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 Monday, November 6, 2000

Study links pesticides, Parkinson's
New research using rats suggests that long-term exposure to a widely used pesticide kills brain cells and triggers debilitating physical symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease. Scientists say the experiment's results strongly indicate what scientists have suspected for several years - that the most common form of Parkinson's disease might result from toxins in the environment. Scientists who reviewed the experiment said the results are powerful and should reinvigorate the search for environmental toxins that may contribute to Parkinson's, the most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer's. More than one million Americans suffer from Parkinson's. Muscle control ebbs as brain cells in a region called the substantia nigra produce less dopamine, a hormone vital to normal nerve function. People most frequently would be exposed to rotenone by ingesting residue in food or by handling the compound.


(Posted at 10:31:01 AM EST.)

 Monday, October 30, 2000

Off to Baltimore
Well, I'm off to Baltimore this week for the annual National Association of Social Workers' convention. My company, HelpHorizons, is exhibiting there. It may actually give me some free time to write/update the Web site a bit! We'll see...

(Posted at 02:59:22 PM EST.)

 Sunday, October 29, 2000

Salon Has Some Articles For You This Week
Health: Fighting for Treatment. These days having cancer isn't enough to get you into the hospital -- you have to really be sick. By J.B. Orenstein

Mothers Who Think. Post-traumatic slavery syndrome- African-Americans are killing themselves at an unprecedented rate. In "Lay My Burden Down" Alvin Poussaint and Amy Alexander try to explain why. By Erin Aubry-Kaplan
(Posted at 09:31:48 AM EST.)

Eating Disorder Patients Receptive to E-mail Therapy
This actually crossed my desk in July (can you tell how far behind I am yet?!??)... "For individuals with eating disorders who are resistent to conventional face-to-face treatment, electronic communication may represent a feasible alternative, Dr. Paul Robinson said at the Sixth World Congress on Innovations in Psychiatry. A pilot study shows improvements in depression scores and in eating disorder symptoms after 3 months of cognitive-behavoral-flavored e-mail therapy. Most individuals became more receptive to face-to-face therapy as a result of their experience, said Dr. Robinson of the Royal Free Hospital in London.

(Posted at 09:27:48 AM EST.)

The UCLA Internet Report: "Surveying the Digital Future"
Released on October 25 by the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, this new report challenges the conventional wisdom that the Net creates social isolation. The 53-page report is the product of "the first comprehensive study ever conducted of the sweeping changes produced by the Internet," created to "explore how computers, information technology and their users are shaping and changing society." In contrast to what some journalists and politicians have claimed, the vast majority of respondents to the study claimed that online activities such as email, chat rooms, and surfing have made a positive impact, if a modest one, on their ability to make friends and communicate with their family. The report itself offers lots of interesting information for anyone who uses or studies the Net. This includes the top ten Internet activities, who uses the internet, views about the Internet, email use, children and the Internet, online shopping, work and the Internet, and online contact and friendships. This is a very important study, and, as far as publications of this type go, not a bad read. Here's the report (PDF).

(Posted at 09:24:45 AM EST.)

 Thursday, October 26, 2000

Specific Findings from this Study
Some additional findings from the study are also available.

(Posted at 12:06:12 PM EDT.)

Internet Use is Not Dehumanizing After All
"Concerns that Internet revolution has dehumanized America may be unfounded: Nearly two-thirds of all Americans have ventured online, and the majority of them deny that the Internet creates social isolation, according to a study released Wednesday by the University of California in Los Angeles." Finally some research to throw back at the naysayers of the technology and to refute other studies showing the Internet isn't pro-social. Of course it is. It's not about the technology, but about the ability of the technology to connect human beings with one another. I've been saying this for years...

(Posted at 12:03:33 PM EDT.)

 Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Something to Smile At Today
Mr. Winkle can't be real, can he? Well, if nothing else, he's adorable as all heck. Here's his Web site.

(Posted at 06:20:35 PM EDT.)

 Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Nutritional Supplement Of Benefit In Bipolar Disorder
"A nutritional supplement has significant benefits for people with bipolar disorder, according to researchers in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary. [...] The supplement has 36 ingredients, 34 of which are natural dietary vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, C, D, E, various B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and potassium. The other two ingredients are antioxidants." Good news for people who have bipolar disorder.

(Posted at 03:52:35 PM EDT.)

 Monday, October 9, 2000

Speech without Accountability
New software makes it nearly impossible to remove illegal material from the Web--or to find out who put it there. The full article can be read on Scientific American's Web site. It's very interesting and can have some interesting repercussions for the future of Internet publishing.

(Posted at 05:10:23 PM EDT.)

Do patients wish to be involved in treatment decisions?
"Patients favour a direct approach from their doctor when discussing physical problems, but prefer to help decide their treatment for psychiatric and lifestyle problems, according to a study in this week's British Medical Journal."

(Posted at 05:06:34 PM EDT.)

Second Opinion Service
Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of projects I already have on my plate, I decided to try and take one off it. The result is my new Second Opinion Service, a service that allows you to get a professional second opinion from a licensed psychologist about any life or mental health issue that may be troubling you. This isn't for everyone, and it's not meant to be. It's for people who want or need some professional guidance about an issue that is troubling them. I hope you find it useful.

(Posted at 05:02:49 PM EDT.)

Sick, Sick, Sick
Okay, so I've been sick since Friday, felt it coming on on Thursday, but was in massive denial about it. Made it through the weekend, for the most part, unscathed, but still not anywhere near to feeling back to normal. I'm going to try and get into work tomorrow, because I feel like laying around all day isn't really making me feel any better.

There also seems to be a connection between feeling physically ill and one's mood. I've been feeling a bit down today, what with the work I know I need to do (but can't), the weather (rainy and cold), and having so little energy. All the world seems a bit harder to take on days like this.
(Posted at 04:58:37 PM EDT.)

 Friday, September 29, 2000

Program encourages teens to talk about suicidal thoughts
"Seeking reinforcements in the fight against teen suicide, mental health experts are launching a program in high schools across the United States that aims to encourage teens to tell an adult if one of their friends confides thoughts of suicide. The program, which starts in early October at roughly 200 high schools, has a seemingly simple goal: to enable teens to respond to suicide warning signs as competently as someone trained in the Heimlich maneuver would respond to someone choking."

I think teens' fears are simple -- tell someone about their thoughts and boom! get hospitalized or something else horrible. What will their friends think?? How could they ever recover from everyone knowing they were suicidal? I'm not sure this program really is going to help, since it doesn't really address these issues. Rat on your friends?? I don't think so. What are we teaching here? Seems like, at best, a mixed message.
(Posted at 01:06:45 PM EDT.)

 Thursday, September 28, 2000

Better loving through chemistry
Salon thought you might be interested in this article. "Why do guys sulk after a fight with their girlfriends, instead of talking the problem to death? It's the hormone, stupid!" Read the article at Salon now.

(Posted at 03:47:40 PM EDT.)

 Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Study Probes Mental Illness
"Americans increasingly associate mental illness with the potential for violence despite evidence the mentally ill are not violence-prone, according to a study that traced public perceptions over four decades. The researchers said their findings pose a contradiction because they also discovered that the public has gained a deeper understanding of the causes of mental illnesses and recognizes that such disorders can be successfully treated." Very strange indeed. It always bothers me deeply when an act of violence is mentioned on the news, and then the person's mental status is also brought up, as though the connection was obvious. It is not. It's a very old stereotype which we need to move beyond, as quickly and as forcefully as possible.

(Posted at 01:36:34 PM EDT.)

 Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Vast majority of depressed teens do not get needed psychiatric treatment
"Approximately 80 percent of depressed teenagers do not get necessary psychiatric medical treatment, a new study found. The study of 274 randomly-selected Oregon teens ages 14-19, who were monitored until age 24, found that overlooked depressed teens are likely to experience a repeat bout of major depression – and get involved in substance abuse – by early adulthood. The results are published in the October 2000 American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP), coincidentally timed during Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 2-7, 2000)." To me, these results are not surprising. Teenage years are confusing enough, and teens aren't exactly known for their love of adults (well, especially their parents). What can be done? Design more peer programs, I'd say, or find less-intrusive, safe ways to help teens without the possibility of violating their confidentiality or privacy (one of their biggest concerns in seeking out help).

(Posted at 10:31:33 AM EDT.)

Surprising Data on Digital Divide
"Sure, the digital divide is still more like a gaping hole, with nearly half of the population without Internet access. But a surprising new study says that families with lower incomes and less education, once they log on to their home computers, on average spend a lot more time there than do others." Read the full article at the NY Times (free registration required).

(Posted at 10:02:25 AM EDT.)

 Monday, September 25, 2000

Guitar player loses his music due to brain injury
"One small area of the brain may be the only thing that separates the Mozarts of the world from the tone-deaf. A brain injury that left a guitar player with no ear for melody may have led researchers to the home of human musicality." A very odd story indeed. Caught my eye...

(Posted at 04:39:11 PM EDT.)

Dumb dumb dumb
"Forty states stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to them to pay for health insurance for children in low-income families, the White House said Sunday.

Only 55 percent of the $4.2 billion in the program has been spent, and only 10 states have used their full allotment of the funds, said a White House spokesman. The story was first reported in Sunday editions of The New York Times.

The 40 states have until September 30 to spend the money. After that, whatever is left over is expected to be handed over to the 10 states that have spent all their money, though the spokesman said several of the states are seeking to figure out a way to keep the excess." This is an example of dumb government at its finest. The states are stupid for not spending the money allocated to them, and the federal government is stupid for designing such a system in the first place. If the majority of states didn't follow through on the program, that's an example of bad program design.
(Posted at 09:13:33 AM EDT.)

Now TV Interview this Morning
I just finished taping via telephone an interview about online therapy with Now TV, a global television channel based out of the UK. It was a good interview, but it got me up at 5:00am this morning! I guess it's time to go to work.

(Posted at 06:08:01 AM EDT.)

A super duper weekend
On a personal note, I had another great weekend. I've started a new relationship with a woman who's been a good friend to me for nearly 8 years. We met in graduate school, and she lives nearby now. I've been walking on clouds for the past 2 weeks, and hope I never come down!

(Posted at 06:06:18 AM EDT.)

 Friday, September 22, 2000

Stress May Cause Abdominal Fat Accumulation In Otherwise Slender Women
"Lean women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress may be more likely to accumulate excess abdominal fat -- increasing their risk for certain diseases, the results of a preliminary study indicate." Just another reason to find ways to deal with stress in a healthy manner... perhaps by exercising??!

(Posted at 04:01:46 PM EDT.)

Exercise May Be A Viable Alternative To Antidepressants
"Regular exercise may combat depression as effectively as antidepressants, say the results of a new study. [...] The positive results from the exercise were maintained over the long term, the researchers found. Six months after the end of the study, those who had been in the exercise group had significantly lower depression relapse rates than those in the Zoloft or combination groups." So... Which would you rather do? Pay for the pleasure of popping some pills that have some potentially nasty side effects, or give some simply daily exercise a try?? It's always up to you.

(Posted at 03:59:43 PM EDT.)

 Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Funny Babelfish Translation
"Trust no statistic which you did not falsify."

As reported in this Slashdot article about a rigged poll on MSNBC about operating systems. Funny!
(Posted at 05:26:04 PM EDT.)

 Sunday, September 17, 2000

Internet Research 1.0 Conference in Kansas City
I just returned from a lovely weekend trip out to Kansas City to present at the first conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. I'll admit I didn't get a chance to view much of the other presentations because my time was very short, but I did see the regulars out there, including Storm King and John Suler, among about 200-300 attendees/participants. It was actually held at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS, and included a very large international contingent of researchers, academics, and students. The most unique part of this conference was that it so very multidisciplinary. People from a great many fields participated, so you really got a broader perspective of this whole Internet research field. Very interesting!!

(Posted at 08:15:31 PM EDT.)

 Friday, September 15, 2000

Childhood behavior problems predict emotional baggage for young adults
"Childhood behavior problems such as temper tantrums, bullying or destructiveness increase the risk of emotional trouble for the young adult, a Penn State expert says."

(Posted at 02:57:42 PM EDT.)

Financial hardships, not parental divorce, boost school dropout rates
"Children of divorced or separated parents are more likely to drop out of middle or high school because of the related economic hardships than because of the family disruption itself, a Penn State researcher says. Children of divorce most often find themselves in a single-parent, usually single-mother household, with the mother's income dropping as much as 35 percent. The resulting financial stress raises the odds of offspring dropping out of school to supplement the family income. However, what is often overlooked is that many of these disrupted families were poor before the divorce or separation, says the Penn State researcher."

(Posted at 02:56:47 PM EDT.)

 Thursday, September 14, 2000

Anxiety, Worry, and Stress, Oh My: The Bugaboos of Modern Life
"Anxiety, worry, and stress are all afflictions of life in the modern world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately ten percent of the American population, or twenty-four million people, suffer from anxiety disorders." Read the rest of the article.

(Posted at 01:07:55 PM EDT.)

To Warn, or Not to Warn
I found this article to be fascinating in illustrating the kinds of difficult issues therapists sometimes have to deal with in treating someone. "The case of the fantasizing policeman was trouble for his therapist. Would calling those possibly in danger prevent tragedy, or breach a confidence?" It turned out that the jury figured the psychologist was breaching a confidence, not preventing a possible tragedy. Sad.

(Posted at 01:00:51 PM EDT.)

The Virtual Couch
Yet another article about online therapy. I'm beginning to think these reporters are simply reading each other's articles, since they continually say the exact same things. Only the people quoted change (and, annoyingly, even though I was interviewed for this article, none of my stuff made it into the article). Ah well. I'd like to see the article on this issue that takes a new approach to the topic, or sheds some new light on the issue. Quoting one person who's for it and one person who's against it is just getting silly and old.

(Posted at 12:56:51 PM EDT.)

 Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Goodbye Proxymate
Proxymate was a service I had recommended as a way of surfing the Web anonymously through the use of a global proxy server. Unfortunately, the dumb-ass company that purchased the technology from Lucent shut it down at the end of July. I use it very rarely, mainly to test whether something is accessible from an outside network when I'm inside a network, and just discovered the service shut down today. While other services like the Anonymizer.com continue to exist, it is strange to me that there aren't more like this online (Yahoo shows next to nothing in this area). Bummer.

(Posted at 02:40:11 PM EDT.)

My 32nd Birthday
It's hard to say much about my 32nd birthday, which happened over this past weekend, except to say that it was the best in my life. Unexpected events occurred that led to my most cherished wish to be fulfilled in my life. It's the beginning of something new in my life, and something very important. I'll feel comfortable talking about it someday, but right now, I need time to help things grow. I just wanted to share a small portion of the joy I'm feeling with you...

(Posted at 02:36:04 PM EDT.)

 Friday, September 8, 2000

Study reveals barriers to effective doctor-patient communication
"Patients with chronic heart failure often feel unable to ask their doctors questions about their illness and believe that doctors are reluctant to provide them with too much knowledge, finds new research in this week's BMJ. The study suggests that more effective communication between doctors and heart failure patients is urgently needed. [...] Patients also described several barriers to communication with their doctors, including difficulties in getting to hospital appointments, confusion, short term memory loss and the belief that doctors did not want to give patients too much information about their illness or its treatment."

(Posted at 09:20:21 PM EDT.)

Stress could increase risk of heart disease in women
"Reduced estrogen levels due to stress may put some young women on a high-risk course for heart disease, reported researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center today at a meeting of the North American Menopause Society."

(Posted at 09:18:32 PM EDT.)

 Wednesday, September 6, 2000

One in Three Would Prefer Online Therapy to Asking Their Family Doctor
"More than one in four people would rather use the internet for health advice and counselling about depression than visit the family doctor. Not only do they find it easier and less embarrassing, they are not labelled with a mental health record. The first study to investigate patients' views on accessing help for depression and other anxiety disorders shows that many people believe that online therapy is the most effective and least stigmatising way of being treated." Is this really a suprising finding? I've been saying this for years, now I have research to back myself up! Stigma abounds and what the video-conferencing e-therapy holdouts don't understand (and perhaps never will) is that people often don't want to be seen when talking about very difficult emotional issues. E-therapy is here, now, and in demand.

(Posted at 02:58:33 PM EDT.)

 Tuesday, September 5, 2000

Study - Parkinson's may affect nerves outside brain
"Parkinson's disease, caused by the loss of certain brain cells, may affect nerves throughout other organs of the body, researchers said Monday. The discovery may affect the way the disease is treated and eventually lead to understanding what causes it, Dr. David Goldstein of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS) said. Goldstein found that Parkinson's patients were lacking not only key brain cells, but also nerve endings in the heart." The more we learn about this disease, the more we understand it. I can only hope we find a cure for it before it's too late.


(Posted at 09:18:55 AM EDT.)

 Monday, September 4, 2000

Editorial: On Choosing a Therapist
My new editorial is up, an essay about how to choose a therapist. It's a topic I get asked about fairly frequently and unfortunately, there's no magic formula for determining how to find the best therapist for you. But I hope this article provides some helpful tips in the process.

(Posted at 12:52:20 PM EDT.)

Chemical Ravings from Salon
Worried that ecstasy may fry the serotonin cells in their brains, some ravers are taking Prozac. Read the full article at Salon. What will these kids think up next?!

(Posted at 12:50:51 PM EDT.)

 Friday, September 1, 2000

The Cell
The movie, The Cell, was largely a disappointment. Directed by a guy who directed music videos, it felt like a protracted music video without the music. The plot, shallow and predictable. And miscast. But cool visual effects, by and large, just not enough meat to the story or any twists that you couldn't see coming a thousand miles away. Style over substance. Save it for video, if you want to see it at all.

(Posted at 09:51:17 AM EDT.)

 Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Introducing the Mental-O-Matic!!
I was talking to a reporter last week about a certain "disorder" I often talk to the media about, and it occurred to me that heck, if folks want to create new disorders on-the-fly from existing criteria, I could write a software program to do it for you!! So I did, and here it is:

Mental-O-Matic

I did this for three simple reasons. One, for the fun of it. Mental health concerns are serious issues and we treat them seriously nearly 100% of the time. It's nice to step back once in a while and try and laugh at ourselves. Two, to prove the absurdness of diagnoses when used as labels to describe people. They not only fail to capture the unique individualness of human beings, they tend to do a pretty poor job of helping us truly understand and ultimately help others. Three, to illustrate how absurd it is to create new disorders based upon the criteria of other disorders, with little or no theoretical underpinning.

Enjoy!!
(Posted at 11:37:03 PM EDT.)

Secure Videoconferencing?!
Someone on a telehealth mailing list recently asked about secure videoconferencing software (trying to do research for a client, I wonder?), apparently for e-therapy interventions. It's bad enough video is so bad online (even on broadband connections), but now we want to add encryption to it? Silly idea for silly people. The future of online therapy interactions is not video, it's how people are doing it right now -- text-based interactions which are pseudonymous, inexpensive, and convenient. All the things video online will never be.

(Posted at 09:03:31 PM EDT.)

For mentally ill, jail means care
"The buses arrive every hour of the predawn funk between 2 and 6 a.m. They come from Rikers Island, the city-run compound that houses the biggest jail in the country. And they are carrying just-released prisoners to their first concrete slab of freedom.

Many of the newly freed have nothing more than what the guards handed them on the way out the door - a card worth two rides on the subway. For some, that's enough to get where they're going. But others have nowhere to go. Many of the passengers have some form of mental illness. While at Rikers, they received psychiatric care and medicine. On release, though, with very few exceptions, they too are given nothing but the subway card: no drugs, prescriptions, or referrals." Read the rest of the article from the Boston Globe.
(Posted at 06:25:51 PM EDT.)

 Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Nonmedical factors important in treatment of depression
" A treatment plan for depression should include nonmedical factors based on a patient’s own health beliefs, a new study reports. [...] Patients who perceived more self-control of their health experienced greater reduction in depression symptoms, whether they were treated with psychotherapy or the antidepressant nortriptyline, the researchers found."

(Posted at 09:27:46 PM EDT.)

 Monday, August 28, 2000

Where Does Epotec's Name Come From?
From one of the principles over at Epotec, the chief medical officer Richard Flanagan, the question that's haunted a hundred minds finally answered...

We started as Behavioral Solutions, Inc.

We tried to get a national trademark, had possible challenges in a few states, and our attorney said to pick a name that didn't mean anything or we would have problems getting a clear trademark.

We were focused on EAP and Technology so I put together EAP and Tech, didn't like the sound so I, being the Irishman I am inserted an "O" for Eapotech.

My wife said we were going to go far beyond EAP so "don't box yourselves in." We dropped the A and the H and tried Epotec with our friends and family, got the thumbs up, went for a national trademark and got it.

Congratulations!

Richard's one of the great guys in this industry and one of the people that "gets" the Internet in general.
(Posted at 08:58:45 PM EDT.)

A Single Car, A Path of Destruction
Driving home from work today (not something I normally do, but what the heck, I had some stuff to take into work today and driving is the only convenient way to do so), I was heading north on I-95. For about 10-15 miles, the roadway was covered in this thick sort of fog. As I closed my windows and vents, I could tell it wasn't fog (of course, not at 6:00pm in the evening!), but rather the exhaust from some vehicle up ahead. Cars slowed down. Traffic started getting congested. Unbelievably, the actual vehicle causing the pollution was at least a mile ahead of me, travelling at roughly the speed limit. I was determined to catch up to the vehicle, thinking it was some sort of huge truck with serious muffler or engine problems. I mean, this wasn't just a simple little plume of smoke coming out of someone's exhaust. It was as if someone had set a truck full of bum Firestone tires on fire in the back of a truck and started driving down the road. It covered the entire roadway, significantly decreasing visibility!

So I speed up to catch up with the offending vehicle, only to finally see the plume of smoke exiting off of the highway (again, after about 10-15 miles of travel). The vehicle? A big nasty truck?!? A van gone awry? Nope. A smallish station wagon, something from the mid-1980s, American-made. I didn't see the driver, but I kept thinking to myself, "How important was it to drive this car and cause so much congestion and pollution?" If the vehicle hadn't exited or I had been able to catch up with it, I would've surely called the state troopers! I'm not usually one to intervene in such matters, but really... I've never seen anything like this before in my life. The smoke from the car just lingered on the roadway for 5-10 minutes after the vehicle passed. I'm surprised the car made it as far and as quickly as it did, because that was some serious oil burning in the engine!!!

Poor trees.
(Posted at 08:54:05 PM EDT.)

 Saturday, August 26, 2000

Moving the Monday Night Chat
I've decided to move the Monday night general mental health and relationship Q&A I've done for nearly 4 years over at Mental Health Net to my new company, HelpHorizons.com. It just felt like the right thing to do, and the right time to do it. I really believe in HelpHorizons.com and in our mission to try and reach out to people who ordinarily seek some type of professional service or advice for life's problems. Check out my Chat page for more information about the chat move, which begins on September 4, 2000 (this Monday's chat remains at MHN, one last night).

(Posted at 11:16:15 AM EDT.)

Settling In - Part Two
Well, slowly, ever so slowly, I'm getting into something resembling a routine here in the quaint little seaside town I now live in and the daily commute into Boston. It's take a few months to get it down, but I almost feel like life is under control once again. I still have a lot of work to catch up on, not to mention people's and friends' emails to me, but I'm feeling better about things.

(Posted at 11:13:45 AM EDT.)

Pure Oxygen Interview
The Pure Oxygen interview on Wednesday in NYC went very well. It was about online therapy and the interview was divided into two segments. I wrote about my latest TV experience for the next issue of The National Psychologist. Now if only Oprah would call...!! :-)

(Posted at 11:11:10 AM EDT.)

Is 1-800-THERAPIST Worth Your Money?
If you're a therapist thinking of joining the 1-800-THERAPIST network (an advertiser with Psych Central), you should read this article over at Psychotherapy Finances first. It nicely details the pros and cons of joining the network, gives a few case studies, and some pointers if you do decide to join.

(Posted at 11:09:23 AM EDT.)

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I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.
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