Genetic Despair: Depression and Me

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. I hear you man.

    I hear you.

  2. Lynn Beisner says:

    I have finally figured out that the first big symptom that I am slipping into depression is that the world becomes full of f-wits. I find it hard to be kind, and I become overwhelmed by how truly stupid and horrible my fellow humans are. What I invariably have failed to notice is the first real symptom, extreme self-criticism.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I’m similar, Lynn. When I am slipping, I start to find people very mean and annoying. The next thing I notice is that it’s physically hard for me to smile. The corners of my mouth feel this pull down and it reminds me of my grandmother who always, always had the corners of her mouth pulled down. She was very depressed, institutionalized many times in my father’s childhood and not very kind to people, despite having great love for her family.

      I call it “the darknesss”… “I feel the darkness coming on” or “the darkness is falling”.

      • Lynn and Joanna, that fits me to a T as well. When I start swearing in the car at perfectly reasonable people, I try to do a self check. Now the unreasonable people… :)

  3. Wow–this is so illuminating! Thanks for baring it!

  4. Now that I’m home I can say a bit more.

    That’s the trap of depression, for men. When it comes not as sadness or tears but as numbness, as nothingness. The masculine ideal is stoic, enduring, emotionless. So if we’re not feeling anything, that must mean we’re doing it right. That must mean we’re fine. We’re fine right up until we wade out into a creek and put a gun to our heads.
    A clever trap indeed. The sadness and tears indicate an acknowledgement of something being wrong. But if something is wrong then that must mean weakness. And unlike women who are given (almost forced to have) the latitude to show such weakness and have it addressed men are denied it.

    Why? Because stoic emptiness is what is needed for a man to be useful by the old gender roles. That’s how we get phrases like “Keep on trucking.” “Suck it up.” and the one that I have lost anything resembling patience for, “Man Up.” (seriously don’t even try to use this with me in some attempt at reclamation).

    The “….doing it right” and “…we’re fine” is defined by the ability to perform for others.

    In short for men we have the joy of being raised to believe that even at the cost of shortening our own lives it is better to ignore the things that are harming us as long as that means we continue to be useful,

    Like I said before, I hear you. Even if you weren’t saying, I can hear it (which is probably working on the principal of takes one to know one).

    (I’m gonna have to do an updated post on my own mental status which has changed quite a bit lately.)

    • “That’s the trap of depression, for men. When it comes not as sadness or tears but as numbness, as nothingness. The masculine ideal is stoic, enduring, emotionless. So if we’re not feeling anything, that must mean we’re doing it right. That must mean we’re fine. We’re fine right up until we wade out into a creek and put a gun to our heads.”

      I’m a 26-year-old woman. I’ve got two sisters and a brother (who I wish would follow this site). My mom is the youngest of 6 girls. She also has 4 older brothers; all fuck ups. The women in my family are strong. My mother is strong. My grandmother (though I never knew her) was strong.

      I’ve dealt with severe depression and thoughts of suicide on endless loop since I was 14. I don’t know where these women are who are perpetually “allowed, indeed required, to have feelings.” I guess they exist, but that’s not my personal experience. Strangely, one of the reasons I follow the Good Men Project is because despite being a woman, raised alongside women, in the care of so many women, so many of the descriptions men post about their experiences mirror my own. Stoic emptiness has been ingrained into me as well. Because the women in my family are strong. My mother is strong. And, outwardly, you would think I was strong, too. Right up until I wade out into that same creek beside you.

      This is my red flag: “I’m staying in bed for days but hardly sleeping, I’m not forming any memories of time that passes, I’m not doing any of the things I need to do, but I don’t feel bad. Don’t feel much of anything. Heck, I’m barely even there.”

      • I don’t know where these women are who are perpetually “allowed, indeed required, to have feelings.” I guess they exist, but that’s not my personal experience.
        You can take a look at how mental health is looked at and talked about. The focus is often on women. Even at a casual glance how many anit-depressant ads have you ever seen with men in them. Now to be clear I’m not angry at women or anything like that but when it comes to healthy, healing, expression and resolving of one’s mental and emotional health, women have a major lead over men.

        So yes while that may not be your experience that is the case.

  5. Noah, that was a brilliant article. The history, the descriptions, and especially the final two paragraphs are poignant, well-written and excellent advice for other men.

    “That’s the trap of depression, for men. When it comes not as sadness or tears but as numbness, as nothingness. The masculine ideal is stoic, enduring, emotionless. So if we’re not feeling anything, that must mean we’re doing it right. That must mean we’re fine. We’re fine right up until we wade out into a creek and put a gun to our heads.”

    “when someone asks me how I’m doing, little by little I’m getting better at saying “I’m pretty depressed and I’m having a hard time dealing with things.” It’s not much, but it’s better than being just fine. Ask yourself whether maybe that’s something you need to say, and who you might need to say it to. They will almost certainly be more willing to hear it than you think they will be.”

    These two quotes, in particular, are must-read.

  6. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. I suffer from manic depression and I have been writing a research report on the history of women and madness in the 1900′s in America and Britain. Most recently, geneticists think that bipolar and a unipolar depression are caused by some genotype or neurotransmitter, but we only have estimates–clinical psychologists think “madness” is completely a societal construct or our psychosomatic response to psychological trauma. This type of psychoanalysis stigmatizes the sufferer and also prevents a person from seeking psychiatric treatment. If you suffer from depression, nothing is wrong with you…it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or were abused as a child. As a society, we need to move away from theses stereotypes, which stigmatize mental illness patients–there are different types of depression. Although a person can become depressed due to physical circumstances, illnesses such as bipolar and unipolar depression are strongly believed to be caused by genetic or an underlying biochemical mechanism…not “hormonal.”

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