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Posts tagged "depression"

Aug 22, 2014
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Humor is an antidote to — or at least an analgesic for — a condition we’re all suffering from. I would call this condition clarity, not depression; humor and depression are two different, but not mutually exclusive, responses to it. I know we’re told to regard depression as a disease, its victims no different from people who succumb to cancer or diabetes. But because it’s a disease whose symptoms take the shape of ideas, it can get hard to parse out pathology from worldview. The Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert once told me that “there are people who have no delusions; they’re called clinically depressed.” Depression’s insights aren’t necessarily invalid; they’re just not helpful. Depression uses clarity as an instrument of torture; humor uses it as a setup. Comedy tells us, “But wait — that’s not the good part.” Depression condemns the world, and us, as hateful; laughter is a way of forgiving it, and ourselves, for being so.
— Tim Kreider on the death of Robin Williams

Aug 19, 2014
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This is the argument that I always feel like never gets as much traction as the ‘tortured artist’ argument, [which] is that artists actually have it a little easier because everybody fucking suffers but artists have something to do with it.

Aug 15, 2014
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Because we are laughed at, I don’t think people really understand how essential [comedians] are to their sanity. If it weren’t for the brief respite we give the world with our foolishness, the world would see mass suicide in numbers that compare favorably with the death rate of the lemmings. I’m sure most of you have heard the story of the man who, desperately ill, goes to an analyst and tells the doctor that he has lost his desire to live and that is seriously considering suicide. The doctor listens to his tale of melancholia and then tells the patient that what he needs is a good belly laugh. He then advises the unhappy man to go to the circus that night and spend the evening laughing at Grock, the world’s funniest clown. The doctor sums it up, “After you have seen Grock, I am sure you will be much happier.” The patient rises to his feet, looks sadly at the doctor, turns and ambles toward the door. As he starts to leave the doctor says, “By the way, what is your name?” The man turns and regards the analyst with sorrowful eyes. “I am Grock.”
— Groucho Marx, Groucho And Me

Aug 12, 2014
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William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Last night @craigmod tweeted:


  If you cannot begin to empathize with someone taking their own life, I suggest reading Darkness Visible… Styron’s book is only 80 pages. Truly an important read


I picked it up last night and finished it today. Some bits, below.

On the inadequacy of the word “depression”:


  When I was first aware that I had been laid low by the disease, I felt a need, among other things, to register a strong protest against the word “depression.” Depression, most people know, used to be termed “melancholia,” a word which appears in English as the year 1303 and crops up more than once in Chaucer, who in his usade seemed to be aware of its pathological nuances. “Melancholia” would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a blank tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness.


How part of the problem with depression is that it’s somewhat beyond description, and almost impossible to fathom for those of us who haven’t experienced it:


  Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self—to the mediating intellect—as to verge close to being beyond description… it has to be emphasized that if the pain were readily describable most of the countless sufferers from this ancient affliction would have been able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones (even their physicians) some of the actual dimensions of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking; such incomprehension has usually been due not to a failure of sympathy but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience.


Styron, however, does what he can to describe it to us:


  The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come — not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity- but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.


Recommended.

William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Last night @craigmod tweeted:

If you cannot begin to empathize with someone taking their own life, I suggest reading Darkness Visible… Styron’s book is only 80 pages. Truly an important read

I picked it up last night and finished it today. Some bits, below.

On the inadequacy of the word “depression”:

When I was first aware that I had been laid low by the disease, I felt a need, among other things, to register a strong protest against the word “depression.” Depression, most people know, used to be termed “melancholia,” a word which appears in English as the year 1303 and crops up more than once in Chaucer, who in his usade seemed to be aware of its pathological nuances. “Melancholia” would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a blank tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness.

How part of the problem with depression is that it’s somewhat beyond description, and almost impossible to fathom for those of us who haven’t experienced it:

Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self—to the mediating intellect—as to verge close to being beyond description… it has to be emphasized that if the pain were readily describable most of the countless sufferers from this ancient affliction would have been able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones (even their physicians) some of the actual dimensions of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking; such incomprehension has usually been due not to a failure of sympathy but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience.

Styron, however, does what he can to describe it to us:

The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come — not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity- but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.

Recommended.

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From Watchmen

Aug 11, 2014
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The core of all humor, the reason for it all, is unhappiness.

Aug 10, 2014
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Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

I picked this up after reading Josh Shenk’s newest book, Powers Of Two. I really didn’t know much of anything about Lincoln before I started it. Coming away from this book, it strikes me just how unlikely a president he was, and how foreign he seems to modern presidents: he was self-educated, never went to college, never joined a church, had crippling depression, loved poetry and telling stories and laughing at his own jokes, etc. Some bits, below.

He read so much his father beat him for neglecting the farm work:


  “Abe read all the books he could lay his hands on,” said his stepmother. “And when he came across a passage that struck him he would write it down… then he would re-write it — look at it — repeat it.” But at some point Tom Lincoln began to oppose the extent of his son’s studies. Abraham sometimes neglected his farm work by reading. Tom would beat him for this…


He read so much people thought he was lazy:


  To men who had been born and expected to die on farms, book learning had limited value…. So when this boy slipped away from feeding livestock and splitting logs to write poetry and read stories, people thought him lazy. “Lincoln was lazy — a very lazy man,” remembered his cousin Dennis Hanks. “He was always reading — scribbling — writing — ciphering — writing poetry…”


How the rise of “individualism” gave rise to the culture of self-improvement and self-help:


  At the same time that “self-made” entered the nation’s lexicon, so did the notion of abject failure. Once reserved to describe a discrete financial episode — “I made a failure,” a merchant would say after losing his shop — “failure” in antebellum America became a matter of identity, describing not an event but a person. As the historian Scott Sandage explains in Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, the phrase “I feel like a failure” comes to us so naturally today “that we forget it is a figure of speech: the language of business applied to the soul.”


The story of his wedding day:


  A boy who saw Lincoln dressing for his wedding asked him where he was going. Lincoln answered, “To Hell, I suppose.”


Filed under: my reading year 2014

Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

I picked this up after reading Josh Shenk’s newest book, Powers Of Two. I really didn’t know much of anything about Lincoln before I started it. Coming away from this book, it strikes me just how unlikely a president he was, and how foreign he seems to modern presidents: he was self-educated, never went to college, never joined a church, had crippling depression, loved poetry and telling stories and laughing at his own jokes, etc. Some bits, below.

He read so much his father beat him for neglecting the farm work:

“Abe read all the books he could lay his hands on,” said his stepmother. “And when he came across a passage that struck him he would write it down… then he would re-write it — look at it — repeat it.” But at some point Tom Lincoln began to oppose the extent of his son’s studies. Abraham sometimes neglected his farm work by reading. Tom would beat him for this…

He read so much people thought he was lazy:

To men who had been born and expected to die on farms, book learning had limited value…. So when this boy slipped away from feeding livestock and splitting logs to write poetry and read stories, people thought him lazy. “Lincoln was lazy — a very lazy man,” remembered his cousin Dennis Hanks. “He was always reading — scribbling — writing — ciphering — writing poetry…”

How the rise of “individualism” gave rise to the culture of self-improvement and self-help:

At the same time that “self-made” entered the nation’s lexicon, so did the notion of abject failure. Once reserved to describe a discrete financial episode — “I made a failure,” a merchant would say after losing his shop — “failure” in antebellum America became a matter of identity, describing not an event but a person. As the historian Scott Sandage explains in Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, the phrase “I feel like a failure” comes to us so naturally today “that we forget it is a figure of speech: the language of business applied to the soul.”

The story of his wedding day:

A boy who saw Lincoln dressing for his wedding asked him where he was going. Lincoln answered, “To Hell, I suppose.”

Filed under: my reading year 2014

May 31, 2014
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Peanuts, March 27, 1959

The first appearance of Lucy’s psychiatry booth. From The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 (Vol. 5)

Peanuts, March 27, 1959

The first appearance of Lucy’s psychiatry booth. From The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 (Vol. 5)

May 25, 2012
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Jul 15, 2011
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