It’s Not Always Anxiety in Philadelphia

Well, I know I said I would post every Sunday, but I forgot that I work in rec hockey in a university setting now, and last weekend was the busiest. I had to train someone from a Middle Eastern country on hockey, a front desk girl on her deathbed from a cold, and a no-show. Thankfully, I had one person show up to do his job who didn’t need supervising so that worked out.

Sunday was painful because I went to the gym before “work” (meaning hockey work), did my legs for the first time in ages, and needed coffee to help with the lactic acid; I was going to be running around reffing ball hockey afterwards anyways and so there really wasn’t any point in spending half an hour on the bike to effectively get rid of it. So my shift started at 6pm…


The coffee shop nearby doesn’t close until 8 and I was still dying.


Did not count on the fact that it would keep me up so I lay in bed until the wee hours of the morning, wondering what’s going on because I wasn’t feeling anxious, so I didn’t chalk it up to insomnia. Didn’t realize I was still up because of…


Well, at least it wasn’t anxiety and insomnia…that would’ve been worse and this was my own undoing.

The Business

I actually wanted to write about what the brain goes through when it decides to self-terminate but Boston University dropped a bombshell regarding chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and football players. The article is right here. The gist of the article is that of former NFLers’ brains studied, over 96% of them had CTE from repeated blows to the head. In post-professional life, these former players goes through very bad depressive thoughts, and some may even successfully commit suicide. Off the top of my head, a few former professional athletes were linked to this, namely, Junior Seau of the NFL, Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard, and Rick Rypien from the National Hockey League were suspected, but not able to confirm for whatever donation-related reason.

(And more recently Todd Ewen, but it was a gunshot to the head so we’ll never know.)

I managed to find the abstract of the original journal publication from Boston U (but not the whole article), and they also did the brain of a professional wrestler.

Now, this is in line with what I have planned for the next few weeks, so bear with me if I skip ahead because this is recent news. This is an fMRI sample of one of the brains studied post-mortem, courtesy of USA Today.

The left image shows a normal brain scan and middle and right images show scans of pro football players from the study. The green and red colors demonstrate the higher level of tau protein found in the brain. Note the higher levels (more red and green) in the players’ scans. Scans of the players in the study reflect differing levels of tau protein and follow a pattern of progression similar to the tau deposits that have been observed at autopsy in CTE cases. Image Credit: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

The left image shows a normal brain scan and middle and right images show scans of pro football players from the study. The green and red colors demonstrate the higher level of tau protein (that’s bad) found in the brain. Note the higher levels (more red and green) in the players’ scans. Scans of the players in the study reflect differing levels of tau protein and follow a pattern of progression similar to the tau deposits that have been observed at autopsy in CTE cases. Image Credit: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

The fact that the amygdala and thalamus are highlighted with CTE and suicide further supports that they are somehow interconnected with anxiety and depression, instead of something in, say, the prefrontal cortex, or the cerebellum. Both of those regions, along with the hippocampus, are deep in the brain.

From an evolutionary perspective, that’s kinda neat because what’s the purpose in that? The decision-making part of the brain is on the front of the brain, vision in the back…

But as part of my PSA, here’s a comparison between a healthy brain and one that’s gone through repeated concussions.


I must confess though, I hate the sight of brains, so this is making me a bit nauseous. But this is also in line with those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. So rest your brain if you get a concussion; it’s so not worth it.

Going back to the original Boston U study, they have also found that Docosahexaenoic acid also helps improving “cognitive performance” in rats with brain injury (Lucke-Wold et al, 2015). Docosahexaenoic acid is also known as Omega 3. So, much like me with my leg day exercises, it’s a good excuse for steak and meat in general (primarily steak) so my muscles can recover quicker. Something like salmon or better yet, a sushi buffet, would help concussion patients; however, Lucke-Wold emphasized they don’t know the link between omega 3 fatty acids and the brain’s neurogenesis regarding concussions, and this particular area of study needs more research.

……Don’t look at me like that! The most I’m willing to experiment on myself are SSRIs….which, now that I think about it, I should look into whether concussion patients were prescribed SSRIs…but not actual concussions!

Here’s a random song that I’ve been listening to while I was writing.

Follow me on Twitter @288theabe. Stop friggin’ looking at me like that!

I hate you, Hippocampus

Bitch needs to get used to the lack of SSRIs, and I don’t think this stupid heat (that came back for some bizarre reason) is helping either. I mentioned in one of my last few posts that the pills helped with the heat, and today was just a bit below 30C with a hint of fucking disgusting (thanks to GradeAunderA for that line).

But it’s been about a week since I took my last pill to ween off, and the stupid seahorse in my brain (seriously, looks like a seahorse) is throwing a temper tantrum at everything and being forgetful for short-term stuff; luckily, no long-term forgetfulness like if I have a biological mother or am I part of some Orphan Black conspiracy. It’s like walking into a room to grab something, but then forgetting. The worst part happened yesterday.

Coincidentally, I work with two girls who hate each other, but at different workplaces (thanks for your economic action plan, Prime Minister Harper, you prick). I also started both jobs at around the same time last year too, so…even freakier coincidence. Anywho, Girl 1 invited me to her birthday party and obviously there’s going to be Facebook pictures everywhere, so I thought it would be a good idea to give Girl 2 a heads up because, personally, I would be a little annoyed.

Not so much, and I’m not exactly on the socially knowledgeable side of things.

Girl 2 got pissed off at me, and when I asked someone else what I did wrong (honestly, I thought it was just a chick thing), she said that it’s a universal thing that it’s really none of Girl 2’s business who I hang around with, even if she does hate her. Whoops.

Would’ve made sense if my stupid hippocampus isn’t throwing a childish fit over everything…

I can’t even think straight because it’s so uncomfortable. I don’t remember dizziness associated last time I weened off a couple of Mays ago, but it’s very evident right now. I think it had something to do with how I weened myself off, because the first time around was by dosages and finally spacing out the time. This time, it was just the time because I was already on the lowest dosage physically possible at 5mg (pharmaceuticals ship them out at 10mg minimum, so I just bite them in half). I also weened off the first time over winter going into spring instead of the stupid heat called “summer,” so that may have helped.

Just another couple of days with this garbage weather and then hopefully, I’ll be back to normal in combination with the time passed for my hippocampus to get used to the lack of SSRIs.

Here’s a random song that I used to love when I was a teenager….well, I guess I loved the video more.

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Sons of Anxiety 

Last week, we covered what Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are marketed as and what it actually does (it’s different, but not far off), and this week, we’re going to cover what to expect.

It’s a little known fact that the second-leading cause of death amongst teenagers in Canada is suicide, followed by stupidity accidents (Szatmari, 2014), while it is the eighth most prevalent for adults (Statistics Canada) and in an effort to alleviate this issue, more and more psychiatrists were prescribing psychotropic medications, namely SSRIs (Murray, Thompson, Santosh, & Wong, 2005). However, a different problem came up (as with many other things involving things where people rush to make more money) where more teenagers with this drug started reporting suicidal thoughts when they didn’t even have any prior to taking SSRIs (Ghaziuddin, Merchant, Dopp, & King, 2014), and this included adults (Nischal, Tripathi, Trivedi, 2012). This lead to the Food and Drug Association (FDA) in both Canada and the United States to issue a “black box” label on these medications. “Black box” meaning, “This shit can end you in very creative ways.”

(Imagine not being able to sue because the suicide method wasn’t creative enough though…)

So you may be wondering, “What is the point of taking these drugs if this is what it’s going to do to me?” Honestly, the law of averages…and the Swedes. In 2013, Björkenstam et al. of Uppsala University in Sweden discovered the Activation Syndrome.

Bit of background here, for any psychiatric medication, it takes about 3-6 weeks for the patient to start feeling the effects after continuous use (Parker et al., 2000), but it is during that time that is the most important because of this Activation Syndrome. Rest assured though that only 4% of those taking SSRIs feel these urges to self-terminate. So it’s not too bad if you play the numbers.

Now, with our SSRIs, it slowly starts to restructure and repair the hippocampus, returning it to normal after the damage done by excessive cortisol over time (as discussed in my previous post), and this is a crucial time that should be closely monitored by the patient’s medical practitioners and, most importantly, his or her support network. All parties involved must understand what is going on neurologically and scientifically in order to have a successful run against this particular type of mental illness. Knowledge (and individual mental strength) is power in this case because it relieves the fear of the unknown and that everything is going as it should be. Being ignorant about the problem is the worst thing anybody can do; I mean, just look at people against homosexuality.

(The word count before that paragraph ended was 420…ignorance also feeds the war on drugs…)

According to Björkenstam et al., the peak of the suicidal danger is (slightly) different between men and women. For dudes, it is between eight to eleven days at the start of therapy, while for dudettes, it is between ten to twelve.

Interestingly, I personally never felt the peak that late; it was closer to a 5-day maximum, with the peak being on Day 3. In my last go with SSRIs back in late April/early May, I felt pretty good after a week. I think it is because there are some variations with my hippocampus and how badly damaged it is after a decade or two of cortisol abuse, but now that I think about it, that’s not very likely considering the sample size Björkenstam et al. had; that variation should’ve been noticed in the stats crunching (or maybe they just didn’t report, who knows…).

So why only 4% of patients experiences this? No one really knows, as I’ll explain below, but my personal hunch on this is it is dependent on how damaged your hippocampus is from said cortisol exposure and duration in a person’s life and their own personal trains of thoughts. I know that this new format is to look at depression and the like in a scientific point of view, but much like everything else in psychology, both the environment and genetics plays a role in a person’s development.

At the end of the proverbial day, Björkenstam et al. couldn’t find anything that would trigger these symptoms, but could only confirm its existence. Surprisingly, there are also no known rates of suicide that are caused by the Activation Syndrome (Safer & Zito, 2007; Gibbons, Hur, Baumik, & Mann, 2005). My guess is because it is harder to forensically prove that a simple pill killed someone when it’s pretty obvious that the person hung/shot/poisoned/take your death pick themselves. Keep in mind that the Bjökenstam study was published only two years ago and I’m sure there is research going on as I write and you reading this, so (muchmore time is needed.

I was having lunch with my defenseman with a neuroscience BsC degree the other day and we were talking about how far we’ve come in understanding the human brain on an actual scientific level. While neuroscience and psychology were considered as one discipline for a long time, it has only been the past hundred years or so that we have really begun to understand it, especially with the advent of fMRI machines. With that said, we are completely ignorant of what’s going on with the Activation Syndrome, and please don’t hold your breath until we find out or else that’ll be some other form of oxygen-starved brain damage.

So that’s it for this week, hope it was fun and riveting. Keeping with the tradition of this blog, I’ve been writing while my hippocampus was starved for serotonin and SSRIs, and I’m seeing that I’m a pretty sadistic asshole! Haha! This weening thing isn’t working out as well as I’d like it to. Whoops!

Next week, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty (kitty) brain science of suicide.

By the way, I’ve never seen a single episode of this show…don’t even know what it’s about…

Follow me on Twitter @288theabe.

Science of Anxiety

So, first one of many neurological looks into anxiety, depression, and suicide. I actually used this for my introduction thesis presentation on Keynote.

I heart Keynote.

The Start

I feel the need to start from the beginning. Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first line of defense for patients suffering from anxiety. Anxiety has incredible potential to lead to depression, and depression leads to suicide, so that is why getting to the source of the problem, even before it starts, is key. Some argue that it’s environmental, some argue that it’s genetics, but everybody else is willing to settle for the middle and say that it’s 50/50 on average. I say “on average” because some may be more swayed by one or the other.

Originally in the 1980s, scientists designed SSRIs to force the brain to distribute more serotonin into itself. The brain already produces it, but it is thought that anxiety and depression was brought on by the lack of serotonin created, causing a neurochemical imbalance (Nolen-Hoeksema et al., 2011). I think I’ve mentioned this before…somewhere in my past posts, but think of an unplugged sink using the same amount of water that is being recycled to keep it running; the water being serotonin. What needs to happen is the sink needs to be filled with water, so the SSRIs acts as the sink’s plug to keep the water in, while drawing on water elsewhere. It could also be analogized that there is a leak or crack in the sink and SSRIs are the caulking material used to slowly repair the damaged sink to have it functioning normally again. Unfortunately, because there is still so much we don’t know about the brain, not all neurological mechanisms are this clear and simple.

More recently, researchers have found that SSRIs specifically targets the hippocampus. The authors published results that showed neurogenesis in the hippocampus of mice that were exposed to SSRIs (Santarelli et al., 2003). To give another analogy on the subject, think of an old telephone operator’s switchboard in the 1950s.



It had to have one or two people managing it, and their job was to connect the wires to the correct line for the caller. This is what SSRIs do to the hippocampus. The operators are the SSRIs, and they rewire the jumbled neurons in the hippocampus to where it is correctly supposed to be. Further studies support these links in stress, serotonin levels and hippocampal neurogenesis in anxiety and depression (Fan et al., 2015; Mahar, Bambico, Mechawar, & Nobrega, 2014; Nishiyori, Nishida, Shioda, Suda, & Kato, 2014).

The Cause of Anxiety

Regardless of whether the source of anxiety is an environmental or genetics factor, it comes from the same origin. When stressed, a mammalian organism releases a hormone called cortisol into the brain which triggers the fight-or-flight syndrome. Basically, you either stick around to aggressively deal with the situation or you run from it. Either way, it triggers a certain amount of anxiety within an organism. This is an evolutionary trait that comes from way back when we, as a species, were cavemen and dealing with sabretooth tigers, roaming around and giving us shit. (We sure showed them.) Too much cortisol, however, is bad for you, as it causes damage to the hippocampus, which is what leads to anxiety problems (Schneiderman et al. 2005).

Next week, we’ll delve into what SSRIs do exactly, and what to expect on first-time basis….without going through my entire blog. Or go through my entire blog. That would be nice for me.

Here’s a random, ironic song.

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New Format

I really gotta write here more than I’ve been doing….mostly because I’m running out of Bender’s “I’m back, baby!” clips on youtube. And I should be more consistent.

But it’s been pretty trying in the past few months trying to even find time to jerk off  sleep and have my life back, what with my research project thesis thing (whatever the hell the stupid school calls it to make themselves feel better). Combine that with work and well….no time. I think for the first time I’ve started writing this blog, I’m out of shape. That is how busy I’ve been.

A lot has happened since my last post. I moved! Instead of living under a complete Torontonian douchebag like I was for a year and a half, I’m living with a really cool landlady with her dog and cat. Pets certainly help with me feeling like crap every now and then, so that was a big sell point. The cat comes into my room in the middle of the night and comes on to me, so that’s the most action I’ve gotten. He’ll come in, paw across my chest, starts purring sweet nothings in my ear. So pets and air-conditioning is what’s keeping me sane this summer.

Speaking of air-conditioning and keeping me cool, the last experiment I’ve been trying to do is see if SSRIs have anything to do with my personal hatred of heat and humidity. I can honestly say that it definitely makes some kind of difference. On the hottest days, it’s still pretty bad, but at least I don’t chain smoke to calm myself down, and on the average hot days (high 20sC and low 30s), it’s still very bearable. Now, I’m comparing it to last year where I didn’t have air-conditioning and animals to keep me calm and sane, nor do I have an immature man-child for a roommate anymore so that also helps, but may also be confounding variables to this experiment. But even when I’m sweating while staying still, I don’t get as antsy as I used to, especially in my “new” (replaced) car that has leather seats. Leather seats suck, but at least I got a sunroof to let the heat out more efficiently.

I also got a few new toys in the form of a Kobo and new TV. I’ve been meaning to read more after I finished my final paper, and luck would have it that someone left behind a Blackberry Playbook. As a tablet, it really, really sucks. I’m charging it right now and the charge cable and port can’t even stay in there, like it would a Macbook Pro’s charge port, but it’s got the Kobo app and I’ve already bought a few books for me to read. I also saved enough money to buy a cheap TV from Costco because my man-child former roommate left with his TV. It’s a nice 40″ gem that I hook my Playstation 3 to. Lots of gaming to keep my mind off of the heat too, but lately, I ran into a wall with Batman: Arkham City. A lot of people say that it’s a good game, but I’m finding it incredibly frustrating. So, now, I’m trying to find money to buy a new game, probably Dead Space 3, because I like to be scared by nasty mutants. There’s also Netflix so I got plenty now to keep my mind off of my anxiety issues, especially with a ton of shows and movies to catch up on.

The Now

So what now? I got one more stupid course to do because the school wants more of my money (long story short, they hid a “sub-required” course from me and didn’t even tell me…I had to find out on my own after I finished my thesis course), but it’s a video lecture (more money sucked from me) so at least I can do that at home.

I’ve been thinking of doing something more independent in my life, and my thesis looking at suicidal ideations from a neurological point of view gave me an idea to look at depression as a whole from a neurological point of view. I would say that the majority of the population never looked at depression neurologically, but almost from a personality perspective, and to consciously overcome it. There is a current movement now where mental health is finally being compared to other physiological diseases, so I would like to look at it from that point of view. I have access to a medical database of empirical research articles on this subject from the library so I think I’ll start doing that now, but regurgitate it in layman’s terms. After reading close to a hundred research articles, it’s pretty painful. I can see why people don’t normally go looking for actual information on the internet instead of the shit-on-the-wall myths (some are true, some aren’t, much like the phrase, “throwing shit against the wall and hoping something sticks”).

After 3 years, I’m definitely running out of ideas to experiment on myself with, or at least I’m willing to experiment myself with. The next one I want to do is switch over to SNRIs next summer and see how that goes but that obviously needs to wait.

So if anyone has any ideas as to what they want to know about, tweet or DM me, or leave a comment below, and I’ll see if I can translate it from Douche Academia to regular English every Sunday.

Here’s a random song.

Follow me on Twitter @288theabe.

Title Would Help

Depression is the inability to construct a future.

– Rollo May, 1969

I’ve been reading a lot lately about depression and suicide, but that’s because that’s what I’m doing my thesis on. When I read that line, I thought, “That’s pretty much me.” I really don’t have any ability to construct a future right now because everywhere I look, it’s all doom and gloom, what with the environment, economy, and human greed. There’s probably more that’s contributing to our own downfall as a species, but I can’t think of it right now. But regardless, not much to look forward to in the future in general.


I just realized that I called my pills “Cipralex” a lot when I was taking them and “SSRIs” now. It’s because I’m not on the more expensive Cipralex anymore, but the much cheaper generic brand that pretty much does the same thing.

In my last post, I mentioned that the pills seem to be working for the most part. I do wake up in the morning feeling super anxious about my day and I just want to curl up in my bed. It takes quite a bit out of me to get up, reach for my pills (on my makeshift nightstand right next to me), split them with my teeth or find the other half of one, and take it. I would then have to wait a while for the pill to kick in, and that alone is weird because upon every start of a cycle, whether it’s an increase or decrease in dosage, it starts doing its thing immediately. There are also days since my last post where it’s been unbearable, but when I socialize a bit, I feel better. I guess I just needed to take my mind off what I need to do, instead of doing things one step at a time and taking the time to relax.

I honestly think it’s been the lack of exercise lately. I’m playing hockey once or twice a week without going to the gym. Even my head shrinker is saying that I don’t have enough time for myself. I get up at around 10am, have a massive breakfast, go about my day which most of the heavy stuff is in the evenings, get home at around midnight, and just crash after making dinner. Finding time in the week is pretty hard to do, too.

Maybe I should just make more time for myself to play puck…

The Today

Today’s not too bad so far. Busy again, as I have to get new tires, and as I’m waiting, I’m selling off a few games that I found last year in my apartment. People just leaves stuff in the lobby for others, and I grab whatever I can and re-sell them. Some can be resold, some not, but it’s better than having it go to some landfill. I also bought a LEGO A-Wing over the winter for the purpose of reselling it for a profit (I already got one) and that’s also going on today. It cost me almost $34 with tax, and I’m selling it for $55. That’s a 62% return on $34 over about 3 months. Better than what a bank can give me.

Today was also payday for both my jobs, so financially, it’s been an encouraging day, and one less thing to worry about. If anything, the excitement have been magnified because of the SSRIs (much like every other emotion I go through while trying to get on this damn pill), but at least I know that it’s a good excitement that I’m solidifying my finances a bit. My money goal right now is to have my money procreate and make more money….which also means that my money is getting more action than me. Welp! Back to being depressed!

I also have to go to my thesis class later tonight so that’ll be fun…

Also, a friend of mine works at an insurance call centre for medical files, and she said she distinctly remembers reading that psychiatric pills takes about 4 weeks to fully work. I can’t personally confirm that, but 4 weeks does seem like a long time for something like this to really kick in and work from what I remember in the first round.

Here’s a random, disturbing song!

Follow me on Twitter @288theabe.

Maybe Working

I think this is working. The past couple of days have just been awful with the humidity and the heat. I’ve been working inside a warehouse with barely any ventilation flowing and I just didn’t feel as depressed or anxious about anything. Granted, I’ve been complaining and whining about the heat a lot, but that’s just plain venting. There have been little blips of anxiety, but it’s been really mild for the most part, so I’m going to say that the plan is working so far.

The downside is that I’ve been cutting back on the gym lately because I’ve been so busy. That’s the only shit part, but I’ve been able to put the rest of my time into other productive things like trying to make a bit of money, school, and things regular people do.

This is a short one because I just want to give a quick update and I’m pretty tired from work today. Random song. Yes, this is Avril Lavigne. Judge all you want.

Follow me on Twitter @288theabe.