Depression

Posted on August 13, 2017

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I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

BY EMILY DICKINSON
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 –

What a powerful TED talk on depression! Following are some quotes from this talk.

“But I nonetheless emerged and relapsed, and emerged and relapsed, and emerged and relapsed, and finally understood I would have to be on medication and in therapy forever. And I thought, “But is it a chemical problem or a psychological problem? And does it need a chemical cure or a philosophical cure?” And I couldn’t figure out which it was. And then I understood that actually, we aren’t advanced enough in either area for it to explain things fully. The chemical cure and the psychological cure both have a role to play, and I also figured out that depression was something that was braided so deep into us that there was no separating it from our character and personality.”

“There are three things people tend to confuse: depression, grief and sadness. Grief is explicitly reactive. If you have a loss and you feel incredibly unhappy, and then, six months later, you are still deeply sad, but you’re functioning a little better, it’s probably grief, and it will probably ultimately resolve itself in some measure. If you experience a catastrophic loss, and you feel terrible, and six months later you can barely function at all, then it’s probably a depression that was triggered by the catastrophic circumstances. The trajectory tells us a great deal. People think of depression as being just sadness. It’s much, much too much sadness, much too much grief at far too slight a cause.”

“I set out to find out what it is that causes some people to be more resilient than other people. What are the mechanisms that allow people to survive? And I went out and I interviewed person after person who was suffering with depression.

“One of the first people I interviewed described depression as a slower way of being dead, and that was a good thing for me to hear early on because it reminded me that that slow way of being dead can lead to actual deadness, that this is a serious business. It’s the leading disability worldwide, and people die of it every day.”

“You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly. It’s easier to help schizophrenics who perceive that there’s something foreign inside of them that needs to be exorcised, but it’s difficult with depressives, because we believe we are seeing the truth.”

“A lot of people said, when I chose to write about my depression, that it must be very difficult to be out of that closet, to have people know. They said, “Do people talk to you differently?” I said, “Yes, people talk to me differently. They talk to me differently insofar as they start telling me about their experience, or their sister’s experience, or their friend’s experience. Things are different because now I know that depression is the family secret that everyone has.”

“But I was also struck by the burdensome nature of such mutual secrecy. Depression is so exhausting. It takes up so much of your time and energy, and silence about it, it really does make the depression worse.”

“I was in Rwanda, working on a different project, and I happened to describe my experience to someone, and he said, “Well, that’s West Africa, and we’re in East Africa, and our rituals are in some ways very different, but we do have some rituals that have something in common with what you’re describing.” And he said, “But we’ve had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers, especially the ones who came right after the genocide.” I said, “What kind of trouble did you have?” And he said, “Well, they would do this bizarre thing. They didn’t take people out in the sunshine where you begin to feel better. They didn’t include drumming or music to get people’s 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 had them talk for an hour about bad things that had happened to them.”

He said, “We had to ask them to leave the country.”

” I went out to try to look at what was being done for poor people with depression. And what I discovered is that poor people are mostly not being treated for depression. Depression is the result of a genetic vulnerability, which is presumably evenly distributed in the population, and triggering circumstances, which are likely to be more severe for people who are impoverished. And yet it turns out that if you have a really lovely life but feel miserable all the time, you think, “Why do I feel like this? I must have depression.” And you set out to find treatment for it. But if you have a perfectly awful life, and you feel miserable all the time, the way you feel is commensurate with your life, and it doesn’t occur to you to think, “Maybe this is treatable.'”

“And so we have an epidemic in this country of depression among impoverished people that’s not being picked up and that’s not being treated and that’s not being addressed, and it’s a tragedy of a grand order. ”

 

Parker Palmer describes depression as not just entering the darkness, but BECOMING that darkness. Let Your Life Speak is a book that descibed depression in a way that I felt I was no longer alone, and in a way that I could see how all things work for good…

Parker said that when he finally emerged from the darkness of depression, to felt that he was at home in his own skin…

I was so grateful for this perspective, a perspective that perhaps kept me alive.

See Parker Palmer’s interview with Bill Moyers: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/02202009/profile2.html

Check out On Being with Andrew Solomon (above TED Talk) and Parker Palmer: https://onbeing.org/programs/parker-palmer-andrew-solomon-and-anita-barrows-the-soul-in-depression/

Also, see the blog posts on my own depression:

The Pain of Depression: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2006/11/06/the-pain-of-depression/

The Healthiness of Depression: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2006/05/13/depression/

Into the Darkness: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/into-the-darkness/

Ground of Being: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2008/11/19/ground-of-being/

A Dark Mystery: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2007/04/04/a-dark-mystery/

Dark Night of the Soul: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/dark-night-of-the-soul/

TEARS IN THE NIGHT: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2006/10/13/tears-in-the-night/

TEARS OF A MAN: https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2008/11/19/tears-of-a-man/

DEVASTATION: MEANING IN SUFFERING, IN PAIN? https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/devastation-meaning-in-suffering-in-pain/

 

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