The Lost Road of Happiness
By Yorkelis, age 18, Dominican Republic
In this process that we call life people tend to whine, complain, cry, and never seem to be satisfied. Humanity - it's a very greedy specie which through the years has managed to push priorities aside in order to get what "we want". I can't help but wonder what lies beneath our attempt to search for happiness. Why do we often fall into a low state of mind, better known as depression? Considering these to be rhetorical questions, I can't provide readers with bogus answers. On the other hand, it's very much a hot button issue in today's society, and it's always a plus to be well aware of the facts and different views on such an important issue like depression.
Happy. Is it a state of mind, a reality, or an illusion we form to pretend everything around us is just fine? The dictionary defines happiness as "an active or passive state of pleasure or pleasurable satisfaction." What gives us pleasure? What keeps us satisfied and on track? Obviously no philosopher or scientist has come up with an exact answer just yet. We keep searching for the impossible, and instead of climbing up the emotional ladder we go downhill. That search, that certain yearning for the impossible, leads us to another emotional stage, one that many of us would consider as fatal - clinical depression.
Clinical depression is a state of mixed emotions, a distressed attitude that can lead to very hazardous health risks and affect a person's everyday life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 18.8 million Americans suffer from what's known as major depression. This statistic is only in the United States. Throughout the world the depression rate is estimated to be 121 million people, 121 million who at some point in their lives started feeling sadness and loss of enjoyment for life and its offerings.
We may wonder what causes so much melancholy in one person, so much which in a matter of time can become extremely destructive. I am not capable of giving you a full analysis since I don't have a PhD in Social Psychology. Nevertheless, I have an insight based on first and secondhand experiences in this subject we all fear. In life we have the privilege and honor to meet many different people - people with different beliefs, different views on certain topics, and different emotional strengths and weaknesses. What may cause one person sadness or anger does not necessarily have the same effect on another. A "reasonable" person (and I use quotations, because I cannot define what's reasonable, I can only assume) would take a long walk to reflect on their thoughts and let time wash their anger away, but others may make a more drastic and dangerous decision like slitting their wrists.
In this century being depressed isn't considered an abnormal behavior anymore. We tend to hear the term so often that it may unconsciously lead us to think it's a normal behavior some of us go through in life. This can lead people to leave it untreated, and therefore we take a big health risk. An article in European Psychiatry stated, "Can better recognition and treatment of depression reduce suicide rates?" It gives a brief summary of how accepting the fact that one suffers from depression and getting professional help can reduce suicide rates. "If the rate of treated depressions in the population increases gradually, at a given point it will appear in the decline of the suicide rates." The website 4therapy.com states that approximately 20 million people suffer from depression, but only one out of ten seeks help.
Living in today's society, people tend to feel more pressure to do unwanted and deceitful acts. The website allaboutdepression.com states that in the United States women suffer from depression in the range of 20-25%, while the percentage for men is only about 12%. This is mostly because women are much more vulnerable and have more to be worried about. Concerns include their weight, looks, love partner, stability of their family, and the list goes on. The media today can tremendously influence a person's thoughts and actions, even with fully grown adults.
As I stated, one of the factors that can play a part in women's depression is martial status. "Women who are unhappily married, divorced, or separated have high rates of major depression. The rates are lower for those who are happily married" (allaboutdepression.com). I wonder if such a wonderfully described emotion as love influences such an emotional downfall like being depressed? In his article "Can a miserable love life lead to depression?" Lee Blackspur states that having a dysfunctional love relationship can often lead to one of the partners suffering depression. Many psychologists concur that love itself is a reason why people fall into the vicious cycle of depression. But there are countless other situations that can cause this mental imbalance.
Even though many people leave depression untreated, there is a sizeable percentage who seek professional help. Health Canada and Statistics Canada found that in the years between 1994 and 2004 consultations made to doctors' offices for depression issues have nearly doubled, which proves that depression is indeed a growing issue.
The monotony of life often puts where a person's life is heading into perspective, as they wonder if it's going forward, backwards, or just stuck right in the middle of the road with no hopes of finding a better location. Waking up every day to what was yesterday makes a person feel some sort of dullness in their life. In author's Paulo Coelho famous novel Veronika Decides to Die the whole plot of the novel is trying to figure out why a young woman (Veronika) decides to attempt suicide. The character states that the reason she attempted to take her life was simply because she was tired of the monotony of life and thought she knew what the rest of her life routine should be, and it was not worth living through.
People fear growing older and never achieving the many things on one's "must-do before I die list". In author and psychologist Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness he refers to the term "Presentism" which in simpler words is the tendency for current experience to influence one's views of the past and the future. He goes deeply into the subject of why humans tend to imagine what's further from our reach, the impossible, but can't imagine what's closer and within our reach.
People seem to be growing more and more unsatisfied with themselves as time goes by. Famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh is widely known for his great pastel paintings. Van Gogh is also known for his medical history. Over 150 psychiatrists from his time until today have tried to diagnose Van Gogh's mental imbalance. There have been many different outcomes, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, hypergraphia (the overwhelming urge to write), and others. The reason why I bring up Van Gogh's example - it's simply because people who seem to have it all don't. Van Gogh's great talent was certainly a plus in his life, but not enough to keep him emotionally and mentally stable. On the Edge of Darkness, by Kathy Cronkite, is a book about the lives of acclaimed celebrities and important icons going through the darkness of depression. Many of them confess that they were ashamed to admit going through depression and afraid of seeking help, a big mistake easily made by anyone.
"It's difficult for the public to realize how powerful the mind is, and how much pain the mind can give you. When you're depressed, it's as though this committee has taken over your mind, leaving you one depressing thought after the other. You don't shave, you don't shower, you don't brush your teeth. You don't care." (actor Rod Steiger)
We can always try to prosper, but if we search for the impossible we are never going to learn how to be satisfied - simply common sense. Everything in excess can be harmful. Trying to search for the unreachable can put a person in total misery. On the other hand, being totally miserable for no God given reason can also lead to a depressed lifestyle. Then what should we do to avoid falling into depression? I really wish I could answer that question with certainty, but I cannot. Living with it is a game we humans must learn how to play just to get by, not to win.