Posted by: Harold Knight | 04/10/2012

A small personal rant

(Another out-of-the-usual post for me. But sometimes you have to say what you have to say. Rants do not have to be logical, you know!)

Depression feels odd when you’re not depressed.

I read yesterday a petulant opinion piece that made the assertion, among several other disconnected assertions, that anti-depressants work mainly as a placebo effect, especially SSRIs. (The opinion piece was on one of the liberal rags I subscribe to, and I think the point was that the horrible doctors prescribing these ridiculous pills are one reason medical costs are so high.) That may well be true. Who knows? Studies, primarily those with moderately depressed patients, are inconclusive or contradictory. I’m perfectly willing to admit the possible ineffectuality  of the chemicals I take, that it is imaginable that the reason my depression lightens is I believe it will.

But the question I’ll bet the clinicians who do those studies never ask is, “When you’re taking an SSRI and feeling good, can you will yourself into the place of depression that necessitated the treatment in the first place?” My answer is “no.” If my depression is merely a state of mind over which I have control, and if depression lifts merely at the suggestion that it will if I take a pill, then why can I not bring it on simply by willing it so? I have not been depressed since my psychiatrist changed my meds the first week of January — four months ago. The week before that I was suicidal. I can refer you to the friend who took me under his care for twenty-four hours at that time and perhaps saved my life. I think he will tell you his observation is that I was not making up my despair and pain. Since that time I have been calmer, less manic, and absolutely less depressed than I have been in perhaps ten years.

On several occasions I have tried to put myself in the frame of mind that brought on that last great depression. I cannot. I also cannot do an exercise for continuing my growth both in therapy and in one of my twelve- step programs, that is, remembering significant times in my life when I was out of control with anger that then turned to depression. I cannot do the exercise because I cannot think myself into the angry or depressed state that would be necessary to write about those times. No one is telling me I can’t do that. I am not telling myself I can’t. If my depression were simply a matter of my willing myself to be depressed, then surely I could get myself into the necessary dark place to ponder the darkness of my life. I cannot.

My assertion that the drugs I am taking for my depression are responsible for the reversal, the about-face in my view of my world is as valid as anyone’s assertion that an SSRI or any other kind of anti-depressant is but a placebo.The burden of proof is on them.


  1. […] the cells of my brain—which messengers seem to be falling down on the job—would not need Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors to block the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin in my brain. It is said that […]



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