Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

…Not at all like Pinky and the Brain, sadly.

Stumbled across this article today about how repeated major life stressors, like breakups, violence, or trauma can actually decrease the amount of gray matter in the area of the brain that regulates emotion. It seems that these kinds of stress, at least according to the findings of this one study, can be a precursor to the development of mental illness.

What I wonder about, and I hope they can look into next, is if these brain changes can be reversed. I know that generally neurons don’t spontaneously regrow, but does the brain find a way to repair these damages and work around them? If so, I’m hopeful for the future of my own case.

In 2007 I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, a milder form of manic-depressive illness characterized by depressive episodes and periods of hypomania. With meds and therapy I’ve been largely symptom-free for a couple of years now – in other words, I feel normal. (Except for the seven-pills-a-day bit.) I still struggle with sleeping too much and the occasional bout of feeling paralyzed by the to-do list, but these seem like minor hassles in the face of what things used to be like. My hope is that someday, I’ll be stable enough to go off the meds entirely and I’ll be able to function more or less “normally,” at least for some values of normal.

So hence the fascination with brain research. There were a plethora of traumatic incidents in a seven-year time span for me, and I wonder if the damage from those can ever be repaired – if the broken bits of brain can be worked around and tucked away. Articles like this that show that researchers are identifying the causes of these disorders give me hope. If we know why something happened, we can start to identify how to prevent or undo it. I know that this is just one study, and that this is just the beginning. But maybe it’s the start of a way out for me, too.

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