Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"I am happy being who I am. If I was cured, I wouldn't be who I am."



I'm not autistic. Not by a long shot. But as an extreme introvert, I'm well aware of the mainstream's sensibility toward anyone who deviates from the "norm" -- and I don't find it remotely encouraging.

I'm especially troubled by the assumption that depression is necessarily a disease to be "treated" with barrages of pharmaceuticals. Is it conceivable that melancholy offers the experiencer a window on reality just as valid as those embraced by the mainstream?

I'm not negating the reality of extreme, incapacitating depression. But the governing medical paradigm, in collusion with consumer society, has spawned a binary that perhaps owes more to economic and social imperatives than actual wellness. And it usually comes in three innocuous-seeming words: "ask your doctor . . ."

5 comments:

rorschach said...

Very interesting video report on autistics who desire to change the mainstream paradigm that autism is necessarily a condition requiring treatment and/or drugs.

As a fellow introvert, who also has spells of melancholy on occassion, I would suggest that differences in human demeanor are one of the spices of life, in the sense that it would be a very boring, mundane world if the goal was for everyone to "be happy" or strive for a median behavioral standard by majority consensus or due to general social expectations. Diversity, in nearly all its forms, is usually culturally enriching.

Think about it--many geeks, artists, and writers have more variant ups and/or downs than the average "suburban daddies" (and mommies) who seemingly stive to "fit in," or "keep up with the Joneses," and the alternative of "thinking differently," in turn, has led to many scientific, artistic, literate, and other breakthroughs of sorts and made significant contributions to culture, technology, and society at times.

We "semi-happy mutants" have value and the right to be different, and it's not an arbitrary choice or effort to be "cool" (or better or special)--it's just who we are, and it's most often not easy at all taking "the road less traveled" by being different. It is often lonely.

Sometimes I contemplate whether we are analogous to the "canary in the coalmine"--perhaps one of our "functions" is to be able to see and sense, as outsiders (or due to some essential disatisfaction about the way things are), what things are really like, and how they might be changed or improved, or to give voice to raise the alarm when we think things are not going well, not ignoring them or deluding ourselves that things are "just fine" by pretending to "get along by going along" with the crowd.

Considering the current state and near-term future of humanity and its prospects, this "cursed gift" can be both useful and important, if we do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by a sort of negative, probing perspective and retreat numbly into our shells.

I'm actually kind of glad to be a bit of a "weirdo." I will never be one of the "gray men," and am sort of proud to be able to say that. But, it is difficult, to say the least.

To me, the critical issue to be consciously avoided is when, seeing how different to us the "mainstream" feels or seems, we attempt to suppress our beings in order to become more acceptable, or when introversion (or mildly depressive or dysthymic outlook) or attitude feeds upon itself, as this often leads to forms of self-medication, which is ultimately destructive, in order to feel "normal" or try to fit in to some perceived societal standard of behavior. That only leads to cognitive dissonance and becoming side-tracked.

Gotta keep movin' and gotta stay focused on what's most important, to be true to oneself, while still seeking enlightenment, is my motto.

If one does what their heart and mind most desires, while avoiding harm to self or others, and caring for the well-being of our fellow humans and the planet, you will be most satisfied, as fulfilling our potential as best as one can is a worthy goal and journey. As Joseph Campbell often famously said, "follow your bliss."

Up and onward, as it were. Take care. Be who you really are or can be. What do you think? Over and out.

W.M. Bear said...

I'm especially troubled by the assumption that depression is necessarily a disease to be "treated" with barrages of pharmaceuticals.

After my experience with xanax, not exactly an anti-depressant but widely prescribed for stress and related syndromes and "disorders," I swore that I would never let myself be dosed with a psychoactive drug and I haven't -- not for well over 15 years. I won't go into the details but suffice it to say that xanax is (admittedly, by psychopharmacologists) addictive and once you're on it, is incredibly difficult to get off of. Any time I hear (or see) the word "xanax," I have to work hard not to freak....

(On the other hand, I got a recorded IQ boost of 20 points from an anti-depressant that I was on before that. But I think the xanax pretty much wiped that out and then some....)

Mac said...

Sometimes I contemplate whether we are analogous to the "canary in the coalmine"--perhaps one of our "functions" is to be able to see and sense, as outsiders (or due to some essential disatisfaction about the way things are), what things are really like,

In another era we'd probably be the shamans scribbling on cave walls and boldly relating future events to our respective tribes.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with the doctor in the video. I am the father of two autistic children; one mild, and one severe. It is all very well and good for autistics who can communicate verbally and can dress and care for themselves to ask to be accepted. The problem is one of labels; Autism presents medical, cultural, physical, and other challenges. Insisting that it is one or the other is binary thinking, and probably absurd.

As for medicating people, again, I think this is a complex decision that pharmaceutical firms want to make for you. Whether to accept anyone's psychopharmaceuticals into your body should be made with a lot of thought and research.

rorschach said...

Anon--

I agree with you--the question cannot be binary, as the variation in condition, whether it be autism or melancholy or whatever is indeed one of a question of type and degree, and thus some can actually benefit from therapy and/or certain medications, while some, who may be more functional (as long as thery're not in denial) can choose, as adults, assuming they are not going to harm themselves or others, etc., should have the option to try one, the other, both, or neither, as free adult humans should.

It's another case of situational realities and ethics, among other criteria and variables of degree.

Well said, and since you have two autistic children, one mildly so, and the other severe, it is up to you until they are functional or mentally/emotionally stable or when they become adults, on the basis of being able to care for themselves appropriately. And, on the other hand, there's nothing wrong with a little weirdness, as long as it's the "good" kind, as in nice or eccentric vs. bad (abusive and angry, etc.). YMMV.