The medicalisation of mental health is the product of an industry. That being the case, it’s worth it to ask what the agenda of that industry is. I won’t pretend to be able to read the minds of drug company executives but I know they have the same problem that any executive in a publicly traded company has: your job and your pay and a large part of your family’s happiness is based on how well you either cut costs or increase profits. But what’s the mean for the rest of us?
A lot of people work in jobs where they’re already overtaxed by too few staff and old or malfunctioning equipment, so we’ve cut expenses about as much as we can. That leaves profits. If only we could have 15% more diseases every year….
A disease is a findable thing. A doctor can point to something and say; this is happening because a disease is impacting you in this particular way. A disease is its own entity seeking to do its own thing that is often contrary to the needs of its host. At the same time, with no disease present we know otherwise healthy muscles can atrophy and disappear if we just choose not to use them. They will appear diseased because they will shrink and contort but if we went to the gym and changed how we used them they could again be strong and flexible. So it goes with our emotions.
You can feel an emotion and take a pill to rid yourself of it or; you can experience that emotion, become familiar with it and then master it. Some people never learned to juggle the ball of happiness by getting lots of chances to drop it. Some people never learned to juggle the knives of misfortune because they always closed their eyes and ran rather than face some early cuts. So when it comes to negative emotions we’ve either ran or tried to shut them down, but what if you coped instead? You remember that don’t you: coping?
I’ve written for years about the value of nature. I’ve written for years about the value of friends. I’ve written for years about the value of laughter and enjoyment. Meanwhile most people go buy something, or they go to their doctors and get mood pills or they go to a friend to get weed or some other socially acceptable medication, but hardly anyone copes. And every year it gets worse.
Bad things do not create a bad life. A bad attitude about things creates a bad life. Good things do not create a good life, a good attitude about things creates a good life. So what’s a good attitude? Turn it off! Give me my pill! Shut up! Go away! Nope. A good attitude is more like, wow, today was hard. Want to go swimming or biking tonight? How about if we visit the neighbours? They’re always so funny! Or how about a great meal?
There you go right there. Want to know the difference between a happy family and a miserable one? That’s it: how you respond to the world. Happy people don’t have better lives they react better. They don’t dull themselves with a pill, they don’t smoke a big bowl and then sit in front of a screen until they fall asleep and they don’t sit and bitch and commiserate. They take action. They run somewhere, accomplish something or see someone.
Take all of the time you spent wasting life, wanting it to be better. Be honest: it’s a huge amount of your day for most even mildly unhappy people. Now what would your life look like if that time was spent exercising, or learning, watching comedies and seeing friends? Would your life still be so small and dull? Would it still seem overrun and rushed? Would you still have as many problems?
There are things we can do things about and things we can’t do much about. Start looking at your life for its opportunities. Rather than a pill take a walk. Rather than escapism connect with a friend. And rather than idleness choose movement. Your life is what you make of it. If it’s currently full of complaints and struggle then you built it that way. Start looking around for the invisible choices you’ve made and find better ones. Because you shouldn’t be surprised that you’d enjoy laughing with a good friend a lot more than bitching about a bad one.
Go create a good week with good choices. They’re not hard. They’re just not a habit–yet.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.