An excellent, and sometimes funny, description of depression

Andrew Solomon

I downloaded this video on 4 March 2014 and put it on my desktop to watch it. My desktop is normally spartan, so a file on my desktop usually prompts me to open it and deal with it. I did not open it for 81 days.

Actually, I did open it once. I watched less than 30 seconds and the speaker, Andrew Solomon, started reciting a poem by Emily Dickinson, I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,. When I tried to watch it the first time, I did not realize it was a Dickinson poem, and I did not remember that I had read it before. If I recall, I stopped the video after only the following words:

Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading - treading - till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through -

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum -
Kept beating - beating - till I thought
My mind was going numb -

When I tried to watch it the first time, those lines were too real, and too much, so the video sat on my desktop for 81 days and I was afraid to open it.

I watched it today, and I cannot imagine a person who would not benefit from watching it. The less you understand depression, anxiety, or mental illness, the more you could gain from this talk. Even if you have a strong knowledge of these topics, Solomon is a wordsmith and his eloquence will help you discuss depression with other people.

A few thoughts about the video

  1. Solomon starts by admitting that we barely understand depression, but later he uses overly inclusive language such as, “When you have depression…” as if all people with depression have those feelings. That is absolutely not true.
  2. At 5:25, the phrase he is repeating is “emerged and relapsed”.
  3. At 10:14 in the video, Solomon says, “It’s difficult with depressives, because we believe we are seeing the truth.” He says that people with depression have “delusional perceptions.” But he immediately discusses a scientific study that proved that people with depression have an incredibly accurate view of the world. I know from my research, that incidence of depression and PTSD directly correlate with a person’s ability to accurately recall events and perceive the world. Said differently, people who see the truth and understand the truth are much more likely to have depression or PTSD.
  4. At 24:16, he says “…we use this same word, depression, to describe how a kid feels when it rains on his birthday…” (emphasis added to highlight that words that were difficult for me to understand).
  5. Finally, depression is still too broad of a diagnosis, so while I understand and can empathize with his experiences, my experiences do not completely overlap with his.

The video is funny and moving and worth your time

The full transcript if you want it.

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