Dissociation and Gigs

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Gigs are a confusing place to be when you experience any form of dissociation. For me, there are two likely outcomes. Sometimes I feel the barriers between me and everything else reduce, so I feel closer to seeing the world as a typical person does. But sometimes I instead feel more aware of the dissonance between what I’m perceiving and what I’m experiencing, and so I notice those barriers more acutely.

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Am I enough of a scientist?

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A few weeks ago, I read a science journalism internship advertised on a sci-comm mailing list. The internship seemed like a good fit in terms of hours and responsibilities- it included adapting published articles into lay summaries, something I would be interested in. However, the company focused on bioscience and lab science, which I’ve not studied. I could understand the lay versions, but I couldn’t clearly grasp the original articles. So I never applied for that internship, as my biosciences knowledge currently isn’t strong enough.

Thinking about this let me better articulate a background worry/fear that’s been present since I finished my course: that I don’t have a strong enough science background to take part in many aspects of scicomm.
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“Delaying the Inevitable”- Pessimism in mental health support

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Trigger Warning: This whole post is about themes of suicidal thoughts and responses to them. There isn’t anything graphic or too detailed, but don’t read this post if that theme’s not a good idea for you. 

I have a strange history with the word inevitable. One one hand, it’s a warning sign. It’s the red flag which warns me I’m about to lose days to the thoughts rattling around my head and blocking everything I care about. When I start to believe that returning to the past is inevitable, that failure is guaranteed while everything good that’s happened since was just temporary solace- that’s how I know a bad time is imminent. When things are bad, the word inevitable gets lodged in my mind, poisoning everything I experience. But at one point, the phrase “delaying the inevitable” was the most helpful thing I’d heard for months.

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Resources

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I’m a digital hoarder. Right now my laptop has thousands of hours of unplayed games on it, hundreds of archived podcasts and as many unread articles and eBooks.

With the amount of tutorials and resources stored and accessible on there, a motivated person could learnt how to do anything they wanted by now. I’ve barely done anything. I’ve had free access to so much knowledge and ignored almost all of it.

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Signals and Noise

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The sheer amount of publications, information sources, and people that I follow has become too much to read, and too much to mean anything. Continual anxiety means I’m struggling to focus on anything useful, like uni work or project planning. But trying to escape or get ideas by reading non-uni media isn’t helping at all.

Between my Twitter feed, Medium recommendations and Pocket list, there’s almost 1000 items of “do this to be happy”, “do this to be better”,”here’s how everyone else is succeeding”, and “you need to care about this”.
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The Year of Gaming…

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Yesterday, Xbox sent out round-up emails with stats about our year in Xbox. Usually, I’m interested in that kind of thing, but reading these stats was uncomfortable.

I’m in the top 5% for amount played, at about 1500 hours in 2015. I honestly didn’t expect to be that high a percentile, more like 15/20%. That number annoys me- at least 1/3 of those hours happened as deliberate escapism or inertia. What could I have done with them instead?
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My Diagnosis Experience, Part 5

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Yesterday, I finally had my appointment with C3.
Leading up to yesterday, I’ve been nervous about going back, more so than if I was seeing a stranger. The nerves are mostly from not knowing how she would interpret me, based on her unexpected assessment last time. Because all I remembered from before was the more negative parts, like the conversations I ended up confused by and L’s reaction to meeting her, I was expecting a bad experience. Instead she was friendly, and she remembered me to some extent; asking about church and uni.

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The Lion’s Den of Broadcasting

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This week has been bad in terms of anxiety and dp; simple things like a busy bus or a doubting thought, that normally I can deal with absolutely fine, have been sources of fear and thought-loops instead.

Considering this was also the week where I started the Broadcasting module, I was worried. While the course as a whole is outside of my comfort zone, a module where I’d potentially have to appear on microphone and on camera is lightyears away from comfortable.

But today, I woke up feeling calmer. Then something happened that put the last few years in perspective.
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Dissociative Disorder Diagnosis Adventure

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For people in the UK, there are two ways to go about investigating dissociation (using that as the catch-all term for everything on the dissociative symptom spectrum).

The first option to to straight-out ask your GP, if you have an alright relationship with them. As the majority of GP’s won’t be knowledgeable about dissociation, that will probably involve bringing some information about it to the appointment. It would also be best to specifically asking for a referral to the Clinic for Dissociative Studies, rather than a local psychologist.

If you’re not sure how your GP will respond, or want extra support in the decision beforehand, then another option is to contact the Pottergate Centre, a dissociation-focused organisation with an office in Norwich, UK. They have an online contact option, where you can get two dissociation screening tests from them, and send the tests back to them to be analysed, all for free. You can then take the results, and their analysis, to your GP- they will also include extra information about dissociation with the results.
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My Diagnosis Experience, Part 4

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Background

Despite having sat through my fair share of mental health assessments, I don’t know much about them. As I don’t personally know anyone who has experienced one, and don’t really have many people I could ask about how they work, my knowledge is entirely from what people have said online.

Out of everything I’ve written about in the last few posts, one meeting has always remained in my mind, because it was simultaneously the worst and the best experience I had with mental health professionals.

Having never had anyone to “compare notes” with, I’m going to explain it here, in case it comes in useful for future reference or for anyone else. Again, personal information has been removed.
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My Diagnosis Experience, Part 3

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Note ; I’m not going to use any identifying information, so I’ll refer to each person by a letter+ number to tell them apart, as it does get rather confusing. The colour-coding is also just to keep track.

K1– university counsellor
K2– university wellbeing practitioner
L– a close friend who I needed to bring with me to some meetings.
C1– first mental health assessor at the community services.
C2– second  assessor at the community services.
C3– final assessor at the community services.

Community Mental Health Services

I was referred to the community mental health services (CMS for short) 3 separate times; once from the hospital, once when I finished seeing K1, and by K2 during the relapse I mentioned earlier.  This meant I had 3 separate mental health assessments in just over a year.

Each time I was assessed like I’d never been there before, with a different staff member. This seemed really inefficient, especially as each asked me the same questions and mentioned me having used the services recently.

My first assessor C1 was friendly, and I was able to talk to her. However, while I went in assuming my issue was solely/mostly depression and I would be offered CBT, C1 threw a curveball by giving me a leaflet for Mentalization Based Therapy, a treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.

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My Diagnosis Experience, Part 2

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Some notes for this series; I’m not going to be using any identifying information, so I’ll be referring to each  person involved by a letter+ number to tell them apart, as it does get rather confusing. The colour-coding is also just to keep track.
K1– university counsellor
K2– university wellbeing practitioner
L-   one of my friends, who I needed to bring with me to some meetings. 
C1– first mental health assessor at the community services.
C2– second  assessor at the community services.
C3– final assessor at the community services.

Doctor’s Surgery

One of the services involved in my treatment was my GP’s surgery.I don’t have much to write about this part,  as I chose to avoid them as much as possible. While  they technically knew everything that was going on, because each other service wrote letters to the GP updating them with new developments, this didn’t have any practical use. 

I wasn’t exactly organised in making appointments to get medication, which meant I didn’t see one doctor consistently. This made it very easy for me to slip through the cracks, avoiding all of their questions.
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My Diagnosis Experience, Part 1

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Some notes for this series; I’m not going to be using any identifying information, so I’ll be referring to each  person involved by a letter+ number to tell them apart, as it does get rather confusing. The colour-coding is also just to keep track.
K1– university counsellor
K2– university wellbeing practitioner
L-   one of my friends, who I needed to bring with me to some meetings. 
C1– first mental health assessor at the community services.
C2– second  assessor at the community services.
C3– third assessor at the community services.

Beginning

Although I’d had mental health difficulties for a long time, since probably age 10, I didn’t see any mental health services until I was 19. Accessing them wasn’t by choice; when a friend needed to take me to A&E, the hospital had to refer me to community services. My friend also booked a GP appointment for me, and contacted my university to see if they could help me. So I went from knowing nothing about mental health services to being seen by three types at once. It was a confusing period of time, because it felt like my only option was to be bounced around from person to person, and do everything they said, even though I wasn’t really sure of what was going on.
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Diagnosing Mental Health: My Experience

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One of the things that can stop people looking for help with mental health issues is the uncertainty of not knowing how they are referred and diagnosed, what kind of place they need to go to, or what person they need to see.

This is especially true for people under 18, who may not want to see anyone in case it means involving their families or sacrificing their ability to keep information confidential.

Online communities can answer these questions to an extent, giving some people’s experiences. But these sometimes focus on only the easiest experiences or the worst experiences in getting help.

Personally, my experience was in-between these extremes; some of the services I used were really accessible and useful while others made less sense. Similarly, some of the people I saw were really supportive and helpful, and some weren’t. So I thought I would explain my experience getting support, in case it’s helpful to anyone.

2012-
Part 1 (Uni)
Part 2 (GP)
Part 3/ Part 4(Community Services)

2015-

Part 1-Pottergate Centre Screening
Part 2- GP
Part 3- Community Services

How Not to Play Mass Effect 3 (or, the joys of truly co-operative multiplayer) :P

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Note: This post works better with its associated video here or opened in another tab so you can see both video and text at once. If that’s not possible, there are time tags for every rule, to keep things on track.

As you can tell from the title, the subject today is Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Which is probably my favourite and most-played video-game-related-thing ever. It’s not the most original game in the world, but it is very well done- there’s something incredibly compelling about the multiplayer even two years and 650 games in.

Part of the reason for this is the sheer variety of characters and powers. However, just having loads of characters isn’t enough to make a game good:  ME3 multiplayer got it right because every character can be of use in a team. It’s replayability is mainly a function of the incredible amounts of team synergy that can be created. That’s something you don’t see in a lot of shooters- even when it says co-operative multiplayer, many are basically competitive multiplayer instead, just with a few less people shooting at you, rather than modifying the fundamentals of how you play the game.

While I’m planning to put some videos of good runs up, with my typical team. I’m putting up this one basically as a “what not to do” video, and a view of  why maybe some people don’t find this game as long-term interesting as we do.

So, how not to play ME3 :P


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Hyperlexia

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A rarer offshoot of a learning disability today, and one that can almost be called a superability: my topic today is hyperlexia. There isn’t too much media-wise about hyperlexia, but what I have found is interesting.

Silberberg and Silberberg (1967) were some of the first people to define hyperlexia, and they called it “the precocious ability to read without prior training, before the age of 5”.

(Side note: I didn’t actually know until then that 5 was the average age. Being an only child for most of my life meant the first I knew that reading at 2.5 was unexpected was when other people found my surprise that my younger sister wasn’t reading at 3 odd).
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Good News :P

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After enjoying a few weeks of post-uni free time (and successfully passing my driving test), I got some brilliant news yesterday…

I have been accepted for a place on the Science Communication MSc course at UWE!  It’s conditional upon me getting a 2:2, but based on my current analysis of my grades so far, that should be easily achieved. So it means I get to learn all the media side of science that I’ve been interested in, which I’m really happy about.

I’ve got almost 1.5 years before the course starts, so I already know some of what I’m going to use that time for, but I also need to find some new things to do. There are quite a few skills included in the course (such as video editing for the video module, and stronger scientific writing for the science writing module) that I also need to develop before I start the course, so I’m going to have some fun learning these :)

Developer-Fan Interactions: What can go wrong?

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Something I’ve been thinking about this week is how game developers and fans can now interact so freely, and what this means for games and the gaming community.

There are some situations where this ability is unambiguously good, and some studios who balance their interactions really well. Most notably, Valve. For example, when fans loved Left 4 Dead, but were upset that its content had run over the expected release time, Valve responded by producing a completely revamped sequel a year later.

And when a group of college students began making a puzzle game in 2007 based on Valve’s Source engine , Valve responded not by suing them but by hiring them, providing the students with resources so they could continue making their game. Considering this puzzle game became Portal, Valve’s method was the epitome of win-win situations.
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Participant Effects and Popular Science

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As you’ve gathered from the last few posts, I’ve been spending the majority of my non-lecture time in uni, hiding out in my semi-underground lab and testing people. I’ve found the process of researching interesting, but it has also worried me a bit: doing my dissertation research has shown me there are many more things to take into account than I expected.

While organisation isn’t my strong point, it can be resolved fairly easily in normal lecture and seminar environments. During data collection, on the other hand, keeping track of many different variables and responsibilities becomes incredibly important, and my difficulty with it has almost got me into trouble already.
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