by Johann Hari
This past week I read Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression. I believe I may have seen it referenced in another book I read recently, Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse. If it wasn’t that, it may have been on the news. I have a habit of adding books to my to-read queue on Goodreads if the author sounds interesting while they’re being interviewed. I also like to add books that are referenced in other books that I’m reading.
Enough about my weird habits though.
The author wrote about his history of depression, and how his doctor prescribed anti-depressants which seemed to help at first, but then were less effective, repeatedly as the dosage increases and his body got used to the newer dosage. Ultimately, he began to investigate and realized that the science behind this logic – and prescription of antidepressants was faulty at best and intentionally misleading for profit at worst. Hari describes feeling slightly attacked. Like this couldn’t be true, because he WANTED the drugs to work. He wanted the science to be true because it seemed as though his life wasn’t that bad.
I can relate to this. The first time I was prescribed Paxil I was 19, fresh out of High School. I had graduated with Honors, I was accepted to the Austin E Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University, and was engaged set to marry my High School sweetheart in a matter of months. Everything was perfect.
So why was I spending an average of 18-20 hours a day sleeping, and the other 4-6 crying uncontrollably and having panic attacks? There HAD to be something wrong in my brain. It HAD to be chemistry. Picking up the phone to make that appointment with the doctor is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. Just a note: if one of your friends or family members is struggling, you may want to offer to make some phone calls for them, especially if it’s social anxiety or something that prevents them from wanting to leave the house.
I had my appointment, I checked off almost all the boxes on the doctor’s depression checklist, I was prescribed Paxil and sent on my merry way with a pat on the back. During this time, I also broke off my engagement, quit my job, and did not move to attend college. But baby steps, I had the medication and my faulty brain chemistry would be fixed. (Or maybe not so much and I’ll be blogging about this nearly twenty years later.)
It turns out, there’s no real proof that these drugs work for people with depression. I am absolutely 100% unequivocally NOT telling people to stop their medication. That is a discussion for you and your doctor. What I am saying is, I read this book and it struck several notes with me. For one, it may have helped if someone asked me if I was ready to move to another city for college, if I was sure I wanted to marry my High School Sweetheart or if I felt that I would forever be trapped as his mommy rather than his partner, if I was feeling stagnant at my fast food manager job, or if stresses at home or if I had recently started taking hormonal birth control before these mood swings.
The author doesn’t just bash on medications and suggest talk therapy. We’re all unique, we all have different needs, and for some of us anxiety is bad enough that that’s not a possibility. What he does spend a great deal of the book talking about is alternatives.
He talks about a group of people who are brought together to change this nasty dog turd filled lot into a park for the community, and how it changed their lives. How they learned to talk to one another, defend and advocate for themselves, and how much enrichment being outside in the fresh air working on something to help other people gave them meaning that they felt was missing in their life at that time.
He also talks about an accountant who is asked to speak to a school about budgeting and realizes that the students are interested in buying things to fit in rather than for the actual enjoyment of the objects. He breaks the class down into a group that continues to do this, and a group that gets together and discusses what brings them quality of life and how to achieve those goals, and their happiness over time.
I’d recommend picking it up from your local library and giving it a chance- there’s several other things I haven’t included in my review since this isn’t Cliff’s Notes.