There are studies out there that show depression among the Amish folk is rare. And, well, we don’t need fancy research to know that millions of regular American folk are plagued with some degree of depression—from having a continual case of the Mondays to the inability to cope and committing suicide. I know this topic. At times, it's plagued me like stink bugs. I was on meds for a few years back in the day and have weaned off them.
So, back to the Amish. What's up with their lack of depression? I gotta start by saying I have been fascinated with this community since I was a little kid. I think my parents may have had us visit Lancaster when we were younger to point out how lazy, unappreciative, and spoiled us kids were in comparison to the Amish children who wore starchy clothes, milked cows at 4am, and broiled under the summer sun doing manual labor. Also, those children had no TV. And no electricity. We had it all.
See, my parents came to the States from South America in their twenties, so they always made sure us first generation American kids valued hard work and a hard-earned dollar. And they did everything they could to make sure we never fell victim to the debilitating disease of entitlement. We were taught to work. Work. Work. Work. Work hard…but what about everything else? Not so important.
This is why I admire the Amish so much. The Amish are more than hard-working people who refuse to have electricity. The Amish are a community who focus on faith, simplicity, humility, communalism and, yes, work ethic. Mainstream society? Umm. Let’s do a little comparison.
Faith? Talking about religion in today’s culture is usually taboo unless it’s something hip that some A-list celebrity just blabbed about in some tabloid. We often associate simplicity with boring or old-fashioned. Humility? Reminds me of the character Stuart on Mad TV who constantly blurted out “Look what I can do! Look what I can do!” right before he showed off a ridiculous dance move; there is no doubt our society is a look-at-me breed. And yes, communalism. Our community usually revolves around whoever fits in our special little circle. Oh yeah, but we’ll still manage to talk about them behind their backs. And hard work. So many people work to have. It’ s a bill-paying channel. But we’ll be damned we're going to pout and whine and be miserable between the hours of 9 to 5...and while we're stuck in traffic on the way there and back.
It’s no wonder so many of us are depressed. Before you start chucking bottles of Zoloft at me, listen to what I’m saying. I struggle with depression. I understand what it feels like to repeat a hundred positive mantras and Bible verses only to feel the same way as when you started. I understand the fight to pluck off, one by one, the negative tapeworms that squirm through your mind. I know.
I’m also not trying to condemn our culture or focus on all the negative things, but let’s be honest. So many of us have our priorities a little (or a lot) screwed up. I am as guilty as you might be. The Amish are committed to getting rid of whatever they believe will lessen, damage, or influence in some bad way their foundational truths. What kind of foundational truths do we have? Maybe the lack thereof is what is making us mentally and emotionally as sick as we are.
Let’s get back to basics. I know I have more peace when I remember to keep it simple. It eases my soul when I remind myself…
• That life is not a rat race and I’m not going to be shoved under a bus because I never become a NY Times best-selling author
• That I am not going to get behind in work if I don’t have the newest edition of the crackberry or Mac something or other
• That I’m not going to have a lower quality of life if I’m not the skinniest chick in the room with the fanciest shoes
• That I’m not going to die if I don’t go on my dream vacation, or have a Mcmansion, or go out to eat all the time, or get facials and massages every month
I, just like you I hope, simply crave peace of mind. I pray for that every day. And I find if I hold on to my faith in God and put my attention on the stuff that really matters—like family, friends, my wonderful beau, blessing my clients with my hard work and prayers—the depression is more apt to scurry off to a dark corner, far away from me.
If you struggle with depression, I feel for you. I really do. And I wish there was a magic wand to make you feel better. Sometimes that weighty veil can be lifted with medication, by a God-ordained miracle, or by shifting our focus. Either way, there are probably many of us who could stand to live by some of the core values that are a part of the Amish community. I love what they say, “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” And there I remind myself, “One step at a time, AJ. One step at a time.”
Check out the fabulous book Amish Peace by Suzanne Woods Fisher. It’ll help you on the journey to keep life simple.