I found myself talking about mental illness with someone recently, in which I had said, “Disorder is basically dis-order, or disorganized.” There is nothing wrong with a person, was what I was trying to get at, their brain is just different.
Now, I’m not a psychologist or psych. student, but I was diagnosed with depression at fifteen, was taking medication, and have seen a therapist for eight years. I’ve read books and taken classes, from anthropology to psych. 101 in an effort to learn about as much of the human brain as I could, because I believed I could counteract my own depression, not by forcing my brain to create more serotonin (the happy chemical) but by changing my behavior. The following is what I believe, and what I told the person I was talking to:
The synapses are just a little disorganized. “So some fire off,” I had said, “provoking a fight or flight response when it’s not needed, there’s nothing wrong with that person.” It becomes a frustrating, or bad thing when that disorganization starts to inhibit a person’s way of life, but there is nothing wrong with them. The way their brain works is just different, therefore, different practices need to be done to better organize. “It’s like walking around in a house with a large support beam in the middle,” I had said. “It’s annoying, and beyond frustrating but you can’t take it out. You can only do things that help you not to notice it.” In other words, with various disciplines or practices, mental illness can be combated. For any twenty-somethings out there, your brain gets a whole fresh batch of blank synapses in your twenties (Jay, The Defining Decade). This means that you can break bad habits and create better habits easier, since you don’t have synapses that are already written on.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. In your brain, which is an electrical railway of information, you have neurons, or sparks; think of telephone poles without the wires in-between them. Those are neurons. A synapse are the wires connecting one pole to another. The information from one telephone poll, or neuron, travels along the wire (synapse) to the other neuron. This is how information is transmitted in our brain. The more a synapse connects to two specific neurons, the better it fires. There’s a little rhyme, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Which is why those blank synapses you get in your twenties are so special; they aren’t connected to anything yet, making them more flexible. So if remembering to take medication each morning, or going to therapy, or simply reminding yourself there is nothing wrong with you, is a habit you want to get in to, it’s easiest to create in your twenties. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible when you’re older, but it does mean it’s harder.
When I told this person all of the things I just told you, she liked my little saying “disorder just means disorganized.” She said I should write a children’s book. I thought of Steven Universe. For those of you that don’t know about Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe, it’s on Hulu, you should totally check it out. The series is still going as a matter of fact, so if you finished Over the Garden Wall in one day, Steven Universe should take you a bit longer to finish (even though each episode, like OTGW, is ten minutes long).
Unlike my post on Over the Garden Wall, I won’t be talking about a single episode on Steven Universe, I’ll be talking about a single song.
Yes, a song. Each one is awesome by the way, written by Steven’s creator (and Cartoon Network’s first female creator, woot woot!) Rebecca Sugar. You can check out volume one of the Steven Universe soundtrack on Spotify.
For those of you who haven’t heard about Steven Universe, it is sweeping the nation with its sensitive characters, empathetic message, and overall progressive content. The perfect example of all of this is the duet, Here Comes a Thought, in the episode “Mindful Education”, sung by Stevonnie (AJ Michalka) and Garnet (Estelle).
Take a moment to think of just
and trust (2x)
Here comes a thought
that might alarm you
what someone said
and how it harmed you
something you did
that failed to be charming
and now all these thoughts,
I’m sure, if you haven’t already listened to the song, you can already see how it is I thought of this song when I was talking about mental illness. Or maybe I’m getting ahead of myself again, haha. Let me provide some context, Garnet (or as the fans call her, Square Mom) and Stevonnie are sitting in a meditative pose when Garnet starts singing Here Comes a Thought to Stevonnie. Garnet sings this song, and has Stevonnie meditate with her, in an effort to teach Stevonnie that when she has thoughts that overwhelm her, to come back and remind herself to be flexible with herself, to show love to herself in the times that her thoughts get the better of her, and to trust herself. This song seems to have been inspired by moments of anxiety, in which meditation has been shown in numerous studies to help with anxiety (1, 2, 3).
you’re losing sight
you’re losing touch
all these little things seem to matter so much
that they confuse you
that I might lose you
Take a moment remind yourself, to
take a moment and find yourself,
take a moment and ask yourself if this is how we fall apart
Anxiety comes from a maelstrom of slippery-slope thoughts that behave in an overly protective manner. With the practice of meditation, or even learning Here Comes a Thought, a person’s anxiety might be made more manageable as the song asks important, bring-back-to-center questions, and meditation focuses on the present. The hardest part is discipline.
But it’s not
but it’t not
but it’s not.
You’ve got nothing
got nothing to fear
And it was just a thought[…]
It’s incredible the kind of response Rebecca Sugar has gotten from her show. I’ve heard stories of people feeling accepted because of the show’s various messages, to Rebecca Sugar herself talk about her many fans speaking to her about their anxiety and panic attacks. Actually, when I think about the response Rebecca Sugar has gotten, it’s not incredible, it makes perfect sense. Incredible has a note of surprise to it. No, Rebecca Sugar, her show, and the way she’s making people feel because of her show is absolutely wonderful.
For my fellow depression people, I have another scientific factoid for you. Anxiety and depression are what’s known as “kissing cousins” (interesting name, huh?) this means that the wiring for anxiety is the same for depression, they just run in opposite directions. In other words, meditation helps with depression, too.
For those of you in love with Rebecca Sugar like me, you can follow Sugar Mama on Twitter (@rebeccasugar) along with the oh-so-talented song composers Avivi Tran (@waltzforluma) and Surasshu (@surasshu).
Thanks for reading 🙂
Be kind to yourself,
*Featured image by Steven Universe animators and story board artists