Don’t Worry: Be Happy
A human life is made up entirely by the choices made by the human as time progresses. The choices people make today will always effect the choices they make tomorrow, and there is nothing that can be done to change this fact. Everybody control’s his or her destiny, to an extent. The extent to which we have this control is obviously influenced by other parts of life, such as hardships, and pain. So, life is in the hands of the liver, but there will be roadblocks along the way. Things such as war, disease, and death heavily effect everybody’s lives, sometimes leaving us disillusioned and filled with pain. The big challenge in life then is to live a life pain free. Or, to at least be able to deal with the pain that comes towards us and continue moving on with life.
If you plan on living a life without pain, good luck. I can’t say it’s impossible, but I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be a reality. If you wish to find ways to deal with your pain, then you’re in luck. So is everybody else. Pain is a complex idea in itself, because it can be cause by both physical and emotional injuries. If someone breaks their leg, they are of course going to experience physical pain as a result. Ultimately, the leg will heal, and the pain will recede. Emotional pain is something far more complex. Emotional pain can also be a result of a physical injury, but it can also be caused by things such as bad news, sickness, or having to observe somebody else’s pain. For example, say that instead of breaking a leg, that person had a leg amputated. Instead of healing in a few months, that person now has to deal with one leg for the rest of their life. Simple tasks like walking and exercising are now no longer possible without assistance of some kind. The stigma surrounding being someone with a handicap can lead to that person being very self-conscious, and high levels of anxiety. The physical pain felt from the injury may have stopped, but the damage it leaves behind torments the mind of the person amputated.
Learning how to deal with emotional pain can take a long time, and it can be challenging. The hopelessness can lead to severe cases of social anxiety, or even depression. Nowadays, we have things such as therapy, and anti-depressant medication, which are different techniques that we have created to help deal with emotional trauma. But, before these things were available, people had to get very creative in dealing with their emotional trauma.
In American history, no other faction of people have been on the receiving end of torment and discrimination quite like the African American slave in the 1800’s. For context, Africans were enslaved and brought to the early American colonies by wealthy European settlers between the 1500’s and the 1800’s. For around 300 years, black people were considered property, and forced to work on the farms of rich white men in inhumane living conditions. Slaves were malnourished, sleep deprived, and beaten regularly. These conditions left their bodies in pain, and left their minds hopeless. The pain with having to deal with always being a servant is one that I can never begin to comprehend.
Spoiler alert; African American people still exist. The abomination of an idea that is slavery was tossed out the window sometime ago, and nowadays, every American has equal rights. This means one thing in the context of this paper: Slaves overcame their pain and trauma. But, without proper medical attention and any help from those around them, how did slaves manage to keep on keeping on?
Possibly the best first-hand retelling of the day to day life of a slave comes from the autobiographical novel Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; an American Slave, by Frederick Douglass. Early in the novel, Douglass talks about how Masters would gauge whether or not their slaves were happy. A happy slave was a singing slave, as Douglass explained. If the slaves were all singing, then they were happy working. Douglass refutes this claim, stating that obviously slaves never enjoyed their work. But, they did sing songs. Douglass talks about how the songs had a deeper, double meaning. Slaves sang together to show each other strength in an effort to maintain hope. By singing the songs together, they show that they are still alive and have each other. But, the songs were also sang in an effort to deal with the pain of their surroundings. Singing passed the time, and allowed for emotional expression in a world that allowed the slave almost none of that. One particular hymn goes like this:
“I am going to the Great House Farm. Oh yeah! Oh yeah!”
This hymn would be repeated by slaves on their daily walk to an actual big farm they had to work on. However, the lyrics are a metaphor. The “Great House Farm” represents heaven, or death. The sadness they had within allowed them to sing hopelessly about their eventual death. The possibility that they may one day be free in a place greater than they are now allowed them to sing with hope.
The power of music as a form of healing has long been disputed, since before slavery even. In EverydayHealth.com’s article How Musical Therapy Can Relieve Depression, Theresa Borchard talks about how manic patients were treated by listening to the relaxing sound of the flute. In 600 BC, the music of Thales was said to cure a plague that had recently broken out.
In modern medicine, music therapy was introduced popularly after World War II. US Veterans were returning home from a gruesome war that left them scarred physically and emotionally. Soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were visited by musicians and performers, who would play songs and sets in an effort to improve the wounded soldier’s overall mood. The veterans quite liked this idea, and its popularity grew. Soon after, in 1950, the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) was formed. The AMTA taught musicians how to tailor their performances to be therapeutic, and official Musical Therapists were certified.
It seems stupid to believe that listening to a song can actually have health benefits. Listening to music is usually described as a leisurely activity, but it is really a complimentary activity. We may workout, study, eat, or even sleep while listening to music. Understanding what happens to our body while we listen to music can help us see how it effects us physically. When we listen to music, our body re-calibrates to the rhythm of the song without us even realizing. The rhythm provides a blueprint for our body to follow, and as a result, we may end up tapping our feet, or even singing the song. The calmness of the beat of the song eases our nervous system, and allows for our heart rate to become more even, and our breathing to find it’s own rhythm. When both the heart rate and breathing rates are under control, anxiety and stress can be relieved and controlled.
Of course, music having this effect did not and should not have halted our continued development of medicine. As more emphasis was placed on mental health, Doctors and Pharmaceutical companies began to develop new means of therapy and treatment. The earliest prescription medications to be used for anti-depression related symptoms were types of Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA’s) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MOA’s). These drugs were obviously new, and as a result, they were not perfect. These medicines were unpredictable at times, with many patients suffering from side effects and some even overdosing. The need for improvement presented a huge economic opportunity for big pharmaceutical companies.
Enter Prozac. In 1988, Prozac was approved as the first ever serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and hit the market. Prozac was designed to serve as a safer anti-depressant, without the kinks that came with previous medications. It didn’t take long for Prozac to become very popular. According to the New York Times article Post-Prozac Nation, written by Siddhartha Mukherjee;
“In 1988, a year after the Food and Drug Administration approved Prozac, 2,469,000 prescriptions for it were dispensed in America. By 2002, that number had risen to 33,320,000. By 2008, antidepressants were the third-most-common prescription drug taken in America.”
Prozac’s incredible rise to fame saw people conclude that it was some kind of miracle drug. Rave reviews about the drugs effectiveness combined with the reduced risk of side effects allowed for it to become very mainstream. In an article done by the American Public Health Association (APHA), John Markowitz (Professor of Pharmacy, University of Florida) stated:
“Its ease in dosing and lack of lethality in overdose made [fluoxetine] much more desirable compared to tricyclic antidepressants [TCAs] and monoamine oxidase inhibitors [MAOIs] that dominated before Prozac.”
Non-pharmacists can get lost in the vernacular of the medical field, so it is important to understand just what a Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor is and how it works. Prozac was designed to counteract a lack of Serotonin in neurotransmitters. The brains of people with depression showed a blockage or shortage of serotonin, which slowed down and stopped neurotransmitters. By boosting serotonin levels, the transmitters may begin working again and depression may subside.
As discussed earlier, time and life are the best teachers. The Prozac craze has died down, with some medical professionals even claiming that Prozac was simply a placebo. 30 years have passed, and the hypothesis that low amounts of Serotonin caused depression is all but thrown out the window. Pharmacists may have succeeded in creating a safer anti-depressant, but the effectiveness is in question. What Prozac did do, however, was help us to learn more about Serotonin and how it effects us. Serotonin certainly plays a role in our general mood and emotions, but the idea that depleted levels of the Serotonin may lead to depression is most likely inaccurate.
Furthermore, Doctors began to prescribe Opioids to deal with symptoms of depression. Opioids are drugs that effect the nervous system by blocking sensations of pain in an effort to feel better. This is where the term “painkillers” comes from. People dealing with physical pain typically use prescription opioids, and it is effective in numbing the temporary pain. For those dealing with emotional trauma, there is no essential area of pain to numb, so the painkiller creates feelings of pleasure. Because the emotional pain returns when the opioids wear off, the pills can become addictive.
According to Stephen Spotswood of U.S. Medicine, a recent VA study showed that of the 141,000 veterans to return from conflict in the Middle East reporting non-cancer pain, 32% of the population was diagnosed with PTSD. Of the 141,000, roughly 11% were prescribed opioids. Separating between those with PTSD and those without, 17.8% of the 32% of patients with the illnesses were prescribed opioids, as opposed to 6% of patients prescribed without PTSD. Furthermore, of veterans with PTSD and a history of drug abuse, a whopping 33% of this population received opioid prescriptions. Veterans with PTSD were also shown to be more likely to take higher doses of opioids, as well as return for a refill. These statistics show how easy it is for somebody with PTSD to be prescribed opioids, as well as showing us how much more often those with PTSD are prescribed opioids in comparison to others. They also show us that Veterans with PTSD are more likely to use and abuse opioids than those without.
Considering the fact that no pill has been able to cure depression yet (so far), and the likely possibility that we are far from seeing one do so anytime soon, different techniques have been created to help deal with mental illnesses. Mental illnesses such as Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD pertain to the mind, and as science has shown, not necessarily the brain. The human mind is as complex to talk about as it is to treat, considering it is not a physical part of the body. These ailments are actually a result of emotional trauma, brought on by the reaction our mind has to the trauma. For instance, take a Veteran suffering from PTSD. There is no drug that can safely wipe away the veteran’s memory of his or her fellow soldiers dying in a car bombing. How can someone cure a memory? Because things like depression and PTSD are more complex and are not cured by an anti-depressant pill, Doctors had to get far more creative.
The other alternative to medication would be different forms of therapy. Therapy is a pretty ambiguous term. We already discussed musical therapy. But, emotional counseling has also been used to treat mental health disorders. Similarly to music, the body responds to engagement. When in therapy, Psychiatrists are trained to let the patient lead the discussion, but to engage them regularly and push them down whatever path they may be taking the discussion. This constant interaction without judgement gives the patient’s brain the message to continue making connections without holding back. The lack of judgement allows for the patient to say what he or she needs to say without feeling self-conscious or anxious. This is a healthy way for the therapist to learn more about their patient, as well as their patient to confront their troubles and learn more about themselves.
Emotional therapy remains highly recommended by Doctors for patients dealing with depression. Although they acknowledge that it won’t “cure” anything, it can help patients better understand why they feel the way they do, and teach them to control the triggers that cause anxiety. Doctors suggest treating depression with a combination of therapy and medication for strongest results.
With prescription medication and methods of therapy always improving but never quite figuring out depression, it is logical for people to seek other processes, such as Musical Therapy. Many people already deal with day to day struggles by listening to music, so the concept is not far-fetched. With biological evidence that music can soothe our nervous system and reduce levels of anxiety, there is no reason why it cannot at least be attempted, at least in addition to other forms of therapy.
In an effort to see the effects of Musical Therapy coupled with other means of therapy, the British Journal of Psychiatrist conducted a study focused on 79 patients who had depression. All of the patients received standard care, which included Psychotherapy, Counseling, and Antidepressants. However, 33 of the patients also went to weekly musical therapy sessions, while the other 46 did not. After three months, the 33 who participated in the musical therapy as well as the standard therapy showed much more improvement in their Depression, as well as their everyday functions, compared to the 46 who did not receive musical therapy. The study concluded that Musical Therapy can in fact be beneficial when fighting depression, if coupled with other forms of care.
By this point, it’s pretty hard to say when and if mental illnesses such as Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD can even be cured. Medicine is constantly improving, but like with Prozac, it takes time to see if something has really been effective. And even then, failures only help to build up future successes. When professionals began to realize that Prozac wasn’t doing what it was believed it would do, they at least discovered that Serotonin does in fact play a role in our mood and function. But depleted serotonin levels are not the root of depression. So yes, medication is useful, but it has yet to be concrete. Psychiatric therapy and emotional counseling can be very effective in combatting mental illness as well, as it allows for us to dive into our trauma and face it head on with the help of a professional. But therapy is not something that takes up a regular part of a schedule. Once the patient leaves the therapist’s office, they are back out on their own. They have knowledge gained from their appointment, and hopefully feel better after leaving, but they are still vulnerable to the effects of everyday life yet again. Music, however, is something that is at our disposal almost all the time. It is a part of our everyday life, and something that our bodies and minds have relied on for as long as we can remember. The research showing a positive relationship between listening to music and the human nervous system makes me wonder to what extent we have relied on music for all this time. Honestly, do we really even know how important sound can be to our health if it has always had these subtle effects?
Mental health is not something to take lightly. It is a topic that should be handled gently and with the utmost sincerity. That is why it is important to seek help if help is needed. Everybody has problems to deal with, and there are loads of different ways to deal with these problems. However, with no one specific technique presenting itself as a definitive answer to mental health problems, it is important to try all resources. I have faith in Medicine. I am open to whatever improvements we make upon medicine in the future. But there is a long way to go. Taking into account doubts over the effectiveness of anti-depressants as well as statistics that show that the use of said drugs can lead to abuse and addiction, the use of Musical therapy as a compliment to other forms of therapy can prove to be a safer and equally effective alternative.
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Novetney, Amy. American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, Nov. 2013, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music.aspx.
usmedicine.com. “More Opioid Prescriptions Adverse Effects for Vets With PTSD.” U.S. Medicine, 20 Apr. 2015, http://www.usmedicine.com/agencies/department-of-veterans-affairs/more-opioid-prescriptions-adverse-effects-for-vets-with-ptsd/.
Douglass, Frederick, and Celeste-Marie Bernier. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Broadview Press, 2018.
Borchard, Therese. “How Music Therapy Can Relieve Depression.” Stroke Center – EverydayHealth.com, Ziff Davis, LLC, 4 May 2017, http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/music-therapy-to-relieve-depression/.
Brookshire, Bethany. “Search.” Science News for Students, http://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/explainer-what-dopamine.
Erkkilä, Jaakko, et al. “Individual Music Therapy for Depression: Randomised Controlled Trial | The British Journal of Psychiatry.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 2 Jan. 2018, http://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/individual-music-therapy-for-depression-randomised-controlled-trial/A1CD72904929CECCB956F4F3B09605AF.
Hatton, Randy C. “25 Years after Prozac.” Home, Pharmacist.com, 1 May 2013, http://www.pharmacist.com/25-years-after-prozac.
Mukherjee, Siddhartha. “Post-Prozac Nation.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Apr. 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/the-science-and-history-of-treating-depression.html.
Vestal, Christine. “Teen Xanax Abuse Is Surging.” The Pew Charitable Trusts, PEW, 24 Aug. 2018, http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/08/24/teen-xanax-abuse-is-surging.
One thought on “Research- misterfries19”
Good as it is, MisterFries, this essay is riddled with inexcusable (but not unforgivable) Fails For Grammar errors and other violations of good style and strategy. You’ll get far on energy and attitude, and the scholarship you bring to bear is admirable, but you still need either to hire or to become a good editor.