Depression has been the big bug-a-boo of my experience with brain injury. I hate it. I know I’m depressed at times and spoiling everything for everybody, but I just can’t pull myself up and get past it. For years I haven’t gotten much joy from life. Come to think of it, I can’t remember when I felt really good about life and living. I don’t have many friends and would rather be alone, actually. Depression, I hate to say, feels like normal to me. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer, but I just don’t know how to spark that old joie de vivre.
So when I saw an article promoted on Facebook by the Brain Injury Association of Virginia about a study revealing the science behind TBI and brain injury, I clicked on it in a hurry. Here’s their post to a review of the study:
“Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research researches how concussions can lead to depression years later – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131209143252.htm?utm_source=feedburner”
The study showed that small maintenance cells in the brain, called microglia, are “primed” after a diffuse brain injury. Being primed means they are very sensitive to stimulation by infection, stress, or similar upsets. These primed microglia are associated social withdrawal, resignation, and anhedonia (yeah, I had to look that one up too – “a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in acts which normally produce it”).
So, a person who has experienced a traumatic brain injury is more susceptible to depression-related behaviors. Oh yes, this is me. I have become so socially isolated. I have been resigned and felt like giving up on more than one occasion. And I definitely am anhedonic to a fault. Bah Humbug.
I fight against this brain injury and its myriad residuals every day. Oh boy. Now I have one more bit of ammunition to toss back at it when it’s set to cripple me. This doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to want to put on my Santa hat and go to all the Christmas parties, but it will at least make me feel better and not beat myself (or my husband!) up about not wanting to go. Knowledge is power and this bit will help me fight harder against the sort of depression that has sometimes feed on itself as I spiraled embarrassingly out of control.
The research study article, “Immune Activation Promotes Depression 1 Month After Diffuse Brain Injury: A Role for Primed Microglia,” is in pre-press with Biological Psychiatry, but is currently available online.