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Andrew Solomon quotes (showing 1-30 of 121)

“Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“It is important not to suppress your feelings altogether when you are depressed. It is equally important to avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage. You should steer clear of emotionally damaging behavior. People forgive, but it is best not to stir things up to the point at which forgiveness is required. When you are depressed, you need the love of other people, and yet depression fosters actions that destroy that love. Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“You are constantly told in depression that your judgment is compromised, but a part of depression is that it touches cognition. That you are having a breakdown does not mean that your life isn't a mess. If there are issues you have successfully skirted or avoided for years, they come cropping back up and stare you full in the face, and one aspect of depression is a deep knowledge that the comforting doctors who assure you that your judgment is bad are wrong. You are in touch with the real terribleness of your life. You can accept rationally that later, after the medication sets in, you will be better able to deal with the terribleness, but you will not be free of it. When you are depressed, the past and future are absorbed entirely by the present moment, as in the world of a three-year-old. You cannot remember a time when you felt better, at least not clearly; and you certainly cannot imagine a future time when you will feel better.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Antonin Artaud wrote on one of his drawings, "Never real and always true," and that is how depression feels. You know that it is not real, that you are someone else, and yet you know that it is absolutely true.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Since I am writing a book about depression, I am often asked in social situations to describe my own experiences, and I usually end by saying that I am on medication.
“Still?” people ask. “But you seem fine!” To which I invariably reply that I seem fine because I am fine, and that I am fine in part because of medication.
“So how long do you expect to go on taking this stuff?” people ask. When I say that I will be on medication indefinitely, people who have dealt calmly and sympathetically with the news of suicide attempts, catatonia, missed years of work, significant loss of body weight, and so on stare at me with alarm.
“But it’s really bad to be on medicine that way,” they say. “Surely now you are strong enough to be able to phase out some of these drugs!” If you say to them that this is like phasing the carburetor out of your car or the buttresses out of Notre Dame, they laugh.
“So maybe you’ll stay on a really low maintenance dose?” They ask. You explain that the level of medication you take was chosen because it normalizes the systems that can go haywire, and that a low dose of medication would be like removing half of your carburetor. You add that you have experienced almost no side effects from the medication you are taking, and that there is no evidence of negative effects of long-term medication. You say that you really don’t want to get sick again. But wellness is still, in this area, associated not with achieving control of your problem, but with discontinuation of medication.
“Well, I sure hope you get off it sometime soon,” they say. ”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“The most important thing to remember about depression is this: you do not get the time back. It is not tacked on at the end of your life to make up for the disaster years. Whatever time is eaten by a depression is gone forever. The minutes that are ticking by as you experience the illness are minutes you will not know again.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear when fear seems more awful than life is good.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“The people who succeed despite depression do three things. First, they seek an understanding of what's happening. They they accept that this is a permanent situation. And then they have to transcend their experience and grow from it and put themselves out into the world of real people.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“It is too often the quality of happiness that you feel at every moment its fragility, while depression seems when you are in it to be a state that will never pass. Even if you accept that moods change, that whatever you feel today will be different tomorrow, you cannot relax into happiness like you can into sadness. For me, sadness has always been and still is a more powerful feeling; and if that is not a universal experience, perhaps it is the base from which depression grows. I hated being depressed, but it was also in depression that I learned my own acreage, the full extent of my soul. When I am happy, I feel slightly distracted by happiness, as though it fails to use some part of my mind and brain that wants the exercise. Depression is something to do. My grasp tightens and becomes acute in moments of loss: I can see the beauty of glass objects fully at the moment when they slip from my hand toward the floor”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality and my life, as I write this, is vital even when sad. I may wake up sometime next year without my mind again; it is not likely to stick around all the time. Meanwhile, however, I have discovered what I would have to call a soul, a part of myself I could never have imagined until one day, seven years ago, when hell came to pay me a surprise visit. It's a precious discovery. Almost every day I feel momentary flashes of hopelessness and wonder every time whether I am slipping. For a petrifying instant here and there, a lightning-quick flash, I want a car to run me over...I hate these feelings but, but I know that they have driven me to look deeper at life, to find and cling to reasons for living, I cannot find it in me to regret entirely the course my life has taken. Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely, and sometimes against the moment's reason, to be alive. Is that not a rare joy?”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“In the throws of depression, one reaches a strange point at which it is impossible to see the line between ones own theatricality and the reality of madness. I discovered two conflicting qualities of character. I am melodramatic by nature; on the other hand, I can go out and “seem normal” under the most abnormal of circumstances. Antonin Artaud wrote on one of his drawings, “never real and always true”, and that is how depression feels. You know that it is not real, that you are someone else, and yet you know that it is absolutely true. Its very confusing.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“People with family histories of alcoholism tend to have lower levels of endorphins- the endogenous morphine that is responsible for many of our pleasure responses- than do people genetically disinclined to alcoholism. Alcohol will slightly raise the endorphin level of people without the genetic basis for alcoholism; it will dramatically raise the endorphin level of people with that genetic basis. Specialists spend a lot of time formulating exotic hypotheses to account for substance abuse. Most experts point out, strong motivations for avoiding drugs; but there are also strong motivations for taking them. People who claim not to understand why anyone would get addicted to drugs are usually people who haven't tried them or who are genetically fairly invulnerable to them.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Depressed people cannot lead a revolution because depressed people can barely manage to get out of bed and put on their shoes and socks.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“It is not pleasant to experience decay, to find yourself exposed to the ravages of an almost daily rain, and to know that you are turning into something feeble, that more and more of you will blow off with the first strong wind, making you less and less. Some people accumulate more emotional rust than others. Depression starts out insipid, fogs the days into a dull color, weakens ordinary actions until their clear shapes are obscured by the effort they require, leaves you tired and bored and self-obsessed- but you can get through all that. No happily, perhaps, but you can get through. No one has ever been able to define the collapse point that marks major depression, but when you get there, there’s not much mistaking it.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“I can see the beauty of glass objects fully at the moment when they slip from my hand”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Psychologically, I will not have to seek far if I decide to kill myself, because in my mind and heart I am more ready for this than for the unplanned daily tribulations that mark off the mornings and afternoons.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“I was overpowered by being in the world, by other people and their lives I couldn’t lead, their jobs I couldn’t do - overpowered even by jobs I would never want or need to do.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“I regret everything because it has just finished, and already when I was twelve, I lamented the time that had gone by. Even in the best of spirits, it's always been as though I wrestle with the present in a vain effort to stop its becoming the past.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“While people argue with one another about the specifics of Freud's work and blame him for the prejudices of his time, they overlook the fundamental truth of his writing, his grand humility: that we frequently do not know our own motivations in life and are prisoners to what we cannot understand. We can recognize only a small fragment of our own, and an even smaller fragment of anyone else's, impetus.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“In the heat of an argument, my mother once told me, "Someday you can go to a therapist and tell him all about how your terrible mother ruined your life. But it will be your ruined life you're talking about. So make a life for yourself in which you can feel happy, and in which you can love and be loved, because that's what's actually important." You can love someone but not accept him; you can accept someone but not love him. I wrongly felt the flaws in my parents' acceptance as deficits in their love. Now, I think their primary experience was of having a child who spoke a language they'd never thought of studying.”
Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
“I wish I'd been accepted sooner and better. When I was younger, not being accepted made me enraged, but now, I am not inclined to dismantle my history. If you banish the dragons, you banish the heroes--and we become attached to the heroic strain in our personal history. We choose our own lives. It is not simply that we decide on the behaviors that construct our experience; when given our druthers, we elect to be ourselves. Most of us would like to be more successful or more beautiful or wealthier, and most people endure episodes of low self-esteem or even self-hatred. We despair a hundred times a day. But we retain the startling evolutionary imperative for the fact of ourselves, and with that splinter of grandiosity we redeem our flaws. These parents have, by and large, chosen to love their children, and many of them have chosen to value their own lives, even though they carry what much of the world considers an intolerable burden. Children with horizontal identities alter your self painfully; they also illuminate it. They are receptacles for rage and joy-even for salvation. When we love them, we achieve above all else the rapture of privileging what exists over what we have merely imagined.

A follower of the Dalai Lama who had been imprisoned by the Chinese for decades was asked if he had ever been afraid in jail, and he said his fear was that he would lose compassion for his captors. Parents often think that they've captured something small and vulnerable, but the parents I've profiled here have been captured, locked up with their children's madness or genius or deformity, and the quest is never to lose compassion. A Buddhist scholar once explained to me that most Westerners mistakenly think that nirvana is what you arrive at when your suffering is over and only an eternity of happiness stretches ahead. But such bliss would always be shadowed by the sorrow of the past and would therefore be imperfect. Nirvana occurs when you not only look forward to rapture, but also gaze back into the times of anguish and find in them the seeds of your joy. You may not have felt that happiness at the time, but in retrospect it is incontrovertible.

For some parents of children with horizontal identities, acceptance reaches its apogee when parents conclude that while they supposed that they were pinioned by a great and catastrophic loss of hope, they were in fact falling in love with someone they didn't yet know enough to want. As such parents look back, they see how every stage of loving their child has enriched them in ways they never would have conceived, ways that ar incalculably precious. Rumi said that light enters you at the bandaged place. This book's conundrum is that most of the families described here have ended up grateful for experiences they would have done anything to avoid.”
Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
“To look deep into your child's eyes and see in him both yourself and something utterly strange, and then to develop a zealous attachment to every aspect of him, is to achieve parenthood's self-regarding, yet unselfish, abandon. It is astonishing how often such mutuality had been realized - how frequently parents who had supposed that they couldn't care for an exceptional child discover that they can. The parental predisposition to love prevails in the most harrowing of circumstances. There is more imagination in the world than one might think.”
Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
“A sense of humor is the best indicator that you will recover; it is often the best indicator that people will love you. Sustain that and you have hope.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“I hit walls of past pleasure all the time, and for me past pleasure is much harder to process then past pain...for me the traumas of the past are mercifully far away. The pleasures of the past however, are tough...the worst of depression lies in a present moment that cannot escape the past it idolizes or deplores.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one's self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Medications and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, and that is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression. Love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
“Some people are trapped by the belief that love comes in finite quantities, and that our kind of love exhausts the supply upon which they need to draw. I do not accept competitive models of love, only additive ones.”
Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
“Having always imagined myself in a fairly slim minority, I suddenly saw that I was in a vast company. Difference unites us. While each of these experiences can isolate those who are affected, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles connect them profoundly. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.”
Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
“That, in essence, is the catastrophe of suicide for those who survive: not only the loss of someone, but the loss of the chance to persuade that person to act differently, the loss of the chance to connect.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

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