If you're one of the 20 million Americans who suffers from depression and anxiety disorders -- 1 out of every 14 of us -- I hope that something you read today or in the weeks ahead, will resonate with you; that something I say will give you a glimmer, perhaps, of what brought on your depression, and suggest steps you might take to overcome it.
Depression is a dark place of self-pity, in which you tell yourself that none of the magic that happens to other people, ever happens to you. It's a place of unfulfilled dreams, misplaced guilt, and unexpressed anger, which has been turned inward.
Depression is a feeling that all your life, you've been kept from your true place. It's an endless walk through menacing streets, past countless doors, none of which will open for you. It's a cold, dark vault, where the walls are sheer and slick, and all the exits have been sealed.
When you were a child, you weren't depressed. At age 2 or 3, you lived in the moment. You enjoyed an innocent, blissful existence in Childhood's Garden of Eden. When you looked in the mirror, you liked what you saw. How could you know that the serpents of television, school, chemically-laden foods, and a ruthless market-economy were waiting to pounce on you?
For most of you, it was television that provided your first sense that there was something wrong with you. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 comprise the largest TV audience in the USA. Most pre-schoolers spend between 30 and 60 hours each week, glued to the tube.
And what are they watching? Not free entertainment! No, television is a cold, commercial medium, whose primary purpose is is to deliver audiences to advertisers. By the time you were 5 years-old, you had seen approximately 70,000, thirty- second commercials, most of which were for junky, sugary food and drinks. By the time you graduated from high school at 18, you had seen 18,000 hours of television and 1 million commercials!
And here's the CRITICALLY IMPORTANT PART: EVERY ONE of those commercials was designed by highly skilled professionals, to create DISCONTENT and WORRY in you; to make YOU feel bad about yourself. Why? So that you would buy the product touted in the commercial.
The entire world of media advertising, which drives our market-economy, is based on making "consumers" feel totally inadequate -- UNLESS they buy the "stuff" in the ad or TV commercial.
And that, my friends, is where most depression begins. The seeds of discontent are planted in your pre-school years, and watered and fertilized every time you watch TV, listen to the radio, or read a newspaper or magazine. Each of those millions of commercials you've seen in your life, has told you in no uncertain terms that you're always going to be a loser until you buy their product.
And it's not only television's content that encourages depression. The technology of televison, the medium's most successsful techniques -- short segments, fast action, micro-quick cuts -- break time into tiny perceptual bits. When the TV image changes every few seconds, your eyes have to constantly refocus, and your brain has to constantly reinterpret what you're seeing.
If you're depressed, it may be because a lifetime of television watching has rewired your nervous system, making discontinuity the norm of your perception, and shortening your attention span down toward the vanishing point.
And not only you, but all the unlucky children who have been labeled ADD or ADHD. Both you, who are depressed, and the children, who are hyper-active, are trying -- and failing -- to recapture the dynamic quality of the television screen, in your ordinary, workaday lives. This failure can lead to depression.
So my first suggestion for overcoming depression -- and this won't be popular -- is that you turn off your TV and radio, and stop reading newspapers and magazines. How long? Ideally, forever! But try it for a month. You can do just about anything for one month.
I wouldn't ask you to do anything that I don't do myself. I never watch TV, or listen to the radio. I don't read newspapers or magazines. And because I don't. my mind is spared all that negative energy that the media shoots at us constantly in machine-gun bursts: the latest child-murder, the latest celebrity scandal, the latest terrorist atrocity. It is ALL bad news; bad, BAD news!
So try going cold-turkey for a month; no TV, no radio, no newspapers, and no magazines. What you'll be doing is a kind of liver-cleanse of the mind. At the end of 30 days, some of you who are depressed will feel noticeably better. Indeed, some of you will decide to extend your media blackout for the foreseeable future. One of the good spinoffs, is the amount of quality time you'll free up every day for deeply satisfying activities.