Did you know that 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year? That’s crazy right?! Did you also know that serious mental illness causes America $193.2 Billion dollars in lost earnings every year??? Again, CRAZY! With this knowledge, you’d think we would be farther ahead than we are in the war against mental illness. The problem, I see anyway is that although less taboo than years ago, we continue to patch the problem instead of fixing the root cause. “Here, try this antidepressant, anti anxiety, antipsychotic” etc. “Not really sure exactly what’s going on but these are your symptoms so here is your med”. Right. Aaaaand Done. But it’s not done, most meds cause severe side effects depending on the person’s chemical body composition. “May cause suicidal thoughts” is spouted all over the television and yet we continue to prescribe prescribe prescribe. As someone who has been on the antidepressant roller coaster, I can tell you first hand it is a complete SHIT SHOW! Now what if I told you through genetic testing I was able to learn more about my mental health in 1 hour than in my entire life of doctor after doctor after specialist after specialist? Interested ???? You should be! I was mind blown and completely overwhelmed with the idea that I could contribute to not only improving my mental health, but possibly fixing the actually root cause!! ?
So at this point I’m going to put on my nursing hat and try to bring some of the information that I’ve learned to a level that I’m not getting blank stares from all my non medical peeps. Here we go;
YOU CAN’T CHOOSE YOUR GENES
We all know what a gene is right? Just as a refresher, a gene is basically a genetic code with instructions on what traits we are going to inherit. Sometimes the traits are obvious, such as having brown hair vs. having blond hair. Other times, not so obvious, whether or not we have a taste for lobster (yup my favorite!) or detest it (crazy talk). Also whether or not we metabolize caffeine quickly or slowly or have an increased or decreased risk for disease. Hopefully you get the gist.
Now let’s take a look at a specific gene, the MTHFR gene (and no this is not an abbreviation for the curse word but I do tend to call it that)! It is the abbreviation for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. So MTHFR it is.
In a nutshell, the MTHFR is an enzyme that adds a methyl group to folic acid to make it usable by the body. Easy right?! Now if there is a mutation in that gene, it cant make folic acid usable. Now bypassing a whole bunch of scientific jargon, let’s skip to the part where the body is unable to make proteins and other important compounds including neurotransmitters! Drum roll…….AKA Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine! All of which are essential for a number of functions in mental health. Hence if this process is impaired…..YES, you are more likely to develop mental health issues!!!
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Honestly, if you’ve ever been diagnosed with any kind of mental health issue and medication isn’t working, GET TESTED! See if you have this genetic mutation which afflicts approximately 30-50% of the population, although we don’t have complete statistics due to the fact that most people don’t even know they have the mutation. Now please understand, there is so much more to this whole MTHFR thing but right now I’m focused on the part you can control without information overload.
- Speak to your healthcare provider about MTHFR testing
- Start taking the methylated (usable form) of Folic Acid (methylated folate) and B12 (methylcobalamin)
Want to know another mind blowing fact? Well because the folic acid cannot’ be converted into its active form, a number of key functions are not happening which in turn can lead to heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, hearing loss, Cancer and the list goes on.
FEELING GOOD IN MY GENES
Now onto the self disclosure part of the lesson! I’ve been told for years and years, “It’s all in your head”. For ONCE, they hit the nail on the head…..so to speak. (I’m cracking myself up)! This is where getting my genetic testing done changed everything!
Here’s what we found;
I have a 60% mutation to the MTHFR gene (Hello mental health cluster F@!#)!! Ok, so knowing what I know, II decided to start taking the methylated folate (usable form of Folic Acid) . It’s been about a month and a half now and noticed I woke up feeling….well, good, calm even. At first I thought it was a fluke, but you cannot argue with science (well in my opinion anyway)! This is what I have noticed;
- My mood has been stable
- My extreme high and low periods have evened out
- I have more energy and even though I can feel the depression creeping at times
- I have been able to easily re focus. I even notice that I’m able to focus more which with ADHD is a feat of its own (without stimulant medication anyway).
- Want to hear the most mind blowing thing? NO PMS symptoms this month!! WHAT THE?! My husband always knows when Aunt Flow is on her way and neither of us had any clue!!!
We may not have all the answers yet but I’m confident that this is just the beginning of our mental health awareness journey! I challenge you to spread the word and get the conversation started. The more we talk, the more we learn and the more we learn the more likely we are to finally combat mental health at the root of the problem. If you’ve ever dealt with any type of mental health condition or symptoms, what steps did you take? Let’s get the conversation going!