Thursday, July 07, 2005

Wacky Mr. Cruise

It's no secret that Tom Cruise has been making a bit of a fool of himself lately. Not necessarily for what he projects, but the emphatic urgency with which he does so in dismissal of all other views and possibilities.

It is not a bad thing to hold a belief, or to maintain that belief as the sole truth of the matter. I do this myself - my convictions in my religious affiliations are firm and in my mind irrefutable; all truth is ascribed into the whole of understanding, all else is bunk. It is my opinion that much of what others put forth is uninformed nonsense or otherwise false outright. However, given the inherent subjective nature of the mortal experience there's no way I can make that proclamation and expect it to have any governance over others. Nor would I presume to do so - a path of belief must be chosen, not dictated; otherwise it lacks supporting faith. There are also degrees of truth, and it is possible for portions of truth to exist in those alternate views which should be appreciated in that light.

This is (I hope) a departure from Cruise's assertion that not only are all others wrong to him, they are wrong overall and he (Tom) should be accepted as a sole authority. This eliminates any potential merit in the non-Tom arguments and presents a closed mind. That closed and inflexible position is easily perceived as a blind mania with a touch of psychosis - especially when a more even tempered response can contain the same content without the impatience or bigotry.

Now to the meat: Tom's recent proclamation that, "There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance."

Were this the case, of course, then mental health would be unaffected by any application of substances attempting to disrupt it and so drugs (recreational or pharmaceutical) wouldn't be of any concern anyway. I'm assuming he intended additional context, such as, "There is no such thing as a psychological malady that is the direct result of a chemical imbalance." This would make a lot more sense, so I'll assume this is his statement in order to have something to dissect instead of being utterly ridiculous.

The mainstream western media culture would have us believe that even if it comes down to the point that it really is all in your head, it's still not your fault and if you take this little special and Brand Name pill it can make things better. Really. Ask your Dr. about Brand Name, and the world will be a better place for you. This applies to allergies, sleep aids, heart-burn & acid reflux, anti-social fears and anxieties, depression, etc.

I'll agree that this is certainly overmarketed, and continues the concept of problems being some(one/thing) else's direct influence. Shades of truth - or rather, truth intermixed with marketing. But to swing to the opposite side still places one completely off base - simply on the other side of it. A balance of truth must be sought.

Chemical imbalances do exist, and can result from multiple sources:
  1. Natural imbalance based on genetics or environmental factors
  2. Hormonal influences resulting from situational influences or physical changes
  3. Long-term depression, anxiety, or psychosis
In cases 1 and 2, yes these are most certainly out of the range of personal choice and influence. In case 3, they started out as something else and have since grown into that same position (of being outside of personal choice and control). In any case, the imbalance now interferes with natural operation and must be dealt with - and even if the underlying factors can be immediately addressed, there is a degree of inertia requiring time to adjust the chemistry and any ancillary supporting pathways (i.e., habits of thought or action emerging in association with said factor that reinforce the negative effects).

Medication can be applied as an effective management tool to reduce the immediate negative impact of the imbalance, which allows time dissociated from the harsh difficulty of impaired function to undergo the analysis and appropriate therapies (which may include additional medication and chemical treatment) to eliminate the causal factors. Once established on proper footing, if possible, the medication can be reduced and normal operations resumed.

Yes, most imbalances are the result of no. 3 above and can be averted - but only if the individual experiencing the problem can maintain the personal objective awareness of self & environment. Most people are not equipped with the learning and expertise to do that: we live in a strange, stressful world of unchartable stresses and influences, and personal ownership of mental health is not a highly emphasized priority.

Are we an overmedicated society? Yes. Is that medication often used to mask problems rather than resolve them? Yes; teens put on Prozac(tm) in some cases descend further into their symptoms and may become suicidal as a direct result. These tragic facts do not dismiss the great benefit that is also possible. Pretty much any situation is ripe for abuse, but that doesn't mean that positive elements should be dismissed solely on that argument: baby with the bathwater, and all that.

To point, Cruise's lambasting of Brooke Shields for disclosing her use of anti-depressants should be an embarrassment to him. Women in general have a much higher sensitivity to the effects of the emotional hormones secreted by body and brain, and therefore represent on average a much higher level of both stress and strength than can be found in men. It is easy for men to resist the emotional impact of events and associations because they genuinely (not without exception) lack the capacity to experience it the same way and to the same depth that women do. Recap: women are more prone to displaying emotional effects, but not disproportionately so based on the extra level of sensitivity they similarly represent; if anything, women are far stronger in this arena.

Add to that the hormonal effects of pregnancy and birth, the new conscious responsibilities for a precious life of infinite potential, and the world turns upside down very very quickly. Takes a while to get it sorted back out.

Let Tom take estrogen for a while, and then simulate the massive serotonin drop that comes with the additional hormonal changes of pregnancy and delivery and we'll see how he does. Walk a mile in those shoes.

But then, that would be altering your brain chemistry.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bad brain! Drop it!

This morning at about 4:30, I awoke to the persistent nagging of my brain.

Before going to bed, I'd been doing some pretty intense Java review - since I haven't been doing that much hands-on in the coding realm lately, and I need to stay loose technologically (especially since I'm one of the largest advocates for the Java re-implementation of our current legacy code base).

During that though, I was drafting up and illustrative example of one of the principles I really wanted to make sure I had down solid: and it utterly refused to work. For probably the better part of 40 minutes I off-and-on wrestled with the problem and the environment, tweaking both in a vain attempt to get it functional, and researching online to see what might be contributing to the behaviour I was seeing and couldn't reconcile based on my own experience.

Eventually I gave up, and decided to come back to it later. My brain decided that "later" meant 0430 hours on July 6th 2005. I refused to wake all the way though, and held on to the minor groggy delirium I believed was somehow still capable of contributing to the accrual of rest. Inside that fog I couldn't get the code out of my head - it was played back in most of the various iterations I had attempted, all with the identical undesired outcome.

Finally, it pointed out one little miss-placed word. Something that should have been a common error and easily resolved, but was overlooked because the byte code compilation worked without a hitch. It was being exposed in error-form as a fairly generic message, free from the actual context because of the nature of the misplacement (which was attempting to descend into a non-existent client method). Upon recognizing this, I immediately knew the solution and quickly fed that back into cerebral playback loop.

Which it simply accepted and added to its own feed and still wouldn't let me go.

I could have woken up enough to go downstairs and try it out in an effort to pacify myself. Heck, I could have logged onto the wifi with my Palm from the bed and done it via ssh. I refused to be that awake though, and still clung to that stupor as a refuge from consciousness until I managed to drift off for 1/2 an hour more sleep before getting up at 6.

Whereupon I promptly went downstairs, verified the corner condition that produced the error through an independent test, implemented the visualized correction (which worked) and was satisfied with a job well done.

Odd, though; I hadn't thought the unsolved problem to be that important. Maybe the duration of concentration had something to do with it?

Either way, next time I'm just going to go to the stupid computer and fix it. I'll probably get more sleep that way (assuming I go back to bed afterward, properly purged, and haven't [via the new solution] opened up so many creative possibilities that I end up with massive brainstorms). Weird stuff, that.