where does one go, when one desires to change their life, or to re-engage in life unmediated by the side-effects of psych-tropic medications? this is certainly not a path one would have the wherewith-all to travel solo, without community, without a prescribed plan, without some medical supervision. Without a group of individuals well versed in what could be expected and what remedies applied to the anticipated anxieties and psycho-medical repercussions of withdrawal.
For the past 16 years, my stability has been artificially maintained by a cocktail of SNRIs, first-resort anti-depressants, SSRIs and benzos, chuncked together to ensure a good night’s sleep, a cap on my hyperactive HPA axis, and a degree of homeostasis engineered by artificially induced psychic equilibrium in myriad ganglia of my unique beleaguered neuro-transmitter synapses.
Earlier this year, i hooked onto the Amen Clinic, thinking perhaps I might convince them to initiate a clinical trial for long term anti-depressent users, replacing our drug induced compliance with their theories regarding re-wiring the brain through new findings in cognitive and neurological discoveries on neurogenesis.
Only to discover, that Dr. Amen is now big business. A consult, just an opportunity to have him look over your fMRI runs in the thousands. A 1/2 hour consult with his clinic staff runs $150. Dr. Ahem is more involved now in promoting himself, as a regular guest on Brain Fitness shows and an inspirational speaker.
Next thought was Mill Valley’s Howard Kornfeld, whose Recovery without Walls program offers an alternative to residential treatment programs for individuals dealing with addiction to pain killers and other addictions. His practice, set in a small office in downtown Mill Valley, promotes itself as a healing community based upon its location in one of Southern Marin’s most luxuriously beautiful, hyper-elite neighborhoods (a place where many of the top 1% whose wealth has proliferated throughout the 8 years of the Bush administration reside). I know this because I am one of the ‘minority’ inhabitants of this absurd bubble community, one of the ‘real’ people who still live here, amidst the Porsches and Mercedes and the 20 plus day spas, plastic surgery and botox centers and a wellness bistro which pumps healthy infusions into the arms of the county’s eternally young, rail-thin Hermes and True Religion jeans zealots, who flock here for fresh wheat grass juice daily.
I think Big Pharma should be required to subsidize the withdrawal of the millions of Americans they have addicted to their anti-depressants and mood stabilizers in lieu of the billions they pour each year into ‘direct to consumer advertising,’ a practice that was not legal until the Clinton administration (oh, those Clintons, so what favors they might pull in from Pharmaceuticals and MSM on the heels of creating their mind-bogglingly orgasmic financial fiefdom.
Was depression so wide-spread before they began informing America just how many of our normal life experiences had a name? Were males really secretly so impotent? Were so many legs restless, so many sinuses clogged? Do you remember if we had such a magnitude of ills before these symptoms were torched into our brain as identifiable treatable illnesses?
There is no cure with these medications. There is no solace, no return to normal functioning. Rather, there is an on-going cascade of side-effects: word retrieval problems, memory loss, fugue, confusion, lethargy, weight gain, appetite loss, loss of motivation, joy. A seamless disconnect from the realities of engaging in meaningful relationship, from the normalcy of holding down a steady job.
So I’ve been doing all this research, about neurogenesis, about the role of yoga, the role of sound therapy, the role of brain exercises. The possibilities offered by natural supplements which weren’t on the market 16 years ago, when my first psychotic break brought me (after two months of fighting) to the doors of traditional western medicine where they informed me i suffered from Major Depressive Disorder and I, too weak and crazy) finally bent over and swallowed the prescribed remedies. I look back now and recall saying, “But I’m not depressed. I’m anxious, I’m nervous, I can’t sleep.” Back then… Prozac was already old hat; we had moved on to Pazil and Wellbutrin. Wonderdrugs. The leitmotif of the moment. Who knew? Who suspected?
Does this describe Major Depressive Disorder with Psychosis? Cause this is what I experienced.
Thoughts of suicide
Inability to cope
Fear of enclosed or open spaces
Loss of confidence
Unusual physical sensations
Increased social anxiety
Loss of short-term memory
Intrusive dark thoughts
Loss of concentration
NO, I didn’t feel depressed; no, I felt like I was losing my sanity … due to lack of sleep, obsessive and intrusive thoughts, fear ….
Was my lack of sleep due to excessive cortisol secretions at the wrong time, messed up circadian rhythms or vica versa? Nobody tested my cortisol, guess they didn’t know about doing that back in the day. They didn’t even know how to describe to me what these rushes were that I was having like clockwork early every afteroon, this rush, this movement of energy up in my chest, like a flittering bird trapped within my chest cavity. And this was before the brain zaps and the electic shocks which traversed the length of my body, from toes to head. Hmmm. Nobody quite understood that either.
But like I keep saying, I wasn’t depressed. I was terrified. Ideations of death, suicide, blood on the walls, pictures morphing into blood soaked canvases, dogs into wolves chasing my car. Two people standing along the side of the roadway, a potential murderer about to pull out a knife on his female companion.
“What if ….?” ” What if ….”? “What if….” Every, any imagineable horror seemes on the verge of actualization. There was no safe place. Intrusive thoughts whirled through my mind 24×7.
If a person is depressed the hypothalamus may continuously influence the pituitary to produce CRH without regard to the amount of cortisol in the blood.
Thye timing of the release of cortisol can cause problem in people who are depressed. In the normal cycling of cortisol, its level is highest at approximately 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m, and lowest during the night. While in a depressed person, they might have a consistent level of cortisol all the time, or highest amounts in the middle of the night.
The level of cortisol can be tested by using a dexamethasone suppression test (DST). It is can be used to confirm a diagnosis of depression. In this test a dose of dexamethasone, a synthetic cortisol is given to the person before going to sleep at night. At next morning the person’s blood is tested for checking the level of cortisol at 8:00 a.m. and again at 4:00 p.m. In normal person it is found that the cortisol level is drop first later return to normal level. But the people who are severely depressed, approximately one-half will show the abnormal result.
So once again, I’m looking for an alternative. My last session with my psychiatrist of 16 years ended with a sense of uncertainty as to where we are going from here: is there a ‘forward’ left in our relationship? Are we too different in our world views to work together? And the growing realization within myself: perhaps I am not my diagnosis; perhaps I have been just an unwitting victim of a trend in treatment which lumped all of us with horrifying symptoms into a category which met the guidelines of the pharmaceutical industry for its latest drugs. Can I remain with a doctor who has admitted to being too busy to read up on new research which questioned the efficacy of these drugs? Who didn’t know what a BrainZap was before I told her about experiencing them? Whose re accreditation courses are funded by drug companies?
… kind of floating free right now… not knowing what my next step will be, fiercely mistrustful that all treatments are gimmicks. That we are all pawns in a system driven purely by profit.
I return tonight to a study of mirror neurons and read again the amazing article “The role of mirror neurons in addiction and recovery” in which Prof. V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition of the University of California at San Diego, suggests mirror neurons are perhaps one of the most important findings in neuroscience of the decade. “Mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology,” So, I wonder, who is working with mirror neurons and the treatment of depression?
So is this where I go? Is this my next step? Maybe double down on my iyengar yoga classes, 6 times a week rather than 3, meditate twice a day, and find someone who works with CBT?
Perhaps the most fascinating discovery of my work tonight is the findings about mirror neurons and how the need for connectedness is part of our genetic code:
To be sure, the mere presence of mirror neurons in an organ known to be involved in addiction is not proof of a connection, but it’s an issue that seems to warrant study. Another hint that addiction may be connected in some way with the mirror neuron system comes from behavioral observations of social isolation in many individuals with addictive disorder. Again, social isolation is far from a universal pattern, and isolation can be explained by other mechanisms – stigma, shame, rejection, etc. – but the mirror neuron hypothesis offers an interesting alternative perspective that bears investigating. What has probably not been illuminated sufficiently in the
past is the sensation of resonance that group participants sometimes experience. In our LifeRing groups, where participants recount the highlights and heartaches of their current lives, we frequently hear people use the vocabulary of resonance – “this resonates with me” or “that rings a bell with me” or “I feel for you” are common expressions. This resonance has the quality of directly felt experience, a quality that goes deeper than cognitive similarity or abstract congruency. We can now hypothesize that this feeling of resonance occurring in the group process stems from the activation of our mirror neuron system. This resonance may lead to cognitive insights, and it may very well have an emotional component, but the core energy released is neither cognitive nor emotional, but experiential.
we are not alone at all, after all. We are ‘wired’ to be communal animals. As society and cultural norms have morphed into promoting disconnection from family, social outlets, a real world community, our ‘mirror neurons’ have become frayed, disjointed, desperately lacking the cohesion required for their primary function: human contact.
Help, get me out of my self!
Two simple articles from Time magazine explaining such concepts as neurogenesis, repurposing of parts of the brain to assume lost functionality in damaged regions, mirror neurons, and Cognitive Therapy and changes to the brain’s structure