I’ve been ruminating on a post about psychiatry for a long time, and I still don’t know how to tackle it.
It’s hard enough to fathom that our brains are able to think about themselves… but when you understand that sometimes those same brains malfunction, and you want to sort out the difference between good, “normal” brains and bad, “broken” ones, it’s even more complicated…
How do we know when our brains aren’t working? How will we know if/when they’re fixed? Where do we even begin to define “normal” in the first place?
Countless books have been written on brain-science, and I’ve read a fair number of them. I could talk for hours about Mind Theories and Psychology–yet I still struggle to share anything specific…
…because I’ve noticed mental illness is a major area in which my fellow Americans are NOT open for discussion.
The large majority of people expect a very specific script of things said about brain disorders. And if you say anything else, you will be considered “ignorant” or even guilty of “causing harm” to those suffering.
Here are a few things you’re allowed to say, without getting into trouble:
-Mental illness is a disease, just like cancer.
-It’s not a choice, not a sign of weakness, and we cannot blame the mental illness on the individual.
-If you are experiencing depression, you should seek professional help.
There may be one or two other “safe” points, but those are the biggies.
Unfortunately, I’d like to move beyond these statements, to the deeper truths, and I don’t feel at liberty to do so.
I’m not saying I disagree with the cliche bullets, exactly. I just think brain function (and the treatment we use to correct it) is more complicated than that. Unlike tumors, which we can see on a scan, or a fractured bone, which shows up on X-rays, it’s not easy to describe mental disorders.
In fact, if we’re being honest, even the most up-to-date expert knows very little about the human mind.
For several years, I’ve been researching theories on The Brain–and thinking about its relationship with spiritual things, all the while knowing I could easily get myself diagnosed with depression (or even bi-polar disorder), if I trusted psychiatry as much as the average person…
My grandfather, by the way, has been a Manic Depressive since Bipolar Disorder was called “Manic Depression” in the early-80’s.
And I finally accepted a prescription for Zoloft after my son was born, when my Postpartum Depression/Anxiety spiraled to the point of Googling “Do suicide victims go to Heaven?” I was getting less than 2 hours of sleep each night for weeks, unable to rest between senseless panic attacks and mind-whirling question about how and why a Christian girl could still experience such fear/hopelessness.
All of these things lead me to read and listen and study and journal, in an attempt to better understand my mind and soul. But I haven’t been able to hit “post” on any of my ramblings…
…when suddenly mental illness is thrust into the spotlight again, and everybody discusses depression and suicide in the light of what happened this week.
Suddenly, I know what I need to say about psychiatry in our culture (and the reason I haven’t said more already)… The death of Robin Williams has proven there are several things you CAN’T say about mental illness:
-You can’t say mental illness is both physical and spiritual. Never mind that all of life is both physical and spiritual. Humans ARE spirits, temporarily housed in flesh to go through the Time Phase of existence. The majority of “reality” happens in the metaphysical world, beyond our eyes/ears/hands.
But you are not allowed to acknowledge the spiritual connection, in front of somebody struggling with depression. They may think you’re calling them sinful and feel more guilty. Just stick to the script and leave spirituality alone.
-You can’t say that mentally-ill folks still have choices. This goes for both “religious” and “non-religious” people. Apparently, (as Christians) we don’t realize that saying people have no choice means God is making them be crazy…and kill a bunch of people in a school….and/or take their own life.
We believe in free-will except when it comes to depression and suicide. If you suggest that somebody with depression still has the responsibility to choose for himself/herself, you will be lambasted by the public. (That’s why Matt Walsh is taking heat right now.)
–You can’t say suicide is a selfish choice. In fact, repeat after me: suicide is not a selfish choice. …even though yes it IS a selfish choice. It’s the ultimate self-saving decision. You’re NOT thinking about the family you leave behind. You’re NOT giving the Holy Spirit a voice.
Believing in the “selfishness” of suicide majorly impacted my decision to stay on earth and keep fighting. But we’re told you can’t say “That’s selfish,” unless you want to make the depressed person feel worse.
Of course, most depressed people will tell you they can’t feel worse than they already do, but don’t think about it too much.
You’re not a professional. Just stick to the script.
Thus, I’ve kept quiet about the many, many things I’ve been processing the last few years, because I don’t want to deal with the culture that attaches so many “rules” to the topic. If I question the wrongs things, it will be assumed automatically that my battle with depression isn’t as severe as Robin Williams’ battle was.
I’ll be told I just don’t understand.
There are hundreds of things I’ve learned about myself and about God, as I’ve fought. But I’ll keep ruminating for now. I find the treatment of Matt Walsh (and others who ask honest, philosophical questions) to be appalling and hypocritical. But I’ll keep searching for the best way to explain my observations…
It’s important to tread carefully around the witch-doctors and the giant, jeweled cow.