Thursday, 24 April 2014

Feeling Functional Can Be a Little Dysfunctional

I was reading James Davies’ Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good recently. The descriptions of how SSRI’s and other happy pills felt familiar:

“Most participants described a general reduction in the intensity of all the emotions they experienced, using words like ‘dulled', ‘numbed', ‘flattened', or completely ‘blocked’, to describe how they felt...A few participants…reported their emotional experience had become more ‘cognitive’ or ’intellectual’...Most participants also described feeling emotionally detached or disconnected from their surroundings… a detachment extending to other people… reduced sympathy and empathy, and felt detached during social interactions…Most participants described a general feeling of indifference to things in life that used to matter to them...All participants experienced a reduction of intensity or frequency of negative emotions… Although this reduction was usually at some stage a relief, many participants also reported it impaired their quality of life."

Which is kinda how I feel, but probably (I hope) not to the same extent as the participants. I noticed a while ago that music played at home just didn’t have the same effect as it used to: sometimes an entire CD can go by and I realise I’ve missed it. (Spanish Sahara on the iPhone while commuting can still send me.)

All the feelings that tug at me are the tired old co-dependent cliches: self-pity, rescuing and the like. Useless, dysfunctional, like smoking. Those are, however, the feelings that I know how to have. If I dial those down, I’m really not feeling very much, and it’s like I’m happy-pilling myself.

Like Carole King says “I’ve been alone so long, that I just don’t know, what to do”.

I couldn’t take the hormone hit of actually having someone touch me, or touch them, with sexual intent. I can air-kiss and tent-hug no problem, but that letting go and sinking in to the kiss and the embrace? Jesus. I would have to trust that it wasn’t going to end then and there, because I would be left with a revved-up metabolism and an awful, awful come-down. I’m staying away from “intimacy” (aka "sex and cuddles”) because I just don’t want the hangover.

I’m being functional. I’m avoiding doing things that will make it harder for me to follow the work-eat-sleep-work cycle, or to need to put up with the many indignities and bullshit that the world inflicts on us. Functional is flat, sober, numb, ‘cognitive’, (emotionally) disconnected. Dysfunctional is highs and lows, drunk and ecstatic, sensational, emotional and connected. All those make you take days off, and argue with people, and have hangovers, and sleepless nights, and grudges, and all those other good things that are, apparently, what living is about.

Just as I would rather be sober, I would rather be functional, even of now and again it means a passage in a book can set me off on a self-pity jag like this one.

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