How Sick Are You, Pt 2

Another long stretch since I’ve written. I spent some days adjusting to medication, some days hating myself for taking medication, and other days deciding to come off of medication.

Experiment number 2984719374:

Hypothesis: I will have a burst of energy and feel-good neurotransmitters flooding the gates of my synaptic terminals, followed by an immediate and harrowing decline which will, therefore, push me inevitably towards reuniting with the medication I so despise.

Methods: I will stop both the Abilify and Trintellix and monitor my moods and/or whatever aspects of psychosis that may rear its ugly head.

Results: TBD

Discussion: TBD.

Now that we have that settled, let’s talk a bit about mental health and awareness. There are so many great people out there doing great advocacy online and in person. There are so many great Non-Profit organizations doing the same. There are even clubs dedicated to such a thing at my college campus. And yet, there are still people wary and ashamed of their mental health. Let me give an example of how this thought process is still prevalent.

Today, while sitting in my Cognitive Psychology class, we were going over, for the umpteenth time in my life, neurotransmission, synaptic terminals, receptors, antagonists and agonists, Dopamine, Gaba, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin, some of the main receptors you learn in an introduction class. It follows that we should then speak about the dis-regulation of some of those neurotransmitters, and discuss the THEORY of chemical imbalances: regarding primarily dopamine and schizophrenia, serotonin and anxiety/depression.

Again, the idea of a chemical imbalance is a (repeat after me kids):

situation-clipart-theory-5

which means it can never be proven, only dis-proven.

Anyway, that brought up the topic of SSRI’s, their side effects, and their withdrawal symptoms.

One young woman, who was probably younger than I am, raised her hand and said this:

“I was wondering about the withdrawal symptoms, because I take an SSRI, and I noticed that–well, I don’t have depression, it’s for some nerve problems–but I noticed that when I didn’t take it even for just a couple days, I was sleeping a lot, I couldn’t focus in this class . . .” and yada yada yada, personal life bullshit.

But what struck me is that she immediately discounted the experience of depression. She wouldn’t want her classmates thinking she’s “mentally ill” now would she?

And this is why I advocate for changing the culture around this term “mentally ill”. Because people are ashamed of that, of “being ill”. But what if we weren’t “ill”? What if we were perfectly well humans with a variation of neurons (a very, very, very large variation of neurons) that just so happened to result in different experiences? What if believing we are “ill” is keeping us, well, “ill-er”?

What if the perception of those experiences changed from unpleasant to being perceived as unique, variable, malleable, valuable, curious, and wonderful?

That’s not to say the struggle isn’t hard, because it’s very hard. But the harder we believe it is, the harder it will get.

Now, this could all be the feel-good neurotransmitters talking, because I started my little experiment about two weeks ago, and that is about the amount of time it takes for this poison to slowly remove itself from my body. Although, if you know anything about half-lifes, it never really goes away.

But whether or not this is me being euphoric and grandiose, I think we need to expand the discussion around neurotransmitters, and inform the public of just how wrong it is to think that the pathway of ONE SINGLE neurotransmitter leads to something as complex as what we call schizophrenia or what we call anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, any of it.

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You’ll read in a lot of studies released to the public–or at least glorified in the media–that they’ve found another link of dopamine to this, another one of serotonin to that, and it’s just not feasible that with 30-100 different molecule versions of neurotransmitters (granted there are a few that do a lot of the work) and 100 Trillion estimated neural connections plus constant variation of cell death/growth, neural connection death/growth, as well as environmental and genetic influences that dictate those neural connection and sell growths and deaths, that ONE neurotransmitter is going to be responsible for making or breaking our mental health.

Now, we can say that they are correlated. We can say we see increased dopamine in people who experience what we label as schizophrenia. But you cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT use that as CAUSATION.

Fuck I can’t stress it ENOUGH.

Psychology 101 folks: CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. 

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Dopamine may be high during what we call psychosis, but that does not mean that the high dopamine CAUSED the psychosis, or that the psychosis CAUSED the high dopamine. We haven’t learned what “causes” mental health struggles yet, that’s why chemical imbalance is a THEORY.

See how much you’ve learned already today.

And that’s what happens in a lot of these articles that are debriefed by media or science magazines online with writers who don’t know a single thing about psychology. They get hung up on correlations.

It’s also a result of research publications being manipulated to suit the needs of pharmaceutical companies.

It’s a fact that if you give someone a drug that decreases dopamine, you’ll likely see a decrease in what we call psychosis. You’ll see a decrease in a lot of other things too, and those are what we cal side-effects. But are those drugs really doing anything to the thing we call psychosis, or is it just blunting some aspects of the self? Because often “psychotic symptoms” continue during the usage of said drug.

These are all questions I can’t answer, and neither can the magazines that publish articles on published research. It’s important to read these things carefully and really take a moment to look inside of yourself and ask yourself if you want to consider yourself broken, sick, ill, and helpless.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

 

Mmmm Brains.

brain

I like brains.

I like seeing people’s brains. I like imagining poking people’s brains. I like imagining the second my finger tip touches the outer layer of the cortex, my consciousness gets sucked from my body and enters the space-time continuum surrounded by other floating brains, kind of like that one episode of Futurama, but better because it’s real.

But the main reason I like the brain is because we don’t know half as much as we think we know. I’m convinced our brains, which have named themselves, know things they don’t want us to know–or know things they know we couldn’t handle knowing. Not just about ourselves, but about the universe, the spirit world, particles, biology, consciousness, everything. Think about the layers of protection we have, biologically and strictly mentally. Our body and brain uses every last resource it can to keep us living. Why? Because it’s biologically wired that way? Maybe. But there’s nothing you can say to prove that. And there’s nothing I can say to disprove that.

There’s a new study coming out of a U.S and Japanese research team-up that has compelling evidence the brain duplicates memories upon their formation: one copy for the present, one for the past that gets carried into our future: it’s there for a lifetime. It might not be available to our consciousness for a lifetime, but it’s there.

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In Case You’re A Visual Learner

The hippocampus (short term) and the cortex (long term) are two areas of the brain we know memory is apart of. In mice, this team watched a specific cluster of connected neurons (i.e, a memory) in reaction to shock. To control individual neurons, they used beams of light and could essentially turn memories on and off. Memories were shown to form simultaneously in the hippocampus and the cortex.

These scientists say it may help us understand diseases like dementia. I’m looking at the bigger picture. Essentially, these memories are being “duplicated”. One is cemented in the brain after a few days (the long term memory) and the other is readily available. As long as the biological connection remains between the cortex and the hippocampus, the memories will be available to our consciousness.

So what of fugue? What of amnesia? What of Trauma? What could this potentially tell us about Dissociative identities?

This is why I tend to disagree with people who refuse to believe in the reality of dissociative identity. I disagree for two reasons. 1) I’ve met someone who has shared his personal experience with it. 2) If the brain duplicates memories, one for the long term and one for the short term, what do you think it would do in reaction to memories it doesn’t want to deal with?

Our brains are emotional little creatures. Torture, abuse, anything to hurt our consciousness and soul seems to tip our little brains upside down. They react different ways because each brain is unique. It has the job of not only keeping our physical body alive, but our mental one as well. It harbors everything that we know about life. Taste. Smell. Sight. Hearing. It lets us feel warmth. It hosts every single thought we’ve ever had and ever will have. We learn. Not a computer in the world can match the amount of space or the speed we have in that little jiggly meat sack in our skulls. It interprets life for us and we have no choice but to trust it.

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Could you imagine forming simultaneous memories of being beat every day, locked in a closet, given rotten food for dinner and dirty water to wash it down with?

We know maybe a millionth of what there is to know about the brain. Memories could be duplicated ten times for all we know. We can’t test shit on humans, thanks to the fucking goody-two-shoes ethics committee, so we’ll probably never know.

If the brain has memories even it doesn’t want to see, it can’t destroy them–so it relocates them. And those memories pile up and up and up until they take on a kind of life of their own. A personality of their own, you could say.

Trauma affects everyone differently. Maybe they pile up and up and manifest themselves as mood swings. Maybe they pile up and up and manifest themselves as demons crawling through your floor sinking their bloody teeth into the fleshy parts of your upper arm. Maybe they pile up and up and manifest as a racing heart beat, lightheadedness, a tingling sensation in your limbs, and racing thoughts.

Not that trauma is the only area of life responsible for experiences like that, but for those of us who have been through some kind of trauma, you know what I’m talking about.

Let’s not take everything in life at face-value. And let’s be careful not to sum up such a simply complex experience of being conscious creatures to the limited amount of biology that we know.

If you’ve seen the movie “Split”, and you understood the actual message behind it, not this weird, misguided mass opinion of “uhhhh it’s making fun of people with mental problems errrrrrrrrgaawwdd”, you also know what I’m talking about.