Wiseacre (ewin) wrote,

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A note on Depression

Having just found out that Andrew Koenig did, in fact, take his own life, and that he had been a lifelong sufferer of chronic depression, I'd like to note a few things.

Chronic depression is a lethal disease; the exact risk stats are unknown because it is still underreported and deaths by suicide are often underreported as well.  But even given that, the correlation is undeniable.  Depression is among the most lethal of the emotional disorders.

Chronic depression is treatable; chronic depression is not curable.  In some cases it goes away for years on end, but there is never any way to tell when it will return.  There are people who suffer a depressive episode, take antidepressants for a year, and are fine forever after.  There are also people who have to take pills for the rest of their lives.  There are also people for whom no pill will ever work.

Chronic depression does not kill merely through suicide; your body and mind also take a powerful hit every time it strikes.  Depression is exhausting and painful.  It shifts the balance of chemicals in the brain, and if it lasts long enough, it can cause damage to the brain, making that imbalance permanent.  It's hard on the heart, the glands, the digestive system, it's hell on the immune system, bad for circulation.  It discourages exercise and often forces cravings for simple carbohydrates, which cause a brief "high" and corresponding low.  Depressed individuals drink more, and drink more unhealthily (deliberately to drunkenness, drinking alone, drinking throughout the day), which exacerbates it.  They are also more prone to substance abuse and addiction.

Chronic depression is a cancer of the personality.  It eats your personality and replaces you with itself; the more you experience intense depression in others, the more you realize that The Depressed Person is always some variant of the same personality; whereas healthy people are infinitely diverse, The Depressed Person is always recognizable.  Depression is insidious, so that your loved ones may not realize that you are being slowly erased and replaced by something that is not you.  Depression is insidious, and the conclusions that it gradually inspires within you are as vivid as any hallucination and as convincing.  The convictions of depression are:  nobody loves me, I am not good enough, everybody would be better off without me, I will never feel better, life is not worth it, nothing will ever improve, I am not worth it.  These convictions can not be waved off; I stress this, they are delusions aggravated by imbalanced brain chemistry and must be treated, medically treated, with great seriousness.

The antidepressants and other chemicals prescribed for treating depression are dangerous.  They are not without risk.  They have intense effects upon the chemistry of the brain, which are not entirely understood.  The reason they are prescribed is because clinical depression ALSO has intense effects upon the chemistry of the brain which are KNOWN to be amazingly destructive.

I have suffered from chronic depression all my life.  It is slowly killing me, and there are days when it takes everything I have to make sure that the process stays slow.  I am medication resistant, and I have had terrible experiences with many antidepressants, but I do not begrudge doctors prescribing them or anybody who takes them, even if they only work for a little while.  I do not begrudge the years I spent feeling like a human chemistry experiment, or the money involved, or the half-craziness of having my brain messed with on a chemical level, because my doctor was trying to save my life.  My life has been saved by friends and medical professionals more times than I like to think about, and some days I worry that they fought a losing battle.  This is a terrible, terrible disease.

My heart goes out to the Koenig family right now, not merely for what they have suffered today, but for what they have been suffering through for years.  We hope and pray for a cure.  We hope and pray for anything at all; better drugs, better therapy, better alternative therapies.

Now get the friggin' word out.
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