Posted by: ourlifewithmpd | October 8, 2010

Depressed? Here’s what I do …

My sons are in marching band. One of them is in what they call “the pit”, which is basically the percussion ensemble that doesn’t march, but plays in front of the rest of the band during the halftime show. We didn’t have this when I was in band (back in the Stone Age), so I thought this was interesting.

Now, during the pit warmups, the guy who teaches this group does something I had never seen done before, and I’m guessing the other bands don’t do this either, because when our pit started their warmup at the last competition I went to the others stopped, turned around, and looked at us in amazement.

Here’s what he does:

He has them do stretches to the song “Mad World”. If you’re not familiar with this, here’s the song with lyrics:

(for those of you who have never experienced real depression, this is a fair description of how it feels)

Now, some of you might be thinking, “why the heck is this guy playing THAT song?” Doesn’t he know that teen suicide is the leading cause of death? Does he want to drive those kids over the edge??

The misconception here is that depression goes something like this:


The problem is that this frames depression as something external; “something happened” to cause it and “something” (like mentioning suicide) will raise the possibility in someone’s mind, where they had NEVER THOUGHT OF IT BEFORE!


And in this paradigm, if you even so much as draw sad faces around a depressed person they will go kill themselves.

The reality, however, is more like this:


People with depression did not have “something” (external) “happen”. They have the medical illness of depression. If they get treatment, they will eventually recover. Some take years to do so, however.

The problem is that one of the symptoms of depression is suicidal thoughts and actions. These are signs that they need to see a doctor right away, like chest pains are a sign that you need to see a doctor right away. You wouldn’t tell someone with chest pains that they have sooo much to live for, or to look on the bright side of life, or any of the other inane pablum I heard when I was suicidal and that many of my friends have gotten when they were too. You would call 911 and get them to the doctor!

Side note: if someone is making you feel suicidal then they are feeding you poison and you need to get away from them. Killing yourself means you are dead and they aren’t. Guess who won?

So anyway, back to the band and the warmup song. I actually think what this guy is doing is brilliant. You know why? Here’s why.

I have been there. I had low grade depression for over thirty years. I was suicidal for months at a time. I got treated and now I’m a lot better, but I do have bouts from time to time, and here’s what I’ve observed:

When I feel depressed, fighting it is almost the worst thing I can do. (Killing yourself is the very worst thing, as it solves nothing.)

I’ve found that when I feel bad, the best thing to do is to feel as bad as I possibly can using music, to find songs that turn me into a total sniveling bawl baby (it’s best to do this when you’re alone, for obvious reasons — everyone will try to make you “feel better” which I find counter-productive).

Then, as strange as it sounds, after really being as down as possible, I feel better! πŸ™‚

So I think this guy is on the right track here. Better to get anything depress-y out of the kids at the start, any sadness or whatever, so they can focus on the task ahead.

It works for me.

ETA: this DOES NOT give you who are not depressed license to make your depressed “friends” lives hell using the sadistic excuse of “trying to make them feel better”. It does not work that way. Either this works for a depressed person to do FOR THEMSELVES or it doesn’t.



  1. Doesn’t work for me. If I start to indulge in that kind of thinking, I dig myself into a pit where I won’t even get out of bed for weeks on end. The only good thing about it is that I’m too depressed to even contemplate killing myself.

    I have done much better since I started to really think of it as a disease. A while back, my blood sugar got out of whack. I got it under control with diet and exercise, but I had to learn a new way of thinking while I was doing it. And even now I have to stick with the program or I’ll wind up as a type II diabetic.

    But I can live with it. I have to think about it, but it doesn’t control my life. Even if it gets serious, it won’t control my life.

    The depression is the same way. It’s a metabolic imbalance that makes me feel ill in certain ways that I have learned to recognize.

    I can’t will myself to feel better. It’s not magic. But at least I can say that the clouds and the evil thoughts and the other stuff that drags me down isn’t real and I don’t have to listen to it.

    • I seem to have accidentally deleted the first sentence, which was, “Wow, that’s a great insight into how depression works. I so totally recognize all this.”

    • I don’t see it as willing myself to feel better. Of course that doesn’t work — that’s back in the “you just gotta snap out of it” camp.

      How I see it is that music helps me to let those negative feelings out. To me, fighting the depression just made it worse, and made me feel more alone. Getting down into the feeling and passing through to the other side of it has been the most helpful thing I’ve found yet. For some reason, it makes me feel in control of what’s happening in a way that nothing else has.

      But if that doesn’t work for you then that’s fine. Figuring out what DOES help is the most important thing.

      • I didn’t mean you were trying to will yourself to be happy, I thought my explanation of my process sounded like I was saying I willed myself to be happy, which wasn’t what I meant πŸ™‚

        I agree, music can be a powerful tool for moving me through the black times. That particular song doesn’t register with me, but others do. The Cure’s “Fight” off the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me album, for instance.

  2. […] Depressed? Here’s what I do [SEO: Warning: This blogger (and I) strongly advise that if you are actively suicidal, (as opposed […]

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