In 1835 a man visited a doctor in Florence, Italy. He was filled with anxiety and exhausted from lack of sleep. He couldn’t eat, and he avoided his friends. The doctor examined him and found that he was in prime physical condition. Concluding that his patient needed to have a good time, the physician told him about a circus in town and its star performer, a clown named Grimaldi. Night after night he had the people rolling in the aisles. “You must go and see him,” the doctor advised. “Grimaldi is the world’s funniest clown. He’ll make you laugh and cure your sadness.” “No,” replied the despairing man, “he can’t help me. You see, I am Grimaldi!”
Many in America might say the same thing about themselves. â€œI am Grimaldi!â€ We are the wealthiest, most powerful nation to ever grace the face of the earth. We have it all, right? Bigger and bigger flat screens, low interest rates, cheap clothes, and new Iphones. So why do so many of us consult our doctors about depression?
Depression claims about 9.6 % of Americaâ€™s population. Thatâ€™s somewhere close to 30 million people. This number is higher than any nation in the world.
In 2000, Kalle Lasn and Bruce Grierson wrote a short article for the Utne Reader entitled, â€œWhy is America so Depressed?â€ Tthey noted that America is hurting because we are:
- Always, always on the go, seldom if ever taking a quiet moment to reflect.
- Willing to plunge deeper and deeper into debt to finance shopping sprees for nonessentials.
- Unshakable conviction that happiness is as close as the next stock split, breast augmentation, or Mazatlan vacation.â€
More recently, it has been said that our high depression rate stems from an overabundance of choices. In the face of so many choices, we become lost, always trying to choose the next best thing that will bring us status and approval. But depression, of course, is not always tied to the reasons cited above. Often times it is a chemical imbalance. Sometimes you simply have it in your blood.
Christian theologian and popular author, C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain â€œMental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say â€œMy tooth is achingâ€ than to say â€œMy heart is broken.â€
So, is that what we have? Broken hearts? And why is this? Could it be that having it all and being it all is not a recipe for happiness but, in fact, itâ€™s nemesis? Maybe life is paradoxical in that having it all doesnâ€™t equate to having more happiness. Even among those with chemical imbalances, perhaps depression is accentuated by chasing the tail of â€œsuccess.â€ Maybe Jesus was right when he said, â€œIf you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.â€
Â Hunter Camp is the associate pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church (USA) in St. Augustine, FL. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org