Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Year That Was: My 2011 Highlights and Lowlights

This is the time of the year for looking back, a la Time Magazine and CNN. Following is my personal (and highly idiosyncratic) view on how the year unfolded:

Person of the Year: The Three Stooges 

This was a no-brainer. Anytime I was stuck for a pictorial representation for a blog piece, these guys delivered. Need something to illustrate the fine points of personality? Moe, Larry, and Curly - and sometimes Shemp - were there. The intricacies if the human condition? Who better? The state of psychiatry today? I rest my case.

Historical Person of the Year: Adolf Hitler

Investigating historical figures sheds endless light on timeless behaviors and current conditions. This year’s crop included Lincoln (depressive realism), Ayn Rand (greed), Phil Ochs (depression and empathy), LBJ (bipolar grandiosity), and Chairman Mao (Machiavellianism). We even used President Obama to shed light on the unfortunate condition of chronically normal. And for pure evil - who best to illustrate the point? Wait, that’s not ...

Supreme Being of the Year: God

When I tell people this blog is about everything from God to neurons I really mean it. Okay, God and I have issues. In fact, earlier this year, in a post here, I reported that I fired God. No one owns the truth about God, but when we’re looking to explain life, the universe, and everything, who always turns up in the conversation? My own proof of God? Look at us - someone up there has to be laughing.

Neurotransmitter of the Year: Dopamine (of course)

From a PowerPoint slide presented by Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported here earlier this year: “All drugs of abuse increase dopamine in the nucleus acumbens. But stress does, too.”

Or this, from a piece on deciding on a partner: “When all is said and done, it is the ventral tegmental area (VTA) that rules, not the parts of the brain we actually think with. The VTA is the dopamine-sensitive region in the midbrain that mediates pleasure and reward.” 

Trust me, compared to dopamine, serotonin is a wimp.

As I like to tell people, reported in another piece here: “If you think you are experiencing God - it’s probably dopamine. If you think you are experiencing love - it’s probably dopamine. That doesn’t mean God or love is not real, but we know dopamine is.”

Ah, the God to neurons thing again.

Psychiatrist of the Year: Emil Kraepelin (second year running)

As I reported last year: “Okay, he’s sort of dead - well, completely dead - which is a rather large technically. But even dead, this guy leaves the live psychiatrists for dead.”

This year, psychiatry excelled at playing dead. As those of you with at least two working neurons are aware, last year journalist Robert Whitaker published his eye-opening “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” which raised the startling proposition that mental illness is on the rise because of meds, not despite meds.

We waited for an intelligent response from psychiatry. And we waited - and waited. Except for a sicko hissy fit from psychiatry thought leader Andrew Nierenberg, psychiatry played dead. And continued to play dead.

This was like waiting for Godot. Last month, I had no choice but to conclude: “So, for right now, in the absence to date of any credible marshaling of the facts from psychiatry, Whitaker stands as the most authoritative voice on psychiatric treatment.”

Somehow, I cannot imagine Kraepelin - the father of diagnostic psychiatry who knew far more about manic-depression in 1921 than the failed proctologists who mindlessly dispense antidepressants today - sitting out this vitally important conversation.

Condition of the Year: Crazy

Crazy is not a dirty word. “Here’s to the crazy ones,” begins the classic 1997 Apple ad. “The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes ...  They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Here’s to you, Steve Jobs.

That was the year that was. 

Who knows what next year will bring? Whatever happens, we’re all in it together. Many thanks to all of you here who gave me a reason to get out of bed each morning.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your website and blog.

Anonymous said...

Mr. McManamy,

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, insight, and humor.

Best wishes to you this year.

John McManamy said...

Many thanks, Anonymous, and Anonymous.

Noch Noch said...

Crazy. I like it
Lets make 2012 a crazy year too!