Conversations I’d Rather Not Have: “Just think happy thoughts!”

This is a really common topic. It’s been covered before about a million times by a lot of other people at a lot of different places so odds are this isn’t something entirely new. But this is the internet, where making a point by yourself is like trying to fill an oil pipeline with a Dixie cup. So I’m going to run my Dixie cup under the faucet for a second more then toss it on into the pipe.

Depression isn’t a mood. It’s more like that food you really hate. For me, that food is onion, but enough people are all about onion that for the purposes of this example I’ve chosen lutefisk. It doesn’t really matter how much information you learn about lutefisk. Maybe it’s nutritious. Maybe it has a long cultural history that’s intimately tied to your own family. At any rate, it’s not going to kill you. None of that changes the fact that it’s still gelatinous, alkali fish goop. And seriously, gross.

The classic parenting line about children in Africa who’d love to have that last serving of lutefisk is well loaded with unhelpful and inaccurate messages. Just the same, pointing out that other people have worse problems isn’t going to do much to relieve a bout of depression. Because it isn’t about reality, it’s about what you see in front of you.  That lutefisk isn’t a serving of food–it is a caustic affront to all that is good and right in the world–and not much is going to change that.

When you see a friend riding on a rough road like depression it’s really hard to not reach out and help, and I definitely don’t want to say not to do that. Because the very act of caring can help a lot. Just don’t expect the depression to respond the same way to logic that you might expect. Your friend isn’t necessarily trying to fight with you or resist your attempts to help. The depression is just lying to them. It’s the voice whispering all those gag inducing fears about lutefisk.

So your friend continuing to feel down in spite of all the very good reasons why they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves isn’t stupid any more than someone who simply really doesn’t like lutefisk. Fortunately for the lye-and-fish paste averse, this is probably unlikely to put a big damper on their lives. Unfortunately for those coping with depression it often does make it difficult to function the way one may like. Just keep in mind that to avoid grief in either situation the solution has more to do with lifestyle choices than it does with finely crafted logical arguments about the nutritional benefits and cultural heritage of oddly prepared Scandinavian fish.


About apfergus

A coffee sipping, bike riding, (newly) ballroom dancing, cardigan sweater enthusiast, and astrophysics grad student looking at the highest energy cosmic rays.
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