I am losing hope. This world is heading in a downward spiral and there seems to be no way out. I watch the news and I see politicians who lie as easily as they breathe. Glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, causing our ocean levels to rise with devastating consequences. Soon our planet won't have enough food to sustain the growing population. Toxins are merrily being pumped into our drinking water. Our prisons are being bought up by private companies who lobby for tougher laws to keep these prisons swelled to maximize their profits. Money has become more important than people — a sort of god to be worshiped. Television is nothing but a bunch of ridiculous "reality" shows that have nothing to do with reality. When I was a young woman, our response to society's problems was Woodstock and bra burning and protests. Now music has become one big booty-shaking contest; there's no meaning anymore. I think of these things and become very depressed. What point is there in pursuing my dreams and encouraging my children to pursue theirs if everything is going down the toilet? I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel anymore. Just waking up and going about my daily tasks is becoming a pointless endeavor. Where can I find joy in a world I am powerless to change? What hope is there for future happiness in the midst of all this misery?
Thanks a lot. Now I'm depressed.
It happens to the best of us when we're overwhelmed with frustrating, disappointing truths. But I'm depressed with a small d, which means I can walk away from this conversation and re-inflate my squashed soul by watching a funny movie, writing a check to Greenpeace, rejoicing in our nation's recent civil rights victory, reading a brilliant book, dishing out dinner at a homeless shelter, listening to a song that reminds me there are smart, sensitive, right-doing people in the world… In other words, I can choose to do stuff that makes me feel better about the mostly sorry state of things.
It sounds, though, like you might be Depressed with a big D. Your points are valid but your inability to look past them — to see the good in the world and even create some of it yourself — smacks of the Big D Blues.
One in 10 adults in the U.S. suffers from Depression, which feels a lot like standing alone, day after day, in a big, drained swimming pool with no steps or ladder for climbing out. It's awful, and the best escape is really to see a doctor or therapist. The American Psychological Association can help you find one.
Meanwhile, please put yourself on a news diet. As a journalist, I have nothing against the media; I'm a headline hound, too. But remember that news is a business, not a mirror on reality — and no one's ever shelled out two nickels for a paper with "Everything's really just fine again today" emblazoned above the fold in Franklin Gothic. (But if that's your thing, check out the Good News Network, Optimist World, and Sunny Skyz for an upbeat approach to news.)
Remember, too, that your parents thought your generation was going to destroy civilization. Bootie music is to you as bra-burning was to them: a plague on all that is familiar and decent. These hell-in-a-handbasket woes are cyclical, my friend, so chatting about the changing world with an octogenarian might offer helpful perspective. If not, take comfort in the fact that today's politicians and "reality" show contestants will be writing in to tomorrow's advice columnists asking what became of the life they thought they understood.
Send me your dilemmas via email: ToughLove@TheWeek.com. And follow me on Twitter: @ToughLoveAdvice.