I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A detailed and humanizing book takes readers on an emotional journey through the stigma of mental illness in author John V. Wylie’s book “Emotional Fossils: Mental Illness and Human Evolution.”
This essay is the culmination of forty-five years as a psychiatrist investigating the relationship between severe mental illnesses and human evolution. I have concluded that the most important changes leading to our evolutionary success occurred inside the mind. Upright posture, large molar teeth, opposable thumbs, large brains, and the onset of culture were additive responses to the evolution of what MOTIVATED early humans.
The inner experiences of major depression, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are shown to derive from the breakdown of normal emotions we all know intimately. These everyday feelings are ancient, have played a central role in our evolution, and thus can be viewed as “emotional fossils.” Stigmatized for centuries, mental illnesses are revealed to be the price we pay as a species for the extraordinary mental capacities that make us human.
Short and explicitly written to be accessible, this essay interprets the scientific findings of human evolution in accordance with an evolving mind.
At it’s core, this nonfiction, medical read takes readers into the heart of the painful stigma those who suffer from mental illness have to endure from those who don’t understand the illness itself. The book delves into how human evolution and the emotions we experience on a daily basis are closely involved with the development of these ailments, and the stigma has only increased the progression of these illnesses.
This book is greatly detailed and creates a steady read for those who are interested in medicine, medical books and mental health awareness overall. The best way to review a book like this however is by relaying how it impacts readers, including myself.
As a mental health advocate, this book truly spoke to me in a personal way. While detail oriented, the book creates a personal understanding in those involved in or even currently engaged in the mental health field. With two very close relatives having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, the stigma of what that illness does to a person is everywhere, especially in pop culture, and this book does a great job of breaking down those stigmas and getting to the heart of the illness overall.
This is a brilliant read that fans of nonfiction medical reads will thoroughly enjoy. The author speaks with an authority and expertise that will make readers feel more knowledgeable of the subject after reading this book, and in an age where mental health awareness is more important than ever before, this is the perfect read going into the new decade. Be sure to grab your copy of “Emotional Fossils” by John v. Wylie today!
About the Author
John Wylie holds a BA in history from Yale, an MD from Columbia, and completed a psychiatric residency at Georgetown University. He began his career at a maximum-security prison in Maryland, followed by 35 years in the private practice of psychiatry in Washington, DC, where he served as chair of the department of psychiatry at Sibley Memorial Hospital. Dr. Wylie was a founding member of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, has had a longstanding interest in the relationship of mental illness and human evolution, and has given multiple lectures on the topic. He wrote Diagnosing and Treating Mental Illness: A Guide for Physicians, Nurses, Patients, and Their Families,published in 2010 (second edition, 2012), and Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind in 2018, which is a memoir of the development of his ideas. Dr. Wylie lives in Olney, Maryland with his wife Ann and their German shepherd Tulip.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
There came a time almost twenty years ago that I felt I had actually been quite fortunate to have had so many experiences already during my lifetime that I wanted to share. I had invented and patented some laser technology which could, if introduced deep inside the human body, remove even potentially lethal obstructions, as in clots in small blood vessels and otherwise. I had practiced medicine and surgery around the world. And more.
I focused first on a few of those and wrote short articles about some of them. Mirage in the Desert was about my period of living and working in the Persian Gulf. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow had to do with some of the tragic losses in my life when I lost loved ones under the most painful of circumstances. Something From Nothing was about the strange process of inventing with all of its uncertainty– somehow, one day, coming to believe you actually had stumbled upon something new and potentially important or valuable. Monster in the Midst was about the tragedy of living with a loving spouse who is turned into a human monster by the emergence of violent, psychotic bipolar disorder. But then I felt there was more I could say and at the time, to me, the most efficient way to do that was using free verse. That lead to my anthology of some 88 poems I wrote over the course of about one year. In 2018, finally, I decided to write At the Point of a Knife, a narrative that encompassed a lot of the above in just one book.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
At the Point of a Knife is also the story of a lot of things that can go very wrong, with the backdrop of a lot of others which are very right. I was certain that there are so many people who struggle with living with severe untreated mental illness, even if that manifests itself in a partner or someone else very close. It is tragic in its destruction, and with the stigmas about such things which run so strongly in society, there must be better ways. First, though, something cried out for this tragic type of circumstance to be called out and exposed. Somehow society needs to not only recognize the enormous destruction that these severe mental illnesses cause to it, not only to the affected individuals directly, but it needs to open channels for proactively identifying these ill people who desperately need help, and force them to get it! The costs of not doing so are far too great. Mental hospitals hardly exist any longer in the U.S., but if the stigmas are removed, their benefits are great and the costs of not having them are extreme. Having these facilities is half the battle. Forcing their use in extreme situations is the rest- proactively, not after people die and lives and livelihoods are ruined.
After my experience with losing fabulous children who were so horribly abused by their other, alienating parent, ruining our family and my relationship with them and theirs with me, I came to realize that there were many such circumstances, albeit with differing degrees of adverse impact. In the 90s when my children were so severely alienated and abused, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was still being broadly challenged in society, in essence a cover up of an enormous problem which destroys families. Since, through the hard work of many dedicated mental health, medical, social work, justice and other professionals, that has changed to a signficant extent, although the battle still rages in society about PAS. But it turns out, quite conclusively so unfortunately, that if courts don’t both enforce custody and visitation by and with the non- alienating, normal parent and restrict and severely control the visitations with the alienating one, the problem will not only not be solved, it will become permanent. When the abused, alienated children grew up, they retain that ‘blind spot’ in their brains inculcated by the abuse, and they can not re- form relationships with the non- alienating parent. Again, as with severe mental illness, ignoring the problem is horribly destructive and futile, and proactivity, by society, in all such cases is imperative. This is one situation for judicial pro- activity.
My problems, as described in At the Point of a Knife, also included how horribly one rogue judge was able to piggyback on his own sordid past to wield power from the bench which made a mockery of justice. While he turned a blind eye to the above mentioned severe problems squarely before him, the system let him carry on his own psychopathic brand of jurisprudence unabated, while he slashed and burned everything in his sight. Not satisfied with allowing a potential murderer to run loose, a beautiful family to be destroyed, he persisted in destroying a thriving start- up international business involving life- saving technology, a professional career and sought for as long as he could to put in jail his chosen victim. For the judicial system to hide behind veils of opacity, while according no recourse in reality even in situations of gross abuses of power by a few who clearly have no business having been given the trust placed in them, is simply a wrong crying out for change. Juries of peers sit on crucial cases, both civil and criminal, in American jurisprudence. There is no reason that peers, ordinary citizens, can not sit in courtrooms so that when the obvious, gross abuse of power and justice does occur, they are there to see it and have the authority to make those few perpetrators of these quasi- judicial horrors disappear into the oblivion they deserve. Anyone sitting in that Virginia judge’s courtroom would have likely recognized in short order that he was an outlier who did not belong in that position. There were lawyers sitting in the gallery at times, unrelated to these cases, who said as much openly– but they had no power to act. No one deserves that kind of immunity from exhibiting even a minimum level of responsibility in society which places trust in their hands, or the impugnity to openly scorn that society while abjuring that trust.
Large companies are also given huge sway in our society. Perhaps even like big government itself, they become too big to control. Unrestrained, they continue to get bigger and more powerful yet. But since there are, alas, too many flaws in societies, manifested by the underlying flaws in the individuals of which they are comprised. Somehow the society must rein in not only the sickest individuals before they can harm themselves and others, they must control those who abuse their powerful positions for their own gain and to the detriment of so many others. My small, but very successful start- up hi- tech company was robbed blind by a few in power in some large companies that knew they could just steal our patented technology and probably never have to pay for it. By virtue of bonuses, stock options and the like, sometimes well deserved, othertimes not at all, those individuals could steal from us, not pay royalties and get away with millions. Their companies benefitted financially as well, but inventing is thwarted and society several disadvantaged when the incentive to invent is stifled, particularly when that is done totally illegally. We had fought for the international patents and we even managed to enforce them in courts. But the losers in all of that simply went on to lie and cheat about their royalty- bearing revenues, having little to fear. If, in the end, after almost endless litigation all over the world, we would win, time and again, they might have to pay, but no more really than what they owed in the first place. That is not justice, it favors the greedy and the rich and discourages the honest and the inventive among us in this type of situation. Patent cheating is theft and that is a crime, and societies should extend that type of control to patent infringement and to wanton breaches of patent royalty license agreements. Those crooked executives who are in it only for their own aggrandizement and care not a wit about who might benefit from new and better technology, including in the life sciences, or even if they ever do, should risk being put in jail for patent crimes. That might put some control in place on what, now, is their unfettered rampage over smaller inventors whose technology represents, collectively, the way forward for societies and stimulates the growth that they all need to stay healthy. Furthermore, the companies that steal this technology, if found guilty of same in the courts, should pay treble, not just once for their crimes and defalcations, and that might get the proper attention of their shareholder- owners who are all too happy now to put their crooked managers in place and look the other way from their foibles.
My story, told in At the Point of a Knife, from my experiences, points to a lot of grotesque wrongs that exist quite openly today and which reap huge destruction on our society because they are not realized and even less addressed in meaningful ways. It is death, injury, mental abuse and the collective pain and ravages of corruption, negligence and distrust. That is what inspired my writing this book.
3) What drew you into the field of developing new technologies and inventions as mentioned in your novel?
My entrance into the field of innovation, via the basic medical science investigations and inventions ultimately happened by accident. My late inventive partner asked me a seemingly simple question, having to do with laser energy, something I used in my clinical practice therapeutically, but the answers were anything but obvious. We discovered that no one else seemed to know those answers either. We experimented, with the laser energy, applying it in the laboratory to human and animal tissues, and we observed what happened. Eventually, quite literally, we stumbled upon a way to control that laser energy which produced the desired results we sought, but avoided the damaging ones which had thwarted prior efforts. We defined what we had done and that lead to patents being written, then prosecuted before patent offices around the world. As is often the case with innovation, it was happenstance. In this case, things went well.
4) What is the biggest obstacle facing the legal field in regards to mental health and those afflicted from it (not to mention the families of those individuals)?
How to make societies more attentive to and focussed on real problems is very difficult. The problems are complex and there are always seemingly forces of evil which miltate to take advantage of those problems rather than to ameliorate them. It is in the end about the people. If they want and can take responsibility, then that is hopeful. But when and if they won’t, they are doomed. Abdicating that responsibility is often disastrous, whether to those powerful in business or to those in even any branch of government too. After all, they are all made up of people, sometimes even the same people. Blindly trusting all justice makes that justice blind. When something is fundamentally wrong, someone has to be both motivated to, but also empowered to be able to do something about it. Letting a judge like the rogue described in At the Point of a Knife to act unempeded is disastrous. Letting a violent mentally ill individual, untreated, reak havoc on those nearest to her, and indirectly even those not so close, is calamitous. Similarly letting those in high authority in private industry trade on their enormous advantages unchecked is extremely dangerous. I believe we all need a much stronger fundamental level of responsibility and personal integrity, or else we are doomed. Society can not determine for any of us specifically what those things look like better than we individually can by deep personal searching within. Education is crucial, since the more each of us knows, the better chance we have.
5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
The lessons I perceive from my own extensive experiences which are chronicled to some extent in At the Point of a Knife, and in my other writings, are varied and cut a broad swath through society. I have been very fortunate to have seen so much of that over many years. It is, now, difficult to point to any social media which directly speaks to a lot of that. Probably the answer may be that a lot of social media speaks to a little of what I write about and very little current social media speaks to a lot of it.
6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
People sometimes seem to say that writing a memoir or a narrative non- fictional story is cathartic. Actually, I am not sure that is so because it is so painful to do, and the pain persists. It is also a sacrifice, as such, but one I felt compelled to undertake in these ways, manifested by the written words. Also, as before so often in my life, whether in Medicine or in inventing life- saving laser technologies, in trying to be a loving parent and spouse and son, I like to believe I cared enough to make the effort, to face the problem and to react to it, this time in words rather than in deeds. Given how popular writing seems to be, that must be, in general, a good thing.
There are, of course, many genres of books, of stories, as there is variety in life itself. I seem to be inspired by what I have seen and felt. One can only encourage that sort of thing in others.
7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
For me it is important to continue to confront challenges, which is, to live. I continue to try to find what seems best, and to act on that as best I can. I continue to learn since that, too, should never end. I always want to find what motivates me most, and to act on that as much as I can. I continue to be inspired by those around me most, who I love. I continue to seek justice, even all too often in all too mediocre courts. But I continue to seek harmony, compromise and peace. I continue to try to support technology, inventiveness and innovation since, alas, it seems to me we continue to need those things. I continue to tell tales, and to write, as I am doing now.
Kenneth R. Fox is the inventor of a great deal of laser medical technology and the patentee of many international patents. Dr. Fox has practiced Medicine in six countries on four continents and has lectured in many others. He has taught both Medicine and Business at several universities in a number of different countries. He is the author of many peer- reviewed medical and scientific articles, quite a few published poems and several short articles, mostly related to various aspects of health, but all based on his personal experiences over many years, as is At the Point of a Knife.
This is Anthony Avina here. I’m happy to share with you guys this amazing guest post from the amazing people at BetterHelp and Regain about the mental health struggles of writers. I hope you guys will enjoy this post and gain some helpful insights into the life and mental health struggles writers go through.
Writing is a rich, rewarding profession; at least if you’re successful with it. However, even the most successful writers face mental health struggles. In this post, we will explain a few struggles a writer of any level may face.
Help for Your Struggles
Being a writer is hard, and sometimes you need to work on your own mental health to be a better writer. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, hopelessness, or need advice you should seek out the help you need. With so many writers busy at home, online therapy is becoming the new method of getting help. For more information, click this link: https://www.regain.us/advice/
The Fear of Rejection
Rejection is difficult for anyone to take, no matter your resistance to it. Rejection can come in many forms. If you’re a fiction author trying to publish the next great novel, getting dozens of rejection letters is a challenge. You just want to give up and keep your writing to yourself, or self-publish. Sure, you can hear inspiring stories about how the biggest authors got rejected hundreds of times, but it’s hard to stay motivated even then.
For a freelance writer, a potential client rejecting you and hiring someone else can be hurtful as well. You may wonder what you did wrong, and wonder if your work is any good at all. This especially applies if you don’t know why the rejection happened.
Getting past rejection is a challenge. While many say it gets better with time, others still struggle with it.
The Fear of Criticism
This is similar to the rejection fear. Your work gets out, and you want to hear what others are saying. Even if the reception is mostly positive, people tend to focus on the vocal minority of negative reviewers, and they may be upset or defensive over their work.
Even if you write the next great American novel, there is always going to be dissent. Handling criticism can be done in many ways. Some just ignore their critics, while others listen to the critics who have interesting points and see if they can make changes. With that said, don’t change your work just because you read a bad review.
For some writers, creativity is always around the corner. For others, creativity comes in droplets. Writer’s block can affect a writer, and everyone fears it, especially if your income is dependent on your creativity.
Exercising creativity is a good way to get the juices flowing. Not overthinking your creativity is a good move too. Many people get their best ideas when they aren’t thinking too hard. However, this does not apply to everyone.
Many people dream of being writers because they like the idea of working from home, with no one watching you. However, many writers feel lonely or cooped up in their home, especially if they are single. However, even writers who have families may struggle with loneliness. If you have kids, teaching them the value of writing is a good way to get rid of that loneliness. For more information, click here or look here.
That’s why some writers may go to coffee shops or other social gatherings. Alternatively, you can write in nature if you have a laptop and Internet access if your work requires that.
It’s a Rewarding, Yet Tough Career
If you can get past the mental health struggles of writing, it can be a rewarding career. When you have all the bumps bypassed, writing is great for the mind and can lead you down a path of creativity. Speak to other writers, or a therapist, if you’re having any struggles or doubts. People can help you, and you can succeed with your work.
I am honored to be working with BetterHelp on this article.
One of the most difficult things that anyone suffering from mental health ailments or anyone wanting to take control of their mental health struggles has to deal with is the social stigma that has taken over our society for years. Much like the societal stigma that has been placed on sexual and gender identity over the decades, a person’s mental health journey has been marred by the constant ridicule and ignorance of others who believe seeking help for your mental health is nothing more than a sign of weakness.
Breaking this ignorance can be difficult. Many families and individuals have spent their entire lives being taught that certain things are “wrong”. Even those who grow and learn to see past the stigma of certain things will still find themselves ignorant of things they say or do. For instance, I have known people in both my own life and outside on social media who are great people, but still use terms like “crazy” to describe a person, or even using actual ailments to describe a person negatively, like someone saying a person is “bipolar” and indicating that anyone with the ailment is painted in the same negative light.
These societal stigmas can be incredibly difficult to ignore or overcome. When you have the whole world telling you there is something wrong with you when in reality you are just a human being who needs a little help, it can be hard to make the effort to seek out a therapist or consider therapy in general. The thing we as a society need to do is break the social stigma around mental health and seeking therapy in general.
First of all, seeking out a therapist or asking for help with your mental health does not mean you are “crazy”. I personally don’t believe that term is accurate, as it brings a negative light to something that everyone should be a part of. The mind is a muscle, and a part of the human body. It needs to be looked after and taken care of just as much as the rest of your body, and seeking a doctor or therapist to help in that regard is nothing to be ashamed of.
Secondly, therapy and seeking out a therapist in general does not make you an outsider, nor should it make you feel ashamed or like there is something “wrong” with you. The stigma around mental health has led to severe consequences, with the loss of life due to some not seeking the help they need increasing and personal impacts on people’s relationships and work lives being affected as well.
Mental health is a real thing, whether or not people want to believe it. Seeking help doesn’t not make you weak. In fact, getting help for your mental health is smart and the strongest thing you can do. Guys, it doesn’t make you less of a man to seek help and get in touch with your feelings. Women, never let men or anyone in your life make you feeling “crazy” just for finding a therapist and taking care of your own well being. Everyone in this world can benefit from seeking out therapy and getting the help they need. Ignore anyone who tells you differently, and take the steps to find the help you need today.
I am honored to be working with BetterHelp on this article.
For anyone such as myself who suffers from several physical disabilities or who don’t drive, one of the things that can be incredibly difficult is getting the right therapist and finding a way to get to them. Since I was sixteen years old I have suffered through several auto-immune diseases, and the pain gets so bad that I have a hard time going out into the world as often as I would like.
The other thing that can be difficult is being subject to the therapists/doctors in your area or within driving distance, and not finding the right fit for you. Finding the right therapist is a crucial and important decision for anyone taking charge or getting help for their own mental health. From personal experience I can tell you that finding a therapist in your local area is not an easy thing.
I have been with my sister when she goes to see a therapist for the first time, only to come away feeling frustrated, sad or angry because the therapist was rude, didn’t take her struggles seriously or dismissed her entirely. Between insurance and the local area we live in, there are very few choices for someone to find the right therapist to help you on your mental health journey.
One of the things that can be a true help to those who struggle with issues like this in their mental health journey has to be telehealth/telemedicine. In this age of advanced technology and the internet bringing people together, one of the most innovative things to come to the health profession has to be online therapy. Rather than being forced to find a therapist in your local area or having to rearrange your schedule to include making trips out of the house (especially for those of us suffering from physical pain), online therapy is now available to those who can jump onto their computers or smartphones/tablets to connect with therapists via messaging, video calls or phone calls.
The truly amazing thing about these services is that you have the ability to choose your therapist based on any mental ailments you may suffer from, as well as the therapists specific specialties (for instance, you can find therapists who deal with the LGBTQ community and the issues they face, or those suffering from family problems and more). In an era that has seen some truly devastating losses and the need for mental health care is far greater than ever before, having a therapist on hand to call or message with through the power of the internet is more helpful than ever.
Choosing to find help for or taking control of your mental health is an important step that everyone should be taking. Whether you are suffering from a serious mental health illness or are having a difficult time with something personally or just want to maintain your health, therapy and working with the right doctor is crucial to your mental health journey. For me personally, having services like BetterHelp that allow me and my family to find therapists online that fit the journey we are on is important and helpful, and I highly encourage everyone to consider counseling and finding the councilor who will be the most help to you.
Check out this link to learn more about finding the right councilor for you
Hi there my friends. I’m honored to once again be hosting a guest post from the incredible website BetterHelp. The post they’ve put together for you guys is near and dear to my heart, as Bipolar Disorder affects someone I love and care for dearly. I may talk about that in a separate post, but for now I hope this post will help anyone suffering from Bipolar Disorder or anyone who knows and loves someone suffering from Bipolar Disorder. Take special care to read the article and click the links, especially if any of you feel you need help in this regard. Thank you once again to BetterHelp for this amazing guest post, and I hope you all will enjoy it.
You may know it as manic-depressive disorder, but it is typically now referred to as bipolar disorder. This is a serious mental health disorder that affects close to three percent of the United States population. Bipolar disorder is a double-edged sword in that it causes both severe depression and mania or hypomania, which is an extremely high mood. There are several types of bipolar disorder, including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder is characterized by having at least one manic episode that lasts at least seven days and is followed by a depressive or hypomanic episode. Those with bipolar I disorder can also have psychosis, which is a period when emotions and thoughts are impaired so much that you are no longer able to tell what is real and what is not real. This sometimes includes hallucinations.
Bipolar II Disorder
This condition consists of having more than one period of depression and a period of hypomania but no manic episode. Hypomania is a less severe type of mania that causes some manic episodes but you can still perform your daily activities. Many people with bipolar II disorder are mistakenly diagnosed with depression because they do not consider the hypomania a part of the disorder.
Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, is a milder type of bipolar disorder. With this disorder, you will have both depression and hypomania on and off for several years but it will not get severe enough to affect your daily life. It is called cyclothymic disorder because you cycle through high and low emotions over and over again. This condition is rare and only affects less than one percent of the American population.
How You Can Tell if You Have Bipolar Disorder
Even though the signs of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person, there are some that are common in all patients. These symptoms include:
Talking louder, faster, and more often than usual
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Trying to do more than you can handle (overbooking yourself)
Extreme behaviors such as gambling, unprotected sex, spending money that you cannot afford
Drinking in excess or using illegal drugs
Feeling sad, despondent, and helpless
Sleeping more or less than usual
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Eating more or less than usual
Chronic aches and pains
Anger or aggression
Crying bouts for no obvious reasons
Weight loss or gain
Thoughts of suicide
According to experts, bipolar disorders are genetic, but they can also be affected by environmental issues like constant and extreme stress, lack of sleep for long periods of time, addiction to alcohol or drugs, physical abnormalities in the brain, and/or chemical or hormonal imbalances.
The treatment for bipolar disorder includes medications such as a tricyclic antidepressant, an atypical antidepressant, monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). In addition, those with bipolar disorder should talk to a therapist on a regular basis. This is important because some of the medications can become less effective over time and your therapist will be able to tell just by talking to you if you need to switch your dosage or medication. If you do not have a therapist to talk to or you are too busy to find the time to make an appointment, you can find a professional on BetterHelp.com. Just click here to talk to someone, with no appointment necessary.
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.