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Anhedonic Anodyne 

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There are lots of reasons to be depressed; in fact, if we put our minds to it, we can find justifications for being down in the dumps all year long.

Right now, of course, the best excuse is post-holiday depression'Christmas and New Year’s are finally over, and the bleak winter meets our gaze with a cold stare. It’s a long, gray slog until spring, unrelieved by any very meaningful holidays, unless you count Martin Luther King Jr. Day'which Utah, depressingly, largely ignores'and Valentine’s Day'an ancient fertility festival that rarely lives up these days to its promise of a romantic and/or sexual psychological lift.

The short days and long nights of the winter season suck the seratonin right out of our brains and our neurons sluggishly misfire; staring into a full-spectrum light source or spending obscene amounts of money on patented, prescription brain candy is our only hope for overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder. Of course, the boredom suffered during the former and the poverty incurred by the latter are even more good reasons to be depressed.

Having disappointed ourselves by failing to live up to our New Year’s resolutions and having drained our physical and financial resources by exposing ourselves to airborne viruses in shopping malls all last month, we find ourselves candidates for despair. Turning to substances for comfort, we may find ourselves hungover, arrested or addicted, depending on how we handle our chosen emotional crutch. (Those who are particularly unwise and unlucky may score the trifecta, ending up jonesing for a fix in a jail cell.)

We’ll want to recover in time for the election season, soon to be upon us, during which we will be subjected to campaign-related character assassinations and dirty tricks. Republican candidates will commit well-documented felonies but escape any prosecution or blame, whereas Democrats will incur the wrath of heaven for every tiny slip-up and oversight. In the event of any backlash, Diebold will depressingly ensure slim Republican majorities in key districts.

Even if'against all odds'the administration comes to its senses this year, realizing it respects the troops enough to let them come home, we will finally be confronted with the grim reality of our creation: a generation of maimed and paranoid soldiers. Only this time, they won’t be hand-picked for the cameras, asking puff questions and smiling gratefully at the prospect of lacquered Thanksgiving turkeys. Living people, unlike corpses, cannot be airlifted in the dead of night and hidden away forever. The sight of those young people, here among us at last, sporting stumps, burn scars and psychological trauma will quickly put a damper on any jubilation we might feel over the end of this misbegotten war.

Yes, there are lots of reasons to be depressed.

But there’s also one very good reason not to: Once we allow ourselves to sink into depression’s hole, it’s difficult to climb back out again.

No matter how nice it might seem to simply crawl into bed and never get up again, there is very little we can do, once there, to improve our lot. As long as we are here in the world, moving around'however sluggishly'there’s a chance we can make a change for the better. Even small innovations can make a big difference: a clean house, a new hobby, a slightly more healthy diet.

Taking the first, small step to recovery is difficult, but well worth it if we can manage to make 2006 slightly less depressing than last year.

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More by Brandon Burt

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