I Want My Neurotransmitters and a Little Taste of Curry

Today I hunkered down with a ball of sock yarn and two pairs of skinny circular needles and tried to figure out how to knit the innovative sock that I want to create.  By the time I finished, I had ripped out and started over twice, grabbed another ball of yarn, unwound yarn all over my bed (the research center) and said a few mumbly words to myself.  Guess what?  I figured it out!  I feel like 30 years ago when I solved a really tough calculus problem.  (Yes, I took four or five semesters of calculus-I was an engineering student.)  Now that I know how I’m going to manage this strategically, I have to do some experimental knitting to determine the exact numbers of stitches that will make this work.  Then I’ll try and knit a prototype.  This makes me so excited my toes are wiggling. 


Speaking of toes, has anyone seen my brown Crocs?  The old mary janes, not the new cross-strap ones with canvas uppers.  Since I walked so much yesterday, my feet are crying out for the comfort of my cushiest Crocs.  I swear, they are such big babies.  After all, they are cradled in perfectly good Landsend slip-ons which I probably paid $9.95 for in the Landsend Overstocks.  Red slip-ons!  What more could a foot want?  I have a tendency to take off my shoes in weird places.  I grew up walking barefoot whenever I could, and there are times when I’m in my house and the shoes just have to come off right that minute. 


I can smell my dinner.  I followed a DrWeil.com recipe for curried pink lentils, and I have brown/wild rice in my rice cooker and a skillet full of cabbage, onion, garlic, and well-cooked pink lentils waiting to be eaten together.  Mmmm, it was as good as it smelled.  The curry is quite spicy (I have a liberal hand with seasonings) and my next round I’ll put a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. 


When I talked about my depression the other day, someone commented that it was nice to be able to have it in the open.  I’ve always been upfront with everyone (including patients) about my ailments, with no reservations about doing so.  For years we in medicine have understood that depression and other mood disorders are physical illnesses, brain dysfunctions.  Our moods are controlled by chemical messengers in the brain.  Those messengers can be affected to some extent by our activities and circumstances, but the largest effect is totally chemical.  Treating depression with medicines involves increasing those neurotransmitters to normal levels. 


Yesterday on the Ellen Show, Dr. Wayne Dyer was promoting his new book.  He spouted a lot of rhetoric about kindness curing depression, i.e. being in the vicinity of acts of kindness causing increased serotonin levels.  I spent an hour today searching through the entire Medscape library and 25 pages of Google references, looking for a published scientific study that confirms that.  I couldn’t find a single one.  It seems that an entire world of new age, self-proclaimed experts and amateurs are all quoting Dr. Dyer’s position without any documentation in evidence. 


I don’t have anything against kindness; we could all stand to be more kind to our fellow woman, and we certainly thrive in the receipt of kindness.  The big problem is that this is another instance of blaming the patient for the disease.  If kindness causes increased neurotransmitters in the brain, the corollary is that people who have depression (low neurotransmitter levels) must be unkind.  That’s bunk.  Dyer went so far as to suggest that more children were suffering from depression because of the lack of kindness surrounding them.  We can plainly see the genetic influences on depression, and we won’t be surprised if there aren’t strong environmental factors, like our brain chemistry being affected by the chemicals and hormones in our foods.  Pooey!  I could use a little real science with my curry.




6 Responses

  1. Re depression: There’s an article in the current Newsweek about doctors committing suicide – and how they don’t want to get treatment for depression because they’re supposed to be inflallible and never get sick. It’s a shame! My sister was diagnosed as manic-depressive (bi-polar) just about the time lithium came on the market as treatment. It worked wonders for her.

    Charlatans are really harmful!

    Looking forward to seeing the birth of the socks (after the gestation).

  2. Frankly, sometimes one doesn’t even realize that one IS depressed; there is just a vague sense of weariness. I know after my mother died in 2001, I was probably depressed for quite a long time. When I went to get a check up back then, the NP asked sharply, “Are you depressed?? Many women your age are, you know.” What do you think I responded? The answer was No, of course; and I never went back to see her, either.

  3. My neuro doctor, who is not intentionally a psychologist (grin), asks me funny questions. “So, how are things going?” is a more likely first question than “Does anything new hurt?” or “Why have you gained 5 pounds?” (She knows, why ask?) She has written down what stresses me (work), and remembers to ask me if things are better yet. About 6 months ago I said what were apparently “key words” and she said, “You know, you are depressed.” (long pause) “Yeah, I know.”
    Then we got in to the regular exam, but I left with a new prescription. It helps. I still have a bad attitude but I can laugh about it.
    Keep us the good work, Essie. Maybe you don’t have office hours, but you are still doing a world of good.

  4. I have suffered from severe depression for as long as I can remember. Then my brain decided to add general anxiety disorder (with agoraphobia (sp?)) and my world imploded. Due to my age, doctors were very leery about labeling me with a mental disorder. Good thing I have no shame – so why should they?? I now have a good excuse for my behavior and the pill bottles to back it up! Bring it on all you normal people – we fruit cakes will take you down. : )

    and are we getting a sneak preview on Saturday of your socks? if we promise not to poach your idea???

  5. I think everyone should have a pair of red shoes……and, yes…I have mine.

    I hope you are feeling better soon.

  6. I’m down with kindness, and I don’t have a problem with the idea of healing energy fields.

    However, I too spent about 45 minutes looking for the science Dwyer referred to.

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