“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”
That line is from a TEDx Talk by Andrew Solomon about depression, and it addresses how people often confuse depression, grief, and sadness. It’s one of the many parts of Solomon’s talk that resonated with me and described aspects of my personal experience with depression.
I strongly encourage you to watch the video, which is about a half-hour long. Below the video, I’ve pointed out several of the points in video that I particularly liked or thought were important.
Depression can make doing ordinary things so difficult. Solomon talks about this early on in his talk, and I like how he makes it clear how debilitating it can be.
Depression is often cyclical. There are periods where you can be depressed and then (sometimes long) periods when you are aren’t. I’ve certainly experienced that, and like Solomon, I’ve found that I probably will always need treatment for it.
Depression sometimes comes with anxiety. It’s like a really terrible two for one deal, and like Solomon, I found that sometimes the anxiety is the worst part.
Taking medication doesn’t change who you are. The so called “happy pills” don’t really make you happy. They don’t change your underlying personality. I, for example, remain snarky regardless of how many medications or chemicals are in my system. Of course, how we treat depression is tied to our underlying cultural assumptions. I think that’s something that I need to take to heart more. And I should perhaps make more little things out of yarn (though maybe not the specific things he seems to be referring to in the video).
I also really like the section of Solomon’s talk about the effect depression has on your perceptions. There is this odd mix of accuracy and delusion that happens when you are depressed. I think it’s true that Depression Lies. Most of the horrible things that depression makes you think about yourself are lies. But there is also an odd truthfulness to it sometimes, and all in all, that makes it hard to navigate.
I think, however, that the most important point Solomon makes in his talk, is that we have to talk about depression. The secrecy around depression is frequently counterproductive and even downright harmful. As he says, “While you hide from it, it grows.”