The Sopranos: Depression, Isolation, and the Mafia Cure

John McManamy Health Guide
  • “The Sopranos” is into its final season, and young AJ is in crisis. His fiancé has dumped him, and he takes to his room like Achilles sulking in his tent. Mother Carmela is frantic with worry, which means husband Tony is going to have to deal with the problem. Tony is a New Jersey mob boss. Things are about to get interesting.

    Shakespeare meets Homer meets Freud meets The Godfather. Now you know why “The Sopranos” is my favorite TV show of all time.

    First, Tony dispatches AJ to a psychiatrist. The shrink hears AJ’s melancholic tale of woe, and perfunctorily responds: “I’m going to write you a prescription for Lexapro.”

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    Yeh, as if.

    Meanwhile, Tony has a much better idea. The Bada Bing! is attracting a new clientele, bright college kids majoring in “cash and a_s.” Maybe hanging out with these enterprising lads is what AJ needs to get over his funk. They’ve got a private function planned at the Bing, and Tony asks as a “favor” that they invite AJ.

    So here’s the crux: AJ can mope in his room with his suicidal thoughts and wait four to six weeks for the fifty percent probability of the Lexapro kicking in, or he can get out of the house.

    Keep in mind that isolating is perhaps the most dangerous thing one can do in a state of severe depression. Isolation and depression literally feed off of one another, creating a dangerous and potentially deadly downward spiral. Introverts are at particular risk, as they are not likely to reach out. Several years ago, I polled readers of my email newsletter and asked them to take an online Myers-Briggs personality test. Eighty-three percent reported that they are introverts.

    So, for the overwhelming majority of us, our temperaments condemn us to making our depressions much worse. Yes, there is a time for crawling into a dark cave and licking one’s wounds, but as a general rule the time that we most want to be alone is precisely the time we should be in the company of fellow humans, removed from our bleak surroundings.

    Carmela is furious with Tony when she discovers that he has dispatched their under-aged son to the Bada Bing! for a night of drunken debauchery. But the proof is in the pudding. AJ has arrived home sometime around dawn. Sure beats lying alone in a dark place.

    AJ’s new acquaintances quickly see the value in befriending the son of a mob boss. The college boys have a thriving campus-based gambling operation, and benefit from AJ’s mere presence when it comes to the debt-collection side of the business.

    Meanwhile, another major plot is weaving its course; one that involves Christopher, Tony’s surrogate son. Christopher is working to kick his alcohol and drug dependence, but being a made man in the Mafia is not exactly one of the twelve steps. But Tony is not sympathetic. Christopher’s fate has been decided since Day One. His only way out is the witness protection program. Instead, he decides to have a social drink with his fellow gansters. Later, in a drunken rage, he shoots dead a civilian acquaintance. Christopher is back on the “straight and narrow,” heaven forbid.

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    AJ, needless to say, is the son that Tony and Carmela have been protecting from the family business. But the Gods of Irony are about to come down hard. With his new buddies, AJ goes on a debt-collection mission and finds himself helping restrain a terrified deadbeat as someone else pours sulphric acid on the guy’s foot. The die has been cast. AJ has found his true calling in crime.

    AJ arrives home at the same late hour as his dad. Together they find Carmela and daughter Meadow in the kitchen engaged in post-Jay Leno girl talk. The men join them in a spontaneous family hour. AJ is animated, engaged, and interested in the conversation. Tony and Carmela exchange approving glances. The “cure” has worked. Little do they know it is almost certain to kill the patient.

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Published On: May 08, 2007