Archive for September 2012

Rubbernecking at the Discovery Health Network   Leave a comment

Rubbernecking at the Discovery Health Network

Dwarf families reveling in their shortness.  A two-headed sister duo touring Europe.  A twenty-two year old man the size of a three-year old riding around in a car seat.  A family of back-woods country bumpkins with a homely little girl who can barely speak English ruling the roost.  The man with a tumor in his testicles so big they drag on the ground when he walks.  It’s the modern-day version of an old-time circus freak show.  If you have a physical deformity or abnormality, the Discovery Health Channel wants you.

Watching this buffet of poorly equipped people panders to the lowest common denominator.  It makes them feel better about having a lawn full of broken down cars or being on disability for a mysterious back injury incurred at a desk job working for the city.  But I have to admit, I’ve taken a gander at the double-header and the guy with the cumbersome sack.  This Discovery Health Channel genre of Deformity Reality Programing is like a horrible car wreck on the side of the freeway.  You can’t help slowing down to take look.  Then you hate yourself for being so callous.

Who’s Exploiting Who?

But can you blame the Health Network?  It’s cheap fodder for the masses.  All they have to do is follow these disfigured misanthropes around with a camera and watch people’s reactions.  And if things get boring the producers provoke some sort of tense situation.  For instance, the two-headed girl gets in a fight with herself over a guy.  What puzzles me is how the Discovery Health Network justifies this gibberish as being on topic for their overall mission.  How is exploiting people with deformities health related?   I don’t see anybody trying to help the tiny twenty-two year old start growing again.  As a matter of fact, the minute he’s too big for his car seat people will lose interest.  I think the network would actually like to ramp things up by slapping a Pamper on him.  Humiliation is good for ratings.

What about these deformed debutants allowing themselves to be exploited by the Health Network?  Do they feel if they have the deformity, they might as well use it to seek fortune and fame?  Or does the Health Network give them the pseudo altruistic mission of opening up their lives to millions so people will be more accepting every time they see a two-headed girl driving a car, or a dwarf gynecologist super-mom delivering babies she can barely lift?

Funny for the Wrong Reasons

However this “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” show completely perplexes me.  It has nothing to do with health.  It’s just an illiterate family calling everything a “hot mess” with a homely little girl seemingly running the family.  The only handicaps I see are low IQs and the inability of anyone to coherently speak the English language.   It’s not even funny.  Actually, its pathetic to watch these food stained undershirt wearing sofa surfers loafing their way through an inane self-created drama in the litter-box they call their life.

With or without the cameras, this is literally how they would carry on.  More terrifying, there must be viewers eating up this family of miscreants imbecilic trials and tribulations or Honey Boo Boo would be Honey Bye-Bye.  Discovery Health Network would then be on the prowl for the next socially retarded family destined to be made a spectacle of and a cable television sensation.

Taking a Swipe at PBS

Several years ago when I worked for a San Francisco PBS affiliate, I went to the annual PBS convention  in Twenty-Six Palms California.  I don’t remember the keynote speaker’s name, but I do recall his message.  The gist was that all of these cable stations are trying to emulate PBS.  Net Geo, Animal Planet, Discovery Health,  A&E, The History Channel, etc. all have noble monikers, but none of them fulfill the promise.  They sound PBS’ish, but only offer a steady diet of reality programs showcasing prison wives,  female police officers in Memphis, a comic doing disgusting jobs, the animal police, weird re-enacted medical emergencies, home-makeovers, people-makeovers and deformed people prancing around town to satisfy everyone’s hidden curiosities.

Normally I’d be offended.  However, I have the option not to watch these channels.  So if I do watch and don’t like what I see, it’s my own fault.  And I have to admit, I like staring at the two-headed girl and wondering if both heads feel the urge to urinate, and who controls the bladder?   Or if the dwarf husband is attracted to normal sized women, or he is true-blue dwarf right down to the lifts in his shoes?

Reality Whores

When you get to the meat of the matter, who I’m really angry with are these pseudo PBS networks who have laid down and spread their legs to be seduced by the simplicity and lucrative nature of  reality programing.   Maybe they learned early on PBS is PBS because they are government and private foundation-funded.  They can show educational and other worthwhile art and science programing irrespective of the ratings, as they do not depend on commercial advertising.  PBS is an anomaly by design.  Perhaps somebody at a cable network realized this after trying to take a swipe at the network that brought us Masterpiece Theatre, Frontline and The American Experience and fell on their faces.  And, the best alternative they could come up with was Weird Sex.

The Reality of Reality Programing

The reality of reality programing is that as long as there are deformed human beings, cable networks will be building reality shows around them.  It’s cheap, you don’t need actors or a movie set and human nature dictates most people will at least take a peek.  Others will watch entire programs so they can show a public display of disgust as they fulfill their curiosity.  And the bulk of the audience makes no bones about the fact they enjoy seeing how these deformed people get through their every day lives.  The programming actually makes them feel better about the royal mess they have made of their own lives.  “Hey, I may be 45-years old, work at a gas station and live with my mother, but at least I ain’t no midget!”

My own take on it is this; If I ran one of a hundred competing cable networks and Deformity Reality Programing was the catch of the day, I’d cast my nets and start dredging the bottom of the ocean just like everyone else.  I’d like to say I’d at least take the high road and do it with some dignity, but there is none when you are basing a program around someone’s deformity.  The only way this lucrative trip to the cash-register is going to cease is if the reality “actors and actresses” decide to have some respect for themselves, and others with their condition, by having an attack of self-conscious and good taste.

Jerry Springer is Obsolete

The only good thing Deformity Reality Programing has done is exclude the need for a host.  It used to be that Jerry Springer would trot out the man with the massive tumor ridden scrotum.   Then he would ask the “provocative” and humiliating but obvious questions about his daily life.  Now Jerry is out of the mix.  The network just follows the guy around with a camera and we cringe at the poor bastard dragging his balls around town on our television screens unaided by Jerry’s off the wall commentary.   And when it gets boring they put the guy on Strange Sex and roll the cameras as he goes out on a blind date.  Finally, when the testicles aren’t giving enough bounce to the ratings, they put the guy on Medical Miracles and film their amputation.  I call this the  “Deformity Reality Programing Life Cycle.”

The Lock-Up:  An American Tradition

Personally, I think I’m going to shy away from Deformity Reality Programing for a while.  MSNBC, specializing in political news and commentary during the week, has become a plethora of Prison Reality Programing on weekends; Lock-Up.  Lock-Up Raw.  After Lock-Up.  Juveniles Locked-Up.  Women Locked-Up.  Mormons Locked-Up.  I’m sure the network touts it as educational and foreboding to those considering a career in crime.  For me it has always been the program to which you drink a few beers while getting your buzz on before heading out on a Saturday night.   Plus, MSNBC keeps it on all night so when you return home drunk and alone you can always watch someone else who has it worse off.  And don’t kid yourselves, the programming executives know this.  They were the ones getting their buzz on watching Lock-up 15-years earlier when they were in college.

So while I find exploiting people with deformities on reality television in poor taste,  its low hanging fruit just waiting to plucked by unimaginative cable network programmers that is almost always a sure-fire hit.  The Discovery Health Network is simply giving us a look at the Bearded Lady twenty-first century style.

The Bully Pulpit   Leave a comment

The anxiety started the moment I got off the school bus in the afternoon, haunted me all evening, gave me nightmares while I slept and caused me to physically shake and fight back tears as I waited for the bus to pick me up for school again in the morning.

I wore thick glasses, had severe nystagmus, causing my eyes to uncontrollably shift back and forth, had poor vision, horrible coordination when attempting to play sports, undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder making my behavior over-exaggerated at times and was a terrible student because I was embarrassed to say I couldn’t see the blackboard, even from the front of the classroom.

My entire school day was spent ducking the kids who tormented me for my physical inadequacies and snuck in a quick trip, punch, smack or pencil stabbing whenever a teacher wasn’t looking.  In the 1970’s if you told a teacher kids were kicking you in the back as you stood in front of the urinal, all it would do is increase the veracity of the retribution.  As scared as I was to be in school, I was terrified of getting jumped off school grounds.

Never in my entire life would I ever think a group like StudentsFirst would actually pass Anti-Bullying Legislation.  Laws to stop kids from picking on their classmates for deviating from the norm or just simply being weaker.  Where was this legislation when I was getting repeatedly stuck in the ass by thorns as I was boarding the school bus everyday?

Here is my conundrum;  Can teachers not see what goes on in lunchrooms, hallways and playgrounds?  Or, do they feel discipline is not part of their job description?  Do we need the courts to come into the classrooms because school administrators can no longer control their students?  I detest bullies, but should they be faced with jail time because they are turning out to be the imbeciles reflective of the parents rearing them?

The new argument for bringing courts into the classroom is that victims of bullish behavior are feeling so much anguish they are committing suicide.  And, before they go, in extreme cases they are killing their peers and or complete strangers in incidents like Columbine as acts of final revenge.    These are horrible outbursts of violence, but I question whether the media and other watchdog groups are inadvertently convincing people bullies are provoking revenge killings and we need the courts to control them.

Revenge killings are very extreme cases fueled by the availability of guns and the plethora of “how to be a little terrorist” materials on the internet.  Most of the kids who trip other kids carrying their lunch trays aren’t going to be doing this in their forties.   I doubt the kids who relentlessly picked on me for my shifting eyes are still laughing about it and seeking out others with nystagmus to castigate.   Nor are they teaching their children how to take over the reigns.  They didn’t deserve to be disciplined by our legal system.

It is very true that the internet has given bullies a new tool to ply their trade.  And a powerful one at that.  It can permeate the classroom environment into a child’s private life.  Personally I think it’s taken the place of physical in favor of psychological abuse.  And instead of writing insulting things about each other on bathroom walls, kids are now doing it in chat rooms and on Facebook.  But the internet is here to stay and I don’t think anyone is going to eradicate new ways kids have devised to use it to be mean to the downtrodden.

I have a thirteen year old daughter living in a very nice suburb of San Francisco with her mother.  She goes to a very good public school.  First hand I have seen the feverish pitch of paranoia school administrators have reached to prove they are on the super mutated anti-bully bandwagon. Moreover, they are beside themselves with fear of an unstable student targeted by bullying, getting his or her hands on a machine gun (thanks to the NRA for making them so accessible), and mowing down the student body.  For sure in this day and age they would be held legally responsible by someone.

So if a kid in my daughter’s school hurls a profanity at a classmate online, a girl slaps a boy for being sexually harassing or a kid is caught selling something as benign as candy on school grounds, the full weight of the administration comes down on them.  I have personally heard of kids detained, suspended and expelled for such horrid “miscreant” behavior.   (I actually learned the kid who sold the candy tried to argue it was for personal use, but the principal wouldn’t buy it).

To add to the fervor, a celebrity revered by younger people like Lady Gaga came out against bullying.  I find her incredibly intelligent, compassionate, courageous and my daughter insists talented.  I think having an international celebrity stand up against bullying is more than for which bullied kids could even fathom when I was growing up.   But such an influential figure to kids on the bully pulpit, although I believe is meant with all sincerity, is adding to the disproportionate reaction.

Like most things in America, I think we have gone to an extreme on the school bullying issue.  I agree it’s a problem.  I have battle scars to prove it.  If I saw a kid bullying another I’d confront him or her immediately.  If my child were doing they bullying, I’d not only reprimand her, but I’d make sure she doesn’t do it again.  When my child has been bullied, I provided her with love, comfort and helped her understand why kids act this way and how to remain strong.  If it’s relentless, I’ll talk to the school or the “opposing side’s” parents.  Most importantly, I’ll stay on top of the issue.

What I don’t want is court intervention with legal consequences for childhood misbehavior.  Bullies belong in detention or suspension, not incarceration.   And if we start relating incidents like Columbine as bullying cause and effect to our children, bullied children are going to think this is what could happen to them when they reach their breaking point.   They may even imitate such behavior.  Moreover, they’ll begin to rely on the legal system or Lady Gaga to mitigate their circumstances, instead of turning to their parents or teachers.

There is no solution to bullying.  There never will be.  This is what kids do.  It’s cruel and it sucks.  And it’s great that there are adults standing against it.  But it doesn’t belong in the courts.   When it goes in the courts school administrator ass holes tighten and they punish a kid if they just look at someone the wrong way, terrified of being blamed for another school shooting.  Of course this makes the parents go off the deep end policing their kids for any signs of being bullied.  And when the kids see how crazed adults have become, they become more dramatic to fit the tenor of the situation. This is when the shooting starts.

Take this advice from a shifty eyed, visually impaired, bipolar with poor coordination who used to get stuck in the ass by thorns;  If you build it, they will come.  If we legislate instead of parent, laws will be broken.  Schools will become detention centers.  And kids will not learn appropriate responses and resolutions.  Instead they’ll depend on laws to set their personal boundaries.

Celebrating Suicide Prevention Day – Don’t Forget Your Noisemakers   Leave a comment

Today I learned that September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day.   What struck me is the ridiculous nature of it.  November 22nd is the big National Smoke Out when everyone is supposed to give up cigarettes.  The line of reasoning makes perfect sense.  You’re a smoker, so you try to quit.  Most people know you’re a smoker so they rally around you offering support and stupid suggestions to help get you over the hump.  And the smoker has something positive to work toward, like not smelling like an ashtray and being able to breathe without their lungs sounding like two paper bags crumpling inside their chest.

But Suicide Prevention Day?  First of all, most people do not know you are suicidal nor do you want to let them in on the secret.  So who is going to rally around you?  Is your psychologist going to spend the day at your house having a barbecue?  Instead of throwing out your Marlboro Reds, do you pitch the gun you were going to use to shoot yourself in the head?  Is Suicide Prevention Day when you take an oath not to be in a suicidal depression, like it is something you have control over?  Are the people who do know your tenuous mental state going to give you little tips like; “don’t drive over any bridges, have your landlord mete out your daily medication and not a pill more, or, check into the mental wing of your local hospital for the day?”

Or, is Suicide Prevention Day intended for the general public to prevent suicides.  For instance, does the Suicide Hotline start making outgoing calls to people checking in to see if they are planning on killing themselves that day?  Maybe focus on Kentucky whose official motto is “Come to a State of Depression?”  Are people going to police roof tops, bridge railings and hardware stores that are selling an unusual amount of rope?  Will they lock up US Postal Service employees for the day so people with a death wish won’t antagonize them hoping to be shot by a lunatic mail carrier?

Why do we have to have a special day for suicide prevention.?  Shouldn’t every day be a day focused on keeping people from killing themselves?  Personally I do not think the general public has enough education on mental illness to know how to spot the danger signs of severe depression and suicidal behavior.  We all know the signs of a heart attack or stroke.  Everyone knows the signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.  But how many people know the danger signals of a severely depressed person about to commit suicide?  Or, an individual who may appear perfectly happy who is actually dropping little cues that things are amiss and are going to snuggle up that evening for the last time with a .45 Caliber automatic pistol?

And, as I’ve discussed at length in my blog A Tisket.  A Tasket.  I’ll Decide When I Want to Get In My Casket, why should all suicides be prevented?  Some people have suffered enough, have been through the medication meat grinder and legitimately see no hope of recovery, so have decided to relieve themselves of their earthly burdens.  Who are you or I to say they do not have that right?  Suicide is not bad word.  It simply means “killing ones self.”  It doesn’t mean “killing yourself because you’re a loser and can’t make it in life-like everyone else.”  It also doesn’t mean “cop-out,”  unless you are a corrupt cop and you really want out.  It’s just a noun.

What happens after Suicide Prevention Day?  Everyone can relax and it’s ok to kill yourself?  People can let down their guard and stop being vigilant about being more in tune with the people around them ?  The kid on the other end of the Suicide Hotline can go back to playing video games on his i-Phone and intermittently tell the suicidal caller “it can’t be that bad.”

This September 10th I am going to make a conscious effort that everyone I meet knows it’s Suicide Prevention Day and ask what they are doing to celebrate the occasion.  I think it should be a big party because if everyone is happy, nobody will want to kill themselves.  So if I happen to see anyone depressed and out of sorts, I’m going to reprimand them for not being in the spirit of the day.  The last thing I want is for somebody to see a depressed person.   That’s why every city and town across America should have parades of depressed people from hospital mental wards on pill bottle-shaped floats going down good ole main street waiving at the crowds with songs from the late Elliot Smith blasting out of huge loud speakers.

I can see it now spawning a new American classic movie called “Depressed on the Tenth of September.”  Tom Cruise can play a guy who tried to cut his wrists and spent two years in a mental hospital in Vietnam.  Now he has come home to a world of happy chucklehead backslappers telling him to “snap out of it.”  But all he wants to do is hang around with his mental ward buddies and give each other electro-shock treatments until they all pass out in their wheel chairs and piss themselves.

Just do me one favor;  Don’t make September 10th the only day you take the time to ask a friend who seems a little down how they are doing.  That might be the question that saves their life.  Now don’t forget your noisemakers.

Sex and Psychotropic Side Effects   Leave a comment

I’ll never forget my Dad and I taking a long walk when I was twelve years old.  It was longest walk of my life.  Not because of the distance, it was the subject matter discussed that made it seem like it would never end.  It was his big “sex talk,” where my father proceeded to tell me most of the things I already knew only in more clinical terminology.  And every time I tried to make a joke to lighten things up, he’d smack me in the head.  And when he told me things about my Mom I didn’t want to know, I wanted him to smack me in the head again to knock the disgusting image out of my mind.

Well now it’s time to have my sex talk with you.  However, it’s going to have a little twist; I’ll be talking about the side effects antidepressants and mood stabilizers have on many people’s sexual performance and enjoyment, or lack thereof.   It’s the one side effect from psychotropic medications used to treat Bipolar Disorder that everybody wants to talk about but nobody wants to talk about simultaneously.  So I’ll spare everyone the embarrassment and put myself out there, because whenever I mention it in a blog, I get the most responses and inquiries.  Obviously it’s a major concern.

Many antidepressants and mood stabilizers diminish sexual sensation, gratification, performance and sometimes the ability to even participate at all.   It’s a consequence for men and women, obviously manifesting itself differently between the sexes because men have penises and women have vaginas.  I’ll speak from my experiences and try to offer some solutions that don’t involve leaches or blood letting.

The sexual side effects of psychotropics on men can be devastating.  A lot of them depend on the drug(s) you are taking.  I have taken many.  Personally I have been through not being able to get an erection, no matter how much my partner or I feverishly worked, occasionally producing a soft orgasm at the very end,  just to mock me.  Through it all the lack of sensation in the penis is greatly muted.  Your mind is sexually charged but your penis doesn’t want to party.  It feels like it’s wrapped in a thick wool blanket killing all sensitivity.

If a man can achieve an erection, the sensation can be so muffled that it takes forever to have an ejaculation.  Finally when you do, you barely feel a modicum of pleasure.  Enough to wonder “why bother?”  It is literally as pleasurable as going pee.   Again, your mind wants to have sex, but you have the libido of a dead Mexican rumba dancer. Plus, you have to force penile stimulation, which is counterintuitive.  If you achieve an erection, it is like trying to walk into a hurricane.

Unbelievably, some drugs will let you fight the good fight until you can get and maintain an erection.  Then you “anti-climax” with a dry ejaculation.  Absolutely no semen emerges, nor does it feel very good.  This is the ultimate emasculating effect of Bipolar medication.   It’s only good for people with hand-washing obsessive compulsive behavior because there is nothing to clean up.

The best overall description of how psychotropics can effect sex drive, and maybe only guys can get this, is that physical charge you get starting in the pit of your stomach when you are really excited.  When you are super attracted to your partner and know you are going to have a big orgasm almost just by looking at them.  With antidepressants and mood stabilizers it’s very difficult to get that electrical current to radiate throughout your body.

When discussing what psychotropics do to women, I have to go with what Bipolar sexual partners and friends have told me.  Virtually all experience a diminished sex drive with desensitized genitalia.   But what I hear most is that it’s almost impossible for them to achieve an orgasm.  I have tried over and over to patiently orally stimulate a Bipolar girlfriend and she just couldn’t get “over the mountain.”  It’s even more difficult through traditional intercourse.  Women experiencing psychotropic sexual side effects need intense clitoral stimulation for a long period of time if they are interested in sex at all.  And, many can only reach orgasm with the help of sexual aids that vibrate alone or in conjunction with their partner.  Many times the man feels very inadequate when the woman is forced to introduce  appliances in boudoir.

So what’s a penis and vagina to do?  Can you imagine if a “normal” man or woman started facing these sexual dysfunction issues?  They’d be beside themselves calling their urologist or gynecologist on the golf course in an utter state of panic.  “Doctor, I think my penis is dying.  Is this what happens before it shrivels up and falls off?”  Or, “Doctor, my vagina has a severe loss of sensitivity.  Is this a sign I’m turning into a bitter old spinster with no interest in men?”

If you are experiencing these sexual side effects, “what can you do about them?” is your next question.  Right now there is not a lot medically you can accomplish.  But before you scream in anguish, there are things that do work, you just may not hear about them from your doctor.  As far as pills go, you can ask your doctor to switch your medication(s) to something that may have less or no sexual side effects.  And this does work for some people.  It helped me to a noticeable degree.  However I was also once prescribed Yohimbine, which is some kind of plant extract.  The only thing that gave me was false hope.

Another medical option is just for men; Viagra, Cialis or other erectile aids.  I have not heard from any Bipolar men that they are the solution to getting and maintaining an erection.  I was prescribed Viagra and it did very little.  I also tried taking three times the recommended dose with wanton abandon for having an erection lasting more than four hours and having to go to the hospital, as they warn in the commercial.  I actually would have loved having that problem.  I’d be proud to be wheeled in on a stretcher with the sheets at my midriff noticeably aloft. But nothing. However everyone is different.

Women, I have heard that taking anti-histamines can help produce heightened sensation and lead to orgasm.  This is an off-label use of these over the counter drugs and in no way am I recommending it.  But I’ve heard it works for some.  Since I don’t have female organs, I have no idea why.  I haven’t seen any Bipolar women trying to catch colds or delighted to have allergies either.

A non-medication related solution requires you to change your sexual habits.  For a man or woman with this problem, you need to set the mood.  Just don’t jump into bed.  Have a romantic dinner.  Wear provocative lingerie if you’re a woman.  If you’re a guy, take a goddamn bath.  Have a candle-light dinner.  Talk dirty.  Watch some porn.  Tease one another.  Engage in each others fetishes.  Just do things to raise the level of excitement before you move forward with actual sex.  There is something to be said for mind over matter.

Also, do not drink alcohol before sex.  Medical evidence shows that it decreases the man’s ability to get and maintain an erection and for a woman to fully lubricate and reach orgasm.  Most people know this by having learned the hard way.  If you haven’t, any college student can validate my advice.  Just coupling alcohol with psychotropics could produce negative results unrelated to sex.

The big controversial possible solution is smoking marijuana before sex.  For me it heightens my arousal, increases my sensitivity and enjoyment of  an orgasm.  Some women report increased sensitivity and stimulation as well.  However, pot isn’t like buying a prescription, even when getting it legally from a California Dispensary.  Every “grow” has a different potency no matter how accurate the growers try to be with their various strains.  Plus, different people have different tolerances.  So you have to do a lot of experimentation.  And you don’t want to get so stoned you forget you’re having sex and drift off to slumber.

Exercise is one thing I am positive helps on the sex front.  A vigorous workout gets the blood pumping through all your organs.  When I am done running I almost always have an increased libido.  Better yet, I have less trouble achieving an erection, which is actually a function of getting blood flow to my penis,  a direct result of aerobic exercise.  Furthermore, it makes my orgasm much more forceful and enjoyable.  I have heard of similar sexual benefits regarding exercise from women.  But it has to be activity that really increases and sustains your heart rate for at least a half hour.

Finally, be conscious of when you take your medication.  I found if I take mine too close to having sexual activity, I can not perform well.  But if I wait several hours I can do better.  I realize it can ruin spontaneity, but so can a soft penis or dry ejaculation.

The reason I wrote this blog is so people with bipolar Disorder experiencing these embarrassing sexual side effects from antidepressants and mood-stabilizers know they are not alone.  There are a lot of us out there who have spent years making excuses to sex partners why we can not be adequately stimulated, fully enjoy sex or even perform in the first place.  Do not give up on a solution.  This can be overcome.  It requires patience and willingness to experiment.  And the great thing about our bodies is that we can even experiment on ourselves!

If anyone ever tells you there is more to life than sex, they are right.  However sex is one of the few benefits about having a  human body.  Our bodies are constantly causing us sickness, inconveniences, ailments, embarrassing situations and in this case mental illness.  Everybody, especially people with Bipolar Disorder, deserves sexual pleasure.  It’s free, it feels great and it’s good for you.  Don’t deny yourself.  Apply yourself.