The story sounds so familiar.
People are having nervous breakdowns at unprecedented levels due to urbanization, overstimulation of the senses by media and the immediacy of information — an outright epidemic.
The solution? Send them to Europe for “therapy,” including the prescription to avoid the consumption of any media, constant rest and a diet of milk only.
The time? The early 1900s when the industrial age had given way to newspapers and magazines containing stories of disasters and violence around the globe thanks to the invention of the telegram (their Twitter).
Other problems faced by the people of the day? A huge and growing disparity between the rich and the poor, workplace conditions calling for government regulation of big business and a movement for a minimum wage.
It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The book is “The Bully Pulpit” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is the next selection for my book club, which will meet sometime about the end of May. For my regular members, they will be astonished to learn I already have started.
For those of you in search of a good read, the book is one of the most well-written and interesting historical essays I have encountered.
The focus is on Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the journalists of the day. Particularly the journalists who were the “muckrakers” of the staff of McClure’s magazine — one of the most well circulated publications of the day.
The problems of the era seem to mirror our modern-day maladies in differing proportions and intensities, as well as the treatments of mental health issues.
If I thought my health plan would ship me to a European jaunt, I could come up with a nervous breakdown, as long as the co-pay was less than what I could get the trip for with miles.
I’m already in a stressful profession, according to the myriad of stories our industry continues to publish about itself. If shooting yourself in the foot was an art form, some of our brethren in the newspaper industry could get a Pulitzer Prize every year for that.
Back to my therapy. They would lose me on the milk-only diet, particularly if they made the mistake of insisting my treatment take place in Italy or France.
The certainty of recovery after several weeks abroad would be accompanied by a whole new series of issues due to weight gain and hypertension.
One could only dream of a long escape to such heady destinations. But alas, once all the forms were reviewed, rejected, resubmitted and re-rejected the mental anguish of dealing with it all would probably take you right back where you started.
In the meantime, I would suggest the therapy to you all of reading this wonderful book in some of the wonderful weather we have ahead of us.
Turn your breakdown into a break-through by reading about some dynamic, inspirational and decent people.