Come On, Get Happy

11 07 2007


By Jill Ettinger

Though shocking, it’s not much of a surprise that the most commonly written prescriptions in this country are for antidepressants. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005 saw 118 million out of 2.4 billion prescriptions going to lexapro, paxil, prozac and slews of others. An independent study in 2005 revealed 11% of women and 5% of men (non-institutionalized) regularly take an antidepressant. There are also myriad ways we distract ourselves from “unhappy thoughts” – just think about all the people that regulate their moods with non-prescription habits like alcohol, illegal drugs, food, and so on.

What’s incredible and startling about this is these are conditions of the Western world. We who “have more” than most any other nation, it seems, suffer the greatest mental stress.  Is that a reflection of overconsumption? Perhaps it’s a result of keeping up with the Joneses, who have that perfect life while ours feels empty. Setting a standard based on the wealth of others, rather than what feels healthy or happy, is a strange delusion. Does it matter what anyone else feels or thinks or does? Can we measure happiness by what that word means to someone else? Yet our answer seems to be an absolute “yes,” as we continue to pursue unattainable goals, living in the shadows of make believe contentment. The pills become not an answer to our miseries, but a tool to stave them off while we continue the cyclical search for the holy grail of the American Dream.

A 2006 study listing the “happiest” nations revealed a direct correlation between the happy factor and the healthy factor; the top three awards went to Denmark, Switzerland and Austria, demonstrating their umbilical relationship. While giant strides are being made in U.S. food choices, the reality is, well, people still eat Twinkies. They drink 32 ounces of soda and finish an entire pint of ice cream while watching the Late Show. Even in our best attempts at achieving some semblance of what our perfect neighbors appear to have, prozac assisted or not, we are simply too physically depressed to overcome the inertia of what we often perceive to be an emotional or psychological handicap.

It goes without saying that there are genuine cases of depression, but what is at the root of most cases of prescription drugs? Doctors see patients on average routine visits for less than twenty minutes, and more than half are the first line of contact a patient has for discussing depression, often resulting in a prescription first, mental health practitioner recommendation, second. It’s a typical American practice, reminiscent of our “fast food nation” mentality: combat hunger first and nutritional needs secondary, if at all. Allopathic doctors deal topically with symptoms, rarely seeking out to treat root causes, bandaging the gushing wound of our nation’s biggest dis-ease. Inadequate, defined as being deficient, incomplete or defective is one of the most common “feelings” associated with depression resulting in a prescription. It’s an interesting condition, that of feeling incomplete, as all beings are born into this world absent key information about our origin, one that religion attempts to answer but often leads to even more questions and feelings of isolation and confusion. The pursuit of feeling the opposite of inadequate – complete, or oneness with whatever – often finds itself mixed up in status, ego and identity defined by our jobs, possessions and appearance, a chase that never ends.

Maybe the truth is we are incomplete as long as we perceive there is a destination beyond our journey. Maybe all the information is right now inside and guiding us, but we have  not trusted it completely. Maybe it’s that voice that tells us war is not as effective an answer as understanding and respect. Maybe keeping our bodies as well maintained as our cars would make for safer traveling. Or maybe pills designed to create huge profits for drug companies and life-long dependency for the rest of us really is the answer.

But who said we have to be happy all the time anyway? Television, for one, delivers the undeliverable life with menial challenges resolved in a thirty-minute episode for the perfect American family – the prom queen daughter, and son, captain of the football team. Though we know “real” life is much more visceral, we still follow the mirage to quench these contrived thirsts for happy.

The bottom line is that we are confused. We are prone to it by our very nature of “reasoning” and intellectualizing our illogical circumstance. Can we observe all that comes with this state of being mystified – anger, sadness, frustration, fear, lonliness with a sense of happiness? Or at the very least, contentment? Perhaps that sounds outrageous, and to someone in the throws of deep depression, its understandable that may not be possible, but isn’t it always a choice? In yoga, we push to that point of discomfort, and try to change resistance into release. It’s often not a “happy” moment, but it’s a rewarding one because it’s real. Medicating our genuine emotional state is just masking – a cover up – for what is truly happening. It’s as true for us as individuals as for the state of our collective well-being. If we took away every distraction and delusion and just left our minds and emotions alone, would they find a way of being happy? Or would they find that being happy is just another way of simply being?




One response

3 08 2007
  Come On, Get Happy by

[…] visits for less than twenty minutes, and more than half are the … article continues at innercontinental brought to you by Depression and Clinical […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: