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If you collect books but never get around to reading them, there’s a word for that

If you collect books but never get around to reading them, there’s a word for that

GaudiLab / Shutterstock
  • Some people can’t help buying books, even if they have loads at home they haven’t read yet.
  • If you intentionally collect books, you might have “bibliomania.”
  • But if you buy books with the intention of reading them, then they pile up, you could be engaging in something called “tsundoku.”
  • It’s a Japanese term for people who have piles of literature they haven’t got round to reading.

More and more often I meet people who don’t hold onto their books when they’re finished reading them. Instead, they give them away. For some people, this idea is impossible to comprehend, because their houses are filled to the brim with books – many of which they probably haven’t read yet.

If you love book stores and can’t help picking up something new every time you visit, you’re either a really speedy reader or you have piles of literature at home you haven’t gotten around to reading.

If it’s the latter, you probably engaging in “tsundoku,” which is a Japanese term for a person who owns a lot of unread books.

Andrew Gerstle, a professor of pre-modern Japanese texts at the University of London, told the BBC the term might go back all the way to 1879.

“The phrase ‘tsundoku sensei’ appears in text from 1879 according to the writer Mori Senzo, which is likely to be satirical, about a teacher who has lots of books but doesn’t read them,” he said.

The work “doku” in Japanese can be used to mean “reading,” while “tsumu” means “to pile up.” When fused together, you get a word that essentially means the act of allowing books to accumulate.

Gerstle said the word isn’t an insult in Japan, and is simply an endearing slang word.

After all, in the words of author and avid book collector A. Edward Newton: “Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity… We cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance.”

Tsundoku is easily confused with “bibliomania,” which is a word that describes people who can’t stop collecting books.

The difference is that bibliomania describes the intention of creating a book collection, while with tsundoku, piles of books build up by accident.

People in 16 states have come down with a rare polio-like illness this year — here’s what to know about it

People in 16 states have come down with a rare polio-like illness this year — here’s what to know about it

Kids in several states have gotten sick with an illness that may cause paralysis.

Kids in several states have gotten sick with an illness that may cause paralysis.
  • People in 16 states have come down with a rare illness called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) this year, and most cases occur in kids.
  • AFM may lead to paralysis and, very rarely, death.
  • The signs of AFM include sudden arm or leg weakness, drooping eyelids, facial weakness or drooping, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech.
  • Anyone displaying those signs should get medical help right away.

On October 4, health officials in Minnesota announced that six children have contracted acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare illness that can cause paralysis, since September 20. Typically, the state sees only one case per year at most.

But Minnesota isn’t the only place where kids are coming down with the condition. On Tuesday, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh announced it was caring for three children with suspected AFM. Colorado health officials said in a statement there have been 14 cases of AFM in the state this year. And nine cases of AFM have been reported in northern Illinois since mid-September, the state’s department of public health has said.

From January through September of 2018, there have been 38 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and that number may rise given recent cases reported in the news.

This is actually part of a larger trend. The CDC has been investigating an increase in AFM cases that began back in August 2014, but doesn’t know it’s happening. Most of the 362 cases so far have been in children.

The illness truly is rare – one Minnesota health official told CBS News kids have “about one in a million” chance of getting it – but it is crucial that any child displaying the signs get medical attention right away, the CDC says.

INSIDER spoke with pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert to learn more about AFM and its telltale symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.

The causes of AFM are still unclear

AFM affects the nervous system, particularly the spinal cord, causing muscles and reflexes across the body to become weak, the CDC explains. It’s often described as “polio-like” because polio also affects the nervous system, causing neurological changes, Burgert said.

AFM can happen in adults but tends to be more common in kids, she added. But the cause of the disease still isn’t known.

“That’s why it’s so scary,” Burgert said. “This is a potentially life-threatening illness and we don’t know the cause, and if we don’t know the cause, we can’t predict it.”

But it’s thought that AFM may be a communicable disease.

“Because there does seem to be a seasonal pattern and it does seem to happen in clusters, that makes us lean towards it being a communicable disease or an infectious disease,” Burgert added.

The CDC says that certain viruses – including the polio virus, enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and West Nile Virus – may cause AFM or conditions that are extremely similar to AFM.

But so far, after testing many AFM patients, the CDC has not been able to find any consistent evidence of viruses or other pathogens that appear to cause the disease. It’s possible that environmental toxins or genetics play a role, too.

Anyone with AFM symptoms should see a doctor ASAP

Most people with AFM will experience sudden arm or leg weakness with a loss of reflexes and muscle tone, according to the CDC. Some people may also have facial drooping and weakness, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech.

These signs may be a little harder to spot in young children, Burgert said, since they aren’t always able to articulate their symptoms.

“Since we know that this disease involves loss of muscle tone, I’m watching how [kids] are walking, how they’re drawing, how they’re using their utensils. For example, if they’re right-handed and now they’re only using their left arm, that’s going to be a huge red flag,” she said. “I would also look at their smile. A kid’s smile should always be symmetric.”

AFM symptoms include drooping eyelids, facial drooping, slurred speech, and sudden limb weakness.

AFM symptoms include drooping eyelids, facial drooping, slurred speech, and sudden limb weakness.

The most serious symptom of ADM is respiratory failure, the CDC says, which can happen when the muscles you use to breath become weakened. This is what makes AFM a potentially deadly disease, Burgert said.

But she stressed that breathing difficulties won’t be the first sign of AFM. The initial symptoms like limb and facial weakness do come on suddenly, but it takes some time for the disease to progress to the point where it affects breathing.

“Any astute parent with an appropriate level of concern will be able to reach hospitals and clinics for evaluation before that would happen,” Burgert said. “It’s not like they’re going to stop breathing in the middle of the night [because of AFM]. We just have to be attuned to the first signs.”

Finally, most recent reports have shown that AFM seems to happen two to three weeks after a child has a viral illness like a cold or flu, Burgert explained. But that doesn’t mean every kid who gets temporarily sick will end up with AFM.

“It’s important to know that this is still very rare and that the vast, vast majority of kids are going to have these normal cold and flu viruses with no complications,” she said.

There’s no specific treatment, but people with AFM can get supportive care in the hospital

The polio vaccine may help prevent AFM, according to the CDC.

The polio vaccine may help prevent AFM, according to the CDC.
Komsan Loonprom/Shutterstock

There’s no specific treatment for AFM, according to the CDC.

“It’s not something you can go to a hospital and get a medicine for right now,” Burgert said.

Instead, she explained, people with AFM get supportive care in the hospital. Doctors will monitor their bodily functions, for example, and make sure patients who need breathing assistance get it. This care continues until the body starts to fight the infection on its own, Burgert said. After that, it’s a matter of recovery.

Since AFM attacks the neurons in the spinal cord, affecting neurological function, recovery from the condition is an attempt to regain that compromised function, Burgert explained.

“For kids that’s less of a worry,” she said. “Kids are so malleable, and kids with amazing neurological deficits can still regain that function as their brain and nervous system are growing and changing. In adults, when we have a neurological injury, it’s a lot harder to repair.”

Recovery interventions may vary on a case-by-case basis, the CDC explains. For example, some doctors may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help a patient recover from arm or leg weakness. Unfortunately, we still don’t know the long-term health outcomes for people who get AFM.

And because experts still don’t know the causes of AFM, it’s not exactly clear how to prevent it, either. But there are some steps that could help.

The CDC says that both polio virus and the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus may lead to AFM. The polio vaccine will protect kids against polio, of course, and to avoid mosquito bites, you can use insect repellent, stay inside at dusk and dawn when it’s more common to get bitten, and remove any standing water near your home, since mosquitoes can breed in it.

The CDC also recommends frequent hand washing with soap and water. Though it’s not known if hand washing can prevent AFM, it’ still a proven way to reduce the spread of germs between people.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

This 3-year-old golden doodle named Professor Bunsen Honeydew has a 9 to 5 job at Mount Sinai’s children’s hospital where he has his very own business cards — here’s what his day is like

This 3-year-old golden doodle named Professor Bunsen Honeydew has a 9 to 5 job at Mount Sinai’s children’s hospital where he has his very own business cards — here’s what his day is like

Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Professor is more than just a therapy dog.

In fact, in the 1.5 years he’s been working at Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s hospital, he has become a VIP employee.

Professor, whose full name is Professor Bunsen Honeydew, is a 3-year-old golden doodle and the first of the two facility dogs to arrive at Kravis. A three year grant of $350,000 from PetSmart Charities covers everything from veterinary care, grooming, food, trainers, Ubers, and the salary of the certified child life specialist he’s paired with.

Shortly after he arrived in March 2017, the hospital realized that one dog wasn’t going to be enough. So they procured Amos, another golden doodle, shortly afterwards. They’re both part of the Paws and Play program in Karvis’ Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department.

The main goal of child life is to facilitate psychosocial adjustment to hospitalization and illness. Kravis employs specialists in the ER, clinic, radiology wing, and inpatient units-which includes an intensive care unit. The specialists engage patients and their families in a variety of therapies and stress-reducing activities to decrease trauma and pain, and increase coping.

The largest children’s hospitals have been creating facility dog programs for the past 10 years, and Kravis was the first hospital in the New York metropolitan area to adopt this, according to Morgan Stojanowski, assistant director of the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department.

Before the golden doodle duo arrived at Mount Sinai, there was a pet assisted therapy program in place. It serves as a completely separate program from the facility dog program and is run through the volunteer department at Mount Sinai.

65-year-old patient Yolanda Fajardo holds Leia, a volunteer therapy dog, while waiting for treatment at Mount Sinai’s Union Square location.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Richard Schack, 65, has volunteered with his schnoodle Leia at Mount Sinai’s Union Square location for over 8 years. He was part of a study funded by Pfizer Animal Health in 2015 that showed the positive effects therapy dogs had on patients’ emotional and social well being.

“You made my day, Leia,” 65-year-old patient Yolanda Fajardo said as she scooped the tiny dog onto her lap. Fajardo loves getting visits from Leia while she’s waiting to receive cancer treatment. “I took a picture of Leia, and someone asked if she was my dog and I said yes, basically.”

Leia is certified and insured by the Good Dog Foundation, and to ensure that she’s clean and safe for patients, she gets a bath the night before visiting the hospital.

Schack and Leia visit every Wednesday for a couple of hours, during which they make rounds in the radiology waiting room, chemotherapy suite, and administrative staff offices. During these years, Leia has become a fabric of the staff, and her presence has made such an impact that some patients have changed their treatment schedules just so they can see her, said Alison Snow, assistant director of cancer supportive services at Mount Sinai Union Square. Mount Sinai has their own health clearance and screening process, and volunteering is a huge commitment that don’t always fit with most schedules.

“We’ve had dogs like that here prior to our facility dog program,” said Diane Rode, director of the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department at Kravis. “As lovely as the dogs and their owners can be, being in a pediatric medical and surgical environment for four hours, some but not all weeks, doesn’t create the same level of cohesion and rapport than a dog that’s here eight hours a day.”

Unlike volunteer therapy dogs, facility dogs are workers first, pets second. “They carry business cards, they have a badge,” Rode said. “They’re going to rooms where there’s been a referral request, with a specific goal.”

Professor wearing his working vest. The vest has pockets for his badge and business cards, and on the back there’s a symbol that says “please ask to pet me, I’m friendly.”
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Facility dogs like Professor and Amos are embedded into personalized treatment and recovery plans for patients and families at Kravis. All the doctors at Kravis carry with them a referral card for the services of Professor and Amos. They can provide procedural support, comfort and pain management, encouragement to walk, play opportunities, and family support.

A child-life specialist assesses the needs of the patient, the caregiver and the family, and designs a concrete clinical intervention with the facility dog to meet that need.

The dogs can encourage patients get out of bed or to walk on their own in order to be safely discharged from the hospital. They also create a relaxing environment for patients to process and discuss their experiences.

It’s about making hard, challenging things feel more doable, said Stojanowski.

“We have little tricks they know how to do like brushing their teeth. Because the kid has to brush their teeth, but they’re not doing it. So we make it a game that they’re teaching Professor,” said Stojanowski. “Professor and Amos know how to get their teeth brushed, you say open, and they’ll open.”

There’s also a syringe with colored water, and the kids pretend it’s medicine for the dogs. They’ll give the dogs their ‘medicine’ and that will help them take their own medicine. The dogs also know simpler tricks like high five, take a bow, and ‘chill’, where they lay on their side.

These are all humanizing things that for a child who has been depressed and disempowered by trauma and illness, said Rode. Small things like this can really relocate a position of control and power for them.

The dogs have also been trained practically to respond to quick signals like getting off the bed in the event of a medical emergency.

Professor loves Mondays. He mainly works in the outpatient hematology and oncology clinic. Child life specialist Ali Spike is his primary handler, and he goes home with her after work.

Professor passing by the department’s TV studio on his way up to the hematology suite.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

He works on Spike’s schedule, from Monday to Friday, 9-5, with nap breaks throughout the day. One hour a day, from 2-3pm, Professor goes with his secondary handler to visit patients at the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

On Mondays, Professor also attends the pediatric medical rounds from 1-2pm.

He’s also a part of certain physical therapy routines, so he does a lot of inpatient support too, including end-of-life support for patients who were close with him.

Professor sees between 8-12 patients a day, and sometimes as much as 15-16 patients when there’s a special event.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday are usually oncology days, which are more active since he visits a lot of patients undergoing chemotherapy then. Fridays are fancy, so he wears a bow tie to work.

Tuesday and Thursday are usually hematology days, and Professor does a lot of lying in bed with patients to help with pain management during blood draws and other procedures. Then, he’ll stay with them until the pain medications kick in.

Amos, whose shift starts later than Professor’s, works primarily in inpatient units. His hours are 10am to 6pm everyday.

Amos trying to catch some sleep before his shift begins.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Amos lives with one of the department’s TV producers, and gets handed off to a child life specialist after getting to the hospital.

These dogs have very high visibility, and get a lot of requests, said Rode. But due to funding, the department usually only agrees to attend events in the pediatrics department. In special cases, the dogs will visit and support children whose parents have been in serious injuries or have had a traumatic experience.

The department is currently working on a proposal for a third dog, in hopes of cushioning the overwhelming flood of requests from all over the hospital. They would like to use the new dog to manage staff, physician and nurse wellness.

Before entering the hematology outpatient suite, Professor gets wiped down. Spike carries hand sanitizer with her and gives it to people before she lets them pet Professor in an effort to stop the transmission of germs to immunocompromised patients.

Ali Spike and Professor entering the hematology suite at Kravis.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

“Professor’s up to date with all of his flu shots, it keeps track on his badge,” she said. Dogs need canine flu shots more often and it’s different than flu shots for humans. A lot of viruses and bacteria are not transferrable from dogs to humans, only from dogs to dogs or from humans to humans.

Safety is a priority on every level. Playrooms in the space are cleaned every single day, and the dogs are bathed and groomed weekly by a mobile groomer. The department has very specific processes and procedures that they have worked through with infection control and unit management in the healthcare environment, whether it’s in the clinic or the inpatient unit.

Zakyra Williams, 7, comes with her mom Andrea every week to do a white blood cell count check. Her whole face lit up as she saw Professor sauntering down the hall, and she immediately rushed to greet him.

7-year-old Zakyra Williams petting Professor.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Zakyra started therapy in July at Kravis. Her treatment plan is inpatient for once a month, and outpatient every 10 days. She has ALL, a type of acute leukemia, and is currently in remission.

For her illness and this kind of treatment plan, she has a compromised immune system and can’t attend school. It’s why it’s so important to her that she feels warm and social when she comes in for visits, it’s something that she really needs, Spike said.

Today morning, Zakyra is the one of the only patients in the playroom, so Spike let Professor off the leash so he can play fetch with her.

Zakyra playing fetch with Professor.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Usually, Professor is always on leash and Spike is cautious when there are new patients or she sense that people aren’t responsive to him or are nervous in his presence.

Professor has a bed in Spike’s office, which sits behind a room with a closable door. Whenever Spike senses tension in the playroom, she takes him inside. But most patients, and the staff, love him.

“We have a baby that just started walking, and now she chases Professor around everywhere and squeals with joy whenever she sees him,” Spike said.

Zakyra helped Professor practice a new trick-roll over-and gave him some water after playing fetch. Patients like Zakyra are always being taken care of and looked after, said Spike, and it feels nice for them to be able to take a break from that routine and care for Professor for a change.

Zakyra is getting her flu shot today, and Professor is sitting with her to help distract her from the pain.

Professor sits with Zakyra while waiting for the nurse.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Mount Sinai is about to kick off a study that will look at the effect that the facility dog and child life specialist has on distress during a certain procedures like blood draw, IV line insertion, port access – which is the way patients might receive chemotherapy in some instances. Using a face pain scale, the hospital is going to study whether Spike and Professor can curb the perception of pain and make it seem more manageable.

12-year-old Japheth Martinez-Alvarez comes in for cancer care fairly frequently. He’s built up a close bond with Professor and occasionally teases him by fake throwing the ball.

12-year-old Japheth Martinez-Alvarez playing with Professor.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Normally, Japheth and Zakyra would not interact, but because of Professor, they’re chatting and playing together.

“It’s quite common that patients when they’re here, they want to stay in their rooms and isolate and deal with the experience in that way,” said Stojanowski. “We really encourage kids to utilize the playroom, and the lion’s den, which houses a lot of technology and opportunity to connect with their community, or come down here in the zone to really be a kid. The dogs are a really nice way to bridge that opportunity.”

The dogs let the children interact with each other, with specialists and with the caregiver community. They help patients form familiar networks and help the staff bond with patients.

“He’s my secret weapon to get patients out into the playroom,” said Spike.

As Zakyra finished her checkup and got ready to leave, Spike took a Polaroid picture of her and Professor. After enduring something distressing like getting shots or getting blood drawn, Spike has found that waiting for a Polaroid picture to develop usually take childrens’ minds off the pain they’re experiencing.

Ali Spike takes a Polaroid photo of Zakyra and Professor.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

After she was packed, she said, “come on Professor,” and tried to pull him towards the exit.

Her mom then told her that Professor’s not going home with them, though she jokingly said that she wished there was a dog like Professor that she could have at home to keep Zakyra comfortable.

On days when patients aren’t seeing Professor, they get video messages from him and can write letters to him. Spike and the other child specialists and caregivers try to find new ways to help patients be more engaged.

A patient’s rendering of Professor that’s hung in Ali Spike’s office.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

For the week of Halloween, Spike will be dressing Professor up in a new costume every day, and the kids will be able to decorate mini plush versions of Professor and make costumes as part of their arts and crafts therapy.

This is to encourage patients to come in to the playroom and participate in festivities that will promote more socialization within the community at Kravis. Strong social and emotional support networks can be beneficial to physical health outcomes.

“Sometimes Professor knows who needs him before I do,” Spike said.

Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

Spike recounts many instances where they’ll be walking down a hallway, and he’ll approach a doctor or a patient or a parent, and they’ll tell her that interacting with him made their day. Sometimes she can guide him into a room full of patients, and he’ll selectively go around or go up to a specific patient, and they’ll tell her that they really needed it at that moment.

Dogs’ heightened form of empathy make them the ideal tool for neutralizing intense feelings of sadness, anger, and pain, even if patients aren’t displaying it openly.

Merceda Devoe, 29, is a special case. She has a pediatric type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, so instead of being placed with adult cancer patients, she’s treated in the pediatric wing.

Merceda Devoe, 29, playing with Professor.
Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

She’s staying in a room with a stretcher, usually intended for patients who want to rest or sleep, have a longer stay, or want isolation.

She’s one of Ali’s priorities, since she relies much more on Professor for therapeutic needs. For her, therapies like art and music that are often offered to the younger children is not something she’s as receptive to.

“One thing that we’ve really seen come out of Paws and Play is how much the staff depend on Professor and Amos,” said Stojanowski.

Charlotte Hu/Business Insider

To respond to this, the child life team also worked to establish some structured times with the staff, emergency department, physicians, and nurses in ICU. It has a significant impact on their work health to have time with the dogs, said Stojanowski.

Sometimes Professor will stand up on a bed, or give Spike other cues that he’s tired, and she’ll lead him to her office so he can take a nap.

“They absorb a lot while they’re here, and we’re very mindful of their limits and their stress levels,” said Spike.

Dogs can burn out too, and the team wants to be sensitive to their mental health so they don’t.

To combat this, the dogs work with a trainer who gives them games to play, and ideas for activities they can do during their time off to de-stress and release tension.

On his off-days, you’ll find Professor in the park, running through leaves and chasing squirrels.

This is what it’s like to be bipolar

This is what it’s like to be bipolar

The contrast between the highs and lows is extreme with bipolar disorder.

The contrast between the highs and lows is extreme with bipolar disorder.
Warpboyz / Shutterstock
  • Bipolar disorder affects about 1-2% of the population.
  • It’s characterised by manic episodes, depressive episodes, and potentially some psychosis.
  • Katherine Ponte spoke to INSIDER about what it’s been like to live with the disorder for the past 15 years.
  • She had several manic episodes where she thought the world was coming to an end, and went through periods of severe depression.
  • Being manic gets you into trouble, but it’s the depression that can kill you, she said.

When Katherine Ponte had her most extreme manic episode, she ended up on John Lennon’s “Imagine” mosaic memorial, lying down in Central Park, thinking the world was coming to an end.

She had previously been in hospital for about a month, but as soon as she came home she threw all her medications down the toilet. She truly didn’t believe there was anything wrong with her, and she refused to accept her diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder.

Ponte’s husband watched as tourists surrounded her and laughed and took pictures. An ambulance finally pulled up and wrapped a sheet around her head to toe and placed her in the back.

“They said they had a ‘wild one,’” Ponte told INSIDER. “And I remember that very clearly… It was very difficult to hear that because you feel like you’re an animal the way they refer to you.”

There is a huge contrast between high and low moods

Ponte was first diagnosed with severe bipolar 1 in 2000. Bipolar 1 is a mental health disorder characterised by manic or hypomanic episodes, depressive episodes, and potentially some psychosis.

According to the mental health charity Mind, mania “lasts for a week or more and has a severe negative impact on your ability to do your usual day-to-day activities – often disrupting or stopping these completely.” Some of the symptoms are racing thoughts and speech, delusions and paranoia, hearing or seeing things other people don’t, and being uncontrollably excited.

People in bouts of mania are hard to communicate or reason with, often talking a lot at high speed, and saying things that don’t make a lot of sense. They may be rude and aggressive, or behave out of character. It’s also sometimes associated with taking serious risks with their health and wellbeing. For instance, many misuse drugs, act dangerously, or spend an inappropriate and excessive amount of money.

After a manic episode, people with bipolar 1 disorder may then feel ashamed about how they behaved, or they might not remember it at all. They may also fall into a depressive episode where they feel down, upset, lacking in confidence, or even suicidal.

“Many people find that a depressive episode can feel harder to deal with than manic or hypomanic episodes,” it says on the Mind website. “The contrast between your high and low moods may make your depression seem even deeper.”

Ponte said that being manic gets you into trouble, but it’s the depression that can kill you.

“When you’re manic, you don’t think you’re going to die, you think you’re on top of the world, you can do anything,” she said. “But it’s when you’re majorly depressed that these thoughts of suicidal ideation come to you.”

Denial and stigma

There were a number of triggers in Ponte’s life at the time of her first manic episode, including academic stress, doubts about her career, being wrapped up in issues of social injustice, and being sexually assaulted.

“All of these things came together in a very short period of time,” she said. “That’s what really triggered my mental illness, and at the beginning, I had a very difficult time with it.”

But although she was diagnosed within minutes at the office of counseling and psychological services at her university, Ponte was in denial. There was a lot of stigma at the time, she said, and after trying several different medications that didn’t work, she stopped getting any treatment.

Then in 2006, she had a major manic episode, where she made religious shrines and thought she was receiving messages that the end of the world was imminent. Her husband returned home to find their apartment trashed, so he called 911 in a panic. Within 15 minutes Ponte was surrounded by four armed NYPD police officers and two paramedics in her living room which, understandably, freaked her out.

She was taken to hospital, placed on a gurney and injected with chemicals. Later, she woke up in leather restraints and was taken to solitary confinement – a room empty except for a two-inch thick mattress, because everyone on a psych ward is on high alert for suicide.

“And they have guards which just adds to the feeling that you’re being watched and every minute, every second,” Ponte said.

“It feels a lot like a jail. You can’t come and go, people rifle through everything you bring in with you, there’s no fresh air, you can’t go outside, there’s no breeze.”

She was also heavily sedated – as was everyone else around her. Every day her lithium levels would be checked, which she found discouraging because she realised “just how bad a state” she was in to be put in a place like that.

But it wasn’t enough. As soon as Ponte got back home, she threw away all her medications. That’s how she ended up at the John Lennon memorial.

“I thought I wanted to save the world,” she said. “Yeah… it gets that way.”

John Lennon's memorial in Central Park.

John Lennon’s memorial in Central Park.
Son of Groucho / Flickr

Ponte finally accepted she needed help when she came back from hospital and went to go see a psychiatrist. But what followed was a string of bad experiences, including one doctor who kept falling asleep in her sessions. Another psychiatrist changed her medication, and she put on 60 pounds in less than three months.

“I just felt like a balloon,” she said. “I told her that I wanted to come off it, she made a medication adjustment, and quickly after that medication adjustment, I went manic.”

During this manic episode, Ponte had more religious preoccupations and broke into a house of worship. She befriended a homeless man and invited him back to her house for somewhere to sleep. Her husband was furious, and immediately threw him out, but Ponte wasn’t able to recognise the problem.

She said at this time, before getting the right treatment, she had no hope for any sort of answers or recovery. Her psychiatrist told her she would only get worse and her manic episodes would get stronger and more frequent.

“This is often the grim diagnosis that people with mental illness face,” Ponte said. “They’re made to believe there is very little chance that they will recover. And this is one thing I take very big issue with.”

‘Living before treatment was living without hope’

But after another manic episode in 2014, Ponte finally found someone who could help her. She had lacked faith in health professionals for over a decade – but then she was referred to someone called Dr Goldberg by the Stanford University Bipolar Disorders Clinic.

“I just had a very good rapport with him,” she said. He was attentive and listened to her concerns about her medications and didn’t dismiss them.

“A lot of people don’t understand the side effects of medication,” she said. “They think if you’ve gained all this weight, you must be lazy, sitting on the couch, eating junk food. And they also think because you’re sleeping as much as you do, and you look as garbage as you do, that you must not be active enough.”

So often the advice given to people struggling with their mental health is “go out, do something, get some exercise.”

“That’s really disheartening to someone with mental illness because they don’t want to sit there and explain,” Ponte said. “I’m on this medication, which may make me gain a million pounds, and I’m on this medication that keeps me asleep all day. You just get very discouraged when you hear those sorts of comments.”

Without the right treatment, it can feel like things will never get better.

Without the right treatment, it can feel like things will never get better.
Aipon / Shutterstock

Thanks to building trust with her psychiatrist, Ponte hasn’t had a manic episode in over four years. She started working towards her goal of having a career and starting a family, and started up ForLikeMinds, a resource for connecting people with others who are going through something similar to them – whether it’s mental illness, substance use, or the stresses of life.

Ponte knows first hand how hard it is to face a diagnosis. In the early stages, you want to shut it out, she said, and think about it as little as possible. But when you start to accept it, you want to learn more and more about your condition, and she aims to help people out with that.

It’s also hard every step along the way. Often, people with bipolar stop taking their medicine because they start to feel better. Some come off it because they miss the way it feels to be manic.

Someone with bipolar is never fully recovered

Ponte knows she is living with her mental illness and that it will never go away. You’re living in a state of recovery, you’re never recovered, she said, “it just means that you’re living with it in a way that doesn’t take away from you living a full and meaning for life.”

Ponte’s manic episodes put her in hospital in 2006, 2010, and 2014, so this year fits in with the four year pattern. But she feels she has enough control over her treatment and mental health that it won’t derail her life completely if she has another episode in 2018. She also can’t wait for the stigma of mental health to go away to start living a normal life.

“People with mental illness, they can’t just wait around for a stigma to go away for them to start taking more control of their life and believing they have that possibility,” she said. “Recovery gives people hope, and I want through my work, using my example, to give that hope. I haven’t been sick since 2014, and I feel really good.”

It’s all about giving people the right environment to let them dream again, she said, and learning that it’s not about defeating your mental illness, but coexisting.

“I spent many years battling bipolar and fighting with it, and arguing with it and saying ‘go away, leave me alone,” said Ponte. “But I finally came to accept it… I came to accept that this is in my life and so I have to learn how to coexist with it, and I have to learn the best way to coexist with it, because I can’t let it overtake me.

“People are able to control it. You are able to tame it, if you know how to.”

Catching someone’s yawn is linked to empathy, and psychopaths are often immune

Catching someone’s yawn is linked to empathy, and psychopaths are often immune

Psychopaths don't yawn when you do.

Psychopaths don’t yawn when you do.
  • Contagious yawning has been linked to empathy.
  • Psychopaths lack empathy for others as a general rule.
  • A study in 2015 found that scoring highly on a checklist for psychopathy was associated with a lower chance of catching yawns.
  • It’s not necessarily a determining factor, but it could be a symptom.

To determine whether someone is a psychopath, they have to score highly on tests like the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, answering questions about superficial charm, impulsive behaviour, and pathological lies.

But there could be a simpler test: yawning.

It’s hard not to yawn when someone else does, because yawning is so contagious. Even dogs can catch them. But according to a study from 2015, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, psychopaths aren’t so susceptible.

The researchers from Baylor University recruited 135 students and measured their personalities for psychopathic traits. They then subjected them to a contagious yawning experiment.

Those who scored highly on the psychopathic scale were much less likely to catch a yawn.

In previous research, yawning has been linked to empathy. For example, in one study, children with autism were less likely to catch yawns, possibly because they find it harder to read other people. Babies don’t catch yawns either, and won’t until they are at least 4 years old, when they have more emotional awareness.

The researchers suggest empathy could be at play in their experiment, as psychopaths tend to lack it.

This isn’t to say if someone doesn’t yawn when you do they must be a psychopath. It’s just an intriguing symptom of the people who struggle to connect with other people’s emotions.

Also, people can catch yawns to different degrees. For some, it’s just reading the word “yawn” is enough to set them off. So if you yawned the whole way through reading this article, you might be able to conclude that your empathy is pretty high.

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