I was kind of stewing around, trying to think of something to write about. Then I read Donna Cavanagh’s Curing the Blues, right here at https://humoroutcasts.com/2012/curing-the-blues/ . I said to myself, “Depression. Hmmm. Kathryn, if there is anything you know a lot about, it’s that. So write about it.”
“But chronic low-grade clinical depression isn’t funny,” I answered myself, “Especially when practically everyone in the family also has it. And Donna wasn’t writing about that kind of depression, anyway.”
“So make it funny,” I said. “Real humorists make people laugh at things that aren’t funny. That’s what separates the funny people from the sourpusses. You can do it, lady!”
So here I am, having gotten a pep talk from myself. You are reading the result right now.
The Depressed Optimist
The thing about chronic clinical depression is that it doesn’t necessarily have much to do with what is happening in our lives. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. This means that even if we won the lottery, the sexiest guy in the neighborhood asked us out and one of our kids brought home a report card with straight A’s we’d still feel miserable. We get so used to feeling lousy all the time that we are pleasantly shocked when the depression lifts for a while. It always comes back, though. This is true even for those of us who are cockeyed optimists by nature. The optimist in us makes us see the good in everything, even while our brains are operating with some faulty fuel pumps and sending the wrong signals.
“Hey, Kathy! I hear your story has just been accepted for publication by The New Yorker!”
“Yeah, isn’t that great? One of my dreams has come true! I’m sorry, though, but I have to hang up now so I can bury my head under a blanket and not talk to anyone for the rest of my life.”
Well-Meaning Friends and Family
We will never actually have the above conversation, because we are too busy trying to act like we are okay when we aren’t. This is because, if we ever let our guard down and admit to a normal person that we suffer from clinical depression, we are likely to get one of the following reactions:
“What do YOU have to be depressed about?”
“I think you’re just run down. You do look a little peaked.”
“You need to talk to a priest.”
“Have you tried Super Blue-Green Algae? It does wonders.”
“Have you tried yoga with meditation and chanting?”
“You don’t eat the right foods. You need to put more happy foods into your diet.”
The worst of this bunch are the people who try to cheer us up. This is especially obnoxious when they try to make us feel better by reminding us of all the blessings in our lives. As I mentioned earlier, we already know about those blessings. Reminding us of them isn’t going to snap us out of depression; it will just make us feel guilty for not being able to snap out of depression just because our lives are so wonderful. Adding guilt to depression is a bad idea. It just makes us feel like staying in bed and never coming out
Eventually, some of us get tired of always feeling like shit for no reason, so we get psychiatric help. For chronic depression sufferers, this usually means going on some kind of antidepressant medication. Most of us choose not to share this good news with anyone outside our closest friends and family members, because we don’t want to be thought of as psychos, mainly because we are NOT psychos. We just need some minor adjustment in the wiring of our brain cells. Since we can’t do this just by wishing it, we take pills and hope that we will find the one that works on the first try.
There are some very intelligent questions that we should ask whenever a new medicine is prescribed, such as:
What are the side effects of this medication?
Will it interact with other medications I am taking for other problems?
Will my insurance pay for it?
Is there anything else that might work better, or are you (the doctor) getting kickbacks from the pharmaceutical company?
So what are the first questions that come into the mind of a depression sufferer when being prescribed a new antidepressant?
Is this going to make me dopey all day?
Is this going to make me gain weight?
Is this going to kill my sex drive?
Because let’s face it. The last thing that anyone wants is to be dopey, fat and hard to arouse. Fortunately for us, medical science has made great advances since the old days. Antidepressants can work so nicely that we can take them every day and nobody will know the difference except us, because we will actually begin to feel human, and our heads will no longer feel the need to be stuffed under blankets.