How stories shaped the relationship between depression and society (and why it’s a bad thing)


Hi everyone, today I want to talk to you
about depression and specifically about its relationship with our society. So I’m making this video as part of a series in which I’m going to and explain the
content of a book that I authored which is this one: Quasi-human. You don’t need to know anything about the book itself but if
you want there is a website up there that explains you everything. What I will
do is I will pick up topics from this book based on my readers feedback and I
will explain them. Now the first thing I want to do is I want to make an exercise in which we set down three main rules of how to forge a character that can show
symptoms of depression, or can have depression, and still is approved by
society, which means the audience is going to love this character. The first
thing we want to do is we want to create this person within a vulnerable
demographic. This doesn’t mean the person is weak it just means that it belongs to
certain people that were, I don’t know, victim of child abuse, or
bullyism, or has a terminal illness, or… you know, parents are dead, something like
this. I’m pretty sure you know plenty of characters that fit this profile already.
Now the second rule is we want to make sure that, maybe not in the present of
the story, but in the past this character has always been a good person. In this
way we make sure that whatever bad behaviour this character might have
at the present, during the story is not blamed on him or in his nature (or her nature) but is blamed on the depression
itself. And the third thing I want to do is I want to make sure that whatever
triggers these behaviors is something that is irreversible (during the story I
mean). So, I don’t want to make the reader or the audience comfortable in
saying that, you know, this card I could just get over that. And that
means it has to be not particularly bad but irreversible, definitely irreversible. Now if we follow these three rules we have a character that, if it shows
symptoms of depression, well… that just makes it more realistic,
right? However, this has a problem when it comes to the real world, and it’s based
on the fact that, first off, as real people we are not designed to be liked
by anyone and second depression is not a thing that is designed to make us more
interesting, or more realistic, it’s actually decided to hurt us and
eventually even to kill us. The way it does it is by shrinking certain areas
of the brain, it actually deforms the brain, and it jams a thing called a reward
mechanism which is what your brain normally would do when something good
happens to you: well it would make you feel happy. Now, if you have depression
this happiness just doesn’t come. Actually, sometimes it works the other
way around, your brain works against you and makes you feel humiliated by good
things, even sad or you know… very depressed. And so… how does this relates
with vulnerable demographics and irreversible conditions? Well, in short it
doesn’t. You can get depression from very simple things, like a lack of sleep:
either you studied or worked too much, or you have a pain somewhere that doesn’t
let you sleep. Yes it’s true, a traumatic experience can help depression coming in,
but you don’t really need that. You can be just genetically prone to it, which
means… you don’t need any heartbreaking stories, you don’t need any condition whatsoever,
you just get depressed out of nowhere! And this is the point in which
society really starts failing you because you don’t have anything to be
depressed for… apart from depression of course So now I want to do a
different exercise, I want to pick up a person, a real person such as me or you,
and I want to apply depression to show just how bad it can get, okay? so this
time we have depression (out of nowhere we don’t need a reason,
we know that now) and we haven’t been sleeping for 3-4 weeks and that obviously makes us grumpy.
You know, the usual cliche’ don’t talk to me until I get my coffee. This time though,
coffee just doesn’t cut it the sounds are louder, things are a bit
more annoying, our attention span is low so we make more mistakes and we
disappoint people around us. And this goes on for days for weeks until at a
certain point we might get angry and we might start shouting back. And that means
that we become abrasive coworkers, so our boss might fire us; and we become abusive
partners or bad parents… and that means that society can take off our family, our
kids, away from us. In the end of the day, we don’t know why, we are on the side
of a street with a hat on the floor and watching people passing by and telling
between each other that: “they won’t give us any money because we might use it on
drugs or alcohol.” Well… now… we are not good people here Society doesn’t see us that
way. When you read about an abusive partner you don’t see anyone being
sympathetic to the abuser, you see people being sympathetic to the victim. And if
we put ourselves into the shoes of these people: of our partners, of our parents, of
our children, of our co-workers, we realise that they haven’t done anything
wrong. Actually we cannot pretend a person to stand for an abusive
relationship, not even if there is depression involved. It’s just wrong.
Society hasn’t done anything wrong. You haven’t done anything wrong yourself,
because you haven’t chosen to have depression, you just happened to catch it.
And so this is very complicated because there is nobody we can blame. The only
thing that we can blame is depression itself, and the only thing we can do is
actually treat depression before all of that happens. That does sound pretty grim, right?
But there is an alternate universe, a universe in which we have the same
depression, we have exactly the same brain: with the exact same problem, with
exactly the same amount of sleep… but this time we’re not angry. We go out, we
take a run, we… maybe we box, we release that anger somehow and when we get home,
we take a very long shower, we spend hours grooming ourselves and, you know,
ironing our best shirts, and when we go out… into real world, we put a smile on our face. Maybe there is a person on the
street that annoys us (just annoys us as much as it was doing the other time, well…
in the other universe) but this time we smile, we laugh, and our co-workers,
or our boss, or our clients are disappointed with us… and we smile!
and we go back home and the house is a mess and people around us, you know, they haven’t
done anything and the kids have been naughty and so on… and we smile.
Wait a moment! We’re smiling at pretty much everything: we are smiling at good things, we are smiling at bad things… Now this behaviour is very real
and it’s called a smiling depression We can do this consciously… this alternate self of ours can do this consciously, because well…
we are depressed, we’re not stupid. We might know that depression can cause all
those problems that we just mentioned. But we can do this also
subconsciously, which means… we might not even know that we have
depression in the first place. and now that is quite complicated, because
if we don’t know that we have depression, well how can society do that.
How can society know that. so at that point, yes, society doesn’t blame us;
society doesn’t consider us as villains and so on, but they also don’t understand that
we have a problem. So now we have constructed two situations,
in which one way or the other society doesn’t really empathize with us:
one because we are villains of society and the other one, in which we were not
really sick for them… and what about those triggers: those little things, or
big things, that might happen to us that trigger our depressive behaviour; that
makes us sad, or angry, or whatever. Well… chances are we are going to have a
friend, or a family member, that will come to us with an advice and this advice
goes along the lines of: you need to take control over your life,
you need to see this as an opportunity, you need to do something: go on an
adventure. Get over it. Now that is great advice.
It’s great advice for healthy people. In people with depression this doesn’t work because that reward process
that we explained earlier is jammed. It just doesn’t work properly.
So that is the catch. That’s the catch, these advice works if
you if you have that reward process to help you out to make you happy about
something, and make you positive enough to pursue it, okay? So in that way you
turned something bad into something good you redeemed it, okay. But we have
depression so we can’t get over it that’s a simple as that.
Actually, this thing of getting over it is a consequence of a good treatment.
So when we start having that behaviour, when we start moving on, that is the sign that
whatever we are doing to help our depression is working. But unfortunately
it cannot be a treatment itself because of that reward system that is broken in us Here I hope you understand that depression I is not something easy,
okay? and so we actually cannot pretend from society and from people
around us to know everything of how to cope with depression, or to know how to
treat us, you know? Well… if we got pneumonia, or cancer, or a broken arm, we
wouldn’t just go to our mother, or a friend, and be like: “hey, you know man, can
you treat this for me?” No we would go to the hospital. But here’s the thing, if we
have cancer, we go to the hospital and we meet with the oncologists, who in our
mind is that very nice person who happens to be the best friend of the
crazy guy that makes diagnoses, right? But if we go to the psychiatrist for our
depression, we’re going to that guy that eats us for dinner after therapy, oh! or
the straps us on a chair to mess up with our brain! No. Now that’s not what happens
reality. In reality psychiatrists are just people that have dedicated all
their lives trying to learn and trying to help… you. okay? They’re doctors,
they are just as doctors as any other. And you should
allow them to explain to you what to do with your depression, you should allow
them to help. Because they also are people who who understood that their job
is is not very easy, and I hope you understand this: when you choose a path
like psychiatry, you probably have to cope with the fact that you’re going to
fail much more times than you’re going to win, and so when you actually manage
to help someone, well I’m pretty sure they’re gonna be happy about it. I think
they’re gonna be thrilled by it. So that’s what you should do. You do
what you would do for anything else: go to the doctor. now there is also something else
that we can do: maybe we already know we have depression we are already being
treated for depression, in some sort of way, but we want to do more, okay?
And chances are that we live close to a big city, or close to civilization in general,
and the thing is that everywhere where there is civilization, there is probably a
hospital and everywhere where there is a hospital there is somebody who is
interested in studying depression. Depression is a big thing in science and
the way science works is by stacking up knowledge until somebody manages to find
a pattern and exploit that partner to create a cure. In science we have seen
this many times so many times that I don’t even doubt that one day we will
find a cure we will definitely find a cure and when that happens… when that
happens we will be thankful not only to the people that found a cure, that realised
about that pattern and developed the cure, but also to all those people that
contributed in stacking up that knowledge. So what you can do is that you
can just get interested find out if there is people that are doing something:
they probably won’t open your skull and poke into your brain. They much
more likely just put you on a machine and ask you questions and show you
photos while they monitor what sparks in your brain. This might not help
you, might not help you directly, but it will help humanity and you will do a
great deal for humanity. And everybody… I think everybody would be proud to do this once they they have understood the implications of it. So I’ve been talking a bit too much
already, so I’m gonna stop here. But, I hope this video has been
educational and I hope if anytime you will have to face depression, whether you
are the person with depression, or somebody else you’re related with has
depression, you will be able to take a step back and think, and try to empathize
and allow to take those steps that will avoid depression to take over and
eventually destroy the life of people you know maybe you won’t be able to cure it but you can be able to cope with it,
or to help other people to cope with it. So thank you for listening and take care

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