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Depression without Reason - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Depression without Reason
Often people get depressed for obvious reasons. They have a horrible disease, they are destitute, a loved one dies, somebody is hurting them, they have little agency over their own life, they have bad tape in their head repeating self-abuse to them, they broke up with their higher power -- maybe even a combination of shitty things. It's easy to understand why those things are soul-crushing.


Other times people simply feel crushed for no discernible reason. This is maddening because if you can't find a cause, you are unlikely to fix the problem. Ever. Now, sometimes on closer examination it turns out that there is a hidden reason (suppressed memories of a horrible childhood, unexamined personal mistakes, etc.) which can be found and worked through. Sometimes there is a physical aspect where the biochemistry goes out of whack, and maybe it can be discovered and fixed with better living through chemistry. But sometimes people are just miserable, just ... because. That really sucks.

This matters because different types of depression respond to different treatments. If you are depressed because there is a serious problem in your life -- like abuse or poverty -- then chances are you're not going to stop being depressed until your circumstances change. For much the same reason a wound will not heal until you take the knife out of it, and taking pills to make the pain go away may make it more bearable but will not stop you from quietly bleeding to death. If your body is out of whack, talking about it probably will not fix the problem; pills or diet or exercise or some other physical method usually works better. If your spiritual life has fallen apart, you need to see a priest/ess about that, not a doctor who knows bupkis about souls. If you have a head full of vicious things people said to you growing up, or a hideous secret you were ordered to keep, that's the kind of thing talking can really help with.

If you're sad for no identifiable reason, alas, there isn't much anyone has figured out to fix that. But some people in that situation find that antidepressants make them feel at least a little less awful, or that having someone to talk with is better than being alone. Or maybe it's just a relief to have somebody acknowledge, "Yep, that is a giant soul-crushing weight sitting on your chest. Wow, that sucks."

Depression isn't all one thing. It's a whole cluster of things, some of which are related, others not so much. You can't fix it until you know what's going on. It's worth trying to fix, because sometimes it really can be fixed, and other times it can at least be ameliorated somewhat. But I really liked that entry above because it does a great job of describing what it's like to deal with inexplicable depression, when none of the attempted solutions work.

Know the signs of depression, how to cope with depression, and how to help a depressed person.
 

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Comments
From: rhodielady_47 Date: August 12th, 2014 10:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Excellent journal entry.
:)
pocketnaomi From: pocketnaomi Date: August 12th, 2014 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really love the phrase, "broke up with their higher power." It captures a whole complex set of emotional and spiritual tangles succinctly and beautifully. And with whimsy, which is not a flavor often associated with talking about higher powers, and which I think should be used more in serious contexts.

Edited at 2014-08-12 03:34 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 12th, 2014 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

This is something I've seen before, in many iterations. I'm most prone to use it when someone has either concluded that their childhood faith doesn't meet their needs, or had a severe experience that makes them choose to leave their faith. It's really a lot like a romantic breakup. Of course there are other kinds of spiritual problem somebody can have, too. They all need a support person who understands spiritual concerns. A few counselors are bifocal and deal with spiritual as well as mental or emotional problems, and that's terrific if you can find one.
pocketnaomi From: pocketnaomi Date: August 12th, 2014 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

It's definitely terrific if you can find someone who deals with both types of problems equally (or even adequately) well. Unfortunately, too many "spiritual counselors" set themselves up as being able to handle emotional or mental problems also, except they don't offer mental/emotions solutions to those. They offer spiritual solutions, which are necessary for spiritual problems, but which suck as solutions to mental or emotional problems.

And that's presuming they're at least honest and trying their best. When they aren't can simply be a cover for spiritual abuse, in which the counselor uses spiritual authority to demand that their clients handle their mental or emotional problems the spiritual counselor's way, whether or not this works for the client, or is even actively harmful to the client.

All things considered, I try to keep my spiritual counselors and my mental or emotional counselors separate. Because yeah, it can be great when you find somebody who's good at both, but it is far more frequent that you find someone who's good at one (either one) but sucks at the other, even when they're willing to attempt it anyway.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 12th, 2014 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>> It's definitely terrific if you can find someone who deals with both types of problems equally (or even adequately) well. <<

Agreed.

>> Unfortunately, too many "spiritual counselors" set themselves up as being able to handle emotional or mental problems also, except they don't offer mental/emotions solutions to those. They offer spiritual solutions, which are necessary for spiritual problems, but which suck as solutions to mental or emotional problems. <<

This is a problem. Conversely, it is also a problem when people in the mental health care industry do the opposite, attempting to treat spiritual problems with mental/emotional techniques which do not work, and worse, they may attempt to separate someone from their spirituality thus causing even more harm.

Ideally, someone who is treating both kinds of problems should have training for both. In practice, a lot of bifocal practitioners are doing what I've done: they picked up the second half of techniques through on-the-job training, just learning it because people kept coming to them with those kinds of issues. So they looked up how to fix that and/or used trial and error to learn how.

>> And that's presuming they're at least honest and trying their best. When they aren't can simply be a cover for spiritual abuse, in which the counselor uses spiritual authority to demand that their clients handle their mental or emotional problems the spiritual counselor's way, whether or not this works for the client, or is even actively harmful to the client. <<

Agreed.

>> All things considered, I try to keep my spiritual counselors and my mental or emotional counselors separate. Because yeah, it can be great when you find somebody who's good at both, but it is far more frequent that you find someone who's good at one (either one) but sucks at the other, even when they're willing to attempt it anyway. <<

This works great if you have two separate problems, or one problem with very different aspects. (Imagine if you were in a car wreck and had broken one arm with a gash on the other. Two doctors, no problem.) It generally does not work when you have one problem presenting multiple bad effects right on top of each other. (Imagine if you had a gash with a broken bone underneath it.) In that case, treating only one part of the injury can make the other worse; they have to be considered together in order to be treated effectively. This is a leading reason why some people don't find health care effective, because most providers are trained to do one thing and one thing ONLY.
pocketnaomi From: pocketnaomi Date: August 12th, 2014 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

I agree that it can do just as much damage when people who are trained solely in mental/emotional care try to blunder through handling a spiritual problem as the reverse. I have not personally seen as many mental/emotional care practitioners try to do this, though I know there are some. Mostly, my impressions it that when they do try, it's because they don't really believe that spiritual problems exist... only mental/emotional ones which happen to be on the subject of spirituality, just like you can have emotional problems on the subject of relationships, or emotional problems on the subject of career, or emotional problems on the subject of physical health. In all those cases, as in the case of spirituality, it is often beneficial to seek out someone who specializes in the subject matter under discussion -- the problems I tend to see in mental/emotional counselors is when they start thinking that it's not really needed for their clients to seek our specialists in the subject matter under discussion; they can (they think) fix the problem solely by dealing with the client's feelings directly. And you can't always do that. Sometimes you have to fix the broken bone underneath before the gash will heal.

I see dramatically more spiritual counselors who screw people up by having their own agenda than emotional counselors. Usually in the latter's case, they don't really have an agenda; they're just blundering. In the case of the spiritual counselor, though.... hoo-boy, they're all too likely to care vastly more whether their OWN agenda is met than about whether their client actually ends up feeling better or not. This is, I think, a significant difference, because blunderers can be taught. People with a deliberate intention to impose their own agenda won't allow themselves to learn anything which might impinge on that agenda, even if someone tries to teach them.

This is why I tend to distrust spiritual counselors in general. That's not a universal distrust -- there have been a few who earned their way into my "Team Me" by sheer wonderfulness. But they are rare. The most recent one to be relevant to me is on the opposite coast (and would be astonished to think of himself as a spiritual counselor; he's got a totally different job, that's simply the role has has played in my life). The other one I would still trust if he were around is dead. There are a few more I have trusted at times, and been proven grossly wrong about whether they were worthy of that trust.

That's the sum total of spiritual counselors, amateur or professional, whom I have ever allowed into my life. I don't say I'd be unwilling ever to do so again, under the right circumstances, but I'd need to find someone pretty terrific. Otherwise I personally feel I'd be best off clenching my jaw and setting the bone myself; then going to the doctor for the pain and the gash over it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 25th, 2014 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>> I have not personally seen as many mental/emotional care practitioners try to do this, though I know there are some. <<

In my observation, they are more likely to A) claim that religion is a crutch and people shouldn't use it, or B) insist that spiritual problems are "really" emotional/psychological problems which can only be treated by mental health care professionals. Neither of these is helpful to someone with spiritual problems.

>> it is often beneficial to seek out someone who specializes in the subject matter under discussion <<

Often true.

>> I see dramatically more spiritual counselors who screw people up by having their own agenda than emotional counselors. <<

This matches my observation that the spiritual care field is filled with a lot of outright nutjobs.

>> Otherwise I personally feel I'd be best off clenching my jaw and setting the bone myself; then going to the doctor for the pain and the gash over it. <<

I have found this true of many fields.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 13th, 2014 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
If this is inspired by Robin Williams's suicide, two points:

1. He was bipolar, which is a whole other can of worms than mere depression.

2. I read that depression makes people have less control over how readily they laugh, and over how much they laugh, so the people who laugh the most frequently are often the ones in the most pain. And from experience, I can say that one way of dealing with depression is to make yourself and others laugh; laughter is the best medicine, even if sometimes all it can do is dull the pain for a while. And so it seems that Robin Williams did the same thing, of making himself and others laugh, to dull the pain.
This makes sense for another reason as well; scientists think laughter originally evolved among social apes as a way of defusing tension.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 13th, 2014 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

I know the feeling of apathy well. I've had long experience with it, back when I was even poorer than I am now, from the constant stress of being so poor I had to steal toilet paper from public restrooms because I couldn't even afford toilet paper, and you can't get basic amenities like that on food stamps. (The food boxes place sometimes has it, but not often. Now that I have spare money for stuff, I intend on buying a fuckton of TP to give to the food boxes place.)

Only when my circumstances improved dramatically did the anti-depressants start to do more than bandage my apathy, and my feelings started to return. Which can be unpleasant sometimes. I'm not sad all the time, just somewhat depressed, but if I get to thinking too much about certain things...

The best was getting my ability to feel love back again. Especially when I got back a kind of romantic love I hadn't felt in years; when I first felt that gut-wrenching, breath-stopping twist that told me, for the first time in years, that I had fallen in love the way I used to do all the time, it felt amazing.

Of course, with that feeling comes the return of that feeling for people not in my life anymore, lost loves, missed opportunities. And so sometimes I would have those feelings and agonizing sorrow would rush in and I'd cry myself hoarse. But even that was kind of a relief; crying can be cathartic, especially if you haven't done it at all for years.

I like to think of depression as being in a spacecraft, and the door opens, sucking out the air. Now depending on how big your spacecraft and how big the air leak, it could take anywhere from months for the air to disappear, to it all rushing out in a matter of hours. And then when all the air is gone, apathy is the void inside. And if you're lucky, you got into your spacesuit in time, but that air will only last so long.

You can take steps to patch the hole(s), maybe find something that can act like making a pit stop at a space station for extra air. And even if you've sealed all the leaks and have air recycling systems going, you're still surrounded by void, and something could happen at any minute to start the process over again. But then, I think all of us are drifting in the void, and some people only lose air when some life event blasts a hole in their hull, but they patch it up in time and go on about their lives. While those of us with depression... a lot of us have been through so many battles with so many alien vessels and ion storms and whatnot, that there are leaks everywhere, and only several years or decades with no battles at all would be enough time to find all the leaks and repair them. And even then, the structural integrity is compromised. But of course life always has its battles, so healing is slow when it happens at all. And sometimes things in the ship malfunction and you go into battle mode when there's nothing out there, or something just settles the wrong way and causes an unanticipated collapse that has to be fixed. So the red alerts keep going off.

I think Robin Williams's ship just was so tired of the constant red alerts and battles and the continuing damage from a settling, ill-repaired ship that he felt adrift and was just like, "Fuck it" and hit the reactor overload button to self destruct.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 13th, 2014 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

That is an AWESOME metaphor. I am saving that alongside my "rope made of razorwire" metaphor to explain how depression can kill people.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 13th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

Thanks!

I am unfamiliar with "rope made of razor wire." I must have missed that bit.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 13th, 2014 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

Depression is like trying to hang on to a rope made of razorwire. Maybe you can hold on long enough to get your toes on a ledge. Maybe not. Some people can't take the pain and let go of the razorwire and fall to their deaths. Some people hold on, but eventually the razorwire cuts through their tendons and they fall to their deaths anyway.

What they really need is for someone to take hold of them and lift their weight off the razorwire.

If you're not doing that, you aren't helping. If you're piling on more weight, that actively makes matters worse.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 13th, 2014 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

I like that one. Mind if I share it on Tumblr, linking back to your comment?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 13th, 2014 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

Share and use. I make metaphors to improve communication.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 13th, 2014 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 13th, 2014 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Apathy sucks. Feelings suck. Everything sucks.

Thanks for the signal boost.
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