Anxiety meet hippies: the irritation of ‘fixers’


**preamble: this post leans heavily in favour of medical model, however, I’m not assuming that is best for everyone – but for many, it is certainly the most appropriate course of care and way of imagining mental health issues.

One of my key irritations in dealing with mental health issues is the preponderance of ‘fixers’ from the new age and alternative health movement – particularly in response to anxiety.

Maybe I’m just an undisciplined shmuck, but there’s something deeply annoying about people who approach you with a sanguine and po-faced belief in the power of any number of alternative methods to COMPLETE HEAL your brain.

I’m not sure how invested in a basic highschool science education some of these people are, but they may have failed to get the memo that for many of us, non-neurotypicality is not a manifestation of worry about bills or work. It is a biological illness, a chemical imbalance in the brain that meditation, vitamins, aloe vera juice and visualisation cannot magically cure.

I believe in complementary medicine, sure. But I’ve also been in the position of having a snake-oil proponent in my life, who encouraged me to go off meds and even convinced me I “didn’t really have” Bipolar. That maybe I’d just been led to believe it, and therefore had manifested it. This person is no longer my friend.

One of the best things I did was go back on medication, fiddle with it, get it to the right dosage. And lately, taking Seroquel has hugely helped my anxiety disorder (despite the crushing need to ingest ALL SUGAR EVAH).

Doing so enabled me to do things I wanted to, like work and save money and maintain my cats and a flat on my own. It got me to a place of stability where I wasn’t constantly teetering on the edge of living with my parents.

For me (and I acknowledge, not for everyone) fixing the chemicals in my brain is actually the biggest chunk of my battle. Learning to self soothe, attending therapy and trying to eat healthily and avoid stimulants and depressants and lack of sleep – these all help too. But magical potions and lotions and four day meditation retreats have not been present in my treatment plan, and I know of many stories of people who have been guided away from helpful treatment by these diversions. For some, they work.

But can we acknowledge that mental illness is REAL please? That for many of us it IS about having a brain that was born differently? That it is just as physically real and in need of appropriate physical care as immune dysfunction or a broken leg? And it can be just as deadly as cancer if not handled correctly – high rates of suicide in bipolar patients (just to randomly sample one illness) attest to that.

It can be massively presumptuous and dangerous to insert alternative therapies in place of frontline medical care. I spent six months wading through crushing, suicidal anxiety because I was off meds. I am still deeply angry at the people who encouraged that behaviour.

I’m not saying everyone should ascribe to the medical model. I’m just pointing out that it is rude, destructive and wildly inappropriate – often! – to suggest a reiki healing to someone in place of taking their lithium or xanax.

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About laketothelight

Feminist. Tea drinker. Cat snuggler. Canadian marryer. Queer. Fat. Lover of movement. View all posts by laketothelight

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