Chemical Imbalances: Real or Imagined?

I agree with this article. Just because they don’t know exactly which chemicals are imbalanced or if they are, they presume it to be true and try different medications to help. It’s a very inexact science and can be extremely frustrating. But to say that chemical imbalances DO NOT EXIST is bullshit and insulting to those of us that suffer with it.  I should not be made to feel bad because I had a pretty idyllic childhood with parents that were loving, supportive and fun. It’s a genetic lottery and for some of us our number comes up. It’s pretty simple. If I don’t disagree with you for believing that you’re depressed because you had shitty parents or cause something bad happened to you, don’t tell me chemical imbalances don’t exist. Now if you don’t have this type of illness and you are like my Uncle who used to believe there was no such thing as depression? LOL That kind of ignorance ACROSS THE BOARD I can totally understand. But you don’t get to pick and choose that your type of depression exists while my type doesn’t.



by Pete Earley

One of the first phrases parents hear when a loved one shows symptoms of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or persistent and major depression is “chemical imbalance.” I remember being shocked when I wrote this term in a Washington Post Op Ed piece and was confronted by someone who told me there is absolutely no scientific evidence that mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

So I was happy when I received an advance copy of the book: SHRINK RAP: Three Psychiatrist Explain Their Work   written by psychiatrists: Dinah Miller, Annette Hanson, and Steven Roy Daviss, who write a popular mental health blog. I found their comments about “chemical imbalances” helpful.

“Chemical imbalance is a term with imprecise meaning…Saying that a psychiatric disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance, although an imperfect explanation, sometimes makes psychiatric disorders more palatable to patients and less stigmatizing. The term gives some credence to the practice of treating these disorders with medication. But there is no psychiatric disorder for which we know for certain which chemicals are  “imbalanced” if any.

“We have reasons for believing that psychiatric disorders must certainly be mediated by biological factors. For one thing, psychiatric illnesses run in families, even when family members are separated at birth. Research has shown that genetic links, and even specific genes, may be associated with different disorders. Many studies have shown that the biological features of groups of people with illnesses are different from those same features in groups of people without those illnesses. What we don’t have, yet, is a specific reliable test for a certain genotype or enzyme level, or a brain scan finding that indicates that a specific person has a specific disease.”

The authors explain that if a person goes to the doctor because of increased thirst or urination and has a lab test done, and it shows markedly elevated blood sugar levels, then that patient most certainly has diabetes. But with a few rare exceptions, such as Huntington’s disease or Jacob-Creutzfelt dementia, there’s nothing like this in psychiatry — no blood test, no x-ray, no CT scan that yields a definitive diagnosis. In psychiatry, blood tests are ordered to rule out medical conditions that masquerade as psychiatric illnesses — especially thyroid conditions or high ammonia levels — or to monitor medication levels to make sure medications are not damaging a patient’s organs.

“We know that the medications used to treat mental illnesses alter the levels of certain neurotransmitters. The antidepressant Prozac increases levels of serotonin in the brain. We don’t know for sure that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin, or that raising these levels is the mechanism that helps to alleviate the symptoms, but many lines of evidence suggest such a connection. In simpler terms, we presume there is a ‘chemical imbalance,’ but it remains uncertain as to what that imbalance actually is. Serotonin may be just one step in the final common pathway, along with many other steps, that contribute to the syndrome of depression. Simply said, we don’t know the exact biological nature of what is wrong when someone has a mental illness; nor do we know for certain the exact mechanism by which medications or other treatments work.”

I agree with the Shrink Rap doctors. The term “chemical imbalance” is short-hand used by laypersons to describe what we can’t scientifically explain. We know something is awry in someone’s brain when he/she shows symptoms of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or severe and persistent depression. We know chemicals often can help alleviate these symptoms. Ergo, we conclude the symptoms are the result of a “chemical imbalance” when the truth is that we don’t really know what is happening, only that something is.

I was fortunate enough to speak to Dr. Eric Kandel, the Nobel Prize winning doctor, who appeared on Minds on the Edge when it was produced by Fred Friendly Seminars. Dr. Kandel acknowledged that science simply hasn’t yet been able to discover the “biological underpinnings” of major mental disorders. But our lack of knowledge doesn’t mean a link doesn’t exist, he said. He asked why we continue to separate the brain from the rest of the body when we think of biological illnesses and genetic links. Why do we accept that they play a role in everything that happens beneath our chin but argue that they can’t be influencing our brains? The real tragedy, Dr. Kandel explained, is that medical research in nearly every other area of the body has moved forward significantly with the exception of our brains.

Read the whole article here:

My Illness Is Not a Theory!

Depression causes

depression chemicals

When I was 20 my Uncle (who I love but who talks out of his ass quite frequently lol) told me depression doesn’t exist.  I remember laughing even back then and saying that I really wished he was right! LOL  Fortunately my meds were working at the time or I would have burst into tears. Not quiet tears either. The kind of crying where it sounds like the person is hyperventilating lol.  My parents had prepared me well for situations like this. And I guess I had enough self-confidence and belief in myself to realize that what he was saying was complete nonsense.

Many years later, he had open heart surgery and went through a depression for about a year afterward.  He has obviously changed his views on the topic, but it never really bothered me. I have never forgotten it, but I know he loves me and he’s just old school Italian/Irish from Brooklyn. One of his daughters has depression and 2 of his grandkids as well. This is my Dad’s family, so I guess it runs in both sides of my family.

A few days ago a fellow blogger said something that threw me for a loop. This blogger has strong opinions and I have always appreciated his comments and his posts. But we were talking about chemical imbalances and he said that he didn’t believe in them!!!  I thought he was kidding because I HAVE A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE and I know he himself suffers from depression. I am aware that for him it comes from a difficult childhood and problems with his Mother, etc. I was taken back when he said we had to agree to disagree on whether chemical imbalances was just a theory or not!!!!  Seriously!?!?!?!

Well, I was a little hurt and offended but I let it go because I know the truth and I am way past the age where I need to prove anything to anyone. You know the saying opinions are like aholes? Everybody has one lol.  The next day another blogger commented in reply, calling him on what he had said.  It definitely made me feel better that other people see how ridiculous the whole idea is. It’s like saying cancer or diabetes is a theory!!  It’s completely disrespectful and offensive to those of us that suffer from a chemical imbalance.

When I got sick, I was 18. I had no problems or issues. I had great friends, a loving boyfriend, an amazing family and  a 4.0 GPA. It didn’t make any sense that I just started crying 24/7 for no reason. Suddenly, I was so sad and in so much friggin pain. It felt like a big black hole was getting bigger and bigger.  I felt worthless, weak, ugly and pathetic.  As this is not my normal personality, then or now, I was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance which for me causes severe clinical treatment-resistant depression. This diagnosis has been backed up over the years by a physician, a psychiatrist, a psychopharmacologist, and a social worker. Believe me, for years I hated the fact that I was upset about nothing!!!  There was no reason for my depression and it felt so unfair. Because if there were reasons, there was something to solve or work through. This was just so arbitrary yet still completely debilitating.

Now things have happened over the last 20 years that have given me plenty of reasons to be depressed. But that’s life isn’t it? I lost my amazing Mom, my 2 cousins, my Uncle, etc. But this blogger started saying that because I post about narcissism that I obviously have psychological issues. Well, I have never been in an abusive relationship with anyone, much less a narcissist. He also went on to USE MY BLOG POSTS AS PROOF THAT I DIDN’T HAVE A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE!!! That I have trauma and problems blah blah blah.

Obviously he didn’t like being told by this other blogger (who was totally right and not unkind) that he was wrong. And as he does have anger management issues, he took it out on me. The simple fact is he needed to be right more than he needed to be kind.

I am a very forgiving person and try not to hold grudges so if he had just acknowledged that he was wrong to use my choice of blog posts to show why I’m depressed and try to tell me about MY ILLNESS? I would’ve accepted it and wiped the slate clean.  But he seems to think he has done nothing wrong and that’s just not acceptable to me.

I am a good and kind person but let me make one thing perfectly clear. NO ONE has the right to tell me my medically documented illness is a FUCKIN THEORY, especially on MY BLOG!!! Not now and not ever!! And then to take it further and basically tell me that he doesn’t believe all the medical professionals but yet he doesn’t want to be accused of attacking me, AS HE WAS ATTACKING ME?!?!? I might be kind and forgiving, but I’m strong and I was really pissed.

I have always been prepared to defend myself against ignorant people that know nothing about mental illness. I just never thought I would have to defend myself against people that HAVE mental illnesses!


A Little Weepy

Life has been going really well the last few weeks,  except for a bad sinus infection which made me tired.  Things with my H have been pretty darn great.  He’s definitely been putting in a big effort to connect and be the sweet, loving man I fell in love with. Which of course makes me happier and then I put in more of an effort as well. It’s a slow process and I’m trying to be patient, which is not one of my many virtues lol. This weekend it snowed so we watched movies and ordered pizza. It was a lot of fun.

The last few days I have been a little weepy. I think it’s hormonal and maybe a little bit of my depression. Crying comes and goes, but nothing like it is when the depression gets bad.  I just sometimes get a tiny bit scared thinking, “Is this the day my meds stop working and I turn back into a human vegetable?”  I know it’s not and that I am fine. Luckily as much as I struggle with depression, I have never had a problem with anxiety. Except a few days before my Mom died and I developed this weird eye twitch (very attractive lol). That was NOT a good time, so I think the anxiety can be excused.

I think when I pretend it’s not happening, it just tends to make it worse. I just hate feeling that I have no control over whether I’m happy or sad. But I am calling myself out and being honest about this little ripple. Tonight I am having dinner with my family and that always helps.  I know for me, it really is just a blip and I will be fine in a day or two. And I have absolutely nothing to feel bad, guilty or sorry for. I just have to remind my brain of that!!

invisible illnesses

depression cage


depression flaw chemistry


For a Friend

Lovely red rose and pen on a classic note book

Lovely red rose and pen on a classic note book

When you suffer from severe clinical depression, self-care such as this is an extremely necessary survival skill. It took me so many years to let go of all the guilt I felt when I couldn’t attend every party/function or be whatever everyone else in my life needed me to be. When I had to reschedule plans or take the day off? I would completely beat myself up over it, which obviously only made me feel worse. Eventually I was able to realize how silly it is to feel guilty for having an illness.  I am not weak, lazy or crazy. I certainly didn’t ask to have a chemical imbalance and if there was a way to will it away? Well let’s just say I’m pretty strong-willed to say the least lol.  

We don’t look down on those who suffer from diabetes, cancer, or any other illness that is usually physically noticeable.  So why the hell do so many still look down on mental illness as a character flaw or weakness?  Honestly it really pisses me off. In my opinion? It’s no better than kicking kittens.  

Think about it. When I had cancer, I was just a kid (12 yrs old). Even having cancer and being a kid, I was able to advocate for myself to a large extent. When I had pain, I let them know. When the chemo made me nauseous, I let them known. But when you have depression or other mental illnesses? It’s a whole different ballgame where the decks are stacked against you before you even step on the field.

When I am in a depression, the very nature of my illness makes me feel less than and worthless. Your brain actually tricks you into believing that you don’t deserve to live and that the people you love would be better of without you.  During those moments, the pain is so intense you think it will just swallow you up whole. So how the hell are you supposed to advocate for yourself when you feel like you don’t deserve any better? Like you have in some way caused this pain and nothing will ever get any better.

Thankfully for me, those days are very far and few in between these days.  I’d be lying if I said they don’t still happen.  But now I have an arsenal of tips and tricks that help me and I am able to even tell myself that this feeling is temporary and I will feel better. I know what to expect and I am ready for it.  And the rest of the time? I laugh a lot and I enjoy my life!  I think that makes me pretty darn lucky.

Life With Depression (Part 2)

1413042019621_wps_1_A_stock_photo_of_a_woman_So after about 6 months of what can only be described as hell on earth, we found a combination of meds that worked and I was finally feeling like myself again.

Mental illness is the only type of illness that makes it virtually impossible for the patient to be their own advocate.  Because the very nature of the illness makes us feel weak, lazy, crazy and life not worth living.

I was 19, went back to college full-time and got a job working in a real estate management firm. Less than a year later I was promoted to office manager and had just made the Dean’s list. I had a boyfriend and life was good. Then I started spiraling down again just like before.

This would happen again and again for the next 7 years. I would find a combo of drugs that worked, re-enroll in school, get better and then bam eventually the meds would stop working.

My parents, family and doctor were amazing. They never let me give up, even though there were so many times hope just seemed like a cruel joke.

Eventually my family doctor said I needed to see a specialist because I had treatment resistant depression and I needed an expert. So at that time in the early 1990s, no one had heard of a psychopharmacologist or neuropharmacologist. The internet was nothing like it is today but I love research. It’s like a puzzle that needs to be solved.

My Mom was a very intelligent woman. She told me to call the hospital that had found my cancer and ask for a referral. If you notice, even though I was sick and depressed, they never did everything for me. They helped me without keeping me dependant on them. And I am so grateful they did.

I called and got a referral to a psychopharmacologist. That doctor was so overloaded he wasn’t even taking any new patients. So I asked them for a referral and that’s how I found Dr. B.

The research I had done showed that there had been great success using low doses of Adderall (an amphetamine previously used to treat ADD/ADHD) with a combination of antidepressants. For some reason it keeps the meds working for people with treatment resistant depression.

On all the antidepressants, I woke up every day feeling extremely groggy, drugged n sleepy. This side effect was horribly debilitating. The Adderall not only kept my meds working but it helped with the severe fatigue.

shutterstock_212803426After years on a never-ending rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, I finally had my life back. I went back to school, worked as a paralegal to pay the bills and met a wonderful man that treated me like a queen. We got married and then things really got interesting 🙂

Monday Blahs

I had a great weekend.  Saturday we had to wake up early (7 am) to go out on Long Island for niece and nephew’s Holy Communion. The church was beautiful, the kids looked adorable and the party was really nice.  Then Sunday we went to my sister-in-law’s for a small family BBQ.  It was nice, relaxed and my bro-in=law is an amazing cook.  We had fun laughing and telling stories.  I have to say I do have a wonderful mother-in-law.  She’s not pushy, she’s kind and she’s very laid back, kind of like my husband in a lot of ways.

So why am I so friggin sad and blah today?  I took my medicine, got enough sleep and nothing is bothering me.  I just felt like I was going to cry all morning at work and then I did cry during my lunch hour.

I know contact last week set me back, but I really enjoyed my weekend with hubby.  I missed my Mom on Mother’s Day of course but that’s normal.  Today no matter what I try, I just keep tearing up.

I really hope it’s hormonal LOL.  I know sometimes we just have a bad day and that’s okay.  But it doesn’t feel like that for some reason.   I’ll have to think about it a little more and figure it out.

Promise You Will Forget The Hurt

I love the idea that one day we will forget the hurt, the pain, the sadness and even those that caused it.

I cannot wait for my heart to be completely healed. I have made a lot of progress the past few months. I have not contacted P and he has not contacted me. I can only hope that continues as we have said all we needed to say.

I am so grateful for all the love, kindness and support I have found in our little blogosphere. I truly don’t think I could have gotten to such a good place without all of you who read my words and see my heart.

I know today is a good day and I also realize each day is different. Tomorrow may be a shitstorm lol. Who knows? But I do believe after everything I have been through in my life, the best is yet to come.

Positive Outlooks

Someday, we’ll forget the hurt, the reason we cried and who caused us pain. We will finally realize that the secret of being free is not revenge, but letting things unfold in their own way and own time. After all, what matters is not the first, but the last chapter of our life which shows how well we ran the race. So smile, laugh, forgive, believe and love all over again.  — Unknown

Man walking at sunset

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Song of the day

Today was a great day then it got a little difficult probably because I went to bed too late and the dreaded PMS (yes all the guys have immediately left the room I’m sure lol).

While this is not one of our songs, it always reminds me of P. I just want to remember him one day without all the pain and heartache. Unfortunately that day isn’t today.

I’m leaning into the curve, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow will be better and happier.

My Life with Depression (Part 1)

Gosh this is hard to write.  Now I know why I have been avoiding it for so long.

I had always been a pretty normal, happy-go-lucky kid.  Then when I was 18, I had a root canal go terribly wrong.  The infection was so severe, my whole face blew up and was unrecognizable.  So 2 days before I was supposed to start college (a great school about 3 hours away where I was on academic scholarship) I ended up in the ER. Then it was back home for 2 weeks of heavy antibiotics, painkillers and rest.

A few months later, I noticed I was sleeping and crying a LOT.  I thought maybe it was a bad case of homesickness or PMS.  But I loved college and was having a ball.  My classes were great, I had a good  group of friends, and I was dating this really hot and sweet junior.

Things got serious very quickly.  I couldn’t get out of bed and I was just in so much pain deep inside.  It was like a black hole of despair was swallowing me up.  What made it worse was that there was absolutely no reason for the sadness and pain.  I had no idea what was happening to me and I was quickly losing all hope.  I was having horrific thoughts and nothing worked.  Everyone was really kind and tried to help, but there was nothing anyone could do.

I  had told my Mom but like me she figured it was just normal homesickness.  I finally decided I had to tell my parents when they came up for Parents Weekend. I will never forget sitting in this little cafe, just my Mom, my Dad and I.  Of course I started sobbing and shaking, cause that’s all I did during that time.  My Mom hugged me and my Dad said, “Are you expecting?”  I stopped crying and as one my Mom and I turned to him, utterly perplexed, and at the same time said, “Expecting what?”  He thought I was pregnant and wanted me to know that they would always support me, no matter what. But no, I wasn’t even having sex. LOL

I went home that weekend and my Mom took me to our family doctor.  After a bunch of tests and talking, I was eventually diagnosed with severe clinical depression caused by a chemical imbalance.  Say WHAT!?!?!?!   So does that mean I can’t drink at parties I asked.  I really had no idea how much my whole life had just changed.

Depression runs in my Mom’s family but I am the only lucky lottery winner in my immediate family.  Yay me LOL.  They think between the infection, all the antibiotics, and painkillers, it triggered a genetic predisposition.  Who knows?

All I know is I had to leave school and was basically a human vegetable for the next 6 months.