Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thought for the Day

"The majority of people aren’t sad because there is something wrong with their brain. They are sad because their lives suck."

10 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Jackie M. said...

Well, that might be true for "most" people. Whoever they are. It's certainly true for the poor woman who was forced into an institution because she divorced a man she didn't love.

But as someone who takes anti-depressants as a migraine preventative and because of an unfortunate genetic predisposition, I gotta say: my life was going along just hunky-dory fine until my brain chemistry blindsided me. So I'm the opposite what's described in that article: most of my problems would not exist without my depression. Because then I would have the energy to deal with them BEFORE they got out of control.

Wait, has anybody actually suggested you try anti-depressants or therapy or something? Is that what this is about?

Jesus, it's just a stinking pill. No, it's NOT a goddamn magic bullet. But neither is it any kind of statement about your character or your toughness or your self-control.

It's just another mechanism for controlling aspects of the brain which are normally beyond your consious control; it's just another switch you can toggle to see if the lights come on. Nothing more, nothing less.

Kameron Hurley said...

Wait, has anybody actually suggested you try anti-depressants or therapy or something? Is that what this is about?

Naw, I just thought it was an interesting article.

And yeah, as somebody who's lived with several people whose lives were fine but who's brains went wacky, I do know the benefits of the pills. But I also know that for people unhappy with life and where they are, sometimes pills aren't the first answer; I like the way this blogger made that point.

Jackie M. said...

I like the way they used personal anecdotes without any statistics to back up their sweeping conclusions at the end.

Sorry, Kameron, but this is a rather a sore spot for me: so many people believe that depression is something you should just be able to "snap out of." Which wasn't necessarily this individual's argument.... but there was the implicit assumption that depression in particular is an overdiagnosed illness, and that people should concentrate on fixing their lives instead of mediciating every time they feel down.

Whereas my experience has been that depression renders me utterly incapable of "fixing" my real life problems. Happy pills don't really make me "happy"--they simply allow me to deal with my problems as they crop up, instead of letting them sit around for years on end.

Emily said...

Of course there's a vicious circle going on as well, which is that depression (no matter what the reason for it) makes your life suck. No motivation? Good luck with school and work. No desire for socializing? Good luck with friends and dating.

We absolutely do need to acknowledge that there are a lot of people who have something wrong with their brain, and those people need meds. But it may be that for some cases we're medicating unhappiness rather than taking steps (as a society) to fix inequality and social isolation. It often feels like it's hard to be happy in this world.

Twothirds said...

>We absolutely do need to acknowledge that there are a lot of people who have something wrong with their brain, and those people need meds. But it may be that for some cases we're medicating unhappiness rather than taking steps (as a society) to fix inequality and social isolation.

I think is pretty much where I'd fall, except that I'd phrase it "...medicating unhappiness without taking steps..."

I think there are definitely, definitely people (I know some) who have wacky brain chemistry or such, for whatever reason, and that like Jackie says, it wreaks havoc on what's basically a good life and a life that they enjoy.

I think there also are definitely, definitely people (I've been one) who end up in bad situations, with inadequate support systems and/or coping skills, and end up crashingly depressed because of it.

I think there are also definitely, definitely people who have some combination of the two going on (I know some of these, too).

I get frustrated, sometimes, because in some of the circles I move in, there's a sense that depression is most always chemical (or whatever), full stop. And on the one hand, I think that's good, because of course sometimes it is. But I do think that--some people get hostile when you try to talk about other possibilities. And that's unfortunate.

(Um. I don't think Jackie will think I mean her with that "some people." But just in case: I don't.)

Twothirds said...

That was meeeeeeeeeeee.

Kameron Hurley said...

Yeah, again: meds are wonderful things. They can rebalance chemical stuff, and in many cases, allow people to have the energy to help change bad situations that they wouldn't have had the energy to do anyway.

Posting a link to this post wasn't an endorsement of a rah-rah all pills are BAD thing. Again, I've been in situations with people where antidepressents did wonderful things, and me and the people taking them were and are very grateful (my mom says she was basically depressed for 20 years, but didn't realize it until she got help, among others).

I think my interest in the post from VA was the interest in the idea that, very often, the *first* thing people say today isn't "Gosh, you're depressed, what's bugging you in your life?" but is more often, "Don't you think you should get on something for that?" or "are you taking something for that?"

I'm really interested in the "regular" type of depression. Not the manic types or the ones where it makes it *impossible* to do things, but the depression we go through as a reaction to life events, in particular external factors and not so much things going on in the brain chemically (I do know that a LOT of my moods these days are regulated by the state of my blood sugar, and I know that I've been working very hard at being able to separate "I'm unhappy cause my blood sugar is wonky" and "I'm unhappy because something is seriously wrong).

I do look at so many of the normal responses to stress: depression, intense grief, anger, sadness, and I see a lot of those emotions as our internal warning signs that situations are wrong and need to change.

Again, having spent nearly a year not being able to tell when things really *were* off or wrong or weird because I was sick (so suddenly EVERYTHING was off and bad and weird, and I hurt a lot of people that way), I'm finally getting to the point where I'm trying to sort out those two separate things: what's actual illness and what's my body's normal reaction to a stressful situation?

Again said...

Have you heard of the Thinking Blogger Awards? You have been tagged

hope, you'll like the meme "5 Blogs That Make Me Think" as much as i do ;-)

La Gringa said...

Hmmmm. My father was bi-polar. All of his siblings were depressed and alcoholics. My cousins are 1.) bi-polar, 2.) schizophrenic and 3.) all alcoholics. I sense a trend here.

Yet when presented with my own bizarre behavior as a child, my pediatrician told my mom that I was just a rebellious child who would grow out of her moodiness. Yeah.

Flash forward to my being 29 years old and finally having enough of feelinfg like shit and checking myself into a hospital because it was either that or I was going to drive my car off an overpass. And there I met a very nice shrink who talked to me for a while, and suggested that perhaps my family histroy would suggest that I had a chemical problem. She tried me on a couple different anti-depressants (one of which made me swell up like a beach ball - hilarious!) until she settled on the - then new - drug Prozac.

And sudddenly, my life didn't feel like shit anymore, and a lot of things in my life that I didn't like, well I finallly had the energy to change those things.

Prozac wasn't a miracle drug. It stopped working for me after about a year. For the next fifteen years I was constantly adjusting and switching SSRIs, trying to find the one that worked best. But the point is, I kept trying, because they all worked pretty good for a while, and my life was so much better than it had been that it was worth the effort and experimentation.

Now I am on Lexapro, which is the best one yet, no sexual weirdness, and I have an awesome internist who works with me to monitor my depression. And she gave me six months worth of samples for free because I am unemployed.

Yeah, I'd say that the pills saved my life.

Jackie M. said...

mmmm, Lexapro. The chocolate-chip cookie dough of SSRIs.

Though I just switched to the generic citalopram because I got tired of the $50 co-pays on escitalopram.

And sudddenly, my life didn't feel like shit anymore, and a lot of things in my life that I didn't like, well I finallly had the energy to change those things.

Yeah. Exactly.

I don't think that's what they mean when they talk about the "activating" effects of SSRIs. But that's what I associate with it.

(It's also the main reason I hesitate to suggest SSRIs to my heavily depressed friends--you know that study re: teenagers committing suicide immediately after starting SSRIs? The only time I've ever considered cutting myself was immediately after I started on Lexapro. I think... if you're miserable enough, the sudden power to change your situation may manifest as a realization that you could stop your suffering once and for all with a little extreme action. And it frightens me.)