Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Last week, my daughter called me. She had been feeling ill for several days. After discussing the symptoms, and her finding that she could not get through the work day, she visited an Urgent Care center. After a couple of quick tests, antibiotics were given, and two days later, she was fully on the mend.
Modern medicine is truly a marvel. An infection that would have been quite serious a hundred years ago is now easily cured with a pill. Too bad deadly diseases like depression, addiction, and mental illness do not enjoy such a simple cure.
Doctors often prescribe pills to quiet the more serious demons that plague us, the ones that have us setting off to destroy ourselves and others. Often, the pill does little put turn us into walking zombies, but without the lust for eating brains. At least, that was my experience with pills. Johann Hari found this same sad truth in his own journey, and made it his mission to find out how we might better help those who suffer from depression and related mental illness in his book Lost Connections.
Yes, people have received relief from pills. This book can make proponents of the “it’s just an imbalance in your brain” theory furious. After all, simple answers are always easier to deal with.
Until they don’t work.
This book hit me where I live. I have suffered from severe depression with manic episodes since my early teen years. Undiagnosed until my early twenties when I was given my first pill. When I was growing up three things were believed and presented to me in this order:
- Just get over it. You’re being hysterical, you stupid girl.
- Ok, maybe you have a hormonal imbalance. Take a pill. Get over it. Stupid girl.
- Don’t tell anyone you are having such self-pitying thoughts. It’s shameful, stupid girl.
Damn, I wish this book had been done 30 years ago. However, it made me understand the broken road I traveled. I instinctively knew that a pill could not “fix” me. Depression does not go away.
The issues that cause it are real, and this is a severely malfunctioning society we are asked to make peace with. Perhaps, the crazy ones are the ones that do not have issues dealing with their lives. There is that.
But when you can’t pull yourself out of bed, when you feel physical pain because the stress of your life is so harsh, when you self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to the point of addiction, you need help. Just like someone who has an infection needs help to get better.
Depression and its various cohorts are always waiting to strike you down at weak moments. My last episode was less than two weeks ago. Only when I have these episodes in the last few years, I know they will pass. I know I am not alone. I have friends, do what I love, look forward to the future, and have a job I adore working for at my local school system. The broken things …well, we all have broken things in our lives.
This book has helped people I love dearly who are younger and battling similar forces that I have grappled with all my life. I believe this book will make their road less rocky.
If you or anyone you know suffers from mental illness and addiction, please read this book. It does not offer a magical cure. No, it offers hope that attitudes are changing, research is expanding, and perhaps, an urgent care center with a low co-pay fully covered by insurance will eventually be readily available for those in crisis with more than a pill to offer.
The book will not give solace to everyone. I have an older relative suffering from crippling depression and addiction who came from a generation where there was such a huge stigma attached to mental illness, she refuses to seek help. She is too ashamed and that is a tragedy.
She is doing the opposite of what is shown to help. So many fall into this trap, making their depression louder and louder until it consumes them into despair. She is isolating herself from friends and family. She has stopped doing all the things she used to love. She does not feel purpose or belonging. Those are two of the many things that any human psyche, even that of the writer type human, needs to function in a healthy manner.
So please, if you feel lost, if you feel like there is no one you can reach out to, you are really not alone. Especially now days. Please, read Lost Connections by Johann Hari. You will find hope here. Truly.