“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti
I both love and hate this quote. Looking at the world around me, and it isn’t just ill, it is violently ill. It’s no wonder so many of us are coming forward and recognizing the truth of our mental health. We are profoundly more aware of the atrocities of man. Unless you are a hermit living in the woods and well beyond the reaches of human interaction, it’s impossible to avoid being inundated with negative stimuli. Is it any wonder so many of us are “mentally ill”?
I remember one day, just before I started my meds, I was scrolling through social media and it seemed like every headline was about the possible catastrophic end of the human race and/or the planet. This deep sense of “Why bother doing anything productive? It’s all going to end anyway, whether by our own self-destruction or some imminent act of nature.” Looking back, I feel like that moment was the moment my mind became cognizant of my need for treatment, similar to drifting slightly into consciousness before you’re jolted awake.
This morning I read an article once again touting a non-pharmaceutical solution to a variety of mental illnesses by way of propping up a former psychiatrist’s new book, much in the same way anti-vaccination believers prop up the one or two doctors who have (in my non-medical-professional opinion) lost their damn mind.
The article itself is written in a way that boasts loquaciousness rather than
The gist of both the article and the book it’s adulating is “that depression, ADHD, anxiety, etc. aren’t chemical malfunctions of the brain, nor spiritual malfunctions of the mind; rather, they are forms of legitimate rebellion against life structures that are unworthy of one’s full participation or attention. They are more symptoms of a social illness than of a personal deficiency.”
I wonder if these folks have ever considered the possibility of the outside world and all of its horrors altering our internal brain chemicals, causing “spiritual” malfunctions of the mind? My problem wasn’t ever that certain life structures weren’t worthy of my participation or attention, it’s that I pay too much attention. I feel too much, too deeply, too painfully. I know it’s not a personal deficiency. If anything, it is an excruciating blessing of awareness, but it’s kind of like trying to take your morning shower in Niagara Falls, sure it’s water, but it will destroy you. That’s why nature and man have created systems to mitigate the flow.
A Mind of Your Own offers the equivalent by going beyond critique to offer a multi-dimensional holistic protocol for treating depression, involving diet, body ecology, exercise, and other practices. Clearly these subvert the dominant pharmoneurochemical paradigm, but it may not be immediately clear that they are part of a broader radicalism. After all, whether you “fix the patient” with chemicals or with other methods, aren’t you still helping her adjust to a “profoundly sick society”? That is a criticism frequently levied at so-called holistic treatments for depression. I asked Dr. Brogan to respond. She said:
My whole premise is that depression is an opportunity for transformation and that this transformation is best engaged, for many of us, through sending the body signals of safety; i.e. diet, movement, sleep, meditation/relaxation response. This isn’t a symptom management program. It’s a root-cause-resolution endeavor that seeks to illuminate connections between different bodily systems heretofore conceived of as separate. Acknowledging and accepting this invitation also begets a level of consciousness around bodily integrity that extends to engagement with the medical system, consumerism, and fear around adversity.
Now, as someone who lives with depression and anxiety, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say neither the author of the article or the author of the book have spent most of their life cycling through periods of profound hopelessness looking at the world around you, feeling helpless to change anything and the intense rage of needing to change the world because you are ferociously aware of the ills of humanity, but being paralyzed by the weight and magnitude of problems that need to be solved.
“Just exercise, get lots of sleep, eat well, meditate, and most of all, buy my book! It’s way cheaper than pills and doctors!”
I won’t tell people they should trust the pharmaceutical industry, the medications, or the doctors just because at this moment in my life I am a functional human being that feels as though she has the strength to truly affect change in the world thanks to a Zoloft and Klonopin cocktail. Just like I will no longer tell people that exercise, diet, and yoga will bring you inner peace and enlightenment and that if you love yourself enough everything in the world will fall into place.
I will say do whatever you need to do to feel well enough to help you do what you need to do to survive in a world we know is crumbling around us, whether you want to turn the world on its head or you just want to be able to get out of bed and take a shower on a daily basis.
It is completely plausible that depression, anxiety, ADHD, and a litany of other “mental illnesses” are the physiological responses to a profoundly ill society. It’s also quite possible that our society is changing much faster than our limbic systems can evolve.