Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Artificial Happiness

Last Wednesday I decided to stop trying to nurse Phoebe.  It has been an emotional ride, and Wednesday was an especially emotional day.  It also happened to be the day that I went for my postpartum appointment.  As I mentioned before, I pretty much cried all day.  Well, I did hold it together in the waiting room of the doctor's office because I didn't want to look like a complete fool (even though I'm sure my eyes were quite puffy...) but as soon as I got back into the exam room I broke down in tears again.  And then the doctor asked me how breastfeeding was going...not a good topic of conversation.  What was interesting to me was that she almost automatically wrote me a prescription for Zoloft.  There was no discussion of post-partum depression vs. baby blues vs. temporal sadness related to unmet expectations.  I told her I didn't want it, I didn't think I needed it.  She gave it to me anyway "in case I change my mind"

I know many woman who have struggled with both depression and postpartum depression.  It is a real disease; it can be very scary, and medication can be very helpful and necessary in those situations.  However, I do not think I am or have been depressed (in the sense that I would require medication) over the past few weeks.  I feel like I've had to work through a lot of emotions and expectations and sort through certain lies that I had taught myself to believe, and that wasn't easy and did bring up a lot of various emotions including sadness.  I know that these things and struggles with nursing could have easily led me down the path of postpartum depression.  I am thankful that I was able to talk to women who have struggled with this disease so I could know what to be looking out for in myself and my own thought patterns.  I thank the Lord that He spared me from this because I know that problems with breastfeeding can send women over the edge into a dark place.

I am certainly not against medication or anti-depressants when they are needed and prescribed appropriately.  I took anti-depressants for a period of time several years ago.  I do, however, think that there are lots of medications, anti-depressants included, that are over prescribed without appropriate conversations or diagnostics to help determine necessity or risks vs. benefits.

As I left the office with my Zoloft prescription in hand I was reminded of a book I read several years ago called Artificial Happiness: The Dark Side of the New Happy Class by Ronald W. Dworkin.  On page 2 of his book he suggests that "Doctor's have taken on the responsibility of curing unhappiness-- not depression, but everyday unhappiness-- through artificial means."  He suggests that this way of thinking has led to a significant increase in the prescriptions for and subsequent use of anti-depressants and other mood-altering drugs.  He goes on to give several examples of individuals who are in loveless marriages, emotional abusive relationships etc. who are unhappy for obvious situational reasons and turn to drugs like Prozac for relief.  They do feel better as a result of the drugs effects, but Dworkin refers to this as an "artificial happiness" because nothing in their circumstances changes.  The effects simply allow them to continue on in the same situations which are driving their unhappiness.

Anyhow, it's interesting.  You should check out the first few pages of the book on amazon here.  I don't necessarily endorse the book.  If I recall correctly the first third was interesting, but I don't think I actually finished the book.  Yet, the first few pages you can view on amazon I think are interesting and generate some good questions about the appropriateness wide-spread anti-depressant use.  Check it out and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below...

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