Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lamictal (Again)

Does responding positively to Lamictal take away from my suffering? Does it diminish the dignity of the suffering? Does this mean that my anguish is reducible to the interplay of chemicals in my brain?

This is one of those questions with an aura of profundity but is in fact not at all profound. Maybe not lacking in profundity but easy. The question as posed presumes a crass scientismic reductionism: large complex entities can be explained in terms of smaller, less complicated entities. Reductionism is one style of explanation amongst others. The reasons for preferring it are social and psychological. A reductionist account cannot explain why it is to be preferred to others without resorting to non-reductionist justifications. Second, God is presupposed by it. Or at least God is the only being that can know/see the whole chain of explanatory entities from the smallest to the largest. Third, there is the smell of self-denial about it. One denies oneself explanations that are meaningful to human beings. Fourth, the explanations offered by reductionism do not fulfill the promise of greater simplicity nor would a reductionist explanation in terms of quarks and gluons of the development of stone axes in hominins be very interesting.

But I digress.

I am ill. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Type II. Bipolar Type II is often associated with difficult to treat depression. There is no question that I suffer from depression: feeling bad for days on end, low libido, lack of appetite, to name a few symptoms. Oddly enough irritability is not one of my symptoms, although it has been in past depressive episodes. To repeat, I am ill. And what do sick people do today? If they have any sense, they go see a doctor. They do not resign themselves to their illness. They struggle with it. Depression is particularly insidious in sapping one’s desire to be healthy and whole.

Does Lamictal diminish my dignity? No, depression diminishes my dignity. Isn’t it all just chemicals in the brain? Lamictal is for the brain, it does nothing for what I make of the depression. You might say that Lamictal does nothing for the social/individual meaning of my suffering.

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