Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Cure for Depression

After watching a PBS show last week on the subject of depression in America, I had to stop and think about what they were putting out as the God's Honest Truth. It just didn't ring true for me.

Yes, the numbers are shocking but they do tell a story. Americans are dropping like flies from depression. People from all walks of life are falling victim to this spreading, debilitating phenomenon.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of the population is, or has been, on psych drugs at some point in their lives. Psych drugs are even prescribed to children as young as two years old with astonishing regularity.

Depression is not the only label attached to this explosion of what we're being told is "mental illness". There are dozens of diagnoses being handed out like penny candy on Halloween night by doctors and psychiatrists all over the country. And along with those diagnoses come pills. A whole lot of pills.

They say that people need not suffer alone with depression, and we are told that 15 million Americans are estimated to be enduring the pain of depression who have not sought help for their problem. "Depression is a disease" they say. "It is highly treatable" they say. "People who suffer from depression should seek help" they say.

They also say that of the 25 or so currently approved drugs being used to throw at the problem of depression, that it takes time to find the "right" one for you. There are no guarantees that pills will work and at minimum it takes several months before there is any way to find out if taking that particular drug will be of any help to you at all.

What are people supposed to do in the meantime while they patiently wait to see if any good comes out of dousing their brains and bodies with pharmaceutical chemicals, just shut up and suffer? Not quite. They have to shut up and suffer AND pay those incredibly high doctor fees and pharmacy bills.

When you stop to realize that so many 'antidepressants' are fluoride based, it really adds insult to injury. Fluoride is infamous for subduing people's minds, making them docile and submissive, unable to put up any protest or fight against anything coming their way that's causing them harm or trouble. They simply take it and don't complain. They don't have the energy or the interest to make a fuss. That seems very insidious to me.

There is even current research that shows that the very same fluoride they spike our water with causes a decline in intelligence as well, and there is overwhelming evidence that fluoride causes a whole host of other serious diseases and early deaths. Are all of these so called antidepressants in fact simply numbing the mind and spirit down until the truth and evidence of the total lack of quality in our lives, no longer concerns us quite as much? Are all those pills actually trying to resolve depression? Or are they attempting to alter people's brains in order to resolve folks to accepting their depressing lives?

If the millions upon millions of pills that people have swallowed were anywhere near as great as our Med Marketing Doctors keep telling us, shouldn't we be the most mentally sound and overall healthy people on the planet today? Wouldn't medical professionals from all over the world be knocking our doors down to get the secrets of all the great and abundant good health those pills are supposed to be delivering?

If pills were half of what we're mind washed into believing by TV sets and our own doctors, then why has our whole health care system's world ranking plummeted to somewhere in the low 40's? We are not number one, get over it. We're not even in the top five, or top ten or top twenty. The reality is that our health care is so bad it's dangerous. If you really want to be treated for something as serious as cancer and come out a survivor with years of good life left to live, you're much better off seeking treatment in a foreign country. Almost any other country you can think of.

If you're not lucky enough to be able to afford that, then you're stuck with all the pills you can shake a stick at, and all of the associated bad affects, liver and kidney damage, hair loss, sleep disturbances, weight gain, brain and organ damage and a whole host of barely mentioned but frequent bad effects that can make you feel worse than before you went to get help. And for the last time, there's no such thing as a "side" effect. It's a direct effect. That's marketing head games for you.

Going the route of standardized medical/chemical treatment for depression and all the other diagnoses is to choose a path with the least evidence of efficacy, controlled by people who don't mind at all that you'll have to suffer for a very long time in spite of whatever hit or miss "treatment" they start you on. What do they care? They'll get very well paid anyway and they aren't actually obligated to do anyone any good. The whole system shows an insulting institutionalized indifference to the suffering of the very people they supposedly exist to help.

It is disturbing to listen to the establishment media and medical institutions giving their compelling reasons to encourage people to seek help for their depression. "Every year depression causes a 50 billion dollar loss of productivity in America". "It also causes a concurrent increase in physical illnesses and disease". The entire thing is framed from the perspective of how it impacts the establishment. Lost productivity and increased insurance costs. It's insulting.

The whole concept of depression et al is something that needs to be scrutinized because we're not getting it right. The establishment experts and medical royalty are telling everyone that depression is a disease, a literal mental "illness". Oh yeah? How so? How can thoughts and feelings be "diseased"? Do tell. And because of the terrible guilt people feel when life kicks their ass they are offered the encouraging news that it's not their fault. It's simply a malfunction of the brain, and they can throw pills at it to correct it for you. For a very large fee of course, but believe them, they're only doing it because they care so very much.

Do they care? How is it caring to throw pills at it? How is it caring to define depression as a mental malfunction? How is it caring to automatically invalidate peoples suffering when they say that their lives are making them hurt? How helpful is it to suggest that when life is depressing, and people get depressed, that the problem is with those people, and not due to some darn good reason?

To say it's mental illness is an unstated but none the less screaming way of calling it a form of insanity. It suggests the depressed person is not sane. It says if you're depressed you're not rational, you're not stable, you aren't capable of making accurate assessments of the world around you or of yourself. Somehow your feelings are "wrong". "Abnormal". Oh really? How so? What's abnormal or wrong and who's deciding the definitions of those things? What makes them right and the depressed person "wrong"?

Indeed, the medical establishment in all it's glory and power is champing at the bit to write you off as a crazy person to be dismissed and not be taken seriously. Your complaints are automatically marginalized and reduced to nonsense. Tell me what's caring about that. The fact of the matter is it's downright insulting.

For all the talk and claims and TV commercials for pills to throw at depression and a whole army of new "conditions" plaguing Americans, there is still no evidence at all that proves that any of these laboratory concoctions actually do help anyone. The doctors and experts openly admit that because it's the truth. They also have to admit it since they don't even know if pills help or not, they don't have any idea how or why they might work, if they do at all.

It has been suggested that it's not the pills that help people so much as the way they are treated when interacting with kind, attentive people in the medical offices they go to seeking treatment. Just the human interaction, the kindness and feelings of acceptance and validation can be very powerful medicine. It's well established that talk therapy is helpful to depressed people, unlike pills which have no similar proof of being helpful.

There is a great deal wrong with this picture and a few obvious questions to ask that no one on the expert side seems all that interested in asking. With depression reaching epidemic proportions in America, why is this happening? Are tens of millions of unhappy Americans just crazy? Do they all have malfunctions of the brain? Aren't the numbers just too high to write it off as a form of insanity and an inability to assess their own lives properly?

If ten people all get food poisoning at one restaurant in one evening, that's enough to close the restaurant down isn't it? Nobody would dream of telling those poisoned people that they just aren't capable of enjoying their food properly. Yet our medical experts and the officialdom of mental health would have us all believe that tens of millions of depressed and traumatized people are simply incapable of enjoying their lives properly.

I'd like to challenge that notion because it's illogical as well as ridiculous. The fact is that life in America for a great many people today is not a happy matter. The long hours we work for the ever shrinking pay we get in return is not a reasonable substitution for life. Being eternal employees who are treated as lesser beings with no power and who will in the end have worked their whole lives and have nothing to show for it is enough to make any mentally sound individual depressed as hell.

Maybe there's very good reason that so many people are coming up empty inside in this society, even when they're amongst the lucky ones who achieve some modicum of success. Maybe success in a morbidly capitalistic society isn't all it's chalked up to be. Maybe it's just not enough. Maybe it's not the end all and be all of life. Maybe it's not what matters most in this world. In fact, maybe it's a total assault on the human soul and psyche and people succumbing to depression all around us is the reasonable and expected outcome of being shoved into a forced paradigm that just doesn't work.

One size does not fit all. One size can only fit the one who's size it happens to fit, everybody else will simply have to make do with something that can never work for them. And while the midrange of people will be able to make due to some extent or another, at the peripheral outside edges will inevitably be people who cannot even try to make due, the fit is impossible from the get go.

When you stop to realize that society is all set up in a preexisting system that we are simply born into, and that our paths and value as human beings are also predefined, and the expectations and demands to fit into that preexisting way of life is so intense that it doesn't even allow for those who cannot flourish in that system, then we're bound to have all kinds of people who are left out. We even call them "misfits". They don't fit in.

The sad thing is we don't even extend our intelligent acceptance of reality to those people, we label them with negative judgments and exclude them from the rest of the social body. We don't like any bumps and lumps in our game plans. So it's never the game plan that's responsible for unhappy people, broken people, poor people, sick people, young people, marginalized people who have no place to go and no hope of ever having a place or a way to make a life for themselves, it's their fault. And we, in all of our ignorant, rule-addicted self-superiority, are afraid of them. We reject them and blame them and we cannot see them as valid or as equally important as ourselves.

We live in a very judgmental, small minded society. The added pressure of having to compete for our bread only adds to the ugliness. It is inevitable that only a few will really ever win, the same few, a chosen few, and that means that everyone else will have to lose, to some degree or another.

Because we prize so called "success" so highly, it's also inevitable that those who are not the winners will have to bear the internal brunt of feelings of failure in varying degrees. Again the competitive nature of the social structure demands that we never show our negative feelings to others, and above all we can never admit failure in any degree. What can come of that but disconnection from others, even from family and friends who look to us with expectations for success? Our success reflects on our family and friends, and so does our so called failure to achieve a sufficient amount of financial wealth and the freedom and power it affords.

For most of working class America today it's all we can do to get the bills paid every month and see to the most basic critical life needs that all people have. The fat cats have taken almost all of the pie for themselves, and left nothing but a handful of crumbs for all the rest of America to fight for, and there's just not even enough to go around.

What's not depressing about that?

If we all ever wanted to get honest, which we don't, we would have to admit that life in America today is a failure, because the system is a terrible system that is set up to deprive people of any fair chance of ever getting a better life for themselves and their families. We are set up to fail by design. Not realizing that truth we all get up every morning and get back to the daily grind, and year after year we come home emptier and with less to show for our hard work and faith in the whole structure.

Aren't we in this busy, fast paced, exhausted society, so fixated and focused straight ahead on that ever present yet elusive dangling carrot, the paycheck we all endlessly chase after, that we inevitably gallop right past all of the things in life that make it fulfilling and which are the only things that can bring us happiness? When we put job before self and family and loved ones, aren't we in effect bypassing life itself? Aren't those the things that make life worth living and aren't those the very things that matter most? Over the course of our working lives we will change jobs many times, the jobs themselves become meaningless the moment we leave them. But we can't get another day to hear our baby's first word, or another son or daughter to watch grow up if we ever finally have the time to get involved and participate with them at that truly meaningful level, for years.

And what about the growing numbers of people who are cut off from the playing field and never even have a shot at getting a good enough education to be able to earn enough money to make better lives for themselves? The marginalized people of America are the fastest growing class, and that's definitely not conducive to happiness and satisfaction in life.

How many people are forced into an endless repetitive cycle of demands placed on them from every direction, demands that are a product of our obsession with capitalism and money, where success can only be defined in terms of financial holdings and the status those holdings afford? When there is so little room "at the top" and so few who will be able to attain the fraction of positions and spots available that will pay a generous enough salary to afford more personal freedom and choice in life, to afford more time for not working, for long periods of recreation, to allow for extended periods to heal from sickness or injury, that cover families for a sane and humane period of time for maternity leaves, then only a very small percentage of our population can ever have a shot at having enough of what matters most in life. Only a small percentage of Americans will even get the sleep they need. Few will have the quality of life that is required to be able to experience any real satisfaction and happiness in this world.

What's really infuriating is knowing there's no excuse for that. There is no reason that all cannot get their needs met. There is no reason that we all have to play on the same capitalist playing field. There are other things that matter more and other ways that people want and need to live their lives. But other options are not allowed. They would undermine the total control of those who benefit most from this contrived system that brings all the benefit back to themselves.

The sad fact of it is, for so many people, we are stuck in an endless grind of rushing to meet the demands of others and our jobs are something we have no love for. It is not creative work or work that we can sink our lives into and experience our own growth and satisfaction from. It is work that we can be dismissed from at any time without notice or cause, and that precludes having any feelings of real security in life. That insecurity would undermine anyone's sense of well being and would only become worse over time.

We work because we have to, we simply have no choice. We take whatever jobs we can get that we are qualified for. We are considered to be, and are treated as, disposable. We work harder than those of higher rank, and get less pay, and few to no benefits. We have to leave our children each day when we'd rather stay with them and raise them ourselves, and that means much more than having to pay a baby-sitter. It means days, weeks and years of not building the relationships that sustain us and nurture us throughout life, and populate our reality with trusted caring others that we can share our lives with, that we can talk to at meaningful levels, and who will be able to understand us and validate us, and love us whether we're doing well or not doing so well.

All of the underlying, supporting fabric of family and friends has been relegated to some secondary place, or even a lesser place due to the constant demands of daily life and needs. The chores, the bills, the gas tank, the wasted hours stuck in daily commutes, the going to work even when we're sick, not being there for ourselves much less each other, it all takes a very real, very measurable toll. We may be surrounded by people but we will feel lonely and strange, insecure and frustrated, and end up just going through the paces until we are numb.

There is no pill for that. There is no mental illness there either.

The whole idea of winners and losers is a financial framing and let's face it, who gives a damn about financially based values? What does that have to do with the reality of life and what's really important to human beings? We all need to have our needs met, we all need meaningful work to do, we all need to feel loved and accepted, and we have to have justice and live in a sane, fair society where everyone is respected and treated as equals in the eyes of the law and society. We are equals, money doesn't change that. Life must be held sacred regardless of worldly possessions or lack thereof. Wealth and poverty are no measure of human worth and the very notion of that should offend anyone with a lick of sense. It's a stupid thing to suggest and even more stupid to believe. But believe it we do.

Nowhere in officialdom will we ever hear that there are other ways to do things in this world. We will not hear alternative stories, or be given alternative patterns to live by. We will never be told we have a choice. We will only and forever be told that this is it, that it can't be changed, that it's not fair, and that's just the way it goes. We're stuck with it. But it's the greatest system in the world and just don't notice the human wreckage all around you. It doesn't matter. If you're not successful in this system you have only yourself to blame and we help no one by sharing the opportunity, or doling out the wealth in a fair way, or allowing those who don't fit into the rabid capitalistic structure to have a valid, respected place amongst the rest of us who are making it. And that includes the vast majority who only think they're making it when they're not making any headway at all.

If you're not rich, it's your fault. If you're not happy in this option-less world, it's your fault. If you don't live up to the value systems and expectations of others that have been thrust on all of us with no chance of all of us being interested in or cut out to live up to them, it's your fault. If you're a loser, it's your fault. However, if you're a winner it's because you know all the right people, went to the right schools, have the right amount of money, and are the correct color. You also have the correct indoctrination to enable you to think like a rabid capitalist and you have all of the things that get you in the door to success. That amounts to a very small percentage of the population. None the less if you don't have that stuff, it's your fault.

Well no it isn't. It isn't your fault and it isn't my fault. You and I and all those like us had zero to say or do with the system we're living in. In spite of all the rhetoric of democracy, there is nothing democratic about the systems of wealth, corporatism and power that have a death grip on how things are done. It is they who design the system and it is they who bought our politicians and it is they who have changed all of the rules to suit themselves. It is they who are enjoying the system that is designed to benefit them at the expense of everyone else, and at the cost of losing all that is most precious and important in our lives. The playing field is not even and the game is rigged. And the distribution of power is nil. It's all distributed upward and not a one of us has anything near the power of someone in our own government, a thing that was set up to serve us. It does not serve us it controls us and holds us down so that the insatiably greedy rich can feed off us.

That's plenty depressing. There's nothing incredible about millions of people going numb, or feeling the pain of dissolution of their beliefs in our government. Betrayal is one of the most painful feelings we can experience. Being reduced to irrelevance is the greatest damage that we can experience in this world. The wound is mortal to the psyche and the soul. When we see others routinely railroaded in the justice system, a million nonviolent drug users behind bars, children shooting up their schools, and corporate/governmental collusion and crime, and we can't do anything about it, we begin to feel our own imposed irrelevance. It is completely disabling. We go numb. In spite of that numbness the pain is ever present, and it takes a very serious toll.

In the midst of that numbness we withdraw in the hopes that no one will notice that we are not doing all right. We put on a show, keep on the game face, and keep going through the motions. But in that state of pain and withdrawal we are also cutting ourselves off from having the depth of interpersonal relationships that is crucial to happiness and well being in this life. The quality and value of our relationships with others is everything there is, that's what it all boils down to. The ability to have strong relationships with others means being able to be who we are, fully, without having to fear getting rejected for failing to meet some outwardly imposed definitions of success or personhood.

But in this society there is no redemption. Just one slip, such as a drug arrest, eternally condemns a person in the eyes of officialdom and the rest of society. One late payment and everyone raises your interest charges. One minor car accident and you're judged high risk for evermore. We do not accept or forgive normal shortcomings. We do not believe that time served is payment in full of any supposed debt to society. We never get off anyone's back who has transgressed outside of the very narrow path of politically correct acceptability.

We now strip felons of their right to vote. We're a society who believes that punishment should last forever and one mistake should deprive you of all of your rights. Punishments are infinitely more damaging than the crimes time and again. If felons are stripped of their right to vote and participate in our process then who is it that will ever be able to work to fix the horribly broken justice/prison system? Who would know better than these people what's broken in there? We're so addicted to hating those who don't meet our selfish standards that we're cutting off our own noses. How much more stupid can it get?

And what pray tell gives anyone the right to judge another and preclude the possibility that people are not criminals just because they break some law or rule. We all have the right to make mistakes and we may well have to fight to retain that right along with all the others they're taking away from us.

Our unwillingness to forgive and help people by simply accepting the reality that sometimes people fall down and can go on to living good, decent lives if not deprived of the chance, is turning our country into a totalitarian nightmare. Instead of our harsh, hypocritical judgments of others, understanding it can happen to anyone makes a lot more sense; and deciding to help people out of the ruts that keep them trapped instead of adding insult to injury with eternal punishments will get us a whole lot closer to reconnecting with the meaning of being human. Our failure to do that is dooming us to a society reserved for those who are rich enough to not have to pay for their mistakes while all the rest of us will pay a thousand times over in advance for crimes we never committed.

There are no pills for any of that. No doctors can fix the feelings and trauma that are the reasonable and inevitable result of living in a society that is patently unfair, dishonest, duplicitous, unjust, judgmental, unforgiving, cruel, depraved, unconcerned with the quality of life for everyone, and who would rather see you dead than have you hanging around unhappy, a living breathing example of just how much the system sucks the life, health and joy out of people..

Depression and many other illnesses aren't signs of weakness or mental malfunction. They're a normal response to unnatural injuries that we cannot get away from, avoid or have much chance of healing from. Depression is what happens when you are forced to look straight at reality and soak it in. It's a sure sign of sanity. Depression is what happens when you finally get real and realize you've been screwed in some form or another.

No wonder the rush to call it mental illness and throw pills at it. No wonder the guise of caring and urgings to seek treatment for your depression, to be drugged into submission and the docile acceptance of the unfair distribution of wealth and power that is status quo today.

The only real treatment for depression would be a huge awakening of the people and a redefining of what matters most in life, and then sweeping changes that will topple the power structure and recreate a system that lets everyone have a place in it.

The bottom line is that the only prescription that will cure the depression epidemic in America is one calling for social justice, mutual respect and an end to economic bondage.




2 comments:

  1. You said a lot there Ang. I work in substance abuse, knowing most of what I know about it from personal experience. I see the wreckage of cold hard capitalism every day, and I use my own experience to counsel others: "You must not accept the reality the system provides for you each night through feeding tubes like Fox news. You have to create your own version of reality." It's easier said than done, and there are no set formulas, but if you see the world like they want you to see it, the resultant depression might very well cause you to self destruct. For a start, turn OFF the propaganda. Experience life through your own senses, and insist on time for yourself to rediscover nature and your place in it. The longest journey starts with a single step.
    Thanks for one of my favorite websites, Ang.

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  2. Brigitte5:01 PM

    Ha! Very true all this! Only the rich and powerful, when caught red-handed, have the right to invoke the right of every human to make "an error in judgment" or "an honest mistake". But if you're just an average joe, tough luck, no second chance.

    Too bad people in the US are so judgmental. They're really at each other's throat at the slightest provokation because the competition for jobs and resources is so fierce.

    About psych meds, what the docs say to people is that they have a birth defect in the brain, which they call a "chemical imbalance". The psychiatrists never explain the origin of this imbalance, so the only explanation is that, absent a trauma, it was a birth defect, and many mental patients accept it. They even are relieved because it gives them an identity, which they otherwise lacked.

    Crime victims end up in psych wards sometimes, like I did, and instead of notifying the DA to go after the perp, the good doctor gives the victim anti-depressants and anti-psychotics to remove the "false beliefs" from her head, and some veiled threats of electroshock therapy for good measure. And so it goes.

    (Suggestion for a small edit: it's "to make DO", not "to make DUE". Shhhh!)

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