You have, at some point in your life, been affected by depression, or its little brother anxiety. If you haven’t suffered from it directly, you have no doubt known a family member or loved one who has. In fact, around 20% of people in the UK will experience symptoms of depression or anxiety in any given year, and around 9% are thought to be experiencing them at any given time.
Depression and anxiety are buggers. Depression makes you feel down regardless of whether or not there is anything to be sad about, and anxiety makes you edgy and anxious whether or not you have anything to actually concern you. In short, they are shits that needs wiping up, so let’s get the paper, and start rubbing.
Let’s get one thing clear before we start. I am not a psychiatrist, nor do have any training in mental health. I have, however, suffered from mild to moderate depression and anxiety over the years, so I feel at least some entitlement to rattle off some partially informed nonsense about it here.
These conditions can strike anyone, anywhere, and at any time, but seem to focus themselves on overprivileged dicks like me in the Western world. It is beyond rare to see a news report telling you that little Suki in some war-torn African republic has lost both his parents, is starving and to make matters worse is suffering from depression. We never hear of anyone in Syria suffering from anxiety. Of course these guys are feeling down and worried. One has lost his family, and the other is in daily danger of getting blown to smithereens. It’s enough to make anyone feel a bit below par. By definition, depression and anxiety exist in the absence of any tangible causes for the feelings that they bring, so I can only imagine that the two individuals in my example would LOVE the opportunity to suffer from either.
No, based on my own experiences, these conditions occur as a result of a combination of a sense of entitlement and a lack of control. I’m not saying that I’m a mardy bastard (although I am a bit), but I reckon that, in part at least, this is a societal problem.
In essence, we are just animals. Our basic instincts to eat, sleep, find shelter, and reproduce are not that different to those of any other creature (with the possible exception of the sloth, which is just a dick). For argument’s sake, let’s assume that we are comparable to wolves. They are more majestic than donkeys, and more exciting than tortoises, so they occupy a space to which most of us can at least aspire. Our base desires are very similar, it’s only our way of satisfying them that differs. Let’s consider some possible situations that are common to both humans and wolves.
Example one. Your livelihood is at risk.
For the wolf, this could mean that another dominant male is on his patch (sorry girls, I never said that this was going to be an exact match) or that another creature, let’s say a bear, is being aggressive towards him.
The wolf has two options:
- See off the intruder with threat or physical violence.
- Run like fuck.
For you, this is more likely to mean that you are likely to be fired, or that someone is after your job.
You have many options.
- Try to increase your work performance.
- Try to discredit your opponent.
- Start applying for a new job.
- Start sucking up to your boss.
- Try to create the illusion that you are performing better than you really are.
- Cross your fingers and hope that it all blows over.
None of your options, you will note, are as good as the wolf’s. The wolf would kick its opponent square in the bollocks or rip out its boss’ throat, and much as that may be your preferred course of action, you know deep down that the probable repercussions make it inadvisable.
But here’s the problem:
The wolf is driven to action by a chemical reaction in its brain/body. It feels threatened, it releases adrenalin (and probably some other stuff) and is able to use it to enhance a fight of flight reaction. When we, as humans, feel threatened, we have the same chemical response, but our lack of recourse to a natural action leaves the resulting chemicals with nowhere to go, so we just become tense and het up.
Example two: You feel unfulfilled
The wolf doesn’t have this issue to the same extent that we do. Probably the closest it comes is when it fails in an attempt to mate. It will try to avoid this frustration by tearing lumps out it’s rivals until it succeeds or retreats, and that’s that. The rest of its time is spent hunting, hanging out with the pack, and having a snooze.
You, on the other hand may well be frustrated that you can’t find a mate, but you are just as likely to be frustrated by the fact that you feel unappreciated, you can’t catch a break in your career, you feel that you are in the wrong job, you want someone to notice how creative you are, you don’t have enough money, someone has said something about you, you feel bad for saying something about somebody else, you never have time for yourself, you spend too much time alone, you can’t lose weight, your nose is too big, your teeth are too small, or your… well, you get the picture.
A wolf spends its days being a wolf. We spend our days wanting to be something else.
The problem, of course, is that in the same way that a wolf is a wolf, you are you, and there is very little that you can do about it.
The solution is clearly to be more like the wolf.
Don’t get me wrong, dear reader. The solution is not to start wearing a T-shirt with a white wolf baying at the moon on it. For the love of God, don’t start doing that. You would only be making matters worse. The aim is to be more content, not to be mocked in the street.
In fact, it doesn’t have to be a wolf at all. If you want to be more like a llama, then go with that. A badger perhaps. Possibly even a beaver. (Whichever you choose, the T-shirt advice still holds).
The only time you are likely to see a wolf anxious or depressed is if you deprive it of its natural behaviour. Stick it in a cage with nothing to occupy itself, and you will soon have a very pissed off dog-like thing.
The same rules apply to us. When we are caged by the pressures put on us by society, we soon start to suffer.
Well, if I had a solution, I would be out playing on my yacht rather than slaving away in the Ministry offices. As it stands, all I can suggest is that you change your situation if you can. Try to get back to a state in which you can respond more naturally to the stuff that happens around you.
There is stuff you like, and stuff you don’t. All you have is the stuff that happens, and the way that you respond to it.
If you find that your situation is limiting your choice of response, then change it.
Far easier said than done, I know, but it’s all you have.
Minister of Stuff.