‘It is a flaw in our cells that becomes a flaw in love’: the search for a cure for depression

Siddhartha Mukherjee in The Guardian:

In the spring of 2017, I was overwhelmed by the most profound wave of depression that I have ever experienced. I use the word “wave” deliberately: when it finally burst on me, having crept up slowly for months, I felt as if I were drowning in a tide of sadness I could not swim past or through. Superficially, my life seemed perfectly in control – but inside, I felt drenched in grief. There were days when getting out of bed, or even retrieving the newspaper outside the door, seemed unfathomably difficult. Simple moments of pleasure – my child’s funny drawing of a weeping shark (“Do the tears go up like bubbles, or just mingle into the saltwater?”) – seemed locked away in boxes, with all their keys thrown into the depths of the ocean.

Why? I could not tell. Part of it, perhaps, was coming to terms with my father’s death a year before. In the wake of his passing, I had thrown myself manically back to work, neglecting to give myself time and space to grieve. Some of it was confronting the inevitability of ageing. I was at the edge of the last years of my 40s, staring into what seemed like an abyss. My knees hurt and creaked when I ran. An abdominal hernia appeared out of nowhere. The poems I could recite from memory? I would now have to search my brain for words that had gone missing (“I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – / The Stillness in the Room / Was like” … um … like what?). I was becoming fragmented. It wasn’t my skin that had begun to sag, but my brain. I heard a fly buzz.

Things got worse. I dealt with it by ignoring it, until it had crested fully. I was like the proverbial frog in the pot that doesn’t sense the incremental rise in temperature until the water starts boiling. I started antidepressants (which helped, but only moderately) and began to see a psychiatrist (which helped much more). But the sudden wave of the disorder, and its recalcitrance, mystified me. I was lost. All I could feel was the “dank joylessness” the writer William Styron describes in Darkness Visible.

More here.