Wednesday, November 18, 2015


It seems to me that psychology has long overlooked the "Gorilla in the Living Room," the fundamental mental disorder on which so many other disorders rest.

Haw! That's (above) a caricature Mike did of me, showing me in one of my cheery moods, oblivious to anything depressing. Haw! Maybe he's right. For all I know, I might have a mountain of psychological disorders, but I don't think Depression is one of them. Even so I can't help but feel sorry for the people who do have it, a sympathy made deeper by a reading of William Styron's book on the subject, "Darkness Visible."

I think the image most people have of a depressive is that of a lethargic person (above) who spends hours looking wistfully out the window at grey, overcast skies. I don't think that's always correct. My own belief is that depressives are sometimes the most active people you know, the people who are least likely to waste time staring out of windows.

It's true that they're all vulnerable to funks of frightening intensity, but it's also true that lots of them have developed strategies to deflect those funks....I mean, apart from the medication they take. Those strategies frequently include alcohol or drugs...

...but they also might include hypochondria, hoarding, workaholism, over-achievement or sex obsession.

Even crime, even philanthropy!  What all these strategies have in common is that they allow the sufferer to get out of his own problems and focus on something outside of himself.

I find this fascinating, especially the workaholic part (above). I used to regard workaholics as possible candidates for what's called "Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior Disorder, but now I'm not so sure. If a person deliberately cultivates compulsion just to deflect depression, is he really clinically compulsive? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that he simply has a compulsive "problem?" Surely the stronger term "disorder" should be reserved for the the depression he's trying to avoid.

Okay, I've probably bored everybody to death with all this fuss about naming things. I'll end with this thought: if lesser disorders are dropped from the official list...if vulnerability to depression is recognized as being far and away the central problem...

...the "Gorilla in the Living Room"...

....then psychiatry and treatment is simplified. Whatever drug lessens the frequency of depression will lessen lots of other problems too. In fact, in a general way, I think that's already known to be the case.

My own guess is that if depression were easier to recognize, we'd discover that 1/2  or more of all people have it. Something that widespread might have come about because it's benign or useful in some way. Maybe the deflection strategies it engenders are an essential part of creative thinking or getting things done. Who knows?


Anonymous said...

My depression has never brought me anything positive. I feel like a bag of shit, and act accordingly. My whole life I've simply been waiting to die.

Interesting you have a fascination with the subject. Sometimes I have to remind myself that other people only feel bad when bad things happen to them. For me it's all internal, and I don't understand any of it. Just the whims of today's chemicals, I suppose.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Yikes! It sounds like you've got it bad. Have you read Styron's "Darkness Visible" yet? He realized that his depression came in waves and he drew some comfort from the realization that the current wave he was enduring would eventually run out of gas all by itself. He knew it would start up again but the next time he'd be more prepared.

What finally made a big difference, beside the medication he took, was a stay for several weeks in a hospital-type sanitarium. It was expensive, boring, the food was terrible, and the therapies offered were laughably inadequate, but the bland daily routine there somehow really helped. Of course Styron had the money to afford a prolonged hospital stay.

His crutch during the worst pre-hospital periods was alcohol but he doesn't say whether he was an alcoholic, so I don't know if he was. He said the process of getting off alcohol needs to be gradual because the cold turkey method can make depression worse. He was writing in the early 80s when street drugs were less accessable than they are now, so his book would have benefited from an update if he were still alive.

An odd feature of depression is that it seems to lessen in old age. I wonder why. You'd think all the daily inconveniences of age would make it worse but it doesn't. Maybe the hormonal and neurotransmitter mix changes in old age and that has a benign effect. Maybe depressives die younger so only the non-depressives are left.

So far as me being interested in the subject, I've always believed that the common super ailments (cancer, heart disease, migraines and depression) deserve relentless research. Almost every one of us will get one of these problems so we all have a stake in it.

Mr. Trombley said...

I hope you find a way out like Styron did, Anon.

It's kind of off topic, but this reminded Bertrand Russell's idea of why there were so many crazy logicians/mathematicians. Before modern logic, most logicians were, like Lewis Carroll and George Boole, sane. Then after Cantor you have Frege, who became a Nazi, the bundle of neuroses that was Wittgenstein, and Kurt Godel, who was a paranoid schizophrenic. Cantor himself had a career ended by mental illness, not to mention Bertrand Russell's struggles with depression. Russell's theory was that these people who could not trust their senses and emotions looked for something, anything in the world that looked stable. And pure, perfect mathematical logic looked like it could be that stable plane. Some people join the military to give their life stability in this way.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Mr. T: Woooowww! I had no idea those people had problems like that. Now I have a good excuse for being bad at math.

Anonymous said...

Mr. T: That's kind of interesting. I love logic, and I hate emotions. I'd much rather be a dispassionate robot than a human.

I do take medication, and it helps a lot. I get really negative if I miss a dose by even a few hours. Depression does come in waves, but it's not really the same as bi-polar because there is never a strong positive mood. My mood changes from casually-nihilistic at best, to obsessively-suicidal at worst. The best state I can imagine is an absence of pain.

But, ya know... it is what it is. I have no choice but to live my life as well as I can, just as all of us must do.

Thank you for the well-wishes.

Anonymous said...

Dear Edward (if such a thing is possible),

How would you like to help revive Tiny Toon Adventures? Here's an easy-to-understand script that I just had to read all the way through:

Do you think this story deserves to be made into a full-length Tiny Toons movie, even if it does need editing/censoring to make it suitable for children?

If the answer is yes, then here is what I'm thinking:

You, along with Paul Dini and Sherri Stoner, can edit the script to take out material that is considered too adult for Tiny Toons and put in gags which you think are best suited for the picture?

And also, you're the storyboard artist!

And in unrelated news, there's a cartoon question for your theory corner:

Are Scary Characters Less Scary When They're Funny?

Yours Truly,
Jake Stone

P.S. I'm a bit of a cartoonist myself, if you would like to see my work:

And would you like to make some drawings to go with the topic? You have one of the most talented hands in Hollywood, and you're letting it go to waste! Loligagger! You should be ashamed of yourself (Sounds familiar?)!

Unknown said...

one of the best analysis I've ever read concerning depression!! Just as viruses are now seen to perhaps be the catalyst that has shaped humans into the humans we are today, maybe depression; like you said, has been the catalyst for some of the greatest achievments for humans. I liked your funny way of approaching the subject. I like your blogs and I read them all the time. Love your quirky sense of English humor!!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: Your feature story strikes me as a bit complicated. Your newspaper comic was simple and more accessable.

C.E.: Thanks! I never thought of what I do as having a big English influence, but, come to think of probably does.