Monday, October 11, 2010

Musings on Bipolar and Gastronomy from a Writer in South Africa

I love Mary, who blogs at Letting Go, and writes about life in South Africa. I missed this gem last week, but it's worth reprinting for two reasons. First she writes about a meal she had at La Bulli, which was for years rated the best restaurant in the world. Then she muses on a book by David Healy that starts with the untimely death of Rebecca Riley, and wonders, which came first, the condition or the drug?  I will let this one speak for itself.  Mary doesn't usually write about this topic but when she does, she has an interesting perspective from a country not to many people write from. Like Mary, it's a keeper.


The village encased in blank walls of heavy mist, a cow mooing somewhere out of sight. A friend has shared bunches of fresh fenugreek and handfuls of broad beans with me, so I am cooking up a storm.
And I am reading reviews of Colman Andrews’ biography of the molecular gastronomc chemistry schoolboy aka chef Ferran Adria. Years ago I ate at La Bulli in between rereading Cervantes’ Don Quixote and revisting battle sites of the Spanish Civil War. Aside from the haughtiness and inscrutability of uncommunicative macho waiters, I was astonished by a seagreen foam of  what had once been plump ripe olives and perhaps a crust of Parmesan. It tasted  delicious, but I was left with the impression of having eaten nothing at all. After a ravishing and improbable meal of six minute, invented dishes (including a gritty spoonful of frozen foie gras dust) I went out in my trim little bullfighter’s cape of scarlet and black and  gobbled up tapas of manchego cheese, coddled eggs and chorizo, grilled anchovies, a creamy almond soup spiked with garlic. Spanish food is very more-ish.
The secret to Ferran Adria’s success? “His tongue is bigger than ours. He literally has a larger tongue than normal, with more papillae.” That may be so, but my appetite is much bigger than Ferran’s.
So good to be online again, my busy real life has gone into hiatus. Big Pharma watch from the London Review of Books, a hard look at the contested and unreliable history of bipolar disorder and the increasingly drastic  treatments:
One now speaks of a ‘bipolar spectrum’, which includes, along with bipolar disorders I and II, cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar II) and bipolar disorder ‘not otherwise specified’ (an all-purpose category in which practically any affective instability can be placed). The spectrum also includes bipolar disorders II1⁄2, III, III1⁄2, IV, V, VI, and even a very accommodating ‘subthreshold bipolar disorder’.
The category has expanded so much that it would be difficult to find anyone who couldn’t be described as ‘bipolar’, especially now that the diagnosis is liberally applied to people of all ages. Conventional wisdom once had it that manic depression burns out with age, but geriatric bipolar disorder is now the talk of psychiatric congresses. Elderly people who are depressed or agitated find themselves diagnosed with bipolar disorder for the first time in their lives and are prescribed antipsychotics or anticonvulsants that have the potential to drastically shorten their life expectancy: according to David Graham, an expert from the Food and Drug Administration, these psycho-tropic medications are responsible for the deaths of some 15,000 elderly people each year in the United States.
Scary stuff! Time to give the Internet a break and do some gardening before the sun burns off the mist and it becomes too hot outdoors. The thing about sobriety is that we get to choose what happens each day and how we respond. Something else to be grateful for –

Thank you Mary, as always.

4 comments:

Stephi said...

Hi Susan,

Thank you for letting me know about Mary. She is a really unique soulful writer and what she writes makes me think:)

I have been really interested by your previous posts about olds mental institutions. It inspired me to write about the place where I have to go to get psychiatric treatment. I thought that you might be interested in reading it, if you are not too busy. This place actually terrifies most people. But I have a love- hate relationship with it.

And by the way, like Mary, I am also South African ( cue- *big smile, chest swelling with pride*)Well, I'm half- American too but South Africa has my heart:)

Syd said...

My mother was diagnosed with everything from schizophrenia to depression by a terrible doctor in Virginia. Thankfully, she was brought to a Medical University here where she was diagnosed with classic depression and treated for that. It made all the difference in her life.

Winstrol said...

Your way of expressing thoughts through words is excellent. Great blog, enjoyed reading it. Keep up the good work! Greetings.

Mental Health Specialists said...

Excellent post, I am regular visitor of this blog, keep on writing these great posts, and I will be a regular visitor for a long time.

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