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Daphne Merkin

Women, Men and the Way We Write About Depression

A woman is standing in her kitchen, making a pot of coffee, spooning out the pungent overpriced ground beans from their snappy little aluminum bag into a paper filter, trying to remember what number tablespoon she was on—four? six? three?—before the dark thoughts began tumbling in, doing their wild and wily gymnastics: You shouldn’t, you should have, why are you, why aren’t you, there’s no hope, it’s too late, it’s always been too late, give up, go back to bed, there’s no hope, the day is half gone, no, the day ahead is too long, there’s so much to do, there’s not enough to do, everything is futile, there is no hope.

What, she wonders for the zillionth time, would it be like to be someone with a brighter take on things, with a more sustainable sense of the purposefulness of his or her existence? Someone possessed of the necessary illusions—that things make sense and will work out for the better, especially if you cultivate your own garden—without which life is unbearable? Surely that person would be sticking with the coffee, not leapfrogging to suicidal desires at the first promptings of despair?

Depression is a global problem, affecting 350 million people worldwide; in the United States 16 million people had at least one major depressive episode in 2012, and in 2014 there were more than 40,000 deaths by suicide. And yet this is a sadness that no one seems to want to talk about in public, not even in this Age of Indiscretion. At cocktail parties, for instance, you can talk endlessly about attending AA meetings or your stint in rehab without raising any eyebrows. But just imagine trying to tell the truth about how you feel at an upscale social gathering, where everyone’s milling around, wine glass in hand, keeping a narrowed eye out for the next person, the person who isn’t you:

Time Magazine | February 7, 2017.


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