Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nothing Deep About Depression


This thing is slowly eating me alive.

It's like a multi-clawed beast deep within my cerebral cortex and it is determined to gnaw its way out of my skull. It waits to jump into action at the slightest provocation of external stimuli.  A crushing defeat, a personal rejection, or even no reason it all.  Once active it shrieks with the sound of white noise, burrowing its way slowly and painfully.  It won't give up.  It wants me dead.

I'm talking about depression.   Think about the absolute worst day of your life.  Tone that feeling down about three notches and that is how I feel almost every day.  Do something about it, you say?  I am a chemistry set, a product of multiple experiments by doctors as they keep trying different antidepressent dosages and combinations.  Still, nothing has worked.  I know that many out there are opposed to such medications.  The source of the opposition ranges from the danger of the pills, the inefficacy of them, or even that curing depression would change the meaning of being human.  Let's talk about that latter point for a bit.

Today, while I combed the Internet looking for anything that even resembled a solution, I came across this 2005 essay by Peter Kramer called "There's Nothing Deep About Depression."  Here's an excerpt:

"A hearty, jovial man would rise and ask -- always the same question -- ''What if Prozac had been available in van Gogh's time?''
I understood what was intended, a joke about a pill that makes people blandly chipper. The New Yorker had run cartoons along these lines -- Edgar Allan Poe, on Prozac, making nice to a raven. Below the surface humor were issues I had raised in my own writing. Might a widened use of medication deprive us of insight about our condition? But with repetition, the van Gogh question came to sound strange. Facing a man in great pain, headed for self-mutilation and death, who would withhold a potentially helpful treatment?"

Indeed.  As a writer, I do understand the artistic and literary point of view.  Depression, repression, oppression, almost all of the 'pressions can foster breathtaking works of art and literature.  For example, my world would be so much the poorer without Morrissey and The Smiths and certainly without Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. Therefore, I would say that as with many aspects of medical treatment, it would be a matter of personal choice.

Because I want this thing out of me.  Yeah, I've lived the life of the artistic outsider, the Dark Knight, the rebel who writes.  I'm tired of it.  Like Kramer says in his essay, if science views depression as a genuine illness, then why would we even think of not attempting to cure it?  Would you think the same of smallpox or HIV?  Or would you remain wistful for the creativity that physical disease may produce, such as Love in the Time of Cholera?  Then again, perhaps you still remain in that archaic camp that sees depression as "all in your head" and that one should really just "get over it."

Kramer speaks to this ignorant viewpoint in his essay.  He cites people who have survived concentration camps and wars, but never felt as miserable then as they did with depression.  So, no.  It isn't fun and nobody chooses it.

Think of it this way:  there are many people who are weeds.  That isn't an insult.  A weed can grow in many different environments.  It can even survive in the cracks of your sidewalk or driveway pavement.   People like this can roll with punches and prosper or even thrive in any circumstance.

Other people are orchids.  They are fragile as all get out and can die under the slightest temperature deviations or environmental factors.  That said, they are beautiful and rare.  You will pay through the nose at a florist for orchids.  Weeds you can pluck in the swards by the side of any road or drainage ditch.

Orchid or not, I just want this pain to end.  God, I want it to end.



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