Our last discussion on the “Anatomy of melancholy” had me thinking about how most people in the class thought it was such a pessimistic outlook to depression. But “it’s a negative and ‘depressing’ state” is what I thought- how could one possibly think optimistically about it? There I was, appreciating the fact that he had never regretted his existence, believing that I was taking a very realistic take on the nature of his condition. But as I held firm on my ideals of realism, I left no room for any optimism. At the end of article, I realized I was settling for management of the condition rather than even hoping for a complete cure of the same. I had, without realizing, mentally established that in such severe cases of depression people should be more realistic instead of hoping for the impossible. However, after seeing this video I realized that there is hope for relief and redemption even in the face of severe depression.
Nonetheless, I still maintain that Solomon’s article was very insightful in many ways. I definitely was transfixed while reading it. Without being a sufferer of depression myself, I felt myself experiencing so much of what he so eloquently described. There was a certain power in his words that resonated from his simplistic honesty about the situation as he experienced it. I believe this is what motivated my more realistic stance on the entire article. As I read it, I liked that there was no one conclusion to be made from his article. He didn’t come down strongly with a definite answer on how to cure depression, on whether or not anti-depressant drugs are on the whole good or bad, or on whether depression should be seen as a valuable experience or as a disease that needs to be cured. His story was honest almost urging people to not pretend to know answers to the questions of depression, because in reality there are no definitive ones.
As I find myself swaying between the two stances, I don’t know which one to lean more towards. Is it possible to be realistic and optimistic or are they mutually exclusive perspectives that can never be reconciled? Is one being deluded if they adopt a positive outlook to something that can potentially never be cured? Or is one being a bitter defeatist in not fighting the dark times with the hope of eventual brighter moments? When I think about the two men I can’t help but compare the two cases. In the case of this leading surgeon, he claims that his childhood conditions and family history of poverty, illness, and disease laid a strong ground for his depressive symptoms. Like Solomon who was afraid to take a shower, his case was bad enough to prevent him from even just getting out of bed. Like Solomon, he believed that depression caused one to be completely devoid of any opinion on anything- for him “nothing was clear” in any respect. He resented the idea of hospitalization and like Solomon tried every possible treatment for what most authorities deemed “incurable”. But eventually, he was completely cured with the help of drastic ECT.
So what was the difference between the both of them? Did the difference lie in their personality and motivation to fight or did it lie in the biology of their condition that was beyond their control? This relates to Lia’s response on the statement “Some people are disabled by levels of depression that others can handle, and some contrive function despite serious symptoms. Antidepressants help those who help themselves.” Does the action of antidepressants, and hence one’s optimistic or realistic perspective on the manifest condition, really pertain to the individual personality or the individual level of neurogenesis?