Attempt #2- Depression in Western Culture

If you have read my last blog post, perhaps you will think, like myself, on re-reading it that my thought process was all over the place- and that is precisely because it was. I don’t feel that I’ve captured particularly aptly or assuredly the sentiment which I was trying to express in that post, nor have I really got to the heart of the matter. And so, this post, is sort of my second attempt, if you would like. 
In my last post, I talked about the power of the mind and how it has such a great authority over our wellbeing. This, I still hold true. But what I really wanted to communicate has only just come to my own attention through reading Eat, Pray, Love. I had watched the movie over the last Christmas break, unaware that the story was a true one, until I was looking up a particular reference about theAugustum online and realised that the quote utilised in the movie was lifted from the book itself.  The movie, I am sure at the time I first watched it, had all the Hollywood Blockbuster relishes which tick my box (indulging in italian culture, spirituality, the search for love- the list goes on), but upon reading the book, I can faithfully say that it does not compare in the slightest. In fact, sadly all that Hollywood pizazz, actually takes away from the raw message of the story- a story of finding one’s purpose in life as well as a tale about the recovery from depression- a topic which intriguingly has become so mundane in western society, yet simultaneously almost developed into a taboo, not to be mentioned in conversation for the desire to keep a light-hearted and jocund ambience in our perfect figment of humanity. I would highly recommend reading the book over the film, although all due credit to Julia Roberts’ phenomenal acting and Javier Bardem’s charismatic ‘Brazilian’ allure. 
Quick aside- I remember reading an article in secondary school, from one of those student tailored magazine which are meant to ‘broaden’ your horizon or what not. The article basically stated that the purpose of human life is to find a purpose and the fact that this is in some ways impossible to completely reconcile our lives under one given purpose means that we’re never without one- and so our purpose becomes to find a purpose.
 
Actually- this little rambling incision, now when I think about it, does seem to hold pertinent applicability to the main point of this blog post. There are times when I’ve experienced bouts of ‘depression’ at not having a thorough sense of direction in my life and I have no doubts that this is not a singular struggle. But I have my reservations about using the word depression, as I feel like in this modern age it is so easily tossed about without considering the gravitas of the word being uttered. 
Perhaps more dangerous than this however is how freely antidepressant drugs are prescribed without the root of the depression being diagnosed and how increasingly unchallenged it is to take these drugs without other remedial treatments employed in alongside to aid the healing process. I do not think I could stress myself how dangerous this can be, and nor do I think it is fully my place to pass judgement on this (given that I have only been a witness of the impacts and have not actually experienced the consequences first-hand) and so the following passage is an inserted extract fromEat, Pray, Love, in which Elizabeth Gilbert explains the repercussions and her qualms with antidepressants: 
(Pg 51) “I took on my depression like it was the fight of my life, which of course it was. I became a student of my own depressed experience, trying to unthread it causes. What was the root of all this despair? Was it psychological? (Mom and Dad’s fault?) Was it just temporal, a “bad time” in my life? (When the divorce ends, will the depression end with it?) Was it genetic? (Melancholy, called by many names, has run through my family for generations, along with its sad bride, Alcoholism.) Was it cultural? (Is this just the fallout of a postfeminist American career girl trying to find balance in an increasingly stressful and alienating urban world?)…”
(Pg 53) “He put me on a few different drugs- Xanax, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Busperin- until we found the combination that didn’t make me nauseated or turn my libido into a dim and distant memory. Quickly, in less than a week, I could an extra inch of daylight opening in my mind. Also, I could finally sleep. And this was a real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch- there’s no chance. The pills gave me those recuperative night hours back, and also stopped my hands from shaking and released the vise grip around my chest and panic alert button from inside my heart…I do know these drugs made my misery feel less catastrophic. So I’m grateful for that. But I’m still deeply ambivalent about mood-altering medications. I’m awed by their power, but concerned by their prevalence. I think they need to be prescribed and used with much more restraint in this country, and never without the parallel treatment of psychological counseling. Medicating the symptom of any illness without exploring its root cause is just a classical hare-brained Western way to think that anyone could ever get truly better. Those pills might have saved my life, but they did so only in conjunction with about twenty other efforts I was making simultaneously during that same period to rescue myself, and I hope to never have to take such drugs again. Though one doctor did suggest that I might have to go on and off antidepressants many times in my life because of my “tendency toward melancholy.” I hope to God he’s wrong. I intend to do everything I can to prove him wrong, or at least to fight melancholic tendency with every tool in the shed. Whether this makes me self-defeatingly stubborn, or self-preservingly stubborn, I cannot say.
But there I am.”
My family has a history of depression and various members of my family have suffered at different times in their life. I think the fatal mistake lies in treating depression as an impersonal illness that can be cured simply by a quick, chemical fix. Depression is much more complicated than that because it is so deeply intertwined with our thought processes and perception of self, and I guess that my previous blog post was my initial attempt to comment on our society’s flaws in underestimating and subordinating the power of the mind in an increasingly physicalistic world. 
I fear that this post has become yet another streaming of my conscious thoughts. I make no apologises for it however, because somewhere between writing this post, I felt a relief in using this as an outlet, even if is is just a conversation with myself. Perhaps it seems narcissistic to want to record one’s thoughts for later reflection and given that this is written is such a way with a conscious audience in mind, there is no doubt that i’ve halted my thoughts short. I favour this however to be therapeutic to see how one’s opinions develop and change overtime or simply in another frame of mind. 
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