Chris Burford on "Mental" Illness
cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Thu Jun 29 22:36:16 MDT 1995
I have (I think) suffered from unipolar depression for 50 years or more (I
am now 65). I happened to be regularly seeing a neurologist for migraine when
the depression (finally) began to be totally destructive. He tried two
different medications, and the second one (an old favorite, amitryptiline)
worked, more or less, for sevral years. I had (at the neurologist's suggestion)
switched to a psychiatrist, but all he did (and all I wanted him to do) was
keep track of my medication and vary it as needed.
I'm in a downward spiral again the last few weeks, paxil and depakote
having lost some punch. Unless I can get it under better control it looks as if
I'll have to retire at 66 instead of 70 as I had planned. (Incidentally, I was
56 when I first took medication for depression.) It seems to me to be not a
"psycho"-social but a neuro-social disease. "Psych" as used in various
compounds seems to me to still carry too much of its earlier force of "soul."
And the attempt to deny a neurological basis for most mental illnesses seems to
me a retreat to religion. To say it has a neurological basis is not, of course,
to deny that in given instances the social may not be overwhelmingly important:
if you have a leg amputated, it is social relations which will determine how
catastrophic that is for one's life as a whole, and it is social relations (not
some mysterious "psychic force") which will determine how such an injury
affects one's conception of oneself.
Dept. of Englishniversi
Illinois State Univ.
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