Survival depends on the speed of noticing and responding to threats to our safety. In a depressed brain, the parts of the brain that are scanning for danger and responding to it are overly active. Perceiving threat comes too easily. There are several factors about this necessary and natural biological response that may contribute to depression. The response time is one such factor. Humans are biologically geared to respond to threat with … read more →
Dan's Latest Blog Entries
There is a dead zone in a depressed person’s life where nothing seems to happen. Except for the pain of the absence of everything. Such anguish is so overwhelming that every other concern is squashed in its wake. Our capacity for willful actions seems to be gone; we can’t “figure it out.” We are stuck. And it sucks. I have learned a lot about this “zone” over the years, its … read more →
Whatever the cause, clinical depression sufferers are often shackled to a prison of ruminative, negative thoughts about the world and themselves. They are full of self-loathing, feelings of worthlessness, and a sense of failure. Confidence in their ability to build and maintain successful relationships is eroded. Their sense of competency about their work can plummet as they struggle to get things done, be productive and earn a living. Some may … read more →
“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in the moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people” – Thich Nhat Hanh Like all parents, my Mom and Dad were flawed people – as I am. Yet, they were something more than that. I’ve … read more →
Depression in the News
New Research Shows Depression Linked With Inflammation
Dr. Marylynn Wei writes, “One traditional hypothesis of depression is that people who are depressed have a deficiency in monoamine neurotransmitters in the body, which leads to low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. But growing evidence supports that at least some forms of depression may also be linked to ongoing low-grade inflammation in the body. Brain imaging of people with depression show that their brain scans have increased neuroinflammation. When your body is in an inflammatory state fighting off the common cold or flu, you can experience symptoms overlapping with depression— disrupted sleep, depressed mood, fatigue, foggy-headedness, and impaired concentration.” Read the rest of her blog.
Diving Into Hell: A Powerful Memoir of Depression
From The New York Times, book reviewer and best-selling author Andrew Solomon writes, “Not so long ago, the mere fact of writing that you had suffered from depression conferred a badge of courage, but such confessions have devolved into a dull mark of solipsistic forthrightness. Famous people use such disclosures to persuade you that they are just like you, perhaps even more vulnerable; it’s a way of compensating for the discomfort attached to their glamor. Indeed, in an increasingly stratified world, people with any modicum of privilege may reveal their depression as an assertion of their common humanity. Clinical misery has taken over from death as the great equalizer. Vanity of vanities, all is depression. Into this morass daringly comes Daphne Merkin with the long-awaited chronicle of her own consuming despair, ‘This Close to Happiness: A Reckoning with Depression.'” Read the entire article here.
Coming to Terms With Depression
In her new memoir, This Close to Happy, Daphne Merkin writes about how she’s made her way through life, not despite, but with depression. She tells NPR’s Scott Simon that sometimes she just has to push herself through bad days. “At really bad times, I will admit I don’t get up,” she says. “I sort of languish, or sleep. But mostly I try and combat it by assertions of will. Which is not the same as saying, ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ though … there’s a point at which these assertions of will don’t help. But otherwise, I think there’s a way of negotiating depression, like, talking to it. Saying, ‘you can do this, you’ll be OK, try going outside, try sitting at your desk.’ You know, kind of coaxing oneself.” Listen to the interview here.
Should I Tell My Students I Have Depression?
From The New York Times, Abby Wilkerson writes: “The new class I was teaching — “Composing Disability: Crip Ecologies” — was one of several first-year writing seminars offered at George Washington University. Given the focus, it was likely to be a challenge for at least some of the students. And it was presenting a particular challenge to me. Even before the class began, I was anxious. I have depression, and I wondered: Should I acknowledge it in the class? Would the students benefit if I did? I wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing, for everyone’s sake, before taking the leap. But I was not at all certain. The idea of disclosing in the classroom made me feel conflicted and vulnerable.” Read the rest of the story.
LWD in the News
Rethinking Lawyer Motivation
Lawyer and law firm consultant, Paula Davis-Laack writes, “Autonomy, connection to others, and competence are important because they drive motivation and engagement. For those of you focused on the bottom line, it has been shown that engaged employees perform better on a daily basis, and the higher a person’s level of engagement, the higher their objective financial returns.In addition, levels of employee engagement were positively related to business performance in the areas of customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, and productivity. That is, higher employee engagement translated into higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, higher profitability, and more productivity. Read her blog.
The Science of Well-Being and the Legal Profession
Lawyers face challenges unlike those found in many other professions. The combination of long hours, time away from family, pressure to find (and keep) clients, stress, and the ever-present focus on the bottom line does not leave much room for balance or a general sense of well-being. This article analyzes why the journey into the legal profession can be difficult and provides research-based solutions to move toward a culture of positive professionalism. The goal is not to present a jaded, self-help view of how to fix the unhappy masses, but rather, to present an empirical, research-based framework to initiate a new conversation within the legal profession. Read the blog.
Even Lawyers Need Play
Lawyer Ruth Carter blogs at Attorneyatwork.com: “Captain Kirk, in a TV episode of “Star Trek,” says, “The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.” Playing is not something I do easily or often. Even in my youth, it was easier to get me to eat brussels sprouts than do something purely for fun. However, I’ve come to accept that playing is a necessity for sanity, to offset the high-stress lawyer lifestyle. Sometimes I wonder how other people have so much room for downtime when my nights and weekends are filled with errands, chores, working out and writing blog posts. Where does everyone find time for frivolity?” Read the entire blog.
3 Practices for Letting Go of Looping Thoughts
Jenna Cho, lawyer and author of the book, “The Anxious Lawyer” writes, “The ability to gently let go of negative looping thoughts has been perhaps one of the most powerful and unexpected benefits of having a regular meditation practice. Research indicates that meditation can help us process and decrease the impact of negative emotions, such as anger. If you find yourself stuck in an endless negative thought loop, here are three practices that you may find useful.” Read the entire blog here.
The Best of the Blogosphere
Rediscovering Who You Are After a Severe Depressive Episode
Blogger Joy Biddell writes, “But what I’m finding even harder than mundane tasks is rediscovering who I am. Depression stole my identity and my joy. Trying to find myself again while still feeling exhausted, low and riddled with anxiety is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Everything I knew and enjoyed feels like a distant memory and building myself back up feels like an impossible task. I can’t remember what genuine happiness feels like. I’ve had glimpses of it, but the feeling doesn’t stick around. I can’t remember how to socialize, even texting friends is difficult. I used to enjoy coloring, church, volunteering, reading, driving with tunes blasting and singing at the top of my voice (even in traffic), going out with friends, going for meals out, long walks with the dogs, my partner and seeing family. All these things are incredibly hard to do now. I either can’t remember how to do them, get too anxious and overwhelmed to do them or physically can’t do them.” Read her full blog here.
8 Ways to Persevere When Depression Persists
Therese Borchard blogs, “Although I like to cling to the promise that my depression will get better — since it always has in the past — there are long, painful periods when it seems as though I’m going to have to live with these symptoms forever. In the past, there was a time when I had been struggling with death thoughts for what seemed like forever. The death thoughts did eventually disappear, but I’m always mindful of my depression. Every decision I make in a 24-hour period, from what I eat for breakfast to what time I go to bed, is driven by an effort to protect my mental health.” Read her entire blog here.
Depression: A Psychiatrist’s Recommendations for Self-care
Psychiatrist Monica Starkman, M.D. writes, “In clinical research, one uses the scientific method and studies just one treatment alone in order to assess its effectiveness. But in clinician mode, I am convinced that a combination of effective techniques increases the probability of a strongly positive result – and I don’t really care which of them did the most good. Here are five simple yet powerful treatments I recommend because they are both scientifically valid and clinically effective. Read her entire blog.
Changing Is Hard
A Canadian blogger by the name of Michelle (no last name given) writes, “Changing is hard. Okay, lots of things are hard when you’re depressed. Getting up in the morning. Finding the energy to do everyday tasks. Looking for the will to go on. You know, all that good stuff. But changing yourself and your thoughts is especially hard.It’s a strange battle, isn’t it? Often, you know what you ought to do or have to do. And often, you just can’t seem to summon up the will to do it.” Read her entire blog here.