Learning About Depression From Hyperbole and a Half

This is a bit of a hard post to write, because it's hard to admit you're wrong. But, I was.

Books are special because they can teach. They can offer a brand new perspective to something, and that perspective can change your whole mindset. I feel like books have shaped me into the person that I am, and they deserve recognition for that.

Yesterday was #BellLetsTalk (not really, but as I'm writing this post, it was). It's when Bell, one of two gigantic media corporations in Canada, tries to start a conversation about mental health. Every tweet with #BellLetsTalk resulted in $0.05 towards mental health initiatives. It sounds like a little, but at the end of the day, over five million dollars was generated.

Every year I grow and learn. Every year I think I have it all figured out, and then I'm shocked to realize I don't.

Despite the many workshops and speeches, I never really understood depression. I understood it as an extreme sadness that doesn't go away. I was told that if you're sad for a little bit, that's normal, but depression is more long term. Still, I didn't understand.

Obviously, everyone has had sad moments in their lives. I didn't understand what differentiated sad and depression. I'm probably lucky for that. Whenever I'm sad, I deal with it. I don't let myself be sad- I always distract myself. Read, tv, put myself into something other than the moment. Later on, when distraction isn't working, I write. I just input whatever is in my head onto paper, and then somehow that clears my mind.

It's like, after I validate my feelings, I can deal with them. It isn't always easy, but I can cope. Because of this, I couldn't believe in always being sad, partly because a large part of me being sad, was guilting myself into ignoring it. I have a great life where I'm extremely sheltered. I know that, but even then, it's hard for me to believe in anything else just because when people talk about horrific things, I have no experience to base it on. It just sounds like a story.

My views toward depression were along the lines that everyone could get better through their own method, whether it be treatment or therapy. Rationally, I knew it was an illness, but I didn't truly understand until I read Allie Brosh's posts on depression.

When I read it, I was in a bad mood and straight up cried because I knew I would be happy and feel better, but some people wouldn't. Depression is terrifying to me because I know it doesn't always reach Brosh's level. Her writing terrified me because on a human basis, I understood.

I have definitely had points where I decided to not care. I've had moments where I look at something I love and wonder why it isn't making me happy. Heck, I've even had people do incredible things for me while all I've been thinking is that I want to leave. Those moods are the worst, especially because I always believed that happiness is a choice, and I could choose to be happy. When I wasn't happy, I felt guilty and mad at myself. The point is, I tried, and eventually I got better, but through writing things down, I realized how bad off I was later on.

Allie Brosh's post taught me that for some people, they just keep feeling down, even when they try to be happy. Happiness isn't a choice- who would ever choose to be unhappy? That was a motto all throughout my preteen years. I was a big Wicked Lovely fan and that was one of the quotes and themes. Maybe I wasn't really experienced enough to truly realize what it meant, but I honestly believed that if I tried hard enough, I would be happy.

Reading about Allie's experiences as she couldn't bring herself around to care just opened my eyes. This is a mental illness. It is based on science in the brain, and no matter how much anyone tries to will themselves out of it, they might not be able to.

Reading Hyperbole and a Half helped me understand truly, or as close as I can get without having real depression, what depression is. Books are powerful that way- they can open eyes and educate. I know today there's probably a lot of things I'm also wrong about, but I can learn. Reading is one way to do that.



  1. Great post! I didn't realize this was going on, on twitter yesterday and am sorry I missed it. I love that you learned more about depression. I knew exactly how you felt.. until depression happened to me 10 years ago. It was awful and even hard to understand when it's happening to you. Thank you for sharing your experiences !

    1. Don't worry it was a few months ago. Next year I'll use TSC more to tweet it as well as my personal account.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  2. What a fantastic post, P.E.! It's true that even for those of us that know depression is an illness and can even be a chronic one, with bouts and comings and goings, we still need to reminder that people can't choose to stop being depressed, and a book like Hyperbole & A Half is fantastic to help everyone see what depression can mean to a person suffering it.

    1. I honestly feel like it's one of the most important things I've ever learned: you can't choose to be happy. It affects not just my views on depression but every part of life.



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