This essay was originally authored in October of 2001.
I have a friend, a person with whom I’ve had a relationship in the past, who is a medical student. She knows me about as well as anyone can. In her semi-doctor-ness she has diagnosed me as depressed. I do have to admit that in reading descriptions of adult-onset depression, you could pretty much replace “the patient” with “Kyle” and call it a biography of my last few years of life.
The “problem”: the failure to enjoy activities that everyone else calls fun. The hyper-critical self evaluations. The inability to recall a time I would call myself “happy”. The way that happiness slips away the second a happiness-creating input is removed (I got no after-glow).
The “answer”: pop the right pills and fix your brain chemistry. Fortunately any GP/MD can perscribe Prozac or other serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Just waltz in, say you’re feeling down, and they point you to the gumball/Prozac machine in the corner without hesitation or psychological evaluation.
The initial diagnonsis itself, being done by (for lack of a better term) an “ex”, creates conflict in my head. I’m not sure how to take a diagnosis from someone who still loves me and is convinced that we could be together if I just twiddle my bio-chemical dials. Maybe I’m bummed because my life does suck, and I push her away because I resent having my mind played with. Is it worth my time to find out if I really am depressed? But maybe she’s right. Maybe a chemical imblance is what kept me from being comfortable and happy with her.
Maybe I’m supposed to be a sad/serious person! Socrates changed the world, though most historians think he was depressed and/or mad. Is this the way God made me to be?
Furthermore, should I go and muck with my brain with FDA-approved substances? Isn’t this similar set of mind-bending properties why LSD and marijuana are illegal? If I get my “fix” from a translucent brown bottle with a child-safety cap, am I any less an addict than the escapist numbing herself and drifting away in a heroin haze?
How must _I_ decide what is the acceptable set of parameters to tweak in my head? American society has chosen to accept that replacing sadness with sourceless happiness is acceptable. Seeing dancing pink elephants is not acceptable. What if I like pink elephants (dancing or otherwise)? Would it be better to chemically fabricate a source of happiness, or should just directly fabricate happiness? Ought I binge-drink with Mickey Mouse, or take Prozac?
With as little as we know about the human mind and how it works, I’m reluctant to become a part of this American mind-fuck. “Coping” used to be a popular thing. It seems that the availabilty of a fancy molecule that side-steps the need to “deal with it” is favored by most. To me, a direct ethical question first needs to be answered about which is the right way to handle what life throws at us.
These are the seemingly unanswerable questions which steal my sleep.