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There is no "Why?"
June 5, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Stephen Fry: I tried to kill myself last year
posted by Artw (115 comments total) 95 users marked this as a favorite

 
He's very prolific on Twitter to the point that if even a day goes by without something from him people become concerned. I remember a number of gaps last year and it would appear this attempt was one of them.

I'm glad he didn't succeed.
posted by tommasz at 11:19 AM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


His second attempt - or his second recorded one. Fuck's sake, Stephen. Depression, yes, I get it. But fuck's sake. Please don't try again.
posted by Decani at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


That’s the point, there is no “why?”

[...]

He explained: ‘If unmedicated there are times when I am so exuberant, so hyper, that I can go three or four nights without sleep and I’m writing and I’m doing stuff and I’m so grandiose and I’m so full of self-belief it’s almost impossible to deal with me. I can’t stop speaking. I go on shopping sprees. One of the common signs of mania, or hypermania, is sexual exhibitionism – fortunately I don’t have that.


It sounds like there is a "why" and it is "mental illness".
posted by DU at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


He took a cocktail of drugs and vodka so potent that it caused his unconscious body to convulse violently, breaking four of his ribs.

That really sucks and I hope Stephen Fry gets better, but I don't get why the article goes on in two paragraphs to get a quote from him saying the exact same thing they summarized in the first couple of sentences.
posted by FJT at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


DU: "It sounds like there is a "why" and it is "mental illness"."

There is no "why" in the sense that there is no answer to the question, "What are you so sad about?" It's just not a relevant question.
posted by brundlefly at 11:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [50 favorites]


Depression is a filthy fucking liar and it's something that you have to fight every second of every day. I totally understand why he'd try to kill himself and that terrifies me.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:31 AM on June 5, 2013 [148 favorites]


Yeah, there is no rational or moral answer. Mental afflictions are hard to understand and hard to survive for exactly this reason.
posted by selfnoise at 11:31 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


sigh :(
posted by yeoz at 11:32 AM on June 5, 2013


you know as a depressive who has tried to kill himself frequently (7 times, i think, the last time about 6 years ago), i think that something has to be said about all of the reasons to kill yourself. There are a number of good ones: loneliness, exhaustion, frustration, ennui, a true note of your place in the universe--Schopenhaur and Camus among others have noted that it might not be a disordered thinking. The hardest thing then is to work out a Yes, But kind of way through. There are 5, 000, 000 reasons to kill yourself, but today, there are better reasons not to.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:36 AM on June 5, 2013 [56 favorites]


There is no "why" in the sense that there is no answer to the question, "What are you so sad about?" It's just not a relevant question.

He says he wants to destigmatize mental illness. Good! Then when someone asks "why did you try to kill yourself" you should answer "mental illness" not wave your hands about the mystical unknowableness of irrational life.
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on June 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


God, pretty much every single person I know fights with depression. It's so fucking frustrating — from my experiences with ADD (and depression), my sense is that pretty much every mental illness is likewise frustrating. That so many smart people KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING TO FIGHT IT and yet just … can't is so hard to deal with. You want to shake 'em and yell at 'em, but that doesn't fucking work. The only thing that fucking works is when they finally screw up the courage to deal with the shitty mental health system and getting some help from a professional.

And I have to say, just from personal and close friends/family experience, that medication is a fucking godsend, but so much of the struggle is just getting someone to get over the fucking stigma and mythos around medication ("I don't want to be less creative," etc.) to fucking try it and then deal with the inevitable maintenance of changing doses and meds and all that until they find something that works.

All of that inevitably goes along with shit like pushing away people who love you and want to help, and this pervasive feeling of worthlessness and defeatism that's so painful to watch because you know that no one involved has any real control over it.

There was that Depression Quest game here a bit ago, and a lot of it was right on the money: Even knowing the right choices, it's so hard to actually follow through with them.

I hope that Fry gets more help, and also that this helps decrease the stigma around getting help. Every single person I know who's gone through this describes getting help as the single hardest action they ever took.
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on June 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


Previously: Ten things not to say to a depressed person and Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [20 favorites]


DU: "He says he wants to destigmatize mental illness. Good! Then when someone asks "why did you try to kill yourself" you should answer "mental illness" not wave your hands about the mystical unknowableness of irrational life."

From the link:

‘I’ve made this boringly clear in television programmes and other things, so I won’t wank on about it. But I am the victim of my own moods, more than most people are perhaps; in as much as I have a condition that requires me to take medication so that I don’t get either too hyper or too depressed to the point of suicide. I’ll go as far as to tell you I attempted it last year, so I’m not always happy.’
posted by brundlefly at 11:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'll post this again, which I've shared before. It's a letter from Stephen Fry to a depressed fan. I hope he can take this advice to heart before trying to kill himself again. He's my fucking hero, and that idea is just too devastating to seriously contemplate. This may shed some light on the "why" question, also. I think what he's getting at is that there isn't a singular cause or trigger for the feelings in the sense of a bad thing happened that day or a tragedy occurred in your life. Sometimes, your brain just makes you want to die. And that's fucked up.

April 10, 2006

Dear Crystal,

I'm so sorry to hear that life is getting you down at the moment. Goodness knows, it can be so tough when nothing seems to fit and little seems to be fulfilling. I'm not sure there's any specific advice I can give that will help bring life back its savour. Although they mean well, it's sometimes quite galling to be reminded how much people love you when you don't love yourself that much.

I've found that it's of some help to think of one's moods and feelings about the world as being similar to weather:

Here are some obvious things about the weather:

It's real.
You can't change it by wishing it away.
If it's dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can't alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.

BUT

It will be sunny one day.
It isn't under one's control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
One day.

It really is the same with one's moods, I think. The wrong approach is to believe that they are illusions. They are real. Depression, anxiety, listlessness - these are as real as the weather - AND EQUALLY NOT UNDER ONE'S CONTROL. Not one's fault.

BUT

They will pass: they really will.

In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes. "Today's a crap day," is a perfectly realistic approach. It's all about finding a kind of mental umbrella. "Hey-ho, it's raining inside: it isn't my fault and there's nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage."

I don't know if any of that is of any use: it may not seem it, and if so, I'm sorry. I just thought I'd drop you a line to wish you well in your search to find a little more pleasure and purpose in life.

Very best wishes

(Signed)

Stephen Fry

posted by lazaruslong at 11:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [153 favorites]


I went without help for WAY too long. I now have THE BEST THERAPIST IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, I have been on regular meds for more than 7 years and am more healthy mentally than I have been since I was in grade school (physically, I'm getting there but it's hard to be as physically healthy at 42 as you were at 10 or 25 or even 35).

I talk about my struggles with an eating disorder and depression on both the blue and the green and hope that just saying, "I have depression and bulimia. I have been very, very sick and I am so much better" helps someone.

If you are reading this and thinking of hurting yourself, please memail me.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:47 AM on June 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


God Bless Stephen.
The old me can relate. I dealt with depression and attempts when I was a much younger man.
I always hid it from others. I, like everybody else I've known, wanted help-any help-something to make it all go away, cause I really didn't want to die-but I for fucksake didn't want to continue to live the way I was living.
I took Prozac for a year, and worked real hard on making new friends, and found myself spiritually. One day I woke up and felt like I didn't need the pills anymore. I stopped taking them, against my dr's orders. I have yet to have some sort of relapse, although I 100% credit that to knowing others that weren't so blessed, or found, and successfully ended themselves.

When I meet someone with these issues I try to convey the seriousness of the issue, and how it is a delusion of oneself...like looking through a funhouse mirror. The person you see isn't whats really there. Then I give them a five day long hug.
God Bless Stephen.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 11:49 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stephen Fry, suicide, and the cycle
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on June 5, 2013


Ah, no. I understand, but... this was good, his speaking up. It does good, it matters. I, too, am happy he didn't succeed. I like the world with him in it.
posted by but no cigar at 12:00 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone with loved ones with serious depression, I don't say this naively, but isn't the answer to "why?", "to make it stop"?

As he and others have said, it's a constant struggle. Every day. Forever. Is the choice not to either keep fighting or give up the struggle?

Again, I don't say that glibly. I have undying respect for people who continue to fight, because it takes courage. (one of the ironies of supporting people who are depressed is the powerlessness of not being able to make them see themselves as you see them, but that's the way it is)
posted by dry white toast at 12:00 PM on June 5, 2013


He says he wants to destigmatize mental illness. Good! Then when someone asks "why did you try to kill yourself" you should answer "mental illness" not wave your hands about the mystical unknowableness of irrational life.

Why do you think this will have any effect on the stigmatization of mental illness, and why is it the responsibility of sufferers to correct the misconceptions of others?
posted by invitapriore at 12:03 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


RETHINKING DEPRESSION ... PART-1

Depression. It has been called the mean reds. The blue devils. The black dog. And through history, treatments for depression have varied wildly. In the Middle Ages, depressives were caged in asylums. In Victorian England, wealthier patients were sent to seaside resorts for a change of air. In the 1930’s, procedures like lobotomies and electroconvulsive therapy were used. Psychiatry’s tools were crude and limited. No wonder then, when the Age of the Antidepressant arrived, it was considered psychiatry’s triumph. Prozac came onto the market in 1988, followed quickly by many similar drugs. But, since then, the number of people afflicted with depression has soared. Mary O'Connell explores the short and troubling history of the antidepressant.
posted by philip-random at 12:03 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Suicidal ideation, suicidal compulsion, and lack of impulse control can't be magically overcome by taking advice to heart or thinking happy thoughts or just sticking in there. It does work sometimes, he's said himself that he tries to think of his parents. But there are other occasions when I can’t stop myself, or at least I feel I can’t.’

Until there's an actual (humane) cure for compulsive behavior and the spectrum of illnesses for which compulsive behavior is especially lethal, all the best treatment and support and management still relies heavily on something you can't bottle or schedule or train: luck. Luck that the producer knocks on the door, or the phone rings, or the cat throws up a hairball or that a subsequent compulsion to go buy cilantro overrides the one about raiding the medicine cabinet. Hell, luck that you don't have a metabolic shift that makes the existing treatment plan stop working, and luck that somebody notices in time if it does.

I wish him luck, until something better becomes available.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


> It sounds like there is a "why" and it is "mental illness".

That's an answer of sorts but it's the sort of answer you can see when you're looking at a depressed person from outside. When you are the depressed person you either won't know it at all, or else may be aware of it at some remote theoretical level that gives no comfort or protection.
posted by jfuller at 12:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


My meds pooped out twice or thrice. Each time, I fell deep into the black pit before understanding what was happening. Each replacement med was less useful than the previous. I didn't think that things would ultimately work out well; a lifetime of medication, med failure, and falling into the pit every six to eight years.

And then I, too, just felt the time was right to stop. Didn't consult the Dr, haven't seen him in a year.

So far, so good. Winter wasn't even too bad. My spring mania wasn't too bad. Some weeks are tougher than others, but despite some bad thinking, I wouldn't say I've fallen into the black pit.

During the worst points, way back when, I got through it by following the philosophy of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

I wish Stephen the best. He might want to consider talking about drug/alcohol use/abuse with his friend, Craig Ferguson. Drinking to black-out is a bit of a problem, as fun and as useful as it feels at the time.

Be kind to yourselves.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


> But, since then, the number of people afflicted with depression has soared.

I think it's getting harder and harder for people to ignore what the future is shaping up to be like...but maybe that's just the depression talking.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


He's thoughtful, insightful, and full of integrity. I can't think of anyone better as president of Mind.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:10 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


http://www.befrienders.org/

Depression in your brain is like light: it's a particle, it's a wave, and it can wash over you in amounts to drive you blind and incoherent to the rest of the world as you shift out of the world's wave length. Generally a regular, balanced amount of light is considered a good thing, and that's what the brain puts out. But the ultraviole/n/t particles weigh and push and move you along in what seems a manner no one else can see and feel and the tricks of the light, tricks of the brain, tricks of the depression LIE.

Friends, pets, family, facial expression, air, breathing, eating, sleeping, walking, shopping, driving, taxes, swimming, reading, televison, films, typing, cereal, wine, kittens, shampoo, clouds, stars are all reduced to close in focus focus when you can focus and are all filtered through a physical and mental "wah wah" trombona_obscura popularized by animated Charlie Brown cartoons and fill your invisible backpack of reality, and trouser pockets, and socks, and ears, and pants, and toothbrush, and gets under your fingernails and it seems nothing could wash or wipe it away.

Fine now, really. Just briefly channeling the past to no ill consequence other than loss of anonymity.
posted by breve at 12:15 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


("I don't want to be less creative," etc.)

This isn't an argument, I just want to put this out here so it becomes part of the public record: when I was unmedicated, I did NOTHING creative at all. I thought about being creative, but I never seemed to have the opportunity. Within a year of when I started taking the meds, though, I was singing in a major arts organization and publishing in national magazines. I was on the meds for about a decade, and I'm off them now and appear to be doing OK. But of all the gifts that Prozac gave me, the activation energy necessary to re-discover my art was probably one of the greatest.
posted by KathrynT at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2013 [21 favorites]


When things are so prevalent, such as some form of depression, in a society it really is behoovent upon ourselves to start thinking there is something broken with society, not with the individuals.

Whatever depression I suffer from is not, nor has ever been to the point where I have attempted suicide, nor do I think the benefits of medication would outweigh the side effects in my case, although once or twice I did engage in overly reckless behavior because of it, however I do have some small inkling of why people commit suicide. And I can not condemn them for such. I can morn and bereave but not condemn.
posted by edgeways at 12:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that if I attempted suicide that I would succeed. The idea of multiple attempts baffles me unless people are real (un)lucky, inept, or aren't really wanting to do it. (I realize most likely it's a call for help when if fails.) I don't intend to test my hypothesis.

I get seasonal affective disorder. I also have depression brought on by chronic pain (it grinds you down). A large portion of my daily energy is expended disguising the fact that I am in constant discomfort or suffering from a bout of depression. Everyone wants to be perceived as "normal."

I'm under a doctor's care. I am unmedicated by choice, since generally every medication I have tried has side effects I personally find worse than the condition. Well, at least all the ones I have tried, and that becomes tiresome as well. You find something that works and it stops working (or insurance will no longer cover it), or you try something and it does nothing, so that time is wasted. There's only so many times you can stand at the pharmacy window before that becomes something that contributes to your state.

I don't consider myself to be mentally ill. I am sane and rational and can't imagine how a therapist would ever help. And perhaps that's part of the problem.

Honestly if given the choice I think I would choose to become a drug addict. Give me a painkiller that works and I'd only have to worry about winters, but in this country it's near impossible to get any kind of decent pain management. I went to a pain management specialist and he suggested meditation and acupuncture. I'm not advocating for an easy way out of things, but sometimes I think a day or three without pain would be something that could let me begin anew. Some days I have good days and nothing hurts and I feel like that's what it must be like to be manic, but I know these days won't last, since they never do, and that's a grinding knowledge as well.

I'm also 43. I look out and realize, if I am lucky I may have another 43 years of this, and then I think it'll probably get worse as I get older. Most things do.

Depression sucks because it's difficult to talk about, and people that don't have it don't understand. They think they can, but they can't. I know, I used to be one of those people and I didn't get it.

I hope Fry gets the help he needs. I hope he realizes he'd be squandering so many gifts and be harming so many more people than himself.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:29 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


NYC Couple Who Hosted Self-Help Radio Show Found Dead in Joint Suicide
posted by phaedon at 12:31 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


About once every thirty to forty five minutes, while at work, my brain says something like "wouldn't it be nice to be dead." I discovered this was because of depression largely due to a conversation here at MeFi about Hyperbole and a Half. There are no specific causes for this thought, it just pops in periodically. Sometimes, it pops in like a sigh with a feather and other times like a scream with a megaphone and a cattle prod. Over the years, I've grown used to it but its never really entirely gone away.

Obviously, there are other symptoms of note - long periods where I'm unable to do anything, bouts of (I don't know, I guess) darkness, some times where I just cry without any reason, general self loathing especially when I'm being praised for something I did well. The only time that I ever think "say, listening to that voice would be a wise idea" is when I start to think "Oh shit, I'm never going to get better and this is never going to end."

I felt this way recently after somebody I very much admire took his own life due to depression and everybody close to him insisted we not discuss how or why he died. The message I received was his reason for death was shameful and embarrassing. Had he died of cancer, everyone would have been like "fuck cancer." Had he died in a car accident, everyone would have been had an opinion on whose fault it was or what could have been done to prevent it. But, no, he had died of a depression provoked suicide, so that was too shameful and painful to talk about. No "fuck depression," no "its too bad that the shame he felt about his depression was greater than his desire to get help" or anything like that.

Like Mr. Fry said, for a lot of people, depression is like a genital wart. I think many people who don't understand liken it to a dirty face - just wash it off, what's the problem?

Anyhow, I'm lucky in that I don't feel ashamed about it (though the thought that people might think I should feel ashamed of it haunts me sometimes) and am willing to talk about it and went right to a therapist when I found out what I was dealing with.

The thing is, I can talk about it, and I know what it does to me, but I don't really know what it is. Where is it in my body that this thing is happening? What went wrong that could have prevented depression from occurring? What sets it off? Why is it there?

So I can tell you what it does and how it feels, but I can't really explain the "why" or the "what" all that well, except using metaphors about warts and dirty faces. So saying the "why" is mental illness is sort of like like saying wind is caused by weather. I know its mental illness, but why? Why is it there? Why is it at all?
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:36 PM on June 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


Oh, the Bipolar, it is a terrible, terrible thing. I have never tried to kill myself, but I have started the thought process, and that was fortunately enough for me to get serious help) But I live with this specter, just hovering out of sight, waiting to swoop in and jack me up or lay me low. Even when I'm not depressed, I'm only a few days of missed meds away from being depressed or conversely, being manic. I am on a relatively new drug that is used off label for Bipolar depression. It does wonders for me where nothing else had. My new insurance only covers a fraction of the cost and I now pay 600.00 per month to feel like an actual living human person instead of a dried husk who wants to die. I don't know how sustainable this is, and it kills me that my family is sacrificing so much for me, but for me and all depressed people, it truly is a life and death situation. If I don't take the meds, I am at risk for suicide. They can charge me almost anything.
posted by Biblio at 12:39 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Taking medication did not impact my depression at all. Learning that there are actually things about myself that I can like has. I attribute this partly to talking therapy and partly to changing my career to one where I work to help others, which gives me a sense of self worth.

The way talking therapy helped me was to give me an external perspective on my emotions and to learn to deal with them in different ways. I note from cjorgensen's comment above that you describe yourself as "sane and rational", and that's true, but the emotions are not rational and cannot always be dealt with rationally.

Everyone is completely different though, and I realise that what works for one person may not work for someone else.
posted by walrus at 12:44 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just one further thought. If I can say there is just one important thing I have learned from having what I can only describe as a complete breakdown three years ago, it is not to be afraid to ask for help. I spent six weeks at that time signed off work, but too ashamed of myself to tell my partner what I was going through, so I would pretend to go to work in the morning, and then come back later. It took me six months to have the courage to tell my close family. Nobody guessed it about me, because I would hide it so well. It was only when I accepted that I couldn't work it all out for myself that I was able to begin making a difference.
posted by walrus at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


You find something that works and it stops working (or insurance will no longer cover it), or you try something and it does nothing, so that time is wasted. There's only so many times you can stand at the pharmacy window before that becomes something that contributes to your state.

This is the real kicker. Finding the right medication is an endless series of stabs in the dark, and even if you hit one (or a combination) that helps for a while, the effects inevitably don't last. People who say it's just as easy as getting a pill are oversimplifying to the extreme.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:58 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


> Then when someone asks "why did you try to kill yourself" you should answer "mental illness" not wave your hands about the mystical unknowableness of irrational life.

For starters, you're just getting handwavy about a problem. Which is doubly frustrating when you're the sort of person who sees problems and wants to solve them, or wants them solved, and gets emotional about the process of problem solving.

So blocking a particular vector of inquiry with a stupid goddamned "Sorry, my brain is fucked up, oh well," is the opposite of helpful. And as a response to somebody's conversational gambit about how you're feeling, well, then you're just an asshole.

Hope this helps, you logical machine you.
posted by ardgedee at 1:12 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Comment and a few replies removed, please try to proceed with a little more compassion.]
posted by cortex at 1:17 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's quite brave and very helpful for someone in the public eye like Fry to talk about his experiences so openly. Mental illness still has a lot of stigma attached to it even though it's increasingly common, especially depression and bipolar disorder. As someone mentioned above, a physical disease like cancer does not have that stigma attached. It's very difficult for someone suffering it to talk about, but it's something we have to talk about, as individuals and as a society, in order to help to remove that stigma.
posted by walrus at 1:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Count no blessings: how a suicidal mind works
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


My close friend of decades was found dead this past Wednesday. She struggled for many years with both deep emotional pain and severe physical pain, along with a host of other medical issues. Of the last seven times she was in the hospital, five were suicide attempts. We don't yet know, as there is a backlog of autopsies, if her heart finally gave out or if she took her own life.

And the crazy drama that has created illustrates the stigma still attached. Her mom lost her shit when someone asked if it was suicide. Screaming fights have started over the question. Yet most of us, her friends, will not be surprised if she took her own life. Many of us have struggled with depression ourselves; have been talked off the ledge by that friend. None of the friends would be, could be, judgemental if she decided to end her own pain but her family is still horrified by the stigma and cannot face the possibility, because then they'd blame themselves for not helping her even though they were powerless.

Everyone's fine with the idea that her heart could kill her off at 39, but not that her emotional torment could. It makes them feel like they failed her. No one wants to feel that, so no one wants to accept suicide as a possible cause.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I do not suffer from what most people describe as depression, except for that brought on by chronic pain. However, a few years ago, I was hospitalized and the paramedics and the ER doctors thought I had had a seizure, so they put me on anti-seizure medication. The first one cause a nasty rash all over my torso, so they stopped that one and they kind of forced me to go to a neurologist (they even took away my drivers license, so I had to "prove" that I didn't have seizures, by going to this neurologist, even though the seizure diagnosis was later proven to be false), who prescribed Topomax. Oh great, this feels familiar. Wait, this feels like weak LSD. One dose and I told the neurologist to either test my brain for seizures, or fuck off.

Meanwhile, I have asthma, so my new doctor prescribes me Advair. One of the little known side effects of Advair (and they also tried to give me Xolair, I think) is the risk of "suicidal ideation."
Oh good fucking god dammit all to shit and back, I now COMPLETELY understand the depressive mental state. The world was literally greyscale. There was no color in anything anymore (I have a mild form of synesthesia, so colors have a little more cognitive meaning to me), and it felt like there would never be color again. Once I stopped taking those medications, slowly, very, very slowly, colors started to come back, and things started to balance out. Even through some really rough patches of the last few years (unemployment, relationship stuff), I have never felt as bad as I did due to the effect of those drugs. If being 'naturally' depressed is anywhere near as bad as what I experienced on those drugs, I am now a very firm believer that anyone who says they feel suicidal is to be listened to, and that link to those 10 things you should say are VITAL to making sure you are one of the supportive people that they need. I was very lucky that my doctor understood that I was very serious about how those drugs really did make me severely depressed, not just feeling down, but actively contemplating just not wanting to be alive any more. I know that I am rare, and that there really is no way to "share" my experience with people through giving them a pill that really does truly make life lose all meaning, but having the experience has definitely opened my eyes to the reality that some people face every day.

Also, Stephen Fry is a hero, even if he doesn't feel like one.
posted by daq at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


If anyone hasn't listened to the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast yet, give yourself a treat and listen. It is so good. People just talking frankly about their experiences with depression and other mental illnesses.

And _paegan_, I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Depression is a filthy fucking liar and it's something that you have to fight every second of every day.

I've likened it to a landmine on your front lawn; There's no reason for it, and you have no idea it's there until you step on it and it fucks your life up for no good reason.

I totally understand why he'd try to kill himself and that terrifies me.

I've suffered from depression my whole life, and I'm embarrassed to admit how comprehensive my knowledge of how to kill myself has become. For instance, I know how much it would cost to buy a 20 pound tank of nitrogen, I know places that sell them, and how long that would take to do me in. Worse, I know exactly the mindset one could get into where these disparate pieces of information could suddenly seem like a relevant and useful option.

And that terrifies me too.

Fortunately I've recognized this, and sought help, and the medication I'm on is mostly pretty good. But every once in a while that dark wave breaks over the top of my defenses and I'm suddenly in this crazy black mood trying to figure out what the point is.

I fucking hate depression. I hate that it makes what should be the unthinkable seem almost reasonable at time. I hate that so many people I care about suffer the same way I do. And I hate knowing that before too long, I'm probably going to lose someone else to it.

But for today, I'm happy that Fry is still alive. He brings me more joy than a lot of people, and I like the world better with him in it.
posted by quin at 2:02 PM on June 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


I got talked out of it by a poem, Galway Kinnell's "Wait," which has so much hard-won empathy and weary hope, I could cry thinking about it.

Bonus: Andrew Bird made a fantastic song out of this poem.

I bet you Frye's admission and words talks someone else out of it. And good on him.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Here's Kinnell reading that poem live. If that isn't the sound of someone who's been through the shit telling you gently that everything will be okay, I don't know what is.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:12 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Depression is a filthy fucking liar

No shit. And part of it is bringing up memories that have happened in your past that were poor choices or which didn't work out well. "Look at this. And oh, at this. And this." Half-truths about your life which maybe cost you some respect or friends. At times when you're vulnerable.

One response: "OK smartass, where were you at those times?" And another is to arm yourself with a list, a scrapbook, a set of memories which remind you of all that's gone right. And remind you of the things in life, the people and experiences and sources, that inspire you and keep you strong, to thank them and seek them out again. To call the liar on those lies.
posted by Twang at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been struggling with my own demons today. What would have been my father's 68th birthday was yesterday, two weeks after my own birthday and a week before Father's Day. The weather in Boston has been a little erratic, which has set off some of my neurological traps. I've also been having some trouble with registering for state insurance at the time when I most need the care.

For the past few days I've been wandering around in a semi-conscious state, trying to shake out of this horrible mood. When I talk to Gentleman Caller about this, he always asks "what's wrong?" in this mournful voice that makes my heart break. A few years ago he saw me at the worst of the worst, which was a blessing and a curse...seeing his reaction to my depression was the kick in the pants I needed to get help, but when I am genuinely feeling depressed or anxious I feel like I need to shake it off and put on a happy face for him. I'm working on feeling better, but there are times when I try and I try but I can't feel better. I just feel really alone right now, and like nothing I'm doing is helping with that sense of melancholy and isolation.

Thank you so much for posting this. It really means a lot to me.
xo
posted by pxe2000 at 2:29 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The article links to a 90 minute video download of the interview for £3.50, but you can also get the full audio for free from this page.

Richard Herring, the comedian who set up the interview (previously) talks about his experience of the night on his blog here.
posted by rollick at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fry: "Today's a crap day," is a perfectly realistic approach. It's all about finding a kind of mental umbrella. "Hey-ho, it's raining inside: it isn't my fault and there's nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage."

As someone having an especially crap day, an ants under the skin during a completely mundane phone call with my mother day, this is exactly what I needed to read.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:43 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


My brain is just wired completely wrong. I have epilepsy and Major Depressive Disorder. The former is easy for my husband to understand - the electrical circuits in my brain get fried. The latter... he's come to accept that it's just part of the whole shitty wiring package and just like the seizures, I'm generally fine as long as I take my meds.

But it took years to get to that understanding, he basically had to live through my changing meds and subsequently becoming an irrational mess (my own depression shows up as a cocktail of belligerence, escapism, and hypersomnia) to see that the cause and effect was chemical, not related to outside world input the way he had expected depression to work.

Now it's just shorthand - "Why do you feel shitty?" "Oh, it's my brain." Amazing that this is immediately understood talking about epilepsy but takes so much longer for an "outsider" to grok about depression.
posted by sonika at 3:00 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


About once every thirty to forty five minutes, while at work, my brain says something like "wouldn't it be nice to be dead."

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who goes through this regularly.

Actually, that's not true; I really wish I was the only one, so no one else had to deal with this ridiculous background noise in their brain, but I suppose it's nice to know that I'm not alone out there in feeling this.

Most of the time, it's not even a real thought, just a "Huh, there's an easy way to not have to give a shit about this anymore..."

But you learn to ignore it for the most part. And when you can't, you learn to shout it down on the inside.
posted by quin at 3:14 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the cruel things about depression is that it's hard for people who are depressed to get help because there is a little voice in the depressed brain telling it's depressed person "You don't deserve help."
The depressed brain tells lies to the depressed person. Everyone deserves help.
If you ever hear this voice in your head, please get help.
Further, your brain may continue to lie to you to make you think the process of getting help is scary or hard. For example, your brain may make you worry about how you're going to afford to seek a doctor, or how you're going to fit an appointment with a doctor into your busy schedule, or how you'll even find a doctor, or whether or not your doctor will believe that you need help. In this case, you may need help getting help.
Ask for help, and don't stop asking until you get help.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:20 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the cruel things about depression is that it's hard for people who are depressed to get help because there is a little voice in the depressed brain telling it's depressed person "You don't deserve help."

Yes yes yes. My brain tells me "just suck it up, asshole, other people have it worse" all the time. Its true, other people do have it worse. But just because somebody out there might have a broken leg doesn't mean you shouldn't have your broken finger tended to, you know?

So, yeah.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Lots of days, I think, "If only I could die in my sleep." Chances are phenomenally slim that that will happen, though. The suicidal ideation is constant, but the knowledge that I'll probably never kill myself--for all sorts of reasons, each more pathetic than the last--just makes me feel like even more of a failure.

That's how fucked up depression is.
posted by tzikeh at 3:25 PM on June 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


The breakthrough for me, when I was telling my shrink how ashamed and guilty I was for feeling like this was a real problem when so many other people have it so much worse than I am, is that the guilt and shame is a symptom of the depression. It's part of it! It's not even that "you don't have to feel shame for having a disease," it's that the disease itself is causing you to feel the shame.

if anyone reading this ever needs help getting help, memail me or find me in chat. I have been there, where "there" is the waiting room of the psychiatric ER. It is not so bad, compared to not going, and I can tell you what to do and what to expect.
posted by KathrynT at 3:49 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Damn. I am glad he didn't succeed.
posted by homunculus at 3:51 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


KathrynT: if anyone reading this ever needs help getting help, memail me or find me in chat. I have been there, where "there" is the waiting room of the psychiatric ER. It is not so bad, compared to not going

It is if you can't find a full-time job and have no health insurance. It's pretty bad then.
posted by tzikeh at 3:52 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is if you can't find a full-time job and have no health insurance. It's pretty bad then.

Well, OK, yes. I was treated with extreme compassion at mine, but I did have health insurance. Our country is a disgrace.
posted by KathrynT at 4:06 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm still paying for my hospital stay 2 years ago. That, coupled with my exorbitant meds, make my mental health very expensive. If you don't have the insurance, or if like me, you do and it's still unaffordable, good health can seem an unattainable goal. How many people fight their way past the depressed voice that tells them they don't deserve help but end up giving up on getting help due to the sheer price factor? When my drugs increased in price after our insurance changed, I actually told my husband "I'll get by" without them, which is bullshit. I've tried that, and it was like a grey blanket of misery draped over my life. You shouldn't have to choose between functioning brain chemistry and other necessities of life.
posted by Biblio at 4:11 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I bet you Frye's admission and words talks someone else out of it. And good on him.

Which is why to me it would be especially bad if he'd succeeded.

I am usually one of those annoying types that believe people should have the right to make all decisions that affect them as individuals. Want tattoos and and earlobes that hang to you shoulders? I'll support you. Want to become transgendered? Let me know what you need from me. Want to commit suicide? Who am I to stop you? I truly believe the only person that can truly evaluate the quality of life is the person living it. People, to my mind, should have a right to make informed end of life decisions.

I used to defend Kurt Cobain's decision to end it all. I still do to some degree. He, like Stephen Fry, had/has everything. That's not the point. As an outsider you can judge another's life and decisions, but at the end of the day you can't make them for the person. I can imagine what it's like to be a person on the brink of suicide, I can imagine what it's like to be Fry or Cobain, but chances are I have no fucking idea.

This said, everyone means something to someone, and no decision affects that person solely. Also, part of making an informed end of life decision means you are in a place able to make a rational choice.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I ran across this article about suicide yesterday (Joiner's theory of suicide) which has a Venn diagram well into the article that explains suicide in a way that I hadn't thought of (basically, if this is TL:DR: loneliness, capability of the act, and burdensomeness, the last of which hadn't occurred to me).
posted by kozad at 4:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


He makes a good point about the invisibility and insidiousness of depression -- how it can cover you with a molasses-thick blanket of sadness, remaining all but completely imperceptible to everyone around you, even as you are forced to continue going about your regularly scheduled business with a ghastly forced grin.

I remember once making a self-deprecating crack to someone I'd considered a dear, close friend for over a decade, some wry observation about my unending wellspring of abject self-loathing. I assumed he'd immediately understand and respond with a knowing smile. Instead, he cocked his head at me and said, with gentleness and sincerity: "You hate yourself? I can't believe it. I would have never guessed. You're so happy, and you always have so much fun!" And I couldn't say anything, because I was too busy gasping and thinking, over and over: How could he not know? How could he know me and not know that?

Prior to that moment, I thought my inescapable, base worthlessness was simply telegraphed out to the rest of the world 24/7/365 on some invisible wavelength that I could neither regulate nor deactivate. I thought my constant desire to die, at least for as long as it served as the intoxicating inspiration for the self-destructive wars I waged during my teens and twenties, was as plain as the nose on my face. And until then, I thought thinking these things about myself was pretty much completely normal!
I'd always quietly assumed everyone struggled with self-injury, since it was the only coping mechanism I could ever wrap my mind around; I assumed they, too, went to great lengths to ensure all of their scars remained covered in mixed company. I thought everyone purposely made bad decisions and purposely put themselves in dangerous situations, and I figured they just didn't talk about it for the same reason I didn't, which is that it's kind of embarrassing because it has the capacity to make people think you are fucking crazy even if they thought you were not at all crazy before. More than anything, I have identified my personal tendency for depression as a disgusting and inescapable weakness. It nags and nags: "Everyone else is dealing with it, so why can't you?"

Medication doesn't work for everyone, and if you happen to discover you're one of the lucky ones, you just have to grind your teeth and acknowledge that a) everything else is palliative, and b) EVERYONE is going to tell you to that you MUST take medication, probably forever, or at least ask if you've tried this or that one or this or that dose or some goddamned herb or vitamin supplement or something. If you tell them that you don't take any psychiatric medication, even if you have led a fantastically successful life without it, even if you tell them that it wrecks your brain worse than the sick sadness ever could, they're still going to act like you belong in a hospital ward because you obviously don't know what's good for you. That's a real kicker.
Overall, my most encouraging realization has been that this is just something I have to deal with, like everyone else does, like I have to take out the garbage and get my oil changed and get out of bed every day. Realizing that for me, depression is just a great big boring chore I'll have to tend to and directly maintain for the rest of my life, rather than some great unknown and looming Other that constantly lurks in every shadowed corner, has de-fanged the prospect of attempting to enjoy life rather than simply endure it.

Truly, I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been, unbelievably grateful to have won a chance to spin around this mortal coil for a spell, but I still wake up every day and whisper "you're worthless, you're worthless, you're worthless" to the mirror, and I still go to bed every night hoping that I won't wake up because I don't deserve the impossible luck I've had in life. But moving away from self-identifying as A Depressed Person has sometimes been discomforting, almost upsetting; it feels as though I have willingly rejected the only identity to which I had grown accustomed. (Was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said, "I miss the comfort in being sad"?)

The only thing that has ever made a dent is being introduced to the concept of dukkha. It makes me feel less like I am uniquely worthless/deserving of punishment and more like I am just a tiny little part of a great big whole, a whole which suffers in varying degrees and then dies -- not because we deserve it, but because that's just how it is.
At the same time, I also understand that not everyone has had a veritable cornucopia of "just in case" exit plans embedded in the depths of their subconscious since they were a child, and that intense depression and suicidal ideation are still definitely not anything you should ever talk about unless you are OK with the possibility that everyone who hears you will thenceforth dismiss you as a dangerous lunatic.

I have lost several family members and many earthly idols to suicide; I miss them all but respect their decisions totally and without question. I don't know if the stigma will ever truly end because again, it is invisible and literally inconceivable to people who have not experienced it. Still, knowing that every sentient being is fighting, too -- each in our own way, large or small -- makes the world feel like a less lonely place.

Thanks for adding your voice to the chorus, Stephen Fry. We're glad you're still here.
posted by divined by radio at 4:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


Stephen was Craig Ferguson's guest a couple of weeks ago. This interview captures the true value of having Stephen Fry around.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:19 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is ironic, since I was suffering through a pretty serious bout of depression last night. Until I turned on QI and instantly cheered up. He just makes everything better.

"The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive" is an amazing documentary.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:02 PM on June 5, 2013


("I don't want to be less creative," etc.)

This isn't an argument, I just want to put this out here so it becomes part of the public record: when I was unmedicated, I did NOTHING creative at all. I thought about being creative, but I never seemed to have the opportunity. Within a year of when I started taking the meds, though, I was singing in a major arts organization and publishing in national magazines. I was on the meds for about a decade, and I'm off them now and appear to be doing OK. But of all the gifts that Prozac gave me, the activation energy necessary to re-discover my art was probably one of the greatest.


THIS THIS THIS. The stigma against meds fucked me up bad. being on meds give me the energy to sing and produce radio shows and get out of bed in the morning
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thank you for posting the link, Artw, and thanks to everyone for their thoughtful and compassionate responses. Reading this thread has been very helpful and serendipitous for me at this moment, and I imagine I'm not alone in that.

What I think Fry articulates so, so well here and in other interviews on the subject is the paradoxical banality of the experience of depression and other mental illness. "Suicide" and "depression" are words which seem to point to something monumental, precise, tangible, dramatic. As he points out, however, it is not any particular drama or event or happening or catalyst that compels the suicidal impulse, but rather the endless and inescapable drone of self-loathing that sucks the air out of every moment of your life and at the same time suffocates all thoughts of a possible future without it.
I come from a family that is genetically (I assume? I don't know how genetics works) predisposed to depression. My grandfather committed suicide long before I was born, which has (among many other devastating effects) served to make depression a complete taboo in a family that is absolutely riddled with it. It is an absolute tragedy.
My personal experience of depression is intrinsically and inextricably wrapped up with my eating disorder, both of which instill in me a incredible sense of shame precisely because of the overpowering and heavy knowledge that even with treatment and medication, even in whatever stage of "wellness" or "recovery" or "remission" I happen to find myself in, I will wake up every day knowing that it will be a fucking fight to choose health and life for that day, and the next day, and the next. My own struggle with mental illness is emphatically not, as it so often seems in even well-meaning popular representations, a romanticized battle where I am the hero struggling valiantly against the forces which try to hold me down; it is a dirty, ugly, visceral, degrading, and demoralizing wrestling match that I must endure every time I get out of bed, every time I sit down to eat, every time I look in a mirror. I never win, and I do not hope to win. I just continue.
And continue.
And continue.
Making the choice to do so is the hardest and the best thing I do every day.

Reading through this thread was one of the many things which helped me to continue today, so thank you. I wish all of you, who have shared so openly and honestly here, the sincerest wishes that you all have what you need to help you continue for tomorrow, and for the tomorrow after that.
posted by Dorinda at 5:46 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Looking back now, for a very long time I was so invested in and committed to the notion that the thoughts and feelings of depression were "me" that I did not think of it as "I have depression." I was aware that there was this condition called depression and that I probably could be said to have it, but I never conceptualized that I had it like "I have a cold" or "I have a stomach ache." The thoughts and feelings of depression were, for me, my identity. I can't even say that I considered them to be me because I didn't consider them as separate, they were just "me." Eventually I started thinking that maybe these thoughts and feelings were not "me." This seems to help, although I still find it strange sometimes.
posted by cheburashka at 5:46 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I forgot how much I loved that poem, DirtyOldTown.

Though what has talked me out of it (eventually) was wanting to know what happened next in a book series. Sometimes I still need that reason.
posted by jeather at 7:10 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's the thing. I tell people it's a parasite that lives in your head and it WANTS to live but it speaks with your own voice so you believe it. It's like a tapeworm that can talk.

And the real hell of it is, on the rare occasion you do feel better, you have no idea how to react because you've gotten so used to it that you wonder...can I still write or do whatever I do creatively? Can I still function? How can I live without me? Because this stranger that doesn't fantasize every few hours about opening a vein, that's not me, man.

And then it just proves the insidious little voice right because look at you, you couldn't handle being happy even if you were happy.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:26 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


All of this -- the FPP, these comments, the links contained within -- are amazing to me, and I am so fucking grateful that more and more people are willing/able/courageous enough now to talk about their experiences.

Because the asshole that is depression has a mighty ally in the stigma of its own self.

I was diagnosed as clinically depressed about seventeen years ago (I'm 43 now), and about four years ago, cyclothymic as well (cyclothymia is a form of bipolar disorder).

The first diagnosis I was okay with. There's a long history of depression in my family, and I knew from what I was experiencing that I needed therapy (and, eventually, an anti-depressant).

The second diagnosis freaked me the fuck out.

"Bipolar."

It didn't matter that it was a lesser form of bipolar. The stigma of those six letters knocked the wind out of me (literally -- I had a panic attack). It didn't matter that I'd go from utterly, stupendously joyous after cleaning off the dining table at 3 a.m. to three days in bed, unable to move, and when I did get up, I'd fall right on the floor and start sobbing.

I was bipolar, and that meant I. WAS. FUCKED. UP.

It took me several weeks to get past the stigma, the sheer terror of it. But after awhile I couldn't take it anymore and started medication (Lamictal). And it has saved my life. Literally.

The best thing we can do to fight the stigma is talk about it, about ourselves. It's not A Thing. It's just us.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This isn't an argument, I just want to put this out here so it becomes part of the public record: when I was unmedicated, I did NOTHING creative at all. I thought about being creative, but I never seemed to have the opportunity. Within a year of when I started taking the meds, though, I was singing in a major arts organization and publishing in national magazines. I was on the meds for about a decade, and I'm off them now and appear to be doing OK. But of all the gifts that Prozac gave me, the activation energy necessary to re-discover my art was probably one of the greatest.

Sleep is the good cop, depression the bad. I don't know what they want from me.

When I wake up, depression tells me what a miserable day I'll have. When I go to work, depression tells me that I deserve no better than my lot. It says that if I deserved better, then I would have better. When I go back home, depression looks at the long shadows and remarks how little I've been reading, how little I've been writing, and how little I'll do either with the little free time I have left in the day.

I've begun to go swimming at nights. Depression, of course, questions this use of my time. I could spend it playing computer games, feeling agitated and unsatisfied. I could read the Facebook updates of people I haven't seen in ages and who never smiled to see me. I could scroll and scroll through a tumblr feed or an RSS reader's main menu, and never stop. On some days I concede to its insistence. On other days, I swim. It tends not to say much when I swim.

But at its loudest, it drowns out my curiosity and my imagination. Without those, no creative work worth doing is possible. In that state, I throw out every page I finish, disgusted with myself for trying. Depression calls me a stupid wage-earner with ambitions to hackwork. It reminds me of the day I wandered around the Common, trying to work up the nerve to conduct ten man-in-the-street interviews. It reminds me of the freelance job I botched when I misquoted and misrepresented a school board member's idea because of my bad notes. It reminds me of the B I earned over and over again on assignments that should have been easy, assignments that would have gotten me condescension even from English majors.

It's so talkative that I've come to believe I can't quiet it alone. I plan to get medication as soon as I can.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:19 PM on June 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


It breaks my heart that Stephen Fry, of all people, tried to kill himself. I had always thought of him as one of the most even-keeled men in show business, to the point of bristling at his advice to the depressed. To read that he knew whereof he spoke is, on the one hand, horrible. On the other hand, it makes me reconsider his advice, which, on a more sympathetic reading, seems sound. It would be worth keeping in mind for when the weight presses down again.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


How many people fight their way past the depressed voice that tells them they don't deserve help but end up giving up on getting help due to the sheer price factor? When my drugs increased in price after our insurance changed, I actually told my husband "I'll get by" without them, which is bullshit. I've tried that, and it was like a grey blanket of misery draped over my life. You shouldn't have to choose between functioning brain chemistry and other necessities of life.

When my husband lost his job last year, my Lex jumped from an already icky $50 co-pay to nearly $200. (My other meds took similar jumps, OMG.) We were without insurance for 6 months.

In the in-between, we have insurance again, and when I went to use my prescription benefits for the first time, my co-pay for all three medications I'm on was $10. Total. Just for my LoTrel. In addition to the wonderful mandate that requires my Camrese to be 100% covered, it seems my insurance company covers certain generic mental health medications at 100%.

I am not ashamed to say that I sat down in front of the pharmacy and cried from relief.
posted by MissySedai at 8:26 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This deserves another mention on this thread:

Sometimes, going to the emergency room is a relief.

Sometimes, when a person is overwhelmed with life, feels like s/he's out of control and can't seem to find relief, having someone else take control is suddenly very comforting.

It is not a punishment. It is not because s/he's been bad. It is because s/he needs some help right now and this is the best way to help that person.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:10 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few days ago, I posted on my game design blog my current battle with... anxiety/depression.
Well, here I am after almost 2 months. It has been quite a while since I’ve had the mental energy to work on projects. But this weekend I set myself to do it.
The first issue here, of course, is that I have phases and cycles of creativity and non-creativity. I sort of self-diagnosed “cyclothymia” but I don’t think therapists read too much into patients self-diagnoses, except for a bit of insight into what the patient thinks they think about themselves. That means that I have cycles of downward energy, minor depressions (which have exacerbated as time has gone on, in some ways, due to certain life events and changes (inter-relationship and day-to-day living stuff)), and poor decisions in response. I think it’s important to talk about these things to let other people know that they’re not the only one facing difficulties, whether it be lack of creativity or even a lack of desire to get out of bed, to sleep all the time. To have difficulty concentrating. To lack a “spark” of creativity and passion. To lack the mental energy to take on tasks like programming a game and the set of logic that goes along with it.
posted by symbioid at 9:38 PM on June 5, 2013


Depression, anxiety, listlessness - these are as real as the weather - AND EQUALLY NOT UNDER ONE'S CONTROL.
You know how we look back at the medical practices and beliefs of the dark ages and think, my God, those monstrously stupid people, how could they think you could cure the flu by draining blood out of a poor sick person or covering them in garlic? I have a feeling we're living through a sort of equivalent era, but for mood disorders.
posted by deathpanels at 9:47 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Damnit, I meant to link, not post... Anyways, to continue. Ever since the end of last year and a new heavy workload at work, I've been dealing with a ton of stress to the point of almost once a week at this rate, storming out of work. As horrid as work is, there is a lot of ... understanding? I dunno. It's like a little family, so I have been able to have this happen without fear of reprisal, and I'm grateful for that.

I beat myself up for my reactions. I am on medication. I was going through some of the worst depression of my life this past January so we switched up my anxiety meds to add in some antidepressant meds, and I'm not as down as I was, but now I'm anxious again. So we're adjusting that. And it sucks.

I am fortunate in that, so far, I have never been suicidal. I have thought about, at times, "the world would be better off without me" but that was more a long time ago than now. More it's just a question of whether it's worth it.

That is. It's not that I'm so depressed that I want to do it's just that I'm not sure I care to live either. Why bother offing myself... I'm not that miserably depressed, and I hope I never end up in that state. But it's hell, the way this grips you, the way every second is a struggle and a tiresome motion through the routines.

And You just want some space to think, because it's hard to focus, and interruptions continually happen and it's hard to get back to where you were.

I realized that some of it is about control. I have no control when I'm at work. I mean, the best I can get is to hold up my hand and say, hold on one sec while I finish this thing. And then it's on to another and then another and it's a relentless onslaught where I feel like I'm drowning. I have no way to say "STOP!" Except by being so totally and utterly overwhelmed that I freak the fuck out and rage-leave. I mean, they know this there, they try their best. The other day, the breaking point was literally when someone needed me to do something and said "I know you're overwhelmed"...

My therapist was talking to me about my old sessions with her and my comment about running on an 8 track tape. Meds slow that down, but I think I still am that way. I am sporadic and I realized that I think in pointillist terms. Dots and dots build up to form a cohesive picture, but it's not linear, and sometimes I skip and jump around, and it's really really hard to focus, or to regain focus.

I asked a dear friend of mine if I was neurotypical and she said 'no, but that's a good thing". And I think she meant it in the way I was thinking not just "cray cray" or "creative" but that how I process is fundamentally different than a lot of people. I have a nephew who has High Functioning Autism, and my dad has some traits (sensitivity to sounds) that seems to have carried on to me, that he has gotten from his mother... At least, that's what my mom says.

I definitely think there's a big genetic thing here. But that doesn't make it any easier.

I'm terrified that the only solution is to leave my good paying job for something less stressful, I'm terrified that those who depend on me for support might have to part ways as I won't be able to contribute like I have.

i have two states now and it's anxiety or depression. Anxiety works itself into rage (which is horrific and I'm terrified of it) or depression which sucks just as much. In some ways, for me, my depression is minor enough that I wish I could be more depressed so that I can just "blah" my way through the day, instead of getting so on edge that I can't handle the tiniest irritation.

I just want it to stop :(

So adding my voice to anyone who finds this. There is relief. It does get better, I have gone many years just fine. Unfortunately, as others have mentioned, our "health care" (hahahah) system doesn't give a shit about any of us, only about money. And that means we are expendable in the end, and if you have to die for their profit, so fucking be it. (wait, there's the anger again).

I have a coworker who I care about very much also going through some major depression and there's complications there, too. I'm trying to support her and let her know she's not alone in the meantime, because I don't think she has the support she needs right now. Our work environment isn't sane enough for either of us, or most people. I feel like my depression/anxiety is situational in some respects, but I'm afraid it might not be, and even if I get a different job, "there you are", as the saying goes.

One time a couple years ago when going through some depression, my friend said "Be here now." And I said "Can't I 'be here now' somewhere else?"

The other day, when in the thick of it, I pondered. Can someone just will themselves catatonic. In some ways I wanted to try, in other ways I was terrified of the idea so didn't want to push at it, because who knows. But it was the only way for me to escape I felt.

Now for my nighttime cocktail of crazy meds and physical meds and blah blah blah.
posted by symbioid at 9:56 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "This is ironic, since I was suffering through a pretty serious bout of depression last night. Until I turned on QI and instantly cheered up. He just makes everything better."

Funny, QI is also my go-to when I need a pick-me-up. I wrote about that in an old AskMe answer. Super positive, funny, high-bandwidth media is awesome for calming racing thoughts / anxiety and lifting my mood. I highly recommend QI episodes for others!
posted by lazaruslong at 10:02 PM on June 5, 2013


SteveInMaine: "Stephen was Craig Ferguson's guest a couple of weeks ago. This interview captures the true value of having Stephen Fry around."

Yes! I posted that here, too, if anyone feels like discussing the content of the show (not the damn disclaimer at the top).
posted by lazaruslong at 10:04 PM on June 5, 2013


I have cancer. Fuck cancer. But depression is worse. The worst thing I can say about cancer is that my cells just wanted to live and reproduce without check. But depression is this, this thing that poisons everything and makes you want to annihilate yourself, even though life is already all there is, and it's so, so, so short and so precious. Fuck fuck fuck depression.
posted by gingerest at 10:41 PM on June 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


You know how we look back at the medical practices and beliefs of the dark ages and think, my God, those monstrously stupid people, how could they think you could cure the flu by draining blood out of a poor sick person or covering them in garlic? I have a feeling we're living through a sort of equivalent era, but for mood disorders

I couldn't agree more, but I wouldn't limit it to mood disorders specifically; in terms of psychiatric conditions generally, we're still flailing around - torn between our Judeo-Christian foundations (associating mental illness with weakness or a lack of character) and our still hazy acknowledgement of these conditions as being physical/chemical in nature (to some extent). Ironically, even the manner in which the mental health system is funded reflects this bias - we focus on patient/client management rather than researching and identifying the causative factors and finding cures.
posted by Nibiru at 11:41 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


_paegan_: "My close friend of decades was found dead this past Wednesday. She struggled for many years with both deep emotional pain and severe physical pain, along with a host of other medical issues. Of the last seven times she was in the hospital, five were suicide attempts. We don't yet know, as there is a backlog of autopsies, if her heart finally gave out or if she took her own life.

And the crazy drama that has created illustrates the stigma still attached. Her mom lost her shit when someone asked if it was suicide. Screaming fights have started over the question. Yet most of us, her friends, will not be surprised if she took her own life. Many of us have struggled with depression ourselves; have been talked off the ledge by that friend. None of the friends would be, could be, judgemental if she decided to end her own pain but her family is still horrified by the stigma and cannot face the possibility, because then they'd blame themselves for not helping her even though they were powerless.

Everyone's fine with the idea that her heart could kill her off at 39, but not that her emotional torment could. It makes them feel like they failed her. No one wants to feel that, so no one wants to accept suicide as a possible cause.
"

I am so, so sorry for your loss. Dead serious, no snark. If you lived closer, I would invite you over for Bloody Marys, bad movies and fuzzy cat petting and you wouldn't have to say a word (other than "Wow, that's a good Bloody Mary" or "Wow, that movie was weird" or "Wow, that cat IS fuzzy!").

Scary. I now have something in common with Stephen Fry. This is a weird world I live in. (looks over shoulder for a small nasal brunette man with a natty suit and a smoke)

Look, I say it in my profile. If someone needs to talk, I am pretty much unshockable and pretty close to completely non-judgemental. Look me up. I can do IM, or Skype (but my connection sucks) or email, or even voice phone.

But, after surviving this myself (and only by complete fucking blind luck), I don't want to hear of anyone else doing it, not if I can do anything about it. FWIW, I have been told I am a pretty decent conversationalist, so there's that too. Use the profile email. (I also suck at internet detectiving and have a seriously strong pro-privacy streak too.)

Also, I am currently unemployed and don't sleep enough, so scheduling is flexible.
posted by Samizdata at 2:26 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


(One down side though - If you do talk to me for help, as per a recent discussion, I think the Federal Government requires I disclose the fact that I use the word "grok" in a sort of blissfully non-ironic way. So be prepared.)

And I hereby swear on my user number to remain pants-intact the entire time.
posted by Samizdata at 2:32 AM on June 6, 2013


Last year I was involved in a project with Stephen Fry that involved him tweeting a number of sponsored messages at specific dates and times (it was a location-based treasure hunt publicising the UK DVD release of the second Sherlock Holmes movie). About 50% of the tweets were posted late, some more than an hour late. Subsequently I gave a conference talk titled 'Don't Rely on Stephen Fry and other tales of promotional game design'. In retrospect that was a dick thing to do and I should have foreborne.
posted by Hogshead at 3:17 AM on June 6, 2013


In retrospect that was a dick thing to do and I should have foreborne.

Irrespective his condition, he's responsible for his commitments and managing himself appropriately in professional situations. If he's unable to do his job properly, he's responsible for behaving appropriately in that situation too insofar as notifying whomever he needs to of his inability to fulfil his contractual obligations. My point is, his success indicates he's extremely self-aware and high-functioning, so it may not be you who behaved dickishly in this particular instance.
posted by Nibiru at 4:02 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So apparently the press have found out and are using the opportunity to be dicks, doorstep ping him and such. SIGH.
posted by Artw at 4:04 AM on June 6, 2013


I favourited this thread because I know that I'm going to need to come back to it again and again, reading and rereading the advice, solidarity, and empathetic experience-sharing that's gone on here. Thanks to everyone who commented with their own stories.
posted by hydatius at 5:10 AM on June 6, 2013


I remember watching this video a year ago and noting to a friend "he does not seem well". I am disheartened that I was right. All I saw was someone trying their best to extract another couple hours out of a manic episode to meet some responsibility, before collapsing in despair.

Have you ever had a dream about a loved one where the emotions of the dream remained and invaded your thoughts the next day? You *know* it's not real, yet the feelings are the same. That's kind of what depression feels like. Drowning in irrational feelings. Anyone who says things against treatment or along the lines of "shake it off" ought to keep that in mind.
posted by gjc at 7:23 AM on June 6, 2013


I couldn't agree more, but I wouldn't limit it to mood disorders specifically; in terms of psychiatric conditions generally, we're still flailing around - torn between our Judeo-Christian foundations (associating mental illness with weakness or a lack of character) and our still hazy acknowledgement of these conditions as being physical/chemical in nature (to some extent). Ironically, even the manner in which the mental health system is funded reflects this bias - we focus on patient/client management rather than researching and identifying the causative factors and finding cures.

What makes the issue so hard to tackle is that everyone's cause is different. And the success of things like mindfulness and CBT point to the reality that one's own thought processes DO have an effect on depression. I mean, you can't really think your way out of depression. But you damn well CAN think your way into depression. The brain is complex, and the mind that it hosts is even more complex. And they can effect each other. The organics can create thoughts, and thoughts can change the organics. It is, literally, maddening.
posted by gjc at 7:28 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes yes yes. My brain tells me "just suck it up, asshole, other people have it worse" all the time.

I was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 25, with the first symptoms showing up when I was eighteen and which were diagnosed as 'regular' depression - so I spent the next few years intermittently taking medication which didn't seem to be doing a lot to stop the troublesome feelings I was having. I was going out with a man at this time who would regularly say things like 'well, you can't be that depressed, it's not like you're homeless, so shut the fuck up whining'. It may have been tough love - depressed people are very hard to deal with - but it reinforced the feeling that what was happening to me was because I was weaker than others, or lacked the coping mechanisms, or was just a big baby.

The six months before I was diagnosed started with what I now know as a mixed episode, and continued into a weird emotional situation with a friend who became very close very quickly and disappeared, trouble at work, an involvement with a man who strung me along for an embarrassingly long time, my father dying, having to look for a new flat (flathunting in London is stressful - I looked at seventeen places and was panicking about how to afford things), problems with money and work, and eventually getting dumped and then disappearing for a few days, going from couch to couch, because I wasn't sure what else to do. When things stop making sense, it's terrifying. I think I spent most of the month I eventually spent at my mother's house (she came to London to take me home on the evening of my 25th birthday) sleeping because my brain had been running towards a crash with the breaks off and my body just couldn't cope anymore.

The meds are not fun - I have difficulty with memory, I'm tired a lot of the time and can sleep for 12 hours a day if I'm feeling low, and they make me want to eat ALL THE THINGS - and for a while I resisted taking them because they made me feel...dull. I went from reading three books a week to barely managing one, I couldn't watch films because I struggled to follow the plot, and I started leaving my keys at work and falling asleep with wet hair and waking up looking like Limahl - how could I be productive or creative if I can't manage basic things?

I think it's this mindset that's the hardest thing to get over - this and the idea that everyone is coping fine well while you're taking little pills just to get up in the morning. I try and think of it like diabetes - your body needs some chemicals, so you need to take them to make it work, and if you take them properly then you don't need to think about it anymore.
posted by mippy at 8:15 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, you can't really think your way out of depression. But you damn well CAN think your way into depression.

too true. At least it was in my most notable struggle with the d-word. Not that I ever really realized what was going on until I'd more or less served my season in hell.

Speaking of which, those CBC IDEAS PROGRAMS are worth linking to again.

There are three parts with the download links found on this page. You're looking for:

Rethinking Depression - Part 1
Rethinking Depression - Part 2
Rethinking Depression - Part 3

They've definitely got me thinking.
posted by philip-random at 9:35 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


"That's as stupid as saying there's no reason to have asthma, or there's no reason to have measles."
posted by Eideteker at 9:59 AM on June 6, 2013


What makes the issue so hard to tackle is that everyone's cause is different. And the success of things like mindfulness and CBT point to the reality that one's own thought processes DO have an effect on depression. I mean, you can't really think your way out of depression. But you damn well CAN think your way into depression. The brain is complex, and the mind that it hosts is even more complex. And they can effect each other. The organics can create thoughts, and thoughts can change the organics. It is, literally, maddening.

Hmmm...I can't speak for your assertion in regard to one thinking themselves into depression because, personally, I'm a little divided on this matter - there doesn't appear to be much differentiation (in terms of diagnosis and treatment) between feeling depressed as a result of (or of a series of) external circumstances...and being depressed...the manifestation of this illness in a strictly clinical sense. I believe the lines have become a little blurred (between situational and clinical depression), and, as a consequence, it may be difficult to accurately determine and assess whether this particular condition is more biological or environmental in nature.

For this reason, I believe it differs quite markedly from Bipolar Disorder.
posted by Nibiru at 11:13 AM on June 6, 2013


DU: He says he wants to destigmatize mental illness. Good! Then when someone asks "why did you try to kill yourself" you should answer "mental illness" not wave your hands about the mystical unknowableness of irrational life.
I disagree that you're qualified to tell a celebrity you don't even personally know what he should say when asked about his mental health issues.

I think his answer is just fine. In fact, IME it's a perfect answer to people who don't (feel that they) have mental health problems, and people who are having problems empathizing with other's mental health hurdles.

"Why don't they just stop drinking?"
A: If they could just stop, they wouldn't be struggling with alcoholism; they'd simply be drinking too much lately. Obviously there isn't a rational reason for why they don't stop.

"You can decide to be happy. Why would anyone choose to be unhappy?"
A: Leaving aside the falseness of the first statement... If this "why" were answerable, it really would be a choice, and not mental illness.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:54 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


philip-random: But, since then, the number of people afflicted with depression has soared.
Or, the number of people diagnosed with depression has soared.

It's like statistics on divorce rising: they never include the (unmeasurable) numbers of people who left their marriage in desperation before divorce was a realistic legal option. Nor the number of couples who share a house, but little more, sleeping in separate beds, effectively making them more than divorced: divorced, but without the benefits of moving on into a more healthy romantic relationship.

Some marriages need to end in divorce, and that's always been true. And I'll bet depression in Europe during WWII makes the post-prozac period look positively cherubic.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:59 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a little divided on this matter - there doesn't appear to be much differentiation (in terms of diagnosis and treatment) between feeling depressed as a result of (or of a series of) external circumstances...and being depressed...the manifestation of this illness in a strictly clinical sense. I believe the lines have become a little blurred (between situational and clinical depression), and, as a consequence, it may be difficult to accurately determine and assess whether this particular condition is more biological or environmental in nature.

so ... it's not either/or, and why should it be? Given that depression is nothing if not affliction of one's consciousness, it makes sense that its cause would be both external and internal. As in ...

And I'll bet depression in Europe during WWII makes the post-prozac period look positively cherubic.

True enough. How could the worst few years of human behavior in the history of the species not affect one's day-to-day mood? Or maybe when there's a war going on, we just don't call it depression. We call it the natural way to feel when our fellow humans are tearing each other part just over the horizon. Which gets us to one of the anecdotes in that CBC thing -- a woman who describes being diagnosed as depressed after dealing with the long slow death of a loved one. As she said, she wasn't depressed. She was mourning, and thus behaving normally. Which gets us back to as good a definition of depression as I can think of ...

Feeling bad/awful/suicidal for no particular reason.
posted by philip-random at 12:12 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen: I hope Fry gets the help he needs. I hope he realizes he'd be squandering so many gifts and be harming so many more people than himself.
cjorgensen, I couldn't put into words why this statement bothered me. After all, I agree with it, personally - very much so! But it rings somehow of victim blaming for me.

And then I read this linked article by Artw:
Count no blessings: how a suicidal mind works
... which brings it home. When you tell someone "please don't kill yourself because __X__", where X is "I love you" or "I'd miss you" or "think of how many people you'd hurt," you're trying to discourage unhappiness with guilt and threats. (Not you in this thread, cjorgensen, but "you" the person trying to talk a depressed person into being not depressed.)

A dear friend killed himself. If I could bring him back for just 30 seconds, I'd break his fucking jaw... and then kiss him and hold him tight. Which would probably hurt his jaw even more, but it's no longer about him. And neither are those statements of why Stephen Fry shouldn't commit suicide.

What to say is tricky, but angling on "you should feel bad if you want to commit suicide because..." is a really bad approach. IMO.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:13 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Going from what IAmBroom said, it's easy to jump from "I'm such a terrible person that I want to kill myself" to "And therefore I should kill myself."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:54 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think blanketing “mental illness” is stacking one stigma on top of another. People are gonna ask “why mental illness?” or “why don’t you just cure it?” Or any of the myriad variants that lead to stigmatization (why did this criminal kill on old lady – ‘mental illness’)
Seems like a variant on #8 “feeling sorry for ourselves, are we?”

Stephen Fry is basically a very nice person. And reading his experiences, it’s certainly horrible for anyone to suffer prejudice and condemnation, but being a particularly sensitive and intelligent soul it seems all the worse.

I’ve always thought that this is a communal problem. Saying “mental illness” lays it all on the individual. I mean, Fry grew up having to defend his homosexuality from sadistic pigheaded philistines, on top of the anti-semitism and certainly there are other people with bipolar disorder who suffered none of that trauma, but (IANAPsy) I’m sure those environmental factors didn’t help.

I have had variations of #8 laid on me and I’ve seen it dropped on any number of people who sought counseling in the military for depression, PTSD, alcoholism, etc.
Now, I’m basically not a very nice person. So once when I heard “you have to be nuts to want to kill yourself” I thought, hey, yeah. I’m not the one making me feel like shit right now. So why don’t I kill YOU instead?

And at this point the more universal aspect of this mental illness was made clear.

Some things are unknowable because they’re too complex. Some things are unknowable because people don’t want to know them.
Putting a label on it allows people to write it off and forget it. It’s obvious we distance people diagnosed with any form of mental illness. I’ve seen it first hand in people. I’ve been wounded a number of times physically, the same people don’t respond the same way.

There IS no why. Fry’s friends ask “why didn’t you call?”
Well, why didn’t they call him?
Why is he ashamed? Why is he ashamed to the point he won’t call friends who clearly wanted to help?

Is there some pat answer for that? I don’t think there is.

It’s not an illness in the sense that one can heal from it by yourself. I can take care of cracked ribs or cuts or holes, but I can’t get a hold on something I can’t touch.
Someone like Stephen Fry, someone with his resources, both tangible and intangible – I mean he’s not only wealthy, but very keen of mind and depth of emotion, if that guy can’t do it alone, it can’t be done alone.

He’s not brave for just talking about suicide. He’s brave for doing it so openly and in such a nuanced, thoughtful, and most importantly, inclusive manner.
People feel like they’re not alone. That he’s going through it too. That they’re part of the same thing that is in many ways utterly resistant to reason.
That helps people on both sides of the equation open their hands.

The term ‘mental illness’ by contrast, is divisive. Who wants to plug into that? Hey, yeah, I’m mentally ill too!

Just because you have lived through or are in a traumatic experience doesn’t mean it should be all on you to unscrew yourself up. On the contrary. Because people who usually create the trauma aren’t any more likely to accept responsibility than anyone else, it’s up to us to remind people that not only are they still part of us, but that they never left humanity.
No one wants to feel depressed to the point of suicide.
If there were an easy explanation there would be an easy cure and everyone would have taken it.

It’s something that has to be worked through and commonly experienced. Without that community effort we're just going to lose people to it and be lying to ourselves why.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:54 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mental illness merely denotes an illness of the mind. There is nothing divisive in the term itself, only in people's reaction to it.
posted by walrus at 2:42 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Smedlyman: The term ‘mental illness’ by contrast, is divisive.

Perhaps it culturally is by people who attach a stigma to it. The thing that finally drove me to medication was the ants (coupled with a delusion that my partner of a half-dozen years was dead in a car wreck.) I shower most days of the week. I had showered earlier that day. I diligently put flea medication on our cats. There is absolutely no physical reason, why ants would crawl under my skin in a bad day, when I'm also suffering from a delusion about what turned out to be entirely fictional circumstances.

And because I was doing weekly sessions with a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist and trying hard to meditate, I knew, as an intellectual and physical certainty, that there were no ants, and that the chances of my partner being in a car wreck were vanishingly small. But knowing and experiencing are two different things. On a bad day, I know as a matter of empirical reality that I'm getting politeness and respect from the people around me. My mental experience is they don't. Saying, "you're not real" never stops the ants. Finding something light and fluffy to occupy my monkey mind until the panic wears itself out has the best shot of success.

I wasn't remotely surprised that the ants come to people coming down badly from alcohol or opiate addiction.

Just because you have lived through or are in a traumatic experience doesn’t mean it should be all on you to unscrew yourself up.

I think trauma is only half the story. It seems like you're trying to grope for an easy explanation and a cure. And you know what, having talked to death all of my childhood, adolescent, and early adult traumas that shape my delusions, some afternoons, I just get the ants. Some mornings just taste like Poe and Lovecraft. On a bad day, I get a panic started opening a package of cheese for breakfast, what's up with that?

What gets me through is understanding that the panic is not me, in the same way that my weak knee or occasional tightness of my surgical scar isn't really me. It's a condition I have, that I learn to live with and work around.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:16 PM on June 6, 2013


One of the hardest things about meds was understanding/accepting that the not-depressed-me is the real me. The me I was used to identifying as was not an authentic me: it was (is) a false me.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:52 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


(basically, if this is TL:DR: loneliness, capability of the act, and burdensomeness, the last of which hadn't occurred to me)

Yeah, the burdensomeness is something a lot of non-depressed people don't get. It makes me mad when I hear a suicide victim described as "selfish" or "taking the easy way out." To the suicidal mind, it's as plain as day that his death will relieve his loved ones of the unbearable burden of his existence.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:53 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


so ... it's not either/or, and why should it be? Given that depression is nothing if not affliction of one's consciousness, it makes sense that its cause would be both external and internal. As in ...

My initial point relates to this: because there doesn't appear to be adequate funding and/or interest by the medical/scientific community, attempting to define the factors which result in clinical depression (and other psychiatric disorders) hasn't occurred - it's a matter of patient management, which ultimately results in these sorts of debates - a pointless repetition of the question of nature and/or nurture. Until there is adequate funding and interest, the causative factors will remain simply conjecture - and those who suffer with psychiatric disorders will continue to be isolated and stigmatised.
posted by Nibiru at 11:25 PM on June 6, 2013


I really wish I could score bipolar so at least I could get some stuff done once in a while.

I suppose you could describe me as a cyclic depressive. As I recently explained to someone, I don't get up times, I just have bad periods and worse periods, with no real warning of when the worse will hit or how long it will hit. Luckily, I have been able to work out a list of warning signs and shared them with those people that care about me and see or talk to me on a semi-regular basis.

You know, it is rather odd that during a recent discussion with my dad I remarked that I am terrified of being alone, to which he commented that I was the closest person to a hermit he knew. The odd part is that he is somewhat correct in that judgement. I have started daily periods of mandatory self-evaluation (as, frankly, I will think of ANYTHING but myself and why I do what I do) and the last period I agreed with him, but have yet to figure out why.

(And sorry if the bipolar joke offended anyone. It's just my way of dealing with things.)
posted by Samizdata at 2:51 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samizdata- mania isn't necessarily fun. Bipolar can definitely manifest as lethargic rotten moods and energetic rotten moods. A vacillation between actively hating the world and oneself and wishing everyone would just straighten up and act the way you hope they should, and just wanting everyone to shut the fuck up and let me sleep.
posted by gjc at 4:36 AM on June 7, 2013


Nibiru: It's not that there's a lack of funding for research into the genetics and development of mental illness. A central problem faced by the biological sciences in general and psychology in particular WRT development is that isolating individual variables is methodologically complex and full of pitfalls. It's hard to do with organisms with a generation time of hours that grow in a homogenized solution of broth on a temperature-controlled shaker table. For organisms that take almost two decades to reach a plateau of stability we call "adulthood?" The best you can manage is multi-generational and longitudinal studies.

But the nature/nurture argument, in spite of the best efforts of polemicists to revive it once a generation, is biological flat-eartherism. The uncomfortable answer is "both," we've known this since the nineteen-fucking-forties.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:56 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reporting suicide: Journalists must resist the temptation to make it a "better story"
posted by Artw at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2013


gjc: "Samizdata- mania isn't necessarily fun. Bipolar can definitely manifest as lethargic rotten moods and energetic rotten moods. A vacillation between actively hating the world and oneself and wishing everyone would just straighten up and act the way you hope they should, and just wanting everyone to shut the fuck up and let me sleep."

Oh, I know, but I have to have a sense of humor to adapt to the fact that all the people that have told me over the years that I was crazy and nuts were right.

(I am still hacked off that being "mad" has yet to get me a castle, hunchbacked assistant, or lovely maiden girls for me to menace. RIP OFF!)
posted by Samizdata at 1:36 AM on June 8, 2013


Have some personal stories, not sure when/if I'll share. For now, an interesting article from the New York Times, on suicide methodology and suicide prevention.

Also, an inspirational song which helps me when I'm down. Try it and see if it helps you.
posted by dr. zoom at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2013


DU: " It sounds like there is a "why" and it is "mental illness"."

Saying "It's because of mental illness" is like saying "Wakalixes makes it go." Yeah, that's the term that's applied to it, but it doesn't actually say much that's meaningful about what's really causing it.

edgeways: "When things are so prevalent, such as some form of depression, in a society it really is behoovent upon ourselves to start thinking there is something broken with society, not with the individuals. "

As Peter Kramer points out in Against Depression,
Found by the World Health Organization to be the single most disabling disease, depression afflicts people of every age, class, race, creed and calling: as many as 25 percent of us will be caught in its vise at least once in our lives. The disease blights careers, shatters families and costs billions of dollars in lost workdays a year. Kramer cites studies putting the annual workplace cost in this country alone at $40 billion -- the equivalent of 3 percent of the gross national product.
It isn't prevalent in "a" society, it's a problem around the world which afflicts people who also have "real" problems, like the so-often mentioned "living in a war zone", "getting shot at", and "finding food for the day".

divined by radio: " I thought my constant desire to die, at least for as long as it served as the intoxicating inspiration for the self-destructive wars I waged during my teens and twenties, was as plain as the nose on my face."

During a conversation recently with a friend, I made some mention of my depression. "What??" she said. "Lexi, I never would have imagined you were somebody with depression! You always seem so well-balanced and cheerful!" She boggled at me when I explained that I've been struggling with this damn disease for something like 35 years now and have been dealing with suicidal thoughts for more than 10, and that if I hadn't picked up Cheri Huber's The Depression Book five or six years ago (and then read the rest of her books and developed a Zen practice), I feel sure that I would have made an attempt by now. (I've recommended Cheri's work before because it's been so helpful for me.)

I don't know whether I want to even try to explain to my friend the difference between "wanting to be dead", "wanting to die", and "wanting to kill myself" — a distinction that's probably clear and familiar to a lot of folks in this thread, I'm guessing.

Thanks to everyone who's spoken up about their experience. Please remember that depression LIES. That's what it does.
posted by Lexica at 10:15 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My cynical experience is that the conversational, "Why are you depressed/anxious?" is less about exploring the complexities of human cognition, biology, perception, and emotional state, and more about looking for some kind of a point of common contact where one can express sympathy. "Because my dog just died." "Because I'm stressed out at work." "Because I'm had a bad argument in my family." "Because of an article I read in the newspaper."

People just don't like the fuzzy wuzzy multi-factorial stuff, where these things are the combined product of genetics, development, environment, habit, and situation. It's like playing cards. Some days I pick up the hand, see a string of red or black with a nice set of face cards, and the cards just say, "you'll make the bid, and could probably finesse a few more tricks as well." With most hands I don't, and some hands are "No ace, no face."

Now the shuffle is deterministic. A good magician knows the tricks to perform a perfect shuffle that brings the cards into a known order. But most of us don't have that level of skill and control, so we take what cards we get and make the most of them.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:29 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How not to commit suicide by Art Kleiner

I have a lot of experience of depression. I've learned that I don't want to be dead. The wanting to not be alive feeling so terrible will not be as forever as dead is. If you feel like killing yourself, keep asking for help. Read the article. Stay alive another day. Make a call, go the the Emergency Room. I hope you're okay.
posted by theora55 at 2:54 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know this is late, but still, thank you Artw for the original post, and I'm damn glad Fry is still around.

I'm even more glad that this prompted so many people to share their experiences. I was having a bad day Wednesday and this helped. Favorited the post so I can come back and read it again when I need to.

I live with depression, too. Everybody's depression is a little different, but for me CBT helps, and meds partially help. I get along OK. Even though words rarely help, I still say: it does get better. Even if you can't do anything to help yourself right now, even hanging on for another day is still a small victory. Just because you have a hard time while other people just soar effortlessly through life, does not mean that you are weak or lazy or a bad person.

Depression is a real thing, as real as cancer or a broken leg-- it's just harder to see, and it can hijack your own voice to convince you it isn't there. It might say you're just feeling sorry for yourself, or that all you need to do is try a little harder, or that people will think you're being whiny if you tell them what you really feel. In fact, right now mine is telling me that there's no point in me writing this, that I'm going to get the words wrong and it will make somebody feel worse, and that people will think I'm being overdramatic to get attention. But I'm posting this anyway, because fuck the lies! The more we speak up, the easier it will be for others to admit that they've got it too.
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 6:37 PM on June 10, 2013


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