Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Curing melancholia

Palm readers and fortune tellers (in addition to genuine medical/neuro practitioners) have been grappling with the problem of depression for centuries. New psychiatric drugs and therapies have come out of the market like mushrooms, including non-drug placebos that promise to provide relief from depression and anxiety without the unpleasant side effects of the most commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs.

Yet, the solution is really that simple and you don't need to be a shrink to figure it out. Be happy. Take the cue from Bobby McPherrin. Of course, everyone will agree that this is not an option.

You wake up in the morning feeling the blues after a hard time at work the previous day, or wondering what the hell happened to your former self (read: machismo and sex machine), don’t think for the first time that you need to scour your medicine cabinet for serotonin reuptake inhibitors or even call your doctor-friend for a favour you have been meaning to ask him about that Viagra or Cialis option.

Ponder about the side effects: nausea, diarrhea, agitation, headaches or even sexually related fears like loss of libido, failure to reach orgasm and erectile dysfunction. Or the more serious but rare side effects like hepatitis, heart attack, stroke and seizures.

Remember that God must be punishing you for being so critical of others, for being heartless at times when ignoring a homeless person who kept nagging you on the street for a paltry dollar. If this is the case, then it’s time to go to church as quickly as possible. Pray for absolution of your sins.

But wait. Did you hear the angelic voices of the choir singing from the church loft? Eureka, you just have found the way back to youth and happiness! Jamming sessions, that’s it. Clean up the house basement that you have been putting off for years, and search for the drums you used to play wild like Ringo Starr. Summon up all your geriatric friends this weekend, and the next weekends until you get sore and tired with your hands banging the drums, and your vocal chords hoarse and crackling like frogs from your garden in the back of the house, and suffer another relapse and feel the blues again.

Or, maybe it’s too much to act like a child, especially at your age during the swinging sixties. Perhaps, going to a picnic in the park will soothe the troubles away. Join the barbecue contest. This shouldn’t be difficult, because you’re fond of red meat anyway. But then, your doctor has reminded you to stay away from red meat to avoid episodes of gout and all the inflammations you dread.

Remember the last time you were on antidepressants? Your weight ballooned because the medication made you crave and unable to feel full despite consuming enough calories. So you fell into binges of overeating and became too lazy to exercise, which then led you to ingest more calorie-laden beverages. You kept wondering why your brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin to control your appetite and balance your moods.

Aside from antidepressants, you’ve tried most alternative therapies available, yet the blues keep coming back. You’re now left with only two choices. Perhaps, it’s time to take the first remaining option: Siberian ginseng, an adaptogen or tonic plant shown to have significant antidepressant effects in rats. But then, would you put yourself in the shoes of a rat? Rodents wearing shoes? Maybe not.

The final option is to go back to your first love, the one thing you would like to touch again. That reminded you of the first essay you wrote in your freshman English. It’s not what you’re thinking about. It’s only the barrel of a gun. You can go back to pistol shooting just like your old college days when you were one of the school’s top marksmen. Who knows, you may even make the team for the next Olympics this time.

But what if all those serotonin inhibitors you ingested over the years had left traces of lethal hypertensive reaction in your system? Think about how much you love eating mature cheese and cured meats, anything that has high levels of tyramine. Your Glock is so accessible. It may be under lock and key in your bedroom drawers but that’s to prevent your children from accidentally finding and playing with it. You’ve got the keys and imagine what could happen if one of those mood changes suddenly swings again.

Ah, you’ve made up your mind. Jamming is much better than anything else. Move back the hands of time. Forget the sore hands, shoulders and back—even that hoarse throat, ignore what those grumpy old losers would think about you. Keep banging those snare drums. Nothing beats the company of The Beatles, The Eagles, Cosby, Steels & Nash, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, or Queen.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

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