Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Francis to Depression Sufferers: Flush Meds; You're Not Christian

What keeps me going? Methylphenidate.

Pope Francis has admitted taking something for his nerves. (What, a benzo or Jack Daniels? Probably something that disinhibits speech.) Yet he shows a remarkable insensitivity to people who struggle with mental illness. As if they didn't have enough to feel bad about, Pope Francis confirms what they all secretly fear. It's their fault. They should just try harder. Their medication is just a crutch or a hoax. If they were better people they would feel good.

Pope Francis on Mental Illness

Friday, the Oracle of Santa Marta, said a Christian does not anesthetize or numb pain. "Pain is pain but if lived through with joy and hope, it will open the door for you of the joy of a new being." So flush those meds, all you "unstable," and "neurotic" people out there. Suck it up and just be happy, dammit.

The Bear shall be charitable and once again play the tired old game of figuring out what the poorest public communicator in human history really meant.

Obviously, he is speaking only of the ordinary, if profound, pain of daily living. Clearly, he would never apply this to people diagnosed with a mental health issue. Still less would any responsible person advocate such people going off their meds.

The problem is, that's just the Bear's guess at what the man means. For all the Bear knows, he is one of those big-pharma haters who believes patients are being turned into zombies. Actually, that does not seem far-fetched. Drug companies are really rich. So what else has he said that might clear things up?

"Don't give in to depression. Hope!" November 27, 2014. Okay, thanks for that. Perhaps he means sadness. But depression is kind of a no-choice disease. It's not a matter of weaklings "giving in." This might not be an important distinction for many, but people who suffer from depression are going to be hurt and discouraged when they hear this.

"You will have days you will feel down, but don't be afraid, everything passes." Pope writing to clinically depressed Argentine prisoner who was on inpatient status in a behavioral medicine clinic. The former rock singer was convicted of incinerating 194 young people in a club fire.

Yes, your depression will pass. Then, if you happen to be bipolar, everyone will have fun when you cycle to your manic phase and set fire to some more people. Especially if you've flushed your lithium.

Here Pope Francis warns about keeping "unbalanced people" out of the religious life. April 15, 2015.

All the people who know the human personality -- may they be psychologists, spiritual fathers, spiritual mothers -- tell us that young people who unconsciously feel they have something unbalanced or some problem of mental imbalance or deviation unconsciously seek strong structures that protect them, to protect themselves.

While the Bear appreciates the sentiment, "unbalanced" is the kind of imprecise terminology like "crazy" that isn't exactly helpful, can be harmful, and is always impolite. (Unless a crazy person uses it.)

And here is something right out of the worst days of the Soviet Union: if you don't agree with me, you must be crazy. November 20, 2015.

I will tell you sincerely, I’m scared of rigid priests. I keep away from them. They bite!... If you are sick, if you are neurotic, go and see a doctor, spiritual or physical. The doctor will give you pills. But, please, don’t let the faithful pay for neurotic priests... There are often young men who are psychologically unstable without knowing it, and who look for strong structures to support them... For some it is the police or the army but for others it is the clergy...  When a youngster is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I don’t feel confident [about him]. Behind it there is something he himself does not understand. Keep your eyes open!

"Sick" and "neurotic" men should get some pills from a doctor, but shouldn't become fundamentalist priests. Oh, and by the way, if you do have some mental health issue, you are not fit to be a priest, even if it is controlled with medication. In fact, all you sickos are probably not fit to be anything.

Oh, by the way, the Bear's two sons, who happen to have served in the U.S. Army (as did the Bear, for that matter) were gratified to learn of your opinion of veterans. And on Memorial Day. How special.

Or maybe that only applies to "fundamentalists."

Yep, Pope Francis really did accuse priests and religious who do not agree with him of being mentally ill. They're bad. Bad and crazy, see? How sensitive and merciful. A Pope, on the other hand, can be on undisclosed psychotropic medication and that's fine.

The Bear believes the faithful have a right to know what mental conditions the Pope is being treated for, and what psychotropic medication he is on. Seriously. This is a request. A dare. You show the Bear yours and he'll show you his. But, you know, if you have a mental illness and you're getting the proper treatment and know your limits, the Bear will not hold that against you. Because crazy people can, with the right treatment and a little luck, be anything they want. A Pope. A Bear. A man who thinks he's a Bear. Whatever.

The Pope does not seem to care much about behavioral medicine issues, unless he's tarring a segment of clergy with his crazy brush. Oddly, one runs across a lot of articles titled things like "Pope Francis and Mental Health," but they are written by people praising his general "openness," like Francis Mercy has been put in the water supply like Soma.

Pope Francis on Joy

As usual, this is overlong, and there are people waiting to use this terminal in the internet cafe the Bear is posting from, so he will wrap things up. (You'd think they'd never seen a talking Bear before in Damascus.)

On numerous occasions, Pope Francis has preached joy as the sine qua non of Christianity. The Bear has not heard an exception made for people whose neurotransmitters are half a quart low. Some Christians don't do joy. Yes, Pope Francis, I know. Your pastoral advice to them is: "You suck."

Well, your comments relating to mental health suck, too.  But the Bear is hear to help.

Some Don'ts

  • Stop using "unbalanced" and similar slang because those words are meaningless and hurtful. 
  • Stop using "sick" and "neurotic" as synonyms for "bad people who don't agree with me," i.e "fundamentalists." Not everyone agrees with you. They're fine. Get freaking over it.
  • Don't psychologize beliefs. Stop pretending to diagnose huge swathes of the  Church for your self-serving purposes. It doesn't work that way. 
  • Don't talk nonsense about "anesthetizing" or "numbing" pain.  Some may do so illegitimately (the Bear is not in a position to judge) but many people do exactly that under their doctor's care in order to be functional despite their, um, "nervous problems." 
  • Learn some basic psychological vocabulary. You don't feel "down" a bit with depression. The fastest way to make someone who is depressed turn you off is to say things like, "we all get blue sometimes, it will pass." That is just BS whether it comes from a co-worker or the Pope.
  • Don't say ignorant crap like, "a Christian is always joyful." It is never true all the time, and not true at all for some. We are not some kind of blissed-out love cult. You tie heavy burdens on the backs of the people, Holy Father. St. Corbinian's Bear knows something about that.

It is no exaggeration to say that this is a matter of life and death. Your words carry weight. They are heard by hundreds of millions. It is impossible to predict how some clinically depressed person, somewhere, may understand them. Please listen to a very plainspoken old Bear and have mercy. People with mental illness may not make as good of a photo op as refugees, but just learn a little, and choose your words carefully, please.

Someone kills themselves every 40 seconds. Imagine your words are the last thing the next suicide read. Think, for God's sake.

26 comments:

  1. Thank you, Bear, for such understanding and compassionate insights. Those who do not suffer from this malady (and let them thank God for this) have no conception of what it is to go through life in fear and distrust of your own mind, the constant second guessing of every thought, word, and action. And the pope's attitude: "Meds for me, but not for thee". Some love.

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    1. One might be inclined to chalk it up to translation, except he has frequently used mental health terms inappropriately to discredit his this enemies. People need to know how harmful words spoken in ignorance can be to people who are not in a good place. He knows as much about psychiatry as he does about economics and global warming. He's an expert in everything.

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  2. If I may, for a moment, in all seriousness, put down the fox mask and say a few short words in as much controlled furor as I can....

    I suffer from severe clinical depression. Modern medication isn't "happy pills" -- it instead gets you to a place where psychotherapy has a chance of helping, and where you have a chance of learning how to cope. Depression is a cross, that is to be sure. Pain is ok and isn't a bad thing. But sometimes people are just broken and broken people really don't need to hear that it is their fault that they are broken and if they would just "try a bit harder" things would be ok. That is not how the human body works. That is not even how God works.

    Joy is wonderful. But FrancisJoy is not. Mercy is a blessing, but FrancisMercy is a curse.

    Go Away.

    *puts the mask back on*

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    1. Well, not to mention meds suck, too. Granted people suffering from depression might be hypersensitive to comments like the Pope's but that's not entirely in their hands. They've heard "Oh, I've been down, too;" and "Can't you just try to get out of bed?" and "You just need a positive mental attitude;" and "look at you: you've hanged yourself again -- one of these days I'm not going to be here to save you;" and "REAL Christians are always joyful."

      The Bear is forgot his meds on his impulsive vacation to Turkey. Fortunately, his new friends Slava and Kostya who go everywhere with him are doing a very good job managing him in Damascus.

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    2. Very well put, Mr Kitsune.

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    3. *Fox Mask Off*

      Meds are horrible. It is a pain to find something that works with only minor side affects. Then you have to worry about the meds stopping working because your biology got used to them. Or changed and did something new.

      The worse part about meds? When you are on meds, you don't feel "normal". Normal is the depressed state, it is the gravitational pull of one's own biology.

      Glad Bear has new friends to watch out for him while he is on vacation.

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    4. One particularly insidious side effect of some meds (some atypical antipsychotics and even some antidepressants, both for some people) is the spiritual gutting that can happen. You can lose your mystical sense entirely. You know the words, but you don't know the music. Plus we live in an age when you priest tells you to see a psychiatrist and your psychiatrist thinks you might need and exorcism :-)

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    5. *Fox Mask Off*

      Nods. It hollows you out. Catholicism is a mystical religion. Protestantism barely scratches the surface of where Catholics go mystically. I've seen people have a real hard time with the Catholic thing when they are switching meds/needing to go on meds. It is absolutely not that medication is making them an atheist -- they still believe and have Faith, it is just that the connection isn't there.

      Speaking of music...I store emotions / emotional memories in music. When I am well, I listen to specific music to evoke emotional states, then when I am going through a depressive episode, I will listen to the same music and feel the beat/vibration and tell myself --> this vibration means sadness or patience, or remember God is out there, or remember that one time...Now I might not "feel" the emotion, but I will feel the vibration and that itself is something.

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    6. Thank you, The Bear and Mr. Kitsune, for helping me understand better what friends with depression endure.

      And I hope the Fox mask stays off!

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  3. On numerous occasions, Pope Francis has preached joy as the sine qua non of Christianity. The Bear has not heard an exception made for people whose neurotransmitters are half a quart low. Some Christians don't do joy.

    To be fair, join and happiness are not the same thing.

    Take Job 42:5 for example. Job was at the low point in his suffering and God's rebuke only added to it, but it'd argue that at that moment Job was joyful (though not happy!) because he had seen God.

    Concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl outlined a more secular example of joy, that allowed people to survive and even thrive in the camps, despite all the horrors and uncertainty.

    WRT to your other criticism, agreed. Pope Francis is a "wise guy" who misunderstood the term and thinks he it means he's actually wise.

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    1. Agreed, there is a distinction between joy and happiness. It is also moot in the case of someone suffering from depression, who is capable of neither.

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    2. *fox mask off*

      Correct Bear. For those who do not so suffer, it is hard to describe in words what depression is like. One might not even remember what it is like to feel a particular emotion. However, it is true what they say about depression hurting physically.

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  4. Oh Bear, thank heavens you returned. Another gem.

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    1. The Bear is still in Damascus. Slava told him he might get a special honor tomorrow -- a meeting with President Assad. Heck, he's a doctor, so maybe he can write the Bear some scripts. Fortunately, the Russian doc has him covered for Watsons for the... injuries the Bear accidentally sustained. A couple of traq darts would take the edge off, but the Bear does not think Slava and Kostya are packing tranquilizer pistols. The Bear must say, the Syrians love them some Bear.

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  5. Absolutely they su_ _! We have a child with mental illness. He has no frigging idea what suffering mental illness entails! This man is displaying ignorance and degradation to a group of people that have no control of their disease!! Offended? He gives a whole new meaning to the word!!! Someone in the Vatican needs to find the duck tape!!!

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    1. The Bear sympathizes. It must be inexpressively difficult for you. But he's your child. He is worth every bit as much as any other human being on the planet. Mental health issues are not an insignificant portion of the cup of human suffering these days. You would think someone in Pope Francis' position would bother to educate himself on the basics and also how to avoid causing harm with his language. The Bear and Pope Francis have a lot in common, ironically. We're both entertainers dabbling in theology. The Bear has just been at it longer and knows his act.

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    2. It's been clear to me for some time that the man in the white dress is selectively compassionate. He just loves humans embroiled in mortal sin and the more flagrant the sin, the more empathetic he becomes. Sadly for them, his idea of compassion is to encourage them to "carry on" and hold the mercy card out to the Lord, should they run into Him after death.

      Unfortunately PTSD, Schizophrenia,depression, nervous anxiety disorder etc. etc. are catagorised as illness & not mortal sins.

      So these people are not deemed worthy of support or the newly fashionable "accompaniment".

      That term apparently defined as: inviting people to communicate and receive healing through intimate union with the real presence of the tri-une God, while being in a spiritual state where the Real Presence is actually NOT able to enter into their souls, and heal them.

      It intrigues me that in the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland, the world has actually become as bizarre as Wonderland was. This pope would be a perfect character for that story. Instead of the Queen of hearts, he'd be the "Pope of hearts" and just as mad.

      Yes, everything is upside down and inside out. It truely is a "Looking Glass" world

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  6. Is Francis just irresponsible? Has he no idea that what he says about things above/outside his pay grade can have terrible consequences?

    Is there no handler, no aide, no friend who can tell this Pope that he MUST STOP TALKING.

    More and more and more and more. Some of the things Francis says are just stupid. What a horrible position to be in - you can say whatever you damned well please with no one to care about you enough to tell you to stop. He is making a fool of himself. It's time to feel very sorry for this man.
    Barbara

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    1. The Bear has made this observation before. He clearly does not have an aide to protect him from himself. Just Fr. Lombardi to try to do damage control. This tells the Bear (who has been observing humans for a very long time) that Pope Francis (a) may not be as humble as he pretends to be; and (b) is not as smart as he thinks he is. No world leader should go around saying whatever pops into his head with no filters. (The Bear can do that because he's a Bear, and the Woodlands isn't a big player.)

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  7. On a lighter note, it will greatly cheer me up to have Bear back full time. Damascus is not a good place right now. I understand there is a bear resettlement program somewhere in Illinois. And for Heaven's sake, have him put that sanctimonious ersatz rabbit out of his misery.

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    1. The Bear is at the mercy of the U.S. State Department. He hoped a C-17 would be fueled and waiting on the tarmac for him, but evidently Bear repatriation isn't a high priority. So there's no telling when the Bear will return. But the Russians are taking good care of him, so there's no hurry.

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  8. *Fox Mask Off*

    Pope Francis's pastoral actions are not careful, but I believe that is a feature not a bug. I argue that charity demands that we take him for his word and understand him in his own light and no other.

    Pope Francis wants the lack of clarity, the mess, the "whatever!".....well save for when it comes to his own personal authority (but only when exercised). Then things are VERY clear.

    Order, for Pope Francis, is a sign of a diseased mind. It is contrary to this Charismatic/Pentecostal/ Quetist/Gnostic movements that are floating around South America.

    He is saying what he wants to say -- I am just not sure that he cares a fig about how it ACTUALLY affects people's lives. He BELIEVES that his actions and words are creating the mess in which people will heed the movement of the spirit and abandon all these varied institutions of order.

    Just not sure that he appreciates how careless words lead some people to hell. It is all too much, even for the Fox to bear. It really truly is, as Bear said, a matter of life and death.

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    1. The Bear's mate, who is totally vanilla cradle Catholic who avoids all controversy (yes, the Bear is quite a cross for her to bear!) came out today with: "There are a lot of souls on him."

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  9. Thanks Bear for an update on how Pope Francis mindlessly disturbs some folks equilibrium. You are sounding very good. If Obama can't get you back here Trump will do it himself.

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    1. But the Bear is on the short list for Trump's VP! Did you know the Bear was born in Hawaii? Okay, sorry, not really. The Bear cannot lie.

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  10. At least bear patiently, if you cannot bear cheerfully.

    Thomas a Kempis

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