Compassion can fill the half-empty glass of depression
“I want to be happy, I just don’t know how.” Those words were shrieked by a pudgy, pre-teen through tears of frustration.There were some other children playing nearby. I gathered that the crying child had been joining in before something happened to upset her. It appeared that the girl’s mother was giving her a pep talk in hopes of getting her back into the games.Had I been the parent, I might have said, “You’re young, healthy, on vacation, and do not have a tumor, quit your whining.” Perhaps it is better that I do not have children of my own.The child’s mother, on the other hand, spoke to her daughter in a soft, consoling voice. I could not hear what was said, but the girl hugged her parent and sobbed.As usual, my first inclination was off the mark. Yes the crying child was young, well kept and looked to be healthy, but for many that is not enough.
“I want to be happy, I just don’t know how.”That is not a condition confined to emotional, little girls. Call it depression, despair, moodiness or melancholy – many people, children and adults, have a difficult time finding contentment. I’ve come to the conclusion that, in most cases, it is not their fault.Certainly it is all a matter of perspective. Many would say if you have your health, a home, and live in this country there is little to complain about. But by the same token, I have never been able to verify any connection between comfort and contentment. It has been my experience that people are either happy or not, and there seems to be little cause and effect between joy and situation. In other words the people I know who are usually happy are – poor and rich, ugly and attractive, old and young, alone and in love. The same could be said for the folks I know who are perpetually angry or sad.I also contend that the “perpetually-poopy” people have less control over their moods then many of us would like to think. Now certainly I’m not a doctor – that would require going to college – but whether some see the glass as half-empty or half-full has more to do with their brain than their eyesight.
My mother used to say, “I wake up in the morning and think – what do I have to be happy about today?”That attitude saw her through an abusive childhood, a young life of servitude and raising six kids with a husband who worked, drank and gambled. Despite fatigue, health, financial problems and a youngest son (me) who “wasn’t like the other children,” that buoyant optimism saw her through – until it didn’t.Ironically, when her life finally took a turn for the better, her children growing up and taking care of themselves, my mother had a nervous breakdown. The same woman, who maintained a bright outlook through hardship, for no apparent reason could no longer cope. She lost her love of life, optimism and perspective and often lacked motivation to leave her bed. Ten other women, with 10 different brains and hormones, might have reacted to the same joys and challenges that my mother faced 10 different ways. None of them should be credited or faulted.”I want to be happy, I just don’t know how.”
Coming from a spoiled, little girl it sounds almost pathetic; from a menopausal, emotionally scared woman from poverty and foster homes it is heart wrenching. But that wail of frustration, whether from a pampered girl or a despondent housewife, is much the same. Both are cries of suffering. Whether earned or not, be it nature or nurture, the depression feels much the same.I watched as the mother nudged the little girl back into the pack of cavorting kids. The child rejoined the group, but her lack of enthusiasm was evident. I had no idea if her breakdown was a common occurrence or an isolated incidence.What I do know is you can be in high spirits through illness, tragedy and blight and be depressed on a sunny playground in Colorado. I also know that how you see things is less where you are, than who you are. And in either case, there should be compassion not blame.Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio and read in several mountain publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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