Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For Lack of a Brain Transplant

Sometimes I wish I didn't have this problem so I could actually fully enjoy life.  Do the drugs designed for this malady really help?  Do they really take it away?  The one time I tried SSRIs they made me feel good for a while, but was an artificial good, a drug-induced high, a feeling I knew wouldn't last.  And before long, they did nothing for me. When I tried to up the dosage, they made my heart flutter, an unfortunate side effect. Some people are helped, apparently, and are satisfied with SSRIs.  But helped is not the same as cured.  No drugs offer what the brain-chemistry-challenged really want: a brain transplant.

But is it a good idea to whine about a malfunctioning brain?  No.  People may feel sympathy, but since there's nothing they can do about your trouble, eventually they'll turn away. If you're always carrying your gloom cloud, few people will be able to stand being around you for long because that gloom is infectious.  And some people are aggressive with their gloom--sort of a not-so-nice combo platter of fear and anger.  They're miserable, but also angry that people around them are not miserable too, so they do their best to dispel any sunshine.  Sort of like the dementors.

As much as I hate the relentless marketing of antidepressants, I have to say that at least the ads are making the issue one people can talk about. And lately I've noticed the actual depiction of a gloom cloud in one of the ads. (But I must say the people carrying the clouds don't look miserable enough.)  It's too bad what they're advocating is that people who suffer from bad brain chemistry should take more and more drugs: If one isn't doing the trick, try two or three!

Anyway, I guess the answer is to just keep doing what I'm doing, since at least it allows me a measure of happiness.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Annoying Little Doom Cloud

Over the last few days, my brain chemistry's been especially bad.  There's a terrible feeling of despair hovering over me, like a curtain of doom, waiting to fall.  Of course, as usual, there's no reason for me to feel this way.  Oh, yes, there are the common reasons people my age feel bad--I'm getting older, people I care about are dying, my body is starting to fail--but those reasons exist every day. 

Yet I don't feel bad every day. Only sometimes do I focus on the sorrowful facts of life and ignore the joyful ones.  And at those times the real reason I feel bad is that my brain is depriving me of tranquility chemicals.  The lack of those chemicals causes my mind to go looking for the source of my bad feelings.  When I find it--the fact that I'm no longer young, for instance--I feel better because I now have a reason to feel bad.  I might try to fix it by eliminating what I deem to be the source of my despair, if it's possible.  If not, then I'll suffer not-too-silently, complaining to friends or family. Or I might try to block it out.

But no matter what I do in response--whether I fix it or complain about it or ignore it--chances are the bad feelings will be gone in a few days anyway when my brain chemistry changes for the better.

Being aware of that reality makes all the difference to me.  I feel terrible, but instead of looking to the world around me for a reason, I look within and realize it's just my brain chemistry doing a number on me--and that it will pass. 

Sometimes it helps to picture that dark cloud as something separate from me, like an annoying little brother following me around, pushing my buttons, cramping my style.  He wins if I let him get to me, so I try not to.  I sometimes have the urge to explain "him" to people: "Don't mind my little gloom cloud; he's always like this--a pain in the butt."

It also helps to do some scanning activities to make the feeling go away for short periods of time.  This technique is especially useful at work, where showing unwarranted emotions can be hazardous. (Can you think of a time when a coworker suddenly burst into tears for no discernible reason? Pretty strange, no?)  Fortunately, my work involves a lot of scanning, so throwing myself into such tasks automatically makes the day better.

Writing this blog is helpful in a number of ways.  I can put off the bad feelings, sort out my feelings about my dilemma, and share my insights with those who care to listen in, who might be helped with their own bad brain chemistry.

See you next time.