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A response From T. Playford to ‘Bad ‘Mental’ Things Come From Pain, Not Illness’ By Terry Simpson that appeared in the Summer Perceptions.


I was very impressed by Terry Simpson’s article in the Summer Perceptions. I fundamentally agree with everything he says and it has spurred me on to think further on the subject and write down my thinking on this, from my experience. I very much agree that the phrase “mental illness” does not help at all but, like many people I suspect, I do use it on occasion and don’t stop people who use it in relation to my Hypo Mania.

Even saying ‘Hypo Mania’ is a problem because I don’t think a concrete diagnosis exits for me or probably anyone else. But it helps to name the foe and it’s the diagnosis made by a GP I respect. Who among us has not hidden behind the labels occasionally, when a brief respite from the uncertainty is welcome and if it gets some professionals off your back.

But I still have a bit of a problem with everything being ‘symptoms of our pain.’ A Harley Street specialist friend of mine supports Terry’s thinking when he says he has never yet met anyone with depression that is not reactive. But I think some people reading Terry’s article may feel short-changed by having all their suffering put down to ‘pain.’ I am sure that depression is a natural bodily reaction to trauma and there’s a lot to be said for giving in to it, in terms of inactivity and letting it run its course, even if that takes a year. Easier said than done.

The traumas that trigger depression, and other illnesses, can be recent, ancient, huge or small. It is not a competition. Nobody should feel guilty that someone else has had a much worse time and ‘they’re alright.’ None of that helps.

Depression goes back many generations in my family and I have taken part in research at Oxford and London Universities, looking at hereditary aspects. Nature or nurture? My great grandfather committed suicide and my grandmother faded away with depression. Her sister got pregnant very young, out of wedlock, and before the First World War this was enough to completely destroy a young girl and her family. Everything was hushed up; my Father knew nothing of this. Some of his family history he never knew or ever admitted to knowing, before he died. He suffered much of his life with undiagnosed depression.

So do I know what I am dealing with? Is it hereditary or are the lives of all these people impacting on me in ways I have no way of knowing?

But I have also to consider that the brain is an organ of the body and can malfunction just like the liver or the heart. Like many people with depression, I have had a lot of trouble with panic attacks and massive over supplies of adrenalin. It’s a chicken and egg situation. What comes first and what reacts to what? I am very convinced that there is a link with thyroid problems and the Pituitary Gland. That would account for the adrenalin, presumably.

Does the brain malfunction because of traumas, to protect itself, or is it creating the problem through a malfunction? The onset of a depressive episode often follows a manic episode but not always. Nor is it an obvious reaction to current traumatic episodes. The feeling is of an inevitable sinking that I feel powerless to head off. I am usually fighting hard and going for lots of walks, getting lots of fresh air and talking about the onset. But it happens just the same and no amount of drugs changes anything. It last for between six and nine months no matter what. I become Agoraphobic, stop eating and disappear. I am better in about nine months no matter what I do or don’t do. It seems organic in some way but it is life-threatening torture while it lasts.

By T Playford