For many people who have never experienced major depression, it can be hard to understand why, on any given sun shine laden day, a person can be low and have no apparent reason to explain it. Those who have experienced it will tell you, there’s no question more annoying, or that can turn the pain into a burning desire to rip someone’s head off, than this one: “Why are you sad?” Even marginally intelligent people, when dealing with an actual tangible “something” that makes them emotional, can figure out a way to deal with it. Asking questions like, “What happened that’s got you down?” to a major depressive is like asking a Harley owner if her bike is broke because it needs a new fan belt.
Just chalk it up to gang warfare in the brain. As best I can tell from what I’ve read or been told, it’s like this. There’s these three stooges on the molecular level who like to call themselves “The Monoamines.” Individually they are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine*. Serotonin is a sort of “trafficker,” and deals with neurotransmitters in the brain to help move messages around. When it gets low or doesn’t show up in force, messages don’t move like they should and symptoms can occur. The other two fools are like enforcers, only in a positive way. They don’t break your knee caps when you don’t pay up, they give you a high when you do. That’s why some depressives turn into addicts – because drugs and alcohol can serve to boost these two clowns (at least for the short term). If you prefer to see the movie rather than read the book, check this video out.
Video on this Brain Gang
So you would think that someone with major depression would want to take advantage of prescription drugs that help fix these brain wire wars. Maybe save everyone else the mystery of being around them? Some do. Some have played that drug roulette and won with a solution that helps them. But try and see it from my point of view. Let’s say you just bought a shiny new sports car. Imagine someone telling you they have done the research and had some trials and would like to use this new chemical to help keep it shiny when it rains. This new batch of chemicals will not only keep it shiny when it rains, but it will keep off the dust and dirt when driving it regularly. Are you skeptical?
You should be. What are the unseen effects of this sludge that keeps your car looking so good? What if it means that your car will lose its resale value in half the time it would have otherwise? What if it looks great, but smells like a paper mill? What if it looks great, smells just like a new car, but there is a very slight chance that you will encounter circumstances while cruising that cause the chemicals in this auto-pharmaceutical to explode, killing you and everyone around you? Would you take that chance?
Never trust an MD to prescribe any kind of antidepressant. I suspect many of them work for the sludge companies. Either that, or they are just blissfully ignorant; Hippocrates be damned. I once had an MD see me for under 10 minutes, ask me a few questions about the depression I reported experiencing, and prescribe me Effexor. It was the 24 hour capsule and, although I feared taking drugs for my funk, I was desperate. I waited until bedtime and downed the thing at 9pm that night. I had the deepest, most disturbing sleep I’ve ever had … every two hours. I dreamed of dark shapes, muggy, stale air, and reptile like movements. I sat bolt-upright in a cold sweat every two hours on the dot. I felt creepy-crawlies on my body and sensed evil demonic elements all around me. I checked the clock each time, went into a brief panic-mode for fear I would not make it to the morning; then I convinced myself I preferred the dark tank of my dreams to the freakish alter-reality around my wakeful self. I had to be driven to work and home the next day, and had to get help finishing sentences on a project I was on. The drug committed homicide on every thought I had before I could finish them. It held me, a helpless hostage, until it finally wore off that evening at bedtime.
The sludge lackeys recommended I try a different sludge. Trial and error no doubt. No thanks.
There’s another, non-medical way to look at depression. Spiritually, depression is quite easily explained as severe selfishness. Don’t get flustered with me. I’m not one of those religious ignoramuses that blame people for lack of faith or prayer when they are depressed. I know this explanation sounds shocking and insensitive. Americans especially don’t like that word. Hmm. Try and see it in a non-blame way – a kind of psychological diagnosis. Because my experience is that it really applies.
Of course, don’t ever tell that to someone who might be dealing with depression unless you are just evil or cruel. Instead, ask them for some help. Seriously. Be sensitive to their stripped-down exposure by putting yourself out there with them. That’s the highest form of love. And if you have no need of help in any way (talking about a struggle you have and asking them for advice, or help moving some things from one place to another, or help getting organized) … then do this. Find a volunteer service project and tell them you need someone to go with you because you want to help, but feel awkward going alone. It’s brainwave therapy for the mind.
The chemical mafia that controls moods can affect your thinking patterns. We could argue the chicken-egg question – is it selfishness that causes depression or depression that causes selfishness? None of that is the point. When you can’t own a gun because you are afraid you might use it on yourself one day – who the hell cares about the blame game? Point is – doing things to help others and giving of your time helps shift thinking patterns and the types of things the brain focuses on. This, in turn, helps adjust production of the three stooges and can improve mood.