I’ve seen a lot of articles like this one lately, speculating on current practices in how we treat mental illness versus the available science on mental illness, and I am thinking long and hard about my faith in medication. I’m a poster girl for trauma and instability- I meet pretty much all of the criteria listed as being a risk factor for mental illness. And if I were to say anything is at the root of my psychological problems, it would be a lifetime of exploitation and abuse at the hands of capitalism and misogyny.
I’ve been faithful to at least the idea of medication since I was first diagnosed as bipolar six years ago, which is wholly understandable given that the event precipitating my hospitalization was hearing demonic voices telling me to hurt my son. Most people would, I think, pass on dysphoric psychosis, and meds can make them go away.
We’ve been told that voices are bad; that you need to medicate them away, but how does that explain the fact that that when voices are heard in less coercive, less exploitative, more compassionate societies, they tend to be happy and friendly?
What about those voices? The other voices, ones that I’ve always heard since I was a little girl- the ones who were generally peaceful and curious and full of life? They were never harmful, and even though I may have been different and weird because I heard them, they were an integral part of my thinking and creative forces. Before I was broken, back when I was innocent, they provided me with a deep and wise spirituality, a characteristic that other people have noticed about me entire life.
Now my head is quiet, and my spirit is empty.
I’ve always been highly empathetic. I’ve felt a deep connection with nature, and humanity. I’ve had other-worldly experiences. I’ve felt the energy of trees. I’ve resonated at the frequency of the Universe. But my soul has been sick for most of my adult life, raging uncontrolled for four years and medicated for six. And where am I? I’m barely hanging on. I’m not even consistently well, let alone successful. I can’t write poetry. I can’t write a novel. I don’t really feel anymore. But I’m not hearing scary voices, so according to current practice, I’m being a responsible patient.
I can readily identify the behaviors and traumas that contribute to my mental health issues, and I can also attest to the fact that medication and the therapy available to me through Medicaid is inadaquate to address these issues. I’m stuck in hell, fighting as hard as I can to get better every day but unable to access useful care.
Because what I need isn’t just biological, it’s spiritual. It’s compassion. It’s communal. It’s human. And there’s not a lot left of humanity to be found in the selfish, violent, abusive, materialistic world we live in.