Saturday, July 20, 2013

Andrew and Spencer: A Dialogue on Mental Health, part 2

Spencer: Depression is bullshit. Mania can be fun when it's not scary, but depression is a gigantic steaming bowl of hot bullshit. I have been laying around my house for the last two days watching Jason Statham movies because I just haven't been able to pull it together. And trust me, there's nothing like The Transporter 2 to reinforce depression. That's also one of the downsides of medication: I still have symptoms, they're just not as bad. When I went on meds I thought I'd be cured fully. Not so. Don't even get me started on the weight gain. Seriously, fuck today.

Andrew: Depression is definitely bullshit!

I also have my bad days when I'm on medication. I think that's the trickiest thing about living with depression: Even on medication you can't live like you used to; you can't live like a normal person. Depression is a disease that (at least for me) can only be managed well or managed poorly. I've given up on any kind of real cure.

Managing it well usually consists of eating healthy, exercising regularly, and consistently taking my medication, but it's incredibly difficult to be that disciplined. Taking a day off from exercise might open the door for the symptoms of depression to creep right back in, and before you know it I'm lying in bed watching Jason Statham movies, even though I had been doing just fine the day before. Of course taking a day off or a month off regular exercise and eating right might not do anything to my mood either. It's the randomness of the disease that is most frightening. Any day I could wake up and be unable to get out of bed. Any day I could snap at everyone around me because I'm so exhausted. Any day I may have to cancel plans with friends, or call off work, or delay a project I need to finish. It's hard to live like that. Hard to want to go on living like that.

Spencer: I still need to accept what you say: managing it well is the best we can do. Secretly, I think I'm still holding out for a magical pill. There is something romantic about our illnesses though, I have to admit. It's easy to see myself as the tortured artist, and to count myself among a special pedigree. It feels special to have the same affliction as Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway and people like that. I don't know. Maybe that is perverse.

Andrew: Don't get me wrong I still long for that magic pill, but after switching medicines a bazillion times, basically trying every anti-depressant known to man, I can't see it coming any time soon.

I think you're right that as artists its easy for us romanticize our illness, to see ourselves as following in the tradition of a Van Gogh or Hemingway, but I don't think it's perverse at all. Science has discovered a real link between mental illness and artistic modes of thinking and expression. For better and worse we have inherited something that makes us different, that the vast majority of people have difficulty understanding. Because of that I look to those suffering artists as my heroes. Their lives, though tragic in the end, point us to a way of living with mental illness while still doing something that's fulfilling with our lives. And luckily we have the benefit of modern medicine to help us better manage our illness than they did. We may never reach the artistic heights that they accomplished with their lives but why the hell not try? Let's make something beautiful with the shit we're given to work with.

Spencer: I agree. We need to hear the stories of folks who have had similar experiences as us, and to see their struggles and successes. That's why it's important for us to talk to each other. I'm grateful to have someone like you to share my struggles with, Andrew. Hopefully more people can find others to pair up with out there.

(for part 1, click here.)

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