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Depression: The Imaginary Disease

June 5, 2017

chris-cornell-dead.jpgThe morning I woke up and heard Chris Cornell was gone, I felt an instant wave of shock followed by a deep sadness. I didn’t know him, in the proper sense, but I felt like I knew him. All those times he sung to me, with that sultry, sexy voice, with lyrics that spoke to my soul, it also felt like he knew me.

In the days since, I’ve seen a bevy of “open letters” aimed at those living with depression. My first thought is how presumptuous these letters seem. You cannot know what is in another’s mind or heart – even when you know them intimately. Think of all the times you’ve had a dark thought that you never shared with another soul for fear of the repercussions of doing so.

Among all these “letters”, there’s still something we’re not talking about. Let’s talk about it now. When you tell someone with depression to stick around one more day because there’s wonderful things in life, like ice cream, sunsets, days with family and friends; or when you say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem (it’s selfish!); or when you urge someone to just get a script to feel better so they can be here a little longer for you… to someone enduring, deep, all-encompassing pain, you seem like a self-righteous ass who doesn’t have the slightest clue as to what depression feels like.

Depressed people like ice cream, sunsets, and days with family and friends. Those things are fabulous. And I guarantee they’ve experienced those things. But the pain they feel is deeper than that. So deep, in fact, they’d give up another scoop of cookies ‘n cream, the most gorgeous sunset over a calm ocean, or even one more day with those they love the most, just to be free of that overwhelming pain that embodies every breath they take.

And the majority of depressed people have tried all the meds available. Some of those meds remove all emotions. They make you feel like a walking zombie, but with that nagging notion that you should be feeling something about the things going on around you, but you can’t. To an artist who relies on emotion to create, that equates to sitting on death row awaiting your turn in the chair.

If you read the fine print on those miracle drugs, most list suicidal ideations as a side effect. We don’t accept diabetes medications that increase blood sugar. We don’t accept high blood pressure medications that increase blood pressure. We don’t accept chemotherapy that causes cancer. So tell me, why in the fuck, does the FDA give approval to a depression drug that has suicidal tendencies as a side effect? Perhaps even with all the medical innovations we have, still in 2017, we don’t see mental illness as a true medical condition.

If I had incurable cancer, would you still beg me to stick around one more day amidst unbearable suffering so you could have one more day with me? If I were in a diabetic coma would you tell me to wake up? If I had a brain aneurysm and was completely paralyzed and being kept alive through an oxygen tube and feeding tube would you tell me to hang on for a beautiful sunset?

No? Then quit saying that to the people you love who have depression. Just because it occurs in the brain doesn’t mean it’s something they can snap out of. The brain is the most complicated of all the human organs. If you have a heart defect, there’s a surgery for that. Your kidney quits working? They can replace that with a donor kidney.  Basically, you can ruin every organ in your body and they’ve got some kind of remedy for that. But they can’t replace a defective brain.

Your depressed loved one is still here because they AREN’T selfish. Don’t demean them by inferring anything else. Listen, I’m not going to even pretend to know the answer to this problem. You shouldn’t either.

Love your people while you have them. Cherish every moment you have with them. Accept when they have to leave. And honor them when they are gone.

 

 

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