Depression vs. “Depression”


“Depression” seems to signify social ills for which we have no solution, from violent, homicidal behavior, to health illiteracy, to our culture’s neglect of the elderly. Constructing societal deficits as a medical problem does everyone a disservice—because treatment specific for depression won’t work for people who don’t really have depression. People who need social support can be expected to benefit most from programs that provide social support—not from psychiatrists.

– Anne Skomorowsky, “Don’t Blame It on Depression: That’s not what made the Germanwings co-pilot murder 149 people.”


What I’m Reading, February 25, 2015

Depression is a Drug, Matt Coateson, Elephant Journal, February 16, 2015

Depression is like being addicted to the state of drug withdrawal. Any addict who knows that feeling of being incomplete, agitated, guilty and miserable knows what it is to be depressed. They believe they can, and often do, find temporary respite from this feeling by attaining and using their drug of choice—only for it to run out and they have to go through the cycle all over again.

Depression sufferers do not have the respite. They may not have the physical withdrawal and discomforts of the drug addict (although psychosomatic symptoms can be severe for those who make them so), but they also very rarely, if ever, find respite from the mental issues. When I did have a good day, as a depressee (I’ve also decided that that’s also a real thing), I used that as an excuse to make myself feel worse.

What right do I have to have a good day, to feel okay? Here I am, feeling miserable, feeling suicidal, making people worry about me, hating myself and I have the audacity to have a moment where I feel okay. I must be a terrible person, to feel good briefly, when I claim to be depressed. What scum I am, to claim I’m incapacitated by a mental illness and then smile today?

The Deadliest Prescription Drug in America? Christopher Byron, AlterNet, February 9, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 30, 2015

Enough Is Never Enough with Blaming Anti-Vaxxers, Science Babe, January 24, 2015

Let’s get one thing straight; if a blogger with zero medical credentials tries to claim that they have more accurate science than the vast majority of the scientific and medical establishment, they are, on every level, wrong. I promise you, somebody who got their degree at Google University and has a waiver on their website that says “my advice isn’t designed to treat anything” has nothing to lose by giving you terrible advice. A real doctor’s advice doesn’t come with an asterisk. They will give you advice that’s grounded in real science.

Friend in Need: The tragedy of my friend’s life and death is that he lived in a society that left him to deal with it alone, Saul Elbein, Texas Observer, January 21, 2015 Continue reading


Fear Leads to Anger; Anger Leads to Marmots

A friend posted this bit of wisdom to Facebook the other day:

'Angry is just sad's bodyguard.' Liza Palmer

Via Mentors Channel / Facebook

While I like the sentiment, I don’t think it tells the entire story. Anger and sadness are linked, most certainly, but anger is also a byproduct of fear. That’s the sort of anger that is most dangerous. Even Yoda agrees with me. Actually, I probably stole the idea from him.

I thought I’d expound a bit, in the form of a meme and a Big Lebowski reference: Continue reading


Being Alone with Your Thoughts Can Be Dangerous

Maybe “mindfulness,” at least as we conceive of it in the U.S. nowadays, has its drawbacks:

Humanity’s battle against its brain has, at least since written language commenced, been epic. Countless metaphysical fables and invasive therapies have been created to describe our place in existence and treat the neuroses that often follow. One of the most popular modern formats is the resurgence of Buddhist mindfulness, the practice of observing one’s thoughts as if watching passerby. As with prescriptions before it, there appears to be a danger involved.

Noticing your thoughts is much different than simply thinking. The neuronal firings that we term ‘thinking’ is so pervasive we hardly ever realize we’re doing it—until we attempt to stop (or, more realistically, slow) that rushing river of information. Only then do we realize that sitting in meditation has nothing to do with ‘doing nothing.’ As Buddhists are fond of saying, we are observing the observed.


U.S. Combat Deaths at Zero in March 2014, Suicide Rate Still Rising

March 2014 was the first month in more than ten years in which no U.S. troops died in combat. This moving photo was posted to Imgur last night:

No Karma Needed. I just wanted to share the fact that March 2014 is the first month in the last decade that had 0 American Deaths in the War on Terror. Hooah.

The good news was quickly followed, however, by a reminder of how far we have to go:

Good news indeed. Proud Army mom. However, a record number of suicides are taking place every month.

The number of suicides by American servicemembers exceeded the number of combat deaths in 2012, and the suicide rate has continued to rise since then. The number of suicides may have started outpacing combat deaths as far back as 2008. Continue reading


“Good Days Bad Days”

Lauren, who blogs on Tumblr as Iguana Mouth, created this beautiful set of animated GIFs that captures the feelings and experiences of depression and introversion. With permission, I’m sharing it here:

Continue reading


Depression, in Pictures

Depression is impossible to describe in words. Any attempt to convey the experience in words ends up sounded clichéd. I have had the opportunity to try to explain my experiences in images in “The Depression Chronicles,” but the best portrayals of life with depression that I have ever seen have come from Allie Brosh, who writes the webcomic Hyberbole and a Half.

In October 2011, she wrote a post called “Adventures in Depression,” in which she described how she fell into a deep period of depression, with the attendant immobility and self-loathing. Her post captured the way someone suffering from depression can recognize the purposelessness of it, while remaining powerless to do anything about it.


She goes on to describe how her depression “got so horrible that it actually broke through to the other side and became a sort of fear-proof exoskeleton.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 11.31.51 AM Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 11.32.09 AM

Then she basically disappeared from the internet for over a year.

She returned the other day with a follow-up post, “Depression Part Two,” that offers perhaps the best analogy for depression I have ever seen.

I remember being endlessly entertained by the adventures of my toys. Some days they died repeated, violent deaths, other days they traveled to space or discussed my swim lessons and how I absolutely should be allowed in the deep end of the pool, especially since I was such a talented doggy-paddler.

I didn’t understand why it was fun for me, it just was.

But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren’t the same.

I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse’s Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled.  I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience.

Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything.

[Emphasis added, and pictures omitted.] Seriously, go read the whole post. The pictures are the key, but I don’t want to copy too many of them here.


Depression has social stigma, to be sure, but the difficulty goes beyond that. Even if you don’t have a sore throat, or have never had a sore throat somehow, you can probably imagine the difficulties faced by someone with a bad case of strep throat. Everyone has bad moods, or gets in funks, but not everyone (most people, actually) have difficulty relating to a major depressive episode. I doubt that my experiences even remotely compare to those described in Brosh’s posts.

Clark, a blogger at Popehat, calls depression a color most people cannot see:

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.

Much like Clark, I cannot add any words of real wisdom to what Allie Brosh has to say about her experiences. She faced the prospect of suicide and, for reasons that may not make sense to many, and that I wish did not make sense to me, is still here. I am very grateful for that.

If you need help, or know someone who does, help is out there: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Photo credits: All pictures are by Allie Brosh [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US].


A Black Dog Named Depression

If you struggle with depression, or if you are struggling to help or understand someone who does, you owe it to yourself to watch this video: