Since I first heard of the concept of antidepressants, like so many other technique based shortcuts and cure-alls that we’re all so fond of these days, I knew they were inherently a bad idea.
When I was 13, I read Aldous Huxley’s, “Brave New World” and it, like I was learning in the psychology classes I attended at the same time (with my mother as she went back to complete her college degree), revealed to me the parallel lesson of the mistake of walling off emotions. This was 1980 and psychotropics weren’t as ubiquitously prescribed as they are today, but I knew I’d never come to rely on them. But then there have been many things I’ve intended not to do that I’ve reasoned myself into doing along the way.
In Huxley’s dystopian novel, it’s considered silly to feel bad, so everyone is provided with, and encouraged to consume, the somewhat hallucinogenic drug, Soma. Like similar tales, the society is designed to be predictable and to remove fear and all unpleasant feelings from the human experience, including confusing thoughts, creativity, guilt, shame, embarrassment, etc. The benevolent State controls nearly all aspects of daily living, including all reproductive processes and the subsequent conditioning of all people. It literally creates (genetically modified embryos) and assigns it test-tube grown citizens with specific physical and mental facilities for specific jobs to the benefit of the whole, a scenario that seems so ludicrous but is it that much of a stretch to become our reality?
Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, around age 37, I was in the midst of a severe unconscious existential crisis. At 29, I had literally woken up in an acute, albeit hidden, breakdown from my frenzied unfocused angst of becoming the successful human “Doing” I’d thought I was supposed to be. I set out to make sense of where I had found myself, and so with no guidebook and no guide, I read every book I could get my hands on. Incessant striving and planning and reasoning were my tools, and though I gained much knowledge of facts and figures, they were all just jumbled up in my noggin.
So nearing 40 and at my wits end I justified my use of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. I was a pharmacist after all, among other things, so knowing the pharmacological mechanism, I allowed my intellect to rationalize my transformation into a smart zombie. I lost myself then, no access to my higher intuitive facilities and I became more reliant on my lower instincts to make it through the work week and my life. I stopped learning new things, I stopped reaching and I learned to desperately cope…..kinda.
My wife, now my ex, encouraged me to seek out the ever more exotic psychological diagnoses, as she was certain I was bipolar, or perhaps narcissistic, or maybe both? So I with little argument, explored all of the possibilities that might be foiling my attempts to be a good husband and father. I, still possessing some sense in my head, chose both weekly counseling sessions, that forced me to look inside, as I also submitted to a litany of medications to rule out all possible psychological maladies.
After there seemed to be no cure, for the incorrigible and unfixable person that was me, eventually but now predictably, my 23 year relationship ended. As the dust settled and my pharmaceutically fogged head cleared, I found I was right where I had left myself all those years ago. I began to start reaching again, reading, writing, giving, connecting, I was again the lunatic that left minded types love to suppress, but right minded types attract to so easily. The dots, that were just dots, began to connect with ever increasing speed and intensity, as if trying to catch up from the catatonia I had put myself into. The space, absent restrictive influences and the power I gave them, was the prescription I’d needed all along!
So, my opinion on the matter of relying on antidepressants for not being depressed, especially for more right minded folks like my opinion on so many short cuts, techniques and panaceas is founded in my experience and though it ain’t always fun, I wouldn’t change a thing!