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Posts tagged “PTSD

The legacy we leave behind

Well it’s still that time of the year for me, the time where my anxiety is pegged at an 11, the stupid feelings inside my head keep telling me others would be better off without me, and honestly I start to believe it because who do I have besides myself? It’s exhausting, painful (in the literal sense), and I hate it. This time of the year also seems to come with a fair bit of bad luck. In this case, another death.

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Some good news… for once.

As anyone who’s followed along knows, this time of the year is horrible for me. Between depression, external factors, and now a death of someone who worked with us from COVID, it’s been fairly hellish. It has felt like anything that could go wrong, would go wrong and frankly it’s not just exhausting it’s also had a numbing effect. However, today I got some good news.

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The digital disconnect

Some themes just resonate with people because they are universally felt. Feeling like you don’t belong in your own skin isn’t something new. Movies tap into things like this a lot, the Matrix for example gave a sci-fi spin to the feeling. One where you could simply unplug, wake up, reality wasn’t amazing, but it was reality. I think a lot about the handful of suicides that followed the movie, people thought it was a message, a call to action so to speak.

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The death of hope

Maybe I’m being over dramatic, who knows. It’s been a struggle and yes, today is not a good day. Not that many days around this time of the year are good, but today in particular is a bad one. Depression sucks and the thing about depression is that it’s hard to explain to others, especially if you’ve never had to deal with clinical depression or if you’re like me, had to live with chronic treatment resistant depression.

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Madness on the ship of Theseus

Awhile back I made a quick comment on the ship of Theseus problem and left it at that. I guess it’s been rattling around in my head since then because we’re revisiting it. Everything in my life feels like it’s falling apart and for the past month or so I’ve been desperately trying to hold onto any bit of flotsam that I can find. Once again, I’m left to pick up the pieces, try to rebuild, and move on. But if there’s nothing left of the old life, am I still the same person?

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Falling up

Things are still falling apart in my life. My mental health has tanked, and while life never had the shine it should, it looks especially dull at the moment. In short, my world has been steadily unraveling and will probably continue to do so for some time. As painful as all that is the most disorenting thing about my life has been falling up, and it’s happened again.

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They come at night

I once explained to my therapist that I hate going to sleep. Bad dreams and just bad things are there when I’m alone with my brain. She said something though that really stuck with me and it makes me miss her to this day because she really got me. When I said I hated going to sleep she just asked, “because they come at night?”

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The monsters were never under the bed

It’s funny that as children we all have the same strange fears. There’s monsters under the bed, in the closet, hell the feeling that something will take our foot off in the night is so universal there’s comics making fun of will happen if you leave a foot outside of the sheets. Parents happily reassure our childish beliefs, because it’s true, there are no monsters under the bed. What they don’t tell you is the monsters are real, they just live in your head.

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A rough landing

My joints hurt, like all of them. It feels like stabby burny pain. It’s not fun, but I’ve seen this kind of thing happen just once before in my life (here). Spoiler, it’s somehow related to stress, the last time this happened I was very stressed out and this time it’s back, but worse. It’s not a fun time for me obviously, so today is a mixed bag, both good news and bad.

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There’s no such thing as solid ground

I am a private person. Is it then ironic that I blog about my journey? The ups and downs of getting a PhD, the trials and things life throws at me, the interplay of choices I’ve made and their effects decades later. It’s the ship of theseus paradox, how much of me is still me after all the bits and pieces that have been shaved off over the years and replaced. If there’s no one around to see me change, was change even made?

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I’m not okay, but that’s okay.

Still not doing well, but what else is new? The point of this project was to focus on the journey to my PhD. To talk about my education and to share the things I learn along the way so others can survive the journey themselves. This wasn’t a blog so much about me as it was about the things I’ve learned. Well one of the things I’ve learned is that despite my desire to remain anonymous and share purely my education progress, it is difficult, if not impossible, to seperate myself from my education. And right now I’m not okay, but that’s okay.

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Sometimes it rains

Brains are wild. I mean we have this misshapen jello blob stuck in our head and it somehow gives us the ability to be aware. We exist and think, feel, reason, all the stuff that makes us who we are. Brains are great, except when they aren’t. Depression is a horrible thing, which lives in the brain. You can’t “just be happy” anymore than someone could just be rich. Obviously when you live with chronic depression you got a dud of a brain. It may have to do with genetics, environmental factors, the way we were raised, or maybe it’s just horrible luck, but out of all the organs we can fix or replace, the brain is not one of them. You’re stuck as you and sometimes that sucks.

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A new school year

Well today marks the start of year three for the 365 days of academia project! It also means I’m now a fourth year PhD candidate. Since we’re going into another year I think today I’ll revisit why I started this project in the first place and basically just give everyone a reminder about what keeps me going. That way I can talk about all the anxious feelings I have heading into the new year and how I feel like I’m nowhere near where I should be.

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The promise of tomorrow

We’ve reached the end of the 365 days of academia project, year two! Last year I wrote in depth about my past and in particular my suicide attempt (here). At the time it felt like a good way to wrap up an entire year of basically pouring my heart and soul into this blog. Writing every day for a full year, I didn’t think I would do it and now I’ve done it two years in a row (minus when I was trying not to freeze to death!). Since last year we looked back, today we’ll talk about why I’m alive. The short answer is in the title of this post, the promise of tomorrow, but I think I can explain better.

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A leap of faith

Well I did something today that I will not be able to undo. Since I have a policy of honesty with this blog, I will admit that I’m scared. I don’t like taking risks, but I didn’t have a choice so now I’m going through the grieving process wondering if I’ve made the right call and how quickly I will end up regretting it. I had a choice, I made a choice, and now we wait. It’s a leap of faith, one I’m not sure I am ready to take.

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No tree survives alone in the forest

From season 2 of The OA

Humans are odd creatures. We have weird quarks that make us want to organize the world in ways that make no sense. In this case I’m talking about trees. We have this thing about planting trees in straight lines. I think it’s because it adds a touch of order to something so organic and wild. Being the tiny insignificant things we really are, we cling to that order as a little reminder that we are something special. We don’t often acknowledge the idea that plants are living and intelligent things because they act so differently than things we prescribe intelligence. Put bluntly, the things that act like us. In reality, from what we can tell, trees talk to each other (more) and they know that there is strength in family because the truth is, a tree falls alone.

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I’m still afraid to open my eyes

There are some events in life that will forever change you as a person. I’m not the person I was when I went into the military and I’m certainly not the person I would’ve been had I chose not to enlist. Some things just stick with you for your life. This isn’t a military story though, I don’t particularly like talking about those days. Instead this is yet another story of my transition to civilian life and how difficult it was to make the leap. How even now, the stability I’ve found is only just so.

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The big brick wall

Art by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie (who will never read this, but her art really helped me)

No one likes to think about dying. Death is one of those things that is taboo because we’re alive and don’t need to worry about that sort of thing right now. There’s too much to live for to worry about death, so we tend to ignore the big brick wall we’re headed right for. No one lives forever and frankly I’m not sure that I would want to even if I could, but I can’t help but think about what happens when I get closer to that wall and what life will look like before the day I hit it.

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Recognizing the scars of abuse

I hate being right. We should of course start at the beginning, but the point is that I saw something today that made it very clear that a person close to me had been abused. No one else saw it, but I knew and afterwards a discussion in private made me realize that those scars aren’t always obvious to others who don’t know what they are seeing. But I knew, because I lived that too. I hate that there are so many of us out there, it makes me so fucking angry.

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The need for support

Yesterday was a big deal for me. I’ve been to conferences, spoke at them, and done all of that, but this was the first time I was selected for an award. Moreover it was the first time since I started my PhD that I got to share some of the stuff I’m working on because of COVID and the transition from mechanical to neuro. Of course I invited everyone (here) to come say hi and I have to say you all did not disappoint! Then the moment passed, I shut off my camera, and had no one to share it with.

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Depression, a tale of hunger

Let’s pretend you have a pet that is constantly hungry. You can’t leave the house, you can’t sleep, you can’t even take a shower because anytime you want to do something for yourself this monster of a pet just won’t allow it to happen. It’s hungry. It wants to be fed and it wants to be fed NOW. Oh you’re exhausted, feed it. You want to do something for yourself? Too bad, feed it. It’s all consuming, it never sleeps, it never is satisfied, and you cannot get rid of it. Chronic depression is the pet you never asked for that demands your attention all day, every day.

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The importance of boundaries

Often times I hear stories about people who feel powerless doing a PhD and I can understand why. You’re given a position with some freedom, certainly more than you had as an undergraduate, but at the same time you have no real power. You’re an adult who is starting a career, but you have very little say in that career. The system is designed in such a way that you need to trust that your PI will take your feelings into consideration, but that doesn’t mean that they have to, are incentivized to, or frankly that they even will.

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On finishing a story

I am an avid reader. I absolutely love books and if I had more time I would probably read even more than I do. Despite being incredibly busy, I read daily and the amount I read varies wildly depending on how much time I have. Still, I manage to read an hour or so a day depending on how I’m feeling. So far this year I’ve read 19 books with a goal of hitting 30 by the end of the year. I would’ve gone for the whole book a week thing, but that felt like too much pressure for something I enjoy doing as a hobby. The problem with all that reading is inevitably stories end.

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On birth and family

Sometimes a topic just rattles around in my head until I get it out. Today is one of those days. A friend recently decided to cut ties with some toxic family and it was probably well overdue. I’m happy for them and I think they are making the right choice, but I know not everyone would see it that way. Sometimes people confuse the idea of family and romanticize it, but the truth of the matter is family isn’t the people who gave birth to you, it’s the people you choose.

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On saying “thank you”

The day to day pleasantries, I’m sure we go through the motions on a regular basis, please, thank you, it’s pretty engrained into most of us. At least I would hope, broad statements like that always have exceptions, but more often than not I would like to believe that the majority of people are decent enough to say thank you to someone who is doing something for them, even if it’s just their job. Sometimes simply saying thank you can have a huge impact to a person, even if you don’t expect it to.

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Half done, or half left?

With the end of the term, I’m dealing with a lot of complex emotions. Maybe it’s the fact that my funding is running out soon and I need to come up with options before I take (at best) a significant pay cut. It could be the fact that my research, the stuff I REALLY want to do seems to keep slipping further away from me. It may even be because I’m still, STILL trying to get my papers published and it’s just disheartening. Whatever the reason, I’m at the halfway point and I’m just not sure what I’m feeling exactly.

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Return of the lazy goals

It’s the end of the term and that means two things. The first is that I no longer have to worry about classes. Actually that’s going to be a permanent shift now that I’m done with the required classes for my degree (aww yeah!), so that’s handy. The second is, of course, taking extra time to focus on my mental health. Hence what I like to call my lazy goals, because let’s face it, goal setting just feels like the adult way to make sure you’re relaxing the way you really want to.

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On the prefrontal cortex and abuse

Adulthood is often thought of as the point where you’re done developing. Most states for example don’t allow anyone under 21 to drink because that was where we drew the line, but we allow people as young as 18 (here in the US) to join the military, vote, etc. You may think that this would be roughly where we stop developing and that would explain the somewhat artificial line we’ve drawn. The truth is much stranger than that and when it comes to the brain you don’t develop evenly.

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Mental health and time management

I don’t make the rules. As much as I like to think I’m in charge of my body and that I can will it to do what I want, I’m more of a passenger here. Sure I can make plans, that doesn’t mean my body will agree or that my brain will let me do all the things. It’s a very tense arrangement, I have life stuff to do because I have basic human needs and my body/brain tells me exactly where I can shove all that. Somehow I’ve managed and I figure why not share how I’ve developed work arounds for some of this, maybe it will help someone else in the same boat.

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Not so alone

Of all the odd twists and random occurrences that have happened in my life, I think yesterday was probably in the top ten, if not top five in my most unexpected events list. For those who don’t follow me on Twitter (you totally should FYI), I’ll explain and if you already know what I’m talking about then maybe just skip to the middle/end of the post because that would be for you specifically.

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Mental health in academia

Five years, that’s the average time it takes to finish your PhD. Depending on who you are and how you think, that may be a blink of an eye or forever. I signed away four years of my life early on so five years and frankly the commitments leading up to it didn’t feel like that long at all. In a lot of ways getting a PhD is a lifetime of work and not long at all. I’ve hit the half way point roughly and I can see why so many people drop out of the program. It’s a lot.

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Cracks in the support system

Family, friends, relationships, these are just a few things that provide people with a safety net. How many people, if they lost their job, would be able to rely on family for support? Surely not everyone, but a good portion of people have others to help them if they were in need. Hell, here in the US we’ve made it almost necessary to rely on the kindness of others to crowd fund for healthcare needs. Like it or not, people need people, well most do anyway…

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Book chapter update

It feels like it’s been a while since we talked explicitly about the book chapter I am writing. A lot has happened since that first post, mostly edits and what not. Since the second round of edits was due yesterday (and I hit that goal, thank you!) it won’t hurt to do a bit of a refresh and remind everyone why I took on yet another thing on my long list of to-do tasks.

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A mental health day

Today the fatigue of the past few weeks has finally caught up to me. With the adrenaline rush that came to a head from the presentation I did yesterday wearing off, I feel exhausted. So today I am taking some time to recharge and rethink what the next few months will look like. This is me taking a mental health day, but let’s talk about the events leading up to today and what the plan is, at least for today.

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Please don’t thank me for my service

I swear I didn't kill anyone by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.
I swear I didn't kill anyone by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.
Art by the amazing Lora Zombie. (two days in a row, because I love her art)

Yesterday was veterans day, the day before that was the Marine Corps birthday. I purposefully was going to ignore both, but an interaction on twitter the other day made me realize that I should at least touch on the subject. My feelings surrounding my service have always been complicated, but why not talk about it?

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Why do we lack a safety net?

Art by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie

Ever have a day where you just don’t want to do anything, but need to do basically everything? Today is one of those days. Most of the time when the feeling hits I have at least a buffer that I can use to relax and not have to worry, but unfortunately that’s not the case this time. Why the hell we built a society like this is beyond me, but here we are.

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War and (hunger) games Part 2

Obviously I’ve had more thoughts since yesterday’s post. With the fourth book just being released I’m giving the hunger games series a reread so I can refresh my memory before diving into the new addition. Sure it’s a prequel, but reading in published order never hurt anyone. Others have had the same thought obviously and yesterday’s post was inspired, in part, by someone’s take on the books. Now that I have had some time to think about it, let’s talk about the Hunger Games.

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War and (hunger) games

The first time someone asked me if I killed anyone I was taken by surprise. It’s a deeply intimate question, but a question that some people seem to ask so flippantly. It’s a taboo, even in my small military circle of friends. One that I don’t talk about and one that we will certainly not be talking about today. I’m reading, or rather rereading, the Hunger Games trilogy and it made me think about the first time I read it.

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Day 343: On lab equipment

BrokenLaser1

Luckily this wasn’t my fault, but it does make for a good story now.

It was bound to happen eventually. We all knew it would, but we didn’t expect it to fail in such a spectacular manner. That is to say, all at once. One of the people I’m mentoring checked out some lab equipment since we had come up with a way to do experiments from the comfort (see: safety) of her home. That was the plan anyway…

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Day 342: When stress hurts

Drawing of a man with cracks forming at the back of the neck. He looks sad, looking down.

Drawing of a man with cracks forming at the back of the neck. He looks sad, looking down.

I have a lot of disabilities. Some are more debilitating than others for sure, most are just annoyances or give me weird quirks that people sometimes are frustrated with, other times get a laugh from. For the past few days I’ve been dealing with a flare up so bad I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. It was a painful reminder that I was in fact stressed.

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Day 23: I was lucky…

IMG_20130704_221101_377 (2)

This was home, for a while anyway.

Okay, so not every post has to be strictly academic. If my twitter feed is any indication yesterday was world suicide prevention day. So with a heavy heart I have not one, but two very personal stories regarding suicide. Obviously this is a content warning for those wanting to go further, we will be dealing with suicide, death, and suicidal ideation.

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Trauma’s epigenetic fingerprint observed in children of Holocaust survivors

I swear I didn't kill anyone

I swear I didn't kill anyone

Image credit goes to the one and only — very talented — Lora Zombie

The children of traumatized people have long been known to be at increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mood and anxiety disorders. However, there are very few opportunities to examine biologic alterations in the context of a watershed trauma in exposed people and their adult children born after the event.

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Specialized neurons in emotional memory play important role in fear

Lora zombie PTSD

Lora zombie PTSD

Image credit goes to: The incredibly talented Lora Zombie.

Fear memory encoding, the process responsible for persistent reactions to trauma-associated cues, is influenced by a sparse but potent population of inhibitory cells called parvalbumin-interneurons (PV-INs) in the amygdala, according to a new study.

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Fear factor: A new genetic candidate for treating PTSD

I swear I didn't kill anyone

I swear I didn't kill anyone

Image credit goes to the very talented: Lora Zombie

Researchers have identified a new genetic candidate for testing therapies that might affect fear learning in people with PTSD or other conditions. Individuals with trauma- and stress-related disorders can manifest symptoms of these conditions in a variety of ways. Genetic risk factors for these and other psychiatric disorders have been established but do not explain the diversity of symptoms seen in the clinic – why are some individuals affected more severely than others and why do some respond better than others to the same treatment?

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Mental illness, that’s a funny term isn’t it?

It's dangerous out there, take this.

It's dangerous out there, take this.

If you suffer from depression, PTSD, or anything else please visit: Take this

In today’s lexicon, the term mental illness is used pretty widely. It can be used to describe someone suffering from depression, to PTSD, to even someone suicidal. In fact, today it is sort of a catch all term for anyone who is involved in a mass shooting here in the US. We are getting off point however, why are we (myself included) labeled as mentally ill? You don’t call an amputee someone suffering from body illness, nor would you call someone with cancer “cellularly ill”.

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A link between nightmares and suicidal behavior

Nightmare bed

Nightmare bed

Image credit goes to: Joshua Hoffine

A new study is the first to report that the relationship between nightmares and suicidal behaviors is partially mediated by a multi-step pathway via defeat, entrapment, and hopelessness. Results show that suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts were present in 62 percent of participants who experienced nightmares and only 20 percent of those without nightmares.

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Forgetting, to learn

rememberable

rememberable

They say that once you’ve learned to ride a bicycle, you never forget how to do it. Unfortunately for students who hope this applies to studying, they might not like new research suggesting that while learning, the brain is actively trying to forget. While this may at first blush seem like a bad thing, it actually may be useful for those suffering from PTSD.

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(More) bad news for Vets: PTSD linked to accelerated aging

Veterans suffer from PTSD

Vietnam Vet: A Hero’s Welcome
Image credit goes to: Mike Cherim via Getty Images

Before PTSD had a name there was shellshock. It was mysterious and much like today, not everyone showed symptoms so — for the most part — it was written off. In recent years however, public health concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have risen significantly, driven in part by affected military veterans returning home. While this has opened the door for better care for people suffering from PTSD, it has also lead to some startling revelations about the extent of damage. New research that was just released, sad to say, doesn’t bode well for people with PTSD either.

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The impact of military deployment on children

US Army's Third Infantry Divison deploys to Afghanistan for the final time

Being a military family is hard, it’s hard for the person serving (obviously) and if divorce rates are any indication, it is also hard on the spouse. While the added stress of deployment on a family cannot adequately be explained, even as someone who has seen it first hand, those stresses affect even the littlest members of the family. A new study reports that following military parents’ return from combat deployment, their children show increased visits for mental healthcare, physical injury, and child maltreatment consults, compared to children whose parents have not been deployed.

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Treatment and Prevention of PTSD

PTSD

It’s no secret for anyone who follows me that I am a Marine veteran. It’s also no secret for anyone who follows me that I’ve had my own ups and downs in life because of my experiences. PTSD is a nightmare, one that you can’t quite shake no matter how hard you try. Then again, not everyone reacts the same way to the trauma that typically causes PTSD, not everyone walks away from war with it. The big question that scientists set out to answer was, why? And now they might just have an answer.

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