January 12, 2008

The Human Condition

I haven't gone philosophical and read Hannah Arendt's book, just the reviews on Amazon, which tell me that my version is much simpler and easier to apply to every day life.

On an individual level, there are two states of being: better and worse.

If you happen to find yourself in neither category but instead would describe your condition as "okay to good" on one hand or "heinous or despairing" on the other hand, then I'm interested in hearing from anyone who knows what meds will induce the "okay to good" reaction for me and for my friends' lives. Great would be pushing it. Say "fabulous," and I will think you are full of shit.

Despair, I know well, up close and personal. It's when my psychopharm cocktail acts like expired vitamins, for one thing. I suspect it's also the state of many people living under truly hideous conditions, but that definition has outward measures, whereas inner despair flies into situations that would look marvelous to someone who is not "worse."

Heinous describes conditions at Guantanamo Bay or Iraq or any other war-torn, poverty-stricken, fascist-controlled (that includes the U.S., where Big Brother made sure privacy was dead and buried prior to the end of the 20th century) country that springs to mind.

When you're better or worse as a general condition, you're more likely to get to heinous or despairing than to great or fabulous.

Perhaps this doesn't make sense to you. If so, I suspect your are a psychopharmacological virgin, that is to say, one to whom no psychiatric drugs have ever been prescribed. Yes, for some, recreational drugs are the limit. I would have put myself in this category when I was 18 and my Quaalude dealer took checks.

But then the migraines began in earnest and the blackening depression was finally recognized. Voila: Sansert, your link to migraine free days and to LCD, from which it differs by one molecule. In some Swiss lab, LCD was synthesized just prior to Sansert.

The original thought was that LCD would cure migraines. Evidently, not so much -- though the drug's ability as a hallucinogenic trigger is not to be disputed. Then again, Sansert gets high marks as a hallucinogen as well. At 19, no one thought to issue that warning to me.

Eventually, neurologists stopped prescribing Sansert, the one antimigraine drug that worked, due to the severe, extensive and permanent nature of its side effects. It's also not the drug for the serotonin impaired, which covers most of us whose neurotransmitters need to take their orders from the better-living-through-chemistry folks.

For that, welcome to the world of antidepressants. Prior to the Prozac revolution in 1987, the AD drugs all had serious cautionary warnings (one type were the MAOIs: many food did not mix with this drug compound, i.e., aged cheese, beer, bacon and red wine. Ingest any of these or related foods, those magical nutrients would bring on a stroke or death).

The other type were the tricyclic ADs. Gain 7% of your body weight in a month, become incessantly dehydrated and continue to cry daily as before. Not highly recommended, but some folks still take them for nerve pain. Personally, my nervous system's full-body issues didn't respond. My leg, for example, wasn't depressed; it just hurt.

Living with depression is like living behind a mirror: you see all the people in the world, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the horrifying. However, you don't react at all -- a condition known as "lack of affect," or you react badly.

I'm not going to list the 7 or 10 or how many signs Big Pharma asks one to count to determine whether you are officially "depressed." Let's just leave it as for me, January is a month that consistently falls on the "worse" end of the spectrum, and I find there is no such thing as too much sleep, nor is there much in the way of food that interests me, and my concentration is shot.

I have had a few great afternoons recently: a friend took me through acres of Central Park I'd never seen, and the air smelled of spring, a quality it never possesses four blocks away. Another friend made dinner for me and played backgammon for hours. I am cramming in lessons in Spanish, for the two weeks in February that I will be in Mexico and need to order food, find the bathroom, and ask directions.

Still and all, this month is the anniversary of my father's death, and for that reason alone, despite the joy of my niece's first birthday next week, when Aunt Alice heads to Alabama, I can't imagine a January that will find me in the "better" state of the human condition.

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Blogger The Misanthrope said...

I am coming to your neck of the woods in Feb. I was hoping we could have a drink or maybe a bite to eat, but I suspect now you'll be on vacation.

My little bouts of feeling down are nothing serious mostly tired or frustrated. I would have to consider myself a psychopharmacological virgin. I have a problem with the virgin aspect of it all.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Teresa said...

Ah, yes, the tricyclic era. I knew it, though not very well, because I was in the habit those days of going on meds and seeing a therapist for three to six weeks, just until the acute suicidal phase lifted, at which time I would declare myself cured and return to the business of living, because you see, I didn't have a mood disorder, I had a crises disorder.

Hope Alabama was everything one could hope for; I imagine it was very much the way I left it when last there—the wife has relatives in Birmingham. Mostly I hope your mood lifts in short order; if not, you know where a sympathetic listener can be found. (No, not the hotline! Me, silly girl.)

1:53 AM  
Anonymous anne said...

i am barely not a virgin. i took prozac for a glorious week, feeling "helped" for the first time. then i was so sleepy i could barely function. then i was even more depressed that i had to start over. was then given a script for welbutrin but never took it from a fear of seizures.

so i decided to try it on my own again, not wanting to deal with all the unknown chemicals and their effects on my body. feeling a bit blue this week but working through it. hope some little happy nudges you into the better.

3:29 PM  

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