America is in a sorry state of mind.
As of 2020, 45 million Americans take some sort of antidepressant. That’s more than the combined populations of Florida and New York. And 33% of those folks have been using them for longer than five years.
Unfortunately, there are many reasons to maintain a bleak outlook in today’s modern world. Political polarization. Inflation. Strife between the sexes. The looming threat of another pandemic. Every time we turn on the news the world is burning somewhere.
It isn’t surprising people are turning to happy pills to take the edge off.
There’s nothing we can do about the state of the world. It is completely outside our control. But we can do something about the state of our world. It is completely within our control.
I was anxious for a long time. The better part of my 20s in fact, and was on anti-depressants well into my 30s. Because like many, I eventually learned to keep the beast at bay, but couldn’t pull the plug on the pills. Like many I feared coming off would bring me back to square one, on my hands and knees in a gas station parking lot, trying to catch my breath as another panic attack strikes me with the force of a thousand suns.
My friends, there is a solution.
One that will change your life forever, as it did mine. One that doesn’t involve pills or booze or whatever vice you favor. One that helps you better manage the suffering synonymous with life on this planet.
Be warned, it’s hard. Damn hard. It requires sacrifice. It requires change. It requires a willingness to not only step outside your comfort zone, but to leave most aspects of your past life behind. If you’re not willing to commit, if you’re not ready to say goodbye to your comfortably numb existence, I suggest you close this tab and find something else to read.
Still with me? Good. Let’s continue.
You need forests
Peace is what frees you from dependency. Peace is what opens your world back up. And there’s no better way to find peace than to get outside and back to your ancestral roots.
You need forests.
Or lakes, seas and oceans. Or campsites, mosquito bites and starry nights. You need the tranquility that can only be found in nature in order to reestablish the connection to the person who matters most: you.
Peace is sought, not stumbled upon. Peace is earned, not bestowed.
Going camping and draining a 12-pack of Miller Lite isn’t contributing to peace. Meditating for 15 minutes then rushing to the job you hate isn’t contributing to peace. Cramming in a workout before heading to the club isn’t contributing to peace.
You gain nothing if you bring your shitty lifestyle to places of peace. You simply turn places of peace shitty.
If your goal is to kick the pills and the booze and the drugs, to stave off depression and anxiety forever, you’ve got to attack the problem at its foundation: the way you live your life.
A modest ask, I know. But we’re not here to beat around the bush.
Start small. Don’t kick the pills right away. Start drinking less. Start exercising more. Go to bed earlier. Start finding a better balance between work, home and play.
Increase your commitment over time. Drink even less. Continue to go to bed early. Take your pills every other day (in accordance with your doctor’s recommendation). Cut out fast food. Limit processed sugar.
Get outside more often.
Over time these changes gain momentum. Like a rolling stone, they tumble down the hill faster and faster until they become your norm. Eventually peace won’t be boring and chaos won’t be attractive.
Then, and only then, when you (and your doctor) are ready, toss the pills in the trash.
Like everything, there is a price to pay
Peace, however, is not without cost. Significant cost.
You won’t have as many rockin’ late nights. You won’t have as many wild afternoons. Watching football on NFL Sunday won’t be what it once was.
You will lose social status. You will lose friends. You will incur hostility from those who’d prefer you remain as you are.
If you accept these changes with open arms, if you face the obstacles in your way head on, if you embrace the fact your life is evolving, you will be able to ditch the substances you’ve relied on as a crutch in this crazy world. You will have what you’ve sought for so long.
Absolutely brilliant piece Scott !
I think this a worldwide problem. Certainly here in South Africa..
I'm a little disappointed this has been published. This is an incredibly nuanced topic and the piece is deeply shaming of antidepressants, medically misinformed, and promises a solution that is not a universal solution. Many people do find peace in nature, many people do not. Many people need medication like antidepressants to survive, and that is not a bad or shameful thing. Just because you did not get along with them and were lucky to have found your solace in the natural world does not mean that it is universally true for everyone. Your use of the term 'happy pills' is stigmatising. I am someone who was on antidepressants, and they really didn't work for me, they made me miserable, but it is extremely ignorant to write like they are not a lifeline for so many people and to downplay the positive effects that they can have for other people. It is fine to write about your own experience, but don't write a piece detailing medical interventions without research and a balanced argument. This piece is irresponsible.