“Suck it up”
This oft used phrase is meant to cover a lot guilt and fear. Usually it’s used when someone is afraid of someone else’s fear and suffering. I recently heard a well-known radio host referring to Robin Williams’s suicide. His beef with Robin was that he often felt depressed. His way of dealing with things was to push past the depression and get on with life. As I listened to him I wondered if he understood the nature of clinical depression, something that in severe cases, does not respond well to treatment. For victims of severe depression, life is a rollercoaster with the disease receding and peaking in unpredictable waves.
What convinces me that this particular radio host was expressing his fear is that he had studied medicine years ago. It’s unlikely that he happened to miss discussions of depression and it’s trajectory over time. The implication was that Robin Williams was simply “indulging himself” when the relief he sought was within his grasp, if only he decided to “suck it up”.
Most people would agree that love is good thing, especially for children. But many feel that any implication that giving love to children is necessary is simply whiny “kumbaya” thinking. The reality then has to be that children can do without nurturing and that the need for love is weakness and nothing more.
For the moment I’m going to make the claim that we are machines. No, I don’t think that is all we are; my point is that the conditions in our life create reactions that are involuntary, especially for children. This has been demonstrated by countless studies of the infamous orphanages in Romania that sprang up after the fall of the Soviet Union. Without fail children, who were not nurtured and held as infants and as toddlers, exhibited what is called failure to thrive. The aftermath usually involves some level of depression, mental illness, stunted physical development, dysfunctional relationships, and a laundry list of physical and mental issues.
It should be easy to accept that infants and toddlers do not make decisions as to their own development based on their “weakness”. Certainly it’s irrational to think that toddlers are capable of causing developmental problems in their own bodies. Despite this, the “suck it up” philosophy dominates our thinking. Here, in the land of rags to riches, how can anyone not have the resources to be physically, mentally, and financially fit?
Are there people who wear their tragedies on their sleeves and use them to manipulate others? Certainly there are. But there are countless numbers of people who may become one of the legions of people who need pills to make it through the day, something that is not lost on their children who learn that life is a maze of horrors that need to be navigated with care. We have a prison population that has doubled since the 80’s, generating another high dollar industry that, like the pharmaceutical industry, perpetuates itself. We run the risk of developing an economy based on dysfunction.
More to the point, we have people in our midst who are not going to engage in the pursuit of happiness without help. For many people, there is no “suck it up” available. If you take into account the fact that many damaged people become abusers or the fact that children raised by dysfunctional parents become dysfunctional themselves, we have a plague that spreads like ripples on a pond.
Like it or not, there are people on the earth who are damaged beyond the point that a pat on the back and an “atta boy” is going to make a difference. Attempts to understand these people and work to prevent them from feeling like pariahs would go a long way toward improving their lives and the state of our society.