It's a Physical Thing.

19 May 2014

We bloggers always appreciate the comments we get from you lovely readers (well, the nice ones that is: we get a little hurt when anyone says something negative) and this is a reply to a comment made a week or so ago.

"Why do you refer to your mental illness as physical?" This reader asked. "Please explain."

Obviously everyone's experience of mental health problems and depression is different and I can only write from my own background.

I'm bi-polar and have been for forty four years, but I didn't know this until about five years ago; in fact, for most of the episodes I didn't even know I was depressed.

How could I have not known I was depressed?

Well, mostly, because I was too darn tired to know or feel anything. I knew I was ill, of course, but it was mostly a big mystery to my GP and me. A couple of times this exhaustion coincided with sad events in my life and then I was recommended some counselling. Three months of counselling and I was better and we all patted ourselves on the back and carried on.

The times when everything in the garden was rosy but I still got ill were more confusing. There were blood tests, thyroid tests, even brain scans. Nothing showed up. "You've been over-working: you're just exhausted" was the conclusion a couple of times. "Post viral fatigue" was used on other occasions. If any episode had gone on for longer than six months I'm sure ME would have been diagnosed. None of us thought to connect my socially energetic and workaholic tendencies with the reoccurring lethargy except in a very general way.

My current GP is a bit of a depression specialist and it was she who spotted that a) the exhaustion to the point of being unable to walk more than 50 metres was depression and that b) the rapidity with which it both appeared and lifted (unconnected with circumstances) argued bi-polar. Once I had sat down and listed every incidence I could remember (right back to my mysterious and scary illness when I was seven) it became completely obvious that every two and a half years, with a clockwork regularity, I get ill. Life circumstances have nothing to do with it; bad thoughts have nothing to do with it. Therapy, counselling and drugs help me get through it, but don't stop it happening. Proactively managing the hypo mania or energy burst that occurs before each down does help and enables me to be drug free for most of the time. Having a long cycle helps there too.

So I am adamant that this is a physical thing. The symptoms are physical and mental and it is a physical change in the chemistry of my brain which is responsible for the biology of those symptoms. That's one of the reasons I am happy to take anti-depressant drugs to alleviate some of those symptoms.

So, biology, chemistry and physics; it's all science. Please, all the research scientists out there, find out how we can stop this rollercoaster! It's a fun ride sometimes, but I'll like to get off now.


A Moodscope member.

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