I have read and admired Ms. Ehrenreich's work for years--ever since I was old enough to swipe her books off my parents' shelves, really. But I wish she could have addressed this country's stunning lack of reasonable mental health care and the need for gun control without taking potshots at those of us who suffer from depression.
I cannot speak about Gary Greenberg's experiences, though I would suggest that lying to health care professionals who expect to be dealing in good faith with people in need of help is perhaps not the best way to go about understanding how treatment works. I can speak about my own. I can speak about the constant, low-level unhappiness I endured from the time I was 15 onward, that continued irrespective of any life events. I can speak about the way it was interspersed with long-lasting valleys, during which it would take me two hours to put my shoes on, during which I would sleep for sixteen hours a day and be unable to get out of bed, or shower, or even eat, because all movement was an unfathomable effort. I can speak about feeling in constant pain without being able to locate it, I can speak about crying for hours, three times a day because I was certain I would die alone, I can speak about the constant sensation of falling, of feeling that my arms and legs were filled with lead. And I can speak about what it meant for me to start taking anti-depressants six years ago at 25 and to begin writing creatively (and publishing) again, and to realize that indeed, merely getting through each day did not have to entail needless suffering.
I was not some Walter Mitty, trying to come to terms with "the typical...worry and disappointment of a...middle-class American life." I was not "failing to comply with a social norm," any more than a diabetic, an asthmatic, or an arthritic person is. I was suffering the effects of an endemic illness. I highly recommend Peter Kramer's Against Depression for a better understanding of depression.
Surely it is possible to note the complete absence of options for treating dangerously disturbed people without making mock of those of us whose illnesses are better hidden, especially for a writer of Ms. Ehrenreich's level of excellence.
Apr 22 2007 - 1:13am