Awhile back I wrote about depression. I wasn’t really intending to revisit the topic despite the apparent suicide of actor/comedienne Robin Williams but some of the analysis I’ve seen about depression written by people who clearly have no personal experience with it has motivated me to talk about it a bit.
Depression is a physiological disease. Its severity is different from person to person who suffers it. It is not about being in a bad mood. When one is suffering from an “episode” which can last hours or months being alive is painful.
If you haven’t experienced try to imagine some life event that made you feel utter despair and anguish. Now, imagine that feeling lasting months and not having a specific origin. That is what depression is.
Depression is treatable but anyone saying it can be “Beaten” has no idea what they’re talking about. It can be managed but it isn’t beaten. People with severe depressive disorder tend to have a variety of tried and true personal techniques they use to mitigate the worst of the effects. In my experience, hope for better days is a key tool in our arsenal.
When things are particularly dark, the inevitable question arises, “Why go on?" It becomes particularly dicey when it gets hard to convince oneself that it isn’t going to get better.
Robin Williams related that he was unhappy having to do roles like Mrs. Doubtfire II in order to “Get a paycheck”. He also had been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This combination can be devastating to someone who’s day to day life is already agony.
I’ve talked to a few other people who suffer depression and a very common thread is that when they have an depressive episode (think of depression as being related to epilepsy or migraines, these episodes are often random) they remind themselves that “Well, when A, B and C happen then I can rest for a bit..” But Robin Williams got news that indicated that there was no light at end of the tunnel. That, for himself, agony was here today and agony was going to be there tomorrow.
Thankfully medication really is getting better. Treatments are getting better. But anyone suggesting that depression can be “beaten” has no idea what they’re talking about. Maybe sometime they’ll figure out the physiological cause of it (that would be wonderful). But for now, drug treatment and learning coping techniques (like mindfulness) are the best we’ve got.