Friday, February 12, 2010

Is mental health bad for you?

It seems to me as though people who pay attention to mental health do poorly in life.

AP reports that Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan's brother Mark was on meds and seeing a psychiatrist when he killed their father. What a surprise. This family's whole life now is arguing about whether the father was murdered by the son. That kind of sucks doesn't it? Think their Thanksgiving dinners and Fourth of July picnics will be lots of fun from here on out?

More from AP, the last heir to Camelot is accepting exile from the dreamdom of politics. So-sad RI Congressman Patrick Kennedy made mental health the signature issue of his career. He's been in and out of "treatment" himself for years. What a surprise. They say it never rains 'til after sundown.... Oh my god, that was so long, long ago, let's all cry for a while.

I follow a blog by Dr. Jennifer Howard, who points out that living a content and balanced life really is possible. Well, I guess this doesn't have to make me totally sick ... but I think it demonstrates the fatally mistaken viewpoint implicit in the concept of mental health. Nothing personal against Dr. Howard - after all, I practice mental health law, which must be even more ridiculous than mental health. But I like to believe I operate in some spirit of defiance.

I recall two pieces of advice in this regard.

Kendrick Moxon, surprised that I would consider such an ignoble profession, once explained what the practice of law really is. "It's reasons," he said. "Lower case r, plural." His point, which was soon proven by the verdict in a very expensive jury trial we worked on together, was that the litigator wins and is heroic merely through skillful groveling to an appearance of authority, and by offering up mediocre excuses and justifications in a larger number and for a longer time than the other side.

Rabbi Harold Stern, the longtime spiritual leader of my in-laws' Conservative synagogue, gave one of the finest sermons I've ever heard from any pulpit about why we don't blow the shofar when Yom Kippur happens to fall on the Sabbath. His lesson was that, notwithstanding our attraction to music and drama, the most exciting clarion ritual on the highest Holy Day of the year is far less vital to our existence than the small, daily and weekly duties which connect us to God and to each other.

So, I guess I do understand Dr. Howard's high valuation of a mundane, content and balanced life, in a way.

It's just that I also know, in my heart of hearts, that I would personally do much better in an environment where I'd have to escape from violent death at least three times a day.

And I still imagine that one day I will stand above the field of my greatest victory, looking down at the whole world which I finally command and the whole world's riches which are free for me to take; and in that moment I will turn and walk away with nothing but the shirt on my back, and thereby live forever.

Mark Helprin wrote, "Although we may have risen, we are still obligated and responsible to the battle as it is now being fought, for this is our time, and we have no other." So ... I do practice mental health law.

But responsibility to the current battle is one thing, psychiatry is another. There is no room in their concept of mental health for rising ... to anything. Psychiatry is a slave philosophy, and the promise of a content and balanced life is bait in their slave trap.

Who wants to be a Kerrigan or a Kennedy now? Give me the jungle, and the stars. Like it or not, we all sail with the tide.

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