Eric Maisel writes:
And who isn’t in the middle of calamity? Forget about world wars. What is it like for the quarter million women diagnosed with breast cancer each year and the one in eight women threatened by it? What is it like for a gay youth in a fundamentalist town? What is it like for a workingman or workingwoman living in a tract home in Amarillo, Queens, or Dayton? What is it like for a writer with no publisher, a painter with no gallery, a musician with no gigs? What is it like for an obese man or an obese woman with no sex life? What is it like for the millions who hate their jobs, the millions with no job, the millions who cringe when their mate enters the room, or the millions who have aged into invisibility?
Against this backdrop of mental stress, distress, and misery, we are supposed to stand “mentally healthy,” as if life were a lark and as if sweet smiles were not only our birthright, but also an obligation. Why should we be smiling? Why should we be “mentally healthy,” whatever that phrase is supposed to mean? For the whole history of our species, until very recently, your drinking water could kill you. In our age of good drinking water—which is only a reality for some percentage of our species—we have only had world wars and nuclear weapons to contend with. And what is life like for someone living under a dictator, where you can vanish for speaking? And how pleasant is your boring, taxing job? How pleasant, for that matter, is your own seething mind, packed with worries, regrets, resentments, and to-do lists?
But you are supposed to keep smiling. You are supposed to stay positive. No matter that every human right is a fight that must continually be fought for. No matter that in this modern age of plenty, which advertising tells us comes with beautiful homes, beautiful cars, and beautiful bodies, insomnia is an epidemic, obesity is epidemic, sadness is an epidemic, and meaninglessness is an epidemic. You must not notice the machinations of the powerful: none of that should affect your mental health. You must not notice your aging, your illnesses, or your mortality: none of that should affect your mental health. You may not even look in the mirror and announce that you might strive to be a better person: none of that!