"In this time of managed care, more emphasis seems to be placed upon medication and the quick amelioration of symptoms, short-term work and privatized, profit-making clinics, than upon the lovely and mysterious alchemy that comprises the cords between people, the cords that soothe some terrors and help us heal. " Lauren Slater
We have become a people driven to distraction by boredom, plagued by self-absorption, addicted to entertainment, estranged from nature and the environment, and most of us live our lives fueled by non-stop busyness that we mistake for true connection. Proportionate to our fascination with the increasing speed of life is our preoccupation with sickness, which has become epidemic. In fact, the treatment of illness is the number one profit-making health system that we have created to entertain ourselves. Thomas Szaz similarly alerted us to this emerging catastrophe of modern psychiatry in his compelling, though controversial book, The Manufacture of Madness.
But just how sick are we, mentally speaking? Go ask Alice. Her adventurous slide down that rabbit hole into Wonderland is an appropriate description of the experience of many patients within the mental health system today. Into this rabbit hole of modern-day medicine we discover the proliferation of diagnostic nomenclature and treatment recommendations, whose research is fundamentally based upon the quick amelioration of emotional, psychological distress (also known as evidenced-based treatment or best practices). We forget that distress is often a warning signal, a sane response to a harmful, threatening situation. Or call is depression. Or Anxiety. Or choose another of the nearly 300 diagnoses of mental illness. Please do not simply take my words for truth. You can read the book yourself: The DSM-V.
The latest edition published by the American Psychiatric Association in May 2013, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V) is the authoritative standard used by mental health professionals within the United States. It is the mental health clinician’s 443-page bible for identifying symptoms and criteria of every mental illness. Thorough and elaborate, using complex pathological phraseology to describe and codify just what’s wrong with you and me, this big book is the penultimate tunnel into wonderland. Open it, peek in, and suddenly you are its patient: slip sliding through mind-altering adventure, wandering glassy-eyed among the alluring gardens of diagnostic codifications, and questioning, like Alice, if you really are the same person you were before or will ever be again.
Perhaps I’m too short? Oh, no, now I’m too big.
Should you question your own reality (or that of your family, society, or your culture) or begin to actually feel with some intensity what it is like to really live your own wild, authentic life, you are given a referral to Dr. Caterpillar. He has the medicine to make you just the right size. AND it’s covered by your insurance (that is, if you have health insurance). In fact, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage counselors, and mental health providers are required to give YOU (the patient) one of the 297 diagnoses in their book in order to get paid by insurance companies. Simply drink the medicine, eat his pills, and you will fit in quite nicely. Just remember to read the invisible print: In order for there to be a doctor, there must be a patient. Ask Alice.
(Excerpt from Birth Cry: The Journey and Triumphant of the Spirits of Fire, edited for Raven Heart Blog.)