30 January 2011

Has anyone ever said anything to you that succeeded in easing your depression?

NIA: Nope. Which isn't to say that the two therapists I saw — one in college for several semesters, God bless 'er, and another for a few months in my mid-20s (her, too) — didn't help me to sort out some issues and teach me thinking processes so that I could keep normal, daily bullshit from swamping my beleaguered mental state.

I picture it this way: take the monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and stick it in a brain. Now imagine that each of life's little challenges — a relative's bitchiness, a coworker's lying, a friend's passive-aggressiveness — is a piece of barbed wire that blows across the, uh, tundra and gets stuck on the monolith. (Yes, I realize that it is unlikely this would happen with a material designed to cross vast regions of space.) The therapist helped me to identify the barbed wire and get rid of it. The monolith remained.

Not that I am immune to a great motivational speech:

26 January 2011

Perfectly good reasons to be depressed

by Nia

So you're worried that you'll never be attractive again or people think you're stupid or you'll die alone or the recession will shove your family into a lower socioeconomic class. Pfffffft. Trifles.

  • Johnny Depp is 47.
  • The civilization that created chocolate, the greatest food of all time, just upped and died one day. Well, declined very fast and disappeared, anyway.
  • A boob lift looks good when you're fully clothed, but naked you can end up looking like Frankenstein.
  • You did not invent Post-It Notes. Or disposable diapers. Or Google.
  • You will never even work for Google.
  • High levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are associated with the development of Alzheimer's. So don't stress out or you'll go senile. No pressure.
  • Cellulite. No cure.
  • No religious text on the planet guarantees that when you die, all the cool people who died before you will actually want to hang with you in the afterlife. (Pastor Jayne — please confirm.)

Image: detail of drawing of Mayan glyphs by Diana Griffiths Peck. Remix by M. Rhea.

25 January 2011

Whaddya mean by depression?

by Nia and Pastor Jayne

Nia:  When I refer to depression, I mean a low mood you can't shake. Whether it's event-based or a brain chemistry thing, I don't care. I distinguish it from clinical depression, the official symptoms of which are a mile long and can include anxiety, poor concentration, eating everything in sight, eating nothing at all, etc. As the public becomes more aware of these symptoms, thanks to public health campaigns and advertising, the popular concept of "depression," which once just referred only to mood (with maybe a dash of underachievement thrown in) seems to be evolving to include this larger array of complaints. This bugs me, as I have reached the age where I can recognize large-scale change in entire social institutions, but have not yet acquired the grace to handle it. So if you mean clinical depression, please say so.

Pastor Jayne: I distinguish more severe "depression" from the shorter-lasting "blues" mainly in terms of its impact on one's ability to function in the activities of daily living. I've sung the blues plenty (from childhood forward) but was sidelined by depression when I was 38. In hindsight, I believe the primary causes were a drastic change in the amount of sunlight feeding my brain chemistry (a move from Hawai'i to Portland, Oregon - so in that sense it was "clinical"), and losing both of my parents to cancer at relatively young ages and close together (in that sense it was the kind of depression incident to a complicated grieving process). For me, my "blessed depth" manifested in the inability to sleep, eat, concentrate, multi-task (I used to be the queen of that!) and basically enjoy the things that used to bring enjoyment (especially relationships). I wanted to isolate myself from people (not "normal" for this happy Hawaiian), and even had suicidal thoughts. I was very thankful that during this time you and I reconnected in a significant way, Nia. I would have never made it through without your humor, compassion, insight....and (oh yes) that hot pink nail polish you sent me in the dead of winter.

Image: detail of photo of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker," 1881. {{PD-art}}. Remix by M. Rhea.