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I used to be depressed. As in, I was diagnosed with depression in 1997.

Over the last ten years, I’ve come up with different ways to deal with how I am. One is that I rate how I’m feeling on a scale from -100% to +100%. So I just accept where I am on the scale, and adjust appropriately.

I don’t believe in depression, as a ‘disease’. And the problem with when I’ve got a theory is that occasionally, I’ll find reinforcement for it, and then there’s no stopping my unconventional beliefs. The best advice I ever heard regarding depression comes from this documentary from a few months ago. It’s the story of Brian Egan, a navy veteran who’d seen some pretty awful things during his service, then tried to become a farmer and lost the family farm. He ended up suicidal in a hospital, and a doctor told him “Find someone worse off than yourself Brian, and help them.” So he did. It was the best advice anyone gave him, and it’s the best advice anyone with ‘depression’ can hear.

Too many ‘depressed’ people are treated in the worst possible way by those around them. They are indulged. The only real way to deal with depression is to get off your arse and fix it. Find things you care about, and immerse yourself in them. Find a wrong, and make it right. Accept what you are, and how you are, and get on with life. Everything else – counselling, drug therapy etc is just bullshit. Depression saps your will to cure yourself. It destroys your self-motivation. So it takes effort to overcome the inertia and get off your butt. But it’s the only cure there is. Life’s there to be lived. Stop fucken whinging and get on with it. Noone ever died wishing they’d watched more TV.

Discuss.

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10 Comments

  1. I really like this post and couldn’t agree more.

    Many years ago, I had a partner who was psychotic in all kinds of ways. Over time, both during our relationship and thereafter, I came to realise that many of the symptoms she had were actually side-affects of the anti-psychotic medication and an over-indulgence in her own ego/indolence.

    Her doctor would increase her medication and then listen to her relate stories of ever more bizarre dreams- which he interpreted to be indicative of her illogical thought patterns. There was a clear correlation between how whacky her dreams were and how much medication was being pumped into her. Later experimentation with my own brief attempt at medication confirmed this, as well as comments from other people with similar experiences.

    At the same time, everyone around her was saying “You’ve got a disease. You’ve got to learn to manage it with medication and accept that you’ll never be able to live a normal independent life.” She accepted this and very willingly played into this role.

    I was the first person in her life to tell her to get off her arse and take some responsibility for herself. Regardless of whether she had an illness or not- if it were Diabetes or a missing limb she would have just accepted it, developed coping mechanisms and then got on trying to lead as fulfilling a life as possible.

    As it stood, her life was basically on hold for 10 years until between myself and her new partner, she got not only the support but also the kick and consequent confidence to embrace life. She was extremely angry that those around her had allowed her to lose 10 years of her life.

    When I met her, just the thought of having to sit an exam at uni would lead to a nervous breakdown. Now, she’s topping the year studying Law/Arts and kicking arse in all kinds of ways.

    I get depressed- we all do sometimes- and some more than others.

    As Ray Davies from the Kinks says in his Autobiography: “I’ve always accepted that my depression was going to be there at times regardless of whether I wanted it or not. I learned to treat it like the weather- some days it’s dark and gloomy, and some days it’s not. Likewise, you can’t sit inside moping all day just because the weather’s rotten.”

  2. That’s partly true, and partly so untrue it’s almost scary. Yes, getting motivated and getting out there and doing stuff is a great fix for depression. Exercise produces the kinds of endorphins needed to life your mood. Sex is great too 😉 Finding a cause can be awesome.

    The part you so briefly touched upon, however, is the fact that in order to do that, you need to be “well” enough to even have the energy to get out of the house. “it takes effort to overcome the inertia” is probably one of the greatest understatements I’ve ever heard.

    You’re generalising. SOME people are indulged and some are supported and it’s the support and understanding they need. Telling them to “get over it” is about the most counter-productive thing anyone could possibly do because all it does is enhance and hone in on their struggle to do just that.

    I *do* believe in depression as a disease. Mostly because I’ve had it, and have had four major depressive episodes in my life. One major issue I have with statements such as yours is that people who have had AN experience with something automatically seem to assume that everyone else’s experience with it is exactly the same. It’s not. You got over it one way, and while that might work for a number of people it won’t work for everyone. If it was as simple as that, do you really think we’d have such an epidemic? No.

    The real issue behind depression is the fact that our society has moved to a place where everyone is alone. There’s no community and therefore no community support. Anyone who is unable to cope with fighting a constant battle on their own is told to “snap out of it”.

    Anyway, the point of this rather rambly reply is that, yes, your solution is A solution but it’s not THE solution. Some people need those drugs and therapy before they’re in any place where they can motivate themselves to “get off their butt and live life”.

    Don’t simplify things based on your own experience. You’re more intelligent than that.

    /discussion

  3. Would you ask a diabetic to give up their insulin? Do you think diabetes is a disease, or just someone who has a lazy pancreas and they should tell their pancreas to get up off their ass and make enough insulin so they don’t go into a diabetic coma?

    Seriously, would you?

    Depression is not something you can *always* say “Pull yourself together, get up and get moving” no more than you can tell a diabetic “Don’t be a baby, your pancreas is fine, you don’t need insulin!”

    Part of fixing it can be fixing the chemical imbalance that is going on in your brain. Advice like you give here is pretty dangerous really – people who are depressed should see a doctor who can really assess whether they’re just feeling a bit bad, or whether they have that chemical imbalance.

    Just like a doctor would do tests to find out if someone is a diabetic and needs insulin.

    I agree with part of what you say, though. It takes work and effort. You have to force yourself to get up and get going. But generalizing is a very dangerous thing. And this attitude of “well, depressed people should just get off their ass” is one that a lot of people hold and it makes it harder for really depressed people to feel comfortable saying “I’m depressed” because they know people are going to say “That’s not a real thing. You’re just lazy!”.

    Worst of all, this sounds like you are making a judgment on others. Not like you, not at all. Maybe if we all judged less, and supported more. Support is not always about saying there there – sometimes it is about saying “get up off your ass” but I’m not a doctor and neither are you – the best thing any of us can do for someone who is depressed is tell them to seek medical advice without judgment.

    My friend still has not done that crucial first step. Why he expects his depression is going to miraculously disappear one day without any effort on his part baffles me. You’ve got to want it, and part of wanting it is to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong with you – and if there *is* to get that treated.

    I’m assuming this one stems from my post today but I don’t like to assume, it makes an ass out of me.. 😉

    Snoskred – has a new home at –
    http://www.snoskred.org/

  4. I think Homer Simpson would wish that. Well, that is if he were real.

    I have to agree with those that disagree though. However, I don’t believe that everyone who is prescribed medication really need it, in contrast to those who are diagnosed with diabetes, etc. The first port of call these day is a script of Lexapro, or some other anti-depressent. No discussion about going into counselling, or options on other ways to deal with a slump in peoples lives.

    Depression comes in many forms, and not all of them are solved by a walk in the park, and giving a homeless man a couple of dollars.

  5. Snoskred,
    I wrote this before I read yours. But what we’re saying is similar – that depressed people need to help themselves, and indulging it solves nothing.

  6. Where does one find the energy to get off their arse when in the throes of inertia?
    A friend perhaps?
    … yeah, and then sometimes ya just need that friend to lend an ear or offer a hug. =)

  7. Lil (and others),
    Nowhere did I say that the inertia is easy to overcome. But what I said is that you have to overcome it, for only on the other side of it is victory.
    Sioneld said that loneliness caused by the way our culture and society are now is a major factor. And I agree. I do not abdicate that as a friend to people who are depressed, I have to help them. But true success lies not in me as their friend, but in them. I can only help someone who wants help. And I’m prepared to do a lot for my friends. But if loneliness and disconnection from others are the problems, the cure doesn’t sit in a bottle of pills.
    This post may be seen as uncaring, or unsupportive. But it is in fact the opposite. Watch the doco I linked to. Brian Egan is inspiring. But not because he’s super-human, but because he’s intensely human. At one stage in the doco, he sits in his humble house and says he has nothing but a small veteran’s pension – no house, no money, nothing – and he’s intensely happy because he’s got a meaning to his life.
    Of course, I’m notorious for saying things to inflame debate. So perhaps that’s what I’m doing too? But I stand by what I’ve said.

  8. I don’t know if I agree or not but this is what I reckon. There is nothing wrong with me, it is the rest of the world that is stuffed up. I am comfortable with this statement now for reasons similar to the sentiment in the post “Accept what you are, and how you are, and get on with life.” Except my challenge is to accept the nature of the rest of the world.
    There was a time when I was concerned at my attitude, that I was projecting my own inner problems onto the rest of the world to deny and avoid my own truth. So I went to a doctor who offered me pills to make me feel better. But I never took the pills because I couldn’t see how they would solve the family and health problems, terrorism, cops who bash me, poverty or any of the other things that were directly causing my anxiety. The pills so I was told by the doctor and friends into pills will remove many of the unpleasent symptoms of the anxiety, which seemed to me like being asleep next to a crocodile when I should be running.
    When things are going well with me anxiety is a motivation, when something goes wrong and I feel anxious I focus on fixing what is wrong, and when I have fixed it I feel relaxed, or at least when I have a plan how to deal with the situation I feel relaxed. The trouble is, as a political activist for 30 years, many of the things that cause anxiety cannot be dealt with such as war, pollution, violence etc. and I know only too well that the well intentioned protests or people who go into politics or the public service have been unable to come up with any serious plan how to deal with these problems. I can have a plan for money problems, health problems etc. but for the rest of the world problems I have no plan. But my anxiety is still motivating me to change the situation but the last 30 years for me personally or the social movements have been futile in changing the direction of the world. So my depression is a powerful anxiety forcing to get out but it simply cant.
    So the dysfunction/habit/attitude that has developed is the emotion that when the world is ready to play fair then I will come out and play again. In the meantime I will hide inside myself. This seems to be the same situation (dysfunction) as pills – do not be affected by reality.

    So I can offer no proven path or technique, but what I struggle with at present is to work on just accepting that this world is stuffed – to severely lower my expectations of it. To just accept it for what it is. The world will be a worse place than when I die than when I was born. I just have to learn to live with this. The advice above about helping someone worse off is similar to my own take – when I feel sorry for myself I just think about the situation of most people on the planet, especially how war, pollution, poverty etc affects them and I realise how little is my burden compared to theirs.

    I got into painting and music, especially painting because the world I create on canvas – which is totally absorbing when I paint – it becomes my total reality for a period. There are no restrictions, no problems and no futility in these moments of creation. What goes on the canvas is what I reckon should be there. Anything that is wrong – I remove it. This does not “solve” the anxiety trying to get out and solve problems, it just gives that motivation something else to do rather than swishing around my head trying to get out.

    I write on my blog for the same reasons. Like Quixote and his windmill I can slay all the villains in the world.

    J.T.

  9. JT, Thanks for your thoughts. Like you, I am an activist with a dim view of many things around me. I’m glad you find artistic outlets, as many people do, and find them intensely helpful. I understand about how the world may be a worse lace when I die than when I was born. But from working at the very heights of power, I learnt that the real way to make a positive difference is in those immediately around me. As the Brian Egan doco says – find someone worse off than you, and help them. And therein I think lies the crux of my attitude to how depression is treated – I think that if people helped others more, there’d be less depression on both the part of the helper, and the helped.

  10. I agree with your solution, but not until the depressed person is starting to get a bit better.

    When I was depressed a few years ago, it was all I could manage just to get out of bed and go to work every day. I had no mental or physical energy to spare on anything other than staying alive. Only (herbal) medication got me to the point where I could start to change things. I agree with dryeyecrab that not everyone on antidepressants needs it, but there are also people who should be on them but aren’t because either they are too ashamed to speak up or haven’t recognised their problem.


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