Body for Life, the Universe, and Everything

Being a description of the author's thoughts on the experience of participating in the "Body for Life" Challenge, questions of great philosophical import, and randomly selected topics of no significance whatsoever

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Location: Missouri, United States

In no particular order, I'm a professional lettering artist, a yoga practitioner, a cat lover, a vegetarian, a reader of everything from books to cereal boxes, married to a very attractive guy named Tom (nope, no kids), an exercise enthusiast, and a lot of other things I don't care to admit in a public forum. I have a BS in applied math that I haven't used in over 10 years, and I can put both feet behind my head. What else would you like to know?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Brooke Shields--1; Tom Cruise--zilch

I'm a bit of an odd duck in several ways. (Isn't everybody??) One of them is that I don't follow the news in any form whatsoever (TV, radio, newspaper), because I find that it's almost all *bad* news, and I don't think that's something I need in my life. However, I do glance at the Yahoo headlines when I access my e-mail accounts every day, and I will occasionally click on a headline link if it is about a particular interest of mine. That's how I ended up seeing the story about Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise. The headline read, "Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise clash over drug use." What the hey??!? I don't have any special interest in either of these actors, but I thought this was an odd enough implication that I followed it up, especially since I already knew that Brooke Shields had been taking an antidepressant/antianxiety medication because of postpartum depression, although it wasn't clear that that was what this was all about. Note: If you want to read the article for yourself, here's the link, assuming it is still up when you read this (additional note: I had to break this link into two lines because my entire blog spacing went haywire otherwise, but if you paste them together without space in between, I think it will work):

I read the article, and by the time I was done, I was furious!

This is a sterling example of an entertainer expounding on a subject he is not qualified in any way, shape, or form to speak about with any authority whatsoever. Tom Cruise, as a Scientology follower (can you really call it a church? I admit that I don't know much about it, but it doesn't seem very church-y to me), believes that any mind-altering drugs are "dangerous" and the use of them is "irresponsible," and that postpartum depression should be treated with vitamins! He's quoted as saying, "When someone says [medication] has helped them, it is to cope, it didn't cure anything. There is no science. There is nothing that can cure them whatsoever."


Okay, I feel a bit better now.

Brooke Shields, in what I thought was a commendably restrained and well-mannered response, considering that he had just basically called her an idiot and weakling, said, "Tom Cruise's comments are irresponsible and dangerous. Tom should stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them." You go, girl!!

Now, I am all for treating medical problems with vitamins if that will do the trick--I'm more into the whole organic, natural, healthy, no-unnecessary-drugs thing than just about anyone I know, so please don't even think about accusing me of being too hepped about drug solutions to medical issues. I have frequently been known to suffer through three days of a screaming headache without reaching for so much as an aspirin, trying to treat it with things like yoga and acupressure instead. And of course mind-altering drugs are dangerous; that's why it's illegal to get them without a prescription! (well, duh!) And I don't claim to know much about the less obvious differences between postpartum depression and any other variety of depression. But, having suffered (a particularly apt term) from suicidal clinical depression for the last twenty-five years (yes, you read that right, a quarter of a century--and I'm still under 40!), and having been under treatment for it for the last three of those years, I believe I have at least a *modicum* of authority to speak about treatment for depression in general.

Here's my analogy for Tom Cruise to chew on:

Okay, Tom, you're supposed to be an expert (on film, anyway) at dealing with problematic, dangerous situations. Suppose you are in a burning building, and during the previous scene, in which the building was set afire, both your legs were broken. (Oh, why don't we have your arms broken too, to make this more realistic...and to keep you from being able to just push yourself along using your arms.) You happen to have with you, through the wonders of improbable movie magic, an instantaneous, very strong painkiller that will not cloud your thinking...and some vitamins. Your choices have been narrowed down to exactly three: 1) escape from the burning building by walking on your broken legs...with the help of the vitamins, if you like, but without the painkiller; 2) same as (1), but with the painkiller; or 3) burn to death to avoid the pain of walking on your broken legs or the issues of taking the painkiller.

So, Tom, what option would you like to choose today? Oh, you don't think any of them sound like much fun? Well, welcome to the world of depression, which, strangely enough, has a lot in common with being in a burning building. You see, a depressive person who is suicidal enough and isn't treated (and sometimes even when they are treated, but that's another story) will sooner or later be just as dead, and about as much from "natural causes," as someone trapped in a burning building. And those painkillers? Well, they won't heal your broken legs one bit, now or later, but they will help you cope with them enough to escape certain death. You obviously don't know that, but I do. From personal experience. And your friends, those vitamins? Well, vitamins are good. They will probably help you in the long run. They might even help heal your broken legs. But only if you live long enough to get out of that building.

This isn't a perfect analogy (not that there has ever been such a thing as a "perfect" analogy), because it leads to the conclusion that it is possible to permanently escape from the burning building, which as a rule with suicidal tendencies, isn't super-likely (although that might be different for the postpartum variety of depression; I don't know enough about that to be sure). But if a person did manage to permanently eliminate the suicidal part of their depression, then what would be left would be something like walking on broken legs (not walking at all and just waiting to heal is *not* an option--if you live, you walk), which is what living with the sometimes-searing agony of depression is like. You can use medication to help you cope with it, or not, as you choose, but the pain is *not* going to go away by itself. I tried waiting it out for 22 years, so I know a little about just how well that approach works. And if you think it is an exaggeration to talk about that kind of pain going on for over two decades...well, I know a guy named Greedo whose specialty is wielding a club, and he gives discounts on multiple visits....

Oh, here's an idea, Tom. Got anyone you love with insulin-dependent diabetes? Maybe one of your children, who I hear you're commendably crazy about? How would you like to have them treated with vitamins instead of insulin? Or suppose one of them desperately needed an organ transplant--want to treat that with vitamins?

I have a better idea. Get a lot more informed on anything you speak about, or keep your mouth shut. You can start by attending a Suicide Survivors meeting. I would not recommend that you tell the people in that room that their loved ones would still be with them if they had only gotten the proper vitamins.


Blogger grouchmuffin said...

Well said, Cheryl! As a survivor of severe PPD, I couldn't agree more. And vitamins won't help someone who has stepped over the boundary of PPD into post-partum psychosis like Andrea Yates & murder her own child(ren). (Now you know why I only have one little grouch!) Hugs & I have enjoyed your blog thus far!! =)

11:06 AM  

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