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.

 

 

Progress and Advocacy

I didn’t think I’d make it to 23. I thought for sure I’d kill myself before then, or get possessed into damnation and die while the priest tried exercising the demon. After the Las Vegas shooter and the stint of psychosis and hospital visits that succeeded it I wasn’t sure what was going to come next. I certainly didn’t expect to move out of my parent’s apartment, start looking for a new car, a second job, and start school again.

I still remember the first day paranoia hit me like I’d never experienced. That was the day I learned the difference between anxiety and paranoia. I was no longer anxious, I was fearful, I was suspicious, and I was sold on the idea that those classmates were jealous of me and formulating a plan to get me kicked out of college. I was for sure they were reading my blog posts and wanting to shut that down as well. On top of that, I believed a coworker was invading my body and controlling my movements, intercepting my thoughts, and preventing me from speaking. I spend days sitting in front of my computer watching YouTube with the lights off and a blanket over my head. I couldn’t go out into the kitchen and get a damn bowl of cereal without feeling my movements weren’t my own.

That was almost two years ago to this date.

Then some conflict happened at work that made me question the trust I had in myself and trust I put in others. I had just begun trusting people for the first time in my life and when that was broken things spiraled quickly out of control. I was convinced the shooter was possessed by the same demons who were possessing my coworkers and they shot all those people as a warning to me. I started seeing women with their heads spinning around like the exorcist and hearing voices telling me to strangle my cat, telling me I was a “dead man walking” (even though I’m a woman) and making my footsteps echo like I was walking through the halls of hell. They showed me where I would be in hell through dreams, and tormented me in ways that would seem normal: nightmares, bad thoughts, e.t.c., things that don’t make me look “crazy” so they wouldn’t be caught. I’d see faceless people following me down the street at night.

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I can’t put these events in order because everything sort of blends together. I worked 4 or 5 days out of the week for two consecutive weeks and it broke me. I ended up back in the hospital and that’s where I received a diagnosis of Bipolar 1, on top of my past diagnoses of PTSD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Major Depression, and GAD. Out of the hospital, I received a revised diagnosis of Psychosis NOS: considering I’ve never had a stint in Mania in my life, it made sense from a professional standpoint.

I don’t tell what my diagnoses are not because I’m ashamed but because they don’t really matter. What matters is the experience, how I cope, and how others can cope. I don’t define myself or anyone by diagnosis, I don’t call them sick, I don’t call them “mentally ill”; in fact, I regard that as an insult.

If we want to reduce something like stigma we need to advocate for ourselves in a way that shows we are the same as everyone else, but with a different perspective on things in life. The brain is as unique as a finger print, I’ve said it many times on this blog, and that essentially crushes the idea of standard identity: no one is standard, there is no standard. There is only variety.

If we want people to take mental health seriously, we need to show them we aren’t dangerous, we aren’t crazy, we aren’t sick, we aren’t ill, we are strong, empowered people who struggle and are able to cope with that struggle in whatever way we can. We are people who have a lot of offer to this world, and perspectives to share with the world. We can work, we can live independently, we can choose to take medication or not and if you don’t believe me (even though I’m walking proof of that), please refer to Soteria house with Psychiatrist Loren Mosher and this post here.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.