Today marks the debut of a mini-series of posts on the topic of depression. These posts (a half-dozen or so over the next several weeks) are excerpts from a conversation amongst nine BCC permas, including myself, who live with clinical depression. We have taken pseudonyms for privacy purposes, but make no mistake: we are true and living bloggers that you know, love, and/or hate here at By Common Consent.
Some readers might be surprised that 9 of the 23 permas in this forum–about 40%–suffer or have suffered from depression. In fact, the number is higher than that, since not all of the permas who have experienced depression opted to participate in this series. Of the 9 voices heard here, 6 are women and 3 are men; 6 have chronic depression and 3 have less frequent bouts.
Of course, every human being is occasionally “depressed” in the sense of feeling down or discouraged. But depression as a debilitating illness is increasingly widespread and causes untold difficulty for its victims and their families. National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon offers this summary in The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression:
I am convinced that some of the broadest figures for depression are based in reality. Though it is a mistake to confuse numbers with truth, these figures tell an alarming story. According to recent research, about 3 percent of Americans—some 19 million—suffer from chronic depression. More than 2 million of these are children. Manic-depressive illness, often called bipolar illness because the mood of its victims varies from mania to depression, afflicts about 2.3 million and is the second-leading killer of young women, the third of young men. Depression as described in the DSM-IV is the leading cause of disability in the United States and abroad for persons over the age of five. Worldwide, including the developing world, depression accounts for more of the disease burden, as calculated by premature death plus healthy life-years lost to disability, and anything but heart disease. Depression claims more years than war, cancer, and AIDS put together. Other illnesses, from alcoholism to heart disease, mask depression when it causes them; if one takes that into account, depression may be the biggest killer on earth.
Depression is a complex issue that cannot be adequately discussed in one or even a dozen posts. (Solomon’s tome on the subject, one among many, includes over 400 pages of probing, detailed text and nearly a hundred more of footnotes and documentation.) This BCC series will only touch lightly on a few facets of this issue, in roughly the following order:
–recognizing clinical depression
–impact on daily life and family relationships
–impact on spirituality/religious life
–successes and challenges of treatment
–gender issues in depression
–suicide and other complications
I’m grateful to the participants in this conversation for their generosity and candor on such a sensitive topic. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that our group is taking considerable risk in publicly sharing some of our most intensely personal experiences. Our purpose in doing so is to offer a measure of companionship for readers who live with depression (diagnosed or not), and a measure of perspective for those who don’t. Please be respectful in your comments—this is not an occasion for confrontational dialogue.
Finally, please note that the content of these posts is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute advice, medical or otherwise. If you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, contact a health professional without delay.
Next in the series: Part I: Recognizing Clinical Depression