One of the most striking features of IU-Bloomington is the beauty of the limestone buildings. On the left is Merrill Hall, one of six buildings on campus which house the Jacobs School of Music. Isn't it pretty at springtime?
During the same time I was dealing with the pain in my neck, I began experiencing weepiness, sleepiness, and fatigue. It got to such a point that I dragged myself into the Student Health Center. After talking it over, the doc suggested that I was sad from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I grew up in central Oklahoma where the sky is big, the sun is strong, the buildings are brick, and winter flowers bloom. Admittedly, those beautiful limestone structures were looking bleakly gray as they matched the constantly oppressive gray skies during those much too short days of late winter.
The doc thought that three months of a low dose of Zoloft would help carry me into springtime where colors and light flow freely. He also suggested that I could talk to someone in the Counseling/Psychological Services Division. That sounded like a good idea, especially since I was dealing with so much at one time.
Early in our visit, the psychologist expressed that she understood just how rigorous and competitive the doctoral music program is. She acknowledged that the level of sunlight could be affecting my mood, but she was more interested in the stress of academic life. When she suggested that the program might be more than I could or should put myself through.....well, I was p*ssed. She didn't know me and I lost any faith in her. I didn't return.
During the rest of my time in Bloomington, I cycled between toughing it out in silence and dragging myself into the Student Health Center to resort to a brief round of antidepressants to try to lift me out of the wet darkness. I think it was the third time I sought help that the doc suggested using the antidepressants for a full year in an attempt to level out the cycle which was being to look more like Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
Looking through those Eyes in the Back of My Head, I'd be curious to know the level of Interleukin-6 (IL-6) protein in my blood at the time of that first depressive episode and at the time of each pulling riptide of darkness. We already know that inflammation plays a significant role in the development of multiple sclerosis, but I wasn't aware of its connection to depression until reading an article at BrainBlogger, Inflammatory Markers Altered in Depression and Suicide.
As recently as 2005, Johns Hopkins Researchers Discover Key Protein Linked To Transverse Myelitis and Multiple Sclerosis.
"IL-6 is a chemical messenger that cells of the immune system use to communicate with one another. One of the cell types injured by high levels of IL-6 includes oligodendrocytes, which help produce the protective myelin sheath coating around nerve cells. The findings offer one possible mechanism responsible for demyelinating disorders, such as TM and MS, and may aid in the development of effective therapies against these disorders, the researchers say."
So not only do Transverse Myelitis and Multiple Sclerosis patients have in common elevated levels of IL-6, they share that characteristic with non-suicidal MDD patients. We know that depression can be a symptom of MS and that MS patients experience depression at greater occurrence than the general population. But isn't it interesting that they have inflammation in common.
This is starting to make sense to me. But at the time, I thought it was a sign of personal strength the longer I went without breaking down and reaching for the antidepressants. I'm much wiser now.
Next: My Horn, The Metal Taco