"All the world's a waiting room, and we are (running) out of patience and patients, both."--JACW
Welcome to akathisia.life's newest page and blog. I'm sorry, my friends, it's taken me so long to show up here. I've been anxiously engaged in a cause, one that affects us all, so thank you for your patience and for being here, with us, with me, today.
As I've searched for the reasons, the "why" of akathisia, as well as searching for ways to mitigate its impact on my life and the lives of more people I'd care to ponder, those who have reached out to me after the film came out, and those of you who subscribed to this site with the hopes it would offer more than just more questions, I've come across articles that stick with me.
I came across one such article in Psychology Today called Is Our Survival Instinct Failing Us? by Dr. Jim Taylor, Ph.D.
I read the article and felt moved to comment. For context, the article was written back in 2012, which makes my comment (below) even more relevant and terrifying.
With respect, I’m sure you know there’re is more to “fight-or-flight” than that. The 4-F's of the survival instinct (fight, flight, freeze or faint) all deserve equal attention, and have evolved, I believe, with our world and surroundings. And while they possibly don't serve us in the above scenarios, historically, even in recent history, they have served their purposes quite well. It’s all in how you frame them.
Yes, you are correct re: when threatened by a market crash, individuals’ instincts did not lean toward the altruistic, but to the more advanced—yes, advanced—instinct of greed coupled with fear. Our society has developed a "me and mine" mentality that also historically did not serve tribes who were of the more warring propensity, and who did not work together for collective survival.
As author Rebecca Solnit writes in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, she shows us that during times of actual, physical crisis, for example, during and in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy and Katrina—when it was life-or-death, not cable or the extended-cable package—showed in people a level of compassion and altruism toward each other that should give us great hope.
I believe the reason is that when it comes to very basic human survival, we are all well aware that we cannot survive alone. That collective and interdependent social construct is older than the “rugged individualism” that began about 100 years ago in this country.
While I know the reductive nature of your premise is by necessity, you seem to have a good grasp on why we do what we do. I agree that some knee-jerk reactions we all have run contrary to our hyper-socialized society and might not serve us in the short-game. Maybe not even in the long game--at least in the moment.
The “fear” of NOT surviving is as strong—if not more so—than the 4-F’s, and “fear” is not a great place from which to make decisions, especially when we're not dealing with actual threats against our physical safety and lives, i.e.: being denied a promotion at work, screaming at the moss, leaving in tears etc. Ignoring the fact the latter scenario is absent 2 of the 4 F’s, let's include one. "Freeze." How do you know the individual’s reaction that pushed them into a “freeze” position at home in their bathrobes for a time didn’t serve them precisely as it should? Perhaps that time was absolutely necessary in their “regroup” process. Perhaps that job was going nowhere, and they were headed for more than one type of brick wall.
And once actual survival instincts kick in, they might have taken the time to re-evaluate priorities. Then, as their savings became sparse, they pitched into “fight,” and began aggressively searching for another income source, one where they had more control of the variables, hence more security for themselves and their family.
No, people don't "flee" like impalas, but we emotionally flee when we are in emotional danger and we know it. When it becomes extremely dangerous is when that instinct is hampered by the societal normalization and acceptance of abuse against individuals by other individuals, or—the most pervasive form of modern abuse—abuse against a certain individual or GROUP of individuals by systemic bullying, failures, and abuses of power that coincide with them. Which brings me to your premise: our instincts are "failing us" because they are almost always an inappropriate instinctual response in the modern age since we don’t need them like we used to, or that we haven’t learned to use them appropriately to reflect our current milieu.
Respectfully, I’d like to reframe the argument. The societal construct of the abuse of power—such as being betrayed by a system we had once thought was there to protect us—has been totally normalized and these kinds of “normalizing” not only confuses our survival instincts, it creates a cognitive dissonance much more dangerous than a simple clash of our pre-frontal processes.
Specifically, in your article, you neglected to mention probably the most pervasive and counterintuitive instinct and act a human being can commit: the taking of one’s own life.
While I’m aware this article is 7 years old, I’d like to note its prominence in the search I did for “the human survival instinct” at the top of the Google page. Since its publication, the alarming trend of suicide has risen, exponentially. I'm baffled as to why this issue isn't brought forth in conjunction with the most powerful of human instincts—the literal loss of the survival instinct, which is at the very heart of this act.
To take one's own life for no other purpose than to no longer be alive isn't altruism, self-sacrifice for the "whole" of the tribe. It also isn’t “selfish” or sinful or cowardly. It’s a result of being in untenable pain with no social support structure to cope, and zero societal constructs to frame the suffering other than pathologizing it. We don't feel guilty when we break our arm. Why do we feel shame and guilt when our hearts are "broken" by an emotional event?
When you suffer a loss, why should you not feel the loss? Because you’ll lose PTO or under-perform at work and get overlooked, perhaps for the promotion needed to pay the rising costs of living?
When you are abused by a system and the power structure over you is absolute, even if you're also a part of that system, relying on it for your very survival, why doesn’t altruism kick in then, do you think? Why haven't people rallied around me, for example, due to the severe iatrogenic harm my family and I have endured?
I'll tell you why: because when a hurricane hits, everyone is equally hurt and threatened. When too many people are hurt by "the system," they are isolated, afraid, and others, afraid of reprisal, distance themselves. I know this. I am living this.
One of the ways early tribal communities pooled resources was through adopting leaders and “authorities” to handle the equal distribution of goods. As we progressed into more advanced civilizations, certain people amassed more wealth, more power, and they did it through the de-equalizing of one another into such things as caste systems, then came feudal rule, and so forth.
Uprisings were met with violence, and dissent with death. While the mere peasantry's lives were absolutely on the line, the tool used by those in power was the same one used today: granting power to some over others, and remunerating loyalty and those willing to forego the many to support the few.
Divide and conquer is not just a battlefield strategy, Dr. Taylor.
And as we face the epidemic—yes, it’s at epidemic proportions--of suicide, especially in our children, it has been, time and again, linked to the many medications we’re sold, given, and that, make no mistake, we take of our own free will (because we do not have all the information and we're beholden to the power-structure of the healthcare system) to suppress our human experience, specifically when it’s unpleasant or downright painful.
These medications numb, mute, and eventually damage--on a biological level--the 4-F's of the limbic system. So, we’ve created a culture in which it’s acceptable to eradicate someone’s will to live, specifically through medicating them.
And to LIVE means saying "yes." To the pain, the joy, and all in-between. Life is not just being alive, it's feeling alive.
The “walking dead” fetish--zombies--are perfect pop-replicas of what's happening today: they walk, move, feed, kill—but they lack what makes them human: the ability to experience emotion. They lack feeling, good AND bad, positive and negative. And because what goes UP must go down, if we don’t go down (theoretically the premise behind medicating painful feelings) via medications, we can’t go up and recover from trauma, can we? That is the Human Experience. Welcome to it. Hold on tight.
But there’s more—even worse than the above.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals (I have yet to find the "statistics" to support any "evidence-bases" therein), are created and funded by those who stand to gain financially and professionally by pathologizing human behavior as thoroughly as possible. The manuals lack, not only peer-reviews and solid, empirical evidence to the bases, they’ve gotten fatter and more specifically absurd by (pardon the lingual-jujitsu, here) obsessively and maniacally parsing the tiniest deviations from "normal human behavior" and creating more and more “illnesses” that must be treated.
Talk about job creators. They create jobs and interminable "income streams" of their mentally ill patients.
The truth most people don’t know is this: the DSMs are a collaboration of individual opinions, and of "mental health professionals" who speak the modern, sacred tongue of the neo-shaman: psychobabble. These texts are comprised of fast-and-loose conjecture and oddly coincide with many EPS of the very drugs the manuals help to "diagnose. How very convenient. The manuals were collated in closed-door meetings with non-disclosure agreements--the opposite of scientific transparency and for the greater good of humanity. That's how science is supposed to work. You share information. Freely. Altruistically.
And those who have participated in creating the DSMs are completely blatant in their attempts to homogenize humanity due to the above motivations--plus, IMO, the desire to be accepted by their colleagues in neurology and other medical arts and sciences--and quite possibly a smattering of self-loathing for their own humanity. Then they proceeded to systematically lop off huge sections of the grand and wondrous spectrum of human emotion and behavior into a single-note samba of vanilla. On both ends.
Who is responsible for conveying "socially/behaviorally/mentally/emotionally appropriate" to us better than “mental health professionals?” What about emotional health? What about survival, not of the fittest, but of the most resilient? While we were once taught to hide or pretend feelings away, there are those who now stand to get very rich off us “removing the ‘stigma’” of mental illness." Yes, the label-fest is on. A population of frightened victims don't speak out. They are too busy trying to survive, not just the real threats to their basic needs, but the wonky state their brain stem and limbic systems are in due to their "harmless little helpers." Their medications are safe, the doctor gave it to them. The sad part? Their doctors think they're safe, too. They aren't the bad guys here, either.
I don’t believe that mental illnesses are "diseases." I believe they are part of the vast range of humanity--the mentally ill have been here since the dawn of recorded history, and we think our ancestors were "monsters" because they had them killed or outcast? What hypocrisy.
We are STILL ill-equipped to deal with or understand those who suffer, but why in the f*** aren't we trying harder? Doing better? WHY. It's reprehensible the way we treat those who suffer with these illnesses everywhere, not just in the U.S.
And if I don't fit in the box, then I must be mentally ill. And if I’m mentally ill, so are you, and so is everyone. Show me anyone’s dark corners, show me anyone without their own brand of "crazy," and I’ll show you the above depiction of a zombie.
I believe human beings, and our emotions and behavior, become pathological because we reflect our world and society—and we developed pathological responses to pathological systems that are currently in place.
It’s not rocket science.
And while serious mental illnesses are very real and people absolutely need help and treatment, it is YOU, Dr. Taylor, you and other psychologists, therapists, etc. who offer them the most hope. While psychiatry has an illustrious history and frankly, a shameful current state, I believe psychiatrists go into it to help, really help people. But they've been given faulty tools and faulty information. Then, they must choose between basic survival—their jobs—or actually helping people. That is an immoral choice. The doctors are not immoral, it’s immoral to place them in that unwinnable situation. But also? They ought to know better, too. It's their jobs to know better.
Further, psychiatry is a guessing game at best, and sorry guys and gals, unless your'e willing to pop the same pills as we are to see how it "feels" for you? You shouldn't be medicating with them. And yes, they will re-arrange your "brain chemistry" the same way they did, and do, ours. You willing to take that risk, Doc? We are not experiments.
And if you think they don't affect your brain the same way they affect ours, then ask yourselves: if you can't definitively state with solid proof, what someone suffers from, then how do you know what to give them w/r/t medications. If SSRI does what they do to serotonin in my brain, why wouldn't it do it in yours. Hm. If someone has an un-diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) head injury, but they "present" with a form of mood disorder...tell me, how do you KNOW. The drugs might compound their injuries. Are they to blame for their lack of knowledge about the human brains, or...are you, the medical professionals.
Do you know how little it takes to sustain a TBI? You must. Do you know how many TBI symptoms mimic mental illness? YOU MUST.
Oh yes, let’s not forget all the "violent" mentally ill people. Only…they aren’t. In an article in this very magazine, (Psychology Today, "Mental Illness Does Not Equal Dangerous, Mostly") and countless other articles, the authors and research speak of the mentally ill as for the most part, non-violent--but when they turn violent? Nary a word is uttered about the role their medications, past or current, play. All that's mentioned in the media is their LACK of medication. How insidious. And the violence perpetrated is usually against themselves and can’t be shown with a single causal of mental illness. When violence is turned outward, no one looks to see what they took or take for bipolar disorder, only that they were diagnosed with it.
Which then brings to the fore the incredible suspension of disbelief we’re expected to retain while reading Black Box Warnings on medications—something the general public is rarely made aware of as the prescriptions are written out—that “mental illness” or an “underlying mental illness” is “the most important cause of suicide.” Is it? Then why are we bothering to de-stigmatize it? So we know who NOT to invite to dinner? Or to be inclusive and invite them anyway (but maybe ix-nay on the ife-knay.)
It’s a good thing the demand was created in conjunction with the supply, isn’t it? With all the new medications on the market to fix those who don't fit in the tiny, little vanilla-white box, they'll be right as rain after the array of rainbow-colored pills on which they'll carousel for the better portions of their lives because withdrawing form them is a new brand of nightmare. Was it worth it for those few elusive nights of sleep after a death in the family? I'm guessing no.
As to this article’s touching on “survival instincts” and how they’re outdated, I think your understanding of why that is might have missed a boat-load of reasons, including the above.
Your good work and books give me hope, Dr. Taylor. But as an athlete, you’re aware of the debilitating affects steroid-use has, not just on the athlete’s physical body, but their emotional and mental “bodies” as well.
Regarding one pervasive and prominent EPS of every psychiatric medication—akathisia—this side-effect does one specific thing in the human brain: it interacts with the limbic system by altering dopamine response. It skews and distorts the 4-F's to react as if there is mortal danger afoot when there is none. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
Not to mention the side-effects that hamper all that makes life worth living, all that makes us human: our ability to relate on physical, sexual levels--gone. Our energy—gone. Our ability to sleep or wake up naturally—gone. Our passion for life—gone, and in the constant state of panic with no threat, it is, in a word, crazy-making. Yet, we’re told to "ask our doctors if ____(fill in the newest, most expensive drug) is right for us."
In short, the medications not only remove many positive, necessary things human beings need to survive, it also simultaneously creates shame. Oh yes, “end the stigma,” and at the same time, the best way to remove someone’s credibility in any medical chart or clinical note, or in public is to call their sanity into question. Double points if you use clinical language and have letters after your name.
But most insidious of all? The medications remove the WILL to SURVIVE. If you’ve not had drug-induced akathisia before, it’s akin to mental torture that breaks the human spirit in two. It breaks your will to live. It shatters it.
I had an experience I’d like to share. A young athlete reached out to me—a body builder—who became extremely “depressed” after his mother passed away. That’s how it was framed for him--"You are depressed." The family doctor put him on an SSRI. Then an SNRI "booster." Then an AAP (atypical-antipsychotic) to "boost" the other drugs and help him sleep.
The young man kept training, but lost his edge due to extreme fatigue and massive, rapid weight-gain. He reached out to me because I moonlight as a writing coach, and he asked me for help in writing a book, she said, on how to lose weight on antidepressants and other psych meds. He was convinced he would figure out a way to do it. My, wouldn't it be a best seller.
I told him I'd help if and when he lost the weight successfully, no sooner.
Unfortunately, I didn’t tell him the truth: the way to lose the weight? Lose the poly-pharmacology cocktail he was taking, daily.
Why didn’t the doctor tell him that he wasn’t “depressed,” he was grieving, which is an integral part of the human experience, and I’d posit as important and vital to it as the reactions of the 4-Fs, such as punching an assailant in the face?
Our emotional minds need time and rest to heal from loss, and his mother's death was forcing him to do just that. But the "show must go on," mustn't it? Had he seen a therapist like you instead? He’d likely have learned—perhaps, because many therapists don’t know how or why psychiatric medications have made their jobs near-to-impossible—the above. That medications to treat emotional pain during human experience is, in a word, immoral.
If your dog dies and you develop insomnia? It’s because your dog died. Don’t take a pill. If your father died and you come from a terribly dysfunctional family—the last words you said to him were, “I hate you,” then yes, your grief will reach down deeply, and you will suffer, over and over, time and again, as you remember the good things. Then, you learn to cope, you cope, you get or ask for help, and you carry on.
Welcome to Life.
This is not "bootstrap pulling." This is literally doing everything in your power to get help before even considering medicating emotional pain away. "Help" might look like medication--but it ought to be a boat to get to the other side. The problem? No one is getting out of the boat because they are chained to it after 6 weeks or 5 pills. I would give the same advice to someone with a whiskey bottle in her hand or a needle full of black tar poised between his toes. But why doesn't the healthcare community do that, too? Because society deems "alcohol" or illegal drug-use an inappropriate way to cope with emotional pain? REALLY? You wanna go ahead and square that up with me in a logical fashion? Because you can't, not with me, and with YOU, not deep down.
This young man took his own life 4 years ago, and no, he didn't lose the weight. Why bother when he'd lost the will to live as soon as the medications drove what little he had had to live for into, quite literally the ground.
So, while an excellent article, I think it's time for an update, 7-years later. And I say that with my eyes wide open, looking at all the drug ads posted all over the site and sites like this one. Sites supposedly free—the tribal altruism of helping one another through difficult things, as communities and human beings were meant to do—but teeming with ads to medicate the pain away.
This site and others are lousy with drug ads, Dr. Taylor, and so are our other media, despite the AMA call for a ban on them.
Almost like a plague of locusts feeding and gorging on our desperation. All the while, we're being taught that, not just surviving, but THRIVING is simple: all it takes is a boat-load of money, a shiny car, eternal youth and beauty, and some pills.