Who, me? Depressed?

Sometimes you just have to wonder if there will ever be good news again.

I mean, really good news.  The kind that makes you want to just lift up your face to the sun and grin like a sunflower.

Lately I cringe inwardly every time I open the newspaper.

In my local paper, drunk driving routinely kills kids and people fight endlessly about town budgets and whose backyard should get the wind turbines or the PCB dredging from the contaminated river.

The national news is warning darkly of a coming “Taxmageddon” in January 2013, when, according to The New York Times, “the federal tax bill for a typical middle-class household — making in the neighborhood of $50,000 — is scheduled to rise by about $1,750. This increase, which would come from the expiration of both the Bush tax cuts and the Obama stimulus, would follow a decade of little to no income growth for many people. As a result, inflation-adjusted, after-tax income for the median household could fall next year to its 1998 level.”

And then there’s international news, where we learn that suicides are up sharply in Europe as a result of the economic downturn, while over in Afghanistan suicide bombers have just struck hard in a coordinated attack on supposedly secure neighborhoods in Kabul—a taste of the summer fighting season to come.

April 14, 2012. Photo: Reuters

Never mind the weather, which is showing no signs of getting back to normal.  Did you hear about the massive hailstorm in Texas last week?  Or the tornadoes whipping across the Midwest?  Or the fact that there is a fire watch almost every day now here in Massachusetts, because of the extremely unusual springtime drought conditions?

A motorist sits in a truck partially buried in slushy hail near Amarillo, Texas. The Texas Panhandle storm dumped several feet of nickel-sized hail, stranded motorists in muddy, hail drifts and closed a highway for several hours.
(AP Photo/Courtesy of Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management)

Downed power lines litter 24th Avenue Southwest at the Lindsey Street intersection after a tornado hit Friday afternoon April 13, 2012 in Norman, Okla. Photo: The Norman Transcript, Kyle Phillips / AP

I have been squinting at all this out of the corner of my eye as I rush off to teach, to meet with students and colleagues, to bring my younger son to soccer practice or piano lesson, to cram in some exercise for myself…all the various commitments that make my days and weeks a blur of action.

Today for the first time, and by design, I did not schedule a single appointment.  I left the day wide open so I could finally get out into my garden to fertilize and prepare the beds and plant the spring greens and herbs.

I spent most of the day doing just that, all the while worrying to myself about what will happen if the rains don’t come at all this spring. Already the river is as low as I’ve ever seen it; the ground is so dry it’s dusty.  In April!

Between the bad news and the scary weather, it’s enough to drive anyone to anti-depressants.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), today one in 10 Americans over age 12 is taking an antidepressant.  Twenty-three percent of American women between the ages of 40 and 59 are on anti-depressants. That’s nearly one in four middle-aged women.

Do I need an anti-depressant?

I do feel depressed when I think about what’s going on in the world around me.

I am not happy to look ahead to 2013 and foresee a tax increase that, together with the double-digit health insurance premium increase my employer anticipates, is going to mean yet another year where my real income goes down, while the cost of living just goes up and up and up.

I feel depressed when I read that Rick Santorum just took out a lifetime NRA membership for his 3-year-old daughter (who, by the way, suffers from a generally fatal chromosomal disorder), while Mitt Romney is courting assault weapons fans at the 2012 NRA convention.

There’s just so much to be depressed about!

But it’s a legitimate depression.  If I were to get on the anti-depressant bandwagon and dull the edge of my depression with drugs, I would fear losing my grip on reality and becoming just another Brave New World-type soma addict.  What kind of life is that?

Allowing the full scope of the world’s problems to sink in to my psyche is painful, but hiding from it would be cowardly and useless.

On this quiet Sunday I will take the measure of my own melancholy.  And then I will rise again on Monday, determined to keep fighting the good fight for a better world.

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