Looking up into the abyss

Roberta X writes on a topic I wish I had a reason to know nothing about:

Here’s the deal: most of the drugs developed to “treat” depression are about as subtle as a hammer. I used Wellbutrin to quit smoking, back before there was a specific stop-smoking version of the drug, and it made me twitchy and strange (yes, more than usual). But it got me past the critical few weeks of really strong cravings, so it was worth it in the short term. Long-term? No thanks; I’d rather be moody.

But it’s not really an either-or choice; for me, mild depression can be faked away. Tricked. Cheated: get busy at something, get into the physicality of it or the mental effort of mowing a lawn, building a bookshelf, even, something, putting words on paper, and you can forget how everything is bleak and gloomily awful.

Maybe it still is, when the thing is finished; maybe it comes back. You’ve nevertheless bought your brain an hour or more of different chemicals, different electrical patterns, different thoughts.

Which may be why I’m popping my current antidepressant somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour before turning in for the night: if I’m lucky, I’ll have faked the brain out of whatever foolish thing it was worrying about most of the evening.

Depression’s a real thing but it doesn’t help to let it loom too large. If you pick at it, it just grows. If you possibly can, go do something else instead. The only way to get off that track is to stop going around on it and there are scads of other things to do. If they’re not fun, at least they can be useful. It’s like picking away at a brick wall with a lovely, sunlit meadow on the other side: there’s a lot of gritty mortar to dig out before that first brick falls and lets a sunbeam through.

When in doubt, change the subject. It works for me better than it has any right to.


  1. McGehee »

    20 June 2019 · 9:25 pm

    It has every right to work. Having feelings is unavoidable, but letting my inner monologue get monopolized by a storm of glandular secretions just doesn’t sit right with me. There are a lot of things in this world of which I am not the boss, but I refuse to let that be one of them.

  2. hollyh »

    21 June 2019 · 12:39 pm

    That’s the spirit, McG.

    It took me 40 years to realize that certain emotions can be chosen for or against, at least to some extent. You CAN obsess over a perceived slight and nudge a grudge til you’re sick, but you don’t HAVE to. How I wish I’d learned this a lot earlier.

    Instead of calculus, maybe Emotional Intelligence 101 should be offered in high school.

    Apologies to math scholars– (OK, keep the calculus class too. Just don’t make it a requirement).

  3. Roberta X »

    23 June 2019 · 8:54 pm

    Hey, you do whatever works — that’s the whole point! And I am flattered, once again, to be considered worthy of a quote on your blog.

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