Andrew Solomon: Why Is It So Hard To Talk About Depression? Writer and psychologist Andrew Solomon describes how he hid from — and eventually confronted — his own serious depression.
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Why Is It So Hard To Talk About Depression?

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Why Is It So Hard To Talk About Depression?

Why Is It So Hard To Talk About Depression?

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. Do you remember what it was like when you were going through it?

ANDREW SOLOMON: I remember when I would think, I need to take a shower.

RAZ: This is the writer and psychologist Andrew Solomon.

SOLOMON: I'd think, a shower, a shower. OK, I need to turn the water on. I need to stand under a shower. I need to find the shampoo. I need to put my head back under the water - I mean, I was thinking through every one of those steps the way that you would be thinking things through if you were trying to ascend Mont Blanc and needed, you know, to plan your whole route. And I would think, can I do it? A shower - can I do it?

RAZ: This is one of the most honest descriptions of what depression is actually like. Simple things, like taking a shower or getting out of bed, can seem impossible. Andrew Solomon wrote about this in his book, "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression." And even after he got treatment, he tried to forget about it.

SOLOMON: Immediately after it happened, I wanted to dissociate myself from that person. Who that person was seemed shameful and bad and like a failure, and I didn't want to think about or be re-acquainted with any sort of whiff of failure.

RAZ: You thought of yourself as capitulating, like, that you had a weakness. Like, you thought the fact that you went to deal with this and go on medication was a sign that you were not tough.

SOLOMON: Right. I did think that. And now I tend to think that it takes a certain toughness, I suppose - I don't know about toughness. It takes a certain focus on resilience to be able to to seek the help that you need and go on and build a worthwhile life. But that's something I can say now that I'm feeling better most of the time.

RAZ: Almost everyone listening right now has probably at some point in life either experienced an emotional or a mental breakdown or crisis, or known or loved someone who has. And yet, for something so widespread, you'd think we'd talk about it more.

SOLOMON: If people were able to talk more openly about these experiences, they would discover that most people's response is not to laugh at them but to say, oh, my God, me too.

RAZ: Even with all the things we know about cognition and memory and decision making, there are so many things about our minds we don't understand, like where exactly depression and anxiety live in the brain and why or whether drugs are better than therapy or if both are best. But there is one thing we do know and it's that keeping those problems locked up isn't going to get us any closer to finding answers. So on the show today, we're going to do that. We're going to open up, go into our headspace and hear new ideas from TED speakers about biological and philosophical approaches to our emotional well-being.

SOLOMON: All of those depressed people who are afraid of the impression they'll make on all of those people they perceive never to have dealt with depression are actually keeping a secret from people who have the same secret from them...

RAZ: Yeah.

SOLOMON: ...And all that effort that goes into it could better be spent on recovering.

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