Thursday, April 17, 2008

I've been working on memorizing more(I keep adding pieces, and subtracting pieces!) of my one-woman "Show & Tell", a dark comedy (not suitable for anyone under 16) about strippers and their interactions in a famous Atlanta nightclub which will debut in one venue(or even two!) this summer, in Atlanta!I also have two venues lined up in Florida, and one in Indiana, and one in L.A.
I am also currently writing "The Woman Who Called Herself Vincent", about lovely poet Edna St. Vincent-Millay. I hope to debut this piece later this year, possibly in the fall(Maybe at the Atlanta Queer Lit Fest, or in that time-frame, anyway. We'll see.) Ms. Vincent was bisexual, brilliant, and bipolar(though I doubt the illness was well understood back then).
Today I spoke with a friend recently diagnosed as Bipolar, and this individual is very pleased with the medication and feels much more centered, focused, able to finish projects, etc.And I think for this person, given the rapid, positive results, and given that there was severe discord in their life, it is a rational, reasonable thing to take medication to improve the quality of their life. Bipolar can be quite a serious illness.
At one point, this person said "You know, you were very depressed when your dog died, Lisa...", and then implied I too, could be Bipolar, I should take the same meds, etc...
I quickly responded with "Yes, and I should have been depressed.But I was suffering from grief. It's normal to feel grief. What I felt was loss: grief; not depression."
And though I was so sad that I could not function for a few days
(I remember finding it difficult to swallow water, so tight was my throat, so strong the ache), I explained, "I'm grateful I could feel that. If I hadn't--if I'd, as you just suggested, taken meds, I might still not be able to get past that loss. I needed to feel it, and feel it fully. To be in the pain..."
Several weeks ago, another dear friend explained anxiety meds were absolutely necessary for feeling good. That once the drugs "kicked in" life was great, the sun was shining, etc...That meds are needed for fuctioning, as this person gets depressed, anxious when faced with life(for the record, this individual has been pretty much unemployed for over 12 years, and nearly penniless for the past seven years.And refuses to interview for any kind of work, claiming "social anxiety disorder"(which I know is a real phenomenon, as evidenced by studies which show certain individuals "Flight or Fight" impulse is overly-sensitized, and they become easily, inexplicably paranoid in public).
Which got me to thinking:
What the hell is going on?
Since when do we turn to meds for relieving feelings of sadness, when we have been hurt, and are supposed to feel, well, sad? Sadness is what helps us develop empathy. (Which most of the world needs more of!)
If you are hurt, be sad. Be in the loss. Write about it, talk about it, but feel it. DON'T numb it up, or dumb it down. Respect your emotions, by feeling them..
And anxiety-- uncomfortable as it is-- helps motivate us out of a bad situation.The individual who lives in their mom's house at age 50, hasn't held a job in a decade or more, and lacks social skills only makes it worse by taking meds. Because feeling good about one's life, when there's nothing productive being done, no accomplishments being achieved, etc., is not good, it's silly. Maybe even pathetic. Because life asks more of us.
Life asks us to be present. In the moment.
So, unless you are suicidal--truly, severely depressed--or think you might hurt others--I think depression is way over "diagnosed". And as far as anxiety goes, I say feel it. If you're an actor, you know what I mean: Go to the bathroom, and heave(most actors feel sick just before going onstage), and then go onstage and perform. Life asks us to get out there, to perform, even when it's difficult. And you know what?
It's when we try the difficult, the seemingly impossible, that we reap the biggest reward.
So do it.
Tell your friends on meds, to try talk therapy, behavior modification, and to get out there and act--act on your life. With vision. And purpose. You can't do that, if you're drugged-up. Medicated.
And if you insist on your meds, go ahead. But guess what? The latest findings show that even with lots of the "best" meds, individuals who only do that, and don't do the talk therapy, and behavior modification, do not get any better. They might feel like everything is okay. And I'm sure that feels good. But creating a state of mind where you feel good when your body is trying to tell you "Hey, wake up. Life is going by, and you need to do something." is not a good thing.
What do you think?
Have a great Thursday.


rl said...


I enjoyed reading your view towards living and feeling life...not masking the pains and anxieties. I know you are a very passionate and compassionate person so I'm a little surprised that you've come down so hard on those who MAY BE escaping life thru taking meds.

Since I don't usually (hardly ever) have wild mood swings, I tend to agree with you that we may be over medicating the "depressed". However, I don't know if I would still think that if I truly know what it feels like to be depressed or bipolar.

I do believe our society relies too heavily on drugs...perhaps we should all thank the pharmaceutical companies and their big buck ad campaigns!

Have a great weekend.

Lisa Allender said...

rl: Hi there; thank you for visiting my blog...
Let me very clear:
I have no problem with someone using meds if they are truly needed. But I absolutely believe a great deal of what's being "treated" is normal "blues", reasonable levels of tension or anxiety, etc. Certainly--as I said in my entry here--individuals who have been diagnosed as Biopolar, or who have severe depression, should take the medication(but also do the hard work of talk therapy and behavior modification)in order to be able to function well enough, to eventually get better.
The people I am addressing are those who'd RATHER take meds, than attempt to deal with life:
pain, anxiety, sadness--all those things that help define us as human beings(just as empathy, joy, excitement do, too!).
Good point on the pharmaceuticals--they definitely own this country!

Selma said...

I have suffered from moderate to severe depression for most of my life but do not take any meds as I get very ill on them. While I believe many people benefit from medication I do agree with you that antidepressants and the like are overprescribed.

My 17 year old goddaughter is currently having trouble in school due to taking on too heavy a workload. She is having trouble sleeping and keeps bursting into tears. Her doctor prescribed Zoloft. I think she would be better off learning some time management skills. But hey, that's just me.

Sorry to ramble but can I also say that many of my friends who have been on meds long-term (10 years plus) are in no better mental state than they were when they started. I don't know what that means but it doesn't sit well with me.

Oh, and I'd love to see your shows. Planning any tours to Australia in the future?

sam of the ten thousand things said...

The new work sounds exciting. Good luck with that.

Lisa Allender said...

Selma: Hi there! Hope all is going well in your hemisphere!I definitely hear ya on the meds.
I do hope you are supported emotionally when you go through depression(moderate, severe, or otherwise).
And Australia--I'd love to visit/book my show there. Let me get it up and running here, and maybe that'll be possible.(I would need to find a "host", though)
Sam: Hiya! Thanks for the mental hugs!