Search for the Cure

Here I am again, relying on TED Talks to learn something new. But let me tell you, when it comes to finding topics to discuss, they give me some great inspiration.

The particular TED Talk that inspired me today is one that just came out recently. In it, the audience learns of a potential cure for mood disorders, or at least an end in sight to what is considered a “mood disorder epidemic,” and I could not agree more. When thinking about mental illness, we don’t necessarily draw direct comparisons to health crises like AIDS or tuberculosis, but with the staggering numbers of people affected, it just makes sense.

Another standpoint I really haven’t thought too much about is the medicine behind “treating” mental illness. With other diseases, when we take medication, we do so in hopes of curing our ailment. If we have an infection, take an antibiotic. If you want to prevent certain diseases from even occurring, receive a vaccine. But mental illness has no cure. The root cause of it has yet to be found, so for now, the only medication available simply calms symptoms. They do nothing to actually stop the illness in its tracks. And for people who suffer from chronic conditions, like me, you have to continually take medications for the entire duration of the disease, which translates to “you have to take this antidepressant every day for the rest of your life if you want any chance at feeling sane.”

If this isn’t aggravating, I don’t know what is. We see so much attention toward “finding the cure” for diseases like cancer and AIDS, but mental illness is a whole other story. Finding a cure doesn’t even feel like a possibility. As if everybody is fine with this status quo and we can continue on for the foreseeable future like this, ignoring the fact that the numbers of diagnoses for mental illness are constantly increasing.

But wait! Maybe a cure is possible. At least that’s what this TED Talk says, through various experiments involving ketamine, an anesthetic used worldwide and a club drug under the persona “Special K.” Research shows that ketamine targets an individual’s resilience to stress, a major factor in mental illness, in this case, depression and PTSD. By avoiding triggering stress, people may be able to avoid symptoms altogether. If stress is a crucial catalyst for experiencing mental illness, I don’t see why other conditions like anxiety and OCD couldn’t also benefit from a drug like a ketamine, which works within hours and lasts for weeks. Even the original SSRI Prozac did not stack up to ketamine’s effects.

So this truly is a possibility. If we figure out the causes of mental illness, rather than treating the side effects, I won’t have to continually talk about mental illness. But I can’t be the only one who cares to get anything done. Obviously medicine is working behind the scenes to put research in motion, but people have to open their minds to the possibilities. Throughout history, we develop different medications with certain intentions, but later discover that their purpose is best served for other patients. That’s just a part of the medical process in my eyes, and mental illness should be no different. To think, if we could be sitting on a “miracle drug” that could save millions of people from suffering, we need to do something, before it’s too late.

As someone who avoids going to the doctor’s office and would much rather rely on holistic medicines, I truly believe in the power of modern science and technology when it comes to health. From starting just a single antidepressant, my life has changed dramatically, but I still wish for something more. I know I’m still constantly depressed and anxious, and while my prescription does a decent job in some aspects, I know I’m still lacking something. If there’s a potential that one day I would not have to swallow down my happiness, that my neurotransmitters fired off as they should, I am hopeful. Maybe overly optimistic, but hopeful.

I plan to continue talking about mental illness until this day comes. Until the medical field fully acknowledges the epidemic mood disorders has truly escalated to. Until I don’t feel scared about admitting my faults in fear that people won’t get it. Until I am hesitant about taking care of my health to avoid unpleasant side effects from drugs that might not even work. Until we won’t lose valuable people to the darkness within their own minds. I know that day will come, and I pray that I can see it.

Disease plagues our world in many various forms. It always has. Some diseases, however, cannot be seen. But they are no less valid than any other. And like any widespread disease, they need universal acknowledgement and support in order to receive the funding and potential of annihilation. A cure is possible. We just have to believe and work toward it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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