I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson. I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.
Chapter 17 - In praise of melancholy - THROW AWAY THE PILLS
Melancholy, or depression, or whatever you want to call it, is normal. Tom explores "An Anatomy of Melancholy" by Robert Burton in 1621. Burton suggests that poor diet is one cause for melancholy, and suggests "merriment" as a solution. Dancing, having fun, spending time with friends. Today, good company, good cheer and good beer are gone as solutions to depression. The state has been professionalised into a "condition" with pricy pills to "cure" it. An estimated one in twenty-five people in the UK are on anti-depressants, including 60,000 children. Could it be that it is not us at fault for depression, but the society that we live in and the expectations placed on us? Why can't people be allowed to wallow in depression if they so feel like? Is taking an anti-depressant handing control over our feelings to a pharmaceutical giant? It would be better to wrest back control - do things our own way and be self reliant. Hard physical work - bread baking, gardening and carpentry unite body and soul, unleash creativity and make us feel good about ourselves, an antidote to depression.
How does this match up to the Ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?
This is a difficult one to answer. I suffered with Post-natal-depression after the birth of Bug, and am gradually getting myself off the anti-depressants now. Could it be that my suffering was the result of society - of my isolation? I've chosen to believe the medical professionals who have reassured me that it was nothing to do with me, but was a hormonal imbalance in the brain which stemmed from the hormonal turbulence involved with having a baby. Is this because I'm letting myself off the hook? I'm glad of the anti-depressants. Without them I certainly wasn't able to function as wife and mother, or even as a human being. Now though, I am glad to be on my way to getting rid of them. I hope that I never feel the need to seek their support again. I would like to be able to embrace the full spectrum of moods and feelings, but Tom is right that in today's society you are expected to be on "top form" all the time - there isn't space for a bout of mooning about feeling sorry for yourself. Making yourself do both physical and creative is certainly good practice. I tend only to to combine my efforts in the garden, or with a spot of baking, otherwise they are separate - going for a jog and doing some writing, but not at the same time. Certainly food for thought in here.