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Brilliantly said. I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar II 7 years ago. I too became a full-fledged atheist/skeptic shortly after I started the road to finding the right meds... each one changed me in a new and interesting (if not always productive) way, and I've been fascinated by the process. I've been on fairly stable meds for about 4 1/2 years now.

It's hard to watch my loved ones and friends who are in similar straits but are unwilling to go through the process of finding the right medication to help them. I try to tell them how wonderful life is now that I'm not fighting my brain at every twist and turn, but they just aren't willing to try. Sad and frustrating.

My 16 year old was diagnosed with major depressive disorder this past fall. It's been a rough year of trying meds and tinkering to get the right one in the right quantity, but it makes all the difference. She is back to her highly creative, energetic self. I too wonder about some family members from long ago (and not so long ago!)


Thank you for your post. I know it took a great deal of courage to be so forthcoming. My best wishes for your continued joy and happiness. I do wonder though whether or not the meds might have taken you in another extreme direction which led to your atheism. I for one am not an advocate of gods and the like but I think it important to also understand the limits of what we think we know.

Totally, totally, totally. And praise from me too about coming out. My family was in the same Ohio village for nearly 200 years (no, we weren't inbred, actually) and the strand of crazitude that runs through generations proves everything anyone wants to know about inherited depression. The Jane Fonda genogram has nothing on mine!

I have been taking one SSRI or another since they first were approved. Life isn't perfect but it's better than it once was and might still be (if I hadn't drunk or drugged my way out of it).

I wish our time could be more forgiving than it is, but I think it's a matter of not yet. Western culture still has a way to go in being accepting of people's differences. It needs people who look fine to be open about how they got that way.

While I empathize with those who have mental illness, throwing in the "mysterious girly bits" as a more acceptable and publicly stated reason for being "not quite normal" and therefore, "unable to work" (over mental illness) perpetuates additonal and unnecessary stereotypes and derision we have been trying to get rid of for decades. This should not be another burden that women, including those with mental illness, might have to face in trying to get their issues taken seriously. And it's not funny to me as a woman on the receiving end, even if it's another woman making the joke.

Allyson I absolutely ADORE you!

Huh. I never really thought about it as offensive. My bosses have always been women, so calling in "yeast infection" has always been understood.

Now that I've walked the dog and had a little caffeine, I can be a little more indignant.

The only way a vag issue can be considered "not quite normal" (since I have a vag, the issues that come with vag-having are pretty freakin' normal to me) is if "normal" is defined as not having a vag.

Those with a vag occasionally suffer from wicked pains, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, menopause, and sometimes, in the interest of perpetuating the human race, we vag-havers suffer labor and birth.

Anyone who finds this unacceptable is a jackhole. My goal is not to pretend I don't have a vag, but to make sure that those that actually don't have one behave with some fucking gratitude and derision. "Hooray! You have a vag! Thanks for taking one for Team Human! How may we accommodate your vag?"

So we have maternity leave, which is nice, since it's difficult to give birth in a board room in between powerpoint slides.

"Normal" is not the state of not having a vag. A vagina is a good thing. Everyone who ever came out of one should both agree AND make sure that all the issues that come with vag ownership are considered "normal." Because they are normal. So there's that. A workplace that doesn't get that will miss half the world's talent.

I once worked for an all-female team of lawyers where it was okay to cry if you were especially stressed out. You'd get handed a box of Kleenex and the conversation would continue as normal, since "crying is a normal response to stress." Not a weakness, but the body righting itself. Blow your nose, dab your eyes, continue. I understand that it's rare, but it was AWESOME. And productive. And drama-reducing.

"not" derision. Yikes.

Allyson, this is a freakin' awesome post, and really courageous, as well as fascinating. Brain chemistry and the internal world we build from it has always fascinated me, never more so than when I found myself sliding down depression's well-oiled slope. The day all the color leached out of my vision was one of the scariest and yet most interesting days of my life. It's never been clearer to me than it was at that moment that mental illness is some biological and/or chemical process that shouldn't brand people as anything but in need of medical help and support, like, say, the flu. Still, it's hard to tease apart social attitudes and beliefs from disease (see Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor). Posts like this help a hell of a lot. Bravo.

Wow - I hope my daughter thinks this well when she grows up. Oddly enough, Allyson, my SSRI experience has led me directly into the church, and I even work in one as a musician, composer, and arranger. I started having severe depression in my early teens. My cousin committed suicide in his early twenties, nearly 30 years ago and before the discovery of the effects of SSRI's. I am thankful that alcohol and drugs, as much as they caused me pain and addiction, were available... otherwise I would probably not be here to author this homily. I was introduced to Nardil in the early 90's but quit taking it because my (then) wife thought it was "weak" to have to take drugs for depression. I was reintroduced to SSRI's through the insistence of my current bride of 10 years, who refused to marry me unless I did something about my "moods". Although I am very conservative these days (haven't always been so) I am in a church environment that does not foster intellectual or emotional limitation. Our pastor, Joel Hunter, is on O'bama's advisory board and gave the closing to his Denver acceptance speech last fall. He is far from being a liberal but does believe that religion should not be offered as "proof" of anything, nor should it be used as coercion; this is what I've been taught here. It is odd how Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), which was one of the saving graces of the input of numerous psychologists, can work to send us down one path or another. At any rate, the discovery of this website has been quite a birthday blessing for me... and I wish you the best as you continue to experience the well deserved enjoyment of your life.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.