Tuesday, February 15, 2011

days improve

And when the temperature warms by thirty degrees or more, it's like a gift sent by Heaven.

Still pondering the definition of "normal," as regards lifestyle and mindset. I'm suprised in fact at how much mental space this line of inquiry commands.

I read an article in Newsweek recently about the prevalence of anxiety as a diagnosed condition amongst Americans. It was a trend article, dealing with the evolving treatments rather than causes and addressing the challenges of treating effectively the wiley and adaptive brain.

It seems that any strong emotion, felt consistently, is neurologically self-promoting. Reminds me of the old parental line, "If you don't quit (scowling, frowning, sticking out your tongue) your face will freeze that way!" Even when treating anxiety with medicines and therapy, the majority of patients when asked will say they prefer to feel fear, anxiety, worry -- because it keeps them sharp, on the edge, able to anticipate problems and events. The artificial reduction of anxiety can be a cause of anxiety -- the brain's workaround, in its effort to maintain a repeated pattern of behavior.

My husband has been trying to quit smoking for several months. I could almost say, has succeeded in quitting, because he went cold turkey. But he knows and feels how much his body craves it, not just the nicotene but the routine. Every once in a while, he'll stand up and say "I have to go out back and not smoke." He puts on his shoes and coat, steps outside and stands in the yard for a few moments, breathing the fresh air and calming himself. He knows how much he can ask of his brain.

As I read the Newsweek article I reflected on depression -- and I almost wrote "my depression," as though the condition were unique. My brain is equally adept at the workaround. I find myself probing old memories and negative thoughts like a sore tooth, curious whether it will hurt. I sense the "artificial bottom" in my emotional well, provided by antidepressants, and wonder if the present dosage can maintain a depth I can live with, this time. Everyone has their depths, it's natural, we're entitled to the blues. But function is the standard. Can I still function at this depth, I ask myself, like an ocean diver.

Defining "normal" includes finding the consistent bottom, I think, from which I can only proceed upward. A bottom I can live with, where I can still look up and see the light, within reach.

The brain, devious, must forget itself to find itself again. The mind, at the end of the chemical leash, can't always overcome the matter.

1 comment:

Clarence said...

We find the bottom, things warm, and then the cruel trick: a Minnesota Spring snow and we curse the groundhog, silly groundhog. We know he means nothing to us here in Minnesota. Today, we have wonderful weather for a walk, dodging puddles and then the traffic we risk when we avoid the water. Dry feet? Do we dare enjoy the moment or do we let our feet be soaked to bring us back to reality--to normal?