It used to be walking down the street of any major city in North America (and Europe, I discovered) that people would stop you and ask if you would like to take a personality test. They promised it would reveal all sorts of secrets about you and help you make important life decisions.
It turned out that the most important decision you could make in your life was joining the Church of Scientology. They could provide all the answers for all the questions you could possibly have on your journey through life. If you became a Scientologist the world was your oyster.
What do you do if you’re the author of a bunch of pretty bad science fiction books which aren’t selling worth squat and you want to be famous anyway? Do what L. Ron Hubbard did and start a religion. I’m sure most of you have seen his massive books littering remainder bins in bookstores everywhere. By far the worst examples of deforestation in existence.
So I think I can be excused for choking on my morning coffee when I hear the pronouncements of Tom Cruise extolling the virtues of Scientology over that of trained practitioners of psychiatry. Now, I’m no advocate of the “there’s a pill for every ill that afflicts you” school of medicine, but that’s not to say that certain people at particular points in their lives don’t need the assistance of medication.
Depression and other psychiatric illnesses can be genuinely debilitating to those afflicted with them. The causes of depression can be deep rooted and deep seated, ranging from the after affects of childhood abuse to the stress of having just too many things to cope with. Medication will not cure depression, that can only be done by dealing with the issue causing it, but it can provide relief to the patient of its crippling symptoms.
Anyone who has ever suffered from clinical depression knows just how horrendous the experience can be. If bad enough and left untreated it can lead to suicide. It doesn’t mean that you are just a little blue or down in the dumps. It means that you have lost the will to live at all.
There’s nothing left that motivates you to do anything. In some cases the patient is so badly afflicted that getting out of bed is simply not worth it to them. Those things like family and friends that used to mean so much to you, have no meaning anymore. You neglect yourself and them because what’s the point anyway?
This lack of motivation also feeds the depression, because now you start to feel worthless. It becomes a vicious circle of depression, not being able to do anything, and further depression. Without something to break the downward spiral a person could fall in perpetuity.
That’s where medication comes in, but not as a cure all or a panacea that will make the world a place better for the patient. Since most anti-depressants work as feeling suppressers the person using them will actually be in the position of not being able to feel any extremes of emotions. Neither sadness nor joy will play a role in their lives.
While this state of mind is not conducive to living life to the fullest, it’s a lot better than being bed ridden. Once the sufferer begins to respond to the medication they must begin to seek therapy to deal with the root causes of the depression. As this can be a drawn out process, with almost as many steps backward as forward, the necessity for medication remains until the patient has shown significant improvement.
Like all medications that work with brain chemistry, antidepressants can have significant contradictions dependant on dosage. In the early stages of treatment it is essential for the physician and the patient to work together closely in monitoring client reactions, physical and emotional, to the drug. Otherwise they could end up causing more harm then good.
Recovery from severe emotional trauma can take years. Sometimes after an initial couple of years of therapy a patient will feel well enough to be taken off medication and begin to pick up the pieces of their life. But some years down the road they may find that problems start to return.
Deep seated emotional scars are like an onion, with many layers waiting to be peeled back until the core is reached. Our psyches are only able to deal with so much at any given time and need to take breaks from recovery. While some people find that their problems have been solved by dealing with only the external layers, others need to delve deeper to find complete relief.
It’s usually some sort of other trauma, a physical injury, the loss of somebody close or the end of a long term relationship, that triggers the onset of symptoms again. Sometimes the person who had previously suffered depression displays a different reaction, such as anxiety or panic disorders, when they relapse. New symptoms require new medication and new therapy.
The only way for these patients to obtain significant control over their lives again is to continue the process of uncovering those details of their lives that caused the symptoms to begin with. There is the danger that a person can fall into the trap of becoming dependent on analysis, or of over analysis, to the point that they lose sight of the fact that all humans have difficulties at one time or another without there necessarily having to be any hidden meaning.
There comes a point when it becomes essential that clients learn to differentiate between the normal day to day stress of living and that which is caused by a prior experienced trauma. Unfortunately for some this point may never be reached as they were too severely traumatized to ever be able to cope with the realities of today’s world.
The pharmaceutical companies would have us believe that there is a pill for every problem and if you only take their tablet all your problems will be solved. There are doctors who keep their patients in a continual pharmaceutical haze either because of laziness or ignorance. Any number of patients misdiagnosed are too many and too many have ended up in the psychiatric wards of hospitals from having been prescribed medications that do more harm then good.
The nonsense that Tom Cruise and the scientologists are espousing as gospel is even more damaging. Mental illnesses are real and need to be treated in a responsible manner with proper support and respect. Patients are vulnerable to suggestion, and the slightest indication that their problems lack validity (that the problems are “all in their head,” so to speak) seriously undermines their hopes for recovery.
People are free to believe what they want and to live their lives in any way they see fit. But advocating theories that are potentially dangerous, based on no proof except your say so, is highly irresponsible, especially for a person of Mr. Cruise’s influence. His fame is not an adequate credential for giving medical advice.
gypsyman has been undergoing therapy for post traumatic stress syndrome caused by childhood sexual abuse on and off since 1994. While some may consider the matter open for debate, he feels that it has helped him significantly. He is currently in therapy and on medication for anxiety and panic disorder. “I’m much better now” :(Night Court, Judge Stone’s father played by John Astin better known as Gomez Adams in the T.V. version of the Adam’s family)