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Infomercials, depression - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Infomercials, depression
Okay. I got up today, popped in an exercise tape (I never finish it, but fifteen minutes instead of half an hour is better than zero minutes instead of fifteen, right?), and when I stopped the tape, the cable was still on the Sci Fi channel from BSG last night. Only, in the morning, it's infomercials. The first, which was on when I put the tape in, was a program called Body Makeover, which promised that if you drew your ideal shape on a photograph of your current shape, you could be given a program to get "exactly the body YOU want!!!" When I turned the tape off, it was Body By Jake's AbScissor, which will let you lose a dress or pants size each week, if you just spend four minutes a day exercising. "It will return your self-esteem!" the narrator announces.

Yeah. Because nothing says "self-esteem" more clearly than realizing that you're so depressed that you've been duped by an infomercial.

I kind of wonder if it's the depression epidemic spurring the obesity epidemic, rather than the other way around. I'm not a medical expert, but I do seem to recall reading that depression actually does slow the metabolism, and I know from experience that it can have lovely effects on the ol' get-up-and-go. Plus, sweets cravings. And drinking, which is a very bad thing, weight-wise. Getting a new machine (for which you're going into debt) isn't going to solve this problem, and that's probably why we're a nation with basements full of unused exercise machines. It's all part of the gimme-a-pill-and-make-it-better mentality. I think it's time to address some root causes. Why are we so depressed?

I'll try to stay away from partisan issues, because I think both sides are screwy on that. (To the right: Much as I find religion beneficial in my own life, it's not the cure-all for everything. To the left: Neither is sex.) I also think that most of the pathologies harped on by either side are effects rather than causes. I mean, here we are in a prosperous and powerful society, with freedoms we never dreamed of before, and the whole mood of the country is painted blue. What gives?

I think there are a few different things going on, and they all amplify one another. I should forewarn everyone that I'm talking out of my nether regions, here.

First, rapid changes that we've had no time to assimilate. Technology, communications, mass culture, demographics... you name it, it's been revolutionized. The time we're in now makes the Industrial Revolution look like child's play. In a hundred years, we've moved from agriculture to manufacture to genetic engineering. From the telegraph to the Internet. Mass culture has pushed the envelope so far that we have to wrap it in plain brown paper to mail it, because all the seams are ripped. Immigration has come up and up and up, from new parts of the world. None of these things is negative--most, in fact, are positive--but human societies don't adapt this quickly, and humans, as social creatures, feel it when society is flailing around and trying to figure out which way is up.

Second, we have no projects. One of the problems with the corporate culture is that rank-and-file citizenry doesn't feel much ownership of national accomplishments. It's great to be able to say, "Some Americans did that," but it's not the same as being able to say, "Look what we did." All of these technological improvements are great, but (except for Al Gore) we don't feel like "we invented the Internet" (or whatnot). Going to the moon, everyone could share, because they were us. It was a difficult (but simply conceived) project that people could grasp. It had a definable endpont: walking on the moon. Now, we get nebulous ideas like, "Stop hunger" or "End Whateverism" or "Spread democracy." How do we know if we've "stopped hunger"? There's always been hunger, and we can keep trying to make it better, but we'll never fully succeed, and at any rate, what sort of thing would that be to take credit for? Spreading democracy? Again, can't take credit, and if it's forced, we'll be accused of Imperialism anyway (not necessarily wrongly). No, we need something like the moonshot, a monumental scale project that we all participate in, even if just in a cheerleading sort of spirit, something with a defined endpoint and a way to measure success or failure. This needn't be just an American project, either. Participating in a global project would have the same effect on the psyche as participating in a local one, as long as it has that defined endpoint (Martian or moon-based launch station, land on the moons of Jupiter, set up a sea floor colony, whatever)--something difficult but possible to work toward. A dream.

Third, and this one is odd, we've gotten too mobile. Oh, I don't mean that life is only worth living if you're several generations in the same town (though that has its charms--it's a wrench knowing that none of my family lives in Buffalo anymore, though I have no desire to go back). Or that one should stick to a single job, even if it's become totally hateful. But we've reached a point where we're routinely told that we can expect to have several careers over the courses of our lives, houses are treated more as investments than homes, and there's just a vast amount of temporary-ness about life. Some people may have a high tolerance for that, but I think it's a natural and normal human instinct to want to get someplace, put down roots, and flourish--and that this instinct is far stronger than the pick-up-and-move instinct, even here, where we're all more or less descended from people who said, "ENOUGH!" and picked up and moved. When contemporary culture thwarts that, again, we feel at loose ends.

It strikes me that I have no idea what to do about any of these things.
43 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
daisan From: daisan Date: April 2nd, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Excellent points!

Point #2 is very well taken, and I would expand it to add that we have no sense of participation in our country. Most people don't vote because they feel completely disconnected from our government. We don't trust any politicians and expect that we will be lied to during the course of the campaign or the presidency. This further alienates the average American from the political process, which is by far the best way we have of feeling like an integral part of our country.

I think another problem is that the average American feels like there's nothing we can do to help our country win the war on terror (either by defeating the terrorists or creating a world where terrorism has no place.) You hit the nail on the head that these ideas are so nebulous, it's impossible to know if we're even making any progress, let alone erradicating the problem. But it's also that we haven't been asked to do anything, even anything small that could remind us, in our every day lives, that we're making a difference. During the Cold War and WWII, Americans were asked to sacrifice and prepare for disaster by drilling for nuclear war, giving up meat and sugar for the war effort, and refraining from driving their cars to conserve gasoline. During that time, the national consciousness united, and each individual American felt they were contributing to our victory overseas, even if they didn't fight or work in a factory. These things are important, after all, we're a country of many people, not just a country of our leaders. I'd like to be part of a national effort to conserve gasoline, where everyone pledges to refrain from driving their cars on Sunday or something. But this will never happen, because consumerism might be affected. Heaven forbid that people won't be able to go shopping!

One final point: I think a big part of our national attitude stems from the lack of community. You touched on this in point #3, where we have such a transitory lifestyle that it's difficult to really put down roots and feel connected to a place. Perhaps this is why people don't put as much effort into getting to know their neighbors anymore, or getting involved in their local communities. If we're only going to be around for three to five years, why bother? Yet without communities we become ever more focused on our individual families, we lose perspective, and we shut ourselves off from those in need. The brain releases many more endorphins from physical contact than from writing a check to a charity. We definitely need to be more involved.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Excellent points!

It's a good point about having something specific, if small, to do, to feel like there's a contribution to be made. (And no, "Be on the lookout and keep your eyes open" doesn't count.) As recently as the '70s, people were urged to carpool to work specifically in order to deal with the energy crunch.

The community issue is huge. I don't know my next door neighbors at all, and I've lived where I am for three years now. A woman I know said that she and her husband bought a house specifically so they wouldn't have to deal with anyone else. Yet, even though I was an introverted child, I could tell you even now a name, or a quirk, of pretty much every neighbor I had until I was seventeen. Sometimes a name and a quirk (Mrs. DeBone, when I was little had a bricked in back yard, but a little elevated flower patch; the Collars (he was a Methodist minister) had a collie dog, and also a teenaged daughter who had a dirtbike and loved Barry Manilow; the guy next door when I was a teenager had a retirement hobby as a ham radio operator, and it interfered with radio and TV reception all up and down the street; etc, etc, etc). I lived on a dead end street and the kids used to have impromptu kickball games at the end of it. You know, unplanned, no league, etc. This isn't some ancient phenomenon lost to the fogs of time, nor is it limited to small town life--Mrs. DeBone was a Buffalo neighbor, and I knew several children on the street. This is normal human living. What on Earth is happening that we're no longer able to do that?
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Excellent points!

I grew up in a court (dead end) too, and all the kids would congregate there after school, playing in the bowl of the court itself or each others' yards. I always wanted the same sort of thing for my kids, and we did buy a house in a court BUT... I can't let them play out there unsupervised. It's just too dangerous now. At least once a yr the word comes down, either via the schools directly or the media, that there's a child molester on the hunt in the area. And we live in a GOOD area.

And the issue of neighbours/community comes into play here too. We live in a well-off area, yet we ourselves are anything but. The attitude from most of our neighbours is ... well... aloofly tolerant would be the nicest way to put it. The 'community spirit' only extends if you have a mercedes or porche to park in your driveway.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Excellent points!

Yeah, there's that. It's irritating.

On the reports of molestors, what I keep wondering--can't seem to stop--is if there's suddenly been an increase in the number of child molestors. Either there isn't, and what we have is a lot of paranoia about a threat level that's the same as it always was. Or there is, and we have to start a lot of questioning about what in the past thirty years or so has made it more appealing or somehow acceptable for people to think about committing this crime.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Excellent points!

I don't think there's been an increase at all (except for the increase in population relative), I just think it's being reported more.

My hubby and I had 3 of our closest friends come out about being sexually molested as children. (one by her father from age 8-15, one by his BROTHER from 9-15, and the other by her cousin and family friends from 12-?) All from completely different walks of life, and all (almost like clockwork) spoke up about it when they turned 40. It was like it took that long for them to really believe that it wasn't their fault.
We knew all of them from our early teens and it would never have crossed our minds that something so horrible was happening.

I'm quite sure it was far more common at the turn of the last century when life was cheap and children (and women) had no rights. Just not talked about.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Excellent points!

Then the question becomes, if we were able to play safely with neighbors as children and the problem was just as bad, then why the decrease in community now? If anything, being on solid ground on who your neighbors and who belongs in the neighborhood will help with the stranger molestations (and the ones who aren't strangers, sadly, are more likely to prey within their own households... not snatch kids off the street from games).
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: April 2nd, 2005 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Excellent points!

Fern, I think it's just that we've come to expect better and safer lives for ourselves.

When I was a kid, my parents just didn't sweat it if I swam in a lake that was near my house, or rolled around in the mud playing in the chicken farm next door. I fell sick often, I caught hookworms regularly from going barefoot, and at one point, I even had lice.

But you know what? I recovered from my colds and coughs and the occasional bout of viral fever, and now I never get them... I'm too resistant. I was chummy with the family doctor who treated my feet when I caught hook worms, and drilled it into my head not to go barefoot in mud. My mom had ready remedies for lice that actually made my hair a lot better.

I just think that we take the proverb "prevention is better than cure" too seriously these days. When I have kids, I hope I'll find the courage to let them swim in lakes of questionable cleanliness, and not sweat it when they catch a cold or a fever from doing it. What they hey, it builds resistance.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting question. Almost a 'chicken or the egg' one.

In my experience the Depression comes first. I had lost more than my pregnant weight after baby #4, then went down with Post Natal Depression and put on 20kilos.

I had finally succeeded in losing half of that by Xmas 2003 (and baby #4 was 7yo!), then 2004 was the yr from hell.

In hindsight, I know I was depressed, but at the time I just thought I was having an exceptionally crappy yr. Didn't change my eating habits at all - in fact was eating LESS. Nevertheless I put on 20 kilos! Again.

I've decided that my body goes through some sort of metabolic change when I get Depressed and stressed, that changes the way it stores food. I seriously can't think of any other explanation.

In an attempt to counter the Depression (and avoid medication cos it kills my creativity ;~( ) I've started walking - half an hour every morning. And I can honestly say it makes a difference. Not to my weight, but to my mood. A few days without walking and I can literally feel my mood start to spiral downwards.

After the initial trauma of dragging myself out of bed early enough to get the kids started (getting ready for school), have a bite to eat and get myself and the dog out the door, I REALLY enjoy it. I particularly love it when it's just off dark. The air is so fresh and there's hardly anyone else about, and the noise of all the birds getting up is nearly deafening!

That said, I do have to have a tape/ipod going cos the minute my brain has a moment to dwell on itself (ie: is allowed to think about the unfairness of Life, the Universe and the Everything), it will make the Depression even worse. So I mostly listen to Stephen Fry read the Potter books, or sometimes music.

And I'm back in time to finalise the kids before they head off to school!

Whether the increase in worldwide obesity is related to the increase in Depression, I would have to say yes. Which came first? Well, being treated for Depression is a pretty recent thing; before that folks just had to cope... or not. But the change in our diet has been pretty dramatic over the last 50yrs. All the additives and preservatives and chemicals and hormones! There's gotta be reppercussions for that.

As for giving the World a common goal to root for... well, as they say - the greatest time of Peace is during a War. Common goals and all that. And I really don't think a Mars landing would garner any sort of global atmosphere of achievement; the general populace has a cow about the cost of putting the Space Shuttle up.
The idealism of that era has gone and I don't think we can ever recapture it.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
The idealism of that era has gone and I don't think we can ever recapture it.

I don't know. Attitudes go in cycles. I don't imagine we can possibly maintain this level of depression and malaise much longer.
ivylore From: ivylore Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
The air is so fresh and there's hardly anyone else about, and the noise of all the birds getting up is nearly deafening!

I secretly think my summers in the bush are what keep me semi-sane, that that link between nature and the mind and the body is incredibly powerful.

And I completely agree with you about all the crap they stick in processed foods. Also, over the last century, people's lives have gotten easier. No one needs to walk anywhere or perform even the most menial of physical tasks.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: April 2nd, 2005 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
that link between nature and the mind and the body is incredibly powerful.

Agree wholeheartedly with that one! We throw a lot of our scraps out for the birds and, as a result are visited daily by a family of magpies. A family of magpies who, we have realised, have a distinctive call. I talk to them all the time and, the younger ones particularly, will come so close I think, with a little encouragement, they would take food out of my hand. Yesterday one sat on the clothes line beside me while I hung out the washing! O.o

They talk to me when I'm walking too! Over a kilometre away from home and I'll hear their distinctive call from a nearby tree. Of course, I always reply. :~)

What is it about that sort of connection with wildlife that seems to validate us more that interacting with people? Animals are honest I suppose, and wild animals aren't bound by unconditional love like pets are. If a wild animal regards you as ok, you must be.
Plus there is the whole thing about feeling part of something much greater than yourself. :~)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, animals make all kinds of difference. We have a huge flock of geese in the pond behind my house, and the neighborhood is overrun with squirrels and chipmunks. They keep me sane now that I'm pet-less, but I really miss my roommate's ferret violently. I love that when I talk to my mom on the phone, the cat always comes up and sits on her lap and starts meowing.

I think what I really can't live without is green stuff. I have some depression issues now, but the worst state I've ever been in was when I lived in one of the few parts of Boston that's mostly tree-less. The buildings all seemed ugly and the traffic was too loud and it was just... blech.
ivylore From: ivylore Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Plus there is the whole thing about feeling part of something much greater than yourself. :~)

I think that's it. During the summer, there are at least a few moments where I stop and look around and my own utter insignificance smacks me. It's not a scary or bad thing the way it would be in the RW - in nature I always feel like I'm a menial part of a whole, not a menial part of giant divided mess - which is how I feel about the RW. Feeling that I belong to nature, no matter how small a part of it I might be, is gratifying and peaceful.

Could it be that we experience a connection to our past with nature? That occurs to me from time to time too, that we're tapping into our 'collective unconscious' so to speak.

That's very cool about the magpies.

I once had a fox follow me around for the afternoon in the bush. :)
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: April 2nd, 2005 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
In an attempt to counter the Depression (and avoid medication cos it kills my creativity ;~( ) I've started walking - half an hour every morning. And I can honestly say it makes a difference. Not to my weight, but to my mood. A few days without walking and I can literally feel my mood start to spiral downwards.

I feel the same way! I've never liked exercising because I couldn't get motivated by the abstract idea of "good health," but when I realized walking affected my mental health, I started doing it regularly. I can feel the effects immediately, and that makes all the difference.

Physical exertion used to be necessary for any person who wanted to eat; I think that's why humans evolved so it's also good for mental health. But now most people have to do sendentary jobs if they want to eat, and we're finally realizing the long-term effects.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's a great deal of discussion in some food production circles about:

1) Corn syrup
2) Dioxins

1) is the latest "replacement" for refined sugar. Except you'll notice that continental Europe doesn't use it. The UK does, and they have a significant obesity problem, too. High frutcose corn syrup seems to a) not trigger the body's "I'm full" mechanism and b) be mildly addictive.

2) is released when certain forms of plastic are heated. If you heat your food in the microwave in a plastic dish, or with plastic wrap on top, you are pushing that into your food. Dioxins are absorbed into the body and never released. They are, apparently, also absorbed into the reproductive system, especially ovarian tissue.

So, food additives are having a much larger impact than a lot of people think. :)
sreya From: sreya Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here here on all three. Most of the time I feel like my life is ruled by all three of those problems.

The community issue is a really big one, as is temporary living. I grew up an Air Force brat, so I've lived in LOTS of places (though I do have to say the best sense of community I ever found was ON a military base overseas -- since everyone knew they had only 3 years or less, we didn't waste any time finding out how to come together). And since graduating college almost 2 years ago, I've lived in 4 places. I'm currently in an apartment building, have been here for almost 5 months, and I couldn't pick my neighbors out of a crowd, let alone tell you names or anything about them. Even with my own extended family in the area, it's awkward because I don't know them very well. They mostly strangers with whom I share blood.

And that makes a BIG impact on the psyche. I was having trouble the last few weeks, and honestly didn't know who to turn to. I finally went to the school chaplain, just to have someone to talk to about it. While I agree that religion may not always solve everything, I've certainly learned to rely on the priests in my life since I started college. I've been blessed to find very good men leading the churches I've joined, who are willing to take on the "elder" role for me.

You know, maybe that's another thing that's wonky with the lack of community. We used to have "elders" in our lives, people who had life experiences to share that we could learn from. Now, it's mostly "You're 18, and you're on your own!" That just can't be good, because when we're cut off like that, not only are we trying to reinvent the wheel, but we feel like the only ones who've ever failed, because there isn't anyone going "Oh, yeah, I tried that -- didn't work too well. Try this instead." I don't know how much that may apply later in life, but I think it's certainly a factor for me and others in the early-20s set.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I want to be an elder someday. I think that's the effect of it on me, anyway. When I get old, I want to be an old person. Not an old fuddy-duddy, but someone who you look at and say, "Wow, I bet she knows some things that might help me."

I have two cousins in easy travel distance (one another's brothers), but I have the awkward knowledge that I'm not entirely wanted company. They're always pleasant, but here's the thing--I live right between the two of them, but although they visit one another often, they never say, "Hey, great idea here, as long as we're passing through... wanna come along?" Which really delineates between cousin and sibling, although my mother always wanted me to think of my cousins as sibs, since I was an only. But I always feel like I'm intruding when I see them. Sigh.

Interesting thing about the internet, though--I've known you in cybercommunities longer than most of the places you just listed living!
From: nothing_gold Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I especially agree with Point #1. This especially applies for generations older than mine--my generation was introduced to the internet at such a young age that we were able to adapt naturally. Adaption was forced on generations older than mine, as it was essentially learn computers or lose your job.

I however am less concerned with the obesity crisis in adults than I am the obesity crisis in children. That's what scares me: when I see little kids that are overweight. And it's not just baby fat. We're raising a whole lot of inactive, unhealthy children, and we are seriously going to regret this in 20 years.
ivylore From: ivylore Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Why are we so depressed?

To add to your first point regarding technology, I think technology has led to a great deal of isolation - within the family, within our circles of friends, with society. We can literally live completely cut off from humanity if we choose, and often we have no choice.

I think that nowadays (and I'm generalizing about the developed world) most of us are born with our basic needs met. There's never a struggle for survival or a sense of accomplishment, of being empowered by actively pursuing the means to our own survival. Living in an over-modernized, over-industrialized society comes with a price. We all eventually have to work in order to pay the bills, but find it difficult to envision a tangible link between work and meaning and our survival. In other words, it's not like seeing food we grew ourselves set on the dinner table.

I don't believe happiness is a state of being so much as it's a by-product of doing . But we live in a society that encourages us to think, rather than do. We think, we over-analyze, we dwell on that which is out of our control and popular culture reinforces such critical self-examination - we reject our instincts and natural coping mechanisms by over-analysing everything to death.

All of things things combined lead to stress and depression.

...I could be completely wrong about happiness being a state-of-being. I also believe Buddhism offers profound keys to happiness, but meditation, like 'doing', it involves releasing the mind from too much thinking.





fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why are we so depressed?

We think, we over-analyze, we dwell on that which is out of our control and popular culture reinforces such critical self-examination - we reject our instincts and natural coping mechanisms by over-analysing everything to death.

Which is why I am highly skeptical of psychotherapy as a cure for depression. Pills make some degree of sense, but what seems most sensible is behavioral modification. Which isn't always easy!
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why are we so depressed?

I used to be skeptical of it, and especially of medication, but that changed when I suffered from depression a couple of years ago. I realized I needed help after an argument with a friend over the war in Iraq, when I started to cry (in private, later) and couldn't stop. My doctor told me people tend to recover faster when combining both medication and therapy, so I did both. I found therapy helpful because I needed to talk about my worries with someone.

I know people say that's what your friends are for, but in my case, feeling at odds with the people around me was part of the problem. And if you're really depressed, you can get obsessive, which drags your friends down and becomes burdensome. (This happened to me once when a friend was calling me three times weekly for six months over a guy. I was doing my best to help her, but I was getting fed up; I didn't understand that she was really depressed.) A psychologist is trained to deal with that sort of thing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why are we so depressed?

I've done therapy. It's inevitably made it worse for me--focusing on all that junk and thinking about it and turning it over. I do way better when I just sit down and write and get petted. And if I just feel like venting, I have my LJ. ;) My problem, I think, is that I know perfectly well what my problems are. One thing about being a character writer is that I'm pretty well aware of my own psyche. In morbid detail. I read a lot of psychology when I was younger, I know what all the questions are meant to elicit, and what my answers are supposed to mean. And of course, I'll feel a need to start telling stories. Make it more dramatic than it is, turn myself into a character in a fairly bad melodrama (I'm better at plotting stories on the page than spur-of-the-moment stuff). So talk-cure has proven useless for me.
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: April 2nd, 2005 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why are we so depressed?

I've done therapy. It's inevitably made it worse for me

Yikes - I'm sorry to hear that. It's easy to fall into a one-size-fits-all mentality, but just because therapy helped me doesn't mean it would work for you. It sounds to me like your method is better anyway. Isn't sublimation supposed to be the healthiest way of handling negative feelings?

Overall I think therapy helped me get out of a bad place, but my therapist gave me a couple of insights that I hope will help me never to need it again - namely, that walking improves my mood, and that I have a desire to get my feelings out. He suggested writing, and I started keeping a notebook again for the first time in years. LJ is an extension of it, and better in some ways, because my f-list helps me commit to writing regularly. Not that I'm a comment whore or anything. *coughs*
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: April 3rd, 2005 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why are we so depressed?

I do way better when I just sit down and write and get petted...

Oooh, that one struck a nerve... and I actually had to let it stew in my brain for awhile before responding... not that I'm any more sure now of what I want to say. I've never experienced clinical depression, but I've often wondered how I'd deal with some form of talk therapy. In a lot of ways I think it might drive me nuts because I'm not sure it would make me understand myself any better, I think it would just make someone else (ie the therapist) think that they "understood me". My big mental issue lately has been admitting my own motivations to myself. I tend towards discomfort when I suddenly realise that maybe I'm doing someone a favour not because I am a nice person, but because I want them to think I'm a nice person. Or I wonder if maybe I sing not primarily because I enjoy it (although I do), but because actually... I really like those compliments. I've generally just done my best to push those thoughts out of my head as soon as they appear there but recently I've been allowing them a little more space, admitting that sometimes I feel that way even though I wish I didn't, and realising that it's probably okay to admit that my main motivation is really just the fact that I want praise because hey - a lot of people share the same motivation. It's kind of liberating, actually.

So... I guess just thanks for acknowledging that and allowing me to put it into words and get it out of my system.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2005 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why are we so depressed?

Yeah, that's the dirty little secret, isn't it? ;)

Eh, sometimes you dance because you're happy, sometimes you dance because you're sad and want to become happy. Either way, you're dancing, and that's a good.
ivylore From: ivylore Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why are we so depressed?

No, it isn't!
gryffin23 From: gryffin23 Date: April 2nd, 2005 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't really got much to add except that in a weird sort of way it's kind of encouraging to hear other people say these things because I've been thinking about them for a while and thought I was the only one.

Point 3: My parents always seemed to me to be antisocial, never interested in actually getting to know people or neighbors around us and we've lived in the same area for, hmm, 15 years. But I suppose they were always worried about things like child-molesting. Still, that seems to be changing a bit. Last summer, I saw a whole bunch of lemonade stands up. I am trying desperately at the moment to find a place to settle down. A sort of addendum: Do you think perhaps surplus education requirements might make things more difficult? I mean, for me to do any of the things I really want to do, I have to get a PhD. And I've done undergrad in NYC, Masters in London, don't know where will do Ph.D but that just adds to the temporariness Fern was talking about. I'm going to feel unsettled for the next five, ten years. That in itself is probably what leads to depression.

As for a community of elders or something, yeah, that would be useful if just to have someone tell you not to despair or make you laugh with the mistakes they made and have advice given differently than lecture style, you know?.

Not much, but that's my feeling at the moment.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I absolutely think that the absurd amount of degree-ing is a big part of it. It's one thing when you're an adolescent, taking a bit of a break between home and career--you know it's a discrete amount of time and you're studying something that's valuable to your intellectual development.

But a double-masters degree (education and library science) to be a school librarian? Or a law degree, plus the MLS, to be a law librarian? That's heavy-duty degreeing. It's also devaluing education by making it something that you do because it's required for a career, rather than something you do because it's good to have a solid grounding in the liberal arts.

The problem with it in terms of this is two-fold. First, the transience issue. We're doing the wandering adolescent routine for anywhere from five to ten years after high school, and then mucking around in entry level jobs. This is bad for everyone, but disastrous for women, who have a biological clock ticking away through this whole period, and by the time we finish up with education and entry-level stuff, we're heading into our thirties at the earliest. We've spent the years when it's healthiest to have babies scrambling around and waiting until we're in a place where we can begin to think about settling down. There was a very bitter comment on this on an SNL Weekend Update, responding to an article telling women that it's biologically healthiest to have babies by 27. ("I definitely should have had a baby when I was 27, living in Chicago over a biker bar, pulling down a cool $12,000 a year. That would have worked out great," Tina Fey says. Maya Rudolph amplifies with, "Yeah, Sylvia, maybe your next book should tell men our age to stop playing Grand Theft Auto III, and holding out for the chick from Alias." That was just a total "Ouch" of a moment.)

The other issue with all of this, depression-wise, is that being forced into graduate degree programs in order to have decent careers throws us all into heavy debt, and I don't know about you, but nothing gets me down further than the thought of all of those student loans hanging over my head. Even the baby thing pales in comparison to knowing how deep a hole I'm in with no getting out of it in sight.
harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I remember that episode. I still have a few years before I'm 27, but this past semester especially, I can really feel the biological clock. Every time I go to the grocery store, I keep trying to buy for a family. Whenever I see a baby on tv or in person I want to hold it, and I try to work in the nursery at church whenever I'm home. I even feel like getting back into sewing. I just feel so domestic, and there isn't really anything I can do with these urges. And you're right, the debt doesn't help, either. It is indeed depression-causing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 06:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm thirty-four. I've gone past the gooey "I want it" stage when I see them and entered the weepy "I missed it" stage. By the time my mother was my age, I was a freshman in high school. And it's not like I can even boast of having a great career that I put it off for. I just had a regular run of jobs until I finally said, "All right! I'll do grad school!" And now I have a regular post-grad job. Blah.
mistralcat From: mistralcat Date: April 2nd, 2005 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's also the opposite problem - if you're a married woman in your thirties, and you don't want to have kids. Or aren't sure. The pressure is intense, and though it's also intense on my husband, I think it's worse for me. I'm constantly being made to feel like I'm a bad person if I don't have kids, like my life won't be complete without them, like my marriage doesn't mean anything if we don't have kids together.

And yet...we're settled, we have a house, we're buying a business together, we're comfortably off, money-wise...what else is left? It's a weird, unsettling feeling, being so comfortable so young. And, though I know not everyone is in this position, I'm sure some are, since more and more people are deciding not to have kids, and since the generation raised on the importance of monetary security is just now getting to the point where it's actually possible. Where do we all go from here? We have, quite possibly, another forty years of working life ahead of us, and that's a sobering thought. Maybe even depressing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess I feel a lot more social pressure in the other direction. "Get a career! How could you think about having kids until you're financially secure! No woman should be defined by her reproduction!" and so on, but I'd guess that living in married-land is fairly different than living in single-land. (G-d, I want to relocate. Where are the nice single straight Jewish men in Boston?)

However, I get the ambiguity. Huge change in life, and I think I'd totally freeze up if there were an actual husband involved in my life and I had to make a choice, despite the fact that I've always wanted lots of great-grandchildren in my old age. I mean... wow. I can't think of much that would turn my life upside down more. And I wouldn't want to feel like I was being pressured into it.

But then again, biology starts calling the shots after awhile, and I also wouldn't want to find myself in a position where I can't--where nature has forced me to the other decision--which is where I'm headed if I don't knuckle down and get to the business of husband hunting, which is the only thing I can think of that's more daunting than job and house hunting combined.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 2nd, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
On the mind-numbing number of years ahead, I'm right there with you. People just keep getting older, and it's not like we'll have any real nest egg to make a comfy retirement on. Is this life, then? Just one day piled on the next until you can't tell the difference anymore? Sigh. Probably not. It's just the incessant rain here that's got me going that way.
mistralcat From: mistralcat Date: April 2nd, 2005 08:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know - it's that feeling of "there must be more than this" that gets me down. I'm happy with my life, and yet I feel like I shouldn't be. I don't think that's something unique to me or even new, but I do wonder why humans seem to have evolved this dissatisfaction with the way the world works. What good does it do us?

I think my biological clock might be broken, actually. I do worry about getting to be too old and then suddenly realizing I wanted kids, after all, but I know it would be wrong to force myself to have them now, just because of that possibility years down the road. But then, my next-door neighbor had a child at fifty, completely naturally, so maybe we have more time than we think...
mincot From: mincot Date: April 2nd, 2005 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent points, particularly transience and bilogi cal clocks.

The problem with it in terms of this is two-fold. First, the transience issue. We're doing the wandering adolescent routine for anywhere from five to ten years after high school, and then mucking around in entry level jobs. This is bad for everyone, but disastrous for women, who have a biological clock ticking away through this whole period, and by the time we finish up with education and entry-level stuff, we're heading into our thirties at the earliest. We've spent the years when it's healthiest to have babies scrambling around and waiting until we're in a place where we can begin to think about settling down. There was a very bitter comment on this on an SNL Weekend Update, responding to an article telling women that it's biologically healthiest to have babies by 27.

I am 41. I did my graduate career--admittedly, into a career (academics) that does not pay well)--so I was in my early thirties. then the entry level job. THEN I crashed and burned at my tenure review and started ANOTHER entry level job (and was thanking God I got it!!!)--this one, though, does not come with the promotion option. So here I am, 41, no husband, no kids, no success at a career (which is the usual trade off; all my grad school friends either busted out of academe completely or are one rung up the academic rank ladder by now) and no real building options, not really wanting to change jobs AGAIN. I have torn up my whole life at least twice--when txanne visited a few weeks ago, I was so pathetically happy to be with someone I had known for more than 3 years!!!!!!!!!

I am GOOD at rebuilding my life. I do have a house, even if it is somewhere I am not happy with; I generally love my job--it suits an intellectual lightweight (no, I am not saying I am dumb, but compared to misia, kaseido, or lolaraincoat, I am not a heavyweight academic, either), and it also helps me feel I am "doing something" (i.e. fostering critical thinking among a population that in general valorizes ignorance). I am often quite cheerful and content on a daily basis, and I am very grateful for what I have. But this past month or more I have really been foundering my emotional ship on the shoals of my life's transient quality and on my lack of long-term relationships (or even intimate ones), and wrestling with general slumpiness and dissatisfaction, wondering why I made the choices I made (some of them so deep inside, so unconscious that I was not even aware I was making a choice). I've got both the physical and the spiritual flu again, I think.

Meanwhile, I need to get back to work. the power is out at my house--we're having a major wind-storm--and I am working at my office where there is power.
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: April 2nd, 2005 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess I'd say we're past-less, future-less, root-less, leader-less, goal-less, direction-less, purpose-less and meaning-less.

And people wonder why the Purpose-Driven Life is so popular right now. We don't know where we are, where we're from, where we're going and why. It's no WONDER we're depressed.

We need to know what we're doing here, where we're going, and who we are.
From: anna_kat Date: April 2nd, 2005 09:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because nothing says "self-esteem" more clearly than realizing that you're so depressed that you've been duped by an infomercial.

You have touched a nerve here!

I think that this is the root cause. Most people feel an enormous pressure to be something, do something, make something of themselves. Every magazine and every tv ad sends the message that we aren't okay, but we will be, once we spend huge amounts of money.

It's always implied that it's all our fault. If only we had more discipline, if only we were better at time management, if only we learned to properly cook with organic food, if only we applied ourselves, if only we worked this much harder, we'd have this wonderful life that always seems to be beyond our grasp. Every damn ad screams at us that buying the fad of the day will completely change your life, appalling shows like the Swantake it to its logical conclusion.

I once had a personal trainer in a New York gym. While I was quite proud of my achievements, he always urged me to take on more weights, to do five more crunches, to be better and stronger, faster, you name it. In the end, I left for a new gym, this time without a trainer, to do as I pleased, at my own pace. I do not want to compete against myself.

Many people seem to have an inner trainer who pushes them toward something they don't really want, but feel they ought to want. They then feel guilty for failing and look for comfort, which often is food, and then they feel guilty again for being unable to resist. It's the same thing with making money so you can afford a baby, but when you have the baby, you need to make more money because baby will turn teen, which means college and braces and prom dresses. Whatever you do, you can be dead sure that it is not nearly enough.

Psychotherapy has never been as important as it is today. People need someone who is qualified to help them with their daily struggle and their feelings of inadequacy. We are mostly without traditional support systems like family and elders, because they too struggle to make ends meet, have great hair and eliminate all signs of having actually lived.

And incidentally, this is the same for every western country. It's no different in New York than it is in old Europe, and new Europe is fast catching up.
sreya From: sreya Date: April 3rd, 2005 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, that hit a nerve. Just yesterday, I went to tell my boss that I was accepted to the school's immigration clinic for next spring, and she said "Wow, I don't know how you do it all. Studying for two degrees, volunteering to be in the clinic, travelling, and working." And yet I'm forever thinking "I'm so lazy! I'm not doing enough! I should join a student organization, volunteer at the soup kitchen, dig into that pile of mending in the corner..."

Guess I'm just glad to see it isn't only me who has the impossible "should do" list.
marionravenwood From: marionravenwood Date: April 3rd, 2005 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I kind of wonder if it's the depression epidemic spurring the obesity epidemic, rather than the other way around. I'm not a medical expert, but I do seem to recall reading that depression actually does slow the metabolism, and I know from experience that it can have lovely effects on the ol' get-up-and-go.

But...severely depressed people often lose weight. I ceratinly did: I was down about 15 pounds without trying. "Mild to moderate" depression (mild to moderate being relative terms, of course) can, in theory, make it easy to gain weight. I would be interested in anything you saw about depression slowing metabolism, though, because my energy level is crap.

Talk therapy doesn't work for me at all. In fact, I'm glad at least someone said it helped them, because I always have a sneaking suspicion that it's a total load of bull. I'm not sure I agree with you that behavior modification helps depressives, though: I can only see it helping if ones behavior caused the depression, and that doesn't seem to often be the case.

This is going to sound odd, but...have you had your thyroid checked?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2005 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. It was normal at the time of the checkup, but I don't trust it at all.

I think behavioral modification can help somewhat. When I took a turn toward kind of compulsive behavior (lock-checking, mostly), I got a book called Brain Lock, which talked about kind of "re-booting" some neural pathways by deliberately changing habits. It's infuriating at first, but it does (kind of) work.
maple_clef From: maple_clef Date: April 3rd, 2005 10:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Some really interesting points. The second, in particular - very well-put. I think one of the problems is that the projects that *need* attention are the global equivalent of housekeeping. Very necessary, and we'd probably feel better afterwards, but involving a lot of hard work. And everyone is trying to put it off or get another housemate to do it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
A lot of those projects really don't have a "done" point, though. Sure, some individual spot could be good--the Boston Harbor clean-up, which involved volunteers from all the schools, efforts from companies, and efforts from individuals, really seems to have satisfied. Getting a particular wilderness area picked up and made into a park. But "Clean up air pollution"? Not happening, and even if it could, the amount that most people contribute is pretty small (though, as with fuel conservation, not driving everywhere is helpful). And there's no endpoint at which we can say, "By God, we did it!" That's the problem with housekeeping. It's eternal, unchanging drudgery.
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