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Editorial: Take the Memorial Day Cure

Let’s face it. In Falls Church, as in Fairfax County and local government across the entire nation and world, we have been through some incredibly stressful times.

The biggest cuts and most layoffs in any budget cycle in the history of Falls Church were replicated everywhere else. The seriousness and sharpness of the economic and financial meltdown of the last two years has not been matched since the onset of the Great Depression, and it is still too soon to tell whether we’re out of the woods by now, or not.

The stress and toll that such periods take on everyone cannot be measured, especially when it involves making difficult decisions not only about one’s own life, but about the lives of many others who are employed and served by government or business owners.

There is the recollection of one who taped a TV show in late October 2008, prior to the presidential election, and did not get around to watching it until three weeks later. In between, of course, had been the presidential election. This impassioned Obama supporter recalled that two weeks after the election, when he sat down to watch the taped TV show, he saw commercials for McCain and Palin, and found himself immediately tensing up and gritting his teeth. It caused him to realize how much stress he’d been under, even without fully realizing it, in the period leading up to that election.

However, it is important to note that such intense stress, when it is allayed, is not replaced by relief or relaxation, so much as by a more universal form of post-partem-like depression. Science is only beginning to realize how pervasive this is. It’s all in the chemistry of the body, in the adrenaline and other chemicals the body produces to stand up to intense stress and in the “crash” effect of their withdrawal.

It is why, for example, many entertainers run into problems with substance abuse. Going before adoring fans is not a relaxing, but a very stressful exercise. Coming off performances, night after night, entertainers become depressed, and are apt to turn to alcohol or other substances to cope. It is the same for men and women on the battlefield, and in many high-stress professions and conditions of life.

Similarly, 9/11 did not cause depression, but led to a great collective adrenaline rush. The depression set in later, when the futility of the misguided invasion of Iraq and other things began to set in. The nation battled it with the election of Obama, but the economic collapse triggered a psychological, as well as economic, crash. Many of those most motivated for Obama in 2008 could not drag themselves to fight for the elections of 2009.

In light of the stresses of this spring, people should realize that a mild case of depression should not result in despair. Life goes on. Sunshine is good. The weather will be great for Memorial Day. Enjoy.