E-mail the author or send us feedback.

Other stories by the author

  • Hermann Hates: Rude People
  • Hermann Hates: The Daily Routine
  • Hermann Hates CAFFEINE
  • My AIDS Ride Diary
  • Blast @ is an online magazine presented by Exploding Can Productions, a digital media and Internet company.

    Copyright © 1995-1998 Exploding Can Productions. All Rights Reserved. No part of this Web site may be used without permission.

    To report any problems or if you have any questions, please write to or For advertising, please contact

    home | about blast | who we are | editors' note | feedback | sitemap | press | user feedback | links

    Blast Boston Bureau

    I've been feeling pretty depressed lately. The reasons aren't important. It's not the change in the weather or my dire financial situation or any of the usual brushoff explanations. It's much more complicated than that. Besides, I don't really want to talk about the reasons; they're too depressing.

    I've been seeing a shrink about it for the past year, but I can't stand her any more. She depresses me, too. She charges a lot and she doesn't have regular time slots, so I'm constantly cancelling and rescheduling appointments with her and then trying to frantically cram the context for a month's worth of miseries into a fifty-minute hour. She won't discuss anything over the phone other than appointments and payments because that, of course, would be dispensing free advice, and she won't refer me to support groups because then I might stop coming to see her. And contrary to what they advertise, you can't really discuss everything with your shrink. "So what's on your mind, Andy?" "Well, my shrink has really been pissing me off lately...oh, sorry, that's you, isn't it?"

    During our sessions all my shrink does is listen, which I find doesn't really help all that much. I want to be told why my life is such a shambles. I want to know what the hell I'm doing wrong. Even if I can't fix it, at least then I could identify it and go on doing with it an air of defiance instead of an air of tentative regretfulness. At least I wouldn't have apologize for skulking through life like an emotional leper, infecting everyone around me with my black moods. Hell, I could be part of the post-grunge-era depression movement -- "bleak chic," as I like to call it. I could paint my fingernails black and listen to discordant music and hang out in dark coffeehouses with my cynical, unmotivated friends and sneer at all the shiny happy people blithely failing to succumb to this fucked-up world we live in. The fools.

    I have to say, as someone prone to genuine bouts of depression, that I really resent the growing media impulse to make this faux- depressed who-gives-a-fuck bankruptcy-of-imagination-masquerading- as-ironic-detachment subculture into some kind of generational touchstone. It's made depression seem like just another pose, like an immature cry for attention every bit as shallow as dying your hair purple or crushing beer cans on your forehead. Not that depression isn't a cry for attention, but it's a confused, primordial one, not the unified-front social statement you see at a Nine Inch Nails concert. Among the truly depressed there is no unified front, no social clique to mingle with. You can't form an effective social clique out of a group whose defining characteristics are self-loathing and indolence.

    There are times when I wish it weren't so, believe me. I watched the coming-out episode on "Ellen" and found myself wishing there could be a big coming-out for depressed people. I wished we could have our own clubs and coffeehouses and theatre troupes instead of our miserable groping support groups and online chat rooms. I wished we all knew how to have fun together and support each other and say, "Good for you. Good for being who you are."

    But such a thing is probably impossible, for one very simple, hard- to-admit reason: depressed people are a pain in the ass to be around. We're whiny and self-absorbed and desperately seek approval and constantly perceive slights where none was intended. Even happy, ebullient people generally find us exhausting to be around, so you can imagine how much of a drag we are to one another.

    But who knows? Maybe some Ellen-type celebrity will lead the way toward wider acknowledgment and acceptance of actual depression, as opposed to the bleak-chic variety -- Janeane Garofalo, perhaps, who rarely uses the "D" word but is about as far out of the depression closet as anyone in the public eye these days. Whoever it is won't have an easy time of it. Mainstream determination to dismiss depression as a pose, a coverup for something more dire (usually drugs), or sheer brattiness is still strong. Kurt Cobain needed to blow his brains out before his detractors would say, "Gee whiz, maybe it wasn't all just an act." And recently, when Mets pitcher Pete Harnisch admitted to depression as the cause of his poor performance, the reaction of sportswriters everywhere was: "Yeah, right. You've just lost your stuff and you're too chickenshit to own up." Pete was luckier than Kurt -- it took pills rather than shotgun shells to make his nay-sayers change their tune.

    Which brings me to my next quibble with depressives' relationship to the mainstream: the overwhelming trend to sweep the depressed folks under the soothing carpet of mood-boosting drugs. I admit that for people far worse off than I am -- the ones who are literally at the point of non-functionality -- Prozac and all those other nifty medicaments are necessary and even beneficial. But I object to the impulse to medicate everybody who gets bummed out more than some arbitrarily determined societal norm. Because, frankly, I think the depressed people are on to something. And if we silence their whining with drugs, the world will be a much less hospitable place.

    I subscribe to a theory known as evolutionary psychology, which is the best explanation I've heard for why the ranks of the depressed seem to grow faster than they can concoct new drugs to stop us. Basically, what evolutionary psychology suggests is that our culture has evolved faster than our brains, so we're not wired to function appropriately in our current fast-paced, high-tech, convenience-laden global village. Deep down we still want to be out on the Great Plains chasing buffalo, not standing in line at McDonald's. We want to be part of a tribe, not an anonymous development tract or a bank of cubicles. We don't want microwaved food or electronic music. We have the minds of people from a ten- thousand-year-old civilization, and we're trying to function in a world our great-grandparents would hardly recognize.

    Depression, I think, is nature's way of telling us to slow down and reconnect with the things that make that ten-thousand-year-old brain happy. I've noticed my ten-thousand-year-old brain seems to have a particular predilection for cooking, long walks, and Ben and Jerry's ice cream (which hasn't been around for ten thousand years, but my brain doesn't seem to notice the difference). Who needs Prozac when you've got Rainforest Crunch?

    Oh, yeah--hugs are good, too. Except of course I can't get any of those, because I'm too much of a whiny, depressed, pain-in-the-ass to be around.

    How depressing.