I’m not depressed. Everything else is. The latest shrink handbook (the DSM-5) says that a mental disorder is a disturbance in an individual’s cognition. And this is not what’s happening here. I’m cogitating just fine. It’s the world that’s gone mad.
Lately I feel terribly sad, as I should. Things are actually terrible. As the DSM says (and it’s not a Bible), “an expectable or culturally approved response… is not a mental disorder.” It’s expectable to feel sad when your own country, world, and planet are falling apart. It’s culturally approved where I live, everybody’s been protesting for months. Where I live people still ask ‘how are you?’ but nobody answers ‘fine’.
The truth is that we’re living through a Greater Depression, and people are going to take it personally. Weak, abused countries like Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have already collapsed, but it’s really just a timing difference. We’re living in the interregnum before the mother of all economic crashes, and it’ll affect everyone in turn.
If the economic crash doesn’t get you, war is spreading, not to mention the perennial plagues we’ve brought upon ourselves. If you’re still standing a few decades hence, congratulation, the climate itself is fucked and heaven and earth will be moving.
These might sound like warnings to you but then I guess you’re just lucky. As William Gibson said ‘the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed’. My country’s economy has already crashed. War is already in Ukraine and Ethiopia and Myanmar, besides the usual American besieging and couping. COVID might feel over for you, but it’s choking thousands of people to death on the daily.
People talking about the end of the world used to be deemed crazy, but now someform of collapse is the only realistic heuristic. Social deviant ‘doomerism’ is rapidly becoming the only sane response to a world gone mad. Even if you’re not directly affected, the regular media diet has already become mentally toxic. People are supposed to hear about children being gunned down in school and what? Feel fine? Shit is traumatizing.
We’re used to thinking of mental illness as just ‘feeling blue’, but that’s not what it means. Sometimes you should feel sad. Sometimes you should feel anxious. Mental illness is feeling those things when you shouldn’t (whatever that means, mental illness is not very well defined).
Right now I, for example, am having a serious personal conflict with the way my country and planet are run, but this is completely rational. We’re being run off a cliff, and I quite rationally don’t wanna go. As the DSM says, “conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual.”
As many people in the asylum say, I’m not crazy, the world is. In this case, it’s actually right. Maybe those guys were onto something the whole time.
For me, this manifests as psychological symptoms. I feel waves of sadness, anxiety, and irritability. I’ve been (clinically?) depressed and this ain’t so bad, but I certainly feel miserable quite often. If I didn’t know why I’d see a shrink, but I do know. So do you. It’s not an internal problem. Just look outside.
The definition of mental illness is not symptoms, it’s A) whether the symptoms are distressing or disabling to the individual and B) whether it’s not an ‘expectable’ response.
In my case I wouldn’t say these are disabling symptoms, they’re actually enabling. Like pain, anxiety is an essential sense right now. Like touching a hot stove, I have to physically move away from real threats, and anxiety is how I recognize them before I get fried.
I also wouldn’t say these are unexpected responses. People in my country are literally going hungry. This is major cultural trauma for us, food is how we express love. What are you supposed to feel like when love starts running out? How are you supposed to feel? We feel bad. Go to any Asian aunty's house and don’t eat anything. You’ll understand.
The planet I live on is literally collapsing. Every year is hotter, rains and harvests are all over the place. I can feel it happening in slow motion, and then I just see people fighting over the last bits of oil and coal. This understandably feels sad.
I would honestly say that you have a mental disorder if you don’t feel fucked up right now. Bless your heart, but I don’t think most people are doing great these days. And that’s not in their heads. It’s in the news, it’s on the streets, it’s in the air. The collapse of the world is felt as a crumpling of our hearts. It’s no surprise.
It’s not depression if things are really sad. It’s not paranoia if the conspiracies are real. It’s not anxiety if shit is really worrying. I increasingly feel like the moments when I’m ‘normal’ are insanity, and the only sane moments are when I feel bad. So I don’t want to feel better right now. I love the world and I want to feel it the way it is right now, as much as it hurts. As Ja Rule said, sometimes pain is love.
I feel depressed these days, but it’s not depression. When the world goes mad, only a crazy person stays sane.