• Joseph Couture

Swallow This Pill

So I suppose I shouldn't have let it get to me the way it did, but something happened recently that opened my eyes a bit. As a general rule the Internet, and social media in particular are pretty awful and not at all healthy. But I admit to moments of boredom when I am willing to waste time and get sucked into the pretty visuals of the Matrix.

On this occasion someone posted an article in a mental health forum about people "pill shaming" those who used psychiatric medications. They were mostly talking about depression and anxiety. I guess I took the bait and posted a comment saying that pills merely addressed symptoms and not the causes. This did not go over well.

The responses were angry. The first woman said depression was an issue with brain chemistry and I should "educate myself." I tried to calmly explain that while chemistry can certainly play a role sometimes, so do your circumstances.

If you are stressed to the max because you can't pay the rent, your boss is a tyrant, your spouse is abusive etc. etc., how could that not be part of the problem? How could such horrible circumstances not make you depressed and anxious? I said that I didn't see how taking a pill would change your situation. If you simply say the only thing wrong is your brain chemistry, how could you possibly begin to address the very real problems in your life?

A couple of people agreed with me, and one said it was an interesting discussion. But mostly people ripped my head off. They did the ALL CAP screaming thing and said I was picking on people with mental health issues. They were victims and survivors and if pills helped them with their anxiety, I should leave them alone.

I shouldn't have just stopped, but I tried to reason with them. I continued that the pharmaceutical industry and our consumer culture enforcers had a vested interest in saying that the answer to all that ails you is a pill. There are forces at work who don't want to you question whether the values they inculcate in you and what they say is the correct way to live might be wrong. Just take this pill, don't question anything and everything will be fine.

I found it hugely ironic that the response to this was an angry woman telling me I needed to learn to think outside of the box. I told her this “debate” was precisely an example of thinking inside the box, to which she snapped: “I’m not thinking inside the box!!” It was like a petulant schoolgirl in the playground being called names, “No I’m not. You are!”

None of this is new I suppose. But the lesson here for me was how strongly people reacted to any suggestion that anything but drugging yourself might be worth considering. They were so invested in their sense of identity as sick people rather than reversing it and saying they were simply people struggling in a sick society. They were really angry at the slightest suggestion that an examination of the bigger picture, themselves or their lives might be at all worth considering.

This is the point where I did give up and walk away from the discussion/argument. It really struck me that people are not only completely unwilling to question anything or hear any point of view than the one they like, but also they were enraged by anyone who tried to present them with any other perspective. I really should have known this, but it hit me rather hard that for the most part people have closed their minds and will fight to keep them closed. Trigger their defences and you better watch out...they are prepared to fight to hold on to what they prefer to believe. I'll remember that the next time I open my big mouth. Actually, no I won’t. I don’t really give a shit.