Weeping …




You can tell your day is pretty much screwed when you wake up weeping.

I don’t remember anything about the dream, apart from the pure mood of it: it was more than sad – it was tragic. I suppose it makes sense: I’m coming off the worst, and longest stretch of rapid-cycling in my life … yesterday I was mostly manic, so today it seems I’ll be mostly depressed.

I am so fucking sick of this!

Ordinary people just don’t get it – CAN’T get it, really … they pass me in the halls with a bright, happy “cheer up!” and can’t seem to comprehend that I can’t!  This isn’t a matter of willpower: my freaking brain doesn’t work like theirs! Do they think I want to feel like this? Do they think I choose to be miserable?

I have no doubt that they mean well. They genuinely want me to feel better. Their intent is good and sweet and Christian. Sadly, the actual effect of their words is to make two things clear: 1) how little most people understand mood disorders, and 2) how fucking different I am!

People tend to think of their brains as computers, but they aren’t: the heart of a computer is the binary solution set … yes or no … 1 or 0 … a human brain doesn’t work like that. Instead of a single wire, carrying a simple yes, or no, the brain is composed of hundreds of thousands of wires, in bundles, each of which carries a yes or no … 

You prick your finger on a splinter. Hundreds of nerve fibers in your finger are stimulated … each fires a signal at your brain … but the signal only goes through if enough of the nerves agree! If the signal is below a certain threshold, you may be aware of it as unpleasant, but you won’t consider it pain … where a simple wire would transmit a yes or no, nerve bundles transmit a consensus … it may seem less precise, but nothing can be further from the truth! Almost nothing in the world can be described by yes or no … a room isn’t dark or light but some variant in between. Nerves were designed to respond to real-world issues: they transmit an assessment … some nerves will be more sensitive and fire at the smallest sensation … some will be less sensitive and not fire at all, until the sensation is extreme … most will fire in the normal range – if enough nerves in a bundle fire, the signal will get through … otherwise it will not get through at all, or will get through as a minor sensation.

In the brain, there are also nerve bundles, each assigned to a different task. Some of those are assigned to regulate mood – but they work in an opposite way than the sensory nerves I just described:  if a lot of them are firing, you feel good … if only a few are firing, you feel bad.  These bundles are controlled by a neurotransmitter called serotonin: if there’s lots of it available, signals are transmitted easily, lots of nerves in the bundle fire, and the person feels good – if there’s not enough of it to go around, many nerves in the bundle won’t fire, and the person feels bad …

There are lots of other bundles, controlled by lots of other neurotransmitters, but the other ones important to this discussion are located all over the brain, and are controlled by norepinephrine … these nerve bundles deal with a huge number of sensations and actions – all of which are part of the fight or flight system:  they should be active only when a person is in extreme danger …

For bi-polars, and sufferers of Major Depressive Disorder, these bundles are active when there’s no danger at all … they are activated by extremes of  mood rather than danger (actually, in addition to danger, because the fight or flight system still functions – though, if my own experience turns out to be common, it doesn’t function as well:  things which should frighten me, don’t, while many things that other people accept as non-threatening fucking terrify me!)

I understand the mechanisms. I understand how it should work for normal people, and how it doesn’t work for me.  This understanding gives me a measure of control over things: I can tell myself that things aren’t really as bad as they seem … I can tell myself that it’s all a matter of perception, not reality.  That only works, though, when it’s only the serotonin bundles involved: when the norepinephrine bundles begin to be triggered, I have no control whatsoever!  I’m entirely at the mercy of my own brain.

And it’s cruel.


~ by dourscot on April 24, 2013.

One Response to “Weeping …”

  1. 😦 I’m so sorry you are hurting. I’m here for you. Email me if you need a friend. Being.her@gmail.com

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