Manic Depression Beautiful?
Neuroscience and Biology
Manic Depression Beautiful?
There is a Chinese saying that before you can conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful. Is it possible to make the ugliness of depression beautiful? Yes. It’s a word we hear so often that most of the time; we just let it pass over our heads, thinking of it as just another statistic. The scientific definition for depression is: a syndrome that reflects a sad mood exceeding normal sadness or grief. More specifically, the sadness of depression is characterized by a greater intensity and duration and by more severe symptoms and functional disabilities than is normal.[i] Like a vacuum cleaner, depression sucks even the most normal and conscientious person into a space of bewildered darkness. How do I know this? May it is because I have been around people who are manic -depressive and am possibly plagued by this unrelenting disease as well. Scientific definitions such as the one above will never thoroughly explain what depression is; no clear or concise way. It is like an abstract painting, leaving the viewers to interpret it whichever way they deem fit; and like that painting, some might see it as beautiful while others only see a mess of colors splattered on the wall.
We are aware that depressive disorders appear to be associated with altered brain serotonin and norepinephrine system, both of which are lower in depressed people. Medication of course, is always an option. Prozac, Paxil, ECT, Cymbalta or lithium to name a few is used to raise the serotonin levels in the brain. However, once one stops the medication, the symptoms come back like a flood of unwanted memories. How much of all this medication is worth taking? Is taking lithium in order to curb manic depression really worth sacrificing the ability to read and focus or the ability of speech?
Manic depression, or some might know it as bipolar disorder runs in my family. Though I come from a line of strong-willed men and women who are determined to not show weakness, it is inevitable that sometimes one of us slip from the façade we so painfully try to keep up. Interference with work, sleep, social mania, grandiose spending and notions, bursts of energy, empty moods, along with most symptoms of depression have been a constant in my life. However, it was not so long ago did I realize the brevity of the situation. I have long known that my family is quirky and normal a foreign word that one never hears. However, ever since I was a child, I have learnt to accept whatever symptoms may be present in the immediate or extended family. Acknowledging the symptoms would be admitting to having depression; which would mean showing a sign of weakness. Rationally speaking, this method of thought makes no sense and is quite the befuddlement to people looking in from the outside. Ironically, it has worked quite well in the family, with no medication involved.
The way my family deals with depression is probably viewed as unhealthy by others. Instead of seeing the symptoms as something that should not be present, those splatters have just become another painting on the wall for us to view. It might not be beautiful, but it can be appreciated; the beast is at least tamed. For others, medication might be the only solution to, “ How come my depression doesn’t go away?” The arrays of antidepressants are the aesthetic frame to the splatter of vibrant and dull colors on the wall. The beast that has been tamed so far will wake up one day, and no longer will it be just another incident. Perhaps we are all hiding from the real issue through medication and different interpretations because when it comes down to it, can we really understand and explain what depression is? Or will it forever be an abstract painting?