Andrew Solomon‘s 2001 multi-award-winning and bestselling The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression has recently been rereleased with an added new chapter “on recently introduced and novel treatments, suicide and antidepressants, pregnancy and depression, and much more.”
Several available articles by Andrew Solomon offer a peek into this newer material. Last year, for instance, Solomon expressed his opinion (to NPR) that the most radical breakthrough in the treatment of depression has been deep brain stimulation.
For his thoughts on specific dilemmas regarding the use of antidepressants, there’s “The Secret Sadness of Pregnancy with Depression” (New York Times) and “A Bitter Pill” (his website), in which he states, “The danger is that in seeking to prevent antidepressant-related suicide, we will increase depression-related suicide.”
What about his own struggles with chronic and relapsing depression? Solomon told an interviewer for MensDepression.org a couple years ago that he continues an ongoing regimen of medication and talk therapy. Also, “I try to structure my life in a positive way and to avoid extreme stresses. I am fiercely protective of my sleep. I avoid alcohol and caffeine. I exercise regularly.”
Andrew Solomon’s highly popular TED talk (2013) on depression can be seen below—or skip ahead to read some of the best quotes:
Selected TED Talk (by Andrew Solomon) Quotes
And one of the things that often gets lost in discussions of depression is that you know it’s ridiculous. You know it’s ridiculous while you’re experiencing it. You know that most people manage to listen to their messages and eat lunch and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door and that it’s not a big deal, and yet you are nonetheless in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it…
And then the anxiety set in…It was the feeling all the time like that feeling you have if you’re walking and you slip or trip and the ground is rushing up at you, but instead of lasting half a second, the way that does, it lasted for six months. It’s a sensation of being afraid all the time but not even knowing what it is that you’re afraid of. And it was at that point that I began to think that it was just too painful to be alive, and that the only reason not to kill oneself was so as not to hurt other people.
The chemical cure and the psychological cure both have a role to play, and I also figured out that depression was something that was braided so deep into us that there was no separating it from our character and personality.
Depression is the flaw in love. If you were married to someone and thought, “Well, if my wife dies, I’ll find another one,” it wouldn’t be love as we know it. There’s no such thing as love without the anticipation of loss, and that specter of despair can be the engine of intimacy.
Depression is the result of a genetic vulnerability, which is presumably evenly distributed in the population, and triggering circumstances, which are likely to be more severe for people who are impoverished. And yet it turns out that if you have a really lovely life but feel miserable all the time, you think, “Why do I feel like this? I must have depression.” And you set out to find treatment for it. But if you have a perfectly awful life, and you feel miserable all the time, the way you feel is commensurate with your life, and it doesn’t occur to you to think, “Maybe this is treatable.” And so we have an epidemic in this country of depression among impoverished people that’s not being picked up and that’s not being treated and that’s not being addressed, and it’s a tragedy of a grand order.
It’s a strange poverty of the English language, and indeed of many other languages, that we use this same word, depression, to describe how a kid feels when it rains on his birthday, and to describe how somebody feels the minute before they commit suicide.
The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and these days, my life is vital, even on the days when I’m sad. I felt that funeral in my brain, and I sat next to the colossus at the edge of the world, and I have discovered something inside of myself that I would have to call a soul that I had never formulated until that day 20 years ago when hell came to pay me a surprise visit. I think that while I hated being depressed and would hate to be depressed again, I’ve found a way to love my depression. I love it because it has forced me to find and cling to joy. I love it because each day I decide, sometimes gamely, and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living. And that, I think, is a highly privileged rapture.