Thursday 2 July 2015

Nurse Jackie & the Mongoose

So the series Nurse Jackie is over, and though Jackie's actions in this last scene shocked me, I learned today how they very aptly illustrate a natural occurrence in even the animal world. We've been led to believe that addicts will re-use because they cannot resist and want to feel good.  Or because the chemical hook is set so deeply, nothing can heal it.  I recently read "Chasing the Scream" by Johann Hari and with it, some other writings he's done on the subject. My view is completely different now. The reasons for addiction are many and multi-faceted--too many to list and ever-evolving with each and every one of us.

The desire to get out of your head by way of intoxicant is common. Stress increases use. And their 'drug' never lets the user down. Many use to forget how they feel. They use to feel numb.

Jackie needed to feel numb.

In helping to come to this alternate understanding of addicts, a professor named Ronald K. Siegel wondered if this was common in nature. So he planted a hallucinogenic plant called Silver Morning Glory in an enclosure with a bunch of Mongooses. They all tried the plant, felt intoxicated and never touched it again. Months later a storm occurred that took the life of one of them. When its mate found its dead body, it went directly to the hallucinogenic plant and ate until it lost consciousness.

Within mere hours, Jackie took three major blows to the ego and the psyche. Dr. O'Hara knows everything, Eddie confessed to everything, and Zoey has had enough of everything to do with Jackie.

Stability crumbling.
Familiarity crushed.
Nothing is as it should be.

Jackie did what the Mongoose did and consumed what she knew would let her check out and be numb.

Nurse Jackie Peyton is a fictional character in a tv series. But her story is replayed over and over all over the world. Trauma and abuse seem more common nowadays. Our brains seem less able to cope with the stresses of day to day. But even in the simplest of environments, stress and fear will push a mammal to consume that which will alter their mind and perception. Another phenomenon I learned of through Johann Hari's writing is that the mongoose is not alone. Consuming something for the sole purpose of its effects, is actually quite common and routine for a lot of animals. Immediately upon reading this I remembered the birds that used to eat these red berries on the tree out front.  They would gorge themselves and then fall to the ground like big, fat, drunk babies. This was a routine thing until all of those berries were gone.

Professor Ronald K. Siegel  writes in his book Intoxication that it was noticed in Vietnam that the water buffalo would shy away from the Opium fields until the bombs of the war began to fall. At once, herds of them pulled a "Nurse Jackie" and went right for that which they knew would alter them, and consumed until intoxication.

What strikes me suddenly is that this could be a sign that all mammals instinctively know that getting out of their head will ease their fears and give the perception of safety. They went for what they somehow knew would dull their perception, making it fuzzy, and numbing the fear they felt as bombs crashed around them.

Of course this ability is a double edged sword like so many other phenomenon about life and our brains. Being able to check out mentally when the physical becomes too much would surely be a God-send. Unless you're the one driving the bus. Or keeping the patients in the emergency room alive.  And yet, I saw every episode and I can only remember one instance where Jackie made a nursing error while high. Zoey was there to save her.  Looking back, Zoey was always there to save Jackie, adore Jackie, applaud Jackie, and emulate Jackie.

When Zoey took that away it was effectively the punch that triggered Jackie's primal urge and ability to check out.

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