The Myth of Mental Illness – The Sarcastic Psychologist

Please… Have a sit.
– “Thank you.”
So. Tell me… What’s wrong?
– “Nothing, I’ve only got depression.”
Do you? What makes you think that?
– “Well, I don’t feel like doing anything in general!”
That’s it?
– “No I mean… I don’t feel going at work neither… Plus  I just want to stay home all the time basically!”
Wow. Now that’s a bummer…

There are certain things in life that all of us need. A roof over our heads and some food every day are certainly the first that comes to mind. But even though these two allow you to avoid starving or freezing to death, they’re clearly not the only factors that one’s need to stay psychologically healthy.
A family, a stable relationship, a meaningful job, a healthy body, a circle of friends, and some kind of routine, they all undoubtedly play an essential role to keep our lives properly balanced. Having even one missing can make you feel like there’s a hole in your life, and that can cause a constant feeling of uneasiness and sadness.
A fourty hours a week job waiting for you after the holidays, someone to spend Christmas with, and a whole bunch of people spamming you on New Year’s Eve, can still make you feel like there’s something wrong – for example – without a woman at your side.

But. Do those factors always determine one’s well being?
Unfortunately no.
There are several documented cases of people suffering for reasons that don’t seem to be related to their personal lives. Their family is functioning and yet they feel sad, they have a job they like but still don’t feel like going, they’re phisically healthy and yet don’t find the strenght to get up. Their emotions are poorly regulated and their mood is constantly terrible…
What’s wrong with them?
Nothing.
They – as far as we can tell – are just depressed.

The main cause of clinical depression is today still debated among scientists. Whether it can be traced to a genetic linkage or not, it almost never seem to be triggered by an event nor the existence of external factors or a lack there of.
Whatever is wrong with them, it really looks to be merely physiologically determined.

– “So what, you’re saying that they are the only people with real depression?”
Not quite. I’m saying that they’re the only ones with JUST depression as a problem…
– “Really…? Because look it says here on Wikipedia that… Oh great…”
What’s wrong?
– “Nothing… I think I ran out of battery…”
Did you? How do you know that?
– “…What do you mean?”
How do you know there isn’t something wrong with your cell-phone period?
– “‘What, like faulty?”
For instance…
– “‘Because there could be a whole lot of other reasons why it doesn’t work!”
Exactly.

The functioning of our electronic devices are dependent on an incredible amount of external factors.
Everytime they produce an unwanted outcome the size of our frame of interpretations is determined by the anomaly, making us investigate what caused the occurrence instead of assume the issue is directly with the device itself.
From the battery, to men fixing power lines everyday, all the way down to the electromagnetic solar radiation, there is something approximating an infinate number of factors that allows them to work. And because we all know that, we don’t automatically assume they’re faulty everytime they shut off, nor do we certainly look out the window for instance to check if the sun is still on.
The black screen of the TV is just a reaction. Whatever trigged the reaction is what we’re looking for.
The fact that it’s off, is just a symptom…

– “Meaning?”
Meaning that when there’s a problem with anything, the symptoms on the surface are only symptoms. Until proven guilty, they’re not the cause of the problem.
Stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental disorder for that matter can be triggered by almost an infinate number of factors as well, and therefore assume they simply manifest themselves out of nowhere and for no reason whatsoever it’s not the wisest thing to conclude.
In other words… It might not be that you’re mentally ill, it might just be that you’re life has gone horribly wrong one step at the time.

– “That’s it…?”
Well no!
It might also mean that you’re suffering from the loss of a loved one… Or that you just received some bad news about yourself or someone that you care about… Or that some other major event has radically changed your life expectations and you’re having a hard time dealing with it, or even that you fail to adopt the right frame of interpretations everytime something happens, so even a relatively insignificant negative news is one more reason to jump from a bridge… Those are all very common.
But even if one of that was your case, the rule still apply.

One, two, three, and occasionally even more than three tragedy can hit someone at the same time. Now dealing with one can be hard enough, but three or four at the same time man… That can really make them feel like there’s just no way out.
– “… Like…?”
God… Death of a family member… Business bankrupcy for hyperinflation… And cancer diagnose… Bam!
As they try to lift one up, one of the others will inevitably pull them down…
Are they also depressed?
Maybe. But that’s not the point here. The point is that Depression itself, is not their problem.

– “…So what’s their solution?”
Well, generally any. Any solution is better than none…
No magic spell unfortunately can make their problems disappear, but you know… If anti-depressants are the only thing that can help them cope with their situation, then why not? Worst case scenario they’ll soon know and quit taking them!
– “What about weed?”
Oh for the sake of Christ…
– “Yeah I know… It normally makes me feel better but… Yes I guess yes it also makes me a bit paranoid too…”
No kidding.
– “So you think I should take anti-depressant instead?”
Maybe, what was your problem again?
– “I told you…  I‘m always tired in general, and I feel like nothing is worth my time…”
And you thought smoking pot would help you with that, didn’t you?
– “No but… Nothing else seemed like… Listen can you please tell me what’s wrong with me and just gimme something??”
Sure.

We tend to conceptualize mental disorders as some kinds of deseases, like a virus that happens to target unfortunate people. And even though on odd occasions – as we’ve seen – it does indeed seem to be the right thing to conclude, most of the times is simply not.
Most people don’t walk into therapy to treat mental disorders, they walk in to sort out their lives.  Something has gone terribly wrong and they are not sure when, how, or even why.
They have problems, and they want to know what they are called…

There are family resemblance categories of mental disorders that are widely accepted by psychiatrists and psychologists all over the world. You can sometimes be diagnosed with a psychopathology if you manifest atleast three of the eight hypotheticals symptoms that constitute a disorder.
But here’s the paradox.
You can end up with the same diagnosis, despite showing three different symptoms.
Symptom 1,3,4? You’re likely to be a narcissist.
Symptom 2,6,7? You’re as likely to be a narcissist.
Symptom 3,5,8? You get the idea…

The categories don’t exist to create a scientific data. They exist to give people a language to comunicate with.
Now. There is of course a downside in being placed in a box. Once you’re labelled with a disorder you might start acting it out more often. But I mean, the last you wanna hear when you go see your doctor is: you know, I’ve never seen a case like yours before!
And that’s why it’s often a relief for people to be diagnosed in therapy. It’s like walking in with a million potentially venemous snakes, and getting out with a single managable viper.
Knowing that your problem has a name means that you’re not the only one in the entire human history to have to solve it, and that’s not just good news for the patient, it’s also a starting point for the Doc.

But! Here’s the problem with that…
How do we know we chose the right place to start?
Now that’s an entirely different story. Having an almost infinate number of variables that could have caused the anomaly to occur, the chances that we left one out while trying to “crack the case” , are pretty damn high…

“…Liike…”
Like… How’s your social status in general?
– “… My what?”

Have you incorporated the necessary values to be admired and respected by people, or have you let those values collapse one by one because it’s a lot easier than acting them out?
There aren’t many differences between being depressed and being at the bottom of a dominance hierarchy.
We control our status on social media everyday, we look at other people when we go to a party, and we talk to see how many people listen.
Why doing it? Because we wanna know how much attention we’re receiving. We want to know our position in the social environment…

We strive in any domain of competence to be admired by our peers, we act out what we believe in to be trusted by people, and we take responsabilities to earn the respect of our communities. And that’s how we rise in any domain. That’s how we learn to respect ourselves.
How?
By adopting the values required and by paying the price of incorporating them. And those who are not willing to do any of that, they normally tend to blame every little aspect of life…

So. Are you really depressed or just cynical?
Are you facing the tragic aspect of life, or do you simply whine about every little thing that ever happened to you? Because the symptomatology of being defeated by life and clinically depressed is very similar. And that often makes for us, one easily mistaken for the other.

If you’re walking around all crouched over is probably because your level of seratonin is low as a conseguence of your status…
Plus, are you planning to achieve something in life or have you simply gave up on any idea of success?
No purpose? No direction? No aim? No goal in general??
Man… Having none of that makes of course the act of getting up in the morning everything but justifiable. No wonder you’re always tired…

People with a low status in any particolar hierarchy of values are more impulsive and emotionally disregulated. Their need to obtain a positive emotion increases, but their options to grab one are constantly in short supply.
So their strategy is one, and one only; short term gratification. They catch their positive emotion where they can get it. And, man! With the least amount of effort possible of course!
So in this case, no wonder pot seems your only solution.

Are you depressed or just lazy?
The answer is never honest, so the question never gets asked. Because, guess what…
It’s a lot easier to assume that TV is simply broken, than face the fact that you might have done something to turn it off!
And so, what do most of my peers do?
There you go! Just take this pills and go home man! Congratulations, you’re Pseudo-Depressed…

– “Am I?”
Yes.
– “So… What should I do?”
Well, what do you do when the TV suddenly turns off?
– “I… Try to find out why…?”
Ok. And what do you do when you find out it’s the remote’s fault?
– “I… Turn it back on…?”
Exactly. You don’t certainly sit there and blame your sorry ass for sitting on it…

Bit too harsh for therapy wasn’t it?

 

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Inspirations:

  • Thomas Szasz – The Myth of Mental Illness

Thanks for reading.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

Mark

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