Depression as Gift

Over the past two decades, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed. One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four. — from A Glut of Anti-Depressants, August, 2014, nyt

At times like this bleak grey wintry end-of-January day, I am tempted to say that, given what is going on both within and around us, if we are not enormously saddened, then we are seriously out of balance. Medication, to mask this sadness or to reverse it, may be precisely what we don’t want to do if we wish to alter the course of his-story, its arc appearing to bend, not towards justice, but towards destruction.

Note to self: Remember that the brightest lights throw the deepest shadows. And that winter gives way to spring.

Bleed Joyfully – A Fresh View of Depression

March 8, 2007

by toko-pa


According to a recent study by the University of Toronto, prescriptions for antidepressants in Canada increased from 3.2 to 14.5 million between 1981 and 2000. But despite this medicalization frenzy, depression is on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of the ‘global disability burden’.

Though pharmaceuticals mean legitimate salvation for many, they have become the catch-all solution to our collective gloom. Instead of investigating the intelligence of our melancholia, North America has fallen under a prohibition of sadness. “Part of the nagging worry about Prozac and its ilk,” says prominent bioethicist Carl Elliott, is that the ills they treat are part and parcel of the lonely, forgetful, unbearably sad place where we live.”

Marion Woodman, prized Canadian Jungian analyst and author, tells us that what we are experiencing as a culture is the loss of the symbolic life. We have displaced our natural impulse to worship the sacred onto the material world. We accumulate wealth instead of strengthening our values, pursue knowledge instead of wisdom and choose status over interconnectedness.

The antidote to this terrible crisis of meaning is what Woodman calls the “Mature Feminine.” It is the domain of interiority, the body, feeling and dreams. The Mature Feminine is about really listening to one another, digging in the unconscious dirt, and enduring what Jung called “the empty stillness that precedes creative work.”


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2 Responses to Depression as Gift

  1. Susan McElroy says:

    As a person who deals with depression myself, I have to note a few things in this article that do not resonate with my own experience. Primarily, the use of words like sadness, sorrow, and grief to describe depression. I can’t think of anyone who does not feel deep sadness, sorrow, or grief at some time in a lifetime. That is NOT depression. Depression is deadness, blackness, and emptiness in the not-good way of emptiness. It is looking forward and seeing nothing at all. In such a state, you grow chilling thoughts in the icy barrenness of your inner soil. People may commit suicide because they are terribly sad, but that does not mean they are depressed. When I get suicidal, it is because I can’t live with my interior world anymore. When you are depressed, little from the outside world can get in. At least, this has been my experience, and I am also aware that no two people experience depression in the same way. If you have not had it, you simply cannot “get it.” Like having a baby.

    Using words like “sorrow” sadness, blues, grief, implies that one might be able to lift depression with happy thoughts, or by having friends around who can help snap you out of it with upbeat acts and words. That has not been my experience at all.

    Yes, there is something to be said for sitting with the depression, up to a point. Past a certain point, it is nothing but deadly. Some folks burn with creativity in this place, but others can’t lift their arms high enough to rise a pencil, a paintbrush, or a sculpting knife.

    This is one of the problems with depression. It is mysterious and unique to each person it visits, and very few generalizations can be made about it. But this one can be made: Depression is NOT sadness or sorrow.

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