Is Depression a Disease?


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“You Want To Lead a Joyous Life”

you want to be so happy, happy!

you want to lead a joyous life.

i know I’m rather sappy, sappy,

despite my gloom and endless strife.

the rules herein are silly, silly,

to write about your joyous life.

not all of us see glory, glory

most of us are crushed by life.

i thought that you were joking, joking

a call to preach out joyous hope.

but we are all so angry, angry

we dissolve in horror tropes.

so I won’t write you ‘happy, happy!’

i cannot lead your joyous life.

and while this might sound crappy, crappy

i will not lead your joyous life.

People are depressed all the time, every day, day after day after day.  Some people bring this on themselves, choosing a life of misery, finding joy in nothing due to their cynicism, sarcasm,  or many other dismissive behaviors whose outright goal is to diminish joy.  This, in itself, is not ‘depression,’ but merely an affectation, a personality flaw that aligns far closer with being an asshole, than with a clinical state.  But depression, the disorder of the mind that seems like you are unable to claw yourself out of a dark, dank, narrow hole–is this put upon as well?  Or is it real, a disease every bit as deadly as cancer?


All of us get sad.  This is a natural part of life and, in itself, not a disease.  As a matter of fact, being unhappy sometimes has a positive impact.  If we did not experience occasional sadness, there would be no perspective on joy.  All happiness, as a result, would grow flat, dull.  It would be everyday life.  There is nothing special about everyday life.


But there are a few of us who cannot control ourselves, and find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into a darkness that only gets further away from the light with every blink.  It is an interior affliction, or at least at first.  In the same way that people sometimes get carried away and cannot reign themselves in until going too far with their enthusiasm, eventually causing damage, the depressed cannot help themselves.  Every thought becomes not only self-directed, but exclusively selfish.  This can explain most suicides, a profoundly selfish act that is only about alleviating a wavering feeling of agony, ignoring the repercussions such an act might have on your survivors.  Perhaps the suicide believes that their family is better off without them (and this is probably true as often as it is a self-defeating lie).  Living with a depressed person certainly isn’t any fun.  Inevitably the frustration with being unable to bring a loved one joy grinds you down and you, too, just want to get away from it.


Depressed people get divorced rather often, more, even, than for the standard reasons of simply losing interest in your spouse.  They are also angry all the time, consumed by the frustration of their personal failures, so obsessed with both the possibility and subsequent realities of things not working out that, objectively, one must realize that they are responsible for causing most of their pain.


Okay, confession time: Any of my regular (or at least occasional) readers will not be surprised to hear that a number of doctors, both psychologists and psychiatrists, have diagnosed me with depression, as well as bipolar condition, coupled with some serious anxiety and PTSD.  I do not doubt that I have a number of behavioral and emotional problems.  But these titles, as descriptively valid as they might be, are not the same thing to every, or to any, person.  Many people use these diagnosis’s as an excuse for their terrible behavior, or for their selfishness, or to try and get out of trouble that they have caused.  Sometimes the declaration is valid, some uncontrolled mania overtaking the mind and wrecking havoc upon all those within range of the madness.  Sometimes they willfully cause accidents, or harm themselves for attention, hopefully sympathy, but anything to avoid the terminal loneliness that devours them.  Often their whole lives are a game of Russian roulette.


I have been a voluntary admission to hospitals twice for these sometimes overwhelming thoughts.  I am a roulette player, and more often than not you are going to lose.  But what I found in the hospital over both of these visits was, at the very least, a group of people that made me feel better about myself.  This goes beyond the genuine support and frequent sympathy of the fellow crazy people or junkies.  It is allowing yourself a chance to rest, and to pull yourself back together, and then realize just how much more fucked up many of these people are than yourself.


Many of the people were simply whiny sad sacks, not so much incapacitated as they are lost.  They do not understand what they are supposed to do with their lives and can only complain about missed opportunities.  Often these complaints turn into finger pointing, blaming anyone and everyone they can other than themselves for what they have become.  Sometimes, of course, among the abused and tormented, there is validity to this.  But using these conditions as a crutch to not have to take responsibility for your own life is the worst possible impact of mental illness.


You see it is nature and nurture, some people born with a cracked brain, while others are coached in how to lose themselves in the swirl of being.  Sometimes the people are truly sick, their minds becoming foreign entities that cause them to see and hear things that are not there, or to believe in secret plots that could not possibly have a place in reality.  Without betraying anyone (and of course I will not use names, or even genders), I would like to give two examples of this:


The first one was one of my temporary friends while on the inside.  They were an incredibly sad person.  Their marriage was in desperate crisis.  The spouse’s parents, perhaps understandably, did not approve of the sick one in the hospital.  There had been no children out of fear that they would grow into demons (literally, from the boiling pits of Hell, with tails and horns and everything).  As a result of all this a number of paranoid fantasies blurted out.  They saw their spouse as somehow involved, torn between these two polar moralities.  There was a loyalty and love for the afflicted, but they, too, might  have had enough.


All this came from the rational part of the person’s mind–transformed fear about their true love abandoning them to mental illness, and quivering frustrations that their problems have caused to every person in their lives to resent them.  This person at one time even included me in the drastic plot against them, which involved drones, Amazon.com, the military-industrial complex, and something to do with their belief in the lies of 9/11.  They thought that all these plots were exclusively about themselves.  Their in-laws, they claimed, knew Jeff Bezos, and were high ups with Amazon, in fact in charge of the drone program, which had been developed in the first place to send them everywhere–invisible ones too!–to spy on this single person, and record their every action.  Showering.  Shitting.  Masturbating.  And crying all the time.  This was a person with a serious illness, and my hope for them was limited.  I became the only person they were willing to talk to (including the doctors), simply because I allowed them to believe in their crazed reality until they saw some of its absurdity along the way.


The other individual I wish to speak of reminded me of one of my former students (for all I know, considering the state I was in myself at the time, they may actually have been one).  This was an incredibly angry person.  They just wanted to relax, and make a few friends, and pass their time calmly until they were feeling, once again, like themselves.


They were a very in-your-face sort of person–desperate, it seemed, for any sort of notice.  And the other crazy people did not like them.  When they would creepily try to kiss someone, honestly showing their affection, something I have little doubt they had never once gotten at home, it was not just a simple “Get off me!” shove, but the response of rape victims and paranoids, screaming and fistfights, and the few scumbags on the ward looking to get laid overcompensating for their misery by pretending they were heroes.


I was the only one who would talk to this kid.  I understood them, reflecting back on many of my other unloved students.  They had a lot they wanted to say and, former English teacher that I was, I encouraged them to write about their experiences and feelings, to find their voice, and then create something larger than themselves.  I told them that it did not even matter if they made everything up in their narrative, and wanted to make themselves a superhero or a billionaire.  I merely suggested that they put a piece of their true selves into the fantasy, and try to understand some of their issues.


Writing has always been my self-therapy, and the primary reason for my hospitalizations had to do with the traumatic brain injury I suffered, which impacted my memory (and still does, unfortunately), and interfered for quite some time with my ability to consistently write.  It was like being silenced, censored, and gone mute.  It became rage.  It landed me in a mental hospital.  Twice.


Anyway, this kid tried as hard as they could, for a short while.  Like a lot of my former students they were not a particularly hard worker.  They lacked both the instinct, and motive force to create something outside of what was right in front of their face.  Eventually they began harassing the people on the ward again, and when a nurse tried to intervene, they got violent and attacked the kind old woman who handed out the pills, punched her in the face and started choking her.


This led to those things you only hear about in horror stories–straight jackets, bound to the bed, enough drugs to keep them unconscious in a locked room, and a 24-hour camera that the whole ward could peek on should they have a desire.


In the group therapy sessions immediately after this, most of the nervous people trashed the kid, calling them ‘an animal,’ or even going so far as to express racist ideas (the child was African-American).  And yet (and this is ultimately the reason I believe I was released) I defended them.  I articulated, based upon experiences I had had with other kids filled with similar rage, what they might actually be going through.  I tried to humanize them, which seemed to impress the doctors far more than most of the patients, lost, it is true, inside their own fears, prejudices and shattered sense of self.


When the kid got out of the room, dopey and half-aware, to await their transfer to a secure ward, I was the only person to approach them.  I told them that the others had treated them unfairly (I said most of them were assholes, which was true), and that while many of the things they did–the kissing, the loudness, the demands, the violence–were obviously unacceptable, I acknowledged that they had also been provoked, to a certain extent.  I wished them luck.  They actually hugged me before the brawny security guard escorted them out to the ambulance.  I waved goodbye to a person I would never see again, which also happened a few days later with everyone else, when I went home, temporarily feeling much better about myself.


The point here is that mental illness is a serious problem, and that it is very real.  But also many samples of this are fabricated as excuses.  There is a lot of deception in the very idea of sanity, both from the individual, as well as the medical and pharmaceutical industries.  In many ways the drug companies are drug dealers, employing a number of crooked doctors to sling their product onto an addictive public.  There are so many flaws, and so many people willing to take advantage of the few who are truly very sick.


Try to consider this the next time you either yell at a perpetually unhappy person to quit fucking around and cheer up, or decide that no matter what it is, it is somebody else’s fault.  Even the sickest people need personal responsibility.  Otherwise, what is really the point of living?





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