Chapter Ten

DEPRESSION

last updated 4.16.21



"It takes a village."

If people accept the fact that it takes a village, there's nothing they can't accomplish. Anyone who thinks that they can make it alone is deluding themselves. In our present social-economic system, believing we don't need other people causes a person to focus more on their career and making a lot of money rather than dealing with the fears, insecurities and pain that keep us all separated. The "powers that be" who don't have our best interest in mind are fine with us believing that we don't need each other because it makes us much easier to manage and control. This is why anyone trying to influence how we think or what we're dependent on doesn't want us unified and working together.

I'm not an expert on many things, but I am expert on one thing which is a certain type of mental suffering. I don't know what the statistics are. I don't care about statistics. I care about people and knowing what I've learned from my own experience, 50% of people diagnosed with depression have nothing biologically wrong with them. Even if the actual statistic is half this much, the issue still needs to be addressed because this accounts for millions of people. When I was younger, I found myself in enough mental hospitals to learn that the doctors and social workers who had control over my life during those times didn't have a clue about how to help someone like me, primarily, because there was nothing wrong with me. I was just in a bad situation. The situation was the problem, not me. It's a situation that we're all in. Some people just happen to have more resources to cope with it than others. I'm choosing to write about this in the hope of helping others realize that the situation they are in is what's causing problems rather than believing that there's something wrong with them. It's, also, important that those trying to "help" these people understand the situation, as well, so they focus on the real problem rather than just focusing on an individual. The real problem is so simple that no one can see it. Unfortunately, once it gets its hooks in a person, it's almost impossible for them to get free of it by themselves. If there's nothing wrong with a person and the problem they're dealing with is the situation they're in, it may be more difficult for those on the outside to realize this because the fact there is an inside and an outside to the situation, speaks to the problem itself, especially when it's a situation a person was born into. It's much easier to "treat" a person than it is to address an entire situation and this is why it has been allowed to continue and affect so many people.

If it takes a village, what happens if a person doesn't have a village? Where do they belong then? If a person isn't born into a village, how do they find one in a culture that has been mentally divided into towns, cities, states and countries? Living in the same geographical area doesn't constitute a village. Working together for the same goal does. Living in the same neighborhood, yet leaving it everyday to work someplace else in order to fill one's private bank account does not bring us together. We're not meant to live our lives separate from one another, yet far too many of us do. Combine with this the fact that we live in a society where keeping one's private life private, this cultural more directly contradicts the fact that authentic human interaction is vital to a person's mental health. The term "public life" is often reserved for those whose careers directly involve the public like politicians, celebrities or professional athletes, but a large part of every person's life is, also, public. All our jobs are public. We're expected to keep our personal lives out of the workplace, yet the workplace is where most people spend 5 out of 7 days of their lives. We get our groceries and do all other kinds of shopping in public. This leaves even less time for our personal lives which is where we're supposed to receive the majority of authentic social interaction. Now, we're even being encouraged to shop online and work from home eliminating the opportunity for even less social interaction with one another which is putting more pressure on those who have families to meet all their social needs. Where is the village? Even for the person who sees the value in working together while working on themselves, the opportunities for authentic social interaction are becoming more and more limited. Divide and conquer. This is one of the oldest tactics in history for controlling large groups of people and it doesn't have to implemented with guns and force. One's own fears and insecurities can be the weapons used against them. Whether a person believes that this trend is being deliberately applied or it's an unintentional by product of our skewed values the affects are becoming more and more obvious.

Social interaction, for us, is like sunlight to a plant. Without a sufficient amount, which can be different from person to person, for long periods of time a person begins to die inside. It's a slow, silent, but mentally painful experience. The situation that a person who has nothing biologically wrong with them finds themself in is actually just a chronic condition of loneliness. Yes, it's that simple. If a person's problem is that they've been incredibly lonely for a very long time, it's just too obvious for any doctor to realize, or admit. Someone's got to pay for their fancy schooling, office and salary. No amount of advice, rationalization, therapy and certainly not medication can replace authentic human interaction. We all need to matter to, at least, one other person and we need evidence of this fact on a regular basis. If we don't receive it, our minds begin to conclude that we don't matter. It's actually not even personal. Our brains are just calculating machines. To them, it's simple math. The days add up, the time passes by and no one comes knocking or calling. Therefore, the person has no choice, but to conclude that they don't matter. I experienced these circumstances as a young man for decades completely unaware that I was even receiving this message again and again as it accumulated over years. I was too intelligent, hard working and outgoing to ever imagine that something like this could apply to me. I was popular and had plenty of friends in school. Raised to be strong and independent, little did I know what I was really being taught was how to live without a village and I got really good at it. The only problem is this is no way for a person to live if they want to be truly happy. Once I got out of school and hit the road, I unknowingly fought against this invisible problem long and hard and went to great lengths to overcome it not even realizing what I was fighting. I tried to take on the world alone. I was ambitious and to achieve one's goals, I believed a person had to endure this type of soul crushing loneliness. I used to think my loneliness was caused by the fact that I traveled so much, but I finally realized that I traveled so much to fight off this loneliness. With every new town and new job, I met new people and made new friends, but they all had their own small mini-villages in the form of families or significant others and eventually my lack of private social contact would drive me to look to the horizon with the hope that it'll be different next time, not realizing this wasn't my problem. Many people are living like this everywhere whether they use continually traveling or some other way to cope with this lack of a village.

The best way I can describe these circumstances to someone who's never experienced them is to use the following metaphor because if you think you understand the situation just because you've read something about it, you don't. It has to be experienced. The problem with our disjunctive society is that no one actually knows what the person standing next to them in line at the grocery store or who lives next door on their street or who they work with everyday might be going through. Too many areas of our lives are public, yet lack a common public goal so there's a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy applied to these parts of our lives. What a child, parent, friend or loved one who may be labeled as suffering from depression might actually be going through is simply loneliness, but they've been living with it for so long that they might not even know it.

The best way to explain this is to have you consider the situation not as a person, but as a planet. Imagine if planet Earth didn't find itself at the exact distance from the sun that it is and then, once it found this exact distance, it didn't fall into orbit around the sun like it did. Life as we know it would not exist. Earth wouldn't even be Earth. It would just be a cold barren rock floating through space somewhere. Despite the fact that there are more people alive on the planet than there ever has been, this type of chronic loneliness is surprisingly increasing, especially in First World countries. The only thing that cures this type of loneliness is consistency because consistency is what created it. Again, it is simple math. If a person endures the same thing over and over, especially when they are young or have gone through a traumatic experience, this becomes their reality. It becomes familiar, i.e. normal, to them. The only way to correct the situation and allow the person to recover is for one set of consistent circumstances to be replaced by another set of more positive consistent circumstances over time. The more the positive outcome accumulates, the less significance the negative experience will have. This is how consistency works. This is what being in orbit provides, not trying to "fix" someone, not giving advice and not providing medication. Simple consistency is all most people need. Around and around the Sun our planet Earth went and over time this beautiful world was created.

It wouldn't be enough for Earth to simply pass by the sun at the perfect distance just once and then continue on its way for life to exist here. Nothing would be able to grow. The earth needs the sun everyday. Our planet needed to remain close enough to this life-giving warmth for life to be created. Without it, life could not exist. This is what other human beings are for us in our lives. Seeing someone, or a group of people, once randomly or only once in a while is nice, but it's not consistent enough to have an impact. These experiences fade into the recesses of a person's life and the more consistent experience of being alone takes the forefront as parts of themselves wither from the lack of light social interaction brings. If a person experiences being alone more and more then they will eventually find themselves in an orbitless universe drifting without purpose. Their life will not grow, but instead become cold, dark and stagnant. The natural instincts that we all possess will fail to be triggered without other humans to bring it out of us and we will eventually lose the will to live. It can happen to anyone. This is exactly why solitary confinement is considered the worst type of imprisonment.

The deceptive part of this type of situation is that the conditions can develop without a person even realizing it. It doesn't only happen to a homeless person sleeping in an alley. All it takes is for a certain set of circumstances to exist in any person's life and these circumstances do not discriminate according to race, sex or financial resources. The fact that doctors and social workers, people trained in mental health, don't recognize this simple fact is unacceptable. A doctor who's never had a broken arm can still successfully treat someone with a broken arm because they've been trained in the physical medicines, but a doctor who's never experienced this type of "depression" will not be able to recognize the circumstances that create such a problem because it's not caused within the person. They'd have to ask the question "How did the arm get broken?" which is not a medical question. How can they successfully treat a problem that they cannot even recognize exists? It's a social problem. It reflects the mental health of our society, not of one person.

However if a person likes people, or loves them, they as an individual will take the initiative to combat these circumstances even if they don't actually realize what is causing them. They will do everything they can to stay in the orbit of others consciously or subconsciously. It is simply in our nature to need this type of contact on a regular basis. The amount varies from person to person, but we, all, need a minimal amount. However, if the person has no one to orbit around them, the day may come, for some reason, when they are unable to take the initiative to seek out others because of a sickness or injury and this is when the loneliness can take hold of them representing to their minds that they don't matter to anyone. If this happens in conjunction with a life altering event, what the person experiences is like floating through outer space orbitless and alone. They may kick and fight unaware that without a healthy form of resistance, like gravity or another person, they will drain themselves of whatever vital energy they have left. When there is no one in a person's life to ground them, it can feel like falling into an empty abyss which they can't get out of, the worse part being that no one even knows it's happening to them. To experience this once can be pretty scary, but to experience it over and over, it is no longer an isolated event. It becomes reality for some people and no amount of individual initiative can overcome it, no more than flailing one's arms and legs while drifting through space can help them. Nonetheless, those with a lot of energy will still try.

Not all resistance is bad. If there was a 100 pound weight sitting at the bottom of a pool and you dove down to retrieve it, there's no way you could pick it up unless you, first, planted your feet on the bottom of the pool. This is healthy resistance. If you tried picking it up without planting your feet, you'd only accomplish in keep yourself anchored to the bottom. No matter how strong your arms are, without resistance there's no way to use this strength. Living in an orbitless universe is like trying to pick up the weight when there is no bottom to plant your feet on. Even a strong person needs people in their life, not to do things for them or even to lean on, but simply to give their life relativity, i.e. resistance. Knowing they matter to someone, they can use their strength and abilities to propel themselves through life. Otherwise, they're just drifting which eventually turns into sinking.

For the person who loves life, people, new experiences, learning, growing, working hard, being healthy, trying to be the best person they can be, etc., the problem isn't mental, chemical, biological or any other version of a medical reason. It's circumstantial. It's temporary. This is why when things get so bad for a person that they consider the most unthinkable option, suicide is referred to as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. However, the hopelessness one feels in such a situation is when the temporary problem becomes chronic due to the circumstances not changing, despite the fact they could change if someone recognized them. I lost my best friend to such a horrible situation and he came from a very successful, affluent family. No one has the right to judge a person for taking these last fatal measures just because they think they knew the person. The reason a person like this makes such a tragic decision is because they believe nothing else can be done and no one truly knows what they're going through. Our culture has been designed (deliberately, in my opinion) to keep people's personal lives separate from their public lives and as a result just because you think you know someone who you've met once in public, or even many times, doesn't mean you know how the rest of their life is going. By the time we hear about what was going on in a person's life, it's often too late. There is absolutely no difference internally between a person who finds themself in such a dire situation and one who never does. The difference is completely external.

Human nature isn't an exact science and thus no two people are exactly alike, but if we were to take two people with the same intelligence, health and ability and put them in two very different situations for decades, they would turn out very differently. The problem with our culture is this can happen entirely within a person's private life and never show signs of it in public. As a result, the only time we find out it has gotten this bad for a person is until after they've done something awful. Looking back one might see signs that could have warned them, but when we live in such a compartmentalized society, most people avoid uncomfortable conversations. What choice are we leaving the person especially if they are strong and don't want to bother anyone else? Most people are very busy with their private lives. A lot of people have always had others in their life. Even when things have been difficult, the difficulty still included other people. What if they didn't? What if the best day of their life or the worst day of their life could pass by and no one else even knew? It can happen. Believe it. What if what you know as "normal" is completely different from what someone else experiences as "normal"? Knowing is not the same as experiencing. The more we live in the mental world of our minds, the more we lose our ability to recognize what's really happening in the world around us.

If a person wears a raincoat every day because they're afraid it's going to rain, eventually it will rain and the person can say "I knew it!" Fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This fear imprisons a person's mind until whatever they fear eventually happens because everything in life eventually happens and thus the event confirms the fear. If they avoid communication or confrontation out of fear, the issues they avoid will eventually someday demand their attention thus reinforcing the person's abrasion to communication and confrontation in the first place. If the "Low Oil" indicator lights up on the dashboard of your car, putting a piece of tape over it will not solve the problem, but rather postpone it until it becomes much worse. This type of self-fulfilling fear is part of a very unhealthy cycle. The more you try to get someone who refuses to deal with problems to communicate, the more it reinforces their fear. Combine this with the fact that we live in a culture where keeping one's private life private is strongly reinforced and we're left with a temporary problem that is at the risk of becoming permanent.

What if you grew up in a family that didn't communicate and avoided uncomfortable conversations? Where could you expect to get any form of personal social contact? What happens to children who didn't grow up with any family at all? After an accumulation of years, this can result in more than just a bad day that a person needs to tough it out through. In fact, learning to tough it out only perpetuates the problem sealing one's fate to live this kind of life forever or until they can no longer bear it. If they're a strong person, they will show up at their job everyday ready to work, do it well, be considerate of others and do nothing to cause anyone to suspect a thing, yet all the while seeing no escape from their personal life. In fact, the stronger and more intelligent they are, the harder it is to reveal that anything is wrong because others depend on them in their public life and the person considers themself fortunate so what right do they have to ask for help? These circumstances trained them long ago to endure it, but we're all still human no matter how strong we are. Eventually, any person is going to need to talk to someone and often when they do people are going to be full of opinions and advice too busy to actually spend the time to listen, i.e. offer consistency. This is only if the person musters the courage to try to talk to someone. Mostly likely, they won't because the message that their private life doesn't matter has been driven into them day after day, year after year, regardless of how they're seen by others in public.

The moment of pain and futility arrives and they consider the worst, but they don't take any action swearing they'll never put themselves through something like this ever, again. But, they do find themselves there, again. Dozens of time to the point that they lose track of it and the experience starts to blur together with their everyday existence. Then the day comes when they've grown numb to their existence and no matter how hard they've tried the circumstances haven't changed and things haven't gotten better. They're just flapping their arms in outer space. It's not the person's fault. There's nothing wrong with them. There's something wrong with how we're living. Most of us have, at least, one person who cares about us that makes it all worth while so we've never experienced what it would be like if we didn't. Those who don't escape their pain with substance abuse, mental distractions, social media, unhealthy relationships, etc. might eventually take measures into their own hands because if they don't who will? Caring is an action, not a thought. Don't judge those who find themselves alone. It may sound like an obvious statement, but we don't know what we don't know. Those who did what they did aren't around any more to explain it. Those who still are might be too banged up to recognize, but we were all born with the same needs. Those who don't know what it's like to not receive the very basics of them have no idea what life can be like. A person can only take so much loneliness before it starts affecting them negatively and this is a "normal" reaction to such circumstances.

Studying an individual person with all their faults and attributes won't tell a doctor, or anyone else, everything they need to know about the person in order to help them. The whole situation needs to be looked at, but sometimes looking at the whole situation requires people to look at themselves and some just aren't willing to do this, or can't afford to. It takes a village. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Ideally, we need more than a nuclear family, if we're lucky enough to have even this. We are social creatures. Despite what our personal preferences might be, we are still social by nature and this cannot be denied. Some people don't have families, but everyone should have a village. A village picks up where the family leaves off and gives children and adults what they cannot give themselves. By holding onto whatever it is at the bottom of a person's pool, no amount of strength or stamina can save them. Their only chance is to plant their feet on something other than themselves and carry the heavy weight to the shallower end or if they're exceptionally strong, they might be able to push themselves off the bottom and swim straight for the surface. Either way, they can't do it alone. They need something to push off of. If they don't have anything, then they must make the decision to let go of whatever is keeping them down. Unfortunately, like I've already stated, many people may not even know what they're hanging on to, especially if it's not theirs. If they were born and taught to carry it long ago, they may not even realize how strong they are without it. A village can provide a solitary planet a universe to orbit within. A very strong family might be able to act as a small village if they value togetherness and know how to work together, but one person, alone, will eventually drown in this sea of individuals our artificial culture is creating. We can't look to each other until we look at ourselves.



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