Every so often, someone who has never suffered from depression takes to a social media platform to declare that the illness doesn’t exist, or that it is a state of mind one can overcome simply by thinking positive thoughts.
This is, of course, a complete falsehood — and comedian Andy Richter made sure to call it out as such this week, in the process explaining why a stranger’s flippant comment bothered him so much.
“depression is a choice,” someone tweeted, with no further explanation.
“Oh really?” the Conan O’Brien writer shot back, “Well ‘go f-ck yourself’ is a directive. Quote-responding to this tweet may seem like shooting fish in a barrel, & yet it is 30 mins later & I have pulled over after school drop-off to respond further because I am angry.”
He then explained that he has suffered from depression his entire life, despite having a full, happy life and believing in the merits of medication and therapy.
“I have been followed by an ever-present amorphous sadness for almost my entire life,” he wrote. “I am 51 yrs old. It varies in strength from a casual unresolvable suspicion that I will never find the joy that others do in a sunset, to the feeling that being dead might a respite & a kindness.”
“I’ve been on meds for decades. I’m a devout believer in the talking cure of therapy & it’s structure & hope & absolutely life-saving sense of progress. I have a successful career. I’m in love w my wife of 27 yrs, & my 2 kids are the best ppl I know. My life is full. I am lucky. And I will still reach the end of my life having walked through most of it with an emotional limp.”
Richter closes his thread by addressing how harmful statements like “depression is a choice” can be to people who suffer from depression.
“’Depression is a choice’ = ‘your pain is your fault, ‘You can overcome this if you just try hard enough’ = ‘Your pain is making me uncomfortable. Please shut up,'” he explained. “If you are unburdened by depression, real true depression, count yourself lucky. Keep your quick fixes to yourself. This is the kind of bullsh-t that kills people. Learn, then speak. Or just be lucky and quiet.”