by Jason Barber, staff writer
Have you ever been depressed? I’m not talking about your girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with you, and so you’re real sad. I’m talking about deep down, this-can’t-be-the-way-things-are, wow-maybe-dead-doesn’t-sound-that-bad-after-all depressed. Have you ever been anxious? I’m not talking about you got an interview at wherever, and so you’re antsy about it. I’m talking about panic-attack-in-the-middle-of-Wal-Mart; heart-might-explode-in-a-classroom; I-don’t-belong-there-so-I’ll-never-leave-my-place, anxious.
While there are many different forms of mental health disorders, I think that when the TV says “mental health crisis in America,” it’s addressing these associations with depression and anxiety. Not just in America either.
So, why are the biggest and most affluent countries in the world, having this crisis of despair and hopelessness? To me, this is the real root of the problem and should be the question we collectively are seeking to answer. Not, what pill can be invented to throw at these issues to mask them right up for a time? Because that doesn’t solve everything.
There are so many ideas on what can be done about the mental-health crisis, but never any ideas for what can be done to dig it out by the root. In my personal life, I’ve been doing thought experiments about this subject a lot lately. So, let’s look at a few numbers:
There are 7.837 billion human individuals on Earth. In 2019, 51.4% of that population had access to the internet, according to statista.com. That means that less than roughly 4 billion people were connected by electronic devices. Yet more and more people are feeling disconnected than ever before.
In Japan, there is a phenomenon of youth pulling inward and being confined completely from outside contact. It’s called Hikikomori. Suicide rates for youth and adult alike are at all-time highs. Overdose deaths are the same way. We know all these things quite well today because it is reported on and announced weekly if not daily. Ok, ok, but why?!
Nobody ever seems to have a good answer to that question. If you have ever spent time in a real depression, you’ll understand that it is an innate feeling inside you that things just are not right. That they should be different. Better somehow. Then you end up feeling that there is nothing that can be done to get to that better state, and everything is just so f*cked that little old me can’t do anything to help. That’s when the nihilism takes over, and you begin to wonder what the point of anything is. That is when contemplating suicide or being excessively reckless and self-destructive becomes a very real thing. People will say, “well why don’t you talk to someone,” “call a hotline,” or “get help.” Well, all that is dependent on someone else being able to convince you that there is a point to getting help. But nobody can do that for you. Only you can figure out what the point is.
Authors Mark Manson and Auguste Comte, however, did help me to consider something poignant. Can you just fathom for one second how infinitely humongous the cosmos is? And as far as we’ve come at researching and discovering the universe, we are close to nothing, a speck in the universe, but simultaneously, we are a miracle.
The evolution that has led to frontal cortex reasoning and consciousness human beings possess appears to be a supremely rare natural occurrence. Consciousness then must be the point of life, right? Pain is the point. Running around over medicated and self-medicated in a pursuit of happiness as defined by our capitalistic society is only one way, not the only way.
Dulling, escaping, or avoiding either consciousness or pain is almost sacrilegious then. You’re subverting the point. So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable because having the gift of self-awareness of your feelings is remarkable. Pain is obviously uncomfortable. Being conscious of our pain is uncomfortable. That’s why I think it’s high time we begin to learn being supremely uncomfortable again.
Climbing out of a depressive period is a difficult and arduous process, but one that can be infinitely rewarding. Brené Brown has centered her entire career around vulnerability. One famous work is Daring Greatly, where she unpacks the notion of vulnerability. Vulnerability is practicing being uncomfortable more comfortably. Vulnerability is understanding you may fail, and that is ok. Failure is honestly the best way to learn.
The other real profound realization I’ve made recently is this: don’t take ANYTHING personally, even if it’s personal in nature (something else Brown helps her readers understand). This can be hard, since our natural fight or flight instincts can be intense and press us to act irrationally, defensively, abruptly, and rashly. But once you can learn to be more empathetic and realize that other people are having their own personal identity and vulnerability crises, so then not taking their actions or words personally becomes less difficult and may change your perspective completely. I still see a huge hole here, however. All these things simply don’t address the underlying issues of why we are so depressed and anxious as a country.
Through my thought experimentation I have concluded that it must have much to do with the capitalistic society we’ve developed and almost worship. Some people can learn to thrive, even love this sort of society structure. While others simply feel that they can never abide and conform to the norms of capitalist, narcissistic ideology that; “work is life”, “money is king”, or “money makes the world go around” concepts that have been adopted or inserted for what happiness is.
Without digressing entirely, I will conclude this rant with this; you really are not alone. There are millions of us that are just like you. If you are struggling with the nihilism and depression in the realm that you could give in all together, PPSC does offer the opportunity to take advantage of BetterMynd with one-on-one video chats, confidential therapy sessions for free up to a point. Even if you are one that thinks that therapy is not for you, what have you got to lose? Try a free session, it would cost you nothing but your time, and you may find that it is time well spent—on you and your well-being. Please prepare to get uncomfortable. Check in at Student Life for more information about how you might access the free therapy sessions and then…