Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Experience with Face Recognition Disorder (Prosopagnosia or Face Blindness)

I have difficulty recognizing faces.  It's not something I realized I had difficulty with when I was a child, but looking back on my experiences, it seems that I've had this difficulty all of my life.

When I was a child, I thought I just had trouble remembering names.  This is something that many people say that they have trouble with.  I had never heard of prosopagnosia, so the closest description I could find to what I was experiencing was a problem with remembering names.

But, for me, it was not the names, but the faces.

Since I have trouble recognizing faces, I rely on other clues, like hair color/style and voice.

If people appear similar in other aspects, then it is hard for me to tell them apart.

One of my earliest memories regarding this problem is that in school sometimes teachers would have students pass back graded papers.  I dreaded doing this task, because I had trouble telling some of the students apart.

I tried working in a bagel shop, but that only lasted a couple of days.  I was so busy trying to fulfill the orders, that I forgot to look at the people to remember who ordered what.  This caused some frustrated customers (as well as a frustrated me!)  I'm sure I appeared dumb, but really I was just coping with a difficulty that I wasn't aware I had.

About 4 years ago, I came across information on prosopagnosia (thanks to the marvelous internet) and realized that described my condition accurately!  Since then I have been actively practicing to increase my ability to recognize people and faces.... I am getting better, although I'm not sure whether my ability to recognize faces is actually improving, or whether I'm just getting better at picking up other clues to remember people!

I watch TV shows and movies and try to recognize actors. This used to be an impossible task, but now I am able to do it some of the time.  I think I rely on the sound of their voice as much or more than their face. It's just easier for me.

I still sometimes get lost when watching a movie that has multiple people who look similar, and this can make the plot impossible to follow... A very frustrating thing!

I have been taking piracetam to try to improve some of my cognitive skills. It's an interesting drug (sold as a supplement in the USA).  It works on the brain by somehow increasing or improving neural pathways, or at least that's what it seems to be doing.  It's not a stimulant, but rather a nootropic (a smart drug).  Since it changes neural pathways, it can have some effects on mood (both positive and negative), but that's not the purpose I take it for.

It seems to help me with recognizing people, language skills, and word retrieval.  I had speech and hearing problems as a kid and so I still have some difficulty in that area, and it seems to me that piracetam helps.  If I take it before watching Jeopardy, I can usually get more answers right because it seems that I can think of the answers faster. That all too common "it's on the tip of my tongue" experience goes away.

For more details on face recognition disorder, check out Cecilia's description.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mistaking Mania for Personality....

One of my high school teachers described me as "taking awhile to warm up."

That's because I started off being quiet and they came across as being outgoing later in the year.  Or so my teacher thought.

Looking back on it, I wonder, perhaps she had observed me in a depressed mood and then in a manic mood?

Mania isn't easily recognized.  I talked to someone who was manic once (her speech was rapid and she quickly switched from one thought to the next and it didn't make much sense), but there are other shades of mania that seem to present themselves as personality (hyper, outgoing) perhaps accompanied with risky behavior.  Since society often equates adolescence with risky behavior, people don't see it as mania.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anti-Medication or Pro-Medication?

A number of years ago, I went to a mental illness support group meeting.  I enjoyed the meeting.  However, a group of people there were passionately anti-medication.  At the time, I was taking Seroquel and it was helping me immensely.  That was a strange situation to be in.

The impression I got from most of the anti-medication people is that they were against medication because of their personal negative experience with it. The reasons and experiences varied from forced medication to negative side effects.  Actually, forced medication during hospital stays is what I remember being discussed the most.

It's not that I think all medications are great.  They can be dangerous.  I've had some negative experiences.  Topamax triggered a small seizure in me.  Geodon made me feel physically ill.  Celexa made my moods worse.  That last one isn't a surprise, because an antidepressant alone can be really de-stabalizing for someone with bipolar disorder.  That's more the fault of my really stupid psychiatrist than the medication.

Seroquel may have caused some lasting problems with me.  I have hypoglycemia.  I may have had it before the Seroquel.  It may have made it worse, or perhaps that's just something that would have happened anyway. Who knows.

The difference, I think, between me and those who are anti-medication, is that I found a medication that helps, and every day I decide that I want to take it. I don't have to take it, but if I do, my life is better.  (Currently, that medication is lithium orotate.)

I don't think there should be two groups of people, those who are pro-med and those who are anti-med. It's just not black and white.  What's good for me probably isn't good for you, although it might be.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One of them has to be stopped.

Stress causes symptoms.
Symptoms cause stress.
One of them has to be stopped to end the vicious cycle.
Medication might reduce the symptoms.
Therapy might help you to reduce the stress.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why caffeine can make you feel sooo good and sooo bad

My hypothesis is that caffeine's effect depends on what your mood was before the caffeine intake.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What I know about Lithium Orotate

I am not a doctor or medical professional, and I am not recommending lithium orotate use.

Lithium orotate is not well known and not popular among doctors. This is because there are very few scientific studies and most evidence that it works is just anecdotal.

Lithium orotate is a supplement and available without prescription in the United States. There have only been a handful of studies that have been done on it. One study done on rats in 1979 concluded that lithium orotate can cause kidney fuction problems, but the rat was given the same dose of lithium carbonate as lithium orotate. Some people believe that this study is misleading because lithium orotate is effective at lower doses than lithium carbonate.

However, lithium orotate is puzzling because the doses that it is effective at don’t cause the person to reach the therapeutic range for their blood lithium level. When doctors prescribe lithium carbonate, they check the patient’s lithium level, and generally try to maintain a therapeutic blood level of 0.6 – 1.2 mmol/L. However, with lithium orotate, the effective dose often does not cause the person’s blood level to reach that range; in fact, the lithium blood level is so low that it may not be measurable. This is theorized because the lithium goes into the cells rather than stays in the blood. I’m not sure if I understand this, but it seems to cause the lithium to be effective at a lower dose, which also seems to cause less side effects. Lithium can be toxic at blood levels above 1.5 mmol/L, which is also why blood level tests are usually done with lithium carbonate.

In any case, I take 4 pills of Lithium Orotate every day. Each pill is 150mg which contains 4.8 mg of elemental lithium. Some people have found effectiveness with just 1 pill a day. For awhile I was taking 3 a day. I take the Advanced Research brand and it really helps keep my moods stable.  11/12/2011 Update: I take Doctor's Best Lithium Orotate and it continues to work well.
3/20/2015 Update: Doctor's Best brand was discontinued, so I switched to Vitamin Research Brand of Lithium Orotate.

There is one scientific study (Lithium toxicity from an internet dietary supplement) published about a person overdosing on lithium orotate. They took 18 pills and it caused them to have nausea and vomiting but their blood lithium level was only 0.4.

The reason I started taking the lithium orotate was actually my desire to treat myself. It is a risk I take, and not one I advise. But it turned out to a be an affordable solution for me, and an added benefit is no side effect of hand tremor. I took lithium carbonate for awhile, and after about a year, I developed a tremor from it.

I really do like how lithium makes me feel (the mood effects were similar for both lithium carbonate and lithium orotate) because it’s like it just makes me feel normal. When I’m not having to deal with the huge changes in my emotions, then I have more energy to just be myself. I know lithium doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s so good for me that I wish I had found it sooner.

If you want to read anecdotal stories of the lithium orotate, you can read reviews here.

You can read all of the studies availabe (all 7 of them!) at

9/7/2012 Update: Results from my lithium blood test.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thank God for Lithium and Zinc (Medication Update)

I've been taking zinc for about 6 weeks and it has greatly reduced my depression.  I'd say it's been eliminated.  I wrote about zinc for treating depression here.  Let's hope that the zinc keeps working.

I am also taking lithium orotate, which I've been taking for so many years that I've lost track (I'd estimate 4 years).

I still have occasional anxiety and moodiness. I recently lowered my lithium dosage by 1/2 pill (from 4 pills to 3.5) and I do have more symptoms with the lower dosage, but so far it is manageable.  My mood changes are faster and stronger with the lowered dosage, but the trade off is a more dynamic range of feelings.  I think.  It's too early to tell for sure if I'll stick at the lowered dosage or not.  If my stress increases, I may go back up to the 4 pills.

Mood-wise, life is good. Yay!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Getting Ready for the Food Drive

Yesterday, we went to the grocery store to get some food for the Letter Carriers Food Drive.

I know the general idea is to just give some food away that has been in your cupboard, but when we can, we try to actually go to the store and purchase some food for the food drive.

It feels good to be buying food for someone else who needs it. We try to buy food that kids will like.

I think food banks get lots of beans and tuna, but who wants to eat that all of the time?  (I've heard that waxed beans are the most popular donation.)
So we buy food that we would be happy to give anyone.

Here's a picture of some of what we are donating.  It feels good to be helping others.  We got some good deals on the food too. We went to Grocery Outlet, which is a West coast discount store, and those juice boxes were just 89 cents and the concentrate is from the USA.

(Some Apple juice is from concentrate made in CHINA!  I just discovered this recently when looking at a store brand apple juice container.  It's printed directly on the plastic container where the apple juice comes from.  After seeing it on the juice I drank, I did a search and found this article.  Apparently, even some brand names are buying from China.)