Monday, June 7, 2010

Medication, Entitlement & Alienation

As a mental health therapist who has worked for years in both a hospital and private practice setting, I have seen firsthand how the dominant medical community has pushed medication as the cure for both physical and emotional ailments.  I worked 8 years in a hospital outpatient clinic with the schizophrenic population who were prescribed medication after medication while treatment teams gathered monthly  pretending these people were getting "better" while ignoring their outbursts, drooling, sleeping in groups or even hospitalizations that occurred that same month.  I guess for many working in the system it was easier than asking for a paradigm shift and having to fight the established norm.  I finally got out of the system more than a year ago.  I tried for 8 years to be a source of change.  Very rarely did those psychiatrists and county case workers ask themselves if even THEY could possibly be "well" and live well in the low grade board and cares they resided, eating the cheap, processed, nutrient deficient foods they ate, and whether one can rise above the lowest common denominator in one's environment when that denominator is often chaos, uncertainty and even fear.  It's a no brainer.  Or, at least it seemed clear as day to me.

Sadly, this approach is not limited to the severely mentally ill.  Just turn your TV on.  How many commercials are pushing a medication for whatever old or newly defined disorder they say you're living with?  What IS dis-ease?  Much, much more than we are being told, but I don't know how many are asking.  As a consequence, I think we are living in an increasingly short sighted, entitled and alienated society.  When you see your doctor, how often does he or she ask about your happiness?  Your values?  If your actions are aligning with your purpose and meaning in life?  If you even FEEL purpose and meaning in your life and how you've come to define that? Rarely does a medical professional approach health from a biological-psychological-sociological-spiritual perspective.  Instead, the body is a machine functioning in a vacuum, and consequently, so too are the emotional and spiritual systems.

My strong belief is that the more we become distanced and estranged from the sources which fuel our lives, the more alienated, diseased and depressed a culture we will become.  How many of us see a vegetable from seed to plate?  An animal from birth to meal?  A home from tree to structure?  A neighbor or friend from child to elder?  A partner or spouse from infatuation through difference to a deep negotiating love?  Instead, our culture largely operates from the premise of stimulation, pleasure and service to self.  And we want things FAST. We want to feel good.  I'm often reminded how Martin Buber at length discoursed on the difference between the "I-it" relationship (how can this thing serve me) and the "I-Thou" relationship (regarding the "other" whether person, or animal or creation as having dignity in itself, and extending respect and creating exchange through relationship with regard).  I'm sad for our culture, but I have hope.  My hope is that we can somehow slow down and see the "Thou" in each other and creation, thereby creating a more intentional relationship serving not just ourselves, but relationship itself.  I hope we can ask the big questions, and enough of us will create strong, supportive communities that will withstand the fads and financing that blow past us.  I hope we can get to know each other, what we eat, and how we live from beginning to end with focus, concern and true regard.  I hope we are willing to work hard for self and other, believe in something past the immediate and discover the internal reward which results.  This is not a philosophy of economics, but an economy of spirituality that can never run dry.  Healing is going to take a lot more than a pill.

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