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We live in a world of drugs that have the ability to make us what we want to be just as long as it is not ourselves that we wish to be. But does prescription medication really solve our problems or are we simply making ourselves addicts to not only the drug, but also the belief that it is not okay to feel the way we do naturally? Through counseling with psychiatrists and doctors we are able to obtain drugs. But are they just sedating us to prescribe a quick fix? Underneath the candy coating, are they not simply drug dealers? Here in the Western world, not only is medication the first treatment option suggested, but society has begun to glamorize mental illness. Now studies would have us believe that with mental illness such as depression, to get better medication is necessary. Better than what exactly?
It is a strange relationship that is shared between a patient and psychiatrist. It could be compared to that of a junky and dealer. Harsh as this comparison may seem, in reality how different are the two relationships? Social graces and policies aside, drugs are the focus and desired commodity within both. In either case they are there to get their hands on a drug that apparently will make them feel better. Some dealers just happen to have degrees
Have you ever witnessed the reaction of two psychiatric patients who have just realized in the waiting room, that they have been scheduled in for the same appointment? It is more entertaining than anything that you might come across on TV, except perhaps on the National Geographic channel. A truly riveting example of modern day drug dependency. This is how it ensues; first off the patients both blame the therapist. “Oh she’s been so busy with her resent move,” one offers. “Yes, she’s moving quite a ways from her home in the Beaches,” counters the other. At this first stage, both are trying to claim a familiarity with the therapist, a friendship even. This polite stage will continue back and forth until it is warn out and neither has any more personal information to share about the therapist. Turns out they both know a lot about the therapist. From there a new tactic will emerge, such as how far they have each driven to get to the appointment and how many things they have to do immediately after the appointment. In this second stage they are competing for the prize of most physical amount of effort put forth to make it to the appointment. They are both still in the running at this point. The last resort, the final stage and by far the most interesting and least attractive attempt is that they will each explain in a heart wrenchingly performance, why it is them that needs this appointment the most. Please step up to the mike and tell us about your mental illness! This will be when you, having to this point pretended to be perusing a magazine, will forget to look at the pages that you are currently turning.
Today’s society is all about instant gratification. How long can the Western World live in a hedonistic society before it comes crashing down and the reality of what we have been doing or not doing rears its not so pretty face? We eat to feel better, starve to feel better, partake in sexual activity to feel better, drink alcohol to feel better, smoke marijuana to feel better and pop drugs to feel better. We have even been known to kill others and ourselves to feel better. We are becoming numb to each other and numb within ourselves. If offered prescription drugs and told that they will make one feel better, will take away the pain, there is a pretty good chance that most people are going to ask for a glass of water to take it down with. But is numbing oneself from the reality of life the answer? Is an instant fix a permanent fix?
V.R.A.N member Edda West, sees that "our society is in dire straights in terms of metal health. A lot of it arises from everyone's disconnection from nature/creator/God" she believes. She is reminded of philosopher Jean Vanier's words, "The danger is the head separating from the heart." V.R.A.N, which stands for Vaccine Risk Awareness Network, has been fighting its own ongoing battle with the Medical Industry for encouraging immunization. Are antidepressants popular because we have lost touch with our inner selves? Are they our safety net for not living the life we were meant to or hoped to? "People medicate themselves because they are trying to quell that voice within that tells them what is the truth of the world. It's when their soul finally becomes aware of what they are and what they should be, it seems easier to silence that voice. Everything they have been taught through industrialism and society, whether it be by the church, state, neighbor, family or others close to them, believe it. We are not taught that every one of us is an individual unlike any other out there, which means we have our own set of truths to figure out. That journey is harder than anything to try to follow", believes artist and songwriter Dale Clark, whose organization "Soul Carnival" www.specialbrownies.com, strives to teach youth about the joys of creative work, executed within a healthy life style.
People who are taking a mental health treatment often it seems, like to talk about it. They want you to know what they are taking, why and how it makes them feel. It is this writer's opinion that some also want attention and an excuse. An excuse for yelling at you, an excuse to yell at you, an excuse for getting fat, an excuse for getting skinny, an excuse for crying, an excuse for laughing, an excuse for being human. Why? Does it make them feel special to be considered mentally out of the norm? Are they really outside of the norm? According to Dr. Thomas R. Insel, the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, a recent study reported that mental disorders comprise four of the top five sources of premature death and disability in 15-44 year olds in the Western World. Statistics like this one would have us believe that mental illness is becoming a lot more common. Why is this? Perhaps we should take a look at the media and entertainment industry for some answers. Many recent movie characters are unstable and suffering from the signs of a mental illness. "As Good as it Gets", "The Jacket", "Girl Interrupted", "Donnie Darko", "Good Girl", The United States of Leland", "Half Nelson", "The Matrix" "Martin Fink", "Adaptation" and "American Beauty" are all about mentally unstable characters whom we both like and relate to. Hollywood seems to be advocating mental illness. Is it cool to be on medication? Lots of stars are. Every day the tabloids are full of information pertaining to our favorite star's mental status. For years now we have heard about Angelina Jolie's unstable mental state and did not Anna Nicole Smith just expire from a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs? Celebrities Tom Cruise and Brittany Spears have both recently behaved in ways that have made the media publicly question their mental stability. These are the individuals that society looks up to and tries to be like.
Take a look at the children's books that we read to our children. The messages within the colorful pages are that if you work hard you will succeed. That happily ever after you'll live, with your prince or princess, your nice kids Dick and Jane and of course you’re well behaved dog Spot. When life does not turn out that way depression often ensues. Perhaps we should be reading our kids stories from other culture's bookcases.
The beliefs of Tibetans are the complete opposite to Western ideas. Tibetan writer and spiritual director, Sogyal Rinpoche believes that "Despite the major breakthroughs of recent years, especially in mind/body science and transpersonal psychology, the great majority of scientists continue to reduce the mind to no more than physical processes in the brain, which goes against testimony of thousands of years of experience of mystics and meditators of all religions." Tibetans don't believe that life is supposed to be great. They believe that you make the most out of the life you have. They also believe that the mind, which happens to be the home of mental illness, is only an organ, a body part that should not control us, the soul within. "Swept along by the chaos of every moment," Rinpoche explains, that in the West " we are victims of the fickleness of our mind." When the going gets tough Tibetans do not take antidepressants, they meditate. There is no mental health hotline that they can call to get help, instead they reach out to their gods and their faith. Tibetans strive to understand what it is that they are feeling and to learn from it. How can personal growth take place if one is numb from the effect of most prescription drugs? How is personal growth possible? Perhaps it is pictures of the Dalai Lama that we should be bringing home for our children to hang on their wall.
It does seem that doctors are ready to start prescribing the pills the minute we grow up and face the reality of our situation. When the dreams die the drugs begin. Why not, they are easy to get and everyone is doing them? The story of the two patients, earlier mentioned, has an ending. The big chief, the counselor arrived at reception, Starbucks coffee in hand. By this time both patients were wringing their hands nervously. With a wave of the therapist’s hand, one of the poor souls was cast out of the room. Reprimanded like a child, she was told that she had obviously penciled in the appointment for the wrong time. So ended the battle. Obviously she had gotten it wrong. She was after all the crazy person right? Why she didn’t argue with the therapist, but instead solemnly collected her things, as the other patent gleefully scrambled by her and into the office, is simple, she was in need of the drugs that the therapist had the power to give. If two heroin addicts found themselves fighting for the single dosage their dealer was selling, it may have become a lot messier. The consequence may have been down right violent. Luckily in this story the therapist had access to lots and lots of happy pills. The patient just had to return in an hour. Like these patients, everyone is looking for a way to feel better as life gets harder. But prescription drugs may not be only numbing our heads, but also our souls. At least this particular story has a happy ending.