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Depression Part Two (hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com.au)
977 points by westicle on May 10, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 240 comments

Quoting some guy off reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/TrueReddit/comments/1e08me/hyperbole...):

>Depression is two beasts, gray anhedonia and black dysphoria.

> The gray beast smothers, drains, deadens and numbs; the black beast brings misery, anguish, self hatred and despair. They often work together, the gray sucking away every positive feeling and the black feeding everything negative. But sometimes one is dominant, and if the gray beast gets its teeth all the way into you, it takes away not just positive feelings but everything until you're just a walking shell so empty you can't even fully comprehend what you've lost.

> The converse, when the black beast has you, can be much like you describe - you can still feel a kind of dreadful, frenzied joy in short moments as you cling desperately to the edge of the sucking dark hole in yourself, trying to ignore the beast's whispers that any pleasure is a lie that will just make the coming pain more stark and inescapable and utterly deserved.

> They're liars, but they're good at it. Because they know you, because they are you. Pieces of you mind that should serve you and keep you stable and safe, but somehow grown and empowered out of all proportion. To live with them and not let them win shows a kind of strength that most people are sadly unable to recognize.

This is so accurate it's astonishing. Both the quote about Gray and Black and the original post about the inability to feel. They're 100% on the spot.

I used to get a mix of both grey and black depression for years, I eventually learned to just deal with it as it always goes away with time. I normalized to it. Then I relized that I actually liked the grey anhedonia. It made me feel free from forced emotions. I talked about it a few times on HN. I love being depressed for a week or so ever other month. It always goes away but during that time my thoughts & views feel so, authentic. I feel like I'm experiencing the deep nothingness that is life, no hormones, no feelings, no hope. Just a meaningless purposeless universe. It has a sort of depressive beauty to it. A dark enlightenment. Pure logic. No emotion.

Some of the best song writers and poets wrote their best work when they were depressed. It really allows you to reflect and think about things. As long as the depression doesn't turn into misery or suicide, it can be a valuable tool for creative people.

btw For me sunlight and exercise gets rid of depression within 2 days.

I think the term you are looking for is depressive realism.

I forget the study (its been a while - please correct me if I am wrong), but depressed people were checked for accuracy in their self assessment/ understanding their world/environment.

The thesis was that their thinking skewed them towards overly negative assessments of their ability, chances, and position in life.

Turns out that several people had a more accurate understanding of their state than the base line.

This fact actually bugged me for a while. If being depressed is more accurate then isn't my mind being the most honest with me.

It was useful for me to think about it in these terms:

The issue with depressive realism is that it tells you a very prosaic truth - that the world doesn't care. As you said: we already know that the universe has no inherent meaning or purpose.

So why does it matter that base line people are more optimistic about their chances? Or their aims? Why does it make a difference?

What matters fundamentally isn't the way the world is - Its a crummy place.

What matters to me is the world I can imagine and want to be in.

[begin rant]

Your post sparked a thought. We've been hearing about 'cure' for depression. From the point of depression, isn't the baseline a 'high'? Yet, we're told right from childhood that drugs that put you on a high are not acceptable. Is our brain not on a high naturally then, and could you classify depression as the wearing out of the hormonal high? Just as one is able to make better judgement at the base line if compared to being high, (as you say ->) people are able to make better judgement at 'depressed' than normal. I don't even know what I'm talking anymore, but I think we should stop seeing the depression as a problem and start accepting it as a state of not high/not baseline, just as the baseline is accepted as a state of not high.

[end rant]

The problem with what we call depression is not the depressive mode of thought, per se. The problem is that this mode of thought gets out of control.

The depressive mode of thought is a tool, and an important one. The brutal honesty of this way of thinking allows you to analyze situations more clearly, and in so doing, it allows you to make better decisions. Being able to enter this mode of thought was likely an important step in human evolution, and we all do it from time to time, even those of us who are not "depressed".

But like most tools, the depressive mode of thought can be dangerous. That same brutal honesty, applied to one's self, does not end well: our human imperfections basically guarantee that such analysis will tear at the psyche in ways that little else can.

It is said that we should not judge others because "you weren't there; you don't know." But that doesn't work when you apply it to yourself, because you were there; you do know. And so you analyze yourself, and your judgment inevitably comes out wanting. The next question is obvious: what should you do about that? Only there's usually not enough data to answer that question, so an obvious intermediate step emerges: more analysis. And so the spiral continues.

This makes the ability to leave the depressive mode of thought just as important, from an evolutionary and health standpoint, as the ability to enter it. Pick up the tool, use it as needed, and put it down again. What we call "depression" is essentially what happens when you can't put it down.

You can probably see where I'm going with this. I think we're going about treating depression the wrong way. We try to take the edge off the mode of thought, when we should really be targeting the mechanisms that let people go into and out of it. Those mechanisms, unfortunately, are poorly-understood today.

There's also very likely to be an extremely delicate balance: you have to let people out while also allowing them back in, lest some kind of "antidepression" take hold where they can no longer pick up the tool. I don't know what such a thing would be like; it's possible that we already know it, but under another name that might or might not be linked to what we currently call depression.

It took a bit of courage to write this down so please bear with me.

Your post, I don't know why, has me in figurative tears. This feels like someone 'gets' what's happening... and to think that I had no idea what I was feeling for all this time was categorized as depression. I hate to say this because it sounds fake and silly, but you know when people say it 'clicks' and they feel like there's a sudden "light"? That's exactly how I felt after reading your post. Don't ask me why, because I don't know.

Totally agree. This was one of the most insightful things I've read on this site in years.

EDIT: Hey, what if it's a natural cycle, like tons of other stuff? Normally, it comes and goes, and the sickness is when it doesn't go. Not really a big leap from your point, but something to think about.

While going through a down cycle one time, I decided to watch some of the psychotherapy presentations on youtube. Not the ones designed to be uplifting and helpful, but the ones with actual research or for psychotherapy students.

> I think we're going about treating depression the wrong way.

The main thing I took away from the presentations was that psychotherapists know they aren't getting it all right. I was surprised when they talked about the client dropout rates, client satisfaction rates and measurement techniques, and the treatment success, and reoccurrence, rates. It reminded me of discussions about the realities of software project management.

> targeting the mechanisms that let people go into and out of it

Mindfulness is the term used currently to describe the ability to regulate your own "mode", and the automatic thoughts that go along with them. Usually the term gets lumped into the act of meditation, but the result, being able to manage your mode yourself, is the same. MBCT, DBT, ACT, CBT and other modern forms of psychotherapy, seem to be designed around this idea of teaching people how to recognize the mode they are in and manage the cycle between them in different ways.

The anti-depression is called mania.

By currently prevailing definitions, yes, but the dysregulated-adaptation hypothesis is relatively new. If we assume this new definition instead, then would an impaired ability to enter the depressive mode still produce something we would call mania nowadays? Or might the effect be different?

I think mania sounds right.

> I think we should stop seeing the depression as a problem

This Grey depression rarely comes without the Black depression described above, which really is a bad disease.

I've only recently been diagnosed with depression, and one of the reasons I went in to see a doctor about it is because of the self-doubt. Right now at work, I've been told to convert an existing synchronous system into an asynchronous workflow engine, and I don't know two shits about workflow engines. So, even with a "normalized" view of what I know and what I can do, I get anxious about the responsibilities I've been assigned, which leads to physical manifestations of anxiety, which leads to physical ailments, which leads to sick days. I know I can sit down and within a week, learn exactly what I need to do, but my mind keeps telling me I'm stupid and I should just quit my job.

Your rant reminds me of the people that claim autism spectrum disorders are just a rung on the evolutionary ladder. It might have one little part that sounds good on paper when you completely ignore the disease as a whole, but it's still a fucking disease.

edit: if you want to try and pretend to know what it's like to have a "baseline" like mine, take a week and instead of saying yes or no, just say "I don't care". Coworker asks you where you want to go to lunch, you don't care because it's all food at the end. Significant other asks if you want to go out to a movie, you don't care because it's all the same action packed or slapstick comedy crap. You no longer care about anything, because it's all stupid crap. You go through the motions of waking up, showering and go to work every morning, not because you like your job (even if you do), but it's because that's what you've been told to do. This is the brink of suicide, and it's a very real thing for people with depression. Nothing excites you, so there's no point in living. </endrant>

edit2: If anyone else is thinking they might have depression, please go see someone. It really does help. Greg Baugues, a developer out of Chicago, recently gave a talk about developers and depression at Mountain West RubyConf, and I would suggest watching it (http://www.confreaks.com/videos/2341-mwrc2013-devs-and-depre...). It gave me the courage to go seek help, hopefully it can do the same for others.

Replying to your first edit. Trust me I don't care. I'm relatively sure I'm not going to apply to YC so I can tell here. I know what it feels like. The hyperbole and half post resonated with me. Things are happening, I know they are happening, but I don't know that these are symptoms for something. If you've been through depression, I think you know what I'm talking about. You can just see, nothing matters. Why am I getting up? Why am I poking a fork on a grape and eating it? I'm washing a plate... what's going on. The water is running from the tap and hitting the sink and making a sound. What's the point of that? What's life anyway? Just a bunch of random chemical reactions. Basically I'm ending up think (paraphrased) "What the fuck is actually going on in this world?"

I didn't know that was called depression until I read that post...

Note that there is an important part of the definition being left out: "... significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning".

"please go see someone. It really does help"

Sorry for your circumstances. I wonder though if it could actually be more helpful to have a close friend that can provide unconditional support and guidance if possible of course. Reason being is I've always found (from relationship counseling) the therapist caring but then "ok our appointment is over that will be $x" to contradict somewhat the caring part even recognizing that it's a job. Wondering about your thoughts on this?

For example when someone calls me for help (which is actually pretty often and I separately dated for some time a very depressed woman and oddly find it interesting) I gave all the time that they needed anytime anyplace and the conversation didn't end "just like that". I would imagine things like that provoke feelings that aren't exactly positive.

You're basically asking a friend to be an untrained therapist for free. Even the most caring and generous of people know in their hearts that they can't take on that kind of responsibility and still be able to manage their own life. It's not fair to ask - most people will feel guilty about saying no to someone asking for their help, even knowing it's help they cannot feasibly give.

It's truly a full-time job. I don't mind paying my therapist, because while it could be interpreted as paying someone to care, I see it as paying for their expertise in helping me get better. The right therapist will care about you regardless of payment; it's both a professional and a profoundly personal relationship. It's why many therapists, particularly ones treating personality disorders, have to go into therapy themselves to stay grounded.

I struggle with depression and anxiety pretty severely at times, and while my boyfriend is tremendously supportive to an almost saintly degree, he absolutely insists on me having professional help. There is only so much he can do and asking more of him would be counterproductive for both of us. I wouldn't get better and he'd be taking on a problem that is ultimately not his.

>"You're basically asking a friend to be an untrained therapist for free."

On the flip side, going to a therapist is just paying someone to pretend to be your friend for a while. My insurance (Kaiser; about $600 per month) covers something like 80% of 6 therapist visits, and after that it's all on me. This is probably the worst part of trying to seek help; the sickness basically prevents you from taking all the steps necessary to start getting better. I've thought long and hard about how to solve this (maybe have a service that just handles all the idiotic HMO stuff for you to make it as low-effort as possible), but I still don't have a good solution, and "hacking the medical industry" has traditionally been a non-starter.

No. That's not what modern evidence based therapy is.

If you're talking about 'counselling' then yes, a friend can do it about as well as a trained counsellor. But remember that the evidence base for counselling is weak; that people often feel worse with counselling; and that counselling is sometimes actively harmful.

> covers something like 80% of 6 therapist visits, and after that it's all on me.

That's a shame. If they covered 100% of 8 visits they'd cover most people who need CBT.

> I've thought long and hard about how to solve this (maybe have a service that just handles all the idiotic HMO stuff for you to make it as low-effort as possible),

Maybe just "buddying" - someone visits or calls you and talks to you and watches you while you do all the stuff you need to do. This builds self-reliance.

But yes, anything medical is really tricky.

Therapist is not pretending to be your friend. Because the uninformed opinions like yours are getting spread, people who need help do not seek it, making the problem worse.

That's a lot of responsibility to put on somebody, for one - and for the other, that somebody may not have either the distance from you or the skills to assess your situation correctly. (Of course, a therapist might not, either, but you can't easily fire a significant other for failure to meet your therapy needs, and what you're describing is much more intensive than mere friendship.)

If this bothers you, you might want to consider a religiously affiliated counselor. Many religious institutions offer different forms of counseling as part of their ministry. Sometimes it is just for members, but other times it is open to all.

For instance, it is quite common for pastors to have some psychological training so that they can assist their parishioners. Of course, the quality of counseling can vary quite widely depending on their natural talents and how well they were trained.

If you're non-religious, I've heard that Jesuit and Benedictine counselors tend to be quite good about taking you on your own terms.

You wouldn't tend to look at anything from the point of depression though.

This is tantamount to saying "from the point of view of a disease, healthy people just live too long"

I've come to the same conclusion. Hackers (and smart people in general) have an inclination to use drugs like marijuana and ecstasy that actually do something, as opposed to pharmaceuticals which, well, do something else. I've never understood why feeling good is deemphasized over not feeling bad. I can't help but wonder if there is some ulterior motive. If there is, then somebody profits from depression. That's pretty messed up..

we're told right from childhood that drugs that put you on a high are not acceptable

Drug education has progressed decades since I've had it, but it was never in terms of a "high." The distinction was that drugs given to you by someone other than a doctor are bad.

There's actually a pretty wide evidence against depressive realism if you look into it.

The things which they exert logical control tend to be trivial, and this 'benefit' disappears when faced with more important or consequential problems.

> What matters to me is the world I can imagine and want to be in.

I wonder if our brains cannot really handle the start reality. Kind of like being in the matrix and then waking up. Some people will not handle it well, some will adopt.

Over the millennial we've invented stories to give us meaning on why thing happens. What happens after death, why the sun appears in the sky, all those things. If one grows up with those views then realizes they are rather divorced from reality that could be a serious shock.

Realism is dangerous and truth quite often hurts and cuts deeps. Sometimes a sweet lie maybe safe, or maybe not, ... I don't know. Thinking about it too much can start new cycle of depression...

> This fact actually bugged me for a while. If being depressed is more accurate then isn't my mind being the most honest with me.

Accuracy is overrated when it comes to self-perception in almost all endeavors. You ain't Ray Dalio.

Sunlight and exercise definitely help when I get the "blahs" (what I call the week-long negatively introspective period you describe). That feeling that depression is beautiful or somehow correct is very dangerous, however.

During my senior year of high school and the first two years of college I was definitely suffering from the gray/black depression mentioned above. Life was feeling pretty meaningless, and I was in a constant state of demotivation. Anything which registered positively on the emotional scale was severely blunted.

If nothing matters, does anything even exist? I'd often just sit around and wonder about if I was real, if the space between my fingers was real, or if the person sitting next to me was real. Somehow the lucidity of that thought process was exhilarating but paradoxically it also served to deepen my depression. Now when I meet people who seem preoccupied with existential thoughts I wonder how depressed they are.

During this time I was in the best shape of my life, and I frequented the beach so I got plenty of sunlight. I wouldn't describe myself as having been suicidal, but I didn't see much point to living either. That is, I had no desire to cease living, and if faced with the choice I would have definitely chosen life over not life, but I often thought deeply about what the point of living really was.

I lost close to three years to this. It's a permanent scar in the form of my undergrad GPA. I understand the feelings very, very well. However the one thing I don't understand is what brought me out of it. I didn't have anything like the experience Allie (author of the OP) had with the weird giggling fit. I just slowly became distracted from anhedonism by the meaning that life gradually seemed to have.

Around that time I sought treatment for ADHD, as I was flunking out of school. Maybe treating my ADHD caused me to find meaning in my newfound ability to direct all of my intellect toward a common goal? Maybe it was just the drugs? Maybe anhedonism was my childhood toy that slowly became less enthralling?

Conversations about depression and what depression is like are absolutely beneficial. It's powerful to be able to empathize with a person in this situation. I just wish we understood the mechanisms behind this super "stable" form of deep depression well enough to reliably pull people out of it.

"preoccupied with existential thoughts"

This is important and really struck a chord with me. Totally agree.

You might appreciate this book: A first rate madness. It's about how some of the best crisis leaders are manic-depressives. Depressive periods give them the ability to see the world as it is, and the mania gives them the energy to do something about it.


Everything's well and good until they walk in to a lake.

Oh wow. Thanks for that recommendation. That looks like it belongs with Kay Redfield Jamison's book and Arnold Ludwig's.

You described exactly how I feel a hell of a lot of the time.

Depression is a drug. It causes a change in mental state, resulting in thought processes not consciously thought of during normalcy.

Whenever I'm in this state, falling deeper down into a deep abyss of existential thought and blank, bleak unawareness, I feel... enlightened. Vehemently, I obsess over the meaning of things, waiting for an answer but never getting it.

In a perverse way, I enjoy it. I think about death. I think about what regrets I would have if I ceased to exist. I explore my subconscious and bring it to the forefront of my thoughts. While this depressive state is a state of emotion, I feel like emotion fades away and allows me to focus on logic and the purity of feeling itself. I improvise a chord voicing or an accompaniment in a way I wouldn't have thought of before. I find my right hand playing a melody I never knew I had the capability of doing so.

Pragmatic code flows from my fingertips without thought. I feel disconnected. Disengaged.

I feel individual, which is perhaps why I enjoy it so much.

As if being fourteen years old wasn't tough enough.

It's generally the habit of blocking feeling, unpleasant feelings you don't want to feel - you repress them - which then leads to the habit of all feelings starting to get blocked, as it's the action of reenforcing blocking of feeling, which you don't have the ability to control which would get blocked or not; The healthy thing in certain situations that are too tough or don't allow you to deal with them in the immediate or all at once is through suppression - though suppression turns into repression if you ignore it for long enough, or don't have the tools to work it out / talk it out with yourself or someone else.

"meaningless" "purposeless" implies something that should be there, but isn't. What is your argument to yourself that this thing that you "lack" should be there? Some framework you don't even believe in?

there is no "lack of a meaning". We are all from Nature, we follow our nature and thus follow Nature. Nature is sometimes ugly, but it is more beautiful than ugly.

They're liars, but they're good at it. Because they know you, because they are you.

This, I found, is one of the worst aspects of depression. You begin (if you're lucky) to realize you cannot trust what your own brain is telling you.

It's insidious.

Makes me think of these lines in Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage":

    You lock the door and throw away the key
    There's someone in my head, but it's not me
That song was my "piece of corn" many years ago.

This is more poetic, but I think the submission does a better job of describing depression.

Thanks for reposting this. I have been living with the "gray beast" on and off for more than a decade. First signs go back to early teens and it's getting more intense and persistent over the years. Or maybe it has always been the same but I've been slowly shifting away from the denial and bargaining stage and closer to acceptance.

Although depression has been one of the several hypotheses I've come across, the popular image of it typically focuses on the "black beast", which hasn't really been a problem for me, not more than a random "normal" person at any rate. That's why I haven't sought professional help so far. Perhaps this article will be the proverbial kick in the butt to do so.

This is an absolutely great description. My biggest problem has always been that people are much more familiar with the black part of depression. My depression is almost 100% of the gray variety. So people are always confused because I don't seem especially sad, self-hatey, or unhappy. It's incredibly frustrating. I can't count the number of times I've said the words "I'm not sad, I'm depressed" with no one really understanding what I meant, and me not having the better words to express myself.

This is what it is for me too. For the last several years I've used Zoloft on and off and it helped me a lot. However, after the most recent episode hit back in February/March, I decided to try a nutritional approach. I've been seeing a therapist who specializes in this am about three weeks into a pretty extensive supplement regimen. It seems to be working.

Part of my problem relates to alcoholism. The therapist says alcohol and other depressants have a depleting effect on nutrition.

>"The therapist says alcohol and other depressants have a depleting effect on nutrition."

Protip: if you drink quite a bit, chase it down with a pint of Pedialyte and a double-dose of multivitamin. It's the best hangover preventative measure I've found. Also, stay hydrated when you're drinking.

Anhedonia's a bitch.

This comment and the OP have made me realize I am depressed and have been since the better part of a year. I never thought I would be one of those people who gets depressed, for a long-term, at least. And I never thought of it defined in the way this comment and the OP have. Now I'm not sure what to do from here...

Find someone who cares about you, and ask them to walk you out of it.

Couple of things they can do to you: 1. Drag you out to gym or yoga twice a week, like a clockwork 2. Read "Feeling good" book - studies show it to be nearly as effective as therapy 3. Drag you to the doctor if the above does not work within the space of six weeks.

A simple and effective fix for many people is a daily dose of B-complex vitamins and 200mg of 5-htp twice daily, coupled along with regular exercise. (This doesn't work for everyone.)

The other posts replying to you have good suggestions, too, but the vitamins + 5htp + exercise works for double-digit percentages within a week, in my experience - over the counter.

Good luck. Feel free to contact me if you need someone impartial to talk to.

I took B vitamins and 5-htp for a week (to see if they would help my migraines) and felt horrible. My head felt like it was full of pressurized cotton wool. It might have been the B-vitamins rather than the 5-htp, but I'd be careful with supplements like that. The best thing is to see a doctor and find a good therapist to see. I will say however that I think the 5-htp might have made me quite happy - I just wanted to dance all the time (when my head wasn't hurting).

See a doctor. As long as you still care enough to actually see one. And by doctor, I mean a therapist. Get a prescription, too, if it makes sense - but often, behavioral therapy is a better way out.

Let somebody close to you know - so they drag you to the therapist when your really don't care any more. And, more importantly, so they can watch you when you take antidepressants.

Far from being the magic happy pills they're described as, there's a good chance they just turn you into a zombie who's feeling OK about not caring at all.

You can go to your medical doctor to rule out possible biological causes (such as thyroid problems) and also look into seeing a therapist. The doctor should be able to give you a list, or maybe you can call your insurance company to see which offices in your area are covered.

Another brilliant piece on depression; David Foster Wallace's The Depressed Person:


It remembers me the movie "revolver".

This is a fantastic article which gets at a lot of what makes depression so pernicious. It's actually nice to see it presented with cartoons - it could easily come across as patronising/playing down the condition, but Allie does it so well that it instead makes it somehow more approachable, more visceral, and certainly a fantastic way of clarifying the nature of the condition to the non-depressives in your life.

One thing she doesn't address (hopefully she simply didn't have to experience it) is the dark side of other's reactions to it - the blame you receive for 'being lazy', or 'being so morose all the time', or the irritability it can engender in you. Understandable if you hadn't explained to them your condition, but I find people react this way even if you do - they simply can't accept something bad like that happening without you somehow being responsible, or they just don't believe you.

An even darker side to the disease is those, I don't want to say people, who pick up on your condition, and see it as a weakness to exploit. That's especially the case at work for the more bully-ish types - who better to pick on than a depressive who feels like they're a worthless piece of shit already?

I think the more wonderful articles like this there are out there, the more we can attack the stigma of this disease (and mental illness in general), and the more unacceptable it will be for people to take advantage of it.

I got excommunicated by my SO who I moved out to California with over being "so negative all the time". That, combined with eliminating the small social circle I had built here in the 6 months prior to that, wasn't the greatest thing for my situation.

I don't speak much about my experience with depression but I avoid it namely because it's hard to describe to people the emotions you feel as you "deal" with it.

For about a decade I had noticed a behaviour in my mood and it caused a great deal of grief for my friends, those I worked with, and most importantly myself. It never really prevented me from holding down a job, but it very much delayed me from achieving certain things in my life that I have only recently started to attain. I blame my leaving post-secondary school early partly because of the fact that I could not cope with the demands that it brought upon me as well as the fact that I was losing a lot of interest in things that I once had some level of passion for before.

It was never destructive to the point where I wanted to go and kill myself--although there were fleeting moments where I questioned the validity of such an action. However, it definitely brought me down a few notches and it was only when I began to approach the issue seriously that I found myself on the road to actually recovering. I had to let go of certain things to get to this point and it was only by opening up to a select few people did I find myself going down a path to better things.

Years of treatment and some self-exploration has brought a level of calm to my life--I haven't seen a doctor about the issue in about three years now. I avoided using it as a crutch in my relationships with people (even when I knew it was probably a part of the tension), but I was less and less uncomfortable telling people once I knew that it wasn't all in my head so to speak. With that said, not everyone understands depression but I cannot condemn them for it because it's a rather convoluted and complex thing to explain. Hell, I don't even know what I am writing here to say the least.

Allie's statements definitely resonated with me and I'm glad to see her writing again because her previous post about depression made me think about how things were going mid-treatment. There is no real "cure" to depression but I do think that there is a certain level of exploration that is needed to be done to sort of make the whole issue less of a barrier to what you want to accomplish. Even to this day I still have to struggle with certain aspects of it, but I understand now after so many years of pain that it can be defeated or at the very least put at bay.

>There is no real "cure" to depression

Not now, but there will be one. IMHO symptoms of depression don't seem as something "psychological" or some trauma. They do not make any sense, and do not help survival of the individual. They seem more like a malfunctioning machine, some chemical missing in the brain. Smart people will figure it out some day, and cure it like they did with many other diseases before.

EDIT: do not want to sound like a cheap self-help book, this is my opinion from observing depressed people, and working with lots of malfunctioning machines :)

The depressed brain isn't a machine that broke that just needs a replacement part. The brain is a machine that in the course of its operation changes the way its made. Depression is a dark anti-pattern in which the brain begins to disassemble itself. What you think changes your brain and changes in your brain affect what you think.

The only way to "fix" it is to build again what is lost. Can a drug help? Sometimes, but building is long and hard. A depressed brain is like a house thats been neglected for 20 years. It needs lengthy remodeling, not a new paint job.

> Depression is a dark anti-pattern in which the brain begins to disassemble itself.

I'd agree that it's an anti-pattern, but rather than the brain disassembling itself I'd say the brain assumes a very stable, self-reinforcing thought model which rewards negativity or anhedonism. I describe my experiences with depression above, so I won't repeat them here, but I'm convinced that the only "cure" is finding a way to disrupt this feedback loop. Like others suggest sometimes it's drugs, sometimes it's traditional psychotherapy. Believe it or not there's been a lot of recent success with shock therapy treatments for various forms of deep depression - I'd assume because it disrupts this thought model.

"What I cannot create I do not understand." -Feynman

Personally I think we won't fully understand depression and other "thought model" problems until we have an accurate general model of thought processes in the brain and the ability to manipulate them. In the mean time I think that the tools we have are blunt instruments.

The thing about the brain disassembling itself was meant literally. Cells actually degrade and die during depression, and have to be grown back later as you get better.

Except anti-depressants can start working in ~2 weeks. SSRIs do something to serotonin levels/receptor levels. If your brain is literally degrading itself, that could just be a side effect of the lethargy, low stimulus, etc. that a depressed person is subjected to. When someone takes MDMA, I don't think they suddenly grow a bunch of connections; it just jacks up the level of serotonin to an extreme degree.

We don't understand them well and SSRIs don't work for everyone, but I don't think your cell-death theory is an open and shut case at all.

The cell death is a feedback loop. I've taken lithium carbonate when I got depressed. The fact is that however much you may be fighting the depression on your own, the chemical aid will not "cure" you, nor "make you happy and right", but it is an immense aid to breaking the neurochemical feedback loops and thus to letting you run your own brain again.

Please read about Ketamine and depression. This stuff literally regrows parts of neurons lost due to depression and fast too.

Brilliantly put.

>some chemical missing in the brain

Meh, we have been walking down this path for the last 20 years with SSRI's and except for the worst forms of depressions have no real proof that chemical imbalances are a root cause and/or that antidepressants are an effective cure.


"some day it will be curable" is the kind of helpless positivism the blog post portraits.


The fact that depression is not transmitted by virus, bacteria or gene and is heavily correlated with cultural context make it a very suspect 'disease' if that word is to have any meaning.

Cultural context determines so many things that influence brain chemistry like diet, sleep patterns, sitmuli patterns, amount an the patterns of stress, air pollution, etc.

Depression is probably pretty chemical thing. Just very hard to track because we are pretty lame when it comes to brain chemistry.

Don't assume you know what 'makes sense' from the point of view of evolution - feeling very anxious about embarrassment doesn't really make that much sense until you consider the consequences of violating the norms of the tribe in our hunter/gatherer past, for example.

Additionally, the whole 'chemical imbalance' thing is somewhat questionable - if you were to do extreme sports all the time you might find aspects of your mental experience changing over time, has your brain chemistry become imbalanced, or has experience changed the chemistry of your brain?

I'm not saying you're wrong, I simply question your certainty about the inevitability of a simple chemical cure (as mentioned by sibling post, SSRIs are still a bit of a crap shoot.)

> They do not make any sense, and do not help survival of the individual.

"Here's the real hell of it: depression and frustration and hatred are mechanisms to prevent activity in a different world than that in which we live now. It is best to sleep long hours and move little when the nights are long and the days are short and the food is scarce, during the dark European winter. But the adaptation is no longer relevant now when we are expected to move about, when we can shut ourselves inside and make an artificial night.

We must instead play a different trick on the wicked and limited body and brain. We must convince it that we are heir to the greatness of our ancestors, that we are still the mighty hunter on the plains of Africa. We must run - a block or two at first, and damn the opinions of the onlookers. We must gradually run further until our breath comes in ragged gasps and the sweat of our back runs down the crack of our ass, and we must learn to love the fire in our lungs and muscles." (taken from a reddit post)

The reasoning in this post resonates with me, although I understand that it is dodgy at best.

[1] Long note: I was depressed and passively suicidal for a while, a few years back, and I know what it feels (or rather doesn't feel) like when the fishes are dead.

I remember that I started running, but can't tell if I did so because I was better, or the opposite. (Probably the latter: reminiscing on the worst times, I cannot possibly imagine that I would have had the drive to do anything therapeutic, much less physical activity. Depression came in waves, maybe I did so during the softest crests?)

Unlike the article, I do not think that running is cure for depression; Even if it does physiologically help, even if you are aware of that fact, you just lack the motivation to act. would a dead fish take the necessary steps to get back in the water, if you told its dead body water would bring him back to life?

But once it eases, running keeps it at bay (what works for me, etc) .

This is not so easy: we had candles and fun at nights for a long time, and while it's not clear how widespread it was, there were definitely periods in history when it was common to sleep in separate chunks. Social life is important, in fact most of the not-sleeping we're doing nowadays is due to social interaction and/or entertainment, not acquiring food. Furthermore, depression is has a very strong impact on survival and breeding chances[citation needed], so it shouldn't really need that much time to disappear unless there are reasons for it to stay there.

But, there are attempts to figure out why exactly wasn't depression weeded out by now (other than the rather sad "because it's somehow inherent to other aspects of our brain and really hard and/or costly to avoid): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_approaches_to_depr...

we had candles and fun at nights for a long time

Then they shut that home out on the range :-)

Saying there will be a cure to depression like we have with other diseases is a bit like saying there will eventually be a spray-on lubricant that can magically fix any malfunctioning machine. It really oversimplifies the problem. We'll get better and better at treating depression, but I don't think it will ever be an easy fix until we have nanomachines that can reprogram our brains.

A simple spray-on fix (‘Take this pill daily for the next two weeks and everything will be fabulous’) is indeed likely an oversimplification. However, we are making progress treating cancer, HIV and hundreds of other diseases and bodily malfunctions, and I see little reason to be that pessimistic about treating psychological malfunctions. Just recall how far medicine got in the last 100 years and how much faster research moves forward nowadays than it did during most of that time. Sure, there won’t be an easy treatment any time soon, but I’m sure that there will be an effective treatment.

And even if you think that nanomachines reprogramming the brain are absolutely necessary to treat depression, I can assure you that people work on that, too.

I do not wish to sound ignorant of the real pain/anguish people suffer from depression and damage it causes (I have experienced it, see below the quote from Wikipedia), but I have recently taken to the idea that maybe, for some people, it is a just another part of a natural mental process. I think I may be one of them.

Maybe depression does not need a "cure" so much as it needs better understanding. Maybe it should be reframed to be a little like dreaming - dreams are definitely unique and can be very frightening/challenging but they very often serve a purpose in our psychology and physiology.

Eastern philosophy certainly might have some agreement with this. From Wikipedia's article on "nothing" (and "nothingness"):

"The understanding of 'nothing' varies widely between cultures, especially between Western and Eastern cultures and philosophical traditions. For instance, Śūnyatā (emptiness), unlike 'nothingness', is considered to be a state of mind in some forms of Buddhism (see Nirvana, mu, and Bodhi). Achieving 'nothing' as a state of mind in this tradition allows one to be totally focused on a thought or activity at a level of intensity that they would not be able to achieve if they were consciously thinking. A classic example of this is an archer attempting to erase the mind and clear the thoughts to better focus on the shot. Some authors have pointed to similarities between the Buddhist conception of nothingness and the ideas of Martin Heidegger and existentialists like Sartre,[18][19] although this connection has not been explicitly made by the philosophers themselves.

In some Eastern philosophies, the concept of "nothingness" is characterized by an egoless state of being in which one fully realizes one's own small part in the cosmos..."

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing

I have been there, even just recently - unemployed, out of the "flow" of everyday life, alone, and "in the dark". I have been there before that too.

My family/friends (a small circle as I am a little more introverted) knew I was unhappy/depressed. They wanted to do something for me, but nothing in particular could be done. One thing they did do for me, was when I asked to just be "left alone/let be" - for the most part, they honored that request, staying just enough available so that if I needed them, they were right there. But they let me "wallow" so to speak, as needed. They let me work through it by myself (which is what I wanted - to find my strength from within).

One thing that was different about the most recent bout with "depression" was that I decided to a certain extent, based on my previous experiences with it, to just let it happen and feel it fully/accept my feelings. Luckily, I am not suicidal, nor never enough to be serious about it. I think sometimes the suicide part comes from listening to certain internal urges that people for one reason or another cannot resist.

This is just an idea from my personal experience - I know I have been "depressed" - and I know it doesn't feel good. But, somehow, allowing myself to feel it - with the limit being that I wanted to live because living is all about experience and feeling things (even feeling nothing) - allows me to get through it.

My kernel of corn moment was sitting on the bathroom floor holding my dog who was very ill and might have died from pesticide poisoning in my lap, crying and holding her as she slept in my arms. She just looked up at me and even feeling sick & tired, she licked my nose. For various reasons in my own life, that moment was incredibly symbolic and pretty much nothing else mattered except that. Somehow, that "realization moment"/"breakthrough moment" brought me back this time.

The cure to depression is a) calm the mind via the breath and once that is complete, usually after days of effort, and b) to observe your physical sensations from moment to moment without reacting to them in order to see Reality as it is.

I actually really think there's something in mindful meditation, but flatly stating it as the be-all and end-all solution is more than a bit patronising, belies the endless effort required to make it work, and comes across as somewhat arrogant, which is probably why you've been downvoted into oblivion here!

Agreed, there is no 'cure', however mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are certainly part of the start of a solution for some people.

If not a part of a 'solution' as such, sometimes they simply help people cope for a little while, which can be valuable.

Cure, though? Absolutely not.

The. Fishes. Are. Dead.

Is this a reference to something? Google returns naught.

Yes, the comic.

I suspect you didn't read the article.

Apologies, I got a way through it and gave up. I don't take content in comic form very well.

Maybe you were just tired.

>as well as the fact that I was losing a lot of interest in things that I once had some level of passion for before.

This is something I recall as what I think was the onset of depression for me a couple of years back, thankfully it didn't develop past that into what I regard as 'real' depression (based upon what I've heard it described as).

As such I bounced back from what I would descibe as a stressed and dispassionate state where nothing felt interesting/fun, I couldn't focus on anything and my body was in a weird state of constant anxiety (which also led to sleep issues).

Anyway, it just turned around slowly and I came back to being 'myself', starting to enjoy things (life) again.

I estimate this took place during a two-three month period, and while I can't really recall how I actually 'felt' back then (perhaps some self-defence mechanism) I do remember that odd realisation of not caring the slightest for things which I normally love/find really interesting.

I never really got to the 'root' of why I felt the way I did (although I have my suspicions), but I feel (perhaps foolishly) that it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.

I think that it is normal to have bouts that mimic depression and it's very fortunate that these bouts are recoverable. The real problem is when these bouts ended up plateauing and interfere long-term with how things happen internally and externally.

In my case I found that there were certain life events that definitely didn't help with me digging out of my hole (death, disputes, etc), but I'd want to avoid blaming any single cause. With that said, it took me a while to speak out because a part of me didn't want to come off as an attention seeker during the worst of this all.

I don't think there is a "root" cause in the end but I do feel that certain life events influence you into falling into that horrid rut.

My best friend was non-suicidally depressed for 2 years, and I just did not believe him. I thought he was just having trouble getting over an ex for some reason, because him being depressed didn't make sense.

The thing that finally convinced me, and ONLY in retrospect, was hearing the full story about him and our best girlfriend during that time. This girl is, pardon my objectification, an 11/10 in every way. Everyone we know is in love with her, and with good reason. It turns out, for a large portion of the time my friend was depressed, she tried really, really hard to date and/or have sex with him, and he repeatedly turned her down every time. He'd been attracted to, and probably in love with, her since I can remember and still is, making hearing that this went on for YEARS shocking to me. But both sides confirm: it happened.

It turns out, her wanting him made him feel like she was playing a joke. "How could she possibly want to have sex with me, or like me in any way? Here's the answer: she doesn't. She's playing a joke on me, and I don't fucking care for it" he says was his inner-monologue at the time.

We still look back and just marvel about that time, because it was so bizarrely different the reality we've lived in all the other days of our lives.

On a completely different topic, this is a great demonstration of the usefulness of RSS. I subscribed to this blog yea verily a long time ago, and it's been silent for a long time. But this popped right up in my feed last night like it was never gone. Sure, this post ended up on HN, but in general it's great for that sort of thing.

Fairly likely the poster got it via RSS, so we're all reading it through RSS indirectly.

So what is it called if you have every single one of these symptoms, except actually being depressed? I find myself not caring at all about what others have to say, how they feel, etc. and you can imagine the hurdles that imposes on someone who has to make a legitimate-feeling human connection to sell a product. Social interactions are a game to me (that I've gotten quite good at) but none of it feels real.

I haven't felt that need to be dead as described, but definitely concluded that death would be neither good nor bad...and what's the point in waiting, right? Isn't it all the same?

And the "everything is hopeless bullshit" attitude i've had many times. I've just concluded that, perhaps...everything IS pointless. But we can enjoy it nonetheless. Enjoy the pointlessness, since it's all we CAN do.

Anyway, is there a name for this besides selfish asshole syndrome? Anyone else like this?

Do you not feel emotions, or do you not feel empathy?

The former is called alexithymia. It literally means "no words for emotions", and is experienced as an inability to identify emotional states in oneself. A person may still experience emotions and act on them, but they're unaware of which emotion they're feeling at any given time - for example, they may snap at or say something nasty to a close acquaintance, but be unaware that they were angry or that their words would be hurtful to the other person. Alexithymia isn't a disorder in itself, but it's a symptom that can indicate other disorders. Common causes include dismissive/avoidant attachment disorder, autism spectrum disorders, avoidant or schizoid personality disorders, or sometimes PTSD and emotional trauma.

Lack of empathy means an inability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and imagine someone else's perspective. It's actually divided into two categories: a deficiency in emotional empathy means an inability to understand others' emotional states (and is closely related to alexithymia, as you usually can't identify emotions in others if you can't identify them in yourself) and is commonly associated with sociopathy, schizophrenia, and narcissism; while cognitive empathy is your ability to imagine yourself in another's shoes and take on their perspective given their differing information, and is frequently deficient with autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

> It literally means "no words for emotions"

It actually means "repelling emotions". Alexi- comes from αλέξω, not α- and λέξη.

Sociopaths or psychopaths, (the two can be used interchangeable according to Hare) can identify emotions, but they don't register as something to feel as well or to mirror. That is where the "game" comes from. You can use peoples emotions and the little clues they drop in body language against them to efficiently and effectively manipulate them into doing what you want them to do.

Seems like a lot of replies have leapt straight to the sociopath/psychopath answer. And they may be right, but it's not as likely as depression.

Here's an acid test that may help you work it out: Studies have been done where people were told they would be given a painful electric shock. This was then administered. They were told a few minutes later that they were about to receive another shock.

Normal people would react to the knowledge - as soon as they were told "We're gonna shock you" their heart rate increased, etc. Psycopaths registered no change until the shock was actually administered.

So: If you knew something was about to inflict real pain on you, would you tense up? If yes, you're most likely depressed.

I've been through the "No feelings at all" type of depression myself - weirdest part was when my dog died, and I sobbed my eyes out but didn't actually feel any emotion at all on the inside.

I had to go through the black hole of abject misery and out the other side before I got my feelings back. Hopefully you can find an easier way!

Don't underestimate the benefits you can get by just talking to somebody about it.

I hesitate to say this, but you may be a psychopath. Seriously. Most psychopaths are not mass murderers or monsters. You might want to talk to a mental health professional.


Just a quick note, "Psychopath" and "Sociopath" means the same. The difference is the term "Psychopath" has been abused by journalists, usually in the context of "psychopathic killer". The rise of the word "sociopath" is an attempt to start with a clean slate.

I found this link a helpful (in analyzing popular figures) explanation of the difference: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Psychopath_vs_Sociopath

I realize this is not from the DSM.

I remember reading the DSM occasionally, which is what they use to diagnose these things. I'll caution that I am not an expert, have no training in the area, so have at best a layperson's understanding.

But my understanding is that you can have the symptoms of depression from time to time and not meet the criteria. Most of these things have, alongside the list of symptoms, a bullet point or two about it being persistent, that it gets in the way of your activities. Sometimes you see the list of symptoms for something like a mood disorder and you say, hey, that could be anybody, especially teenagers. Then you see the blurb about it being nearly every day for six weeks or whatever.

As a thinking person of somewhat atheist leanings it's personally occurred to me that life is pointless, kind of like you said. Sometimes, especially when thinking of mortality, that can bum me out. But I wouldn't say that's the same as clinical depression.

I believe I'm in a similar boat as you. I suspect the difference is of degree.

As for what to call it? I consider myself a fairly melancholy, introspective sort of person. That's what I call it.

Edit: a quick Google reveals "melancholy" is specifically tied to depression! Maybe I am depressed after all. But anyway, I usually use the word to mean the absence of vitality and vigor, rather than the presence of depression. Closer to "pensive" than "depressed".

>> And the "everything is hopeless bullshit" attitude i've had many times. I've just concluded that, perhaps...everything IS pointless. But we can enjoy it nonetheless. Enjoy the pointlessness, since it's all we CAN do.

This is the core of my worldview really. There is no 'point', we just are, so lets be nice to each other and enjoy ourselves while we can eh?

I'm pretty sure I have suffered from various bouts of depression at various times. Not as bad as Allie by a long way, though some things from her last couple of posts about it are familiar.

Everyone gets depressed from time to time - it would be somewhat worrisome if certain events didn't cause you do to feel down.

What Alli and myself and others suffer from (all differently, mind you) is a long-term effect. In my case, the effects usually run about 6 months or so and then there's a period where everything is fine, then the long, slow slide back down into the hole.

I've come to accept that this is how it's going to be for me. If I take medication, my brain doesn't function and I can't write software (or much of anything else). While I'm down there, at least there is some hope of being able to accomplish things, albeit not as efficiently.

I say I'm pretty sure I've suffered from bouts of depression because I've been through periods of feeling little but emptiness, sleeping nearly all the time and not wanting to interact with the world, completely unrelated to any external events that might reasonably make me feel 'down'.

I don't think it's necessarily helpful to try and exclude or segregate someone's depression as a different phenomenon to your own (they're just a bit down whereas I'm clinically depressed) based on a one-liner in a post on the internet.


> I find myself not caring at all about what others have to say, how they feel, etc. and you can imagine the hurdles that imposes on someone who has to make a legitimate-feeling human connection to sell a product. Social interactions are a game to me (that I've gotten quite good at) but none of it feels real.

I'm having a hard finding reputable medical information online, but my impression was that sociopathy fit your lack of caring, difficulty emulating social interactions and feelings, and treatment of such interactions as games with goals.

It's not really used clinically as far as I can see, but the common definition of sociopathy is also starkly different from what you describe: the sociopath does have an utter lack of caring (most starkly for the well-being of others), but he/she has no difficulty whatsoever emulating social interactions and feelings. In fact they are stunningly, stunningly good at it to the point of being horrendously manipulative. They usually do everything in bad faith, or at least with the sole goal of furthering their own agenda. So this condition is fundamentally different.

hmm that's a thought. I think it would be more sociopathy than psychopathy if anything. Then again, it could be that I'm an introvert who's read too much stoic philosophy meanwhile forcing himself to act extroverted lol.

I was going for "being an introvert" too, unless you forgot to add "I torture random animals for the sake of it" or "I like to take advantage of people" in your description. In any case, I'm always surprised by the amount of people on the internet who are willing to label a random stranger a psychopath based on a single paragraph of text.

Standard disclaimer applies: Please don't take your medical advice from the internet.

Being an introvert is a vastly different thing from what OP described. Extrovert enjoy social interaction and need it as part of their "energy", while introverted people will see the same kind of interaction take a toll and thus need time alone. Carl Kingdom explains very will what introversion is about [1]. Also, remember that introversion / extroversion isn't a binary trait but a whole spectrum of behaviours. If OP lacks empathy and feels the need to exploit other people to his own benefit, then chances are that he has psychopathic traits. That doesn't mean he's a serial killer or that it should be taken as an insult. Of course he can have more information by consulting a licensed practitioner.

[1] http://www.carlkingdom.com/10-myths-about-introverts

Dr. Carmella's Guide to Understanding the Introvert http://img.pr0gramm.com/2012/06/introverts.jpg


I have some of that too, but tbh I don't think it's depression, psychopathy or sociopathy as the other commenters mentioned, but just a personality trait.

Alternatively, it's a defense mechanism; not caring about others means your mind isn't burdened with their well-being and issues, which lightens the load.

The social interactions being a game is a sign of you being an introvert; extroverts and society at large make it look natural and something you're simply supposed to know, but this isn't true for everyone. I found the social aspect becomes better and easier and more natural - or, my personality slowly shifting towards the extrovert end of the scale - as the years and experiences pass by.

The outlook on life (or death, for that matter) is a nice, down-to-earth statement, releasing you from the burden of living in fear about the afterlife, and allowing you to live as you choose to, not according to a set of rules and habits as imposed by a religion or lifestyle.

Finally, describing yourself as having selfish asshole syndrome shows that you're well-aware of yourself, your behavior etc, and that if you choose so, you can work on self-improvement and changing yourself. That is, if you see any reason to. Being fine with who you are is fine, as long as you're happy / content with it.


>>>And the "everything is hopeless bullshit" attitude i've had many times

That is the entire Book of Ecclesiastes in a nutshell. All is vanity.

I almost have the same symptoms. I am not depressed. I can interact well socially, I feel joy in my activities, I see good in things...

But still - none of it has any 'true' value to it. I'm completely lost. I guess I'd leave this alone if I'd know for sure that there is nothing of 'True' and everything is subjective. But I don't know this.

Absurdism indeed.

This sounds like you might be a psychopath. You very clearly described some of the diagnostic requirements.

Do note that there are degrees of psychopathy. Take a look at the PCL-R by Robert Hare, for example. It scores people from 0 - 40, with many people scoring at 1 - 2. Anything over 30 is considered a psychopath.


I feel the same way as you, except /every so often/ I will be depressed, my depression lasts maybe a day or two, at its worst it lasted a week. Not sure what gets me back out of it...

During that time I just go through the motions of being alive. I've thought about death a lot, I can honestly say I don't fear it. BUT don't mistake that (like so many of the doctors I've talked to when I was a kid) for actually wanting to be dead or being suicidal.

Just wanted to let you know that there are people that have the same experiences as you, and you are definitely not alone. Not that it matters much in the long scheme of things.

Honestly that sounds like depression as well. I've definitely felt like that in the past but I don't have any answers about why or how to change it. Things do have a tendency to change though.

If you haven't seen it, you might enjoy the Australian documentary "I, Psychopath". The protagonist shares a lot of the traits you mention. It's not a great film in the sense of "watchability", but it resonated with me.


Yes, you're an absurdist! Lovely.

Thanks for the reference. It's what I am.

It's worth pointing out that there are many non-psychopathic conditions that are associated with a dearth of emotions. If you're worried (or curious), talk to someone with training.

Isn't it psychopathy/sociopathy?

I'm really impressed by how well this conveyed such a difficult concept. Depression can be so foreign to those that have not experienced it, and the first step to helping people is understanding them.

From experience - A lot of people are vested in NOT understanding depression, it clashes with their fundamental atomic level beliefs of how the world operates.

You can try explaining or providing aids for people to understand depression, but unless they have an urge to get it and an open mind, they wont.

Or worse, they don't want to understand that YOU have it. "Well depression could exist, but YOU don't have it."

> A lot of people are vested in NOT understanding depression, it clashes with their fundamental atomic level beliefs of how the world operates.

Definitely. I once had a discussion on HN with a guy who insisted on seeing depression as an expression of individuality and any attempts of treatment as Brave New Word-ish, evil oppressive society enforcing conformism via happy pills.

The irony is, if there really were happy pills which you could take to immediately remove depression, every depressive person would be taking them.

Wow. Thats taking it in a whole different direction - the brave depressive or feeling depressed is OK.

The comment threads about this post are definitely an exercise in irony.

She touches on, but doesn't get into the fact that she can still pick up on all social cues, and still feels obligated to respond to the imposition that others put on her to feel better and be happy despite the fact that she's unable.

And it's the fact that it's not possible for the depressed person to fulfill the social interaction that non-depressed people want (e.g. non-depressed person wants depressed person to cheer up, depressed person knows they can't cheer up) that causes the depressed person to avoid the non-depressed person and their unfeasible demands.

Part 1 touches on not giving a fuck about how interacting with others goes down a bit more: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-...

This sounds consistent with what I am understanding so far.

To my current understanding, it is necessary to distinguish between a state of mind and a current mood. Certain states of mind just don't support certain moods. Furthermore, for certain states of mind it's hard to get into and hard to get out of.

As a silly example, note my daily life. If I sleep in hard, I'm just not in a productive state of mind and I don't get out of that state of mind all day. The result is that I just don't do much that entire day. On the other hand, if I set my alarm clock to 6 in the morning, I get all my chores done to 10 and pull a full workday on hobby projects without breaking a sweat. The "zone" of programmers also appears to be such a state of mind which just doesn't support social interactions well.

Depression appears to be similar to this. It's a state of mind that's hard to get out of (or hard to cover up even) and that just doesn't support cheerful and happy moods. From there, our usual stress avoidance mechanisms kick in, for example by avoiding overly cheerful or happy people and things don't improve much.

I've suspected for a while now that social interaction is sometimes dangerous to a depressed person, and that finding their own path to happiness (along with the guidance of a professional) can be more rewarding.

It is a barbed concept, and this article does well in articulating "the fog" and the way in which it refuses to evaporate in the sickly glow of Oprah-tudes our culture projects at the sufferer.

Okay, I'm not really sure what to ask, maybe this will make sense?

I completely agree that life doesn't carry any _inherent_ meaning and I frequently finding myself faking emotions and mostly just reacting in the way others react in social situations. It's like existential-introversion-apathy. I have so many ideas, and things I want to learn and do, yet I'm too content in apathy to act on many of them. I'm in a good job, but when it comes to my personal life I mostly have a blank stare to respond with.

Really, I haven't felt like I've been living for myself for a long time. If it weren't for my girlfriend and my family and knowing that they would be completely broken if I wasn't here, I'm not sure I would still be here.

I guess this sounds worrisome, but I've felt like this for the past 6 years and have managed so far. It got worse after college, but now I feel like I'm at a lower equilibrium.

I've thought about doing something about this, but I really have no idea. I mostly feel _guilty_ that I even have this "problem". Are these feelings and thinking patterns really a problem? What can be done about them, if anything? I'm a young 20s working male in America. That's a hell of a good dice roll in the global humanity game which is why I feel guilty even writing and talking about this.

I don't know, is this a broken way of thinking?

> Really, I haven't felt like I've been living for myself for a long time. If it weren't for my girlfriend and my family and knowing that they would be completely broken if I wasn't here, I'm not sure I would still be here.

This hits home. I've been there for about 14 or 15 years. Not so long ago I realized that this was a form of implicit emotional blackmail, which is a very hard situation, because, while it certainly works indistinguishably from standard emotional blackmail, it's not done knowingly or maliciously. I've ended up feeling like I don't own my life... again, not a good situation to be in.

You shouldn't feel guilty about the dice thing. I think us who live at developing countries on average have it easier when it comes to depression. Our problems are easier to identify and we sometimes even use them to explain our other unrelated problems. Besides we know that developed countries have managed to fix them so there is hope that we might be able to, too, giving us some lofty-looking goals to achieve.

It sound like you may be depressed. My usual advice boils down to these three things that I posted in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5685599 Or another version of this advice in one of the previous threads(https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5576320)


I can remember being a kid and telling my mother "I don't want to kill myself, I just don't want to live, because I see no point."

That's when they started putting me on medications. four years and 20 different pills later and I finally convinced them to stop doping me with random chemicals, and I started to feel better. I haven't been on any meds since. I currently love my life very much.

I remember being a kid and telling my mother "why have I been born? I'd rather not live. Everything is pointless and nothing makes me happy."

Fortunately no meds were available back then so I grew up to be pretty sane if little depressive, socially anxious and misanthropic adult.

I've been dealing with the exact feeling for over 15 years. I don't see any hope.

Well i'll share a little bit of what might have helped me. Maybe it'll give you some ideas.

First was my acceptance of a lack of a point to life. At first, for a long time, it made me sad that there was no point. Then I kind of stopped caring... I got to that point where she's just walking through the desert, in denial that nothing matters, just trying to ignore that life is meaningless and keep going for no reason.

Over a long period of time, I would occasionally discover something which was mildly interesting, and it kind of inched the curtain of nothingness up a bit and I could see some light. (In retrospect, I wish someone had carried me around and exposed me to the endless array of amazing curious weird pretty fun things in the world)

Relationships were impossible. Most of the time I would be wandering through life and waiting for something to happen. I probably should have talked to some experts who could have explained that my behavior was tailored to prevent me from changing my attitude, but that's hindsight for ya.

The second thing happened recently. Through an amazingly intelligent, unyieldingly positive, buddhist-like fun person, I discovered that the brain is actually as stupid as the dog Ms. Hyperbole has. But it is possible to train your stupid dog brain to be happier, to be more confident, to believe in things.

It seems impossible, but it's a real thing. I'm still not sure what books or people to refer to help you with this, but google around for PMA, mindfulness, and benevolence. The general idea is that if you tell yourself you are good happy things, and that there are good happy things in the world that can make you more good and happy, it just sort of... happens.

Oh, and find a community of people that like the same things you do who are really positive and fun to hang around. Good role models can help. When you feel things again you can begin to stand on your own and engage the things in life you have discovered that are worth while. Then, keep discovering new things.

Even if you're faking it, be positive. Fake it until you become it, as that lady in that TED talk said. And seek out experts. Even if you consider yourself broken, remember that all broken things can be fixed and made to work again. You're not born a brain mechanic, so you need to find some of them and learn how to do basic maintenance until you get it running again.

Well I'm past the point of not wanting to live now, but I still really don't feel much. I feel good when I work out. I can't think about myself without feeling like a failure. Most days I try to start out thinking about positive things I have in life, but then I get to work and those all go away. My wife doesn't think I love her. I do but I just don't get any feeling in general. She caught the grill on fire and everyone else is panicing and I'm just like "whatever" put it out.

FWIW this is kind of the idea behind magick; changing the world through positive emotion. You basically will positive things into existence. It sounds super new-agey, but I really think there's something to it. Whether it actually relies on quantum interaction on the future is dubious at best, but it's a nice thought. Google "Genesis P-Orridge" if you'd like to begin your weird journey.

Problem is: its just a malfunction of the brain. If somebody has bad eyes you don't request that the person just should make an extra effort to see better and think it is the persons own fault if the amateur 'advise' doesn't help. You give him glasses. If a brain function is affected we are still in the state of hocuspocus, making patients and families suffer more then needed, even make them feel guilty about it. Maybe we just may not have the knowledge for a correct medication, until then the "healthy" people should learn to respect and really listen and take the depressive person serious.Its just a malfunction. It is as it is.

Point is, the eye is a (relatively) straight-forward vision machine. The lens is not the right shape? Wear glasses and the system enters an improved stable state.

The brain a continously changing feedback machine. It changes its very physical architecture by what you hear, see and think. Trying to correct it via lobotomy or medication has not really worked out that great and there is reason to suspect it will not work out great in the future.

Ironically, substances that indeed improve mood and well-being in depressed people (especially MDMA, but also LSD, Psilocybin, Heroin ) are dangerous, addictive and verboten. They essentially brute force some of the subsystems in the brain (like pleasure/reward) and I believe every substance that does this is going to be addictive.

> substances that indeed improve mood and well-being in depressed people (especially MDMA, but also LSD, Psilocybin, Heroin) ... I believe every substance that does this is going to be addictive.

Dude, you're misinforming people. There are indeed substances that help depressed people. They are called anti-depressants. The illegal drugs you listed above are not anti-depressants, and therefore you have no rational reason to believe that anti-depressants must have similar properties. Real anti-depressants are generally neither dangerous nor addictive. Please don't misinform people about this.

Dude, antidepressants do absolutely nothing for a lot of depressed people.

- http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/18/new-research-on-the-an...

Concerning XTC, LSD and Psilocybin: they are surely not the silver bullet, but could be valuable for treatment. Maybe you'd like to fact up:

- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/9565026/Can-LSD-cure-depr...

- http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/apr/07/magic-mushroom...

Had you read what I wrote, you would not claim that I implied current antidepressants are dangerous nor addictive. They are, however, suspected of facilitating suicidal thoughts in adolescents, so I would not exactly call them harmless

- http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-m...

"Real" anti-depressants have been found to cause suicide, and are part of why the suicide rate has been increasing in recent years. There are thousands of articles about this, starting over 10 years ago.

However, it's obvious neither of you are qualified to talk about addiction, so both of you should either provide sources or shut up about it.

Some of these articles talk about the potential suicide risk created by antidepressants:




These articles talk about what we know about antidepressants and their risks:



This person rails against the first few articles, but also acknowledges the risks:


Some Google Scholar searches:


What causes suicide is that at the point where depression lifts a bit, you suddenly are able to take action, but not necessarily any happier. In fact, did you not that part about "hate" in the OP? That's when people kill themselves. It happens with medication, it happens with CBT, it is an essential inherent risk of depression therapy — the first few months are dangerous.

I mostly caught the part where the guy I replied to was making ridiculous statements about both antidepressants and how there is somehow a "logic" which dictates that illegal substances can't treat depression.

What I said was that it is completely illogical to say that because you think heroin can fight depression and its also addictive and destructive, that therefore real anti-depressants must also be addictive and destructive. You cannot infer the properties of anti-depressants from the properties of a bunch of illegal drugs that you (a lay person) consider to have anti-depressant properties.

Actually, while not really addictive, virtually all anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drugs turned out to be habit forming, to pharma corps dismay and nobodies surprise.

> to pharma corps dismay and nobodies surprise.

Wow. In my head that was the most sarcasm-dripping "dismay" I've read this week.

There have been various trials with MDMA/LSD showing efficacy in treating some mental disorders. And they are probably even more effective than SSRIs, seeing as how we don't even know how or why SSRIs seem to work, if they even do. (But, of course, don't self-medicate, talk to your doctor.)

SSRIs are not strictly addictive but they do cause very unpleasant withdrawal effects as your brain gets used to a 'normal' level of serotonin again.

>>>The brain a continously changing feedback machine. It changes its very physical architecture by what you hear, see and think.

Study shows that adventure shapes the individual http://www.france24.com/en/20130509-study-shows-adventure-sh...

It made me think of that line in the newest series of Doctor Who that made me laugh out loud: "New things. I like new things."

Holy God. Life really is an RPG!

Well, except you really have to be outside to do it.

Sure, but I do that every day. For a usual total of an hour or two, when you put errands and lunch together with walking to and from work!

Haaaaaa "no life in Technion". Oh well, getting and being here is an adventure in itself, and we do get to go on trips for the holidays.

May Day last week was a lot of fun.

>>>For a usual total of an hour or two, when you put errands and lunch together with walking to and from work!

But it's the randomness that creates growth. You can't expect the unexpected.

I can‘t decide whether I would be any happier if we lived in a less corrupt would, in a society that has meaningful jobs for everyone and if our governments would care more about our future, education and less about religion. But I believe that most of my depression arises from there.

Maybe "circumstantial existential depression" is an unrecognized area. I agree with you.

+1; greed is the biggest factor in my existential depression. The thing I see fighting greed is art for no reason, entertaining absurdity (stuff like Dan Mintz), and passionate things done without a financial motivation.

I read this and was a little surprised that this wasn't an exploration into his own depression, but more the experience of it and how frustrating and isolating it felt to explain it to others.

An important thing to understand about depression is that, for most (certainly not all) people, it's the outcome of having anger and a retaliatory impulse turned inward. Exploring what you may be angry at can be helpful in reengaging with your life. It is not the path to happiness, but engaging with your anger is certainly a way to make you feel more alive and present in your life.

EDIT: In expressing my surprise about not reading about an exploration in depression, I forgot to mention that I'm glad the author found a forum to speak out about his frustration and isolation while feeling depressed.

It's a "she" by the way. Allie Brosh. Her blog was incredibly popular a few years ago before she went mostly silent but for an ominous entry about depression. Anyone who's new to her writing should definitely go through the back catalog from brighter, funnier times.

E.G.: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/07/dog.html

Depression is different for everyone. My depression is quite different from the one described in the article. My depression is usually mixed with anxiety and is triggered by a stressful life event. To me depression is like falling into the sea of sadness. I feel an immense amount of sadness partly because that the stressful event has a reason to make me sad. Along with the sadness is the feeling of disappointment for myself and for others. But sadness is the most prominent feeling. My depression could get a lot better very quickly if the stressful event reaches some sort of satisfactory resolution. But if it doesn't, I would just feel sad,sad, sad ,and eventually escalating to feeling hopelessness...then wishing I could be dead...

There is possibility it's not depression (at least not in scientific understanding of term), but some different kind of animal, like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalized_anxiety_disorder ).

A common theme amongst depressed folk is that they see everyone around them being positive and feel subhuman because their experience doesn't match up; them trying to aspire to the brand their friends present and not realising (at least not accepting at a subconscious level) that there may be a lot of negative stuff their friends are hiding from them. To "cure" this, one idea would be to create an anti-social network - somewhere where you present the worst possible image of yourself, a place to relieve yourself of the burdens you'd never pollute your positive image / good vibe feed presented on your Facebook stream. As well as giving people a place to open up to that side of themselves you'd see your friends being honest about their downsides so wouldn't have such a high bar to compete with, helping you to feel more human. People enjoy self-detrimental comedians for this reason (amongst others), so the idea has some validity. It would be interesting to see how this played out in reality. . .

Some of the funniest comedians are ridiculously sad/pessimistic people.

I've thought about doing stand-up on many occasions.

It's hard to be open about that sort of thing with your friends. Maybe it'd be better to have it be anonymous, so that at least you'd see that other people have these burdens too, and you can vent without repercussions from work/people with different beliefs.

Wait, that sounds kind of like 4chan...

You are clearly very talented, this is a truly excellent post. It made me understand an extremely complex subject better, as well as making me laugh. Well done!

Some people find the idea of positively affecting many peoples lives encouraging. If you happen to be one of those people, congratulations - mission accomplished. The tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people that will read your post today will have enriched lives and will likely treat those that they meet who have depression in a more appropriate way. If 100k read your post and interact with 5 depressed people over their life span you have positively affected 500,000 people. I am willing to bet that this is more than most people will ever meet.

Once again, you are clearly talented and have acheived something great here. I will stop gushing now, as I hope not to be a dead fish taunter!

I've lived more of my life on the other side (the side of light) compared to Allie. Perhaps that's why one of her segments screamed out at me above the rest.

> but I somehow managed to convince myself that everything was still under my control right up until I noticed myself wishing that nothing loved me so I wouldn't feel obligated to keep existing.

So as an old guy (GOML) who's had a couple of good friends suicide: If you have a friend that might be having some trouble? Err on the side of butting-in, in the kindest way possible. If it turns out that nothing was really wrong and you feel embarrassed, you will feel nowhere near as bad as if you did nothing and something was actually wrong.

I realized that this was done by the "Clean All the Things" girl, and I feel for her so hard, in so many ways.

The alot person too. It sucks a lot.

What gets me about this description is how it's all about having indirect feelings for things in your mind. The imagination is a pretty late-stage evolved trait. I often think it's amazing that we have emotional responses to ideas in the first place. Seriously: they are ideas! Why should people have feelings for ideas? It's kind of bizarre.

People should have emotional responses to real things. And I've often wondered why we don't treat depression with more realness. Trying to treat it with "positivism" is just more of the same thing that aggravates the depression: disconnection from real things. Positive attitudes are invariably supposed to be evoked for, once again, ideas.

Sunlight and exercise are two things that were mentioned as real things that can help re-connect people to physical reality (instead of ideas). Another important one is fundamental to human emotional and social health: affection. Simple physical touch from someone you trust and who will suspend judgement. Hugs. Hand holding. Sitting on the couch together. No expectations. No demands. Just freedom to be.

It seemed from the article/comics that some (maybe a lot) of the person's unhappiness was coming from the discomfort and pain of not living up to expectations imposed on them by others about their attitudes. Just being detached is not itself that horrible (and maybe it's less weird than being emotionally attached to imaginary things). But being made to feel/believe that you are a bad person, a defective person, a source of pain to others, that leads to a real kind of pain. Other peoples' facial expressions and tone of voice affects us on a much deeper level than conceptual imagination.

Like many mammals, some birds and other kinds of animals, humans are deeply wired to respond to the sounds and images of other humans expressing positive and negative responses to us. Those are the first place to go to work on immediate sensory treatment for depression. Because these social signals are so ancient, we can even get treatment from non-humans. Cats and dogs make people feel better. It's even been shown in studies that seniors in retirement homes feel better when they are given time with pets.

I'm not saying this is a guaranteed solution, but it hasn't been mentioned in this discussion, and it's very important. The way we socialize is inadequate to our biological needs.

You don't treat major depression with "realness" because the brain has the ultimate control of sensation and perception. Physical sensation doesn't make a difference in those cases. Light therapy is used for seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder), but it does not necessarily work for those with major depression.

Your suggestion about 'physical touch' is funny because I think it perfectly shows how people misinterpret what depression is. Imagine touching your spouse one day and realizing that the endorphin and oxytocin release is no longer there. All you feel is warm flesh. Suddenly, the natural moisture of the skin becomes apparent. Has skin always felt like this? It's kind of gross. My discomfort becomes apparent, and now suddenly I'm trying to make a face like I enjoyed that hug. THAT is what depression does. You have all of the sensation with none of the reward pathway. And, much like someone who has lost one of their basic senses, the brain tries to overcompensate through heightened sensations (like feeling the moisture of someone's skin), which causes discomfort and anxiety.

Imagine smelling a flower and not having that temporary, brain-clearing, 'ahhhhh....' moment. This is what depression does to you.

This post makes me feel like I've never had depression, because I always enjoyed hugs...just not as much sometimes. I think that it's a gradient more than a "yes/no" type thing, and I haven't experienced that badly (thank FSM).

Thank you for this. It looks like all the 'depression is an invented conspiracy' folks have already weighed in, so this may be futile, but: you're entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Specifically: depression is a brain disease influenced by environment, but ~1/3 of the risk is inherited. [1] While antidepressants don't work a lot better than placebos, this is because placebos work well. This does not mean treatments don't work (and the widely-cited studies that argue otherwise have major flaws). [2, 3] Treatments (not just meds) save lives - and sadly, one of the consequences of scaring folks away from treatment is more suicide. [4]

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22783273 [2,3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20800012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22136980 [4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17728420

This really, really matched up well with my experience of depression, which I lost almost two years to, and am only now recovering from.

Well most likely this comment won't be seen by many but still I thought to add my views on what I think can be one way to control depression, specially short term once which we all must have gone through.

1. Most likely life is outpacing "your" speed so lower the speed of life. You don't have to do N things, do N/2 things. It is OK to take breaks and not do anything for few days.

2. Most of the time, depression comes because of disappointment. It is good time to tell yourself that Life is unfair and move on.

3. Do not judge yourself too much, failures are fine. Everyone fails, it is just that they don't talk about it. Despite your failures, most likely, you are still doing better than majority of the people in the world.

4. Talk to people, most of the time, you just want someone around you to talk and may be take care of.

5. Learn new things and Find new hobbies, it often helps cheering you up.

6. Avoid depressing thoughts as they suck you in never ending spiral. Again, talk to people, learn new things and find new hobbies to avoid this loop.

Couldn't think of anything worse than having to talk to people when in the middle of a bout. I'm sure it'd be helpful, just that it ain't gonna happen.

1) How to know if you are depressed: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/ao1aqb9vinfcwt2/Burns_De... (there are a number of other questionnaires, but I like this one)

2) How to deal with depression: book by Dr. David Burns "Feeling good" -- really good book, you should try applying methods of dealing with depression described in it. Available on kindle(but even if you don't have a device, you can read in your browser): http://amzn.com/B009UW5X4C

3) How to deal with depression if 2 doesn't quite worked out: find a good psychotherapist. I would recommend cognitive-behavioural therapy, but I may be biased, because I love Burns' books. Anyway, CBT or not, you should find a therapist if you struggle with depression.

While likely a good start, I don’t know if this checklist (the dropbox link) is fully sensible – if I put a 4 in ‘Criticizing yourself or blaming others’, another 3 or 4 in ‘Loss of interest in sex’ and maybe a 2 in ‘Worrying about your health’, I am already labelled ‘unhappy’ or even ‘mildly depressed’, whereas all three are – IMHO – perfectly acceptable things to be found in any somewhat perfectionist, health-conscious person who finds entertainment in their work.

So you _actually_ can put 0s in all other questions and 4s in these two and 2 in another one? In my opinion, such a person would be either misinterpreting the questions, incorrectly stating(misjudging) answers, or actually having other signs of depression. There is a chance though that such a person may exist though.

Take "Worrying about your health", I think "worrying" here means "being anxious". So while normal health-conscious person cares about her/his health(eats well, sleeps well, takes necessary prescribed medications, etc), she/he isn't anxious about it. In contrast, depressed person may worry about her or his health without taking any actual steps to improve the situation.

Or take "Criticizing yourself or blaming yourself"(note second yourself, this question in kindle book is different, maybe I need to prepare correct pdf). If you spend your whole week under pressure of self-criticism, thinking about every mistake you made and every imperfection your work have, however small or large, then this is definitely 4. "Somewhat perfectionistic" is 1 in my book. 4 is "Extremely perfectionistic".

Or "Loss of interest in sex"? Why would an exteme loss of sex drive happen to a normal person?

My point is that it is very easy to misinterpret these questions and/or the scale 1-4. ‘Criticising yourself’ is to me an absolutely normal action, and this whole quantify-yourself-and-your-actions idea is basically about criticising and improving yourself.

Similarly for ‘worrying’ – does it mean ‘anxious’ or merely ‘concerned’? Taken to an extreme, I worry about my health when crossing the road. ‘Loss of interest in work or other activities’ also matches nearly everyone, given that people will lose interest in specific activities over time.

Certainly, such a questionnaire with a standardised interpretation and scale will be helpful, but you will need a professional to do such an assessment. To me, it looks as if it will over-diagnose people as unhappy/depressed.

Loss of sex drive is also something that can happen for a multitude of reasons – satisfaction found in work, for example, or other sources of stress.

I don't know about this questionnaire(and I don't have enough time to check right now), but similar ones are quite reliable tools for self-assessment. They are _designed_ to be used without presence of mental health professional, and they work. Most of your criticism is valid though, and scores may be distorted, but I am quite skeptical that this effects leads to many false positives.

Also, I am not saying that criticising yourself is not normal, I'm saying that spending all time criticising and blaming is not normal.

By the way, if your score actually more than 10, try other tools, Beck Depression Inventory for example. And try reading the book, you may find it useful even if you aren't clinically depressed. BTW, there is a chapter on perfectionism(which is quite common attitude in depressed individuals).

I am quite happy actually and somewhat busy with other work, so I’ll pass on the books, nevertheless thank you.

But I guess it is valid to ‘over-diagnose’ here, i.e. err on the side of caution, so it might even make sense to put in things that make sure anyone not absolutely fitting the standard ‘happy’ bill might be compelled to seek professional attention.

> So while normal health-conscious person cares about her/his health(eats well, sleeps well, takes necessary prescribed medications, etc), she/he isn't anxious about it.

That assumes that a normal health-conscious person is.. healthy already. If you're overweight, or a heavy smoker, or maybe you have something wrong with you from headaches to cancer, surely there are plenty of reasons to worry about your health without it being a sign of depression?

That anxiety causes depression though, which is the point. It might not be the OP's total life destroying depression, but it will definitely impact your overall happiness and wellbeing/feelings.

If you're fat, and that makes you concerned, you're self conscious about being fat, and it's almost definitely going to hit your self esteem, if not cause you to be upset with yourself about eating/etc.

It can cause depression, doesn't mean it has to cause depression. I'm worried about my health due to the fact that I'm not fit and I smoke a lot - but I'm not depressed about either of those two things.

I don't talk much about my depression. It's terribly difficult trying to talk about feeling nothing. Allie is a wonderfully smart person that perfectly illustrated some of those feelings I've, for years, been unable to articulate.

OMG love this post. "Fish are always deadest before dawn!"

I want to thank you for taking the time to write this all up. This is really well written, the images are amazing, and you explain it all so well.

It can be hard for people to understand depression; to understand that there is nothing really to understand. Like you said, how do you explain nothing? It is so far beyond comprehension...

Finally, I'm so glad you are feeling better. Every time I see corn I'm going to think of you and your story.

Thanks again.

  > My fish are dead.
Everyone's fish are dead, but they keep going by pretending that they're still alive. The trick is to learn that the pretense isn't crucial to the fabrication of positive feelings. You can fabricate them out of nothing but memories of playing with your plastic horse as a child, if that's all you've got.

The piece was intriguing. And while I can't prove it, non-existence is probably overrated.

Such a great post, sent to quite a few people and thanks for posting it here!

No problems. Lots of other great content on her blog too, but this is the first update in a couple of years I think.

I figure knowing more about depression (or sharing someone else's experience of it) might be interesting and/or useful to other hners.

One thing that I've learned from my life is, never explain yourself to others when you start feeling depressed. Others may not completely understand you when its connected to your emotions.

I never thought I could be depressed in any way, but I came to see that hole you were talking about a bit. I think the problem is that when being in depression, one is too much in your head and similar to startups if one can't bounce off their "ideas" from something, they ou commit "idea-incest" and they start getting weird thoughts that are detached to reality. You don't want that and I think as you said, it takes that certain corn to pull you out of that sticky pool of your entangled thoughts. :)

...and this is why you should be doing some basic usability testing and proving out your product to small market samples. You can do this IRL too by doing things such as:

- Going to the bar - Grubwithus - Going dancing - Hiking a popular trail

etc :)

Beautiful post. Wish I'd had it decades ago. "Wait for the corn" will become a mantra.

Great cartoons!

You should really check out her back catalog. The following is one of my favorites:


I recently discovered http://reddit.com/r/alot .

Seriously! I enjoyed the illustrations a lot!

I want the "resentful bike ride to the video store" one on a cycling jersey because that's what I look like when I cycle.

I've dealt with depression as long as I can remember, even when I was a little kid. I feel like I have only gotten pretty good at dealing with it as an adult. Here's my approach which may or may not work for anyone else:

1) I recognize that depression, self pity and all that are a waste of time and ultimately stupid. It's not hard to keep in mind that rationally I have it really good. This alone doesn't fix anything but for me it's important to not fall into the romanticism of depression as if it's deep and meaningful or "more real" than being happy. It isn't. It's bullshit.

2) I realize that these feelings are just a phase, and that I will get through them and the best thing for me is to "ride them out." I look at them like the emotional equivalent of spraining my ankle or something like that. A non-fatal injury which will heal and get better. The best thing to do is to let it heal and do what I can to aid that process.

3) I help myself get through the depression by focusing on things I enjoy. I try to make arrangements to hang out with friends or family who I enjoy being around. I listen to music that helps me when I'm feeling shitty (in my case this is usually metal or industrial music.) I seek out other entertainment I enjoy; comedy, video games, etc.

4) Foremost in my mind I keep the fact that there is no afterlife. If I do something stupid like suicide, there's just nothing. But if I stick through whatever I'm going through, I can experience more things that make me happy. I can see my nieces and nephew grow up. I can have some cookies. etc.

Best of luck to anyone else who has this issue. Find what works for you and do it. Stick around. Life can be great and there's nothing else.

1) > romanticism of depression

Saying shit like this makes me think you don't get it. You know what's even stupider than self pity? Being alive.

2) Why ride them out when you can end them right now?

3) When you're depressed, you don't 'enjoy' anything.

4) > there's just nothing.

Perfect. Where do I sign up?

Not trying to downplay your experience or anything, but your assessment of what depression is sounds an awful lot like what people who aren't depressed think depression is.

Not necessarily. Emotions are curios things and the part about riding them out helped me a lot. You can't end them right now. If you try to stop em or suppress em you'll only achieve the opposite. It's a bit like trying not to laugh when you are already laughing your heart out.

I think the better solution is to live trough them. You don't have to accept the feelings as something good but thinking of them as a sort of temporary injury that will heal if you let it works. If you catch a flu you take a few days of rest and it will be gone. You don't force it to end by walking around and 'being strong'. And it's even more so with things going on in your head.

Number 3 is something I can only do as a sort of preventative measure.

> You can't end them right now.

I think you missed the subtext of suicide there.

I always thought that uncontrollable emotions are weakness, so I was constantly putting a layer of rationale over my emotions from the very young age. Now I am not sure if I can't feel strong emotions any more, or nothing emotional ever happens to me. I am a little afraid of the first one because I was not very sad even after my grandfather died (closest of the family members I have lost so far).

"Everything that could be lifted by a CBT is caused by ignorance."

I'm fully aware of dopamine-based theory of depression, but for some mysterious (for the theorists) reasons there are much less dopamine volatility in the East.))

Answering the headline: no, eventually everything isn't hopeless bullshit. There's still a lot of hopless bullshit, but eventually you'll find something (or if you're lucky, a few things) that makes all the hopeless bullshit worth putting up with.

That's why people find suicide so sad. Almost nothing can't be overcome with time and suicide cuts that time short. You learn this as you overcome things by not giving up.

This process is called 'growing up'.

>This process is called 'growing up'.

How condescending and uncalled for. Many great men and women committed suicide; it has nothing to do with "growing up" (or variations thereof)

I’d say many great people never grew up either – but that definitely depends on your definition of ‘growing up’. If you define it as reaching intellectual and more importantly emotional stability and maturity, then I can see how you could think of overcoming depressions or other psychological disorders as ‘growing up’.

"growing up" is a subjective thing and has no unified definition.

That being said, conflating lack of intellectual/emotional stability and maturity with depression is terribly short sighted and shows a lack of understanding of what depression is.

I'd encourage you to educate yourself beyond the mainstream view of depression (= "oh but only goth teenagers or losers get depressed") before making such claims publicly.

How interesting that naming a standard process of mental development through adulthood would garner such a negative response. Growing up is a process, not a state, that one is constantly achieving. That process is generally done through overcoming new obstacles and challenges that one hits during their life and overcoming them. From the definition:

3. To develop and reach maturity. 7. To come to be by a gradual process or by degrees; become

Suicide is not development, or becoming by a degree, it is an escapism and the most concrete and final way of 'giving up'. By perserveering and overcoming your obstacles you learn that nothing is insurmountable given time, although it is usually never easy.

I didn't not mean to be condicending in any way or to insult the decisions of the many great people that have chosen to take their liives. I was just speaking from experience.

Just because you didn't intend to be condescending doesn't mean you weren't.

> I was just speaking from experience.

You ought to recognize that your personal experience is necessarily limited in its scope and applicability to others' lives.

Yeah, you're right. The crushing, quasi-suicidal, life long depression that I went through and managed to overcome through non-medial means is nothing compared to the pain and suffering that you and the others in this dicussion are going through.

Clearly, me expressing my experience that with time and overcoming the obstacles of depression is meant to be condacending rather than encouraging people to continue on with life and that things can and will get better with time and effort.

Obviously, nobody else on the planet has experienced the changes that maturity brings, and those that do only talk about them to put down those that are younger than them and not to let people know what they can look forward to as they get older.

In case you didn't notice, this post is filled with sarcasm.

You're replying to what you think I said instead of what I actually said.

There's no such thing as growing up. Your spine gets longer you brain gets number. Various organs fail more often. That's it.

Some of the things you've figured when forty other people figured out when they were seventeen. Adults are just tall kids.

Wow, what a beautifully written and illustrated piece.

However, I gave up counting the number of times I read about life being "meaningless". The author is more likely suffering from an existential crisis than actually being clincially depressed. He/she is searching for meaning. To feel. Reading some mid 20th century French philosophy might help here.

Clinical depression? Boy, that's another ball game altogether. That type of shyte won't result in a beautifully animated and elegantly worded blog. :-/

I'm clinically depressed, and have been for pretty much all of my adult life. It's much stronger at some times than others. A recent "peak" is when I had a panic attack in downtown San Francisco at a concert last Friday night that lasted 2 hours or so and rendered me unable to function in a room full of people and loud noises. It was awful.

I've heard arguments similar to yours many times. I've tried mid-20th century French philosophy, and do appreciate it. But it doesn't help.

Depression manifests itself differently in different people. There isn't a "correct" form of depression. Telling people that "you're not depressed, you're X, do Y and all will be OK" doesn't help at all.

You probably mean well, but making those sort of comments do everything but what you think they do.

> Depression manifests itself differently in different people.

Sure, but just because someone says they are depressed doesn't make them so. And that belittles people who really are depressed as opposed to those simply bored with life.

None of this is to say that depression is the same for everyone. I have 2 children with Autism, and I myself have been recently diagnosed with 2 conditions. It's scary, but it makes me appreciate the danger in abusing terms like depression.

This is all a way of saying that I hope everyone posting here saying they are depressed or that deal with depression seek help. There is no reason not to get help. Yes, it's scary. Sometimes you'll go in to find out what's wrong, and guess what? You learn you have something else to contend with as well! But at least you know, and awareness is important.

I absolutely agree with your last paragraph: seek help.

However, I find "just because someone says they are depressed doesn't make them so. And that belittles people who really are depressed" a dangerous attitude with regards to that.

When I was younger I was quite seriously depressed but I didn't seek help for ages because I'd heard people say "oh, depression isn't just feeling sad, you shouldn't use the word depression lightly". I thought maybe I was just being stupid and lazy because I probably wasn't a special enough flower to have this mystical thing. I should really have looked for help a lot sooner.

So, if you're having problems, don't worry about what they are or aren't called or what other people say - look for any help you can find.

I disagree. By allowing people to use the word depression to mean "sad" or "upset" or "pissed" or "bored," or whatever word they replace it with, we are doing those with depression more harm.

If someone says they are depressed, we should tell them they need to get diagnosed. Treating it less than it is, I think, does more harm.

> I should really have looked for help a lot sooner.

But you didn't, precisely because people use the word far too lightly far too often.

Who are you to second-guess what any particular person means when they use the word, "depressed?" Just curious.

I do not intend to downplay the anxiety and the emotional pain of the experience either you or the the OP had. I empathise completely. I myself have gone and continue to go through such "crises" regularly. I feel just as much.

My point was: it's ironic that the author talks about the lack of interest in the aesthetic of "life" and the general disinterest in the veritable cornucopia of little toy horse plays around us when he/she did EXACTLY that by writing a lovely, beautiful and well-crafted blog. (I am not being sarcastic.)

Doesn't anyone see the beauty and irony in that? Does clinical depression create such works of art? If so, we should celebrate it as a gift!

You seem earnest, so I am going to try not to be frustrated, but depression is not a gift that results in creative genius. People who manage to struggle through it and create art are doing it despite their disease and not because of it. The romanticism that is attached to the suffering artist is incredibly frustrating and, I think, dangerous. It leads people to believe that it is okay or worthwhile or noble to let this illness rule over you. We don't celebrate cancer or dementia or schizophrenia as "gifts". Sometimes people suffering from those illnesses are able to create beautiful works, but we don't romanticize their diseases because of it. Why would/should we do that with depression?

I agree with almost everything you said, except for this:

> People who manage to struggle through it and create art are doing it despite their disease and not because of it.

While depression can hurt creativity––bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia can actually help it[1].

The discussion has mainly been around depression, but I think the "suffering artist" label can apply to a range of disorders.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creativity_and_mental_illness

I agree with you, but just as a counterpoint, Dostoevsky valued his seizures because of the insight filled "halo" state that he would enter into before they came.

The author of the blog went silent for the past two years because of the depression, and now she got back to drawing because she feels (at least temporarily) better.

Did you read her backlog? You know, before she was clinically depressed?

You don't seem to be aware, the author basically stopped updating her blog and essentially fell off the face of the internet almost 2 years ago. It was so disconcerting that last year many people became concerned about her wellbeing and tried to track her down, eventually learning that she was "ok" but working "through" her depression. This has been the first update of her blog/comic since then.

> The author is more likely suffering from an existential crisis than actually being clincially depressed.

Could you please further explain what distinction you are trying to draw here?

Because it sounds an awful lot like you're trying to downplay how the author feels, which is in fact exactly what she has gone to some pains to express.

> However, I gave up counting the number of times I read about life being "meaningless". The author is more likely suffering from an existential crisis than actually being clincially depressed.

The post sums up the author's last 2 years, the author's previous post on the subject was http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.be/2011/10/adventures-in-d..., the author posted this because the author has managed to start the process of dealing with the problem and because the author's fans, readers and online friends have been worrying about the author.

And you're an asshole, I urge you to go fuck yourself post-haste.

Please stop worrying about the author! No, really. She's doing fine. She got up in the morning determined to complete her blog. She has found purpose and meaning in her life! Finally!

"See? Don't worry about that person over there you thought was drowning. She managed to bob her head above the surface of the water. She'll be OK."

"But she can't swim."

"She'll grow out of that."

Interesting analogue. I was a lifeguard in a previous life, and what people actually look like when they're drowning is not as it's depicted in movies.

In my experience, a child will typically jump into water too deep and simply sit there with their head barely above water, eventually they'll sink under if no one realizes they're in distress. A lot of the time they'll look right up at the lifeguards. Many inexperienced lifeguards tend to stare straight at a swimmer in distress without realizing it because the swimmer doesn't exhibit any outward signs of distress.

You call that bobbing her head above water? Those painstakingly-crafted vivid and lucid illustrations, the careful wordsmithing of the humorous writing (which I admit I did very much enjoy) and the coherent reference to the tragedy of hopelessness are all a celebration of the fact that her life without meaning is in fact only meaningful in recognising that it is all bullshit (her words)! Don't you see, she is FULLY emancipated?

Bobbing? No. I'd call it a masterful butterfly with an underwater turn then completed with an equally audacious lap of breast stroke with perfect form!

You cannot extrapolate from one data point. Read her back catalog. It was all there, and better, in pre-depression years, and she served it up every week or two rather than once in two years.

Seriously, just pack your stuff and leave this place. Go be callous somewhere else.

Did you somehow miss the fact that the author didn't make a single blog post for 18 months?

>However, I gave up counting the number of times I read about life being "meaningless". The author is more likely suffering from an existential crisis than actually being clincially depressed. He/she is searching for meaning. To feel. Reading some mid 20th century French philosophy might help here.

I'd suspect a "simple" existential crisis if this had lasted for two weeks. Two years is a much different beast: that's no simple funk. It might indeed have started off as an existential crisis, but it became something very different.

>That type of shyte won't result in a beautifully animated and elegantly worded blog. :-/

The beautifully illustrated blog is post treatment.

From her previous post:

> "I've been working on it for the better part of a year (partly because I wanted to get it exactly right, and partly because I was still experiencing it while attempting to explain it, which made things weird), and I'm relieved and excited and scared to finally be able to post it. "

So that took about a year to make, on and off.

Honest question - did you give up counting, or give up finishing the comic at all?

She stopped creating these comics and fell off of the face of the internet for two years. She was eventually able to come back and share her experiences after getting professional treatment and taking prescription medication for some period of time.

Your post is along the same lines as many of the people shown in the piece (substitute philosophy for yoga while watching the sun rise, "I know exactly how you feel, but you should just <x>", etc.) It's also incredibly condescending to trivialize two years of debilitating clinical depression as a little bit of Sartre-deficiency because she was eventually able to come back after getting on psychoactive medication. I'm also not sure if you'e aware that feelings of meaninglessness and purposelessness are common in clinical depression.

Your other posts are even worse, as if depression is a gift (seriously?) to creative people so they can angst up a bit and play the tragic, misunderstood, tortured artist. Or even more callously, because it's entertaining for other people (my father was clinically depressed - it's not.)

Clearly you don't "empathize completely" and your suggestion that you've gone through "such crises" yourself is presumptuous and insulting, as if gripping with nihilism now and again makes you qualified to diagnose (and undiagnose!) mental disorders in other people - of course, if you have had to undergo prolonged therapy or take SSRI's daily, please do correct me. I'm assuming that you mean well, but your attitude is cavalier and you don't seem to have thought too much about anything you've said here.

> Honest question - did you give up counting, > or give up finishing the comic at all?

Honest answer: I gave up finishing the comic. It became tiring to stomach.

I truly felt that the piece actually insults and undermines clinical depression.

That's of course my opinion.

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