May 17, 2012
Not a Ghost in a Shell Anymore?

So I’m taking these psychiatric drugs. I’ve been formally diagnosed and have been on them for about a month now. Due to some exceptional circumstances, I was unable to get my dosage the past couple of days. Tomorrow, though, I’ll go get my drugs because I’m starting to feel the need to continue taking them. (I’m satisfied with the results).

However, these two days have really laid bare the effectiveness of the drugs I’m taking. I originally thought of taking drugs because of certain traits and habits that were affecting not just my productivity, but my mental well-being. I didn’t give much thought to the implications of my actions - not talking side effects.

What I realize now is that the drugs are taking away parts of me which were defining factors of who I am or rather who I was before I started taking the drugs. I’m talking about small details that to an observer overshadow deeper aspects of a person’s being. Things like how often a person talks, how restless one is, how often one gets angry or impulsiveness or how quickly you blink your eye, how often you answer your phone… extremely mundane things that combine to come to define you in casual terms.

Over a long period of time - in my case decades - you, too, come to identify yourself with the person who’s been arbitrarily defined by the said characteristics by observers. It may be difficult and at times painful, but what can you do when there’s rather unanimity in such judgments? Parts of you hold onto the notion of a self different than that, but those parts often remain there to comfort you. In other words, you become what you’ve been described as. This may not happen to all, but from my experience, it’s the norm rather than the exception.

However, as weird a process that may be, that’s not the point of this blogpost. My two days of reflection without drugs have raised a couple of questions in my mind; a spiritual one and an existential one.

Spiritually, I’ve seen significant improvement. However, I’m feeling like I’m doing something wrong? Imagine if I wasn’t on these drugs… would I still continue to keep the increased amount of spiritual contentment I’ve derived in the past month that’s been added to my already existing level of contentment?

Suppose I stop taking these drugs, then my natural state of being would be slightly less joyful than now. So in a sense, the amount of personal happiness I’ve derived from chemicals that were ground up in a small tablet can be just as easily nullified if I stop taking those drugs? Where’s my personal effort towards spiritual growth, then? For a lack of better words: am I cheating?

The existential question is rather more difficult.

As the long-term effects of the drug continue to alter my traits, I feel like I’m… becoming another person? The image I’ve had of myself all my life isn’t altering, yet I’m not just not that person because it’s only a perception of who I am and not the deeper parts of me, but because even the deeper parts of me are being reshaped by just a few chemicals I take every day.

So then who am I?

In a bizarre way, I’m beginning to sense first-hand like I’m a computer. I don’t feel like what’s happening is an upgrade because I’m rather nihilistic and don’t judge myself or people like that -, but my software is being changed. Or rather I have altered it. That may be an example, but to me, it’s not just an example. It’s exactly how things are becoming.

I’m still in the same body. I still think of myself the way I did deep inside for decades and on the surface as what observers have described my traits to be, but both on the inside and on the outside, I’m slowly eroding and being replaced by this other person.

How I perceive, process and then reflect through actions what’s around me is fundamentally being altered. That is weird because well… if I had a separate existence from by physical body, then shouldn’t I be less prone to such fundamental change because of a few chemical interactions?

Which brings me back to the spiritual question: if I accept that chemical interactions can affect my spirituality, then my spirituality is much more grounded in reality than in fantasy. I would come to accept spirituality as an organic part of my being and not immeasurable, unattainable, uncontrollable and ultimately, very scientific?

And that is an immensely comforting thought.

This is a rather simplistic analysis. Maybe more on this some other time…

Your Josh

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