This was written last night and has nothing to do with the death of Christopher Hitchens.  Boo to people who try to make Hitchens’ death about themselves.

In my talk at Skepticon IV I touched on one of the ways people with depressive disorders become attached to their disease.  We view it as the means to our happiness.  With anorexics, for instance, it’s “If I just lose X more pounds, everything will be alright.”

There are similar thoughts that make us reticent to take our pills.  For people who are depressed, they may rely on depressive realism.  For someone with severe social anxiety, they may take up reading wikipedia constantly as a way to feel good about themselves or to compete when they’re not engaging in a social life.  Though our conditions actively ruin our lives, they are indisputably a part of us.  In some cases, they are what make us what we are.  It was for me.

And so what ails us not only becomes, in our twisted minds, the means of escape, it becomes who we are.  For a lot of us, particularly those who have succeeded on account, at least in part, because we’re insane our illness provides us with our edge.  When we take the pills, we gain control but we lose that edge.  We start to see the world in color rather than in the distinct hardness of black and white.  We stop reading wikipedia incessantly and go to bars.  We get distracted by superfluities and we miss things.

And even when you’re on top of it, there are times when things get tough and you think to yourself that you can go back, just for a little bit.  Stop taking the meds and this time you’ll be able to gut it out, even though you know perfectly well it’s not a matter of gutting it out.  But sometimes it really does feel like you can’t succeed without the assistance of your demon.  Of course, the whole reason you took the meds in the first place is because ultimately it’s impossible to succeed with it.

Then you realize there are people who love you whom you live for apart from yourself, and you realize they’re more important than success.  At least, if you’re well enough to put that together.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.