Working on your brain is difficult but rewarding.

The current medical regimen is the most helpful yet. I’m not happy taking 3 separate psychiatric medications (plus one other prescription and a regular OTC drug for other things), but we’re getting closer to a well-tuned head. The Adderall seems to take me to a more calm and focused place, and the other two have pretty much knocked out the anxiety and depression fits.

There are interesting links between depression and ADD. People with ADD do anything they can to fire up the forebrain, because it’s dead and that feels awful. Therefore we self-medicate with stimulants, or arrange a life full of emergencies and extreme situations, or play lots of video games, etc. One way to stimulate the forebrain is to force yourself into a problem solving and pattern recognition mode: the brain function that tells us that a twig snapped in the forest 50 yards away, or that the dot on the horizon is a ship, or that our keys are across the room next to the hat.

Unfortunately, one way to stimulate the forebrain is to keep pushing at an insoluble problem. If your problem is something like “why can’t I get anywhere in life?” or “why do all girls hate me?” or “how will I ever clean up this horrible mess of my existence?” it’s going to be refractory to the usual problem-solving methods. If you’re depressed, these things will come up a lot. And if you’ve got some form of ADD, working away at that problem will stimulate the forebrain and be irresistable, like picking at a scab or scratching an itch. What you get for your trouble is a spiral of repetitive negative thinking that gets tighter, and deeper, and worse.

This explains one of my worst depressive thought patterns. I do just that; I latch on to an unpleasant “problem” which is actually a reflexively depressive thought. Because thinking about it fires up the problem solving apparatus, I think I’m going to somehow solve the problem if I just think about it really hard. This makes the depression go deeper, and I’m in a feedback loop.

Long story short it’s way easier to get out of one of these spirals on 15 mg of Adderall XR. The forebrain is running about normally and isn’t saying “scratch my itch!”, and when I slide into some self-critical repetitive negative thinking it only lasts a short time; I can pull out of it faster now.

The next step in brain maintenance is: regular exercise. This is gonna be interesting. I’ve never succeeded at that since it was enforced in high school.

15 thoughts on “Brains

    1. Re: Go you!
      Watch out for Medical Student Disease! I seriously thought I had Borderline Personality Disorder until two doctors told me to shut the fuck up and I didn’t, and they were right!
      Also there’s a rogue apostrophe in the url but people will catch that on their own.

      1. Re: Go you!
        Yes, I’m conscious of the medical astrology bit. And I don’t think I have the full-fledged disorder, but the extent to which my behaviors mirror the symtoms and motivations/causes is pretty dead-on.

  1. Fascinating post on the perception of process during depression and ADD.
    Probably coolest thing I’ve read today.
    Thanks for posting.

  2. I am floored. This is a very interesting angle on the problem. I’ll have to try it out for a while but… good iggy brain! Cookie!
    I have the constant-crisis problem, as well as the inability to stop seeking information. Sometimes I have thought I should get any job other than one that requires me to in front of the World Wide Web all day.

  3. Being out and active will give you a lot more energy. Maybe you’ll be a little embarrassed at first, but drink plenty of water, and bring some music and sunglasses so you don’t have to deal with people.
    That’s what I do.
    You’ll be fine, hon.

  4. Second you on the transformative powers of exercise. Some days I’m never as completely at peace as in the hour and half I spend at the gym. It consumes a great deal of time I could devote to other things and people, but without it I lock up almost completely.

  5. Get a friend to chase you with a taser
    Man, this was great to read. I’m so happy and proud to have you as a friend and it’s awesome to know you’re having good brain news at last. I’ve been rooting for you.

  6. You must get The President’s Physical Fitness Award!!1!~!!one!
    Hey, congrats! It sounds like things are working out pretty well.
    What kind of regular exercise are you looking to do? Are we talking weight machines, or just more walks and using stairs instead of elevators? I tend to get decent, but not strenuous, exercise by walking to nearby destinations instead of driving–parks, restaurants, coffee shops, friends’ houses, etc. It also offers me some time to put on headphones and get lost in music, talk, and thought. You might think about starting small with the exercise, like walking to and from Diedrich’s, as that is just down the street from you and a pretty frequent destination. Of course, I am not a doctor, personal trainer, and am a little hesitant about becoming “Mister Advice Guy”–just mentioning what works for me.

  7. Bless you.
    I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but I’m sure a lot of my problems stem from untreated ADD. I mean, I had it as a child and took meds, then in high school was shipped to my father’s house and no longer took the pills, grades fell, ran away from home, all kinds of depression for many year.
    Guess it’s time I see my doctor. Also, I have to do the exercising. Again, trouble all my life getting myself to do it, but when I do, I’m so much better.
    Here’s to your health!

  8. I am so glad that the new med is doing its neurological magic. I hope that the up-trend in brain things continues. It is not fun to take many meds to able to function; but its better than not functioning at all. That’s the peace I’ve made with it, anway. Good luck and hugs to you.

  9. What makes it worse is that these problems are circular and complex problems. I don’t think the human brain can bend around all the factors involved in momentus changes in lifestyle. Does that mean the brain doesn’t attempt to? No at all. Instead it furiously tries to work its way through the maze, getting lost and increasingly frustrated.
    I’ve managed however, to take advantage of that. Exercise while your brain is preoccupied with these ponderings leaves little to no time to reflect upon how much I hate exercising. Hitting the gym or going out for a brisk walk/jog when depressed is advantageous on both fronts, for your body and mind. Yoga also works for me. The concept of mental stress release after a good stretch and cardio routine is a very tasty carrot ahead of a relatively painless stick.
    I hope you can find something that your body and mind can both agree with.

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