(Note: All underlined words/sentences are links which can, and indeed should, be clicked on.)
Shortly after it was released in October last year my friend Anna introduced me to Brandy Clark’s debut album, 12 Stories. Up to that point I had been at most a dabbler in country music- with a fairly healthy collection of Johnny Cash and not much else- but it was 12 Stories which got me hooked. To be specific it was track Number 8 which actually got me hooked; ‘Take a little Pill’.
“Mama got depressed, when daddy was a -dying, so the doctor gave her something, to help her with the crying” she begins in a voice like powdered milk, and then you’re in, wound into her story of miserable, broken people addicted to psychiatric medication because they can’t fix their miserable, broken lives. When I listened to it first, by the time she got to “What you can’t cure, you can medicate” I was half in love with her, and wholly convinced that there is yet to be a better statement of the aims of the anti-psychiatry movement. Not because she talks about being addicted to medication, which other musicians frequently do and have been doing since at least the 1960s but because what she’s implicitly criticizing is the pathologization and medication of valid human experiences such as grief and loss. Because sometimes the appropriate response to an unbearable situation just is that special brand of human suffering which lamentably gets carved up and and labelled by psychiatrists as depression or catatonia or schizophrenia and the like. Because people who respond in this way are not “infirm” or “sick”, but gloriously human.