Another Piece of the Puzzle

Filing early today because I’m off to an art gallery opening.

Yesterday’s entry should have ended with a reference to Dr. David Kessler’s End of Overeating, but I couldn’t remember the name of the book. Of course the “coincidence” occurred that he was being interviewed this morning on the radio. His theory is that fast food restaurants are especially adept at manipulating us so we’ll consume ever increasing amounts of fat, sugar, and salt. I’d say Denny’s has raised this endeavor to a high art. And then another “coincidence” with the results of a national obesity survey. Connecticut does pretty well. We’re third skinniest in the country. Even before I looked at the chart, I knew Colorado would be first. Massachusetts was a surprise coming in second.

Now on to today’s topic.

Mental illnesses have fascinated me ever since I watched a college classmate melt down at the end of our junior year. We all thought she was joking at first. She went skipping across the quad day after day, singing to herself. Then she began crying for no apparent reason. One day she was gone from school, and someone told us her parents took her home because she’d had a nervous breakdown.

About the same time our cousin Helen Chisholm began having serious mood swings. My mother documented much of it in her journal, but since I was away I didn’t realize how sick she was until after Mother died and I read her journals. Helen set fire to precious old books and furniture and oil paintings in her own house and then accused my mother and my aunt of stealing from her. She bought several pieces of real estate with money she didn’t have. This was decades before the mortgage melt-down, and I still haven’t figured out why the various lawyers and real estate people let her do it. Once the police found her comatose behind the wheel of her car miles from home on one of the busiest stretches of interstate in Connecticut. Another time, my cousin Anna had to drive to Boston to get Helen after she locked herself in a hotel room, flooded the room below because she let the bathtub overflow and refused to come out.

There was a physical component to Helen’s illness as most of the time her temperature and sometimes her blood pressure dropped to dangerous levels during these episodes. When she landed in the hospital, the docs always put her in a medical unit first to stabilize her vitals, then they’d ship her to the psych ward and get her back on lithium and whatever else she was supposed to take.

I don’t know what caused my college classmate’s breakdown. Some people thought it was street drugs, but she was one of the few who never experimented as far as we knew. Helen’s problem seemed to start years after she had a bout of spinal meningitis, but the docs never did pinpoint an exact cause. Her mother had bouts of mania and depression, based on the letters she left behind, but Aunt Lou kept hers under control.

A report issued Wednesday seems to indicate that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are linked to an immune system response. The part of the study that’s truly fascinating involves the view that schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder are linked more closely that previously thought. It’s ironic because the three illnesses were lumped under one umbrella when shrinks used schizophrenia as a label for anything they didn’t understand . Then “modern” practice separated them into three categories and treated them differently. Now they may come back together.

The genetic component, which scientists have known about for years, may actually have to do with the way certain bodies respond to infection in utero, hence the tie to the immune system. Given what I know about another family (not relatives) where several people suffer from various types of serious immune disorders, it makes sense.

One piece of a mystery solved. Lots more to go.

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One Response to “Another Piece of the Puzzle”

  1. Happy About Sadness « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] It’s dark gray at 1:30 p.m. We’re having snow flurries. I just took a walk and my fingers are so cold that I can barely type. Seasonal Affective Disorder is full blast. So it’s a perfect day to write about depression, again. (“Another Piece of the Puzzle.” […]

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