Exhaustion and depression

As you can tell by the headline, this won't be the cheeriest post, but it's about SCIENCE so you should still read!

I like to read about new findings and theories in the study of mental illness, in part because I just know so many people who are affected by it and these findings and theories don't seem to be covered as much in the media as studies that are related to things like cancer and heart disease. Here are two links to stories about mental health-related things that really resonated with me recently:

Exhaustion Is Not A Status Symbol

This piece is actually from 2012, but I saw it on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and it was a great read. It's an interview with University of Houston professor Brené Brown, who likes to talk about how vulnerability can be an asset. This interview is more about two related things that seem to be endemic to working adults: feeling super guilty about never getting "enough" done, but at the same time sort of bragging about being so ridiculously busy and exhausted all the time. This is related to mental health because both of those things are pretty unhealthy, and Brown gives some suggestions for how to get out of the cycle. One that I found really interesting sounds so simple but is rarely actually followed: when you or someone working for you finishes a task, acknowledge that. Actually take the time to say, "yes, OK, great, let's look at this, let's talk for two minutes about how it went," instead of immediately moving on to the next project. I can definitely see that eliminating some of the hamster wheel feeling that a lot of work tends to take on. Brown also talks about the importance of "standing still," relaxing a little, even meditating, because that's when you're able to actually see what's happening around you and it's easier to notice problems that need fixing, and also to just enjoy life.

A Blood Test for Depression Shows the Illnesses is Not a Matter of Will

Well, anyone who has dealt with depression (*raises hand*) could have told you that. But it's interesting that there could now be a blood test to prove it. The implications are pretty enormous - could a blood test predict whether you're prone to depression, and allow you to get help before you get really low? Could it help with obtaining the right health coverage? Could it help with stigma? But it's that last question that I've been stuck on a bit since reading about this. What if you have the symptoms of depression and you don't have the physiological markers? Are those symptoms then considered by default to be a matter of will? And if not…what explains them? It's part of the bigger conversation about where mental illness really "comes from" that I'm sure won't be over anytime soon.