I spent a little time tonight copying playlists from Amazon to Google, because Amazon will no longer host your MP3 stash in a few months. I've been doing yearly playlists now since the early oughts, when I got my first iPod, and I back-filled the years to 1992 using old mix tapes and popularity charts as a reference (I really need to find a good source for the 80's). As I've written a hundred times before, music quite literally supplies a soundtrack to my life.
Because those songs bring floods of memories back to me, the things I was feeling at the time also come right back. What I find alarming is how many of those feelings seem to be sadness or depression. It's not just a few songs, but entire blocks of songs and the years they came from. The biggest trouble spots were college, and the first half of the oughts. Granted, the post-9/11 economy and the unemployment that came with it, and then divorce after that, were hardly reasons to be happy, but I didn't think at the time that I was depressed.
Depression runs in my family, though my family doesn't think so. Quite a few of them are or were depressed a lot of the time, though I didn't know what that looked like when I was a kid. They say that depression is likely around 40% hereditary and 60% environmental, though one has to assume that if your environment has depressed people it's worse. Regardless, I think it's important that I watch myself carefully.
In taking inventory, I try to see when I was happy, by contrast. The first few years after college were happy if somewhat chaotic. When I started dating again, those were happy times, despite periodic loneliness. 2012, the full year back in Cleveland, was not very happy, but I don't think I was depressed as much as I was unsure about what we did. Moving to Florida kind of blew the doors off of the happy meter. I feel like depression hasn't been a thing for more than a decade for me, and I'm thankful for it.
This year I've been trying to figure out if I'm depressed or just stressed. The joy I felt in April when we were in New York, as well as the time on our last cruise in June, implies that I just wasn't managing stress very well. Why does it matter? Because stress I know how to manage once I realize I'm having it. It's mostly just deliberately taking time to be present and relax. Depression is way more complicated, and rarely fixed by "choosing" to be happy. I've never medicated for it, but what I did learn was that there was a lot of underlying emotional cause for it, and you have to unpack all of that and practice feeling right.
It's all weird to think about, how often I felt that way but didn't see it.