I’ve been struggling lately. A huge weight of depression in a kind I thought long gone landed on me a few weeks ago. There was a huge difference from the old bad times, though: now I have tools that I know work to help against this. But for the last few weeks, I have also felt like I shouldn’t use them, like I didn’t deserve to feel better. Didn’t deserve help.
Anyone reading this who doesn’t outright hate me will immediately recognize that as also symptomatic. (Anyone reading this who does… what are you doing here? Get a hobby. Take up the oboe or something, sheesh.) Thing is, that doesn’t matter. It’s as real as anything going on inside anyone’s giant grey walnut can be. If you’ve been through this – in which case, hang in there, I’m sorry you are hurting – you know it can’t be argued away, not directly. Someone says you deserve to feel better, you reply ‘No I don’t and here’s why…’ and it gets more entrenched.
But what if it’s not about you at all? What if it is a matter of justice?
There is no jurisdiction with any kind of a conscience that would sentence someone to chronic pain – mental or physical. It is in fact one of the reasons why every international organization and treaty about justice and war condemns torture. Inflicting pain on anyone is not tolerated as a punishment and doubly so as ‘enhanced interrogation’ (Hey Ellen, remember where THAT phrase came from? kiss kiss.) Those jurisdictions that do these things are deemed to be violating civil rights. Those that regularly employ solitary confinement are as well, on the basis of solitary is psychological torture.
In short, torture – mental or physical – is cruel and intolerable punishment even for serial killers and war criminals, and I feel pretty safe assuming nobody reading this is anywhere near that level of evil. I’m certainly not.
But consider how that applies to mental health. Could I, could anyone, ‘not deserve help’? Not deserve to feel better?
Impossible. That is subjecting a person to psychological torture, and according to the UN, Amnesty International, and even the Geneva Convention, nobody deserves that. Nobody. Not even the murderers of millions. Even if you believe you are the worst human being on the planet (and either you’re not or else hi, Mr. President) you deserve to feel better.
Maybe you have done bad things. Still deserve help: you must be functional in order to make restitution. Justice demands you feel better. Maybe you believe the only thing you can do for the world is leave it. Capital punishment is also condemned as cruel and inhumane: you cannot deserve death. Justice demands you feel better.
It isn’t about you or your history. You cannot argue against this without arguing that sure, sometimes it’s A-OK to torture someone. What’s a few dozen nipple-volts between friends, right?
No. So today, I am out of the pit. I am doing the things that work. If you need to do such things, you should too. Yes, should. Amnesty International says so. The UN says so.
You deserve to feel better. It is a MORAL IMPERATIVE that you feel better.
Justice demands it.
[This is a slightly updated version of an article originally posted to Facebook on Oct 13, 2019]