Chemical imbalance and depression

Do healthy traditional cultures, pretty much unaffected by colonialism, have people who are consistently depressed? My silly mind assumes they have not.

My psychiatrist used to tell me that maybe I was depressed because of a chemical imbalance while it was actually my forced stay at the psychiatric hospital that made me depressed.

I think first you need to look at life conditions, way of life, life events and thought patterns, and if traditional cultures don’t have consistently depressed people then maybe we should never say it’s a chemical imbalance because the idea that you are biologically determined to be depressed for most of your life is maybe the most depressing thought pattern there is.

I’m not saying medication can’t be helpful though.

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i don’t think it’s natural for humans to be Just happy for long periods. happiness is such a fleeting thing. i do think, however, that an overall higher satisfaction & feeling of surety in life is something we’re meant to have. & ‘western’ culture for sure teaches us to suppress so much of our natural emotion that illness is sure to come out in one form or another. we’re also meant to have Actual proper social/emotional support from our family/friends, which most of us have no/little idea how to give or receive. rewilding our social relationships is, to me, the biggest challenge of rewilding.

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also, for what it’s worth, ‘chemical imbalance’ is not as prevalent of a thing as used to be thought. our physical environment (read: air quality, what our buildings and furnishings are made of, ‘products’ we use), the food we consume, intergenerational trauma, & previously-mentioned f*cked up social system have huge impacts on our biochemistry & physiology.

the fact that we are expected to be happy & act normal within a rotting, diseased, collapsing civilization is ridiculous.

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Sorry, what I meant with ‘happiness for longer periods’ is the absence of depressive episodes (that last more than 2 weeks). Is a depressive episode an actual disease that needs to be cured you think? Do healthy traditional cultures suffer from depressive episodes a lot and do they have people that keep having them?

i don’t personally consider depressive episodes a disease to be cured, no, at least not in the western-medicine sense. i struggled (still struggle, but less so) with depression for a number of years, and definitely would have preferred to have it ‘cured’ but i think the general definitions of what we’re talking about are probably relevant.

my feeling is that people in healthy, functional cultures were/are probably much less likely to have long-term, recurring depression. i’ve also read a good bit of information on how differently other cultures respond to depression & other mental health concerns. ‘medicine’ can be defined in a wide variety of ways.

as an example - i had an abusive, alcoholic father growing up. i stood up to him as a child, protected my mother to the best of my ability, and when i hit adolescence, started encouraging her to leave him. we worked through the process together, got ourselves & my younger brother out of the house when i was 16. over the course of the next decade i spent about 2 years total in 2 different abusive relationships before figuring out how Not to get into them. i knew the whole time that parts of me had been harmed from the way i was treated, and did everything i could figure out to try to heal. i moved onto my own bit of land & homesteaded, saved up to give myself an entire year of not having to work for money, sleeping as much as i wanted, doing what i wanted with my time. the more time i had to myself, in quiet, away from the chaos of cities & jobs, the more shadows came dredging up from my past to be dealt with.

i spent a year from 2016-2017 living in the alaskan interior, 60 miles from the nearest village, with no roads. my partner and i built a cabin, hunted our food, and simply lived. towards the end of winter, after almost a year of real natural quiet, and calm, and very little human interaction except with people i trusted, and meaningful work to do, one of my biggest triggers disappeared. i used to have panic attacks when people raised their voices (not necessarily just At me in Anger, but also Around me and with lots of Feeling). i’d sweat, shake, my mouth would go dry, and my brain wouldn’t function properly - i couldn’t even keep the presence of mind to ask the person to stop, to say that i was freaking out, to say that i needed help. and that - all of a sudden, after a decade and a half of intense personal work - just went away.

i’m not an expert, and i can’t speak to the experiences of people in other cultures. but for me, suffering from basically ptsd and general depression, the biggest changes that have helped are living more in accordance with my values (which happens to mean more rural, with lots of quiet, way less social stress, meaningful land-based work, and plenty of sleep & healthy food), and eating little to no sugar. one pint of ice cream can make me want to die the next day, it affects my mood so drastically. if i’m already in a low place, consistent use of sugar can be really dangerous for me.

so… i guess to answer your first question: define ‘disease’, and define ‘cure’. does it feel like an illness to be locked in depression? sometimes, yes. sometimes i can’t tell that i’m ill or that that’s what’s going on. other times it just feels like everyone else must be keeping their hands plastered over their eyes if they’re not as miserable as i am. and i know that given the state of our world right now, that’s not really a strange assessment. does it need to be cured? i don’t think it’s necessarily that simple, nor do i think it’s something that is completely cut and dry. but yes, i’d prefer not to suffer from it. i don’t want to be drugged into acceptance and complacency, though. i want the freedom to choose what form of support i want & to live my life the way i see fit. i want the option to let the feelings flow through me, to be able to listen to what they might be telling me, & to have help if it becomes too much to handle alone. i want to know that i’ll come out safe on the other side.

the bottom line in my opinion is that our current culture asks insanely too much of us as humans. there’s only so much grief, fear, or guilt that we can handle at once. all this technology that didn’t exist a few decades ago has had a massive impact on our lives. it’s natural for our bodies & minds to be freaking out right now. if western medicine is able to help - great. if not - there are and always have been other options, and we need to be fighting to strengthen them for those who choose not to use modern drugs or who cannot.

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My definition of a disease in this case would be a very unpleasent/painful mental state for a long period that can lead to suicide but that can be cured. A cure would be anything that can alleviate the pain considerably, including lifestyle/environment changes.

If a depressive episode is pain that one is meant to go through without trying to change it then I wouldn’t call it a disease either. That’s what I was thinking of before a friend of mine called it a disease that should be cured.

I didn’t read all of this fully but I believe being up and down is a part of life. I’ve gone through a few little obsessive unhappy periods where I just can’t get out of my head for a few months and I’m stuck with anxiety and unhappiness up and down. I just went through one that stemmed from drug and drinking bender, not addiction and the feeling of oppression from family a bit, aunt died uncle needed support but was the party problem. It’s taken a few months but I’m doing a lot better, eating good, little to no sugar, little caffeine, lots of sun and sweating and hard exercise, family, and herbal teas and supplements to help sleep. I was almost all for meds after lots of anxiety and insomnia but my mom sort of turned me around. I went from drinking heavily a lot of days and moderate drug use to a beer a day with a meal. I didn’t realize how hard quitting my lifestyle of partying was. But I can say it took a mental hiccup to fully dissolve all taste for partying, I’ve tried to fully say no before but nature sort of has fixed it for me. Even that depressed my poor body I guess. I’m turned around and can say I don’t really feel poorly, like depressed ever. I don’t believed anyone walks around all day just flaming high on life. You find a middle ground, a grin and smile. Giddiness will come and go, fatigue etc.
Your mind sort of resets itself and you change, you won’t be the same in the end. I’m not and won’t be who I was 3 months ago when I had started down. But very good has come from it. My societal pissed off all the time anger has dissolved, I’m not complacent but an expansive car and fake suit doesn’t set me off anymore.

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I have chronic mild depression and reoccurring major depression with psychotic features. I take medication daily. I am also a recovering alcoholic/addict and I do things everyday to maintain my sobriety.
Honestly though, I believe that my depression is a response to the world. Anyone who looks around and isn’t emotionally disturbed by the oppression, brutality, selfishness, carelessness and general assholery of the vast majority of human beings is fucked up. My “depression” is caused by my knowledge that things could be so much better and my inability to make changes. Without medication, I would overwhelmed - unable to function. With medication, I am able to take care of my responsibilities, enjoy life and do some small bit to make things better.
Mental variations - some of which are labeled as depression and other forms of mental illness - exist in all societies. The social responses to these variations are very different. Among some tribal cultures, people who displayed unusual behaviors were treated as visionaries. Their “insanity” was viewed as a gift. They were taught how to use their different way of thinking/experiencing reality for the greater good of the community - usually by becoming shamans. Our culture - the dominant, Western, capitalist culture - pathologizes mental variations.
“Rewilding” isn’t just about letting plants and animals do what they want. It must also include rewilding our own minds - accepting and allowing our own weird, chaotic, often offensive and socially unacceptable minds to be the wild things they are. That does not mean running down the street naked shouting obscenities. It means rejecting categories imposed on us by the dominant culture and doing what we deem best for ourselves.
In my own case, medication, sobriety and spirituality help me to be the person I most want to be. And then I try to change things.


I agree society deems the insane invaluable but I have met a few with intelligence. I myself suffer emotional ups and downs, extreme indecision and shitty sleep up and down. I guess generalized anxiety. I was all for meds for a bit and family helped turn me off that though. Now when it sucks I know I’ll get by and won’t die from it. Insomnia sucks at times but I’m attaching spiritual influence to it now and that helps. Like native ideas on these things. I try a lot of different herbal supplements and will stick with that and good teas. I guess I’m not an extreme but it has felt pretty depressing before a few months ago. But if you believe in system as wrong etc why are you in meds? I myself as well felt like I was in a hole but now after going through it, few I can face a lot more. Emotional is the hardest physical is nothing