Daily Archives: March 4, 2016

The Weird, Scary and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford

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Maria Bamford has a mantra of sorts, and here it is: Do the work. Three words, three syllables. An easy, orderly thing. She tells it to herself when she wakes up in the morning, whether it’s at her bungalow in a middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles or at a Holiday Inn in Boston or a Marriott in Bloomington, or any of the other highway-side hotels she hits for one night before moving on. Do the work. It’s a stay against paralysis, against the descent of dread. It’s less dramatic than “seize the day!” more affirming than “stop overthinking everything!” It is functional, and that’s what she’s trying to be. Do the work. She repeats it on airplanes, in taxis, on the long walks she takes to calm her nerves before a show. Sometimes she amends it to: Just do the work, the “just” a reminder that she’s not, after all, performing surgery on babies. There’s another, more refined version, too. Do your bits, she’ll tell herself, resigned to the idea that this may always be a struggle. Just do your bits.

It should be simple, even if it’s not. Because she’s a comedian, and comedians do bits.

The first time I met Bamford, one evening in May, she was at a theater in Boston, about to step in front of an audience of roughly 600 people. She had been rehearsing her bits all afternoon, silently delivering jokes as she speed-walked alone along the Charles River, internally running through the intricacies of her timing as she browsed a couple of bookstores in Cambridge, thinking up a few chummy Boston references she could throw in to her 60-minute monologue. Now, dressed in black pants and a quilted North Face pullover, Bamford paced a small room backstage, her layered blond hair mussed and a little spiky, her blue eyes downcast as she avoided chitchat. What she was feeling, she’d later tell me, was “terror.”

You would think that stage fright, at this point in her career, wouldn’t be an issue. Bamford is 43. She has been doing stand-up comedy since her early 20s, when she was living in Minneapolis, a two-hour drive from her childhood home in Duluth. She has put out three well-received albums, twice done sets on “The Tonight Show,” landed a guest role on the third season of “Louie” and has had two half-hour specials on Comedy Central. Judd Apatow has described her as “the most unique, bizarre, imaginative comedian out there right now.” Last year, she appeared in the Netflix revival of “Arrested Development,” stealing scenes as DeBrie Bardeaux, a freakish, endearing meth addict in recovery. Mitchell Hurwitz, the show’s creator, calls Bamford “a genius” and “a real artist.” He adds, “Real artists talk about things that nobody else talks about, and talk about them candidly.”

Things Bamford likes to talk about candidly include the fact that she has disabling bouts of anxiety and depression, that she has contended with a form of O.C.D. called “unwanted thoughts syndrome” and that during her childhood, those unwanted thoughts came in the form of constant worries she might kill her own family or sexually molest animals. And while her comedy routinely traverses more everyday subject matter — she mimics her stalwart Minnesotan parents with devastating precision; she deftly does bits about emojis, online dating and her deep lack of interest in cooking — all of it seems anchored, one way or another, in Bamford’s psychological fragility. When she does her stand-up, when she acts on television and most notably in several web series she has written and starred in, she plays an exaggerated version of herself — a tremolo-voiced woman with a stunned expression, trying to navigate a world of people whose confidence is appreciably higher than her own.

In her work, she describes having done stints at inpatient psychiatric units and also the diagnosis she received a few years ago of Type-II Bipolar, an increasingly recognized variant of bipolar disorder. (“It’s the new gladiator sandal!” she will declare onstage.) Narrating the particulars of her psychology, which also include a history of binge-eating and having suicidal thoughts, Bamford displays little in the way of anguish and nothing resembling self-pity. She appears before audiences simply as vulnerable, as someone whose ongoing presence in the world is not entirely assured. She likens herself in temperament to a daffodil or an orchid, capable of wilting if the conditions aren’t perfect.

In Boston that night, she stood in the shadows at the edge of the curtain, watching a local comic, a tall woman with a swaying Afro, perform a warm-up set for the waiting crowd. Every time the other comedian delivered a joke, Bamford guffawed loudly from the wings, an odd, overdone warble that split the darkness, offering encouragement to the lesser-known act. Comedy, like most businesses, is baldly hierarchical. Bamford herself is only midway up the ladder, a headliner but not a superstar. She wants more, but then again she doesn’t. Just do the work.

The audience was now applauding. It was her turn to go on. Her jitters revved, as they always do. Smiling almost sheepishly, she began the 15-foot walk across the empty stage, toward the puddle of light with a microphone at its center. She looked, in that moment, like a woman who would either crumble or roar.

The minute Bamford lifted the microphone, her nervousness morphed into something more potent and focused. She began with some lighter material about making a ceramic dog for her father and a Vine video she could play anytime someone complained she wasn’t good at expressing her emotions. (She acted it out onstage in jerky, six-second bursts: “I love you . . . O.K.? I love you . . . O.K.?”) From there, she ran through an exuberant and juvenile riff on farting, including a lot of vivid sound effects, and then eventually she rounded the corner, as she almost always does, to talking about suicide. (“Is anyone thinking of suicide?” she asked the crowd, sounding merry. “Well, don’t do it, it’s not the season for it.” She then crinkled her face into a childish pout. “And people will be so mad at youif you do that.”)

Much of Bamford’s work examines the relationship between “people” — generally well-intentioned friends and family — and those who grapple with depression or anxiety or any other challenge to the psyche. Her act is a series of monologues and mini-skits performed rapid fire and often without regard for transition. Deploying a range of deadpan voices, she mimics the faux-enlightened who hover around the afflicted, offering toothless platitudes (“You just need to get out in nature”), bootstrapping pep talks (“It’s all about attitude. You gotta want it!”) or concern warped by self-interest (“You’d think you’d just stop vomiting for me and the kids”). The humor of any given moment relies not so much on punch lines as it does on the impeccably timed swerves of her tone, the interplay between Bamford’s persona and those of all the people who don’t get her. Often, she is demonstrating helplessness on both sides. “We love you, Maria,” Bamford says, imitating her 69-year-old Midwestern mother, Marilyn, in one of her recorded performances, heaving a fed-up sigh. “We love you, we love you, but it’s hard to be around you.”

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Bamford is a small person, narrow-shouldered and spindly legged. Her speaking voice is also small and a bit quavery, lending a charming uncertainty to anything she says. Wrapped inside the wobbliness, though, is an earned authority. Bamford talks about mental illness the same way Sarah Silverman talks about being Jewish or Louis C.K. talks about being divorced, with the flippant knowingness of an insider. Occasionally, the sharper pieces of her agenda poke through. One of her more jarring bits is about war veterans. She points out that more than 7,000 U.S. veterans die of suicide every year. “Which is funny,” she says, breaking into a giggle as a predictable hush falls over the room, “Because you’d think they’d die over there, but they come home. . . . ” The audience quickly explodes into laughter — not because it’s funny, but because it’s funny coming from her.

After the show, a crowd lingered late in front of the theater, waiting to speak with Bamford. She is frequently approached by people who view themselves as part of her tribe, who want to talk about their own diagnoses and tell their own tales of being misunderstood. In making light of the hidden struggles and deep absurdity that accompany living with, or close to someone with, mental illness, she appears to have planted an appealingly honest flag. She gets mothers who say, “I have a daughter just like you,” and daughters who say, “I have a mother just like yours.” She gets people — a lot of people — who say that her frank talk about suicide has made a difference to them personally.

The next morning, Bamford climbed into my car, holding a takeout salad she’d brought from the hotel, an early lunch for the ride ahead. We were going to Albany, about 160 miles away, where that evening she was due to put on another show. Ticket sales, she’d heard, had been slow. As it is with many comics, the specter of bombing always loomed. “I don’t know,” she said as we pulled onto the Interstate. “You may see it tonight.”

I told her I thought the Boston performance was great, but she waved off the compliment.

“It was good,” she said. “I mean, yes . . . , but I was slightly disappointed with myself.”

When I asked why, she fumbled for words. “Just psychologically . . . ,” she began, and then trailed off.

Close up, Bamford is milder than she is onstage. She has a thoughtful and friendly demeanor, but it’s edged with a certain nervousness. The verbal acrobatics that pump energy into her monologues, you soon realize, are not flashes of spontaneous genius but rather the product of huge amounts of time spent in focused rehearsal. (When she’s developing new material, she will pay friends $75 an hour to listen to her practicing bits over the phone.) In casual conversation, words come less easily. Bamford often appears to rethink her sentences midway, leaving many of them unfinished. Some of this may be attributable to Depakote, the mood stabilizer she takes daily. It’s one of a number of concessions she has made in the name of stability. Thanks to the medicine, she also now needs at least 10 hours of sleep each night, she says, “and also another hour to nap.”

When it comes to stage fright, Bamford laments that there seems to be no remedy. She enjoys performing, but only after the fact. Even just thinking about doing stand-up that night made her panicky. “I think I’m going to start working with a coach,” she added. “Just to get some daily support.”

She is, if anything, a dutiful seeker of help. One night in 1990, when she was a sophomore at Bates College in Maine, experiencing a period of despair, she wolfed down a huge amount of food and then called a suicide help line. Ever since, she has maintained faith in support networks. She has participated in 12-step programs for eating disorders, money problems, sex and intimacy struggles and addiction, though substance abuse has not been an issue for her. She just appreciates the company, and also the honesty. “I think 12-step programs are genuinely cognitive behavioral programs,” she told me. “You are out of isolation, and that helps you think differently about things.” When traveling, Bamford looks for local support-group meetings to visit. Otherwise, she attends them by phone. She has found a sense of community in online chat rooms and is a vocal fan of Crazymeds.us, a website that gives advice about psychiatric medications. (In addition to the Depakote, she also takes Prozac for depression and occasionally beta blockers to calm a tremor in her hands.)

She sometimes talks about her brain as an entity not entirely in her command, as something unruly and perhaps best understood from a slight distance. “My brain wanted me to think,” she will say, describing unhealthy perceptions, or “My brain wasn’t doing so great,” recalling a darker time. Her brain, she has found, behaves best in controlled settings, thriving on rules and boundaries. Twelve-step programs are good this way. And so, too, curiously enough, is stand-up comedy, stage fright notwithstanding. When at one point I remarked that putting yourself alone onstage before a judgmental audience seemed like a punishing thing to do, Bamford said: “Yes, but for me it’s also a structured environment, and structured environments feel safe. I’m up there in the lights, saying what I want to say, and they’re sitting a safe distance away.”

Most everyone I spoke to about Bamford felt compelled to mention that she’s a deep thinker, an observant introvert who processes everything carefully. “She’s always churning the butter,” was how her older sister, Sarah Seidelmann, put it.

“You know what it’s like?” says Jackie Kashian, a comedian who has known Bamford for about 20 years and sometimes travels with her as an opening act. “It’s like being best friends with Hermione Granger. You spend a lot of time in the library.”

And it’s true. Bamford normally hauls a bag of books and magazines with her when she travels, never knowing where she might find a steadying revelation. She’s a lover of recovery memoirs, psychology tomes and bullet-pointed self-help manuals. She can quote liberally from “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron. She reads O.C.D. books with titles like “Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals.” She also plows through People magazine as well as lots of highbrow literary writing and is, in particular, a fan of Dave Eggers. (“I sometimes put my name next to his,” she confides in a 2011 video she posted online about books she loves. “Like, what would it be like to be Mrs. Eggers?”)

She is bolstered, she says, by hard facts. A subscriber to AARP Magazine, she enjoys citing studies about health and longevity. A few years ago, after reading in a book that people who feel a strong sense of community have been proven to lead longer and happier lives, Bamford started working to overcome her natural shyness and fear of interaction by saying hello to her neighbors in Eagle Rock, a diverse and partly gentrified area on the northeastern edge of Los Angeles. She bought a park bench and had it installed on the median strip in front of her house. She then spray-stenciled the words “Have a Seat!” on the sidewalk in front of it. To her delight, the bench is often occupied. “It’s like a bird feeder for humans,” she says.

In the car that day, Bamford told me she was reading something called “The Procrastinator’s Handbook,” which was all about overcoming anxiety and just doing the work. She told a story about how a couple of years ago, when she was feeling leveled by depression and anxiety, a mutual friend connected her with the comedian Jonathan Winters, who was at that point well into his 80s. (He died last year.) Like Bamford, Winters was a gifted mimic, known for creating satirical characters. He also suffered breakdowns, spent time as a patient in psych hospitals and as early as the 1960s was hinting at his psychological struggles in his comedy routines. Eventually, too, he was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Bamford recalls that when she spoke to Winters on the phone, she was just out of the hospital herself and deeply scared about continuing on with both comedy and life. Winters, she says, offered what turned out to be a useful bit of blunt-force wisdom. “He said: ‘You got a good shrink? Yes? Well then, you just keep going.’ ”

Bamford has a song that she sometimes performs onstage called “My Anxiety Song.” It has no melody. Instead, it sounds more like an incantation, a desperate verbal hum. “If I keep the ice-cube trays filled,” she chants, “no one will diiiiieeee.” She continues, in a monotone, “As long as I clench my fists at odd intervals, then the darkness within me won’t force me to do anything inappropriate or sexual” — here, she drops her voice a couple of notes — “at dinner partieeeees. . . . “

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This, she is saying, is the agony of O.C.D., the skewed sense of cause and effect that first began to plague her when she was about 10. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 2.2 million adult Americans contend with some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s not uncommon for the symptoms to appear during childhood. Bamford is patient when explaining the particulars, aware that when she jokes about having wanted to chop up her family into bits or imagining what it would be like to lick a urinal, it can make her sound weird and also scary. But she makes a distinction: It’s the thoughts that are weird and scary, not the person. And while most of us are prone to having fleeting notions that would qualify as inappropriate, in the mind of someone with O.C.D., they are more likely to lodge themselves and repeat. The thoughts don’t tend to inspire action, only fear. It’s like having a homegrown terrorist in the brain.

During her childhood, the thoughts kept her from sleeping. As her anxieties combined with exhaustion, she began to isolate herself, contemplating suicide as early as middle school. At some point, she shared her fears with her mother. The whole family — Bamford, her parents and her sister — went to counseling for a while, with mixed results. “We weren’t in the golden age of psychotherapy in Duluth,” recalls Marilyn Bamford, who was then a stay-at-home-mother but later became a family therapist herself. Maria remembers going to the therapist and “mostly just taking naps on her couch, because I was so tired, and it felt like a safe place.”

Her compulsion for violent thoughts felt so shocking that she was afraid to share them, even in therapy. She finished two years of college in Maine and another year at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland — feeling “supercompulsive and superdepressed the whole time” — before transferring to the University of Minnesota, where she majored in creative writing. At 22, she was prescribed antidepressants, which helped only somewhat.

Throughout it all, she was drawn to performing. As a child, Bamford showed talent as a violinist. She acted and sang in school plays. In her early 20s, she shaved off all her hair and moved into a feminist housing collective in Minneapolis, holding down a job at a pizza place while doing what she calls “hippie performance art” in coffee shops and black-box theaters, mixing violin-playing into her act. To earn extra money, she busked on the street with the violin. “I was really just trying to express myself,” she says. Being a baldheaded woman, she sees now, was an unconscious ploy to ward off intimacy and keep her struggles hidden: “People are like, ‘Oh, you’re a weirdo, I’ll stay away.’ ”

During this period, Bamford met Jackie Kashian, who performed at open-mike shows in Minneapolis, where Bamford would sometimes surface, thin and hairless and carrying her violin. “Her material was always sideways,” Kashian remembers. “She wasn’t examining the same topics a lot of other people were examining. It wasn’t going to be: ‘Hey! Airline food!’ or, ‘How am I gonna date more?’ It was usually like, ‘There’s this weird thing happening in Sudan.’ ” Club owners often perceived Bamford as “too smart for the room,” she says, adding, “Sometimes that’s just a polite way of saying ‘I don’t get you.’ ”

It wasn’t until she was in her mid-30s, after moving to Los Angeles, that Bamford finally found an O.C.D. specialist who was able to treat her unwanted thoughts using a technique called “flooding.” She was instructed to write down her compulsive fears in exacting detail, then to record herself reading them out loud and, finally, to play them back for herself, again and again, until they stopped causing her anxiety. Most of her fears were about harming other people or forcing herself on someone sexually. She recalls the flooding exercise as “horrifying and painful,” but potent in what it accomplished. While she continues to contend with other psychological challenges, the unwanted thoughts, she says, still sounding amazed, “just went away.”

Over time, too, Bamford has managed to build a stronger bridge between herself and her audiences, largely through truthful self-disclosure. She talks about wanting to commit suicide, calling it a “[expletive] idea,” one of her many stupid thoughts, like buying day-old raisin bread in bulk and freezing it. “My experience is so embarrassing,” she says. “But I’ve learned that it’s O.K. to be yourself. . . . It’s better than pretending that it’s not there.”

Bamford understands that her condition is most likely steered by genetics, or as she sometimes phrases it onstage, “Mentals run in the family.” “My great-grandmother lived her whole life in an attic,” she told me. “Maybe there were other reasons, but my mom seems to think, from her letters and stuff, that she was massively depressed.” Her father, a retired dermatologist, has also cycled through periods of depression. And in 2010, Marilyn Bamford landed briefly in the psychiatric ward of a Duluth hospital, having gone off Depakote, which she’d taken for decades to combat seizures (it’s prescribed for epilepsy and bipolar conditions), and started showing signs of mania. “She was calling the pope and emailing my manager, telling him I was in danger,” Bamford says. “It’s really scary to see someone you know change so quickly like that.”

Her mother’s hospitalization seemed to confirm something Bamford had long suspected about herself, that despite the fact she was now a reasonably well functioning adult with what was starting to look like a sustainable show-business career, there remained a lingering capacity for meltdown. Any gathering clouds were not to be ignored. “I said to my friends, if I ever start talking too fast, please just take me to the hospital,” she said. She had even done a kind of comic rehearsal for it, filming a 2007 web series called “The Maria Bamford Show,” in which a depressed comedian named Maria Bamford — played by Bamford — has a nervous breakdown and moves home to Duluth, tended to by her parents (also played by Bamford), who come off as bumbling, endearingly idiosyncratic and unwittingly critical. The series is hilarious and unusual, and it boosted her cult following.

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In 2011, things were going well professionally. Bamford was getting regular voice-over work on television. She had starred in a popular series of preholiday ads for Target, playing an overhyped shopper. She was booking stand-up gigs as far away as Australia and playing larger and larger venues in the U.S. But her mind, as she puts it, had become like “an untethered jackhammer.” Her energy soared and crashed. After one of her two dogs, a pug named Blossom, took a tumble off her back porch and died — something for which Bamford blames herself, having removed a ramp connecting the porch to the yard — her mood went permanently black. “I could not find any comfort at all — just nothing, and for months,” she says. “I felt terrible, and my brain felt terrible. In the past, I’d always been able to be like, ‘Oh, I’ll write in my journal or read my self-help book, or I’ll call people and get out of this mood,’ ” she says. “But it wasn’t a mood. It was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gone.’ ”

Over the course of about 18 months, she was hospitalized on three occasions, for periods ranging from three to seven days, each time checking herself into the psych ward of a different L.A.-area hospital. “I thought it was the responsible thing to do,” Bamford says now. The hospital stays were in part a way to switch her medications under supervision (she received a Bipolar II diagnosis during her first admission), and in part meant to keep her from committing suicide, which she says had gone from being a vague idea to something that felt like a foregone conclusion, a rational next step.

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A family photo from 1984. CreditFrom the Bamford Family

Bamford’s sister, Sarah Seidelmann, visited her at Glendale Adventist hospital and says she felt taken aback by the number of patients who seemed lost in schizophrenia or were practically catatonic with depression. “I remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, all these people look terribly dispirited,” Seidelmann says. “These aren’t the people who can help you get better!” Seidelmann, who lives in Minnesota with her husband and four children, is a certified life coach. Her website asks, “Are You Ready for an Absurdly Fantastic Life?” She is also a recurring character in her sister’s stand-up routine, depicted as a hyperalert, finger-chewing realist who sees every problem as innately solvable and who often aggressively tries to redirect her sister’s negative thoughts. (In one skit, when Bamford says, “I’m worried I’m too old to be in show business,” the stage version of Seidelmann spits out an instant dismissal: “Hmmm. Betty White, Dame Judi Dench, Joan Rivers. . . . You’re not old enough!”)

According to Seidelmann, Bamford’s imitations of the family and their various blunders are biting in ways that can be painful — “My father cried, the first time he saw her doing him onstage,” she says — but they can be illuminating, not just inside the family but also inside a world rife with struggling people. Bamford’s comedy swims with paradox. She skewers the culture of self-improvement but relies on it, too. She pokes fun at the people who blithely misunderstand her, but also credits them for giving her love and shelter. (“You’re horrible,” she thinks about a friend who visits her in the psych ward and says all the wrong things. “But can you come back tomorrow?”) She addresses the loneliest of gulfs, acknowledging the confounding intimacies of living with and in proximity to mental illness — the whipsawing, humbling forbearance required from everyone involved.

Seidelmann, when I talked to her on the phone, got choked up, recalling seeing her sister pale and quiet and surrounded by a lot of hard-luck cases in the linoleum-floored psych ward in 2011. “My first instinct was to say, ‘Dude let’s get you out of this place,’ ” she says. “But Maria was trying to tell me something different. She was saying, ‘I feel safer here than I do at home.’ ”

Last month, I went to a meeting with Bamford in Los Angeles. It wasn’t a support-group meeting, but rather a business meeting, at a sprawling Beverly Hills office complex that’s rapidly being taken over by Netflix. As the company grows, there could be opportunity for someone like Maria Bamford, whose sensibilities don’t readily bend to those of network television but whose appeal with certain, quirk-loving audiences is well established. For the last few months, Bamford had been talking with Mitchell Hurwitz, the “Arrested Development” creator — a comic maverick in his own right — who had recently signed a development deal with Netflix, which came with an office and a mandate to launch new series.

“We’ve been drinking bottled water and eating salads and thinking out loud,” Bamford told me. “It’s how things get done in L.A.” She was dressed that day in jeans and a blue-green blouse, and when we met, in the sunshine outside the Netflix headquarters, she also wore an enormous wide-brimmed black hat. Something about it, the big, drooping hat sitting atop her thin-stemmed body, reminded me of how she likened herself sometimes to a flower, how vulnerability and resilience can coexist.

These days, Bamford credits the Depakote with keeping her stable. She sees a therapist weekly and a psychiatrist every three months. She no longer feels suicidal and remarks on that often — “It’s incredible!” she says — as if she has finally, after 33 years, shaken a persistent head cold. Following the hospitalizations, she says, it took almost eight months before she felt well enough to work at anything resembling a regular pace.

There’s a sweetness attached to her newfound balance: Bamford is in her first sustained romantic relationship, with an artist named Scott Marvel Cassidy, whom she met in early 2013 on OkCupid.com, advertising herself under the user name Hogbook. (“I used to have a profile that suggested I was fun-loving and happy,” she says. “But Hogbook felt more honest.”)

When Bamford and I walked into Hurwitz’s office that day, he embraced her warmly. Hurwitz is effusive and has a quick-moving wit. The show they were discussing would be based roughly on Bamford’s life experiences, including, possibly, her stays in the psych ward. “I guess what I want to do is make mental illness feel more normal, more like a regular thing,” Bamford said. The question was how to develop the central character and give her a compelling narrative arc. Hurwitz mentioned that a few nights earlier he sent an email to Bamford, wondering what the Maria character’s trajectory should be. “What’s she aiming at?” he wanted to know. To which Bamford replied, only partly joking, “Maria don’t do trajectories.”

Conversations about ambition, especially since her hospitalizations, cause her to blanch. She has cut back on her travel, doing only a couple of shows on the road per month. She continues to do voice-over work and has had some small television parts, but she no longer goes to auditions, understanding that her oddball style is unlikely to land her any conventional roles. When she does things now, they are very much on her own terms. Her latest special — called “The Special Special Special!” which she made available for download late in 2012 — was released in May on Netflix. Rather than filming a live theater performance, as most comics do, she chose to stage her act in the comfort of her own living room in Eagle Rock. Lit by amateurish spotlights and with a keyboardist playing music during transitions, Bamford delivers a rollicking 45-minute set to an audience of two — her parents — who sit on her sofa, trying to look appreciative, clapping and laughing even as she mimics them. It makes for a weirder and funnier show and also, as her comedy often does, makes a subtler point about the burden families bear.

Critics have called Bamford’s special “hilarious,” “fearless” and “brilliant.” Riding alongside the compliments is a perceptible whiff of anticipation, a sense that she’s sitting on the edge of bigger things. The question of how hard to push herself, however, openly perplexes her. In our conversations, she fretted over whether it was O.K. to be a marginally productive comic, wondering if, in dialing back her time on the road, for example, she was being self-protective or just lazy. “I look at people who are hustling,” she said on the day we drove to Albany. “They’re working their butts off and doing a great job, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to be that person. I mean, I think there’s a reason I’m not famous.”

Bamford even has a bit about her productivity in her routine: “People want to know: ‘So what are you working on? What’s going on with you? What’s the next page? What’s coming up for you? What’s on the horizon?’ ” she says, adopting the fatuous voice of someone making small talk. “And I say: ‘Oh. I’m done. . . . Yeah, I finished early. I’m actually living in a gravy boat filled with delicious gravy.’ ”

I got to see her do that bit in May after we finally reached Albany that night. Bamford had worried about ticket sales, but the house was full. She’d worried that the comic opening for her, an energetic young New Yorker named Joyelle Nicole Johnson, wouldn’t make it to the theater on time, but she did. Twenty minutes before the show, Bamford sat on a worn couch in the greenroom with her legs crossed, anxiously reading her copy of “The Procrastinator’s Handbook,” which was filled with sentences she’d underlined in ballpoint and drawn big stars next to in the margins. Soon, the stage manager would come to get her and the house lights would dim. Soon, she’d be out there, making her case for the mentals and hearing people laugh in recognition. They always did. Earlier, in describing the stage fright, she told me that she knew that performing wasn’t exactly a life-or-death thing. But somehow, it still felt like an exercise in overcoming.

Newborn twin died from massive brain injury just 24 hours after doctor ‘pulled him around like a rag doll during bungled delivery’

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A newborn twin died from a massive brain injury just 24 hours after a doctor pulled him around ‘like a ragdoll’ during a bungled delivery, a medical tribunal heard.

Harry Page, who was upside down in his mother’s womb in a breech position, was pulled by his feet with such force by Dr Anupama Ram Mohan his father feared his neck would snap, it was claimed at a medical tribunal in Manchester.

Harry was eventually delivered by Mohan – who was said to be ‘gritting her teeth – but the infant had already suffered injuries to the base of his skull causing traumatic hemorrhaging, and he died the following day.

Harry Page, who was upside down in his mother Vicki's womb in a breech position, was pulled by his feet with such force by Dr Anupama Ram Mohan his father Owen (pictured with Mrs Page) feared his neck would snap

Harry Page, who was upside down in his mother Vicki’s womb in a breech position, was pulled by his feet with such force by Dr Anupama Ram Mohan his father Owen (pictured with Mrs Page) feared his neck would snap

Dr Mohan, pictured, is accused of inappropriately delivering Harry, who died less than one day later

Dr Mohan, pictured, is accused of inappropriately delivering Harry, who died less than one day later

Dr Mohan, who trained in India before working in Oman, had only been at the John Radcliffe for four months and was working as a specialist trainee registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology. She was later accused of lying at an inquest into the tragedy.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service was told the incident occurred in 2012 after Harry’s mother Vicki was taken to the Oxford hospital to have Harry and twin brother Ollie induced.

Ollie was born safely at 1am on December 15, with Harry following shortly afterwards. His legs and body were delivered easily but Mohan encountered difficulties when trying to release his head.

Harry’s father Owen, 51, a warehouse manager, told the tribunal he became concerned when midwife Jane Bruce asked Dr Mohan, ‘why are you rushing this?’.

Mr Page, of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, said: ‘Harry was being pulled round like a ragdoll. It appeared she was pulling him side-to-side and up and down.

‘His legs were almost touching my wife’s stomach…. It appeared to me at the time that Dr Mohan was gritting her teeth to do this procedure, she had a really tight face.

‘Watching the movement and the force and the look on her face worried me. I thought it was an uncontrolled procedure. She then let him hang there with no support for a period of time before she did the same procedure again.. She was standing there with her hands down by her waist. On the second manoeuvre he literally popped out.

‘Initially I thought Harry’s neck was going to stretch, break or give in. I was horrified by it. It looked like it was so stretched it was going to snap.’

HR director Mrs Page, 35, added: ‘I felt it was aggressive when I was there and I was looking at others for reassurance and didn’t get that when I looked at people’s faces so I was concerned.’

At 4am Harry was rushed to the resuscitation unit when his condition quickly deteriorated. By 2am on December 16 he was dead, with later examinations revealing he had suffered a massive brain injury while being born.

Mrs Page said: ‘I believe the manoeuvre she carried out caused his death and it was irreversible as the consultant told us on the day we turned his life support machine off.’

The hearing was told Mohan had tried two different procedures to deliver Harry – the Burns Marshall and the Mauriceau Smellie Veit. She initially tried the Burns Marshall method then the MSV before returning to the original procedure.

General Medical Council lawyer Paul Raudnitz said: ‘Dr Mohan performed the Burns Marshall but did so in such a way she brought the legs of Harry greater than the vertical and near to Mrs Page’s abdomen.

‘She has accepted she attempted a Burns Marshall, but denied it was with any force and, in particular, she has consistently denied that she brought the legs greater than the vertical. She has said she went on to perform MSV and maintained that that was successful in delivery.

‘She has denied there was any attempted, successful or otherwise, second Burns Marshall. Whether she brought the legs greater than the vertical in one or more of the Burns Marshall manoeuvres the GMC say the way she performed is part of the issue.

‘Should it be found she brought the legs greater than the vertical then we would say that the standard of care was seriously below that expected of a reasonably competent registrar in obstetrics.’

Mr Raudnitz added that Dr Mohan, 51, of Milton Keynes, then gave ‘false evidence’ to the coroner in 2013 to ‘minimise her culpability for what happened’.

Mohan denies misconduct and denies causing Harry’s death. She is also accused of failing to record issues she encountered during Harry’s birth but admits failing to record using one or more Burns-Marshall manoeuvre. She denies advising for inappropriate medication to be administered during the delivery, making false records and giving false evidence to the inquest.

Drug dealers who lived millionaire lifestyle drinking Dom Perignon and driving Lamborghinis in £5.5m heroin ring are jailed

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A gang of drug dealers who enjoyed a millionaire lifestyle after flooding the capital with more than £5.5million worth of heroin have been jailed for a total of 72 years.

The pushers bought a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, a £21,000 Rolex watch and designer threads from Paris after raking in a fortune running a string of drugs factories.

They also drove supercars including a Lamborghini and amassed an impressive collection of Dom Perignon and Cristal champagne, worth £700 a bottle.

A gang of drug dealers who enjoyed a millionaire lifestyle after flooding the capital with more than £5.5m worth of heroin have been jailed for a total of 72 years

A gang of drug dealers who enjoyed a millionaire lifestyle after flooding the capital with more than £5.5m worth of heroin have been jailed for a total of 72 years. One is seen here posed up with shopping after splashing out on designer goods

The gang also amassed an impressive collection of Dom Perignon and Cristal champagne, worth £700 a bottle

The gang also amassed an impressive collection of Dom Perignon and Cristal champagne, worth £700 a bottle

Two of the pushers are seen here laden with bags of designer goods outside a Louis Vuitton store in Paris

Two of the pushers are seen here laden with bags of designer goods outside a Louis Vuitton store in Paris

A total of 55.62kg, worth an estimated street value of more than £5.5million, was seized during a series of raids across London and Kent.

The gang brazenly photographed themselves with the ‘spoils’ of their crimes, posing to show off the soles of their designer shoes and wearing three Rolexes, said prosecutor Kerry Broom.

The supply operation, busted in February this year, was led by Warren Desmangles, described as ‘pretty close to the top of the tree’.

A total of 55.62kg, worth an estimated street value of more than £5.5m, was seized during a series of raids across London and Kent

A total of 55.62kg, worth an estimated street value of more than £5.5m, was seized during a series of raids across London and Kent

All six of the men admitted conspiracy to supply heroin
All six of the men admitted conspiracy to supply heroin
All six of the men admitted conspiracy to supply heroin
All six of the men admitted conspiracy to supply heroin
All six of the men admitted conspiracy to supply heroin
All six of the men admitted conspiracy to supply heroin

(Top and bottom, l to r) Dalwar Davis, of Walthamstow, east London; Warren Desmangles, of Canary Wharf, east London; Alistair Odoi, of Stoke Newington, north London; Darren Husbands, of Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire; Duane Watson, of Tottenham, north London; and Jason Willis, of Waltham Abbey, Essex, all admitted conspiracy to supply heroin

Money on the back seat of a car
Some of the designer watches bought by the gang

The gang brazenly photographed themselves with the ‘spoils’ of their crimes, posing to show off their three Rolexes, said prosecutor Kerry Broom

The 31-year-old was jailed for 16 years in March this year, while drugs courier Dalwar Davis, 30, received a nine-year prison sentence.

Alistair Odoi, 37, and Duane Watson, 30, were each jailed for a total of 17 years on Friday.

Desmangles’ cousin, Darren Husbands, 33, who acted as a courier, received a seven-year term, while Jason Willis, 25, got six years.

Sentencing Desmangles and Davis, Judge Anthony Leonard QC said: ‘You enjoyed the luxury trappings including watches which cost five figures to buy, and a Rolex worth £21,000.

Drugs were stashed in a rented flat conveniently located in the same block as Desmangles' home in Canary Wharf, east London, and also at Davis' home in Chingford, east London

Drugs were stashed in a rented flat conveniently located in the same block as Desmangles’ home in Canary Wharf, east London, and also at Davis’ home in Chingford, east London

A hoard of paraphernalia was also discovered, including two hydraulic presses, including the one above

A hoard of paraphernalia was also discovered, including two hydraulic presses, including the one above

Alistair Odoi, 37, and Duane Watson, 30, were each jailed for a total of 17 years

Alistair Odoi, 37, and Duane Watson, 30, were each jailed for a total of 17 years

‘You enjoyed the benefit of Cristal champagne worth £700 a bottle, and Louis Vuitton trainers costing up to £795.

‘It’s reasonable to assume you were living a millionaire lifestyle – you had that sort of money to spend.

‘You were making vast profits from the trading of buying and selling heroin on a commercial scale.’

Drugs were stashed in a rented flat conveniently located in the same block as Desmangles’ home in Canary Wharf, east London, and also at Davis’ home in Chingford, east London.

Louis Vuitton shoes bought by the gang who were 'buying and selling heroin on a commercial scale'

Louis Vuitton shoes bought by the gang who were ‘buying and selling heroin on a commercial scale’

Davis was caught red-handed dropping off some of the heroin to Desmangles during a raid on September 28 last year

Davis was caught red-handed dropping off some of the heroin to Desmangles during a raid on September 28 last year

Davis was caught red-handed dropping off some of the heroin to Desmangles during a raid on September 28 last year.

After the duo were arrested, new factories were set up in Enfield, north London; Hackney, east London; and Dartford, Kent.

A hoard of paraphernalia was also discovered, including two presses and food processors, together with numerous kilos of cutting agents including caffeine and paracetamol, and money counting machines.

Davis, of Walthamstow, east London; Desmangles, of  Canary Wharf, east London; Odoi, of Stoke Newington, north London; Husbands, of Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire; Watson, of Tottenham, north London; and Willis, of Waltham Abbey, Essex, all admitted conspiracy to supply heroin.

Davis also admitted a further charge of possessing criminal property, as did Odoi, who also pleaded guilty to having a prohibited stun gun.

The hidden science behind dating success: Psychologist reveals the simple seven-step guide to make sure he comes back for more

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You can only ever have one first date with Mr Right, so for singletons looking for love, it can come with huge pressure to make sure he doesn’t turn into Mr Wrong.

However, for those who think they are unlucky in love, it might just be down to making some basic dating mistakes, according to emotional intelligence expert, Madeleine Mason.

Madeleine tells daters to: 'Focus on the hand when you make a point of something, on the shoulder as you rise to go to the loo, on the knee as you laugh about something'

Don’t head to a bar or restaurant for a first meeting, don’t give him too much of your time, and be more interested than interesting, she advises.

In an exclusive interview with FEMAIL, Madeleine, who is the founder of dating service passionsmiths.com, says challenging the norm that playing hard to get is the way to make him want more should also be a no-go – as playing it cool can be detrimental to your chances of success.

The key to getting a man interested in a second date? ‘Light touch and lots of laughing,’ she advises.

Here Madeleine reveals the seven points behind getting any man to come back for more.  

1. Create a great first impression – before you even meet: ‘We make snapshot decisions about our partner within a few minutes of meeting them, which are difficult to change,’ says Madeleine, who advises creating that first impression before you even meet by calling your date to arrange your night out.

‘Be upbeat and excited on the phone but without sounding too keen,’ she says. ‘And smile while you talk, even if it’s only over the phone.’ Experts say you can ‘hear’ a smile, even if you can’t see it.

The psychology: ‘Human minds have a tendency to fill in the blanks,’ Madeleine says. So when we don’t have enough information about something we create a full picture with whatever is available.

‘By calling and taking the initiative, you come across as cool, charming and collected and the person will start to make other positive assumptions about you,’ she says.

Madeleine Mason says that having a coffee on a bench is a far better first date than a fancy night out

2. Meet for a cup of coffee on a park bench: ‘While you might want to impress your date with a hot outfit or lavish dinner, if it’s the first time you meet, keep it casual and matter of fact,’ says Madeleine, who says that having a coffee on a bench is a far better first date than a fancy night out.

The psychology: Making it casual indicates that you put value on the person and not the actual night out, Madeleine says. And by showing that you are not willing to give a total stranger more than 60 minutes of your time, Madeleine also says you are illustrating your own self-respect.

‘It’s good to show that they have to put in a little effort by being nice, fun or interesting in order to get more of your time,’ she says.

3. Be interested more than interesting: ‘Ask questions of your date that demonstrate you are interested in who they are as a person,’ Madeleine says. ‘Find out about their interests, passions, hobbies, how they take their tea, how they grew up and their favourite memories.’

Not only will your interest be appreciated by your date, you will also gather information that helps you decide whether you can see yourself together romantically.

Madeleine also advises making the questions quirky. She advises asking: What is your favourite childhood cartoon character and why? If you were to be turned into an animal, what would you choose? ‘Dating is meant to be fun,’ Madeleine says. ‘So you can let go with your questioning.’

The psychology: ‘The talker – your date – will have a positive association to the listener – you – and will feel like they have had a good time,’ Madeleine says. ‘Humans are ultimately ego-centric and love nothing more than talking about themselves. There is nothing more attractive than having someone listen to you uninterrupted and un-judged.’

4. Make yourself laugh: ‘If you are bored, your date will be too,’ Madeleine says. ‘Make sure you have a good time and bring out your inner child if you need to. Dare to be different. Dare to have fun.’

The psychology: In short, emotions are contagious. ‘If you are having fun, laughing or smiling, your date will be influenced by this and end up thinking they had a good time,’ she says. ‘Although make sure you are not laughing at your date’s expense.’

5. Be vulnerable: Share something intimate about yourself, not too deep, but something that shows you have a fear or concern, Madeleine advises.

You can even tell your date that you fancy them, which also leaves you slightly vulnerable. ‘But say it without expecting an answer,’ she adds.

The psychology: ‘The more vulnerable you can be, the more you open you will be, and your date will feel safe to open up also,’ Madeleine says.

‘This creates a psychological space where you begin to feel a bond forming – the beginnings of a deeper connection.’

If there seems to be an element of trust between you are more likely to both feel inclined to go on a second date.

6. Touch your date – ever so softly: During the meeting, touch your date but keep it subtle. ‘Focus on the hand when you make a point of something, on the shoulder as you rise to go to the loo, on the knee as you laugh about something,’ Madeleine says.

The psychology: ‘Light touch can be a powerful aphrodisiac,’ Madeleine says. ‘When we get touched, we get a dose of oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel good.’

‘When we feel good, we are likely to attribute it to the person we are with. We will want more of that and say yes to a second date.’

7. Playing hard to get is old news: If you get a text, answer within 12 hours. If you are interested, act interested. Be nice. Demonstrate you are fun to be with.

The psychology: According to research, one of the most desirable characteristics people look for in a partner is kindness.

‘If you demonstrate this, you become more desirable in your date’s eyes,’ Madeleine says. ‘But note this is not the same as being a pushover, who says yes to everything or have no opinions.’

Radiation from mobiles may lead to brain damage

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Radiation from mobile phones may cause brain tissue damage, a two-year study has found.

Scientists discovered that emissions from handsets affect the delicate make-up of cells in blood vessels, and could be a health hazard to regular users of the UK’s 50million mobile phones.

The radiation might disable a safety barrier in the body which protects the brain from harmful substances in the blood, they believe.

It is the first time scientists have used cells from human blood vessels rather than rats, bringing researchers closer to the truth about long-term mobile phone use.

Despite the millions spent on research in the last decade, the health implications of sustained use are still unclear.

The biggest British study, led by Sir William Stewart, found two years ago that there was no evidence of a risk to health. A study published last year by the American National Cancer Institute also could not find a link between increased risk of brain cancer and mobile use.

But the latest study by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland – the home of mobile phone giant Nokia – has found that one hour of mobile radiation triggered potentially harmful changes in human cells.

The radiation made the cells in blood vessel walls shrink – allowing potentially harmful substances in the blood to ‘leak’ into the brain.

Repeated exposure, the study found, could make the blood-brain barrier more permeable, leading to increased brain damage.

It concluded: ‘Repeated occurrences of these events on a daily basis, over a long period of time, could become a health hazard due to possible accumulation of brain tissue damage.’

Professor Dariusz Leszczynski, who led the study, said: ‘There is massive use of mobile phones in society now; our brains are being bombarded with radiation all the time.

‘We really don’t know what the impact is going to be on people regularly using a mobile phone for ten or 20 years. That is why more studies are urgently needed.’

Mobile phone radiation may also contribute to the growth of tumours caused by other factors, he said.

He is due to present the findings at a conference in Quebec City on Monday. They were published in the German scientific journal Differentiation.

In January, a new £ 7.4million UK research programme was announced, backed by the Government and the mobile phone industry, to be managed by an international committee of experts led by Sir William.

The programme includes 15 studies which will seek clear conclusions about the health hazards of mobile phones, in particular fears of an association-between radiation and brain cancer.

Sir William blasted mobile firms earlier this year for selling phones to children, because their skulls are thinner and more at risk from the effects of radiation.

The skull of a five-year-old, for example, is as thin as half a millimetre at the ear, whereas the skull of a 21-year-old is about two millimetres.

Fears over the safety of mobile phones are soon to be tested in court in the U.S. where lawsuits filed against Vodafone have alleged personal injury, including brain cancer.

Vodafone revealed in its annual report yesterday that it is named in four lawsuits – but would be ‘vigorously defending’ the claims.

Meanwhile, the Consumers’ Association said there was still insufficient evidence to say whether mobiles are safe.

A spokesman said: ‘At the moment, it’s too soon to reach a definitive verdict on health risks from mobile phones, but neither has research given it the all clear.’

Shocking state of England’s mental health: Almost HALF of adults have battled conditions including depression – and it’s women who are most likely to suffer

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The epic scale of mental health problems in England has been exposed today as new figures revealed almost half of adults have experienced mental illness at some stage in their lives.

One in four people have been diagnosed with depression and other mental health conditions while a further 18 per cent experienced symptoms but were not officially diagnosed, today’s statistics showed.

Mental health charities have slammed the soaring number of patients being detained under the Mental Health Act as a ‘shocking’.

More women than men have been diagnosed with depression, the latest survey on mental health has found

More women than men have been diagnosed with depression and there was also a higher proportion of women with serious mental health disorders.

The poll found half of those diagnosed with a common mental health disorder, such as panic attacks and anxiety disorders, had experienced symptoms in the last 12 months.

Mental illness was more prevalent in those from lower income backgrounds and deprived areas, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) study found.

More than 5,000 adults were asked by nurses about their mental health experiences as part of the annual Health Survey for England.

The key findings of the survey include:

  • 26 per cent of all adults reported having ever been diagnosed with at least one mental illness
  • A further 18 per cent of adults reported having experienced a mental illness but not having been diagnosed
  • Women were more likely than men to report ever having been diagnosed with a mental illness (33 per cent compared to 19 per cent)
  • Depression was the most common to be diagnosed with 19 per cent of adults (13 per cent of men, 24 per cent of women
  • More women (seven per cent) than men (four per cent) said they had attempted suicide

Two fifths of respondents, 40 per cent of men and 39 per cent of women, who had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness also said that they also had a long standing physical or mental illness.

This compared to 16 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women who had never been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said urgent action was needed.

‘These are shocking figures, all the more so because the scale of mental illness is already known but too often ignored,’ she said.

They highlight the astonishing rates of depression, self harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts experienced by one in four people.

‘Sadly, mental health services have been starved of resources over the years, often leaving the needs of the many desperately ill people who contact helplines like SANE’s unmet.

‘They report that when the worst happens and they can no longer endure their mental pain there is still nowhere to turn and no safe place to find sanctuary.

‘When will the revolution in mental healthcare promised by the Government this week become a reality?’

Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, said he was pleased to see the health survey including mental health for the first time.

‘These results underline just how prevalent mental health problems really are, ‘he said.

‘They can happen to anyone at any time.

‘That’s why we not only need to talk more openly about them but also ensure that health and other services are adequately resourced to cope with demand and get people the help they need, when they need it.’

Rachel Craig, head of health surveys at NatCen Social Research, which collected the data, said: ‘This survey leaves us in no doubt as to the prevalence of mental ill health in England.

‘As many as one in four people suffer from a mental illness at some time in their lives and one in five with depression.

‘Despite it affecting so many of us, prejudice against people with a mental illness still exists and there is some resistance to the provision of community care for people suffering with mental ill health.

‘Men are more likely to hold prejudiced and less tolerant views than women. But there is evidence that if you know someone with a mental illness you are less likely to hold negative views.’

It comes just months after a shocking report revealed the number of people being sectioned has risen by 10 per cent in a year.

Charities blamed a lack of hospital beds for psychiatric care and failing community care for the sharp spike in involuntary admissions.

In the last year, 58,400 people have been detained – an increase of 5,220 on the same period in 2013/14.

The shocking rise followed reports that mental health trusts in England have seen their budgets fall by more than 8 per cent in real terms over the last five years.

Speaking to MailOnline at the time, Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said she was not surprised by the escalating problem.

‘The only way that you can receive care and treatment now is to be sectioned,’ she said.

‘In the past there used to be over 90 per cent of people in psychiatric hospitals who were voluntary.

‘Now because they have closed so many hospitals, there are so few psychiatric beds available that people are having to section themselves to get the help they need.

‘There has been a dramatic rise in self-harm, not just among young people, and suicide rates are going up.

‘This is a direct result of closures of psychiatric beds and the lack of provision.’

Shocking video reveals the horror of babies born addicted to drugs: Newborns tiny legs shudder uncontrollably during heroin withdrawal – as it’s revealed an opioid-addicted child is born every 19 minutes in the US

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Wailing, muscle clenching and gasping for breath accompany the disturbing fit-like seizure.

But, what makes the image all the more heartbreaking, is the newborn baby’s diagnosis.

Despite being just weeks old, the tiny baby is suffering the effects of drug withdrawal, having been born addicted to opioids.

Every 19 minutes a child in the US is born with an opioid addiction – a devastating affliction inherited from their drug-addict mothers.

While for most newborns the first precious weeks of life are full of love, care and adoration, for babies born addicted to drugs their first weeks are long, agonizing and distressing as they battle neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The condition can cause babies to tremble and wail inconsolably, clenching their muscles and sometimes gasping for breath – as they go through drug withdrawal.

The video is part of an investigation by Reuters into the horrifying reality facing babies born with drug dependencies inherited from their drug-addicted mothers while in the womb.

The US is in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic that extends to pregnant women.

More than 130,000 children in the US were born addicted to drugs over the last decade.

Each of them have suffered the symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome, which are similar to those of adult heroin addicts who go ‘cold turkey’ in an effort to beat their dependence.

A 12-year-old federal law – called the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act – calls on states to take steps to safeguard these babies after they leave the hospital.

But, the effort is failing across the nation – and endangering children.

One mother, Jennifer Lacey Frazier recently completed drug treatment and parenting classes.

However, the help came too late to save her daughter, Jacey.

The baby inherited her mother’s blue eyes – and Frazier’s dependency on drugs.

Jacey spent two weeks suffering withdrawal, a result of the methadone Frazier took during pregnancy to control an addiction to prescription painkillers.

Six months later, the girl was dead – the victim of a lethal dose of methadone Frazier mistakenly gave her.

Frazier said in a letter from prison: ‘I wish social services had been at my home investigating, talking to me, checking on Jacey.

‘I didn’t just slip through the cracks in the system; I fell through the canyon into hell.’

The investigation identified 110 cases since 2010 that are similar to Jacey’s – babies and toddlers whose mothers used opioids during pregnancy and who later died preventable deaths.

Being born dependent on drugs didn’t kill these children.

Each of them recovered well enough to be discharged from the hospital.

Yet, what sealed their fates was being sent home to families ill-equipped to care for them.

More than 40 of the children suffocated.

Thirteen died after swallowing toxic doses of methadone, heroin, oxycodone or other opioids.

In one case, a baby in Oklahoma died after her mother, high on methamphetamine and opioids, put the 10-day-old girl in a washing machine with a load of dirty laundry.

The cases illustrate fatal flaws in the attempts to address what President Barack Obama has called America’s ‘epidemic’ of opioid addiction.

The crisis is fed by the ready availability of prescription painkillers and cheap heroin.

In 2003, when Congress passed the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act, around 5,000 drug-dependent babies were born in the United States.

That number has grown dramatically in the years since.

Using hospital discharge records, Reuters tallied more than 27,000 diagnosed cases of drug-dependent newborns in 2013 – the latest year for which data are available.

On average, one baby was born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes.

The federal law calls on states to protect each of these babies, regardless of whether the drugs their mothers took were illicit or prescribed.

Healthcare providers aren’t simply expected to treat the infants in the hospital.

They are supposed to alert child protection authorities so that social workers can ensure the newborn’s safety after the hospital sends the child home.

But most states are ignoring the federal provisions, leaving thousands of newborns at risk every year.

And statutes or policies in the remaining five states are murky and confusing, even for doctors and child protection workers.

In three-quarters of the 110 fatalities identified, the mother was implicated in her child’s death; in others, her boyfriend, husband or another relative was.

In 75 of the cases, child protection workers were notified but didn’t take protective measures specified in the federal law.

In many cases, hospitals didn’t report a drug-dependent baby’s condition to social services and the child died after being sent home.

Clorissa Jones was addicted to drugs when she gave birth to her first son, Jacoby.

Ms Jones said: ‘I was in labor, in the bathroom shooting heroin, about to give birth to my child.’

She continued using drugs after Jacoby was born.

Ms Jones eventually lost custody of the boy crashing her car into a parked vehicle while on the way to buy drugs – with 22-day-old Jacoby in the back seat.

She then learned she was seven weeks pregnant with her second child.

At the time, she was smoking crack and doing heroin – but losing custody of Jacoby was the wake-up-call she needed to try to kick her addiction.

She entered a rehabilitation program for addicted mothers at Johns Hopkins University.

Her second son, Braxton, was born with a dependence to methadone, which she was taking to kick her heroin habit.

Braxton went through withdrawal for the first two weeks of his life, but is largely healthy – although he has trouble feeding.

Ms Jones retained custody of Braxton and is supposed to get custody of Jacoby back this month.

But, programs such as the ones at John Hopkins are few and scattered across the country.

Braxton was born addicted to methadone, which is what Ms Jones was taking to help get over her heroin addiction. The boy is mostly healthy now, but has trouble feeding. Ms Jones has maintained custody of him thanks to her participation in the rehab program - and she will get custody of Jacoby back this month too

Former US Representative Jim Greenwood, a Republican from Pennsylvania who authored the provisions in  the 2003 federal law, said: ‘The fact that the mother is in treatment is a good thing.

‘But that doesn’t prove that she has a place to live that’s safe.

‘It doesn’t prove that she knows how to parent.… It doesn’t say anything about the baby’s situation.

‘And this is all about protecting the baby.’

Bipolar sufferer who was paralysed after jumping 50ft from fourth floor balcony thinking she could fly becomes online and TV star

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A bipolar sufferer who was paralysed after jumping 50ft from a balcony thinking she could fly has become an inspirational figure for a new TV documentary.

Rachel Edwards, from Stradbroke in Suffolk, was told by doctors that she would never walk again after taking the plunge from the fourth floor in November 2009.

Miss Edwards (left) crushed one of her vertebrae and medics had to rebuild her spine using metal rods and part of her hip

She was so ill at the time that she thought she was able to fly.

Unknown to Miss Edwards she was suffering from bipolar disorder – a mental condition which causes a person to experience episodes of extreme elation and depression.

When she jumped she was deep in the hands of an episode which had made her think she could fly.

But instead she crushed one of her vertebrae and medics had to rebuild her spine using metal rods and part of her hip.

Six years on, she is helping others by raising awareness of the condition in a new BBC documentary The Not So Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive: 10 Years On, which will be broadcast tomorrow.

She said: ‘My accident is not what a lot of people assume. I have heard it all.

‘High on drugs, drunk, a skiing accident. I got pushed off a balcony, a car accident, fell down stairs at train station and beaten up by my boyfriend.

‘I didn’t intend to hurt myself at all.

‘I was not with it at the time at all. I was very unwell and none of it was my fault.

Rachel Edwards being filmed for the BBC One documentary The Not So Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive: 10 Years On

‘I was unlucky to get ill and have this accident but on the other hand I am very lucky to have survived.

‘So many people with bipolar have had similar feelings of being invincible and have had awful accidents and have not survived, so I do know how lucky I am and how much worse off I could of been.’

She said: ‘I am able to use my own experience of having depression to help others who experience low mood, stress, anxiety and depression..

‘By using the story of my accident and depression where appropriate I get to show people that you can recover.

‘I also encourage them to take control of their recovery, which is different for each individual. I use how I have battled back from a difficult situation as my example.’

Her blog quickly garnered thousands of hits and attracted the attention of a BBC film crew making a documentary about bipolar.

Miss Edwards still experiences pain and receives care from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

She said: ‘The crew wanted to focus on recovery, and filmed me at the gym and pool, out with my friends and while I was on a training course.

‘They also interviewed my mum, who along with my dad played such a big part in my recovery.

‘It was quite strange being filmed, but I soon forgot the camera was there. I’m looking forward to watching it.’

The programme is the follow-up to the award-winning Secret Life of a Manic Depressive’, which told the story of Stephen Fry.

Tomorrow’s broadcast highlights the way attitudes and treatment for bipolar disorder have changed since the actor and writer was diagnosed with the illness in 2006.

As well as filming Miss Edwards, her friends and family, the crew also shadowed her in her job and followed NSFT mental health practitioner Peter Henson.

Miss Edwards with some of her friends as she lays down in her pyjamas in a hospital bed

He works closely with her, as he carried out a care plan review, which records and individual’s mental, spiritual and physical needs.

Mr Henson said: ‘Bipolar can be very serious and our role is to help make sure people stay on the middle path.

‘We look for any signs of mania or triggers so that we can protect the individual from that elevated mood, as well as observing for low mood or suicidal thoughts.

‘Our job is damage limitation.. We try and prevent their problems from getting that severe while making sure they are on the best medication to help their individual circumstances.’

Why using a computer can cause depression

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Sitting in front of a computer screen for five hours a day can dramatically increase the risk of depression and insomnia, new research suggests.

Previous studies have focused on how too much screen time can cause physical afflictions, such as headaches, eye strain, and backache.

Now one of the biggest ever investigations into the hazards of computers in the workplace has concluded that they can also damage mental health.

In a three-year survey of 25,000 workers, many complained of feeling depressed, anxious and reluctant to get up for work in the mornings.

They were also plagued by broken sleep and reported problems getting along with fellow employees.

The study by researchers at Chiba University in Japan, concluded that bosses should limit the time their staff spend on computers.

Lead researcher Dr Tetsuya Nakazawa said: ‘ This result suggests the prevention of mental disorders and sleep disorders requires the restriction of computer use to less than five hours a day.’

The results, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, showed one in four staff spent at least five hours a day at their terminal.

Once they crossed that threshold, the

dangers of psychological disorders setting in appeared to increase dramatically.

British experts said working alone at a computer for hours on end could lead to a sense of isolation, even in a busy office.

Psychology Professor Cary Cooper from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology said concern was growing over mental health problems caused by working with computers.

‘We are finding that people are working with machines as opposed to other people,’ he said. ‘The problem is not just sitting in front of a computer but the fact that people don’t take a break and cannot prioritise what they are doing.

‘They are overloaded then they worry about the work they are not doing.

‘People are not interacting with each other and the longer you do that, the less work meets your social needs.’

Professor Brian Shackel, from Loughborough University, agreed: ‘ Even in a full office, the likelihood is staff would have targets to meet, so the opportunities for social chit-chat would be considerably diminished.’

Dr Nakazawa insisted the findings were not just due to staff being in repetitive jobs.

‘They performed different types of work,’ he said. ‘The computers were different, as were the working environments. Even so, our results were extremely consistent over a three-year period.’

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said bosses had a duty under the 1974 Health and Safety Act to protect the mental as well as physical health of staff, even though psychological damage was harder to prove.

Multi-lingual psychology student who had fillers, extensions and contact lenses to look like Barbie wonders why she isn’t taken seriously anymore

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A talented multi-lingual psychology student has spoken out about how she isn’t taken seriously because she loves the fake Barbie look.

Ashton Clarke, 22, is currently a clinical psychology research assistant and student at The University of Tennessee, and hopes to obtain a PhD. She also speaks four languages and is an exhibited artist.

However, despite her accomplishments, Ashton says her fondness for the ‘fake’ look means that she is often underestimated by her peers.

Ashton Clarke, 22, a talented multi-lingual psychology student at Tennessee University, has spoken out about how she isn’t taken seriously because she loves the fake Barbie look

At the age of 16, Ashton gave herself a dramatic makeover and started styling herself like a Barbie doll.

To emulate the look, she dyes her hair blonde, applies fake tan, undergoes lip fillers and wears contouring make-up, false eyelashes, hair extensions and coloured contact lenses, spending nearly $1,000 on maintaining her look.

Although Ashton, from Knoxville, Tennessee, feels happier and more confident as ‘Barbie’, people are quick to judge her on appearance.

Ashton said: ‘For years, I was terrified of doing the “Barbie look” because I thought people would make fun of me.

‘But for me when I look “fake”, I feel more like “me” than I ever have in my life. This is how I like to look. It may not be natural but it’s “me”.

‘People are always so taken back when they meet me because I don’t fit into the stereotypical mould they’ve placed me in because of my “artificial’ appearance. They expect me to be an airhead or shallow.’

Ashton has gained a considerable online following through her inventive make-up tips and extraordinary before-and-after photos.

She hopes to challenge the Barbie stereotype.

Ashton continued: ‘There are so many individuals who believe that you can’t be a successful academic whilst also dedicating time to your appearance.

‘I want to show that it is possible. Make-up is an art and looking like a Barbie is just one of my many interests.’

As a child, Ashton – who speaks Norwegian, Persian and Spanish as well as her native English – suffered from acute shyness.

Ashton said: ‘Growing up, I was extraordinarily shy. But when I was around 14-years-old I came across a book about theatrical make-up.

‘I was fascinated with all the methods and materials that can be used to transform a face.

‘I had always associated the “Barbie look” with confidence and, being so painfully shy, the possibility of feeling confident and beautiful was very appealing.

‘It’s also a look that was so opposite to my natural appearance. I started viewing physical modification and make-up as an art.’

However although Ashton was fascinated by the Barbie look, she was initially too nervous to wear make-up in public and feared that her classmates would mock her appearance.

She explained: ‘When I was 14 my experiments with make-up were private. I was terrified that my classmates would poke fun at me and that I would not be taken seriously.

‘But each year, I started to care less and less about what people thought.

‘And when I was around sixteen, I dyed my hair blonde, bought extensions, began self-tanning, contouring with make-up and overdrawing my lips.

Ashton's make-up and exaggerated pout was more unusual at the time. 'This was before the Kardashians started contouring and Kylie was doing the whole lip liner thing, so I stood out,' she said.

Ashton’s make-up and exaggerated pout was more unusual at the time. ‘This was before the Kardashians started contouring and Kylie was doing the whole lip liner thing, so I stood out,’ she said.

‘This was before the Kardashians started contouring and Kylie was doing the whole lip liner thing, so I stood out.’

When Ashton underwent a huge transformation and finally unveiled her Barbie look to her classmates, their response was disapproving.

She said: ‘The initial reaction from my schoolmates was pretty negative. I got a lot of people telling me that I looked fake and that I should look more natural.

‘They told me that the artificial look wasn’t me. But inside I finally felt like my true natural self.

‘There are so many reasons why some people prefer a more artificial look.

‘It can be as harmless as wanting to look like a doll because it’s fun. People should not be judged for it.’

In spite of the backlash and criticism from her peers, Ashton went on to excel in her studies, gaining a place on the psychology course at University of Tennessee.

She was one of only a handful of undergraduate research assistants selected to conduct research in the University’s clinical psychology department and is applying for PhD programs.

‘Pursuing the Barbie look improved my life massively. With all the criticism, I’ve developed a thick skin when it comes to my appearance,’ said Ashton.

‘I also began to feel more confident, as I had hoped, and I felt like I had a great outlet to express myself artistically.

‘I like the artificial look because it’s a wearable express of myself. Without make-up, my face is just random skin and bone that I didn’t choose.

‘With make-up, my look is intentional. It’s me. Yet most people will look at me and think I’m an airhead or shallow and materialistic. It’s quite entertaining to be underestimated though.

‘However, when I’m in an academic setting, it’s a little more serious.

‘I always make sure to demonstrate to my professors early on that I’m capable and my make-up hobby does not hinder my ability to do research or write excellent papers. It’s just one of my many interests.

‘Although I think it’s sad that there’s such a stigma in academia against women who appear overly feminine.’

To emulate the look, Ashton dyes her hair blonde, applies fake tan, undergoes lip fillers and wears contouring make-up, false eyelashes, hair extensions and coloured contact lenses

Three years ago, Ashton started a blog about the Barbie look and it gained a large following. Fans of her tumblr page regularly praise Ashton’s make-up skills and the images showing her incredible transformation have gone viral.

Ashton – who is single – explains: ‘When I started my blog in 2012, it was originally just an archive of photos of girls that I personally found aesthetically inspiring. For instance, I really like the way Kylie Jenner is doing the Barbie look.

‘I was surprised when people took interest my blog. That was totally unexpected, but it’s given me the opportunity to connect with other people who like experimenting with hair and make-up.

‘I feel comfortable in my skin. And I’m not afraid of showing my ‘before’ photos because I really do take pride in it. Make-up is an art.

‘It’s liberating to simply look the way you want to look without worrying what people think about it.

‘The comments I get on the blog are overwhelmingly positive and I’m so thankful for my followers. They mean a lot to me.

Ashton loves to experiment with her look, but has always emulated the Barbie look because it gives her confidence. 'I feel comfortable in my skin. And I'm not afraid of showing my 'before' photos because I really do take pride in it. Make-up is an art,' she said.

‘The positive feedback is well-worth any hate comments. When someone makes a rude comment on my photos, I make sure to let them know that my make-up isn’t for them. It’s for me.’