Just Say No to Drugs?

So I just heard that Jen McCarthy and Jim Carrey have broken up after five years.  And while I am certainly bummed that these two couldn’t work it out, it’s the reason why they broke up which I find more upsetting than anything else. 

Supposedly, Carrey is having another serious bout of depression, disappearing for days at a time, or holing himself up at his home, and not taking any calls.  Additionally, he is refusing to take any meds, despite of having a lifelong history of depression.  He has taken Prozac for short durations, but refused to be on any anti-depressant long-term,  as stated in a Larry King interview in 2008:

KING: Didn’t you suffer from depression?
CARREY: Yes, yes. I’m on a manic high right now. Can’t you tell?
KING: How did you get through that to this?
CARREY: Well, that’s another thing. You know at the risk of like opening up the whole Tom Cruise Prozac argument, you know, I don’t disagree in many ways. I think Prozac and things like that are very valuable to people for short periods of time. But I believe if you’re on them for an extended period of time, you never get to the problem. You never get to see what the problem is, because everything is just kind of OK. And so, you don’t deal. And people deal when they get desperate.
KING: So how did you do it?
CARREY: I take supplements.
KING: Vitamins?
CARREY: Yes — well, it’s not — well, it is vitamins. But it’s also certain elements of the brain like Tyrosine and hydroxytryptophan that they’re treating depression with now. It is a natural substance that’s in your brain. Instead of being a Serotonin inhibitor, which just uses the serotonin you have and Prozac and things like that — it just uses the Serotonin you have and it doesn’t allow it go back into the receptor. It metabolizes your serotonin after a while and you have to keep taking more and more to feel good. This actually creates dopamine and creates serotonin. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s amazing. I’m going to talk a lot about it in the near future.
KING: You’re going to write about it?
CARREY: Yes.

I don’t know, is it me or am I the only one who’s really getting tired of actors pretending to have medical degrees?  There’s nothing wrong with becoming an educated patient, and I believe each of us must be our own best advocate, and not solely reliant on a hierarchically organized, paternalistic medical model.  That said….um DUDE…you suffer from depression, a scientifically studied, neurologically oriented mental health disorder.  And a couple of chewable Flintstones ain’t gonna cut it. 

I also know some are going to blame his former girl Jen for his anti-drug stance, because most people believe she’s anti-vaccine when in actuality, she does believe in vaccines – just on a more delayed schedule and without unnecessary additives.  That said, she’s another one who comes off as a medical expert on the talk show circuit, and the last time I checked, you don’t get an MD from having hosted MTV. I’m just saying…

Usually, I take things that celebrities say about as seriously as I take the babblings of a toddler, but in this case, I take issue with what’s going on here.  I don’t think he doesn’t take his meds because he wants to deal with the root cause of his problems, I think Jim Carrey doesn’t take his meds because he’s uncomfortable with the stigma attached to mental illness.  Because by taking his meds – and taking them for the long-term – that means he has to put himself into the category of people who are chronically mentally ill…and I guess while it’s ok to wear your girlfriend’s thong bathing suit in front of the paparazzi, it’s not ok to have to take ‘crazy pills’ for the rest of your life.

I guess I’m taking this personally because I used to be Jim Carrey.  I too have suffered from depression on and off throughout my life, and for thirty-plus years refused to take any meds (something I wrote about here).  I get how difficult it is to accept that depression is the shadow which will haunt the corners of your house for the rest of your life.  I understand how terrifying it is to think that others think you ‘crazy’ or ‘unstable’.  I also understand that when you’re in the midst of your disorder, your normative, cognitive rationale will fail you, and while you think you’re handling your disorder just fine – without therapy, without medication – everyone around you bites their lip while watching you flaying in the ocean of your own despair.

After thirty-odd years of being so staunchly against antidepressants, you know what finally turned me around to at least giving them a try?  It was a fifteen-year-old girl. 

I was at my cousin’s bar mitzvah, and his older sister – who is beautiful and charming, smart and funny – stood in front a synagogue audience of about 500 people and talked about not only how much she loved her little brother, but how she envied him his social ease and his laissez fare attitude.  She talked about her need to take anti-depressant and anti anxiety meds, and how she wished it all came as easily for her as it did for him.  Fifteen years old. 

And I sat there in awe of her as she joked about her struggles in front of family and strangers alike.  And if it was even possible, I loved her more…which made me realize how ridiculous I had been all these years, fearing that others would judge me.  Because I certainly didn’t judge her.  In the end, by releasing my own need for control, I regain a part of myself that would have otherwise alluded me…the part that feels joy and gratitude, even in the middle of the chaos…the part that is able to distinguish real problems from distractions….the part of me others feel at ease around.

I wish that for Jim Carrey. I wish that for us all.

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11 responses to “Just Say No to Drugs?

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Depression is a medical problem which should have about as much stigma attached as diabetis. You brain doesn’t make the right combo of chems, so you balence externally. If your pancreas didn’t make enough insulin would it be viewed as a moral failure? No — you’d just take insulin and/or adjust your diet, and go on about your business.

  2. I totally agree…and often use that exact same analogy with clients where I work.

  3. I know what you mean about celebs coming off like they’ve got an MD, but I give him props for being upfront about his mental illness. It is so hard to break the code of silence around mental illness – there is so much shame attached to it. At least he’s sending the message that it is okay to talk about it :)

  4. great post. I think most comics are kind of depressed in reality

  5. I’ve been on anti-depressants since I was 15. My parents were very against me taking any kind of medicine, but after two failed suicide attempts they took me to a psychiatrist who put me on an SSRI. I can look back to who I was, and I can relate, but I will always take my pills so that I won’t feel so numb like that again. It is a medical disorder, and I look at my needing to take pills every day in order to keep my brain functioning like someone who has a heart condition and needs to take a pill every day in order to keep his heart working. I hate it when celebrities act like they have degrees in medicine (even though most of them never even went to college) and condemn taking SSRIs as a weakness. I can “feel” emotions thanks to my anti-depressants. They make me strong.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree. Chronic depression is a physical, chemically caused medical condition. No one would tell a diabetic, or someone with a thyroid condition, to take vitamins. People like Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise can cause a lot of damage because they get so much more publicity than medical researchers.

    By all means, combine meds with talk therapy. Talk therapy can be helpful. But I’ve seen all too closely the dangerous and sometimes fatal result of refusing drug therapy when it’s necessary.

  7. p.s. Sorry about the name ending in “ie”. ;-)

  8. I actually like the name Leslie – doesn’t have the same connotation for me as a “Wendie” or an “Ashley” – ;-)

  9. I just read your post that was linked about Cybmalta, which I also take after playing around with different drugs and combinations for the last nine years or so. It works for me quite well (in combination with lamictal) but I cannot forget to take it! I feel WEIRD if I miss a dose. Very floaty and strange.
    And if I think about Tom Cruise and his ideas on psychiatry, I’m gonna I need someone to pass me a Xanax :)

  10. where are you !!! wahhhH!!!!

  11. I just wanted to add my personal 2 cents in on this post to say howdy.

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