Wednesday, August 30, 2006

When the Cure is Worse than the Illness

There was a time when mentally ill people were given an electrical shock to the brain to “reset” it, much like you would give your heart a shock to get it back in rhythm. There was a time when mentally ill people had a part of their brain lopped off like you would remove your tonsils to keep from inflammation. There was a time when mentally ill people would have their blood let in order to let the evil things out. There is a time, right or wrong, when the cure is worse than the illness. Twenty years from now we will look back on our medical practices and be amazed at how arcane they are.

In the book Don Quixote, Cervantes ends the book with the Don in bed suffering from a crushed body but also a crushed spirit. His friends: a priest, a bachelor, and his family, try to get him to come out of his mental fixation with Knights, Lords, and Ladies and get back to the reality of managing his estate. Don Quixote lived a dream life with his squire Sancho, fighting evil and righting wrongs all in the name of his beauty Dulcinea. He was true to his word as a Knight should be, he was above reproach when treating all women with the highest chivalry, and he championed the poor and fatherless. To do all of this with consistency even though abused and beat up many times meant that he had to be mentally ill, right?

He was a laughing stock to most and an embarrassment to his friends and family with all his antics and that is why they pulled him home to face reality. They administered the “cure” by forcing him to face who he really was. Only his true friend Sancho stayed with him. Eventually he was broken in spirit and never physically recovered.

I wish I had that mental illness. The illness that puts others always ahead of self – no matter the pain. The illness that treats all people with honor and respect – no matter who they are or what station in life they were at. The illness that seeks to right the wrongs in the world – no matter the cost. The illness that is so true to my loved ones that I would sacrifice anything for them. If I had that illness I would not seek to be cured either. Maybe we can find a way to inject that illness into people’s veins, then all people would put other’s ahead of themselves, but maybe I’m just dreaming an Impossible Dream.

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