Friday, January 8, 2010


That's me -- a self-portrait. I've complained, moaned groaned, written lots of posts about wrong ads, wrong TV, wrong stuff that's brain washing us.

Hurray! A new book is out -- 'Crazy like Us." It's about the Globalization of the American Psyche.

It's written by Ethan Watters, who is the right guy to have written it -- he's appeared in New York Times Magazine, Discover, Men’s Journal, online in Details, Wired, and NPR -- he been on "Good Morning America," "Talk of the Nation," and CNN.

Simon and Schuster Books online praises the book -- "He traveled around the world and collected facts, information, statistics, in this provocative study of mental illness diagnosis and treatment in cultures other than our own. In the best investigative reporting tradition, he examines the incidence and current treatment regimens for anorexia in Hong Kong, schizophrenia in Zanzibar, depression in Japan and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia following the tsunami of 2004 ...

"Watters reveals the truth about a multi-million-dollar campaign by one of the world's biggest drug companies to change the Japanese experience of depression -- literally marketing the disease along with the drug."

The review in Time says: "(Watters) is saying America is literally exporting its mental illnesses." And quotes him -- "In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been, for better and worse, homogenizing the way the world goes mad."

In "Crazy like Us," says -- "Leading trend-spotter and science writer Ethan Watters shows that we are not only changing the way the world treats and understands mental illness, we are actually changing the symptoms and prevalence of the diseases themselves."

The reference to Homogenizing caught my eye and keeps echoing. The mixing, blending of mental illness, cultural illnesses is what I'm focusing on -- I see it happening, feel it again and again, every day.

My Aunt in a retirement home is taking Lexapro, sleeping pills, and Aricept randomly. She's strong willed. The doctors probably prescribed the pills accurately, but Auntie medicates herself, when she's feeling blue, angry, upset, or just can't sleep.

The son of my best friend has been on Prozac, Effexor, Celexa, Wellbutrin, and has been seeing various therapists for eight years -- the current one, whom he sees twice a week, put him back on Effexor. (The kid is still depressed, but functioning.)

We've got various simple/common disorders for which we take diet pills, sleeping pills, or maybe energy pills -- like Amino Fuel, or something that contains epinephrine, or serotonin.

For panic -- gee -- we've got so many things that panic us.

Like PANIC about all those probability statistics that prove you might get cancer -- your bones are thinning -- you're tired -- that cramp -- oh dear -- those symptoms --you've gotta see your doctor immediately!

But the doctor's busy -- he can't fit you into his schedule for four weeks, and then he'll want tests. X- rays, colonoscopy, MRI, CAT scan, or some kind of Tomography and ...

PANIC about money, PANIC about all the time it'll take to figure out what's wrong, PANIC about "image" -- looking good, looking younger, making it, being successful, getting a prestigious job, and all that other important American success stuff -- marriage, family, and supporting the family. (Even though 50 percent of American women are the breadwinners today, it's still a panicking issue.)

PANIC about the right way/wrong way to do everything. And all that homogenized advice --you better do this or your brain will slow down, your bones will break, your teeth will decay, or (fate worse than death), you'll get fat!

A depressed friend of mine was diagnosed by various MD's -- told she's Bi-Polar, has a learning disorder, and "ADS" -- an inability for forming relationships, or gee -- was it one of the other disorders with different initials?

(I don't know about you, but it makes me feel dumb and angry --that I am supposed to know what the initials mean -- I don't! Are we abbreviating to save space on a page, or doing it to make the announcer's news-briefs easier to understand? )

Anyhow, I'm hoping "Crazy Like Us" helps us realize that it's up to you, as an individual, to figure out what makes you feel better, and stop throwing all those warnings, those pills, those fears, those panics into the blender -- making a frothy concoction that's easy to swallow -- IT'S BAD FOR YOU! It's making you sick.

I'm GLAD the Watters wrote about all the Jerry Bruckheimer (see my post,"Off with his head," 8/12) murder-death-violence-sex TV -- glad the Watters warns us about all our packaged panics, pills, and remedies for our own cultural diseases.

Can we fix it? Fix it -- fix me -- fix us -- fix the global them -- that's my prayer.

1 comment:

Carola said...

I agree with you that the best prescription for mental health is self-knowledge. It takes years and years to learn to use it effectively, however, and one may need assistance from a person or a pill.