Nervous Breakdown

My mental health is turning to “mush” (to put it politely). I’ve got a horrible feeling I slept 24 hours last “night” i.e. went to bed Tuesday afternoon, woke up Wednesday evening. Not good.

How do I know my mental health is so bad? Because I feel like someone just died and I’m sleeping… for far too long. 24 hours? No, that can’t be true. What else happened in that time? Did I get abducted by aliens… oh…ugh. Well, anyhoo…

Do you know for years I had this idea that somehow what I needed to do was “have a nervous breakdown”. I heard other people talking of “nervous breakdowns” they’d had and they seemed such a luxurious thing, especially as these people invariably seemed fine within days afterwards.

By the way I should explain: it wasn’t that I wanted to be mentally ill or mad, but I had this fixed idea in my head that having a “nervous breakdown” would somehow make me mentally well. All the psychological crap I’d accumulated for years would be swept away and I’d be all cleaned out inside, feeling shiny and new.

To explain: my idea of a nervous breakdown meant mental illness of any type from anxiety-depression to catatonic schizophrenia ― anything that struck quickly, and that was the key. To me, a nervous breakdown was something that came seemingly out of nowhere and struck out of the blue. On Monday you were well, on Tuesday you were crazy because you’d “had a nervous breakdown.” Any horror, confusion or bizarreness associated with going mad would be over quickly, but more importantly, the madness would resolve any unresolved psychological issues. And afterwards I’d be absolutely fine. Just like my various friends who’d had “nervous breakdowns” and seemed to recover so perfectly.

I should also explain that I was well aware of the ideology that mental illness is brain illness caused by imbalances in the chemicals that bounce in and out of synaptic clefts like the mini cartoon pingpong balls you see on almost any Youtube films about mental health conditions. And by the way, why do we talk about “mental health” so much these days when what we really mean is MENTAL ILLNESS!?

Anyway, to cut a long story short, one night over a decade ago, I did have a breakdown. Within the space of twelve hours (probably less) I went from pretty much OK to extremely unwell. The first wave of the “breakdown” passed quickly, although the psychiatrist I saw a week later had a shocked look on his face when I walked into the room, I’m not sure why because I thought I was fine by then. A few weeks later I went even more crazy and I ended up seeing the same doctor again, who eventually gave me a prescription for horror pills. I kept taking the pills and got a lot better. But it took more than four years to get over that “nervous breakdown” (which was over ten years ago) and I still don’t think I ever truly recovered. It’s all really sad, sad, sad (but true…)

The only good thing “in my life” is that even though my health appears to be collapsing (mental, physical, whatever) I seem to have been presented by an opportunity to turn things around and make some real changes. So instead of navel-gazing (never was into that) I have to step up, activate, get up, move, get out! Moving on, moving up! Goodbye!

Youtube: “Why depression isn’t just a chemical imbalance” I haven’t watched this yet. Is it any good?

Image from JayFieldWellness.Com (is depression caused by a chemical imbalance?)




Baby Bear’s “Mad Honey” Trip

A young bear has been treated by vets after a “mad honey” trip in Turkey. The scandalous honey made from rhododendron nectar contains a neurotoxic substance called grayanotoxin that causes lightheadedness, sweating, numbness and pins-and-needles, unsteady gait and even hallucinations. Animals are more sensitive to grayanotoxin effects than humans and too much mad honey in some species can even cause death!

Poor little bear!

“Mad honey” is deliberately cultivated in Nepal and in regions surrounding the Turkish Black Sea. As little as one teaspoonful can get you off your head. The honey’s grayanotoxins take up to 3½ hours to take effect!

The Himalayan giant honeybees Apis laboriosa perform Mexican waves to boggle the compound eyes of incoming hornets.

The honey is most often collected by giant Himalayan honeybees Apis laboriosa which, along with bumblebees, are immune to rhododendron nectar’s intoxicating effects.

The neurotoxic honey has been known about since classical antiquity. Pliny the Elder is said to have gone on a mad honey trip in the AD 60s while King Mithridates the Great of Asia (today’s Turkey) is said to have hoodwinked an invading Roman army into getting high on the local rhododendron honey. The Romans started feeling sick and queasy, at which point Mithridates’ army attacked.

Asian honeybee Apis cerana foraging on rhododendron

By the 18th century, this mad rhododendron honey had spread to England where it was added to wine to make it more intoxicating.

“Mad honey” is illegal in several countries Australia, Canada, South Korea, India, Mexico and Brazil but (presumably) legal everywhere else. And yes, of course you can buy it online. But I wouldn’t recommend it!

Original post from the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
The poor little bear is released having recovered from her ordeal



Video report: Reuters (1 min)

Video: the mad honey-hunters (26½ mins)

IMAGE from MSN news

EXTERNAL LINKS: BBC, Daily Mail, Independent, Guardian,




The Giant Panda

Cuddly and tubby, the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is now a cultural symbol of China worldwide.

In Ancient China, pandas were known as 貘 with a character that combines the dog radical 犭 plus 莫 which shows the sun sinking into bushes. Latterly the panda was known as zhúxióng 竹熊 the “bamboo bear” or simply dàxióngmāo 大熊貓 the “great bear-cat”.

Before the twentieth century, giant pandas were hunted for their meat and fur. It’s only since the latter half of the twentieth century, when giant pandas were internationally recognised as an endangered species (not to mention a very cute one!) that the panda’s worldwide fame began.

A panda’s metabolism is so slow, and its diet so restricted to bamboo that pandas must remain awake and active all year round, chomping bamboo stems even throughout deepest midwinter.

The giant panda’s wild range is restricted to the bamboo forests of southern China. Pandas do not breed easily in captivity and so a huge amount of effort has been put into captive breeding programmes.

Pandas are loaned to zoos worldwide under the strict condition that the panda, any offspring and all panda DNA remain property of the Chinese state worldwide and for all time!

The Chinese government’s breeding and conservation efforts have been so successful that the giant panda is no longer considered endangered.

A big hurrah for the giant panda!

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Land of the Pandas (Real Wild, 54 mins)

Panda’s living with giants (47¾ mins)

Life of the panda (National Geographic 65¼ mins)

Pandas from the mountains of Western China (43½ mins)

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The giant panda in Chinese arts

Ancient giant panda that roamed China 5000 years ago has been unearthed (Daily Mirror)

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The American Drug Mess

Last week, 31 year-old American athlete Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian jail after being found guilty of smuggling cannabis THC oil into Russia in vape cartridges.

President Biden declared: “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”

This is the same Joe Biden who earlier in his career boasted of passing legislation (e.g. the 1994 Crime Act) dooming anyone in possession of crack cocaine to a minimum five years’ imprisonment.

So an off-duty police officer, a little old lady, a three-year-old child ― any of these who happened to pick a discarded lump of crack from the sidewalk would get a mandatory minimum five year sentence.

Biden’s drug boasts

Biden boasted in the senate that judges’ hands were now tied with no exceptions for anyone ― no matter how innocently they’d acquired the drug, no matter what the extenuating circumstances ― to pass any lighter sentence.

America invades and drug production shoots up!

For years America played international policeman with Administrations from both sides bullying other nations into passing anti-drug legislation that suited America’s purposes. Every time America has gone into a region, drug production has soared:  Afghanistan being a prime example.

It seems strange that America, land of mandatory minimum five-year sentences for simple possession should complain about a nine-year sentence for drug importation!

It is hoped that Britney Griner, a star basketball player, can be released early as part of a prisoner-swap scheme. Although for now she is imprisoned in Khimki women’s prison near Moscow with an expected release date in early 2031.



Joe Biden and the “War on Drugs”

President Bush the Elder, speech on drugs (1989)


EXTERNAL LINK: The hundred-to-one crack disparity Washington Post




Hazel Dormouse

Also known as the common dormouse, the hazelmouse or simply as the dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius this little rodent is a rarely seen mouse that lives in trees and hedgerows across the British Isles and Central Europe into Russia.

Dormice are about the size of a housemouse but with gingery-brown fur and a furry tail. They spend much of their time high up trees only coming down to forage in undergrowth.

During the summer breeding season they build woven nests of leaves and grass. Three to six babies are born.

From late autumn to early spring the dormice hibernate. They weave nests in thick undergrowth and sleep all through wintertime, hence their name dormouse, meaning a dormant or sleeping mouse. During spring and summer periods of cold, wet weather dormice will curl up and go into a torpor to save energy until temperatures rise again.


German Dormouse woodland documentary (24½ mins, subtitles available)


British dormouse stamp, worth approx $1.15 US

Stamp from the Soviet Union worth less than one US cent


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Roborovski Hamsters

Roborovski hamsters (also known as robo hamsters) are the tiniest hamsters in the world!

… and the cutest…

They’re also the fastest!

And love spinning out of control.

In the wild roborovski hamsters come from Northern China and Mongolia.

All hamsters love burrowing. This is the closely related Campbells hamster…

Robos live in large family groups who share extensive burrows packed with food to last through the harsh Chinese winters.

Robo hamsters are much more difficult to tame than other hamster species.

Ideally robos should be hand-tamed from babyhood.

Taming hints and tips from hamster expert Victoria Raechel.

Robo hamsters in the wild: “BBC Wild China”

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Robo hamster on Kazakh postage stamp worth 3 US cents

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PHOTOS: Ellie Burgin on; Dalius Baranauskas on Wikimedia Commons Kamil Porembiński on Wikipedia; Colnect.Com stamps website


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The Humble Housemouse, International Explorer!

The common housemouse Mus musculus originated in Southern Europe and the Middle East. From there they spread throughout Europe and from there to America, Asia and Australia. Housemice now live on every continent except Antarctica.

Outside its natural range, the housemouse relies on human habitations for shelter and food. In the wild they are out-competed by local mice like woodmice and harvest mice who are hardier and able to survive in bushes and burrows.

An albino form of the housemouse has been the standard lab mouse for many decades.

The so-called “fancy mouse” sold in the pet trade is nothing more than a common housemouse bred with fancy fur and colouring.

Mice have reached plague proportions in Eastern Australian states like Queensland and New South Wales where warm summers and mild winters replicate the Middle Eastern regions these mice originated from.


Mouse (Mus-musculus) from the viviparous quadrupeds of North America (1845) illustrated by John Woodhouse Audubon (1812-1862). Original from The New York Public Library. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel. by New York Public Library is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

The mouse’s buzzle is equipped with millions of scent-detecting cells. They are experts at sniffing out a tasty lunch. Anyone who’s lived in a mouse-infested house knows that all food must be kept well hidden and under wraps!

“Humane” trap containing an American deer mouse by the looks of it, not a housemouse

Numerous “humane” mousetraps have been produced in recent years. They don’t kill mice but trap them in a plastic chamber. You’re then supposed to take them outside to release them. However housemice originate from Middle Eastern areas with mild winters, which is why they take shelter in houses. Releasing these creatures into the wild in winter could easily result in them being hunted and killed or freezing to death. Which is arguably less humane than just killing them outright in an old-style trap!

The “Norwegian” brown rat looks like a mighty housemouse but in the wild mice and rats are lethal competitors. Rats are three times longer than mice and can easily weigh ten times as much. Brown rats will readily kill and eat housemice, an activity known as “muricide”…

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All kinds of more exotic mice (woodmice, deer mice, harvest mice) have adorned postage stamps throughout the world, but the common housemouse Mus musculus has only officially found its way into the postage network in cartoon form…

Bhutanese Mickey Mouse stamp worth a fraction of a US cent…

Turks and Caicos Mickey Mouse stamp worth 1¢ US

Last but not least, international dance music producer and DJ Joel Thomas Zimmerman, best known as Deadmau5, models himself on a Mus musculus dead mouse…!

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Secret World of Chipmunks

Chipmunks are a family of 25 species of pygmy squirrels inhabiting the woodlands, fields and meadows of Northeastern Asia from Siberia to Korea and Japan as well as North America as far south as Mexico.

Photo by Skyler Ewing on

They’re like a cross between ground squirrels and tree-dwelling squirrels, and have huge cheek-pouches capable of carrying large amounts of dinner.

Unlike other ground-squirrels, which often live in open areas with little cover, chipmunks often live in woodland, collecting huge stores of nuts and acorns each autumn to last through the harsh Northern winters.

Chipmunks dig extensive burrow systems with multiple tunnels and chambers. Food is kept strictly separate from the chipmunks’ bathroom facilities.

Although chipmunks live solitary lives (except during the breeding season) they often pair off with a fellow chipmunk to share the burrow all through the long, deep winter. Together, a pair of chipmunks can hoard as much as 10kg (22lbs) of nuts to last through till spring.

After months underground, the cautious rodents re-emerge, careful as always to avoid their numerous predators: foxes, wolves, coyotes and all kinds of birds of prey.

n227_w1150 by BioDivLibrary is licensed under CC-PDM 1.0

Chipmunks are such successful species, they are banned from the pet trade in many countries including the UK and Australia, having set up feral colonies in Europe and many places overseas.

Mongolian stamp worth approx ½¢ US

Canadian stamp worth 72¢ US, approx

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Lifecycle of a Chipmunk (Sciencing.Com)

Ground and Tree Squirrels (UCANR) Part 1

Ground and Tree Squirrels (UCANR) Part 2

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Suriname Toads: Weird but Wonderful

The Suriname toad Pipa pipa is famous for carrying her eggs and tadpoles in tiny holes on her back

After 16 weeks the babies hatch and swim to the surface

The tiny young toads get away fast from their omnivorous mother, who eats just about anything that moves

Outside the breeding season, the mother toad’s pitted back looks smooth. Disguised as a fallen leaf, she spends most of her time eating, breathing, sleeping and occasionally swimming.

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Trypophobia: fear of holes 1½ mins

World’s Weirdest (1 min)

n140_w1150 by BioDivLibrary is licensed under CC-PDM 1.0




Wild Budgies/Parakeets in Australia

Also known as the common or shell parakeet, the budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus is the most popular pet bird in the world. Budgies come from Australia where they live in huge flocks constantly roaming over thousands of miles of bush and outback. Most Australians have never seen a budgie in their garden because the wild birds stick to uninhabited regions far from the suburbs ― and never stay in the same place for long.

Budgies are highly intelligent and readily tamed

Budgies are actually members of the parrot family. As such they are intelligent, easily tamed and may even learn to perform tricks and talk.

A mighty flock of budgies at Mount Hope, New South Wales, Australia; photographed December 2020

A budgerigar flock can number several thousand birds, roaming across almost the entire interior of Australia including the Great Western Desert. They prefer open habitats like scrubland, open woodland and grasslands where their favourite food is grass seeds.

Three young males outside the treehole where they were born

The flocks’ movements are triggered by weather patterns with budgies turning up in large numbers after storms have triggered the growth of new plants and green shoots. Budgies breed only when food is plentiful. The birds pair off and nest in treeholes, laying three to six eggs.

The young birds can be exceptionally tame, like this pair filmed at a mining site in the Northern Territory

Totally unafraid!

Cautious of predators, the wild budgies swoop in and straight out of waterholes

The word “budgerigar” is said to originate from the term betcherrygah from the Australian Gamilaraay language. Betcherrygah means good food ― either implying that budgies are good to eat or that their migrations could lead to good food sources.

Pygmy parrot pecking food off a tree

Budgerigars are the third-smallest type of parrots in the world after New Guinea pygmy parrots and Central American parrotlets.

The New Guinea pygmy parrots (six species) feed on rare fungus and lichens; they are not suitable as housepets (despite being exceptionally tame).


News report from ABC13 (not 14) in Houston, Texas about a woman who retrieved and rehomed feral budgies

Escaped budgie in Japan…

Budgerigars are extremely gregarious and sociable. Outside Australia, escaped birds usually join flocks of sparrows. When the birds are recaptured, their humans report they’d learned to chirp in sparrow on their escapades!

Budgie joined the sparrows in NYC

Sadly a budgie couldn’t possibly survive a New York or even a London winter, so unless the poor bird (above) got caught, he wasn’t going to last long out of doors.

Wild Bush Budgie nature documentary, 27 mins

Australia Land of Parrots documentary, 53 mins


EXTERNAL LINK: Five Species of Small Parrot

Photo credits: Nikita Belokhonov on; JJ Harrison on Wikipedia; Anna Hinckel on