Curiouser and Curiouser

Wednesday June 22, 2022

You are fascinating; did you know that?

You might have any number of responses to that. You might preen a little, run a hand through your hair and say, smugly, “Well, of course!” You might blush, look at the floor and mutter, “Glad you think so.” But you most probably will give a nervous laugh and say, “Me? No: dull as ditch water, me.”

Which only goes to show you have never gone pond-dipping with a net and a jam-jar and a magnifying glass. Because ditch water is crammed full of the most intriguing plants and creatures, all worthy of study.

Although as humans, we share 99.9% of our DNA, it is the make-up of that 0.1% which makes each of us unique.

We are unique and we have things in common. You are here reading this because you either have experience of depression or bipolar disorder, or because you are supporting someone who does.

But your experience and symptoms will be unique to you.

To understand and manage our condition, we need to get curious about it. I know I keep on about keeping records and analysing data, but it’s essential. Learning and understanding our general condition is also vital.

Ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, in 2004, I have tried to learn as much as I can about it. By now I certainly know more than most GPs! A comment on my post last week, however, expressing sympathy for the misbehaviour of my brain chemicals, made me realise I was not absolutely sure which chemicals, and just how they are misbehaving. The commenter mentioned dopamine and serotonin, and these are certainly two of the main culprits, but there is a third, and this one may be the ring-leader.

Norepinephrine, AKA Noradrenaline, works mainly as a neurotransmitter, but moonlights as a hormone on the side. As a neurotransmitter, it carries messages from one nerve cell to another nerve, muscle or gland cell. As a hormone, it is released from the adrenal glands and stimulates the fight or flight response.

Norepinephrine affects alertness, arousal, attention, energy, mood, sleep patterns and memory. Very high levels mean high energy, jitteriness, severe headaches and disrupted sleep patterns.  Low levels of norepinephrine result in depression, lethargy, anxiety, headaches and memory loss. There are other symptoms too; I have just pulled out some relevant ones.

Well, it’s all circumstantial, but norepinephrine is looking good for it.

But wait, norepinephrine is made from dopamine, so I need to find out about dopamine. And I still don’t know what causes norepinephrine levels to vary.
It’s important to find out as much as we can, but it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of research and get lost there.

Back to the point. I encourage you to get curious about yourself. Find out all you can about your condition, your triggers, what helps, and what doesn’t.

Make yourself into your own science project, and aim to get an A.

That’s an A for Alice.

A Moodscope member.

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