Medicating Ourselves Into Lives Not Worth Living

This blog post is part 1 in my 3 part series on Mental Health. You can find part 2 here: Psychiatric Discontents & A Movement Towards A Better Model Of Mental Health, and part 3 here: Towards A New Paradigm of Mental Health And An Enlightened Society.


The world has way too many people on medication. It is destroying their potential to create a life they love. And it is destroying the world.

We medicate to treat real, serious symptoms, but from my own experience, I don’t believe our medication practices are treating the true cause. And we won’t treat the true cause until we stop attributing mental health problems to something out of our conscious control, such as genetics and biochemical imbalances.

The cause for most mental health problems is that straight up most people just lose the battle against themselves. 

People may be in bad environments. They may have the deck stacked against them but true health will only be found when people confront their internal reality honestly and valiantly.

It is no easy task, but most mental illness can be solved if people learned to control their thoughts and were able to successfully navigate their way to healthy environments that helped them achieve their goals.

Instead of helping people engage in that fight, we numb them into submission with medication.

In my own personal journey I had dark days as a teenager starting around 15, as I dealt with my dissatisfaction with life. I had thrown away belief in god and was dealing with existential angst. I had sports injuries that prevented from competing, stripping my personal identity bare, which at the time was tied to my athletic competence. I had trouble adjusting to the high school social scene. I found my classmates unfriendly and actively mean. I couldn’t find anyone who would have the conversations I wanted to have. I was asking big questions that nobody I knew found relevant. I felt misunderstood, alone and arrogant. I felt my high school was wasting my time, trying to give me an elite education for a world that no longer existed.

While my particular form of malady may be rare, in experiencing deep pain as a result of dissatisfaction with the world, I’m sure I’m not alone. I could have let my pain consume me. Instead, I used the pain as fuel to find greener pastures. I searched for ideas I was passionate about, and people I could relate to who could support me in creating the life I wanted.

I think if I talked to a doctor about my depression they would have given me medication. I believe this would have destroyed my life.

My acute pain might be gone, but its absence would delude me into believing nothing was wrong and prevent me figuring out how to create a life I love. My life would be pervaded by a permanent background noise, whispering, “Something is missing.”

It is not pain we should seek to avoid. It is settling for a life anything short of our dreams. Ideals may not be achievable but we should never stop trying to get closer to them. 

In some circumstances it is probably beneficial to dull our senses to give our traumas time to heal and the mind a chance to reset. But anything more than a few weeks or months is a resignation of your life.

The reality is that, it is fucking hard to get life where you want it to be. Right now, my life is almost everything I have wanted it to be. But boy has it taken a long time. I think this journey probably started for me at 15. That means it was a fight that lasted more than 6 years. The first time I really felt the tide turn was two years ago when I went to a spa with my friends at the end of a six week experience at an innovation camp in Berlin called Palomar5. I remember lying on my back in a heated pool, with my eyes closed, feeling for the first time that my life was finally on track.

But on track did not mean I had arrived. It was a month before Palomar5 that I decided I was going to figure out how to increase the success rate of startups and try to do my part to accelerate the global pace of innovation. It would take nearly two more years of hard work and persistence, and ignoring lot of people who told me I was too young, too inexperienced and too naive to accomplish what I set out to do, before my ideas would finally gain traction in the form of the Startup Genome.

I now have excellent mental health, excellent physical health, a close-knit circle of friends and a thriving startup. But getting here has felt like climbing a monumental mountain, requiring a tremendous amount of mental toughness and interpersonal work. It’s maybe been only in the last 10 days since the successful launch of the Startup Genome Compass that I have felt I truly reached the mountaintop. If this is true, then it was a 6 year journey. But every end has a new beginning and I am now setting my sights on a new much larger mountain.

I worry that most people haven’t built up the mental toughness to complete this journey. They don’t have the fortitude to stare darkness in the face and keep fighting until they create the life they want. At the same time I believe this inner strength is inside everyone. All people are connected to a long lineage of descendants who have overcome incredible adversity on the journey from Early Primate to Modern Man.

Six years felt like a tremendously long time, and at times I doubted I would ever make it. But I never gave up. If I had to, I would have kept going for 20 years, 30 years, my entire life, because anything less isn’t a life worth living.

My hope is that more people find it in themselves to embark on this journey and battle themselves and their environment until they carve out a life they love. At this point, I don’t have a systemic solution, but I wanted to point out in this post that most of the world’s 6.77 billion people are not achieving their full potential, and until we acknowledge our society’s overzealous prescription of medication as a growing part of the problem, society will be continuing to dig its own grave.


This blog post is part 1 in my 3 part series on Mental Health. You can find part 2 here: Psychiatric Discontents & A Movement Towards A Better Model Of Mental Health, and part 3 here: Towards A New Paradigm of Mental Health And An Enlightened Society.

102 Comments
  • Disappointed
    September 11, 2011

    Dark days and dehabilitating depression are quite different. I hope you never have to experience the kind of depression that comes from nothing…not just a sports injury and social problems in high school. I find your post not only naive but offensive to those who are on medication and blissfully self centered.

    • Max Marmer
      September 12, 2011

      Dark days and debilitating depression are probably points along the same continuum. I could have stumbled down instead of climbing back up. 

      My thoughts are more directed towards those at the dividing line between mental health and despair, rather than about how to help those who have already fallen. 

  • Anonymous
    September 11, 2011

    Yay for throwing out hundreds of years of science and research in psychology and brain chemistry based on your several years of nonscientific observation of yourself.

    • Max Marmer
      September 12, 2011

      Yes, you’re right this a personal blog, not a scientific paper.

      But my worldview is informed by many scientific findings. One core assumption in here is that healthiness comes from taking action towards a better life, not mitigating pain with drugs. There are all sorts of studies that show the ability of exercise to treat depression better than medication, the positive effect of a good social circle, self-esteem from success and hard work, and emotions being within people’s control (NLP, Paul Ekman etc).

      • Anonymous
        September 13, 2011

        The problem with your assumption there is a false dichotomy–you assume that mitigating pain with drugs is not in and of itself taking action towards a better life. I think in a lot of people’s cases, it is. If someone with arthritis can take pain medication to let them get past that and live a fulfilling life, how is that different from someone with depression taking antidepressants to let them get past it and live a fulfilling life?

        • Max Marmer
          September 13, 2011

          “If someone with arthritis can take pain medication to let them get past that and live a fulfilling life, how is that different from someone with depression taking antidepressants to let them get past it and live a fulfilling life?”
          It’s very different. The drugs directly inhibit people from living a fulfilling life. I guess it depends on what your definition of a fulfilling life is. The drugs make it their life better than life without drugs and the absence of any other treatment, but they create a ceiling that probably sits below fulfilling for most people, since many of these drugs inhibit authentic self expression and self-exploration.

          In your analogy it would akin to taking arthritic drugs that eased the pain, but where the side effect was that the person could no longer sprint, and their idea of a fulfilling life was to be a runner.

          • Laurie
            September 13, 2011

            “The drugs directly inhibit people from living a fulfilling life. I guess it depends on what your definition of a fulfilling life is. The drugs make it their life better than life without drugs and the absence of any other treatment, but they create a ceiling that probably sits below fulfilling for most people, since many of these drugs inhibit authentic self expression and self-exploration.”

            How do you know this? How can you prove this? Have you polled a large number of people taking psychiatric medication to see if they feel their life is “fulfilling”?

            Some people taking medication find that they are able to have a much more fulfilled existence and express themselves more fully. 

            What do you think about a person with OCD that inhibits their life so strongly that they become scared of most things out of their control and become unable to leave the house? Say that person begins taking a psychiatric medication found to be beneficial to the treatment of OCD, and they regain their ability to leave their house and once again enjoy a more enriched life, doing the things they enjoy and exploring the world in the ways they were missing out on.
            What about a person with Bipolar Disorder, who suffers from periods of mania where they stay up all night, painting and writing and exploring their creativity, but they also crash into periods of depression where they have thoughts of suicide that they can’t get relief from, and end up attempting suicide?  What if this person begins a treatment regimen that incorporates both psychiatric drugs as well as cognitive behavioral therapy and through this treatment, finds a more balanced, peaceful existence?  One where they are still able to paint, write, create, but not with such a manic fervor, and not without periods of unceasing thoughts of suicide and sadness.

            Yes, some people seeking mental health treatment may not need medication – many certainly do not. And medication is not a substitute for therapy and self-work. And there are doctors who do over-medicate people. But there are also many instances, situations, people, where medication is the right choice and does not inhibit a person from living a fulfilling life.

            It’s pretty ignorant (and rude) to state that someone on medication is unable to live a fulfilling life.

          • Max Marmer
            September 14, 2011

            I agree that in the anecdotes you outline it was probably beneficial for the person to take medication. But they should probably seek to at some point seek to live without medication, since there are almost always negative side effects. 

          • Anonymous
            September 14, 2011

            You mention some imaginary “ceiling” that medication creates for life fulfillment. I guess I don’t understand how a life without medication is objectively more fulfilling than one with (I suppose it’s cheaper?), but let’s imagine that’s true. You contend that people with mental health conditions can get past them without medication. In reality, many can, but many can’t. If medication allows someone to get closer to the ceiling you describe than they would be able to without medication, why is medication not a good choice for them?

            You have shown you believe you are able to diagnose society in general and people with mental illness from afar. I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think anyone but a medical professional would be able to tell you whether you really had depression. But your entire blog post (not a research paper, I know, but something you put out on the internet to influence people’s opinions and actions) is based upon a flawed premise–that you conquered depression.

            Having some symptoms of depression doesn’t mean you had depression. Until you actually find out that you actually had depression (which would involve getting a diagnosis from a doctor or two), your claim that you conquered it is a little like my saying I got over cancer without chemo because I had a stomach ache and a rash (two symptoms of cancer) and I powered through it, and then offering my opinion that other people who use chemo are living a life that’s below their potential. Do you see how insulting that is?

            Even if you did have depression, different people require different treatment methods. Just because one person with depression has it to a severity level where medication is unnecessary, doesn’t mean that everyone can get over it without medication.

          • Laurie
            September 14, 2011

            For someone with a debilitating mental illness, seeking to live without medication can itself have a negative side effect – death. Suicide rates are very high for those with untreated mental illness, as well as for those who opt to go off medication which was previously stabilizing them.

            http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/suicideprevention/Suicide%20prevention%20strategies-systematic%20review.pdf

            http://mentalillnesspolicy.org/consequences/untreated.html

          • Bgriffith
            September 13, 2011

            Man[woman] exists for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life. If life is happier with the assistance of medication, so be it. 

          • Max Marmer
            September 14, 2011

            Isn’t man’s moral purpose also to strive to be all that he can be?

          • meggus pee
            September 14, 2011

            “The drugs directly inhibit people from living a fulfilling life. ”

            this is completely false. Myself, my sister, my mother, my fiancé, friends of mine, and about 758319067583290678923567897689520786972589675289678290576 other people in the world are proof this is not true. 

            How dare you suggest that somehow I am not living my life to the fullest because I am on medication? That is so offensive, it’s not even funny. 

          • Anonymous
            September 14, 2011

            Exactly. Here he doesn’t even say “the most fulfilling life they could lead” or something like that. Taking medication doesn’t make your life inherently unfulfilling.

            I have a great job, good friends, and love my life. What exactly would not taking my medication do to make my life more fulfilling?

  • Max Marmer
    September 12, 2011

    Transporting comment from fb conversation. Worth adding to the permanent thread:

    Aubrie Lee Hi, Max,

    You’ve brought up a widely pertinent subject, I’d like to share my thoughts on the matter.

    “I think if I talked to a doctor about my depression they would have given me medication. I believe this would have destroyed my life.”
    This implies that you never did talk to a doctor. While it is entirely possible that a doctor would have encouraged you to use medication to overcome the issues that you have decided to overcome through your own willpower and strength of mind, it is also entirely possible that a sensitive doctor would have suggested other, nonchemical treatments that you might have found useful, or at least interesting.

    It’s clear that you are extremely talented and self-aware, but perhaps you expect too much of everyone else. While you believe that medication would have kept you from your dreams, for many people, it is medication and other therapies that are helping them on the way to theirs.

    The reason I felt so compelled to respond to your article is that although I have no first-hand experience of mental health problems, I do have friends who feel that they would be lost without their medication. I also produced a miniature documentary of a Stanford student with bipolar disorder who was only able to take control of her life with the help of medication and talk therapy. She is an extremely vibrant and funny person, and her therapy helps her stay that way.

    “And we won’t treat the true cause until we stop attributing mental health problems to something out of our conscious control, such as genetics and biochemical imbalances.”
    The truth is, many mental health problems *are* beyond a person’s conscious control. To “stop attributing mental health problems to something out of our conscious control” is to attribute the fault to the people themselves. Not only is this wrong, it perpetuates the stigma against therapies that help people. It’s like saying, “If you can’t rid yourself of your mental health disorder, it’s your own fault.”

    Nevertheless, I think you provide a very important point of view and I hope that other people have been able to follow your model to be happier and more successful.

    I really appreciate your bravery in opening to the world the thoughts and emotions that most people wouldn’t share with their closest friends—in fact, the thoughts and emotions that many people would simply refuse to acknowledge. Thank you for sharing your views, and for allowing me to share mine.

    Max Marmer: 

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Aubrie.

    As I mentioned in the end of the post, I haven’t spent enough time thinking about the issue to come up with a systemic solution. I don’t mean to imply all therapies are bad, but they will never be the whole of the solution. The most they can do is get you stabilized and probably “back to 0”.

    This is certainly a complicated issue, but my strong feeling and observation is that our society is often in pursuit of the quick fix, the magic pill. And the solution will almost always lie in hard, diligent, regular practice and work. Most people don’t know how to do this, or aren’t willing to put in the effort.

    While it’s bad for people to put “blame” on themselves, there’s danger in believing you don’t have what you need inside you. Most people don’t realize how much of our mental states are affected by our actions and in our control. We make probably hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day that positively or negatively influence our mental health. How much to sleep get, what to eat, how much water we drink, whether we exercise, who we decide to talk to, the tonality of our voice, what we decide to put our attention on etc. etc. These daily decisions cumulatively add up day after day and determine probably the majority of our mental health health. I think most people are disadvantaged as a result of their own choices. It’s rare to see someone doing all the right things and still be depressed.

    I found out the other day, that one of my favorite philosophers, mid way through his career contracted a disease that destroyed one of his enzymes, and created a disorder where the most people with the affliction commit suicide. Through tremendous work ethic, and because of his inner strength and commitment to contribute to the world, he has continued to push the envelope despite being severely limited energetically.

  • Laurie
    September 13, 2011

    You are amazingly presumptuous, self-centered, and close-minded. People who espouse thoughts like yours (which basically boil down to mental illness – yes, illness, just like diabetes, or cancer – are the fault of the person afflicted not being “strong” enough to get over it and make something of their life) are a huge part of the stigma that surrounds mental illness and keeps people from seeking the help they desperately need.

    Do some research about major depressive disorder. Read about people afflicted with severe, life-crippling OCD. Experience the highs and terrible lows of bipolar disorder. Try being so depressed that you cannot eat, shower, leave the house. Get out of your self-indulgent existence where you constantly reiterate your imagined superiority and success.

    How dare you imply that seeking help for a severe, and treatable, mental condition is giving up. Giving up is suffering for years and not seeking help because of the pervasive rhetoric that to take medication/get some form of treatment is a weakness. You’ve insulted every person who has searched for help with something beyond their mental control. Congratulations.

    • Max Marmer
      September 13, 2011

      Laurie, 

      I’m not against seeking help. Help is important. But the kind of help people need to get on track is usually not medication, and if it is, it should be a very small part of the equation. 

      I read the beginning of the wikipedia page on Major Depressive Disorder, and much of the text in there I could actually use as citations to add weight to my points, rather than refute them.

      A few quotes:

      “The most common time of onset is between the ages of 20 and 30 years, with a later peak between 30 and 40 years”
      “is a mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low moodaccompanied by low self-esteem, and by loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.”
      “Typically, patients are treated with antidepressant medication and, in many cases, also receive psychotherapy or counseling, although the effectiveness of medication for mild or moderate cases is questionable.”
      “The understanding of the nature and causes of depression has evolved over the centuries, though this understanding is incomplete and has left many aspects of depression as the subject of discussion and research. Proposed causes includepsychological, psycho-social, hereditary, evolutionary and biological factors. Certain types of long-term drug use can both cause and worsen depressive symptoms. Psychological treatments are based on theories of personality, interpersonal communication, and learning. ”
      “Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred.”
      “Another counterargument is based on experiments with pharmacological agents that cause depletion of monoamines; while deliberate reduction in the concentration of centrally available monoamines may slightly lower the mood of unmedicated depressed patients, this reduction does not affect the mood of healthy people.”
      “The monoamine hypothesis, already limited, has been further oversimplified when presented to the general public as a mass marketing tool, usually phrased as a “chemical imbalance”

      This whole paradigm of treatment wreaks of a systems error of looking for the solution in the wrong part of the system. Messing with our neurotransmitters, ESPECIALLY when we don’t really understand what we’re doing, will not bring lasting change. What we can say for sure is that our neurochemicals respond to our ACTIONS in the world. The whole point of an emotional system is to allow us to adapt to the world with our actions. 

      • Anonymous
        September 13, 2011

        You’ve read the beginning of the article on Wikipedia, so you’re obviously an expert.

        • Max Marmer
          September 13, 2011

          Frenden,

          I never claimed to be an expert on mental health. But life isn’t composed of narrow domains with no relation to each other. I know enough about many domains and have ruminated on enough of my own personal experience to have something to contribute to the conversation on mental health.

          • Jess
            September 13, 2011

            Max. You are 21 years old going on 60. Try to stop acting like you “have something to contribute on the conversation” all the time and be a 21-year-old. 

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            Remind me again, what gives you the qualifications to be the moral authority on how I should live my life?

          • Jess
            September 13, 2011

             What gives you the qualifications to diagnose the world’s problems?

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            It’s a sign of a evolved society for me to have the right to express my personal opinion. But technically the United States Constitution gives me this qualification. 

            And if you’re a scientific purist, you do realize that most scientific breakthroughs start out with an insight about why the current paradigm is wrong and then proceed into empirical testing to validate to prove or disprove this insight. If I believed mental health was the most important issue I could contribute to, I would do this. 

          • Anonymous
            September 13, 2011

            To have an insight about why the current paradigm is wrong, you generally need to understand the current paradigm to a level deeper than can be achieved with nonscientific self-observation.

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            Generally yes. But so far I have found evidence to support the merit of this insight and inconclusive evidence to refute it.

          • meggus pee
            September 14, 2011

            not scientific. 

          • Anonymous
            September 14, 2011

            As far as I can tell, you’ve linked to some wikipedia articles and one scientific study which only says the effectiveness of medication can be affected by people’s expectations of that medication due to TV ads. That says nothing about the whether the medication actually works or not. How exactly does that support your insight that people can get over mental illness without medication?

            As far as evidence to refute it, how about major, trusted, nonprofit medical institutions (as meggus cited–NAMI, Mayo Clinic, NIMH), which base their advice on experience and research, advising that mental illness is not something that one can “get over” with willpower, which requires therapy and in some cases medication?

            To me, that sounds like pretty sound evidence refuting your claim, and inconclusive (kind of irrelevant) evidence to support it.

          • Tyler Brown
            September 14, 2011

            Also worth noting that the placebo effect is well documented.

          • Anonymous
            September 13, 2011

            “Yay for throwing out hundreds of years of science and research in psychology and brain chemistry based on your several years of nonscientific observation of yourself.”

          • Down10
            September 13, 2011

            “I know enough about many domains and have ruminated on enough of my own personal experience…”

            That’s all it is, though. You have nothing valid to contribute into this subject, nothing of any substance. 

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            It may be your opinion that I have nothing to contribute, but what is interesting is that you found it worth your time to contribute to the discussion with multiple comments.

            If my opinion had no value, then by association you believe your time has no value.  

          • Down10
            September 14, 2011

            Good point. Why am I (and the rest of us) wasting our time trying to explain that you are a conceited twit with no real life experience to back your endless stream of platitudes? 

            Have a nice day. I hope life doesn’t deliver the harsh reality check that you most sorely need too soon.

      • Jess
        September 13, 2011

        Max,

        Your ability to read Wikipedia is impressive. But you should know better than to cite Wikipedia anytime, ever. Come on. If you had actually gone to college instead of taking your much-vaunted “gap year,” you would very quickly have learned that “citations” to Wikipedia are like saying “some dude on the bus said…” You should also realize how ridiculous this post was.

        • Max Marmer
          September 13, 2011

          I’m sorry Jess, this is just a bit ridiculous. Wikipedia is a perfectly valid source as a first pass before a deeper dive into a subject. 

          A quick google search will reveal that Wikipedia is just as accurate, if not more accurate than most encyclopedias. 

          And you do realize that must of the quotes I took could be found directly in journals like Nature, Plos Medicine, and The National Institute of Mental Health. Are those not reputable enough for you?And that you’re saying that my supposed ignorance can be at attributed to my decision to opt out of Stanford, just shows you’re trying to be a conversational bully. 

          • No
            September 13, 2011

            From wikipedia:

            “Wikipedia is not considered a credible source.”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Academic_use

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            Heh, this comment thread is getting a bit amusing. I’m not sure whether the respectful thing to do is to continue to point out your logical fallacies or to just ignore you, and save us both some of our valuable time.

            What do you think?

          • Anonymous
            September 14, 2011

            I think if you went to college you would have learned how to look beyond the self as the answer to all your questions.  Also, you would learn how stupid it is to claim Wikipedia as a valid source of anything, let alone views of mental health.

          • Jess
            September 13, 2011

            Yes, that is me. A conversational bully. If most of those quotes could be found in Nature, PLoS Medicine, and NIMST, why not quote from them? Why not do the actual work of reading this stuff before you post something like this?

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            Because it’s my personal blog, where I’m sharing my opinion, not scientific research. 

            I engage in the scientific method in my primary work on the http://startupgenome.cc/

            “Yes, that is me. A conversational bully. ”

            Maybe in your head you’re not. Maybe you’re not most of the time. But in this instance you were. That’s all I can comment on.

          • durp
            September 13, 2011

            When an uneducated (and yes you do need schooling to be educated in medicine and its benefits or lack thereof) person such as yourself makes such silly comments, you’re bringing it on yourself.

            Also, that picture of pills on your post – that’s Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug.

      • Down10
        September 13, 2011

        A little advice, Max: 

        Not one reputable person in the world who wishes to be taken seriously will ever, ever make an argument that includes the phrase “I read the beginning of the wikipedia page on ___”.

      • Really, now.
        September 13, 2011

        I read the beginning of the wikipedia page on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and much of the text in there I could actually use as citations to add weight to an underlying rationale of your thoughts and behaviors.

        A few quotes:

        “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration,
        and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a
        variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
        Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal loveBelieves that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be
        understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status
        people (or institutions)Requires excessive admirationHas a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations”

        And lucky for you, Narcissistic Personality Disorder doesn’t tend to be treated with medication, so you’re in the clear.

        • Max Marmer
          September 13, 2011

          It’s okay if you disagree with my thoughts. But this is unfounded ad hominem bs and more a reflection of you and then me. To the outsider there is a fine line between confidence and narcissism. Do you even know me, beyond this blog post? If not, then I don’t believe you’re qualified to 
          make the judgment call between the two. I don’t believe most of my friends or social circle would call me narcissistic. 

          • Really, now.
            September 13, 2011

            I don’t believe that you’re qualified to make a judgement call regarding mental health and a person’s choice to utilize medical treatment and the character (strength, ability to make something of themselves, etc.) of that person. Just as you have pointed out that I am not qualified to make a judgement call on whether or not you have a personality disorder.

            You’re quick to jump on my comment, but fail to see your own fallacy.

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            You’re right, I’m not qualified to make decisions for how other people should live their lives. I never said claimed that was my jurisdiction. But I am entitled to my opinion, which is all this is. 

          • meggus pee
            September 13, 2011

            this is not opinion, and you have not specified this as opinion. nevertheless, in the word of mental health and treatment, opinion should only EVER be given by a doctor. Trained professional. which you are not.

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            Meggus,

            You should be discnering enough to know that is an opinion and not a scientific paper, simply by the fact that this is a post on a personal blog rather than a scientific journal.

            It’s also incorrect to say that opinions should only be given by professionals. My goal here was to stimulate conversation, which is clearly occurring. 

            Conversations help us direct our attention to new unexplored areas where it may make sense to focus more energy.

            The way we’re currently treating mental health isn’t working, it’s making things worse.

            The length of this comment thread is a tribute to what a hot-button issue this. And generally hot-button issues are a sign that something more needs to be explored.

          • Laurie
            September 13, 2011

            “The way we’re currently treating mental health isn’t working, it’s making things worse.”

            Unless you are being treated for a mental health issue, I don’t believe you can flat-out make this statement, Max. How the hell would you even know?

            I’m willing to bet that at least a few of the many people you regard as strong, vibrant, intelligent, passionate people living a life that they chose and created for themselves have, at some point, been treated for a mental health issue, perhaps even with medication. Now think about how you have dismissed them and stigmatized them with your blog post. You’ve stated that their problems probably stem from losing the battle with themselves, that their senses are dulled, and that, in failing to learn to control their thoughts, they have resigned their lives.  That’s pretty harsh, and quite offensive to probably anyone who has, at any time, sought mental health treatment that may have involved medication.

            You have marginalized quite a number of people with the things you state you believe regarding both having a mental illness and the treatment of mental illnesses. 

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            “Unless you are being treated for a mental health issue, I don’t believe you can flat-out make this statement, Max. How the hell would you even know?”
            There are many different ways I can believe this to be true. I can look at my past personal experience. I can look at my friend’s experiences. I can talk to my friends and get their thoughts. I can look at cultural sentiment. I can look at studies that show rising health care costs, and increasing number of people with mental illness. I can look at a health care system with perverse incentives. One that is incentivized to extort people rather than make them healthy. I can look at a society where most people aren’t healthy and don’t even know what to strive for. I can look at studies that show society’s rising discontent and see signs of it litered in cultural artifacts. There are many ways of knowing and personal experience is just one way. 

            “I’m willing to bet that at least a few of the many people you regard as strong, vibrant, intelligent, passionate people living a life that they chose and created for themselves have, at some point, been treated for a mental health issue, perhaps even with medication. ”

            I do know many of these people. And many of these people have expressed satisfaction in being able to get off medication. I don’t mean to imply that their decision to take medication was wrong, because ultimately if they are healthy again it was right, but it may be it was “less right” compared to other alternatives, that I describe in the post.

            “You’ve stated that their problems probably stem from losing the battle with themselves, that their senses are dulled, and that, in failing to learn to control their thoughts, they have resigned their lives.”

            Yes, I maintain that these people did lose the battle. But if they became healthy again, they didn’t resign, they fought and won the war.

          • meggus pee
            September 13, 2011

            holding this as “opinion” is like holding the belief that the sky is plaid.

  • Down10
    September 13, 2011

    > It is no easy task, but most mental illness can be solved if people learned to control their thoughts and were able to successfully navigate their way to healthy environments that helped them achieve their goals.

    > I worry that most people haven’t built up the mental toughness to complete this journey. They don’t have the fortitude to stare darkness in the face and keep fighting until they create the life they want.

    The only people who spout baloney psycho-babble like this are over-privileged white boys who lack any sort of perspective of what real people with actual problems go through in their day-to-day lives. What do you know about darkness? You’ve never seen it, you pansy.

    • Max Marmer
      September 13, 2011

      You can ignore my writing by creating a false “use and them” dichotomy in your mind, but that would make you a racist and a classist. 

      It’s a fact of the world, that people have different starting points, but today’s world has more upward mobility than ever, and most importantly we’re all human.

      • Down10
        September 13, 2011

        Perhaps my language was crude and inappropriate, but it does not invalidate my point: that you perhaps should maybe experience or talk with people with actual mental illness before spewing inane “self-help” garbage, motivational clichés and terribly misguided perception of how people should cope with mental or social disorders.

  • ok
    September 13, 2011

    This is kind of offensive.  And reminds me of junk I’d read in “The Secret”.

    Luckily this blog probably won’t have a lot of effect on people looking for help, but looking down on people who take medication (maybe not intended, but that’s how this comes off) is disheartening, and recommending that people avoid them wholesale can be downright dangerous in some cases.

    Keep in mind that you aren’t a doctor and have absolutely no training in this arena.  People facing issues already have enough stigma against them.

  • Robb Irrgang
    September 13, 2011

    The next time I’m arguing about an important decision that needs to be made at work (in the real world) I’m totally going to call the other department head a conversational bully. That’ll totally show them!

    • Max Marmer
      September 13, 2011

      Rob,

      You should have the liberty to call out the logical fallacies in your boss’ arguments. Workplaces that don’t have this level of candid discourse are very unhealthy. I don’t know if your workplace lacks this candor, but if it does, I’d recommend switching jobs. You’ll probably be happier. 

  • meggus pee
    September 13, 2011

    The information you have provided here isn’t just dubious, it’s dangerous. You’re making incorrect generalizations, you’re completely misinformed about the function and effects of anti-depressants and treatment, and I hope to no one with a serious problem actually reads this and believes what you say, because this is not about opinion, here. You. Are. Wrong. 

    It is incredibly, incredibly dangerous to suggest that someone dealing with mental illness, someone on medication for mental illness just needs to “control their thoughts”. This is not a joke, and this is not a matter of opinion. Mental illness is a serious problem that should be treated by a Psychiatric professional, WITH medication if the problem is serious enough. Medication’s purpose is not to “numb people into submission”, and for you to say such a thing is absolutely ludricous. Additionally, your entire evaluation of what it’s like to be on medication is so incorrect it is laughable. 

    As an individual with Bipolar disorder, I fully understand the necessity of medication, as I have to daily take meds to regulate my moods. Without this medication, i put myself at a serious risk. 

    Society does not have an “overzealous prescription” problem. Society DOES have a HUGE issue with mental illness – accepting that it is real, tangible, and treatable. Not to mention that major studies show that mental illness is severely *underdiagnosed* – people who should get treatment do not. For you to suggest that we have a problem with overprescribing? Ridiculous – and factually incorrect. 

    It is people like you, who spout out untruths regarding mental health and treatment – who frown on the taking of often NECESSARY medication – YOU are why people do not get the help they need. Do you realize what you have done with this post? You have stigmatized anyone who considers taking medication. Stigmatized people don’t go to their doctors for treatment when they think they can handle it themselves. Stigmatized people don’t fully tell their doctors EXACTLY what is going on, and are more likely to get misdiagnosed or mis-prescribed. Stigmatized people don’t go to talk therapy and learn proper coping skills to help MANAGE their issues. You are contributing to this stigma that so many of us in the mental health community are fighting to dissolve. 

    I urge you to rethink, rewrite, and or remove this post. You put many, many people at risk with your misinformation. For anyone suffering with depression or any other mental disorder to see this post and listen to you is, again, incredibly dangerous.

    • Anonymous
      September 13, 2011

      This reminds me of people built into the middle or upper class saying that the poor and disadvantaged just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” That’s easy to say when you’re lucky enough to be born into a base level of wealth.

      You say you pulled yourself out of depression, without even having been diagnosed with depression. Depression isn’t just a feeling, it’s a medical condition. For all you know, if you’d’ve gone to a doctor, they would have told you that your symptoms didn’t indicate clinical depression at all.

    • Max Marmer
      September 13, 2011

      Meggus,

      “You’re making incorrect generalizations, you’re completely misinformed about the function and effects of anti-depressants and treatment”
      Which aspects am I misinformed about? I’m sure aspects of post are wrong, but the general thrust needs to be talked about.

      “It is incredibly, incredibly dangerous to suggest that someone dealing with mental illness, someone on medication for mental illness just needs to “control their thoughts”. ”

      I never said someone just needed to control thoughts and they’d be cured. But yes I believe this is a very important piece of the puzzle on the journey to healthiness. 

      “Mental illness is a serious problem that should be treated by a Psychiatric professional, WITH medication if the problem is serious enough. ”

      Mental illness is a serious problem. I don’t mean to diminish that. But you should also be aware of the further complication of this issue, by the fact that Psychiatric professionals are often incompetent or untrustworthy, due to perverse incentives from the Drug companies. You do know Drug companies are spending Billions of dollars on marketing, doctors are financially incentivized to prescribe drugs, and prescribed drug use has been increasing rapidly in the last decade.

      ” Medication’s purpose is not to “numb people into submission” ”

      It may not be the purpose, but it’s often the effect. 

      “Society does not have an “overzealous prescription” problem”

      I’m not the only one who believes society overzealously prescribes medication. Google “overprescription of medication”.

      “You have stigmatized anyone who considers taking medication. ”

      I said that drugs should in some circumstance be used as a stabilizing mechanism but that becoming dependent on them is a not a sustainable path towards health.

      Overall I agree with you that Mental Illness is a serious problem, and that our culture is not very supportive. But the solution is not more drugs and medication. Overall our society needs a more holistic view of the human, and what it means to be healthy, and how to get there. 

      • durp
        September 13, 2011

        Please, please, please stop pretending that you have any insight into the world of medicine.  You make yourself sound silly and no good can come from it.  Before you get defensive (again) keep in mind that you’ve provided no statistic, hard evidence, or really anything concrete whatsoever in your article above.  You didn’t even both quoting Wikipedia.

        At the very least you should enroll in a freshman level writing class.

        • Max Marmer
          September 13, 2011

          Yes, I will say again, this was a personal blog post, on an issue I felt important to bring into “public discourse”, not a scientific paper.

          However, after being challenged in the comments to supply more scientific evidence to support my view point, I have found there is plenty, and I have linked to at least a handful of relevant studies.

          • durp
            September 13, 2011

            You should definitely check to see if your opinion has any basis in reality whatsoever first before offering it next time.  This comment shows you hadn’t really bothered to look into it before floating this.

            You can say you did it for “public discourse” but that doesn’t change this.  You can craft an argument for any opinion depending upon the resources to utilize – but you didn’t bother to do so before offering yours.

            Something to keep in mind for next time.

          • Max Marmer
            September 13, 2011

            First of all, my last comment bolstered the point that my opinions do have a basis in reality. So floating my opinion out was not in error.

            Secondly, because I actively challenge my opinions everyday and see whether they have any basis in reality, my opinions necessarily evolve towards increasing truth, even if I can’t immediately summon all the scientific papers and experience that support how I came to a particular conclusion. 
            Thirdly, I would not change my actions next time, because the act of writing a quick blog post in a few hours and stimulating a long conversation, is a valid and effective way to march towards truth. 

          • durp
            September 13, 2011

            You offered your opinion before getting any information that would help you form one.

            Then you cherry picked sources to help back up the opinion you pulled from thin air when people pushed back.

            Now you’re responding to a page full of people who found your baseless opinion (which by your own words was baseless when you made it) offensive by being defensive.

            I’m done here.

          • Max Marmer
            September 14, 2011

            I just stated in my previous comment how I formed my opinion, and how it definitely didn’t come from “thin air”.

            I know you read the words, but I’m curious, do you think they actually registered? 

          • meggus pee
            September 14, 2011

            this *is* the public. we’re having discourse. no one thinks this is a scientific paper. 

      • meggus pee
        September 13, 2011

        Things you have said which are factually untrue: 

        “It is no easy task, but most mental illness can be solved if people learned to control their thoughts and were able to successfully navigate their way to healthy environments that helped them achieve their goals.”
        “…drugs should in some circumstance be used as a stabilizing mechanism but that becoming dependent on them is a not a sustainable path towards health.”
        “It may not be the purpose [to numb people into submission], but it’s often the effect.”

        this is just a start. you need to recheck your facts. these are facts, not opinions. 

        • Max Marmer
          September 13, 2011

          For anyone to able to accept or deny that some of my claims are factually untrue, you have to actually provide “facts” that refute them, not just call out ideas that your ego or worldview finds incompatible.

          I’m open to the idea that some of my ideas are factually untrue. Although I’m skeptical that the general point I’m making can be disproven, I’m also open to that possibility should the evidence present itself.

          • meggus pee
            September 14, 2011

            here’s some sources: 

            http://www.nami.org
            http://www.mayoclinic.com
            http://www.nimh.nih.gov

            via NAMI.org: Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses. They cannot be overcome through “will power” and are not related to a person’s “character” or intelligence. Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that One in four adults-approximately 57.7 million Americans-experience a mental health disorder in a given year.

            so we see that if you have a mental illness, you have a medical problem, one which cannot be overcome by force of will.

            and, mayoclinic.com agrees!
            http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/mental-illness/DS01104/METHOD=print&DSECTION=all

            therefore your statement: 

            “most mental illness can be solved if people learned to control their thoughts and were able to successfully navigate their way to healthy environments that helped them achieve their goals.” 

            is false. most mental illness cannot be solved by people “controlling their thoughts”. If most mental illness was caused simply by people needing to change their perspective, it wouldn’t be “illness”. Therefore, this  everything else you have to say also false, because it is all based on the idea that we can somehow “think” our way out of mental illness. 

            If you want to say that people should not simply be on meds but explore other forms of therapy as well, like talk therapy, or CBT/DBT, or EMDR, that’s one thing – but that is not what you’ve said here. You’re specifically saying that medication is hurting people. You are very, very wrong. Go ahead and explore the sites i’ve provided. Go ahead and use google to find out what happens with people who are *not* treated. Learn about the horrific things we, as a society, used to do to sufferers, before we had a better understanding of the human brain. Learn about how amazingly far we’ve come in treating disorders, and how medications can provide and have provided hope and a promise of a future for so many, including myself. 

            Now let’s go back to your snake oil….i mean, “Opinion”. You’re seriously telling people who are experiencing life disturbing mental illness that medication is not going to help? Why not just give them a gun and let them shoot themselves? Do you also encourage people who’ve had heart attacks not to go to the hospital? Diabetics to not take insulin? 

            You said: “And we won’t treat the true cause until we stop attributing mental health problems to something out of our conscious control, such as genetics and biochemical imbalances.” So, Max, what is the “true cause” of mental health problems? there are no biochemical imbalances? there are no genetic causes? really? my god, i don’t have to scour the internet to know this is patently false. All YOU need to do is read some of my sources. Perhaps you should. looks like you need it.

          • Anonymous
            September 14, 2011

            From the American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/change.aspx#
            “Mental health problems are not a sign of weakness. They are not something you can “just snap out of” even if you try.”
            “Medications are helpful for reducing symptoms of depression in some people, particularly when their depression is severe.”

  • Crackheadbob
    September 13, 2011

    Please stop writing until you’re at least 10 years older. These are nothing more than the musings of a child that has stumbled upon an acorn and so now you think you have all the answers. They say that the difference between people in their 20s and 30s is that in their 20s they think they know everything… in their 30s they realize that they know nothing.. 

  • Eli Huebert
    September 13, 2011

    The basis of this article is that you believe “the medication”(which is a gross generalization as not all medications have the same long-term effects) would have destroyed your life. But you never took it, so how do you know?

    There is a difference between situational depression/angst and a chemical imbalance. If your body is messed up, no amount of thinking is going to make it work differently. On the other hand, there are many cases of(for example) Ritalin being over-prescribed to allow square pegs to be driven into round holes. But, again, you haven’t been there, and you don’t even provide anecdotes, much less research.

    I agree with you that unmet expectation is the great killer of hope and that we need to learn how to accept the challenge of life as it comes. But you can’t just say that over-medication is the primary problem.

    • Max Marmer
      September 13, 2011

      “But you never took it, so how do you know?”
      I can’t know for sure. It’s very difficult to A/B test ones life you know. But I know what other drugs can do to my body and mind. And both reading and conversations with people who have confirm these hypotheses.

      “There is a difference between situational depression/angst and a chemical imbalance”

      How do you know?
      How do you know that they don’t look similarly in an EEG scanner?

      Also your view that many mental illnesses are just a “chemical imbalance” may be severely tainted by the effectiveness of the pervasive advertisements you have been subjected to. You should check out this study: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020392

      “But you can’t just say that over-medication is the primary problem.”

      For people who are over medicated, over medication is probably the primary inhibitor to the personal freedom necessary for healthy living. I think an apt analogy may be a splint. Medication can be useful to hold the bone in place while it goes through its initial healing, but if you keep the splint on for too long the bone will completely dissolve. 

      • Eli Huebert
        September 13, 2011

        Man, I’m not trying to get into an argument on the internet. I do feel you’re grossly over-generalizing about things you have no personal experience with.

        I know that a chemical imbalance is different than situational depression because I’ve been both places and have friends that have been, too. I don’t know you but it would be really easy for me to say that you were not physically sick, rather confused and lost and that positive thinking was your path to freedom.

        I really do resent your suggestion that I only know what I know from watching TV ads. Seriously. Also, my “view that many mental illnesses are just a ‘chemical imbalance'” isn’t. You put those words in my mouth, not me.

        Lastly, you can tell me how looking similarly(sic) in an EEG means anything about the source of the illness at all.

        • Max Marmer
          September 14, 2011

          “I do feel you’re grossly over-generalizing about things you have no personal experience with.”

          See my comment to Laurie, about how there are many ways of “knowing”. Deep personal experience isn’t the only way.

          “I know that a chemical imbalance is different than situational depression because I’ve been both places and have friends that have been, too. I don’t know you but it would be really easy for me to say that you were not physically sick, rather confused and lost and that positive thinking was your path to freedom.”

          Do you know that situational depression can’t become a “chemical imbalance”? (supposing that “chemical imbalance” is even an accurate depiction of what’s going on)

          How do you know I wasn’t physically sick? My thoughts were very unpleasant and it had a physically unpleasant feeling in my body. Do you know the work. Are you aware of embodied cognition as a concept? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embodied_cognition)

          I never said positive thinking was my path to freedom. It was one piece to my personal freedom, but I only found personal freedom because I combined positive thinking with many other actions, such as knowing what I want, and pursuing it intelligently, and persistently. 

          “I really do resent your suggestion that I only know what I know from watching TV ads. Seriously. ”

          I didn’t say that. Notice how I used the words “may be severely tainted”, not “is severely tainted”. If I understood your assessment of chemical imbalances wrong, then I apologize. 

          “Lastly, you can tell me how looking similarly(sic) in an EEG means anything about the source of the illness at all.”

          An EEG might not tell you the cause (if you weren’t measuring for long enough), but it could tell you that situational depression and chemical imbalance exhibit identical qualities.

      • meggus pee
        September 14, 2011

        Dude, you hold the burden of proof. quit asking people for sources and not posting any.

  • err
    September 13, 2011

    “In my own personal journey I had dark days as a teenager starting around 15, as I dealt with my dissatisfaction with life. I had thrown away belief in god and was dealing with existential angst. I had sports injuries that prevented from competing, stripping my personal identity bare, which at the time was tied to my athletic competence. I had trouble adjusting to the high school social scene. I found my classmates unfriendly and actively mean. I couldn’t find anyone who would have the conversations I wanted to have. I was asking big questions that nobody I knew I found relevant. I felt misunderstood, alone and arrogant. I felt my high school was wasting my time, trying to give me an elite education for a world that no longer existed.”
    This is called ‘being a teenager’. To think you were alone in going through this phase, or that this ‘particular form of malady may be rare’ is incredibly short sighted and untrue. For documentation, see just about any popular culture dealing with teenagers for the past 50 years. 

    • Max Marmer
      September 14, 2011

      And you think this has no similarity or relation whatsoever to mental illness?

      • err
        September 14, 2011

        No, I don’t. I think you went through a common hormonal phase that a vast majority of people go through and now you’re past it. I think any doctor worth his salt would’ve shrugged and told your parents you’d grow out of it.

        To be sure, I agree with you that people are too easily medicated these days. I don’t think half of the kids diagnosed with ADD and ADHD have any sort of condition.

        But I also don’t think that your experience would be diagnosed as clinical depression or any other mental illness. It sounds like teenage hormones coupled with some unfortunate circumstances (like the athletic injury). I won’t say definitively as I’m not a mental health professional, nor have I ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, but just reading what you posted here doesn’t sound like your situation was unique or in the minority.

        • Max Marmer
          September 14, 2011

          I think they’re probably on the same spectrum. I certainly felt that my mental state could have easily gotten worse if I did not change things. Growing out of it was the result of me changing my actions, habits and environment, much more than biological aging. I’m sure if was put back in the same circumstances as when I felt depressed, I would feel more depressed again now – though I’m probably much better at coping and changing things now. 

          My main point is that people need to work on themselves, take consistent action to create a better life, and that a lot of mental illness is the result of bad environments and bad choices, rather than a dysfunctional brain. These environments and choices can be changed with intelligent work.

          • err
            September 14, 2011

            I disagree. While it’s great that you learned to change your habits and direction, I’d say it’s a much more balanced combination of your brain’s chemistry naturally changing as a side effect of aging and your self improvement efforts. You’re trying to take near complete credit here for a process your genes heavily assisted you with. 
            (And thinking that things will never get better… that’s also part of being a teenager.)

            Again, I’m not saying I disagree with your main point. I am saying, based on what you wrote here, that I don’t think you’ve had anywhere near a life experience that makes you qualified to make that point. You’re basing your conclusion off a very volatile portion of your life that was also volatile for a lot of people and claiming it was unique. It wasn’t. 

  • Katieh_v
    September 14, 2011

    Max,
       I have read this blog post, although i’m not sure why it popped up on my facebook as i thought i had hidden all your posts. I wanted to read all of the comments but there are just too many. In some ways i am glad this post came up. I presume my mother and father will read this, and most likely yours as well, and my response may piss some of them off, but i simply could not care less after this most recent post. I have never been more disgusted by a single thing you have written then this. I am horrified that you could say the things you’ve said, as many of the post below state. Honestly, disgusted isn’t even a strong enough word to describe how i feel about you writing this right now.

       I would guess that most teenagers feel how you felt, there is a difference between being a teenager- feeling like an outsider with no friends, being angry, upset, sad, and having depression. Now it’s true that i do not know the extent of what you felt, but by reading what you wrote it seems to me that it was pretty normal to teenagers across the country. Let me give some personal experience to put what seems to be your situation – normal, teenage darkness- in perspective. I started struggling with depression probably before i was in the third grade. I used to cry in our basement that i would never be as good at things or as smart as my brother because everyone in our family clearly favored him. I used to just sit down there and draw and cry, hoping i’d make something as good as my brother. When most kids are dreaming about being an astruant, i was just trying to make a pretty picture. This was before the third grade. After that, i too dealt with difficult school mates but i had a good outlet in theatre. But that was absolutely never enough. I have battled with depression my entire life, true depression where at times i didn’t know how, nor want to wake up every morning. I dealt with this, for a while, by beating my head against the wall. At the end of highschool i went a round about way to inform my parents that i was depressed. I had dealt with it alone for a very long time. Now during this time i continued doing theatre that i loved, tap classes, singing, acting, and made friends. So despite working on achieving my goals (not just working, but working my ass off) i was still incredibly unhappy. My therapist diagnosed me with Anxiety Depression and thought it was best for me to go on meds, but i didn’t go on meds. I regret that i never did. I think that would have truly helped me. 

       Since highschool i have graduated from college with a very good gpa, studied abroad, interned, moved around on jobs, made friends, lost friends, got some great jobs. All of this lead up to me moving to Chicago where i can afford to live on my own in a great apartment while working a very good 9-5 and constantly working in professional theatre. I am working hard in a healthy environment to achieve my dreams…as you say that should solve my problems. However, i still battle with depression, i believe i will my entire life. I have indeed built up mental toughness and therefore am certainly not the person i was in highschool, i have worked hard to become the person i am. I go to therapy every wednesday because i was honest BEFORE HAND with how my emotions were. It is a brave, brave thing for someone to be honest with themselves and step up to others and say “i have depression and i need help” and if they believe that taking medication will help them, that is even braver. It is a scary thing to decide to take medications. You don’t know how you will react to it, will you be yourself? I was on a low dose of prozac (for migraines) for a brief period. Prozac took away my emotions, i felt devoid of life. It is a BRAVE person who would say…i need extra help, my body isnt doing enough- i need to take the chance of having bad side effects to help me find who i can be. 

        I honestly don’t believe you have ever felt something so deep or extreme as true depression, not highschool “angst” as you put it. A 6 year journey? Try a 25 year journey…a LIFETIME journey as those of us who struggle with depression do…and then come spout your knowledge. I don’t write these things to you as a tit for tat as who has had it worse, because i dont believe you’ve ever had it, so how could you possibly have the audacity to say what you have said? You do not have the experience or the KNOWLEDGE to say what causes and solves depression. If you wanted to make this about over medicating in the country, that would have been a whole different blog post of audacity and ego of which i would happily ignore (despite the fact that i do think alternatives to meds should happen first, i honestly do not trust any of what you say-especially after this horrific display of your vast knowledge on life’s issues you’ve never been around or dealt with). This article is not about that. It is a self serving article about how you’ve overcome “challenges” and aren’t you awesome? Max, from what you’ve written it seems you’ve felt what i would guess most highschoolers have felt and Most people finding their way through college to find who they are. You found that in startups instead. i have “the fortitude to stare darkness in the face and keep
    fighting until they create the life they want” Because i do that every day. Yet i still battle with depression, and with those whom i’ve known have battled with it….they can say the same. So where is that ridiculous, conclusion to a fix now? They have the mental toughnes, they are alive and they are fighting. But having the toughness does not mean a cure by any means. It means they continue the fight. 
     
        Your ignorance and ego in this matter are intolerable. I dont believe me writing this will change how you think, but saying nothing is not standing up for those of us who truly struggle with depression. Congrats on your Tom Cruise moment, i only wish it was on as large a platform as he so you could as well deal with fallout of the unfounded words you’ve stated.

    Your cousin Katie 

    • Josh
      September 14, 2011

      Hey Max, quick comment:

      Be careful when you talk about subjects you don’t really know about- at best, you just sound silly, or at worst you are providing dangerous misinformation that can do harm depending on who reads it, and this post is closer to the latter than the former.

      Katie, and plenty of others here actually know what they are talking about, they are describing depression as what it is, a medical issue-  while you are describing a state of mind, which is not depression, it is being a teenager.  It’s understandable that you wouldn’t know the difference because you’ve never been diagnosed with depression and you aren’t a doctor yourself. But to tell the world that you know what depression is and how to deal with it is simply not true, you don’t know these things.  

      Just having an opinion does not qualify you to speak about an issue with authority.  

      I know you’re a smart kid, and there’s a lot of things that you can blog about that you do have a lot of real knowledge about- startups, technology, the things you really work on.  You know more about these issues than the vast majority of people, so by all means keep posting about those.  If you want to educate the world on your blog, go for it, you have things to say in these areas that you can really contribute because you’ve invested real time developing that sort of knowledge.  But you got this one wrong, max.  

      It’s not the end of the world, we all do it.  But if you want to be honest with yourself, if you really want to come to tough conclusions- then stop defending what plenty of people have pointed out is nonsense.  You can keep being defensive, trying to back yourself up by reading a few lines of wikipedia or whatever, but if you really want to learn something with this experience, then its important to realize that there are issues where other people know more than you. Sometimes it’s good to honestly realize that you didn’t understand an issue as well as you thought you did.  Then next time you want to educate people, rather than just making spreading misinformation based on a bad assumption, talk about issues you really are knowledgeable about and you might be able to actually help someone.

      Hope that helps,
      -Josh (your cousin also)

    • Josh
      September 14, 2011

      Hey Max, quick comment:

      Be careful when you talk about subjects you don’t really know about- at best, you just sound silly, or at worst you are providing dangerous misinformation that can do harm depending on who reads it, and this post is closer to the latter than the former.

      Katie, and plenty of others here actually know what they are talking about, they are describing depression as what it is, a medical issue-  while you are describing a state of mind, which is not depression, it is being a teenager.  It’s understandable that you wouldn’t know the difference because you’ve never been diagnosed with depression and you aren’t a doctor yourself. But to tell the world that you know what depression is and how to deal with it is simply not true, you don’t know these things.  

      Just having an opinion does not qualify you to speak about an issue with authority.  

      I know you’re a smart kid, and there’s a lot of things that you can blog about that you do have a lot of real knowledge about- startups, technology, the things you really work on.  You know more about these issues than the vast majority of people, so by all means keep posting about those.  If you want to educate the world on your blog, go for it, you have things to say in these areas that you can really contribute because you’ve invested real time developing that sort of knowledge.  But you got this one wrong, max.  

      It’s not the end of the world, we all do it.  But if you want to be honest with yourself, if you really want to come to tough conclusions- then stop defending what plenty of people have pointed out is nonsense.  You can keep being defensive, trying to back yourself up by reading a few lines of wikipedia or whatever, but if you really want to learn something with this experience, then its important to realize that there are issues where other people know more than you. Sometimes it’s good to honestly realize that you didn’t understand an issue as well as you thought you did.  Then next time you want to educate people, rather than just making spreading misinformation based on a bad assumption, talk about issues you really are knowledgeable about and you might be able to actually help someone.

      Hope that helps,
      -Josh (your cousin also)

      • Max Marmer
        September 14, 2011

        Josh,

        Comments in line:

        “Be careful when you talk about subjects you don’t really know about- at best, you just sound silly, or at worst you are providing dangerous misinformation that can do harm depending on who reads it, and this post is closer to the latter than the former.”

        Ok, so your message is basically “Don’t talk about any subject you aren’t an expert in. Only people who have an illness or have studied an illness are qualified to share an opinion.”

        You haven’t called out anything I specifically said yet in the post as being wrong, so I will just generally say, I can comment because I am a keen observer of the world and have enough understanding of adjacently relevant fields, and that qualifies me to share my opinion.

        “Katie, and plenty of others here actually know what they are talking about, they are describing depression as what it is, a medical issue-  while you are describing a state of mind, which is not depression, it is being a teenager.  It’s understandable that you wouldn’t know the difference because you’ve never been diagnosed with depression and you aren’t a doctor yourself. But to tell the world that you know what depression is and how to deal with it is simply not true, you don’t know these things. ”

        I don’t believe medical issues and states of mind are mutually exclusive. A medical issue is made of many components and can be viewed from many perspectives, three of which are a subjective mental state, an inner dialogue, and a neurochemical composition. 

        Also I don’t think what you said is correct that “being a teenager is a state of mind”. It’s a biological stage of development. 

        It seems many comments in this thread tend towards discreditation, on the basis of “not knowing”. This is bumping up against the important branch of philosophy called epistemology and what it means “to know”. I think I have a decent handle on it, but I will read more about it and talk to my friend who is a philosopher to get a better understanding, and be able to speak about it in more precise terms.

        Until then, I will say that what I express in the post is based on “knowing”, or knowledge obtained from a few different perspectives. Namely, personal experience observing myself and others. Listening to others share the experiences. Many readings and discussions about related fields of knowledge and making inferences based on that understanding.

        “It’s not the end of the world, we all do it.  But if you want to be honest with yourself, if you really want to come to tough conclusions- then stop defending what plenty of people have pointed out is nonsense. ” 

        There is some selection bias in this thread. I have had a handful of friends write me personally and say that they liked the post, thought I was bringing up an important issue and are glad that I wrote about it. It’s mostly the ones who feel a strong enough pain or injustice who have decided to comment.

        “You can keep being defensive, trying to back yourself up by reading a few lines of wikipedia or whatever, but if you really want to learn something with this experience, then its important to realize that there are issues where other people know more than you. Sometimes it’s good to honestly realize that you didn’t understand an issue as well as you thought you did.”

        Only a few of the comments I have received have been convincing enough for me change my opinion on something I wrote. I made a few overstatements and oversimplifications here and there, and I should do a better job of scoping the post to describe the particular kinds of mental illness I’m talking about, but overall I wouldn’t change the driving message of the post, which is that people who are close to being functional human beings, who are “close to 0”, but not yet healthy, are turning to medication for most of their answers instead of spending a lot of effort changing both their internal and external reality with hard and intelligent work.

        • meggus pee
          September 14, 2011

          ” people who are close to being functional human beings, who are “close to 0″, but not yet healthy, are turning to medication for most of their answers instead of spending a lot of effort changing both their internal and external reality with hard and intelligent work.”
          then you’re not taling about mental illness, or about psychotropic medication. or, really, anything that happens in the actual world. 

        • Josh
          September 15, 2011

          I’m not getting into all the details you talked about here, but I should point this out: I’m not trying to tell you that you should never state an opinion unless you are an expert.  I’m trying to say that its disingenuous to claim expertise when all you have is an opinion.  Claiming your life is an example others should live by is by its nature a claim of expertise.

          The larger issue is that with depression, this kind of misinformation can, and does, lead people with real problems to years of depression, or suicide, instead of getting counseling.  I realize that wasn’t your intention, but let me give an example: God forbid some poor 12 year old boy with a seratonin imbalance looks up to you and actually reads your post: instead of seeing a doctor or therapist he followed the max marmer philosophy of just wish your life better and as a result he would experience years or even decades of intense, unnecessary depression because he never saw a therapist or doctor.  And why would he? Max marmer said that drugs surely weren’t the answer, it was all in his attitude.  Yet he has a medical imbalance, so no amount of positive thinking is going to help him, and so his depression continues when it could have been much improved if he had just seen a doctor in the beginning.  So how many years of suffering would you have caused in that boy’s life- without ever intending to do so? Without ever even knowing you had done it?  So I’m not trying to say you can’t talk about things that are on your mind, by all means don’t let me stop you.  Just please be cognizant of when you are sharing a thought and when you are presenting a statement of Truth, because when you present an opinion as Truth then that just results in spreading disinformation.  Sometimes that disinformation is harmless, but sometimes it can be dangerous, which is why I think it’s an issue worth considering in future posts.-Josh

    • Josh
      September 14, 2011

      Hey Max, quick comment:

      Be careful when you talk about subjects you don’t really know about- at best, you just sound silly, or at worst you are providing dangerous misinformation that can do harm depending on who reads it, and this post is closer to the latter than the former.

      Katie, and plenty of others here actually know what they are talking about, they are describing depression as what it is, a medical issue-  while you are describing a state of mind, which is not depression, it is being a teenager.  It’s understandable that you wouldn’t know the difference because you’ve never been diagnosed with depression and you aren’t a doctor yourself. But to tell the world that you know what depression is and how to deal with it is simply not true, you don’t know these things.  

      Just having an opinion does not qualify you to speak about an issue with authority.  

      I know you’re a smart kid, and there’s a lot of things that you can blog about that you do have a lot of real knowledge about- startups, technology, the things you really work on.  You know more about these issues than the vast majority of people, so by all means keep posting about those.  If you want to educate the world on your blog, go for it, you have things to say in these areas that you can really contribute because you’ve invested real time developing that sort of knowledge.  But you got this one wrong, max.  

      It’s not the end of the world, we all do it.  But if you want to be honest with yourself, if you really want to come to tough conclusions- then stop defending what plenty of people have pointed out is nonsense.  You can keep being defensive, trying to back yourself up by reading a few lines of wikipedia or whatever, but if you really want to learn something with this experience, then its important to realize that there are issues where other people know more than you. Sometimes it’s good to honestly realize that you didn’t understand an issue as well as you thought you did.  Then next time you want to educate people, rather than just making spreading misinformation based on a bad assumption, talk about issues you really are knowledgeable about and you might be able to actually help someone.

      Hope that helps,
      -Josh (your cousin also)

    • Max Marmer
      September 14, 2011

      Katie, 

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      My post was polemical because I have strong discontent for today’s societal narrative around success and personal growth, and I believe our story around medication is a particularly large road block. I’m sorry if you were hurt. I have no desire to break you or any individual down, but I do have the desire to share my commentary on a very important societal issue, and it appears to be the case that individual hurt is unfortunate collateral damage.

      Thank you for sharing your story. I didn’t know this about you, and I’m glad to know you feel comfortable sharing it. It helps me and everyone else who knows you have more empathy.

      I won’t respond to the argument that “I can’t speak about depression because I didn’t experience it. I only experienced teenage angst” because I don’t believe it’s the main point now. Primarily I’d like to understand better where your point of view is coming from. 

      I’ll start with, why do you think you are depressed?

      1) Do you think it is because your brain is physically incapable of producing the requisite neurochemistry necessary for stable mental health. Or

      2) Do you think it’s possible for you brain to change to produce the requisite neurochemistry for stable mental health?

      If 2, then the question is what do you think can change your neurochemistry?

      Your beliefs about the world, how you talk to yourself, your success, your friends, your thoughts, drugs, etc? anything?

      And why do you think you are still depressed?

      Do you think you have overcome the fear of being inadequate, inferior or worthless, that you recount you started feeling before the third grade?

      Do you think some people can overcome depression?

      If so, why can some people overcome depression but others can’t?

      Maybe you don’t want to have this conversation in public and I’m happy to have it offline sometime, but if you do feel comfortable it could be a valuable contribution to the people in this thread.

      • Anonymous
        September 14, 2011

        I won’t blame your cousin if she chooses not to answer questions about an intensely personal subject, but:

        “1) Do you think it is because your brain is physically incapable of producing the requisite neurochemistry necessary for stable mental health. Or
        2) Do you think it’s possible for you brain to change to produce the requisite neurochemistry for stable mental health?”

        “If 2, then the question is what do you think can change your neurochemistry?”

        “If so, why can some people overcome depression but others can’t?”

        These aren’t opinions to be given, these are questions that have factual answers which can only be achieved through science. What somebody’s belief is about what can be done to change neurochemistry has no effect on what actually can be done to change neurochemistry.

        • Katieh_v
          September 15, 2011

          Max,
              I was not personally hurt by you, certainly not “broken down” by anything you have to say. Also, please keep your empathy, its not needed. I got so agitated by your post not out of personal hurt but because i think someone speaking about such a delicate subject that they clearly know little about is dangerous. If people believe what you wrote, then it is more people spreading the same dangerous notions not backed up by anything more then your “keen” ability to observe, philosophers, wikipedia, and a few others- which is clearly not enough. You are not speaking as if this is your opinion but about facts people are missing in their knowledge. and that is dangerous. If because of your words one of your friends who agrees with you tells someone else who has depression that this is how to fix their problems…you could have someone’s death on your hands. Spreading ignorance will always anger me, especially when it’s about something so delicate that i am personally aware of. I am not afraid or ashamed to tell my story of dealing with depression because of people who are the opposite of you. I do not look for pity or empathy while sharing, i only hope that it helps others be strong and brave enough to recognize what they are dealing with and take a course of action that is far more helpful and serious then simply following their dreams. What you preach is dangerous. 

           I agree with the post above, i dont have answers to those questions but i will give you my opinion. Perhaps you will learn something from it.

          To 1 and 2: both. it simply could be either, i have no way of knowing.

          If 2, what do i think could change that: possibly all of the above of them and more. also medication depending on how sever the imbalance of chemicals can be (an example of this imbalance can be seen in my next answer)

          Why am i still depressed: Honestly, at this moment, i don’t think i am. It goes in and out. Sometimes because of a sad event, sometimes for absolutely no reason at all, sometimes because its dark and cold outside. I don’t know when it will come, i don’t know for how long. I used to (get ready for TMI) get very depressed right before that time of month. It was so bad that for about 2 days once a month i wanted to check myself in somewhere. Then i switched my birth control to something that helps with those imbalances that occur during that time and i have never once dealt with that sort of monthly depression again.

          Do you think you have overcome the fear of being inadequate, inferior or worthless, that you recount you started feeling before the third grade?
          When i am doing well and in a good place, absolutely. But when, for whatever reason, i am not feeling well, then no. There is no set answer here Max. I can tell you that today, i dont feel that way. and if i’m not feeling well, i can tell myself over and over all the great things i feel about my life now, but it wont make a difference and i will certainly feel inadequate and inferior.  

          Your last question is the same as the first. I hope this answer helps you understand a little bit more. That you asked me these questions leads me to believe you truly do not know much about this subject. I will implore you, Max, think something like this through before you post again. Although you clearly believe that you know so much through observation and a few other sources, i would hope that so many other frustrated posts below sink in that perhaps you were truly wrong here, that you dont know nearly everything about nearly everything. I don’t think my answers will, sadly, help you see that. But you write these posts to try to inform others of what they don’t know and hope they learn something. Take a page from your own book on this one, and learn from others.  

      • Anonymous
        September 14, 2011

        Sometimes it’s better to keep quiet and let people think you are a fool than open your mouth and prove it.

  • ole teh new new
    September 14, 2011

    I think you should respond to your cousin Katie.

    You sound like every other 21 year old I have ever met, only with a better thesaurus. I would tell you to get over yourself, but I honestly don’t think you have the capacity to do that.

    Seriously now: have you looked into the Narcissistic Personality Disorder suggestion? It would be worth checking out before it gets out of control…

  • robb williams
    September 14, 2011

    Katie said, “Tom Cruise moment?” I really hope that wasn’t a dig at Scientology.

     The thetan is the true identity of a person – an intrinsically good, omniscient, non-material core capable of unlimited creativity.[88][89]

    • Katieh_v
      September 14, 2011

      im…really not gonna get into that. But i was refrencing when he said that postpartum depression wasnt real and he got in deep shit. You believe whatever you want to believe in, but that wasnt the subject of this one.

    • Katieh_v
      September 14, 2011

      im…really not gonna get into that. But i was refrencing when he said that postpartum depression wasnt real and he got in deep shit. You believe whatever you want to believe in, but that wasnt the subject of this one.

    • Katieh_v
      September 14, 2011

      im…really not gonna get into that. But i was refrencing when he said that postpartum depression wasnt real and he got in deep shit. You believe whatever you want to believe in, but that wasnt the subject of this one.

  • Max Marmer
    September 17, 2011

    Just wrote a big follow up post: http://maxmarmer.com/2011/09/medicating-ourselves-into-lives-not-worth-living-part-2-towards-a-new-paradigm-of-mental-health-and-an-enlightened-society/ Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  • MedicatingDoof
    September 18, 2011

    Dude, manic much?

    The way you write shows that YOU don’t have full control of your mind.

  • Phil Snyder
    March 4, 2012

    Oh. My. Gosh…

    I often read blog posts where the author claims that people tell him he’s too young and inexperienced to accomplish something, but I never believed that someone would actually be ignorant enough to say that out loud to a person. 

    The comments on this post have proved me wrong. 

    “I have read this blog post, although i’m not sure why it popped up on my Facebook as i thought i had hidden all your posts” – Katieh_v

    ^What a dick! Why would you even mention that?!

    “You don’t know these things… you got this one wrong” – Josh

    ^This was what I was talking about when I said I couldn’t believe anyone could be this ignorant! I’m kind of surprised you even bothered to reply to his comment, but I do agree with the last part of your response, that you probably didn’t as well of a job “scoping” the post as you could have. Then again, depression is a tough thing to just scope out. 

    So two questions, one more important than the other:

    Have you ever read Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence”? and

    I’m new to your blog, but I’m very impressed with what I’ve read so far. Do you have any posts on your atheism and if it was a primary catalyst in your seemingly voracious consumption of knowledge you’ve undertaken? If so, I’ll find it soon enough. If not – it’s an idea!

  • Jonathan
    May 26, 2012

    With cousins like that, who needs enemies? Pair of pedants! Anyone is free to write about how they feel. Any educated adult should have the ability to discern whether what is published is a personal opinion or something published by a scientific journal.