Even When It Hurts Alot
November 12, 2013 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Allie Brosh, author of the widely-adored Hyperbole And A Half web comic, was interviewed by the inimitable Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air about her work, her new book, and her well-documented struggles with depression. (previously 1 2 3 4 5 6 8)
posted by shiu mai baby (88 comments total) 111 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ha! She more or less sounds exactly like I imagined!
posted by jquinby at 2:53 PM on November 12, 2013


I should've added a trigger warning in there, as she does speak pretty frankly and in detail about her suicidal thoughts. It might be difficult for some people to listen to.
posted by shiu mai baby at 3:07 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Damn, you beat me to it. I heard this on my way home today and knew it would be on the blue immediately. With good reason- that was one hell of an interview. Especially the part where she admits this might be the first time even her husband is hearing some of this stuff.

Really worth listening to.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 3:12 PM on November 12, 2013


Did anyone else find Gross terribly inappropriate with her questioning concerning Brosh's suicide plans? I've noticed that she often seems to find enjoyment obsessing in some macabre detail of the interviewee's life and goes deeper than is really necessary. Maybe this is just to make things interesting, but it seems like she has some obsession with it.
posted by roaring beast at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I just got to this point of the interview and agree that it was way over the line.
posted by jquinby at 3:18 PM on November 12, 2013


I disagree, I felt like Allie made the point that talking about it was what made her feel better. Her mom, a trained suicide counselor, had asked Allie if she had a plan- she mentioned this conversation with her mom as being the most helpful and understanding conversation she had with anyone. I think pursuing that was a natural place for the interview to progress, and I fully believe that she wanted to share it and wouldn't have if she didn't want to. It seemed cathartic to me.

I mean, if sharing her depression wasn't cathartic for her, would she have spent months crafting her brutally honest and brilliant blog post(s) about it?
posted by GastrocNemesis at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Also, Fresh Air isn't broadcast live, so if it were too much she could have asked to have it taken out.
posted by vogon_poet at 3:26 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a really regular listener to Fresh Air, and more and more often Terry Gross annoys the crap out of me. Inappropriate questions, laughing at inappropriate moments, hammering on trivial points...she gets such great opportunites and just wastes them.

That being said, I'm looking forward to hearing Brosh be interviewed. Thanks for posting this.
posted by nevercalm at 3:27 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


She talks pretty specifically in the depression pieces about her suicidal thoughts and how far they went and didn't go, and the process of trying to talk about them with people. I'm not surprised it came up.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:27 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If anyone is on the fence with purchasing her book, GET IT! I was doubled over in tears at the new (and old) material.
posted by lizjohn at 3:29 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


By happy coincidence an autographiced copy of her book just arrived in the mail today.

I thought buying her book was the least I could do after reading her site with Adblock on for all these years.
posted by ardgedee at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've drawn pretty much my whole life. It's funny; people often give me a hard time about how crude and simplistic my art style is. I know how to draw realistic things. Really, a lot of time goes into this crudeness. There's a huge difference between drawing the pupil a slightly different size — ... a millimeter to either side can make such a gigantic difference in a facial expression, or shaving a tiny bit off the corner of the line of the mouth. So there's really a lot of work that goes into "perfecting" this crudeness.

I'm glad she said this. Every single thing she draws lives. How anyone can look at something like this and say that she "can't draw" mystifies the hell out of me.
posted by maudlin at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2013 [47 favorites]


"And what did happen when you tried to set her on fire?"
posted by slow graffiti at 3:34 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like her voice, too. Reminds me a bit of Kim Deal in this.
posted by maudlin at 3:35 PM on November 12, 2013


Every single thing she draws lives

For seriously serious, yes. The faces she draws are the faces I have made my whole life.
posted by elizardbits at 3:39 PM on November 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


Anyone know if the Kindle version of her book is equal to the print version? I'm wondering if it'll be missing illustrations or coloring.
posted by shortfuse at 3:50 PM on November 12, 2013


Why is there no item 7 in "previously"?
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 4:01 PM on November 12, 2013


Shortfuse, the Kindle version is previewed on the Amazon page (whereas the normal view of hard- or soft-cover is not). Looks complete so far, but have no comparison (yet).
posted by zachxman at 4:02 PM on November 12, 2013


I am Kindle-only on HAAH, and it is complete with MS Paintbrush illustrations and sans-serif body text.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:03 PM on November 12, 2013


Because seven eight nine and ten?

(no idea. d'oh.)
posted by shiu mai baby at 4:03 PM on November 12, 2013


Wow. This is an amazing interview, and also kind of difficult to listen to.
posted by pemberkins at 4:13 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The book is great, and some of the best stories on the blog aren't even in it. She is fully set up for a sequel.
posted by JHarris at 4:24 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got incredible laughs the other day just imitating the wall-eyed stare of dinosaur-clad Allie, suddenly doing terrible things. The drawings are incredibly evocative!
posted by kaibutsu at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2013


I thought the probing of her actual plans was the most riveting part of the interview, and exactly what an interview is for. And Gross asks Brosh several times if she wants to stop or take a break, and Brosh clearly wants to go on.

Brosh has done some of the best writing I've ever read on depression, and this interview just cements my feeling that she's one of the very few people who is talking frankly about the reality of depression on a day-to-day basis, without trying to turn it into some sort of Great Statement.

When she talks about depression, she just...talks about it. And that's kind of extraordinary.
posted by scrump at 4:54 PM on November 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


I thought it was well done and hard. I don't know if there's a voyeuristic aspect to it, but hearing that deep pause and the catching as she starts to speak really drives it home and makes me feel it. The understanding of it.
posted by drewbage1847 at 5:03 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


jesustapdancingchrist this woman is brilliant and insightful and brutally truthful.
posted by ish__ at 5:05 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read her book in one day, staying home from work.

I sat there thinking about, "Why don't I hate her?" Because I usually hate people who do stuff like this, because the self-deprecation always rings so false: "Humble-brag" is the perfect term for it.

What I realized is that I don't hate her, and in fact like her a lot, because she is honest. It's not performance- it's all real. It's such a subtle difference from the typical kind of self-aggrandizement that goes on in things like this, but it makes a world of difference. It's really just a question of your honesty. Yeah, your honesty.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:13 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess what I was trying to say is that she is taking genuine risks, which is something people who write memoir-type things almost never do.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:15 PM on November 12, 2013


She gave a talk at Google on Halloween. It covers similar territory, but it's nice to see her as well as hear here and there's some fun stuff in the Q&A.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:21 PM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


drjimmy11: "I guess what I was trying to say is that she is taking genuine risks, which is something people who write memoir-type things almost never do."

Yeah, I think also what she says about trying to do standup on the page is part of why this works, even though so many things in this genre often seem self-indulgent and cash-grabbing. Nobody would accuse a standup comedian of being self-indulgent for having their material consist of a bunch of stories about their own life, and somehow the same thing comes through here.
posted by invitapriore at 5:26 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else find Gross terribly inappropriate with her questioning concerning Brosh's suicide plans? I've noticed that she often seems to find enjoyment obsessing in some macabre detail of the interviewee's life and goes deeper than is really necessary.

Gross is disgraceful, an emotional pornographer pretending to be an interviewer. If she interviewed Stephen Hawking it would be all about the wheelchair and nothing about physics.
posted by LarryC at 5:41 PM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Terry Gross is always lurid about mental illness, addiction, and poor judgement about sex. In this case, the author and the work are on the topic so I don't think it was out of bounds.

But Terry Gross needs to get out more. She has an apparently naive view of these things.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:45 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


GastrocNemesis: "I disagree, I felt like Allie made the point that talking about it was what made her feel better. Her mom, a trained suicide counselor, had asked Allie if she had a plan- she mentioned this conversation with her mom as being the most helpful and understanding conversation she had with anyone. I think pursuing that was a natural place for the interview to progress, and I fully believe that she wanted to share it and wouldn't have if she didn't want to. It seemed cathartic to me. "

I was really prepared to feel basically this way before listening to the interview, but man, I don't know. The part where Gross says that committing suicide in the river is a "horrible way of doing it" comes across pretty badly, and then she frequently seems to do this thing where she comes up with a pretty specific feeling that she thinks might be a component of being depressed and then asking Allie if she had that experience. It's kind of presumptuous, and with such a leading question I think it puts an undue burden on the interviewee to agree even if the premise is inaccurate. This is literally the first time I've heard anything with Terry Gross in it, so it's not some opinion I'm carrying over from previous experience.

Anyway, I still think it was a powerful interview, but those parts squicked me out.
posted by invitapriore at 5:54 PM on November 12, 2013


Gross is disgraceful, an emotional pornographer pretending to be an interviewer.

I loved Hyperbole and a Half when it was just a funny Internet thing, and I came to love it even more when Brosh started posting so eloquently about her depression.

As someone who's struggled with depression my entire life, I love to hear Allie talk on the subject. She's really, really good at articulating the experience of depression, and putting it into perspective, and her posts about it have really resonated with people. An interview that didn't delve into that aspect of her work wouldn't feel complete to me.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:58 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Regardless of Gross' flaws as an interviewer in general I thought she did a good job with this particular one. Credit where credit's due.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:09 PM on November 12, 2013


Allie Brosh has a rare combination of genius-level emotional intelligence, razor-sharp rational/analytical skills, and great expressive ability (both words and pictures). Plus, as others have said, her sheer honesty is potent. But this interview really is a tough listen at times - the interviewer just seems so hungry for the darkest details, and that hunger is really uncomfortable to be a party to during the interviews more difficult passages.
posted by erlking at 6:10 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Every time I see (and now hear) something new by Allie Brosh I think, "There is no way I could love her more." Every time I'm wrong. She's the whole internet's goofy ridiculous best friend.

It's hard to be so honest and open about these horrible things, and even harder to do it as simply as she does. We invent massive clunky words for all of this stuff, and half the time those don't fit, because -- what does that even mean? How do I use this word to get across this experience? It's a real gift she has to be able to write and illustrate these things so simply in a way that resonates with so many people.

Though, yeah, Gross' probing into every dark corner of the depression seemed a bit voyeuristic.
posted by cmyk at 6:13 PM on November 12, 2013


I'm pretty sure that if someone ever cured cancer, perfected nuclear fusion and then wrote the Great American Novel while climbing Mt. Everest, Terry Gross' first question would be: "Your parents both died in a car crash when you were seventeen. What did that feel like?"
Which is not to say that Gross is a terrible person, but I think Fresh Air is largely good because of the caliber of the guests.
posted by uosuaq at 6:22 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Listening to the interview, I assumed Terry Gross also suffers/suffered from depression. Her questions seemed very probing and curious, like she was fully engaged and wondering about the finer details, wanting to know more. I was. (Yes; yes, I do project much.)

I had a spate of depression that lasted a few years, and it nearly ruined me—well, in the moment I was completely positive it had—and the way Allie describes the feeling of not feeling anything is so eerily familiar it gave me the dread chills. In the midst of feeling like that, I could never reliably tell truth from fiction. It was absolutely maddening. Very easy to give up when you're dead certain your brain is permanently broken.

Insidious thing, depression. I can do without it.
posted by heyho at 6:33 PM on November 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


I haven't heard much of Terry Gross before this either so I wouldn't notice if this was a recurring thing.

I guess it's impossible for me to be objective about it. I'm finishing up medical school now and I've been trained to question people bluntly about their personal lives (and, embarrassingly, sometimes this probably comes out in regular conversation now too just because its become such a habit.) My point being that although it didn't come off as unusual to me, I'm pretty biased. So you all may be right about that.

Even so, though, in my experience frank discussion about difficult topics seems to help a lot of people. I don't think it's uncommon that people who experience something difficult don't really know how to approach certain topics or are too inhibited to bring them up themselves. Yet when someone asks a pointed question, it's almost a relief to be able to answer.

I had a really fucked up time in my life with an ex and I rarely talk about it with my new friends who didn't know him. It's not that I don't want to, exactly, I just don't feel comfortable launching into it out of the blue. So even though I want to talk about it I just never seem to have the strength to find a way to start the conversation myself.

I guess, also, I feel like some of the stuff I'd want to say about it is so dark that I feel weird about putting that weight on another person unless they are explicitly okay with it, interested and willing to hear it. When that happens, as emotionally charged as it can be, it's a massive relief. The fact that Allie says she felt numb for so long- and now she is getting choked up talking about it- felt incredibly significant. It's counterintuitive but it probably feels good for her to be able to cry about after what was probably a very long stretch of not really having the emotional capacity to cry.

As far as Gross commenting that it sounded like a horrible way to die- I guess to me it just read as trying to normalize a heavy moment by trying to be honest and conversational. I could be wrong and I don't mean to defend her if she really is so terrible but to me it just sounded like an honest conversation between two people about a difficult subject. I'm glad it went there- I think for those of us who have been there in some way, it's reassuring to realize someone so brilliant who we may idolize is prone to it too, and it can happen to anyone. I get the sense Allie understands this as well and that's why she went along with such a revealing interview. She knows how many people are listening to her, and how it helps them to hear it.

She is truly fantastic.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 6:42 PM on November 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


and I don't mean to defend her if she really is so terrible

Clearly a lot of people like Gross's style of interviewing, considering she's been on the air for decades. The complaints about it in this thread aren't new, and I don't think her technique has changed much (I've only been listening to NPR for 5 years or so, but she often re-airs old interviews that are pretty indistinguishable from modern ones). To me, it seems like while the criticisms lodged against her style are valid, they also reveal why her interviews are often extremely successful.
posted by muddgirl at 6:53 PM on November 12, 2013


By that I mean that the other side of obsession is diligence, and the other side of tactless is "creating an environment where the interviewee opens up."
posted by muddgirl at 6:55 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


My problem with the interview was that Allie Brosh has already very carefully constructed a couple of comprehensive, precise, entirely straightforward and emotionally treacherous accounts of her experience of depression. Both of those pieces are in the book. And then Teri Gross kind of goes into the interview with a sledgehammer approach to the subject that requires Brosh to re-describe her experience, after having already expressed it perfectly in her own chosen medium.

I get that the purpose of an interview is to introduce the subject to a wider audience, but I don't feel like I learned anything from this interview that I didn't already know, or could have guessed, from reading the blog.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:56 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


My problem with the interview was that Allie Brosh has already very carefully constructed a couple of comprehensive, precise, entirely straightforward and emotionally treacherous accounts of her experience of depression. Both of those pieces are in the book. And then Teri Gross kind of goes into the interview with a sledgehammer approach to the subject that requires Brosh to re-describe her experience, after having already expressed it perfectly in her own chosen medium.

Yeah, but the majority of the Fresh Air audience probably hasn't seen her chosen medium and certainly hasn't bought her book (yet). Asking Brosh to reiterate and recap for people unfamiliar with her work is pretty much a no-brainer in this instance.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:58 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've read (and loved, and cried while reading) the blog posts and I still felt this interview brought my understanding of her struggles to a whole new level. Even though you know she's a real person, that does get lost in the blog a bit because even when it's dark it's still ... Cute, I guess? Hearing her actually speak and get choked up is so completely different from viewing it through the lens of her cartoon persona.

I also think that for someone as reclusive as she is to do this is a big deal and incredibly brave, ya know? She chose to make herself vulnerable. She agreed to do the interview, surely knowing it was going to go there. As I was getting at before, I feel this was a choice on her part to put herself out there for the benefit of others who are struggling similarly. I think it was deliberate, sensitive, brave and admirable.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 7:16 PM on November 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


But this interview really is a tough listen at times - the interviewer just seems so hungry for the darkest details, and that hunger is really uncomfortable to be a party to during the interviews more difficult passages.

"Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." - Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:35 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


That interview came dangerously close to making me love Alie Brosh less. Fortunately, I was able to mute it before irreparable damage was done.
posted by 256 at 8:02 PM on November 12, 2013


Ipsifendus: " I get that the purpose of an interview is to introduce the subject to a wider audience, but I don't feel like I learned anything from this interview that I didn't already know, or could have guessed, from reading the blog."

Huh. As someone who also struggles with suicidal depression, I feel like I learned a lot about her that I didn't already know. Plus I burst into empathetic tears partway through because what she was describing about her experience was so aligned with mine, so… yeah.
posted by Lexica at 8:17 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also think that for someone as reclusive as she is to do this is a big deal and incredibly brave, ya know? She chose to make herself vulnerable. She agreed to do the interview, surely knowing it was going to go there.

You may want to note that up the page there's a Youtube link to video of her in-person appearance at a Google shindig! She's not quite the recluse, hermit, or Emily Dickinson that some would cast her as being. More power to her for it! It's hard to sell a book these days.
posted by artemisia at 8:51 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am 99% sure Terry Gross is imitable.
posted by zippy at 9:22 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


BRRRRRRR I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS I AM A VACUUM BRRRRRRR
posted by JHarris at 2:55 AM on November 13, 2013


Gross isn't dumb, and she's often a good interviewer. Or so it seems to me. Plus millions more agree with that. I've heard people open to her, maybe feel safe enough to open to her. She's got a gift, and a good interview voice, too.

I did not like this interview. Gross was out of it. She clearly does not "get" Brosh, doesn't get what she's about, doesn't get why we all love her. My guess is that Gross looked at the book -- and the site, if she even bothered to go there to make for a better interview -- my guess is that she's like "What's the deal with the little stick arms and legs? What's the deal with the tube body? What's up with the simple, bright colors? The yellow thing on her head is a ponytail? Wha..?"

And Gross was a real jerk about the suicide ideation, the depression. Not intentionally, not with malice, just inability to understand and communicate with someone dealing with this, and who has dealt with it. Maybe more a dope than a jerk. She's exactly what Brosh described, in her second blog post about depression and also in the interview with Gross, where she's patiently trying to educate Gross; Gross is the person who the depressed person ends up having to comfort because she (Gross) doesn't have the emotional intelligence to speak straight up with someone who's lived depression.

I found myself getting angry at Gross -- quite a lot, over the course of this interview -- angry that she is interviewing someone she doesn't understand at all, and doing it with such ham-fisted stupidity. But then remembering what I know is true, and which Brosh has addressed so well, that it is not the other persons fault, they just don't have a concept for it is all; it's like a painter trying to explain his emotional use of various colors and textures, it's like that painter trying to explain it to a blind person. Can't get angry that a blind person doesn't understand blue. But no way around that it's a bad scene for that blind person to demand of someone else -- in an interview -- a bad scene for the blind person to demand of someone who communicates with colors to describe the feel of phthalo blue (red tint), can they describe what it looks like when you mix it with yellow. Just frustrating for all involved.

Brosh did well. I don't know that Gross understands today what Brosh explained to her with considerable patience -- she sure didn't understand it that day -- but it's not Brosh's fault that she couldn't in less than an hour teach an emotional cripple how to dance.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:30 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just want to leave a note for anyone who has chronic depression, dysthymia, or other recurring disorders. People for whom the story "I had an episode and now I think it's over" doesn't describe what they live with or go through. People for whom the heralding of Brosh's version of depression as the internet's new, bestest, most eloquent, most captivating and unsurpassable story of depression that anyone has ever told is actually pretty alienating and maybe makes you feel like you're doing it wrong because you didn't just get better one day or you are never not going to live with this or it just doesn't sound like you at all. People for whom all of this maybe is suggesting that you're hopeless, that you'll never get better, that you're too far gone.

For all of you: it's ok to find this unsatisfying. You're not a heartless emotional cripple if you cannot relate to what she's saying. You're not a monster if you don't automatically love her. You're not dumb for wishing that you could have the catharsis everyone around you seems to be experiencing, and you're not broken because you don't. Her version doesn't have to be yours for yours to be real.

In the middle of all the effusive love for Allie Brosh and the sneering contempt for anyone who disagrees, I just want to drop a note of dissent. It's ok not to like it or relate to it. It's ok to think she hasn't really said anything all that insightful about depression, except with regard to her personal story, and to think that she might not be the second coming. We get to be out here too.
posted by Errant at 6:34 AM on November 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


I read the simple dog and helper dog post before I had dogs, and I thought it was hilarious.

I just reread it from the perspective of living with rescue dogs for two years, and found it hilarious and heart-breaking. No point, just love her work.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:35 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I knew she was a genius when she depicted the simple dog as thinking in shapes. How perfect is that?
posted by gjc at 7:12 AM on November 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I love Allie. I can't say that enough - she really tells the depression story so well. I thought I'd share a little note of hope. I saw my psychiatrist yesterday. This morning I received my visit synopsis and read:

This visit's diagnosis:

DEPRESSION, MAJOR, RECURRENT, IN COMPLETE REMISSION

It's astounding, but true. That's not to say that I'm not aware of signs that the monster may be creeping around, but wow.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:22 AM on November 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


I just watched the video from Google linked above, totally different read of her by the people there, really nice, and as noted above, nice to watch as well as listen.

Another short video from a couple of years ago, five minutes long, five or six questions maybe, nice.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:25 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I sat and listened to that interview with the person I love who suffers from suicidal depression from time to time. Been together 17 years, so I have that much nose-up-against-the-glass-bubble-looking-in understanding of depression.

What I heard was TG realizing she'd stepped into delicate territory when Allie started getting choked up talking about the considerations about how she'd kill herself, how to do it the least messy, least burdensome way for others. That's some heavy shit, fo sho.

And TG asked her if she wanted to stop and take a moment to regain her composure. Those interviews are edited, so it's not like there would have been dead air. And Allie declined and continued forward.

Here's the thing. Brosh has written a book which deals significantly with her depression and feeling suicidal. That's the reason she's being interviewed. Yeah, that's not all there is to H.5 by a long shot, but that's why she's on NPR's biggest interview show in late 2013. So for TG not to discuss it would have been silly.

What I heard was Allie taking a moment to be with what she was feeling, and then continuing forward to discuss it without shame. Without stigma. This is what happened to me. This is what I lived through. This is what was going on for that year and a half I wasn't blogging. This is what's still going on for me in many ways.

This is how I considered committing suicide, and being considerate & not leaving a mess was part of it. This is how clinical depression works.

If loving someone with major depression has taught me anything, it's that having a disease that eats away at your hypothalamus and tries to get you to destroy yourself is not a moral failing one should be ashamed of. It's a drag, it's painful, and it sucks.

But fuck that shame noise.

When Allie mentioned that this interview might be the first time her husband heard the details of how she considered doing herself in, I thought back to the first time my wife informed me that she had a non-messy, least-burdensome plan her brain was proposing to her. I remember her being a little freaked out at telling me because... well, that's a fucked up thing to hear.

But I'm gonna go out on a limb here and go with If Allie's husband loves her and continues to stick through loving someone with major depression, he's ok with it. If Allie opening up in the least bit and saying "Yeah, this is how my brain has been trying to kill me" on the radio lightened her load at all, he'll dig deep and be ok. I'm betting if buying a billboard with his face on it reading "My wife has considered suicide" was something that would decrease the likelihood of the depression getting the upper hand, he'd fucking do it in a heartbeat.

Some people seem to have heard TG being voyeuristic and unsympathetic.

I heard Allie being unashamed to discuss something painful and burdensome and ONGOING for her. We tend to heap shame and secrecy upon depression in this culture.

I guess it's like the Zen saying; The quality of your experience is determined by the focus of your attention.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


I heard both. I thought that the probing questions could have been better, but since Allie is such a strong speaker it still resulted in a great interview. For what it's worth, I'm also coming at this from the perspective of someone who's spent a lot of time and effort learning to talk with and be helpful to someone close to me who suffers from depression that extreme, and I definitely understand the value of being open and (what onlookers would probably see as) blunt, so it's not the frank discussion of what her plans were that rubbed me the wrong way.
posted by invitapriore at 9:01 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


But, you're right, I think the main thing to notice here isn't Gross, it's Allie. She gave a great interview bravely, and I'm glad I got to hear it.
posted by invitapriore at 9:05 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


“Did you tell your husband you were actually seriously thinking about suicide?"

“This actually might be the first time he’s hearing the… details”

“[flatly] Oh.”

Terry Gross, that was a despicable response and you should be utterly ashamed of yourself.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The very least Gross could have said in response is “I’m sorry."
posted by davidpriest.ca at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2013


Errant, thank you so much for your comment, because it's the first time I've been able to articulate why Brosh's discussion of depression has made me staggeringly uncomfortable. I like Brosh--I've read HAAH for years, and don't at all argue that she's funny and insightful and etc. But when the depression stuff started coming up, I was--I don't know that angry is the word I want to use, but it's not not the word I want to use, if that makes sense.

I've struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was in fourth grade. I pretty much can't remember not "having a plan". It's been more than twenty years and there's no indication that the thoughts are going to go away, basically ever. I'm sure that Brosh's narrative is a wonderful, healing thing for many people with that particular stripe of mental illness, but it's only one very specific kind of thing. There's a frame in one of her depression posts where someone is shouting happy words at her--happiness and hope and love, or something like that--and her response is basically like what the hell, are you trying to make me feel shitty? And that's kind of how the depression comics, and the internet's wild and enthusiastic love for them, have made me feel.

I'm glad that she's no longer (as) depressed, and that she seems to be moving on and doing interesting and fulfilling things with her life. I just wish that it were progressing in a way where this wasn't perceived as the One True Narrative. I understand that there's a certain human desire to read the narrative in which people get better and overcome obstacles and whatever, but sometimes the rocks fall and you die. Not everyone has a metaphorical piece of corn on the floor. Not everyone gets better, and not getting better doesn't mean that you're weaker or less worthy than someone who does.
posted by MeghanC at 9:33 AM on November 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Husband? She and Duncan got married? Yay!

That's all... carry on...
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:36 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see anyone here claiming she has the "One True Narrative" for depression, nor do I see sneering contempt for people who don't relate to her retelling of her her personal story.

I understand feeling alienated when people love something you find really unsatisfying but you don't see me going around complaining about Harry Potter fans.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:13 AM on November 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


MeghanC - I hear you. I love the way Allie tells her story because I can relate to it, but it's not a "bad thing" if it doesn't speak to you. I don't think she does, in fact speak for all people with depression.

As far as hope goes, I certainly didn't think I would be one of those people (with hope). I have had depression as long as I can remember and I'm in my 40's now. I've had multiple plans. Sometimes people don't make it out alive and sometimes they do and no person is better than another because they survived or worse because they didn't.

Basically, yes, I agree.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:14 AM on November 13, 2013


MeghanC: pretty much where I'm at too. I don't dislike her at all and enjoy her work. But this big episode in which she formed a plan and encountered suicidal thoughts and couldn't feel anything? That happens to me somewhere between 2 and 6 times a year and has done for the last 20 years. That doesn't make my pain more important or hers less immediate, but it does mean that I have absolutely no idea what she's talking about when she says something like "I think it's over". I've never ever thought that, and there's a high likelihood that I never will. It's always there somewhere. I'm on truly heroic doses of medication right now, which help quite a bit, but it's still in there. The thing that people are calling "so extreme" and which is justifiably terrifying for them is basically an everyday experience for me. I shouldn't be so inured to it and it sucks that I am. But that's how it is. I can't help but hear her story and think, "yep, that sounds like the average Tuesday."

Allie Brosh is, of course, an expert on her own experience of depression, and I'm all for people talking about their experiences and hopefully removing some of the stigma in doing so. But she's not, to me, particularly insightful about depression as a whole. I really don't hear anything in what she's saying, when she's describing the effects of depression, that I haven't heard from many other people in many other spaces. She's able to find some humor in it and apply her unique style to it, and that's very good. I am glad she's able to speak about it and be received so well. But the way that people are reacting, it's like no one's ever described depression experiences before and a whole new world has opened up. It's kind of off-putting to me, like, wasn't anyone listening to anything people were saying before?

That's an uncharitable thought, and look, sometimes one vector works when all the others just haven't clicked for whatever reason. I get that. But yeah, there's also a jealousy there, like, I don't recall being feted as some miraculous creature for managing not to kill myself last week and for being able to say that in public. I don't recall anyone noticing or particularly caring at all. It's dumb to be a little envious of the sympathy and understanding that is so frequently lacking in everyday life, so I'm working on it.

I don't see anyone here claiming she has the "One True Narrative" for depression, nor do I see sneering contempt for people who don't relate to her retelling of her her personal story.

I understand feeling alienated when people love something you find really unsatisfying but you don't see me going around complaining about Harry Potter fans.


Last part first: I put that comment down here, many hours after the thread started, because to put it up there would have been rightfully seen as threadshitting. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, and I'm genuinely glad that people are thinking about this stuff and reacting positively to her story. But she has "genius-level emotional intelligence"? "She's one of the very few people actually talking frankly about the reality of depression"? Terry Gross is "an emotional cripple" for not understanding what she's saying? I don't think you are quite grasping how incredibly alienating and frustrating that kind of (ironically) hyperbole is, when it's not actively triggering. I don't have any real take on the emotional intelligence stuff, but no, she really isn't one of the only people talking about this publicly, and no, you're not an emotional cripple for not understanding or not "dancing" to her tune. Those things are simply not true, and it makes it feel like no one was listening before and that no one's listening to anyone but her now.

I like her work. I'm glad this is getting through to a lot of people. I don't think she's trying to speak for all depression everywhere, and I very much appreciate that she's telling a personal story. But there is so, so much material out there of people dealing with depression, talking about it, frequently in ways I think are at least on par with what Brosh is producing. It's not her story that I take issue with, it's the side effects of the wildly and hyperbolically enthusiastic reaction to her very well-told story. I'm glad that people are receiving her so well. But maybe they're not aware of what people like me hear when they say some of this stuff, and maybe that would be useful information to have. If it's not useful to you, fair enough.
posted by Errant at 10:50 AM on November 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


I've had depression my entire life. I have been Not OK more than I've been OK in my life, and I still go through pretty horrifically black, suicidal periods every 9 months or so. Which is a significant improvement, lemme tell you.

So I am one of the people you seem to be trying to talk about, Errant. Chronically, deeply, problematically depressed.

And, with the greatest of respect, I've got to tell you that you're coming off here as a little bit prescriptive about the experience of depression. And I think you're aware that you're universalizing your experience perhaps more than is wise.

There is a ton of writing out there on depression, yes. Frankly, not much of it is all that great, in the same way that not much literature about anything is truly great. And I certainly don't view Allie Brosh as the New Shiny Awesome Person Who Will Bring Light To The Masses.

The deepest root of my admiration for and enthusiasm about Allie Brosh's very public and frank discussion of her depressive experience is that she just seems to be able to talk about depression without making it sound like A Talk About Depression.

When she writes about it, she writes about it like it's a car accident that happened to her. She talks about it like I've heard some trauma survivors talk about their experiences. "Here is a thing that is kind of fucked up, and here's how it felt to me".

It's just...different to my ear, and I can't pinpoint why. But Allie Brosh's voice is one that I find it very easy to listen to, as a lifelong depressive, and that's not something I can say about very much of the literature about depression.

Please don't appoint yourself as the spokesperson for or defender of the depressed: as someone who's earned his stripes in that regard, I don't particularly appreciate it.
posted by scrump at 11:05 AM on November 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh gosh, I thought that was a great interview! And I agree with heyho's comment, above:
Listening to the interview, I assumed Terry Gross also suffers/suffered from depression.

As someone who's done some drawing and some ideation, I was pretty much listening to this like a tween lying prone on a bedspread, chin in fists, legs up in the air, all, "OH BOY, I HOPE SHE TALKS ABOUT HER IDEATING AND WHAT KIND OF PEN SHE USES"

Anyway, I liked this interview much more than I was expecting to. Thanks for posting it!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:11 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please don't appoint yourself as the spokesperson for or defender of the depressed: as someone who's earned his stripes in that regard, I don't particularly appreciate it.

He did no such thing. He spoke up so people who don't feel as much of a connection to her work as you and many people do know they're not alone, know there isn't something wrong with them. As MeghanC said,

"There's a frame in one of her depression posts where someone is shouting happy words at her--happiness and hope and love, or something like that--and her response is basically like what the hell, are you trying to make me feel shitty? And that's kind of how the depression comics, and the internet's wild and enthusiastic love for them, have made me feel."

If you "earned your stripes in that regard", maybe you have an idea what that feels like. Or at least you could hold off on the totally unnecessary jibe at someone who's clearly earning those fucking stripes you are talking about.
posted by catchingsignals at 11:34 AM on November 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you go through every HAAH thread about this, you will find a small minority expressing the feelings and thoughts I'm describing. I'm not coming out of nowhere or arbitrarily deciding that my version is the more important or more universal one. I really wasn't planning on saying anything at all. But the thread was starting to make me feel really bad, so I did say something about that, because maybe it was making other people feel bad too. If it wasn't, fine, I'm still just describing me.

I have said, over and over, that I'm super happy that people are responding so well to what she's saying. I have not, at any point, said that she wasn't depressed or that people aren't right to like her stuff. I've said that I like her stuff. I'm not sure how much more clear I could possibly be about that. I happen to know from experience that some people have similar reactions to mine about the furor around new Allie Brosh depression work, and that there was a decent likelihood that the same feelings expressed in previous threads about this specific topic were still present.

I'm not speaking for anyone. I'm talking about my experience and the experiences I know from previous threads that I share with other people. If I don't share them with you, that's fine, I'm not claiming to. But it can feel really, really bad to be simultaneously depressed and alienated from the big new depression thing going around that illuminates the subject for many people, like how shitty is it that they're still not going to get it where you're concerned. It makes me feel bad sometimes. I think it makes other people feel bad sometimes. I think that because they've said so, specifically about this, in one or more of the 7 previouslies up there in the post. So I'm talking to them. If other people find that useful, cool. If not, that's ok; just like Allie Brosh, whatever I'm saying doesn't have to be for everyone.
posted by Errant at 11:44 AM on November 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Allie Brosh at an Authors@Google event. (Some overlapping content, since she's covering the same letter-to-25-year-old-self that she does in the interview.)
posted by Going To Maine at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2013


I think this is an excellent interview. Her experience with depression, I find, has been very similar to my own, and it is a bit of a revelation to hear somebody talk about the disease so openly and honestly, describing it in ways that I never thought of before.
posted by Quiplash at 12:20 PM on November 13, 2013


One more thing, and then I'll try to keep my mouth shut:

There is a ton of writing out there on depression, yes. Frankly, not much of it is all that great, in the same way that not much literature about anything is truly great.

I have no problem with this statement. If you had said "she's one of the very few people who speak powerfully to me" or "whose honesty connects with me" or some such, I wouldn't have a problem with that and I don't see how anyone could. But when you say "she's one of the very few people who speak frankly and honestly", that's not factual and it comes off as a little dismissive. There are a lot of people speaking very candidly about their experiences with depression. Many, most, almost all of them don't have to speak to you or be very good in your opinion, but their authenticity is real, and the authenticity of people who identify more with those narratives than Allie Brosh's is real. I do not for a moment believe you intended to imply anything to the contrary, but that's how that came across to me.
posted by Errant at 12:43 PM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks, to those of you who named what I felt when Brosh returned to the internet after her long absence. Everyone in my realm who loved her was like, "This exactly this omg no one ever said it before" and I felt like, she spent a lot of time describing the agony in great detail and very little time on the help (meds) which allowed her to return to the world. I have had depression and have had several suicidal friends I personally took to the hospital for help. The help saved their lives, and I was somewhat alarmed at how little she described that part.
posted by Riverine at 1:44 PM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm going to say one more thing and then shut up.

There is a massive difference between people talking about their experience with something like what Brosh is doing, and people dismissing or ignoring your lived experience.

Errant, I feel like you've conflated the two repeatedly, and that's why I'm annoyed. It started with this statement in your first comment:
In the middle of all the effusive love for Allie Brosh and the sneering contempt for anyone who disagrees, I just want to drop a note of dissent. It's ok not to like it or relate to it. It's ok to think she hasn't really said anything all that insightful about depression, except with regard to her personal story, and to think that she might not be the second coming. We get to be out here too.
I mean, first, sneering contempt? I'm not seeing it.

But my question is simple: in this conversation, who said you didn't get to be "out there"? I sure as hell didn't, and I'm not seeing anyone else who did either. Allie Brosh sure isn't saying you don't get to be out there.

From where I'm sitting, you seem to be taking the fact that people like what she's doing, and are saying so, as some sort of dismissal of your own lived experience.

I don't see the people saying that they like her trying to universalize their experience into EVERYONE MUST LIKE HER, but I do see you trying to universalize your personal experience of not getting it into MY EXPERIENCE IS BEING IGNORED. And I find that provoking.

No personal animus intended, and, like I said, this is my last comment on this particular post.
posted by scrump at 2:35 PM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't call it ignorance of my experience exactly, but I was pretty honest about the fact that there's some envy of attention in there and that's something I need to look at in myself.

Even though no one's saying it's not ok to not like her stuff, it can feel like it's not ok to not like it. You know what I mean? You've got depression, it's been hanging around for a while, and not a whole lot of people in your life know too much about it. Then Allie Brosh puts out a couple poignant comics about her experience with depression, and all of a sudden, everyone's talking about depression and there's a lot of sympathy and compassion being expressed and all of that is awesome, it's awesome to think that people want to pay attention to this thing that's been bothering you and sometimes literally silencing you. That's really pretty great.

Except...that isn't you. Like, it doesn't happen that way for you, and it doesn't end that way for you, and it's not going to. So it feels weird, like really weird, to have this comic entitled "Depression Part I" and "Depression Part II" and to have depression and to not see yourself in it. And now all of your friends are talking about depression using these comics as guides to what it feels like, and they're saying they've never heard anyone express what it feels like to be depressed so eloquently, but you don't feel like that at all and you're depressed. And people are so happy that it has this observable lifting of spirit which really ties the whole thing together, and it's a great story, but it's not your story and you're depressed. And you're really glad that there's this broader conversation going on about this thing that's very real and personal to you, but should you even be in the conversation, when the only thing you can say about the comic is, "I don't feel like that" or "eh"? How do you go from talking about the comic or the interview to talking about your individual experience when the first thing you want to say is "ok, well, toss most of that out, let's start over"?

"Sneering contempt" was probably too strong, but that "emotional cripple" thing hit a nerve, so sorry for that, that's my bad. But it's not that anyone's actually saying "you shouldn't be out here" or that it's not ok to not like it. People don't have to say that, though, for you to feel like maybe you shouldn't be out here or in the conversation, or that there's something the matter with you that you're not getting what everyone else is getting from a story that has your major issue at the heart of it. It's not that anyone's actually saying anything negative. It's that it's not very hard for people with depression to find negativity in something, as you are no doubt aware. So I don't think I have to be responding to an expressed negativity in order to provide an affirmation: hey, all that other stuff is ok too, you're not the only one who feels like that, it's all good, it doesn't have to be for us.

You are surely aware of how easy it is to start feeling utterly alone and utterly isolated in your depression. You're surely aware of how easy it is to start thinking that there's something wrong with you because everyone's having this party and you're metaphorically sitting on the stairs outside. I was starting to experience that. So I wanted to say that it's ok to feel like that, and I'm pretty sure some of you out there are also feeling like that, and in the same way that the comic is bringing a lot of people together, we can be together and part of the conversation too. It wasn't at all intended as a rebuke to anyone who gets all the things they've gotten out of her story and her work. I tried to be very clear about that. But for the relatively few people who don't get much out of it, who are also unusually prone to thinking that they're completely alone and no one ever feels like they do even when talking about depression, it is nice to hear that you're not alone and that others feel the way you do. I know I appreciated it in the other threads, when people spoke up. I wanted to do the same thing for anyone who was maybe feeling like they couldn't or shouldn't. It's not that I thought my experience was being dismissed, really. It's that it kind of sucks to be in a depression thread and not feel like you can talk about your depression because it's just going to bring everybody down. As, amusingly, I appear to have done.

That's about it. I am very sorry if that made anyone feel worse instead of better.
posted by Errant at 3:42 PM on November 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I know I said I was going to shut up, but I feel obligated to say that I appreciate your explanation, Errant. And it's given me some things to think about. Thanks for taking the time.

And I think that this is how you talk about it. We're talking about it now, and here.
posted by scrump at 3:55 PM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Allie Brosh doesn't just write about depression. She also writes about her hilariously unique dogs and her strange childhood behavior and her anxiety about chores, so I think reducing a conversation about as an artist to "her expression of her experience of depression doesn't match my experience point by point" is unfair.

I have long-term dysthymia, OCD, and social anxiety. I didn't find Brosh's recent depression comics to particularly reflect my life experience as an anxious depressive who just about grinds along, but I love her comics about her childhood behavior, and her dogs, and her anxiety about housework, so I like that she's getting wider attention and hopefully making some money to pay for health care or whatever.

And overall, I feel that no artist has an obligation to create art that reflects anyone else's experience, or a universal experience. And it rankles me when I see criticism along those lines. Allie Brosh just has to write the truest things she can about herself, and others can find reflections in it or not.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:04 PM on November 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


And overall, I feel that no artist has an obligation to create art that reflects anyone else's experience, or a universal experience.

Hear, hear.
posted by rifflesby at 6:33 PM on November 13, 2013


I feel like we've massively lost the plot somehow. My initial comment was that it was ok to feel like her work on depression doesn't match one's experience and that one's experience was still equally valid. This seems entirely uncontroversial. I went on to say that I didn't think she was trying to speak for everyone, that her work doesn't have to be for everyone, that I found her work poignant and well-told, if not quite for me with regard to the specific subject, and that I enjoy her work a lot. I described a reaction to some of her work, work that other people are powerfully and meaningfully moved by and are also speaking about in this thread, and that clearly also moves me except in a somewhat different direction. I didn't go through her work point by point. I've barely said anything about her work at all, except that I'm glad that people like it and I like it too on most other occasions.

So I'm very, very confused as to where you're getting this idea that I'm disappointed in her for not speaking directly to the minutiae of my existence or that I think her depression stuff is all she has to offer. I'd really like you to help me see where I'm implying that to you, because to my mind, I've been explicitly saying the opposite the entire time.
posted by Errant at 10:30 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel you Errant. When I first read the first depression comic it strongly resonated with me, and seemed off at the same time -- to be expected, but as I dissected my own doubts I realized that I really enjoyed the comic as medium tackling the subject, and while it's not a bad thing that a comic would get what seems to be disproportionate "hyperbolic" even attention that may lead to an oversimplified understanding of depression for a lot of folks, the simple message itself may be overwhelmingly helpful and positive for people suffering for various forms of mental illness. Or not, I'll get to that...

Processing this I do feel like a curmudgeon complaining about kids reading graphic novels instead of real books. But it makes perfect sense that something quick and easy to digest with [OG] LULz-internet artwork (and I think it's pretty good) and with an existing base of readers and an existing internet community of depressed folks that may or may not be readers would push this into the popular consciousness.

After seeing all of this buzz I see many parallels with The Oatmeal panel on long-distance running and subsequent attention that brought on. I think relating to something in a cartoon / comic format may just be easier and more entertaining. You see simplistic faces expressing recognizable expressions and I love it; see EVE and WALL-E (OK, he's Johnny 5, but still). I've done it once before, making a comic for one other person about a situation and it was pretty awesome seeing him laugh at stick figures but with just the right amount of furrowed brows and sound effects conveyed in a visual form...OK that's Pixar's whole shtick, they're loud and clear about it, but it's a huge component of animation and comics throughout the history of both media.

I enjoyed the panels that particularly tackled with the symptoms and negative self-talk, but was profoundly jealous at the same time, while I was depressed at the time reading it (bipolar here), and supporting a family in a job that seemed horribly terrible but realistically wasn't, I just wasn't in control of my time...feeling a tremendous extra pressure there that didn't do anything to magically boot-strap me into awesomeness, but did keep me teetering on the edge of keeping my job without missing too many days...but I was jealous of a privilege she had, to miserably lay down all day and crawl around the floor -- I don't know to what extent it's all real, but this was discussed in the original MeFi thread.

And then I'm envying her while I had my own privilege in a "turtles all the way down" fashion that sort of explains why the first ICD-9 (international classification of diseases) code is cholera. People are dying of cholera the world over because they can't get clean drinking water without shit in it, and I'm jealous of this person? And maybe her depression is worse because she doesn't have to get up and work -- of course it would be. Why am I judging this person? I should die, we all should, nobody's ever really happy, right? We're all just robots, and I've figured out that we're suckers and everything is fake."

My privilege was that I had a job that is pretty flexible about when I come into work with decent personal leave, and doesn't give me a lot of grief about sick days, so I naturally came in way too late, which sort of exacerbated my depression, and took lots of sick days, which made me feel guilty, and then of course I was depressed and took terrible care of myself, so I'd get like deathly ill the next week after flaking out for two days, and know that I was standing out.

So I'm sitting there thinking "would she really be crawling around the ground like that, or if that's an exaggeration, sitting on the couch all day doing nothing which is what I'd like to be doing 24/7, if it weren't for the back pain it causes and the job I have to show up for, almost every day...is her depression worse than mine or is she more privileged than me? I only find myself having to take 2-3 days off a month, some planned, some sick days, eating away all of my personal leave, but if I was really really depressed would my life completely collapse?" That was discussed in the original MeFi thread too.

What's my point?

I dunno, but like others in the original MeFi thread mentioned, I felt like her comic ended with the possibility of bipolar disorder, that she was going into hypomania. I have an extremely hard time deciding when I feel "normal," always being somewhat shifted into either mood state, and only recently with medication management and tons of reading did I start to realize what "normal" is. Most of my springs and summers have been long hypomanic episodes that slip into mania if I push it to far, for all of my life. And that was fine with me, until I realized my "blues" during the fall (hey that was my favorite season once!) and winter were turning into suicidal ideation and planning and so forth.

Sometimes thinking that you feel "normal" after a long depression bout is a maniacal experience. WTF life. Until I started mananging my bipolar symptoms, my depressive cycles became longer and longer, peaking at around 7 months out of the year. Holy shit, it just slowly ate away at my life.

Everyone wants to tell their story, but the mentally afflicted often feel that they truly can't relate to anyone else is they get into enough detail. Maybe that's why the comic is good -- if you spend enough time to talking to someone with a similar affliction to have to resist the urge to "one up" or "re-diagnose" them or whatever. It's a bitch. Every so often I'll break down to my wife and explain how it seems like I'll never truly be able to relate to anyone on the planet in a meaningful way and she just kind of can't say anything. And we love each other, I fight to keep my ups and downs from destroying our relationship every day, but it's a fucking lonely feeling thinking that there's a certain unmatched intensity, and an unquestionable thirst for love and affection and understanding and at the same time, being left the fuck alone, except wait, come back, I need you, I don't know what I want, someone tell me, you can't tell me anything, fuck off, won't somebody play...

TLDR: the panel deals with a massively complex painful subject that is never exactly the same for everyone, which is probably likely to irritate the afflicted who don't feel it merits the level of attention it's getting especially when discussions around it are framed with implications that these exact ideas haven't been exhaustively explored already, but hopefully serves a greater purpose in getting the unaware, like a friend of mine I just avoid most of the time, to understand that it's not something you can "snap out of" with a judgemental conversation out of sheer magical respect for that friend's wisdom, and that if you feel terrible for 2-4 weeks because something bad happened, you still have no idea what being depressed for months and months is like, regardless of its depth, don't tell me you've been depressed but your magical solution is just to keep your chin up and you're cleared up in a week or two. That's different, just like railing cocaine up your nose and going psychotic is not the same thing as having a psychotic mixed episode.

I do think we need to address the possible overprescription of SSRIs, which may be serving to trivialize depression if they truly are overprescribed in the absense of mental illness, but also because so many people put on SSRIs for long-term depression may be taking the wrong medication, may actually be on the bipolar spectrum with mild or almost absent symptoms of hypomania, and may be bringing on the onset of their first crazy holy-shit-let's-go-to-Vegas manic episode after a lifetime of pretty straight-and-narrow, addressing the equation in an unbalanced way. It took me a long time to figure it out with a psychiatrist and psychologist, but made perfect sense afterward. In a way, even though I didn't realize it was mania when I regularly thought I was the master of reality conceiving the universe out of thought in my teenage years through this day, or took crystals ridiculously seriously as being resonant power manipulators of the universe that brought my wife back into my life after a break (well the crystal itself broke and was dedicated to her so of course it brought us back together, no that's a fucking stupid thought but it's taking cover in the folds of my brain somewhere),...I took it to Vegas for a business trip recently and did not cheat. I didn't know why I brought it with me, I didn't think about it at all, but I did think about strippers and escorts and crazy manic shit, and I did stay up for days at a time and destroy myself in various ways. But I didn't cheat. And it didn't occur to me that the crystal was the reason, I just knew that I'd probably kill myself dealing with the guilt, like it'd be this self-fulfilling prophesy that I must kill myself if I cheat, so if I want to kill myself, I will cheat.

So instead of cheating I maniacally hacked on code for ridiculous hours in a Vegas hotel after walking the strip and getting sick drunk.

It wasn't mania when I got the police to chase my friends and I through downtown, and I hopped a 9-foot fence, permanently damaging my ankle for life, and played all smooth criminal changing my look and coordinating my friends to all safely get out of town. I was drunkenly banging on an electrical box, just asking for trouble, not realizing it, pretty responsible fucking adult at this point.

It wasn't mania when I wondered if I was bipolar years before getting diagnosed and decided that I was just trying to be cool like all of the creative people who have it.

It wasn't mania until someone raised the question -- "seems like you're on a bit of a rollercoaster, doesn't it?"

It isn't depression that keeps me from brushing my teeth and cleaning out the passenger seat of my car...

It isn't demons when two of my uber-Christian former co-workers suggest it. One of them insists on real demons, and I convince the other that they're speaking metaphorically. It isn't demons, it's a virtual reality simulation I created for myself, and the challenge is either to commit suicide, or live all the way through and meet some goal. What's the goal?

I hate my self-obsession except when it's validated by people like that interviewer. I would've enjoyed it, and been horribly miserable at the same time. Life.
posted by lordaych at 1:32 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


My other TLDR is that I get the people who are basically saying "for me, it's never over" -- that's something that's part of her personal experience, that she's pretty sure it's over and maybe that affirmation is helpful, or maybe it will fuel challenges down the road. It doesn't have to do either, it can just be a statement of tentative hope.

But chronically "knowing" that life is meaningless is a real bitch to explain to anyone and nobody needs or wants to hear it. When you're depressed you know it and it leads you to certain (in my case) neglectfully destructive patterns. And in the manic phase, you still know it, but fuck it! Whoo! Spend that money! Drink up, stay up, do it all, work, play, play work, work work work play play sleep?

That cholera thing I mentioned previously came up in a conversation yesterday with a friend of mine fawning over smartphones and such. I told him how I feel about the privilege of having increasingly powerful computers in our pockets (it's fucking cool) juxtaposed with the overall shittiness that most of the world population endures. He said "that's depressing man..." and luckily for him there were other people in the room to talk to. I felt bad for that, and I'm actually in a more manic phase and was just rattling shit off, not trying to ruin his night.

People need to hear it, or do they? Is depression in large part a physiological sensitivity to profound futility and ambivalence? Is it going to spread like poverty and deserts and fucking jellyfish? Yeah, and you want them to know now that the world needs to change -- the whole thing -- good luck.

I like to think that the whole world needs to hear it, because it's spreading like wildfire, and there are profound implications for society depending on how much of it is a social and epigenetic phenomenon vs. pure genetics. Especially if we go full allopath all-in and "cure" the malaise on a Brave New World soma level without addressing any root causes. But so much of the planet is entrenched in surviving from one day to another that it's hard to see depression on a global scale. And increasingly first-world middle-class populations are completely living paycheck to paycheck -- depression? I got bills to pay!

Statistically at a large population level, we're asking for a lot of trouble and I understand why conspiracy theorists want to believe in a single "New World Order" even if it truly is a nexus of evil, so that we...I mean, they -- can say "HA! I TOLD YOU SO!" And enjoy certainty...real certainty, for a change. Not much different from "If you don't join my religion you'll be sorry and go to hell, you'll see" in my book. Human nature, it is what it is. But we live in such an era of obvious fakery and constant manipulation, food science, propaganda techniques that are amazingly insidious from an early age and completely tolerated by society as a whole, constant immersion in stimulation and seclusion from a greater sense of community in the tangible world, and increasing surveillance. We're turning the world into a psychotic fantasy.

I sincerely hope it is over for her, wouldn't be surprised if it's not and that she's riding a huge wave as far as it'll go and there's nothing wrong with that as long as she doesn't let it get out of control. Whatever happens, happens.

For me, when I'm in the manic phases I have a tremendous amount of positive energy, I make people laugh constantly, but there's a terrible uneasiness eating away. I could be doing so many productive things, and I judge myself and then go extra manic ignoring them. I decide to be productive and do fifty things all at once and completely blow out the "stack space" in my brain and feel stupid for a day. Then I feel like a god and can grasp everyone and everything. Then my closest friends and family just kind of find me weirder and weirder, and less close people, especially random people, love the entertainment.

But underneath it all, I know it's all pointless. Or is it? Am I the center of the Universe? No fucking way. I believe nothing and everything all at once. At least, the "everythings" that aren't very specific. Christianity? No way. Crystals and resonant magical energies and Tesla because magic sciencey magics? Maybe! Multiverse? Sure. Maybe I'm shifting through them, sometimes everything changes a little bit.

Fuuuuuuu

Bed
posted by lordaych at 1:54 AM on November 14, 2013




The NPR interview needs a trigger warning.

To contrast, Allie's work does not.

That's a large part of my attraction to her writing.

Few can write about depression that well, and fewer still can make it, well, not depressing. But to illustrate it with what can only be described as crude ms paint drawings, and simultaneously make it enjoyable and partially relateable by all?

Genius.

The other thing I want to bring up is that there's so much going on in both the book and the blog other than depression, but that seems to be all what the interviews I've seen are focused on.

(Allie said on her IAmA over on Reddit that she still gets depressed, so her trials are far from over.)
(Also-also, she has an absolutely fantastic publicist - CNN, NBC, NPR, Google, book signings all over, an AMA... I hope she makes ALL THE MONEY!)
posted by fragmede at 2:12 AM on November 15, 2013


Is it too much to hope she'll make Colbert?
posted by JHarris at 3:06 AM on November 15, 2013


After reading some of the comments here, I was expecting the interview to be much worse. Yeah, I felt Gross was rather underwhelming with her responses to some of what Allie was saying, but I actually kind of appreciated the times she didn't make much response. They were better than all the times she started talking over Allie, or telling the story instead of letting Allie tell it.

Anyway, I adore HAAH and Allie and a lot of what she writes about depression resonates with me (as does her sneaky hate spiral, her inability to extricate herself from painful conversations, etc) but I don't find it an exact mirror of my experience either. I definitely agree with Errant and lordaych that the attention around her book and her experience can give your depressed mind (if you have one) something else to beat yourself up with, another tool of isolation and feeling like no one else understands exactly. For example, I am perfectly capable of cracking a joke and laughing quite hard even while crying and being completely miserable. Where's that in her comic, huh? Where? Why don't you mirror my exact experience? WHY?!?!

Ahem. I am seriously not trying to make fun of anyone here but myself, or minimise anyone else's experience. Unless of course, you've had my exact experience, in which case I'm sorry. Sucks, doesn't it?

I can't say I was directly inspired by Brosh or even by other comics about depression out there, but over the past few weeks I've managed to take that frustrated sense of "not quite right" and tried drawing my own comic. It's not quite right either, but I think it's been useful to try to articulate my own experience of depression, and I really appreciate threads like these for the way they do prompt people to talk about their experiences. I'm just hoping that it all helps build a bit more understanding while undermining some of the stigma around depression and mental illness.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:17 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a bit sad to learn that Helper Dog didn't actually get that name because he was helpful. I am disappointed and think somewhat the less of him now.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2013


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