Saturday, March 3, 2012

stop_taking_your_medications Part_2: I am happy; I want die. I am sad; I want to die.

Part 1

When I am (briefly) happy, I believe it will never end, that life has finally turned away from some dark corner. These moments are unusually creative and expressive. They are sometimes ecstatic or mixed in with ecstatic moments, but only because of a sense that everything will be okay. This allows me to take the risks that can create the kinds of events that take me beyond myself.

Happiness is not really the right word here. What I am talking about here is more of a negative state: a state not filled with hopelessness, alienation, self-loathing and anxiety. 

Just as quickly and for no reason I become exhausted. I can't really think straight. Something or nothing happens to cause a shift in my consciousness. I can't undo it and I fall quietly into something resembling despair. This is always more or less the case in my life. And while this may or may not be real from any outside point of view, it feels like this existential anxiety, this dysphoria, is the basis of life. And it too feels like it will last forever. And in some respects it does. Even in the most exuberant moments in my life, there is the hint of this shroud weighing me down. I am happy; I want die. I am sad; I want to die. 

I think about why this is all the time. I try and look for things we all share, for the ways in which everyone's life is like this. And I have a lot ideas about the persistence of tragedy, the persistence of violence, that civilization demands this anguish from our consciousness, that authenticity demands it... Mostly, I think we are wired this way. That humans are endeavoring machines. That we are made to struggle. Every (almost?) major spiritual tradition has us in some state of fallen-ness, or alienation from the divine. Every political organization has the individual in tension with the state or king. Our liberal democracy insists, ad nauseum, on our discontinuity. We are striving and incomplete in everything we do, from science and philosophy to shopping and war. The ground of our being I think is best understood in these terms: the absurd (the tension between the desire for the world to mean something in itself and that it doesn't), original sin, alienation, throwness, the will to power, the unconscious ... etc.

I wake every day and look at the world and struggle to make it meaningful. That's not quite right.  I struggle to make it  not feel  alien and cruel and alienating.  The irony, of course, is that it is in fact all of those things.  My conversations, dance parties, work,  exercise, food, clothes, music, reading, writing...  all have a seed of this overwhelming despair.  It isn't even a question of running from myself.  I'm always there, no matter what I do.  I know how to live with me. And I have become more and more at peace with this. But there is also a nagging, persistent  message that's hard to ignore. Maybe this anguished ground of being is only my problem. Maybe I should talk to my doctor about Abilify

It's infuriating to think that our culture's solution to a philosophical and existential problem is a cynical ad campaign for a pill that suggests in its name and in its advertising narrative that it will: enable you, give you ability, transform you. [Oh, and it might make you nauseous, sweaty, nervous, and dead. Maybe.  They must think we're idiots. Maybe we should stop acting like idiots.]  The message in this ad is that psychological suffering isn't real. It literally  isn't you. All you have to do is take this little pill and you can shrug off the weight of the world. Because there isn't anything wrong with world. The world is all fertile green and sky-blue and filled with happy suburban couples, parks,  families and playgrounds. The only problem is in  your head.  And it's a little problem – a cartoon blob or blanket, causing you to feel down.   You can get over it.  Spend time with your family.  Be free.

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