Rainy days can lead to anti-depressants

19:28, Oct 14 2012

Rain - batten down the hatches stuff and long-range forecasted giving us an idea of what we were in for, so we could organise our book reading, TV watching, stay indoors, full on retreat.

A friend uses the foul weather as an excuse to stay in bed all day, not bothering to get dressed and laying low.

Visitors have to troop in and find a space to park up on the paddock of her bed among the books and newspapers that litter the counterpane, as she holds forth, her hair all sticky out and flat at the back, with no apology given for staying put. I both admire and envy her, her enjoyable sloth.

Many moons ago when I was working the night shift we'd knock off round 2am and I'd hit the hay and try as I might, would get up no later than 10am while my colleagues would sleep till noon. When I'd go home to visit the aged parents, my father would be incensed at what he thought were my Burlington Bertie rising times and burst into the bedroom several times to entreat his lazy daughter to get up and get weaving.

As a result I feel guilty about loitering in bed and have to train myself to stay in it after waking, for if I remain under the blanket too long I fall prey to what Winston Churchill and John Kirwan call the black dog depression, thinking miserable thoughts.

The other morning I caught the tail end of a discussion on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report that one in 10 New Zealanders were knocking back anti- depressants like there was no tomorrow, which could well be the case if the Mayan calendar myth plays out and we have only weeks to live.


The Mayan prophecy is bleak but, if true, part of me couldn't help but feel strangely proud to have been the generation who, as luck would have it, was around at that very moment in history when it came to a full stop.

Being there at the end could give you a swollen head, make you think you were rather special, the downside being there would be no future generation to airily boast to and say: 'Yes, well I was there at the end, saw it all and have not lived to tell the tale'. Imagine how cross funeral directors would be missing out on their Eureka moment?

But I digress, I was listening to Sir John Kirwan, or JK as he prefers to be called, a recipient of the OBE for services to mental health who wasn't perturbed by the one in 10 stat, interpreting it as a sign that the stigma of depression had lifted and more people were seeking help.

He said he hadn't wanted to take anti-depressants himself but had to in order to get to a place where he could work on getting well. He was no longer taking them, and made the assertion that depression is an illness not a weakness, and begged the question that if this was any other disease, would be worrying about how many people were taking pills.

He had me till the disease bit. I don't see depression as a weakness and think better of people when they confess to being blue, but to leap to the conclusion that depression is a disease is depressing in itself.

Perhaps the illness is our readiness to take the pill, that we don't dig deeper or accept that the business of living isn't all beer and skittles, that life can be sad and harrowing and lonely, but if you hang around long enough for the getting of wisdom bit, you learn to live with it.

JK says depression is just the way things are today, but depression, feelings of melancholia and a sadness of the soul have always been our constant companions.

The pseudo modern nasties of the human condition - bullying, victimhood, passive aggression, are they all diseases too, waiting for another pill to roll off the assembly line?

Happiness at any cost is the mantra, depression is an unacceptable, loser state of mind to be nipped in the bud, and the sad psyche should take itself off to the Outward Bound of self-help discovery to blot out the gloom.

I'm not against anti-depressants but I do worry that so many of us are taking them and we are not wanting to know why. Is the human race destined to perish and die of sadness, or can we, like Joe Cocker, 'stand a little rain'?

The Press