Psychoactive Drugs

•May 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Since the beginning of February, I’ve been cycling pretty frequently–for a combination of reasons, my meds stopped working. So, I’ve been pretty used to extreme mood swings–for every high, there is a low, and the lows are crushing and horrible, although the highs, while not full-fledged manic, are incredibly beautiful (not least because they’re not too extreme for me to function). I recently changed meds–I’m weaning off of Trileptal, I’m still on Risperdal and Celexa, and I just started with Lamictal. I’ve also been taking better care of myself–specifically, I’ve been getting regular sleep. Because of that, I think new drug cocktail is starting to work. However, I wonder what “working” means–the only evidence I’ve seen of it was this Friday, when I was on a high all evening until I got groped by a drunk guy at a party (I’m transgendered, so the boobs aren’t real, but it’s still incredibly disturbing), left the party, and felt myself start to crash. I could feel the high leaving and the depression starting, and I prepared myself for another night of depression. But then…it stopped. It was like a glass floor–I could sink no further. I wasn’t particularly depressed–more angry because I’d been groped, and because the high was leaving. But I couldn’t get depressed–beyond a certain point, something, presumably the synthetic chemicals I put into my brain, held me and formed an impenetrable barrier. I couldn’t get any more depressed, and I could feel this haze stopping my emotions from getting any lower, and keeping them much weaker than they normally would be, even at that depth. And that was scary. As hellish as crashing is, I wanted to feel. I didn’t want to have my emotions deadened and penned up–as strange as it sounds, I wanted to get depressed. I started wanting to hurt myself, hurt myself physically, just to feel something as strong as I normally do. And that scared the shit out of me. So I’ve got horrible mixed feelings about the meds. I’m not going to stop taking them, at least not in the immediate future, because cycling has basically caused the shit to hit the fan and torn my life apart this year. But at the same time, I don’t want to go around in a drugged stupor–I don’t want the problems that come with bipolar, but I do want the intensity of experience, even when the experience is negative and unbearable.

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Hello world!

•April 29, 2009 • 1 Comment

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

NAMI doesn’t speak for me

•April 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I also posted this as a forum topic on the NAMI group on Facebook.

According to its website (http://www.nami.org), “NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.”

I have bipolar. That distinguishes me from most of the people I’ve encountered in NAMI–most don’t have a diagnosis themselves, at least not in my experience. Rather, they tend to be “normal” people who get involved after a friend or family member is diagnosed.

I feel that this is intrinsically problematic, especially as it’s reflected in the attitude that NAMI takes. Take the slogan on this group’s homepage, for instance–“Mental Disorders are Brain Disorders.” This strikes me as an incredibly reductionist and hugely worrying approach. It assumes that “mental illness” (I myself prefer the term “madness”) is simply a deviance, not merely from social normative patterns of thought and behavior, but from the mad person’s own, supposedly authentic, personality.

In my experience, that’s not true. In my own case, while bipolar is, very often, hell, it’s also a fundamental part of my personality, and influences me in ways going far beyond the collection of symptoms listed in the DSM. Madness, unlike physical illness, isn’t merely a deviation from the system’s normal workings–it’s embedded in the mad person’s psyche. Simply put, it’s a gift. A very dangerous one, but one that also has advantages.

I feel things more intensely than other people. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, pain at all the suffering in the world is stronger, and the wonder at all the beauty in the world is heightened. I’ve noticed that bipolar people tend to question established systems more, tend to think in different ways even when they’re neither manic nor depressed, and tend to be more creative (indeed, a great many brilliant artists and writers over the centuries have had bipolar or other forms of madness). At the same time, it causes immense suffering, and can be incredibly disruptive in people’s daily lives. That’s why many people with it choose to use medications and/or therapy to cope–although not all do. For some people, going without treatment is best, although that’s a very dangerous choice.

I view madness as a gift. It’s not simply a “brain disorder,” or even a “mental illness”–it’s a part of who I am. You can’t separate me from it, or it from me.

Why am I saying all this? Because NAMI doesn’t respect, or even acknowledge, this perspective. NAMI believes that mental health advocacy consists of attempting to expand access to the established treatment system instead of attempting to fight human rights abuses within it (and believe me, these do occur, and far more often than most people realize). They believe that fighting stigma consists of reducing madness to another condition, another disease, that should be treated like any other.

This won’t work. A mad person isn’t a person who happens to suffer from a brain disease, any more than an introvert is someone who happens to suffer from a social abnormality. As long as madness is viewed as a wholly negative, deviant thing, stigma will exist.

Finally, I’d like to question whether NAMI is really quite the grassroots movement it claims to be. According to Mother Jones magazine, NAMI received $11.7 million in contributions from drug manufacturers between 1996 and mid-1999. I personally find this disturbing–if even the supposed grassroots activist groups are funded by Big Pharma (whose financial ties to the psychiatric profession have recently been revealed as well), then what’s to say that they’ll really act in the interest of the mad instead of the companies that make money off of madness? Over-medication is a huge problem today–and NAMI says nothing about that. Could these two be connected?

All in all, I don’t consider myself “mentally ill”–I’m mad, and I’m proud to be so. It’s a gift. NAMI, however, disagrees–according to their website, one of their goals is to “end mental illness.” To end mental illness is to end a set of types of personality–ways of being that often bring suffering and sometimes death, but also bring forth works of creative genius and, more to the point, determine the ways in which a fifth of this country experiences life and thinks and feels about it.

Conservatives will teabag in public all over the country on Tax Day

•April 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

http://www.womanist-musings.com/2009/04/eagle-flag-pledge-of-allegiance-and-now.html

Comparative Religion

•April 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

All religions are equally true.
On the surface, this seems to be just the sort of hippie-happy New Age bullshit that comes from the mouths of babes and people who don’t know what they’re talking about. After all, on the surface, the only way to reconcile fundamentally irreconcilable ways of looking at the world is to embrace pomo relativism, asserting that Islam is as true in Turkey as Buddhism is in Dharamsala, and that we elitist Western imperialist pigs had best shut our traps about “objective reality” and let the poor oppressed masses of the Third World liberate themselves from the sort of logic that Jerry Falwell and his ilk find themselves quite liberated from here in America–never mind that the fundamentalists of the Third World would take just as kindly to the above statement as the aforementioned Rev. Falwell, only without the chains of a couple of centuries of relatively secular governance and a culture that at least pays lip service to the rule of law to keep the dogs at bay.
Nevertheless, I do believe that all religions bear at least the possibility of becoming true (at least from my own subjective perspective). Despite this, they are irreconcilable in very important ways, both doctrinally and mythologically. Every faith except Unitarian Universalism contradicts every other faith, and it’s very, very difficult to embrace more than one at any given time (believe me, I’ve tried) and still remain at all true to either. However, this seeming incompatibility–if any of them is true at face value, then the other must all be false–belies a fundamental unity on the only level that any religion has the right to claim any truth.
This isn’t cosmology, the origin of the universe or life, or anything relating to the physical makeup of reality. The scientific method, because it’s by its very nature grounded in the reality it studies, is the only legitimate means of exploring this. Furthermore, this isn’t the field of ethics or morality either–useful, humane ethics must be applicable in novel situations, and as every text (including religious treatises and scriptures) is bound by the intellectual and sociological circumstances of its composition, appeal to a textual authority can never justly settle a moral question.
What, then, is left to religion, given that we’ve got science and philosophy? The answer is the one thing that science can’t investigate because of its intrinsic nature–the subjective experience, the way in which the inner and outer worlds relate. Cosmology and ethics are necessarily of the outer world, the former the material universe, the latter the social one. However, neither of these can touch the way in which the outer universe comes to the conscious observer, nor what the observer makes of them.
This, then, is the task of religion–it must deal with the human heart, with one’s inner experience and how one relates it to the larger reality, which encompasses both subjective experience and objective truth.
That’s the sense in which they’re all true–all of them provide a poetic, mythological lens in which to interpret the larger world. Not everyone needs it, but most people tend to at least sometimes, and as long as fundamentalism is avoided, resisted, and fought like the abomination it is, and as long as religious people make sure that they realize that their faith is merely a subjective worldview and not an objective map of the universe, and concede that everyone else’s is exactly the same thing and therefore just as valid, religion need not impede a positive, healthy existence, be it personal or societal.