Sunday, October 17, 2010

Out of Sight out of Mind: Invisible Demons

Just as the demon Pazuzu tormented young Regan in "The Exorcist", many people are plagued with emotional/mental illnesses that are not visible on the surface.

By Scott Tre

Human beings are visual.  We tend to believe what we see and experience as opposed to what we are told.  In these cynical times, people are less likely than ever to take someone at their word.  If something isn’t tangible or readily apparent to us, we dismiss it outright.  We adopt this mindset knowing full well that it sometimes allows us to remain comfortable in our own ignorance. 

Human suffering, in its many forms, is easily disregarded if it isn’t of the physical variety.  Physical ailments and illnesses manifest themselves visually.  They can be quantified with words.  As you sit on the exam table in the doctor’s office, you can simply point to the spot where it hurts.  We have even developed machines that use radio waves that can penetrate through flesh and bone to reveal tumors and cancerous growths.

The thought of facing your demons alone can be daunting and unbearable.

What of the silent killers?  Silent Killers are personal demons that haunt us and weigh us down with emotional baggage.  They ruin relationships and alienate friends and family.  They make us undesirable as mates and lovers.  People usually dismiss them as personality flaws, when in fact they can be remnants of past traumas and experiences.  They are ghosts and phantoms that are laughably dismissed by non believers.

In many cases, the skeptics have yet to be visited by such apparitions.  They’d like to think that their courage and resolve is enough to send the ghouls running back to the underworld.  They don’t regard anything that isn’t the result of what they deem to be a “real” problem (homelessness, joblessness etc.).  Perhaps that is why they are so dismissive of other people’s fear when confronting such demons.

Or maybe they are simply insensitive.  “Tough love” and “brutal honesty” are often convenient little phrases that thinly veil indifference and cold heartedness.  We all have our problems and many of us, quite frankly, don’t have the time or patience to tend to anyone else's needs.  If the person is bedeviled by an unseen force, they shake their heads in disbelief.  The “realists’ among us have enough to contend with in the “real” world, or so they’d like to think.

Then there are those of us who while not indifferent to emotional/psychological suffering, have a hard time dealing with problems that cannot be solved by applying simple logic.  The more logical and practical among us see life as a math problem, where the most “sensible” or “logical” answer is usually the correct one.  Alas, our emotions rarely respond to applied logic.

Anxiety, depression, PTSD, Phobias and other psychological/emotional ailments are about as real to many of us as the bogeyman.  We sometimes see the victims of these ailments as whiny cry-babies.  Cowards who use therapy and medication to help them cope with the realities most of us face on a daily basis with little to no help.  Drugs are seen as a crutch.  Psychologists and psychiatrists are often characterized as hustlers.   

Interestingly, the skeptics maintain their stance even though anxiety and depression are believed by psychiatrists to be associated with various forms and mental illness and chemical imbalances.  The difference between situational anxiety and the kind of chronic anxiety that qualifies as a mental/emotional disorder has been validated.  Such conclusions were reached by professionals in the medical and scientific communities.  They are not mere musings on the part of weaklings looking for an out or an excuse not to succeed in life. 

As time goes on, our knowledge base gradually expands.  Prescription drugs become more refined as our understanding of the chemicals that regulate mood and perception evolves.  The same goes for therapy, which is far from an exact science.  Neither of these things is fool proof, but they are an accessible and viable option.  The pharmaceutical and therapeutic communities may be profiteers who exploit weakness, but the fact is they are available.  Doctors and therapists listen to their patients, or at least they are trained to.

Silent killers can be just as dangerous and as damaging as maladies that manifest themselves physically via symptoms.  They don’t thrive on the power of belief.  They don’t disappear simply because you choose not to acknowledge them.  Drill instructor style “negative reinforcement” rarely works, and “just get over it” is about as useless as any other t-shirt ready phrase one can think of.  Easily digestible platitudes are not what is needed.  More than anything, those who are plagued with silent demons want to know that you see their pain and that you care.  While you may not be able to solve their problems, you see their suffering and acknowledge it as real.

If you have a friend or family member who is plagued by an invisible demon, a helping hand can make all the difference in the world to them even if you don't have a solution.

1 comment:

  1. This was a good read. I'll have to skim through the rest of your articles to see if you've since expanded on the subject. Well done, sir.