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Stress; "Depression"? - Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
May 3rd, 2005
09:12 pm
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Stress; "Depression"?

I'm feeling kind of… fragmented? There are a bunch of things that need to happen right now, and though so far nothing has gone badly wrong and I see no reason that it will, I'm just not really enjoying dealing with all this crap—things like:

  • My ring broke. I took it to South Side Jewelers, and they can fix it quickly at a reasonable price, but it's one more thing to worry about.
  • Moving arrangements—these are always a pain, and especially this time, since there are so many details to keep track of and I seem to be the nexus for all of them. It seems to be incredibly hard to ensure that things work out the way I want.
  • The driver's side mirror on my car shattered, and I ordered another one, but it's been delayed by a week now. They said they would try to find a closer supplier and upgrade my shipping because of the delay, but I want to have that mirror soon—certainly before my 1300-ish mile trip to Texas.
  • Wrapping up work—the website I've been working on is just about done, but I'm afraid the deployment process may not be completed before I leave. Today I worked with the programmer who will be replacing me. Without being too blunt, suffice it to say that I think the costs of this transition will throw a wrench in the gears of Jason's development process. In a sense, this isn't my problem—but then again, what is my problem? That is, if there are real, legitimate things that need to get done, and there are too many for me to personally do them all, how can I decide which ones to take on myself?

I read a Kuro5hin diary about depression. Actually, when I read it it was in the queue as a story, but it apparently got rejected. I'm kind of flabbergasted at this, since although it's highly controversial, it's very well-written and interesting.

What the article suggests is that depression arises when the brain runs too much on adrenaline and not enough on serotonin, leading to an increase in cortisol which causes an overall decrease in the ability of the brain to process information. This sounds at least vaguely plausible, but what's really interesting are the causes and symptoms: the author claims that spending too much time processing information and being excited is what leads to the syndrome, and that it in turn can cause not only depressed mood but loss of intensity, poor memory and focus, and (among other things) disrupted sleep patterns.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning, having gone to sleep slightly after 1. My blood sugar felt low, so I had a little sugar and went back to bed. I didn't really get back to sleep, though, and when I tested my blood sugar after I did finally get up, it was slightly on the high side. And the feeling I had when I first woke up, thinking I had low blood sugar, bore some significant resemblances to an adrenaline rush.

It's at times like these that I find the poor state of current psychology tremendously frustrating. Even when someone trained in the field says something that sounds plausible, such as this adrenaline/serotonin/cortisol theory, I have no way to assess whether it's actually true or not, and there are any number of other experts who'll disagree. It's especially frustrating because if this theory is true, the changes I should make to ward off full-blown depression are pretty drastic (I'd have to drastically cut down on my information intake, and the author also advises avoiding exercise if depression has reached more than a mild state, since exercise stimulates adrenaline release) and very bad if the theory isn't true. At the same time, I have reasons to dismiss the theory that are self-serving—I'm going to move to Texas soon, and that is inevitably going to involve a lot of stressors, and after that I'll be expected to work more hours than I am now, although certain other stressors will be gone—which seem to impugn my ability to judge it objectively.

I suppose that trying to cut down on stressors might be a good thing for me anyway—but information intake? Do I really want to force myself to spend time doing activities that are neither physically nor mentally exciting or challenging? Yet I can't deny that my pattern with regards to information resembles a drug—I obsessively check LiveJournal and my email (and when those are exhausted I still have a nervous tic of reloading or surfing on to other sites), much like I have since high school. Yet during those periods I didn't experience the loss of concentration (which has, by the way, been far from a unilateral slide) that I have lately—could the additional demands imposed by work have pushed me over the edge? Might I have pushed the adrenaline pathway too far? Is some of this just part of the natural aging process?

This raises more questions than it answers, for sure. One direction in which it does point, though, and which I'd already been sort of thinking about, is that I need to take a more meditative approach to life. Possibly I could even take up actual meditation—though I have a feeling I would find doing it profoundly silly (in much the same way as I do ritual magic) and hard to stick to, perhaps if it produced noticeable results I would be able to keep it up, and perhaps this would be easier to do when my life has been vastly simplified by moving over a thousand miles away from my in-person contacts.

If you read the diary and found it interesting, you might want to read the second part as well.

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