Andrew Solomon is a writer of politics, culture and psychology and is known for his 2001 book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, which won the 2001 National Book Award and more recently his 2012 book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.
In his talk Depression, the secret we share, Andrew talks about the darkest corners of his mind during the years he battled depression, which anyone suffering depression can relate too. This eye opening talk provides the thoughts that every depressive thinks, the feelings that we have all felt, and the agony that we have all lived with. Not only does Andrew provide depressives with the realisation that we are not alone and that what we are feeling and experiencing is not just us alone, he also provides those who know someone, whether it is family, a friend or colleague, the foundations to understanding depression and those who live with it.
Andrew explains of the exhaustion that comes from just doing the tiniest of things, eating, talking, showering, and those things that contribute to our basic survival. He describes how depression drives you into a mind set of doing less and feelings less. Andrew explains how anxiety is the feeling you get when you are falling and the ground is rushing towards you, the feeling of being afraid all the time but not knowing what it is your afraid of and how to feel and live like this is so incredibly unbearable.
When Andrew finally sought help, like many of us, he went through periods of emerging from the fog that is depression and relapsing back into it, and how treatment was something that is accepted as being forever. His experience showed how appalling the treatments were for depression, the thoughts that depressives go through within the treatment cycle are feeling, some far worse than others.
In his world wide study of depression, Andrew explored depression, what caused it, how some people are more resilient than others, and the mechanisms people use to survive depression.
One thing that I found I shared with Andrew’s experience was in researching depression he found that people treated him differently – they talked to him about their experience and the experience of others around them who had depression. Since I started writing I have found people who are complete strangers to me but do tell me about their experience of depression, while they can’t tell their loved ones, their friends or their colleagues, they can tell me because by me telling of my experience they feel the confidence to tell me, a stranger who wont tell others of their secret – having depression. Even people I have known for some time but have never confided in me about their depression now openly talk to me about their experience. Through writing I have not only helped my self but I have opened up some many channels of communication for people I don’t know and for people who I do know, to talk about their secret of depression. Finally we can start to take down our masks of secrecy.
One of the things within Andrew’s talk that I can take away from this, is that when you don’t think about depression and talk about depression you become enslaved by IT. By shutting depression out you strengthen it, while we hide from it, it continues to grow. It is those who can talk about, write about IT who do better because we are able to tolerate the fact that we have this illness and through this toleration we can achieve resilience. I was one of these people who hid from my depression, I didn’t talk about IT, I refused to acknowledge IT, while I spoke of IT to my GP that was it, for many years. Then for some reason something clicked and I started to write a blog, write about my experience and my life living with depression. I knew that people I would know would read it, I knew strangers would but what I wanted was for people to not understand me or my journey but understand their own experiences, their own life living with depression. I wanted those around depressives to get IT and most of all I wanted society to get IT so that we could live in a world free from the stigma that is attached to depression that creates a wealth of pain, discrimination and inequality. While I still have more bad days than good days, I have reached a point where I am comfortable with living like this, I would rather I didn’t have to but I have accepted that is how I will be forever. I recognise that I will have relapses, potentially more episodes and more stays in hospital.
A final quote from Andrew’s talk…..
”I have learned in my own depression how big an emotion can be, how it can be more real than facts, and I have found that experience has allowed me to experience positive emotion in a more intense and more focused way. The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and these days, my life is vital, even on the days when I’m sad. I think that while I hated being depressed and would hate to be depressed again, I’ve found a way to love my depression. I love it because it has forced me to find and cling to joy. I love it because each day I decide, sometimes gamely, and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living. And that, I think, is a highly privileged rapture…..”
If you want to view Andrew Solomon’s talk you can click here Depression, the secret we share.