Dear Giles Fraser, Depression isn’t the Same as Unhappiness

This post isn’t a recovery oriented one. It’s just a quick response to the article of Giles Fraser in The Guardian “Taking Pills for Unhappiness Reinforces the Idea that Being Sad is not Human”.  The article can be read here:

I suspect after reading the article that Giles Fraser has never experienced depression as opposed to unhappiness. For me (and from what I have heard from others who have experienced it) depression is not unhappiness in response to miserable conditions. In fact, the unhappiness aspect of depression, if you can call it that, is actually the least distressing part of depression for me.

I mentioned in my post Recovery is a Rocky Road ( some of the symptoms of depression I experience and these don’t include “unhappiness”.  Depression is not “unhappiness”.  Depression is a soul destroying cloud of darkness that pervades my life. It makes me want to end my life to escape the utter desolation. I’ve cut and paste the following for ease of reference but it’s important to note that the below mentioned are not anything minor, they are to an extreme that prevents me functioning at anything approaching a normal life.

  • tearful and crying;
  • emotionally reactive to events/films/news;
  • struggling with my motivation to do anything;
  • struggling with my appetite;
  • struggling with my concentration;
  • irritable;
  • having urges to isolate myself and hide from the world; and
  • having that feeling of being an onlooker of life – behind a pane of glass, detached.

As you can see from the above mentioned blog post I have had an episode of depression very recently and have properly come out of it this week. It was actually the shortest period of depression I have had (they usually last months) and gradually started to improve a couple of weeks after a medication increase.  This is also what happened in the episode I had in the latter months of 2012.  A couple of weeks after a change in medication I began to improve.  Yes, I am a great believer in psychological and practical methods to help ease my depression and I’m certain that these methods help me get out of depression much quicker than in the past when I didn’t have this knowledge and self-awareness I’ve developed through DBT. However, both recent episodes have responded to “happy pills” which in my case take the form of an SSRI and a mood stabiliser. I don’t think this is “pathologising” unhappiness Mr Fraser, and neither does it make it worse, in fact “happy pills” have proven to help me recover from my episodes of depression.


About Carrie Quinn

I'm a former solicitor whose life was turned upside down due to problems with my mental health. I'm now aiming towards recovery, which to me means rebuilding a meaningful life - not necessarily disorder free.
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6 Responses to Dear Giles Fraser, Depression isn’t the Same as Unhappiness

  1. MommyMoodSwings says:

    Hello, Carrie. I followed the link to this blog post from a re-tweet. I feel offended and personally insulted by Giles Fraser’s article. It’s in the same league as those people who say “you’re the only one who can help yourself.” When the reality is that, no, we really cannot help ourselves. We need the medication, we need the therapy, we need the support. 😦

    • Carrie Quinn says:

      Hi. Thanks 🙂 Yes, I do need support but the reason the past 2 episodes of depression have been shorter is because I’ve ‘helped myself’ in combination with meds.

  2. Pingback: This Week in Mentalists – Chin-Stroking Guardianista Edition | The World of Mentalists

  3. Joyce says:

    I have also taken DBT. But I also need medication. I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider. I wrote a poem about it years ago, before my BPD diagnosis, called I Am The Shadow. You can read it here:

    • Carrie Quinn says:

      Thanks Joyce 🙂
      I’m glad you find medication helpful for BPD. I never did (now recovered). I do find medication helpful for my ‘mood disorder’ though.

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