ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychiatric Medication is not a 'Sanity Pill'

Jack Bragen
Friday March 13, 2020 - 03:56:00 PM

It is intrinsic in human nature that people will have incorrect beliefs. People will always have incorrect beliefs. A million years from now, if humans survive long enough to evolve into something better, those descendants will have incorrect beliefs. The human mind, and at a likely guess, the mind of any creature, terrestrial or otherwise, has a representation of truth, but not truth itself. This is analogous to looking at a map versus navigating the terrain that the map represents. 

A famous yogi, (and I have no way of finding his name--the memory is from youth, my parents owned it, and I've tried unsuccessfully to source it) said, on a 33&1/3 RPM phonograph recording: "Truth is...It just is. We cannot know it. We cannot speak it." 

Yet, Homo Sapiens, Sapiens (as scientists call us) are far from being pure seekers of truth. We go far beyond inadvertent errors. The stupidities of many of us, me included, can be astounding. Human beings comprise an insane species. 

Many psychiatrists and other M.D. practitioners are atheists and believe that religion is delusional. Their god is science. To me, this is just as dogmatic as the very superstitious, right-wing Christianity. Science is not evolved enough to rule out a higher power. Many people who are addicted to science seem to forget that the obvious truths of one decade or century are found in later years to be ignorant, primitive beliefs. Science has barely begun. It is possible that at some point, science will discover evidence of a consciousness responsible for the existence of the universe. 

Because of the above, I assert that psychiatrists are just as flawed as the rest of us. 

If mentally ill, taking psychiatric medication as prescribed is never a guarantee of sanity. Medication, at its best, reinstates some of the normal mechanisms that allow people to incorporate the external environment and the beliefs of others into the thinking. This opens the door to the possibility of partly tracking reality. When medicated, we may be able to go to the store and buy a loaf of bread, where we could not when not medicated. If society solidly follows a set of errors, so will the stabilized schizophrenic person. 

However, beggars can't be choosers. If we wanted to be a genius like DaVinci or Einstein and turn the scientific world on its ears with a discovery that makes everyone else wrong, it is not practicable for someone who is a patient in a psych ward. If we have a few decades of recovery under our belts, as I do, we can come up with some variations on accepted truth. We can disagree, and we can trust our own opinion over other people's opinions on many things. Mental health practitioners are not always right, and we are not always wrong. 

A sanity pill, something you take with a few gulps of water, that changes the neurochemical composition of the brain and reshapes the thinking, does not make us automatically sane. 

If we want to function in a wise and accurate manner, it will help us to cultivate the art of listening. When someone points out an error we may have made, we should be able to consider that maybe we have made an error, and we should do that without getting emotionally bent out of shape. 

Beyond that, if we tend toward psychosis, at its best, medication will only partly be effective at alleviating symptoms. We need to actively work on improving thought processes. And some of this must be done with the help of other people. If we tried to go it alone and only find our own answers, such a choice would not have good results. 

Jack Bragen is author of "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual" and several other print-on-demand titles.