They would do this bizarre thing. They didn’t take people out into the sunshine where they would begin to feel better. They didn’t include drumming or music to get their blood going. They didn’t involve the whole community. They didn’t externalize the depression as an invasive spirit. Instead what they did was they took people, one at a time into dingy little rooms and made them talk for an hour about bad things that had happened to them!
A Rwandan, speaking to Andrew Solomon, author of Noonday Demon (previous two posts).
On the East Side of Los Angeles? Need to get out of your dingy little room? Why not pick up a copy of the book at a local bookstore? Get out of the house!
Skylight Books (Los Feliz)
Alias Books East (Atwater)
Stories (Echo Park)
She really gets it right. Andrew Solomon (previous post) opened his Ted talk by quoting it.
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,
As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –
Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t.
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Kay, who is a psychiatrist, wrote about her experience with bipolar disorder. It’s a fascinating account of someone in the profession who also had to come to terms with the stigma of mental illness. She was quite wary of disclosing to colleagues, and when she did it was often with mixed results.
Andrew Solomon opens his talk on depression, in which he recalls his own experience, with a quote from Emily Dickinson. Solomon is the author of the comprehensive Noonday Demon. This Ted talk touches upon many of the themes in that great book. It’s full of the same pithy insights, including the delusions depressives tend to harbor.
I want to say that the treatments we have for depression are appalling.
There are three things people confuse – depression, grief and sadness.
Depression is a slower way of being dead.
And so on. Definitely worth a listen.
Here are two great graphic novels that deal with depression.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh is not only one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, it has a section that covers depression. Not only does it cover depression, but it has one of the best descriptions of what it’s like to be depressed that I have ever read. And I say that as someone that works with a lot of depressed people. The narrative is gritty, hilarious, and heartbreaking. (It also has a great subtitle.)
Another terrific graphic novel is Marbles by Ellen Forney. A first-person narrative about her experience with bipolar disorder, Forney really conveys the journey — from denial, to diagnosis, and the ongoing frustration with managing the highs and lows, lapses in judgment, and getting her meds just right. Given everything that she went through, it’s encouraging she got it together to write the book.
For those of you in Los Angeles, why not stroll down to Secret Headquarters on Sunset Junction and pick up a copy of one or both?
The visual is priceless!
The computer, called Ellie, functions as a therapist and is being used in the diagnosis of PTSD and depression.
Jody Mitic served with the Canadian forces in Afghanistan. He lost both of his feet to a bomb. And Mitic remembers that Ellie’s robot-ness helped him open up.
“Ellie seemed to just be listening,” Mitic says. “A lot of therapists, you can see it in their eyes, when you start talking about some of the grislier details of stuff that you might have seen or done, they are having a reaction.”
Check it out, here.
It’s sometimes a comfort to sit down and read about others’ experience with depression. If you are depressed yourself, this can help reduce that feeling that you are so alone.
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. Cover looks a little cheesy, but I’ve heard a couple of people swear by it, including graphic novelist Ellen Forney.
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison. A harrowing ride, made all the more inspiring by the author’s level of success.
- The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams and John Teasdale. Solid, practical, useful stuff. This is not a fluffy book.
- The Mindful Way Workbook. An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress by John D. Teasdale and Mark G. Williams. Not familiar with this book, but the authors’ previous work is very solid. Not just people hopping on the mindfulness bandwagon — they have been both researchers and clinicians.
- When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. Helpful to accept the premise of this book.
- The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression by Dr. William J Knaus EdD and Albert Ellis PhD. Ellis is one of the founders of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
- The Wounded Heart by Dan B. Allender. Well reviewed on Amazon.
- The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardi. If only it were so easy. Well reviewed, though.
- The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. Atlas is the word. Comprehensive and brilliant.
- Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron. By all accounts a moving, tour de force. An inside look at suicidal depression.