I read an article this morning about mental disease and their genetic similarities with one another. The article explained that the five diseases they studied were a, “continuum of dysfunction rather [sic] than five separate and discrete conditions.” The scientists studied autism, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disease, schizophrenia and major depression. And it was basically determined that genetically those with these diseases share very similar genetic components (certain strands of DNA look alike). And all I could think was, glad we spent millions of dollars figuring this one out!
Sigmund Freud defined schizophrenia as a variety of diseases (although it should also be noted that Freud thought schizophrenia developed when a child did not successfully develop an “attachment” with the parent of the opposite sex and his theories went down hill from there.) But it could be argued that even someone as incredibly inane as Sigmund Freud knew that a disease as vital and devastating as schizophrenia was complicated and ultimately incomprehensible. He got this right.
Being a patient of mental disease, I meet others with similar diseases. Even through this medium I hear of symptoms, reactions, close encounters; and I relate. I relate to the physical, the mental, the emotional and the psychotic. I relate because while each brain is a fascinating and incredible machine that because of its complexities tends to run differently, there are concrete points that do not change. DNA, white cells, atoms, genes, bone materials, and even organ names. The brain, a complicated and ultimately vast universe that we haven’t begun to traverse, is still in many ways co-dependent on pieces of our bodies that are just alike.
I am not particularly fond of textbooks, especially when it comes to mental disease. For the most part, I hate the fact that our doctors and our nurses, those specifically paid to help us, read definitions of our mental diseases and think they can understand it. Those never suffering from the diseases, and many times their only contact with the disease is in a controlled environment like a hospital or doctor’s office, make decisions that greatly affect the very fabric of human lives. And they do so based on a table in a book.
And then we have a study that says all the diseases are genetically alike. On one hand, this is great because potentially if those who mock and fear those with these diseases could blame it on genes rather than the unknown, we all may benefit. However, what happens when doctors just read they are all alike? Are they going to be able to accept that while diseases have similarities, it is the patients that are different?
And that is the real question; can those trained to help understand that while mental diseases may look the same, they will never be able to act the same? And it would be even more devastating to our population (those with mental diseases) if you try to make it so.
Those who have schizophrenia, or bipolar or even forms of autism can understand each other on a level that few others are able. When you see that child rocking back and forth, not even aware of the rocking, can you feel it? Can you understand that need for the comfort in the motion, especially when you are depressed and so down that the darkness is the only thing you can see?
Of course, the doctors are celebrating this news. Could they make more effective meds? Could they understand the development of the disease better? Could they be able to see it before it even develops? Could the world as we know it, the unjustifiable violence, the stigma, the horror, all go away?
I am not a big buster of the bubbles, but unfortunately, this one has to go. Understanding the genetic similarities of five of the most powerful mental diseases is not ultimately going to be the cure. It may not even be the right step in a direction. While the strand numbers two and ten may share characteristics in our genes, we are talking about the human brain. Think addiction, think fear, think mental disease.
Addiction is not cured because you know that you have a specific aptitude towards a behavior, any more than a fear will go away just because you understand the cause. The brain is the most powerful weapon in the world. I use this saying many times; not because I think that all our brains are doing is training to be weapons, but because if a human brain can understand enough to kill, it can understand enough to change. It can evolve, and differentiate itself from others. It can create worlds that are so perfect, they literally destroy. The brain can create worlds that are so incredibly freeing, that flying is a viable choice.
I don’t like summaries of the human brain. It isn’t that I don’t believe the human brain shouldn’t be studied, but talking in declarative sentences about something so complex is as dangerous as any untreated mental disease. To understand a mental disease is impossible; and certainly not text-book easy. It is dependent solely on the person the disease inhabits, and it is solely dependent on that person’s abilities to handle, to cope, to survive and to be. One size does not fit all; and no matter how many characteristic these mental diseases have, they are as different as the individuals that carry them. Period. End of Sentence. Let’s move on.