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Andrew Sullivan - Depression, the Secret We Share

"The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment." Those who suffer from depression must battle with a lot of demons precisely at the point in which all energy, motivation and initiative have been exhausted.

One of those demons is the struggle to be understood in light of something that, to everyone else, seems plainly irrational and self-destructive, as if it is a choice one repeatedly makes to fall into a ditch that serves no productive purpose. And of course, how could you wish to be understood when you wouldn't wish the requisite phenomenology on anyone, especially those you care about? Another demon is the paradox of needing emotional support, connection and compassion when what one wants most is to be left alone. Another is the inability to understand the extent and intensity of your own pain when others clearly have it so much worse, to find a narrative that makes sense of—and vindicates—your suffering. Then there's the issue of hyper-awareness: that sense that you can see the fabric of reality as weaved by despair, suffering, loneliness, betrayal, loss and ultimately oblivion and futility. Then there's the guilt for inflicting suffering on those you care about, as well as the feeling of helplessness that comes when you find yourself unable to do much or anything about it. There are questions regarding the various forms that cultural understandings of individuality, community and mental health contextualize one's experience of depression and others' response to it. There's the struggle with existential questions of meaning, identity and authenticity in light of the need for medication: Is the meaning of my life and suffering reducible to a chemical imbalance in my brain? And if I am my brain, will medication help me or turn me into someone I'm not? Will I be me? Do I want to be me?

In the following moving and eloquent TEDTalk presentation, writer Andrew Sullivan takes us to the darkest corners of his mind, as well as on a journey that helped him understand depression in a new way. This may not be a solution, but perhaps a new context for understanding is already a step in the right direction...

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