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Your Brain on Spending

How do you make purchasing decisions? Are you aware of your “moment” of choice, the “click” in the brain, to buy or not to buy? What happens in the moments before your hand reaches for your debit card, cash or credit card?

I began exploring how I make purchasing decisions and became fascinated with my own process in relation to the new field of neuroeconomics, the field of studying the brain circuits behind the financial choices people make!

Take the four-foot head of the Buddha that hangs on the towering wall in my foyer. I looked and looked for a wall piece like this for over two years. I started out with an idea of what I wanted. Something serene, spiritual and a piece of art that spoke to my soul. I began the hunt. I searched the net, visited galleries and many specialty stores. I found nothing that was “just right.” Then, unexpectedly, during the wine and art festival in my hometown, I found it. The moment I saw the Buddha head, I fell in love with it and I knew it was the perfect piece of art I was looking for. My purchase decision took less than a minute and cost didn’t enter into the picture. My “knowing it was the right piece” trumped cost. Then rationalized thought came in, “You will not find another piece that speaks to you so strongly, buy it now, it might not be here later and you will figure out how to make the cost work.” When I reached for my cash and then asked how much it was, I was totally surprised that the cost was under $300. If it had been over $1,000, I still would have bought it. I knew it was the “right” piece.


Suicide: Pro-Choice or Pro-Life?

Every single day I think about the time I tried to kill myself. It is one of my strongest and most detailed memories. I mention it in passing in my talks as if it is just a point of reference, but it has a profound impact on my every thought. I have not heard the bipolar or depression world debating pro-choice vs. pro-life suicide, but it is an internal debate that I often have myself. I wonder if others have had similar thoughts?

My debate is further colored by the suicide of my best friend Santiago. I think about his hanging himself every day, and the effect it had on everyone around him. It is another memory that is so strong it could have just happened. It too has a profound effect on my every thought.

The other day I was showing a visitor around San Francisco and he brought up suicide when we drove by the Golden Gate Bridge. He asked how many people have jumped off (over 1,200 so far) and whether they have put up a barrier yet. I found myself sharing my internal debate and chose to take the pro-choice side.


A New Perspective On Bipolar Depression, Mania, Hallucinations, and Delusion

This video is a segment of a one-hour DVD based on the book Bipolar In Order: Looking At Depression, Mania, Hallucination, And Delusion From The Other Side.





What is unfortunate today is that far too many people continue to cling to the old belief that it is impossible to live a full life with a mental condition. On the other hand, a growing group of people are beginning to consider a life that is not restricted to a narrow range of experience. I look forward to the day when we all rise above the ignorance that keeps us in fear and denial of a better life.

Bipolar In Order is based on a very simple premise: we can learn and grow to the point that we see our condition as an advantage in our lives. Because this concept is often difficult for many people to accept on blind faith alone, I encourage everyone to simply begin by accepting that this new perspective is possible. To make this perspective a reality requires persistence, determination, and commitment. If you will give this perspective a chance, you will prove it in your own life.


We Are The X-Men

You Have More Power Than You Can Imagine.

I remember being a big fan of the TV show The Incredible Hulk when I was a kid, and the The Hulk, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men series as movies when they came out. I always thought they portrayed mental illness in a quirky way, but I never realized the significance they had for me until recently. It was in watching the latest episode in the X-men series, X-Men: The Last Stand, that it all came together for me: We are the X-Men.

Stan Lee and the creators of all of those characters have shown uncanny insight into the nature of our condition and our struggles. All of their characters have special powers. They also have weird quirks and idiosyncrasies. Most of all, they struggle with their powers and their inability to handle them.



Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Do They Make a Difference?

Fortunately, generalized nutrition advice such as “don’t eat fat” is being replaced by “eat the good fats.” For years, Americans have focused on eating polyunsaturated fats, which ended up being mostly Omega-6 fats. The proportion of Omega-3 (O-3) to Omega-6 (O-6) became out of balance, with O-3 fatty acids becoming in short supply in many people’s diets. Scientific studies often show that this lack of balance between O-3 and O-6 fats occurs in individuals with mental illness. Research regarding schizophrenia has shown many interesting, but inconclusive, results. Alteration in metabolism as well as dietary and supplement intake are being studied. Both O-3 and O-6 fatty acids are Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).

It isn’t that O-6 fats are “bad,” it is just that they are out of balance. The head of The National Institute of Mental Health, Joseph Hibbeln, MD, and colleagues, estimate that a healthy dietary allowance for O-3 fatty acids for current U.S. diets was estimated at 3.5 g/d for a 2000-kcal diet. This allowance for O-3 fatty acids can likely be reduced to one-tenth of that amount by consuming fewer O-6 fats. A healthy ratio of O-3:O-6 is said to be 1:2 or 1:1-this is the estimated ratio in the human diet in Paleolithic times. When reading labels, remember O-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA, and DHA. O-6 fatty acids include GLA and AA.

What would you notice if you didn’t eat enough essential fatty acids? You may notice dry hair and skin, brittle nails, eczema, and asthma among other things, as well as abnormal lab findings, especially in red cells.



The Art of Seeing Depression

James Turrell is one of the most remarkable artists alive. He has an amazing understanding of light and perception. By using darkness and almost imperceptible light, his artwork totally changes the way we see the world. I think his work with light and darkness is a perfect metaphor for trying to see depression in a new light.

When you enter one of Jim's installations, it is so dark that you cannot see anything, or at least not much. The amount of available light is simply too little for our eyes to use. His artwork is not a picture on the wall; it is the entire environment, in which both the perception of the audience and time act as critical components.

If you stay long enough, your eyes begin to adjust to the lack of light. You start to see things that were there all along, but your eyes were not yet ready to perceive.

When you go back out into the “real” world, you bring an entirely new perspective; you begin to see everything in a whole new light (pun intended). Jim's work can truly be described as a discovery of the act of seeing.

My own art is similar to Jim's in many ways. Like Jim, instead of using a brush to paint a picture, I choose to build an environment that blocks out light and helps me to perceive. Unlike Jim, my art is not in the physical world; it is in my interior world.


I Want To Be A Better Person

I have finally settled on a motto that says it all for me - I Want To Be A Better Person. For me, that simple phrase addresses many of my issues; my arrogance, my bad behavior, my admission of having done wrong, my acceptance of who I really am, and most of all, my need for hope. I Want To Be A Better Person reflects my belief that in spite of my bipolar condition, I can overcome my bad tendencies and become someone to admire, instead of someone to fear or feel sorry for.

My journey to wanting to be a better person was long and convoluted, painful, yet even funny at times. My hope is that by sharing it with you, I will have an even greater desire to live up to my dreams and give someone else hope as well. There are countless details left out and many details may be wrong, but I hope to paint a picture of how I got to this point.

Long before my diagnosis of Bipolar, I exhibited behaviors that were considered horrible, to put it mildly. Thinking I was smarter and better than anyone, I would justify my behavior as the fault of whoever was my victim. It was always “your” fault that I was acting so horribly, and if it weren’t for you, I would be a saint. My extreme rages were outdone by my delusions, my denial that I was responsible for my behavior, or even believing that my behavior was perfectly justified.

After getting sick of my own behavior, I bought an estate that was next to the monastery that I once lived in. I volunteered to manage the computer systems department and was put under the direction of Lee, a senior monk who I have known for over 20 years. One day, I had a falling out with a friend of mine that I had hired to do some work for the monastery. We ended up in a heated email exchange that was rapidly escalating to the point that it was harming the monastery. Because I was representing the monastery, Lee insisted that all emails that I sent be approved by him. It has been almost five years now, but that experience is one that I have finally grasped.


What Is Bipolar In Order?

This is the Preface from the book Bipolar In Order:

"Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music." - George Carlin

When Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world, the common belief was that the world was flat and he would fall off. Once he saw the world from the other side and spoke of its many wonders, the world became a far more beautiful place.

Yet many people still clung to the old belief and could not accept the new evidence. It took many years for the world to adjust to the truth. To this day there are still some who believe the world is flat, but most of us consider them ignorant and unable to accept reality.

When I set out to explore the inner world, the common belief was that I would fall off the edge too. But just as Columbus discovered a world filled with beauty, I have seen depression, mania, hallucination, and delusion from the other side and found incredible vistas. With training, you too can visit those worlds without falling off, and discover a life far more beautiful than you can imagine.

What is unfortunate today is that far too many people continue to cling to the old belief that it is impossible to live a full life with a mental condition. On the other hand, a growing group of people are beginning to consider a life that is not restricted to a narrow range of experience. I look forward to the day when we all rise above the ignorance that keeps us in fear and denial of a better life.

Bipolar In Order is based on a very simple premise: we can learn and grow to the point that we see our condition as an advantage in our lives. Because this concept is often difficult for many people to accept on blind faith alone, I encourage everyone to simply begin by accepting that this new perspective is possible. To make this perspective a reality requires persistence, determination, and commitment. If you will give this perspective a chance, you will prove it in your own life.

There are so many examples of bipolar "disorder" that it is easy to understand why so many people try to avoid it instead of facing it and getting it under control. We can choose to view depression, mania, hallucination, and delusion from at least two different perspectives--either as "disorder" or as "in order." Knowing that we have a choice of perspectives leads us to the understanding that we do not have to accept a diminished life. We begin to see what bipolar can be if we get it "in order" instead of trying to make it go away.


Welcome to Bipolar Advantage

Welcome to the new blog, Bipolar Advantage, hosted by Tom Wootton and his colleagues. We're pleased to present you with an alternative view of this concern, focused on how it can be used to achieve anything you set your mind to. Tom said it...