July 15, 2019:
There’s a lot going on during a depressive episode. There are changes in neurotransmitter function; changes in synaptic function; increased or decreased excitability between neurons; alterations of gene expression; hypometabolism in the frontal cortex (usually) or hypermetabolism in the same area; raised levels of thyroid releasing hormone (TRH); disruption of function in the amygdala and possibly the hypothalamus (areas within the brain); altered levels of melatonin (a hormone that the pineal gland makes from serotonin); increased prolactin (increased lactate in anxiety-prone individuals will bring on panic attacks); flattening of twenty-four-hour body temperature; distortion of twenty-four-hour cortisol secretion; disruption of the circuit that links the thalamus, basal ganglia, and frontal lobes (again, centers in the brain); increased blood flow to the frontal lobe of the dominant hemisphere; decreased blood flow to the occipital lobe (which controls vision); lowering of gastric secretions.
— Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression (pp. 55-56). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
Then people say, "Just."
- Just smile, you'll feel better!
- Just go for a run!
- Just get some sun!
- Just do some yoga while watching the sunrise!1
- Just draw pictures of rainbows and kittens!
- Just get over yourself!2
And you want to be kind to them because you know what pain is and you don't want to ever see anyone else in it, ever. But you're deeply frustrated by their well-intentioned pig-headedness, their steadfast refusal to actually engage with what you're telling them.
Because what they're actually saying is, "Just be like me!" With the everyday human narcissism that projects our own experiences onto everyone else.
1. Thanks to the brilliant Allie Brosh for this.
2. "When you're depressed, everyone has an opinion about what you should do." — Martha Manning, Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface, HarperOne 1994 (p.75)