Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Prozac Epidemic

I'm a happy Booby!

I saw an article somewhere in an art mag on the commodification of a gentleman from Syria who sold his skin. A movie was made, Oscars were nominated. Based on a true story. Modern slavery. 

Much can be said about the details and will be. 

I had read a book by the foremost psychologist of the last century the grandfather of cognitive therapy, called The Myth of Self Esteem by Dr. Albert Ellis. Just reading that I wasn't a thing to be evaluated and appraised lifted my lifelong depression and over-anxiety. It was the kind of relief from psychological pain that yogis and religionists call a spiritual experience, but with them, it is mere distraction. In fact, it is in their interests to perpetuate the pain so that they can continue to sell a temporary relief.  Original sin, misuse of the term 'evolve' (you aren't apparently) etc etc. 

This is the cure. I mean there are no magic silver bullet cures for anything, it's been 18 years and I work daily to overcome the programming that started at birth. The family therapist said it would continue to return but it wouldn't stay. 

There are a lot of environmental contributing factors such as my coal miner fathers' lung cancer, extreme poverty, fascist siblings, derision from conservative neighbours for taking handouts from the government, they used to stand outside our house and shout abuse in Calgary, I was stalked, hunted and beaten on my way to and from school. 

Without family money, girlfriends were forbidden by the fathers, I had no prospects. Careers were forbidden because I couldn't afford education, barred from the middle class, like many men, I resorted to driving for a living.  I hated it, I hated the world, I hated me. 

Lonely and dependant on expensive mood-altering drugs like the daily use of pot, I had a series of girlfriends who liked my long hair but since I couldn't afford kids, they left when boredom set in. Devastating to a romantic, flowers, one true love guy like me.

The point of all this is that it was all conditional, my self-acceptance. Even though I quit drugs, quit smoking cigarettes, went to art school and earned honour rolls and degrees, there was always another rite of passage I hadn't achieved.

I had made a commodity of myself and that commodity was constantly being self-evaluated for its worth.

So of course like everyone else, I was insane with anxiety and depression. The Prozac epidemic. 

Then along comes this guy quoting Epictetus, who said, “What disturbs men's minds is not events but their judgments on events.” This took some getting used to. He even laid it out in detail, I was being 4-year old demanding conditions be met or else tantrums would ensue. The demands are the three major musts, complete with subgroups. The mind-blowing point, for me, is that unhealthy negative emotions are a consequence of these demands, for which there is no evidence. Healthy negative emotions are motivating and therefore self-helping. The trick is to turn one into the other. So he created a handy form for doing exactly that. This guy was a student of Albert Ellis, and he was dying of liver cancer when I met him on Facebook, stubbornly refusing to upset himself about a normal event that happens to everybody. His name was Will Ross and through his teaching, care and compassion, I began to use his tools and still do. I mean he was from New Zealand and try as he might he couldn't make me understand cricket but thankfully our friendship wasn't conditional.
David Burns in his Feeling Good book quoted studies at Stanford that proved when you say I highly prefer to have what I demand, but I don't HAVE to, the brain chemistry changes with the same effect as Prozac.
The key to the whole mess is the stupid notion of self-esteem, and turning myself into a commodity. A family therapist pointed out to me that when my income went down and my wife threw me out, that was a business deal. Relationships are unconditional. Especially relationship with myself. If she said I highly prefer you make more money right now but we'll figure it out, incomes are always up and down, jobs are all temporary really, or even more importantly if I said it to myself, things might have been different. Two months after I moved out a small ad agency hired me for a small fortune every month. The event didn't cure my depression and loss and overanxiety, I was still a commodity. 
So in 2007 I read Ellis's thoughts on self-esteem and wrote a poem



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