Friday, May 30, 2008

Tears on My Pillow

[Begin reading with Eyes in the Back of My Head]

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


  1. I didn't know that about IL-6. Metal Taco..sounds like it's gonna be good...

  2. That is Fascinating!

    So next time that my neuro tells me: "Your symptoms are due the stress you're not handling in your life"... I can partially agree with him, lol.

    Don't you just hate it when people decide what we can or can't handle?? URG!

    Good for you for realizing that you can be strong, with a little help thrown in there :)

  3. One thing I discovered several years ago is that depression can be a "first" symptom of MS. It's not a common first, but it's not unknown either.
    Dr. Feinstein at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto was part of a panel discussion (about 7 years ago) along with a young woman whose first symptoms were depression. The discussion was eye-opening for me as I really thought that depression would have come "after" a diagnosis. But after listening to the speakers and the doc, it became quite clear. Your brain is going through a lot of changes on a daily basis as it is, throw in a bunch of chemicals from inflammation and the chemistry is bound to be off..and then ta da...depression.

    Very important post, Lisa. Thanks.


  4. I opened up your blog and suddenly remembered we have an IU connection. I attended at Ft Wayne, my neice at Bloomington for her Masters in ED. I LOVE reading about MS research. I have never suffered from depression ever. I seldom feel sad either. But, let me say it takes courage to accept the antidepressants, not the other way around. Never feel less because your shell(that includes the ol' brain) needs what they offer. I have many friends, without MS, who suffer greatly from depression---they all hesitated to seek help. Big mistake. IU...memories.

  5. totally heart your blog. :-)

    I don't have MS (just depression, anxiety, and a stutter), but I did want to comment on your academic building.

    When I looked at it, for the first time I understood why both universities and prisons are called "institutions."

    (And I thought Syracuse University was bad!)

  6. Wow! This is an amazing story. I appreciate you sharing it; I can see many commonalities with my history. -Joan

  7. Lisa~ Now after 16 years of MS, I've tried everything to heal it, I've finally accepted and embraced my new reality. I am a very happy person, I see the blessings I have everywhere.

    At my last MS meeting, a woman who's ms went away when she divorced her husband and got rid of other stresses in her life, her MS was put in remission.

    She's determined to pursuade me that if I do all the right things, I also will be healed.

    She's the only person with MS that has tried to pursuade me that I can change something and be healed.

    I didn't get enough sleep for the past few nights (but it was fun!) so I'm feeling a little weepy.

    I enjoy reading your story!

  8. I never knew depression had anything to do with MS. I know my lack of balance and any kind of quardnation is the ms and I know not being able to see out of my right eye from my optic nerve being affected. Being sad and crying and depression I thought was just depression went to the doctor and he wantted me to take anti depression pills but they could cause suicide so I said no. Thank you for the news and information. Its nice to read your blog learn something and not feel so alone I don't have anyone to disscuss ms problems with.