Monday, May 24, 2010

Was Tom Cruise Right?

It is easy to paint someone who jumps on sofas as a nut. But maybe he is just happy, and you are jealous?

Tom Cruise gets a lot of press lately, and not the sort he really wants. The general public has painted him to be a kook or a Scientology nut. He was lambasted for suggesting that perhaps America's fascination with pharmacopoeia and obsession with anti-depressants might have a dark side.

But to some extent, he does have a point.

Again, I am no big fan of Scientology. Thanks, but no thanks, I'm not following the Outer Thetans anytime soon. And if I am to join some fabulously wealthy religious organization, well, the only condition I have is that I be made Pope or Head Thetan, or whatever, so I get all the money. Actually, from a Scientology point of view (as I best understand it) that would make the most amount of sense. Hey, I deserve to be in charge!

But since no religion is ready to make me an Imam or even Altar Boy, it looks like I'll have to take a pass on all of them.

But aside from his religious beliefs, what is the controversy about? Americas pharmaceutical industry is very large and powerful - more powerful than the Church of Scientology. And yet there are few websites devoted to "debunking" the chemical answer to life that the pharms provide.

In addition to metal illnesses, the pharmaceutical companies now offer solutions to problems you never knew you had. Restless leg syndrome? We gotta a pill. Small bladder? We gotta pill. No boner? We gotta pill! Oh boy, do we gotta pill and it's made us billions!

And some things they offer pills for, it is hard to even tell what they are curing! You see ads in the papers, magazines, the Internet, and yes, on television, for pills that don't really describe what they are curing. "Ask your Doctor is Nexium is right for you!" blare the ads, while failing to really state what it is trying to cure. PMS? High Blood Pressure? Post-Partum disorder? What? I guess I'd better ask my doctor!

Advertising of prescription drugs, like advertising for Lawyers, has generally been a bad thing all around. We have sacrificed our society on the altar of "Free Speech" and the consequences are devastating both personally and nationally.

People more than ever look at a pill as a solution to every problem in their lives. And the problem with advertising pills is that when you suggest a problem to people, they tend to believe they might have it. It is a psychosomatic effect. You read all about ticks and Lyme disease, and pretty soon you are convinced you have it. Feeling old and tired? You probably have "chronic fatigue" or "fibromyalgia". Or maybe you are just old and tired.

Depressed? No need to be. Take a pill, and you'll be happy, happy, happy. And increasingly, Americans are opting for pill-based solutions to their personal problems.

And the funny thing is, years ago, we didn't have these pills. Oh, I wonder, how did we ever, ever cope? Must have been hard.

But life is hard. It is difficult, messy, and a daily struggle, until you wake up one day and keel over dead. But hey, cheer up, there is a little fun tucked in there along the way.

Now granted, there ARE some diseases, both physical and mental, that medicine can help. And there ARE some people who need to "take their meds" regularly (and ironically, usually the first one to "go off their meds"). But for most of us, pills should be a LAST resort, not a first.

I take Allopurinol for Gout. And I hate to take it. And I avoided taking it for a year or so. I would rather do anything that be chained to a pill for the rest of my life. I am trying to change my diet and hope that I can eventually go off the drug. So far, lifestyle changes seem to be arresting the rate of the illness. Perhaps in a year or two, it will recede.

But others are not so fussy. "Is there a pill for it? Great, I'll take it!" - that's what most people say. So forget about changing your diet, losing weight, or whatever, just get me on those pills!

Depression is a terrible thing, of course, and anti-depressants can be useful for people with severe depression. But as a life-long commitment? Ouch. And increasingly, many more people are taking anti-depressants even though they are only mildly depressed or have one depressive episode.

As I have noted before, Depression occurs to everyone. In many cases, it is nature's way of saying "Change Your Life!" Whether it is move to a new town, get a new job, a new spouse, or just a new haircut, change often can be a cure.

Many people feel trapped in jobs and relationships with no way out. They have a staggering amount of debt to pay for shiny things - the shiny things that the TELEVISION says should make them happy. But things rarely do. And the disconnect between the TV and societal norms and internal happiness can lead to depression. I should be happy, right? Society says I have all the bright shiny! But internal happiness often comes from other things.

And in many cases, pharmaceutical solutions to personal problems don't work - or don't work very well. You are in a bad situation, for example, in a job you hate, or a relationship you are not happy in. The best answer is to get a different job, work on your relationship, or find a new mate. Taking action is the best solution. Changing your life to make yourself happier is the best answer.

But many folks convince themselves that there is something wrong with them. And as such, they need to be "fixed" or "cured" of their disease. Anti-depressants work, but like marijuana, have a stasis effect. You are no longer dreadfully unhappy, but not exactly happy, either. And you haven't taken the steps necessary to change your life. So you sit there, like a deer in the headlights, taking your happy pills while life passes you by.

For some folks, the medicines end up just locking them into a moderately unhappy state, for life. Or as one person told me, "they make me functional, at least".

Functional. What an epitaph. "Here lies John Brown, he was functional, at least". That's a life? Not for me, thanks. I'd rather have the ups and downs of daily existence and
take action in my life, when I can, and live it to the fullest. I guess I'm lucky that I have that option, you might say. Or was it entirely luck? Or was it making decisions, rather than remaining in stasis?

So Tom Cruise did have a point, to some extent.. But unfortunately, his point was shouted down with cries of "Scientologist!" and "Kook!" and baleful looks from Maria Schriver.

And of course, I don't think joining Scientology is necessarily an alternative to pharmacopoeia.

Sometimes the cure is worse the the disease!