Drug `Em Up

It should surprise no one that I come from a family of tall, strong, crazy, hysterical, intelligent, passionate, big-hipped women.

Mostly, we’ve just been told we’re crazy and hysterical. The rest, we had to figure out on our own.

I had a great-grandmother who was a smoking, drinking, philandering type who’d give money to bums who showed up on her doorstep. My other great-grandmother was Grande Dame and ruled by virtue of her mean wit and insatiable appetite. I’ve got a grandmother who survived occupied France during World War II and hopped over to America with a GI, expecting a Place of Plenty, and finding a heapload of disappoint that she used to channel all of her energy into raising five children on a shoe-string budget and throwing plates at her husband with things got particularly bad. I’ve got another grandmother who told her drinking, controlling husband to fuck off for several reasons – among them the fact that he wouldn’t let her go back to school to become a teacher. She was named Woman of the Year in Vancouver a couple years ago, has swum the Columbia River, was part of a rowing team, and has worked for some ridiculous amount of non-profit agencies benefiting children. My mother’s the one I heard about most of my feminist books from – even if they were only in sight while gathering dust on the bookshelf in the dining room. She got herself an MBA and a VP of HR position at a $40M company before she was 40.

There are more, many more ass-kicking women in my family. Mostly, of course, they’ve been told they’re crazy. Mostly, unfortunately, by the men in their lives.

My dad and my sister loved to tease me in my teens, because I look so much like my mom. “Mom’s crazy,” they said, “you’re going to be just like her.”

It wasn’t until I was 19 or so that I realized that, you know, really, being like my mom really wouldn’t be all that bad.

But women trying to raise children and have high-powered jobs and live up to their full potential are generally just regarded as nuts. There’s a reason for this, of course: as a woman, not only are you expected to raise perfect children and have a clean house and get everybody to soccer practice, but you’re supposed to have a successful, money-gathering, fulfilling career, too. And if you don’t find doing all of this totally fulfilling and happy all the time, there must be something wrong with you.

Better drug you up.

Women in particular have been drugged up to “cure” melancholy forever, particularly with the advent of the scientifically “diagnosed” case of hysteria.

Luckily, doctor types don’t generally diagnose women with hysteria anymore. Instead, we’re just really depressed.

According the latest numbers, 49% of women take at least one perscription drug. Unfortunately, there isn’t a breakdown as to how many of these are anti-depressents. Since we live in a capitalist society, drugged-up men are rapidly coming up just behind women, at 39%. Again, no breakdown as to how many are anti-depressents and how many are heart medication/cholesterol medication, though I’d make a broad, educated guess that says most of the men’s drugs are heart medication or viagra, and most of the women’s are anti-depressents.

Cause if you ain’t happy, there must be something wrong with you.

Now, I’m cool with people diagnosed with severe depression and particularly those diagnosed with being bipolar being on medication, if they so choose. Depression sucks.

But I view depression more often as a symptom, not a disease. Just like I think gastric bypass surgery is a stupid “cure” for obesity when in fact, many people put on weight for many different reasons, and gaining weight is often a symptom of something else, I think that depression should be met with alterations in your lifestyle before you drug it up.

I come from a family of crazy women, and it’s crazy women like those in my family who are the first ones prescribed anti-depressents. Even my younger sister has gotten up onto this bandwagon. Cause if you’re depressed, it’s not your life that’s screwed up, it’s you.

It’s the message smart women have been getting forever: there’s not something wrong with the system. There’s something wrong with you.

When half the female population has to be drugged up in order for the system to function, I don’t call that a good system.

I’ve learned to deal with depression by examining what’s going on in my life: what I’m eating, how much I’m exercising, first of all. Then how much I’m moving towards the goals I have: how much I’m writing, how well I’m spending my reading time, my social time. Do I feel like I’m spinning my wheels? Do I feel like I’m not living the right kind of life, that I’m not living up to my potential?

90% of the time, making alterations in one or more of those areas and taking control of my life instead of playing the victim [“Oh, I *have* to stay at this job I hate/have to stay with this person I hate/have to put up with this stuff I hate”]will get me back on track.

The other 10% of the time, I take a tylenol PM and go to bed.

Sleeping lets my brain mull over what it is I’m chewing on, and I can get up the next day and go, “OK, here’s what I’m feeling, here’s what I’m thinking, here’s what I’d like to do.”

And then you do it.

I have a deep fear that when women go to their doctors and say, “I’m depressed. I love my husband and I love my children, but I just feel really unfilled in my life,” the doctors respond by writing up a perscription for a happy pill, no questions asked.

Nobody says, “What would you really like to be doing? Do you feel guilty sometimes that you’d rather be doing that than doing your husband’s laundry? Can he do it himself while you take a class in International Politics at the community college? Can your kids make their own lunch in the morning so you can teach yourself Arabic before work?”

I worry that we turn to drugs too quickly. I worry that complacency is stifling our potential.

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