Sudoku and Neurotransmission

There’s nothing that can convince me that this life is meant to be as complicated as we make it. There’s nothing that can convince me that we will ever find all of the answers, and to think that we have some already is naive and wishful. These are the things I think about as I backtrack in my Sudoku game, something I used to hate doing as a child because I could never get it right the first time. I have once in my life, but that was in a bout of mania. As much as I like to think it was my own brain power, it was really just a flood of neurotransmitters doing all the work.

250px-sudoku_puzzle_by_l2g-20050714_solution_standardized_layout-svgI was thinking about this the other day, about neurotransmission and Sudoku, and how they both have algorithms to describe their process. We have more neural connections in our brain than we have estimated stars in our galaxy. 1000 times more, to be exact. Sudoku has a bunch of different number possibilities, but only one answer. I fear neurotransmission is not as simple.

We have an algorithm for the probability of neural transmission: when certain neurons will fire and the chance of that happening, essentially. I believe if we do wish to describe the processes that happen in our brain, math will be the catalyst for success in that field. There are too many connections, too many variables, to settle on an explanation as simple as, say, a chemical imbalance.

I came across an essay in PLOS medicine titled “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the Scientific Literature.” This is a big deal. Although published in 2005, their words are still very relevent today. I’m sure you have heard in commercials about psychiatric medication that “so and so disorder is a chemical imbalance, and [insert drug] works to correct that balance”. Notice they will never explain how or why, because they simply don’t know. We don’t know.

And that’s where my area of study will be, once I do graduate: let’s explore this idea of chemical imbalance and what it may mean. My ultimate goal? Disprove the theory.

That’s a long way off, and it may only be a pipe dream, but I believe I can catalyst a different type of thought in the mental health community by proving, scientifically, mathematically, whatever you want to call it, that something like a chemical imbalance cannot possibly exist. Why?

As the essay says:

Attempts were also made to induce depression by depleting serotonin levels, but these experiments reaped no consistent results [9]. Likewise, researchers found that huge increases in brain serotonin, arrived at by administering high-dose L-tryptophan, were ineffective at relieving depression.

As it also says:

Contemporary neuroscience research has failed to confirm any serotonergic lesion in any mental disorder, and has in fact provided significant counterevidence to the explanation of a simple neurotransmitter deficiency. Modern neuroscience has instead shown that the brain is vastly complex and poorly understood.

And of course, let’s not forget:

There is no scientifically established ideal “chemical balance” of serotonin, let alone an identifiable pathological imbalance. To equate the impressive recent achievements of neuroscience with support for the serotonin hypothesis is a mistake.

comic-bubble-hmm_1609021If there is no established balance, there, logically, cannot be an imbalance. This article focuses purely on serotonin and depression, but this in fact relates as well to the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia and any other neurotransmitter they claim causes certain mental health issues. These studies are indeed correlational and not experiments. What does this mean for us that struggle mentally?

It means the door is open again. It means we can find a different explanation. It means we can focus on genes. We can focus on environment. We can focus on the way society structures thought–how we’re taught to think about ourselves in the first place. We can focus on things we can change, rather than this pipe dream that a little pill that may or may not cause more harm to our bodies/brains than good, can cure anything at all.

To deny that there is a biological component would be ignorant of me. To accept the propaganda that pharmaceutical companies place in front of my eyes would be even more ignorant of me.

There could be a chance that neurotransmission is just like Sudoku, and that perhaps there is one single answer and we just have to back track and back track and back track until we find the right numerical composition. But more than likely that isn’t the case. This isn’t a pattern devised by a computer. This is a pattern devised by universal chaos and quantum processes. What is there to correct? What’s created by nature is created by nature, and for us to label that right or wrong, normal or abnormal, is rather selfish and egotistical.

What else could it be, if not a chemical imbalance then? We could brainstorm ideas for hours. Genetics–if your mother has what we label as schizophrenia, there’s a greater chance you will too. But stop. It also depends on: Environment. There’s a striking number of people who receive this label who have been through some type of sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe emotional abuse, and often voices and delusions reflect this pain. What does that tell us? That deep pain that isn’t processed properly leaves a lasting stamp on our neural connections, and turns something on and off in our genetics. Socio-economic status plays a role: think of all the homeless people you see wandering the street talking to themselves. Assume they are not on drugs, and you’re dealing with a mental health issue. You think it’s easy to get well in poverty? You think there isn’t trauma in poverty? What effect does trauma have on the brain? There are studies on this, but what does it mean for neural connections? What does any of the things I just mentioned mean?

That’s what I plan to study in my life. I’ve given up the fight against these pharmaceutical people. I can’t fight a corporation. But I can fight their bullshit research with real research.

Ironic, considering Research Methods is my LEAST favorite class.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

 

 

The Benefits of Holistic Choices for Mental Health

I come from a long lineage of depressed people. I picked up the depressive torch at a very young age and in my teenage years, my depression became so severe that I sought help. I soon found out I only had two choices available to me: 1. Talk therapy or 2. medication.

I began with talk therapy, but those sessions left me exhausted from sobbing and with more terrible feelings. I knew I had to do something else if I was going to survive, so I agreed to take medication, even though every fiber of my being told me this was not a good idea. This was in the 1990’s and Prozac was gaining acclaim as a miracle drug. I was given a prescription and within a month of taking it, I attempted to take my own life. As I was “recovering” in a forced two-week stay in a psychiatric ward, I refused any other medication.

This was the start of my 20-year journey to search out alternative and natural solutions for my mood disorder. I scoured old bookstores and obscure websites and I started to find that there were effective non-medical solutions to the symptoms that plagued me. I wondered why no one was talking about this.

As a result of my research, I have found many effective alternatives to medication that have worked for me and others. I have listed a few of my favorites here as a starting point for you to research. My main message is this: there are many effective things we can do to heal from mood disorders that do not involve taking pharmaceutical medications. In fact, there are so many different modalities available, I started a website to compile them at www.AlternativeMentalHealthRevolution.com.

  1. Amino Acids- This is by far my first choice for effective, natural mental wellness. Amino acids are affordable, safe, and fast-acting. I have personally experienced relief within 5 minutes by taking certain amino acids. It took me quite a while to try them out because the information was overwhelming. I didn’t know which ones to take, how much, and which brand. Then I stumbled upon the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, and this book explained in detail about how to use amino acids. The author includes a quiz at the beginning of the book that helps people identify which aminos might be effective, based on symptoms. There’s also wonderful information about thyroid and adrenal health, two other root causes of depression-like experiences.
  2. Food- The old adage is true: you are what you eat. Even if you try to eat well, there are ingredients in modern food that can be problematic for people prone to depression and anxiety. For instance, the government requires food manufacturers to add synthetic folic acid to processed foods. The problem with that is more than half the population has a genetic mutation known as MTHFR that doesn’t allow them to process this food additive well. You may want to look into getting tested for this, or you can simply avoid foods with synthetic folic acid. Other ingredients in food may also contribute to mental health symptoms like: casein (dairy) or gluten (wheat). The pesticides that are sprayed on fruits and vegetables may also be problematic for your body. Some diets that have been successful for people with mood disorders include: the paleo diet, The GAPS diet, clean eating, and Gerson therapy. It may also be helpful to get tested for food allergies so you can avoid foods that cause inflammation. Everyone is different, so getting to know what works for your body is crucial.
  3. Toxins William Walsh of the Walsh Institute has a wonderful pie chart that explains the 5 biotypes of depression. In it, he attributes one of the root cause to toxins. In modern society, we are inundated with a variety of toxins everyday, even if we’re practicing a healthy lifestyle. For instance, most of our drinking water had added fluoride, which is a known neurotoxin. Some tap water has high levels of copper, which can also contribute to mental illness symptoms. In addition, the air we breathe, and the chemicals that are in beauty products and deodorants can cause our bodies to become toxic. If you’ve received a vaccine, those contain very high levels of toxins and can cause symptoms. Many people are finding that their bodies have dangerous levels of heavy metals, including mercury and aluminum. Focusing on detoxification methods is an excellent way to start improving overall health and wellness, in addition to mental health.

These three areas are great places to start your research and begin to take your mental health into your own hands, but there are many more as well! Part of healing is the beautiful journey of really getting to know who you are and to truly love and care for yourself.

Judy Meyer, HHP, NHC is a holistic mental health coach practicing in San Diego, CA. She is the founder of alternativementalhealthrevolution.com. Follow her on Twitter @altmentalhealth or Instagram: Holistic_Depression_Coach.