We Are All Made of Chemistry

My brain is currently broken. It’s broken most mornings, but as I’m waiting for the Abilify and the Buspar to work their magic, I thought I would write about psych meds and me.

Once upon a time, I didn’t believe in meds. Or rather, I did, kind of, but I didn’t think they helped. I thought they did the opposite—that they killed who you were inside. That’s if they worked at all.

The media told me this, and why would the media lie about something like that? Not just the media, but the books I read, and the shows I watched, and the comics (both web and offline) I read. Why would writers lie about something like that?

My friend with depression told me this; he would go on and then off the drugs, because off the drugs he claimed to be sharper, if more depressed. Because we both work in a place where you need to be very, very sharp or else you’re very, very fired, meds were scary to me.

But the thing about brain chemistry is that it doesn’t care if you think meds are scary. Trying to be strong in the face of bad chemistry doesn’t work. That all by itself is scary to think about.

One day, I lost it. You can read about That One Flashback.

The thing that took me the longest to understand was that what happened wasn’t an indication that I was evil or weak about my morals. It was… well… chemistry.

Doesn’t the fact that the chemistry can defeat me, doesn’t that mean I’m weak? Doesn’t the fact that chemistry can defeat me, doesn’t that mean I’ve given up all responsibility as a human being?

Doesn’t admitting to this fact mean that I’m evil and weak about morals?

What do you think the media says about this?

All I can conclude is that the media is scared about meds, too.

Years later, I still don’t believe in my own meds. Even though they work. Abilify, Lamictal (a lot of it), Buspar… they’ve all brought me back from the brink in one way or another, even when I didn’t believe that they ever would. They battle the bad chemistry in my head, and then I’m functional. It’s not perfect—I’m kind of coming to grips with the fact that it’ll never be perfect—but I can suddenly get out of bed in the mornings.

I don’t think the problem is that people are scared of meds in and of themselves. I think people are scared of the implications of meds; like, somehow, it would mean that some people that society says you should think of as evil or weak about their morals are suddenly not, and paradigm shifts like that? People really don’t like those.

This leads to strange things like people who accept that meds are effective, but don’t accept that brain chemistry can affect your judgement in the first place. Basically, they accept the effect but not the cause, and that’s even more problematic than not believing in meds in the first place.

Every morning I battle myself to take the meds. I wonder if I should lose one day, what society will judge me as.

Okay, now it’s time for breakfast and tea, because fuck, that was depressing.

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10 thoughts on “We Are All Made of Chemistry

  1. “Trying to be strong in the face of bad chemistry doesn’t work. That all by itself is scary to think about.”

    Oh, yes, this. These sentences should be painted on my walls and tattoed on my skin – my whole life up to this point has been about being strong in the face of bad chemistry, and failing, miserably. I’m lucky enough to have chemistry than can be readily fixed, but oh, the pain of all the time before the fix.

    And this: “This leads to strange things like people who accept that meds are effective, but don’t accept that brain chemistry can affect your judgement in the first place.” Yes, and yes, and yes.

    And I will always judge you as you are: my friend who I care a great deal about, whether we’re crazy or not. [[hugs]]

  2. “…the fact that chemistry can defeat me, doesn’t that mean I’ve given up all responsibility as a human being?”

    The fact that chemistry can defeat you means you ARE a human being. Anyone who says otherwise is welcome to drink some arsenic and see just how much moral fiber helps against chemistry.

    People really want to believe in easy answers. They particularly want to believe that all problems can be fixed by yelling at people about how they should just buck up and buckle down. That’s why they deny the meds: they may call meds ‘the easy way’, but it’s actually harder than just sitting and criticizing.

    So you are being strong and responsible.
    Sympathies on the whole thing; it is no fun when your brain chemistry rises up and clobbers you.

    • The fact that chemistry can defeat you means you ARE a human being. Anyone who says otherwise is welcome to drink some arsenic and see just how much moral fiber helps against chemistry.

      That’s a beautifully phrased sentiment.

      Thank you. *hugs*

  3. I am perhaps more at peace with chemistry than others. Some of that is using the analogy of a diabetic; some more is having dealt with an endocrine condition since my teens, and experiencing up close the mood altering effects of various hormonal combinations. I have been known to tell gynecologists that they can prescribe Provera all they like, but I won’t take it unless they post a bail bond in advance, because it unquestionably gives me rage that could easily turn violent.

    Also, I’ve had enough experience with the psych drugs to have felt the difference between The Wrong Meds and The Right Meds (or at least the Good-Enough, Lots-Better Meds). Half-standard Lamictal plus three-quarters-standard Trileptal is apparently just what my brain is lacking. Without those, I spend weeks at a time napping on the sofa without much will to wash or eat, except for those times when I’m doing All The Things including the reckless ones; with them, I got to school, I can handle my temp job, I can WRITE.

    It’s not perfect. But I suspect most people aren’t perfect. And if being a better person comes in four pills a day? I’ll take my pills and bless them.

    • It’s not perfect. But I suspect most people aren’t perfect. And if being a better person comes in four pills a day? I’ll take my pills and bless them.

      A-men. And *hugs*

  4. my sister-in-law is of the opinion that i shouldn’t take prozac because it’ll turn me into a drug addict. she was probably being sarcastic (i mean seriously, prozac? my levothyroxine is “harder shit” than that), because that is very much a thing she does. but if she was sincere…

    well, it’s not like i was functioning WITHOUT prozac. that’s why i’m TAKING it.

    frankly, i think taking psych meds is a sign of personal strength, whether they’re the “makes me less mopy and gets me out of bed in the morning” kind or the “makes me less twitchy and gets me to not stab people so often” kind. it’s like….putting a sweater on if you’re cold. only in your brain. (sorry, that’s a bit of a stretch, but i’ve been shampooing the “carpet that time forgot, but the cats have been well aware of” for the last 6 hours, so that’s the analogy you get from me.) taking meds is not you being weak, it’s you saying “no, this is not ok, and here’s what i’m going to do about it as opposed to letting it destroy me.”

    • taking meds is not you being weak, it’s you saying “no, this is not ok, and here’s what i’m going to do about it as opposed to letting it destroy me.”

      Your words are wise. I am doing my best to remember this, and not the bad stuff the mainstream has been pumping into my head all these years….

  5. I found you through a random Google search, looking for Echo Bazaar fanfiction. Google is convinced you have it.

    But I wanted to say something while I was here. I wanted to say that you possess Herculean strength *because* you take your meds, not despite them. Getting meds in the first place requires seeing a doctor, which means you’re admitting that you need help. I want to hand every person in that particular office an Olympic gold medal just for coming in. You’re right – there is an overwhelming amount of negative stigma attached to mental illness and its treatment, and admitting that you might be able to benefit from a little brain chemistry re-balancing is wonderful in and of itself.

    It’s been my experience that being on the meds and rebalancing Ye Olde Brain has the often unpleasant side effect of bringing things to the forefront, things that you’d rather not think about, things that haunt your dreams at night and flit at the edge of your awareness when you’re awake, the things that may have sent your brain spiraling out of happy equilibrium. And continuing to take the meds is a sign of awe-inspiring strength, because it means that you get up in the morning and you take those little pills and run the risk of encountering those boogeymen. But you’ve decided that the boogeyman in your head *WILL NOT* be in the driver’s seat anymore.

    For whatever reason, our society has decided to vilify one of, if not the, most heroic groups of people: the people who keep taking their meds because they’re committed to being better (not perfect, mind you, because no matter what anybody says, there is no such thing as perfect, but that’s another story for another day). You are not taking the easy way out and we shun you for it.

    Society is awful. You are lovely and wonderful and made of stronger stuff than you think you are.

    I’m rooting for you – you can do it. I believe in you.

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