I love to read Sister Wolf's blog "Godammit.com" because she so often has a perspective that I haven't thought of before. For instance, she has passionate views on the ethics of surgically modifying children to appear more "normal" if they have congenital "deformities."
She recently wrote regarding a NT Times book review of three books on the pathologizing of common conditions like shyness and sadness.
During my annual visit with my primary care physician I told her what a crappy year I had had. Well, she asked. Foremost on my list of crap things were breaking up with the exMrStapler and my sister dying.
She was sympathetic - and then she offered to medicate me. I demurred. She pressed, saying, "Well, you know if it gets bad you can always call me and I will fix you up."
Memo to Doc: I'm not clinically depressed. I am grieving. Can I do that?
I don't know about you, but I don't think all pain can or should be avoided. To me, not feeling this pain and loss would actually be worse than feeling it. As I said in my comment to Sister Wolf, I think I would be a monster if I didn't hurt like this.
I wonder what Emily Dickinson's poetry would have been like if she were medicated out of her social anxiety. Van Gogh clearly could have used medication for his bipolar disorder, but...I'm too chicken to say this, but his art and his illness seem so bound up together. What would be the ethical thing to do with someone like him? Would it be better to end his suffering, if it ended his genius? (Please note: I'm not saying you have to be mentally ill to be a talented artist or that people who are on medication can't produce great art.)
When I was a kid, the 18-year-old son of our neighbors 2 doors down ran out of air while SCUBA diving, a dumb macho kid mistake. He got the "bends" which left him unable to feel his legs.
He could still walk, but his pain receptors were gone. This condition turned out to be very dangerous, because he often cut, bruised and sprained himself, even once broke a bone, without ever being able to feel it.
Is there a parallel in our society? Where there is pain, is there also necessarily illness? And what are the dangers that come with being chemically removed from our deepest feelings?
Edited to add: I just want to be sure that you know I'm not doing a Tom Cruise and saying that psychiatric medicines are unnecessary. I know that many people need them, just as diabetics need maintenance drugs, and that there should be as little stigma involved in both. I am concerned, though, that a family doctor would offer to change my brain chemistry after a 3 minute conversation because I mentioned being sad.