mental health

The light at the end of the tunnel?

The “feeling better” has lasted a few days, now. I’m still not ready to call it a win, but I’m cautiously optimistic. Yesterday was good. I got a number of things done around the house, ran some errands, had lunch with my parents, and despite the overwhelming urge to, I didn’t take a nap. So that’s a plus. I think that’s my first day off in awhile where I didn’t take a three hour coma. I also made it to the gym – just took a nice hard walk on the treadmill. It’s a baby step, but it’s still a step. And in the right direction, at that.

It’s funny how quickly our moods can change, even for neurotypical people. It’s a chemical reaction to things happening around us or inside of us. When that body chemistry goes wonky is when there’s a problem. But seriously, I felt like hell for over two weeks, and I seemed to wake up Sunday morning, and BAM! Better mood and state of being.

The biology of mental illness has always fascinated me, and always will. The fact that these tiny little chemicals can wreak so much havoc for no other reason than their concentration in the brain got messed up. We are at the mercy of our brain chemistry. So what makes one person’s more messed up than someone else’s? It’s long been thought that genetics plays a fairly large role, and that’s hard to deny when these things seem to run in families. Everyone I’ve ever met who has a mental illness knows stories about that one aunt (or whoever) that just wasn’t right. Some of those stories go as far as institutionalization or domestic abuse or the off-hand comments that “he was always kind of nuts.” It’s anxiety, or depression, or schizophrenia, or whatever, all there in our family trees.

I remember when my mother first started working on our family tree there were a lot of stories passed down of Aunt Veda’s melancholia or how wild Uncle Chester was when he was alive. Maybe we shouldn’t diagnose people of the past, especially when they aren’t with us anymore, but I feel like even those armchair diagnoses might help us trace where the illness comes from and how it’s manifested in the past as a reference of how it might manifest in the future.

I know that my family is riddled with it, so long as we’re calling a spade a spade, and even those second- and third-hand stories have been helpful in their own way.

That being said, there are some people that are just nuts, not related to mental illness. Sometimes they’re fun, sometimes you want to brain them with a frying pan. Sometimes they’re both. We both have family that is very intrusive and love to give their opinions. That’s just how they are. We’ve learned to deal with it over the years (I had to tell one of his uncles I was sterile so he would get off my back about having kids), mostly by giving them as little information as possible and then not answering anything further (ahhh the good old Gray Rock technique).

Anyway, I digress.

I had a biology class in high school where we talked about how modern medicine is helping to stop evolution. Let’s face it – if we were hunters and gatherers, you wouldn’t mate with someone who had bad eyesight and couldn’t hunt. But thanks to glasses – everyone can hunt! You get my point. Mental health seems to be another one of these things that falls into the same category. With medication and treatment people with mental illness can lead relatively normal lives. But if you were depressed in prehistoric times, I’d imagine that your tribe would take care of you, but you wouldn’t have a lot of potential suitors.

So what changed? If you read a lot of history, especially monarchial histories, these families are rife with mental and physical illnesses (yes, yes, at least partially due to inbreeding, I know). Add to the fact that the average peasant married young and had kids young, oftentimes before these things manifested themselves (or they died before they did and we’re only noticing these things as lifespans have gotten longer), and it’s not really hard to see how it’s been passed down the line.

But it’s kind of funny to think about a 16th century washerwoman with bipolar disorder. Spending sprees might not have been a thing, but I’m pretty sure promiscuous behavior definitely was.

Anyway, that’s it for what’s in my head recently. My hope for today is that the inauguration goes smoothly and everyone remains safe. I hope everyone has a good day!

Stay safe, friends!

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