Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning happy and eager to begin the day? I rarely do. I know that others also do not, and maybe it’s out of reach, but wouldn’t it be nice? If I could start the day without a vague sense of doom, perhaps I’d be more likely to “keep on the sunny side” throughout the day. (And folks, it must be told that when those words popped onto my mind screen, they came with a tune….)
I’m actually doing pretty well right now, but I stopped taking my antidepressant out of concern for its long-term side effects and am borderline terrified that depression will seep its way back into my mind.
When I am afraid of something, I typically seek more information. So I began googling terms like “nighttime depression”—and I found some great stuff.
I have lost the citation for the article about research confirming that people who wake up happy are indeed happier all the time. (Perhaps I figured “big whoop” and didn’t bother to do a save.)
But I did print out an article from Psychology Today titled “Sleep and depression: Cure depression by combatting REM,” by Patrick McNamara, PhD.
McNamara says that in Major Depressive Disorder, there is abnormally high activitiy in paralimbic structures and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and abnormally low activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—the same pattern which occurs during REM sleep. McNamara also says that REM is also associated with “production of negative affect and selective consolidation of negative emotional memories.” Sigh. C’est moi.
He notes that while some antidepressants do suppress REM sleep, it’s probably not something one should strive for since there must be a reason REM exists as part of normal sleep, and we don’t know what it is. He concludes with “more research is needed” and laments the fact that instead, funding for sleep research is being cut.
What most interested me was the notion—maybe new only to me—that the balance between two specific parts of the brain may determine whether you are a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” person. (I have often been told that I am a “glass half empty” person, but while a part of me wants to shriek, “GUYS, DO YOU NOT GET THAT HALF FULL AND HALF EMPTY ARE THE SAME THING???,” I take the point.)
However, it was the very next article I found that sent me over the top. This one was written by Dan Gray and published on July 25, 2017, on the website Healthline. It was titled “Treatment That ‘Rewires’ the Brain Could be Used for Depression.”
That treatment, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for depression in 2009, is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where magnetic energy is sent to specific parts of the brain by a device outside the head.
The article went on to talk about how many clinics are now doing TMS and how much it costs (a lot, if you don’t have insurance).
But I was particularly struck by the notion of using magnetic stimulation to change the brain and end depression because I do believe that energy healing and also qigong involve manipulation of electromagnetic fields within the body.
Is a transcranial magnetic stimulator akin to the hands of a healer applied to a head—or even to my own hands when I pulse them outside my head and feel a changing density inside? If so, could I learn to use my hands in a more precise manner to combat depression? Could my hands ever be powerful enough, or precise enough?
According to another article, TMS targets the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the region that has abnormally low activity in depression, per the Psychology Today article. I don’t know where that is, but could I learn? Learn in the sense of being able to focus my awareness on that part of my brain?
In some of my advanced qigong classes, we were asked to focus our awareness on the region of the third ventricle, in the center of the brain. I don’t know if I or any of the other students ever actually achieved this, but it was considered that we could.
If I had TMS, I might have a better sense of where the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is than I ever had of where the third ventricle is. Might I be able to “qigong” my way out of depression using a very specific, very direct technique? Traditional Chinese medicine approaches to dealing with depression involve organs in the torso and meridians throughout the body. Would it work to go straight to the brain?
I have asked my health plan to refer me to a contracted TMS provider. If that fails, I may go on my own nickel. I want to know more….