“The bird born in a cage, will think flying is an illness.”
It all started when I found myself contemplating the subject of the overmedicalization of America and the idea of healthcare as a multi-billion dollar business, before it is anything else. Whether this thinking was sparked by the COVID vaccination debate, our political climate or the rise of psychotropic advertising that can be traced back to the early 1900s, I am not sure.
But over the weekend I sat down with a dear friend of mine who came to America after being born and raised in Serbia, which, incase you are a geographically challenged/semi-ignorant American like me and need a quick refresher, is country located in Southeastern Europe. We had a heart to heart about our upbringing, relationships, love, loss, lessons, friendship and it sparked conversation around my childhood. She opened up the can of worms that is the journey I’ve been on since Debbie and Phil dropped me off at my first therapy appointment, sometime around the age of 12.
Coming from a girl who survived ongoing civil war and unrest, a NATO bomb dropped on her country in 1999 and the death of her father all before the age of 20 — as you may imagine, she had an extremely insightful outsider perspective on how we Americans straight up fail when it comes to conceptualizing and managing “stress,” or in otherwords, the challenges that simply come with the territory of being human.
I will say with confidence, Dragana Nikolić takes resilience and mental toughness to a whole new level. I ‘ve always looked up to her because of that.
These are traits that are not first nature for me, partially due to certain things I was taught to believe about myself at a very stupid young age. There were turbulent dynamics, relationships and environments that shaped much of my formative years. As I look back on those early years now, I notice a lot of uncertainty about the way I grew up. Definitely not to the extent that is required on some people’s path. My parents are not raging drug addicts. I was not physically abandoned or sexually abused as a child. I was not left alone to singlehandedly raise myself and my baby brother.
For me it was just the subtle aggression, the fighting words and consistent instability that created the most confusion. After attending seven different schools and living in nine different houses by the time I turned 18, I’d become accustomed to constant curveballs, a pattern of uprooting and changing course on the fly. The only sure thing about my family was that we were nomads of the North and the concept of growing up in one home with one, solid friend group to lean on was something I would never know anything about.
The four of us made up the traveling team, and I was born on the run. I once heard someone say “life should be a series of daring adventures launched from a safe base.” I love that. And while we definitely had the daring adventures piece down to a science, it was this whole “safe base” idea that we just couldn’t quite wrap our heads around.
Eventually, this chaotic lifestyle coupled with my parents hot and cold marriage started to carve some jaded edges around my heart. Together, they influenced my take on love and my take on the world. I no longer blame them for any of my troubles because I know they always meant well, and in adulthood I’ve learned fear and generational trauma will drive even the “sanest” of people to do some pretty outrageous stuff.
About twenty or so years have passed since those days and I am still making sense of them. Maybe I never will but due to my stubbornness and introspective tendencies you best believe I’m gonna try. I expect to spend a good chunk of my twenties trying to at least. Trying to undo the knots and re-braid the ropes that were tied inside of me during those years. I mean if we’re being honest, part of me does wish I wouldn’t have been dropped off at a psychologist’s door step one day, to fix what they identified as an unruly combo of hormones and unfavorable behaviors for an adolescent girl on the bleeding edge of puberty.
The only reason I’d wish for an alternative to that parental judgement call is because that also just so happens to be when I started believing there really was something innately wrong with me. That I wasn’t like the other kids and never would be. The same personality traits that made me a silly and vivacious young girl were now to be tamed at all times. I became extremely shy, sensitive and very unsure of who I was. My self-concept did not match the daughter my emergency contacts and the emergency experts, said I was supposed to be. But it is what it is, and what it is now is decent blog content I guess.
Living in America under the thumb of Big Pharma and according to the principles of western medicine, we are conditioned to think an official prognosis, a doctor’s note and that subsequent magic pill are the necessary keys to solving all of our existential ~problems~. The tranquillizers and anti-depressants of the world have become our favorite, tried and true, “easy way out.” We offload our issues (and our children’s issues) onto the people we like to call, experts, before we look inward and examine what is actually causing the problem. Before we evaluate if there are any non-mind/body/spirit altering solutions available to try first.
The more I think about it, the more skeptical I am that any man-made, genetically engineered formulaic drug could possibly be what we need to save ourselves, from ourselves. I’m not denying that mental illness and education are honorable and very important causes, they definitely are. I still think there is need for licensed mental health practitioners in today’s world and consider myself an advocate for causes like these. But I’ve also turned into an advocate for those who perhaps can’t advocate for themselves, due to circumstances like age, for example.
Or who knows, maybe I really am just becoming a wild and crazy conspiracy theorist in my old age.
Still, it seems like there comes a point when misinformation and this hyperawareness of mental/emotional/physical ~problems~ as they exist in textbooks is actually what’s making us sick. There comes a point when maybe we should go ahead and acknowledge that we’ve become the lab rats of our own scientific experiment. We are perpetuating problems where there are none.
We are letting fear and the “not my problem” mentality win.
The cold hard truth seems to be that our societal systems were built to serve two main purposes: a need for control and a need for financial abundance. Like our systems of government and colonization, our health systems present the same double-edged sword.
When does our widely accepted solution transform into the root of the very problem we set out to solve in the first place? How fine is the line between necessary therapeutic practices and pill pushing as a one-size fits all cure that is slowly destroying (hu)mankind?
I stumbled upon the work of Phil Hickey, a licensed psychologist, presently retired — who dedicated the majority of his life to clinical and managerial work in the mental health, corrections, and addictions fields in the United States and England. He writes:
Mental illness is a man-made concept that has no objective reference – it corresponds to nothing real. An artifactual tribute to human self-deception, ambition, and greed, it is a wrong turning in the history of human development.
In one of my previous posts On People I presented an alternative thought in line with Phil’s ideas; if normal is real, then we all are normal. At the end of the day, we are all just REGULAR people… “mad” or not. And we need to stop making children think they are ‘other’. That they are ‘sick’.
Society is sick. Our values are skewed. Our thought patterns are flawed. American media is dangerous. Our systems, our beliefs, our accepted & unquestioned solutions are the chains keeping us stuck.