The Perversity of Depression, Neat Odds and Ends from Cool Blogs, Yet Another Drug to Ask Your Doctor About

March 9, 2010 at 3:38 am | Posted in Links, The Heath Care System | 2 Comments

Sprouting plant

Here I go again, hoping away.

The author of If You’re Going Through Hell Keep Going is on to something in this short post about the comfort of depression. At the end of a hard day — or, really, any day at all — there’s nothing I like more than snuggling under the quilt my mom made me and playing rain noises on my iPhone. My bed is a lovely place to be. My head, not so much.

Gretchen Rubin has compiled a list of the top 10 myths about happiness on her blog about The Happiness Project.

Doesn’t the word “happiness” start to look strange if you study it?

Another thing: I find it hard to read the excellent blog The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive because the author is so damn perceptive. Here she publishes two pieces that weren’t originally intended as blog entries. In the first, she reflects on the difficulties of being on the “other side of the bedside divide” — that is, on being a mourner or comforter rather than a sufferer. She gives some personal history in the second short essay, and muses on the significance of getting a diagnosis after years of considering herself “mental” (a nice British word) rather than mentally ill. The life she’s living is not at all the life she imagined for herself.

A year or so ago, yoga played a huge role in my life. My home practice was almost bizarrely advanced, and I dreamed of becoming a certified yoga instructor so that I could bring the delights of a regular practice to my sedentary colleagues. One bright morning, though, I stopped, probably because I was working 12 hours a day and spending my remaining waking hours in the company of a boyfriend whom I loved deeply.

Of course, it’s not unusual to give up important disciplines when working this hard. This time around, though, my avoidance of a deeply satisfying process gradually blossomed into a bitter and totally irrational conviction that I couldn’t do yoga no matter how much I might enjoy it. I would consider going to a class or simply starting out with a sun salutation or six, and I would feel, not my usual laziness, but a perverse certainty that yoga was now somehow beyond my power; I’ve noticed this problem in connection with other pastimes that bring me happiness, and I’m not sure what to make of it. I’ve puzzled and puzzled, but I can’t figure out why I began to think, not that I didn’t want to do yoga, but that I literally could not do it. The thought made me sad, but I really had become certain that a beloved activity was beyond my power. That’s the perversity of depression, folks, and it’s discouraging as hell.

Naturally I always knew that I could do it if someone held a gun to my head, and I did recently overcome this bizarre reluctance, mostly because I’d developed a chronic backache that contributed to my crappy mood. The minute I unrolled my yoga mat and dropped into a forward fold my body yelped, Good Lord, this feels wonderful! Painful, but wonderful! My whole body ached for three days after I performed the mildest of routines, but I broke through my mental block effortlessly and became hooked on yoga euphoria again.

This depressive perversity has taken over other aspects of my life — praying the Liturgy of the Hours comes to mind — and I have no idea where it comes from or how to counter it. It may be that understanding is the booby prize; despite what they teach you in therapy, merely having insight into a problem does not much help me to change. Insight is always very nice, but it’s no substitute for judgment, and I return to William Styron’s all-too-accurate observation: When you’re depressed, you wouldn’t creep three steps to pick a pill that might cure you entirely. This drives me and others batshit — it’s insidious, dangerous, and true without a doubt. In consequence, my capacity for suffering far outweighs my ability to help myself.

Is this another one of those entirely normal aspects of the human condition that seems unprecedented to me? Please do comment.

Another sign of hope returning: My admittedly silly fantasy of learning Latin. Talk about perverse — I’m more or less accomplished in three languages besides my native tongue, but nothing will do for me but to read Ovid and Augustine in the original. I’ve hired a tutor and bought armloads of textbooks even though I know that it’s unlikely that I will follow through. So, another truism about the human condition: As Alexander Pope observed, hope springs eternal in the human breast. (The brilliant literary critic Murray Krieger (he of the hilarious and touching baby blue polyester suits) used to tell us that just about every threadbare English expression can be traced back to one of those three sources. I would add a more recent fourth: Winston Churchill.) A part of me knows that I’m almost certain to disappoint myself again, but, darn it, I’m driven to try.

Another one of those almost entirely irrelevant observations that I’m sure you’ve all come to love: The Eyes of Stanley Pain is the best album in the entire world, and today I feel compelled to share it. I especially recommend “Suni C” and “Base Metal.” The lyrics to the former both frighten and move me — they seem strengely manic-y. Here’s the matching video:

And here’s the video for “Base Metal”:

This song makes me profoundly happy, perhaps because of the looped background sound of rain.

One last note: Alarmingly, the new shrink I tried had stocked his waiting room with brochures hyping Concerta, a drug intended to “manage the challenges of ADHD.” Get a load of these quiz questions:

1. How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done?

2. How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization?

3. How often do you have trouble remembering appointments or obligations?

4. When you have a task that requires a lot of thought, how long do you avoid or delay getting started

And so forth. For the whole quiz in all of its delicious absurdity, click here. I’ve created a shorter version:

1. Do you have a pulse?

2. Do you have health insurance?

You’d better ask your doctor about ADHD quick, before you fall behind in the competitive global marketplace. Never mind the following black box warning: “Concerta should be given cautiously to patients with a history of drug dependence or alcoholism. Chronic abusive use can lead to marked tolerance and psychological dependence, with varying degrees of abnormal behavior.” What do you want to bet that bored lab monkeys self-administer this drug?

That’s enough for now. This is one of two draft posts that I’ve been avoiding for days, and I’m looking forward to hitting “Publish” though the writing continues to suck.

Love to all.


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  1. Mexico Cronicas…

    Yes, I’ ve done some amatuer poetry translations and the hardest part was always knowing when to take liberties and when to stay as literal as possible. It certainly wasn’ t easy and I was using languages (spanish and english) that have many cognates a…

  2. Thank you 🙂

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