(Mental) State Of The Nation

I’ve spent an unusual amount of time on Facebook the past three days. I wish I could say it has been an enjoyable experience, but the only thing I can liken it to is standing by and watching a train wreck. Everyone was just crashing into each other. There was no good end to anything. It just felt like … death.

taylor-swift-pressurizes-apple-to-reverse-apple-music-dealOf course, there is no shortage of things to talk about on social media these days. The Confederate flag. Gay marriage. Taylor Swift and Apple. (Okay, that last one, not so much, but there is some stuff going down there.) Instead of talking, though, most people just snipe at each other. Proponents of homosexual marriage love how the “haters” got it stuck to them. Southerners try to play up the heritage aspect of the Confederate flag. Everyone is convinced they’re correct. No one allows that they might be wrong. It’s an online shouting match.

I have my share of personal beliefs, just like anyone else, and I can certainly understand passion in people regarding the issues of the day. Everyone wants to leave this earth believing they made a difference, and being a part of a social movement is something everyone dreams of. They can say they helped, literally, change the world. Occasionally, passion may trump logic, but it is undeniable that the force of a public tidal wave of opinion is something people not only can be caught up in, but also want to be caught up in.

I am concerned about our nation, though, and it has nothing to do with what flags are flying where or who is marrying whom. I am concerned because there is a growing cloud of darkness over the American psyche today which threatens to plunge our culture into a new age of violence, hate, and depression.

Several years ago, I stopped listening to conservative talk radio. It wasn’t that I necessarily disagreed with the opinions being expressed there; rather, it was the tone of everything. Conservatives had all the right ideas, and liberals wanted to submerge the country in darkness forever. That was pretty much the basis of every discussion I heard. And I got mad at liberals. I would get to work after listening to one of these shows and not want to talk to anyone. That’s when I realized I had gone beyond anger, maybe even beyond hate. I had fallen into some type of abyss, and there was nothing good there at all.

I feel us all sliding into that abyss today, and for those already predisposed to darker moods, there may not be any Peacecamp&downhillestatejuly21st012-1way back. I have been down this weekend, and I feel heavy inside. That heaviness then begins to spread into the doubts and fears and anxieties I wrestle with on a daily basis. My mood begins to be colored in a different way, and soon I begin to let hopelessness creep in. For me, this means a deepening depression. For those disposed to violence, though, or those who possess great anger, where does it lead them? And do the hopeful become bitter? Where are we going?

I was reading an interesting article this weekend about the suicide rate in Belgium. Doctors are permitted to assist with suicides for all different types of reasons in Belgium, including non-terminal conditions such as bipolar disorder, anorexia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. According to the World Health Organization, Belgium ranks 17th internationally on the list of suicides per 100,000 people per year. By contrast, the United States ranks 50th. My theory is this: When a nation expresses a willingness to condone taking one’s own life, its citizens follow suit. Therefore, if a nation projects depression and conflict, it stands to reason its citizens will feel the darkening mood.

Maybe I should get away from social media, television, everything where an opinion might be expressed. Then again, this is America, and those opinions have a right to be heard. I just wish it could be done in a way where sides are not so starkly chosen and battle lines are not so plainly drawn. The thought of us hacking each other to pieces is a depressing one indeed.


The Most Terrible Time Of The Year

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year in the United States. It’s a time when families come together for no other reason than to acknowledge their blessings, spend time with each other, and eat until their hearts are content. It’s a day when everyone is encouraged to take stock of the good things in their lives and see how those are what really matter. It is a lead-in to the most joyous of holidays, which extends beyond the borders of the U.S. and reaches in to the entire world – Christmas.

The holidays can indeed foster times of great joy and happiness. Unfortunately, they can also prove to be mental quicksand for those dealing with feelings of depression.

As with many topics related to depression, it can be difficult to explain why the holidays can be so holiday-bluesdifficult to navigate without venturing into self-pity. “Oh, how can they continue to play all this happy music and talk about all these wonderful things when I’m so sad? Can’t they see what I’m going through?” What many people with depression don’t realize is how self-centered the disease can make them. They become blind to how selfish they’ve become.

For those who are self-aware, though, depression around the holidays becomes a double whammy. The person knows they are not being grateful enough. They also know how selfish they are for feeling the way they do. As a result, they not only feel depression, but they also are hit with waves and waves of guilt. It’s a vicious cycle, and it only leads one way – down.

I’m not here to offer any pat answers about how to not be depressed around the holidays. In fact, I would greatly appreciate if everyone reading this could share your tips about how you manage to cope with the holiday blues. All I am trying to do is encourage understanding among those who have never had an un-thankful Thanksgiving or a not-so-merry Christmas for those who are having a hard time getting it together this year. You might not be able to cure them, but you can at least provide a helping hand to get them through.

Charlie Brown Christmas Lucy adviceAnd from me to you, if you’re someone riding a wave of depression from Thanksgiving on the way towards Christmas, hang in there. Better days can be ahead for you. In fact, you could be in a better day right now and just not know it. If you can’t feel it, though, don’t stack layers of guilt upon yourself. You’re not the first person to be where you are, and you’re not going to get it right all the time. It may not be the most wonderful time of the year, but it doesn’t have to be the most terrible either.