As I’ve written before, having a blog of a sustained length over time that can dive back a decade with in situ thoughts and facts-of-mind on the record makes for a wonderful repository that allows a certain grabbing back into what we thought we knew then in order to compare it against the modern treachery of The Now.
Melancholia has been one of my favorite topics because we both run from it, and race into it, and we are reckoned to deal with it on many levels throughout our narrow lives — Melancholia and the Author’s Life — was written on November 19, 2007:
An author always wonders if their idea is ever full enough or sustainable enough to engage an outside mind; then, when the process is over, the divinity of creating new life on the page ends in the quiet and small death of the author’s hopes and dreams as the final period is placed on the page.
Where once worlds were created to serve universes — now there is only the darkness of a final, woodsong, ending and the darkening tomorrow of starting the process all over again.
In a recent New York Times article on medicating depression, we find we are always rounding about our lives in roundabouts that sometimes confuse and rarely please, even with professional psychiatric help:
between diagnosing illness and teaching our youth to view any emotional upset as pathological. We need a greater focus on building resilience in emerging adults. We need more scientific studies — spanning years, not months — on the risks and benefits of maintenance treatment in emerging adults. Maybe someday, treating people like this young graduate student, I won’t have to feel like we’re conducting an experiment of one.
On August 12, 2005, I wrote — Most of My Friends Are Medicated — expressing concern for the changes in personality and personhood I was witnessing in the eyes of my beloved peers:
I’m not sure what it says about me but most of my closest friends are on some kind of medication to make them less wacky — and when I say “wacky” I mean it in the best and most admirable way. A few of the medications my friends swallow every day include Paxil, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Zoloft, Luvox and Prozac. I am not on any kind of antidepressant or any other daily medication. I am uncertain if I should be overjoyed or sad my good friends need medication in order to operate in the world. 50 years ago if you were a little loopy — and I mean “loopy: in the best and most admirable way — you were institutionalized or given electric shock treatments or you committed suicide. Suffering is the brand of the true artist.
Do we today repress emotions and expectations and innovation with medication to “even out” people or is medication really intended to control minority behavior the majority decides is detrimental to their agenda? True artists are driven by demons not of their own choosing. Demons demand expression. Sometimes demons can overrun a life.
The next day, on August 13, 2005, I wrote a follow-up article — Self Medicating Misery — in an attempt to demonstrate that if people cannot get proper healthcare, they will resort to the lowest common form of human existence in order to feel better and self-medicate their view of the world as best they can.
As their own self-prescribing doctor, the self-medicating True Artist’s clarity of mind is directly influenced by their abnormal self-medicated behavior and more and more junk is required to be taken by their bodies in order to keep their mind on what they believe to be an “even keel.” The self-medicating route is pitted with danger and guaranteed failure and, oftentimes, death. You’ve probably seen the dangers of self-medicating more than you’ve seen the dulling of personality by prescription drugs. Self-medicating is the larger danger because there is no third party control — like a doctor or even a pharmacist — who can keep an eye on dosages and help answer clinical questions and monitor behavior.
True Artists who self-medicate are more culturally accepted in the mainstream world than those who choose to live a natural life of demanding exception — the three Martini lunch is a prime example of a socially approved self-medicating experience — and in the artistic world, self-medicating is wrongly seen by many as a necessary rite of passage. The True Artist’s job is to alter reality for us, not them.
December 22, 2006 — The Necessity of Melancholia and the Black Bile — I swung back to the other side of the medication pendulum to wonder if too much of the chemical stuff was dulling our native senses.
Did Artists owe it to their talent to let their demons live, and depress the body and mind, if the end result was something great created in that specific, great, dark void?
Happiness and contentment are foreign ideals in the world while we all innately understand sorrow and hurt and the general malaise of being human.
Melancholia must be celebrated, not cured or tamped down or made misbegotten with a pill and counseling. Melancholia, and all its pain and internal wounding, confirms who we really are as the brightest and the boldest indicators of living.
Melancholia, and its natural contretemps, creates the hallmark of a human life on earth.
June 2, 2008, I wrote — Pill Popping Your Way to Better Health — and we were in for another modern medicine round of people seeking drugs to change their brain chemistry as life, and jobs, and the housing market, were all beginning to crumble around each of us:
Are modern medications healing or hurting us?
Are we defeating the evolutionary ideal of “survival of the fittest” by providing the means and hope for less-vibrant life forces to survive well beyond their natural end?
Do new medications make us less human by repressing the normal feelings, emotions, and systemic behaviors that make us mortal and fallible?
April 22, 2013 — Seven Depressions — was a special article because I never before realized there was a predictable genetic code flora for a depressive series, but if you know the condition, these waves that wane and resist and return to full-force drowning, make for both a prescient satiety and an unquenchable fear of the future yet to come.
I know the psychiatric community doesn’t like to label disease or suggest that everyone who is majorly depressive will have seven episodes, but it seems like seven is the average. Some people will have fewer medication changes while others will fall beyond the seven.
I also understand doctors don’t want a young person, facing their first round of medication, to be overwhelmed with the notion that there may be more than two changes. Withdrawal symptoms can be prolonged and punishing. Sometimes it takes up to six weeks to even test to see if a new medication is working or not. If not, you start the step-down and ramp-up process all over again.
What I’ve learned throughout this roiling back of thought and considerations over the years is that we don’t know very much about the mind or chemistry or even how our blood works.
We are left to wander on our own, using both faith and science, to try to make sense of it all and to try new things in cycles of discovery that are really not new, or slightly cyclical, in any sense — except that they are simply new to us as the latest wild-eyed generation looking for some comfort and solace in a grey and harrowing world.
We are perpetually hunting and searching for perfection and enlightenment of the self without harm or degradation of the soul — but there’s forever a price to pay in sensation and cognition that few of us are willing to suffer to pay in full.