Monday, February 03, 2014

How to Cope

I wasn't and am still not really moved by the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I've never seen any of his movies; I'm not really a big movie watcher. Without a personal connection, he's just another person whose drug use got the better of him. He's just being talked about because he happened to be famous. What moved me to blog about this was when people started talking about his using drugs to cope with his demons, whatever they were, and discussion has since moved on (in other places on the net) to people using drugs to self-medicate for mental issues like bipolar.

I did a little looking around in the internet, and I really can't find anything to go on that this actor had mental illness, or what his demons were. The only thing I found remotely interesting was that Hoffman's father was apparently not around during Hoffman's childhood. Studies have shown children of single parent families are much more likely to use drugs, so that could very well have been a contributing issue, since Hoffman's first go-round with drugs was when he was in college.

It is always sad when children lose their father, and it is also sad for Hoffman's girlfriend and mother of their children, who now is a single parent herself. What bothers me is the people that I feel are almost making excuses for taking drugs or being an alcoholic by pushing the self-medication angle. While I've never felt the urge to self-medicate, and indeed my violent reaction to some painkillers means I'd probably not find relief in drugs, I have felt the urge to be self-destructive in the worst way possible: suicide.

In my case, I would have left behind my loving husband, who would have been torn apart, and my two daughters, who would have had to immediately struggle through their crucial teen years without a mother. The effect on their lives would have been catastrophic. My death would have also affected other family members, in ways I can't say as clearly how. Yet at some times suicide seemed so tempting as a way out of my mental pain. If you haven't been clinically depressed or otherwise mentally ill, I don't know that it can be described. There were bad things going on in my life; there were great things happening in my life. Suicidal ideation goes beyond that. It's not relevant here to try to go into more detail.

The point I want to make is that when someone overdoses like this, there shouldn't be excuses made, or an attempt to explain the drug use. What really needs to be said is that drug use to escape, especially to escape mental illness, is dangerous, and that kind of drug use should be discouraged. Proper medicines for mental illness help you feel normal, able to function. They don't make you high; they don't take you away. It's also good to have other, non-pharmaceutical ways to help you cope, like exercising or knitting.

Sometimes when my mind hasn't worked right, I've had to cling to what I knew was true, even if my mind didn't believe it *at that moment.* Ace says that even if more recreational drugs to become legal, there should still be a message out there that they are bad for you, and it's best not to use them. If there is general strong societal disapproval of these drugs, could someone tempted to use them to cope, convince himself that shooting up would only make things worse, if he had heard it often enough? I don't know. I do believe that sometimes it can help to hear "Don't" until you can believe it for yourself.

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