Prozac Nation is a memoir about a teenager who finds herself suffering from depression, struggling for help in what you could call a “dark night of a decade” in her life. Of the book itself, I felt that it was too long. There was merit in the repetition and of the developing style as her mentality changed in varying circumstances and in various forms of treatment. I have not been a huge fan of this book, but it has given me another perspective on mental health. I admit to struggling with the kind of depression she has, which is incredibly self-deprecating. All kinds of depression have elements of this, but hers was so extreme that I found it frustrating. There didn’t seem to be a way to get her out of the hole she was buried in. But it was clear that she had a severe mental illness and have gained more understanding of this kind of depression by reading this memoir.
There is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. Some people have had experiences that have added up and led a person towards a depressive illness. Others can’t necessarily point to anything in particular. Mental illness is an illness. I remember that when I was younger I thought that depression could be solved by hugs and focusing on the happy things. I remember hitting puberty and noticing how periods meant mood swings that would seem crazy, dropping a teaspoon on the floor and it being such a terrible thing and sitting on the floor crying. Chemicals alone can affect you, regardless of how much meditation or mindfulness you do or how positive you attempt to be. A serious mental illness makes a person feel like they’re lost. There shouldn’t be such a stigma.
Now, onto a film I watched today called The Magdalene Sisters. I couldn’t believe it at first, I was so shocked. But then, it is true that the power given to religious people has so often been used as a tool of oppression. The film documents true events in Irish Catholic Ireland, where women were imprisoned in “Magdalene Asylums” for tempting men by as little as smiling at them, and even in some cases, were imprisoned for being raped. Their babies were stolen from them, the nuns would make them undress and laugh at them, picking who was the fattest, who has the most body hair etc. If they tried to leave they were beaten, and whilst bruised and bleeding the nuns would cut off all their hair. These “laundry rooms” were finally shut down, but not before 30,000 women were taken in by Irish priests (who had a tendency to ask for sexual favours) and nuns who told them they were damned and despicable people.
Any other organisation responsible for these actions would have been stopped by now. Where the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, there has been uproar, of course, about the hidden sexual abuse of children. And this doesn’t just happen in the Roman Catholic Church. Christian conservatism has embedded itself in enough governments that being gay can be a death sentence, being a woman can be tied to the kitchen sink, and all this is deemed acceptable because of freedom of speech and religion has a free pass on conditioning people into thinking they need this abusive hierarchy.
I still believe that there is potential for a beautiful Church. Maybe the problem isn’t just institutional structures. There actually are, I think, a lot of beautiful church services and a lot of good clergy and people. People are unpredictable. Somehow so many faces of humanity are dark and terrifying. I don’t know if churches should exist, because by creating them, we give people power and authority and a tool to abuse others. As Christians we should be aiming for more than that, especially after two-thousand years right? Isn’t it time to try something new?
Maybe that is what the New Age, New Religious Movements and rising of spirituality above religion are all about in our century. If Christianity is going to stay alive, maybe we should be moving now. Maybe the Church should actually apologise, sincerely, for its actions, and stop. Stop. And then, actually become Christian people.