Rethinking depression

there is no such thing as a monolithic state called depression

I’m reposting this commentary and collection. I’ve added to both the commentary and the link collection since it was last posted. See also: The Chemical Imbalance Myth takes a big public fall

People often want to believe that depression has some distinct pathology. It does not. Clinical depression is very much a garbage pail term for feeling shitty and that may manifest in a large number of ways and have many different combinations of etiologies.

This was a popular status update on Facebook:

click for photo credit
click for photo credit

Depression is always a mixture of many things…there is no such thing as a monolithic state called depression…the fact that people imagine that is the case, is a problem.

The biggest reason it’s a problem is because psychiatry did a criminal disservice when it created the myth of the chemical imbalance. At best the chemical imbalance theory is a gross reductionism. At worst, people, having been misguided to take drugs that do nothing towards healing their body/minds. While on occasion some people do find some relief the fact remains that these medications can instead gravely harm people and often do. This fact is largely denied by established psychiatry even though there is a lot of documentation now that establishes it as fact. See: What your MD should tell you about SSRI antidepressants

Depression also often contains many different feelings. Using a term like “clinical depression” obfuscates the reality. It can be: despair, loneliness, helplessness, melancholy, pain, anguish, discouragement, misery, sorrow, wretchedness, shame…

It can also be experienced as complete and total numbness. No conscious sense of any feeling at all. An internal deadness. The term depression obfuscates and distances in this way.

From another Facebook status update:

Call depression what it really is: Despair, loneliness, helplessness, melancholy, pain, anguish, discouragement, misery, sorrow, wretchedness, shame…

The term depression obfuscates and distances…it’s meaningless

My husband read that and shared this:

this is what William Styron wrote about the word “depression“:

“for over seventy-five years the word has slithered innocuously through the language like a slug, leaving little trace of its intrinsic malevolence and preventing, by its very insipidity, a general awareness of the horrible intensity of the disease when out of control.”  (from Vanity Fair, Darkness Visible)

Here William Styron further expresses his experience:

darkWhat I had begun to discover is that, mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain. But it is not an immediately identifiable pain, like that of a broken limb. It may be more accurate to say that despair, owing to some evil trick played upon the sick brain by the inhabiting psyche, comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room. And because no breeze stirs this caldron, because there is no escape from this smothering confinement, it is entirely natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion.  – from Darkness Visible

William Styron also speculates in that piece that his depression was made far more virulent by the psychiatric drugs he was prescribed for sleep. Benzodiazepines are, indeed, notorious for creating dark hell zones.

To actually use descriptive terms makes it real. It makes it human. Depression is a clinical term that does nothing but distance us from the pain of others.

Here is a list of a few articles and posts on Beyond Meds that might help one consider what is called depression in different ways, because it is not just one thing. It’s always a combination of many things in the life of every individual who gets the label. This is true of all psych diagnosis, actually.

newer first:

And new posts that have been added:

Also Everything matters and now the extended version: Nature vs nurture, biological vs. psychological: how about both/and rather than either/or

See also: Healing trauma links

*it is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care.  Really all doctors should always be willing to do this as we are all individuals and need to be treated as such. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up

For a multitude of ideas about how to create a life filled with safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page.  

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters