Medicating Reality vs. Mediating Reality

A reader emailed me last week, asking for some insight on the widespread depression as well as the use of medication all around him – especially in people who seem to see what’s going on. From his email:

It’s like life was not complicated when we weren’t questioning anything, after seeing the loopholes in our social structure, now we think twice about everything. All of us have come under a spell of depression and a feeling of hoplessness. We’re all fighting against the doctor suggestions to continue with medications as we all feel that our reasons for our emotional states are justifiable.

Believe me, I know what this feels like. The ability to perceive just a bit of the hypocrisy and lunacy in local and world affairs, combined with life’s usual onslaught of medical, financial, legal, and social traumas (this past month has been just nuts for me – even though I realize that a tax audit can be a beautiful thing, as one of the comments to my post last week suggests), can lead to a certain amount of wobble. I’ve felt quite on the edge, myself, between work, crises, and general global malaise, and have been being extra careful not to get sick or to be careless.

But meds? Here’s part of what I responded to the email:

Well, my only counsel – as someone confronting some of the very same issues – is that medications tend to bend the self to the circumstances. Autonomy and consciousness involve recreating the circumstances to one’s own design – or, ideally, a collective, collaborative design.

So, unless a person has a very hardwired over-reaction to stimuli that make him or her incapable of engaging the cognitive/emotional apparatus effectively, I’d advise to stay away from using meds as a way of coping with the increasing stress of modern life. Very often, it’s life that has to change rather than the reaction.

I am delighted that ssri’s and other meds exist for those who have serotonin management issues; these can be traced to organic conditions, chemical imbalances, genetics, or even certain kinds of traumas and upbringings. Medications can make the difference between a happy life and no life at all.

But when school-mandated Ritalin prescriptions increase fourfold in as many years, or when over 30% of certain communities are revealed to be on anti-depressants, I question whether the medications aren’t being used more as a method of social control, or, at the very least, personal resignation.