Follow the link below to an absolutely harrowing account of depression by Daphne Merkin in The New York Times. This essay had me chained to my desk--- I couldn't stop reading. The clock was ticking. I was due in class in seconds, but it didn't matter. This is far better than William Styron's Darkness Visible. This is no gentle poetry of madness; the dull gray film that descends upon your life like falling snow. No. This is brutal. The cocktail of psycho-pharmeceuticals. The shrinks who push shock therapy--- yes, they still do this. Apparently, it isn't as extreme, but once hospitalized, she reported a man obsessively walking up and down the hall saying, my brain is gone. She had voluntarily checked herself into a nuthouse.
I clearly remember the fall afternoon in 2006 when I asked my best friend to drive me into Manhattan so I could check myself into a nuthouse. St. Vincent's Hospital on 14th street. I walked in and faced the same kind of bland institutional culture that Merkin describes so well in her essay; the green walls, the battered couches, the same insouciance of the staff. Their generic indifference to your insanity. I told the receptionist I needed to see a doctor ASAP. I said, I'm falling apart. The receptionist was like--- whatever. I remember that her nails were tomato red, she was cracking gum, the radio was playing. The staff was in a great mood!
It was a bad day. It had been a bad week, a bad month. However, I've never descended into the hell Merkin writes about. Not that I couldn't. I could. Very easily. But I got to get my ass out of bed every morning. I have bills to pay. And I often have the same voices screaming inside my head--- lacerating, eviscerating. But I run two miles on the treadmill, do crunches, lift weights, fifteen minutes of yoga stretches, ten minutes in the steam room, followed by a hot, stinging shower. I've read studies that depression responds best to exercise, not medication. I think medication makes it worse. I do. Leave my brain chemistry alone.
She survives of course as I did, and wrote this beautifully articulate essay. Above all I applaud her honesty. I know there are many vociferous critcs of her work, but still--- it takes cojones to write like this.