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26 February 2010 @ 02:12 pm
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.
Current Mood: sadgrieving
Yersina Rodentia: Brit Candy by Photognomepoisongirl on February 26th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
Well said dearest. Well said.

I'd like to add, that though we've never been close, I've always been very fond of you and that wonderfully quirky brain of yours so I'd just like to say that I am very glad taht you keep fighting it. And grateful for those that have helped keep you around. (Yes, really.;-)
Wiseacre: Kare Kano hugewin on February 26th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you, hon. *hug* It does make a difference. :)
Yersina Rodentia: Moi by Moonbirdpoisongirl on February 26th, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
I only speak the truth sugar. (Like John Leguizamo, but with a better ass.;-)
Bran Everseekingbraneverseeking on February 26th, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
aint that the truth
and even medicated I have days that make me wonder.
Wiseacre: Cure for hopeewin on February 26th, 2010 11:36 pm (UTC)
Re: aint that the truth
Quite right, and a good thing to note... that there are so many people out there on meds for whom they kind of work, or work most days, or work for ten years and then suddenly stop for seemingly no reason. :(
kittyguitarkittyguitar on February 27th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Re: aint that the truth
I lost a friend to exactly that phenomenon. It was a tragic thing to witness, because when the meds were working, she was funny and vivacious and creative and energetic--and then they stopped, and she changed almost overnight into someone who really did seem, like a Dementor victim in a Harry Potter book, to have had all the joy and life just sucked out of her. A few months later she gave up the fight.

She was a wonderful person--kind and generous and artistic, a lover of gardens and a designer of funky jewelry, known for the colorful clothes that brightened up a room every time she walked in--and the world is a poorer place without her in it.

For those still fighting the fight and clinging to hope when it's hardest to hold, I salute you for your courage. For for whom it is already too late--rest in peace.
Радаdigitalemur on February 26th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
I'm in the process of one of those brain chemistry experiments, and I'm having trouble convincing myself that it will get better.

It will. But yes, we hope and pray for better treatments, and for a cure. And what I have right now isn't depression but it's damn closely related.
Wiseacreewin on February 26th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
Yup. (Trying to think of a better response, but really: yup.)
MASHFanficChick: Mental Illness Awareness (text + ribbon)mashfanficchick on February 26th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
Now get the friggin' word out.

Does that--along with this post's unlocked state--mean I can link this on my LJ? And, more to the point, does it mean I can link it to my father?

Edited to add even though I thought it was probably obvious, that my only real response to this is--as always, when you talk about this stuff--"THIS."

Edited at 2010-02-26 11:12 pm (UTC)
Wiseacreewin on February 26th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
MASHFanficChick: Mental Illness Awareness (text + ribbon)mashfanficchick on February 27th, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)

And, having had some time to really ponder this post, I have two more things to say (besides "THIS."):

1) I love (even though I know why) that you mentioned that there are people for whom the meds don't work. The frequency with which my diseases are perceived BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS as "mild" because I'm not on medications is appalling, considering that I'm completely open about the fact that I have tried literally every available drug out there.

1.5) This wasn't what I was going to say, but I find it interesting that these lines (from "Darkness" by Third Eye Blind) came on Pandora just as I was typing this:
I want someone to know me/
maybe tell me who I am/
'cause I faced down my demons/
and cried out to a god/
a god I've never seen.

2) I kind of take issue with this line, but not in the way you might think: 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.

My feeling is that the medical community at large really needs to redefine what a "losing battle" is. If a person lives a productive life for 15 years after being diagnosed with cancer, before dying a cancer-related death, why is that a "losing battle"? It's not. It's many small battles that have been won, before the (in that case, losing) end of the war. Your friends, your medicals professionals, and YOU have not been fighting a losing battle. They've been fighting AND WINNING battles, in a war whose conclusion is unknown. Because--unless they manage to actually cure depression, which I don't see happening any time soon--to phrase it as the alternative leaves only two possibilities: a lost battle, or a neverending one. And neither of those ways of looking at it allow for the huge fucking VICTORY it is that you get up in the mornings, even SOME mornings, and don't fucking lay down and die. Always try, at least, to remember that: that by giving weight only to the "final" battle, you're cheating yourself out of all the victories you amass on a regular basis.

2.5) And, I now think Pandora may trying to tell me/us something: they just gave me a commercial for "Next to Normal". ;-)
babykid528: WTWTA: Max & KWbabykid528 on February 27th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
Just, I love you. <3
kenjarikenjari on February 27th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
Chronic depression is a cancer of the personality. It eats your personality and replaces you with itself;
And at least in my case, Depression made me love it in a perverse way, so that my first attempt at therapy didn't really work (despite the therapist being wonderful) because I couldn't really commit to fighting the depression. I really hope this is not the case for you.
Also, count me among the ones grateful for all the stuff that has helped keep you here.
Plaidplaidomatic on February 27th, 2010 08:06 am (UTC)
I've been suffering through a down cycle (due to environmental impacts coinciding with a med switch). It's not debilitating, but it's rough. I've been having some (easily dismissed) self-harm ideation the last few days. This was hard to read. So yeah.

/me hugs
mrskmwmrskmw on February 27th, 2010 08:13 am (UTC)
i don't comment much but I still read all the time.
i appreciate this entry. i've suffered a bout with depression and medicated it twice. i pray it does not come back and i pray you continue to win your battle.
Just a Baker Street Musecluegirl on February 27th, 2010 01:20 pm (UTC)
I was linked over here by a friend, and what you say resonates with me strongly. I, too, have lived with Depression for as long as I can remember, and have had times where the depression was so great that it literally hurt to breathe, and yes, those episodes did change me, as their lighter-weight cousins continue to change me even now.

I am currently reading a book on neuroplasticity, in which I'm hoping to find something like Hope, if not a strategy to begin rewiring some of this habitual neural response, and see if I can't coax my brain to stop firing in the toxic areas. It's not much, but it's better than despair.
where have my words been?bheansidhe on February 27th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
*sees you*
some blockheaded bracegirdle from hardbottle: firefly - river/birdnotemily on February 28th, 2010 04:52 am (UTC)
asymptotetree on March 1st, 2010 08:11 am (UTC)
i came here from a link at FWD and just... thank you so much for this.
Avaro Naethavaro_naeth on March 1st, 2010 08:44 am (UTC)
I've had small bouts of depression throughout my life, but I wouldn't consider it chronic at all. But knowing how difficult those times were, I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to struggle with depression all the time, and how much strength it must take to keep going. I'm really glad that there have been people to help you and that you've kept going, because my life (and many others, I'm sure) would be devoid of so much awesome if you weren't around.

*hugs* ♥
captain_magpiecaptain_magpie on March 1st, 2010 11:32 am (UTC)
Linking this out. Thank you. This is so very true.
Marj Nickersonjayn_newell on March 1st, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC)
As a whole, this post nearly brought me to tears, but this line still stood out.

Chronic depression is a cancer of the personality.

This was the scariest thing for me when I started medication (and I'm fortunate that I was quickly able to find medication that worked). I'd been depressed so long--at least 6 years at that point--that I was afraid that I wouldn't recognise myself once I started taking medication. It had taken me years to finally become comfortable with myself as I was, and I was afraid to find out that it wasn't really me in the first place. (I started them anyways, because I couldn't function at that point)

Fortuantely, I found the opposite to be true--I'm more myself now than I was then, and I feel better than I had since junior high.

The other fun thing was the response from my parents when I told them--"You don't seem depressed". Well, no, I don't, because this has been slowly building for SIX YEARS, so you never noticed. And while I had noticed something was wrong, it took a complete crash forcing me to drop out of university to make me admit I needed help.

I'm still not fine, but at least my lows are now triggered, rather than a constant state of being. And PMS no longer amplifies my depression to the point of a nervous breakdown. I can cope.
Bears and Butterfliesgoldjadeocean on March 1st, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
Hi, I don't know you but I got here through FWD. And this is an amazing post. I just reached the tipping point a year ago that means I've been seriously depressed for more than half my life, and I'm 22. Hell yes I wish someone had fed me drugs as a kid.
bofoddity on March 1st, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC)
Here via FWD
My depression comes and goes, but when it's there it eats me alive and this post really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing it.
Livi Shortlivi_short on March 3rd, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
My friend directed all her friends to your post and I am really grateful for that.

Your words hit home so hard they made me cry, at the moment ever day is a battle and every night i go to sleep I am grateful that i survived the day. I am seeing a mental health team (psychiatrist, therapist, CPN, councillor and group session in art and writing therapy) and my family and close friends are being fantastic but I still have days where I want it all to end, or worse I'm afraid I'm not strong enough to stop myself ending it.

I found the worse part is on good days when I see a spark of the person I used to be I cry as I realise she is still there somewhere lost on the midst of the depression. I hope that you will have days where the true you shines through to guide you back.
Andyalitalf on March 4th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
You got that right
Its all true. Thanks you for putting words to it, because that is the only way that anyone who has not been depressed can get any idea what it is like. When I have been depressed, putting words together properly was quite beyond me, and afterwards, I have found a great reluctance to think about it for too long, any more than you woudl want to spend long thinking about the details of, for example, eye surgery while you were conscious.

For me it was also like having a lot of intellectual capacity removed. I could not understand fairly simple html and css that I had previously written, let alone originate something of that quality. For some time I failed to remember that it was I who had written the code that I found so confusing.

When part way through recovering I used to joke that at the worst I could probably not manage anything more difficult than adding low single digit numbers. It almost wasn't a joke: basic algebra would have been beyond me, let alone anything advanced.