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Round 10: Neuropathic Dementors; Bath Tubs

June 2, 2014

Fun fact: This tab has been open for the better part of three days with nothing but the title written. It’s a good thing I had the title because I’d have forgotten what I was on about otherwise. Ahem.

I have conversations with faux-simile (like facsimiles, but fake. Get it?) versions of people in my head. Not in the crazy way though – I think… Anyway, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to explain how my very low moods feel in a way that people who don’t spend considerable amounts of time reinforcing the idea that suicide is bad can understand. I’ve come up with two ideas that might fit the bill.


A friend of a friend recently had to have a good portion of one leg amputated due to complications from diabetes. His foot was infected and the infection was climbing rather quickly up his leg. Dangerous, to say the least. Prior to the amputation I heard (second hand) his sensation described as a “painful numbness.” The phrase clicked. Resonated, even. In the deep trenches of my worst days there isn’t so much sadness, or anguish, or any of that angsty crap. There’s emotional blankness and pain. Even the pain is nonspecific; a pervasive ache that just is.

I believe it was this TED Talk by Andrew Solomon that discusses the man that walked in front of a bus and shattered his legs, among other injuries I imagine. It’s a great talk on the matter even if it’s not the one with the story I’m thinking of. (Update: It wasn’t. The man who walked in front of a bus was from Stephen Fry’s documentary on manic depression) The man, upon being questioned after the fact, said his physical injuries were less painful than his depression; indeed it was good to feel something. Another video (and I’ll be absolutely buggered if I can’t find the damn thing. It was quite touching Now in 480p!), mentions someone (possible the speaker, I don’t recall) who, upon being questioned after a failed suicide attempt, said, “I didn’t want to die. I wanted the pain to stop.”

I’ve never tried to hurt myself, but I get it. I really do.


Dementors, of Harry Potter fame, eat your happiness. They suck it right out of you and if you’re not careful they’ll nibble your soul right out of your face. Depressive episodes are like playing host, a la Alien, to a baby dementor. At first, it chews away your happiness. It doesn’t stay content with making you miserable, no. As you sink further down your baby dementor begins eating your sadness, your anger, and all the other emotions. It doesn’t just eat your soul, it savors it. In its wake you are left a shell with only the aforementioned painful numbness.

This connection shouldn’t surprise me. As it turns out Rowling dreamed up these miserable beasts in a fit of depression before making it big. From the wiki (emphasis mine):

J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for Dementors came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success. She described the feeling as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad.


Bath Tubs

The last analogy I concocted is that of a faucet, a tub, and a drain. Imagine the water flowing into the tub as the normal course of emotions, or emotional input. The drain represents the loss of those emotions for whatever reason; becoming happy or sad is not a permanent state of affairs. The levels in the tub rise and fall, the water churns about and sometimes you put in bubbles because they’re awesome. During a depressive episode the drain becomes enormous. The contents of the tub drain remarkable fast. No matter what happens to the faucet the tub never fills far or for long. The drain is simply too large, too overwhelming.


There’s no shortage of people describing their depression. This is my contribution to the effort. Perhaps, eventually, we can divorce the image of depression from the idea of “just real sad.”

~ Rao


From → Regular Rounds

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