Living with Depression: a feminist’s right or the rantings of a mad woman?

Barcomb Family 091

People often say: “Stop crying, what’s wrong with you. Get Help.” Help from whom? A professional therapist, another trained artist from the myriad of potential saviors of the lexicon, purveyors of the theoretical terms, jargon, and words to describe the not so mentally healthy people, the ones that don’t fit into societal norms, like gays, gender-queers, and transgendered, the narcissist, and even the protagonists and antagonists in a novel, or the writer who created the characters. Analyze this, and analyze that, everything is analyzed. They use analysis so much that they eventually come full circle and realize it was not the individual, but the world he or she is born into that is the problem. Some other nut four hundred plus years ago decided that men and women are determined by their anatomical genitalia, and must act in accordance with the laws of nature. Nature? Was nature a man-made-construct personified for the convenience of men to keep women in their place. These authorities on human behavior, and development convinced the monarchy, or governments that all women are vulnerable, eccentric, unstable, and dependent, and need guidance in controlling their emotions. Insane asylums at the turn of the century were full of females turned over to the qualified medical staff to better care for their peculiar female proclivity, particularly post menopausal women. Gays were the next target. Many were subjected to the biases of the day established by the educated few who controlled the criteria, and establish dicta that would determine who, and who was not ‘normal’ by their standards. Morons, idiots, and buffoons, followers of their philosophies filled the streets, and the hallowed halls of lesser institutions. Many of these standards were later determined to be flawed, as they were obviously based upon the biases of those who made them, a product of their own flailing culture. A culture that professed a belief in the color of ones skin, and arrangement of ones genitalia a direct corollary to intelligence, and the propensity for emotional control; men were more disciplined, intelligent, and sane, or so they had thought. Gays were an abomination to society, and trans persons were lumped together into the category of homosexuality for lack of a better understanding that would describe any man who would want to become a woman, or even dress like one.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual has been updated several times in the past twenty years removing post menopausal female proclivity, homosexuality, and now transgenderism from its roles of mental illnesses. I am not saying that a trained professional therapist is not right in every situation, but heaven help us, we are a closed society and closing faster every day, dropping from the personal friend and confidant, to simply the impersonal acquaintance, or someone on the internet, none have the ability to diagnose and treat every problem, particularly when the problem stems from an allergic reaction to the social environment; not in the physical sense, but mental, and to some spiritual. Therapists today follow the prevailing tenets established by the long traditions of their profession. Making a simple assessment of boredom, occupational burnout, and just plain sadness is suddenly lumped into some category known only to the chosen few who survive the economic, mental fatigue, and other intellectual hardships of getting that degree that entitles them to assess another persons frame of mind, and prescribe medication. It appears that psychotherapy has gone through a myriad of changes itself, and had found alchemy once again a presage, and panacea for the ailments of the suffering masses. Often the lesser qualified individual will prescribe medications, and rationalize it as the safe approach, similar to the lawyer who pleas his criminal client out to twenty five years of prison because it is safer than taking a chance on a whimsical jury, and once convicted may get life, despite the fact the client vehemently proclaims his innocence, and very little evidence supports any such charge. Caution it seems is the theme of the day for every profession, scientific or otherwise. Why risk it? No thought is given to the aftermath of the decision, that the life of the individual is wholly, and utterly changed to the point it may not be the quality of life envisioned. The medicated patient acts, feels and thinks differently. “My,” says Aunt Martha, I “Uncle Ray should have taken Prozac years ago, and I would have had less migraines, and maybe a couple more cousins for you to visit.” That irascible man, who screamed and yelled whenever things did not go his way, and prattled about in his study writing letters to the editor about the immoral ways of the world, is suddenly a drooling idiot that parks himself in front of the television each night, and smiles at the pretty girl reading the news on Fox. We are fast becoming a nation of Zombies. We are the undead, waiting for whatever to happen. We eat, sleep, defecate, and shower, daily, until it ends.

Question authority. That used to be the theme of the 1960s. A generation labeled as renegades, hippies, draft dodgers and insurrectionists. A culture in transition. Media provided a first hand look at the atrocities of war. A man’s guts spilled out into the living room through television sets, and America gasped. It was the beginning of the sexual revolution, and the beginning of the second wave feminist movement. Betty Friedan’s book the Feminine Mystique was credited with pushing it to the forefront of the American public. Her theory espoused a slide of women’s rights garnered over the years of the first movement. She recalled reading stories of female warriors, and heroines by 1930’s authors whose characters did not fall into neat little gender categories. She warned of the media attempt to put women into roles that subjugated them to their husbands and provided less opportunity. It portrayed women as happy little housewives in order to market vacuum cleaners, hair products, and other household goods that relied upon a stable home environment. She was not happy. Her book voiced the concerns of all women who were supposed successful mothers, and housewives, whose gender role established by the society she lived in was attained. What would have happened if she were diagnosed as clinically depressed, and given medications to stabilize her moods. Would she have had the energy, the vim, and drive to continue her work that inspired Gloria Steinem and others that eventually pushed into the third wave feminist movement, the one that helped gays achieve their independence of sorts, in 1993 when the American Psychiatric Association decided that after years of radical, experimental, and often controversial treatments, removed homosexuality for its lists of mental illnesses. Likely someone would have awakened women to the illogical, and often patriarchal philosophies that subjugated females, and left them disillusioned. There are many other writers, politicians, and historical leaders who helped influence American women during this time, and made a difference. My point being, is that Freidan had a choice, and although she sought help, it was at a time when doctors were not systematically handing out meds like candy, as a cure-all for every mental, or emotional diagnosis. Her depression, if you can call it that was similar to every woman at the time, who attained what society dictated as the peak of their gender roles–a successful housewife, and mother. Women had other interests and were often left frustrated, disillusioned and depressed by the societal guides that kept them in the home, and didn’t encourage them to exercise their own judgments, or attain their own destinies. Society trained them to like their role by portraying them the happy housewife, and mother in the media, and in print. Staying home and raising children worked for some, but not all women, and no one wondered why? Mary Wollencraft first, and later Virgina Woolf nearly a century later would question it, but no one really got it.

This mass manipulation of the public setting its gender roles that Freidan warned about is still prevalent today in more subtle undertones. Although movies show women in stronger roles, less dependent upon their masculine costars, there is still the manner of presentation of sexuality, and gender that pulls society along. Mothers and fathers raise their children to fit into these established parameters to protect their offspring, and to give them the best opportunity for survival in a modern world. The binary gender culture creates chaos in all of us, if we are human, and have a sexual identity. Those like the transgendered who are struggling to find their sexual identity ironically are actually struggling against societal tenets that set these boundaries. They would cease to exist if there were no boundaries between the roles of men and women. What else could you describe them as?

It is not the individual but the culture he or she is born into that determine how one should act. The western culture greatly influenced by religious leaders, who interpreted biblical passages like be fruitful and multiply, and a woman should not don the clothing of the husband and the man should not wear the clothing of a woman, to mean what they thought it meant, that it was an abomination for women or men to cross gender boundaries. This doctrine created a binary gender system that dictated gender roles based upon anatomical sex. As obvious a mistake this is, no one until the recent transgender movement hit in the twentieth century had challenged this long established doctrine. Dr. Jamison Green in his book Becoming a visible man reveals some startling details about the legal definition of sex. Currently sex is determined by the pattern of an individual’s chromosomes, XX for female, and XY for male. He points out that every pediatrician knows from their own training, education and experience that one in 20,000 males tested has an extra X chromosome. No one had yet determined what this means. He suggests that the occurrence in the overall scheme of things is too great to be a mistake of nature. God then wanted some males to be women? and some females to be men? Who knows, but it certainly brings their existence and viability as normal people into perspective.

And if you are a spiritual critic, it may give pause to believe that to be fruitful and multiply pertains to these individuals as well, since Dr. Green estimates that there are an equal number of females with this phenomenon as are males, and what about the rule God established regarding clothes? Notwithstanding that God may care less about clothes since he never clothed Adam and Eve, lets assume that if Dr. Green is correct then gender and not sex dictates the choice of clothing. Thus, if a person is feminine he or she (as the case may be) should wear the gender appropriate clothing as to their personality. Any casual observer of the human species can see that there are masculine women in the world and feminine men, some more so than the sex between their legs would dictate under the prevailing model of gender behavior. Virginia Woolf summed in up in her book Orlando quite well, and interestingly labeled it a memoir, which implies there is some prevailing truth she is revealing about herself. Gender–the perception of one’s self as feminine or masculine, is nothing more than one of a multitude of personality traits, and at the end of her memoir the protagonist attains blissful happiness when he comes to realize this; of course later she fills her pockets full of rocks and walks into a river, so it is hard to say what is true self-actualization, and whether it will ever make one happy.

This brings me to my depression, the reason I was crying this morning. Should I get help every time I feel sad, or have some personal crisis? If so, should I blindly accept the diagnosis of my therapist without question, and take medication that may or may not alter who I am, or affect my creative nature? I have never been one to share my pain, a personality trait I suppose that is inherent in most women, but one that probably will end me if I am not careful. Being an isolationist is not always wise. Sometimes its best to confide in someone, but whom? Tell a friend, many other friends, and some not so friendly will tell others. I tell myself. I write it down. like most introverts, I have learned to listen, and hear my own voice, and respond to it. I have also harbored a deep fear that these mind altering drugs, and mood enhancers prescribed by physicians, some haphazardly, will alter the personality as well, and some boast of this feat. Personality is what makes every individual unique. I wonder if someday they will have a pill that will make males feel manly, and masculine all of the time, and females feel soft, and cuddly, and subservient. Until then, I will keep crying, wondering why my white knight has not arrived, whether he got lost on the way to the castle tower, or was he lured by some other sister, Rapunzel with her long golden hair, or maybe Ariel with her sleek, scaly tail, or heaven forbid, one of my brothers, another knight–who may or may not be female.

At least I have a choice for the moment, because my feminist sisters have fought for me, and it is no longer illegal for a female to wear pants. I can wipe away my tears and face the reason for my sadness, whether on this day I feel feminine enough to wear a dress, or should I be risky, and put on a pair of old comfortable jeans. The red dress or blue jeans? Tough decision, I think I will stay in bed and cry some more. I don’t think I need help to do this, or because of it, and I certainly don’t need medication to help make me feel like everybody else.

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2 thoughts on “Living with Depression: a feminist’s right or the rantings of a mad woman?

  1. I ran out of tears long ago, but I do know how it feels. I call it the black hole, once I go down there, I never know how long I’m going to stay. I honestly think that women, particularly, are prone to chemical changes as we age, and there is a ‘formula’ that is specific to each one of us that would make us feel ‘right’. However, doing tests to determine what chemical changes are occurring and how to adjust that isn’t something that medical science focuses on. Instead, they give us pills to alter, not adjust, and in doing so, create a vicious cycle of reformulating, re-‘chemicalizing’ our bodies to the point that we don’t know what is normal, real or ‘right’. The next wave of feminism needs to focus on understanding our chemistry a little better…

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    1. That’s my point exactly. A lot of the medical community has adopted a philosophy of popping pills ti feel better and fail to diagnose the root of the problem because its easier. We have gotten away from anything that resembles human touch. Most women only have a few close friends and ss we age, our friends disappear or move away from us either physically or emotionally. My good friend died in an auto accident and since I’ve been in a vacuum of depression. I found that if I didn’t want to take pills I had to step up my exercise in order to feel better. I started walking, first a mile, then two now I’m up to three to fiur a day, and this not only clears my head but improved my health, lol, a welcome side effect of my new therapy. It also helped when I enrolled in an evening class at a local college and met other women whom I could talk to and learn to share my pain, like we used to when we were young and trusted another who had a genuine smile. I wish you well with your recovery.

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