The Deadening Of America

Seven  million people in America commonly abuse prescription drugs, according to the National Institute On Drug Abuse.  These people are either taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed for them by a doctor, or they are over medicating themselves with the drugs that have been prescribed.  Not surprisingly, the most commonly abused drugs are pain relievers, antidepressants, and stimulants.

Those are just the statistics for people who are abusing Rx drugs.  What about all the other users, not abusers.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) recently reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400 percent in the last two decades, making antidepressants the most frequently used class of medications by Americans ages 18-44. Among Americans 12 years and older, 11 percent were taking antidepressants by 2005-2008 (the most recently reported study period), and 23 percent of women ages 40–59 years were taking them.

Americans are taking these drugs because they:

  • can’t sleep through the night
  • can’t get going in the morning
  • are anxious
  • are nervous
  • are tired
  • are depressed
  • are angry
  • are sad
  • are lonely
  • feel empty
  • feel hopeless

Much has been written about what is happening in American culture that has brought us to this state.  We lead frenzied, high stress lives, we live in a violent culture, we are subject to random acts of terrorism,  there is the 24-7 media blitz of bad news, the family unit has crumbled, these are hard economic times, pharmaceutical companies have sold a bill of goods to the doctors and they are over medicating American, the list goes on and on.

I acknowledge that there are some people who have a true chemical imbalance and the use of prescription drugs with this population can make an enormous difference in their lives.  But I believe they are a small percentage of the population.  In my own experience as an educator, I watched the meteoric rise of ADHD diagnoses in young children accompanied by prescription drugs to control them.  It was easier to pop a pill than to deal with an “unruly” child. Just as it’s easier to pop a pill than to determine what it is you’re really afraid of, what you are so angry about, why you can’t focus on your work, why you are so sad, lonely, hopeless.  Yes it might be easier to pop a pill, but at what cost?

images

There are consequences not only to our brains and other organs but there are also consequences of the spirit.  Here’s the thing you may not know or no one told you.

Life is a struggle. 

Suffering is part of the human condition. 

We are meant to struggle.

There is no culture on earth which does not have a central figure who struggles and overcomes.  Think of the book of Job.  In the Old Testament Job is a righteous man of the chosen people, and he has enjoyed great prosperity, until the day it all turns bad.  Things go from bad to worse as he is tested by Satan to denounce God.  But Job is steadfast in his love of God and finally he is redeemed.

Similarly, Buddha was born a prince, named Siddhartha.  His parents tried to shelter him from witnessing pain, suffering and death to avoid a prophet’s warning that if Siddhartha witnessed suffering, he would want to become a wandering aesthetic. His father wanted him to grow up to be king.  But of course, eventually he saw suffering, and did leave the palace to wander as an aesthetic.  He spent many years wandering and suffered great hardships, before he finally attained enlightenment and became Buddha.

The New Testament is the ultimate story of suffering.  Christ suffers and dies for our salvation.  These are but a few examples that beg the question, which is repeated in every culture, “Why do the righteous suffer?”

If you do not struggle, do not have pain, do not know sadness, do not feel alone, then you cannot fully understand it’s opposite.  Without sadness, there is no joy.  That is the law of duality that governs our universe.  There is good and evil, hot and cold, strong and weak, yin and yang, high and low, male and female, sick and well.  You must experience it all if you are to experience this human condition.  We are all of it.

Here’s an example of duality.  It may be a frigid day and your house or apartment feels a little chilly.  But you get going and bundle up to go outside.  It’s frigid, and the cold rips right through you.  After some time, you return home.  You open the door to the warmth of your home.  You feel that warmth so much more intensely because of the experience of the cold.

images

Embrace adversity.  Always ask, “Why is this in my life.?  What am I to learn from this?”  You will stop seeing yourself as a victim of circumstances beyond your control, and begin to understand that you can be the creator of your reality.

images

Advertisements

GET TO 80 IF YOU CAN (Maya Angelou)

images

“Cougar – The Musical” – is a very funny off-broadway show about three women “over forty” who are looking for love.  I went with 2 baby boomer women friends, and as you can imagine it was campy and fun, and we laughed til we cried. But at its core this show is a very poignant look at love, loss, aging, wisdom and self-awareness, as these three women evolve.

We “boomers” are in a wonderful stage of our lives. Every decade you have lived is a blessing.  We’ve all lost people who died young.  So be grateful. When Maya Angelou was asked about her life recently, she reflected briefly on her 20s, 30s, 60s, 70s, and when she got to her 80s (she is now 85) she said, “Oh yes, your 80s.  Get there if you can.” (Her new book, “Mom, Me and Mom.”)

It’s the journey that counts.  The “organ recital” of complaints, my heart, my liver, my joints, my back, my … may all be true but is it your only truth?  Are your ailments bigger than you, more than you? Do you struggle with them, and are you losing the battle?

601617_527902443914790_221196095_n

Take a moment to reflect on what you are learning from aging?  Remember that aging is like a mighty oak tree, which needed both sunshine and rain to make it grow. We need both love and suffering in this life to grow.  So when life sends you suffering, drink it into your roots, and allow it to make you stronger, wiser, and more beautiful.

images

You may want to reflect on some or all of these questions and write your responses in your journal:

  1. What is a most important life lesson you have learned in the last 5 years that you did not know as a younger person? Has knowing it had a positive or negative effect on you?
  2. Is this a lesson that an elder tried to teach you, or something you discovered yourself? How/ why did you come to own it?
  3. What falsehood has exposed itself to you, as you have gained age and wisdom? What made you shed that belief? Has this had a positive or negative effect on you?
  4. How has change served you in your life?  Do you embrace or resist change?  Why? Why not?
  5. What are your fears about aging,  and what actions do you take to counteract these fears?   (make a simple list- we will come back to it over the next few months)—-example  heart disease– stopped eating red meat, walk a mile a day, etc., Depression got a therapist, meditate, walk a mile, etc.
  6. You may also list  fears for which you do not have a counteraction.

You may also want to add visual images to your journal.  Draw pictures, cut out and paste images from magazines.  Just have fun with it.

images