Making a List and Checking It Twice

Megan McArdle knows when you’ve been depressed, and when you’re just bummed out:

Apparently, the administration has issued rules requiring parity for
mental health treatment with other illnesses. They’ll take effect July
1st. If you want to know why health insurance costs keep marching
upward seemingly uncontrolled, this is why: mandating new benefits is
always popular, and the government doesn’t have to pay for them.

I
am very sympathetic to the plight of the mentally ill.Unfortunately,
most of the people who will tap the benefits are not severely ill
people who need intensive care; they’re people who are unhappy.
Unhappiness is not a condition for which psychotherapy, or
antidepressants, have been shown to be very effective.
(Severe
clinical depression, yes. But contrary to the belief of people who
felt awfully down the time their boyfriend left them, these two
conditions are not the same thing.) Since the moderately unhappy and
dissatisfied are much more prevalent than those with serious disorders,
that’s most of what we’ll be paying for: someone to listen to
complaints. That’s what Senators are supposed to be for.

Right. She knows this, and she’s sure she knows the difference, just as she’s certain the rest of us don’t. She can tell when you need help and when you really need a glib blog entry telling you your problems aren’t anything anyone needs to care about. Whiners. Why don’t you just suck it up? So your boyfriend left you, so your mom died, so what? Quit your bitching.

I’m trying not to say any of the things that are going through my mind at the moment, my mind that just this week kind of skipped a few beats and threw me into a totally unproductive tailspin in which I wasn’t eating or sleeping that resulted in Mr. A having to sit me down and discuss all the ways in which I was not allowed to go back to the way I was nine years ago, because what Megan’s really saying is what a lot of people say about mental illness.

If it’s invisible, it doesn’t exist. If it involves you just walking around looking pretty normal, going to work and driving your car, it doesn’t exist. It’s only “really” mental illness when you’re homeless and filthy and gibbering to yourself on the street corner, when you’re talking to Winston Churchill or your dead brother in the lunch line, when you’re describing your plans to meet with the president to discuss your appointment to the Commission for Opening a Door to the Star Trek Dimension. Unless it’s like that, you’re not really serious about being sick.

Unless it looks like that, it’s just you, being weak. You’re costing people money because you’re weak. Stop being so weak. That’s what Megan and people like her say. And they pull out these examples, that they were depressed when their
dog died or their wife ran off with the sandwich counter dude, as if
it’s the same thing just because from the outside it looks like the
same thing. Just because we’re both here on the couch eating Lucky Charms from the box doesn’t mean our synapses are firing in unison.

Depression = unhappiness, is what a lot of people think, and they think anti-depressants make you happy. Do you know how much Iwish anti-depressants made you happy? Do you know how much I wish I didn’t need, say, a successful career or a good relationship or an involving hobby or a safe home or friends or family or books or movies or great TV or bad TV or those grocery-store frosted sugar cookies or ANY of the things you non-depressed people need to be happy? I’d save the U.S. economy billions, just from the sugar cookies alone. Taking anti-depressants, getting therapy, doing whatever I have to do to treat my illness isn’t making me happy. It’s making me sane. And if you don’t know the difference, God, I hope you never find yourself in the position of having to figure it out.

Megan’s whole THING here is just one more iteration of the entire health care debate, which is that my care is necessary and virtuous and yours means you are trying to scam something, and I get to decide because I’m just better than you. I knew the debate would go like this, so it’s not exactly a surprise. And as with most of these arguments about imaginary shitty, lazy people who will take us all for a ride, I would much much rather be taken for a ride by some mythical welfare queen or ten than let even one person go one day without a doctor saying, as one so gently said to me nine years ago, “You don’t have to live like this anymore.”

(And for all Megan’s fiscally responsible commenters talking about how this alone will raise health care premiums beyond our ability to pay, well, that’s why all us dirty fucking hippies out here have been trying to dismantle the goddamn system, but hey, it’s much easier to make up paper doll depressives and then set them on fire. Assholes.)

A.

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21 thoughts on “Making a List and Checking It Twice

  1. karen marie says:

    We’re going to need a lot more senators then. And since senators won’t give you a private meeting unless you are able to pony up tens of thousands of dollars, I am not sure that what she suggests is very cost effective.

  2. dr2chase says:

    Screw compassion and feelings — the costs of untreated mental health problems are HUGE. Marriages trashed, jobs lost, small business ventures flushed down the tubes. I wouldn’t bother attempting to touch McArdle’s heart because she hasn’t got one, but you’d think her greedy little capitalist excuse for a soul would recognize the costs.
    I have, so far, dodged the mental health bullet, and I am glad of it, but I’ve seen enough people who needed help and didn’t get it soon enough or enough enough to do the difference, and I’ve seen the costs that result. You’d think these greedy bastards would understand that some of this touchy-feely bleeding-heart stuff we pinko bastard liberals want so badly, would help the economy and probably put a little money in their pockets as a side effect. Bloody hell, to think they’d let the joys of being mean get in the way of making an extra buck.

  3. Silver Owl says:

    For a long healthy life never trust the recommendations nor advice from today’s conservative. Their mantra is “A dead American is penny saved.”

  4. jp says:

    One unexpected effect of the documentary *The Bridge* (dude set up cameras for a year at the Golden Gate, and he interviews friends & relatives of the people who his camera caught in the act of jumping) was its unstated indictment of American health care. Our national crisis is never mentioned explicitly in the film, but ever-present in that sad parade of people going over the railings because the meds or the hospitalization had run out.
    Megan’s incredibly flippant callousness on this topic, and her smug certainty, brought back my reflections about that film. Terrible and sad.

  5. pansypoo says:

    it is awesome having non depressive genes. heck, my last means happy. my ancestor must have a fun chap eons ago.

  6. Catherine F. says:

    I just don’t get it. OK, fine, let’s stipulate that some number of people WILL scam any system. Great, yeah, sure, some people are lazy lowlifes and would much rather go through the intrusive and humiliating process of getting whatever benefits they can instead of working. Whatever.
    I. DON’T. CARE. We need universal healthcare, period. That means we give it to the scumbags, right along with the non-scumbags. So fucking what? For god’s sake, the banksters just basically held a gun to our heads and demanded our wallets, and people like McArdle are REALLY worried about mostly imaginary people they think are just too lazy to work, or malingering because they’re “sad?”

  7. McArdle wrote a piece earlier on why single-payer is bad that was just as full of air biscuit sophistry and shallow smug self-satisfaction. That she writes for what had once been one of my favorite magazines makes me want to punch something.

  8. darrelplant says:

    Too bad there’s no cure for McArdle’s Syndrome.

  9. Ellen says:

    Meanwhile, the corporate scams go on and no outrage. That is also a symptom of societal derangement. If you are white and not mumbling to yourself, you can cart off the entire treasury of the country and people applaud your cleverness. They just refuse to see that they are paying more for that than their imaginary low level scams. They want to be the clever corporate master carting off bags of money and have the fantasy life that they too will be like that. “Lookee, lookee, over there, that person doesn’t deserve that,” they cry while they stuff their own pockets and the Supreme Court chortles along.

  10. spocko says:

    I’m with dr2chase on this. Universal health care will be a HUGE economic boon for the country. Think of all the people who would start the beloved small businesses if they didn’t have to worry about losing their health care?
    I’ve suffered from depression for years and it’s “sit on the couch it’s hard to move” depression. When I had a job that covered health care I went to therapy which helped, not I can’t afford that so I end up with more errors in thinking which keeps me out of connecting with people which makes it harder for me to find work.
    It is a vicious cycle.
    I saw one of my relatives at the brink of suicide because he didn’t want to get help. I our health care system it is better to crash and have a crisis than to treat stuff before it gets desperate.

  11. BlakNo1 says:

    If this worthless bint had to live in my head for a day, she’d be screaming for mercy within 5 seconds.

  12. racymind says:

    Knowing that people get paid to write that crap makes the depression even more painful… where’s the fucking lexapro?

  13. spocko says:

    You know I’m going to come back to this post because I realized just how annoyed I am by it.
    I was in a class where people were talking about depression and one person had an aliment that caused his cronic pain and he was lamenting that he would be in pain forever because of it. Another person who was chronically depressed said that, “Well at least you have an aliment that isn’t your fault. It’s genetic.”
    The teacher said that just because the depression is in your head doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a physical problem, but because we have all this crap about “will” and because studies DO show the link between your thoughts and emotions this give other people the “license” to believe if you try hard enough you can think your why out of depression.
    Studies show that it often takes both, but medical programs want to just send pills, therapy is labor intensive.
    I may come from a family where there are deep genetic depression but I would never know, it wasn’t treated and not really spoken about. And considering that it didn’t really hit me until adult hook following some very stressful situations my ancestors might have all died before people know what was going on. They also probably drank their way to relieving the depression. (I’m of a Vulcan/Irish ancestry.)
    If someone took a sledge hammer and broke your legs after they did it they wouldn’t say, “Come on, pick yourself up and start walking”. But if you are so depressed you can’t move, well that’s different. But depression can be a debilitating as broken legs.

  14. Interrobang says:

    Spocko, speaking as someone who has chronic pain, chronic pain itself can make you depressed. I’m a lot mellower and easier to deal with than I used to be, simply because I’m not constantly annoyed by my own body screaming at me for no reason. I also had an episode a couple summers ago where a medication I was trying made me (clinically) paranoid. It was scary and surreal and the mental scars are still with me.
    It scares me that “someone might get something for nothing” is actually an effective argument, at least with some people, especially since there is so much genuine need around. Funnily, I don’t seem to remember people up here in Soviet Canuckistan worrying that people are routinely defrauding our provincial healthcare systems; generally we figure thatdoctors are smart enough to figure out who’s really ill and who’s just “worried well” or scamming. But Americans really do seem to have a problem with trusting neutral authorities…

  15. pansypoo says:

    chronic pain is evil.

  16. MapleStreet says:

    The risk of dying from depression is higher than the risk of dying from a heart attack.
    Not to mention, if you have a depressed person would you rather help them live a meaningful life -or- let them be chronically depressed and consequently on a lifetime of living on disability?
    Even looking as a heartless number cruncher, which way does society benefit the most?

  17. Razor Eddie says:

    I was diagnosed as bipolar back when they were still calling in Manic /Depressive.
    I have more trouble with manic episodes than with depression, and it went untreated for over 20 years.
    Every four or five years I’d tear my life apart. I wrecked 3 marriages, totaled cars, wound up in jail twice.
    Once the mania subsides you finally see the wreckage around you. When you realize that you’re destitute, homeless, and divorced… again… the depression hits.
    It gets bad.
    But I still have family members that don’t understand. Their view is that I should simply… not do those things. That if I would simply *not* destroy my life, I would be happier. That I do it to myself, and am therefore an idiot and unworthy of their concern or help.
    I’m controlled well with medication now. Since I’ve “turned my life around”, those family members want me to ‘bring me into the fold’, as it were.
    I don’t even return their calls.
    Fuck ’em. They’re as bad as McArdle. Sanctimonious asses.

  18. BlakNo1 says:

    Last night I decided, after 2 months of being off them, that I have to go back on the meds. If I lived in a med-pot state w/dispensaries, this wouldn’t be an issue.

  19. mothra says:

    Uh, here’s a news flash for Meagan McDoodle: sometimes the people who end up gibbering on the corner would NOT be gibbering on the corner and would be contributing members of society if they HAD ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH CARE. Ditto for three-quarters of our prisoners in jail. The majority of those people have some kind of mental health issue for which they cannot afford treatment.
    God, I hate the right wing. HATE THEM.

  20. whet moser says:

    Taking anti-depressants, getting therapy, doing whatever I have to do to treat my illness isn’t making me happy. It’s making me sane. And if you don’t know the difference, God, I hope you never find yourself in the position of having to figure it out.
    I know exactly what you mean. I was “unhappy” until someone who had been through depression pointed out that I was failing my classes, sleeping through them, avoiding people, and generally in a state of steady decline, decided to say “this happens to people. Maybe you need professional help.” After a couple months on the couch and some medication adjustments I could do what I had previously been able to do.
    There are a lot of people out there who don’t really understand that antidepressants arejust about being functional. You’d think they’d understand that if antidepressants made you happy there would be a black market in them like nothing the world has ever seen. Oxy, ritalin, adderrall, and yet no one’s ever asked me, “hey, can I get some of your antidepressants? I want to chug some and be like I usually am.”
    She has no idea what’s going on outside of her own head. It makes me ill.

  21. pansypoo says:

    better living thru chemistry.

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