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Newt Gingrich and Bipolar Disorder Redux

Jan 24 2012 | Comments 10

I wrote about the issue of bipolar diagnosis and whether it matters for a presidential candidate. Check it out here.

liz | 12:52 PM | Uncategorized

Rape Scene in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Jan 4 2012 | Comments 34

I had never read the books or seen the other films. I knew very little about the movie except that David Fincher (whose work I respect) directed it and the person I live with wanted to see it. Someone warned me there was a rape scene, which was kind of them. I’m a rape survivor (weird term, but it does the job) and I generally avoid seeing movies with rape scenes. If you don’t know ahead of time, it generally means it’s a small plot point and it’ll go by very quickly and stupidly. But I heard David Fincher tell an interviewer that he deliberately made the rape scene more graphic than it was in the book. I should have heeded my better instincts and not gone to the film. But because social plans were made around seeing the film on New Year’s Eve, I felt uncomfortable asking everyone to change the agenda. I felt likewise unable to say I couldn’t go. I was apprehensive but decided to tough it out. How bad could it be?

Very bad. It was, without question, the most brutal rape scene I’ve seen in an American movie. It was agonizing. It wasn’t just a rape; it was a particularly violent and sadistic rape involving hand and ankle restraints, a mouth gag and vicious anal penetration. The victim is screaming. The chains that attach her to the bed rattle as she tries to free herself. It seems to go on FOREVER.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, there’s a Clockwork Orange-style revenge-rape scene, in which the victim returns to her rapist and restrains him, gags him and anally rapes him. She also tattoos him. It’s great to imagine she gets revenge, but frankly, if you’re disturbed by images of rape and sexual violence, it doesn’t much matter if it’s happening to a man or a woman. It’s still going to be traumatic. One rape scene was really hard for me. Two was almost unbearable.

Then there was the overall plot, which focuses on the investigation of a serial killer who disfigures women’s corpses in the most gruesome ways. Photos are shown.

It’s a funny thing about trauma, the way the body remembers. I went through several stages of feeling when I saw that rape scene, and even writing about it now I can feel my body responding: my heart rate is up and my legs are shaky. In the theater, when it was happening, I started to feel so panicky. My muscles got tense and it was hard to breathe. Tears filled my eyes. I kept squeezing my toes together and reminding myself to breathe. I found it hard to focus on the rest of the film. I tried, but I kept hearing her screams and then I’d have to squeeze my fists and toes and breathe. As soon as the credits came up, I fled to the bathroom. I was overwhelmed with nausea but didn’t throw up. It was hard to pee because I was starting to dissociate and leave my body. I felt so angry too. I sent some really evil text messages to a friend who’d texted something benign. I was furious. I wanted to tear down the stalls and kill people. It was such a fierce anger.

As the evening went on, the anger got less and the distance between myself and my body got more acute. By the time I got home, I was completely gone. Nothing was real, I wasn’t real, I wasn’t there. I sat staring into space for a really long time, but it wasn’t a long time because there was no such thing as time. My hands, when I looked at them, were freakish bony protuberances just sitting there on my lap. What were they? I knew there were things in front of me, but I couldn’t see them.

I tried to talk about what was going on, but it made me too sad. Then I started to get weepy. After all, after I was raped, my life went to hell. I blame it for everything. Nothing was ever the same because it brought on the illness. I can’t think of it separately. I lost my mind after that rape. I was a lost girl.

Trigger warnings can’t be placed anywhere and everywhere. The world is a hard place and we just have to take our chances. But I’m still feeling the aftereffects of the film. So I would say if you’ve been a victim of sexual violence, DO NOT SEE THIS FILM. It’s just too hard.

liz | 2:40 AM | Uncategorized, girl with the dragon tattoo rape scene, ptsd, rape, trauma

Countdown to Recovery: Ten Days Left to Get Your Shit Together

Dec 21 2011 | Comments 4


So it’s December 21st, which means it’s only 10 days away from the due date, as it were, for NAMI’s Countdown to Recovery. It’s a fundraising concept meant to highlight NAMI’s work, and given that they do, in fact, play a very important role in the lives of people with whatever-you-call-it (mental illnesses, Freudian slippages, brain disorders, yadda blah blah), I’d encourage you do donate if you can.

I have heard plenty of people complain about NAMI—about its being compromised by Big Pharma involvement or about its teaming up with TAC in some instances. But I’ll tell you, in my experience working in the mental health field, I have been blown away by how incredibly helpful and supportive NAMI groups are for people whose loved ones have been diagnosed with mental illness. I’ve been at these groups and watched parents cry and share and be there for each other in a way no one else in their life can. I’ve seen NAMI sponsor educational events that cleared the way for people to get better. And I’ve seen NAMI stand at the forefront of peer support advocacy and every other struggle people with mental illnesses fight for. No organization is perfect. I can’t speak for every single state and city affiliated group. But overall, the balance of the work that NAMI does is frankly indispensable.

Perhaps the PR gambit is an unfortunate choice of word, though, when we know that 10 days from now everything in the system will be exactly the same. As one reader wrote of the Countdown, “Of course, my peers and I will find the same system we’ve always had come January 1, 2012.” No question, wise reader.

liz | 10:10 AM | Uncategorized, countdown to recovery, family support, nami

Do You Feel Better?: Spending Up on Depression Treatment

Dec 8 2011 | Comments 4

Longtime reader Joe writes:

Interesting that much of the spending increase was attributable to antipsychotics (para 7). Notable is that there were “minimal improvements in quality of care.” Combine this with Even Privately Insured May Lack Access To Psychiatric Care and that “less than one-third of people who seek help receive minimally adequate care” (para 3) and it is hard to believe that we are long into the Era of Recovery for those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses.

He’s absolutely right. I find it particularly depressing (ha ha) that people are spending less on psychotherapy, which works, and more on antipsychotics, which have dubious benefit strictly as antidepressants.

Joe points us to William Anthony’s seminal 1993 article: Recovery from Mental Illness: The Guiding Vision of the Mental Health Service System in the 1990s. In the culture of MH services, this article is canonical. It’s a shame its promise remains unfulfilled.

liz | 10:34 AM | Uncategorized

Readers Write! We Are Truly Coming Back to Life.

Dec 8 2011 | Comments 11

If I’m not mistaken, the comments field is working now (thanks to the lovely Nina and PW’s IT team, which I know is vast), so readers can communicate that way. But I have received a few emails I’d like to share. As always, I’m only going to use first names until you tell me that I can use your full name.

Mark wrote to me and the text came through in a poemlike configuration. I love it and am preserving the formatting.

I am glad you are back, writing new content on your blog.
You wrote, “You’ve had, like, a year off”
I hope that was a joke. [It was - ed.]

You want opinions? Here are some
regarding Andrea Phipps. She should got to court and be tried- judged
for her crimes in my opinion.
Her crimes are a complex action, too complex to attribute to a mental illness.

regarding “Is it conceivable that some people who kill themselves are
making the right decision to do so? ”
It’s better to become an (wet) alcoholic or drug addict of some kind
rather than choosing death to get away from their pain.

regarding schizophrenia drugs and “Some children may benefit.”
children can not be mentally ill, only adults can be judged mentally ill.

“Mental illness” is not being rational due to excessive emotions,
thoughts or feelings.
Only adults are expected to be able to control themselves.

The nature of childhood is learning how to cope with ones feelings,
they are not a (physical) disease to be treated by physical chemicals.

If children are given chemicals for their “wrong” behaviour, they will
never learn how to moderate themselves from within.

HUMOR is the most important thing in mental health. Without it a
persons anger will likely cause them to do violence.

Absolutely, Mark.

liz | 12:19 AM | Uncategorized

Does Shame Portray Sex Addiction Accurately?

Dec 6 2011 | Comments 2


Please don’t read this post if reading about or seeing videos of sexual addiction triggers you.

I went to a screening of Shame yesterday, the NC-17 film with Michael Fassbender about the trials of a sex addict in New York. I’m going to talk about it here in terms of its portrayal of an addictive behavior—not from the point of view of filmmaking. There are countless reviews of the movie if you’re interested in how the critics feel about it. But I want to assess it in terms of the character’s mental state.

If you’re not sure what sexual addiction is, there’s a nice review of it at Psych Central. It’s also possible that Hypersexual Disorder may be included in the DSM 5 (incidentally, why are we ditching the Roman numerals for this DSM? Just curious). But sexual addiction has been the subject of 12-step groups for many years. It may be new to the psychiatric community’s bible, but it’s certainly not new to anyone who’s struggled with it.

Before I talk any further about the film, I want to caution, again, that what I’m going to talking about may trigger individuals with sexual compulsivity. And I’ll also be embedding videos. A similar caution should be provided at the beginning of the film. It is a super-triggery film. After I saw it, I was ready to go out and have self-destructive sex myself, but then I had to go to CVS, so I skipped it.


The film’s protagonist is a man named Brandon who is an unhappy sex addict. He indulges in all manner of sexual stimulation, from magazine porn and webcam sessions to prostitutes and anonymous hookups in an alleyway. He’s a compulsive masturbator and online porn hoarder. It’s what consumes much of his time, money and thought. We know this because it’s all we know. Brandon is hardly a character other than these facts; he’s simply a body acting out an addiction. Critics have complained about this, and fairly, I think; after all, it’s hard to care about your (anti)hero if all you know of him is this unappealing compulsivity. But in terms of a portrayal of an addict, it’s perfect. Brandon is utterly consumed by his addiction. If there isn’t anyone else in there, it’s because that’s how he wants it. The more in thrall he is to the compulsions, the less he has to confront his true self. That’s a hallmark of addiction, and while it might not make for a completely knowable character for a general audience, addicts will know exactly why Brandon is a null set.

The flashes of humanity in Brandon reveal why the addiction must consume him. He has a relationship with a sister who doesn’t understand boundaries. She’s raw, overly physical and needy. He feels trapped by her and protects himself from it by pulling away. He pushes his emotions about her down because they’re too troubling. There’s an erotic subtext to their relationship that’s uncomfortable and that makes Brandon defensive and angry. He hates himself for his cruelty to her, and wants to obliterate his hurt, his anger, his fragility. There is a veiled reference to a bad childhood. We don’t know what it was, but it must’ve been a doozy. He’s pushing that stuff down as well. All the sex is shimmer and distraction for someone who, if he let the emotions come out, would be undone by them. So he has to keep going.

All of that is superbly wrought and realistic. The other aspect of Brandon’s addiction that is very well-executed is the degree of hiding that goes along with being an addict. No one knows the “real” him, which during the addiction is the addict. At work, he’s rigid and uncomfortable; with prostitutes, he’s comfortable and easy. You can read it in his posture, his face. There’s the public self and the addict self. A small detail: In a meeting at work, he’s listening to a presentation and the speaker says, “I find you disgusting … ” It’s part of the speech, but Brandon hears it as though it’s directed toward him. This is also very realistic. When you’re engaging in secret behavior, and you’re a hidden person, you hear messages like that embedded all around because you’re terrified someone will find you out. Regarding the workplace, it seems like an ad agency, but it isn’t clear. This has also been mentioned by critics as a flaw. Again, though, it fits with the addiction. The work doesn’t matter to Brandon. It’s just his cover. The porn on his work computer is who he really is.

I found it interesting that Brandon chose the music of Glenn Gould to listen to. Another obsessive, but one who was far less successful at hiding his compulsions and quirks. What does it mean to Brandon to share space in this way with Gould?

Overall, the sense of Brandon being hidden—from himself, from everyone else—is finely rendered and is most important to the accuracy of the portrayal. The fact that he’s largely hidden from the viewer makes the film problematic, though. The one time when he’s on a date, it’s so lovely to see him talk and smile like a real human being. It brings fresh air into the movie. But there’s very little of that, perhaps to emphasize the isolation of the addiction. The question is: How fun is it to watch a dark, torturous addiction played out on-screen?

You should also know that the sex is extremely explicit and there’s full-frontal nudity. I guess I must be desensitized because it didn’t have much of an impact on me. In this culture, it’s hard for anything to be especially shocking. The one thing that did shock me was a very negative portrayal of gay sex, which was treated as though it was the lowest possible circle of hell one could descend to. I get the feeling the director, Steve McQueen, has some issues there.

I think all addicts can understand the strong desire to run away from yourself, to obliterate the pain. But it’s a brutal struggle, and I think with sex addiction, it can be particularly shameful—hence the film’s title. Despite some moments that overdramatize the shame fairly ridiculously, the way the addiction is represented will be familiar to anyone who’s ever engaged in that struggle.

Shame opens in Philadelphia on Friday, Dec. 9.

liz | 8:06 AM | Uncategorized, hypersexuality, michael fassbender, sexual addiction, shame, steve mcqueen

Some Glitches and Hitches

Dec 5 2011 | Comments 0

Just letting you know that we’re still experiencing some technical difficulties here at TTWS, so comments aren’t working. If you’d like to respond to anything you see here, you can do so directly to me via email ( or follow me on Twitter (@lspikol) and respond there. Sorry about the delay!

liz | 4:12 PM | Uncategorized

Okay. Let’s Go Back Into Business.

Dec 2 2011 | Comment 1


Hey, everyone. Anyone? I haven’t worked on this blog for a pretty long time, but I’m going to get this thing going again, and once it’s oiled up it should shine as purty as before. (The photo of me here looks like I’m rolling a joint, but actually I’m just putting pieces of the blog back together. It’s hard when they come apart. There are a bazillion pieces.)

I wasn’t planning to return to TTWS, necessarily, but we have a lot to talk about. Things like:

- Should John Hinckley Jr. get expanded privileges and early release?
- The tragic suicide of weatherman Don Harman — a man best known for his laughter.
- Pfizer getting sued by four drugstore chains because they allegedly engaged in a price-fixing scam with Teva to keep generic Effexor XR off the shelves (bastards! I think I should start a new pharma blog called : WhatWon’
- All the depression in the movies these days, what with Hitler-loving Lars von Trier’s Meloncholia and Take Shelter
- The depression engendered by the Recession
- Who is the GOP candidate with the most mental health problems?
- The Occupy movement: heavily populated by vulnerable people who have behavioral health issues. Discuss.

This woman, who is A HERO:

God-willing, as my grandmother Yetta would say, may Ashley never have another halluncination—EVER.

Also, remember all the features we enjoyed? There was Boring But Important, Depression Confession, Song of the Day, Funny or Offensive … I’m forgetting now, but come on guys, you know there were TONS of features we worked on. Oh, and the reason I say “we” is because this was a Cooperative Project of the International Mental Health Community. You all gave me tips and sent me ideas and left brilliant comments, and frankly? I expect it all to happen the same way again.

So. What are you doing? I can’t believe you’re just sitting there. You’ve had, like, a year off. Please! Talk to me!

liz | 12:56 AM | Uncategorized

Here I Am

Sep 23 2010 | Comments 15


Hello everyone. I imagine there are about five people who check in with this site but for those five, let me tell you where to find me now.

Though PW has very graciously allowed me to keep this blog site, I rarely update it. There are several reasons for this, but mainly it’s because I took a new job. I was working at the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania on a peer support program. I enjoyed it but got depressed, verging on dysfunctional. When I realized I wasn’t quite up to managing a social services program given my fragile state, I bowed out because the stakes were simply too high. It’s one thing to misuse a semicolon in a weekly newspaper; it’s quite another to fail people who heavily depend on public services. Not that I was failing them, necessarily, but I felt inadequate.

Now I am working at a new publication and I’m having a lot of fun. I’m no longer so depressed and am pretty excited about the new venture: it’s called Tek Lado, and it’s a magazine/website about technology and pop culture. It’s bilingual (English/Spanish) and when we’re not prepping the next print edition (coming to an honor box near you on 9/27), we’re blogging. So please do stop by and hear what I’m talking about these days: phones, Hello Kitty, iPads, videogames, comic books, etc. If it’s geeky, you know I’m into it.

I hope to see all five of you there. Though there isn’t a mental health focus, it’s still me.

I appreciate that PW allowed me this spot, and I hope they don’t turn it off. I’d like to stop by every now and then to update you on my brain activity.

liz | 10:56 AM | Uncategorized, bilingual, PW, spikol, tek lado

Shawn King: A Deliberate Overdose?

Jun 10 2010 | Comments 0

There are few things more mind-boggling than Larry King and his ability to find gorgeous women to sleep with and marry. They all seem far too attractive for a batlike homonculous like King. Check out this video, and see if you don’t agree that he’s sadly desperate to seem young, hip and not batlike. But then the black jacket just makes it worse. es_larryking2_1119_480x360

Sadder still than the jacket is the fact that wife Shawn is by his side, defending his aggressive questioning of Marie Osmond, whose son committed suicide. Now King is dealing with a suicide drama of his own: Wife Shawn has overdosed, and the rumor is she left a note implying that she wanted to die. Now TMZ, a guilty pleasure of mine, suggests perhaps Shawn wanted to die because of Larry’s affair with her sister. That’s right all-you-smart-people-who-wisely-don’t-keep-up-on-gossip-and-thus-didn’t-know-this-before: LARRY KING, A BATLIKE HOMONCULOUS, SLEPT WITH HIS WIFE’S INCREDIBLY ATTRACTIVE YOUNGER SISTER.

Shawn King Depression Triggered by Alleged Affair

Sources tell TMZ Shawn King’s depression started, continued and never stopped over Larry King’s alleged affair with Shawn’s sister.We’re told Shawn has been “extremely depressed” for more than five years … and the trigger was Larry’s alleged long-term involvement with Shannon Engemann.

As we first reported, Shawn had a showdown with Larry several years ago and as a peace offering Larry transferred title to all three of the couple’s homes to Shawn. We’re told Shawn has struggled for years, believing her husband remained involved with Shannon. One source says, “She fought like crazy to remain sane, just to take care of her kids.”

We’re told even though Shawn reconciled with Larry and put the divorce proceedings on ice, she remained deeply depressed. One source says, “Shawn’s not a pill popper, but she feels it’s her only way to deal with her depression.”

Shannon has denied having an affair with Larry.

Larry King’s Wife — Evidence of Suicide Attempt

liz | 7:58 PM | Uncategorized

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