We are all different. The blonde Northern European and the deep rich browns of the Native American child spring from a random shuffle of chemicals brought into focus in a moment of time. We’re like a card game, dealt a hand over which we have little say. Sometimes we discard and pick up new possibilities, other times we’re stuck and have to make due with what’s there. We’d like to think there’s a fix for everything. We are getting closer in modern psychiatry to applying chemical mixes that increase the odds at winning more in our day to day lives.
Human personality is largely an interaction between three basic elements: thoughts, feelings and behavior. Most times the relationship between these elements goes in a line – I think, I feel, and then action emerges from the interplay. Other times the relationship is more subtle, like mixing paint. As things are stirred, interesting hues emerge. Mix too much and a dull, often monochromatic blend results.
There are also “stressors” that occur; life situations that impact how we go about our daily business. Normally we cope and adjust pretty well, but when life gets to be too much, the added burdens tip the balance. It’s like pressing on a big balloon filled with water. Pressure in one area changes the shape and tension on the skin of the balloon. The membrane of the balloon has adaptability – but pressed too far it breaks and we get wet. For some, the genetic paint blending and stressors creates a situation where body chemistry takes a hike and checks out – we get depressed. For others it’s like standing on an already icy slope and getting a shove down it.
I have often asked people with sleep problems, poor appetites, low energy, lousy self-esteem and disinterest in sex what being depressed is like. Answers come back like – “I feel everything is an effort,” or “A nice or dreary day, I’m the same, I just can’t focus.” or “I feel like I have PMS all the time.”
Slowly and insidiously the persons’ body chemistry has changed. The ability to think correctly, feel right and behave in a self-confident manner is lost.
The conservative, closely monitored application of antidepressant medications throws sand on an icy rode so traction is possible. Other times it provides a wake-up call. The introduction of a chemical messenger says, “All right dudes, let’s get the lead out and get moving!” For many it’s a return to wholeness where there was fragmentation between thought, feeling and action.
A doctor friend of mine once told me, “The smartest thing you can do is pick your relatives.” Well, we don’t get to do that. How we process feeling is partly learned, but heavily influenced by genetic factors.
Fortunately in this day and age, laboring with a difficult hand in our own poker game need not be a horrible disadvantage. If the game is not going our way, drawing in some new cards can make the playing a little easier.