I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be ‘normal’ without some kind of external influence; to be able to honestly say “I’m fine” without needing artificial chemicals allowing me to say sos. Maybe one day I’ll be in such a tolerable condition, but for now it is simply a distant dream. This is a foolish thing to say, considering my psychological disorders are much less dire than those suffered by the more unfortunate—schizophrenics, for instance. But it is somethings that has been plaguing my mind these past few days.
I had been diagnosed with a few mental illnesses throughout my life. When I was a child, my primary disease was social anxiety. I would avoid the gaze of other peoples, sit quietly in the corner of a room, bawl my eyes out each time someone yells or speak loudly. Yet due to my young age, I was not given medication, nor did my psychologist urge me to visit a psychiatrist. Instead, I was treated with therapy sessions. They taught me methods of how to deal with people, how humans are not as dangerous as I believed them to be. I can’t say that this approach was particularly successful, as even now at twenty-one years old I still shy away from crowds and strangers. Minus the crying part, obviously.
Later on, as some of the readers of this blog may already know, I chanced upon a new mental disorder: depression. I was nearing twenty when I received the diagnosis, and was not exactly surprised. I had suspected its existence for months, as I had been having suicidal thoughts, unwillingness to do anything, and an uncaring view of the things that go on around me—how I came to such a state can be seen in my previous post Depression: How it Led Me to Suicide. This time, the assessment came from a psychiatrist, and he prescribed me several types of medications: serotonin-boosters (happiness hormones), two different types of sleeping pills, one to induce a state similar to relaxation mixed with exhaustion, and another to hinder my ability to think.
The psychiatric treatment was much more effective than the psychological one. I stopped hearing the voices telling me to kill myself after a year or so on the pills. Unfortunately for myself, another problem reared its obnoxious head; I might just be Bipolar—type II Bipolar Disorder, to be precise.
What this latest sickness means is that my mood is basically on a constant fritz. One moment I would frantically write down essays, blog posts, articles, whatever else I can spend my energy one. Then, I’d feel as if nothing I do matters, that all I’ve accomplished are utter pieces of garbage. The suicidal thoughts return with these low mood swings, and at times I find myself looking down from some high-up ledge, debating whether or not I should take the leap. But that is not the worst part of my presumed condition.
The absolute worst of my episodes is when my anger erupts. I do not flare like a normal person would; I erupt, explode, blindly assaulting anyone—including my sister, in one particular incident—and anything near me. In these moments, everything is a blur, and all I could feel is rage, a sense of complete wrongness with the world. Nothing is right, all around me are mistakes, ones that I must fix by force. I do not realize my erroneous nature as these periods pass, and that blindness is what makes me a danger that needs to be put down.
Nevertheless, whichever abnormalities we’d like to focus on, each of them has an unexpected side effect. One that is unrelated to their specific natures, but must not be ignored if we at all care for the well-being of mental patients. With each diagnosis, a patient is handed the appropriate medication for his specific predicament(s). For myself, they come in the form of pills. Yet these are not cough drops. They are solidified chemicals designed to alter how one thinks, feels, and acts.
Who are we? The man or woman others say we are? Or the face we see on the mirror each day, thinking and imagining things that only we know of? I would argue that we are the latter. For however we conceive ourselves—ghosts in the machine, an organism run by a brain “designed” by evolution—who we are is always the person whose innermost thoughts run through a screen that only we can see, understand, and act upon.
Now, imagine that all of those thoughts must be altered continuously. Changing the “who” of us repeatedly by the use of substances either lacking, or not belonging in our bodies. How would we feel if our souls, our brains, whichever way we term our minds are explicitly known by us to be controlled by elements originating from somewhere outside? Yes we swallow the pills willingly, but how far they can affect us is entirely up to them as we can only feel their effects course through our psyches. How much of myself, after I take the pills, is truly me? This is a question that I ponder each day, and perhaps one that wanders through the thoughts of those standing in similar shoes.
Every time I swallow the pills I feel very different: relaxed, focused, undistracted by the little things that would usually bug me. My behavior is transformed drastically, perhaps for the better. All the while, however, I know that there exist two versions of myself simultaneously: the unstable man who desperately needs help, and the controlled yet troubled alter-ego. I cannot say for sure which of the two I really am. All I know is that I swap faces on a daily basis.
I cannot say for certain that my fellow patients are plagued by the same disturbing thought of being molded into someone else. But for those of us who are, remember that this is the price we have to pay for being different. One that needs to be remunerated if we ever hope to be a functioning, and—perhaps most important of all—accepted member of society. I know how demeaning it is to force ourselves into something we are not because of the demands of others, it is part of the course I’ve chosen. One that needn’t necessarily be yours.
We live in an imperfect world, as members of an equally flawed species; a place whose inhabitants would treat its neighbors with cruelty should the latter be of an odd character. Here lies a crossroad for the mentally ill.
Would we choose to be who we really are—not matter how defective—or be someone who is judged to be acceptable? I’ve obviously chosen the latter option. For although I have few qualms against my actual persona, it is one that has caused harm to the people I love. It needs to be controlled, its urges subdued by whatever means necessary, lest more and more suffer from my deficiencies. No mother or father should hear that their one and only son thirsts for death. No man, woman, or child should be beaten without reason. I do not intend to repeat these same mistakes, nor allow any more to come forth.
Whatever choice you make regarding how you treat your condition, is one that I cannot control nor would attempt to influence. Your scale may differ from mine. And it is difficult to choose between keeping ourselves who, or protect those dear to us. I would not blame anyone for choosing either path, so long as they know of the consequences of their choices.
As for me personally, I will continue taking the pills. I’ll keep on visiting my psychiatrist. All the while aware that I’m being turned into a mutation of my actual self. For the price of not following through my therapies is simply too high. I do not wish to cause grief to innocent peoples—like anyone sane enough. If who I really am is capable of harming those who have done no wrong, what use do I have for such a character?