REVISED: the house was a little noisy today as I was writing, and I published too soon. When I got back to it, I was appalled at my scattered thoughts....
How many women do you know who drag themselves through their days, dutifully and joylessly getting done what HAS to be done, and having a hell of a time mustering energy and enthusiasm for anything that might possibly be life-enriching? What proportion of women in perimenopause and later fall on the sofa when they get home from work, and self-medicate for depression and exhaustion with chocolate or pizza or alcohol?
The problem is in neurotransmitters as well as hormones, in addition to chronic malnutrition. I know -- i've been there.
I know IN SPADES because when i get behind on supplements, it catches up with me and ... there goes the ambition to accomplish. The recipe is too much trouble to put together. The laundry and the vacuuming can wait another day ... or four. Just getting cleaned up and dressed to go out is enervating, and the thought of attending that performance predicts tedium, not enjoyment.
This is no way to go through life. THIS is why the psychiatric end of the pharmaceutical industry is raking it in. From Dr. Kildare to ER to House, we've been conditioned to believe that those god-like medical folks -- IRL as they can on television -- are able to fix everything. Patients believe "there's a pill for that," and tamely take their SSRIs and other side-effect-loaded mood enhancers. Trouble is, according to a lot of people in a position to observe, they don't work as advertised.
Why is it, that it's mostly women who display these problems? Thanks to my favorite observing-and-researching nurse (and thank the gods her education didn't inhibit her continued curiosity and learning, as it has so many others), i know that it's not just female hormones which predispose our bodies to misery, but our balance of neurotransmitters which are the icing-on-the-cake ... uh, glaze on the salmon? ;-)
Wooo's research indicates that serotonin is NOT a "feel-good" substance in and of itself -- she reports it as actually being numbing to the emotions. Increasing the levels just makes the depressed feel ... less bad. Her descriptions of individuals who have higher or lower natural levels of serotonin and dopamine caused me to suspect, long ago, that I had plenty of the former and not nearly enough of the latter.
Dopamine seems to be the neurotransmitter which gives us a reason to face the world. It helps us to believe that our efforts will pay off, and things will turn out well. Combine it with testosterone, and you get a lot of daring behavior.
On the other hand, female hormones + serotonin = anxiousness, fear of novelty, tendency toward sedentariness, depression, FAT, ... all those things that make us "good wives and mothers" in an agriculture-based society. It makes us conscientious secretaries and nurses, good lab-rats, and fabulous shoppers and consumers. It promotes the "gatherer" part of the HG team, sending us searching for SOMETHING to give us a positive emotion: for some women it's relationships (including the vicarious kind in fiction, tv and movies), with others careers, with still more substance-abuse -- substances like chocolate, wine, doughnuts and salty-snacks.
THIS SUITS SOCIETY JUST FINE. Society doesn't like daring women, women who "demand too much" or compete too seriously. Society prefers women who are a little bit dumb and definitely gullible, so companies like Weight Watchers can get them to subscribe OVER AND OVER to a weight-loss philosophy that doesn't work in the long run. Society is delighted that women are consumers par excellence, who want to do the right things for their families and feel guilty when they don't make everyone happy, or when they get fat themselves. Society is thoroughly satisfied that depressed women are given serotonin-boosters, even if it doesn't really help.
I benefit these days from what I've learned (and I can't help regretting that I didn't know sooner). I take my favorite vitamin/mineral supplements, my thyroid-support, and I keep looking for the best dopaminergic herbs for my constitution. So far, vitex seems to be IT.
If we are terribly deficient of ANYTHING supplementing can improve the situation -- this is why vitamin-D works wonders on indoor-dwelling oldsters, and why omega-3s looked so promising at first. A huge proportion of people are lacking in some -- or many -- nutrients, and even a crappy ol' Centrum can improve their well-being! Imagine getting ALL one's nutritional ducks in a row....
Getting one's hormones and neurotransmitters to an appropriate level to cope with life is just as important and much more difficult. Everything interacts, and a lot of the interactions don't seem to be well understood yet! Those of us who experiment with herbs and other supplements to try and optimize our lives have to be observant, patient and persistent -- we have to be what healers USED to be like before the days of lab-testing. But I've found it to be worth the effort, especially since I came to appreciate dopamine's role.