Sunday, 22 February 2015

The 1980's Depression Timebomb.

It seems pretty normal nowadays to hear people say they're suffering, or have suffered in the past, with depression. It doesn't seem long ago that there was a stigma attached to it, but now, in 2015, I'd imagine that if you haven't suffered at the hands of said chemically imbalanced misery, you'd feel like you were part of the minority. In a similar vein of the online dating boom, it's no longer embarrassing to admit that you feel sad, it's all the rage, the flavour of the month, if anything.

I'm starting to wonder how on earth depression can be quantified anyway. Most people are probably just suffering regular sadness, but how would you know unless you tested each and every person who declared themselves "down". There isn't a magic index that can tell us how much suffering each and every person can withstand either. It's hardly like you can add prejudice either, one person may be able to naturally cope with life better than someone else, based on all manner of factors. We all have a limit as to how much stress and strain we can take, but is our stiff upper lip becoming something of the past? Have we just admitted defeat to pressure or is modern life just too demanding?

So what has brought on this surge of negative brain activity? Do these sufferers (and I include myself in that bracket, information that is conveniently brought to you within brackets of it's own) all suffer as a result of a chemical imbalance, or is this mass-angst just a symptom of modern life being a little bit crap? Can investing too much time in nostalgia lead to depression?

When I started feeling the effects of depression back in 2006, I immediately took refuge in delving back into the archives of my brain, immersing myself in happier memories, presumably attempting to block out my current status-quo. Was this an instinctive reaction? Do we have internal mechanisms within the brain that act as a valve, releasing negative energy? Who knows. 2006, coincidentally, was the year I got married....I'm sure the two aren't connected in any way, but then, maybe they are. It would certainly explain a lot whilst confirming what many people think about monogamy anyway....but let's not get into that right now.

Is this whole phenomena just a representation of how constant media has changed our perception of life? I'm a firm believer that not much has changed, other than the increasing pressure that's put on us by 24-7 news coverage. On a daily basis, we're led to believe that things we thought we're good for us are now bad....and vice versa. The level of confusion in modern life is taking our minds on a journey that we simply aren't built for. Yes, the brain is complex and capable of so much more than we can probably even imagine, but on a fundamental level, I just don't think we're supposed to be taking in the amount of information thrown our way in this technological age. I honestly think we're overstretching ourselves and it's playing havoc with our emotions.

Looking at how I reacted to my depression, it seems to me that my consciousness was trying to look for a simpler train of thought, to almost reset itself. Like when you clock back a PC to a certain point in time, or to block out a certain passage of time akin to those handy little mind-blanking devices from Men In Black. It doesn't work though, all you can do is process all the bad shit and hope that eventually you'll come out the other side yielding a different perspective on life that will allow you to cope with what comes your way.

Using nostalgia to deal with my depression was probably about as unhealthy as taking anti-depressants, they might work in the short term but neither allow you to get to the root of your problem. I'm wondering now whether the cause of this, is the 1980's. I know everyone bangs on about their childhood era as if it trumps any other, but there really was something magical about an 80's upbringing. It was perfectly sandwiched between old fashioned values and the birth of technology and kids TV.....resulting in children who respected their elders yet had this separate world they could immerse themselves in that their parents could never understand. However, is the perfect childhood conducive to a happy adulthood?

The 1980's was an adventure, but such was it's halcyonic feel, I think it fed me unrealistic expectations on how awesome life would be. For instance, receiving advice on love via Elton John and Feargal Sharkey was always going to end in tears.....if I could go back and introduce myself to The Smiths in 1985 instead of the aforementioned, maybe my I wouldn't have walked into adulthood so bloody unassuming and wet behind the ears. All those amazing films actually made me believe that life would be an adventure......the main reason I have an HGV license is because I wanted to have my own Pork Chop Express. Needless to say, I am not, and never will be, Jack Burton! I think that if there's one thing the 80's childhood proves, it's that you can have too much of a good thing. A much maligned decade, the criticism it receives inadvertently reveals the all-too-glaringly-conspicuous hypocrisy that surrounds any such notion that we deride and castigate it's existence. Those who lived through that decade and even those who weren't there to see it, are haunted by the memories. It's been copied to death and every christmas feels like we've all taken the Delorean for a joyride and forgotten what happens when we reach 88mph. The media too, are obsessed with anything contemporary news that bares any resemblance at all with an act of the 80's.....recreating the arrival of Band Aid every ten years, pictures getting out of cabs, looking dishevelled....check. Prince Williams wedding and anything that Kate does or wears to be compared to the original 80's Princess Di, check. Exciting developments in Russia leading to a new Cold War, woohoo! Rejoice and check!

The 90's were the last decade to have a narrative and defining character-identity of it's own. The noughties was a decade dominated by constant bad news, terrorist atrocities, war, social upheaval, civil unrest, paedophile scandals and "cataclysmic" financial meltdown (which lined the pockets of the super-rich, I might add). Halfway through the 'tens', it's a hangover that doesn't look like shifting anytime soon.

In amongst all this, we forgot how to bring up children. The much lauded "school of hard knocks" has, on the whole, ceased to exist. Parents and teachers are closer and "friendlier" with children than ever before. The authoritative divide has narrowed, almost beyond distinction.We're stifling their imaginations by interacting with them too much and enforcing too many adult views on them, in trying to create a utopia for them to enjoy, we've forgotten the very essence that made our childhoods so great, that sometimes, less is more. I think we've missed the boat back on that one. Plus, we're obsessed on having them grow up as quickly as possible. It's all something I'm counteracting with my own children by totally ignoring them ;)

Well, this has turned out to be a little more depressing (funny that talking about depression can be sound depressing) than I'd originally planned. So it would only seem fair to announce that I've overcome a lot of the problems I was having. The solution? Well, I can't speak for everyone, we're all very different. However, I would suggest stopping giving a shit, as much as possible. I mean, not to the stage where you become bankrupt and homeless.....all in moderation, obviously. But I think there is a lot to be said for ignoring most of the crap that comes your way, most of it is white-noise and bares no relevance to life, nor will it change the big picture. In the grand scheme of things, 99% of what goes on is insignificant. I think that kind of outlook comes with age and going through trials and tribulations etc. If you're going through a lot of hardship, just keep going and console yourself with the fact that when you come out of it, you'll be far wiser and be a million miles tougher for it.

The other solution has been my kids. It's quite funny really, when my ex was pregnant with my first, I genuinely thought it was going to be the end of my life.....and, do you know what, it was, in the most fantastically spectacular way possible. My life was rubbish before they came along, I just didn't know it. The babies that I dreaded having for so long have become my absolute saviour, the reason I'm now happy to live for however long I'm lucky enough to be allowed to live for. As much as I loved my childhood, their's means so much more to me, the feelings of missing my own has been dampened by their enthusiasm for their own, it's infectious and the best depression killer I can think of.

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