Aug 13, 2014

The legacy of Robin Williams

Yesterday, the world lost one of its funniest citizens.
Just to remind us that depression can be masked.
Just to remind us how deadly depression can be.
Just to remind us how misunderstood depression is.
Hopefully, there will be more awareness about it.
And more conversation/discussion about it.
Hopefully, people will learn about helping one another.
Hopefully, people will venture into helping one another.
Finally, what I'm doing to help myself and others.

A twitter movie reviewer, I have become

is a consequence of THIS
and THIS.

Aug 12, 2014

Ashok Row Kavi interview on BBC World Service's Outlook

Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised when I logged on to BBC World Service's web page and found a smiling Ashok Row Kavi staring at me. I found out that Ashok was featured on one of the station's flagship shows called "Outlook." This morning, over my first cup of coffee, I heard the interview. I thoroughly enjoyed knowing more about a man that I have personally known, albeit rather casually, for several years. I recommend this interview to anyone who would like to know more about one of India's pioneering hay rights activists.

Aug 4, 2014

What I'm going through to get better

I'm sure that among my readers, there are at least a few who have battled depression. What it does to you is sometimes devastating. You simply forget how to live they way you used to live and forget how to love what you used to love. It's incapacitating. I still remember that only a few years before, I was interested in going out to a movie and eating out and simply having fun. Two years back, I was absolutely in love with traveling and look forwarded to go to new places and have exotic experiences. The list goes on and on.

After being on a relatively ineffective pharmacotherapy cocktail for approximately two years, I consulted my present shrink, who switched to the present the pharmacotherapy cocktail (below) and guided me to talk/behavioral therapy. During the course of psychological testing, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety disorder, stress disorder most probably as an effect of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to childhood trauma. Yes, it sounds like a lot. Hence, along with the medications, I have started an efficacious, albeit debated, psychotherapy method called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for PTSD.

As pharmacotherapy for depression, I'm on the following cocktail:
  • low-dose amitryptiline (a classical tricyclic antidepressant)
  • medium-dose bupropion (an atypical antidpressant mood stabilizer)
  • low-dose clonazepam (an antianxiety agent)
  • low-dose haloperidol (an antipsychotic agent)
Apart from that, I'm taking Vitamin B and Vitamin D supplementation.*
As part of pscyhotherapy, I have undergone/am undergoing the following:
Wondering the reason behind why I'm posting all these details? To be honest, I have come across several people suffering from depression who are simply unaware of what they can do to get themselves and their lives back on track. By being open about what I'm going through, I hope to bring more awareness regarding depression and PTSD so that more people can help themselves.

An important point to note is that the bullet about reading and learning about depression, PTSD, and cognition in general need not be limited to who are suffering from depression or PTSD. I would recommend this as a useful exercise to just get accustomed to the concepts and the phenomena underlying these conditions. Especially, those who are close to those who are the sufferers.

In the last few weeks, I have recommended these the first two books to several people and I have gotten very positive responses regarding the same. I hope that I can get my family (my sister and my mother at least) to read these books.
If you are reading this and if you know someone who shows signs of these conditions, please encourage the to seek help and/or read these books.

*I was diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency a couple of years back.

Aug 3, 2014

Being an elder brother comes naturally to me (a photo blog)

A couple of years back, I faced a situation that kickstarted my being-an-elder-brother-for-a-younger-gay-man mode. My friend, who calls himself Emosexual in an online chat room* on that I initially met him in, was then a barely legal young man in another metropolitan city in India and was facing problems with his family after they discovered that he is gay.

One morning, I received a text message from our common friend Mickles1, a wonderful British man settled in California, explaining to me that Emosexual had been asked to leave his home and that he in distress and was not sure what to do. In a couple of hours, I arranged for a flight reservation for emosexual and transferred some money to his account. By that night, he was in Mumbai, and eventually stayed with me in my apartment for approximately two months before returning to his home, of course, having reconciled with his family.

I am not a very social person and living with someone else is extremely stressful for me. Yet, I was able to manage living with a precocious, bubbly, energetic young man for a couple of months. I enjoyed mentoring him, or so I hope, helping him adjust to his new role, in which he was way more independent and responsible after having come out to his family. I think I was successful in my endeavors, and I hope to have Emosexual comment on this post to ensure that this is fairly accurate.

Since then, I have faced similar situations, and while they were not as drastic as Emosexual's situation was, I still enjoy donning that role. For example, I did it with another younger man here in Mumbai, who was then involved in a rather dysfunctional relationship with my friend Frankenstein**. Although I received some help from Jay, I was involved in the mentoring role for a longer period. I enjoy such situations and I latch on opportunities whenever I get some, especially in a situation that does not involve too much of personal/social stress.

This also takes place on social networking platforms and gay personals sites as well. Here's an example of that on a very popular gay personals platform in India called PlanetRomeo. I thought I did well. I'm in grey bubbles and the young man is in white bubbles.

*Chat rooms are still relevant in my neck of the woods. Yes, even in 2014.
**Frankenstein is one of the most hilarious men I have ever met. He is also my movie buddy, and we go out for sci-fi monster flicks. We are planning to watch Marvel's Guardian's of the Galaxy this coming weekend.

Aug 2, 2014

The African void

Three points about Africa:

1. I just read about this on Times Of India - Uganda court scraps new anti-gay law

2. Yesterday, I also heard a BBC anchor from Africa say something in the lines of, "I come from Africa which gets its share of daily doom."

3. After hearing this, it dawned on me that I don't have any friends - online or offline from Africa. I have so many friends from the USA, Canada, UK, Asia, Australia, and even Latin America.

I feel sad and about Africa and ashamed of myself.

Jul 30, 2014

Awkward conversation in the washroom

This is going to be a socially inappropriate post. Maybe even NSFW. But the irony is that the post is about a conversation that I had with a colleague in the washroom at work. Those who don't want to read any further, this is a good time to click out.

So, this evening, around 7 pm, I went to the washroom to pee. My colleague, a smart young man, also happened to need to pee at the same time. So we both stood adjacent to each other at the two urinal stalls. We were talking about a TV show and we carried on, while proceeding with the act of micturition. Everything seems fine, until my friend asks me:
Kris, what are you doing?

What do you mean what?

I mean how are you doing that?

What do you mean?

You are not holding it!

Holding what? Oh, yeah, I don't need to hold it. Why would you need to?

Doesn't it spray all over the place?

No, it doesn't. Even at this age, I'm pretty darned good at it.
[After an awkward smile/grin/laugh, he says]
This is surely an awkward conversation that we shouldn't be having.

I guess!
And I walked out of the washroom and back into the office and everyone lived happily ever after.

(PS: I wasn't aware that men are supposed to do it. Several of my friends apparently use the technique my colleague was suggesting. I still don't see the need.)

Jul 29, 2014

How do you build a civilization from scratch?

I don't know about you, but I have often wondered about the ultimate consequence of an apocalpytic scenario in which all of humanity's knowledge is lost along with the vast majority of humanity as well. Say, straight out of a sci-fi movie, the Earth's core becomes unstable in a short period of time and it eventually explodes. The only people who manage to escape are the few extremely lucky ones who get to reach far away from the earth in spaceships to avoid destruction*.

Now assume that the bunch of eclectic survivors consists of a few scientists, and maybe some authority figures. All they have left is some computers and a small collection of books--that is, if they remembered to bring any. Assuming that the internet would exist only if the servers on the Earth would be there, the would not have internet. Assuming that these people who got to escape the catastrophe had sufficient time to think about what they would need to rebuild a civilization, they would have predicted that they would need vast amounts of basic knowledge in the form of encyclopedias and basic science text books.

In such a scenario, the only a long-term hope to reestablish civilization if the survivors can find an inhabitable planet or a moon of a gas giant soon enough so that they don't die within the spaceship(s) that they are in already. Let's assume that there is such a place and the survivors have the technology to travel fast enough to reach there, and that they reach the destination. Can they reinvent the combustion engine or a refrigerator? Would they know the basics of the thermodynamics to make things work? Would they know how to build a home that will withstand the climatic conditions of the planet? Would they know how to make new glass, paper, steel, fuel, etc.? Would they know how to efficiently start agriculture or make weapons for hunting? Would they know enough about elementary pharmacology to synthesize medicines to protect themselves from infections?

If you think that this will all be difficult, what if they did not have the time to take in any material for reference? What if they had to start things from scratch? And what if only a few children who have not learned anything are the only survivors? Would they be able to think up all the inventions that we have made over last 50,000 odd years? In any of these scenarios, how long would it take to reach a level of technology that we now take for granted?

Of course, no one will know the exact answer to any of these questions. My guess is that humanity must think of a way to deposit all the knowledge that we have gained at several locations--on Earth and outside it--to ensure that such a thing does not take place. I don't know the exact way, but the planning must be started soon! What do you think?

The reason why I thought of writing this post now is because I heard an interview with Lewis Dartnell, the author of the book The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World From Scratch, on Quirks and Quarks, hosted by Bob McDonald on CBS Radio. Mr. Dartnell has written the book for practically the same situation. This is a link to a review of the book. It's a must-have more than a must-read, I guess, but the only thing I'm not sure if whether I should buy it in a hard copy of download it on my Kindle.

(PS: Yes, I realize that this is just like the Battlestar Galactica plot.)