I noticed in my wanderings through social media, after the article by Giles Fraser in The Guardian titled Taking Pills for Unhappiness Reinforces the Idea That Being Sad is Not Human, that all sorts of people came out crying “foul.” How dare Giles, they said, minimize the horrors of depression by calling it “unhappiness.” (Here is one such response.)
Well, perhaps they have point. Maybe he should not have called it “unhappiness,” though for me his argument remains cogent anyway. Depression is one variety of unhappiness in, my book. Sometimes it’s really, really severe unhappiness. It can, more aptly, perhaps, be called despair.
I, in fact, do not like the clinical term “depression” because as Giles suggests it takes us away from the very human experience of despair. Acute mental distress is no less human than unhappiness. In my mind there is no compelling reason to take drugs in most instances of acute despair, either. Despair is generally there for a reason. And if we are given the space to delve into it we can learn a lot from the experience. This, of course, is not welcome news to many who have no interest in doing that; and certainly no one should be made to do it if they don’t want to. Some of us, however, have a keen interest in learning about our minds and bodies and spirits and are interested in taking on this challenge.
So, for me, his argument holds. I took the psych drugs and ended up in a far far worse place for it. I’ve had to face ugliness most people don’t even know exists. I would have gratefully dealt with the issues I got drugged for by natural means when they came upon me had I had the opportunity. I was not given one. I actually looked very hard for one, but 30 years ago that sort of thing was truly not on offer for most people and given the amount of coercion that was applied by those offering “care” I succumbed to toxic and disabling treatments that after numbing me out for years ended up tossing me into hell regions of the body and mind that no one should have to ever face.
Now, with the internets, aid options are becoming more widely known since those of us who’ve learned to heal and thrive through natural means can communicate and share what we know. It’s still very hard and often impossible to get information about healing naturally from our doctors, therapists and from social service agencies.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand: Is depression unhappiness? Of course it is and, as stated above, sometimes it’s glaring, painfully acute unhappiness which, to be precise, is also despair, anguish, despondency, misery, gloom, wretchedness…etc etc… I’d say calling all those states unhappy is pretty right on, no?
And they’re all pretty darn human feelings too. Otherwise they would not be part of our commonly shared language.
We have good reason to despair, to feel anguish, and pain. We have a planet that we are poisoning. We have people populating the planet who like to harm one another. We have families who, in their own pain and trauma, pass on that pain and trauma to their children. We face tragedies of all kinds just by being alive. Being human is DIFFICULT. It’s also the most amazing adventure and it can be very very painful to wake up to just how amazing and outrageous this life we’ve been given is. It’s no small task for any of us.
For some people, part of the process may require taking psych drugs at certain junctures. Okay, that’s fine, we all do what we need to do to get through the night, so to speak. But by the same token thinking about why it might not be a good idea is legitimate, too. Enter: Giles Fraser, who has a legitimate perspective, too. His perspective is especially worth considering since, by taking the drugs, one runs the risk of being made far far worse off.
Then there is a whole host of possible other — potentially serious — adverse effects that many people might not want to deal with if they understood that there are truly viable alternatives. I’ve worked in the population of those gravely harmed by psych meds for a long time. It’s ugly. I’ve also worked in the mainstream mental health system for many years. A lot of people are harmed there, too, and don’t even realize it. I know that safer methods of healing are simply not on offer most of the time. I know that most psychiatrists, therapist and social workers are not even aware of how powerfully effective other means of healing can be. Not only are they not aware; they deny that these safer methods exist. This must change.
So the argument against Giles that depression is far worse than unhappiness makes little sense to me, given that I agree with him AND I have indeed felt great despair and devastation in my life. Indeed, I wasn’t happy at those times… just as Giles says. I now see it as having ripened and matured me. It is part of life. I celebrate the whole spectrum of emotions now.
In my case, however, the worst of these states were actually created by the very drugs intended to stop people from suffering. The promise that comes with these drugs is often simply a lie. Being that I’m not a masochist I would have opted out of those drug-induced iatrogenic hell realms had I known they really were not necessary. I could have skipped that part entirely had I realized there was an option.
And you know what, folks? There are lots of options. And I know lots of people who’ve had horrible pain and suffering in their lives who learned to live and thrive without the use of psychiatric drugs. See Drug free recovery from depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc…
Drug free healing and thriving is not the only way to go, but we deserve to know that it’s possible and be given meaningful options to accomplish such healing. Many people have learned to come through great amounts of despair and pain without choosing to take drugs that have gravely harmed thousands of others.
At the top of Beyond Meds is a drop-down navigation menu with many ideas about how to get started learning about natural means of care. It is by no means exhaustive. There are as many paths to wellness as there are human beings. I’ve personally found when it comes to well-being (mental and physical) and prevention of illness EVERYTHING matters. Our relationships with others and the planet, the food we eat, and the air we breath… how often we move our bodies and the thoughts we nurture in our minds and souls.
We’re holistic beings and we’re natural beings. Psych meds scrambled that up for me and made my issues far greater. I found out about how everything matters on my healing journey, when I freed myself from the drugs.
So the answer to “Is depression unhappiness?” is a resounding YES. And it’s so much more too. It’s also despair, anguish, despondency, misery, gloom, wretchedness… etc., etc. Some of us have found that facing that ugliness and getting to the other side is a valuable part of being human. Those of us who feel that way should be given the supports to do it without neurotoxic drugs.
We are, after all, simply being simply human. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.