I’m sick of people being diagnosed with depression, like it’s some sort of disease or chemical imbalance. For some strange reason, our society feels it is necessary to drug people who express discontent, as if there must be something wrong with you if look you around and aren’t pleased as punch.
Quite the contrary, I think we should diagnose happiness as a disorder.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have it pretty good. You probably don’t have to worry about whether you will have a roof over your head tonight. You probably don’t have to worry about when your next meal with be. In the grand scheme of things, your problems are probably not that important. In fact, if I may be so bold, I would imagine no one reading this has a problem worth worrying about, with one exception.
If you are terminally ill, in chronic pain, or love someone who is dead or dying… you are exempt. That’s legitimately sad.
This isn’t to say people who experience depression outside of such situations (or similar extenuating circumstances) are not experiencing real problems. Quite the opposite, I wouldn’t be surprised if the very feeling that one has nothing to really feel bad about is itself a contributing factor to feelings of depression. I think depression is not chemical in origin at all, but is instead based on very tangible needs not being met by an individual.
It may even be a problem as strange as having a life that is too easy. People crave to be challenged. There is no fulfillment from accepting the inevitable. There is no feeling of achievement when everything is handed to you. Apathy and boredom are enough to make anyone depressed, and the answer isn’t to pop some pills or talk it out with some hired ear.
The answer is to get off your ass and do what you love. Depression is your body screaming at you to change. Depression is your subconscious brain’s way of saying to your conscious brain, “Hey, this routine is not working for me, and I’m unhappy.”
I’m also of the opinion that some portion of depression can be cured by diet alone. I’m not a food nut. I don’t drink raw milk. I hate vegans. However, I have witnessed people changing to a better diet and having increased mood. Depression can be linked to diet, but there’s no money in telling you to eat more balanced meals, so you have to actually read a little or have an open and honest chat with your doctor to find out (any good doctor will admit diet can cause distortions in mood).
But I have a feeling most depression is not diet based. That would be way too easy. Eating healthy is good for advice for anyone, though, so it can’t hurt to suggest that.
I have a feeling most depression is a function of an unfulfilling lifestyle. This is not easy to fix or even to talk about, because telling people to eat better is one thing, but telling people to live better is not only more difficult from the standpoint of knowing what should be changed, but it can be a very insulting for someone to hear that I think they made poor life choices.
Here’s the thing: I don’t know how anyone should live but me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most people are the sole authority on knowing how they themselves should live. I wish I could confidently say how people should change their lives to feel fulfilled, but I have no clue, beyond knowing that you should follow your dreams while keeping your feet on the ground. I think as long as you balance your goals with what you can realistically accomplish (which is tough), you’ll be as happy as you can be.
And there is a limit to how happy people should be. I’ve known a lot of rich people who have everything they could want. Many of them are very happy, but even with all of the material pleasures and opportunities open to them, they aren’t the most happy people I ever met. No, there are people who are so happy, I think they should be institutionalized.
I’ve never been able to trust someone who is always smiling, always chipper, always “great” or “super” or “okey dokey.” You know who I mean… the Ned Flanderses of the world… the cheerleaders of the world… the pathologically happy.
I used to wonder if it was jealousy, but I had a strange experience that changed my mind. Someone I knew who was that annoyingly gleeful had a parent die unexpectedly. She never stopped smiling, even through that whole ordeal. It was creepy. It was disturbing. If I didn’t know her so well, I would have thought she was medicated. Sure, she smoked pot, but she was not on anti-depressants or anti-anxieties.
I just felt bad for her, not only for her loss, but for her inability to express sadness. I don’t believe she was as happy inside as she was on the outside. I lost touch with her not too long after that, but I sometimes wonder if her inability to grieve in a healthy way might one day manifest itself in some sort of mental disorder. Who knows… it’s hard to make an amateur diagnosis over Facebook.
At any rate, I’m of the opinion that the chronically content are more disturbing than the depressed. I can relate to depressed people, even though I’m relatively sure I wouldn’t be diagnosed with it. I get hopelessness, I get misery, I just also know there’s more to life than those things.
The biggest problem with depressed people that you can pick up on from talking to them is how pessimistic they are. Nothing matters, we’re all going to die someday, yadda yadda yadda. We’re all familiar with it, we’ve all said those things at some point and heard it after we moved past that temporary nihilism.
People have been thinking those things since the beginning of written history (and probably much longer). We didn’t pop pills that hacked the chemicals in our brain to tell us we weren’t depressed anymore. Before we invented “cures,” people just came to accept these thoughts.
You might say that 4 out of 10 American suffer from depression, and the other 6 of us just got over it. Some of us decide these depressive thoughts aren’t true, some of us decide they don’t matter, but ultimately all of us need to come to terms with such ideas. Every person who is or will be born and lives to adulthood will have to confront this philosophical crisis, and the answer is not a daily regimen of numbness.
Depression is not even a “phase,” it’s just an inevitable realization. If you’re paying attention in this world, you’ll find plenty of things to be depressed about. That’s life as a human: we’re able to perceive injustice, tragedy, and loss. Not only can we see these ordeals occurring immediately around us, but also in far-flung corners of the globe. Everyone has to learn that as humans, we also have the ability – and some would say, duty – to fix the problems we face.
What I would prescribe to someone who is depressed, then, is to spend a little time deciding how you want to make the world a better place, and do it. It could even be tiny, like picking up a piece of trash from the street every day. I wish I could come up with a list of things you could try, but I think what you do with your life should be personal. It should reflect you and what you want the world to be, so only you can decide what you should be doing to make a difference.
Finally, I would prescribe something for people who are terminally happy. If you think everything is amazing and nothing ever seems to bother you, I would prescribe to you one hour of real news. Not sports, not celebrity gossip, but real journalism that documents important events in your community, throughout your country, and from around the world.
That ought to fix you.