Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Fog Lifts

Living with depression is alot like living with an unwanted guest who inhabits one's brain. This guest is unwelcome---at least consciously---and makes himself right at home on the easy chair of my mind, seemingly taking control of the remote, selfishly and skilfully commandeering my emotional metabolism like a very efficient latent virus.

No matter what the research shows, depression---and addiction, as well---is often seen as a character flaw, something that one should "get over". Granted, I'm a guilty as the next, and in these very ethers I have been challenged on my assumptions and judgments about some of my patients suffering from addiction. My bad, and shame on me. Nevertheless, we are all often fed the societal notion that happiness is endogenous, that resilience and recovery are a biological given, and that suffering is optional, and any suffering that we experience is generally self-made.

That said, even recently here on DD I've purported that I am responsible for my state of mind and can make choices each moment regarding how I view the world and my place in it. This may be true, and I am often able to overcome the apparent biological imperative towards melancholy, but there are times when my inner resilience is weak and susceptible to "infection". Relatively infrequently, I'm besieged by a sadness and inability to cope with my world that is just this side of debilitating. Honestly, without the chemical assistance and sustenance of Prozac (14 years and counting), not only do I suffer, but those around me suffer as well, and my ability to be productive and engaged in life is negligible. Truly.

Having taken antidepressants on and off for almost 20 years, I have heard every conceivable argument for and against their use. Yes, as a "designer drug" used to alter personality cosmetically, there are moments of abuse and questionable medical judgment. However, it's my belief---and the research is beginning to prove---that there is a genetic component to emotional resilience, and I'm fairly certain that I've been dealt a poor hand in this regard. Concurrently, there also seems to be a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism and addiction, further reinforcing that these diseases are not character flaws, but often-times hard-wired directives which necessitate Herculean effort to overcome. And even with medication, there are times---like the last two weeks---when an insidious and pervasive fog invades my mind and my clear lenses are replaced with dirty ones which obscure my vision, distort reality, and plague my mind with notions of unworthiness and despair. Mary used to call them my "shit-colored lenses".

In my various efforts to eschew pharmaceuticals, I have pursued yoga, homeopathy, herbal medicine, nutritional counseling, exercise, Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, bodywork, therapeutic writing, emotional healing and self-growth workshops, and various types of psychotherapy. While those modalities and practices have certainly added to my life and enriched my self-knowledge and health, my day-to-day survival in this world has never been optimal without the addition of medication. Some may say that the medicated individual is not "real", yet I respond that medication actually allows me to more fully be who I am, to more fully access my abilities and desires. I guess they call it self-actualization.

So, as the fog lifts, I can see the last few weeks with some emotional distance, acknowledge the suffering that occured, lick my wounds, test the wind, and issue a new Emotional Weather Report: partly sunny with moments of cloudiness, a warm breeze filtering through the heart. Stay tuned for details.....
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