02 March 2010

Depression's Upside

I was diagnosed with Depression when I was a Junior in college.  However, I had known that I needed to seek out help as early as High School but I avoided seeing a therapist or getting prescribed medication because of my family's "suck it up" mentality that I had grown up with.  I knew that my parents would never be able to accept me taking medication for depression because they did not (and still do not) see it as a real disease.  

That being said I find this article from the New York Times incredibly frustrating.  While I commend these scientists for working on a problem that truly does need to be focused on and their creativity in thinking about a problem from another angle the idea that depression is a GOOD thing and that people with depression should be happy because its an adaptation to make them live better lives is simply ridiculous.  Depression is a disease that KILLS people.  If that is a diagnosis of an adaptation then isn't Cancer also an adaptation we shouldn't medicate but let run its course because it clearly must have some benefit as well?  I don't think so.  

I think this blog post hits the nail right on the head.  Depression itself is not an adaptation but the disposition that is associated with more critical thinking and intelligence could be seen as one.  But we must also be careful with the association that melancholy is a good trait to have that we do not romanticize depression as is Kramer's argument in his book "Against Depression" (which I am currently reading).  Being depressed is not romantic because when you're depressed you feel so alone in the world that you feel compelled to take your own life rather than continue living.  That is loneliness beyond comparison and lonely people are not really lovers.  At least not that I've ever found.  

I was originally going to keep my personal self and my diagnosis completely clear from this blog.  But I think the more that I read about depression and the more I live my life I feel that I should be an advocate for people who are suffering from this disease.  It's not ok when people tell you to "suck it up" or tell you that depression isn't real, it is.  Adversely, it is also not ok to decide that you need a "happy pill" because of some commercial with a sad face you saw on TV.  People who are not truly depressed who request medication are the reason that people don't see this as a real disease.  

If you or anyone you know is in crisis please immediately call 1-800-273-TALK
For more information on depression visit the National Institute of Mental Health's Web site.

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