To medicate or not to medicate…

Some day we’ll medicate human experience right out of the human experience… – Dennis Lehane

More often than not I see clients at my practice who have experienced something quite impactful. This usually ranges from abuse and trauma, to relationship difficulties; physical illness; highly stressful work environments; loss and death. Once these souls reach my door they have usually been seen by an array of other professionals in an attempt to find a sense of relief and escape from the discomfort and psychic pain that these experiences have manifested. Naturally, as human beings we run for the hills at the first inkling of anything uncomfortable, distressing or that might indicate that we are suffering in one way or another.

So what have we done to address the inconvenience that is our emotions, brought on by what can only be described as conditions of the human experience? Ah yes…as we tend to do with most things we do not understand…we have seeked to destroy these feelings, to push them down and to make them invisible, and in no more a successful way than to medicate! Anti-depressants, anti-anxieties, anti-psychotics…anti-feeling-anything-at-all. We have come to believe that to feel anything remotely discomforting such as sadness or fatigue (otherwise known as depression), stress and feeling overwhelmed because we have too much on our plates (otherwise known as anxiety) or perhaps we are simply more odd and out of sorts than most (psychosis), we must be medicated. We have come to believe that any “negative” emotions that are present to signal to us that we, in fact, need more self-care, need to talk, need to make a drastic and immediate change in our lives, or need to exit a toxic environment or relationship, or that we need to be cared for are very, very dangerous and should be attacked…attacked with the same vitriol with which we attack the nest of wasps outside our bedroom window…with significant doses of insecticide…or in this case medication.

I’d like to pause here to allow for a disclaimer that I know many colleagues and other dear souls will have already readied the defense of medication for…I am most certainly not saying that the need for such medications are  obsolete. I acknowledge and even praise their worth in the most extreme of circumstances, and I have seen first-hand how they have transformed the lives of people as a very last resort. They do most certainly have their place in this world. But do I think that as a society of humanity we are allowing such medications to be over-prescribed, over-used and to hamper our psychological development. Yes.

To put this theory to the test I recently decided to experience the effects of one of the popularly prescribed anti-anxieties out there. (Not to worry, I did not go on a week-long psychotropic medication binge or anything as drastic). I was instead interested in experiencing what my clients experience when prescribed these medications. So, over a long-weekend where I did not work, I took one dose of this medication. The effects where quite immediate. Most noticeably, I began to feel quite out of sorts, it was difficult to focus or concentrate and all I wanted to do was sleep. This feeling went on for a day-and-a-half! I began to wonder how anyone is happily and successfully going about their day-to-day lives and completing daily tasks, let alone going to work on this stuff!? Now I know some might be thinking…”yes, but these medications are given in combination with other medications to counteract the side-effects, and there are specific doses for each person.” This sounds a little worse actually than just the one kind of med? In any case, I have had countless clients complain about how these medications make them feel, that they not only take away the negative emotions somewhat, but that they also take away the positive emotions, such as excitement and happiness. If you are someone who has been prescribed such a plethora of pills, you might know what I am referring to here…maybe?

So, although I respect the use of psychiatric medications where they are absolutely needed, I must admit that I am more an advocate for; “if you are willing to feel it, you can heal it”.  And what if we considered that these meds are indeed being over-prescribed, that there are too many of us walking around like real-life zombies, because we have been told that this is the only way to feel better? To this I ask…what if there is another way? What if we allowed ourselves the experience of a safe space, where in a gentle and safe way, we can feel and just maybe… heal?

Dear lovely people, please do not leave your medication if you have been prescribed it, merely maybe consider that there are people out there who are very willing, and very able to assist you with whatever difficulties are contributing to your need to use it, and with a combination approach, just maybe you can work towards healing for your mind, body and spirit.