Mood Disorders in the Media: Hyperbole & a Half


On Tuesday I got a great surprise- the chick from Hyperbole & A Half was on Fresh Air, promoting her new book.  Well, make that two surprises, because I’d totally forgotten about the book.

The book is made up of some original content & some work from the blog. One of the most popular posts (which I linked to back in the day) was her two part series about living with depression. So of course it came up in the interview. The part about mental health is a must listen, especially if you have depression or know somebody who struggles with it. She describes the feelings (or uh lack of feelings) so vividly.

Talking about personal experiences with depression is never going to be easy, but hot damn! As the interview progressed my jaw dropped lower and lower. There seriously should have been a trigger warning. Terry Gross normally is pretty good about gauging the comfort level of her guests as she goes but in this interview she ended up fixating on the suicide aspect of this woman’s depression. She pressed and prodded, ultimately asking the guest to specifically detail out her previous suicide plans. Wow. O_O  It was so overwhelming to listen to this poor woman explain in a trembling voice how she was going to fake a drowning accident. I was basically crying at my desk at work. I had to take a break.

I don’t think that depression should be off the table for talking about in an interview, since it’s part of the author’s artistic work, but I just felt so ill during that segment. It felt mildly exploitative.

That said, the interview is mostly not a downer/ super hilarious . Seriously, just listen to it! Tho maybe not at work if you are a crybaby like me.


What Does Depression Feel Like?

I go in and out of waves of low level depression. Not suicidal style, but just general humphiness and a flatline of emotion, accompanied by the usual “what’s the point of life” questions.  Over the years I’ve gotten my coping strategies together, and mostly just soldier through when the “dog days” arrive, but it’s cyclical and it sucks.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe it, but I think “melancholy” is the simplest. I’ve heard of “dysthymia” but I don’t know if it helps much to self diagnose. Explaining it to friends can be tricky, since there’s such a range of mood disorders. I don’t want to worry people, but I do want to explain what I feel.

Thankfully I’ve run into some really insightful blog posts about depression lately. I’ve been meaning to post about Hyperbole and a Half’s recent posts (part 1 and part 2), but haven’t been able to get around to it. Today The Bloggess wrote a sort of inspirational “Keep on trucking” type of post about depression. It’s pretty great too, so I thought I’d make this one a twofer. You don’t have to read the Bloggess one, but the Hyperbole and a Half ones are SO GOOD. My favorite is part 2. They’re long, so grab a beer and sit back. And if you don’t have time now, here’s a teaser…


She explains how difficult it can be to make casual chitchat with friends when you’re feeling depressed.



I’ve heard that my face is pretty emotionless/hard to read, so I often think about what my face looks like. Totally get it. Along the same lines, ran into this today on The Hairpin and love it. I totally have bitchface.


How to Find a Good Therapist: Ten Things to Consider

Gabriel Bryne

Dr. Weston would be my first choice…

What makes a good therapist or counselor?

Over the years I’ve seen a handful of therapists in short spurts to help get me through tough times, and I think I’m starting to get a better idea of what traits to look for in a counselor. Finding a good therapist can be a pain in the ass, so here are are a few things to consider when evaluating a new therapist.  I could go on and on (and on…) about this, but for this list I’ve capped it off at ten. Now, in no particular order…

1. Does it matter what kind of education your therapist had?

MFT, MSW, PHD, PSYD, I’ve tried each of these. I think you can get quality care from all of those options, but when you’re just starting out, definitely take a minute to read up on the differences in approach and schooling that your therapist undertook. More degrees may not lead to better treatment. For example I talked to a psychiatrist for a bit and all he wanted to do was give me drugs. So terrible! Then I worked with a social worker and was quite impressed with her care. It’s a crapshoot.

2. Along the same lines, before you book an appointment with your counselor, stalk their website! Who are they? Where are they from? What kind of therapy do they practice? How many years have they been practicing?

Do they have a dog? BONUS POINTS. I am not kidding. Do they lay out their interests and working approach online? This may save you a few awkward sessions where you try to weasel your way out of a commitment to a therapist who is just not a good fit. For example, when I clicked over to one possible MFT, I realized that she was a little bit too hippie dippie for me. While I liked that she took PayPal, I could tell we were not going to get on well. BULLET DODGED.

3. Do they speak your native language?

You’re going to be talking about some deep shit, you might as well be comfortable.

4. Money matters

How much do they charge per hour? Do they take your insurance? If not, will they work out a special fee system for you? Do not assume that you will pay more for a person with more education. Insurance is funny in that way. I paid $60/session for an MFT, and $20/session for a PHD. Shop around and don’t be afraid to talk cash with your therapist.

5. Do they have any testimonials on Yelp?

Yeah, I stalk all my doctors on Yelp. What?

6. Do you think that your potential new therapist can connect with your point of view and your struggles? Is your current issue one of their specialties?

It is so important to be comfortable with your therapist, and understanding your ish is part of that. Try as a they might, I don’t think that white men can really understand what it’s like to be a twenty-something Asian female. Lots of therapists will mention if they specialize in certain demographics, such as youth, chronically ill patients, or LGBTQ issues.

7. More on the approach to treatment

Is your potential new therapist goal oriented? Will they ask you to set concrete goals for treatment? Will they ask you to actively change, maybe even… give you homework assignments? Or is their approach more free form, perhaps talking about whatever you like every week? Is your therapist open to having joint relationship sessions with your partner if you are having romantic relationship issues?

8. Has your therapist lived through some shit? Is your therapist in therapy?

It’s kinda hard to snoop and figure this one out, but I think it’s so important for a therapist to have lived through some shit before they start working with you on how to get through your shit. It’s kind of like that therapist in Short Bus. What, you’ve never seen it? Save it for a rainy day.

9. Does your therapist offer remote therapy  (Skype calls, phone calls)?

Consistency in treatment is key for making progress. If you travel often, you may want to get a therapist who is comfortable offering different methods of connecting for your sessions. Phone counseling sounds weird, but when you already have a relationship with the therapist in person, you can slip back into comfort quite quickly over the phone.

10. Are you comfortable talking to your therapist? Can you be honest with them?

And obviously, most importantly, you gotta be able to talk to them. If you’re gonna grow, you have to be able to work with this person honestly, without fear of judgement.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, be cautious of therapists who end up feeling like your own personal cheerleader. Once you have a cheer squad behind you, you may feel afraid of letting them down, or telling them about your poor choices last weekend. They have become just another friend.  If that’s what you’re looking for, perhaps you should find a life coach instead. In fact, many therapists moonlight as life coaches on the side.

11. Bonus point to consider- Is your therapist financially secure? Are they on the hustle?

This sounds weird, but if you notice that your therapist is perhaps falling on hard times financially, and seems to be marketing heavily, or pushing you to increase your sessions, be careful! They need your business and their treatment may be a bit less than stellar due to their money woes. I’d never thought about this before, until I realized that my last therapist was hard up and trying to get me to do sessions when I wanted to take a break. Yeesh.


That’s all for now, but I hope this post was helpful for you fellow crazy diamonds out there. Maybe in the future I’ll write some more about how to literally go about finding and booking a therapist.


Mood Disorders in the Media: Aaron Swartz
The conversation in the media around depression and other mood disorders has been supercharged lately, what with the too numerous tragedies and the implications of health care reform. I read all relevant pieces that I come across, so I thought that I would start flagging the good ones here. 

A few weeks ago I read a New Yorker bio piece about Aaron Swartz. I didn’t know a ton about him and his life (unfortunately I knew more about his death, how terrible is that?), yet I was touched by the piece.

While I read it I  found myself nodding along with descriptions of him from his friends and family, and also excerpts from his personal blog. There were expressed so many familiar feelings of continuous struggle, questioning life as a game, longing for intimacy yet shutting oneself off from others, and being afraid to ask for help. Well, maybe too afraid, or maybe too proud. Anyways, it all felt a bit too familiar. It’s a very thoughtful and sometimes infuriating piece.

You should read it if you have spare time. Of course you have spare time.