Hyperbole and a Half ran a come-back post recently on depression. It might say something about my current peer group, or perhaps society in general, that I saw it referenced by at least a dozen friends and acquaintances on various social media sites.
It’s a profound illustration of what some people have to deal with, and I’m glad she wrote it. I feel bad for her, and, more importantly, I feel like I understand her perspective, one that I’m sure would ordinarily be alien to me.
I have two notable points to make:
1) In reading the post, it was easy to identify who I am in this story (pictured above). I have a savior complex. That is, I’m a privileged, empowered white hetero boy who grew up upper middle class, who has always been able to make a difference in his surroundings and make himself be heard. When a person comes to me with a problem, especially if they’re posing as a helpless attractive female, I don the cape and pick up the sword and fire my problem-solving death rays at them. I may not be qualified, I may not understand their problem, it may not even be the actual problem that’s bothering them, I just do it instinctively. People complain, I want to fix complaints. I have to actively police myself to not do this, ordinarily. It’s revealing of my own discomfort with being useless. I don’t actually know how to just sit there and be a passive listener. I don’t think I will ever say something like “boy those fish are super dead” in response to this question. I can’t generally be depressed and defeated along with the person complaining in this context – I don’t want to, but I also just don’t think I actually know how to. SO, this means I’m not the right person for ultra-depressed people to open up to. Check.
2) While that’s all fine and dandy, what I’ve found is that very few people are consummately/comprehensively depressed like this. A lot of the time only a part of them is dead. For instance, I’ve had some of my heterosexual male friends (around my age) who have never really dated express that they think romantic desire has died in them. I think people can be contextually or partially depressed. Generally with my friends who tell me this I haven’t had a lot of luck helping them to solve their problem – US society isn’t well-structured for people who don’t follow the standard steps in the sprint to the white picket fence (dating in college, job plus marriage after). I think their solution often requires single assertive women, and it seems like often those women are often paying more attention to the loud, confident men in front, not the depressed, inexperienced guys in back. Or at least, that’s what often happens when I try to set them up. Anyway so my actual response is exactly what is criticized by Allie’s blog post – I try to help them work with other problems. It’s not formulaic, exactly, but I think one of the root issues is confidence and people skills, so if I can get the romantically deceased dudes out with a gang of friends and doing things those other issues get better, usually. I don’t think it’s a direct solution, but I have faith that it’s worth doing.