This week's Journal of the American Medical Association has a study sure to rumble the foundation of everyone taking and prescribing antidepressants, at least until we all agree to forget about the study and continue on as usual: drugs were found to have minimal effect on those patients who were slightly depressed. Except the study only focused on one random drug (Paxil) and the weed-out process guaranteed the result before the study even began.
If you're into this SSRI porn like me - or take any antidepressant - Peter D. Kramer (he of "Listening to Prozac") has a great article on doubleX right now about this study, and a much better one done by Northwestern that clarifies what these drugs are actually doing. In essence, they aren't curing depression, they are changing your personality's way of dealing with adversity.
But Kramer buries his lede by waiting until page 3 (an eternity on the web) for the much more important study from the University of Michigan: in layman's terms, we are a excruciatingly sad country walking around with no help. Check it out:
• The average person diagnosed with depression had severe depression. Average equals severe? That is, as they say, BAD.
• 34% of depressed people received medication, and only 11% of those got adequate medication.
• Only 9% of severely-depressed people got adequate medication combined with the right psychotherapy.
My mom once described a woman she truly loathed as being "over-therapied", a kick-ass rebuke that says it all: someone who tries to solve all of their (and your) problems with half-baked drugs and daddy issues, and worst of all, rationalized their worst behavior at light speeds using psychological syndromes they barely understood. I have no doubt I can be one of those people when I set my mind to it.
But the real American tragedy is the opposite. In some ways, it's oddly comforting to know how miserable everyone else is - it makes you feel less crazy knowing half the people you see each day are cloaked in mystifying sadness. But it's not doing any of us any good, that's for motherfucking sure. Hundreds of you reading this, right now, are sedated by melancholy, saddled with chronic, free-floating anxiety, and you're not doing anything about it.
I've always thought the mere act of getting help for being depressed was true bravery - not for the usual canards (only sissies talk about their feelings and only addicts use drugs), but because one's misery becomes the last thing we can count on. It becomes a spell that keeps us from moving too quickly. Seeking help, getting out of the house, disrupts the reverie and allows true pain to pour through. It's temporary, sure, but searingly real.
If there is anything I can say, it's this: you will earn no medals or gain valuable personal experience by being depressed. Not at this stage, anyway. By now, all it's doing is eroding everything your parents, your friends and you have ever built for yourself. This is not a dress rehearsal; this is it. Turn off the computer, there are no answers here. I say this as lovingly as I can.
And if you want a terse, mean-spirited quote, here is one of my favorites:
"Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a man refuses all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost."