My main objection to optimism is that it's incorrect. Things are somewhat more likely to turn out badly. Taking the long view, things are definitely going to turn out badly, since we all die in the end.
Kaysen's argument in this well-written essay is that depression is a normal response to the lives we live on this planet at this point in time. She says that, rather than medicate ourselves for it, we should understand, and, ultimately, accept depression as a natural, normal occurrence, and not a biological entity.
I can't say I agree with that. I've been through much depression in my life, for, probably, most of my life, and some of it was what doctors refer to as severe clinical depression (if not most of it). At the same time, I understand what Kaysen's getting at.
I think there are too many self-help books in this world. I think there are too many memoirs about people's languishing through drug and alcohol and gambling and sex and food addictions and how, finally, they saw the light and got a therapist and everything got better so they wrote a book about their misery to help all of the other miserable people on the planet. Depression, or melancholy, has been the topic of much literature throughout the history of the written word, and perhaps that is because depression has been a part of the human experience throughout the history of time, rather than a newly discovered illness with biological underpinnings that need to be repaired immediately, lest we suffer any more.
I don't like suffering. But I guess I don't know what life is like without it either. And maybe some of the reasons, maybe all of the reasons as to why I'm "depressed" right now are because of the facts of my life.
And here are some of those facts:
-I'm 34 years old.
-I have no college degree
-I have no partner, boyfriend, husband, whatever you want to call it
-I have no children and probably never will
-I can only work part time and might never be able to work full-time
-I'm poor, and that's not going to change any time soon, so there are a million poverty-related reasons as to why I might be depressed
-I have few friends, and only one with whom I spend any actual time doing anything remotely enjoyable
-I have a humiliating, stigmatized mental illness that few people understand and few people want to understand
-I have numerous physical problems I've been living with for the past 15 years or so, and they are cumbersome, painful, and also, so ingrained in me at this point that I never even talk about them
-I have untold thousands of dollars in medical debt that I cannot ever pay, so I do not open my bills
-I might not be able to get another student loan to go back to college because I had to withdraw and was not able to pay back the money I owed.
-I have no college degree (I know I said it already)
-I might never have a college degree
-I live in Florida, and I hate Florida
-I'm severely overweight even after six months of strict food control and serious exercise on a very consistent basis
-I have to take medications for the rest of my life that made me gain 100 pounds in three years
-My entire family is severely screwed up with a million problems, and I worry about some other people's problems so much, it makes me completely deflated and miserable, yet, I don't know how to not worry about them
-I am horribly lonely
-I haven't accomplished 80% of the things I wanted to do with my life
I guess that sums it up. The crux of the problem is, I believe, my life.
I should add that I know there is depression that is helped by medications, and that sometimes medications are necessary. But I'm on two antidepressants, and have been for years, yet they don't seem to be helping much these days. Then again, without them, I might be totally apathetic and too exhausted to get out of bed - who knows?
I just think that sometimes in our culture today, people, including myself, put so much faith in medical science that we can lose sight of common sense. Logic would say that grief is a normal part of life, that sadness is a normal part of life, that fatigue is a normal part of modern life to some degree, that pessimism is, actually, often warranted and smart rather than being totally "negative", and that pop psychology is full of a bull. And I say this, even though I do cognitive behavorial therapy and I constantly do try to be positive and think of the glass as half full - not half empty - and that is how I deal with life these days. It just doesn't always feel authentic, and it doesn't always work.