My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Brain Freeze and Mental Heath Part II

I did it to myself again...I froze my brain. And not by walking in the cold Wisconsin winter weather either. Nope. What I did was write an impassioned post expressing my concerns about the public perception of mental illness, and then I ended by saying that I had so much more to say on the topic that I was going to write a follow up post. I even had the chutzpah to call the last post #1, implying that I would soon create a brilliant and equally impassioned sequel. I was so riled up, so certain that I had much more to say about this urgent and socially relevant topic that there was no way I could possibly get all that information and opinion in one singular post. I was on a mission!

Two weeks later I have two unfinished and unfocused drafts and I feel like I have painted myself into a corner. I have developed an acute performance anxiety that strikes only when I dare to commit myself to following through on...anything. After all these years I should know myself better.

Of course one could argue that challenging one's demons is probably a noble gesture, or that it's good practice that may lead to changing one's self defeating patterns. The latter is probably true, but so is forgiving ourselves when we don't quite succeed.

I don't know what it is about committing to something, anything, that has this power to completely slam me into a deadlock. I do have a couple of theories.

One is fear of failure. If I say I'm going to do something then people will have some sort of expectation attached to that promise. I will have no way of knowing what that expectation involves and therefore will be doomed to let someone down (this is my irrational thinking, mind you..not what I really believe)

Two, a promise infers a kind of deadline which translates in my mind to the realm of "should" which is a close cousin to the notion of authority, which automatically causes me to recoil. Is this a giant leap off the track of logical thought? Don't ask me, it's how my brain works, it's all I know. But all this circular thinking does bring me conveniently back to my original intent, to talk about mental health diagnoses.

My crazy train of thought and belief could easily be labeled as Attention Deficit Disorder, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or maybe even some level of Social Anxiety. But when it comes right down to it I'm not all that different than most people I know. When they are honest about their thoughts and feelings many people describe similar traits. Some people manage them more effectively. Some people have a kind of kill switch that easily overrides these worries and the resistance that they feel. Other people are more introverted and would be terrified of sharing personal thoughts and feelings all over the internet. But you know what, that's okay. We are all okay. For the most part none of these worrisome little thought patterns hurts anyone, not at this level anyway.

The bottom line is that there is great diversity in human thought, emotion and consciousness and I'm pretty sure we evolved that way for a reason. It brings with it a diversity of talent and capability for life's essential tasks; different tasks require different abilities and specialized ways of interacting with out environment. But it seems that as we move into a predominately service oriented society and as more industries adopt a hierarchical corporate model of structure and management the limits of acceptable behavior and cognitive processing are becoming narrowed, more specific, more controlled. Creative thinking, so called 'distracted thinking' and questioning authority has no place in this world. So what do we do? Rather than making adjustments in the workplace to accommodate the diversity, we attempt to fit people into a model that does not fit. And if it doesn't work out, then it's our fault for not fitting in. And because we love to have reasons and explanations for things that don't work out the way we want, we look for a cause of the problem. We assess and diagnose and label them as somehow deficient.

Of course we also like solutions too, and the easier and faster the better. So we have pills for that. We also like profit in this culture, and oh boy is there profit to be made from those pills! Now everybody's happy, right?

Wrong. I was taking an ssri (anti-depressant) for a couple of years. Granted when I first started taking it I was in the midst of more major life crises than most people would experience in a decade, they just all kind of piled up at one time. The medication did help me get through a very difficult time and I am grateful for that. It also, I noticed, made me a very focused and docile employee. Hmmm, interesting side effect. This made me wonder if the popularity and frequent recommendation for use of these medications isn't somehow linked to that quality. Now I know this borders on sounding a bit paranoid, a bit like maybe I read "Brave New World" one too many times, but is it such a stretch really? Think about all the school age children in overcrowded understaffed classrooms, all with needs of their own, who are given amphetamines or other Attention Deficit medication because they are more focused, i.e. less disruptive to the class and easier to manage.

Do I think there is some evil plan to turn us all into a nation of compliant well behaved automatons? I certainly hope not. But regardless of whether this is some master plan at social engineering or merely an unintended consequence of an attempt to make life easier the potential outcome is the same. Creativity is stifled, diversity and unique traits are eliminated and, most frightening, peoples health is put at risk. This is especially true for youth who, when medicated through the most significant social and emotional stages of life, miss the opportunity to learn how to self regulate and manage challenging emotions and social situations.

Finally, because I know it will come up at some point, I will say that there are indeed situations where medication can be life saving. For people with schizophrenia and other psychoses it can make the difference between living in a bizarre world where there is no line between the reality we perceive and the often terrifying reality they experience or being reasonably functional . Even then, the side effects of these medications are often horrible and many of them take a toll on major organs like the nervous system kidneys and liver. I think that we owe it to humanity and to the individuals who experience these terrifying and disabling conditions to continue to research and explore other treatments and ways of managing daily life, because all too often it is medication and only medication that is offered as the means to manage their lives.

And for the rest of us who are all unique individuals designed for some purpose in this life I truly hope that we can begin to embrace our qualities, our differences and our quirks and that we are able to utilize them as we co create a world where we are all valued and useful. I truly believe that is the master plan.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

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