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I remember when Prozac was starting to become famous. There were some… - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[May. 9th, 2006|10:01 pm]
I remember when Prozac was starting to become famous. There were some people who were acting like it was something terrible, because it helped depressed people. People had to be depressed, these people reasoned, because if they weren't miserable, they wouldn't recognize that their lives needed changing.

To me, that was ridiculous. It's like saying that a happy person might not recognize that being punched in the face is a bad thing. (Note that antidepressants don't make people "happy", either. Their effects vary; their intent is to break a person out of depression, where a person often can't be happy. But a non-depressed person can also be miserable.) If Prozac were more like Valium, it might have been a valid argument... but it wasn't. (I do have to admit that the former popularity of "Mother's little helper" did give people reason to be suspicious.)

It tied in with some earlier ideas I'd had. I used to think that pain was inherently bad. I wouldn't argue that sometimes pain was useful and all-but necessary, but I took it as an axiom that pain was bad. Although we learned through painful experiences, I felt that it was vital to say that we could have learned the same lessons without the painful experiences... it just would have taken longer and possibly not have been as clear a lesson.

I'm not as sure about that any more. But all of this thinking did help me to develop another thought, and that can be summed up like this: misery never helps anyone.

Even if pain is helpful, even if suffering is necessary, even if misery is a perfectly understandable and human reaction, it still isn't helpful.

That doesn't mean it's bad, or stupid, or is a reason to feel guilty. It just means that it's not helping. What I mean by this is, if you can overcome the misery, if you can feel balanced and okay in spite of the misery-evoking things that are happening to you, you'll be better off.

I don't mean that people should ignore the things making them miserable; I don't mean people should deny that they feel miserable, or put on a happy face so as not to be a drag on other people's good feelings. But I'm starting to believe that it is possible to find a way to break free of the chains of misery, and that doing so is always a good thing. It always reduces the number of unhappy/miserable people in the world by one, and it makes a person more able to deal with life. Happiness lends you energy to deal with whatever life throws at you.

I'm not sure if there's any point to this... I'm still not sure if I've found any great answers to questions about happiness yet. So, let's just call this a ramble and move on.

From: kightp
2006-05-10 06:07 am (UTC)
The Dalai Lama calls happiness an art, and I think he's right, in the sense that it's something you make, not something that just happens to you, like the weather.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-10 08:26 pm (UTC)
Hm. Definitely, at least, a craft, I'd say. But yes, it is something one can affect. and shape and work with.
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From: kightp
2006-05-16 03:28 pm (UTC)
Returning with a quote I spotted in someone's LJ, because it seems right on topic:

"We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same."
- Carlos Castenada
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[User Picture]From: kathrynt
2006-05-10 07:09 am (UTC)
Even if pain is helpful, even if suffering is necessary, even if misery is a perfectly understandable and human reaction, it still isn't helpful.

Um. . . ? Even if pain is helpful, it still isn't helpful?

gonna assume that's a thinko there.

anyway. Emotional pain, maybe; physical pain often _can_ be helpful, or necessary. Not sure if that's a topic that's covered by this essay.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-10 06:46 pm (UTC)
Even if the pain is helpful, leading to perfectly-normal amounts of misery, the misery is still not helpful.

Not a misfired thought; just a mis-fired sentence.
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[User Picture]From: hopeevey
2006-05-10 10:51 am (UTC)
I think you've made an excellent point. Discomfort or pain can drive one to make changes, but misery doesn't have that same motivating effect. Misery tends to make one less able to make changes.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2006-05-10 11:08 am (UTC)
I think you captured an important point.
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From: tigermorph
2006-05-10 12:24 pm (UTC)
My personal experience when Prozac came out was with my friend Steve. His Mom had been depressed almost all her life, unable to leave her home.

Steve however, had also been treated with drugs to effect his brain chemistry. Um, during the war. He had protested by sitting naked in a California City Hall and chanting, "I am a naked man in the Hall of Justice...am I an illegal person?" He was arrested and his father let them sign him in in to a mental institution, and supported them treating Steve with thorazine.

He doesn't remember much of anything from that time. And that story haunted me for a long long time.

People are afraid of change. His Mom going on Prozac scared the hell out of me, knowing Steve's history.

It turned out to be great for her for a while. She was getting out, she bought a TV, she was meeting friends for lunch... for about two years... and then it stopped working. I worried about hr a lot, and I'd never met her.

I think the problem with people resisting prozac was because the drugs that came before it were so extreme and scarey and designed to keep people under control. Not help them in the sense of being able to live full lives.

At least that's the perception I remember being prevalant at the time.
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[User Picture]From: eleccham
2006-05-11 10:36 pm (UTC)
I am not scared of the drugs, per se. I am scared at the way they are used and prescribed, far too often. The family doctor (or pediatrician!) should not be the one prescribing these things. Neither should the school staff. There's just too damn much to know in order to do it safely.

(That said, I am well aware that there is a shortage of qualified psychiatrists, especially pediatric ones, and I've heard the argument of "if I don't do it, nobody will". I just think it's a load of horsepucky.)
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From: tigermorph
2006-05-12 12:17 am (UTC)
Oh - I agree now... 20+ years later... but at the time, it was scary shit, especially knowing my friend had been basically chemically lobotomized. To look an intelligent person in the eye and have him tell you that years of his life don't exist because of a drug.

I feel TONS better now because there is so much more knowledge, so much more research. By no means do we know everything, but we're a damn sight closer than we were in 1970, even 1980 or 90.

And still...I saw your wife and was scared I was going to break her when I hugged her because in the process of making life better, we are still playing guessing games.

It doesn't always work that way... but my personal experience is that it happens enough to be (god help me for typing this) cautiously, very very very very cautiously, optimistic.


Will stop preaching to chior now...
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[User Picture]From: droops
2006-05-10 01:16 pm (UTC)
Would misery be useful only as a balancing tool then? Or does it truly have no real positive use?
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-05-12 10:57 pm (UTC)
A very intelligent ramble...I hadn't thought of many of these points before.

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