Stoicism and my experience with mental illness

Imagine you’re a schizophrenic for just a second.  You wake up in the morning and the sun is beaming into your eyes and you feel at peace.  Except, you immediately start hearing inside your head, “shut up!”  “kill yourself”  “you’re fuckin’ worthless.”  “Go die!”  “Jump out your window, do it do it do it do it!”  These thoughts are pretty disturbing.  What’s more disturbing is it’s not even you saying them.  It sounds like some other person is shouting into your ears these thoughts.  And you keep hearing them throughout the day until maybe you interact with some actual real human being and maybe you get a little bit of peace from the voices.

Well, mental illness is not exactly something easy to live with.  Especially the most boring disease ever created by God:  DEPRESSION.  Yes.  Depression is the worst.  Especially when it’s major depression.  Depression isn’t being sad.  No it’s worse than sad.  It’s not having any hope, any motivation, or any reason to do anything.  It can make you become psychotic.  No, not a psychopath.  Psychotic.  That’s when you lose touch with reality and start believing all kinds of nonsense like someone stole your organs or your wife is cheating on you even though she’s with you in the house all day.

When it comes to super super major major depression, there’s not a lot Stoicism can do for you sadly.  I’ve been there.  Mental gymnastics just couldn’t snap me out of it.  I would lie on the floor in the kitchen for hours just begging God to kill me and send me somewhere less painful like Hell.  Initially I wasn’t even responding to medication.  Eventually, I just had to get my brain shocked and rebooted.  I had to have an electric arc pass through my brain to reshuffle all the damn neurotransmitters so that maybe they would start doing something right.  And it worked.  Amazingly, it worked.

Saying to yourself that “virtue is the only good” when you’re a schizophrenic or have major depression and not properly shocked/rebooted or medicated, you’re just not going to get where you need to.  I would like to say though that it’s true that virtue is the only good.  And the Stoics actually give us a good means to getting to virtue:  PREFERRED INDIFFERENTS.  Once you eat 3 meals a day, and sleep 8 hours, and you can get all your essential vitamins and even your psychiatric meds if necessary, you can then pursue virtue as the only good.

I’m not sure how the Stoics handled people with “disordered minds”.  Perhaps they just thought of them as strange anomalies.  Perhaps people with mental illnesses were never an issue to them because maybe anyone with a “disordered mind” would just be abandoned in a forest somewhere and starve to death.

Anyway, I would like to end by saying that if you have a “disordered mind” like mine you can certainly find comfort that you live in a technological civilization that can fix your brain neurotransmitters or reset/reboot them.  Just remember, “virtue is the only good”  BUT pursue your preferred indifferents as well.  Take care of your health.  Take especial care of your mental health.

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Stoicism: How Might It Inform Your Politics?

How might Stoicism inform your politics?  Well, Stoicism in a democracy would want you to vote for who seemed to be the most virtuous person.  But what kind of policy would Stoicism want you to endorse?  Sometimes I think the answer might be in the preferred indifferents: wealth, education, and health just to name a few.  How would these preferred indifferents matter to Stoic public policy?  Well, preferred indifferents are useful means for performing virtue, so a Stoic would want all society to excel in preferred indifferents.

So the Stoic would be for policies that help create wealth and redistribute wealth to people in need.  The Stoic would be for educating the public by supporting public education.  The Stoic would be for people’s health so they would support some kind of system of healthcare available for everyone from the very poor to the rich.

Security might be another preferred indifferent so the Stoic would certainly support a military specifically for the purposes for protecting the nation from external threats.  Also the Stoic would support funding of police to handle internal threats.

How would Stoicism handle monopolies and concentration of wealth in the hands of the few? I’d imagine Stoics would have a problem with it if it meant that the poor were being deprived of basic requirements for health, wealth, education, and security.  The Stoics would vote for policy that would break up monopolies and concentration of wealth if it turned into a zero sum game.

One particular preferred indifferent would be having a job.  Most people desire a job not just for monetary reasons but for psychological reasons since having a job really helps them feel like they’re doing something productive.  The Stoic would be for a policy to help create job growth and give people job security.  The Stoic would also support policy to ensure everyone had a minimum fair wage.

So these are just a few areas where I imagine Stoicism would inform your politics.  I’m curious to know all your thoughts and opinions.

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