As adults, we’re supposedly all responsible for behaviors that impact our (or others) physical and/or mental health. Some of those behaviors include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Using Drugs (legal and illegal)
  • Making poor food choices and/or overeating
  • Inactivity
  • Engaging in unsafe sex
  • Engaging in bad relationships
  • Engaging in risky or unsafe behavior
  • Trying to rationalize the election of Donald Trump…

I’m sure there are more. Participation in fundamentalist religions comes to mind. I’m just listing those off the top of my head that I’m guilty of. Often these behaviors occur when we’re young, before our frontal cortex is fully matured to temper rash decision-making. Our tendency toward or away from these behaviors are influenced by nurture and nature:

  • Genetics
  • Our socio-economic conditions
  • Cultural influences
  • Mommy/Daddy issues
  • Past experiences
  • Future expectations

All you have to do is open your eyes and look around to realize this life can be hard. Given the huge role of genetics in this, do any of us really have a choice in our behaviors or are we somehow biologically and systematically pre-disposed to them? I think it’s both, and they all can be difficult to overcome. In the recent past, we’ve seen “successful” people like Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, and Robin Williams take their own lives while battling mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. And those are just the suicides that make the news. Tens of thousands more don’t. A 2016 New York Times article indicated US suicide rates reached an all-time high with 42,773 recorded in 2014. It’s estimated that 90% of these individuals had a treatable mental illness… Statistically, your personal orbit is likely filled with people suffering from anxiety, bi-polar, depression, PTSD, and many more.

Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers wrote a song about the struggle with depression and about Mr. Williams. I’m sure many can relate to it. I know I can. Especially the last line about luck…

Tossing off the baggage that is pulling down on me
Toss it in the river and be free
Move so close together, only inches separate
you from all the darkness in me
I’m not seeking explanations for this thing that you did
a thin line separates the laughter from despair
I’ve had my own depression since I was just a kid
but been blessed with the means to repair