At a university house party, a new friend shared that she’d started taking Prozac for her depression (and as a result she couldn’t orgasm). “Well, what did your therapist say?” I asked her. “I’ve never been to a therapist,” she replied. Naïvely, I asked, “Well, how’d you get the Prozac?” Simple. “I told my doctor I was depressed and he wrote me a prescription.” I took a breath to keep my face soft but I was having a hard time understanding this. “Amedicaldoctor?” I asked. “Ya, the guy who does my pap smears.” I couldn’t let it go—and we needed to get that girl having orgasms again. “How often do you go to this guy?” I gently pressed. She shrugged, “Once or twice a year.”
Antidepressants can be the best course of action for breaking painful cycles and getting much needed respite from severe depression. But the fact that one in four women in the United States alone is taking antidepressants makes me want to weep.
I once had a public conversation about this with Dr. Sara Gottfried, a Harvard-trained MD. She said, “We know that most of those women—the one in four—they’re struggling with stress, with hyper-vigilance, with cortisol. Fifty percent of people with depression have high cortisol. We know that twenty percent of people with depression have a problem with their thyroid—a slow thyroid—and often, no one bothered to check those levels. We also know that a lot of this has to do with being in that less resourceful, reactive, triggered place too much of the time, and not able to declare how it is that you want to feel—which is where Desire Mapping comes in.” Yes, ahem, some self-help books can come in very handy.
Dr. Sara went on: “We also live in a culture that’s determined to throw a prescription pill at the problems that we have, yet we’re not getting to the root cause. Let’s start with the biology along with the work on the psyche.” Applause!
On the other end of the self-care range are the stubborn self-help warriors (I’ll raise my hand). “I’m just going to do some visualizations and up my echinacea,” you tell your friend during your second week of coughing up chunks of your lungs. “I’m just processing some stuff.” And through the other end of the phone your buddy yells, “GO TO THE DOCTOR! YOU NEED DRUGS!” You crawl to the clinic and wonder what took you so long to get there.
One of my closest friends is a gifted intuitive and Ayurvedic practitioner. Her newly minted ex-husband was dishing out one shocking surprise after another. She was preparing for their son’s wedding, where she’d have to be civil to her ex and his whole snooty clan. We were strategizing on how she’d survive the festivities without stabbing anyone or going fetal on the dance floor.
“I don’t know if I can hold it together much longer,” she said, quivering and angry all at once. Context: this is a woman who sees angels in the grocery store, who dreams prophetically, who has healed herself from breast cancer—twice. She’s a contemporary, real-deal Priestess. “You can do this,” I affirmed. Then she spit it out: “I think I should get some Xanax to take before the reception.” Silence. Based on our mutual history of self-help bravado, she was probably expecting me to suggest that she steer clear of the mood drugs and just do some mantras on the drive to the country club. “Fuckin’ do it!” I cheered. “Get the meds and just get through the ordeal.”
There’s a time and place for everything.
Knowing the right time and the right place is how you become your own healer.
In summary: psychology sorts out how your parents screwed you up when you were a child. Buddhism looks at how your mind can transmute your emotions about how screwed up you are. Spiritualists look at the past lives in which you and your parents were mutually screwed up, and how you can use that knowledge to become a more loving person in this lifetime. And if all that fails, call a doctor.