Sunday, June 11, 2006

Q: What causes depression?

A: Depressing experiences.

There’s no doubt about it. I suffer intermittently from depression, the blues, sadness, melancholy, whatever you want to call it. It shows itself in different forms at different times: nausea, lack of energy, feeling as if nothing really matters but watching TV, always wanting to eat, not wanting to eat, not wanting to get out of bed, continual need for sex, the list goes on and on.

I am not alone. There enough of us out there that the pharmaceutical companies have managed to build a nice little business around us. Seems there is a cure for everything these days. Feeling sad, take some Xanax. Feeling fat, take some Jenny Craig. Feeling poor, call up CitiBank and get a credit card.

I have a theory about this depression stuff. It goes like this: The reason that there are so many depressed people out there is because things are pretty depressing. Let’s face it: our economy is based on funny money and our culture is becoming more militarized in the service of non-beholden corporations impersonating national governments, most of which have significant interest in Financial Services and Energy. It seems as if the model for our interpersonal relationships is based on a cross between Desperate Housewives, the World Wide Federation of Wrestling, MySpace and fundamentalist Christianity.

Seems that the purpose of modern, dual income, career oriented life is, to quote George Carlin, “to buy shit that we don’t need with money that we don’t have.” If this isn’t depressing, then tell me, what is?

Call me a cynic, but I can’t help but wonder what society did to address depression before the medicinal response. Well there’s a good argument to be made that we simply drank our woes away. But most people didn’t. In fact, it’s my belief that most people simply just made due. We coped. You had your family and you had your friends. That you didn’t get to choose your family meant that every once and a while an Uncle Ernie popped up and did some fiddling on your cousin’s private parts. But, you did get to choose your friends. Thus, most of us were fortunate enough to choose well. Our friends lasted us a life time, regardless of our socio-economic status or geographic location. Before our salmon like existence of upward mobility we shared a history, a place on the planet, a seat at the common table. Today we share a highway, driving around in little, lease instead of buy, self contained boxes that we drive into other self contained boxes, that are part of other self contained boxes—Russian Doll environments in which our most significant ties to one another are the Internet and our home theatre.

Then to top if off, we send our children off to have a collegiate experience in which Texas Hold’em is more important than Chaucer, calculus, premarital sex and pot. A mind really is a terrible thing to waste.

Call me a Romantic, but I long for a time when I knew most the people on my block, where the corner candy store was owned by a guy name Nick, not a company named Walgreen’s, and there was still such a thing as a children’s matinee at the local movie theatre—fifty cents to get in and twenty five cents for a box of Dots that was guaranteed to rot your teeth.

But, I am not so much of a Romantic to have forgotten that those days brought us Blacklisting, the War in Viet Nam, and a national televised experience where a lot of people died right before our video glazed eyes. I was eight when the first Kennedy was shot in black and white and thirteen when the last one met an identical fate, albeit live and in living color. It’s a lot for a developing mind to take in and still be in tact.

We’re told that happiness is a choice, a state of mind, that our thoughts create our reality. If so, then what do we do about the sad fact that we’ve become a nation of privatized occupiers of oil rich client states and a global community that is just sort of accepting the fact that our atmosphere is a bit too warm to maintain the Good Ole Days and that the politics in Central Africa, the West Bank, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Azerbaijan and Mexico are more akin to Crips and Blood diplomacy than Realpolitik. Believe me there are some things in life that really are louder than Prozac, no matter who is listening.

But as the song says, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. And, as the TV commercial says, for everything else there is Mastercard, which, by the way, can be accepted as payment at your dentist for teeth whitening services, your psychiatrist for counseling services and at your local pharmacy when it comes time to have your prescription of Celexa refilled.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What causes depression?

Focusing on your own pain in response to difficult problems.

What causes optimism?

Finding something positive to do in your life that helps others.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Ralph Loizzo said...

If I were a big corporation, or hell, even a country's government, and I wanted to keep control of my interests and resources(read- people), as well as the interests of my equally corrupt friends, I'd try to isolate as many of my people (read: subjects/slaves) as much as possible.

Clifford Stoll mentioned this growing phenomenon of the primary interest of pseudo-experiences in one of his books. While people around him in the 70s were hooked on computer games that allowed them to explore caves, Cliff actually went spelunking for real.

Now about this depression issue. I experience exactly what you're talking about, but sometimes when I actually get my lazy self away from the computer, and do some real physical activity, I feel mentally a lot better. As much as we Americans don't want to admit, our bodies are connected to our minds and the neglect of one does affect the other. If we continue to eat fatty foods that make us just want to sit on the couch and veg, we're too weak and depressed to do anything about the problems in our society.

100 years ago, people didn't have it as easy. They didn't have to exercise because they got it every day just trying to survive. Things were clear and simple. Eat, work, sleep, die - and hopefully their work in the present would bring a better future.

Well what has a better future brought us? Information overload, world wars, global terrorism, and depression.

I would imagine that working toward a better future, having a clear goal in mind, helps overcome depression. We've become aimless as a society, and millions of us are just waiting to be led.

But all we are being led to is the store and the fridge.

However, I do believe that happiness is a choice. If eating the wrong foods is making you lazy and depressed, stop doing so. If being led around your city from store to store by corporate America bothers you, choose to stop.

As far as I see it...
the difference between 100 years ago and today is... back then happiness was the great light at the end of the tunnel,

now it's simply a candle we take with us on all of life's journeys, it's up to the individual to keep it lit.

5:48 PM  

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