It’s all in the Brain.

Coming from a north of England background there are a number of things that my parents and others ate that were not always acceptable to many people from the south of England or overseas.

I remember vividly the first time that I made a beautiful steak and kidney stew with all the usual vegetables to an American couple visiting my family and the look on their faces when they came to a nice piece of kidney.

In the earlier days of my youth – you know when Adam wore short pants, as they say; I had meals of kidney, liver and tripe.  For those younger than me, tripe is the inside lining of a sheep’s stomach, and you simmer it gently in milk and there you go. Great food if times are hard along with things like black pudding or blood sausages that were considered a great delicacy.  And of course we all enjoyed that well renowned Scots dish, Haggis, on our frequent trips over the border.

Now what has this all to do with bipolar disorder?  Well as you will know if you are a regular reader of mine, all will be revealed in due time!

Now there was one thing that my Dad ate that neither my Mum or my brother and I could stand and that was sheep’s brains.

Now I know that sheep don’t have a real reputation for being smart, but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to eat something that may have had some thoughts contained in it. Plus, to be honest, I couldn’t stand the smell of them cooking.

And this is where the bipolar connection comes in – remember I did warn you about that?

During my recent spell in hospital I had the opportunity to talk to some of the psychiatric staff as well as the psychiatrists and took the chance to see what was coming out of research into the various forms of mental illnesses.

I also had the chance to grill one of the ward psychiatrist registrars who gave me some downloads from the Australia New Zealand College of Psychiatrists on the latest clinical and patient guidelines.

It seems that the latest research by prominent institutions especially in the States are getting closer and closer to seeing what parts of the brain are actually involved in different levels of activity between those suffering from a ‘mental illness’ and those who don’t.

So does mental illness really exist in the terms that most people refer to?  How many times has the argument been heard from people around us, that we do not have an illness – “it’s all in the mind!”, or similar statements.

You can also throw in the odd demon possession or supernatural cause while you are at it and the common uninformed views of a certain part of the population are shown.

But if MRI’s now show increased or different activity in levels of our brain, shouldn’t we now be acknowledging that there are no mental illnesses in the terms that used to be used, but brain disorders that show their presence by symptoms affecting our moods or thought processes?

I guess that I was really right in not eating that poor little lamb’s brain after all – he might have thought of me as a relative!

So the next time some one says you have a mental illness – take great pleasure in correcting them in saying – No, I have a physical disorder of the brain that affects my moods.  And if you feel like it you can always throw in, “What’s your excuse!”

Graham Brown

23 June 2006

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