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The medicalisation of misery

Life at the bottom: How what used to be an existential crisis is now medical intervention.

"Soma", the panacea pill from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, if you were to offer it to the majority of people today I guarantee they would take it. Why bother thinking about how to solve your problems when you could just pop and pill and instantly feel better? Misery would be a thing of the past as we effectively numb ourselves to negative emotion where people don’t even remember it to be a part of the human experience.

However, this fantastical view is skipping a few steps. I think we need to re-run the diagnostics before we start talking about (potential) cures.

There is no denying that the modern day mental health trend with its push to increase awareness of mental health issues has led to an increase in reporting and cases. The average person would think this must be a good thing, right? However, this has always bugged me and I question is this really accurate and true or are we less resilient and weaker…or have we just medicalised misery?

“I still believe that most of what is described as mental illness now are just struggles with living and inadequate support networks. Prescriptions won’t fix that.”

An unsuccessful life doesn’t equal a mental illness – my life’s shit, oh you have anxiety/depression etc…how about no! Now, it might be the case that anxiety or depression does play a role, but perhaps not. Perhaps you need to feel it (not numb it) and channel it into a better you. Perhaps you should do something about it rather than wallow in self-pity. It may not have been your fault, but chances are you had something to do with it – either way, it’s your responsibility. I see a lot of people with a lack of resilience, fortitude and courage that is needed to combat the inherent suffering of life. I see people’s poor outlook or worldview and it’s no wonder they are swimming in sorrow around their moat of misery.

“Chicken or the egg? – are you depressed because you’re miserable or are you miserable because you’re depressed?”

It’s very easy to look around and be overwhelmed by negativity and misery – it’s everywhere, and I understand why people feel suffocated by it. Soon your mind will ask, “why bother keep going?”, and you’ll be questioning where is the belief that life could be better, that it’s worth striving for and that you could achieve it? People keep seeking “motivation” like it’s some of Michael Jordan’s secret stuff from Space Jam. You have it in you, but are you prepared to go to war with yourself?

“You have to give up being who you are now to be who you could become – and a lot of people don’t want to give up that comfort or identity.”

You will need strength, discipline, courage, knowledge, belief and humility to become the best version of you. You have to realise that the cavalry is not coming over the hill to save you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t seek support, professional or personal – and as I said earlier I find that a lot of people have inadequate support structures in their lives which exacerbates such woes. This isn’t about some fake tough guy bullshit. You may not see it now, but you have it in you to lift yourself out of the misery mire, the ditch of desolation and despair, the gloomy and grief ridden gully, the lamenting lake, the meandering melancholic…you get the point. It’s not easy envisioning a better life when one feels stuck, more often than not it’s rather boggy and sad.

“What more do you expect from a GP in 10 mins other than to prescribe you medication and refer you to a psychologist?”

It’s crucial to obtain your mental health information from a reputable source in this day and age where everyone is a mental health expert. The amount of incorrect, untrue all the way to the downright malevolent, advice out there – not matter how well intentioned – does deeply sadden me and formed part of the reason why I started this website in the first place. The loneliness epidemic is massively affecting our levels of joy on a societal scale. Social media has greatly accelerated, warped and exposed our need for external validation.

Do you want to be happy or do you not want to be miserable? More often than not people actually want the later. Being happy and not being miserable are not the same thing.

A good recipe for a happy and fulfilling life:

  • Family

  • Friends

  • Intimate partner

  • Meaningful employment (or at least being good at your job / doing a noble effort)

  • Having meaningful interests outside of work

You have to understand and differentiate what is a cause of your problems and what is a symptom of a much deeper/underlying cause. If you don’t have some (or all) of the above it’s quite likely your life is miserable, perhaps very miserable. At the end of the day, a medical diagnosis is not a substitute for contending with your own existential questioning.

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Hear, Hear. You definitely know how I feel on this subject! 🤐

Martyn Foster
Martyn Foster
Mar 31, 2023
Replying to

I believe some of it was reiterated to me over coffee this morning 😉

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