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February 2010
Tue, Jan. 13th, 2009 03:29 am
Utsu: drugging the ordinary sadness of Japanese and children


Tue, Jan. 13th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)

Yes, the structuralist or even karmic view does inform my take, you're right.

I've tried to avoid talking about this, because it's such a painful experience. But I lost a friend in 2002 after the following sequence of events:

* Friend married and got pregnant.
* Her partner didn't want her to have the baby.
* Chemical abortion which failed.
* My friend fell into depression / rage, made suicidal gestures.
* Friend hospitalized in Brooklyn.
* I visited my friend daily in mental hospital. She refused to talk to anyone, but communicated on slips of paper. "I am not selective mute". "I feel like my life is a game I have lost." "They diagnozed bipolar. Zoloft."
* My friend was given a second abortion, surgical this time.
* My friend's doctor was reluctant to meet me, and, when he did, oddly breezy in his office. Then, in the elevator, he totally refused to talk to me, as if he feared lawsuits should my friend later commit suicide.
* I invited my friend's mother from Japan to US to take her back to Japan.
* I left, unable to stay longer in US for visa reasons.
* In Paris, I learned that my friend's mother had returned to Japan without her.
* My friend was released from hospital after one month -- not for medical reasons, but because one month is the period her medical insurance covered.
* Somehow, my friend was left alone in her apartment on her first night out of hospital. Nobody was given keys.
* My friend made a few phonecalls, took pills and drank alcohol, opened her veins in the bath and died.
* Two years after my friend's death the FDA issued a warning for Zoloft and other antidepressants, stating that the drug can in some cases cause suicide and violence.
* I remain convinced that my friend would still be alive today if she had not been hospitalized, diagnosed, and medicated, or -- if those things had happened -- she would still be alive if she had been treated in a medical system which puts the welfare of patients before their ability to pay.

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Jan. 13th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)

There's also my own experience of medical treatment -- five years of personality-changing (and not in a good way) steroids and immune-suppressants followed by total failure to save the targeted organ, my right eye, itself harmed by a Johnson and Johnson contact lens. I was harmed by a product, and not helped by the drugs supposed to cure this harm. I did get a sense of how drugs can change your personality, though; I became aggressive and short-tempered on steroids.

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Jan. 13th, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)

I have been on short courses of steroids twice in my life, once for a busted eardrum from a scuba diving incident, and once to battle a case of pleurisy, and both times I was gobsmacked by the personality changes it engendered. The first day was always a sense of beautiful euphoria followed by days of almost overwhelming despair and angry outbursts. I would find myself wanting to weep over the tiniest things. Oh and the insomnia, which wasn't just normal tossing and turning but it was as if the sleep function in my brain had been permanently erased. My sis was on them for years -- she suffers from Crohn's disease -- and now that she is off of them (thankfully she has been in full remission for quite a while) she seems like a different person.

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Jan. 13th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)

The structuralist view informs my take as well. Don't get me wrong: I don't think people should seek medication as a first response to severe mental trauma, mostly because the process by which we think and feel is not analogous to the process by which we digest food or breathe or circulate urine. Taking a pill will never solve every single aspect of a mental problem. And for every single person I've never known, or ever heard of, who had mental issues, their lifestyles played a significant role in either triggering or perpetuating/prolonging those issues.

But one still comes down to the fact that this can't possibly explain the infinite ways in which people react to similar stimuli. Some peoples' brains pump more happy juice than others, and those people, sometimes, can use medication to regulate that condition. Again, with manic-depression, we're talking about something that is pretty easily identifiable. We can observe the behaviors of a bipolar person and come to a fairly objective conclusion that we're seeing an irregularity. Now, irregularity is fine, as long as the patient is okay and can function to his/her own satisfaction. That's all good. But if the patient is coming in for help, and says "Shit, I have these crazy mood swings, and I can't control them, and I can't get any work done, and sometimes I feel like killing myself and five minutes later I'm on top of the world" then we would have to be morally bankrupt to say "hey, just get your shit together, you're supposed to feel the full sensory palette, after all!"

Know what I mean?

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Jan. 13th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)

Also, what about anxiety disorders, for which people have found Xanax to be quite effective? I think the anti-psychiatry argument loses a lot of its footing when we look at mental problems that cause physically-identifiable trauma. A person with an anxiety disorder can pass out, stop breathing, or even suffer a heart attack. Is that not real? It definitely bridges the mind-body gap, which would make drugs a viable option, right?

ReplyThread Parent