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.

MENTAL ILLNESS & PERSONAL: Pictures of my brain.
MENTAL ILLNESS: BDSM or Neuroscience?
MENTAL ILLNESS: Today’s session.
POLITICS: First Church of Cannabis taking advantage of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law.
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.

  • Blenster

    Stay strong, my friend… Stay strong…

  • gillyc

    Hmm, yeah. I incessantly read blogs because I don’t have a social life. Unfortanately, if I were to stop reading blogs, a social life wouldn’t somehow magically appear. Dysthymic, moi?
    It doesn’t help me ‘succeed’ in any way, though. That would be kind of cool, actually.

  • Angelina

    Well said… it’s always inspiring to find someone who not only understands these things, but find a way to write about them so well. I’ve been sending these blogs to someone who needs to be reminded why he’s fighting. I like to think they’re helping. I know reading them is helping ME remember why I keep swimming against the current.

  • Chiral

    For me, this is the hard part:

    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.

    I’ve never been well enough to accumulate much of a social circle but somehow, during one of my better patches, I managed to initiate a sequence of events that ended up with me getting married. Our only paycheck is mine and our health insurance is through my job. If I lose my job, which is an engineering support job and requires all of my brain and then some, we would be homeless within a year and wouldn’t be able to afford any meds anyways. My success is vital to the person I love in a much more tangible way than me being mentally well is.

    All this discussion has spurred me to start therapy again, but I’m not sure I can afford the gamble of meds quite yet.