Dreams of Kindness, Love and Grace by Carolyn Berry
"The outrage of one dear friend and remarkable perspective of another bring me to contemplate our society’s tendency to pop a pill for even the mildest discomfort."
She sat across the table in our favorite coffee shop. This formidable black woman who I count as one of my dear friends—in these middle years when I’ve accumulated adequate life lessons to have sorted through what true friendship is ... and is not. Today she is enraged. Seems a series of powerful black women had gone to their respective physicians for various health complaints and all, every single one, had been offered anti-depressants of one ilk or another. Prozac was the most popular. My friend was adamant that a silent movement was afoot to pharmaceutically shut down the power of strong black women. I don’t know if she’s wrong or right. I do know that she really started me thinking.
In December 1985, I self-admitted to the emergency ward at the local hospital. Weeks of debilitating symptoms brought me to a breaking point in the wee hours of the morning. It was a week before Christmas. The doctor took about three minutes to examine me and read my chart, then told me I was suffering from holiday stress. “Lots of women have this problem,” he said in a droning monotone. “You’ve got to let go of unrealistic expectations. Life is never going to be perfect.” Handing me a prescription for Valium, he sent me back home. I didn’t stop to fill the prescription. Early next morning, I went to see my own doctor. Concerned, she immediately sent me to that same ER for a spinal tap. Within two hours, viral meningitis was diagnosed. In the years since, I’ve often kicked myself for not filling that presription. The valium might have taken the edge off the discomfort of that miserable procedure. Yessirree-bob.
My kids’ step-dad moved out 15 months ago—after several sad, slow years attempting to make some sense of a marital union that constituted a very drawn-out lesson for us all. Several months after his departure, an e-mail arrived announcing that he was now using a different antidepressant and life was much better ... he wondered if we might get together sometime. A little pill had made all the difference.
My dear friend, John, lives beachside in Southern California and has suffered from cyclical depression most of his life. Now in his mid-50s, he’s learned to relax into the “madness of his sadness.” John believes that in his periods of depression, he is actually his most brilliant—his most creative. He believes that in his depression, he is perhaps most in touch with the Divine, with Universal Mind, with the “One” ... that his times of dark introspection are critical to his own spiritual journey.
The outrage of one dear friend and remarkable perspective of another bring me to contemplate our society’s tendency to pop a pill for even the mildest discomfort. (Come on now ... over-the-counter pills you can pop BEFORE you overeat so you can avoid the gastrointestinal discomfort that come with a binge!?) Could it be that the unspoken belief underlying this increasing pill-dependency is that there is surely something outside ourselves that will make us more “appropriate,” more “acceptable”—ultimately, perhaps ... more “loveable.”
We’re raising a whole generation of kids who clearly “get it,” that if they don’t take their Ritalin, THEY are unacceptable. Come on. What kind of message is that? We concurrently reinforce a belief for masses of adults that they need some popular pharmaceutical to sleep at night ... get out of bed in the morning ... focus ... control their anger ... You fill in the blank.
WHAT IF our deepest emotions are our greatest opportunities? WHAT IF we consciously choose to believe that those times when we are most fully in our humanness ... feeling the depths of our grief, enduring our disappointment, living as brilliantly in our shadow as we do in our light ... are the times that chisel our soul’s brilliance into art? What if we choose to love ourselves, allowing the depths and sharp edges of our feelings to be three dimensional ... even the ones that ache? What if we chose to love another in the depths of their shadows?
she danced. she sang. she took. she gave. she loved. she created. she dissented. she enlivened. she saw. she grew. she sweated. she changed. she learned. she laughed. she shed her skin. she bled on the pages of her days. she walked through walls. she lived with intention. —(Author Unknown)
Carolyn Berry directs a community mediation agency in Salem. She is the mother of Andrew (age 15) and Kim (age 15). She is also a writer, a social/environmental activist, and a popular public speaker on such topics as simple living, authenticity, and peaceful problem solving. .