful you are there for the people who have nowhere else to turn.  And I hope you can continually improve matching the right counselors with the right callers.   I understand when staffed by volunteers, you may not be able to get the full spectrum of age groups and experience you would prefer.  But as long as counselors aren’t asking people in the throes of suicide to donate their body parts for an art project, I have to believe you’re doing a lot of good just by simply being there.