Wil Wheaton Talking About Depression

I’ve quoted or linked to Wil’s depression posts numerous times over the years. Partly because his take on it resonates with my own, partly because I think awareness is important and worth signal boosting. His recent (ish, this was posted in May and has been sitting in my queue for a while) talk about living with chronic depression is another great example, and worth reading.

I was a worrier growing up (and to a lesser extent, still am), though not to the degree he experienced. I will say, in more recent years, it’s been manifesting as more social anxiety, which ain’t great, though I’m at least aware, and haven’t gone full hermit. But the chronic depression, that I definitely get. For me, it’s been sort of a low-grade background radiation in my life. The default level is functional, but present, and then sometimes there’s spikes or troughs where it’s more or less noticeable — more or less manageable. (I doubt this is news to anyone reading this, but if it is: hey, yep, and if I ever seem worn out and a little distant when we’re talking, 95% of the time this is why, and not anything you said or did. If you type “depression” into the search bar for this blog, you’ll see I’ve written about it a fair bit.)

It can be a little intimidating to publicly post about grappling with depression. Potential employers or romantic partners or friends may see this, and not take it positively. Also, exposing parts of yourself in any way on the internet these days can be a little scary. But I think it’s important. As Wil says:

Finally, we who live with mental illness need to talk about it, because our friends and neighbors know us and trust us. It’s one thing for me to stand here and tell you that you’re not alone in this fight, but it’s something else entirely for you to prove it. We need to share our experiences, so someone who is suffering the way I was won’t feel weird or broken or ashamed or afraid to seek treatment. So that parents don’t feel like they have failed or somehow screwed up when they see symptoms in their kids.

Loneliness and Technology

There’s been several recent articles about loneliness lately, spurred at least in part by the UK’s recent creation of a Minister of Loneliness to help cope with what’s been called an “epidemic of loneliness.” There are a lot of reasons why the surge in both quantity and severity of loneliness is a bad thing (aside from the mental and emotional impacts, it ends up having physical ramifications as well), and while I’d say it’s too broad a topic to point specific fingers at the causes, I do think modern society certainly isn’t helping. It’s sort of telling that (pulled from the above Medium article):

Research on young people’s loneliness isn’t abundant. But what does exist suggests loneliness might not go away anytime soon as a health crisis: A UCLA Berkeley study published last year found that even though adults between 21 and 30 had larger social networks, they reported twice as many days spent feeling lonely or socially isolated than adults between 50 and 70.

In other words, the generation portrayed as savvy, socially connected people are actually feeling the most alone.

A good book to read on the subject of the role technology has in all these (and I do definitely think it has a role) is Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. When it first came out a few years ago, I didn’t want to agree with her, but as time goes on, I fall more in alignment with her observations. (Here’s her related Ted Talk, which gives a good summary of the problems we’re talking about.) A quote from the Ted Talk that seems particularly relevant (emphasis mine):

We expect more from technology and less from each other. And I ask myself, “Why have things come to this?”

And I believe it’s because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. But we’re not so comfortable. We are not so much in control.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m advocating becoming a Luddite or something. We live in an age of technology, and it’s unrealistic (and ill-advised) to imagine that’s going to change. But I do think we need to change our relationship with that technology. I think we need to foster and teach empathy and emotional intelligence, and help people work through the anxieties of trying to communicate with others and meeting new people.

I have a lot of feelings and thoughts about this subject (both loneliness in general, and our current social climate). I need to ponder some more about how best to express it.

Depression and Me

I’ve referenced depression a number of times on the blog and elsewhere: it’s not a secret that I’ve been suffering from depression for a long time. Of course, while I say it’s not a secret, some might still be surprised to hear it: at first glance, I might not come off as particularly depressed. There are a few reasons for this: first, I’m usually what’s considered a functional depressive (more on that in a second). Second, not everyone has the same understanding or idea of what to expect from depression. I don’t really blame anyone for that: there is very little general education about mental health issues, and how mental health issues present can vary greatly from person to person. Hence, this blog post: a little peek into my head, and how things manifest for me. Continue reading “Depression and Me”

Wil Wheaton on Depression

Depression is a dick, and Depression lies, and even though I know all of that with the rational and reasonable part of my brain, the Depression part of my brain has been really loud and persistent and just relentless for a couple of weeks, now. It’s Friday, and when I look back on this week, I can see all the important and good stuff that I’ve done, I can see the small but meaningful steps I’ve taken toward completing things that are important to me … but those things are all in the shadows that are cast by the giant spotlight Depression is shining on the things I didn’t do.

And the thing is, I could probably come up with good reasons that I didn’t do the things that I wanted to do, and they are probably reasonable reasons, too. But I also know that all week long, Depression was right there on my shoulder like the leprechaun that tells Ralph to burn it all down, and quietly telling me that there’s no point, there’s no reason to do it, it’s not worth my time.

And now it’s Friday, and Depression is telling me that I’m a failure because I didn’t finish the things that Depression helped ensure I didn’t start.

That’s the insidious part of Depression, at least for me, and I know that to a person who doesn’t struggle with mental illness like I do it just sounds like a pity party where all the gifts are excuses.

But here I am. On Friday. No closer to finishing the things I wanted to finish than I was on Monday.
Wil Wheaton, so distorted and thin

(I’ve posted a few prior quotes/links to Wil’s depression posts, partly because they’re well written, but mostly because it’s so spot on for how my own depression manifests itself.)