Thursday, April 05, 2012

Brain Ruts

Oh, Happy Snoopy Dance of Joy! The post office did its job and finally delivered my happy pills!

A good thing, too, because I was sitting here, with the happy pills slowly leaking out of my system, and feeling all of the symptoms of depression creep over me. The hopelessness, the fatalism, the inherent self-loathing, the desire to curl in on myself like a doodle-bug, and shut out the rest of the world, the fear that I will be unable to distinguish between my own self and the rest of the world while at the same time feeling profoundly alienated. Good times.

As I wrote about the last time this happened, I can observe this knowing that it is not permanent and remember a time when I thought that it was. This makes me wonder about the way that those years -- decades -- affected my own perception of myself and the world to the extent that, even medicated, I fall into the same patterns of thought.

Say you spend the first half of your life, from birth until into your twenties, unmedicated. Leaving aside the variable of your environment, you live in a state in your own head in which you are too tired on some existential level to do anything. You think that you are too lazy or too stupid to get up and do anything, to try anything  or to succeed at anything. You think that, even if you could work up the energy to get up and maybe make an attempt to do something, just because you have to if nothing else, that you are too stupid or lazy or untalented or disliked or flawed in some inherent way to succeed at it. If, by some odd chance, you do succeed, you know the success will be a disappointment anyway, because isn't everything a disappointment? You wouldn't deserve the success, besides, more so because you would find it a disappointment. So why bother trying. And then you think you are too lazy or stupid and definitely too tired to try in the first place and on and on and on.

That's the depression. Then, one day, someone gives you a pill. You take the pill every day and pretty soon, you feel as if someone took off your glasses, cleaned them off, and put them back on you. You can see clearly! You have energy! You can muster up some hope! What excitement! What  joy!

Except your story isn't over. You spent so long in your existential funk that the thinking has gone beyond a symptom of the depression and is now a belief system. Belief systems are sometimes so deeply embedded into you behavior and your cosmology that you have no idea how they operate. You have to meticulously unlearn them, if you can at all. You at least have to figure out how to work with them.

I don't think that I'm two different people on and off of the medication. I'm the same person, one can just deal while the other cannot. Me on medication, however, can figure out the belief system and decided that some of those beliefs are just  really bad ideas. Me on medication can figure out what to do with that information. Me off of medication cannot. Me off of medication is a victim of that belief system and thinks that I can never escape it.

I'm sure there is some research into the way your brain chemistry permanently affects your thoughts, even after the chemistry is under adjustment. I think of the depression as rivulets of acid burning ruts into my brain for my thoughts to follow so that, even when the acid stops, the ruts are still there.


Comrade Physioprof said...

Very interesting and compelling description of what depression--or other long-term mood disruption--can do not only to your mood, but to your cognitive thought processes.

Clio Bluestocking said...

I'm glad that you found it interesting, especially since your specialty is (one assumes) something more scientific and biological than history. You wouldn't happend to know if there is actually research on this? I remember reading a watered down report of a report in a newspaper about thoughts and brain chemistry, which probably influenced the idea in this post. Or is this not your particular field?


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