Yeah, more stuff about depression. Sorry about that, but when you live with it you find that it kind of dominates things. Even when you’re not feeling down, there’s a shadow, a presence, even if it is diminished for however long.
Anyway, it’s not my fault it’s topical again. No, it’s Johann Hari‘s. He’s written a book and been doing the rounds on various channels, not least Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP). The book has been critiqued by many. I’ve not read it and don’t intend to. I love me a bit of RHLSTP, not just because of the celebrity York City fan aspect, but I had to turn this one off.
I do not doubt Hari’s experiences with depression – and lord knows he’s given us all ammunition to do just that, but let’s be charitable. I do not doubt that what he talks about – and I refer specifically to the podcast here – can and has worked for him. Much of it bears a truth as far as I can see, though only goes part way to making an understanding of what goes on in a depressed person’s brain. The big selling point of the book seems to be these new revelations about lifestyle – societal rather than personal – factors weighing so heavily on the id which, so far as I can tell, aren’t really revelatory at all.
I’m not having a go at Hari – I’ve not read the book so can’t really dive in like Dean Burnett did. More, I want to explore this line of thinking.
At least in part my own depression, I came to work out, lay in this existential angst of my place in the modern world, in a neo-liberal end-game capitalist era. This article from George Monbiot really struck a chord with me. On the back of it, I bought the Paul Verhaeghe book cited within, What About Me?, and again it helped me make a lot of sense about what I was feeling and how utterly misplaced I was within modern society. Still am, really, just better able to understand why. And I keep forgetting the key takeaway – I’m probably a deviant and should be proud of the fact.
Obviously that’s not all there is to it and someone else’s experience of depression will not tally at all with mine. Verhaeghe’s book was no more a magic bullet than any other possibly could be, and from what I’ve read and heard, neither will Hari’s. What worries me more is that Hari’s is being marketed as that magic bullet. Listen to this and all will be fine. And that’s potentially dangerous.
Depression is complex and it’s crafty. It changes. There is no checklist to tick off a few items and declare yourself fixed. I guess what I’m saying is take with a large pinch of salt anyone suggesting otherwise. By all means read Hari’s book, just take it as one bloke’s experience and how he dealt with the issues he was facing, and don’t take it as a recipe book on how to fix depression. There are all sorts of therapies out there – yes, referrals take time and that – as well as medication. Some will work for you. Some won’t. And that’s absolutely fine. You will find one that works for you. Just beware the snake oil salesman.