• Joseph Couture

Better Drugs...or maybe just a better life?

So I saw this post on facebook recently where a woman said people just didn't understand depression. She said her brother did everything right. He had a nice house, a good job and exercised, yet he killed himself. I think she is right. People don't understand depression. But not for the same reasons I think she does.

She is somehow suggesting that depression is some sort of "thing" that comes from outside and attacks you and that you are powerless over it. Maybe in her brother's case, when she says he did everything right, it was right according to everyone else, but not right for him.

The attack that comes from outside is the messages we are bombarded with telling us what we all 'should' be. Be successful. Be rich. Be beautiful. Buy things. Buy more things. Buy more things than the guy next to you buying things.

A Buddhist monk once told me that in his view depression happened when people didn't get what they want. That works in many ways and can be both good wants and bad wants. Firstly, for most of us what we want is what we are told we should want by a consumerist machine that wants us to want what they are selling. What they are selling is both crappy useless products, and a big fat lie. The lie is that these crappy products make us happy.

They also tell us the only valuable people are young and beautiful with amazing bodies. If those young people are also rich and famous, well then their worth and desirability is beyond measure. So people want to be like that. But that is not realistic for most of us and thus when we don't get what we want we feel bad about ourselves and our useless ugly lives and fall into a depression. Then we label the depression a medical problem. But it is not a medical problem, it is a problem with the values we have inflicted upon us and have chosen to accept from the machinery of modern culture.

It can work in the other direction as well. I fell into a deep depression a long time ago despairing at all the problems of the world. It broke my heart to see people sleeping on the streets. I couldn't bear to watch them cut down the forests and pollute the rivers. I knew they were destroying the world and it was killing me. I got very depressed. But if you look at it clearly, I also was not getting what I wanted. I wanted it to stop and for things to be different. I was well intentioned, but the fact that I wasn't getting what I wanted caused me to break down and become depressed. In this case, what I most needed was to detach. Not stop caring exactly, but enough detachment for me to be happy even if other people did not act and behave in a way that I wanted them to.

There was an article circulating online not long ago saying that suicide rates in the United States were skyrocketing. Some doctor piped up to say this was proof we need better anti-depressants. That is such horseshit. Americans don't need better anti-depressants, they need a better society.

No country in the world is better at selling the lie than America. That whole bullshit fairytale about the "America Dream" is the most horrible lie of all. It tells people that theirs is an equal opportunity land where anyone can make it. They love to tell those rags-to-riches stories to prove it. But for most people it simply is not true. It is not a land of equal opportunity at all. Does anyone really believe that black kid born in the ghetto has the exact same chances in life as that rich white kid born in Beverly Hills? I would hope not, but they do.

They do to the extent that they internalize this propaganda into personal failure. If they didn't make it its because they didn't work hard enough or try hard enough. So they believe it is their fault, not the fault of an unjust and corrupt system designed to protect the interests of an elite few. No wonder suicide is increasing at this particular time in American history, just look at what's happening there.

The saddest part of all is for those who manage to achieve some level of success as conventionally defined by the machine, they soon discover they are still not happy. That big house, good job and Instragram body isn't bringing them happiness at all and they are baffled by it. So it must not be that there is something wrong with what they were told was important and valuable, it must be a medical problem for which their is a pill.

I'm not saying at all that depression isn't very real very painful and very debilitating. I'm saying that we won't find a solution by demanding that the very profitable pharmaceutical companies produce drugs that make us happier. I mean, cocaine makes people feel happy, but do we think that is an answer?