“I had no doubt that Tiny thought he got depressed, but that was probably because he had nothing to compare it to. Still, what could I say? that I didn’t just feel depressed – instead, it was like the depression was the core of me, of every part of me, from my mind to my bones? That if he got blue, I got black? That I hated those pills so much because I knew how much I relied on them to live?
No, I couldn’t say any of this because when it all comes down to it, nobody wants to hear it. No matter how much they like you or love you, they don’t want to hear it.”
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson
photo by picturenarrative (creative commons)
This quote might be a little tortured to read. It also might fall under the category of thinking that romanticizes the depressive. Yet if you stick with it, there’s something very accurate about the train of thought. Perhaps “know” should be in quotes.
“This is the great lesson the depressive learns: Nothing in the world is inherently compelling. Whatever may be really “out there” cannot project itself as an affective experience. It is all a vacuous affair with only a chemical prestige. Nothing is either good or bad, desirable or undesirable, or anything else except that it is made so by laboratories inside us producing the emotions on which we live. And to live on our emotions is to live arbitrarily, inaccurately—imparting meaning to what has none of its own. Yet what other way is there to live? Without the ever-clanking machinery of emotion, everything would come to a standstill. There would be nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to be, and no one to know. The alternatives are clear: to live falsely as pawns of affect, or to live factually as depressives, or as individuals who know what is known to the depressive. How advantageous that we are not coerced into choosing one or the other, neither choice being excellent. One look at human existence is proof enough that our species will not be released from the stranglehold of emotionalism that anchors it to hallucinations. That may be no way to live, but to opt for depression would be to opt out of existence as we consciously know it.”
― Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race
“This story [“The Depressed Person”] was the most painful thing I ever wrote. It’s about narcissism, which is a part of depression. The character has traits of myself. I really lost friends while writing on that story, I became ugly and unhappy and just yelled at people. The cruel thing with depression is that it’s such a self-centered illness – Dostoevsky shows that pretty good in his “Notes from Underground”. The depression is painful, you’re sapped/consumed by yourself; the worse the depression, the more you just think about yourself and the stranger and repellent you appear to others.”
― David Foster Wallace
A terrific visual chronicle (it’s a comic) of various celebrities. Apparently this was a novel style for the author, Darryl Cunningham, but it doesn’t show. The illustrations complement the material perfectly. Powerful stuff. Recommended.
Those covered include: Winston Churchill, Judy Garland, Nick Drake, Spike Milligan, and Brian Wilson. Here’s the link:
People with Mental Illness Enhance Our Lives.
You may well have seen stacks of Allie Brosh’s book, “Hyperbole and a Half” in bookstores. What you might not have known is that it contains a harrowingly accurate first-person account of major depression. I wrote it on my old blog here: “Understanding Depression, Visual Edition.”
It is literally one of the best (if not the best) first-person accounts of what it is like to be depressed, including the frustration of others’ well meaning reaction. Much, if not all, of the comic is also available on her blog.
Here are the links:
Adventures in Depression
Depression, Part 2 (this came two years later)
Sonja Lyuborminsky drew my attention to this in The How of Happiness. Here is the link to the inventory.
Can happiness be measured? The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire attempts to do just that. Developed by Michael Argyle and Peter Hills of Oxford Brookes University, and originally published in 2002 in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, it’s one several measures of “subjective wellbeing” (aka happiness) constructed by scientific research psychologists.
You might try the assessment several times over some extended period: take the questionnaire now, and return at a later date to take it again, comparing scores (perhaps after trying some exercises to increase happiness). There are just 29 questions, so it won’t take long.
Fascinating piece by Therese Borchard. She discusses various triggers, including sugar. You can find the article Could Depression Be an Allergic Reaction? here. And here is an excerpt:
A piece by Caroline Williams in The Guardian cites the growing number of studies that suggest depression is, in fact, a result of inflammation. One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that both depression and mania are associated with pro-inflammatory states. A spike in cytokines, proteins that are pumped into our blood stream when our immune system is fighting off a foreign agent, happens when people are depressed. The process looks the same as when a person is fighting an infection of any kind. A study published in Biological Psychiatry reported that brain images of volunteers injected with a typhoid vaccine, which produces robust inflammation, showed changes in the prefrontal regions of the brain that affect motivation and concentration.
Williams builds the case: “There are other clues, too: people with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis tend to suffer more than average with depression; cancer patients given a drug called interferon alpha, which boosts their inflammatory response to help fight the cancer, often become depressed as a side-effect.”
Though in the form of a listicle, this piece by Therese Borchard is both thoughtful and detailed. Bouchard enlists a variety of strategies, from positive habits to exercise, humor, diet and meditation. Here’s the full article — 10 Things I Do Every Day to Beat Depression.
And here’s the first item in her list:
I start the day in the pool. I show up before I can even think about what I’m doing diving into ten feet of cold water loaded with chlorine with a bunch of other nutjobs. Tom Cruise believes that all a depressed person needs to do to get rid of the blues is to strap on a pair of running shoes. I think a few other steps are needed, however, exercise is the most powerful weapon I use every day to whack the demons. If I go more than three days without working out, my thoughts turn very dark and I can’t stop crying. All aerobic workouts release endorphins, while helping to block stress hormones and produce serotonin, our favorite neurotransmitter that can relieve depression. However, swimming is particularly effective at shrinking panic and sadness because of the combination of stroke mechanics, breathing, and repetitiveness. It’s basically a form of whole-body, moving meditation.
Volumes of research point to the benefits of exercise for mood, like the study led by James A. Blumenthal, PhD, a professor of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., which discovered that, among the 202 depressed people randomly assigned to various treatments, three sessions of vigorous aerobic exercise were approximately as effective at treating depression as daily doses of Zoloft, when the treatment effects were measured after four months.