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.
National Public Radio reports that of the estimated 350 million people affected by depression globally, the vast majority of them don’t get treatment for their condition either due to stigma or a lack of knowledge, according to a study of more than 50,000 people in 21 countries. Harvard Medical School and the World Health Organization found that in the poorest countries, one in 27 people with depression received minimally adequate care for their condition. Even in the richest countries, only one in five people with depression sought care. Read the article.
National Public Radio reports that primary care doctors fail to teach patients how to manage their care and don’t follow up to see how they’re doing, according to the study, which was published Monday in Health Affairs. Read the News
From National Public Radio‘s program, “On Point with Tom Ashbrook,” a great conversation with experts about a new national task force’s recommendation that says everyone should be screened for depression. Listen to the Podcast
National Public Radio reports that dealing with depression has never been easy for author Jenny Lawson, but as she explains in her new book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, it helps to have a sharp sense of the absurd. Humor helps her see through the dark. Read the News
National Public Radio reports, “Online programs to fight depression are already commercially available, and while they sound efficient and cost-saving, a study out of the U.K. reports that they’re not effective, primarily because depressed patients aren’t likely to engage with them or stick with them.” Read the rest of the News
NPR radio reports that the benefits of talk therapy for depression have been overstated in the scientific literature, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE. The finding comes several years after a similar study reached the same conclusion about antidepressant drugs. Listen to the Story
From National Public Radio, a story about how the crash into the mountainside by a Germanwings pilot who suffered from depression has made it much harder on those who suffer for it to disclose it at work. Read the News
There’s a wretched place depression drags me off to after taking control of my thoughts and feelings. It’s the place where the longing for relief mutes every other desire, even the desire to wake up in the morning. There are days when I wonder if I’ll lose everything: my job, my relationships, my last stitch of sanity. It feels as though I’m breathing hot black smoke.
Yet I believe the same depressions that pin me to the mat so often also serve a bigger purpose in my life. They don’t come empty-handed. I believe the purpose of suffering is to strengthen us and help us understand the suffering of others.
At 16, my first episode hit me hard enough to think I’d literally gone to hell. Now, at 35, when I start dreaming of haunted houses and worrying uncontrollably about the future, I know another episode is looming. I’ve got a week’s notice, maybe two. And then it’s as if I’m drifting off to exile inside myself with only a shell remaining.
It used to be that rising from the ash after the depression cleared was like resurrection. The burial over, I’d catch myself laughing or looking forward to the next day. I’d pig out at my favorite deli. But now, when I look closely, I find mental illness leaving other significant gifts in its wake — things I didn’t discern when I was younger.
The discovery is like that scene from when Neo finally comprehends his identity. Through the whole film, he’s been beaten up by evil agents. But the fighting transforms him into a warrior. And at the right time, he understands and uses his power. He’s peaceful, even when confronting an enemy. I believe my own years of struggling with depression have left me with similar gifts: inner strength and calm I can rely on, diminished fear and compassion.
I believe the painful nights that close in on all of us in some form are the cocoons from which we might shed our weaknesses. I believe pain tells us something critical about ourselves and life: that developing strength and empathy and bravery is more essential than our personal comfort. And when I think of it like that, I’m more willing to accept suffering on its terms.
That’s important, because if my pattern holds consistent, my next episode is due to arrive soon. I live with this reality, but I’m no longer afraid of it. The depression has, in the end, equipped me for its next visit — and that’s enough. Of course, I’ll take my medicine. I’ll talk to my gifted psychiatrist. But when the dark does come, I’ll stand up and breathe deeply, knowing I’m becoming the person I’m supposed to be.
By Andy Blowers. This piece first appeared on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.