The Corpus Callosum

Essay On Independence

Moose, Isle Royale National Park
National Park Service Photo,
presumed to be in public domain

Sometimes I am talking to people about how they feel about taking
psychiatric medication.  Commonly, they say something like
this: “I would rather be able to do it myself,” or, “I don’t like being
dependent on something.”

Indeed, in American culture (and many others, presumably) independence
is highly valued.  It is romanticized.  It is
considered to be one of the nobler of virtues.  It is
something to boast about.  

“I don’t need anyone” is a common refrain among the boastful.  


Isle Royale
National Park
is an island in Lake
, between Michigan and Canada.  It
encompasses 850 square miles of minimally-developed forest, marsh, and
swampland.  Living in a fragile ecosystem, there are moose,
wolves, beavers, mink, loons, eagles, and ospreys.  It is a
United States .

The wolf population was threatened several years ago by an outbreak of
parvovirus. For that reason, pets are not allowed anywhere on or near
the Park.


So, sometimes I hear people say they want to be independent.
 Every once in a while, depending on a quiet intuition (that
may or may
not be valid), I will tell the following story:

Imagine going up to Isle Royale, after all traces of human intervention
have been removed.  You take off all your clothes, then step
out of the boat and wade to shore.  The boat leaves.
 You are alone.

Now, you have your independence.  No tools, no shelter, no
companionship.  You can build a shelter, and forage or hunt
for food.  It is going to be dark soon, and it is going to be
cold in the winter.

Is that really want you wanted?


  1. #1 manxome
    June 20, 2006

    Hi Corpus,

    “I would rather be able to do it myself,”

    “I don’t like being dependent on something.”

    I’m going to suggest this sentiment can be a lot more loaded than it appears, as far as mental illness is concerned. Mental health is being able to depend on, and therefore trust, your own thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and actions. Medication often has its own side effects that compromise this.

    Of course, I could be reading way more into this than is there. I only speak as someone who has taken all manner of psychotropic medications, many of which caused made me less able to depend on myself.

  2. #2 Joseph j7uy5
    June 20, 2006

    Oh, no, I don’t think you are reading too much into it. I chose those statements precisely because they are loaded with different levels of meaning.

    And yes, medication can cause problems as you mention. That is one of the complicating factors that has to be taken into account. It is one of the reasons that the medication can’t be prescribed by a machine, or in a cookbook fashion.

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