A philosophical perspective on taking medication

Medicated Me (Sept 2011)

I didn’t want to take drugs. And I didn’t want to carry on heading towards suicide or alcoholic stupor. In the end I decided that being stoned, as sanctioned by the medical establishment, was better than the constant battle to complete each hour. I chose a different route to break out of the numb pattern. Did I surrender? Take the easy option? Am I even now ignoring my feelings and walking around numb to the world.
I don’t believe so, because unlike the author of that piece I knew what my baseline was; I have met unmedicated me and we loathe each other and I begun therapy, professional (counselling, cbt, dialectic) and personal (academic psychology, mindfulness & spiritual), without my chemical prop. I have crashed into my metaphorical icebergs and day-by-day me and my hairdrier slow them down. I believe, rightly or wrongly – for better or worse, that in taking the pills I have not accepted that a drugged me is a better me nor that I go into changes in myself blindly and unquestioningly.
I don’t feel that some level of appreciation of difference needs to be diametrically opposed to a sense of common humanity and I don’t feel that taking medication has taken away my sense of humanity (although to be fair I’m a long way from 10 years of pill-popping) – what it has reduced is the extremes of feeling every person’s pain was both my own , somehow my fault and simultaneously more worthy than mine could ever be, and also something that excluded me. Now when the news moves me to tears the grief is shared not symptomatic of my personal failure. I do not think I will ever move away from a sense that universal compassion is in itself arrogant but I am glad I feel empathy rather than inadequacy.
Medicated me has the space to, if not to accept the comfortable logical premisses of CBT then certainly to, accept that my personal assumptions of selfhood are not necessarily equivalent to the societal evaluations of the same – that is my judgments of myself don’t always match other people’s judgment of me – and to cope every day with the fact I cannot match the standards I wish to. Perhaps more importantly for the people I live with medicated me does not spiral into the suicidal abyss; it has been 3 months since I dragged a razor blade through my skin, I no longer curl in a darkened corner, rocking, able only to feel abstract fear and pain for hours at a time, feelings washing over me like a tidal wave of horror.
I think the point of the piece is that an unexamined life is unfulfilled and that relying on drugs takes you further from experience than you should ever need to be but the danger is that this message is obscured by a stance that forgets simply knowing your thoughts and feelings are not objective is not the same as being able to cope with them – now I am able to accept subjectivity and my inability to match abstract concepts as well as know those facts. I feel that the author loses sight of the darkness that millions of people need to step out of just to be able to start to experience life again in his quest to stop people reaching for a ‘quick fix’. Drugs aren’t the answer they are a tool and a subtle and unpredictable one at that. Use with caution.

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