Part II – When organ function goes wrong.
Today, I wanted to pick back up on the Depression article I began last May; and in the process revisit how it has affected my own life, in addition to my recent experiences and thoughts regarding this debilitating disease.
Recently I was having a discussion with one of my doctors that I subsequently continued with my wife later one evening. My wife, for those who don’t know, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in 2010, at the age of 27. Since then they’ve run a number of tests and decided that despite her small stature, she was more likely Type II, or even what many might now call Type I.5, which is often diagnosed later in life in the 20’s or 30’s.
My wife began to take Insulin for her condition and continues to take four shots every day, not including all the finger pricks for glucose checks throughout the day. It’s often very upsetting to me to watch her have to live with the condition she does, especially since she has no control over it and cannot reverse it. The fact of the matter is, her pancreas does not produce insulin, or at least not enough to provide her body the insulin needed to break down the sugars in the foods she eats. She can’t use her mind or any other technique with her body to make her pancreas produce insulin, no matter how much she, I, or anyone else might want the organ within her to do so. It’s one of those things that, for better or worse, is completely out of her control.
You might wonder how this relates to Depression, so please allow me to explain. Depression is a disease that affects the brain, and thus ultimately the mind itself given the brain is, of course, the seat of the conscious and unconscious mind. Just as my wife’s pancreas is an organ that fails to produce insulin, my brain is also an organ, and in my case, it fails to produce the proper chemical balance to keep my brain optimally healthy. This is the plain and honest truth. Unfortunately, for many millions of people, sometimes the body’s organs simply fail to work as they should, this includes the brain.
Yet there’s an irony here. When the heart, lungs, liver, or kidneys fail – society doesn’t scream foul. It is generally accepted by most of the population that organs can develop fundamental issues with how they perform and thus can have serious consequences as a result. But, despite this fact, for some reason, many people seemingly continue to have the notion and expectation that the brain should be immune to disease and the vulnerabilities that come with such illnesses. Why is this?
I certainly don’t need to have a brain-eating parasite to have a grave problem with my brain; the truth is that Depression is, in and of itself, a very serious condition involving a chemical imbalance, just like any other organ might have. Now, I’ll be the first to admit it -- I can’t look inside my brain and tell you exactly what mix of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin exists there. In many ways, I, like all of my doctors, can only speculate. I’m sure that somewhere there is a test that could provide me more detailed information, or that such a test will exist someday in the future. But the costs of a such a procedure, not to mention the risks of a direct brain probe, are likely both prohibitively expensive and exceedingly dangerous. I shouldn’t have to risk my life to determine the exact chemical makeup of my brain.
Ultimately, I suspect it’s this ‘fuzziness’ in diagnosis that causes the doubters to speak up. Since we cannot definitively prove to the skeptics that the imbalance is present, we can only speculate based on the symptoms. This is unfortunate, but it doesn’t change the fact the imbalances do occur, and historical autopsies have shown this to be true.
The truth is that there is an awful lot we don’t yet know about the brain. I, for one, will not stand by and allow a handful to speak for the majority and tell me that what I am suffering from is, “all in my head.” Technically, sure – it’s in my head, but it’s neither all in my imagination nor rooted in any way through my conscious or subconscious minds. But it does affect them… every day.
I won’t deny that there is a very real and active companion to the chemical side of depression, environmental factors. And these environmental conditions definitely do play a large role in how we think, operate, and function from day to day. Combined with the chemical imbalances we face, the environmental factors can even be slanted in a very negative light. For many of us, even as hard as we may try to consciously work against this deep-seated negative mentality, it persists and affects how we ultimately perform day-to-day.
Let me be clear. I am not even remotely making a case to excuse the outward behavior of those who suffer with depression; especially those who commit heinous acts or cause any harm to others. I am however making a very serious plea to society, to everyone, to consciously make an effort and realize that, here and now, this disease is incredibly horrific for those of us who deal with it each day. It’s terrifying to know your own mind works against you, in a way you cannot control or bring any chemical balance too; no matter how hard you try. Like a non-functional pancreas, my brain just doesn’t work properly some of the time, and this has major implications for my own, and countless others, lives.
I am writing this series to bring awareness to this issue. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll take what I’m saying to heart. I’m not trying to preach or make a statement of any kind. I’m not out to prove anything. I simply want to bring more awareness and understanding to this issue so that the millions who suffer from this disease in silence know they are not alone. It’s OK to speak up; it’s OK to have a voice. I even encourage speaking out to be honest, it can help immensely and profoundly – in ways I personally could have never imagined.
To me, as an individual who has watched my own quality of life suffer at times for too many years, and having watched many in my family, over multiple generations, agonize too – I know first hand just how important this issue is.
To those who directly suffer from Depression, and for those who indirectly watch relatives or friends tormented by its grip – please… never loose hope – and never think you’re alone. You’re not! Together, we can all bring both increased awareness and more aid to this issue. And that will be some of the happiest news I’ve seen in a long time.
There’s more to come… thank you for reading and joining me on this personal journey.