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Layman's Walk

It’s a Matter of Chemistry

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Hey there!

Man, it’s been a month since I’ve written anything!  And it’s not as if there hasn’t been plenty going on.  In national news, we had the atrocious events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the hurricanes that have decimated Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and many more places (along with the threats of three more hurricanes off the southeast coast of the continent), and so much more.

The coverage of these events has been significant.  I did not feel that there was a need for my additional commentary.  If you know me, you’ve got the basics of my thoughts on the matter:  Nazi’s, racists, hate = bad.  Donating money, time, talents to help victims of natural disasters = good.

We’re now in the middle of September and I’m starting my third week in the distributed learning program at Luther Seminary.  It’s a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and a lot of thoughtful reflection.  And paperwork.  Ugh.  But overall, things are going splendidly.  Even though we leverage the Internet a lot for our studies, we have excellent video conferencing for small group discussions, live classroom streaming and interaction in real-time.  Our online learning system (Moodle) is fast and easy to use.  As students, we have closed groups on Facebook where we can have “hallway conversations,” share opinions, and ask questions.  We also have official Luther Sem Facebook groups for more official communications.  Arguably most importantly, our professors and instructors have lots of experience working with distance learners and do a great job of providing a quality classroom experience–even if we have students (which I do in my small groups) who live everywhere from Alaska to Florida to New England.

At the same time, I’m still working on becoming a certified Dale Carnegie Course instructor and running my consulting biz.  Pile that on top of all the activity of the other five members of my family, a busy schedule at Church, and a reasonably active social life, and you’ve got a busy guy!

This last week was the Morton Pumpkin Festival.  If you know me, you know this is far from my favorite week of the year.  Traffic through town is messed up, there are tons more people in town, we end up spending more money than necessary, and, well, I just don’t like it.

So while I’m grumbling over P-Fest, starting seminary, and dealing with all the other stuff going on, I decided in my infinite wisdom that this would also be a great time to try weaning myself off of the antidepressant I’ve been taking for the last 4-5 years.  I didn’t cut it cold-turkey (that’s a terrible idea if you’re taking an SSRI), but I tried cutting my dose in half for two days, then taking my regular dose the third day, and repeating this sequence.

After about a week, I scrapped the idea and went back to my regular daily dosage.  And here’s why:

I became (or re-became) an unbelievably irritated, frustrated, self-centered prick.

Why on earth would I bring this up, let alone share it on a medium like this?  Because it is so important for people to realize that mental illnesses are just that: illnesses.  Like with any other illness, you get checked out when you think something is wrong, you get diagnosed, and you apply the prescribed treatment.  Mental illnesses are still too often stigmatized in our society, even to a point where there are many people who need treatment whose fear and pride won’t allow them to do so.

I take blood pressure medicine every day and I have done so for about seven years.  I don’t have a second thought about it.  It’s a chemical that provides a reaction in my body to make something that isn’t working quite right work better.  It’s the same thing with my antidepressant.  It’s all about a chemical reaction–my brain “eats” serotonin too fast and my medicine helps it do so at a slower rate.  That’s it!

The last day I had self-adjusted my medication, I was pretty much intolerable to be around.  At one point, I finally had the self-awareness to realize what was going on and, while still in a terrible mood, apologized to my wife and kids and took the other half of my dose.  I kid you not, about an hour later relief literally rushed over me.  Along with a much better disposition, I was also filled with disappointment at how I had treated others earlier that day.  The feeling of that rush of relief was almost unbelievable.  That relief was really the catalyst for my writing this post–it really, truly is a chemical thing.  It’s not that I don’t have the self-discipline or that I should just cheer up, suck it up, and quit being so whiney.  It’s literally a chemical reaction.

If you think there might not be something quite right about how you feel or behave, or how a loved one may be acting, do something about it. Whether is counseling, medicine, or some other course of treatment, it’s every bit as important to address it as it is to address high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other disorder.

Love God.  Love others.  Love yourself.