About noon today it became clear that today was a mental health day. After a lunch time run with the new little pal, I just didn’t get back into work mode, and found myself ensconced on the sofa with the fire roaring and lots of dogs snoozing and reading Prozac Nation. This was a whim buy from Barnes & Noble executed while ghosting the self-help section trying to hunt down yet another book on relationships in the aftermath of abuse and neglect that himself had recommended I read for insight into why our relationship had gone south.
In other words, to see myself in the pages of this book. I declined; deciding that really what I didn’t need was another self help book, but rather the muster to just admit that loving someone isn’t enough to keep them from treating one very badly, and that it was time to let it go and exorcise himself from my life.
So, here I was this afternoon reading about a screwed up, upper middle class Jewish girl whining about her hard times at the Manhattan School and Harvard, and found it to be utterly refreshing to read about neglect constituting a daddy ignoring her birthday parties instead of engaging in really heinous and evil abuse activities. It was like slipping back into an old, familiar world.
But man, that book is tedious…just how many pages can one fill about feeling like crap and wishing they were dead… after about 100 pages, I was wishing she would just go ahead and do it, so I wouldn’t have to keep reading endless sentences about how she just wanted to end it all. Of course, I could stop reading, but the sensation of peeking over her shoulder into her diary exerts a pressure on me to read it to the end.
It is my wholly biased and completely unscientific thesis that, by and large, we as a modern American culture just have too much time on our hands. If we were back being busy finding food or trying to scratch a meager agricultural living out of Mother Nature who rarely cooperates, and we had to provide for all our own needs, such as shelter and clothing, we just wouldn’t have time to sit around and ponder whether or not we were clinically depressed or in need of the palliatives that Big Pharma keeps producing.
As I dribbled my way through the dreary reading of Prozac Nation, I could find snippets of myself and similar difficulties with relationships, with the all-consuming nature of need when you really fall for someone, when it all becomes so super-critical that they just look your way – but cannot find within that or other moments of ennui and despair really the justification that it is all so terrible that it is worthy of medical or psychiatric intervention. That is not to say that true mental illness does not exist, but what Elizabeth Wurzel catalogued in such excruciating detail and which I have to a somewhat more limited extent experienced is just the fallout of human existence. If we had to deal with providing the basics for ourselves we just wouldn’t have the time or the energy to wallow in these moods. I suspect we also wouldn’t fall prey so often to the sensations that there isn’t much meaning in what we do.