A Farewell?

This webpage has been up since July 2015. It’s going on four years. I’m quite ecstatic about that. And I’m saddened.

I’m saddened because during one particularly rough mental health year I was unable to keep up with enough positivity, coherency, and drive to keep this site aiming high. And we were going places, too. I’d bought the domain, I’d made connections with other writers, and with the help of all my loyal and fantastic readers/fans we were going to launch something truly spectacular.

I thought about abandoning this website, but I check in on my statistics every once in a while and see that many are still discovering posts that resonate with them and I can’t take that away from anyone.

This has been a place to spout personal dribble and shed light on mental health experiences and the problems with calling ourselves “Sick”. I don’t want to stop that. And I won’t. I see myself in the near future revamping this page and redeeming what was lost.

That being said, sometimes I have to take a step away from mental health and really talk about other things. And so, I’ve created a separate account for that, entitled “Rant, Rave, Dab, Repeat”, and if you click on the link you will be teleported into a realm of writing reminiscent of some of my older posts here on MentalTruths. I implore you to check it out. We’ll have a lot of fun over there.

I started this post intending to say goodbye to everyone. But I realize I can’t do that. Even if three-quarters of the readers I used to have are gone, I still feel an obligation to keep this site alive and keep the truth about mental health experiences out in the open.

So, alas, this is not a farewell, it is simply a polite “hello, I’m back, sort of, and check out my new website” post.

Or, if you’re not a new reader and remember my sassy attitude, it’s a “I’m back bitches, look out.”

Loss

Eleven years old was the first time I wanted to kill myself.

I remember the day pretty well. We were living with a family in their house behind Burger King. We’d been there maybe a few weeks, and had a room to ourselves–my mother, father, and me. It was better than where we were a few weeks before, which was some hotels and a tent. The woman who owned–or rented, I’m not sure which–the house worked as a worker at an animal shelter and liked adopting and fostering different kinds of animals. At one point there was at least four+ dogs in the house, one of them as large as a medium sized bear. The PitBull puppy they brought home they named DeBo (think about the movie Friday) was six months old and he helped me overcome my fear of dogs. I’ve loved Pitbulls every since. They are a bunch of sweeties.

But the day I wanted to kill myself DeBo wasn’t there. I was with a small white kitten who loved me. I can’t remember what they’d named him. But he curled up next to me on a bench they had shoved underneath a tree in the front yard. I was listening to fucking Chamillionaire’s “Rain”, writing, and crying. I remember the words coming into my head: I should kill myself. What did I have? I didn’t have a home, I’d lost all my stuff (what we couldn’t fit in a small storage unit, we had to toss in the dump, including my bed), I didn’t have friends at that point, my father was drinking a lot, and my mother worked all the time. I didn’t see prospects of the future, and I certainly couldn’t see me sitting here at 23 writing about this.

I remember feeling hopeless, feeling worthless, feeling confused, and listening to a depressing song really wasn’t helping. I don’t remember what I did the rest of that day, a lot of crying, a lot of writing, a lot of music. It’s like the moment is just a snapshot in time.

This was before the woman’s daughters and her friends slashed the tires of our car and put a sign on our door that said they didn’t want us there. Because we really wanted to be there, with her mother drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels and taking pills and threatening to kill herself every weekend. Yeah, great environment, I really, really wanted to stay there.

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Anyway, we lost that car to their ignorance.

I think I’m thinking about these things because my therapist called our conversation out on being too logical. I don’t speak with a lot of emotion often, or include a lot of emotion when I talk about things that have happened to me, or things I have done, or pain I’ve been through. I think it’s a coping mechanism I learned over the years that needs to be broken. But it’s interesting to feel as I write this the same sense of loss I felt as a child. It’s weird for it still to linger and still to be so ingrained. It feels like I’m eleven again, sitting on that bench with that cat. It feels like I just learned they slashed our tires and one more thing that I loved dearly (it was a 1972 Ranchero) was being left behind and therefore taken away from me. Something I’ll never get back. It sounds silly, but I didn’t think three years of running around living from place to place could have this much of an impact on me as an adult ten years later. That’s trauma, I guess.

I suppose this is why I don’t think about things emotionally, or talk about them emotionally, I can never handle the emotions that surface. I’m trying to stay present to finish this post, but the tears are heavy and the dissociation is real. Emotional flashbacks, I’ve learned these are called.

I guess the conversation yesterday that I overhead about people’s depression and when it started got me thinking about my own depression. It’s interesting that these feelings mimic those feelings of loss I had when I started getting paranoid and lost all my academic abilities. There’s been a lot of loss in my life, over and over again, as I’m sure it is in many people’s lives, and I’m curious how other people deal with it in a healthy way. I’m not sure I know how. I don’t think I ever learned.

When did your depression start? How have you dealt with it? How do you deal with loss? Those are questions I wonder about you, reader.

And that’s today’s mental truth: loss is a bitch.

Afraid of Us

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Let’s take a look at the fear in ourselves, instead.

One thing I notice that often comes with diagnosis besides confusion, sadness, in some cases hopelessness, is a fear of never living a “normal” life, whatever that means. It might have something to do with the YOU’RE SICK FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE; HEH, SORRY mentality some doctors, friends, and family project.

Then we become fearful of living at all. We become fearful of our “symptoms”, we become fearful of “losing control”, we become fearful of waking up in the morning.

I remember that fear like it was yesterday, because it probably was yesterday, because I go back and forth. Just to show you I am indeed human and not a robot. You can never really tell these days.

I think fear is healthy. It’s healthy to be vigilant of your emotions, your feelings, your person. It’s not healthy to let that fear run you, to let that fear form opinions about yourself that prevent you from living the life you deserve. If you struggle with your mental health, chances are you’ve been through *some shit*, and deserve a break from that chaos.

There are times when I feel I can’t control my thoughts, or the speed of them, what I see, what I hear. Sometimes I feel I can’t control the vibrating anxiety shaking my body from head to toe, or the creeping depression that sits idle until it’s ready. Then I wonder just exactly why I want control. What makes the anxiety so unbearable? Often it’s because I’m sitting there thinking about how unbearable the anxiety is. That makes the unbearable, unbearable.

What makes us fearful of experiencing something? What if we embrace that fear? What if we let it through the door, make it leave it’s shoes at the bottom of the steps, and invite it upstairs for tea? How hard can it push if there’s nothing to push against?

The truth of life is sometimes things need to just happen. Whether that be anxiety or voices, sometimes it just needs to happen. Sometimes rivers need to run down the mountain. Sometimes plants need extra room to grow. What do you expect to happen if you keep a blooming, growing plant confined in its seedling box? Where do you expect the roots to go? What do you expect to happen to the plant? If you can answer those questions for that example, you can answer those questions for yourself.

I get scared often. I get scared of the demons that follow me around and tell me I’m possessed. I get scared of that feeling of being watched, targeted, followed, by something supernatural, something I can’t fight back against, except with spirit. That scares me. And sometimes I fight it: I obsess over it, and that obsession leads to no sleep, and no sleep leads to increased feelings of being watched, touched, yanked on, clawed, and torn apart.

I’ve been learning along with you all. Sometimes in that fear I simply let myself be fearful. I ask myself what’s the worse that has happened? What’s the worse that can happen? How likely is it to happen? What else could these feelings be attributed to? Is there something going on in my life right now that is making me fearful, sad, angry, and it’s manifesting as this spiritual attack?

The other truth of life is that there are many different reasons for things. And to limit yourself to one reason for one thing is only backing yourself into a corner.

 

To be a Psychiatric Critic

What does it mean to be a critic of the psychiatric industry? There are a couple ways we could go with this, considering there are many people who claim to be critics, who claim they recognize “there are some flaws in the system”, or that “things could be improved”.

That doesn’t tell me much about their understanding of the industry. What that tells me is that they have general knowledge that nothing in this world is perfect and that everything, theoretically, could use improvement. Why is this not a criticism? Well, because it’s well understood, it’s not unique, and it doesn’t require any real knowledge of the system to say.

I could walk into a Wells Fargo Bank, turn to the person in line behind me and say “wow, this building could really use some improvements, look at that crack in the ceiling.” You wouldn’t call that a true critique of their building, of their establishment, of their maintenance crew, would you? I made an observation a million other people have before me, and a million other people will after me, and I still know nothing about why the crack is there, what’s halting repairs, who the crew is who should be patching it, how much of a budget there is for repairs–all the things I’d need to know to really understand this situation.

There are enough cracks in the psychiatric system to ruin fifty thousand Wells Fargo Bank buildings.

 

To be a critic of something like psychiatry you need a little more gut than what it takes to have the same opinion as everyone else. You have to be willing to put in the effort it takes to read the research and understand that what isn’t being said to the public is much more powerful than what is being said to the public.

To be a critic of something like psychiatry you need the ability to put aside your personal beliefs sometimes and view the facts:

  1. Big Pharma is, well, a BIG corporation.
  2. There is no definite research that proves any mental “illness”, including schizophrenia and bipolar, are diseases. THAT is a theory.
  3. There is no definite research that proves any mental “illness”, including schizophrenia and bipolar, are a result of chemical imbalances. THAT is a theory.
  4. Know what a theory is. Know that it can never be proven, only disproven. 
  5. Know that the APA (they write the DSM), Big Pharma, and insurance companies speak with each other.
  6. Understand that none of this means you should immediately stop all of your medication. I’ve done that. It. Sucks.
  7. Understand that the only scientifically verified chemical imbalance occurs when medications are taken.
  8. Understand homeostasis in the brain and what happens when it’s disrupted.
  9. Know the history of psychiatry; know it’s a business. 
  10. Understand the politics involved in the business.

The two in bold are fairly important. They’re important because it is impossible to truly understand a system without knowing where it came from, how it started, and what philosophy drove it into existence.

Knowing about theories seems so incredibly basic, but a lot of people misunderstand it when they read about chemical imbalance. So let’s debunk this a little to further drive the point of an actual criticism.

Chemical Imbalance Theory: Things called mental disorders/diseases/illnesses, whatever, possibly caused by an imbalance of natural chemicals in the synapses during neurotransmission. The evidence consists of studies done on the brains of people who have taken medication at one point, or who are currently on it. Studies done of people during hallucinations or mania or depression. Studies done on small groups of people, once or twice, with results being generalized and any possibilities of traumas in the past being disregarded.

Let’s think scientifically here, and disregard any opinions we may or may not have about mental “illness”. Let’s also keep in mind that the neural connections within the brain are unique for each individual, like a finger print, and they change with our experiences in life.

If we are doing studies on people who are, or have been on medication, it can’t be ruled out that the experiences aren’t being worsened or created by said past/present medication.

If we are doing studies on people who have been having these experiences for years, and have never done a study on them in infancy (I’m talking 0-3 years of age), then we have no standard to hold it against: it can’t be an imbalance if there is no “balance” as a control. And for those saying they have scanned the brains of people who don’t have these experiences, how can that be considered a true control when every brain is uniquely different in their neural connections? Scientifically, that makes zero sense. To the general public, it makes a bunch of sense. We really need to start putting more funding into STEM programs if the general public is accepting sub-par experiments like this.

Because there has been such little research on how environment, trauma, and social factors play into the development and constantly changing plasticity of the brain, ignoring those key areas of life is essentially saying the brain only relies on its physical structure to know when to release chemicals. And that doesn’t make sense, considering there are external sources, like a blooming flower, that cause in some of us a rush of emotion like happiness,  a rush of dopamine. Had we not seen the flower, that dopamine may not have been released.

In a very thought-out article on Scientific American you can read here sums this up perfectly and has one of my favorite quotes by neuroscientist Joseph Coyle at Harvard: “Chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that.”

This articles points out, in regard to depression, that although pharma makes claims that there are certain decreased or increased levels of neurotransmitters which cause depression, there are several different antidepressants that act on several different neurostransmitters, increasing or decreasing, that work for different people in different ways. Essentially, that takes the power out of what the pharma companies claim.

DR. Mark Graff, Chair of Public Affairs of the APA said simply that the theory of chemical imbalance was “probably drug industry derived”.

Psychiatrist David Kaiser touches on the exact problem I stated above when he says “Patients [have] been diagnosed with ‘chemical imbalances’ despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and . . . there is no real conception of what a correct chemical balance would look like”.

Just as there are theories in physics, there are theories in psychiatry. They can’t be proven, but they can be disproven, debunked, and through true criticism of this industry that is achievable on a widespread scale.

So the next time you go to rest in that comfortable middle ground of “the system could use some improvements, but everything could”, think about what you mean and how you formed that opinion. We don’t need anymore complacency in this world, particularly not in psychiatry. We need strength and understanding and facts.

To read up further on where I got the quotes above, see this pdf.

To read up on my thoughts on the system published on Mad In America, click here.

You Vs Them

There’s one more area of my experience at the psych hospital I want to cover, and that is the seven words spoken by one nurse to one of the other guys stuck with the rest of us.

She said, and I quote, “everyone in here is really, really sick”.

Seven is supposed to be a lucky number. Even if you don’t believe in superstitious things, you’d probably be more comfortable with 777 on your license plate than 666. This lady has ruined the number 7.

She ruined it so expertly I had to write out “and I quote” and use quotation marks to write out her words.

She was trying to calm down the man who wouldn’t piss in the urine cup because he was very agitated and distrustful over how his urine was going to be used. When he first came in he thought one of the nurses was going to lock him in the bathroom and argued with that nurse for a good ten minutes too.

Because the one thing you want to hear, as someone who is struggling, is that you’re “really, really, sick”.

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They also like to hound into your brain that there’s a “team” working to fix you. And what does that do? That takes away, for a moment at least, your responsibility to your health. That gives you the right to act however you want. It also gives you the right to give up. And that’s when they come at you with the “want to try a little medication?” thing. They tried their little scheme with me. What they didn’t know is that I’ve been studying psychiatry since I was fifteen and am not one to listen to any “team” that keeps me in the dark about their opinions of me. I lost all respect for them within ten minutes of being there.

Some people might think I’m talking out the side of my neck. I will never, ever argue with a person who says they are “sick” (mentally), I will never, ever tell someone medication is a bad idea. None of that is my business. What I will do is show you the ramifications of the system we’ve established here.

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There is someone I’ve spoken to before who says her neighbors keep her in her house and plot to get her kicked out of her apartment. Therefore she can’t leave to do laundry or take out the trash, and they even keep her, sometimes, from using the shower or other things. She can’t shop at the local stores because the clerks don’t like her and they’re stuck up and they don’t want poor people in their store.

This experience is extremely real to her, it keeps her locked up in her apartment nearly 24/7. She only orders take away food and even then sometimes she tells me the pizza guy hated her.

I’m not going to tell you her entire life story, that’s not my place. What I said above isn’t even my place, but I really, really need to get this point across.

Some people suggest medication.

Some people suggest doctors upon doctors.

What some people don’t know is that she’s been through all of the above. Then once some people know that and they see no change, they say “well, it’s just the illness”.

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Don’t try and pull that. Because every single justification she gives me for these instances is that these people know she’s “crazy”. That her county coordinators are telling all her neighbors that she’s “crazy” and that’s why they keep her locked in her apartment and want to kick her out. That’s why the clerks hate her. The fact that she’s on disability and not rich is also a reason.

Sitting in that hospital this week, I can’t count the amount of times I had no control over the thought of “well, he gave me that look because he thinks I’m crazy” about one of the nurses.

You can call it paranoia. But what that does is let a doctor reinforce to you that you’re crazy. They load you up on medications and say this will help, and then blame your “illness” (or God forbid they call it a fucking “disease”), when it doesn’t work how they promised.

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What I’ve learned at Second Story is that, well, there’s always a story. It’s never as simple as a category. I will never, ever call this person crazy because I don’t believe for one second she is. I don’t, for one second, disbelieve her. It would be irrational of me to disbelieve her because the stigma of everything around mental health truly is keeping her stuck in her apartment. Years of being told she is sick is truly keeping her stuck in her apartment.

When I came home one of my first thoughts when I walked past my neighbors and they glanced at me was “shit, they know I’m crazy now, I need to stay away from them”, like they somehow were at the hospital staring through the walls (since there are no fucking windows) right at me.

I don’t even call myself crazy and that thought whizzed behind my eyes.

I’m prone to unconventional thoughts, it’s how my brain perceives the world. But a hospital that’s supposed to help with your mental health isn’t supposed to perpetuate things like that. It’s supposed to remind you you’re okay, you’re human, and that everyone struggles with something. It’s not supposed to make me think my neighbors are against me because they might have heard me use the word “Telecare” or the acronym “PHF” (that’s the hospital).

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Let Me Let You In On A Secret here . . .

I don’t care if you think you have an illness and that you’re sick.

I don’t even care if you think mental health issues are “diseases” (just don’t try and argue with me about it because I don’t want to have to dunk on you).

All I care about is that you understand how you think about yourself should be a direct result of what you think of yourself, and not what other people tell you is wrong with you.

All I care about is that the “team” working on you and your health is headed by you and not them.

When I hear people tell me someone diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar or Borderline personality or any disorder ever cannot live a life without medication or even just a normal life in general, I just laugh. Because I see it every day I work. And every day I’m impressed by the people on medication and the people not on medication. Because they’re determined to be who they are regardless. And that trumps your opinion on what you think a “mental disorder” is.

You think respite houses were built by professionals? No, they were built because people with diagnoses like schizophrenia and Bipolar carried on their lives without medication, without any other hospitalizations, as a direct result of going through peer programs. That was how it all started. Don’t believe me? Look it up.

And those results trump any opinion of any nurse who thinks anyone with mental health issues are only “sick”.

Also, #FuckTrump2016.

 

Mind, Body, and . . . nothing?

I awoke at 5 this morning and you all, by now, know what that means.

Time for my world famous (or just locally infamous) satirical banters! Although this one might not be so satirical.

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If you know know already, I get the majority of my news from Flipboard magazines I follow. I’m up to date with the latest Windows 10 update which will be hitting your computers this summer and if you haven’t heard, Microsoft is working on a project with Linux which will merge the Bash on Ubuntu system with the Windows system. Don’t know what I’m talking about? For 50 dollars a second I’ll explain it all to you.

Think I’m a rip off? For 100 dollars a minute, I’ll let you rant about my unfairness to me. 

I’m aware that some mad scientists think they’ve devised a way to diagnose Major Depression through a blood test (as if I haven’t heard THAT one before). Let’s celebrate yet another foot in the door of separating mental health from the brain.  So fellow souls with depression, don’t get your hopes up just yet. They haven’t finished constructing this new way to call you sick yet. It’s just another way to undermine psychology. 

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Speaking of stupidity, I’d like to criticize  constructively discuss an article I came across while manically flipping through Flipboard this morning, entitled “Why Psychiatry Should Discard The Idea of Free Will”by Steve Stankevicius, M.D. (Read here). He’s got a wordpress I believe.

I will say I respect this man’s opinion, and respect the fact that he’s licensed and has been through a lot of school. I give you props for that man.

But I will tear this apart piece by piece. Because here, my dear, dear readers, is yet another medical individual hellbent on the idea that the brain operates under a pure physical basis.

I agree Free Will promotes stigma. How? Well, if you believe you have the ability to change the way you think indefinitely, then it follows you may develop a warped sense of thought and think it’s possible for someone to cease a hallucination simply by saying “stop brain, I’m sick of this”.

Or

“Stop making me depressed brain, it’s totally not cool”.

Essentially, that’s the reader-friendly summation of the explanation in the article.

Then everything goes to hell. I agree there is a lot of terminology in psychiatry that needs to be abolished, but labeling a mental health issue as Organic or non-organic is not part of that discussion. Organic, if you don’t know, means there is a physical cause. Non-organic means there is no perceived physical cause.

He says “This strange terminology is unique to psychiatry when compared to other fields of medicine”.

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Hmm.

Of course it’s unique to psychiatry, for fucks sake! Have you ever heard of a conversion disorder?

Conversion disorders, if you don’t know, are when you believe you are experiencing something physical but in reality it stems from a mental stressor. Your mental aches are essentially expressed in physical terms.

And here, once again dear readers, we see yet another real problem. People who study psychology, who receive degrees in them, rarely ever pursue psychiatry. In fact, many psychiatrists who are licensed have absolutely zero background in it. Maybe they took a few classes like “Personality” or “Abnormal psychology”, but its not a requirement to have a degree in psychology to become a psychiatrist. I would know, I’m becoming one.

By the way, I’m not saying this guy doesn’t have some kind of personal experience with mental health that I don’t know about (I don’t even know who he is honestly).

He does, however, have the propensity to use half-assed justification for his apparent”philosophical” view on things. He compares mood and psychotic disorders to hypertension. When diagnosing hypertension, it is categorized as “primary” and “secondary” meaning “cause not known” or “cause is known” rather than saying “Organic” and “non-organic”.

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*Cue slow clap*

There is a stark difference between psychosis and hypertension. I would know, I’ve personally seen and had experience with both–hypertension is the basis of one half of my family. They’re not interchangeable.

The truth is one is mental and one is physical. That’s NOT to say they can’t intermingle, that’s NOT to say mental issues can’t cause physical symptoms or that physical symptoms can’t cause mental issues. Look, I know those of us who go through the medical system and come out with larger scars than we went in with pursue the idea of complete equality between mental disorders and purely physical illnesses but it’s not feasible. Given the biologically-obsessed world we live in, doing so would require we abandon the psychology of mental health. No more therapist, no more venting, only blood tests and medication. Suddenly your depression isn’t because you’re homeless living on the street after your parents, uncle, and sister just died. Nope, it’s because the blood test said you are. Soon people will ignore all the research out on how Yoga helps those suffering with delusions and hallucinations accompanied in schizophrenia. Nope, it’s all about the chemicals sloshing around upstairs.

The mind-body dualism is what fucking got me. I started rolling on the floor. Only because Descartes came to mind. I laugh at him all the time.

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Mind-body dualism is the idea that the mind and body are separate and exist separately.

Stankevicius says “Neuroscience has continued to pile on the evidence that our thoughts are entirely dependent on the physical processes of the brain, whilst evidence for ‘something else’ is entirely absent”.  He believes free will is the cause of this, simply because it requires you “invoke . . . some magical aspect of the mind”, that we “relinquish the mind from the bonds of the physical laws of the universe”.

*Cue Crickets*

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Let’s go back to Christopher Langen. You all remember him? Remember the one thing I gave him credit for? The fact that people use mathematical principals that haven’t been proven scientifically because they can’t technically be “detected“, that we’re just using them to explain the portions of the physical universe we’re able to observe, and half of the time that’s theory as well?

This man is operating under the idea that all the we’ve “discovered” about the universe using those technically unproven and un-proveable principals is all there is.

So we’ve got evidence of physical processes creating thoughts. That’s great! He’d be a horrible researcher if he’s this much of an absolutist. He needs a little bit of physics in his life. But you don’t need to necessarily take a bunch of that to be a psychiatrist either, just your basic med school requirements where they give you examples of people jumping off a cliff (without a parachute) and you figure out how much force they hit the ground with. I’m not kidding, I saw that in an MCAT practice handbook. Even the MCAT jokes about suicide.

I mean, if your friend jumps off the roof at least you’ll be able to know the physical process of how they made such a big dent in the concrete.

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He makes a good point though: “If psychiatry is medicine of the mind, but our common beliefs about the mind are wrong, where does that leave the medicine?”.

Exactly. If the COMMON BELIEFS, such as “all mental disorders require biological cause and treatment options” are WRONG, where does THAT leave the medicine?

He makes another good point: “Our job is to find those reasons and treat them, not to substitute an absence of answers with blame, judgement or indifference until we get there”.

Yes, the belief that the mind is separate from the body, or that we are able to freely control every aspect of how we think or how our brain physically/chemically behaves results in stigma and misunderstanding. But believing the mind and body are one in a simply physical form, or are one in a simply spiritual form results in the same torn mindset.

I’m not going to lie, Psychiatry is one of the weirdest medicines. It has more flaws than I can think of but the reality of this is everyone is overthinking it. Everyone just take a moment and realize everything you think is knowledge is just observation and educated guesses.

The plant is green not because it actually is green, it’s green because that’s what you can see. All the other colors of the world are hidden from us.So it’s not improbable to think information is hidden in the same way. Yes, there are physical properties of the brain. Yes, electricity and neurochemicals result in thoughts. But has that ever explained how we think?

They’ve detected the spark of electricity that results during a thought.

Fascinating!

Correlation is not causation.