Monday, April 27, 2009

Freedom to die - 2

In An Unquiet Mind- A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist and authority on manic-depressive illness, describes her own struggle with the disease. She has suffered from it nearly all her life and the book is fairly engaging even if you, like me, don't like autobiographies.

Jamison once unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide by overdosing herself on prescription pills, and she neatly describes how she went about rather clinically with her suicide attempt. Here are some of her thoughts about her preferred method:
...for many months I went to the eight floor of the stairwell of the UCLA hospital and, repeatedly, only just resisted throwing myself off the ledge. Suicidal depression does not tend to be a considerate, but somehow the thought that my family would have to identify the fallen and fractured me made that ultimately not an acceptable method.
Isn't the rationale fascinating? I strongly believe in having the political freedom to choose one's own time and place of death before it chooses you, and have fretted over the fact that thousands of families have to identify their fallen, fractured, dismembered, burnt, and drowned loved ones because society does not allow them to choose a peaceful and dignified end.

Political opposition to suicide seems to be rooted either in religious sensibilities or plain dogmas. Lacking the religious convictions that would instill an overrated notion of life in my head, I see completely no value to it if its owner does not want it. In that situation, life is as virtual and redundant as the Orkut account that you created five years ago but haven't logged on since, and don't intend to log on ever.

* * * * * * *

In another part of the book, Jamison describes her struggles with another symptom of mania - the tendency for making wild and impulsive purchases. Says she:
Spending a lot of money that you don't have - or, as the formal diagnostic criteria so quaintly put it, "engaging in unrestrained buying sprees" - is a classic part of mania.
Hmm, now what does that remind me of? Housing boom, refinancing, consumer spending boom, credit-fuelled spending...do you see where I am going?It is a chilling analogy; Jamison does not leave a doubt in your mind that euphoric manic periods are almost always followed by terribly damaging and dark periods of depression.

"Manic depression is a frustrating mess", sang Jimi Hendrix, but obviously not if you can maintain a perpetual state of mania. At least, that's the state they seem to be trying to achieve.

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