One of the reasons I was hesitant to take medication over the course of many years were the warnings I’d heard from “spiritual” people: that medication would change “who I was” and that I wouldn’t be “myself” if I took it.
Well, as a Wiccan now on medication I find that concept silly. In the months I have now taken medication I’ve never felt that they changed “who I was” and now that I contemplate it, I don’t think they can.
I believe the soul is fairly unchangeable. I believe that there is a nugget of our soul that is “us”, and that the rest can be changed by our conscious and unconscious choices. Does medication affect any part of this? No.
Medication, for me, changes my experiences. It changes the chemistry in my brain and affects what I feel: rage, sadness, anxiety, confusion. But these are experiences. Experiences color the lens in which we view the world. Experiences affect us but they are not us.
Through all the side effects of my medication I was still ‘me’. I was still present, still conscious (though sometimes quite addled). I did not suddenly lose myself or become a brainless zombie. I was present just as much as I’d ever been through my symptoms.
Perhaps it is the distinction I made between my symptoms and my own, true, self that allowed me to be so disaffected by the effects of my medication. Certainly, if I thought every mood swing was a mirror into my own heart I would have been concerned by these changes.
Yet, over the years, I’ve come to see this seperation as quite distinct. Having a service dog that alerts to the onset of my symptoms really helped me learn this difference. Relying upon Buddhist techniques where one acknowledges that one’s emotions are just fleeting things helped cement it in my mind. This does not mean these experiences have been easy to bear. It just meant that now, as I adjust medications that affect these symptoms (lessening some, worsening others in a fine-tuning effort) I see it as just that. They, like a taste or blow, are merely sensations that I am experiencing through the physical nature of the body. Symptoms that are a part of my body but not of me, my soul.