Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Screw you, depression.

Tell me something. Is it me? Or do western people tend to get depressed pretty easily?

I am getting increasingly annoyed at the ease with which western doctors prescribe antidepressants these days.

A friend of mine told me recently she was on medication. I was shocked. Et tu, Brute, I thought.

I asked why. She said she had been somewhat down lately. Personally, I was not convinced she was depressed. Of course, I am not an expert. Depression is a scary, sensitive, dodgy area to me. As a child of a culture where depressed people were kicked up their butts to get on with it or get locked up in a mental home, I find it difficult to believe that so many people can be seriously that ill.

Because, depression is an illness, remember?

What is it with this modern life and western world that makes us all so bloody weak and unable to cope? A friend of mine came up with an interesting theory. She suggested that westerners expect to be always happy. They view it as their right, she said. And when they realize that is not always the case, they...get depressed, of course.

My grandmother had a collection of beautiful tall porcelain dolls when she was a child.

“They were bigger than me! “ she used to tell me excitedly. And each of them had a suitcase of beautiful clothes. My grandmother did not know things could be any different. That was her life. And then, one day, Stalin woke up in a dark mood, and had her parents arrested and then murdered.

And everything was gone. The dolls, the suitcases with silk dresses, the luxurious Persian rugs....everything.

Daughter of the” Enemy of the people”, she struggled to cope with public hatred, poverty and hunger. And then, her little brother died of dysentery.

So let me tell you something. That was worth getting depressed about. That was the kind of a moment in somebody’s life when it would have probably been quite appropriate to get on some strong antidepressants.

But the thing is...In the Soviet era there was no place for easily available drugs.

You either coped, or you got labelled as crazy for the rest of your life.
And, whereas I am not suggesting that those methods were humane or appropriate, I can’t help but compare. Western life, without a proper war, without a real hunger and with no dysentery but only a hyperbolised threat of the swine flu, causes more and more cases of depression from year to year.

Why, I ask you.

More importantly, how do we know when someone is depressed and when they are just a bit miserable and decided to ask their doctor for some drugs to cheer them up? Or, as I suspect it happens in an awful lot of cases, just claim some benefits and stay at home for a while?

A boyfriend trouble? Get some drugs and don’t worry about it! Money problems? Doctors will happily issue you some medication and you will tell the banks where to shove their endless bills. Lost your job? Don’t bother looking for a new one just yet, why not relax for a while and oh, don’t forget some more medication!

The western society cherishes depression, welcomes it and makes it feel at home.

Since when has it become the norm? I googled depression statistics in the UK and found this fascinating data. Just look at this chart!

So, the question is, do people in the west really get depressed a lot because of the increasing pressures of the modern life? Or do we (encouraged by our doctors) just opt for an easy, cheap and quick solution?

Even at work, in the toilet cubicle, instead of something useful, like a picture of a semi-naked Clive Owen, I have to stare at the newly designed poster:

Worried about your personal or professional life? Talk to us, we are here to listen.

Stop talking me into depression! I think, unless something truly horrible happens, I should be able to cope. I would like to think that there is some of my grandmother's spirit hiding inside me, despite the new western me.


  1. Westerners are whimps! Over fed, over indulged, over completely disempowered (in general) and happy to take the easy way out most of the time. Thank god you are like your grandma! PS...I like the new blog title/description. Go Scary!

  2. It's not any better in the US, I'm afraid, and maybe worse.

    In America you are made to believe that you can find a solution to most anything that ails you right there in a bottle of pills. And the pharmaceutical companies are eager to help you figure it out!

    Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise on TV about their PRESCRIPTION medication, so patients can go to their doctor and tell him/her what they need and want! They've seen it on TV so they know they've got this condition/illness.

    Depression, insomnia, erectile dysfunction -- you'd think everybody suffers from it if you watch those commercials.

    To be fair, side effects must be listed, so these wonder drugs that are going to change your life may also cause-- they tell us right there -- nausea, blindness,kidney failure, and sometimes death, but hey,it's only a small risk.

    You hit me with this post. I am SO SICK (no pun intended) of listening to these commercials. That's probably why so many Americans are depressed. They watch too many commercials.

  3. Real depression is a terrible condition.
    I guess people get "depressed" lately because it's trendy. As it is trendy to have your 4 year old child going to therapy. I see that a lot around me.
    My dad died when I was 8, I never went to therapy. My brother died when his son (my nephew) was 8, and never went to therapy. My mom lost her husband at a very young age, and saw her son dying, and never went to therapy. My sister had a miscarriage about 3 years ago, and never went to therapy.
    And here we are, missing our beloved departed, but going on with our lives. No therapy. And more important: no drugs. YES WE CAN!

  4. Real chemical-imbalance depression is a serious illness and if left untreated, debilitating & deadly. But I’m sure there are studies estimating what % of people are potentially misdiagnosed and/or abuse the meds. One thing for certain, pharma companies are working hard to convince doctors and general population to use their products. One shouldn’t underestimate the power of greed and pharma industry certainly has a very, very, very attractive revenues. So do the math.

  5. I agree with Tricia. The children of the post-communist countries are survivors. Take the basic amenities, for instance. When there was an overnight power outage in New York City in the winter of 2003 (bad weather, I think--not sure now), my husband who grew up in the US complained he had to light a candle and heat up water on the gas stove to shave. Boo-hoo-hoo, we had extended power outages several times a week in Baku in the early 1990s. We just had to go to bed earlier :)

  6. Scary, I think the most worrying thing here is that you want to see Clive Owen half naked...

  7. @Miss Footloose: Hi, yes. I have heard it was a lot worse in the US. I understand it is trendy in big cities like NY to have a personal shrink anyway, whether you are ill or not, it is a fancy attribute, just like a designer handbag. If you can afford one- you get one, right?

    @Nata: I agree. I never really thought much about the influence of large pharmacy companies until the swine flu hysteria that hit the UK recently. It was just crazy, honestly. The amount of money the government wasted on those jabs....

    @Marianna: Yes, precisely. I think it probably is the lack of real challenges in life that contributes to this pathetic trend. V. sad. I already worry what my daughter would do when she gets dumped by her first boyfriend. Get on drugs straight away, probably. :(

    @ Gabriela: Yes. That is tough. But do you also think, that our cultures have such strong family connection that it acts like a free therapy for us on its own? When you have true friends and family there for you, who needs a shrink?

    @Tricia: Shows how long you have not visited me! This title is old now, girl. :) Re:me being like my grandma...I am hoping I might be like her, but the truth is you never know until life hits you hard. You can only hope.

    @northernrich: I assume your emphasis is on the word "half". Well, I am a girl, you see…and we girls normally like some enigma left. Also, I would not want my fantasies to shatter.

  8. Clive Owen rocks! Why don't you make a statement and secretly replace a depression ad with a poster of him in your office bathroom?

  9. An occasional reader15 April 2010 at 04:46

    Hi Scary,

    I almost completely agree with you, but:
    - in the USSR there was a third option, alcohol- I don't know if it it was a widespread problem in Azerbaijan, but in most of the other republics for many people not as strong and courageous as your grandmother it was the only way to cope with reality.
    - for some people it can be actually a courageous move to admit that yes, you are in a depression and that you need help. Or only, that you are in a state where the love of your family and friends helps you keeping the head out of the water but it'll require a specialist to help you reaching the shore, if I can use this poetic metaphor :-)

    But yes, shrinks as fashion accessory and 10-yerar analysis always seemed a bit ridiculous to me, as well as this attitude of solving your problems by taking pills of all colours; to me it is actuall a symptom of a society where we (well, not me) expect to get everything now, and here, and can't stand any kind of delay..

  10. @ The Occasional Reader:

    Of course, the alcohol! True. Doubt it helps with depression, it probably makes it worse. Like in that song by The Verve, do you remember..."now drugs don't work they just make you worse"...But it definitely helps to relax. :) I look forward to my glass of vino tonight, let me tell you. My grandmother did not drink much at all. Gosh, what sort of life did she have, poor woman.

    I know what you mean by having the courage to admit you need help. I just have a feeling that it is not actually viewed as much of a problem anymore in the west. That is the problem. 

    It is like celebrities think it makes them cool and interesting if they have some stupid phobia. Like spiders. Or clowns. I think that makes them pathetic. But oh, no...It is fashionable to have a phobia, you know? You are just boring if you don't have one.

    Where are you from then, I am just curious?

    Oh, and thanks for your "occasional" visits and the interesting comment. :)

  11. The returning occasional reader15 April 2010 at 06:03

    Hi Scary,
    I'm actually from Western Europe but spent some time in Central Asia and have friends and acquaintances from/in all corners of the CIS (and have joyous memories of never-ending Georgian toasting sessions :))

    I'm still traumatised by this comic strip (not comic at all actually) about the author's youth in Siberia and the rampant use of alcohol..not sure if those people would have been happier with Prozac and their lives more meaningful but it was really chilling to see how entire lives were destroyed by vodka abuse.

    But of course this was a specific Russian (and by extension Soviet) problem, I'm sure there are many non-European countries where people deal with their difficulties without shrinks or alcohol/drugs.. but that's a bit of coffee house anthrolpology, I guess :)))

  12. @ TROR:
    What was that comic strip then?

  13. The dirty little secret about antidepressants is that they don't work. Or, rather, they work no better than sugar pill: multiple studies show that patients receiving placebo improve almost exactly like those receiving real medicine. Newsweek published a large article about this a while ago; check it out here.

    So, big pharma makes billions of dollars selling people stuff that doesn't work. Hm-m-m, sounds familiar - did they take a page from IKEA's playbook?

  14. Returning occasional visitor16 April 2010 at 05:48

    @scary azeri: it's in French and called: Une jeunesse soviétique (Nikolai Maslov)- it looks like that:
    more background if you read French:

  15. @Gabriela:I read a lot of your comments and got image of you:Very nice lady with strong personality,kind heart,I wish to have a friend like you.Saludos :-)

  16. Thanks a lot, Anonymous. Your words really cheered me up!

  17. @scaryazeri: good story... espesially re ur grandma. Very close to mine.
    Re depression: I guess, this is how those who rule the world make money on us :) Does it have anything in common if we compare what probs we have and those like our grandmas did? Unless, u havent lost the very close person of urs, u cant afford having depression. Otherwise, u'd better accept ur measerable existance. Mehriban

  18. I love this post, because it's so true! I think my family also didn't find out about depression until we got to the US. Depression is a Western malaise that comes from having too much, I think. Your grandmother and my grandparents, in hiding in Uzbekistan in WWII with nothing to eat because they were Jews, didn't have time to stop and think about being depressed because they had to hustle and get stuff done. We don't have the same problems in the west, and we get bored and complacent. The issue is, how do we stop being trapped by the bullshit?