depression

Depression is hard to talk about. I don't mean "there's a social stigma to it", although that's true. I don't mean "modern society calls minor mood swings 'depression' and medicates them with lifestyle drugs, so the depths of true depression are hard to convey to someone", although that's also true.

I mean that depression is a color, and people who haven't experienced it are color blind to its hue. There are no words to bridge the gap, to make it clear.

This comic is the best thing I've ever seen:

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

I recommend taking a few minutes to read it all.

I suppose I should close with some pithy words of advice, but … I don't have any.

The best I can muster is this:

* If you're depressed, know that it might very well get better. Hang in there. Please. Deep in the darkness, you can't imagine that the sun will ever come out again, or even that if it does come out that light is worth seeing. But it is.

* If someone you know is depressed, be there for them, as much as you can (and I know it's hard. A depressed person is … depressing.)

If anyone has any better advice or thoughts, please share.

(UPDATE: I am reminded that we have written previously about depression here at Popehat.)

Last 5 posts by Clark

Comments

  1. JustMe says

    I only recently realized I was clinically depressed. Symptoms of depression in men often manifest very differently than in women. I was short tempered, unable to concentrate at work, poor sleeping etc. When I spoke to my GP he was nodding along with me and handed me a script without a word. When I raised my eyebrows he explained I had a textbook case.

    Bottom line: do not be ashamed and do not think it is or has to be permanent. Do not think you have to bootstrap your way out of it either.

  2. Nezrite says

    I have never experienced true, deep depression and I consider it a bullet dodged. I got such a tingle of delight, though, when I saw in my RSS feed that Allie had made it to the other side and I'm so hopeful that she can reach out and help someone who is still at the bottom of the well.

  3. KC says

    Dear not-depressed people:

    For the love of all that exists, do not tell clinically depressed people to cheer up.

    Dear depressed people:

    Don't worry, the never-depressed don't understand, but they're trying and many want to help. Also, lots of people DO understand and we want you to hang on and get help. Yes, even though we don't know you. I promise you can climb out of the well.

    Dear Clark:

    Thanks for sharing this cartoon. It's dead-on.

  4. Sam says

    Amazing comic. My advice for those who have a depressed friend: Just listen. It makes more difference than you know.

    My advice for those who are depressed: Pushing your friends away is bad for you and bad for them. It's hard to be around people, but nothing worth having ever came easy. Glib advice from the other side, I know, but it's all I've got.

  5. says

    That comic makes a lot of strong points.

    One commonly overlooked facet of depression is anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure. Almost everyone who suffers from depression experiences anhedonia, albeit in differing degrees. My bouts of anhedonia can last from 6 months to a year or more, and it makes me unbearable to be around.

    My advice for people who don't have depression but have a loved one or friend who's going through it: IT'S NOT PERSONAL. Deep down, I appreciate it when my friends come by to cheer me up and bring me a home cooked meal, but when I'm depressed, I am physically incapable of enjoying the moment. That home cooked meal, no matter how good it tastes, is going to taste like cardboard to someone experiencing anhedonia.

    Incidentally, anhedonia cannot be treated. So even when I am taking antidepressants, I'm still miserable and still fully capable of experiencing the negative side effects of whatever medication I'm taking.

    I've lost a lot of friends over the years because they felt that I blew them off during a depression. I've never held it against them; if anything, it just gave me a deeper appreciation of the friends who are willing to wait for me to come out of it.

    And finally… whenever someone smiles and says, "Oh, it's just all in your head," I am secretly wanting to punch them in their face.

  6. Ben says

    I tried to off myself (by drinking bleach, silly little twit that I am) about a decade ago. Unsuccessful, obviously (that or I am living in an M. Night Shyamalan movie as punishment).

    I have been on one combination of pharmaceuticals or another since getting released from the hospital.

    I have 'persistent suicidal ideation' but I manage to more-or-less (oftentimes less) function. I have found it helpful to concentrate on how it would effect friends and family.

    Plus, in the grand scheme of things, I tell myself it will be over soon enough. What's a few more years to an eternity of nonexistence?

  7. John Nash says

    I was diagnosed with depression (technically "Major Chronic Depressive Disorder") in the middle of my sophomore year in high school. Starting with my junior year, my condition became crippling and I went from nearly straight-As to missing half my classes and sleeping through the other. I've been struggling to get through college for a decade now, but the academic calendar guarantees half of each semester will be spent in winter and the other spent trying to make up for time spent mentally dead.

    Treatment is great, but it takes time, money and self-awareness to find the right combination of remedies. Now I feel half my life is gone and I cannot measure up to the smart people I once called peers.

    Depression is horribly depressing! Thank you, Clarke, for helping raise awareness and sympathy for those who live through this.

  8. Merissa says

    I was considering tipping y'all off, but figured you'd probably heard enough when Ken wrote that post about Aaron Swartz a while back.

    Allie really nails it. The monotony, absence of emotion, and feeling like the "normal" world is some other dimension entirely are the parts that I really don't think the non-affected can be expected to ever understand.

  9. Merissa says

    (And which the emo movement has conspired to make us feel really stupid talking about.)

  10. says

    As a normally-not-depressed person, I suffered from depression for a two-year period once.

    If you want a glimpse of depression, imagine being the saddest you've ever been, and then imagine the sadness not going away. For years. Long after you've forgotten the event that made you sad.

    It's like that.

  11. Owen says

    Allie's viewpoint on depression is one I've found to consistently ring true. Her extreme self-awareness seems to have played a part in her depression, but it's also allowed her to write/draw things that really resonate with her readers. If I ever meet her, I hope to give her a high five, a hug, and a cookie.

  12. Merissa says

    By the way, for me the boredom and detachment manifest themselves as rather violent cabin fever/wanderlust, followed by totally irrational anger at the fact that I can't pack my toothbrush and go to whatever part of the world sounds like it would salve my soul at that particular moment (currently Port Radium, NWT, Canada). I become obsessed with places for years by turns. I suspect that many people with extreme cases of the travel bug, who willingly spend their lives globetrotting without ever permanently putting down roots anywhere, are experiencing the same thing. Just a theory, however.

  13. Nick says

    I recently lost almost two years to depression, in the middle of doing my PhD, and am still coming out of it. This is, indeed a brilliant representation of having depression, and matches a lot of the feelings I had (or didn't) at the time.

  14. Chris F says

    And finally… whenever someone smiles and says, "Oh, it's just all in your head," I am secretly wanting to punch them in their face.

    The first thing that went through my head after reading that was, "Of course it's in your head. It's depression. Where else would it be? That's like saying that asthma is in your lungs or osteoporosis is in your bones."

  15. says

    @Merissa

    I entertain wild travel fantasies in the midst of depressive episodes. Off the top of my head, I've thought of Mongolia (One of the lowest population densities on the planet) and Iceland (a large portion of the island is uninhabitable) and Vladivostok, Russia (which to me, symbolizes the edge of the earth).

    I'm glad I'm consistently broke. I'd hate to have the finances to actually indulge these whims.

  16. Sam says

    From my personal experience, Graduate level programs are a hotbed for depression and anxiety. My own problems rose to the point of medication during grad school at which point my advisor related that many of his peers in graduate school self-medicated for anxiety. I was somewhat shocked at the time, but in retrospect it was a little naive not to expect the social stigma on depression/anxiety to persist in academia.

  17. Merissa says

    @Jack B.: I'm really glad to hear that I'm not the only one attracted to the really isolated places. Do you have "Everyone is probably better off if I'm alone, and I could do it properly there"-type thoughts as well?

  18. says

    The first thing that went through my head after reading that was, "Of course it's in your head. It's depression. Where else would it be? That's like saying that asthma is in your lungs or osteoporosis is in your bones."

    Depression manifests itself in the entire body. A more apt analogy would be telling a diabetic who had to get a limb amputated that his diabetes is "all in his pancreas". Yeah, of course it's all in his pancreas. Where else would it be?

  19. ngvrnd says

    Depression is weird. If you think of it as an experience, it's a set of feelings that don't "wear out", and which become a fixed point, a self-reinforcing state.

    Consider when you've felt happy or enjoyed pleasure in any way.
    After a while, it pales, you tire of it, you cease to be able to experience it.

    Depression isn't like that. You don't just stop being depressed, and being depressed tends to lead to actions that sustain the depression.

    It can endure in ways that pleasure cannot.

    I have a feeling that certain kinds of brains (see: highly analytical; tending to focus closely on topics for long periods of time) tend to be the ones that are prone to depressive problems.

    And I think part of the problem is that, when one is "down in it", the steps you need to take to get up out of it don't immediately generate any positive result.

  20. says

    Merissa:

    Do you have "Everyone is probably better off if I'm alone, and I could do it properly there"-type thoughts as well?

    For it's a combination of what you described above, and the feeling that if I was not depressed, I'd be perfectly capable of being happy in such places, but if I was depressed, there would be a lack of stimulus to make it worse.

    Of course, this would sound totally irrational to a non-depressed person, but that's only because it is irrational. I'm fully aware of that, but still… for some reason those thoughts are almost like a security blanket when I'm depressed. They are strangely comforting.

  21. says

    And I think part of the problem is that, when one is "down in it", the steps you need to take to get up out of it don't immediately generate any positive result.

    Agreed.

    Also: when one is "down in it", the things that might lead to a slow upwards spiral (exercise, seeing friends, investing mental energy on topics other than how miserable one feels and how the feelings of misery will never ever end) are utterly unappealing.

  22. Rebecca (Another One) says

    Thanks for the heads up, that is the best description of depression I have seen lately.

    Yeah that "It's all in your head comment" leaves me wanting to say, of course, and my head is a rather important part of me.

    So I'm not the only one who wants to chuck everything when my depression is at the worst and get away.

  23. Merissa says

    @Jack B.: Indeed. I find that the boreal forest and tundra have an odd, seductive beauty that would be life-affirming if that's what my state of chemical flux was into right then. Of course, everyone just makes the excuse that I read too much Gary Paulsen as a kid.

  24. ChoosingToOmitHandle says

    Chronically depressed since age 12 or so. Not diagnosed until 19, when my overwhelming lack of ability to do or say anything about what was going on with me led to serious legal problems.

    Sometimes it gets better, for a while. Sometimes I can't leave the house for 6 weeks straight. I do smile and laugh these days without being forced, but there is still a huge portion of time that I just. don't. care.

  25. says

    This has been instructive for me inasmuch as I now am fairly certain I do NOT suffer from depression. Excessive anxiety, yes. Depression, no.

    Before reading that comic, I would have described my (largely managed at this point) condition as depression brought on by anxiety. Constantly worrying about irrational fears can really get a fella down but it's clearly not the same thing as depression.

  26. David Stretton says

    As a (formerly?) clinically depressed person, I have a couple of recommendations. First, whether you are depressed or are looking for a lucid insight, read 'Darkness Visible' by William Styron. Second, counselling can help – if you're lucky enough to find the right one. I can't help you with that. Lastly, always, always remember 'This too shall pass'. It will. It really will.

  27. Derrick says

    I read the column and comic. I laughed when I got to the corn bit because I understood exactly what the corn represents. I didn't laugh because it was funny. Far from it. I laughed because I did, indeed, understand it. It's been a long time since I read something that seemed to have sprung from my own hand.

    Suffering clinical depression, and I only go through bouts of it, is like walking in the desert at twilight when the sand is nearly the same shade as the sky. The uniformity of the experience is what most others cannot understand. I've tried to explain this to others, but most can only nod in the sympathetic way that a child nods at a 93-year old person while being told this is what age is.

    Once when I was deep in a depressed period, a friend asked me to state (not explain) what I was experiencing. I said I was feeling dull in the way a bowling ball cannot feel sharp. Somehow that seemed to make sense to this friend. Now, I go bowling when I am on the verge of an episode. Sometimes it works in forestalling it. I guess the best thing I've found is acknowledging that I am depressed and trying to figure out if I am getting something out of it. I try to capture the idea of what a bowling ball must sense when facing a knife.

    (To the Pope Hattians… this site has become a daily addiction.)

  28. Pete says

    My best friend committed suicide years ago. I thought it might be worth sharing that a few days before he ended his life, following his first and only visit with a therapist, he was suddenly ebullient, confident and optimistic. In retrospect, I now recognize that this mood change was a signal that more vigilance and concern was required, not less.

  29. Orville says

    I have had low grade depression my entire life. It transformed into severe chronic depression after my son died in my arms.

    That comic is spot on. Thanks for sharing it.

  30. Sebudei says

    How odd. I've read her blog before, end to end, a few years ago.

    Depression Part 2 was so damn familiar, I thought I was re-reading it, and just not remembering it very well. Turns out this was the first time, it's just familiar territory.

    I'm glad I'm not there anymore, and I hope I don't have to return for a long time.

  31. doublejay says

    This might be an unpopular thing to say, but it's something I've wanted to tell those close to me for a long time. Please, don't assume any talk of something scary to you is a "cry for help".

    There are things about my depression I very badly want to talk to friends and family about that I can't ever talk about. Really, I can't talk to anyone about it in person because of the risk that I could be locked away for my own good. That's the one sure way to make a depressed person's life more miserable. I'm not fazed by much of anything any more, but the thought of having what freedom and control of my life I have completely stripped from me is absolutely terrifying.

    Institutions are universally awful; state-run facilities staffed by unhappy people who don't give a shit and want you gone, or private for-profit facilities staffed by unhappy people who don't give a shit but have a vested interest in keeping you there. At best a stay in a place like that will teach a severely depressed person to hide it, and they'll learn a valuable lesson about telling the truth too. And you can bet that when they get out, you will no longer be friends.

    Just because a person shares the dark machinations of their mind with you doesn't mean that they are on the edge of suicide and asking you to stop them. It just helps to talk, and the best thing you can do is just listen. You don't need to do more than that, and frequently you should not.

  32. princessartemis says

    Excellent comic all the way through.

    My description of depression has been to relate it to a hurricane over the sea. Once it starts, it self-perpetuates seeming endlessly. Seems to hold for when depression ends, too–hurricanes making landfall stop being hurricanes rather suddenly.

    Advice? For those in it…ugh, I don't know what to say except there are people who do understand. For those out of it, if you have a depressed friend, being conspicuously there but non-intrusive might help, if you can manage it.

  33. says

    @Pete:

    My best friend committed suicide years ago. I thought it might be worth sharing that a few days before he ended his life, following his first and only visit with a therapist, he was suddenly ebullient, confident and optimistic. In retrospect, I now recognize that this mood change was a signal that more vigilance and concern was required, not less.

    I've read that being depressed isn't that dangerous, because one has almost no ability or desire to
    make changes or institute plans.

    Coming out of depression, though, is dangerous: the gloominess and anhedonia linger, but the ability to take action increases.

  34. Merissa says

    @doublejay: Well-said. I gave up telling my thoughts and feelings to anyone (even my psychologist and psychiatrist) in my teens, because their response was to hospitalize me (bad) or medicate me (useless or harmful; the mood stabilizer they forced me to take has now been proven to cause elevated suicide risk in adolescents). The only way out was to act cured. I traded in talking about my feelings for having a very dark sense of humor, which some people apparently find sexy. Go figure.

  35. En Passant says

    John Nash wrote May 9, 2013 @9:07 am:

    … I've been struggling to get through college for a decade now, but the academic calendar guarantees half of each semester will be spent in winter and the other spent trying to make up for time spent mentally dead.

    I have a relative who has experienced considerable Seasonal Affective Disorder. They found effective relief through some very specific (and remarkably simple) treatments for it. I don't know if that is what you are describing, but it seems similar. Whatever the case, I hope you find effective relief, and a professional who can guide you there.

    Clark's, yours and various accounts here, and my own subjective experience with depression, all lead me to think that there are many differing varieties of depression and many differing causes.

    I've had two good friends in recent decades who killed themselves, which seems to me to be about as depressed as it's possible to be. Neither I, nor any other surviving friends saw either suicide coming until their despondency had fluoresced ferociously.

    Yet in retrospect each friend had manifested palpable but somewhat subtle clues over many years previous. Such is the sometime fallacy of "connecting the dots" and survivor guilt. Surviving friends tend to hope or believe that they could have prevented the suicide if only they had seen it coming.

    Each suicide was also in response to a distinct and very strong emotional trauma. I suspect, but may never know for certain, that in each case there was some underlying depression-like condition or tendency that only manifested in overwhelming strength after strong, and perhaps very specific emotional trauma.

    I'm not so sure that mental health professionals know much for certain about the varieties and causes of depression either. But they are the best shot for relief that most of us have. Nobody should hesitate to consult a professional if they think depression of any variety is adversely affecting their life. And never hesitate to get a second opinion either.

  36. says

    Coming out of depression, though, is dangerous: the gloominess and anhedonia linger, but the ability to take action increases.

    That's also why there's an increase in the risk of suicide in the first couple of weeks of being on antidepressants. If you get your sense of motivation back before your depression is gone, it can be dangerous.

    My dad was the type of guy who would have all the chores done before 10am. He went on antidepressants for the first time in his life in 2008. Two weeks later, he committed suicide.

  37. princessartemis says

    @doublejay, seconding most of that!

    My experience with mental hospitals is different though. Yes, I'll say I've been there a couple times publicly, here, because I think it would be of some use to someone else. Neither time was involuntary, the first when I was a teenager. Both made necessary by the havoc wrecked on me by withdrawing very slowly from prescribed medication coupled with severe depression. Some days I very seriously wonder why I ever let pharmaceuticals near me for all the heinous experiences I've had because of them…but I digress. What I learned from the second visit was manifold. I learned that being there was not an experience I'd like repeated, but it was not the end of the world I'd feared it to be. Also, people at their lowest are still people, humans, every single one. Even the meth addicts and criminals. Mutual circumstances makes for surprising bonds. I've rarely experienced moments of such unfettered, unconditional love from so many people. I learned my basic faith in humanity, that we all have goodness in us, is not a blind faith. I learned that I am stronger than I realize. Of course, I learned that the one step up from state version is staffed by incompetents who will loose medication, give no information on anything without being badgered, and really want to know very badly how one is going to pay for the balance of the visit. But, I did learn other, better things than just the value of telling the truth, though yes, I learned some of that as well.

    I absolutely share your fear of losing the freedom and control of your life. Which is one reason I hesitate to say what I have, as I know there are people out there who think it would be a good idea to sharply proscribe the basic human rights of people like me, if not people who are actually me.

  38. Merissa says

    @princessartemis:

    "Also, people at their lowest are still people, humans, every single one. Even the meth addicts and criminals."

    This needs to be engraved or painted on every wall in the world.

  39. Stephen says

    I recently lost a job to major depression, the type that reaches the level of a disability. While we're supposed to have laws like the ADA to protect against that, the reality is that no matter how high-quality your work is, they'll find any excuse to avoid accommodating you, and any reason at all to dump you for a more "normal" employee.

    And so the cycle continues.

  40. says

    One of my two best friends in the world suffers from depression — from bipolar disorder, to be more precise — and I suffered from depression for a decade and a half.

    When I read comments from people who suffer from depression, I want to cry and hug them and help them. I can't hug them, but here's my suggestion to help: Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy.

  41. ZT says

    When I was really depressed the only thing that 'cheered me up' was the thought that I could end it at any time by killing myself.

  42. says

    When I was really depressed the only thing that 'cheered me up' was the thought that I could end it at any time by killing myself.

    I've known two families touched by suicide. The damage to parents, siblings and friends can't be overstated.

    Please, anyone reading this, if you're thinking seriously dark thoughts, call a suicide prevention line, like 1-800-273-8255.

  43. ChrisTS says

    I am lucky, in a way, in that after a lifetime of cyclical depression, I finally went to a doctor – not a therapist – and got medication. I know meds do not work for everyone and that different meds work differently for people, but Prozac was a lifesaver for me. One of the revelations that came to me when I was first on the medication, was that I had *never* felt that way in my lie – and that other people feel that way normally.

  44. KC says

    @doublejay – totally know what you mean about that. Lots of thoughts I've had to keep secret even though it was just processing, not intention.

    Also, I like to tell people "I will cheer up out of my clinical depression right after I explode your head using only my thoughts."

  45. Kat says

    Tangential comment:

    I mean that depression is a color, and people who haven't experienced it are color blind to its hue. There are no words to bridge the gap, to make it clear.

    Utterly true. I also want to link this to something else that is difficult for people to get.

    I can talk to someone who has never had depression and they sometimes get it to an extent, but they will never understand the true depths of it. But that's okay, they don't have to. It's enough to know that they try to get it, and when they say something inept/untrue they listen to me when I correct them.

    The other way that the conversation can go is that the person in question might also decide that depression doesn't exist and/or is not as bad as I'm making it sound/think it is. That there is help out there for depression so I've got no right to complain. Or that it's a personal failing that can be gotten over, planned away, etc. Or that it's just bad life choices catching up, that it is deserved. Or the best one, that they felt depressed at one time in their life, but all they had to do was start exercising more, have I tried that? I have gotten all of these reactions and while they aren't all infuriating, they are all at least frustrating.

    And I have the exact same experience talking to people about other forms of marginalization that I have personally experienced that they haven't (or haven't to the same extent). Hearing that it doesn't exist, it's not that bad, I've been brainwashed into thinking it's a thing when it's not, etc. etc.

    Sadly, I have also had times when I've listened to someone's experience and said to myself or (God forbid) them, "That can't possibly be true" even though I know nothing about it. I try hard now not to do this, because I connected the two experiences and realized how hurtful it is.

    My earnest request to everyone reading this is that the next time you are tempted to think, "S/he is mistaken/lying/brainwashed/misguided," take a step back and think about the possibility that you might be the one mistaken or misguided. This applies not only to questioning other peoples' experiences of depression, but also a wide variety of other things that you may not have come into contact with. The less contact you have had with what is being described, the more you should take a step back and listen carefully before making up your mind.

    Thanks. :)

  46. Lago says

    oohh I saw her pre-post post yesterday, got excited for her big post today and almost forgot about it.

  47. Undertheradar76 says

    I cried my way way through the cartoon and laughed hysterically (while crying) at the corn. This was spot-on.

    I'm grateful she had the nerve to talk about suicide- that it's not that you want to kill yourself so much as you wish you'd just stop having to exist.

    My advice to the non-depressed: please, PLEASE don't think there's some switch that gets flipped and one day you're suddenly well.

    Recovery (if it does happen) is a long, slow, arduous process. We're clawing our way out of a Laurentian Abyss of the Soul, not getting over a cold. (Laurentian Abysmal? lol, sorry.) Getting impatient and frustrated and petulant with someone because they aren't coming back to life fast enough for you is the LAST thing we need. But I think the people who've done that to me were also the ones who just couldn't understand how truly debilitating and soul-crushing it really is.

  48. Wendy says

    "When I was really depressed the only thing that 'cheered me up' was the thought that I could end it at any time by killing myself."

    "I've known two families touched by suicide. The damage to parents, siblings and friends can't be overstated.

    Please, anyone reading this, if you're thinking seriously dark thoughts, call a suicide prevention line, like 1-800-273-8255."

    When I was in the pit, I tried to take my own life by swallowing a bottle of xanax. When I woke up the next day I was ANGRY. It took 2 days before I could walk without bouncing against walls.

    When I was in that state I was unable to even begin to think about pain I would be causing others. All I knew was that I was in such pain I just wanted it all to stop now.

    3 years it's taken me to begin to climb out of that pit. Now I'm glad I'm alive. Then, not so much.

    I'm very glad to see Allie back, and I'm really glad she saw the corn.

  49. AlphaCentauri says

    I like that hurricane analogy. My personal strategy has been to pick a career where I have a lot of demands on my time. I have to fight to have uninterrupted time for myself in order to have a complete thought, but at least I don't get sucked into spending hours staring at a wall thinking the same thoughts over and over in circles. It's like all the tasks set up for me every day are the land that will break up the self-perpetuating energy of the hurricane. Since being out of school and not having a lot of leisure time, I haven't had the type of prolonged ennui I used to.

  50. efemmeral says

    The art! It's brilliant, simple, perfect. You've just put a tool in the hands of those who cannot describe it. Thank you for sharing.

  51. Chad H says

    The amazing thing about beating "The Dark" (or in my experience at least), is that once you beat it, it is forever the only thing left that can really hurt you.

    (okay, I'm obviously not talking physically, but mentally and metaphorically).

    It can be beaten. You might ocassionnaly have to beat it into submission again, but it can be beaten.

  52. Gabriel says

    Vitamin D literally changed my life. If you suffer from depression you owe it to yourself to investigate that possibility that your condition may be at least somewhat biological, and whether increasing your D levels might make a difference. I take 5000 I.u. whenever my world starts to lose its color and it is super effective.

  53. Christenson says

    @gabriel:
    Ditto on the vitamin D being a big help.
    Then the depression returned…then I got really sick…..turns out its controlled by how well I sleep, and, well, I have sleep apnea and now a CPAP so I'm now a hosehead every night.

    Get checked out for physical issues!!!!!

  54. Stessy says

    I've always described the total depths of depression as, "Crawling over broken glass in the darkest hell with no horizon in sight." Sometimes the only way to get through it is to joke about it. But, that discomfits those around me because it worries them I'm going to "do something" which makes it impossible to share with them. I recently came across the last stanza of a poem by Robert Frost that is my new mantra.
    "The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep, But I have Promises to Keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep." That helps me remember that my despair can't be passed on to those I care about by taking the easy way out and that someday it will truly end – on its own (although my boss says I have to plan for retirement, I can't just hope I'll be dead by then). My psychiatrist called it passive suicidal ideation. Which amused my pyschologist and me.

  55. softglow says

    I'd like to add that depression manifests itself in individual ways. Dark, sad, blue: these are not words I would use to describe my own past. More like gray, or loss of range–put on some music you really love, then turn the volume down to 1. You know the track is awesome but it can't move you at that level.

  56. Orv says

    @Chris F. – I think that reaction is because we have a social bias that problems that are "in your head" are somehow less real than ones that affect some other organ, so it tends to come across as dismissive when someone refers to it that way. There's this idea that if it's "in your head" than you can think your way out of it, and you're lazy if you don't. I worry that the NIMH's new demand that mental health research be based on biological factors, not symptoms, will perpetuate this bias.

    I blamed myself for my depression for years, for exactly the reasons noted above. It can be a real barrier to getting better; the human brain's strongest function isn't logic, it's rationalization, so a depressed mind will look for reasons to justify that depression. Often this results in the person convincing themselves they don't *deserve* to feel happy.

    I suffered from depression from, I believe, roughly 6th grade through my sophomore year in college, when I was finally diagnosed, taught some cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, and given an antidepressant prescription. Unfortunately, I went off the antidepressants about a year later; at the time the conventional wisdom was that you shouldn't stay on them for much more than about six months, and if you still had issues after that it was because you weren't working hard enough at your therapy.

    The CBT techniques made depression more tolerable, but in hindsight I still lost a lot to it in the following decade, in terms of projects and ambitions abandoned. I didn't seek treatment again until a couple years ago, when I became so depressed I could barely function. Now I'm on antidepressants again, and probably will be for the rest of my life, but it's worth it to be a functioning human being.

    @doublejay: My experience and the experience of other depressed people I know, at least in the US, is that they won't involuntarily hold you unless they think you're in immediate danger of killing yourself, as in you've got a plan and the means to act on it. Even then, they usually only hold people for a few days, which is about all that most health insurance will pay for anyway. It's actually quite difficult to have someone involuntarily committed, these days.

    I do understand what you mean, though. I avoided telling anyone about my suicidal ideation for a long time, because I felt I was unlikely to act on it and didn't want to scare people unnecessarily. Having a friend-of-a-friend commit suicide convinced me I should be more open, so that there were more eyes watching me. Depression distorts my view of the world horribly, and I need someone with an objective, outside view to correct that from time to time. Having friends who understand that and can point out when I'm starting to act depressive has been really helpful to me in managing my mental illness.

  57. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says

    If you suffer from depression you owe it to yourself to investigate that possibility that your condition may be at least somewhat biological…

    Depression is biological. No "somewhat" about it. The triggering event(s) are not always biological, but anything that wonks your neurotransmitters–including, trauma, stress and genetic polymorphisms–puts you in danger of becoming depressed.

    I have SAD, and I have also experienced clinical depression triggered by Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The winter I was in treatment for breast cancer (i.e., receiving chemo) was one of the best of my life because I finally got my Vitamin D level to where it belonged, and my autoimmune disorder decided to go dormant. This past winter, however, was the worst of my life because my thyroid went totally insane.

    This brings me to…

    Also: when one is "down in it", the things that might lead to a slow upwards spiral (exercise, seeing friends, investing mental energy on topics other than how miserable one feels and how the feelings of misery will never ever end) are utterly unappealing.

    The word you were looking for was not "unappealing" but "impossible."

    That's probably the biggest misunderstanding people have about depression–they think the depressed "can do" but do not "want to do." The reality is that the depressed are exhausted and cannot function. I have many things I want to do, but for the past 9 months, I haven't been able to get off the couch. I'm just starting to improve enough that I can be furious about it, but it will take a while longer for me to get my life back.

    Even at that, I'm lucky. Some people are dealt a very bad hand in the DNA game, and no matter what modern medicine does for them, they don't get much better. Those people, especially, need all the support they can get, but they are the least likely to get it.

  58. says

    Passive suicidal ideation–yes. For about 36 years now. And like some of you have said before, two things make it passive: lack of motivation/energy to actually do something about it coupled a detached concern for the effect my suicide would have on my family.

    It could be worse–it has been worse at times–and it has occasionally been better.

  59. DeeplyRooted says

    Grazie, Patrick. (The commenting mechanism says your email address won't be published, but it doesn't say that it silently uses it as a Gravatar key. Worse, you don't see the result until after submitting the comment.)

    I've found that depression isn't ever really cured — like many diseases, it's merely managed. We'll live with the possibility of relapse for the rest of our lives. To keep it at bay, I have to take care of myself: eating right, exercise, sunshine, sleep, good habits of mind, self-discipline, meaningful work, and maintenance of the relationships that sustain me.

    No, these don't necessarily fix anything. Allie's right — for someone deep in the pit of depression, these are solutions to the wrong problem. (Dead fish = brilliant!) And they sound patronizing. But they're necessary for keeping you out of the pit, once you find your way out.

    By the way, those relationships? Critical. Hysterically funny corn makes a better story, but the only thing that got me out was the relentless care of people who loved me. If any readers are deep in depression right now, please, do yourself a kindness and keep those people near you, even if you think you're an imposition on them! They may be your way out.

  60. says

    @DeeplyRooted:

    The commenting mechanism says your email address won't be published, but it doesn't say that it silently uses it as a Gravatar key. Worse, you don't see the result until after submitting the comment.

    If it makes you feel better, I've been burned by this as well.

  61. says

    Having been saddled with taking Winston's dog for more interminable walkies than I care to count, I appreciated the words that strip gave me.

  62. flip says

    I am going to add that for the first time in my life I am seeing a shrink, and though things are not necessarily getting better, we are making progress towards a diagnosis. (Sigh, long story but I've been depressed all my life and despite numerous opportunities, no one ever considered testing me to see what, if anything, was wrong) Just having someone willing and understanding enough to suggest doing tests was enough to cheer me up for days. It's wonderful when you find someone who isn't just going to say "you're just having a bad day" and pats you on the head, but instead someone who says "yeah, let's look into that so you can get better". So many times I've looked for help from people who were supposed to give it, and this is the first time I've actually gotten it.

    So I guess the lesson is, keep trying to find help because there will be one person out there who will do it.

    Oh and the thing that spoke to me the most in that cartoon was the boredom. I feel like I must be the most bored person in the world right now. (Though reading the Prenda stuff does tend to pick me up for all of 5 seconds)

    @Kat

    The other way that the conversation can go is that the person in question might also decide that depression doesn't exist and/or is not as bad as I'm making it sound/think it is. That there is help out there for depression so I've got no right to complain. Or that it's a personal failing that can be gotten over, planned away, etc. Or that it's just bad life choices catching up, that it is deserved. Or the best one, that they felt depressed at one time in their life, but all they had to do was start exercising more, have I tried that? I have gotten all of these reactions and while they aren't all infuriating, they are all at least frustrating.

    Yeah, the short version of that is that they're blaming the victim. It's a common thing amongst people who don't understand or refuse to acknowledge mental illness.

  63. AlphaCentauri says

    I saw statistics that most people who commit suicide had spoken to a doctor within a couple days before they did it. But a lot of them weren't calling a psychiatrist or going to a crisis center or saying, "What's wrong with me; I feel like killing myself?" They were going to their regular doctor, because they didn't know what the hell was wrong with them. They were telling the doctor that they were tired, or that they couldn't sleep, or that they had headaches and backaches, or that they were constipated, or just "falling apart." They asked for pain medicines, or sleeping pills, or vitamins, or B12 shots, or "something for energy." And a busy doctor might have just given them what they asked for without asking any questions that might open up a time-consuming can of worms. A lot of people have been depressed all their lives and have gotten pretty good at coping, so they resist being given a diagnosis.

  64. flip says

    @Alpha Centauri

    I don't think it's being unwilling to accept a diagnosis. I think a huge part of it is that we become very adept at ducking answers and playing the "now we smile" game. People expect you to act normal, and you don't want to spend 24 hours every day feeling like you do anyway, so when around other people it's very easy to slip into a facade. Even when around doctors.

    Eg. yesterday I was "exhausted" around my family. It's 10 times easier to nod your head and agree with their description of your behaviour than to admit that you feel like killing yourself and don't want to be around anyone and so are acting pretty subdued. On mother's day. Around your mother.

    The other thing is, as I hinted at, a lot of the time the doctors themselves don't recognise or are willing to deal with signs of depression. I've had numerous doctors over the past few years and why I posted what I did is because I've had general practitioners AND psychiatrists patronise me and tell me "it's just a bit of anxiety". Finding someone who actually doesn't pat you on the head when you literally say the words "I am suicidal" is just as important as asking for the help in the first place. I've never asked for shots, vitamins, or anything else (an occasional sleeping pill but only at my mother's insistence after decades of issues with insomnia). In fact, the sleeping pills weren't handed over easily: my GP came out and asked me directly if I were having more emotional problems than usual.

    The problem is far more complicated than resistance to diagnosis, which is why so many people fall for the fallacy that suicidal people are always easy to spot, treat, and support.

    A lot of people have been depressed all their lives and have gotten pretty good at coping, so they resist being given a diagnosis.

    A lot of people have been depressed all their lives -like me – and have gotten pretty good at copying because the people they've talked to about it (family, close friends) refuse to put any energy into dealing with it themselves and helping to support you; so they resist seeking further help because they know asking is useless. If your own family, friends and doctors won't support you, why bother?

    Which comes full circle to my original comment: keep trying because eventually there will be SOMEONE who does help. Even if everybody else refuses to.

  65. Nance says

    Don't tell me that being happy is a choice. If you do, don't be surprised if I stab you with a fork. Don't you think if I could choose to be happy I would?

  66. says

    doublejay: first of all, great name.
    I'm not depressed (my illness involves OCD as a product of chronic PTSD, so basically I am the human equivalent of one of those tremble-y little chihuahuas who piddles when the doorbell rings) but I totally understand where you're coming from. It's so hard. I was hospitalized as a teenager because my high school guidance counselor asked me if I'd thought about killing myself, and I answered yes, figuring, "doesn't everyone at least consider it at some point?" If you really can't talk to a professional about it, but you can find a sounding board, maybe a friend who has been through a similar ordeal, that can be a big help. I have been that friend for several people, including my spouse, when they just need a safe place to say things that are ugly and true and not be judged for it.

    For what it's worth, a good friend of mine who suffers from major depression has a "deal" with his mental health providers that involves a literal suicide contract. The quick & dirty version is that he promises not to off himself (and to seek immediate help if the urge is something that's becoming actionable) and they in turn allow him to discuss his suicidal ideations frankly without immediately having him put into a hospital or institution. I don't know if that's something that is possible or even legal in many places, but I do know that finding a medical professional who can differentiate between "sometimes dying doesn't seem so bad" and "there is a gun to my head right fucking now" can make a huge difference.

    relevant to the original post, the "Maybe Everything Isn't Hopeless Bullshit" panel at the end has become my new rallying cry. I seriously printed that out and hung it up on my mirror.

  67. GalosGann says

    In my bleakest moments I actually found some relief in plugging along through sheer bloody-mindedness. Why keep dragging along when everything is hopeless, dull, and meaningless? Because that's what I fucking choose to do, damn it. Anger and pain can be incredible motivators. And, modern pop-psychology aside, in the midst of true depression any motivation is a good motivation.

  68. goober says

    The worst part about depression is all the people that tell you to "just snap out of it" or point out all the things that you have to be happy about. They don't understand that you're not sad because of circumstances or a lack of willpower and so no amount of focusing on positive circumstances and no amount of willpower is going to fix it.

  69. nobody says

    Depression ain't that bad. Try disassociation. The nothing doesn't just take your feelings…it takes your memories and bit by bit it takes the rest of you too. I woke up the other day and I wasn't there for five or six hours. Sometimes I wonder if one day I might not come back.

  70. Vice Magnet says

    I'm just glad that Allie and her corn found each other when they were most alone.

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