Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
DEPRESSION: Out of the Shadows
Take One Step: A PBS Health Campaign
DEPRESSION: Out of the Shadows + TAKE ONE STEP: Caring for Depression, with Jane Pauley  

Watching: DEPRESSION: Out of the Shadows

Chapter 1: The Many Faces of Depression [9:36]

Depression takes many forms, and can strike anyone. Meet Andrew Solomon, author and expert on the topic.

Select123456789101112Next
Windows Media PlayerHigh|Low
QuickTime border=High|Low

Transcript: Chapter 1 - The Many Faces of Depression

DEANNA BENJAMIN-COLE: I want so much for simple things, wellness, happiness, family togetherness. I wish I could answer why this is happening. Sometimes I really and truly feel like I'm going crazy. And why when I am so surrounded with love do I feel so alone? And right now no one can say that I haven't tried. I have. I'm scared.

DR. CHARLES NEMEROFF: If you think about the worst you have ever felt in your life and imagine feeling that way every day and not knowing why, then you'll know what depression is.

DR. SHERWIN NULAND: You feel it as anguish in your chest. You feel it in every one of your bones and ligaments. You feel a heaviness in moving.

NARRATION: Depression is a perplexing illness that takes many forms.

HELEN MAYBERG: Depression tortures you every day with the idea that you suffer and somehow I ought to be able to do something about it and I can't.

ANDREW SOLOMON: Depression is an illness of loneliness. And the primary experience is the feeling of being isolated, of being alone, of being cut off from everyone and everything.

NARRATION: it can strike early in life or as late as our twilight years.

NARRATION: trauma, loss or neglect can lead to depression in those who are vulnerable.

DASHAUN "JIWE" MORRIS: Our therapy becomes the bottle, our therapy become pills, our therapy become crime, violence.

NARRATION: Genetics also plays a role.

MYRNA WEISSMAN: The major risk factor is having a family history of depression...

ELLIE ZUEHLKE: (HOME VIDEO OF ELLIE DEPRESSED) I'm very anxious, I'm very depressed, because I don't think I can do this anymore.

NARRATION: Treatment is an ongoing process of trail and error.

DR. HELEN MAYBERG: (VO) If you can't talk it down, drug it down, shock it down, maybe you have to do something else in a much more

DR. HELEN MAYBERG: (OC) bulleted kind of way, if you will.

NARRATION: Scientists are hard at work, piecing together a better understanding of the many faces of depression.

DR. THOMAS INSEL: If someone can get the appropriate treatment and stay with it, the prognosis is actually very, very good.

NARRATION: (DEANNA WALKING AWAY, DOWN HALLWAY) Meanwhile, over twenty million Americans are living with depressive disorders, many of them terrified to step out of the shadows and seek help.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, LIGHTING CANDLES IN DARKNESS, OPENING TITLES) I knew that the sun was rising and setting, but little of its light reached me. I felt myself sagging under what was much stronger than I; first I could not use my ankles, and then I could not control my knees, and then my waist began to break under the strain, and then my shoulders turned in, and in the end I was compacted and fetal, depleted by this thing that was crushing me without holding me. I had thought that when you feel your worst your tears flood,

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, OPENING TITLES) but the very worst pain is the arid pain of total violation that comes after the tears are all used up,

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, READING FROM BOOK) the pain that stops up every space through which you once metered the world, or the world, you.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) This is the presence of major depression.

NARRATION: (ANDREW SOLOMON WITH NEPHEW BY URN) ANDREW SOLOMON BECAME AN EXPERT AND best-selling author on the subject of depression. After enduring several debilitating episodes of major depression that started in his thirties.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, ANDREW SOLOMON OUTDOORS) I always say that the opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality,

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) and that depression has to do with finding all of life totally overwhelming.

It's a poverty of the English language that we only have that one word, depression, that's used to describe how a little kid feels when it rains on the day of his baseball game, and it's also used to describe why people spend their lives in mental hospitals and end up killing themselves. But clinical depression really has to do with the feeling that you can't do anything, that everything is unbelievably difficult, that life is completely terrifying, and a feeling of this free-floating despair, which is overpowering and horrifying.

NARRATION: (ANDREW SOLOMON AT COMPUTER) Andrew's first major episode of depression came without warning.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, ANDREW SOLOMON AT COMPUTER) I was going about my ordinary life. It was right when I was publishing my first novel.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) And it had kind of nice reviews. And I just didn't care. And I remember thinking, that's so strange that this is happening and I don't care, but I just didn't.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, BLURRY FOOTAGE OF PARTY) My closest friend threw a wonderful book party for me. And I remember walking into that party and feeling as though it was so hard just to walk in there. And all these people were coming up and they were excited for me and excited to be there. And they wanted to talk. And I couldn't hold them in focus. I was sitting there and they were kind of -- I could see them and then I suddenly couldn't see them anymore. And it was just as if I was surrounded by this big blur.

ANDREW SOLOMON (VO, ANDREW SOLOMON IN FRONT OF MIRROR): And then the anxiety began. I was terrified all the time,

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) but I didn't know what I was terrified of, so there was nothing I could do about it. It was like that feeling, if you've slipped and tripped in that second before you fall flat on your face on the floor and it was like that all the time, 24 hours a day. And I finally got to the point at which it was too frightening for me to move out of my bed. And I was just sitting there in this huddled mess.

NARRATION (CU OF ANDREW, FATHER IN BACKGROUND): Desperate for help, Andrew turned to his father.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, ANDREW SOLOMON WITH FAMILY): My father said to me to move back in and I thought, I can't move into my father's house... I'm thirty years old. How can I be doing this? But, I did it.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) And I moved back in. And he was incredibly caretaking. And I remember sitting there and being too tired and too overwhelmed to cut up the meat on my plate, and my father cutting up my meat for me the way that I sometimes do for my nephew who's six. And my saying to my father, "I can't believe I have to ask you to do this."

NARRATION: (ANDREW SOLOMON HAVING LUNCH WITH FAMILY) Andrew's breakdown was cushioned by the support of his family.

NARRATION: (PHOTO OF ANDREW SOLOMON AND MOTHER) but it was the loss of his mother to cancer three years earlier that he believes significantly contributed to his depression

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, PHOTO OF ANDREW SOLOMON AND MOTHER) I knew that the loss of my mother was a cataclysmic loss. And I really experienced a lot of my own happiness in the context of her happiness,

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) because when something went really well for me, she would be so incredibly happy for me. And that would magnify my own happiness so much. And when she died, it was as though I had lost that sounding board.

NARRATION: (PHOTO OF MOTHER DANCING WITH HOWARD SOLOMON) Facing a painful, terminal illness, Andrew's mother made the decision to end her life on her own terms.

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) She had a couple of prescriptions of Seconal that had been written for her. And we all went into her room and she spread them out on her bed. And I remember thinking they looked almost like some kind of a game, all of those red pills spread out on the counterpane. And she began

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, DRAWING OF MOTHER) taking them, a few at a time. And she had thought through exactly what she wanted to say to each one of us

ANDREW SOLOMON: (VO, PHOTO OF MOTHER AND FATHER OUTDOORS) And she looked at my father and she said, "Even with this ending, she said, I wouldn't change this life for any other life in the world" And then she looked around at all of us and she said,

ANDREW SOLOMON: (OC) "I've looked for so many things in this life, so many things. And all the time paradise was in this room with the three of you." And then she closed her eyes. And that was the last thing she said.

NARRATION: (ANDREW SOLOMON SITTING ON COUCH) In some cases, the loss of a loved one can be a tipping point into depression.

MYRNA WEISSMAN: (VO, ANDREW SOLOMON SITTING COUCH): Depression is a biological disorder. It's not all in your head. But the triggers of depression, and whether you have an episode

MYRNA WEISSMAN: (OC) and when you have an episode or an onset are probably-- be related to environmental factors. And those are loss of attachments

MYRNA WEISSMAN: (VO, ANDREW SOLOMON SITTING COUCH): and stress and loss in your life.

Back to Top

Take One Step: Caring for Depression, with Jane Pauley
Watch Take One Step: Caring for Depression, with Jane Pauley >

Help support programs and websites like this one.
Pledge to your local public station.

_