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Just because we can stop some pain, does that mean we should?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) December 27th, 2009

In the area of mental illness, we have drugs that can control people’s pain and change their behavior into something that is more socially acceptable. We look at mentally ill people, who may be homeless, or addicted to drugs, or seeing hallucinations or really depressed or suicidal, and we think these things are bad and that the humane thing to do is to help them stop being who they are, so they can be a “successful” human being who contributes to society.

Because something can be controlled, does that mean it should be controlled? I’m talking about non-violent situations, where the only person hurt is the person who could be controlled is not controlled. Do we have a right to force “correct” decisions on other people? Is it even advisable for us, as a polity, to decide to do so?

I’ve got bipolar disorder, and I’m taking my meds religiously, and people consider me to be doing “well.” I’m not sure I want to do “well” according to their definitions. Crazy as it sounds, I may choose to be depressed or erratic or whatever I might be, and I might be willing to suffer the consequences, because I think those things that most people think are awful have a lot of value.

I have learned a lot from being depressed. I have come to feel empathy for others in ways I never had before. Then there’s the mania. Mine are mild, but I do enjoy them.

I have a lot of pressure to do the right thing, which means staying in a state where I can provide for my children and be a good father and do my part for the community. I think I can do those things even if I’m manic or depressed. I think that some of the things people call “symptoms” are actually essential parts of me, no matter how unacceptable they are.

I’m a good boy. I try to be a good boy. I do what people want me to do. I take my meds. I do my work.

Sometimes I fail to be “good” in certain parts of my life. Does that make me into a bad boy? Or can I be good, mostly, and bad sometimes? Does the bad outweigh the good? If I want to stop my meds because I value things that other people think are undesirable, should I be forced to stay “well” so I can fulfill my responsibilities?

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