Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Living With Mental Illness in America: Schizoaffective Disorder

"I grew up stuck between two dramatically different factions in my head. When I was in a Manic State, I was accompanied by a trio of friends, an old man, a large dog, and a small girl whose efforts helped me to remain positive. When I was in a Depressive State, I was stuck in the middle of a war for my mind. Angels and demons battled it out, right before my vary eyes, in their effort to take over my reality. The chaos was unbearable, and there was no middle ground." - Kent Allen Halliburton

Schizoaffective Disorder is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal thought processes and deregulated emotions. The diagnosis is made when the patient has features of both Schizophrenia and a mood disorder, either Bi-Polar Disorder or Major Depression, but does not strictly meet diagnostic criteria for either alone. The Bi-Polar type is distinguished by symptoms of mania, hypomania, or mixed episodes; the Major Depression type by symptoms of severe depression only. Common symptoms of the disorder include hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking. The onset of symptoms usually begins in young adulthood, currently with an uncertain lifetime prevalence because the disorder's diagnosis has been refined over time. It is generally estimated that the disorder is prevalent in at least one percent of the population, and now includes an acceptance that symptoms can appear in pre-teens, as well. Diagnoses are based on observed behavior and the patient's reported experiences.

Genetics, neurobiology, early and current environment, behavioral, social, and experiential components appear to be important contributory factors to the onset of the disorder. Some recreational and prescription drugs may also cause or exacerbate certain emerging symptoms. No single isolated organic cause for the disorder has been found, but extensive evidence exists for abnormalities in the metabolism of neuro-transmitters like tetrahydrobiopterin, dopamine, and glutamic acid in people with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, and other psychotic mood disorders. People with Schizoaffective Disorder are likely to have co-occurring conditions which may include a variety of anxiety disorders and Substance Use Disorder. Social problems such as long-term unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are also common. The average life expectancy of people with the disorder is shorter than those without it due to increased physical health problems from an absence of health promoting behaviors, which may include a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, and a higher suicide rate.

Schizoaffective Disorder is presently treated with a combination of Anti-Psychotic drugs, Mood Stabilizers, and Anti-Depressants, though there is growing concern by some researchers that Anti-Depressants may increase psychoses, mania, and long-term mood episode cycling in the disorder. When there is a risk to self or others, usually early in treatment, brief hospitalization may be necessary. Psychiatric rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and vocational rehabilitation are very important for recovery of higher Psycho-Social function. As a group, people with Schizoaffective Disorder tend to have a better outcome after treatment that do people with Schizophrenia. However, they do have variable individual Psycho-Social functional outcomes compared to people with other varied mood disorders, from worse to the same. There are studies comparing these diagnoses, but they have yet to be completed.

In the past Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia were not usually classified separately from one another in psychological studies. This, however, has begun to change. The definition of Schizoaffective Disorder began to change in the early to mid 1990s. The research conducted since this period is what has made it clear that there is, in fact, a difference between the two disorders. It is the fact that the hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking in Schizoaffective Disorder are accompanied by varied signs of Bi-Polar Disorder and Major Depression that make this distinction.

"It was not until just a few years ago that I began to get treatment for my disorder, and I am now finally approaching a sense of balance amidst the chaos. Unfortunately, that balance has come at a cost. See, while I was glad to see the angels and demons of my Depressive State go, I now feel a deep pain as I realize that my Manic friends have to go also as, over the years, I have developed a deep affection for them." - Kent Allen Halliburton

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Living With Mental Illness in America: Bi-Polar Disorder

"Imagine that you are on the fastest roller coaster you have ever encountered. You are blasting around turns at amazing speeds. Further, imagine that it is also taking you to the highest and deepest points you could have ever imagined. Now, imagine that the roller coaster is in your mind, and it won't shut off." - Kent Allen Halliburton

"When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year I turned 50, it was certainly a shock. But as a journalist, knowing a little bit about a lot of things, I didn't suffer the misconception that depression was all in my head or a mark of poor character. I knew it was a disease, and, like all diseases, was treatable." - Jane Pauley

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental disorder that causes periods of depression and periods of elevated mood. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania, depending on its severity, or whether symptoms of psychosis are present. During mania, an individual behaves or feels abnormally energetic, happy, or irritable. Individuals often make poorly thought out decisions with little regard to the consequences. The need for sleep is usually reduced during manic phases. During periods of depression, there may be crying, a negative outlook on life, and poor eye contact with others. The risk of suicide among those with the illness is high at greater than six percent over twenty years, while self-harm occurs thirty to forty percent. Other mental health issues such as anxiety disorders and substance use disorder are commonly associated with Bi-Polar Disorder.

The causes are not clearly understood; however both environmental and genetic factors are though to play a role. For many, genetic factors of may contribute to the disorder's manifestation. Environmental factors include a history of childhood abuse and long-term stress. The condition is divided into Bi-Polar I and Bi-Polar II. If there has been at least one manic episode, with or without depressive episodes, it will be classified as Bi-Polar I. It will be classified as Bi-Polar II if there has been at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode. In those cases with less severe symptoms of a prolonged duration, the condition Cyclothymic Disorder may be diagnosed. If the condition is induced by drug use or physical medical problems, such as poor diet, the condition may be classified separately. Other conditions that may present in a similar manner include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Disassociative Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Substance Abuse Disorder as well as a number of physical medical conditions. Medical testing is not required for a diagnosis, though blood tests or medical imaging can be done to rule out other problems.

Treatment commonly includes psychotherapy, as well as medications, such as Mood Stabilizers and Anti-Psychotics. Examples of mood stabilizers that are commonly used include lithium and various other Anti-Convulsants. Treatment in a hospital without the individual's consent may be required if a person is at risk to themselves or others but refuses treatment. Severe behavioral problems may be managed with short term Anti-Psychotics or Benzodiazepines. In periods of mania it is recommended that Ant-Depressants be stopped. If Anti-Depressants are used for periods of depression they should be used with a mood stabilizer. Electroconvulsive therapy, while not very well studied, may be helpful for those who do not respond to other treatments. If treatments are stopped, it is recommended that this be done slowly. Many individuals have financial, social or work-related problems due to the illness. These difficulties occur a quarter to a third of the time on average. The risk of death from natural causes such as heart disease is twice that of the general population. This is due to poor lifestyle choices made in various to self medicate the condition.

About three percent of people in the United States are estimated to have had Bi-Polar Disorder, or associated symptoms, at some point in their life. Lower rates of around one percent are found in other countries. The most common age at which symptoms begin is twenty-five. Rates appear to be similar in females and males. The economic costs of the disorder was estimated at $45 billion for the United States in 1991. This cost has since risen to an average of $52 billion a year. A large proportion of this was related to a higher number of missed work days, estimated at fifty per year. People with Bi-Polar Disorder also often face problems with the social stigma associated with the disorder, which tends tends to make dealing with disorder all that much more difficult.

"Most of the time, it feels like there are two different people in my head, and while each one is vying for total control, there is a blank canvas in the middle that is getting paint randomly strewn about on it. The struggle, of course, like an abstract painting, is to make something unique out of the chaos. The battle that then ensues is not for the faint of heart." - Kent Allen Halliburton

Monday, May 1, 2017

International Workers' Day

"Workers of the world unite!" - Karl Marx

International Workers' Day, also known as Labour Day in some countries, is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement, socialists, communists, and anarchists. It is scheduled on the first day of the Month in May, which coincides with several ancient European spring festivals. The date chosen for International Workers' Day was picked by the Second International, a pan-national organization of socialist and communist political parties, to commemorate the Haymarket Affair, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886.

The 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, the Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." This established a tradition that has been carried on in some form or another ever since.

Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in several European countries. The date is currently celebrated specifically as "Labor Day" or "International Workers' Day" in the majority of countries, including those that didn't traditionally celebrate May Day. Some countries celebrate a Labor Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States, which celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What About Muh Freeze Peach?

"11. Demand a rejection of liberal ideas of "free speech," as tolerance be given to reactionary opinions. Free speech ends where oppressive speech begins."  - Refuse to Cooperate Program 

When Refuse to Cooperate released its formal program committed to a Marxist-Leninist position it ruffled a few feathers among its readership, but none of the points demanded by RTC caused the most heads to utterly implode as the eleventh, quoted above. 

Accusations of tyranny and "Stalinism" (whatever that is) and fascism quickly followed, much to our expectation. Their poor sacred cow was under attack! This, honestly, exposes that these people are okay with the already existing limits on free speech, as if they are supposed to be normal.

After all, how dare we challenge the liberal feeling of entitlement that people have to say anything whatsoever whenever they want, regardless of who it might hurt! To recognize that speech does not exist in a vacuum, that it affects people, that people act upon it, and sometimes in horrific ways is anathema. It seems to reject the idea that there might need to be limits placed on speech to protect the most vulnerable sections of society. Further, to suggest otherwise, is horrifying to those secure in their privilege.

How dare we even suggest that people ought to hold each other accountable for their statements!  To suggest that people's beliefs and opinions are not sacred or beyond critique, that they too do not exist in a vacuum, that people will act on those beliefs, sometimes horrifically, that we must hold each other accountable for our beliefs, what we support, what we vote for, what we tolerate instills dread into the mind of centrist and right wing liberal alike.

How dare we imply that the faith in the  "free market of ideas" used to rationalize unrestricted free speech is as baseless as faith in any "free market" and for the same reason!  As in any situation of open competition, winners and losers arise, and the winners consolidate their dominance. In the field of ideas, this is done through media and institutions allowing the dominant group to stifle opposing ideas (and the associated speech) while allowing status quo supporting ideas and speech to move unchecked and to the detriment of oppressed groups within society. Of course, there is no reason to think that the most dominant ideas are the most objectively correct, which is precisely what proponents of the free market of ideas assume.

Contrary to the overreactions of our ideological opponents, recognizing that speech has limits does not mean the implementation of some sort of top down tyranny.  Precisely because we at Refuse to Cooperate hold democracy and openness in such high regard, we  have actually gone out of our way to make certain that opposing views are heard within our group and even on our blog. In our view, a future socialist society would uphold democracy, just not an abstract and generalized democracy, but a class aware democracy, a democracy that serves working class interests rather than bourgeois interests; which understands that for freedom to be secured for the greatest number, freedom must be balanced with equality. 

How do we determine what is oppressive speech? Objectively oppressive speech is not merely speech that causes offense, if that were the case fart jokes might be labeled offensive. Nor is the term hate speech very good as it is emotional and lacks context, making it very subjective. The more specific term of oppressive speech, however, refers to language that promotes or reiterates oppressive social structures, and who decides where the line is drawn on these issues? In a socialist society, it is the working class themselves armed with clear materialist analysis. In our daily lives before then, in our groups and organizations, we decide what we will tolerate.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Goddess Land Empire - Lexa Moon

"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion." - Alexander the Great

Last week in my AP Human Geography class, we were assigned a project that would involve creating a country. We all drew papers from a hat to see what type of state we would create. I drew “Empire,” so I created an Empire that I called Goddess Land, in tribute to my pagan beliefs. We were given the liberty to construct the government, create the people, and wildlife, and all other creative rights. I shared my project with Kent, the Founder of Refuse to Cooperate, and he thought the actual way I constructed the government was interesting, so I decided to share it with the blog readers. So, without further a due, this is the Goddess Land Empire.

The Government

The Goddess Land Empire is a Democratic Socialist empire. It has three branches of government; a Parliament, which makes the laws; a Judiciary, which interprets these laws; and an Executive, which is democratically elected to serve a life long term as Emperor/Empress. They are responsible for the lawful execution of the laws passed by the Parliament.

The Goddess Land Empire is made up of sovereign States, each with a standing High Court. Each High Court is made up of a certain amount of democratically elected nobles (depending on the population of the state) and each has a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is democratically appointed by the High Court. Once a year all Prime Ministers meet up and form the imperial Judiciary, which is led by an appointed Speaker.

Each high court has the right to make laws regarding its own state. However, the Imperial Court has the right to make laws that govern the whole of the empire. Further, its rulings are expected to trump those of the lower courts.

In order for a proposition to become law, the proposition must have at least two noble sponsors and be approved by the appropriate standing committee in the Parliament. When the proposition is on the High Court floor, the court, with the exception of the Prime Minister will vote on the proposition. A simple majority will make the proposition law; however, if the proposition is split evenly on votes, the Prime Minister will serve as a tie-breaker.

The Executive branch is made up of the Emperor/Empress and his/her counsel of advisers. The job of the Emperor/Empress is to lead the empire on the right path, representing the Empire. The Emperor/Empress lawfully executes the laws passed by the Parliament and approved by the Judiciary. Further, they are to be the Commander-in-Chief of both the domestic and foreign arms of the empire's defense forces.

The Judiciary interprets cases and laws that come before it based on the concept of Legal Precedent. However, when, in their good judgement, precedent does not apply to a given case, they are authorized to rule in a case according to their good reasoning. They are also responsible for building a system of civil courts to adjudicate minor matters between citizens that do not require the full attention of the state authority.

However, none of these branches can change the unalienable rights of the people. The people are guaranteed the rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, education, work, food, housing, and health care.

The People of the Goddess Land 

The Empire's society is a highly developed society which mirrors a Victorian steampunk style of fashion, architecture, mode of energy, transportation, and much more.

The people of the Goddess Land Empire are very open minded to most everything, such as sexuality, magic, religion, style, and much more.

The major religion of the people is Paganism. However, there is no official imperial religion. People who practice magic are looked upon favorably, so much so that there is even a whole museum dedicated to magic, and its practitioners, located in the capital of the Goddess Land Empire, Moon City.

Imperial Nature 

The Goddess Land Empire's wildlife mostly consists of magical creatures such as unicorns, fairies, mermaids, trolls, and much more.

All intelligent life, such as trolls or fairies, is given citizenship and allowed to vote in elections that affect the lands that they inhabit; however, they are not allowed to run for office.

Wildlife that is not intelligent is given imperial protection from sport hunting.

The plant life is also very magical. A lot of plants are used by the defense forces for their magical properties.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Living With Mental Illness in America

"I start to think there really is no cure for depression, that happiness is an ongoing battle, and I wonder if it isn't one I'll have to fight for as long as I live. I wonder if it's worth it." - Elizabeth Wurtzel

"My depression has followed me around my whole life like a black dog, a spectre from which there has been no escape." - Winston Churchill 

"I speak of a clinical depression that is the background of your entire life, a background of anguish and anxiety, a sense that nothing goes well, that pleasure is unavailable and all your strategies collapse." - Leonard Cohen

"I have suffered with mental illness silently for the great majority of my life. Thankfully, for the past few years, I have begun to seek help. Admittedly, however, it has not been easy. The hardest part is being taken seriously." - Kent Allen Halliburton

Living with mental illness in the United States can be a nightmare. First, you have to get past the stigma. People with diagnosed mental illnesses are looked upon by many as either dangerous or a complete waste of flesh. They are not taken seriously, and they tend to get marginalized. This has an additional side effect. This treatment leads to many people with several mental illnesses living much of their lives in silent pain and suffering just to avoid the stigma of being declared mentally ill. For some, it gets so bad that they end up either dead from self medicating or homeless because they are unable to function normally. Further, in the past, admitting to mental illness carried an additional spectre. If a person admitted to being mentally ill, they could end up in a permanent facility for the terminally insane.

Once a person has managed to get past the stigma and is getting treatment for their illness, they have to spend months and even, sometimes, years going through examination after examination to find the right combination of medications that makes it possible for them to function normally in society. This struggle can be a massive pain all on its own. Unfortunately, for some, they are never able to reach normalcy, and they struggle their entire lives, even on meds, just to function like a human being. This trip can have severe negative effects on people. In between medications, people can end up in the hospital where they can be locked away for months at a time while medical professionals attempt to stabilize them.

Luckily, mental health is beginning to be taken more seriously and many more people are beginning to get the treatment that they need to function in normal society. However, there is much left to be done. New medications are coming out all the time, and many medications have side effects that are worse than what they are meant to alleviate. Further, people with severe problems, fearing the consequences, may not want treatment. This puts their future in a precarious position. Most mental facilities are no longer designed for permanent residency. This means that a person cannot be easily sent away for life. So, what happens if they have no family to live with? Further, what happens to them if they are poor or no one in their family can foot the bill for a life long care facility? Usually, they end up on the street.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, upwards of twenty-five percent of the American homeless population, in excess of five-hundred thousand people, is mentally ill. They admit, though that this number may be under estimated. This is so because their numbers rely on responses to in person examinations and logistical information gathered from local municipalities who measure mental illness among their local homeless populations. So, what kind of mental illnesses are Americans suffering from. Lately, because of the wars in the Middle East, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has come to the forefront of Psychiatric care. There are also illnesses like Schizophrenia, which is a mental disorder that is characterized by hallucinations, either auditory, visual, olfactory, or tactile, and delusions. It is usually treated with a combination of anti-psychotic medications and psychotherapy.

If you have a mental illness that is going untreated, please, do not be afraid to seek out the help that you need. Their are resources for you out there. You just have to look for them! If you have no other options and are beginning to feel helpless, check yourself into the hospital. They are obligated, by law, to get you the help you need. Remember that there is always tomorrow!

This piece is the beginning of a series of pieces on mental illness. The main goal will be to list major mental illnesses and examine exactly what they are and how they effect people.

Taking Trump DOWN!

"Democrats need to catch up with us, or we are leaving them behind!" - Lexa Moon

Are you wondering how Progressives can take down the Trump administration and corporate Democrats? Don’t worry, we Progressives have a secret weapon!

What is the Progressive's secret weapon? YOU!

According to info posted on PBS.org, there was a 58% voter turnout during the 2016 Presidential election. What were the results? We got a Republican victory in all three branches of government. These were not the results we wanted, but the Democrats didn’t give us much of a choice either, considering that they anointed Hillary Clinton long before the Democratic primaries every took place.

According to a Gallup survey posted on Salon.com, only 36% of the country identifies as conservative. This is down from 38% in 2014 and 40% in 2012. So, what does this mean? It means that a lot of Progressives did not vote. However, if they vote in 2018, we will have a solid chance to take back Congress!

What’s your job? Get involved! Join campaigns for real progressive candidates, such as those involved with Justice Democrats for a New Congress. Throughout the elections make sure to register as many people as possible to vote! Knock door to door to get more people on board so we can take back Congress and get big money out of government once and for all! Make congress and the politicians accountable for the mess that they gave us in the 2016 election!

Make your voice heard! I know I will!

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