Recommends: Hyperbole and a Half and Depression

Content Note: Depression

For those of you who don't follow Hyperbole and a Half, Allie has a wonderful post up today about depression. I thought it was very touching and wanted to share it with everyone else.


chris the cynic said...

It's interesting how different it can be for different people. My experiences have been nothing like that. (And I have the strongest urge to take this opportunity promote my own post on the subject and make this thread all about me. Need to stop doing that. Bravely not linking.) The pictures were adorable and the story was uplifting in a strange sort of way.

Thanks for sharing it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Promote away! I don't mind. :)

And yes, it is funny how experiences can be so different. I think someone has before mentioned in the comments that there perhaps need to be more words and concepts for depression since it varies so strongly for some people.

Brin Bellway said...

Today? It was last week. Is Google Reader being ridiculously laggy again?

I've no personal experience with depression (and hopefully will stay that way), but a new Hyperbole and a Half always brightens my day even if I can't relate.

(And if you don't read Hyperbole and a Half, you should. Read the archive too. It's fantastic.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Aw man. :(

*pokes at Google Reader*

Maybe mine isn't set to update properly on my phone? It only showed up for me last night around midnight-ish. I figured it was one of her late night / early morning posts. o.O

chris the cynic said...

Ok, the post is at Stealing Commas, and if I let myself describe it too much I'll end up writing something as long as the post which, given that it's around five pages long, would probably not be the best idea. Fortunately for all involved I actually have a midterm coming up in about half an hour so I don't have time to get carried away.

Some notable differences are that... oh where to start?

I didn't wake up depressed one day. I have some sense that I wasn't always this way, but that was a long time ago if it really happened at all. (Memories of my childhood are hazy at best.) If I did go from being normal to being depressed I did not notice the transition so you'd think it must have been gradual. That seems a rather large difference.

I don't think I've ever gone all that long shut in my house without leaving at all. Inertia seems to keep me moving where motivation never could. Though there are breaks I have to wonder about. A year after high school before I got into university, a year out of university when my sister and I thought we'd start a business but never did. Maybe I have gone months shut up in my house. But anyway, I go to school because I go to school. I may not be a good student (that happens when you can't make yourself study) but I don't think I've missed a day of University. That's pretty much the only reason I have offline contact with people outside of my family.

I can do school out of habit and since for most of my life I've had school of some kind, that keeps me from being shut in the house for long periods. Also, live at home with my mother, so I'm never completely without human contact.

The thing about other people having it worse is very familiar. I bumped into my uncle for the first time in a long time two days ago (he's on the maintenance staff at the university.) He said he'd been sick lately, I started to say the same but stopped when it turned out that he'd been sick as in needing three major operations on three different parts of his body for three very different reasons any one of which seemed like it might have been deadly. That puts my inability to cope with my life into an unpleasant perspective. (He's doing fine, by the way.) Because people do face very bad things, and they face them better than I face everyday life.

Most of the rest of the beating oneself up didn't really ring true to me. I might have negative thoughts about myself, but I don't think it's ever really been that actively negative.

The thing about not caring about what people think is likewise unfamiliar to me. There are not words to describe the degree to which I crave validation. It doesn't help as a motivation at all but once I've done something I definitely care what people think.

I think there was something else I was going to say but a bunch of talking people walked by and I forgot.

Maybe it was that I never cared what people thought about my appearance anyway, which means that discovering I didn't care about what someone looking at me thought wouldn't be liberating, it would be same old, same old.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, thank you for sharing that. All the *hugs* I can offer, if you want them.

I will say -- having struggled for years with "how sick is too sick" -- that while I understand not wanting to talk about it in public or with family, you certainly don't need to privately feel that your pain isn't "as bad" as other people's. Pain is pain, and no one should have to live with it. You probably know that, but I had to say it anyway. *hugs*

Another Chris said...

My experience of depression is also quite different from the post. However, I am beyond grateful that Hyperbole and a Half and other survivors are putting their stories out there. If they reach even one depressive person, they will do a world of good.

I feel myself falling into glurge-y clich├ęs when discussing this, but finding out that you're not alone and that the darkness you're experiencing isn't your fault can be a lifesaver. Even merely putting the word "depression" on it can be a first step towards finding help.

Will Wildman said...

Ah, Hyperbole and a Half, how you enrich my life.

I tried to consciously do the 'the worst has happened; I am invincible' thing after my first breakup, but I don't think it worked. I have developed a much stronger sense of 'y'all can eat your judgmental statements, I'm doing my thing the way I choose', but it had never occurred to me to wonder if it was related to depression.

I do remember walking to school a month or two before meeting my first girlfriend, thinking "I have absolutely nothing that bothers me or worries me at all" and being weirdly proud, like I had achieved some kind of nirvana, but now I'm wondering if that wasn't sort of an early warning sign that I was feeling dulled to the world and sliding down.

It would be way easier to do a proper regression on these things if I didn't have so many simultaneous unit variables. I hate that. It screws the covariance matrix right up and then I can't determine order of causation.

Dav said...

Aw, Chris and other depression sufferers. All the totally non-creepy love I can project over the internet is yours.

Kit Whitfield said...

again, different experience, but i did recognise the way that she gradually ran out of feelings. for me it wasn't self-hatred but fear: the slightest worry sent me into a tailspin, so i got into the habit of switching off my thoughts to save myself the terror ... and then realised that, while i could probably have another tailspin if i tried, i'd wound up switching off my thoughts and feelings almost completely. if i hadn't had a baby to look after, i don't know what i would have done.

Bayley G said...

I was so excited when I saw new Hyperbole and a Half in my google reader last week. Then I read it :( :,( I feel so bad for her. I struggle periodically with mild depression (it's been worse in the past but I have better coping skills now), I wouldn't wish that on the small subset of people I hate.

Silver Adept said...

Non-creepy hugs and solidarity from over here. Thankfully, mine trend to be mild and not soul-sucking, not leaving the house types of episodes. I do like how not caring turned into Not Caring, and thus being able to turn the corner.

I also note that we are apparently very familiar with that depression thing in the list of people that comment on the blog. Small world problem?

Gelliebean said...

There were some parts of it that resonated very closely to my own experiences, and others that weren't so close; I think it's something that affects everyone in a unique way. For me, recognizing that there even was a problem was mostly due to comments from my family and close friends that The Way You Are Now isn't The Way You Used To Be - that I didn't smile as often, didn't seem to be taking any joy from life. It had happened so slowly that I just thought life sucked and I should get used to it.

It was interesting what you said, Chris, about not having a "negative voice", just because I've had that voice since I was around 12-13 years old and it's never completely gone away since then. I can trace the beginnings to simmering family drama (surrounding the day I was born, no less, and how my parents reacted when I wasn't the 'prophesied' son they were expecting) that boiled up at that time, and I can also trace the worsening to more family issues that hit me in 2008; I didn't end up talking to anyone about it until early last year, and I've been on a mild medication since then that has leveled things out to some extent.... I was going to say that I've never had it confining me to the house, but that's not entirely true... it just makes me reluctant to leave because everything seems like more trouble than it's worth to go out and do it; the same for doing things around the house or working on crafts/jewelry/writing. I'm not sure if that's due to the depression, or a side effect of the medication.

hapax said...

{{{just about everyone}}}

A fair amount of the description was familiar -- the apathy and the self-berating part, especially -- and I *kind of* got the Not Caring, although with me it more normally takes the form of "Well, I'll eat ice cream and potato chips for dinner, because Who Cares if I get sick and die?"

I've never had a breakthrough epiphany where I started to "get over it", though. Usually an episode ends with me suddenly thinking "Huh. I'm not utterly miserable right now. Weird."

Ana Mardoll said...

Since we're all sharing, my favorite part was the horror movies bit. I'm pretty easily terrified by certain types of horror movies. Something that stuck with me during my first marriage was that when I said I wanted a divorce, my then-husband laughed and said, "How can you live on your own? You can't even watch 'Resident Evil' without being scared."

I'm not sure I was depressed in the wake of my divorce. I distinctly recall feeling relief, but at the same time, I lost about 6 months where I can remember almost nothing. I moved about in a daze and somehow managed to coast through my remaining classes to graduation. It wasn't like my actual bout with depression that I'd had 2 years before that -- I wasn't sad, but I was kind of... out of it, somehow. A turning point was when I drove to the store, bought a copy of Resident Evil, and watched the movie a dozen times, practically back-to-back, until it didn't scare me anymore.

I never did touch a spider, though.

Libby said...

I don't remember when I acquired a self-hating voice. I was young. It never occurred to me that it was something that shouldn't be there. I didn't realize it existed as a thing until, when I was 18 or so, someone I met in a chat room made me promise to go an entire week without saying I hated myself... and I couldn't do it.

I got better for a while between then and now. I started having little blips of happy hypomania instead of the purely agitated kind, which led to diagnosis and help. I've made and learned to follow a bunch of little rules that usually keep me moving along, like Libby Must Leave The House At Least Once Per Day and Libby's Kitties Must Not Suffer, and as a result I can be okay for months at a time. Mostly, anyway. I never really developed any hobbies or interests to replace the ones that died, but I had some great, fulfilling jobs for five years, and I was mostly content.

Then I decided to move to a new place, and the voice is coming back. Having no money, no job, no support, and all the responsibility for my family's well-being means... what, exactly?

I don't even know what I want except to know what I want so I can try to go after it.

Anyway, I understand Allie. I understand nesting in a pile of dirty laundry, hiding in the corner, eating plain pasta (sauce is too complicated), silently yelling at oneself. I get the feeling of being a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. The voice is coming back, though, and I'm worried that the rest might follow.

Brin Bellway said...

eating plain pasta (sauce is too complicated)

I don't know what to do about the main stuff (except hugs if you want them), but have you tried pasta with olive oil? I don't like tomato sauce (though I make it for family members on pasta nights), so for a long time I ate pasta plain. I find it's better with olive oil.

Silver Adept said...

At such a point, Brin, even oil would probably be too complex, because getting the oil requires opening up something and pouring it on, and when you're that kind of depressed, effort itself, regardless of how good it would be for you, is too much.

Libby, hugs and empathy and a suggestion: If you still feel able to get out, the public library can probably help you, whether in applying for social insurance or pointing out where all the job application sites are. Its not much at all, but it might help you feel like you're moving forward.

Libby said...

Brin: I've been in the pasta-only phase. I'm not back there yet -- only the self-hatred screaming at me so far. (I'm sorry I didn't phrase the last part of my post more clearly.) At that point, though, oil is about as hard as sauce. You have to get the thing, open the thing, and put the thing on the food. I've had periods where I had to list the steps to taking a successful shower in order to accomplish the task of getting clean. It's an ugly place, and I really hope I can get a life going here before it comes to that.

Silver Adept: Thanks for the suggestion. I've been to the library this week. They pointed me to the job search sites I've been using all along, which was kind of disappointing. I'd been hoping that people who know the area would have had some additional knowledge I could use to fix everything. I'm also not able to apply for social insurance. All I can think to keep doing is what I am doing: checking the listings on the local sites, applying by email or (ridiculously expensive) fax, and then calling back the ones that listed phone numbers. I have two interviews set up for next week, but they're both for jobs I'm hilariously ill-suited for. I keep hoping someone for a job I am equipped to fill will give me a chance instead of saying "you don't have 6+ months of [specific] experience, only 5 years of [closely-related] experience, so we can't consider you." Though I guess the fact that they even bothered to write me rejection letters is nice. Most places don't.

I had the idea this afternoon to look for other community job resources this afternoon, and found a couple that might or might not be able to give me a boost of some kind... but it's Friday, so I can't talk to them until Monday. We'll see if anything comes of that.

Thanks for the notes, both of you. I feel a little bit less alone.

Ana Mardoll said...

Libby, I don't know what to say and I still don't, but so many *hugs* if you want them. That seems woefully unhelpful in context, but still: *hugs*

Brin Bellway said...

At that point, though, oil is about as hard as sauce. You have to get the thing, open the thing, and put the thing on the food.

I would've thought oil is an insignificant addition of effort. I can understand not being able to manage the effort of making pasta at all, but not a middle ground in which pasta is manageable but not pasta with oil. But I don't have to understand to know it happens.

Libby said...

Thank you, Ana. You are both kind and awesome. I'm so glad I'm able to comment on your blog now. :)

Brian: all I can say is "steps." More steps means less likelihood something will happen, like the tooth-brushing part of the blog post Chris the Cynic linked to. If the pasta has happened, then WIN!

For now, I'm just trying to get any work or money going, and hoping I can achieve a good mix before burnout happens. Also commenting on blogs. I couldn't do that from where I used to live. I like not being a lurker.

Kit Whitfield said...

Sympathies, Libby. Hang in there: you're much better than you feel right now.

Julezyme said...

Oh boy - I can explain this one. Sadly. Libby, I recognise that feeling frighteningly well.
When I am "down the well" it's like all the tiny steps involved in even a simple operation loom, crowd my consciousness, and overwhelm me. I find myself unable to ignore doorknobs and light switches. Which, "normally", you/I/one don't even notice, or just edit out of awareness. When each step from "stand up", to "turn knob", to "flip switch", "walk to counter", "open drawer", "take out spoon", "move to fridge", "open fridge", "lift milk", "close door", "put milk down?", "open cupboard", "look for cereal", "get cereal", "put down milk or cereal box - still holding spoon?", "walk to other cupboard," "clean bowl?", "oh god, no clean bowl" ... The net and cumulative effect of this level of awareness, this utter loss of perspective, is exhaustion. I instantly project all these things and am defeated before I have begun, so remain paralyzed, stuck in my chair. And adding in the Negative Voice of Self-loathing, the Existential Angst, and the Self-fulfilling Disaster Prophesy clumsiness - it starts to make sense why even olive oil might be too difficult.
That has been my experience, anyway.
I describe it as the "activation energy" being too high (cause I am a scientist!). Being not depressed means tasks and activities have cheerfully low activation energies.
Also, for me, it's like in that film "Awakening", where this patient would catch a ball if you threw it at her, but otherwise couldn't move. I can piggyback on someone else's motivation in that state, and get things done, so i *seem* to be okay when someone is looking.
Libby, I wish you the best. A mantra that has helped me is, "Small, achievable goals!" I have to remind myself of it often.

HUGS to all.

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