at the risk of sounding offensive,
why is everyone depressed these days? When I was younger no one ever talked about being depressed, and not many people seemed that depressed, It has always been a thing for sure but it was not nearly as ubiquitous as it is these days. now it seems to be more common among young people than not-being-depressed is.
has it always been that way, but people didn’t understand it/talk about it? Have people always been depressed but didn’t have a forum like the internet to discuss it? Are some people diagnosing themselves with “depression” when it may be something else? Did something change in society that is causing more people to be depressed? Is there something in the food? Or is it one of those things where I am conflating what it’s like on the internet to what it’s like IRL?
I think there are a lot of things going on — on one side, people say “I’m so depressed” when they’re upset about a situation, which can often be more aptly described as “sad.” “I’m so sad that my favorite restaurant closed” or “I’m so sad that my mom won’t let me go to XX.” I don’t doubt that the feelings are truly painful and full of disappointment, but I don’t think they are “proper depression.”
There is still a huge stigma on mental illness, especially when talking about it in person. If you’ve never had to deal with it, then it’d hard to understand the pain and frustration when people say to you “what’s wrong with you? why don’t you just choose to be happy?” or “so many people have it worse than you, what do you have to complain about?” And when you’re being told that you have absolutely no reason to feel this overwhelming, suffocating depression because your life isn’t “as bad” as someone else’s then you stop talking about it and feel even worse and it spirals down.
Then you see someone talking about their own struggles online. And you realize that you’re not alone and that if you say, “hey, me too” in a conversation about depression, people aren’t going to jump down your throat and tell you that you have no right to complain or feel the way that you do. So you go from “hey, me too” into a slightly more detailed explanation of how you’re feeling and maybe someone else says “me too” and you feel even more understood and less-alone.
It’s much easier to do it online because it’s far less intimidating — you don’t risk your family and friends telling you that you are making things up for attention, nor do you have to deal with their personal biases when it comes to your feelings. It’s a relatively safe space to put your story out there — especially when it can be anonymous like on tumblr — to test the waters and hopefully find the resources to get help.
There’s some really great stuff here — all the bolding is mine, for things that i’ve found to be helpful.
I starred/bolded #20. I can be a mess in my own life, but i’ve been dealing with depression and other issues for over 20 years and i try to be the person that i wish i had. if you need someone to talk to, drop me a line.
A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.
I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.
So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.
It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.
A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.
So, here it is.
My 21 Tips on Keeping Your Shit Together During Depression
1) Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying. There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.
2) Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)
3) Enlist the help of a professional. See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.
4) Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.
5) Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that. Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.
6) Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.
7) While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.
8) If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil. Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….
9) Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.
10) Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.
11) Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.
12) Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.
13) Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.
14) Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.
15) Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process - but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.
16) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.
17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only. Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.
18) Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.
19) Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.
20) If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.*
21) Forgive yourself. I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.
This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?
They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.
I find it insulting when people insist to a suicidal person that “they have so much to live for,” and that “they are stronger” than their suicidal impulse. As if the person in question isn’t entirely aware of those things, as if the chemical, neural imbalances or possibly external factors in them that are creating those feelings can easily be “overcome” if only they’re “strong” enough. Does that imply that they reason they’re suicidal in the first place is because they’re not strong? That they’re weak, in fact, for feeling the way that they do? It is not encouraging or helpful to say these things to a suicidal person, in my opinion. It smacks of shaming them; “oh, nothing’s really wrong, you’d be just fine if only you were strong enough. You should get on that.”
Suicidal people who are still suicidal and not dead have already proven their strength, as far as I’m concerned. And even those who commit suicide and “succeed” in the end can’t fairly be discounted as weak - everyone makes mistakes, sometimes deadly ones, and theirs wasn’t even their fault provided it was inspired by a mental illness. I’ve had plenty of people try to bring me back from the brink of a devastating depression by telling me that I’m so much stronger than it, and I can safely say that all I felt in those moments was shame, for not being strong enough to simply not feel that way. I’m not trying to speak for anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned, hearing that hurts more than it helps when you’re that low. So fuck you, I don’t need to hear that I’m stronger than my depression. I knew that already, it doesn’t change how I feel. You can’t sprinkle magic sparkle unicorn words over a chemical imbalance and make it go away. Don’t trivialize, invalidate, what I’m going through like that.
Far more eloquent than I could have said it — but it’s everything I think and feel.
Also, reblogging without the Jesse Eisenberg attribution because I can’t find any place that he’s said it. Instead, I’ve found his actual take on depression:
I often think if you have time to sit around the house feeling bad for yourself, you have time to tutor a child. I’m guilty of that exact thing. I will spend more time sitting around feeling bad for myself than actually helping somebody. And because I’m feeling bad about myself, it still seems like a noble hour spent because I didn’t enjoy it. So it’s masking selfishness by calling it depression. Depression, if it’s an unconsciously elected experience, is a luxury. — Jesse Eisenberg on Vulture
For that, Jesse, fuck you. (see, i’m not eloquent at all)
Anonymous asks: Gethard I know you’ve talked bout depression and anxiety issues before and if you don’t answer this cause it’s a complete downer i understand but I’m curious if you ever had suicidal thoughts. I admire you and your show and have just been in a really bad place lately. I used to see your show as the last thing I had to look forward to but I haven’t even been back for months and can’t even bring myself out the door to get there without panicking. I’d appreciate any advice really.
I just got this message and am going to answer it. Anonymous, this one is just for you, but since this came into our inbox anonymously I have to post it publicly. My apologies. I feel very unsure of if this is right to post this, but I want to help if I can. Anyone else can feel free to skip reading this one. - Geth
I wish I had read this when I was 13. Or 17. Or 21. Thank you, Chris Gethard.
I wrote a little about my own relationship with depression and suicide yesterday. And again I’ll say that I’m in a far, far better place than I’ve been, and I do my best to reach out to folks who are not doing so well themselves. If you ever want to talk to someone, or just talk at someone and know it’s a safe place, I’m here.