seattle

A Personal Story

Author: Billy Hao

About a year ago, I lived in an orange and blue apartment building near the University of Washington Seattle campus. It was a warm, spring afternoon as I walked back to my room after class. As soon as I entered the room, I put my backpack on the floor and lay down on my bed. Bored, I opened the YouTube app on my iPhone and started watching some videos. After a few minutes, I became aware that closing the blinds would help keep the room cool. I immediately got up and started adjusting them. The next thing I remember is waking up next to a pool of blood. Confused, I started to clean up the mess. I wasn’t sure where the blood was coming from, but eventually discovered that there was a cut on the back of my head. I called a friend over to examine the severity of the wound and he convinced me to call my parents. They made the 30-minute drive from my childhood home to my apartment building and sent me to the emergency room. After asking a few questions to test my memory and cognition, the doctor stapled the cut together. It turns out that I had gotten up too fast and blacked out as I was adjusting the blinds. I fell backward and hit my head against the edge of a wall. It’s been about a year since the incident, but the scar is still visible today.

In the immediate aftermath of the injury, I had no problems with memory and no decrease in cognitive ability. As far as I know, my brain is working fine. However, there was a brief period of time when the fear of permanent brain damage kept me up at night. Watching the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith as doctor Omalu (IMDb, 2015) convinced me that I may suffer from CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Of course, this is far from the truth. After a few days of paranoia, I did some research and found that “CTE is not caused by any single injury, but rather it is caused by years of regular, repetitive brain trauma” (Concussion Legacy Foundation). Still, my injury taught me the importance of good health and the fragility of life. Life is dependent on being able to move and think clearly, and one head injury can take that all away.

My experience with a mild traumatic brain injury has inspired me to help others who have not been as lucky. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), neurological disorders affect up to one billion people worldwide (Bertolote & Medialine, 2007). Others in the world suffer from concussions and neurological disorders that are far more severe than my own. Reading the testimonials of recipients of Plus One grants compelled me to intern here at this company and share my story. Throughout my life, I plan to support non-profit organizations like this one in order to help the victims of such unfortunate circumstances.

 

Sources:

"Neurological Disorders Affect Millions Globally: WHO Report." World Health Organization. World Health Organization, 08 Dec. 2010. Web. 25 July 2018.

"What Is CTE?" Concussion Legacy Foundation. N.p., 20 June 2018. Web. 25 July 2018.

"Concussion (2015)." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 25 July 2018.

The Secret to Seasonal Sadness

Author: Natalie Andrewski

As the winter season blossoms into spring, it is almost impossible to notice a change of environment here in Seattle. Not only are flowers blooming and the sun is beginning to make more adamant appearances, but the people of this city seem to begin transitioning as well. During the winter months, the “Seattle Freeze”, as the often passive aggressive and not-so-welcoming demeanor of local Seattleites has been labeled by transplants, is very apparent. Groups of friends prefer to remain exclusive, and the activities they participate in may usually occur inside. However, once Spring has sprung, the frozen attitudes of Seattleites appears to defrost. Parks all over the city are filled with groups of people attempting the ever-tricky slack line, running with unexpected zeal, and hiking to new ascents. Rather than avoiding eye contact, members of the city are engaging in conversations with new people in attempt to try a new activity or finally say hello to a familiar face. I began to question why a singular season transition could have such a stark contrast in an entire city’s demeanor, and I believe my answer lies in the notion of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Growing up in Southern California, I was surrounded by sunshine basically 365 days a year. Most days were glorious enough to be spent outside, and my mom often referred to me as her “sunflower”. When I was in the 6th grade, my family migrated from California to the Pacific Northwest. Of course, the year we moved to Washington was recorded as having record rain fall in the Olympia area, and my days of playing outside were replaced with indoor entertainment. Even in my younger days, I knew my energy levels and happiness was positively correlated with my time spent in the sunshine. I began to struggle with depression, even though I didn’t quite understand that concept yet, and I would suffer from stress that would effect my quality of health poorly. After all these years, I have finally made the connection between the weather and my mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a “mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter”. It is quite an extraordinary event that people can maintain a stable mental health pattern for the majority of the year, but then be so affected by light levels that an imbalance occurs in the brain. These imbalances can lead to depression, hopelessness, and suicide. The main chemical involved in the brain during this process is serotonin, which is recorded as being in lower than average levels in patients suffering from the disorder. It appears that the brain becomes incapable of converting serotonin into N-acetylserotonin, which involves the enzyme serotonin N-acetyltransferase. In certain cases, antidepressants function by increasing levels of the enzyme serotonin N-acetyltransferase in order to increase levels of conversion and a reduction of depression-like symptoms. It has been discovered that patients that suffer from this disorder often have a delay in their circadian rhythm, which is a delay in their sleep patterns. The relation to sleep patterns also promotes the idea that the hormone melatonin is affected by this disorder. There are a variety of other factors that can contribute to suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, including a person’s predisposition to personality traits, such as agreeableness and an avoidance-orientated coping style (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

In order to begin alleviating the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the interventions of light therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and supplementation of the hormone melatonin have been utilized, but I will focus on light therapy. In terms of light therapy, the use of a lightbox that emits an elevated level of lumens is necessary. The lights of the lamps can range in wavelength and lumen levels, usually depending on the light of the lamp: bright white “full spectrum” lights at 10,000 lux, blue light at a wavelength of 480 nm at 2,500 lux, or green-blue light at a wavelength of 500 nm at 350 lux. The process of light therapy usually lasts 30-60 minutes of being exposed to the light consistently.

 

Sources:

Seasonal Affective Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml.