Friday, July 20, 2007

Medicating "Genius"

It's no secret that some of the world's most renowned artists (both visual and literary) had or probably had some form of mental illness. Hemingway wasn't exactly Mr. Happy most days, and Van Gogh... well, he snipped off a part of his freakin' ear.

That being acknowledged, I wonder what would happen if these "disturbed" individuals had lived in today's society, where depression *must* be immediately controlled? Would they have ingested copious amounts of Prozac and Lithium, warned that their feelings were "wrong", encouraged by friends and family to "get over it"?

Would our culture of "gotta-fix-it-now" have medicated away some of art and literature's biggest names?

Honestly, I don't know.

But I have noticed a rather interesting trend among people (at least in America). They expect everything to be great 100% of the time. That means if you're feeling out-of-sorts, you need to do something to get better. You need to see a therapist, you need to take an antidepressant, you need...

What if all you need is to wait a few days for the feeling to pass?

Now, before you assume that I'm anti-medication, let me assure you I am most definitely not. I have a great respect for what responsibly prescribed drugs can do for individuals. However, I also am concerned that we're not allowing ourselves to learn how to take the bad with the good.

Case in point:

My son (almost four) awoke one morning and said, "I feel sad today."

What was my first inclination? To "fix" his "problem", of course!

I tried to talk him out of it. I tried to make him see how positive his life was. I tried to make him laugh. But he still, as he put it, "felt sad."

Suddenly, it occurred to me that he was just experiencing what a lot of us do--a "down" kind of morning. He wasn't shaking and crying in a corner; he was just naming the way he felt, which is actually very advanced.

Once that realization hit me like a two-by-four, I switched tactics and gently told him, "You know, I sometimes wake up feeling sad, too. It's weird, huh?" And he smiled and responded, "You do?" Then, we talked for a while. But I never told him to get over it, just tried to help him work through it.

Again, I'm not belittling those with serious mental health issues, and I'm not suggesting we stop all medications.

I'm just concerned that perhaps we're dulling some intense emotions rather than learning how to work with them.

Think I'm full of cow pies? I'd love to hear your opinions!


SzélsőFa said...

This quote: ***I'm just concerned that perhaps we're dulling some intense emotions rather than learning how to work with them.***quote ends

was so well said.

I've also experienced that most American people I know (mostly through the blogging world) have at one or other phase of their life taken mind altering drugs to ease off some of the pain they experience inside.
Contrary to your beliefs, I am an anti-medication person.
I believe pain and suffering has a reason.
A pain a woman in birth experiences (provided that everything goes normal!!!) is helpful. It helps her and the kid to move and act the way they should.
If their mind is altered, the birth goes off control and into the hands of doctors - who, no matter how intelligent and skilled they are...They are a THIRD person in this course of event of giving and enduring birth.
This birthing story was just an example. I wrote it b/c I have two different types of childbirths and a failed carriage, too. That is, I'm speaking of experience.

Depression and fear and those negative emotions we encounter are SIGNS that something has gone wrong.
Taking medication is usually (USUALLY) just to ease the symptoms. The trouble remains.
The solution is something you have done with your son.
We all have to learn to cope with unwanted things as well. rather than ignoring or putting them away for a later deal.

That's my opinion.

The Quoibler said...


You make some incredibly compelling arguments!

You're right about Americans, too. We like to "fix" things that are "wrong." Therefore, if someone is in pain, we want to eradicate that pain.

I often think about how we walk around masking our pain when someone dies. We have to pretend to be okay so no one knows how we're hurting.

Thanks for commenting--I'm hoping to blog about this topic again soon!


Hoodie said...

Okay, I've got to add my $.02. I'm respectful of Szelsofa and her opinion and used to feel much that same way myself.

I will also agree that people are too eager to look for a "quick fix" when things go wrong in their lives. It's the American way of life, sadly.

I also agree that emotion is a tool we are given to signal how to make the changes we need to find balance. Physical pain serves the purpose of preventing further injury to our bodies. Emotional pain serves to guide us in our relationships and choices.

That said, anyone who has not actually experienced debilitating, Clinical Depression should think twice before dishing out advice. Depression is a physiological problem dealing with chemicals in the brain. Would you tell a diabetic to just "try to work a little harder to figure out why they don't make enough insulin?" NO.

"We all have to learn to cope with unwanted things as well. rather than ignoring or putting them away for a later deal."
True, but the feelings that come with Depression are irrational and never-ending. Imagine the worst you have felt in your life. Imagine if the person you loved most told you you were worthless, ugly, stupid and that they were never going to look at you again. Now imagine feeling like that all the time. There is a difference between feeling "depressed" and having "Depression."

I went to therapists for three years refusing medication because I just wanted to figure out the root of my "issue" and solve it. I didn't want to have to be dependent on some drug.

The medication I take does not alter who I am or how I think. It only balances those chemicals so that I don't feel like killing myself and screaming at those I love. Do you really think I should just continue for years to try to "work through it" on my own?

I wish mental illness were more clearly understood. I get *extremely* frustrated by those who have not experienced it yet feel qualified to tell others what to do.

All do repsect, however. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

SzélsőFa said...


I don't wish to say quick judgements over anyone, for I am just a bystander in anyone's life.
I also am unsure as what are the degrees of depression, for I have not been treated/medicated, but I'm positive that I have experienced it.
Sometimes one feels to take medication and it is his/her decision.
Also, I don't know what is the root of a depression of a specific person. If I know the person quite well and meet him/her on a regular basis, I'd definitely talk him/her into some non-medical treatment though. But only if I knew that person very well.

And no, if you think it was the right decision for you I would not try to make you withdraw. That's just your life.

Hoodie said...

I truly hope I didn't offend. I realize my horse was getting a little high.

Forgive me for being overly defensive. It's just that there have been some very negative repercussions in my life from peole misinterpreting my illness and my decisions regarding it.

SzélsőFa said...

No, you did not offend me iny any way.

It's just right to let both sides be heard and I think we have just done it :)

Thanks Angelique! - anytime you feel like covering the same issue, I'm here (or rather, there)

the individual voice said...

OK, it's time for a professional psychologist/psychotherapist who ALSO has been on both sides of the medication debate and come strongly down on the side that for people with long, severe, drawn-out, often-life threatening depressions, there is NO way out of the HOLE but medication, preferably with psychotherapy, to learn to differentiated normal, fleeting "saddness" "grief" or "disappointment" from actual depression that has PREVENTED many creative people from creating to their fullest. My relatively new blog often covers these issues in more depth. Suffice to say that research has shown "herbs" and/or just therapy are fine for "mild" depression, but once you hit the living hell of the Major Depressions, neither can touch it without the big guns. Lots of scientific research to support this.