Putting Pen to Paper: Writers on Depression

That terrible mood of depression, whether it’s any good or not, is what is known as The Artist’s Reward. Ernest Hemmingway

Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know, and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding, and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t. Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast

That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.  Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America

In depression . . . faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come – – not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute . . . It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

They flank me-Depression on my left, loneliness on my right. They don’t need to show their badges. I know these guys very well. …then they frisk me. They empty my pockets of any joy I had been carrying there. Depression even confiscates my identity; but he always does that. Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Depression is nourished by a lifetime of ungrieved and unforgiven hurts. Penelope Sweet

The term clinical depression finds its way into too many conversations these days. One has the sense that a catastrophe has occurred in the psychic landscape. Leonard Cohen

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’ can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond fallingDavid Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression’s actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it. Jonathan Franzen, How to Be Alone

Choking with dry tears and raging, raging, raging at the absolute indifference of nature and the world to the death of love, the death of hope and the death of beauty, I remember sitting on the end of my bed, collecting these pills and capsules together and wondering why, why when I felt I had so much to offer, so much love, such outpourings of love and energy to spend on the world, I was incapable of being offered love, giving it or summoning the energy with which I knew I could transform myself and everything around me. Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot

Depression is melancholy minus its charm. Susan Sontag

You are constantly told in depression that your judgment is compromised, but a part of depression is that it touches cognition. That you are having a breakdown does not mean that your life isn’t a mess. If there are issues you have successfully skirted or avoided for years, they come cropping back up and stare you full in the face, and one aspect of depression is a deep knowledge that the comforting doctors who assure you that your judgment is bad are wrong. You are in touch with the real terribleness of your life. You can accept rationally that later, after the medication sets in, you will be better able to deal with the terribleness, but you will not be free of it. When you are depressed, the past and future are absorbed entirely by the present moment, as in the world of a three-year-old. You cannot remember a time when you felt better, at least not clearly; and you certainly cannot imagine a future time when you will feel better. Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.   J.K. Rowling

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. Pope John Paul II

The absolute worst part of being depressed is the food. A person’s relationship with food is one of their most important relationships. I don’t think your relationship with your parents is that important. Some people never know their parents. I don’t think your relationship with your friends are important. But your relationship with air-that’s key. You can’t break up with air. You’re kind of stuck together. Only slightly less crucial is water. And then food. You can’t be dropping food to hang with someone else. You need to strike up an agreement with it. Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

And an inky-colored despair of rejection enveloped me like the black tortilla of depression around a pain burrito. Christopher Moore, Bite Me

Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t. Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

So why am I depressed? That’s the million-dollar question, baby, the Tootsie Roll question; not even the owl knows the answer to that one. I don’t know either. All I know is the chronology. Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity. Oliver Sacks

Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance. Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression. Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare. Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A loss of focus can be the most debilitating of depressive symptoms, rendering a person unable to work effectively or plan for the future, which seems desolate, devoid of the possibility of redemption. John Nelson, M.D.

Depression is not only an experience in the mind; it is also an affliction of the body. There is a lack of energy, a painful heaviness; sadness and a grief that permeate to our marrow. Philip Martin, The Zen Way through Depression

The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality – the ability to experience a full range of emotions, including happiness, excitement, sadness, and grief. Depression is not an emotion itself; it’s the loss of feelings, a big heavy blanket that insulates you from the world yet hurts at the same time. It’s not sadness or grief, it’s an illness. Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You

Depression can be set off by a variety of stressors: sexual abuse, housing problems, illness in one’s child, and the other common problems you might imagine. To suggest that depression arises from loss is to skew the argument in the direction of the metaphor . . . , the one that likens apparent depression to ordinary bereavement. Likewise, “sadness” does not capture the essence of depression, which is a marked disruption of brain and mind characterized by painful apathy. Not only in degree but also in quality, sadness and depression are different. Peter Kramer, M.D., Against Depression

One of the features of depression is pessimistic thinking. The negative thinking is actually the depression speaking. It’s what depression sounds like. Depression in fact manifests in negative thinking before it creates negative affect. Most depressed people are not aware that the despair and hopelessness they feel are flowing from their negative thoughts. Thoughts are mistakenly seen as privileged, occupying a rarefied territory, immune to being affected by mood and feelings, and therefore representing some immutable truth. Hara Estroff Marano

I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were felt by the whole human race, there would not be one cheerful face left on earth – Quote by Abraham Lincoln, excerpt from Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Fueled a Presidency to Greatness

Depression is not a disease, the end point of a pathological process. It is a sign that our lives are out of balance, that we’re stuck. It’s a wake-up call and the start of a journey that can help us become whole and happy, a journey that can change and transform our lives. Healing depression and overcoming unhappiness mean dealing more effectively with stress; recovering physical and psychological balance; reclaiming parts of ourselves that we’ve ignored or suppressed: and appreciating the wholeness that has somehow slipped away from us, or that we have never really known. James Gordon, M.D., Unstuck

When we ruminate, we become fruitlessly preoccupied with the fact that we are unhappy and with the causes, meanings, and consequences of our unhappiness. Research has repeatedly shown that if we have tended to react to our sadness or depressed moods in these ways in the past, then we are likely to find the same strategy volunteering to ‘help’ again and again when our moods start to slide. And it will have the same effect: we’ll get stuck in the very mood from which we are trying to escape. As a consequence, we are at even higher risk of experiencing repeated bouts of unhappiness. Mark Williams, The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Where’s the big national foundation leading the battle against depression? Where is the Jerry Lewis Telethon and the Annual Run for Depression? Little black ribbons for everyone to wear? The obvious answer is the stigma associated with the disease. Too much of the public still views depression as a weakness or character flaw, and thinks we should pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. And all the hype about new antidepressant medications has only made things worse by suggesting that recovery is simply a matter of taking a pill. Too many people with depression take the same attitude; we are ashamed of and embarrassed by having depression. This is the cruelest part of the disease: we blame ourselves for being weak or lacking character instead of accepting that we have an illness, instead of realizing that our self-blame is a symptom of the disease. And feeling that way, we don’t step forward and challenge unthinking people who reinforce those negative stereotypes. So we stay hidden away, feeling miserable and yourselves for ourselves for our own misery.   Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., Undoing Depression

Depression can be seen as a break-down in the service of offering the person an opportunity for a break-through. In this way, depression can be a corrective feedback to a life with little reflection. We only reflect on those things that break down in life. For example, if life is going along smoothly you won’t spend time thinking about the meaning of life. We tend to think deeply about life when something is not working. When we identify a problem, we begin to reflect on what caused the problem and how to fix the problem. If you are disconnected from your deepest feelings and impulses you may still manage to get through life without realizing it. Lara Honos-Webb, Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality – the ability to experience a full range of emotions, including happiness, excitement, sadness, and grief. Depression is not an emotion itself; it’s the loss of feelings, a big heaving blanket that insulates you from the world yet hurts at the same time. It’s not sadness or grief, it’s an illness. Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., Undoing Depression

Depression has a mind of its own. When you are depressed, you think in generalizations (nothing works out), you don’t give yourself credit (I can’t do anything right), and you label yourself in the most negative terms (loser, ashamed, humiliated). You set demanding standards that you will never live up to. You may think you need to get everyone’s approval, or excel at everything you do, or know for sure something will work out before you try it. Your thinking keeps you trapped in self-criticism, indecisiveness, and inertia. Robert Leahy, Ph.D., Beat the Blues Before they Beat You: How to Overcome Depression

Depression is the inability to construct a future. Rollo May, Ph.D.

Every time a person gets depressed, the connections in the brain between mood, thoughts, the body, and behavior get stronger, making it easier for depression to be triggered again. At the earliest stages in which mood starts spiraling downward, it is not the mood that does the damage, but how we react to it. Mark Williams, The Mindful Way through Depression

Perhaps, the answer is that my ravaged mind rails against the idea of God, but something deeper in me calls out as if God might answer. ‘There are not foxholes,’ I guess, and depression is the deepest and deadliest foxhole I’ve been in. It may be the ‘dark night of the soul’ that the mystics talk about but in depression it is not so much that one becomes lost in the dark as one becomes the dark. Parker Palmer

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I think that we need to realize that suffering depressions – – and I put that in the plural- – is actually a normal human experience and highly functioning people and capable people often have what I would call “pockets of depression” and yet are not governed by it. These pockets of depression have to do with real losses they have experienced in their lives or the experience of internal conflicts.  The human condition itself involves suffering and we always have to ask a question, ‘Is the way in which I am experiencing my suffering and my conflict, is it leading me to a larger life or is it leading me to a smaller life?’  ‘Does it enlarge me or does it diminish me?’

James Hollis, Ph.D., What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life

One description of depression is that it is like the shapeless sagging of a rubber band that has been kept too taunt for too long. When feelings have been strong, stressed, unprocessed, or held captive over a period of time, we just stop feeling altogether. Persons and events no longer have the power to enliven us; we operate on a low level cruise control. Usually we keep functioning, but there is no positive or creative affect toward persons and things, and even less toward ourselves. We basically stop living our only life. Ron Rohr

All of us feel shamed by life. All of us consider ourselves failures of some kind, screw ups in something really important to us. Notice how shame, consciously or unconsciously pulls us away from risk, ratifies our negative sense of worth through self-sabotage or compels us into frenetic efforts of overcompensation or yearning for the validation from others that never comes; how much each of us needs to remember one definition of grace as accepting the fact that we are accepted despite the fact that we are unacceptable.  James Hollis, Ph.D.

Everyone knows what depression feels like. Everyone feels the blues at times. Sadness, disappointment, fatigue are normal parts of life. There is a connection between the blues and clinical depression, but the difference is like the difference between the sniffles and pneumonia. Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., Undoing Depression

While direct-to-consumer advertising has likely fostered an easier acceptance of these pills, most of the people I interviewed who suffer from major depression embark on a psychiatric career with great reluctance. Typically my respondents turn to medications only when desperation leaves them without alternatives. This is understandable in terms of the identity line that one crosses by seeing a doctor, or seeing a diagnosis of depression and filling the prescription for anti-depressants. One person poignantly expressed her identity dilemma by saying that, ‘When I swallowed that first pill I swallowed my will.’ Beginning a regimen of psychiatric medications is part of the traumatic transformation from person to patient; from being merely a troubled person to someone who has mental illness. Daniel Karp, Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meaning of Illness

Dan has given over 200 presentations throughout the U.S. on the topics of depression, anxiety, and stress. He tells his own powerful story of his struggles with growing up in a traumatic home with an alcoholic father, overcoming obstacles to become a successful lawyer, diagnose of major depression at age 40, learning to overcome and manage. One on the most difficult aspects of living with depression was dealing with the stigma surrounding his own mental illness. At first hurt and then angered by such stigma he and others encountered, he launched Lawyerswithdepression 15 years ago to educate others about depression, provide resources, and combat the stigma to those who often struggle in a lonely battle against this disease.

Dan’s work on mental health has been featured in The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, on CNN, and NPR, and many other national and international publications. He was recently selected by WebMD to for a video on the importance of working with a therapist throughout one’s life to manage clinical depression. In addition, Dan was chosen by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (“SAMSA”) in Washington, D.C. as their spokesman in a PSA video of someone living successfully with depression. Watch the video. For inquiries, please go to the contact tab at the top of the website homepage.

 

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Subscribe to LWD

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,838 other subscribers

3 thoughts on “Putting Pen to Paper: Writers on Depression

  1. Wow ! Thank you . My own take on this is that depression is anger at the unloved self. People especially children need love as much as food, water and shelter and feeling unloved is unbearable .
    For me, connecting to G-ds unconditional love and acceptance and his mercy and forgiveness is the remedy .

  2. This collection of quotes beautifully captures the profound and complex nature of depression. The way these writers express their experiences and insights into depression highlights its multifaceted impact on the human psyche. It’s a reminder of the importance of empathy and understanding when dealing with individuals facing this relentless emotional struggle. Each quote adds a unique perspective to the conversation, shedding light on the often misunderstood depths of depression.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *

Built by Staple Creative

%d bloggers like this: