One benefit of working as a mental health professional in the middle of nowhere is the opportunity to see people with all sorts of different diagnoses that one wouldn’t necessarily see in urban areas due to the increased specialization there. When you are the only game in town (or a 100 mile radius) you get to see it all. Very few of my urban colleagues have seen Huntington’s Chorea first hand, tested people with Lewy Body Dementia or Korsakoff’s psychosis, and also treated children with PANDAS (Look it up. It isn’t as nice as it sounds).
The recent uptick in conspiracy theories and QAnon reminded me of a case I was privy to decades ago involving a shared delusion. Folie a Deux is a condition in which one person with a Delusional Disorder convinces someone else without a Delusional Disorder that their delusions are real. It usually occurs in couples or close relatives. It is rare. It barely made the last edition of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The case I remember is that of one person in a couple having the delusion that a member of a famous Country Western singing group loved them, and transmitted secret messages to them over the television. The delusional person convinced their partner this was true, and both had to be hospitalized.
I wonder if APA is reevaluating the rarity of shared delusions in our current political climate. It may be more prevalent than we previously thought. I love the French terms for these conditions. Folie a Plusieurs is the term for “madness of several”, which we certainly have observed recently. The treatment usually involves separating the truly delusional from the ones they have convinced about their delusions. Then they can see what is really happening.
What are your favorite non-English terms? Make up some fun and helpful conspiracy theories.
Yesterday morning I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription refill. As the pharmacist was checking me out, I said “I don’t need any of the paperwork and I don’t need a bag.” As I just dump the bag and the paperwork as soon as I get home, it seems a waste. In any other setting, if I just have a few items, I pass on the bag as well. Usually the receipt too. I just don’t need more bags of any kind at my house.
Well, the pharmacist put the prescription right into a little bag, although she didn’t print out all the paperwork about the drug. Probably 25% of the time, even though I have said no bag, I get a bag anyway. It is so automatic. I didn’t make a fuss… what good would come of it … just dropped the bag into the trash on the way out of the store. But I was thinking about how many things we all do almost automatically.
Then YA and I took a big shopping trip to Target. We had a couple of non-food items that we looked for first, so ended up at the END of the food area (dairy) first, instead of the beginning (produce). Even though I’ve shopped here many times and we had a list, it was extremely disconcerting to be going “backwards”. We ended up backtracking at least 3 times when we realized we had missed something. I’m guessing that I would have this reaction in any grocery store that I’ve shopped at repeatedly. I didn’t intend to internalize a direction when I shop for groceries, but clearly I have. Part of me thinks that I should do something about this; how dare the grocery industry mess with my mind. Another part of me thinks it’s probably too late!
Anything you do without much thinking?
Last Friday I was on a MS Teams meeting in a weekly group supervision session I participate in with staff from another Human Service Center. The clinical director of that agency was really amused by the ingenuity of one staff member and the young adult child of another staff member, both of whom accurately self- diagnosed themselves with Covid.
The staff member was suspicious of some symptoms, and took a couple swigs of lemon juice, couldn’t taste it, and went for a formal test at the doctor and tested positive. The young adult was out with friends drinking shots of Fireball whiskey, realized she couldn’t taste it, and went for a test and was positive.
The clinical director wryly suggested that perhaps we all needed to drink shots of Fireball whiskey throughout the day to self-monitor for Covid. Cinnamon flavored whiskey isn’t my drink of choice, but I could think of other strong tasting things I wouldn’t mind monitoring with.
Make up your own Covid test.
Wouldn’t you know it! Husband has Type II diabetes, and watches his carb intake very carefully. We rarely, if ever, have chips and such in the house. His blood sugar levels are quite stable and in the normal range. He loves to snack on figs, so I order organic Turkish figs for him from a place in New York that sells all sorts of dried fruit, candy, dried beans, baking ingredients, etc.
Husband doesn’t eat much candy at all, but has a love for black Finnish licorice. I really like it, too, and we go through a one pound bag of it pretty fast. The New York connection sells wonderful Finnish licorice, and the last time he ran out of figs, I decided to order three pounds of figs and, to save money, I bought a five pound bag of black Finnish licorice.
A few days after the licorice arrived, a news story emerged about the dangers of eating more than two ounces of black licorice a day. Some guy on the East Coast collapsed and died from heart complications from eating a pound of black licorice a day for months. Licorice root in any form apparently has a compound called glycyrrhizin that lowers potassium levels which can lead to heart arrhythmias. Even licorice tea can increase blood pressure. The guy who died apparently had a really poor diet, and was eating in a fast food restaurant when he collapsed. His potassium level was really low, and caused his heart to fail. Husband’s potasium levels were a little higher than normal at his recent checkup, probably due to figs, which are high in potassium. His blood pressure is in the average to low range.
All this hasn’t stopped our licorice eating, but it sure makes us hesitant to eat too much at once. The five pound bag on the counter might last pretty long time.
How do you respond to expert dietary advice? What favorite snack would be hard for you to give up?
Husband told me out of the blue this week that his three favorite people of the 20th Century were Rosa Luxemburg, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (He has more time to sit and think now that he doesn’t travel for work). I had to admit that I didn’t know who Rosa Luxemburg was, but Husband tells me she was a good socialist.
Given our current situation, I think my three favorite people of the 20th Century would be Jonas Salk, Alexander Fleming, and Tommy Douglas.
Who are your favorite people from the 20th Century? How about the 21st?
Well, the dog may be happy and the garden is really thriving and my kitchen floor is spectacularly clean, but I can’t say that my lower legs are particularly flourishing with furlough and shelter-in-place.
Two weeks ago I dropped my bow saw putting it away and it scrapped my leg below the knee, so I have seven ½” long wounds, nicely healing but still a bit pink. I have a bruise just below my left knee – I really have no idea how I got that one. I have a nice gash from a rock that whipped its way out of the lawn mower and at least five various pokes from crawling around on mulch while weeding.
The spot that’s bothering me is the bug bite that I got on Thursday – it actually looks like two bites right next to each other, so it probably happened when I kneeled on something, but it itches like the devil and is still red after a few days. Lots of Benadryl gel helps some. Neosporin and a bandaid felt good this morning but I figure I’ve got a couple more days until it’s healed up.
I’m not sure if I should just give up my lucrative leg modeling contract or start wearing long pants while I garden.
Any unintended consequences lately in your life?
Husband declared the other day that his private Hell consisted of dealing with paper (he has neuropathy in his fingertips from diabetes and can’t sort or easily manipulate papers or feel his fingers on a keyboard), keeping organized the cords for our various computers, phones, and tech instruments, and the internal combustion engine. He is in Heaven, on the other hand turning a phrase or writing a psychological evaluation.
What would constitute your private Hell?
Today’s post comes from Jacque.
Two weekends of my life have been lost to construction of homemade masks. This is not usually how I would spend a weekend, but then these are not normal times. And what else was there to do anyway given our Shelter-in-Place order. And constructing masks certainly is preferable to allowing debilitating fear and anxiety about our COVID-19 problem to take over my life. I would rather allow something useful to take over my life. The need for these was urgent, though. Several people asked me to send masks ASAP. Unfortunately, many of them are going to medical providers:
- Sister-in-law, a doctor. She says they have shields and it was suggested they use homemade masks under them. They had to find their own homemade masks.
- Brother-in-law, a nurse. He has masks at his hospital but they are forbidden from using the one mask they have been assigned anywhere but in direct care.
- Daughter of a friend, another nurse. Her hospital has assigned each nurse one N95 mask with the instructions to use a homemade mask over it to preserve the usefulness of it. She also had to find her own mask.
- My mother’s assisted living facility which has no masks at all—they are entirely dependent on donated masks amid the most vulnerable population of all.
To date, I have made 65 of these, and mailed out or given away 60. Someone at Blue Cross Blue Shield and Allina designed the masks I have made, then sent them out appealing to anyone who can sew. An NBC article I found yesterday cited a research study by a Dr. stating that these screen out 79% of viruses and bacteria. Not bad for quilting materials. The instructions (thrown together and hand drawn) are here:
Then came the issue of obtaining materials. First everyone everywhere ran out of elastic, then elastic hair ties which were used to improvise elastic. I hear people are cutting the elastic off of underwear to make them. I found shoelaces, ordered 4 spools from a shoelace site, and have been attaching those. They tie very tightly and stay put. The medical people need that. Next, during a trip to Joann Fabric, the store was shut down because people would not stay 6 feet apart in the store. Thus my on-line order was cancelled. I went to the Edina Joann, and joined a line in front of the store. They only allowed 25 customers in the store at once to maintain a distance. The fly in that ointment was that all 25 customers headed for the quilt fabric department – to make masks. We did our best to maintain 6 feet of distance from one another. I did get more fabric, then launched into making more.
I am taking a break now from mask construction, having overdosed on the entire project. I just could not do one more after yesterday. I sent them off Monday morning to family in Phoenix, to KC, to Iowa wishing them 79% ability to block a virus and that they perform efficiently. In a few days I will start some more, but I won’t make that many at a time again. Today, for a change of pace, I planted my cold frame, wallowing in the joy of early Spring and the possibilities of my garden. Then I fixed supper, using the baked potato recipe Steve posted yesterday via YouTube. They were good.
What have you overdosed on lately?
Husband is slow. Motorically slow. He always has been slow. He really can’t do much of anything quickly, and it has been a source of frustration for him that I can do things quickly. Really quickly. When I did my psychology internship at a VA hospital in Iowa, we interns were administered the same battery of neuropsychological tests that we would eventually administer to the patients. One of the tests was the Purdue Pegboard, which is a large board with holes for pegs, and you time people to see how fast they can put the pegs in the holes. It assesses bilateral motor speed and coordination. I had the fastest time ever for anyone who had taken the test at that clinic.
Last week, I got a notification from Ancestry.com that recent analysis of my DNA revealed me to have the Sprinter gene, common in athletes, especially in successful short distance runners. I never was an athlete, but my dad was, and he was really speedy. In high school he could zip around the basketball court so fast that he once caused the boy assigned to guard him to start crying during a game because he couldn’t keep up with him. He did most things really fast, and I am pretty sure I inherited that gene from him.
What genetic advantage do you think you inherited? Make up a gene you would like to have.
Husband has his second cataract surgery today on his left eye. His right eye is really improving with some surprising sequelae. He says that it feels like his brain is being washed with light and color now. We have a pretty good division of labor when it comes to cleaning house. I dust and do laundry. He vacuums, and folds and puts away the laundry. We both clean the kitchen. On Saturday Husband noticed, for the first time in a long time, how many crumbs were on the upholstered seats of the dining room chairs, and he vacuumed them. He ordered me out of the kitchen twice over the weekend as his vision has improved to the point that he needs far less help from me while he cooks.
I remember hearing the shock and anguish from people, usually women, who have cataract surgery and realize how dusty their homes became as their vision worsened. I am a fairly lackadaisical duster, and I must admit that I let it go for far longer than I should. I suppose Husband’s improved vision means I will have to dust more often since he can actually see how dusty things get now. His improved quality of life means more work for me!
What have been some unexpected sequelae after improvements in your life?