{Guest Column} The cost of apathy is too high a price to pay

RBC | Apathy is defined as a lack of feeling, emotion, interest and concern.

It’s a thing I understand much more than I’d like to.

Three and a half years ago, I sat on the shore of an impossibly beautiful mountain lake watching my husband and three babies fish. It was picture-perfect, like something out of every romance novel epilogue I’ve ever read. Get the guy, have the family, live happily ever after (100 percent stretch-mark and baby weight and medical debt and hormonal acne free!)

Unfortunately for me (and everyone around me), this was real life, and I was deep in the trenches of my third battle with postpartum depression. I had become so apathetic that the simple act of breathing seemed pointless.

Apathy was a warning sign I ignored for a long time, the result of a major hormone imbalance and my own refusal to acknowledge something was wrong until it was almost too late. I chalked my behaviors up to laziness, or the stress of having three small children, or just to the fact that I was obviously a terrible person in general (I’m not, but mental illness tells you all kinds of lies.) My personal experience is an extreme example, but it shows what can happen when you allow apathy to fester, whether in your mental health or your physical health or in any other area of life.

Take Facebook, for example. We are apathetic to the extreme about the blatant unapologetic spread of misinformation because we don’t want to be “that guy” who fact checks everyone.

Or, look at how apathy has affected our political processes. We are so numb to the inefficiency and illogicality of our political system that we don’t even take small steps to change things like write to our congressmen or research political candidates (if we even bother to vote.) We sit in our apathy hidey-hole and hope somebody else has the guts to stand up for what we wished we believed in.

Apathy is like a slow-growing cancer—if you don’t acknowledge and “treat” it, you’re in for a world of hurt, whether it’s government corruption or the fracturing of our society over misinformation and lies. The best thing to do when you feel apathetic, according to Psychology Today, is to recognize the condition and discover the underlying causes, then challenge those assumptions. If you believe “voting isn’t going to change anything,” look at the statistics of recent local elections, often won by less than 50 people who decided the opposite is true. “It doesn’t really matter if my friends keep vomiting up the same incorrect information on Facebook.” Sure, until that information is plastered over 1.2 million people’s feeds. Or (in my case) “my mind has gone haywire and no one is going to understand if I say something.” Mental illness, and especially doing something about it, is nothing to be ashamed of. Say something. Be brave. Save your life.

A little apathy is inevitable. We are, after all, human. My new favorite saying is “when they told you life would be easy peasy lemon squeezy but it it’s actually difficult difficult lemon difficult.” Life is tough, but living with apathy is much worse.

Caitlin Walker

Caitlin Walker is co-owner of the Rio Blanco Herald Times.