Understanding ‘The Big D’

I have a few close friends who are currently suffering from major depressive disorder, and I’ve been dealing with a tenacious depressive episode for the past year. Though depression is surprisingly prevalent & debilitating, people don’t talk about it openly, out of ignorance & fear of a condition that seems so opaque.

Below I’ve posted a number of articles and podcasts that helped me (and my family) start to come to terms with the disease. Perhaps these resources can shed a bit of light on what a depressive episode feels like—though hopefully, you’ll never have to go through the experience.


  1. I’ve found that it helps to externalize depression, to treat it as a different entity. One nickname I have for it is, “The Big D.” Because it’s silly & reminds me of penises.  ↩


Causes & Solutions (?)

What Causes Depression?

Published in "Understanding Depression," a report from Harvard Medical School / Jun 2009 / TRT: 20–30 minutes

“While researchers know more now than ever before about how the brain regulates mood, their understanding of the biology of depression is far from complete.”


How to Fight Depression
Written by Lily Benson, for Deadspin / Mar 2015 / TRT: 10 minutes

“Exercising is hard & sucks. But what I probably hate the most about it is, that it actually works. So now I have to do it.”


Testimony (audio)

Roderick on the Line: Ep. 55: ’A Welsh Troll’
Hosted by Merlin Mann & John Roderick / 2012 / Relevent section begins ~18 minutes in.

John: “Every morning, I wake up, and even if there are no owls in my room, there is always like, this bugbear. And I go, ‘Ugh, you again?!’ A lot of the stuff you and I talk about orbit around this issue of—that feeling of—everything you’ve accomplished adds up to bupkis. … There’s no reasonable way I could think that. But that’s because depression is irrational.”

And one of my favorite segments ever, 42 minutes in:

Merlin: “What I’m saying is, don’t say [a solution’s] as simple as green tea and a walk in the woods.”
John: “Right. You’re looking into a no-boner future.”
Merlin: “Remember, the boner will stare back at you from the boner abyss.”


Minimal Mac Podcast: Ep. 14: Don’t Worry. Do.
Hosted by Patrick Rhone & Myke Hurley / Mar 2011 / TRT: 23 minutes

Patrick opens up about his experience living with bipolar disorder, and also offers advice for listeners who are interested in Mindfulness.


Testimony (illustrated & written)

Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two
Written & illustrated by Allie Brosh / May 2013 / TRT: 15 minutes

“[A]ll the hopeful, proactive solutions [for depression] start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem. It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.”


Darkwater
Written by Matt Gemmell / Feb 2015 / TRT: 8–10 minutes

“That’s the trick. [Depression’s] not a monster; it’s not even really just one thing. It’s an ocean of its own, around and inside. Amorphous, endlessly shifting and adapting, drop by drop until there’s an entire tide. Darkwater. That’s the word that swam into my mind one night, back while it was with me.”