On Serotonin Deficiency

These words were written as an unsent note to a lover on a sleepless night in May, after a conversation on antidepressants.  As a caveat, I do experience happiness, though for the past few years I’ve been wondering if the way in which I do is more akin to the way someone with tritanomaly experiences the colour blue. This is a question that likely has no answer. A second caveat is that I have never had my serotonin levels tested – this is a clinical, and not laboratory, diagnosis. Finally, these are personal thoughts and should not be taken as medical information or advice.

For a fairly comprehensive list of the symptoms of low serotonin and related conditions, click here. It’s not a professional medical source, but I found it to be quite enlightening and to corroborate well with my own experiences. 

Watercolour Serotonin Tattoo

There are nights I don’t sleep because I’m not producing enough melatonin.

Melatonin is synthesized from serotonin, which may be the reason for my insomnia on days I feel “blah”.

On days I feel blah, I actually am feeling fine – and that’s the issue. My days so easily become a series of fine.

The trouble with fine is that it doesn’t excite me enough. I need a dopamine high to compensate for the absence of serotonin.

The absence of serotonin blunts my capacity to feel things like happiness or contentedness. I deal in pure excitement and in vague senses of sadness.

This vague sense of sadness is my default state of being. It’s nostalgia, it’s feeling fine, it’s something that borders on apathy.

When I feel apathetic for too long, I consider trying an SSRI. I produce serotonin, just not enough of it, and medication might help me make the most of what I have.

The reason I hesitate about medication is that I always feel “more than fine” when I have time to do things to excite myself.

I don’t have time to do things to excite myself while I’m in school, though, and school makes up a large proportion of what I do. I think I could do it better if only I could focus.

Focus is tiresome though. It’s not exciting. It’s just fine. I feel stagnant, stuck, only fine, which may in fact not be only fine but sad.

I sometimes think that I might always have been sad. I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt happiness proper. I feel lots of pleasant things. I feel excitement and reward. I feel love.

I feel love, but not for myself. I actively dislike myself some days.

I don’t think about myself on others.

When I’m not thinking about myself, you get the best of me. You, you bring out the best in me. You excite me.

You excite me, and I love you. I’ve told you about my disease. I’m lucky in that my disease isn’t disruptive. At it’s worst, it is severely distressing.

It’s severely distressing to myself, foremost, but to the people around me too, because nothing and no one helps. It’s something I struggle with within myself, and most days I win. The words are silent.

On days where the words are not silent, I must become silent, must resist the compulsion to cross-check my morality with an external source.

Barring an external source, I feel a strong urge to punish myself. As a child I’d bite myself; now, I go without.

I won’t go without to such an extreme again. I engage in small amounts of deprivation now and then to even myself out. I only purge a few times a year, and regard these as incidents rather than a daily reality. Therapy has helped, too.

My daily reality is this: when I feel good, it’s because I’m going everywhere, doing everything, getting off on accomplishment. I do exactly what everyone else does. I, like them, need the dopamine. I wonder just how many people have low serotonin.

I wonder how many people have low serotonin that manifests as OCD. I fixate on thoughts that don’t seem to be of me and ruminate for hours, twisting things around myself until I find the fortitude to stare down the thought and ask it, If so then so what? The cure is to actively entertain the thought. This is harder with some topics than it is with others.

The nature of my obsessions has evolved with my age, but my serotonin levels have remained the same. I enjoy the character traits I’m not sure I’d have otherwise – easily bored, pragmatic, a capacity to dissociate, great sensitivity, a great capacity to love (there are so many people that I love, all said and done, and loving these people, loving you, is about as close to happiness as I get, I think).

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