On “mental illness” – avoid Denver

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I was angrily criticized this week for daring to suggest that “mental illness does not exist.” In fact, I never said such a thing, but did say that it is wildly overstated. Perhaps the largest group of liars, poseurs, fakes and quacks, outside of our political class, are those who go by the name psychiatrist and psychologist. The harm they do is incalculable, and man, the money that they charge for doing that harm is criminal!

Before I defend that statement, let me make something clear:  there are people who are sincere and call what they do “life coaching,” even “counseling.” These are the ones  who do not imagine that they understand a person’s past and its relationship to the makeup of that person. They merely try to give good and forward-thinking advice. They probably overcharge for the advice, but it takes two to tango.

When I was about ten years old, I heard a pounding in the hallway outside my bedroom, and when I poked my head out found my older brother with hands bloodied to a pulp, having used his fists on the closet door in utter frustration. My dad was holding him, hugging him, and both were crying. I do not know what caused that episode, whether it was being dumped by a girl or merely isolation, but my brother needed human comfort and contact. Instead, he was “sent to Denver,” and when he came back was a zombie.

He would remain in that state until his death in 2011. He could not deal normally with people, nor focus on anything. Religion became his outlet, his only comfort, one that I doubt really comforted him that much. He spent more time in church than in the shower each day. In his life before Denver, he was a poet, had athleticism and depth, and perhaps one or two very good friends. He was, after all, an acquired taste, smart far beyond most around him (reading Thomas Merton in eighth grade), but awkward in relationships.

After Denver, he got nothing but sympathetic eyes, and never wrote another poem. Dad took him in the family sign business, and he wasted out his days there. I recall he wrote one time that he would never again “experience the mountain tops” or words to that effect.

The diagnosis – we did not talk about things back then,  but dad at one time mentioned “manic depression.” In Denver, they administered electroshock therapy. They might as well have killed him. It would have shortened his long and unhappy life. I don’t imagine he ever had ten minutes of true joy after he was helped by psychiatrists.

So I know something of what I speak – I have never seen a man in more pain than my brother that day. I still come close to tears if I speak  of that episode.

If there is a thing called “manic depression,” I suppose he had it. These days they call it “bipolar disorder,” and along with ADD, is the among most contrived bullshit ever imagined – that is, it might be real, is rare, and cannot be fixed. Mostly, “bipolar” means you experience bouts of creativity followed by a letdown. It’s perfectly normal. It must be the creativity that makes people both happy and sad, two sides of the same coin. We need to deal with each, take it as it comes. I know darkness and depression. I am normal.

Most of what we see around us is just pain. Not illness – pain. There’s a lot of depression out there. Our society breeds depressed people. First, we advertise at them mercilessly, telling them there are wonderful things to own that will create happiness. But we make sure, via low wages saddled with taxes, medical costs, student loan debt, 20% interest on credit cards, mortgages and other forms of enslavement, that they cannot afford these things. Advertising only works by making us unhappy. Of course people who are in debt and cannot have the things they think they want are depressed!

The cure is so easy – stop wanting stuff. Live simply.

We don’t educate people properly, and so do not give them the mental capacity to work their way out of our maze. Education is a joke in our country – it should free our minds to explore this world. How they did this is sheer genius – they managed to make learning boring, unproductive, and stunting. People who cannot think properly are never going to be able to self-reflect well.

And we drug them. Psychiatrists are drug dealers, nothing more. And the drugs are harmful. Studies have shown that antidepressants do little more than placebos, but we really don’t know their true long-term effects. PhRMA runs FDA, not the opposite. I tend to think that all these drugs people are taking, starting in grade school, merely create a kind of shallowness in ability to experience the full range of emotions, including joy and pain. Some of the more potent ones are behind aggressive behaviors, and combinations and lingering half-lives could well lead to bouts of irrational violence, even suicides.

So if you are in pain as you read this, if you feel bad on a regular basis, if you have no joy, if everything seems pointless to you, consider the following: You are not mentally ill. You’re quite well. These are signals that you need to make changes. It takes a healthy mind to send these signals. It wants you to look in the mirror, identify and remedy the problem – get out of debt, learn to think and explore, get away from bad people, read, meditate, get off of the booze and drugs and give and get some hugs. It takes a long, long time to recover from our fucked up materialistic society.

Do not go to a psychiatrist to make changes. Do not go into “therapy.” Do not worry about potty training or stumbling in on mom and dad having sex. If you had some abuse growing up, real physical and mental abuse, this might be something that lingers inside you and needs to be aired. But it will not be fixed. You will only feel relieved. There is only one direction – forward.  I am quite certain that childhood abuse is common and causes lingering damage. (Most of Freud’s early patients were abuse victims, but he never dealt with the matter in a productive manner.) I am sure that drugs will not fix that damage, nor therapy. But friends and love can really help. And time and perspective.

What to do with all these psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors telling you to hit pillows and twelve-step and all that nonsense? I suppose group therapy might help – us, not them. Get them all in one place, and hope they talk one another to death.

Meanwhile, the rest of us get to deal with life, real life, as it comes, complete with suffering, and some joy as well.

___________________

PS: A reader was kind enough to send me to this link, proving that none of us ever has an original idea. It is a long piece by the late Joe Bageant called Escape from the Zombie Food Court. His key line is “The diagnosis is not the disease.”

About Mark Tokarski

Just a man who likes to read, argue, and occasionally be surprised.
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13 Responses to On “mental illness” – avoid Denver

  1. what about the people who do benefit from medication? I suggest reading Rob Delaney’s personal essay on depression and getting help.

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    • I do not for a second minimize depression, as that is what my brother was facing, and it was apparently unbearable. But there are some things in Delaney’s short essay that bear scrutiny:

      One, he abused alcohol big time prior to quitting and ‘then’ experienced depression. My guess would be that he was already medicating, which is why after quitting, he experienced it as if it was new. He had never let it enter his system. He ran from it. I would suggest that his central nervous system was damaged, by alcohol abuse. This is bold and maybe wrong, but perhaps if he had not done the booze, he might have dealt with the already-existing depression in a more healthy manner..

      He found a new form of medication, one less harmful, we surmise, after all, he says, his meds “resolved some chemical issues.” That is about as vague as anyone can be. What is going on, why is the medication, in his mind, working? Liquor too “resolved some chemical issues.” I do not think that is a solid basis on which to patent and prescribe a medication..

      We are complex. I have known people for whom alcohol is like flash paper – they just take to it, and cannot stop until it kills them. But that is not the standard by which the shrinks are handing out antidepressants like candy. Everyone who complains gets them.

      You ask what to do for the Delaney’s. If the mood pills work for them and keep them from killing themselves, good. That is far from the typical situation. Usually it is just people who are unhappy and do not know why.

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  2. Nameless Range says:

    When it comes to understanding depression and treating it with medication, there is post-hoc conjecture from an overly-credulous accountant, and there are individuals with a far more nuanced and complex knowledge of the subject.

    You’re burying the needle on the bullshit gauge lately Mark.

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/07/ssris-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/

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    • You’re misconstruing the argument. The medicines are not proven to work much beyond placebo for intended uses and the studies behind them are usually fake. But that aside, they do have some effects on our brains, mostly shortening our range of perception, inhibiting our ability to feel both pleasure and pain. With the matter of depression, which is a manifestation of a healthy brain telling a person that change is needed, antidepressants merely inhibit the desire to make those changes.

      Your sarcastic tone towards me is unbecoming a cartographer, much less an accountant.

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  3. steve kelly says:

    And what if all this psychosis was just a natural reaction to another, rarely mentioned, front on the war against us all? The war on our “Right-Side Brain” is no joke. Here’s a very long comment from Saker’s site at least worth a read:
    Bro Anon at 10:57am.
    http://thesaker.is/moveable-feast-cafe-2016-04-30/#comments

    Even mentions “accountants” specifically. “Occult” too.

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    • That comment was an attack on both sides of my brain. I know about the Egyptian Isis who eventually became our Mary, and wondered from time to time of calling the fake terrorist group that was deliberate. If it is, it is a real in-joke, as the Romans and their church put an end to ISIS worship during the dark ages.

      Numerology … Occult … Spooks use it and hide behind it. The numbers, as I understand their use, are merely a way of alerting other spooks “We’re here.” Same with Catcher in the Rye and Alice in Wonderland … “It’s us again folks.”

      So I guess he may be right about a lout if stuff, or wrong, and I am not going to waste these aging and diminishing brain cells on it.,

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  4. nemo says:

    The problem I see with the whole area of mental health is who do we entrust with defining “normal” and who then do we allow to assess and label individuals accordingly? The potential to permanently destroy a life, either inadvertently or with malice aforethought seems far too great. Because I can’t perceive the sights and sounds that another does I am by default normal and they suffer from a mental illness? Do we in fact fear that which we don’t personally understand and respond by physically/chemically restraining people for “their own safety” when in fact we are more worried about our own safety?

    Projects like the BRAIN initiative are equally disturbing. Breaking down the brain into structure/function/activity relationships based on whatever imaging or assay technology they may develop from this is on par with finding the God particle. Some geek in a lab coat will convince people of just that and based on a PET scan you will be forever labeled with “x” mental condition. Hell, you might not even be allowed to refuse treatment at that point.

    I am sorry to hear about your brother and his experience. Thank you for sharing it. Someone, somewhere will benefit.

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    • As long as we define mental illness by behavioral traits, the DSMV-5 has total power over us. Because all of us over the span of or lives will exhibit behaviors that seem bizarre or out of place. BUt contact with other humans keeps us in line. Even during my worst of times, say, when dumped by a girl, no matter how bad I felt, human interaction made it better.

      So someone is out of tune, out on a limb, out there, acting out, that does not define them or their lives. It’s just a ritual we go through sometimes when in pain. We get better. No drugs please.

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  5. If you haven’t read it yet check out They Say You’re Crazy by Caplin. Incredibly disturbing yet educational book. Keep up the great work.

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