Facing Anxiety and Depression

In an in-class discussion with my students a few weeks ago, I was startled to discover that many, if not most of them had been prescribed medication (often short-term) for anxiety or depression, or both. It seems it’s common now. We had a fruitful discussion about whether we were prescribing medication more, or whether there were cultural reasons that we actually experienced more anxiety as a society.

So I read this beautiful piece by my friend Dyana Herron at Art House America with interest:

I get up and take a shower, because I have to. My body feels heavier than normal and more fragile at the same time. When I shampoo my hair, I might try to shed a few tears to relieve some pressure in my chest and abdomen.

I try to eat something bland and innocuous, like a banana, before I leave for the day, and sometimes I take Dramamine to help keep my stomach settled on the bus. On the walk to my stop, I try to focus on what is beautiful around me, and on all that is going right in my life. I tell myself they’re not so sad, the slow traffic and the wet train tracks and the sagging bridge. I tell myself the people waiting for the bus with me are not sad: that man has not just lost his wife, and that woman is not worried about how she is going to pay the rent or about how her mother hurt her when she was a child. I tell myself the way I am seeing the world is distorted, like I am looking into a carnival mirror that doesn’t change the way everything looks but changes the way everythingfeels.

It’s like this all day. My coworkers or students may not know anything is wrong; they may mention that I look tired or notice I seem irritable. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted. When I go to sleep I pray that in the morning I’ll feel normal again.

Read the entire essay here.

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  • Diseases of civilization. And we dare call it “progress.”

    E. Fuller Torrey (1980) Schizophrenia and Civilization. NYC: Aronson.
    E. Fuller Torrey (2002) The Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present. Rutgers University Press.