Title: Lithium: A Drug, A Doctor, and A Breakthrough Author: Walter A. Brown Date of Publication: August 2019 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Lithium, as its subtitle suggests, tells three interwoven stories: that of the life of John Cade, the doctor who discovered lithium’s most important medical use; that of lithium itself from its first discovery as an element to its recognition as both a drug and a toxin; and that of lithium’s bumpy road to acceptance through research trials, scientists’ feuds, and governmental wariness.
“The absence of effective treatments for manic-depressive illness in earlier times did not mean that these patients were not treated. They were treated with all sorts of substances and procedures from ancient times onward. It’s just that none of these treatments worked, and most were harmful.” – Walter A. Brown, Lithium (emphasis added)
When I came across this quote I thought instantly of modern treatments for autism – not the few designed to help an autistic individual learn to cope with the neurotypical world, but those that claim to cure the condition. Even the most mainstream behavioral therapy is concerning (particularly to autistic adults who endured it as a child), and desperate parents who can’t handle having an autistic child try many stranger and more dangerous “treatments.” Different restrictive or elimination diets are supposed to reduce the behavioral symptoms of autism, according to parental observations; given the oral and textural sensitivities of many autistic people, those diets are likely to become even more restricted to the point of being unbalanced, or very costly for the parents (and objective, blinded research observations show no difference). Parents may choose not to vaccinate to prevent autism, and instead create opportunities for potentially deadly preventable diseases to flourish. And one has only to read about the “bleach cure” to see how supposed cures can cross the line from unwise to abusive.
Autism may not even be curable. It’s highly unlikely a single compound will be found that renders the autistic mind essentially neurotypical, like lithium can regulate and even prevent the mood swings of bipolar disorder. And yet so many people invest so much time, energy, and money into making autistic people act like and think like neurotypical people – even when those efforts are harmful to the autistic people they claim they want to help. It’s like forcing deaf children to speak orally and lip read instead of encouraging sign language, or shaming a wheelchair user for not trying harder to stand and walk. Instead of hurting autistic children to try to mold them into conformity with some neurotypical standard they can never completely reach, support them by making the world more aware and accepting of neurodiversity. Help them develop social skills, adaptive and pragmatic skills, and language skills without trying to change the core of who they are, and learn to see each child for the unique and beautiful person that they are, needs and struggles and gifts all bundled up together.
When I was younger (maybe until partway through high school), my Grandma would bring delicious Spanish turron with her every year for Christmas – yema quemada, mostly, but occasionally the alicante and jijona varieties as well. I’m not sure why she stopped, but I missed it – I haven’t seen it out here. But this year my coworker brought big blocks of all three types back with him from his visit home to Spain and it made me so happy 🙂 Such a special treat, such a good taste, such good memories coming along with it.
I get home from work late three nights a week and I have the Christmas tree on a timer so when I walk in the house is illuminated with this soft glow and the warm beauty of the tree welcomes me in. And for the first week the smell of fir greeted me as well!
We had a heavy frost here earlier this week, and the whole world was icy and white with it – not a common occurrence. Fortunately, I didn’t have any frost-sensitive plants to worry about other than the basil, which took a pretty serious hit but went out in a blaze of glory, absolutely beautiful with its dark purple leaves edged in shining ice.
Aubade got to do sparklers for the first time in her life for New Year’s Eve and the look on her face when the first one started sparking was so perfect – just pure astonishment and delight all in one, and then she got to hold her own and she was in bliss.
Limerick is a solid reader now. I can give him a book he hasn’t read before (picture book or early reader level) and he can get through it! He has definitely inherited some perfectionistic tendencies, however – he will silently work out each sentence or page as a whole before reading any of the words out loud.
Rondel has his first loose tooth! It wiggled for the first time on Christmas day and it’s quite wobbly now but still definitely attached.
Aubade will pretend to be Cinderella in a sparkly dress and Rondel will dance with her, holding her hands and twirling her around the room, both of them singing together. He always hugs her at the end ❤
I’m not really that great at looking back or looking forward. I read a lot of C.S. Lewis in my formative years, and I still have his words echoing in the back of my head: Screwtape teaching Wormwood how to enslave men to either the past or future and thus distance them from the present which alone intersects with eternity; the unfallen Queen on Perelandra describing time and circumstance as the waves of the sea into which we plunge as we swim, taking what comes and letting go of what has come before.
However, it can be helpful to look back and see the path I’ve taken – to see evidence of God’s grace, of answered prayer, of comfort in hardship, of blessing and providence in good times – and be reminded of God’s faithfulness. It can be encouraging to see progress made, or convicting to see unhealthy patterns deepening. Similarly, it can be good to look forward, to make goals and resolutions, so that I can prepare well for the future I hope to build.
This year especially is a bit of a landmark, as not only the old year but the old decade comes to a close. Ten years ago – 2010 – I was single, graduated college, moved out, bought my first car, and began working at the university where I am still employed now – so really, the whole of my adult life so far has taken place in the now-past decade, and even the highlights would take far longer than this post to describe.
One of the major highlights of 2019, however, was finally getting diagnosed with autism and having a reason for all the times I’d felt out of place and two steps behind despite hearing from everyone how smart I was, for all the moments I’d been so overwhelmed by a sound or touch that I couldn’t process anything, for all the weird behaviors (now I know they’re called stims) I’d accumulated over my life, and more. This was reflected on the blog – 4 of my top 5 most popular posts this year were from my Autism Acceptance series in April:
That third post in the list above touches on one of the things I’m most proud about this year, actually: the way I was able to identify the onset of seasonal depression and take steps to counteract it. This is the first Christmas in several years that I have only had minor situational anxiety instead of moderate overarching depression, and I think being prepared made a huge difference. It wasn’t the type of preparation that gets me all anxious about making lists and potentially forgetting things; just a conscious choice to let go, to dig deep, to roll the thoughts away, to take things one step at a time, and to center my life on meditative prayer.
What also helped was a chance, at the beginning of December, to bike significantly more frequently. I started biking in to work 1-2 days a week in November, but in December my hours increased (from 8 to 20 per week!) and I needed to commute 4 days a week. That regular time outside exercising is amazing for mental regulation and emotional health, at least for me! And the reason for the change is also something I’m excited about, both for 2019 and going into 2020: I have the chance to learn bioinformatics and transition over the next 6 months from the genomics wet lab team to the bioinformatics team, which gives me a chance to learn something I’ve been interested in for years and develop skills which will be even more valuable for my career.
Outside of work, I’m looking forward to an opportunity to help develop neurodiverse community and support at my church. The woman who’s been running the special needs children’s ministry wants to reshape it to better reflect acceptance and neurodiversity, multiple people have anonymously asked the pastors about ministries specifically for neurodiverse adults, several pastors across our web of churches are working on formulating a theology of disability, and I’m apparently one of the adults they know of who is neurodiverse. Hopefully they will not ask only me, since neurodiversity is by definition diverse 🙂 But I really appreciate that they care deeply about the whole spectrum of the children of God, that they don’t want to make it something that neurotypical people are doing to or for us without our input or leadership, and that I have a chance to be involved!
With all of that said, I have just a few resolutions for the new year.
First, I resolve to pray every day. Things are just better when this happens, like marriage is better when I actually spend time talking with Paul 😛
Second, I resolve to write on this blog more frequently. My goal is approximately every 3 days – so, 122 posts for the year. I have lots of ideas but often don’t post for reasons that don’t make sense outside of my head, so I’m going to try to let go of my perfectionism and just share my thoughts.
Third, I resolve to read a variety of good books and keep a book log again! That was such a good experience in the past and I really need to get out of my fan fiction rut anyway. (I already have two books on my list and I can’t wait to write about them!)
How about you, readers? Any highlights from the year (or decade)? Anything you’re resolving for the New Year or especially looking forward to? Or conversely, any challenges from the past or apprehension about the future? I always love to read your thoughts.
Rondel never took to the “3 R’s” of education quite as naturally as Limerick (most people don’t, honestly), though he is an information sponge for the things that interest him, which have throughout his life been mostly science-related. We’d tried a couple of different approaches to learning and practicing math before I came across the Life of Fred curriculum (and I don’t even remember where, or I would definitely send them my thanks!).
Life of Fred is very, very different from any other math curriculum I’ve used. Every math concept is introduced in the context of a story about Fred Gauss, a five-year-old math professor (yes, it’s strange, but you have to just roll with it), and the end of each short (ridiculous, hilarious, bizarre) chapter has a few practice questions that work in both new and old concepts. So kids reading through the stories begin to see math as something useful, lovable, and even beautiful as it snakes its way through Fred’s everyday life (and his very odd adventures). And the stories will have kids laughing out loud along the way, if they are at all like Rondel (and myself!).
The elementary series for Life of Fred starts with Apples and Butterflies, which are both kindergarten level, and goes from there – through decimals, fractions and percents, through pre-algebra and algebra, and all the way through calculus (which was actually the first book the author wrote, oddly enough). While the books are published by Polkadot Publishing, I couldn’t find a way to purchase directly through them and ordered from ZTwist Books instead (free shipping!).
We are just beginning Cats now, having spent an average of 3-4 weeks each on the first two books. Rondel has been asking me to read Life of Fred all the time – more than I can right now with my lingering sore throat, and more than Aubade has patience for at times – and I can see his confidence with math growing week by week (we’ve been using the books for over two months by now). He will now tell people that math is his favorite because of Fred; he doesn’t get overwhelmed by basic addition and subtraction problems; he is starting to understand analog time-telling; he is getting better at remembering the days of the week and months of the year; he will skip-count for fun; and he is learning to notice patterns and sets in the things around him. The practice problems force him to focus as he has to recall information and use concepts in new contexts, but there are never so many in a set that he can’t make his way through them all.
In short, I am so glad we found these books and highly recommend them for anyone else, particularly those kids who are struggling with a traditional approach to mathematics.
Today we celebrated Aubade’s birthday! She’s only just 3, and yet her birth already seems so far away; the time before her, scarcely imaginable.
She is entering into a very sparkly and colorful phase these days – her favorite clothes are fancy dresses with lots of pouf and sparkle, she loves fairy dolls and rainbow unicorns, and her favorite movie is Cinderella – but she is no less fierce for all that. She will run around the house with her brothers playing games where at least one of them is an evil villain or a ferocious monster or a brave warrior; her little dolls (with names like Vanilla Ice Cream and Sparkle Cake) will fight away giant poisonous snakes with stingers on their tails (courtesy of Limerick’s imagination); and she tries her hardest to climb, run, or jump high and fast enough to keep up with the boys.
She is definite about what she wants: she is confident in her own opinions and makes sure everyone who might need to knows what she thinks! When I asked her about her birthday cake, for instance, she told me she wanted it to be pink and purple and red and blue, and to be little enough for her to eat it all by herself (Limerick, on the other hand, was so overwhelmed by the decision process that he told me he didn’t want any cake, or any party for that matter – it is crazy how different two siblings can be).
She brings a unique vibrance and energy to our home, dancing and singing and sometimes screaming her way through life, full of ideas and the motivation to get things done: to play pretend with her toys and her brothers, to listen to her favorite books (Henry and Mudge), to climb up Daddy and get flipped upside down, to comb Grandma’s hair with her fingers, to pull out all the craft supplies and make a picture, and more. I am so grateful to get to watch her grow, and to have the opportunity to love and guide her along the way.
“As Joseph considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man,
Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
In Mary’s womb, in the months leading up to the Nativity, in the dark, quiet, hiddenness, God took on human nature. The early Church fought and died for this fundamental truth: that Jesus was just as fully human as He was fully God, the two natures combining in the one person. And through this unity, established in His own body, He makes possible for us a unity with God in Him: our humanity lifted up to God’s divine presence and everlasting life in true union with the immortal. But that is not the only unity for which He paves the way, for it is also in Him that the unity of all people and people groups is made possible. For the good news of Christmas is a good news for all the people, throughout time and space, ethnicity and culture, history and hope. In Him the walls between nations and tribes and races and cliques can be fully broken down – for through Him, the Keystone, all our disparate and individual clans are held together in one glorious and mighty arch of redeemed humanity.
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
The image of God as light has always resonated deeply with me. When I was seven years old, I read a book that described the gospel message as Jesus coming into our hearts as light comes into a room when the windows are opened, leaving the darkness with no place to hide, and I still remember how deeply I wanted that light to shine on me. (As far as I can remember, that was the first step on my journey of salvation, the first moment I desired to follow God.) In high school, I loved Psalm 23, despite wanting to like something not quite so well-known, just to roll that phrase over in my mouth and in my head: the valley of the shadow of death – and to know, as the first rounds of depression came, that no valley was too deep, no shadow too heavy, for God’s light to reach me.
I’ve gone through times in my life where it felt like I was walking on a path I could not see, in a world grayed out by swirling mists and darkened by heavy clouds – where the darkness, the lack of clarity and visibility, was a tangible emotional presence. And sometimes it was sorrow at the brokenness of the world, clouding my eyes, and sometimes it was a pattern of sin in my own life, and sometimes the fog was there on its own accord. And every time my spirit cried out – and I am sure the Spirit cried with me, with groans that cannot be uttered – for that light to come, shine on me, dwelling in the darkness, striving to find my way under the shadow of death.
And the Star of Christmas shines out over the earth, from the little stable in Bethlehem, and I lift up my eyes to Him from whom comes my help; and even when I struggle to see the light myself I hold fast to the knowledge that He who has promised is faithful, and that He will come again, as He came before, with the radiance and purity of light shining in to the darkness of despair.
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;