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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ableism Part 2: Happy pills

Eczema is a common condition characterized by itchy, burning rashes. The condition can be a transient annoyance, but in some people it be excruciating, disfiguring, and can lead to lots of health problems caused by skin that's constantly open and raw. 
Now back in the day, if you or your kid had eczema, the treatment options could be pretty unpleasant. To keep kids with severe eczema from clawing their own skin off, parents sometimes had to put splints onto their arms or tie them to their beds. Treatment options like bleach baths, urine therapy (exactly what it sounds like), and cod liver oil were somewhat effective, if you didn't mind smelling like bleach, fish, and urine.
Nowadays, folks have a lot more options. Treatments range from over-the-counter topicals to prescription medications - some of which have ugly side effects and should only be used in the most severe cases. While some folks choose to manage their symptoms naturally, some choose the pharmaceutical options. 
Nobody ever says "Eczema drugs? Why in my day we just strapped kids to the bed and pissed on 'em. And they liked it." Nobody ever tells eczema sufferers that they're weak or foolish for choosing to treat their condition with medication. People pretty much accept that the decision is best left to the patient and their doctor.
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Depression is a common condition characterized by persistent and overwhelming feelings of sadness and despair. The condition can be mild and transient, but in some people it can be excruciating, can lead to other medical conditions, and can even be deadly. 
Now back in the day, if you or your kid had depression, you often did your best to hide it and suffer in silence. It wasn't just because of the stigma, but it was that the treatments made urine therapy look like a day at the water park. Locking people in restraints for days, strapping them to chairs and spinning them until they passed out, intentionally induced insulin comas, lobotomies, and drugs that did permanent physical and mental damage were common.
Nowadays, folks have a lot more options. Treatments range from over-the-counter supplements to light therapy to medications - some of which have ugly side effects and should only be used in the most severe cases. While some folks choose to manage their symptoms naturally, some people have symptoms so severe that medication is the only sane option.

And yet people always say it's a weakness to treat depression with "happy pills." They always talk about how people should man up and deal with their problems the old fashioned way. When you tell people about your psych meds, everybody and their monkey will try to tell you that your doctor has no idea what she's doing, that meds are not the answer. People who have never had to live with severe depression insist neither you, nor your doctor is qualified to decide how to treat your illness; people who know nothing about depression are obviously the experts.

2 comments:

jenny_o said...

So so SO true. Well said.

Robert Walters said...

That's why I'm open to most people, but not all. Over the years I have met more and more people who are depressed and use meds, not much is said to me about my choices. I know how I feel, and if I feel better with meds, I will take them.

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