Give me a stick and I can stay alive!
September 22, 2013 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Discover how to get out of bed and do things again with these spiffy new tips from 21 Comics That Capture the Frustrations of Depression! Or pull a blanket over your head and pretend you're the last person on earth curled up in a nice, warm cave. Whatever.
posted by byanyothername (89 comments total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not sure how this is supposed to make anyone feel any better.
posted by Halogenhat at 5:00 PM on September 22, 2013


#7 is genuinely scary to me. That's exactly it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:04 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


These are all pretty good, actually. Sometimes just being reminded that you're not the only one is enough to help scrape some of the rust off. Thanks.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


Halogenhat, these cartoons are meant to make you think about the subject a little differently, and perhaps laugh (or wince) in recognition of the circumstances. They are not so much ha-ha in nature.

In saying this, I'll admit #18 is bang on the money.

And of course, several cartoons made me wonder how that phantom person chopping onions got into the room. /youtooitsnotjustme
posted by datawrangler at 5:12 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


#6
posted by scratch at 5:13 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


They left out the one where you try to draw a comic autobiography to show everyone how you feel, and you barely get the first few panels done before reminding yourself you can't draw very well and aren't very funny and nobody wants to read self-pitying text-heavy comics anyway, and you put your pencils and pens and pads of paper in a box and spend the next few years telling people how you wish you could get back to drawing but never seem to find the time.
posted by mittens at 5:16 PM on September 22, 2013 [62 favorites]


Wow- these ARE well done. Thanks for posting this, byanyothername. They each offer something recognizable, though #8 really hit home to me. And #6. And #12. And, and, and....
posted by but no cigar at 5:17 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me it's #6. Spot on.

I should print it out and draw little roads leading off of that roundabout.

Do nothing --> it's okay to not be doing something all the time.
Feel guilty --> be kind to yourself. You are not superwoman.
Panic about future --> make a list of your accomplishments. Look at all you have done. Make a list of what you are looking forward to doing in the future. Look forward to the good times ahead!
Feel powerless --> you have the power. Use your powers for good, not to beat yourself up.

Or something like that.
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:18 PM on September 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


While Buzzfeed couldn't overlook Hyperbole and a Half's great cartoons, they did miss Achewood's Roast Beef.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:18 PM on September 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


Roast Beef is one of the most honest depictions of everyday depression ever, not just as expressed in cartoon cat form.
posted by The Whelk at 5:19 PM on September 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Thanks, this made me sob, but in positive way, ya know
posted by wires at 5:23 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


#8 yo
posted by threeants at 5:23 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


#9 and #12 for me.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 5:28 PM on September 22, 2013


4, 5, and 6.

And there's sort of the ones about being unable to express yourself, except when it's bad enough you feel so alien you think you may as well try to communicate using prime numbers because you can't get any closer than that to a shared experience with people.

Also, Boggle helps me more than is reasonable for a cartoon owl to do.
posted by winna at 5:32 PM on September 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


#8
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:34 PM on September 22, 2013


This Boggle the Owl cartoon was the last one to make me cry, but in a good way.
posted by winna at 5:35 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh God, number four. I literally shake and cry and scream in my sleep as I remember really dumb stuff I said when I was thirteen that no one else remembers. Holy shit holy shit that's spot on; it just hurts so much.

I also really appreciate the "cry for help" one. I think it's frustrating that things like suicide attempts get dismissed as "cries for help" because it makes me want to scream at people "If s/he is willing to attempt suicide to convince people it's serious enough that s/he needs help, maybe s/he REALLY DOES NEED HELP!"

Anyway, yeah, thanks for posting this.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:38 PM on September 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


A lot of this is spot on, but #15 pretty much perfectly describes how I ended up flunking out of high school and dropping out of college.
posted by brundlefly at 5:43 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I read this at 4 o'clock this afternoon as I was in the bath I'd run for myself at 12pm and got into half an hour previous. And not long after, I managed to make it out of the house for a coffee & cake. So they definitely helped me today.
posted by ambrosen at 5:44 PM on September 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Man I wish I had this resource years ago. Communicating how it feels is the hardest thing, especially to people who clearly want to help but just don't get it. I kind of want to send this to my parents now, just so they can see a little more of what I was dealing with when I was in the thick of it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:44 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This list is missing Megg's Depression by Simon Hanselmann.
posted by darksong at 5:44 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


The parkour one made me laugh. So I count this as a win.
posted by Hactar at 5:48 PM on September 22, 2013


I also think that a line from Pretty Little Liars sums up depression super well, at least for me*; I can't find a clip of it or even a direct quote, but there's a doctor who says something like "the air is just heavier for them" and for some reason the phrase and the way he says it just really struck a chord with me. It feels so true; my husband, who is unbelievably understanding and wonderful, can just DO stuff. He pays bills and goes to the bank and gets out of bed and takes showers and stuff and I don't get it; he makes it seem so effortless. I think the air is just heavier for me.

*Also I love Pretty Little Liars.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:50 PM on September 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


#6 and #15 really hit home. Depression is the suckiest most self-sabotaging way to procrastinate.

Man I wish I had this resource years ago.

It is indeed a solace. However, one of the things I admire most about Allie Brosh is her admittance that producing an awesome cartoon about depression is not the same as time and treatment.

Hugs to all the suffering Mefites.
posted by dumdidumdum at 5:52 PM on September 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure how this is supposed to make anyone feel any better.

Pretty accurately sums up my feelings about all Buzzfeed posts.

I can have pretty brutal depression. It's generally predictably unpredictable. I get it going into most winters, but not all. I never have it in the summer unless something else is also piling on. I know I can beat it by just being active, engaging in the things that bring me joy, and surrounding myself with the people I care about. I don't do these things when I am depressed. In general I exert a lot of energy pretending to be normal. At my worst I know I am at my worst and I fear little more than finding out I am wrong about being at my worst (and I generally am).

Chronic pain kicks my ass. I had a doctor suggest this was caused by depression. My first thought was I wouldn't be depressed it I wasn't always in pain. My second thought was I'm screwed.

People have no idea what it takes for depressed people to function.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:55 PM on September 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


In case anyone was really curious as to what specifically I meant in terms of the bit from Pretty Little Liars, it starts at about 0:58 in the clip here; there are some moderate spoilers but I assume you're all caught up.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:57 PM on September 22, 2013


It's been years now but I remember #7 and #8. It really is impossible to describe to someone who hasn't lived through it. This is the first time I've seen it represented at all, let alone in such a chillingly accurate way.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:00 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


the depression parkour made me laugh and also the feels, because well in my worst states, i have to text people to tell me to get out of bed, or going to the bathroom is a victory, and so all i can do is turn over or lay up or something like that--it feels like parkour, it feels liuke the same energy to racing or running or pushing.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:05 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm all about the #6. I see it coming, and I still can't not do things.
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:09 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Timely.

Doktor Zed, those were great Roast Beef ones. The first one I thought of was the one with the toast. Dear sweet Molly.
posted by edheil at 6:14 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Allie Brosh's depression comic is a knockout, I still refer people to it instead of trying to explain the difference between clinical depression and feeling sad.

It's also an interesting litmus test, I tend to find people who've never suffered serious depression find it horrifying, while people who have laugh their asses off at how colorfully accurate it is.
posted by Ndwright at 6:15 PM on September 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


My favorite Roast Beef ones:

Panic Attack-as-Tetris Piece

Decision-Making Flowchart
posted by dhens at 6:16 PM on September 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


2
9
13
15
18

People keep asking me why I don't "just" take the one class I need to get my BA. Why I don't "just" get a real/better job. Why I don't "just" a thousand things. And the answer is #18. I need to print it out.

I wanted there to be a family thing that came close to how my family has handled this. I'm hoping it's not there because because nobody else has had to deal with that level of bullshit.

Oh man, that flowchart, dhens. Yes.
posted by bilabial at 6:21 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


4,6,8 - 13 and 14 from my mom alone (and some friends who try to jolt me out of it by telling me I'm so lucky and have such a great life etc...)

16 so often happens. I make plans, I get ready and... I stay in bed, screaming at myself inside while I lie here.
posted by Alnedra at 6:27 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, also not on the list of "comics that capture the frustration of depression": the first five years or so of Life in Hell.
posted by Ndwright at 6:27 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


#6 and #9. Oh number 9, I know you so well.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:34 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


These all ring true for me (except for the one about suicide sticks, because fortunately I've not been there), but #6 sums it up best.

I spent a long weekend with my parents, whom I love. They live 2000 miles away, but right now they're about 100 miles away, parked in their RV. They've been out here for about a month, and I've spent as much time with them as I can.

I'm also in the throes of what is probably the worst depression I've ever had. There's no reason for it; it just is. I have a doctor's appointment this coming week to get my meds adjusted by a shrink. It's an appointment that's probably six months overdue. Also in the past six months, my partner decided she wanted to buy a house. Ostensibly together, but since I a) have no money and b) get paralyzed at the thought of moving out of the rental house I've been in for the past 13 years, I (after many fights and many furies) finally convinced her to just buy one if she wanted to and to rent it out if she was able, just to buy us some time.

She had an offer accepted last week, and it's really nice house, and I had an oh-shit moment. Then I was on a train to see my parents, and they asked how the house hunt was going.

Me, to my mom: Fine, I guess. G. just had an offer accepted.
Mom: That's great!
Me: I guess.
Mom: Aren't you excited??
Me: I don't know. Not really. I don't really feel like moving.
Her: Why not?
Me: Because I've been really depressed lately.
Her: Why??

And that's where you have to explain the hardest thing there is to explain -- that there IS no why. If there was a WHY, it would be fucking simple to fix. The bathroom faucet is dripping. Why? Because it needs a new washer, that's why. So, buy a new washer for $.59 at the hardware store and replace it. Easy.

My mom ended that conversation concerned rather than disdainful or falsely cheery, which is a first in my lifetime. But a couple of days later, when talking about the prospect of moving, I mentioned how the fact of dismantling the huge cruddy couch I have in my house and taking it to the dump or getting someone to haul it away is positively overwhelming and keeps me from being excited about this new house we might live in (which is way nicer -- and cheaper -- than my shitty 13-year rental). So my mom, trying to be helpful, said "Just keep this in mind: It's a doable thing."

And it is. And I know that. And the worst part about depression is knowing that the things you can't do are TOTALLY do-able.
  • Washing the dishes? Totally do-able. Will probably only take 10-15 minutes, given how many of them are piled up.
  • Doing the laundry? Simple! It only takes 5-10 minutes of real effort. The rest is done by machines!
  • Showering? Come on, you -- all you have to do is take your clothes off and stand under the water, then towel off and comb your hair. How hard could that be??
  • Cooking dinner? You *love* to cook, and there are good ingredients in the house. Wait, why are you heating ramen noodles in the microwave? And why has that ramen bowl been sitting on the night stand for two weeks with dried up ramen broth in it?
  • Going to work? Come on, work pays you. And you kind of like the people there. If you make up another excuse for not going in, people are going to start to notice and wonder, and your boss is going to have to pick up your slack, and you owe him more than that because he's a pretty awesome boss.
But how do you explain all that, knowing how ridiculous it sounds? How do you say all that, when someone -- rightly -- tells you, "But it's do-able!"

Thanks for this post. It's validating in a very helpful way.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:45 PM on September 22, 2013 [38 favorites]


The disclaimer is weird - "We may or may not be half-assing this. We don't know. Here you go!"
posted by Artw at 6:45 PM on September 22, 2013


I've rarely had such bad depression that I couldn't get out of bed, but in college, I would stay in my dorm and play computer games. Hitman 2's Embassy level brought me back again and again. I could beat it without difficulty, but it offered enough variety that I could play it for hours at a time. Most often, though, I would give up and shoot everyone in the building, putting my character in ever riskier situations.

After that, it became a routine. I would go through the outer wall's side entrance, which was never guarded; through the front door, where my lack of an invitation was unquestioned; into the grand ballroom, where guards in sunglasses stood in pairs beside every exit; to the left, where the corrupt general in a green uniform harassed the maid in a small office; upstairs, where the Spetsnaz agent forced the ambassador to open the safe at gunpoint; and back outside into the snow, running toward the quay and the speedboat; over and over and over.

I didn't enjoy it anymore. Vague agitation filled me. I didn't enjoy any other games, either, and when I tried to read for pleasure, I remembered nothing of what I had read, nor could I imagine the scenes described or understand the ideas expressed. For relief, I tried to read books in Spanish and French, because the college library kept a good selection in the major European languages. I only finished a few of these. The effort needed to remember what the words meant distracted me from the images they conveyed.

In this state, I didn't read much that my professors assigned me. My grades declined. One day, my journalism professor assigned us to conduct man-on-the-street interviews. I don't remember the subject. It was September. I walked to the Common and looked for people who were standing still. Some sat in pairs on benches, talking, and I didn't interrupt them. Some sat alone, looking down one way, and then the next, as though expecting someone. I didn't interrupt them, either. That person walked too fast. That next one frowned at me. They were all in the middle of something.

Hours passed. I forced myself to talk to five people. It was easier in the subway, which surprised me. Above ground, I met an old busker playing his electric guitar near Berklee. A friend of his sat beside him. We talked for a bit. They both gave me short interviews, and the busker let me play a few clumsy power chords on his guitar.

I returned to my dorm. By this time, the sun had set, and I only had a few hours to write the assignment, which only needed 500 words, and 500 words in a few hours was too much for so little time.

That year, I went to the student health office to get a therapist. It helped a little.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:55 PM on September 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


I really enjoyed these, as a sometimes depressed person, but, I misread the title and was kind of expecting tips on surviving THE Depression, stuff like "Line your clothes and shoes with newspaper for extra warmth."
posted by Kaleidoscope at 7:04 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I almost flagged this post. 1. It's Buzzfeed. 2. It's single link Buzzfeed. 3. The callous post framing: Discover how to get out of bed and do things again with these spiffy new tips from 21 Comics That Capture the Frustrations of Depression! Or pull a blanket over your head and pretend you're the last person on earth curled up in a nice, warm cave. Whatever.

Then I thought about it, figured that was a fairly accurate representation of how people think one should deal with depression and an accurate description of depression. That got me to click the link, and I have to admit I didn't make it through, since I don't like spending my time reading about these things (they depress me). I'll come back when I am either feeling worse about things or when I want to feel better about things. Right now I am doing fine, so don't see a reason to mess with that.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:07 PM on September 22, 2013


Come on, virtual hugs on the internet are not supposed to make you cry, right?
posted by orme at 7:09 PM on September 22, 2013


I just want to add: Cat Rackham Gets Depression
posted by velebita at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Boggle the Owl is a treasure.

I'm so glad that I eventually got treatment. For about fifteen years of my life I just assumed that I kind of just sucked and that was unchangeable. Feeling non-depressed is glorious, and recurrence is a constant worry of mine.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:15 PM on September 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kaleidoscope, I wanted to include something along those lines in the post. What immediately came to mind was the Icarus Project, but many of the galleries still on the site are now archived in very small images and are missing lots of pieces I remember. Trying to dig deeper was an exercise in, well, depression I guess, because many of the things that really stuck in my mind as helpful and beautiful are seemingly no longer on the internet at all, which made me feel sad and defeated.

cjorgensen, I promise I was writing from experience and not callously trivializing others' experiences.
posted by byanyothername at 7:19 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also worried that the Icarus Project doesn't fit cleanly with the dominant attitudes toward mental health in the US, and deserves to be part of a wider post on mental health that no one will read.
posted by byanyothername at 7:23 PM on September 22, 2013


Thank you. More posts about depression will appear in the future. This is a fairly safe prediction, unfortunately.
posted by kozad at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2013


I really enjoyed these, as a sometimes depressed person, but, I misread the title and was kind of expecting tips on surviving THE Depression, stuff like "Line your clothes and shoes with newspaper for extra warmth."

Being depressed during the Depression would have been the worst. "The line for sawdust bread is open, if you're not there in five minutes it will all be gone!" "Oh god whatever, just leave me here."
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:39 PM on September 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Depression is a land I fervently wish I will never ever visit again.


(that stuff was me eleven years ago. Accurate to the bone.)

(If any of you are reading this and you are in the throes of depression-it's not forever. It's freaking long enough, and you can't SEE the end, but there IS one.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:53 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Feeling non-depressed is glorious, and recurrence is a constant worry of mine.

Oh, god, yes. Once you meet the black dog, or enter into that tunnel of no light at the end, you fear it always. After major depression, you have a niggling worry at the back of your mind on a vanilla-normal bad day. When the pills stop working, or you start sliding into the Slough of Despond, you fall faster because of that fear. You know you're damned lucky if you can afford the meds and they work, and you're scared shitless that you might not have insurance someday.

(If any of you are reading this and you are in the throes of depression-it's not forever. It's freaking long enough, and you can't SEE the end, but there IS one.)

When you're bipolar II, that's not true. What you can do is control it, live a normal life, and hope like hell everything continues to work while knowing that if something goes severely wrong in your life, or the meds stop, you're screwed.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:00 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


sick
posted by juv3nal at 8:09 PM on September 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


How is it possible that the entire internet knows exactly how I feel, but there's not a single person I can talk to in my real life? Where are all of you people?
posted by a birds at 8:17 PM on September 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


How is it possible that the entire internet knows exactly how I feel, but there's not a single person I can talk to in my real life? Where are all of you people?

We're everywhere, just mostly pretending everything's fine.

#7.

Fucking train, man. I just don't think I can ever do the daily train commute again. I think my depression might LIVE on the train.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:24 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Once you meet the black dog, or enter into that tunnel of no light at the end, you fear it always. After major depression, you have a niggling worry at the back of your mind on a vanilla-normal bad day.

The best part is when you're depressed you're terrified of getting better because you're so warped by it that Depressed Me is who you think you are and having to be someone else--Not Depressed Me--is so damn terrifying you're scared you won't be yourself if you make it out of the tunnel, so you cling to the tunnel even as it's killing you.

It's particularly bad if you're a creative because creative types are suffused with the romance of depression and misery so there's always the "If I get better will I be able to create or even do the one thing in the entire world that I am good at doing and I enjoy?" worry to go with it.

People have problems with how I react to things because I don't get emotional ever and it's kind of hard to explain how terrifying strong emotions are when messing around with them is how you spend years of your life miserable.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:26 PM on September 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


This brings me back. What disturbs me about depression is the way friends seem to ascribe it to a fundamental character flaw to further excoriate you. Clearly you want to sleep through life and write off all of your former interests, right?

Staying in bed for days feels perfectly normal. Feeling like you're not a part of the living world: also perfectly normal. Grow up and get over it, you pathetic melancholic! You're bringing the rest of us down!

I don't want to get out of bed; I want to be comatose for the next few decades. That's OK, right?

Thanks for posting this as a reminder that depression isn't a character flaw, no matter how much certain people might try to convince us otherwise.
posted by quiet earth at 9:01 PM on September 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


quiet earth: "This brings me back. What disturbs me about depression is the way friends seem to ascribe it to a fundamental character flaw to further excoriate you. Clearly you want to sleep through life and write off all of your former interests, right?

Staying in bed for days feels perfectly normal. Feeling like you're not a part of the living world: also perfectly normal. Grow up and get over it, you pathetic melancholic! You're bringing the rest of us down!

I don't want to get out of bed; I want to be comatose for the next few decades. That's OK, right?

Thanks for posting this as a reminder that depression isn't a character flaw, no matter how much certain people might try to convince us otherwise.
"

And family, unfortunately. Although the clue is starting to sink in, I think.
posted by Samizdata at 9:09 PM on September 22, 2013


We're everywhere, just mostly pretending everything's fine.

Some of us are hoping we don't get found out in the act of not being just fine. Because that's a lot more scary than being eyes open in the darkness.
posted by datawrangler at 9:16 PM on September 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


These comics are not enough to make me get out of bed, but I have new metaphors for what's going on in my brain, and that's something new to think about.
posted by bibliowench at 9:17 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


bibliowench, these are excellent metaphors, but when I hear "metaphor" in the context of depression discussions it often refers to the "metaphor" of disease. You probably didn't intend that, but it raises some hackles for me so I feel the need to go out of the way to state that disease is NOT a metaphor, at least not according to current research, which considers depression to be as real a disease as cancer. I urge any doubters to watch this video of a Stanford biologist explaining the biological basis of depression.

Nobody should feel ashamed about getting help for depression, anymore than they should feel ashamed about getting help for melanoma or lupus or diabetes. People take antibiotics for an infection, so why the hell shouldn't they take antidepressants for depression?
posted by Ndwright at 9:36 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wasn't thinking anything particularly Sontagian when I wrote that. I've just spent the past two years in a dark room whenever possible, and instead of using "lazy grey fail puddle" to describe my current state, I now think"skin suit" or "giant leech" or "encroaching oil homunculus - and these are, as I said - a new way to describe what's been going on both all my life and pretty constantly these last few years. Moreover, they separate the depression from me - not literally, alas - and so I see depictions where this anthropomorphic disease is the grotesque creature, not me.

Anyway, it's something new to look at. I am so tired of walls.
posted by bibliowench at 9:56 PM on September 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


sick

Well, uh. Wow. That was well-done but unbelievably fucking dark. Might be triggery for some folks.
posted by threeants at 11:20 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


a birds: "How is it possible that the entire internet knows exactly how I feel, but there's not a single person I can talk to in my real life? Where are all of you people?"

There's MeMail if you ever need a chat.
posted by vasi at 11:38 PM on September 22, 2013


I swear I do that parkour course every damn day. #7 and #8 really hit it for me, and of course Boggle. #9 is exactly why the recent (stupidly named) RU OK day in Australia pissed me off so much. Last week I had to leave my choir end of term party so I could go sit in my car in the rain and cry for half an hour. Awesomesauce. Choir director emailed me the equivalent of are you okay? Said the black dog had been hounding me (ha). No response. Which somehow has become something else to blame myself for. #11 for the win!

Thanks for posting that link to "sick", juv3nal. That was blisteringly honest.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:50 PM on September 22, 2013


Thanks for posting that link to "sick", juv3nal. That was blisteringly honest.

I'm not sure that one is metaphorical. It's totally possible to go through that experience very literally.
posted by Nomyte at 12:05 AM on September 23, 2013


Too many of those resonated with me. I've been depressed off and on (am currently depressed) for the past 15 years. I'm lucky enough to live in a place where I can receive a disability pension and don't have to worry about work or paying for meds. I still feel incredibly useless and guilty though.

However, it's nice to see that I'm not alone in feeling these things. Not that I'd want anyone else to feel the way I do.
posted by MelanieL at 12:10 AM on September 23, 2013


21 comics? Jeez, I don't think I can face 21 in one shot. Maybe I'll have more energy tomorrow.
posted by Segundus at 1:13 AM on September 23, 2013


How is it possible that the entire internet knows exactly how I feel, but there's not a single person I can talk to in my real life? Where are all of you people?

We're all doing #9. And even that feels too articulate for how I felt at certain points. I remember several therapy sessions spent slouching in my chair with no idea what to talk about - just sitting, feeling wordlessly dark. It's one of the reasons CBT didn't work for me: you need to maintain a conversation of sorts with yourself, and for me it was like trying to talk to the atmosphere. It was just there, all around, and I couldn't identify it, much less engage with it.

The people able to talk about depression are often the people who've made it partway out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:38 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The people able to talk about depression are often the people who've made it partway out.

And even then, out in real life, what can one possibly say? You go into work, someone says, "How are you?" and you no longer want to answer, "Drowning in existential dread, watching pieces of the world peel off the edges like pulling a polaroid out of an old photo album," because you're feeling better than you were, but you're still not really allowed to say, "I can finish projects and have somehow held down this job for years longer than I've ever held down a job before, and yet every time I sit down in front of the computer I think about how nice it would be to just die so that all the stress and pain of trying to be normal could just cease, so I suppose overall I am fine, but are all people who are fine so dead and empty inside?"

Because probably they're not going to be all, "Hey, me too, let's go wallow in self-pity together!" They'd either give you that scary sympathetic look where you know they don't know what you're talking about but they care which is just awful, or some kind of response where the words don't matter because you know what's going on in their head is like, "You are not even human. No, seriously, you're like a millipede someone taught to use Excel."

And my goodness that last line sounds far more bitter than I realized I feel about it. Now I'm going to be looking askance at my coworkers allllll day.
posted by mittens at 5:00 AM on September 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Threads like these make me feel both happier and sadder. Happier because it's proof that I'm not alone, I'm not a freak, I'm not a lazy piece of shit who just lacks the willpower to lose some of that obesity and get on with her life. Sorry about that last bit, was told recently by a endocrinologist whom I asked to do some tests for me, that I had very normal obesity, just fat. And I couldn't be genuinely sick, because really sick people are always skinny. And I'm fat. Did he happen to mention that I'm obese? Yes, the only problem he can see with me is I'm overweight. Just cramming all those synonyms in there in case I was too stupid to understand that I was frigging fat.

But it is saddening to see so many of us suffering, locked in our own invisible (to outsiders anyway) hells.
posted by Alnedra at 5:14 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


St. Alia of the Bunnies: "(If any of you are reading this and you are in the throes of depression-it's not forever. It's freaking long enough, and you can't SEE the end, but there IS one.)"

I appreciate that this was said out of a place of kindness, but no, there isn't. At best, there are pauses.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:02 AM on September 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Dear loved one: I am very sorry I didn't understand. I understand a little better now. I am proud of you for dealing with this. I wish I could have helped. Love, me.
posted by evilmomlady at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yes - happier, that I'm not alone, indeed. These hit really hard. I am so out of spoons lately. I have been leaving work early. I have ... episodes... Used to be rage, now they're just "get me out of here" crying.

I feel like Sisyphus. I keep trying to roll up that hill. Every little success keeps throwing a boulder at me. I finally after two weeks got excited that I finally grabbed a garbage bag and was about to bag up my messy room and take that and the other garbage out and my roommate reminded me of the cat box, and I just lost it. It was just too much. she understands, as she's been there, thankfully. I just can't handle anything that's unexpected these days. I'm usually like that a little bit, but it's to the point that any extra draining of my energy in any unexpected way (mental or physical) just has me shut down, and then I go into a spiral of self-loating and shame and beating myself up.

I just heard of Emil Cioran and am trying to find information on him.

I want to read "A Short History of Decay"... Wish there was a free online version in English.

I think I need not existentialism, Camus and Sartre just don't do it for me. But this Cioran guy the little bit I read, it's Nihilism and Rejoicing in the Nihilism and I think that's what I need to keep my sanity.
posted by symbioid at 8:18 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metroid Baby: "It's one of the reasons CBT didn't work for me: you need to maintain a conversation of sorts with yourself, and for me it was like trying to talk to the atmosphere. It was just there, all around, and I couldn't identify it, much less engage with it.

The people able to talk about depression are often the people who've made it partway out.
"

I can talk, talk talk talk talk talk, it's autonomic at this point.

But I get what you mean. I am, for the most part, "partway out", and i keep bobbing up and down.

But there was a point last week or the week before where I just wanted so badly to go catatonic, just to blank out to let it all go away and just ... be. nothing affecting me nothing making me react, just a blank void. I wanted that so bad, so nobody would bother me, and I them. Syd Barrett was a big interest these past couple weeks. A friend recommended selective/controlled psychosis as a temporary break (that is to say inducing said "break" via certain means that are temporary in nature, say... 6-8 hours...) I thought this was clever, and if I wasn't so depressed it would have been something I thought of a while ago.

The fact that I haven't even looked to my own spiritual roots to sort of dig myself out is pretty sad :(
posted by symbioid at 8:26 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


#7 and especially #9
posted by byjingo! at 9:27 AM on September 23, 2013


Number eight is one that really bothers me, because I sort of feel like that thing getting out of the bed exists in me all the time, and it's only through careful compartmentalizing I keep him from coming out.

Most of the time, it shows up as bad jokes I make here on the blue, but sometimes, it manifests as me standing in a store staring at something, only to realize I've been quietly crying for a while.

I fucking hate number eight. And number nine, because I've literally said that same thing not 10 minutes ago.

And number 12 because I've had a massive case of impostor syndrome just lately. Or, at least, I hope it's that. But then, therein lay the problem. Impossible to judge because I'm both the observer and the observed.

I fucking hate depression. I hate anxiety. I hate myself, but at least I know that the latter is a direct reaction to the former, and that's the closest I have to a stick. It's not much, but it's not nothing.
posted by quin at 11:11 AM on September 23, 2013


MeFites.. can you help me be a better person?
I think I'm one of those people who refuse to see depression as something unshakable. I'm also one of those that think depression is problem of people with privilege. I'm no stranger to the blues but I don't believe therapy or drugs can help unless there is a fundamental recognition that there's something wrong with being melancholic and one should 'get over it' as rude as that may sound.

I know this is wrong but I can't help thinking it. Is there evidence to support my assumption that depression is a rich people (North American) problem or the contrary? I'm not talking about people with disabilities or terrible tragedies where the cause is easy for me to understand but the garden variety depression that a lot of people on the internet seem to talk about baffles me. I know that my subjective opinion is immaterial to a person's suffering but I honestly want to understand how I can help. I've been really sad many times in my life but not to a point where I would call it depression. I don't really know if this is a linguistic quibble.

FWIW, I maybe more privileged than the depressed folk. I'm healthy, have had a carefree childhood, I lead a comfortable material life but in no way rich and I have my share of relationship troubles and career uncertainties.

What am I missing??
posted by savitarka at 11:59 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


savitarka, I won't speak for anyone but myself, but imagine you had a friend, someone who went with you everywhere, someone you knew from childhood, and he knew every one of your secrets.

Now imagine that friend starts whispering in your ear about what a loser you are. This is someone you trust, mind you, he points out everything wrong you do. He never lets you enjoy a success for pointing out the all the aspects of something that didn't go right.

And in the dark, when you are trying to sleep, he tells you that you are worthless and that the world would be better off if you just stopped being. "You don't believe in god," he says, "you know that there isn't anything on the other side, just blissful nothingness. No pain, no worries, no nothing. No one would care, especially not you, because you wouldn't exist anymore. Wouldn't that be nice? to not have to worry about bills or the people you care about dying? You suck at everything you do anyway, so it's not like it would matter, you'd probably be doing the world a favor. Hell, just think of what would happen if we decided to get together and really act on some of those impulses? Just once we could have some real fun. But see, just for thinking that you've proved my point; you are a monster, and you should stop yourself before you do something really horrible. Did I mention that you are getting older every day? So every physical pain you feel now, is just going to keep getting worse and worse, you have all the tools you need. You could do it so many different ways, there's your guns, or the car, or a rope, or a knife, or gas, or a tall building. You could just wander off and disappear, and after a while no one would care any more, because they are all doing things with their lives and have better things to do than worry about some guy that they only ever talked to once in a while. Just do it, maybe have a couple of drinks and some sleeping pills, there's probably some vicoden left in the cabinet. I bet if you mixed that with all your xanax, you wouldn't even wake up. Who could blame you? You are obviously not ready to deal with this, people at work hate you, you aren't any good at your job, it's a miracle you haven't been fired yet. Just do it."

So you never really sleep, and that voice is with you everywhere you go, all the time, and it never shuts up. Do you think that's a class issue? Do you think that's something that only wealthy people have? It's possible. But I've been poor. Poor enough that I had to decide between food and gas to get to work leastways, and I can tell you that the voice was just as bad.

For me anyway; Not having money always gives the voice more to talk about.
posted by quin at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am trying to get help for my depression right now and it's a slog. I had a psychiatrist but I dropped her after she clearly was not listening to me and she was insulting. The one before that entangled me in a billing snafu because she hadn't renewed her insurance paperwork.

Trying to find a new one has been vexing. The first office I called didn't answer their phone (at 11 am on a weekday) so I called back and was told (rudely) that none of the 8 doctors there were taking new patients. I called a second office and had to leave a message. And a third. I called a fourth and got someone on the line.

Their first available appointment with a doctor was in FEBRUARY. I have insurance and I live in a major metro area. The receptionist said I could see a nurse practitioner before then, so I made an appointment for November. I tried to make an appointment with a counselor in the same office and was shunted to her voicemail. Have not heard back from her.

I'm already anticipating a fight with the insurance company and/or the office's billing department because it always, always seems to happen.

I can't even imagine how people with more severe depression deal with this (or language issues or lack of insurance). I mean, I'm still able to get out of bed and go to work most days, but barely, and other aspects of my life have suffered greatly. It took me two weeks to get from "I should make an appointment" to actually getting one.
posted by desjardins at 12:23 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see these things, and I'm glad they seem to help folks, in a You're Not Alone sort of way, but I've always wondered what would be the most helpful thing for a non-depressed person to do for/with a person who is depressed. I get a pretty good idea from these comics and others like them what's not helpful, but is there anything short of buddha-like acceptance that is helpful?
posted by Mooski at 12:41 PM on September 23, 2013


Mooski: "I see these things, and I'm glad they seem to help folks, in a You're Not Alone sort of way, but I've always wondered what would be the most helpful thing for a non-depressed person to do for/with a person who is depressed. I get a pretty good idea from these comics and others like them what's not helpful, but is there anything short of buddha-like acceptance that is helpful?"

Unfortunately, if this were the sort of thing that lent itself to easy answers. someone probably would have found it by now. So the only clearly helpful thing I can suggest is "don't make it worse," which you seem to have picked up on already. On the other hand, that's more helpful than it sounds.

After that you're in YMMV territory, because depression doesn't stop folks from being individuals.

The most helpful things I've gotten from friends were things I asked for, from friends I already trusted. I could ask someone to remind me of self-care that I tend to neglect, or to not let me indulge in some harmful behaviors, or, just as important, to not call me out on coping mechanisms I still need. So, encourage me to go out if it looks like I'm just canceling from funk, but don't try to make me stay once I'm clear that I need to give up and go home.

I guess those fall under listening to the depressed person when they communicate what they need?

(If you want inspiration for buddha-like acceptance, though, I like listening to Holly Cole's Cry If You Want To.)
posted by Karmakaze at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there evidence to support my assumption that depression is a rich people (North American) problem or the contrary?

The highest prevalence for depression is the United States. The next five are Nepal, East Timor, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. The next five after that are Brazil, the Maldives, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Finland. Those numbers are adjusted for age and population. It is emphatically not, not, a rich North American problem.

FWIW, I maybe more privileged than the depressed folk. I'm healthy, have had a carefree childhood, I lead a comfortable material life but in no way rich and I have my share of relationship troubles and career uncertainties.

What am I missing??


The current thinking on depression risk has to do with both genetic components and exposure to traumatic stresses. A person with major depression has typically been subject to repeated traumas, which causes the release of hormones like cortisol, which then may interact with genetically-defective receptors sufficiently often to trigger repetitive and unprovoked stress responses.

This part's important. Major depression isn't "the blues". Major depression is a chronic stress state in which the body reacts as though being subjected to massive physical trauma, due to a variety of neurological factors. In the video linked above, Dr. Sapolsky compares the experience of depression to the experience of being gored by an elephant. When people describe the depressive experience as painful, it is because their brain is reacting as though they are being physically traumatized repeatedly. It is actually painful, except that surface pain receptors are not triggered by depressive neurology, so your body is reacting as though in enormous pain but you can't feel that pain in any conventional way. This is one of the reasons that self-harm is so common; the act of self-harming causes a "recognizable" pain that mirrors what the brain is already experiencing as fact. This is also one of the reasons depression feels so alienating; there is not really a great way to explain that your brain is telling you that you're being injured constantly but there's no other evidence for that.

When you're sad, you eat a lot and sleep more, because both of those activities produce comforting endorphins. When depressed people are depressed, they often eat less and sleep less, which is exactly the opposite of what you'd expect. That's because depressed people aren't "sad" in the classic sense; their bodies are expressing constant, chronic, and enormous stress reactions. Depressed people are almost literally being punched in the brain by an invisible fist all the time. "Sad" isn't really the word I like to use for something like that.
posted by Errant at 1:52 PM on September 23, 2013 [43 favorites]


The idea that you can bootstrap yourself out of depression is appealing to us in America, because we like to believe that we can bootstrap our way out of anything. If you've never been depressed it's probably very tempting to say to someone "you can fix this yourself" because you're thinking "I'D be able to do it myself, wouldn't I? I wouldn't need drugs to feel happy." But you might. And some people do drift in and out of a depressive episode without intervention. Some people only require talk therapy to begin feeling better, Some need medication and more serious forms of therapy. Some will need what we used to call "shock therapy." Some of us are simply very ill, and need to be treated as such for our whole lives.
I have depression's nutty cousin, bipolar disorder Without medication, there is no normal for me. There is no amount of exercise, or fresh air or hugs or even talk therapy in the the world that can prevent my cycles. I have tried. I have a major medical problem and it is mystifying and insulting to hear it reduced to a moral failing, or a problem of people with privilege. If this is privilege, you can have it.
posted by Biblio at 2:58 PM on September 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


savitarka: "I'm also one of those that think depression is problem of people with privilege. "

From a comment I left in a different thread earlier:
According to Peter Kramer in the book Against Depression, research shows that depression is not a "first world problem", it is "the major scourge of humankind."
The most extensive global-burden-of-disease study is one conducted by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Harvard School of Public Health. The study was massive.… The findings are often quoted to the effect that by the year 2020, depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease—narrowing of blood vessels and related cardiac problems—in terms of disability caused.

Astonishing though it is, the estimate for 2020 serves to mask the current reality. As of 1990 (the year for which data was analyzed), the afflictions that stood ahead of depression were ones that steal years by killing children young—respiratory infections, diarrhea, and the illnesses of early infancy. These conditions are grouped— they represent not one disease but many—while major depression stands alone, independent of bipolar disorder (manic depression), minor depressions, and alcoholism.

Among the chronic diseases of midlife, depression was (by 1990) already the most burdensome, and not by a small margin. Major depression accounted for almost 20 percent of all disability-adjusted life years lost for women in developed countries— more than three times the burden imposed by the next most impairing illness. The story was similar in developing regions: depression was still the fourth most burdensome disease (after conditions that affect the very young) and the most disabling disease for both men and women age fifteen to forty-four. In the 2020 projections, depression becomes the single most disabling disease in developing regions. (p.152)
(Emphasis added.)

Depression is neither a new problem nor a problem that affects only privileged people.
savitarka: "I'm no stranger to the blues but I don't believe therapy or drugs can help unless there is a fundamental recognition that there's something wrong with being melancholic and one should 'get over it' as rude as that may sound. "

When my depression has the upper hand, it's already telling me, far more persuasively than you ever could, that I suck for having it and if I just tried harder I could get better and what the hell is wrong with me anyway and this is pathetic and… People with depression already have a deafening chorus going 24/7 that says YOU FAIL AT EVERYTHING — telling them that there is "something wrong with" them for being depressed and that they should "get over it" isn't merely ignorant and counterproductive, it's actively harmful.

savitarka: "I've been really sad many times in my life but not to a point where I would call it depression. I don't really know if this is a linguistic quibble. "

The word "depression" as people tend to colloquially use it has almost nothing to do with major depressive disorder. You may have been down, or felt melancholy, or had the blues. I doubt very much that you have experienced major depression.
posted by Lexica at 4:20 PM on September 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm also one of those that think depression is problem of people with privilege. I'm no stranger to the blues but I don't believe therapy or drugs can help unless there is a fundamental recognition that there's something wrong with being melancholic and one should 'get over it' as rude as that may sound.

Errant answered brilliantly, but I'd like to chime in on this one.

"Get over it" isn't so much rude as it is misunderstanding the basic mechanics of thought. If you stub your toe, but need to get to the grocery store, you suck it up, knowing the pain won't last forever, and that you'll survive, and that there are more important priorities than the throbbing in your toe, like getting more cream for the coffee.

If you're depressed, you can try to suck it up--and I can't speak for everyone who has ever been depressed, but I think a lot of us try to bull our way through it the very few times we can--but the habits of thought get in the way. You know your toe's pain won't last forever, but look midway up through this thread, and you will find people having a discussion about whether depression lasts forever. Regardless of the facts, it feels like it is going to last forever, your mind has obscured any evidence that it will not, and so you're trying to get over something that your mind has already told you is not going to be gotten over. And this is a pre-conscious thought, a habit of mind, a belief held more deeply than any ideology or religion; this knowledge that the pain will not end, is not something that can easily be pried out.

You know you'll survive your toe's pain, but depression has a body count. Some of us don't make it out of this disease. In the depths of it, you think about death all the time. Some people view that with horror, some people see it as a release from pain, but it's never very far from you. For those of us with anxiety disorders on top of depression, as I have, it becomes a belief that whatever is going wrong--a new mole, a stomach cramp, a burst of sadness--will certainly kill you. The fear of which causes whole new cascades of thought and fear and sadness.

You know there are more important priorities than your toe, but for the depressed person, there is no more important priority than the pain. Again, Errant's post said it better than I can, but there is no denying the pain and its urgency. Adding just one more task on top of the incredibly important task of monitoring, analyzing, and ruminating over this pain pushes people to the breaking point.

(That is not even mentioning that if you try to assuage the pain of the toe with some ibuprofen and ice, you feel better...but the more time you spend trying to escape from depression, the more you try to hide from it, the deeper you get into the cognitive habits that reinforce it. Above, Rustic Etruscan's point about Hitman rang true to me, from my endless replaying of Doom on the easiest level, all cheats activated, just body memory moving fingers, hours at a time, not so much enjoying something, as doing it because, I don't know, it represents a (possibly illusory) modicum of control?)

Now, I'm a big believer in the relative inefficacy of therapy and drugs. I have been on over a dozen medications, have been through different schools of therapy, and have known far too many people who have failed regimen after regimen of treatment, to have a lot of faith in medicine's approach to this illness (note to anyone who has seen benefit from therapy and drugs: good for you! This paragraph isn't a reflection on your success, and you ought to take pride in the benefit you have seen!) ... but that lack of faith is complemented by an even more severe lack of faith in the 'get over it' method. I've met people who drugs and therapy have helped, but never met a single person who just got over this illness by force of will alone. Some people go into a spontaneous remission. Some people find that it just goes away after time, when there is plenty of distance between where they are now, and the extremely painful life experiences that cropped up before. But that's a little different, and reflects the mystery of the illness, rather than any efficacy of self-help get over itness.
posted by mittens at 4:35 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


savitarka, I'm really glad you asked for perspectives because, despite my experience with it and automatic sympathy for anyone who deals with depression, I still regard pharma-psychiatry with a raised eyebrow and I'm enjoying and finding these answers useful for me as meatier thoughts that cut a lot deeper than the usual narratives. Thanks, guys.
posted by byanyothername at 5:35 PM on September 23, 2013


Just a thought, savitarka: part of the reason why the stereotype/archetype of the melancholic personality exists is because depression has always been a thing, independent of culture, personal wealth, and historical time period. Sorry, no citations and studies, but worth pondering.

There have also always been people who manage to achieve amazing things despite adversity. You know, the person with no arms or legs who climbs mountains, paints amazing pictures and is a brilliant scientist as well as giving motivational talks. I admire these people greatly because hey, they have achieved amazing things when many might have just given up. I just wish more people understood how much of an amazing thing it is for some of us to get out of bed, get showered/dressed and make it out of the house.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:22 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know whether to laugh or cry at how many of these leapt out at me -- 1, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16, 19 -- for depression that I have considered transitional/situational for...um....maybe too long.
posted by desuetude at 9:47 PM on September 23, 2013


It's easy to see depressed people as lazy because ... they don't do anything! Or they're not doing enough!

But lazy non-depressed people own their laziness and they are content with it. For example, a lazy day of fishing, or sleeping in until noon after a long week at work.

"Laziness" in depressed people makes them more anxious, not relaxed. I know I should be doing x, y, and z but my depression causes me to avoid them. I am not happy about this! I may look like I am sitting around eating bon bons and watching soap operas but I am miserable while I'm doing it. I hate myself for doing it. Every night while lying in bed I think "tomorrow will be different! I'll do all these things I wanted to do" and by mid-morning I'm completely demoralized.

Even when I do the things, my brain tells me I'm not doing them well enough, and anything that goes wrong just proves I'm a loser. Yesterday I filled up the pot of water too full and when pasta was added it overflowed. I spilled the cat food. I tracked dirt onto the carpet. In a normal person - or just a melancholy one - these would not be a big deal, but for me it just reinforces the LOSER voice that quin mentioned above.
posted by desjardins at 7:33 AM on September 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Also from Buzzfeed - 24 Comics about Anxiety Disorders
posted by desjardins at 7:30 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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