Thursday, January 06, 2005

The D-Word

Why is it that so many bloggers suffer from depression? Maybe the question should be, what is it about blogging that's so attractive to the depressed? My own list of favorites is currently about 34 blogs- blogs that I check everyday, occasionally a couple of times a day, especially if there's some interesting chat happening in the comments. Of those 34, at least 17 of them either openly admit to suffering from some degree of depression or display enough of the symptoms in their writing that it's a safer bet than OU + 36 points that they do. I won't name any names, because although there isn't the social stigma there once was with depression, that's your own business and you also wouldn't want me pointing out which ones of you display homosexual tendencies in your writing either. (aside: Not that there's anything wrong with it)

Well, I don't pretend to have any answers, other than my own perspective. I've known for years that I hate the holidays. I thought it was because I'm a greedy prick and stopped getting cool toys for my birthday & Christmas when I turned 15. It's actually Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I never really believed it was genetic until both my parents and my sole sibling admitted that they've been on anti-depressants from time to time. I did that chemical-action for awhile and decided that I just didn't like the idea. I'm not so bad that I can't get out of bed in the morning, and I just know I could get off the couch if Montel wasn't so bloody handsome. I like blogging because it's more sanitary than leeches for relieving the bad humors. It makes the scottish voice in my head that says "Write another fart joke and bring me more cupcakes" go away.

I read a lot (aside: because I'm smart) but I pretty much only read in bed before I turn out the lights. Generally I prefer history non-fiction (specifically NASA & aerospace), and I collect books written and signed by astronauts. I've got a bunch of books about quantum physics (specifically Feynman) and a shelf of comedy (Jon Stewart, David Sedaris, Dennis Miller, Ted L. Nancy). But I want to tell you about a FANTASTIC book I just finished that I can't decide whether it goes on the comedy shelf or one of the non-fiction shelves. Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a life gone to the birds, by Chris Chester, popped up in my Amazon recommendations a few weeks ago and when I read the blurb I said to myself, "Self, what the hell?" Once I picked up this book, I couldn't put it down. Consequently it has been through the shower with me and got dropped in with the stir-fry as well. (aside: No, not really...just the shower.) The author is afflicted with the same kind of nuisance depression that I am and is also a bit of a computer nerd, but the book is really about adopting a baby bird and bringing it into his life. The book goes back and forth between narratives of his life in Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend/wife and technical information about house sparrows and birds in general. The writing style is very much how I wish I could write, and if Mr. Chester has a blog I bet it's a damn good one. Since today's topic is brought to you by the letter D, I'd like to reprint a passage from the book on that topic and encourage (strongly encourage) you all to beg, borrow, or buy a copy, whether you're one of the Suffering Brethren or not:

The realization that we volunteer for many of our sorrows has helped me a good deal. We acquire them in seed form with each new attachment and shouldn't be surprised when they sprout one day. Speaking as a person whose biochemistry manufactures gloom as a matter of course, it's taken me years to understand that fate has never singled me out. The universe has better things to do than plague me with loss or go out its way to make my life miserable. A perverse egotism is one of the problems with free-floating depression. It sits on your psyche calling attention to itself until you half-believe you're important enough and special enough for the gods to persecute. Give this delusion the least bit of credence, and your will to cope begins leeching away. Chemically based sadness is real sadness but never proves its case that existence itself is inherently depressing- even though it may be.
As I've said, I'm far luckier than those who struggle with depression and anxiety that is far more potent than mine, people for whom pills don't work. They drown; I stand up to my knees on the fringes of the undertow. Taken all in all, I've had it easy, and I find myself pushing fifty with a sense of equanimity only partially attributable to pharmaceutical company chemists. My mother always said, "It's a great life if we can endure."

Providence of a Sparrow, p. 180


At 3:27 AM, Blogger Zelda said...

I was depressed for so much of my life, that I just wanted it to end. The depression, not my life. Finally, I just decided it was more fun to laugh than cry and I gave it up. I quit it just like I quit smoking. I stopped seeing things as bad. I didn't exactly start looking for the good, but I did start looking for the humor. It helped immensely.

At 3:46 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

I think I suffer from the opposite of depression. The one time I thought I might be depressed I went to a counselor (prompted mainly because I wanted to withdraw from a university course without failing - I wanted a medical excuse), and told him I was having trouble getting out of bed or concentrating on my lectures. He asked me what was happening in my life. I told him. He listened. Finally I asked, "Am I depressed? Or am I going mad? It sort of feels like madness."

He thought for a moment then said, "No, you're not depressed or going mad. You're reacting in the way any healthy person would react to the mad things that are heppening to you. You're doing just fine. That will be $100."

Well, he didn't QUITE put it like that, but more or less. It was very reassuring. I went straight back to being unreasonably cheerful, which is my normal, irritating condition.

I do tend to worry irrationally, though. I am a Samurai Worrier. In other words, worrying about being depressed or mad was the problem, not actual depression or madness.

I am also very fond of sparrows. I had a pet sparrow when I was seven, raised carefully from when it was an ugly, naked, veiny little ball (eew!) with a gaping beak. It became a great friend, and when it finally became independent it would still visit through the kitchen window, bringing all its friends, who pooped so much on the windowsill above the sink where we fed them we ended up building a bird table outside instead. But my sparrow would still come in for baths - you cupped your hands under the dribbling tap and it would hop in and shower water everywhere enthusiastically. METCHA cute.

I will keep an eye out for the book. It has gone on my list of "books to buy when I have some space after getting rid of the ten cartons of read books I have stacked up here."

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Kate the Peon said...

Doesn't surprise me that I found my way to this post. I'll look for the book.

And Z, that's exactly how I feel - I so badly want it (depression) to end, but not my life.

Thanks for the post, TH.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger mellancollyeyes said...

Who knows what the appeal is for sadness and writing...maybe it's therapeutic? (it is for me, at least). Or maybe they just want someone to tell them it's all going to be ok...?

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Leese said...

I suffer from depression as well, but may not be so bad as to need pills.
I think blogging attracts the depressed because it is therapeutic. I know that it was for me. Blogging helped me cope when my husband lost his job of almost seven years almost a year ago. He was only jobless for 24 hours, luckily he found another job right away, but the feeling of betrayal and sadness lasted for months.
I wasn't allowed to be depressed with him. I'm the mom and I need to be strong for the whole family. Blogging allowed me to be sad and provided an outlet.
And that's just the thing. Blogging is an outlet for feelings I can't express in real life. On top of sadness caused by day-to-day occurrences, there's this thing called hormonal imbalance that I seem to suffer from once in a while. Motherhood doesn't allow for downtime. I always have to be perky and happy even when I just had a shitty day. Blogging helps relieve that for me.
Thanks for the reading recommendation. I'll check it out.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

I was mildly depressed throughout my adolescence, but was due more to circumstance. My parents were insanely strict to the point of not letting me spend the night at a friend's house because the world might end and we all had to be together.

Then my father died and I wished I could die for the longest time because we had no money. I was 16 and working 2 jobs. I didn't go to school, and it was generally a living hell.

I finally snapped out of it but it took years and years and Jethro and babies.

I don't think it was a chemical depression, though. But I have no doubt I would have been prescribed all kinds of little pills had I gone to a psychiatrist.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Allie#3ga said...

therapy and medication is a wonderful combo for a happy life ... and once you no longer need the meds - yay for you ... and if you always need the meds - yay for you ... cause you're doing something about your illness - you've taken control. good for you.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Heather said...

I don't suffer from depression. i suffer from other people's depression, and various other psychological disorders. I'm like a magnet. It's okay, though, because I find it all so fascinating. I want you all to know that I'm psychoanalyzing each of your comments RIGHT NOW. I can't help; it's a reflex.

Zelda- THANK YOU for recognizing the difference between situational and clinical depression. THANK YOU for learning to handle things without medication. And THANK YOU for being so freaking awesome.

Alli- THANK YOU for acknowledging the necessary pairing of medication with therapy. And you're freaking awesome as well.

And of course blogging draws people with problems because writing is therapeutic! Talk about stating the obvious. It's a place where you can truly be yourself and be anonymous at the same time. Unfortunately, the anonymity thing never worked for me, and all blogging brings me these days is a constant condition of being pissed off.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

Overprescription is going to do a lot of damage over time. I know it sounds like a kooky chiropracter thing to say, but our diet can affect us adversely. Sometimes something as simple as a change in diet can affect depression. Other times it is more serious. But I really believe anti-depressants are overprescribed, particularly because the side effects are so damaging.

And Heather, you're freakin' awesome yourself. THANK YOU for the nice thoughts.

At 1:00 AM, Blogger Jay said...

i started blogging because i thought others should know what kind of people are managing their money. then it became all about me. ;)

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Kate the Peon said...

Z: That's it exactly, for me anyway. I so want the depression to end - not my life, just the miserableness of it. I'm glad I'm not alone. Not because I want others to feel as badly as I do, but because it means I'm not crazy. :)

At 5:30 PM, Blogger me said...

I find myself somewhat gay, rather than sad, on the inside. Not that there's anything wrong with sadness or the D word... I find that my state of gayness directly relates to the number of blogs (using the "next blog" link) that I read. Reading too many bad blogs can kill a good state of mind, if not render it utterly defenseless.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Zelda said...

There is a whole lot that is wrong with sadness and the D word. We should all be gay on the inside. Just not too gay, or the human race would end.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger christ*el #3tx said...

i got a cure for seasonal depression around wintertime.

PUMP everyone you know full of eggnog. that way their ass weighs 40 more pounds than yours. and then you can at least laugh that your friends are fatter than you.

this also works in the summer... if you can somehow figure out a way to preserve the eggnog and turn it into a mai tai.


Post a Comment

<< Home