When you live with depression & anxiety you spend a lot of time wondering how this happened to you.
I read an article recently that attempted to debunk the ‘myth’ of disrupted chemical activity as the cause of ‘mental illness’.
It was a thorough article that provided a reasonably clear discourse on how our socio-economic environment and life choices are what cause depression and anxiety and, that medication is prescribed as a ‘plot’ by neo-liberalists to stop ‘us’ from complaining about our poor treatment. (“Neo-Liberalism” – A modern politico-economic theory favouring free trade, privatization, minimal government intervention in business, reduced public expenditure on social services and the like. The Free Dictionary.)
That is, the government is attempting to keep us ‘numbed’ to our poor social circumstances so we won’t be inclined to fight for better social policy. And, that corrupt pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists are required to keep us (people in poor socio-economic circumstances that make poor life decisions) docile and inactive thereby allowing the gap between ‘haves and have nots’ to broaden.
The author even went so far as to say (I paraphrase) that any arguments to her anti-medication stance supported her argument. That we would disagree because she is fighting for better social policy and we are numbed by our medication and therefore not inclined to believe there is a need for better social policy.
Further, the author went on to describe how faith in Christ might help us to understand that by the power of our mind we can overcome our mental illness.
I have no qualifications in the area of mental illness. I am simply someone who shares my ‘emotional health’ experience in an attempt to help others.
My experience is, that I did more fighting for social justice whilst medicated than I ever did when I hid under my doona fantasizing about killing myself. I worked harder. Learned more. Grew exponentially. That I would want this result for others is an understatement. To help someone seek out appropriate treatment and therefore a more effective and fulfilling life is a privilege.
There are many reasons that ‘mental or emotional illness’ occurs. There is no doubt that the stress created by life circumstances can be a trigger. If you’re anxious about going to prison because of some crime you committed you aren’t suffering a mental illness you’re stressed. If you’re feeling incredible sadness because your lifetime partner has passed away, you may be depressed, but you’re not suffering from a mental illness called depression. You may even be prescribed something by your doctor to take the ‘edge off’ these conditions until you have ‘adjusted’ to your new circumstances but it’s not a ‘clinical diagnosis’ of a mental illness.
If these things have triggered feeling anxious and depressed, it’s likely that after a few months you will be able to get on with life in your adjusted circumstances. However, if after a few months you are not feeling better it may be that the increased chemical activity brought about by the change in circumstances has not yet reset itself. It may mean that it might take a bit longer and that some counseling or psychotherapy might be needed until you can think clearly about the circumstances and the cycle of ‘stress’ chemicals flooding your body has subsided. Perhaps medication will continue to help until your body adjusts. However, all the medication, counseling and psychotherapy will not cure you from a journey through life.
However, if you’ve been happy living a ‘safe’ life and you’re content in your circumstances. You’ll have no doubt been surprised by your first episode of anxiety. No explanation. You’re doing all the safe things that you’ve done every day but today something frightens you to the point of disabling you. Your heart starts to race, you sweat, you believe you’re about to vomit or poop. You’re looking for an escape route but you can’t think. You ‘know’ something terrible is about to happen. You try to brush it off as maybe something you ate or perhaps an illness until it happens again without an apparent cause. Soon it’s happening so frequently that you start avoiding things. Then you start avoiding life.
So too happens a journey of depression. You might start to feel tired and moody and perhaps a bit tearful. But you put it down to a busy lifestyle with plenty of things to do and not enough rest. Soon you’re having trouble waking up in the morning. You’re starting to feel you can’t do anything right and the job you’ve been doing for years; you’ve somehow become incompetent at. You’re so overwhelmed by the simple day-to-day things that you stop doing them. You’ve lost your energy. You either sleep all the time, or not at all. The things you’ve done almost every day of your life become a burden too heavy to hold so you put them down. If you could just not cry at every thought that pops into your head. So many thoughts. All of them telling you how useless you are and how everyone would be much better off if you were dead. Now, it’s impossible to see joy or happiness in anything. Even those things you once relished are of no interest. Of course you start an endless discourse about why you’re like this. What might have happened that’s turned you into the incompetent blob you’ve become. You examine your ordinary life and wonder ‘what happened?’
So can we accept according to the author of ‘that report’ that these experiences are a result of our poor socio-economic circumstances. Our poor decisions. Our feeble minds. Or our lack of faith. Should we refuse medication because it’s part of a conspiracy theory to keep us subdued and mindless? Should we continue, as many of us did, refusing medication until we are so distressed we would consider self-harm and other negative behaviours? Would we prefer to hide under a doona, escaping the so-called negative socio-economic conditions and poor decisions we may or may not have made, or attempt a ‘normal’ fulfilling life where we are confident enough to fight for social justice and emotional well-being?
It seems to me that people who rely on conspiracy theory and spiritual abuse to mount an argument need to rethink what damage they may cause to those who accept their ‘theory’ as fact.
Take your medication if it’s making a difference. Try something different if it’s not. You determine with your doctor whether you’re feeling depressed or you have ‘depression’. You determine with your doctor about whether you’re anxious or you have an ‘anxiety disorder’.
And, never believe that medication is a ‘cure’ for your poor emotional health. Like insulin for diabetes, the medication is a treatment, not a cure. Perhaps with the right management your emotional health will be restored. But like so much in medical science, we still don’t understand enough about how we’ve been put together.
After-all, the human body is THE greatest wonder of the world.
Everything happens for a reason. But sometimes the reason is that you’re stupid and you make bad decisions.
If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor or contact an organisation such as Beyond Blue.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)