Do I Feel Like Myself?

Image credit: dierk schaefer

I wrote this several months ago when I was taking Wellbutrin, and I never got around to posting it. I am 6 days into taking Pristiq now, and I’m sure I’ll post a report on that at some point. But for now, this little train of thought is something that is still with me.

Do I Feel Like Myself?

I had a visit with my psychiatrist today where I got to report for the first time that I’m happy with where things are with my medication. I told her I wasn’t feeling exuberent or anything, but that I was able to complete projects and felt content most of the time. I said that once I’m done breastfeeding I might like to try other things that might be “better”, but that I was fine staying with my meds the way they are.

She asked a lot of questions to zero in on my description, and two of those questions threw me off. “Do you feel more like yourself?” and “How close is this to baseline?”

I read about the “feeling more like myself” phenomena in the book Manufacturing Depression. When Prozac hit the scene, people coming to feel “like themselves” was a common description. This brings up a serious philosophical question of what exactly the “self” is. Is there a soul or spirit or core personality that exists as separate from the identification of a disease or disorder or syndrome?

Her other question was whether my current feeling is close to baseline. What is baseline? In my very earliest memory, before I was 18 months old, I am angry and the world is dark. The first time I told my diary that life wasn’t worth living I was 10 years old. Depression IS my baseline. It is completely normal.

Isn’t that, then, the very definition of “self”?

It seemed like her two questions were meant to ask the same thing in a different way. It should either have been yes, I am back to baseline and feeling more myself. Or no, I still feel unlike myself and still feel below baseline. But I cannot reconcile these questions in this way.

On my post The Distance to Crazy, a commenter talked about being separate from the diagnosis. Being a “person with bipolar” rather than a bipolar person. That perspective doesn’t sit well with me. I am not only my diagnosis, but I am my diagnosis. My exploration of mental illness is taking place within a framework of self-acceptance. It can be complicated, because it’s also within a framework of disability and ALSO within a framework of medical treatment. It’s hard to merge all of that. How can I be radically accepting while also seeking treatment?

No quick answers here. Just some thoughts to roll around.