Dear Leah [Eskin]:
Your October 21, 1994, article about National Depression Day [Our Town] is a perfect example of how a smug, misguided journalist can hurt people with his or her irresponsible use of words. It also demonstrates how an opinion, no matter how assured, when not based on fact, doesn’t validate itself.
You proudly display your ignorance in your very first sentence. You’re not an “adherent” of depression. Gee. I’m not an adherent of brake failure at high speeds, either, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can never happen to me. Your word choice, which I trust was carefully executed, implies that one can choose whether or not to subscribe to the conditions of depression. Wrong. You confuse depression with pessimism.
Depression occurs, in large part, due to an imbalance of the biological tides in the brain. It’s not a “bad mood,” as you describe it, even though it can be interpreted as such. Let’s face it, despair, self-hate and suicidal thoughts aren’t first picks for traits describing a good mood. Still, simply calling depression a bad mood is like calling cancer a bug.
By your third paragraph, when you profess to trying to do your part for depression by wearing black, you completely dismiss yourself as a competent and credible writer. Attitudes like yours are what keeps this illness a stigma, affecting only “sad sacks” or “sticks-in-the-mud.” Those two terms sound pretty dated and stupid, huh? Hey, like you! Oh, was that cheap and callous of me? Sorry, maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Hey, like you again! Just to clear the air, however, depression is not restricted to the noir-draped subculture. Your description of all the different kinds of people at the hospital shows this. Unless, of course, the old ladies in their faux leopard hats were just new wave vamps, hip beyond their means.
If your article is an attempt at satire, it fails. No, Eli Lilly is not the most morally grounded organization in existence. This does not make the entire history or scope of depression a scam. Nor does it make National Depression Day a Hallmark holiday designed to move product. From your description of the clinic, it sounds like it was a pretty sincere attempt to give some people a better understanding of their pain, so they might do something about it. Were there crass politics involved? You make no mention of any, which may account for your unfortunate attitude.
You may or may not have guessed that I suffer from depression. I would send you literature, but you mention that you were given some and won’t concede any of it anyway, so why waste your time? Actually, I wouldn’t expect someone who’s not depressed to really understand that much about it. Considering how vast the medical field alone is, much less all other disciplines combined, expecting someone to know something about everything is ridiculous. But your offense was to pretend to know about depression, and then dismiss it as an overplayed weakness. It’s too bad Northwestern wasn’t giving IQ tests. It would have been interesting to find out if you were anywhere near the educable range.
You owe it to yourself and your readers to know a little bit about what you write. Think about things before you say them or stop writing now, because if everyone who suspects they have clinical depression is just “hypochondriacally inclined,” then you’re just a dolt with a laptop computer and a deadline.
Jack D. Graham