Why I think medication is sometimes a copout

Disclaimer: I suffered from depression a few years back and got myself out of the hole with the help of some little pills. So I’m not a Scientologist or anything – just frustrated.

I know first-hand that medication for depression and other afflictions is useful. I firmly believe that I would not have come out of my depression without the medication I was on, however strong it was and difficult to get off. However, I knew from the start that it was only one prong in the attack on my depression; that the lack of emotions was useful when the only thing you can feel is sad, but not useful to actually live life; that I needed to address the issues I had and find ways to deal with them on a day to day basis without the help of medication.

I don’t judge that some people need help. I don’t think that asking for help is weak – in fact, I think it’s strong.

My issue is with the idea that the fake lack of emotions is the new normal. That feeling anything is wrong. That normal fluctuations in mood is wrong and should be avoided like the plague. Nobody is happy 24/7 and I’m not entirely sure when that became the new normal that nobody can achieve. I would hate not to feel at all – not to feel extreme joy or sadness. Not to know what makes me emotional or what makes me laugh. Because in so many ways, that’s what a lot of people seem to use medication for – to produce an artificial stability where nothing is awesome or terrible.

I have a friend who seems to think that any kind of emotion or mood is automatically bad. It’s true that she has been diagnosed as bipolar and I don’t have issue with that at all. Yes, she probably will need medication all her life to regulate the chemicals in her brain but it upsets me that her therapist has conditioned her to think that every sign of emotion or mood swing is automatically a sign of a chemical imbalance and must be regulated with more medications. She’s so scared of emotions that every little thing she experiences is seen through the eyes of fear.

Last week she graduated from a course that has taken her many years to complete. It was naturally a very emotional time for her. It was the culmination of so many years of hard work and also a sign that she was moving forward in many ways. In my opinion, it’s natural to feel a let-down or slight apprehension after such a huge occasion. I know that I felt a little scared and sad after I graduated – it’s the unknown approaching. It’s the idea that you’re no longer studying and you have to find a new purpose and go out into the world. Completely natural.

But according to her therapist, this reaction (minor as it was) needed to be medicated away and now she’s apparently “back to normal” – in other words, not feeling a thing. And tell me, how is that good? Emotions and feelings create the impetus for change in life in so many ways – identifying that work depresses you could lead you to finding a new job. But if you never allow yourself to feel happy or unhappy, then how do you change anything?

I understand that people with bipolar experience things more intensely than everyone else but surely the solution should be to regulate but still allow emotions to emerge?

I feel frustrated with her and for her. With her because her therapist has created this world where emotions aren’t to be trusted so she questions everything I do based on my gut and my feelings. She lives in a world that doesn’t understand how I can close my eyes and take a leap of faith. She lives in a world where that is seen as dangerous and to be avoided.

I live in a world where I’ll talk to strangers and maybe make a friend; where I’ll meet someone who might change my life in an instant and I’ll go with it. I live in a world where I question things and fear things and get happy and sad and I survive. I’ve learnt how to deal with myself in different circumstances. I’ve learnt that I’m stronger than I thought, that my body and mind will not let me down. I live in a harsh world too – with sadness and humiliation and tears at times but I wouldn’t trade it for her world.

I firmly believe that life should be empowering.


3 thoughts on “Why I think medication is sometimes a copout

  1. Being bipolar is very complicated and almost impossible to describe to someone who isn’t. I have been on and off many medications, but none of them worked, for very long. I had one brief experience of “normalcy” which gave me an interesting perspective on the mania (the highs.) I realized for the first time that they were as bad as the lows, and sometimes worse. But I do agree with you that no emotion is a bad thing. I was on Lithium, which worked for awhile, but while I was on it, I felt numb, felt like I had lost my creative spark. Not a good thing for a writer. So I’m off all things now, and every day is a struggle. It’s one thing to expereice the ups and downs of daily life, it’s quite another to feel like you are always out of control, always at some extreme. I’m sure your friend would opt to live in your world if she could. But for now, it seems like she needs a little help. Marco http://bipolarized.wordpress.com

    • Thank you for your comment. I know that there is a lot I don’t understand about being bipolar and I don’t pretend to. I just feel sad that her idea of “normal” is not feeling either the highs or the lows that everyone else still feels.

      I get worried that she has no coping mechanism for the everyday stuff that affects us all, because she’s been given this idea that even a slight low is a problem.

      Good luck on your path!

      • Thanks also for your comment on my post. Regarding your friend, perhaps you might suggest she interview another therapist. My last one was a real pill pusher. It took me several years to realize it was the wrong path for me. Perhaps she just needs a different “professional” perspective.

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