Sometimes To Cope With The Difficulty Of Being Alive, I Consider The Possibility That I Don't Actually Exist And All My Memories Are The Dreams Of An Imaginative Red Panda


Alt title: Who Needs A Hippocampus Anyway?

Salut mon cher amie !! :3 Ow0

Aujourd'hui est le troisième anniversaire… and that's as long as I'm going to keep that up.

This blog is now 3 years old! How cool! In that time I've written 94 posts (excluding this one) totalling 99,983 words and giving a combined ~6 hours of reading time (at 270 words per minute).

The last year has been really good for this blog(1) as I've started to get an understanding on what I actually want to write about and how to write about it. I started this site because I wanted to try some new things after I got my first job, hence the boring technical documents. I've never enjoyed writing bland documents, and if I was still doing that I would have stopped publishing more posts a long time ago. So the past two years have just been me trying to find a reason to continue writing.

(1) If you're wondering about readership, I have no idea. I don't have anything to track readers and I don't care enough to add any.

Lately, I've been trying to give some of my posts a sort of narrative "structure" instead of just being a wall of information to make it more entertaining and digestible. One thing I like to do is sometimes open with something that is sort of irrelevant to the actual post and in the end make a callback to it which ties everything together. Like it's sort of a twist, where you go "oh so I guess the entire first 3 paragraphs weren't a complete waste of my time!" I don't know if there's a word for that, the closet I could think of was "foreshadowing" but I'm not too sure about that.

I still think 90% of everything I write is trash that is unfunny and boring, but I feel like I've been improving (maybe?) at least.

And speaking of trash that is unfunny and boring, last year's anniversary post is firmly in that 90% pile. I've went and read it again in preparation for this year and holy shit why did I even bother to write that. I'm not going to link it here, but I don't delete any posts after they've been published so if you want it, you can go find it yourself.

It did give me some ideas on what to write about though. I think I'd like to have these posts be more about me, this is a personal blog after all, I talk in first person and pretty much always refer to you directly here.

So this is another post about depression.

Here's a fun fact: depressed people have trouble remembering fine details of events they've experienced.[1]

I only learnt about this two or so months ago. It seemed really applicable to me because I have difficulty in remembering events even as lately as a couple years, but I've always assumed that my memory was bad because it was just like that.

One of the more unhelpful things people say to me as an attempt to cheer me up (or something, I honestly have no idea) is to try to remember happy things that have happened. But to be honest, I only have one memory that I can recall somewhat fondly.

That is, a trip to Japan and seeing a coffee siphon for the first time. Which I'm fairly sure I only remember because the coffee siphon that I see every day in my apartment reminds me of it.

And that's really it. I only have one positive memory, everything else is either meh, or anxiety inducing. This is why trying to remember positive events is unhelpful for me, because every time I remember that I only have one I just get more upset.

So after learning about this possible explanation, I did what any normal person would do, and started reading medical journals to find out if I could figure out what was happening and why.

Many memory deficits in depression appear to be downstream consequences of chronic stress. The area of the brain dealing with learning and memory, the hippocampus, is sensitive to stress and tends to be smaller in people with depression (by nearly 20% in some people) because it suppresses neurogenesis (the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain).[2]

This is important because new hippocampal neurons can mediate pattern separation, which is the process by which similar inputs are treated as distinct, facilitating the formation of unique representations for comparable events. Reduced pattern separation could explain why depressed people have trouble remembering the specifics of their memories as they may have trouble differentiating between them. It has also been proposed as an explanation of overgeneralised fear responses in anxiety disorders.

This can be compounded with a characteristic where depressed people tend to focus on and think about their symptoms and problems ("ruminate") more than non-depressed people.(2) This fixation on upsetting situations or events, occupies neural resources that the brain could spend on other things, like memory.[3]

(2) Hey... aren't I doing that right now?

A real cool thing is that this hippocampal atrophy seems to be permanent. In some studies the atrophy persisted for up to decades after the depressions were in remission. In addition, the extent of atrophy did not lessen with increasing duration of remission.[4]

However, this doesn't explain everything. The overgeneralisation of memories has been found to be more evident with positive than with negative events.[5] In fact, depressed people exhibit a worsening of their sad moods after recalling positive memories.[6] A smaller hippocampus wouldn't really be a good explanation for this, there would be no good reason for why it would disrupt positive memories more.

Instead, the cause of this may be from stress-related inhibition of midbrain dopamine neurons which disrupt the encoding and consolidation of rewarding experiences, resulting in a positive memory deficit. A common theme in depression is anhedonia, the loss of interest, motivation, and pleasure, which is usually caused by dopamine dysfunction. So through disrupting dopaminergic reward responses, adhedonia may be the cause of the positive memory deficit by depriving the hippocampus of signals that normally trigger consolidation.

The relationship between depression and memory is bidirectional: depression affects memory, but memory problems likely exacerbate depression. A bias to repeatedly retrieve painful memories could clearly sustain a depressive episode, and failure to encode and consolidate positive memories could reinforce the anhedonia that (putatively) disrupted those processes in the first place.

That's been a fun learning experience. Now I can pick from two explanations for why I can't remember nice things: either nothing good has ever happened to me, or my brain is fucked beyond repair making me physically unable to remember them. And honestly, is there even that much of difference between them? Both explanations are just as equally horrifying as the other.

What's the point of doing enjoyable things if I can't remember them? It'll be like they never happened anyway.

Although, it is actually kinda nice to get some real details on how depression is a real biological disorder, rather than some sort of failure of fortitude or spirit. I often feel like I should be able to just be "happier" and get sad when I'm not, so it's good to have a better understanding on this. But fuck, I really wish it was actually just some failure of fortitude or spirit instead of this death spiral where just having depressive symptoms makes me even more depressed.

By now if you're an observant reader, you might already know where this is heading. This is the real reason for this blogs' existence.

The first posts on this blog were boring technical documents. But many of these boring technical documents were written so I wouldn't forget what they were about and could have a reference to them in the future. The most obvious example being the post "A Reference Of Linux Screen Commands Because I Keep Forgetting Them" with which the title specifically states that it was written because I "keep forgetting [the screen commands]".(3)

(3) FYI, I don't use screen anymore and have replaced its' use with tmux.

Maybe what I want to write about actually hasn't changed all that much. When I learn something new, and if I think it's important enough, I'll draft a post and publish here if it's good enough.

In the end, this site isn't really meant for the public but is for a very specific individual. It's why I don't share posts anywhere, or keep track of its' visitors. Because I already know if that individual knows about a new post, and when they've read it.

It's for future me. When I talk to "you", I always assume that you're "me". It's probably why I make these shitty jokes only I would like and very rarely explain something that I think someone should already have a basic understanding of.

I guess most people use a diary for this, but that sounds boring. And the idea (or threat) that these words could be seen by anyone in the world makes me put them under more scrutiny, similar to my reasons for writing open-source software that no one else will use.

If this was just in some diary to be locked away, I wouldn't be putting these references to journals at the bottom. But if I don't, how will you know it's correct? Maybe past me is just going through a particularly bad depressive episode and is making up a bunch of shit to screw you over.

Anyway, I think I'm getting side-tracked. The point is that, if my own brain refuses to do it, this blog would be a good way to remember "positive events". The previous post is an example of this. I've gotten over 100 hours of genuine enjoyment from Beat Saber, and although if it ever comes to it, Beat Saber probably wouldn't stop me from committing suicide. But having a lot of little things like this and that coffee siphon can go a long way.(4)

(4) "Looking" at pictures of Astolfo is absolutely one of these things as well but I am way too embarrassed to admit that.

Don't get me wrong, every post from now on isn't going to be some wholesome, cuddly, poggers, fun trip to the zoo with the whole family. A big problem for me is that I don't do enough to actually make those "positive memories", and there's the whole dopamine dysfunction thing that's going on. In fact, overtly positive stuff is probably not going to happen at all. Besides, there's nothing like a good rant to help quell years of political rage and let off some steam.

One more thing I want to mention. I tried to figure out how bad my depression really is compared to other people. So I read this paper called "The Importance of Coping and Emotion Regulation in the Occurrence of Suicidal Behavior", which as you might imagine goes through the "importance of coping and emotion regulation in the occurrence of suicidal behaviour"… obviously.

I would recommend reading it for yourself, unlike some of the other papers, this one is an easy read.

The introduction states that "researchers have established risk factors associated with suicide including depression, poor coping abilities, higher avoidance of stressors, and a lack of close social relationships", which kinda sucks, because I have all of those, but let's move on. The parts I was interested in was how they determined suicidal behaviour and where I'm placed on the spectrum (of not suicidal to suicidal).

So from their study:

Suicidal behavior was measured using the Suicidal Behaviours Questionnaire–Revised (SBQ-R; Osman et al., 2001). This is a 4-item inventory that measures past, current, and future suicidal thoughts and attempts. Item 1 measures lifetime SI and/or suicide attempts, item 2 assesses the frequency of SI in the previous 12 months, item 3 quantifies the threat of a suicide attempt, and item 4 is the self-reported likelihood of future suicidal behavior.

I did some research on the "Suicidal Behaviours Questionnaire–Revised" to see how reliable it is, and it seemed okay. Continuing reading:

Each question is answered using a Likert scale and the scale for each question differ slightly. The scales range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 6, with lower numbers indicating a relatively low risk of suicide. Total scores on the questionnaire range from 3 to 18 and represent overall suicide risk whereby higher scores represent greater risk. Scores of 7 or above indicate significant risk of suicidal behavior.

The results for this study had "70 participants (59.83%) who scored below 7 on the SBQ-R (median = 4.00, range = 3–6), and a total of 47 participants (40.17%) who scored higher than 7 (indicating a relatively high suicide risk (median = 9.00, range = 7–15)." Keeping in mind these are 117 students from The Open University in Hong Kong (51 males, 69 females) which were recruited for this study using convenience sampling, so it would include some non-depressed people.

Yet more fun when we read that "suicidal behaviour was positively correlated with avoidance coping", which is not good for a person with social anxiety, as it is a thing I do constantly.

Another study with 400 women admitted to the Poisoning Emergency Hospital, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences following failed suicide attempts had 72% of individuals with a SBQ-R score >8.[7] Interestingly, marital status, educational level, employment and the type of psychiatric disorder had no significant influence on SBQ-R score. And a history of admission in psychiatric wards, drug abuse, and of attempted suicide among family members were also not associated with risk of repeated attempted suicide.

Right, so obviously we're going to do this questionnaire and see where we stand! Here's an archive link of one I found. Take some time to do it if you want and let's compare results!



Ok, I'll wait.

Don't rush, these words will be here forever.

While I'm waiting actually, I want to talk to you. If you're here that is. Yes, "you you", not "me you". I know future me would never listen to what I'm going to say because the dude is such a dumb cunt.

Don't do what I'm trying to do. For real. It's not good to self-diagnose yourself like this. You could get incorrect information, come to the wrong conclusion, and if you attempt to do something, really mess it up and make it worse. Even if you're doing the most accurate questionnaire ever devised, you're still a unique person and can't boil down everything about your own condition in 4 questions.(5)

(5) This goes for many of those "personality" tests too. Yeah, I know it's fun to take them and be able to call yourself an "INFP-T", but do you really think you can capture your entire being in just 5 letters? If you can, you're probably an uninteresting person. Just don't take it too seriously.

Questionnaires like these are mainly for studies that look at many people to help find common occurrences. Please go to a doctor or psychologist that can properly understand you if you need help.

Also on the off chance that you really are here, if you want someone else to talk to, you could always talk to me! ;) I have my email on this site so feel free to use it.

Cool, now that you're done, tell me what you got!

Huh, interesting.

Now it's my turn. For future reference, I did this on the 27th of December 2020 and my score was 15.

Yeah… not looking good huh?

Maybe I should mention that the weeks surrounding Christmas to New Year's are always the worst times of the year for me. They've been a consistent source of panic attacks and normally coincide with a real nice, long depressive episode. But I don't actually think the answers I gave would have changed even if I was feeling slightly better at the current time. It's a test on suicidal behaviour - past, present, and future, and not a test on how sad I am right now.

Ah bon, c'est la vie! See you next time I guess.

This part is just so people don't get spoiled if they click one of the references up top and then jump down here. What do you wanna talk about?

Oh why the title is called that? Sure.

Well, you see… I wanted to write a really long title because I thought it would be funny. So I wrote that. And red pandas are my favourite animal, because they're cute as heck and it seems like all they do is sleep and eat bamboo/grapes. What a life.

The alt title is absolutely the better title, which is why I wanted to keep it, but it's just not long enough I'm afraid ;(

Hopefully this should be enough, but here is just a list of some other things I like:

  • Astolfo
  • Saber Astolfo
  • Saber Astolfo with bunny ears
  • Astolfo in casual clothes

Hey have I mentioned that I'm bi? I think I had it in the about me page, but I trimmed that down to be barely anything. Don't think I've ever said it outright in a blog post and have only made some hints to it. Yeah, I guess this is me saying it then.

What a fucking weird turn this post has taken. Can't wait until next year when I'll think writing this was also a mistake.