Thursday, 14 February 2013

Talking about depression 2

I think the biggest problem in trying to talk about depression is the lack of  shared references. For sure, we can each tell our stories about the circumstances of our depression. Mine were: end of PGR funding/relationship/folk-punk band/living in remote Fife cottage; start of awful housing arrangement/teaching 18-24 hours a week at an HE College. But that says nothing, really. Lots of people cope with far worse.

Trying to express how I felt is just so hard. OK, we can all play party games about whether or not we see the same colours, but when we try to talk about our internal states all we seem to have is cliches. And colour words: black, blue, grey...

However, I found a naive computational analogy which seems to work with other computational melancholics. It's like there's an background process in the brain to do with worry/anxiety/self doubt which probably everyone has, but which somehow gets maximum priority scheduling in conditions of unmanageable stress. And because it gets in the way of other processes to do with really important stuff, the failure to suspend it adds to the worry/anxiety/self doubt which then become self-reinforcing, maintaining the process's high priority. After each of my parents died, I realised that my grief operated in almost the same manner, but with grief it mutes, they say at a rate of one month for every year you knew the person.

Then I read Daniel Dennet's "Consciousness Explained". No, of course it isn't. But he describes a evolutionary  mind-less brain which fires off loads of random problem solving agents and the one's that are fit get to reproduce. So maybe depression is when melancholy agents get to reproduce at the expense of those we'd regard as actually fit? Note the use of a mind-full "we" AKA "I" which is doing the regarding...

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