I have a conspiracy theory. It goes something like this. The psychiatric industry and the pharmaceutical industry have an adoring bedfellow: patriarchy. Together they are a powerful, misogynist menage a trois. True, like all patriarchs, they sometimes do some caring, helpful things for women. And there are also members of the system who work within to challenge it and truly advocate for women. But, as a whole, as a system, mind-affecting drugs and those who wield them are a threat to women’s identities and minds and threaten our abilities to break free.
Years ago, I decided I would need some assistance with depression. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. I was given a set of questions, from which it was determined I had two forms of depression and two types of anxiety, including PTSD. Without any discussion of what caused my depression and anxiety, I was prescribed two drugs. I declined the second one. My reasoning was that it would be difficult to assess the efficacy of either drug if they were interacting with each other. Let’s try one, and see what it does.
This was the first of a long push against the psychiatrist, who over the next two years would have liked to have put me on five drugs. During those two years, we never discussed the meaning of my depression (depression has meaning). We only discussed my “mood” and any adjustments to the drug I was taking–and her ongoing recommendations for more drugs.
I had very valid concerns about these drugs. These were mind-altering drugs. They affect the very processes of the brain. They re-write you. As I read about the additional effects of these drugs (misleadingly called “side” effects in the literature), I envisioned myself in a drug-induced passivity. A malaise. I wasn’t going there. I just wanted a bit of help with the depression while I worked out as many non-drug ways of improving my life. I did not want to become a victim of the legal drug cartel.
In a world of justice, a first psychiatry appointment would have a significantly different questionnaire than the one I was administered. For example, for anyone in a partnered relationship, it would include questions such as these (feel free to suggest additional questions):
- Do you feel safe in your own home?
- If you have children, do you feel that they are safe in your own home?
- Does your partner use pornography?
- Has your partner ever coerced or forced you to have sex?
- Has your partner ever coerced or forced you to have a kind of sex with which you are not emotionally comfortable or that was physically painful?
- Has your partner ever told you to shut up?
- Has your partner ever denied you an opportunity to seek or take a job that you desire?
- Has your partner ever denied you an opportunity to continue your education?
- Do you have control over your own finances?
- Are you able to leave your home whenever you choose?
- Have you ever been forced to bear children?
- Has your partner ever denied you the right or punished you for spending time with other women?
- Has your partner ever coerced or forced you to have sex with someone else?
- Has your partner ever prostituted you?
Then a long discussion of any of the questions to which the person answered “yes” would follow, including direct conversation about rights and choices, and an action plan would be implemented, before any consideration of prescription of drugs took place. Then it would be mandatory that there would be home intervention. Divorce or final separation would be discussed, and even encouraged, and would not be considered a violation of ethics to be discussed.
To bust patriarchy, we need to tackle it at its roots. We can’t do it if we are drugged up wind-up toys.