04 April 2011

What revelations have you had about your mental state?

by Nia

Four times now I've received a big, sudden dose of insight into my mood that changed my way of thinking about it. They were delivered via friend, my own noggin, and what I'll call the ether. The latter mode was a bit of a surprise, for despite my love for science fiction, I have rarely experienced anything twilight-zone-y. (I did once briefly convince myself that I had closed the refrigerator door telepathically, but I'm filing that under Zoloft Weirdness.)

1. Depression does not make you special.
In my old life in the Exciting City, one of my closest friends drove in from the suburbs to visit me. I was talking about how I wasn't supposed to eat chocolate because it worsens depression (I don't remember why I thought that). Something about the way I said it made this patient, gentle person snap, "Do you think that makes you SPECIAL? Why do you think so many people do drugs?"

I had never thought of that before. I had only met three people who had mentioned having it, so I had always felt pretty isolated. And thus a bit unique. As I drove home I laughed at myself for having half my identity wiped out in two sentences.

2. This is not my fault.
Several years later, when I had figured out the celiac aspect of the depression but hadn't mastered gluten avoidance yet, after a few weeks of feeling better I suddenly felt much, much worse. Sitting in my car at a train crossing at night, I was visited by a force that can be described thusly:

{[(bereavement-level grief).80]3s∆t + [(bereavement-level grief).10]5s∆t}30s∆t

Or: imagine the grief of bereavement. Reduce it to 80%, because obviously I was not actually bereaved, but the scale was still b-i-g. Inject that in the brain for three seconds, like a wave. Halt the injection for five seconds, then start again.

The whole WHOOOOMMM....... WHOOOOOMMMM........ WHOOOOOOOM etc. lasted about 30 seconds. It was riveting. And almost funny. A brand new way of experiencing mental pain! Completely pure! Totally impersonal! No memories, anxieties, or experiences attached! Then a slightly hysterical protest bubbled up from my psyche: "This isn't ME." (As in, I'm not the one doing this.) And there went the last ounce of suspicion that my depression was a factor of not trying hard enough or being mature enough.

I went home, looked at the ingredients of all the products I had purchased recently, cross-referenced them with Ruth Winter's Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, and discovered I had been ingesting gluten.  

3. I'm not angry, I'm happy.
Once at my desk, after I had been enjoying a decent, stable, reliable mood for several years, I was wondering why my good mood had just veered into anger, at nothing of any consequence. It dawned on me that I'd been either depressed or angry for so long -- irrational anger being a classic celiac trait (along with short legs and long eyelashes, if you must know) -- that once the depression was gone, anger had become my default. My light mood had gone skipping through my brain and fallen into the huge anger groove that had been carved out by my neurons over the years. I wasn't angry, I was happy. How stupid can you be?

4. My anger is in this box.
When I was yet again starting to lose my temper over some minor thing, there appeared around the center of my mind's eye a white rectangular border, like a camera viewfinder, accompanied by the thought "My anger is in this box." Meaning, I can store the anger there and not react to it. Weird, but helpful.