Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Prozium. Tuesday, August 17, 2010.

“To feel … it's as vital as breath. And without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock ... ticking.” – Mary, “Equilibrium”

In the science fiction film “Equilibrium,” which takes place after World War III, the surviving population of Earth lives in the city-state Libria, where all forms of emotional expression are illegal. The ruling regime had decided that it was because of human emotion – love, hate, fear, anger – that all of mankind’s wars had been fought, so by surprising feelings, they would prevent a final war.

Of course, humans naturally feel emotion. So to wipe it out, anything stimulating – art, music, books, even colors – are banned. People are brainwashed from birth to believe that feelings are to be avoided at all costs, and anyone who shows feelings is immediately executed. And everyone must give themselves daily injections of a powerful drug, Prozium, which prevents them from feeling the spectrum of emotions.

Of course I’m not the only one that recognizes “Prozium” as a play on Prozac and Lithium. There’s even a T-shirt that says, “Did you take your Prozium today?” and a website that actually sells a “brainwave audio” for Prozium, which it advertises, “You will never feel so even.”

The idea of Prozium begs two questions. First, is it better to feel, or not to feel? Second, do prescription drugs simply numb people and turn them into machines, incapable of feeling?

Those of us who struggle with strong emotions that take over our lives might well answer, sometimes, it seems it would be better not to feel. My extremes of depression and anxiety affect every aspect of my life. I’d love to turn them off – at least temporarily. Or at least curb them. Because I know that I feel my emotions more strongly than someone without bipolar. I take absolutely no “joy” in the experience of mental illness. If I could, I’d give it up in an instant.

But wait. I’m already on medication. In fact, I’m on medications very close to what one could jokingly call “Prozium.” Am I numb, incapable of feeling? A thousand times no. I can’t begin to imagine the dose of these medications that would be necessary to blunt all my feelings. A hell of a lot more than I’m on, that’s for sure!

People can lecture me about the evils of pharma, but the fact remains that when I tried to take my life, I was not taking them. And when I suffered my first breakdown, in college, I wasn’t taking them either. Right now, the medication allows me to function – to work to support my family, to interact with people as I need to. It’s not a cure, but at the moment, it’s what I need.

Still, I’d welcome a dose of Prozium now and then.

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