Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse

So another celebrity (by social standards) dies, and everybody has an opinion. People who didn't even know this woman are saying things like "she was an addict and was asking for it", "she was sick and died of her disease", "celebrity got the best of her"....

Who are we to decide this?

There probably is truth to all of those, but the real question is this, WHERE WERE YOU?

A lot of the same people who criticize and even those who sympathize with Winehouse's plight are the same people who openly take enjoyment in the shenanigans of Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan.

It's all fun and games until some dies isn't it.

Where are you when someone close to you has those same issues?

When someone close to you succumbs to substance abuse or mental illness, do you have the absolute reason why it happened, or is it "different"?

Do you ask yourself "Where was I?", or do you victimize yourself by thinking "why did this happen to me?", and justifying yourself with "I just didn't know".

"IT" did not happen to you but to them, and you "should have known".

As a society we all know that Amy Winehouse dug her own grave, but as individuals we excuse ourselves as "not knowing".

Why do we "not know" when it hits close to home?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Humble recognition

Sometimes recognizing a person's depression can suffice to help them, even if temporarily.

Some of the reading I'm currently doing makes me feel better as it acknowledges depression as a disease we know very little about, in fact we know A LOT LESS THAN WE LIKE TO THINK WE DO.

That last part is the most important part; the recognition must be done with the modesty that we do not know.

The all too common patronizing "recognition" which goes something like "I haven't had it so I don't know" (IE. "We're not interested, just get back to functionality and we can all forget about it.") is hollow at best, disingenuous at worse.

To recognize that someone else is suffering something we do not know and that our concern is two-fold:
A) That the person is suffering.
B) That we are ignorant about that suffering, and that that ignorance is a faultof ours.

Pretending we know what depression entails and how to "treat" it in order to make the sufferer feel better can often have the opposite effect, because the simple "go see your doctor - take some meds - do some CBT - get more active - socialize more" is just that, overly simplistic. The simplicity of it can make the depressed person feel even more depressed.

Taking meds, doing therapy, getting active, and socializing doesn't take away that a person may genuinely feel depressed about things like the dysfunctional world we live in, about how their life (as active and social as it may be) does not make them content.

So yes, depression is a disease with biological components, but it is much more than that, and that much more is what we don't know.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Manufacturing Depression - By Gary Greenberg

Is a fascinating book which looks at the history of the disease we know as depression.

Greenberg details how the "scientific" community (in)directly with pharmaceutical companies purposely strayed away from Freudian-style analysis in diagnosing depression because of it's "unreliability". (IE. One man's self-criticism is another man's self-awareness.)

In order to give psychiatry it's proper place in "scientific" medicine (and pharmas to make profit), they came up with "Reliable criteria" which defines (and diagnoses) a person who is truly depressed.

One of my biggest beefs has long been the simplicity with which depression is diagnosed and treated. It is commonly held by medical professionals (who consider this "scientific") that the best treatment for Major Depressive Disorder is for the patient to regularly take their prescribed medication and goes through Cognitive Therapy.

My beef with this is the over-simplification. Taking anti-depressants and "changing my way of thinking" does not address philosophical questions like what consists contentment and "happiness".

A person may not feel "happy" despite having a "normal life". Many a lay person does not (or chooses not to) comprehend this (IE. "There are lots of people "worse off" than you, therefore you SHOULD be happy).

As for modern "scientific" psychiatry and psychology, the person is clinically depressed if they have 2 or more of these symptoms for 2 or more consecutive weeks:
- depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness).
- reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed, sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping to much).
- loss of energy or a significant reduction in energy level.
- difficulty concentrating, holding a conversation, paying attention, or making decisions that used to be made fairly easily.
- suicidal thoughts or intentions.

Listening to a list of symptoms and diagnosing is relatively easy, listening to what TRULY MAKES A PERSON UN-HAPPY is a little more difficult, so by calling it "un-reliable", the "scientists" wiggle their way out of the tough part.

In the book, Greenberg elaborates on the rise of psychiatric medicine in the past 100 or so years as well as an entire chapter on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which he doesn't dismiss, but makes it clear that the "scientifically proven" tag it attaches to itself is not quite accurate.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Acceptance is often presented as an easy catch-phrase answer when we don't know what to do.
"You lost your job?, just accept it and move on."
"Someone lied / stole / hurt you, just accept."

Of course dwelling on past events is not healthy, but neither is just "accepting" without dissecting said event and resolving it (as much as possible) in our hearts and minds.

For the depressive person, "accepting" negative outcomes often turns out to be unwarranted self-criticism.

Sometimes losing a job, getting lied to, getting robbed, or hurt is NOT the victim's fault, and "simple acceptance" that "nothing can be done about it" becomes "it must be my fault / I must have done something wrong..."

As much as the situation can not be modified, how we see it and judge those involved can make all the difference between truly moving on and simply "accepting".

Monday, March 28, 2011

Using the Internet (and social media) in a healthy manner

Below is a link to a recent interesting article on how social media may exasperate depressive symptoms in those who are already prone to depression.

The gist of the article is that social media's (mostly Facebook) "skewed view of reality" may make an already depressed person even more depressed.

Seeing others have more "friends", posting positive (whether true or not) status updates, posting pictures of having fun (as if it's a constant) (can) make a depressive's symptoms worse.

Have you experienced "Social Media Depression"?

Felt the need to have your life be better due to others' Facebook profiles / statuses / pics?

How would you suggest a person deal positively with depression while at the same time using Social Media in a healthy matter?


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Who knows best?

If you want advice on bringing up children, ask someone who's never had any they'll tell you everything you're doing wrong.

The same applies to depression, if you suffer just ask those who haven't had it, they have all the answers. The best one is still "I haven't had it so I don't know" (IE. "I don't believe you".)

Of course I'm being facetious. People always want to appear knowledgeable, but when we don't know (or believe) something it doesn't mean it doesn't exist or isn't true.

Having an opinion is absolutely acceptable, but with it comes responsibility (a word very popular with "know it alls"). True responsibility includes respect; respect for others opinions, feelings, and realities (which are different than ours).

This entails (on a deeper level) that responsibility requires humility which is (unfortunately) not a very common trait.

The person who has never experienced depression has the responsibility (although rarely the behaviour) to accept their ignorance without dismissing the reality of depression.

Am I whining? In the eyes of many, absolutely.
Do I care? No, because their ignorance is bound to show elsewhere.
Am I better than anyone? Definitely not because I don't know half of what I think I do.
Am I worse than others? Of course not, we all have our failures.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When I'm tired

Depression brings people down and when you’re down, you’re tired.

One of the most common (yet misunderstood) symptoms of depression is fatigue. In my depressive episodes I was often extremely tired and people around me did not seem to understand that.

Although most non-depressives say the right things about depression (IE. “We know it is real”, “you are suffering”), the acknowledgement, and proper understanding of symptoms is extremely rare.

When I was (it still does occur) tired, I knew it was not “normal” to be that tired, but also that this fatigue was not just a simple case of short night’s sleep, change in schedule, or any other common reason. Depression was (coming) back, and getting (extra) rest would make me stronger to face it (depression) the next day.

I have tried “toughing it out” and ended up unable to leave the house for three days.

Unfortunately our society’s over-preoccupation with getting things done “yesterday”, the person who takes a day off from work, school, or any other activities is seen as weak or low-functioning. Of course when said person does make the effort to get up and go to work / school, the effort is not recognized, but if they indeed over-exert themselves and end up with another serious sickness, they are practically made out to be guilty of “not taking care of themselves”.

I have read articles about how taking time off work can be beneficial for both a person’s mental and physical health. Unfortunately, most employers (that I have known) treat absenteeism like it was the plague. Openly criticising an employee’s absenteeism rate by comparing them to others, and holding it against them in performance reviews even when they (the employer) have been made aware of the employee’s condition.

Luckily (or not), this is not (usually) the case for employees with organic illnesses, but when it comes to depression and other mental illnesses, the prejudice is still very prevalent.