My Genes Are Not Diseased

bears

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/health/study-finds-genetic-risk-factors-shared-by-5-psychiatric-disorders.html

Even if they do conclusively find genetic differences, it is not appropriate to refer to these differences as “aberrations” and “disruptions.”

It doesn’t seem completely out of left field to imagine that there may be differences within the human genome and that particular populations may show a uniform or patterned variance from the statistical norm. We are a diverse species.

It seems obvious to me, based on my own experience and other anecdotal first person accounts, that some people have distinct sensitivities and proclivities. Additionally, it is not uncommon for people with the “disorders” identified in this article to be noted as having atypical intelligence or skill in a number of different areas.

Does it not occur to these researchers that perhaps the definition of these differences as a disease is distorting the nature of our understanding of the human species? They fail to recognize the effects of contextual conflicts and the trauma of being misunderstood in contributing to the manifestation of difference among people with distinct ways of experiencing the world. Being expected to process and experience the world in a way that is contrary to and unaccommodating of one’s personal neurological tendencies and proclivities may be what causes the “disruption” to become disruptive?

Has it not occurred to them that perhaps these differences may exist for a reason? Maybe it makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, that we are not able to uniformly withstand the conventions imposed upon us by the recent cultures and economies that have taken it upon themselves to define normative function in such a way as to ensure that action, identity and interests are in compliance with industry.

If they do make headway with this notion of calcium channels, which exist as part of the human species as a result of our connection to the ocean, the earth, and the stars themselves, perhaps they will recognize that many nutritional and environmental factors, which relate to our levels and metabolism of stress hormones, affect the function of minerals, salts, and electrical activity in our brains.

So, even if they do go there, and even if they can name the gene that causes me feel the earth deeply and the one that leads me to think about things as expansive constructions…well, difference is not disease and being lied to about how one’s brain works and what that might mean never helped anybody.

dinosaur dna

 

Sci-Fi Consideration: Given the virtually endless replication and regeneration of our cells and bodily components, is it not possible that our DNA and its sequencing may shift and evolve over the course of our lifetimes?

3 thoughts on “My Genes Are Not Diseased

  1. There was no real mention of epigenetics in this NYT article, or (as you touched upon) the fact that in many cases the “symptoms” of these so-called “mental illnesses” are actually healthy reactions to unhealthy societal and cultural norms.

    There was a significant study done demonstrating a genetic correlation between violent behavior, genetics, and childhood abuse (referred to here- http://www.hgalert.org/topics/behavGenetics/geneticsviolence.html, and there is a more detailed scientific journal on the subject entitled “Dynamic Epigenetic Responses to Childhood Exposure to Violence” which can be googled). I just came across those articles, and they may very well be skewed in some ways themselves, but they are relevant.

    In both the NYT study and the one referred to in these articles, the thing that comes to mind for me is that the “symptoms” are very much vital signs that should draw attention to widespread interpersonal, cultural, and societal dysfunctions that are inherently destructive and will inevitably lead to the deterioration of our society as a whole if they continue to thrive.

    If we only address violent behavior (as in the case of drugging victims of childhood abuse who exhibit violent behavior) and do not address childhood abuse as the real epidemic, then we become complicit in the perpetuation of childhood abuse. I’m sure if we look hard enough we will find a common epigenetic variant for people who can turn a blind eye to such despicable behavior (a genetic variant for a lack of empathy?).

    Last night I was having a conversation with a nurse who was expressing her dismay over feeling helpless when individuals
    suffering from severe psychotic or manic states arrive at the hospital. She said she fully understands why many of them are so distraught, but can only do so much due to the hierarchical structure of her work environment. She expressed a desire to overcome this notion that she isn’t “qualified” to help these people, when sometimes she knows that she really can- in the same way that one friend can help out another through kindness and compassion.

    Recently there was a male in his late teens who was admitted while she was on duty. He was going experiencing mania and psychosis. He was talking a mile-a-minute. He was obsessed with a specific region in Africa, and the brutal injustice that the women and children there are currently being subjected to. This place really exists, and this is really happening. In a very real sense, the urgency, sadness and anger this man was displaying were perfectly warranted reactions to such a tragic situation.

    The “norm” is to remain detached from and essentially ignore such happenings, even if it is our own government perpetrating the injustice. This man was expressing his core values as an individual. He was really just saying “I really care about my fellow human beings and this is absolutely breaking my heart.”.

    By the time he gets to a psychiatrist, chances are the specifics of his psychosis (such as his concerns) will be reduced to a one or two page clinical summary, and his admirable and exceptional compassion for his fellow human beings will be reduced to being a “symptom of a mental illness”.

    It should be recognized that many of the people going through such experiences are in their teens and twenties- a time when they are in the process of discovering their own identities as individuals. The more sensitive and aware individuals are inevitably going to encounter greater difficulty accepting and integrating these toxic elements of our society and culture into their personal paradigm.

    Personally, both my episodes were strongly rooted in my aversion to social injustice, environmental destruction (how disconnected we are from nature), and how detached we are from one another in this culture (which really is an extremely sad thing to behold).

    Articles such as this one in the NYT predictably place the emphasis on “treatment of symptoms” as opposed to shifting awareness towards prevention and the fact that the underlying factors that lead to these “symptoms” can be addressed and corrected by more effective means that do not serve the psychopharmaceutical-industrial complex (and actually cost taxpayers less). It is business as usual (propaganda).

    Thanks for sharing this Faith.

    Keep up the good fight,

    Julian

    • I really appreciate the generous and thoughtful comments that you leave around here, Julian. They add substantial meaning and expanded validity to whatever thoughts I post. They are proof that I am not (as I know I am not) the only one who considers such things.

      It feels like something of an honor that a portion of some young man’s story, as told by a nurse to a stranger, is captured here…along with the bloodshed in countries far away that somehow – with no small amount of grief and terror – spills in our hearts.

      I am sure that your conversation with that nurse will change the way she sees the people who find themselves in her care and that perhaps she will find a way to say that she believes that what they are experiencing makes perfect sense…and that will make a difference.

      I spoke with a “mental health professional” tonight…and she, like your nurse, will not see things the same way that she did. We talked a lot about how work within medical model systems hurts employees, about how many of them “got into” the field out of a genuine desire to help people…and yet are stifled in their compassionate instinct by the expectations of protocol and procedure…and are routinely expected to do things which they observe to be harmful. Thank you for these additional references, as well. Among the c/s/x (consumers/survivors/ex-patient) movement, I have noticed a tendency to dismiss the role of our human genome and genetic diversity in crafting our experiences. The notion that some “disorders” may have a genetic foundation is, in my observation, strongly resisted – as these suggestions are seen as being linked to the industrial desire to further medicalize (and thus medicate, for profit and subjugation) our human condition.

      We are animals. We have brains and we have senses. The functions of our neurophysiological realities were set into our genes long before psychiatry and the modern conceptions of what it is to be human arose as an industry.

      It makes sense to me that people are “wired” to feel and experience the world differently and that sometimes these ways of being in relation to sense, knowledge, feeling and meaning are at odds with the cultures (and economies) we live in.

      Who would these people – these schizophrenics, bipolars, autistics and hyperactive space cadets – be in a different context, in a different world, in circumstances other than these so recently created?

      How astute of you to further flip the common script in your suggestion that perhaps the lack of human or ecosystemic empathy is the genetic flaw that should be explored.

      It is said that autistics are prone to a brutal honesty. Is it this same honesty, this inability to lie, that leads people to deeply reckon with the difficult truths about this world – in spite of the inconvenience and the troubles that facing the truth may cause in our daily lives…which could be argued to have been built on a consensus denial of truth?

      Is there a gene that determines honesty? If so, is it impaired in the vast majority of the population?

      Is there a gene that determines the depth of feeling that we experience in response to cognitive and sensory awareness?

      Tragedy: In real, measurable life the dynamic functions of fundamental humanity are deemed to be the result of little more than an “aberration” in our genetic makeup.

      What is the percentage of people who have been diagnosed with the 5 disorders identified in the NYT article?

      I’d say it’s a lot of people.

      Because you have read some of this, these archives of thought and realization, you know that I have questions about the potential for microevolution – the capacity for humans to evolve and change within generations and, as individuals, lifetimes.

      I suspect that with increasing genetic documentation it will soon be realized that industrial cultures of commodified violence are impacting the human genome in ways that may be detrimental to integrity of the heretofore human condition.

      Nature and nurture, from the cradle to the grave and beyond.

      “Use it or lose it,” the slogans say. What are the implications of highly intelligent and deeply feeling individuals being diminished in their capacity to nurture their unique gifts…and their ability to reproduce? As you know, many people who were deemed “insane” were once sterilized as a matter of routine. Now, neuroleptics lead to a dearth of drive to reproduce and gravely impair sexual function.

      So, what will we be left with? Mere traces of sensitive brilliance? Enough to write a palatable pop song or an inoffensively poignant children’s book? Will all of the buildings be forever square for the loss of the architectural mind? Will anyone be able to envision the entire universe and its known workings, or understand how to make something beautiful in pattern and composition?

      Attuned to violence, will we be politely savage, dully observing the bloodshed…as if it…were…not…real?

      It just occurred to me that, in some ways, we already live in that world.

      Yikes.

      Fortunately, by the grace of the deepest human instinct, it seems that many people are realizing that… …this got long.

      Thanks again for writing here.

      It means a lot to me.

      …sent from my handheld device…

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