The quest for dopamine

Every time I go a round with mental health difficulties, the question of whether I should be on meds comes up. What I really want to do is fix my underlying issues and have the space to do that. For me, seeking a chemical intervention does not feel like doing something that would help me, it feels like being more convenient to everyone else, and that’s part of my fundamental problems in the first place.

I don’t have a great relationship with my own body chemistry. However, if I do the right things around diet and exercise, if there are cat snuggles and I get enough rest, I can make most of it work. I put a fair amount of effort into this sort of thing. However, having poked around online to learn more about what different chemicals do in the brain, I realise that dopamine may be a life-long issue for me. I don’t really experience a feeling of reward. Something happens around 20+ mile walks but I can’t do those much of the time. Still, it means I know I am capable of feeling achievement and reward, so it’s there, I just have to make it happen.

It doesn’t matter what I do or how well I do it – most of the time I feel no sense of achievement. All I can see is where I went wrong, wasn’t good enough, could have been faster, better etc. etc. I work hard, and I get very tired and I mostly just feel useless. This, clearly could be better. I have a pretty good idea how I got like this, and I certainly didn’t do it all by myself. But, how to get out of it?

I’ve got two approaches at the moment. One is to challenge the story that is always running in the background – this is easy, anyone could do it, and most people would do it faster and better than you, what you do isn’t really good enough, you’re barely keeping up when you do manage things… it’s hard to feel any sense of achievement with a background story that reiterates that you’re always falling short anyway. I need to examine my expectations and watch my thoughts around this and pull out the stuff that other people have put in my head.

I need to factor in how hard things are – how much work I’ve done, how ill I’ve been, how fast I really went. Because this does actually matter and I need to measure achievement against my own effort, not against the imaginary average person who is about ten million times better at everything than I am. I’m doing this by paying more attention to my own effort, acknowledging my own challenges, and checking in with people I trust about what they think is normal. It will be a process.

At the end of it, I have no idea if I will be better able to experience feelings of reward and achievement, but I’ll certainly spend less time tripping myself up, and I can pull some of the toxic historical stuff out of my head, at the very least.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

12 responses to “The quest for dopamine

  • plateresca

    I wish you luck, as always, and also I believe that you can sort it out, really.

  • potiapitchford

    Do you think it help to have more external voices that loudly celebrate your achievements and tell you that you are indeed special and wonderful and incredibly impressive?
    I am constantly amazed and impressed at your creativity and skill.

  • Jordan Hoggard

    That feeling on the 20+ mile walks means it’s there. May just be sunbeams streaming through the leaves, though there. I find that rather than what I do or how well I do it, it is more important that I do it. Like that 20+ mile walk, I am consistently surprised by the synchronicity and serendipity that present themselves as if out of the blue when I am working at my craft in my profession. I play the OFL game. There are no mistakes, only OFLs. What are OFLs? Opportunities For Learning. That, by itself, evaporates shame from the equation before it even starts. It’s just not allowed. I found that initially, that also eliminated a lot of traumas causing inertia that were mirages of expectation. The question came, “WHOAH! I sure am taking responsibility for a great many things I shouldn’t be. I need some breathing room for the good stuff in here (in my Psyche). How do I get that?” I have to laugh. I turned to the 192-page companion book for “Tarot in the Land of Mystereum.” Why do I laugh, you ask? Uh hem… because I wrote it. Shaking head. Reading, I taught myself from reading my own work. Pin the tail on that donkey and call me blind. “Forgetting is for getting. It makes more room for the good stuff.” Shortly after OFLs arrived in my mind. HMMMMM. Well, that’s cool. OFLs are like a vaccination for shame. And, these beasties inside. Oh, I see. They are terrifying and all that, though if they hurt me, they are hurting their own home. Me. It’s really in their best interest to keep me alive so they can Mentor/Tormentor me. Except=, something happened right there. Something cracked off unseen in the distance… and my own sovereignty flooded the place. “Hey Beasties, wanna help me clean up this mess?” The meanest one in the bunch’s eyebrows went up. “LOOKEE HERE, Jordan! You listen to me right now. All this spilled Sovereignty stuff? That’s you coming to You. It’s beauty, the mess that doesn’t need to be cleaned up. This is yours. Swim in it. We won’t make it easy, but we’re going to teach you to spill a little along the way… regularly. Beauty is the mess that doesn’t need to be cleaned up.”

    And, then they went back to torrential and terrifying and raging storms, and I had fear as an awareness tool… and was no longer afraid.

    Nimue, I go at this length simply to back up one thing. There is beauty in the care and attention and depth to your posts. From what I’ve seen, every time you post, you spill a little more beauty, share it with the world from that deep creative well you have that is most likely refilling itself as we speak… or, more like this way too long monologue soliloquy. 🙂

  • Sheila Murrey

    Bravo! I know, “measure achievement against my own effort,” has been enlightening for me! The more ways I can track my progress, the better I do. And self hugs are happening now more than ever. Hugs! ❤️🦋🌀

  • DiosRaw

    I relate to this a lot. I was bullied and traumatised recently with a fibromyalgia diagnosis, PTSD etc and have low dopamine, It feels as if I don’t have any at all. Great post and reblogged on @diosraw. Sending you love my friend. ❤😘

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for the re-blog, and I hope you’re able to find something that helps.

      • DiosRaw

        Your writing is amazing, it is good to share it on to others. You do so well to write each day and share your insightful posts.

        Dopamine deficiency is torture in itself I believe; nothing feels right or smooth. Everything is different to how things were. 🙏

  • Laurie Beth Dawe

    I relate to this quite strongly, as someone who is on meds for fibromylgia and depression and has recently discovered how dangerous some of those meds can be. (One of them causes high blood pressure and can cause liver damage, apparently; meanwhile my doctor wants to put me on a stronger med for high blood pressure. Um, no!) I’m needing to rethink my whole approach to my chronic illnesses in order to not make myself even sicker.

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