Surely, we’ve taken great leaps in the medical field when it comes to understanding how our body and mind work. These have enabled us to cure illnesses and come up with different ways to alleviate suffering. On the other hand, though, I would argue that these have also led us to medicalize many things that are just parts of the package of being a human being.
Life is beautiful, but it’s also a mess. No one hands us an idiot’s-guide-on-how-to-live. Even so, each of us experiences life in unique ways. No one can fully understand how it feels like to be in our skin. Likewise, there are no rehearsals in life – we go through it on trial and error. It’s not difficult to understand how this can trip us off and shake us to the core.
I have been clinically diagnosed with chronic depression and have been under medication for two years. Many people have asked me if the meds were necessary and for the Nth time I would tell them “Yes, they have helped me recover and get back on my feet.” My opinion about it hasn’t changed. The meds have helped me get my sense of control back, just enough so I could regroup and move forward in the direction I wanted to go. But without conducting a complete inventory of my life choices and habits, I wouldn’t have gone far. Without the love and support of my family, none of my progress would have been possible.
There is definitely a need to confront a situation and categorize it as a medical one when the situation calls for it, so that appropriate solutions and care can be provided. I would argue, though, to be mindful of the tendency to immediately brand something as medical. We need to be careful in jumping to conclusions and not be too easy on shoving all sorts of pills and intrusive procedures on ourselves and on anybody. Sometimes we find ourselves just an inch away from the thin line that separates what’s fucked-up-but-still-average-human-behavior from totally-sick-and-in-a-risky-situation.
There is a need to give ourselves that space to go through difficulties because they are indispensable to our growth and they are a natural part of life. Sometimes, medicalizing what we are going through robs us off our opportunity for transformation. It can also lead us to believe that we are defected in one way or another, which is not empowering at all and can lead us even more to a downward spiral.
Sometimes we are just going through a temporary rough patch even if it feels like literally going through hell. This can squeeze out all our strengths and weaknesses. We can totally go bonkers, even. But I would argue, that more often than not, we can go through it if we only let ourselves fully go through it – with all our flaws, failures and difficult feelings. Sometimes, medical assistance is not what we need the most – but human love and understanding from those who truly care about us. It may simply be a friend who is willing to lend a compassionate ear. It could be a significant other who’s got the patience and strength to be strong for us when we can’t. It could be our kids who bring us joy just being their candid selves.
Sometimes what we need is simply the uninterrupted presence of someone we love. On the other hand, sometimes what we need the most is solitude – to own our right to surrender.
Sometimes what we need the most is spiritual connection. Sometimes what we need the most is a safe place to be authentically ourselves. Sometimes what we need the most is to live our purpose.
What about those kids who were born with “special” needs? Those with conditions science can’t explain yet? Those with “illnesses” that cannot be “cured”? What about those who seem to be different from most of us? Medicalizing what’s natural to them can lead us into having a twisted view and shun them because they’re less of a human or we can also end up forcing all sorts of “treatments” on them so they can become more like the majority, that could only end up killing their spirit and all their beautiful possibilities.
Medicine and science are good, and they have pushed our society forward in many ways. But maybe sometimes, what we really need in order to improve life for all of us is not to have further advances in these fields but to reshape our culture, upgrade how we interact with ourselves, with each other and with nature and redefine the discourse on what it means to be a human at this point in time.