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B19
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05 May 2014, 6:10 pm

This is something that has bothered me for a long time, so going to get it off my chest today.

Not surprisingly, a lot of threads cite depression - as it's part of being on the spectrum - though not (thankfully) always present for most.

This is my analysis on the two words:

Depression is a diagnostic label
Despair is the experience.
Depression is a medical condition and the label tends to lock people in to a label and a condition.
Despair is an experience of a particular feeling state.
Medical labels are a bit dehumanizing, reducing people to conditions they suffer from.
Despair is a fully human kind of experience, one that shows you are a sensitive, sentient human being, with a soul that you are in touch with (too much so at times).

Despair is not "a mental illness". It is an experience of the soul.

We are multi-layered beings: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual (in our own ways). A medical label that describes only part of us is limiting.

Some of my thinking about issues like this has been especially influenced by the writings of James Hillman, "psychologist of the soul".

I anticipate that people may respond that labels don't matter, but I contend they do. We use words to describe our feelings, self, experience of life to ourselves and others. They matter.



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05 May 2014, 6:36 pm

But despair is only part of depression. Yes, despair and hopelessness is part of it. So is emptiness. So is the inability to feel happiness. So is the inability to enjoy things you use to enjoy, or remember things you enjoy doing. So is guilt, and regret, and self-hatred.

So is being unable to sleep, or sleeping too much. Being unable to make yourself eat, or eating too much. So is not being able to remember what you're doing, and struggling to not hate yourself for it. So is not understanding what's going on around you.

So is collapsing in bed and not leaving, because you're just empty, its not even hopelessness and despair anymore. It's not sadness anymore. It's emptiness. It's a lack of everything.


Yes, words matter. Being accurate does too. And not letting people stigmatize people for having mental illnesses matters. And actually facing that most people on the autistic spectrum end up with comorbid psychiatric disorders, and helping each other with them.

Words matter. People hurt each other with words. People build each other up with words. People take ideas and say "because of this, you clearly aren't good enough".

But it doesn't matter if you call it "autism", or "purple elephants", people are treated poorly, and it doesn't matter if you call it "depression" or "despair", people are stigmatized.

People hurt, and struggle, and deal with this. It's not reducing people to conditions. It's actually taking them seriously. Because the stigma is happening either way. It needs fought either way. Just changing the word doesn't stop it.

In this case changing the word makes it inaccurate too.


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B19
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05 May 2014, 7:00 pm

I am not seeking to stigmatising people with mental conditions. Hope you didn't think so. Though I despair at the way stigma persists and the way sufferers internalise it (internalised oppression). I despair at the careless way people with schizophrenia (a condition) are insulted with the label "schizophrenic" - used as if that describes everything about that person.

Interesting response from you, thanks. We disagree substantially but that's cool.

" When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.”
― Dmitri Shostakovich



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05 May 2014, 10:36 pm

To me despair isn't how depression is experienced. Despair is a very energy draining feeling, and it can be precursor of depression. When I was depressed, I was too empty and lacking in energy to feel something like despair. It's emptiness, hopelessness, heaviness, no energy.


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07 May 2014, 1:15 am

I never made much of a distinction between despair and depression. To me, it's pain regardless of semantics. Of course, I'm severely depressed right now, so I won't pretend my thinking process is anywhere near what it usually is. It's kind of hard to get out of bed, let alone think straight (a first for me). If my doctor can help me, I'll get back to you with a better answer. They're in the process of running all kinds of tests to rule out other problems.

I think being Autistic probably has something to do with it being this intense, but Depression runs in my family. A-lot of people in my family take antidepressants or 5-HTP; they can't function otherwise. I guess it was bound to hit me sooner or later. :(



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07 May 2014, 1:29 am

When I feel despair it feels like my soul and all the things I love are being attacked. All the things that normally make me feel happy make me feel horrible. It's a feeling that is deep inside. It's so deep inside that I can't even cry. It's way worse than feeling empty, unmotivated or sad.


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B19
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07 May 2014, 1:42 am

I relate to that. The absence of hope is the worst of it.



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07 May 2014, 9:13 am

I consider the relationship of despair to depression as similar to the relationship between being broke and being poor.

There is more of an implication of permanence in the latter word.



B19
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07 May 2014, 2:06 pm

timf that is a wonderful metaphor!

(Oh, I forgot, ASD people can't do metaphor, right?!) Nonsense! You disprove that stereotype. Thanks for that it has made my day :)



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08 May 2014, 5:17 am

timf wrote:
I consider the relationship of despair to depression as similar to the relationship between being broke and being poor.

There is more of an implication of permanence in the latter word.

Despair is worse for me. Despair is like being attacked by a dementor from Harry Potter. Depression is mostly a feeling of gloominess and no motivation.


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B19
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08 May 2014, 10:29 am

Me too.