I've recently become completely enamoured with the work and findings of a retired doctor by the name of Vincent Felitti. One question he poses in particular strikes a chord in light of current world events:
Might depression be a normal response to abnormal circumstances? - Dr. Vincent Felitti
Felitti notes that methamphetamine was the first anti-depressant on the market in the 1940's distributed by Burroughs Wellcome Company under the brand name Methedrine. Noting the current rampant addiction to methamphetamines, Felitti said he doesn't think it's coincidental that so many people are addicted to anti-depressants.
We have an epidemic in western society that desperately needs to be addressed. That epidemic is the widespread overuse of anti-depressants. Right off the bat I want to acknowledge that there are indeed people in the world who legitimately need medication to stabilise hormonal imbalances or mental issues. People requiring assistance in this area should not only feel unashamed to ask for it, but encouraged to explore any and all solutions the world has to offer. I'm grateful such medications exist for people who truly need them. However, we've arrived at a place where doctors are prescribing anti-depressants for sadness without even attempting to understand the cause.
With the current state of our world, what kind of people would we be if we WEREN'T depressed? Our culture has reached a state of denial that has placed us in very deep trouble on many levels. Not only that, sadness is usually a sign that there needs to be change in our lives and/or the world on some level. Tears alert us to the fact that something's not right and requires our attention. We aren't living true to ourselves or have gotten off track somehow.
When we anaesthetise ourselves to our feelings or the world's problems, we can't help but numb our passion, putting ourselves out of touch with our own hearts. Our passion is what fuels the change that's necessary and when we numb it, we accept a status quo that compromises our lives and the world. Sadness is a reflection of our sensitivity to being off track and it needs to be honoured, nurtured and explored, not covered over.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Felitti points out in his work, society in general, in addition to most doctors, have been taught to avoid having difficult conversations. We're taught as children to keep things pleasant or bite our lip so as not to upset. Heaven forbid we voice our feelings in the midst of injustice especially if that injustice comes from within the family. We aren't only encouraged to keep things inside, we're expected to. So pharmaceutical companies have invented a solution to "cover over" our sadness, not to mention a solution which profits them greatly from a financial perspective. Anti-depressants are a convenient and quick supposed solution. Exploring sadness from a genuinely loving perspective takes time and great care. While I haven't had a lot of therapy, it's my experience it cannot replace genuine love and care.
After I had my son I suffered from post-partum depression. When I sought help from doctors, they immediately wanted to prescribe anti-depressants despite the fact I was feeding my baby. "He'll only get a little of the medicine" they insisted or "Consider stopping feeding him in order to take anti-depressants." Not one of the three doctors I met with bothered to enquire about potential causes of the depression and the counselling I had felt like a checklist of things to be covered off within an allotted 30 minute window of time. It seemed to me like my sadness was an inconvenience the world didn't have time to stop and address.
I feel the truth surrounding our need for anti-depressants is a lack of love in our lives. We are expected to wake up in the morning and focus on making money, climbing the corporate ladder and keeping dissatisfaction buried so we can continue doing those two things every day. Our definition of love has become largely transactional and life has become about acquiring things. Occasionally we are encouraged to "blow off some steam" by going drinking with friends. The problem with all of this is that it isn't why we were created and it will never truly satisfy us. I believe we were created to love each other and it seems we either never learned how or we've forgotten. Consequently we fill our lives with drugs, alcohol, shopping, entertainment and distractions because we're incapable of sitting still with our own hearts, listening to our emotions and admitting to ourselves we need love. We've lost our way.
Here are the facts regarding anti-depressant drugs:
- Food and Drug Administration’s Medwatch Adverse Drug Reports include 470,000 adverse reactions for psychiatric drugs between 2004-2012. The FDA admits only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them, so the actual number of reported side effects is assuredly much higher.
- Mirtazapine (also known as Remeron) carries the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Black box” warning for suicidality (Robin Williams was taking this when he committed suicide).
- There are ten warnings of suicide associated with Mirtazapine alone and suicide is among the top 2 side effects reported to the FDA on this particular antidepressant
- The FDA’s MedWatch drug adverse event reporting system recorded 411 attempted and completed suicides associated with the antidepressant Mirtazapine alone (and the FDA estimates only 1% of side effects are ever reported to them)
- 90,000 emergency room visits are attributed to psychiatric drugs each year in the U.S.
- 23,755 suicides are attributed to psychiatric drugs each year in the U.S. alone.
- In addition to suicidal ideation, documented side effects of antidepressants by international drug regulatory agencies include hallucinations, delusions, worsening depression, depersonalization, mania, psychosis, self-harm.
Another thing that most people don't realise is that psychotropic drugs, or anti-depressants, are released through urine and therefore end up in our water supply. This means that our children are ingesting them if they drink tap water. We have all seen what can happen to children when they're given medications like this, not the least of which resulted in the Sandy Hook School Shooting in 2012. Anti-depressants aren't sustainable for our planet from many perspectives.
We need to wake up to the fact that because of our desire to avoid having difficult conversations about painful experiences and making the changes in our lives we know we need to, we have created a world where feelings cease to matter. A world in which vulnerability has been shunned and defined as a weakness to be avoided at all cost. We ask each other daily "How are you?" but do we even bother to listen for a response knowing we're all instructed to say we're great even when it's not true? We have allowed society to condition us to the extent we are denying the truth within ourselves and we will go to great lengths to do it.
I agree with Marianne Williamson that depression is first and foremost a spiritual disease. "The society in which we live has become inherently depressing, focusing far too often on external realities at the expense of our inner selves. A world that trivializes love, wisdom, compassion, and forgiveness is a breeding ground for psychological and emotional dysfunction. Psychic pain, like physical pain, is a symptom of a larger problem. The point is not just to numb the pain, but to deal with its cause."
A world that trivializes love, wisdom, compassion, and forgiveness is a breeding ground for psychological and emotional dysfunction. - Marianne Williamson
Personally I believe our tears are the first indicator of the need for change. Tears cleanse our hearts and enable us to compassionately soften towards injustice, not meet it with hatred or denial. Our tears are seeds of love we sow into the future. When we push them down or fight them back, we are not only circumventing necessary change, we're making ourselves sick. We are telling ourselves that what we feel doesn't matter.
We owe it to ourselves to invest time and energy into the stillness required to connect with our own feelings. The world may be spinning out of control, but we don't have to numb ourselves to it. Rather, we are set free by discovering and acknowledging the truth about what we're feeling and then identifying where positive changes can be made.
A great place to start is by having a conversation with someone you trust. A good barometer for friendship is to ask yourself, could I cry in front of this person without feeling ashamed? Those who genuinely love us will feel honoured we trusted them enough to invite them along for the exploration of the truth. Don't be surprised to find them feeling not only the same uncertainties, but a huge sense of relief they aren't alone.