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down days

February 26, 2010

Today I chatted with  friend who was feeling blue. She felt like crying, she was tired, she didn’t feel like doing anything. Classic signs of depression right? That was the reaction she got when she answered honestly to people how she was doing–concerned exclamations of  “You’re depressed.” But she felt: yes and no. Sure, she was down. And she herself said she felt depressed. But today we, culturally, have such a firm idea of what depression is–we see it as chronic, chemical and somehow a dark neighbor we try to avoid. And that’s not how she felt, and I knew what she meant. We found ourselves talking about why people seem to be uncomfortable just letting you be sad without it being a symptom of something bigger. Isn’t that as valid a part of the human experience as being happy? And haven’t we all felt that way before? I admired her for being honest when people asked, and I knew just how she felt.

This is not, of course, to say that clinical depression isn’t real–it certainly is–I was just wondering if don’t jump too quickly to that conclusion.

On a related note, a couple of nights ago I read a great article/book review in this week’s New Yorker about depression and the new DSM. It was really about more than that–what are psychology and psychiatry up to? Can we really quantify human experience? And who’s to say what’s a disorder? As someone who likes to ride the fence between empiricist and dreamer, this thinking rings true for me.  A really interesting perspective on a tough topic.

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