Porfirio Barba Jacob, a Colombian poet who died in 1942, comes to mind. In his “Song of the Profound Life” he talks about how variable the human psyche is. Some days we’re full of joy, some other times we’re really mournful. And in any give day our mood could go from mournful to placid after just a few minutes of listening to children play and laugh. Minutia can also and, I’d say, inexplicably, spoil a whole day.
Here are some verses of Barba Jacob’s poem:
“… there are days when we’re so placid, so placid…
— Childhood at sunset, sapphire lagoons! —
That a verse, a trill, a hill, a passing bird,
And even one’s own sorrows make us smile.”
“…there are days when we’re so gloomy, so gloomy,
Like in a gloomy night the crying of a pine grove.
The soul moans then with the pain of the world:
Perchance not even God himself can give us solace.”
Maybe our changing moods are just the expression of normal responses to life, to what we see, to what we eat, to what we breath, to what we hear, to a misunderstanding. Life is delightfully variable. Our variability could probably be explained as the reflection and result of the cycles that take place inside our bodies and might involve hormones and neurotransmitters. But – the egg of the chicken? – the release of our hormones and neurotransmitters are on turn prompted by mood and experience!
In a world with a pervasive “medical mentality” it looks like there will come a time where we will be all diagnosed with a mental illness. Gloomy easily becomes “depression” under the eyes of the psychiatrist and “placid” or even joyful might become “manic” under the eyes of the same physician who witnessed your sadness a few weeks before.
The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V) released this year, has relaxed the criteria used to diagnose certain conditions. The consequences?
As a rationale for the changes we hear the concern that many people are not properly or timely diagnosed and go on suffering for a long time without proper diagnosis and/or treatment. However, the of this “relaxed” criteria most often lead to abuse in the prescription of medications for symptoms that if not interfering with daily life functioning could be treated without invasive procedures.
Statistics tell us that Bipolar disorder affects every year approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States (about 2.6% of the population age 18 and older). Also, almost 15 million of adults are diagnosed with Major depressive disorder, with a higher prevalence among women older than 32. To this numbers add 3.3 million of people suffering from Dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression). And 40 million people suffering from anxiety.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys shows that “Antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005–2008 and the most frequently used by persons aged 18–44 years. From 1988–1994 through 2005–2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400%…. About one in 10 Americans aged 12 and over takes antidepressant medication.”
Are we trying to standardize a “normal” mood? Should all human beings behave the same, feel the same, deal with life in the same fashion? I wonder why aren’t we more focused on providing children with undivided attention, meaningful experiences, skills to face challenges, challenges to develop those skills… so that they grow up resilient and accepting of the variability of life.
We need not be concerned about gloomy days or despair if we don’t have placid ones. Life is variable!