Day After

The night was a restless one. Woke up countless times with my heart beating like crazy, frightened, feeling like someone had touched me, actually feeling the warmth of the hand that was there only in my mind. Woke mom, snuggled up with her and cried until I fell asleep again, only for the whole crap to start over soon thereafter. After many repeats got up feeling tired. Mom, too.

Now I’m feeling on the verge of tears all the time. Arms still wrapped up in bandages. Put some on Little Lola, too.

LittleLolaDayAfter

I think my little me feels the way she looks a lot of the time.

 

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10 Futile Tips to Increase Self-Esteem & ONE That Actually Works (for me)

Anyone struggling with mental health issues is quite likely to be struggling with a low self-esteem, too. Unless, maybe, you’re a narcissist, but trust me, then your true self-esteem is probably not so grand either. 😉 If you are struggling with self-esteem issues, you probably are not short on good advice on how to increase it that people have given you over the years. I sure am not short on this kind of advice.

The problem is, those tips never really worked for me. Not a single one of them. I wrote them down below along with the objections that I have. Then I’ll tell you the ONE thing that actually works to improve my self-esteem. But before that, here’s all the “good” advice:

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1. Don’t compare yourself to other people. I don’t really see this working, because isn’t it an inbuilt thing that humans compare themselves to other humans in order to relate and to survive? Isn’t it a way to develop positively, too? Imagine we didn’t have the ability to look at other people and see what they are doing and then compare it to what we are doing. . . we’d be unable to learn from others, if we weren’t able to compare people and behavior. So why should I stop comparing? For example I see that my mom manages emotions so much better than I do. I want to be able to do that, too. Shouldn’t I be looking and comparing what she does to what I do, in order to figure out what she does differently and why she manages and I don’t? I don’t see how my self-esteem would grow from stopping comparing. I mean I do want to know where I stand in relation to others, because I am a social being. Maybe the conclusions I draw are not the best, but really, that’s not the same as the thing itself being bad.

2. Don’t put yourself down. Okay. Good in theory. No putting myself down. But what shall I do instead? Pretend my lacking abilities aren’t there? Yay, I have awesome emotional coping skills. I rock. I’m awesome. – Unrealistic much? Hey, but at least I’m not putting myself down. So okay, maybe I’m gonna feel better about myself initially, but sooner or later I still don’t have any better emotional coping skills and run into a big mess because of them. I’ll still feel bad about myself in the long run. Also, there is a reason for which I put myself down. I can’t just resolve that by making a decision not to do it any longer. The reason needs figuring out and addressing, else I’m only gonna feel worse about myself because I don’t really manage to not put myself down.

3. Strengthen yourself with positive affirmations. Hmm… I have nothing against positive affirmations. I can write them on pieces of paper and stick them to the bathroom mirror and when I run out of toilet paper, I’ll even be grateful they’re there. But repeating something positive over and over again isn’t going to make it feel more true to me when I have an aversive reaction to what the affirmation says in the first place.

4. Accept compliments. I would. And I can pretend that I do. But in order to accept something, it needs to fit in with my belief system. Imagine someone told you the world is a flat disk that people fall off of once they come too close to the edge and expected you accept it. Everything you know tells you they are wrong, and you feel like there is plenty of proof that they are. But chuck that, accept it anyway. Would you?

5. Change your beliefs about yourself. Oh, I would. In a second. If this was a rational kind of belief system, I’d be changing it so much and so awesomely you’d stand in awe. Problem is, those beliefs aren’t rational. Rationally I do already know that I have no reason for my self-esteem to be so bad. But guess what, this isn’t a rational belief. It is tied deeply into my emotions and my experiences and my history and they just shrug logical reasoning off like a pesky insect and will rather go and get the fly swatter than accept it keeps on bothering them.

6. Find out what you’re good at. Good idea. If in order to believe I’m ‘good at’ something my bad self-esteem wouldn’t always interfere. My bad self-esteem tells me that even when I’m good at something, I’m not good enough by far, and the thing that I’m good at isn’t a very valuable thing anyway. So if I were just able to find out what I’m good at, I wouldn’t be struggling with such a lousy self-esteem in the first place.

7. Don’t allow people to treat you with a lack of respect. Define ‘lack of respect’ please. It is a highly subjective thing, what one considers as a ‘lack of respect’. If someone pushes me around I don’t recognize that as a lack of respect, because I feel they are right in doing that, and not lacking anything. I’d need to feel deserving of a certain level of respect first, in order to properly realize when someone is treating me with less than that.

8. Dress nicely, maintain good hygiene, work out, eat well, etc. I have nothing against those things, other than that if they don’t match how I feel, instead of making me feel better, I just feel an inner dissonance and like a fraud because the way I look and eat and stuff is not appropriate to the way I feel inside. Eating is a big one for me. I just CAN not eat when I feel like I’m not deserving of the food. I want to, my rational mind knows there is no reason why I would not, but I just CAN’T. Not until I feel better about myself. So dressing nicely, maintaining good hygiene etc. feels backwards to me. Like saddling a horse that isn’t yet even there.

9. Be helpful and kind to others. So good in theory, so hard when all those emotions get in the way. I try to, really. I try really, really hard, because it’s important to me. But the expectation makes me feel like a failure when I don’t manage, because I know it should be the least thing to be kind to others and to be helpful. And having such a bad self-esteem, I often don’t even feel like anyone would WANT the help I could offer, because it’s not good enough, and like nobody would even CARE for my being kind, because I am annoying them. So I end up feeling afraid of being kind, because I feel like they would misunderstand my attempt at kindness as an attempt to bother them and would turn away from me over it.

10. Don’t dwell on your past experiences. Uhm-kay?! They just contributed big time to who I am, so why would they be important, right? Cause as humans we tend to ignore past experiences, or what? Trust me, if I could just be a clean slate and start over, I’d totally do it! But… not working. Experiences shaped who I am. My experiences shaped my emotions. In order to understand myself, my emotional reactions, my automatic thoughts and beliefs, I actually NEED to take those experiences into account, so I can make sense of the mess I am. And hey, maybe even eventually move beyond it. Sorry if you consider my wanting to be more aware of how my past influenced to be ‘dwelling’ on my past experiences.

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Okay, so all those didn’t really work for me. Like, at all. But one thing IS working. And this one thing is:

ImproveSelfEsteem

That, and only that, is where the modest amount self-esteem that I have collected in the meantime comes from. That is what helps me with drawing better conclusion from comparisons with other people. That is what helps me with not putting myself down so much. That is what slowly replaces the negative beliefs I have about myself with better ones. That is where I get a healthy idea of how much respect I deserve from. That is what helps me make sense of and come to terms with my past experiences to then let go of them. And that is what makes me more sure that I can actually offer kindness and help that others would appreciate.

Only this one thing. Go figure.  I actually need to get a horse before I saddle it.

Not Even My Social Anxiety is Clear-Cut

One label among my mix of diagnoses is ‘Social Anxiety Disorder’, which is also called ‘Social Phobia’. It’s probably hard to differentiate it from the PTSD at the same time, but it’s got all the markers of a social phobia. For those who are not familiar with it, the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Social Phobia are (for adults, shortened):

A. A marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.
B. Exposure to the feared social situation almost invariably provokes anxiety.
C. The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.
D. The feared social or performance situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety or distress.
E. The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situations(s) interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine or functioning.
F. In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.
G. The fear or avoidance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition and is not better accounted for by another mental disorder.
H. If a general medical condition or another mental disorder is present, the fear in Criterion A is unrelated to it.

As far as I can remember back, I have always had a social phobia. My threshold for anxiety in unfamiliar situations in general is very low and if they are social situations, I often feel physically sick with all the anxiety. My heart rate accelerates, I get sweaty palms, I feel nauseous and like I’m frozen.

School was never fun for me. Interaction with others was the most awful thing. I was always a shy, lonely child. Some teachers were concerned about me and it was the most mortifying thing when they tried to talk to me about stuff. Tried, because I didn’t really talk. I’d nod or shake my head, but rarely talked, or at least no more than a soft ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Most teachers didn’t notice, though, because I was quiet and didn’t draw any attention in class and they probably were happy with that.

When I lived in group homes and attended therapy groups, it was pretty much a repeat of how it had been in school. Only there it started to cause problems, because I was expected to interact with the other girls, to talk in front of them and to share things about myself while other people were watching. That was horrific. I was nervous only being in the same room with them, forget talking. So I remained mute, avoided eye contact and they seemed to understand that as a sign of defiance more than anxiety. And I guess part of it was defiance, but it was protective defiance because I was afraid.

Today I’m still wary of situations where people who I don’t know might talk to me and I’m extremely nervous about going to unfamiliar or busy places. It’s somewhat easier today because I don’t need to go places alone, though. I feel comfortable and unafraid at home, especially with mom, so having her with me helps because I feel like I’m safe in her presence and can “hide” with her. Not physically, but by knowing she can tell how much I can take and will take over when I can’t take any more. That’s fairly liberating, because I feel much better about new situations when I’m not facing them by myself. I feel like it’s safer to be a bit more courageous, too, because in case it gets bad or overwhelming, I’m not alone.

Strangely, at the same time, I also have this whole other, opposite side to me. (Like, because things being easy and unambiguous for once would be boring or something.) Sometimes I go into what’s like an entirely different personality mode, almost, for which social anxiety isn’t a problem at all. I think it’s a semi-dissociated state or something, and it kicks in when I go into a “fuck all the world, I don’t care, bring on the destruction” state. That was the mode that took over when I ran from the group homes, for example, or the mode that ended with me having sex with perfect strangers. I’m not shy at all about talking or being in social situations then, but it’s like I’m not even really being “me” in those situations.

And once more I’m left feeling like a fraud when I suffer from social anxiety symptoms, because I know that I’m also capable of being perfectly anxiety-free at other times. How can two so opposite sides be really there? That’s what I ask myself then and feel like I can’t even trust my own behavior or thoughts or feelings.

Lately those anxiety-free episodes have become far and few in between, though, and I think that’s even kind of a good sign, because those socially uninhibited person that I can turn into is a very unhealthy person for me to be. Kind of a protective, tough persona that I picked up as a means of coping along the way, not my true self.

But I feel like I’m starting to ramble. This post doesn’t really even have a point other than “it’s complicated” maybe. Ah well, I’ll post it anyway. Because it IS complicated and weird, being both extremely afraid socially, and able to just ditch all anxiety in other situations. Complicated. And social anxiety sucks.

A very helpful therapeutic excercise

I saw F for therapy this morning. I was in a rotten mood when we arrived because while we were in the car my mom had told me we’d have to stop by the supermarket on the way home because my jerk brother had helped himself to our fruit basket when he had been over to pick stuff up this morning. I always have difficulty with spontaneous changes in plan and was angry at mom because I felt like she never considered me with anything she did.

Mad at her, I didn’t want her anywhere near me during my therapy, so I went into the room with F alone, while my mom waited. (Sometimes I want my mom along, and F lets me.) Anyway, so I was alone with F and in a bad mood and of course she could tell and asked what was up. So I explained to her how I felt like mom didn’t take my feelings seriously, yada yada yada.

Then F introduced me to a therapy technique that I found surprisingly helpful in the end – so much that I want to share, because who knows, maybe it helps someone else, too.

F asked me to conjure up before my mind’s eye what we call my “safe place”. My usual safe place includes my mom, but today I was mad at her and didn’t want her at my safe place, so I visualized my safe place without her. We do the “safe place” visualization often, so that by now I’m pretty good at going there in my mind and noticing when I need to return there if the stuff we work on during therapy gets overwhelming.

Anyway, so I was at my safe place. F then asked me to focus on the situation that upset me again, and to identify my thoughts and feelings as closely as possible. I ended up with:

  • feeling ignored
  • unloved
  • worthless
  • overpowered because the decision had already been made and I hadn’t even been asked
  • helpless
  • panicky
  • angry over feeling helpless and panicky
  • angry at mom for not doing her job as a mother right
  • abandoned

The next step was that F asked me to keep holding on to these feelings, but let the present day situation fade away at the same time, so that just the feelings remained. That was a bit challenging, but I managed.

Then F asked me to allow my mind to wander and see if it recalls a situation from when I was younger where the same feelings applied.

I did and it didn’t take very long before a situation from a group home came to my mind. It was the group home I had been in after my first hospital stay aged 15, and I had been at the group home for three weeks (or so) at the time when suddenly the woman who ran my group, a social worker or something, decided I was going to be moved to another group home outside of town. Just like this. I had only just settled in with this group, only just started to open up to some of the caretaker people there, and suddenly that woman just said “pack your things, you’re going to move later today”.

Apparently they had only taken me temporarily while they were waiting for a longer term placement to become available, but nobody had told me this. Anyway, so that was the situation that came to my mind when F asked me to see if I could find one that matched the feelings I had.

F made sure I still felt safe, and then asked me to remember the situation from the group home and my feelings in this situation as vividly as I could. And once I had that she asked, if there was anyone who I wanted to be there with me in that memory situation to help me or to give me what I didn’t get for real back then.

I nodded and really wanted my mom (like, my mom now, not my birth mother) to be there. So F asked me to imagine what would happen if she went there. So before my mind’s eye I saw myself all upset and confused and feeling helpless and afraid and angry because I was getting pushed around and shoved off to another home because not one single person in the world even cared for me. Then I had my mom come into the room with me. I made her come in, be very gentle and respectful, like she is in real life, too, and she looked at me in this way that says, without ever speaking a word, that she sees me and feels for me and wants to be there with me. Then I had her talk to me and explain to me how she is going to be my mom one day. Not yet now, because we don’t really know each other yet, and that she’s sorry we don’t, but that she’s gonna be there for me and loves me and that I’m going to be fine and that she looks forward to when we meet for real.

F asked me to monitor what my feelings did while I was imagining that, and go figure, they went away. I felt sad and unhappy for having been in such an unhappy place, but also better not like nobody loved me anymore. More sorry that I’d been so bitchy to mom.

I asked F if I could get mom for real and she was fine with it, so I went to where she was waiting and while mom was all surprised and a bit concerned that I was coming out before the time was up, I just put my arms around her neck and suddenly felt so overwhelmed that I couldn’t help crying. In the slightly-confused-yet-relieved way. It’s embarrassing, actually. I bet mom had no idea what the hell had happened.  LOL

I really liked this exercise. I felt a lot better afterwards. I can’t even explain why exactly. We stopped by the supermarket and it was okay. Once we were home again, I even felt good enough to continue with the sexual healing journey a bit. And even now I still feel kind of elated and like my family loves me and look forward to the rest of the day. Life is good. 🙂

‘Acting Out’ = Attachment Behavior in Disguise?

Last evening was one of ‘those’ evenings. I didn’t really know why, but I found myself picking fights with mom and dad, deliberately tried to drive especially mom up the walls, was clingy and hostile at the same time and basically did my best to cause chaos and be a nuisance.

Now you see, my mom has two ways of reacting to that. One is that she acknowledges the behavior and my feelings and keeps doing what she’s doing. The other is that she stops what she’s doing, calls me on the behavior and we end up sorting it out. Trouble is: I really hate both ways when I’m in this mood.

When I am in this mood, I aim for drama and escalation and people finally showing their “true colors” and mirroring my feelings of chaos and dissatisfaction. So what I aim for would look something like this:

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Me: You’re doing that wrong, don’t do that wrong!

Mom: I’m not doing that wrong.

Me: Yes, you are! Do it right!

Mom: Lola, only because it’s not the way you want it, it’s not wrong! Things don’t always go like you want them to!

Me: No, things NEVER go like I want them to! Nobody ever considers me! I hate you! You’re despicable and a shit mother!

Mom: That’s no way to speak to me, you’re hurting my feelings! Go to your room!

Me: Your fucking feelings don’t matter to me! You hate me, that’s what! I’m done being your daughter!

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Only that’s never what happens. Which is really, really good, mind you, but I hate it while I’m in those terrible moods. Anyway, what really happens is either:

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Me: You’re doing that wrong, don’t do that wrong!

Mom: I’m sorry you’re feeling like it’s the wrong way.

Me: No, you’re not sorry! You just don’t care.

Mom: Now that’s hard, feeling like I don’t care.

Me: Go fuck yourself. (And I retreat, because I am annoyed that she’s so damn unwilling to fight with me. 😉 )

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Or it ends like this:

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Mom: Honey, you sound like you’re in a really unpleasant mood.

Me: I’m not in a bad mood, you just suck, that’s what!

Mom: I think we should go and find ourselves a nice calm spot to figure out what’s annoying you so.

Me: I don’t want to go anywhere!

Mom: That’s alright. Here’s as good a place as any. What’s bothering you?

Me: That you are doing it wrong!

Mom: How come that’s so difficult for you today, that I’m not doing it the way you think is right?

Me: ‘Cause it’s WRONG! Don’t you listen to me or are you really this stupid?

Mom: You sound like you are really this upset, Baby, that’s what I hear.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Can you see how it’s not exactly edifying to pick a fight with my mom? My attempts to insult her fall flat, all it gets me is mom being nice and concerned about how I feel. And she’s not just saying nice things with a sarcastic tone or something, she actually means it. I have no clue how she does it. But so much for spreading drama. Anyway, that’s how we ended up talking last night. I had been holding myself together pretty well after feeling like I had suddenly lost myself. I had been waiting it out, tried to brave it and stay optimistic. But it had taken a toll on me and suddenly I found myself crying, wanting for everything to just be okay again. And we ended up figuring out that that was probably why I had ended up picking fights and trying to drive everyone crazy: to show how I was feeling, to alert my family to my misery and to get someone to do something about it, because I was getting to the end of what I could cope with.

Mom pointed out to me that this is attachment behavior: Seeking comfort and help when I can’t cope, wanting to connect with someone to make it better. Misguided attachment behavior, because it seemingly aims at the opposite, at distancing me from everyone, ruining the relationship and upsetting who I love, but deep down attachment behavior nonetheless.

That got me thinking. At least once I had calmed down again. I think there really is a bit of truth in what she said. When I think of the times when I act out, it’s almost always a misguided way of communicating how my feelings to others, an attempt to cue them into doing something, to make something happen that I hope to be helpful, even when there is some really twisted thinking underneath it all. The message is still: “Look, I’m not well, do something, change it”. That IS attachment behavior, in a way.

So what the next step would probably be: applying that knowledge. I mean if it’s attachment behavior, then it’s probably a good idea to find a less misguided way to say “Look, I’m not well, can you help me?” than to try and pick a fight and cause chaos. At least in theory. In practice, how do I get from attachment behavior in disguise to open attachment behavior when I’m emotionally upset and feel like spreading chaos? I have no idea. But I hope a little awareness for what’s really going on is going to at least help a bit.

Confusing. But I’m a little better today.

Dissociative Recoil

So I finally finished writing the post about Experiences and Gene Expresssion after mom took pity and helped me comprehend the matter. I looked forward to that, because I had prepared for the post for days now. I thought I’d feel good after I finished putting my thoughts into words and proud of myself and all that. And what happened instead?

Ever since hitting the submit button I dissociate like crazy. I can feel my attention drifting away literally ALL the time, as I detach from reality. I don’t hear it when I’m being spoken to. If I’m lucky I get a faint, vague echo in my head that tells me someone could have said anything, but it’s way after they are done speaking already, and of course I have no idea what has been said. I also stare off into space and just stay like that until I notice and make an effort to focus back on reality, but right after I did that, I feel the same pull towards staring again.

That sucks so bad. I mean okay, staying focused and writing that post was a bit exhausting, but goddamnit, can’t I do something exhausting and be OKAY??? That sucks so bad I feel like crying . 😦 I want to be in control of whether I dissociate or not, but no, I get this massive dissociative recoil and have no say in the matter. Either I’m gonna cry or I’m gonna scream, it’s so terribly frustrating!!!

Experiences and Gene Expression – the biological basis

After the point of near-despair because I didn’t seem to understand a thing, I have now gotten to a point where I think I got the gist of it. This is a post about how experiences shape the way our genes work, to underline that while our genetic makeup might be hardwired, which parts of it get activated is often due to what kind of experiences we make.

The premise of that is that as humans, at the moment we get conveived our genetic makeup is determinated by the individual mix of chromosomes from our mother’s and father’s DNA. This individual mix contains lots of possibilities there, laid out by what our genetic makeup contains, but by that point they are still possibilities. Plenty of them. With some genes there is little choice, such as what our hair or eye color will be. Others traits of ours, however, are the result of a mix of genes that are less predetermined. Which get realized and which don’t largely depends on what kind of experiences we make. Both inside the mother’s womb as we grow, as outside of it, during our childhood (as well as our adult life).

So much for the theory. Here is how it works on a biological basis (the way I came to understand it).

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The most important thing to know is that the brain, which is part of the nervous system, communicates internally with electric signals (inside of nerve cells) as well as chemical signals (to get information from one nerve cell to the next). So the brain’s language consists of those two parts.

GeneExpression0

So far so good. What happens now when we experience things? The kind of experience that we have (like sensual experience, be it through touch, seeing things, hearing things, feeling things, anything) gets translated into electrical impulses. Those come in through lots of little “arms” that nerve cells have. Those incoming impulses stimulate the nerve cell.

GeneExpression1

What happens when the nerve cell gets stimulated in a certain way? The stimulation releases messenger proteins. Messenger proteins are proteins that carry information to the nucleus of the cell. The nucleus is where our genetic makeup is. Every nerve cell (as well as most other cells in the body) is equipped with all of our genetic information, which consists of 46 chromosomes. The important part here is that, once stimulated, the activated messenger proteins in turn stimulate activator proteins inside the nucleus, where all of our genetic information is.

GeneExpression2

Now let’s look at the chromosomes, because that’s important to be able to understand what happens next.

Each of the 46 chromosomes consists of a double helix of so-called nucleotides, little thingies that basically work like a zipper. Each nucleotide has a counterpart that it can lock with, which is why it ends up being a double helix. The double helix is curled up really tightly into the shape of an X, which is why Chromosomes are X-shaped. (Except for the one male Y chromosome. That one mises a leg. But all the other chromosomes are X shaped.)

Anyway, on this double helix – if we unspiraled it to look – we’d be able to see one gene sequence after the other. Really, really, really many of them on each single chromosome. And each of those gene sequences starts with a promotor. Keep that in mind, because it’s important.

GeneExpression3

Okay, so you kept in mind that each of the many genes on the looooooooong DNA helix starts with a promotor. That’s important because depending on what kind of activator protein has been released by the incoming information, this protein matches with a specific promotor.

GeneExpression4

Once the activator protein has successfully matched with a promotor, the promotor triggers a slicing protein that temporarily slices (unzips) the double helix that makes up this gene sequence. That is important  because messenger RNA pieces can match with the now-open strand of DNA. By matching up to the DNA they make a copy of the information that this gene carries. Once they are done matching, they have joined to a little string of messenger RNA and let go of the DNA to float off. The job is done and the double-helix zips close again.

GeneExpression5

So now there is a messenger RNA copy of what the gene says. This copy is able to pass from the nucleus into the cell body where it seeks out the so-called ribosome. The ribosome is like a building site for proteins, which reads the info of the messenger RNA. Depending on the information that the messenger RNA carries, the ribosome joins together the building parts that for example neurotransmitter proteins consist of. Which proteins get built therefore depends on which gene was activated and what information was on that gene.

GeneExpression6

Everyone familiar with mental health issues will surely know how valuable neurotransmitters are. A lack of neurotransmitters like serotonine, for example, can cause stuff like depression. Which is why psych drugs come and add artificial neurotransmitters (or agents that inhibit the ability of the neurotransmitters to get resorbed into the nerve cells after they have been released to communicate information to the next nerve cell).

BUT, and that’s the real big thing all this is about – while our genes determine which neurotransmitters are built, for example, it is our experiences that determine which genes get activated. So the way I understand it, it is kind of impossible to keep nature and nurture apart, because one influences the other. Especially during pregnancy, infancy and childhood, there are apparently many windows of opportunity during which the kind of experiences that a person makes determine WHICH of the many possible genes that are there will be the ones that get activated.

Now this may sound like a small thing, but it’s actually a big one. Everything we are is ultimately a result of which genes get or got activated when. But this is not entirely predetermined. Experiences have a large influence on which of the many possible genes get activated. Also, there is a thing called neuroplasticity, which basically means that throughout life the brain is able to change and develop. Only because one thing is activated (or inactive) right now, it doesn’t mean it has to be forever. If there are enough experiences, our brain can change with those experiences and genes that were activated can get deactivated and vice versa. It probably takes longer for experiences to achieve that later in life than it took during the window of opportunity, but the way I understand it, the basic fact that what part of our genetic makeup is activated is open to influence by what kind of experiences we make remains.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So what does that mean?  To me it means a lot of things.

It means that only because my brain is working in a certain way now, it can change the way it works if enough experiences that are different to the ones that caused it to work that way come in.

It means that statements such as “you will have to take that psych drug for the rest of your life” are highly questionable to my mind, because there actually IS the possibility that given we make enough suitable experiences, our brain can learn to activate different genes again that will be able to bring the brain back into its neurochemical balance, for example.

And it means that what happens to children during the pregnancy, infancy and childhood is SO, SO, SO VERY IMPORTANT, because that’s when the windows of opportunity regarding which parts of their genetic makeup will become active are open. I really believe that THIS is where successful mental health care should start. Making sure that children don’t experience stuff that turns all the wrong genes on to mess up their lives later!

But this last implication will be part two of what I want to post about “Experiences and Gene Expression”. For today, this is all. The next post will specifically be about “Childhood Experiences and Gene Expression”. Stay tuned. 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Where the information comes from:

BEAR, M.; PARADISO, M.; CONNORS, B.W. (2006): Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

PERRY, B.D. (2002): Childhood Experiences and the Expression of Genetic Potential. in: Brain and Mind 3: 79-100. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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Raison d'etre

There must be more than one...

Cupcakes and Anguish

Ramblings of a crazy creative ninja

firefliesandfairies

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Love—Life—OM

Support for survivors of domestic violence, rape and fraud

Beauty from ashes daughter

Words of hope from an abuse survivor

Tackling BPD

My story of recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, depression and anxiety through self-help. How I learned to like myself and live a happier life.

The Bottom of a Bottle

Trust me, I've been there, I've looked, I've searched and I know now, that there are no answers to be found in the bottom of a bottle or on the edge of a blade! Fighting Hard, Recovering, Rebuilding, REBORN. Moving on from addiction to a new life.