25 Comments

  1. As someone who suffers from severe depression myself, what he means is that it’s impossible for a non-depressed person to understand depression. It makes no sense to those unafflicted.

  2. There’s not more more to say than that. Except that in this context, the user name brings a tear to my eye.

  3. All I can think is that the cartoonist was going for “Bourdain couldn’t live with the fact that nobody understood him?” Not having depression, I don’t really know whether that is a reasonable interpretation of (some) depressed people’s thoughts, but it sounds off to me.

  4. BeckoningChasm has it . . . I call it the Slough of Despond and am there often, despite medications and talk therapy. Maybe that’s why I begin my day with comics . . .

  5. My grandfather did what Robin Williams, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and so many others have done; little did he (or they) realize down how many generations this affects the family.

  6. Back in college there was a professor doing serious research on the effects that issues like heredity, medication, and alcoholism (just to name a few) had on depression. Each Fall he sent around an umpteen-page questionaire, offering to pay a nominal fee (like $5 or $10) to any student who filled out the form, with an offer of significantly more to those who were selected to participate in the long-range study.
    Each time I started on that thing, I always got bogged down on the questions about affected relatives (such as a bipolar aunt, or an uncle who committed suicide long before I was born) and drinking habits (i’ve never drunk a lot, but I also don’t keep track of the number of bottles). After a page or two, I always pitched it, because no matter how much they were paying, it wasn’t worth the time it was going to take me to fill out honest data.
    It’s simply extremely difficult (and/or expensive) to perform good quatitative research on issues that are exceedingly subjective and personal.

  7. P.S. Just in case anyone is puzzled by the typo, it was supposed to read “quantitative“.

  8. I didn’t see this so much as those without depression don’t know what having depression is like but more of we (society on a whole, not us individually) don’t understand and recognize how pervasive and destructive depression can be.

  9. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that they can’t understand how someone as rich and famous and successful as Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade would ever commit suicide. Maybe that’s what this strip is trying to get at?

    (Depression doesn’t care how successful or rich or famous you are. It’s insidious, and it lies.)

  10. Dick Cavett once said that depression was so insidious because if there was a pill ten feet away from you that was absolutely stone guaranteed to make you feel better, it’d be too much trouble to go get it. He was so right, and it’s something people who’ve never suffered from depression will never understand.

  11. Actually, I’ve never understood those who say they don’t understand. What’s to understand? People are depressed. Why, they may ask? What does reason have to do with it?

    Then maybe I simply don’t understand lack of depression. Where does one *get* that satisfaction from? And … why?

  12. woozy – a lot of people believe that humans are rational creatures. Combine this with the fact that a lot of people seem to think that clinical depression is the same as the emotion that gave it its name (i.e. kind of feeling sad), and there is a significant percentage of the population who thinks that you can deal with depression the same way that you deal with other negative emotions, like looking at good things in your life. (This isn’t helped by the fact that some versions of depression, like the short-term kind that comes after something like the death of a parent, can be dealt with in the same manner.) There are even people with depression who question how they can feel so bad about their life when they have so many good things in it. It’s why “depression lies” is such useful advice.

  13. Thankfully, I don’t suffer from clinical depression, though I have some extended family members who do, and a very close HS classmate of mine had a son who committed suicide several years ago. I don’t really understand either, but reading “depressioncomix” and comments associated with it might give people an inkling of what those sufferers go through. https://www.depressioncomix.com/posts/401/

  14. Christine..

    I was being slightly facetious. I get that people are surprised when they learn someone really *was* that depressed after all. But …. there’s something about this posturing “It’s so surprising; no-one had *any* idea; one just can’t understand” that rings false and slightly patronizing to me. Maybe I’m just projecting. …. Anyway I was just turning it around.

    Dick Cavett/depression non-depressed people won’t understand moment that happened today: I was making apricot jam today and I took the pot off the burner and got ready to ladle it into jars. The pot had handles on the side and I had placed the pot in such a position that ladle would pass over the handle. And I realized almost certainly the ladle would drip jam on the handle. And that is just the type of irritating event the would piss me off and set me int a mood (which dripping on the counter would not; go figure). Now I could rotate the pot 90 degrees and avoid the whole thing but that’d be drawing attention to it and making a fuss and maybe if I’m careful I won’t spill and if I did turn it I’d be assuming that would fix things when I don’t really have any faith in that, and it’s just making a deal about something that’s futile anyway. Then I realized I was being ridiculous and I rotated the pot 90 degrees. Now, a non-depressed person couldn’t possibly comprehend for the one second I considered it wasn’t worth the trouble and it was futile to try.

    Don’t worry. It *was* only a passing thought for only one second. I’m not that stymied. But I *did* feel that.

  15. woozy – Ok, even with my literal-mindedness I should have caught that.

    I would say that it’s not only depression that lets you understand that level of irrational helplessness. I don’t experience that sort of thing, but I have other kinds of irrational emotional responses, that give me an idea of what you’re talking about.

    Or I could be yet another person who’s deluding themselves that they understand what it’s like to be depressed. Not quite sure which one.

  16. Having had mononucleosis in college helped put in stark relief the unreliability of feelings when depressed (or manic, for that matter), because with mono, your feelings are just ridiculously over-the-top out of whack coupled with a total inability to make decisions (I mean, the part of the brain that just randomly chooses between two close options to let you get on with your life and not get eaten by tiger as you choose to run left or right — that function is just not working, and you are literally unable to decide weather you should run left, or maybe run right, instead). The narrator is just so completely unreliable, and then you (eventually) get over mono, and you can’t understand the things you did (or didn’t do) because of mono, and are forced to the conclusion that your thought process can be affected by outside agents, it is not reliable.

    A friend who had mono around the same time described breaking down into tears one morning because she couldn’t find a pair of matching socks. Something you just can’t understand unless you’ve had mono too (and not just a casual case, either), in which case it helps because that is exactly what’s happening all the time when you have it.

    And then the stark contrast between having mono and not having mono helps you discover the contrast between being depressed, and not being depressed, and realizing then that when you are depressed, things are not right, and to NOT trust your feelings at that point! (Or being manic — just because the feelings aren’t negative doesn’t make them good!)

  17. ” just because the feelings aren’t negative doesn’t make them good!”

    So true! A friend who was bipolar loved her manic phases, but she made *terrible* decisions and destroyed her marriage during one.

  18. Explaining that experience and putting it into words makes it sound …. weird. Because if you can *think* about it you can respond to it. But most of the time you just *feel* it and don’t really know why or even bother to think that you *are* feeling something.

  19. What amazed me about this and the Arlo was that I thought there was a much longer lead time to when comics are published from when they are written than the two of them have from when AB died.

  20. Andréa – you’re welcome; I’m glad my comment came out of moderation in time for you to catch it.

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