‘The Great God of Depression’ and NEPR’s Karen Brown | Connecting Point | Aug. 29, 2018

‘The Great God of Depression’ and NEPR’s Karen Brown | Connecting Point | Aug. 29, 2018


>>>KAREN BROWN’S VOICE IS
FAMILIAR TO MANY IN THE REGION, AND SHE REPORTS ON SCIENCE AND
MENTAL HEALTH FOR NEW ENGLAND PUBLIC RADIO. BUT FOR HER NEWEST ENDEAVOR YOU
WON’T HEAR HER, AS SHE’S THE CO-PRODUCER OF A PODCAST CALLED
THE “GREAT GOD OF DEPRESSION.” IT’S THE STORY OF AN UNLIKELY
COLLABORATION BETWEEN TWO GREAT MINDS, WHICH WE DISCUSSED IN THE
STUDIO RECENTLY. MERCHANDISE MY COPRODUCER HAS
BEEN THINKING ABOUT THESE KIND OF ISSUES FOR A LONG, LONG TIME,
AS HAVE BOTH OF US, WE BOTH COVER LATE OFMENTAL HEALTH
ISSUES, BUT WE REALLY WERE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO TELL IT IN
A VERY NARRATIVE WAY AS A STORY ABOUT REAL PEOPLE AND NOT SIMPLY
SORT OF THE OVERALL CONVISIT MENTAL ILLNESS AND DEPRESSION. SO SHE IS GOOD FRIENDS WITH ONE
OF THE CHARACTERS IN OUR POD CAST, ALICE FLAHERTY, WHO CALLS
HERSELF THE ONLY OPENLY CRAZY DOCTOR AT MASS GENERAL. AND THIS DOCTOR HAD BEEN THE
DOCTOR OF THE WILLIAM STYRON, A VERY FAMOUS AUTHOR, WHO CHANGED
THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS ABOUT 20-SOME YEARS AGO.>>I’VE HEARD HIS NAME A LOT
AROUND THE ISSUE OF DEPRESSION.>>ESPECIALLY IN THE 1990. IT SEEMED LIKE THE PERFECT STORY
TO TELL A BIGGER STORY.>>YOU HAVE THESE TWO REALLY
FASCINATING PEOPLE, SO FULL DISCLOSURE, I’M IN EPISODE 3. I WON’T GIVE AWAY SPOILERS HERE,
WE’LL TALK BROADLY. I KEPT THINKING THROUGH THE
FIRST THREE EPISODES, YOU HAVE THESE BRILLIANT PEOPLE WHO ARE
ALSO SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS, AND IT’S SO INTERESTING
TO ME HOW INDISCRIMINAT THIS DISEASES THIS. DID THAT COME UP FOR YOU AT ALL
DOING THIS?>>ESPECIALLY WITH SOMEONE LIKE
WILLIAM STYRON, WHO WROTEARE “SOPHIE’S CHOICE,” HE WAS
FRIENDS WITH ALL THE MOST FAMOUS PEOPLE ON MARTHA’S VINEYARD, AND
HE WAS MISERABLE, HE WAS IN DESPAIR, EVEN FROM THE OUTSIDE
IT LOOKED LIKE HE HAD AN AMAZING LIFE.>>WIFE, FAMILY, KIDS, HE SEEME-
>>FAME AND SUCCESS, THAT’S SOMETHING HE TALKED ABOUT IN HIS
BOOK, DARKNESS VISIBLE, WHICH IS A STORY AS WE TELL IT, SORT OF
BEGINS IN THE 1990 AFTER HE BECOMES FAMOUS FOR WRITING THIS
DEPRESSION MEMOIR.>>HE WAS QUESTIONED BY A MEMBER
OF AN AUDIENCE WHEN HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THAT. LET’S GIVE A LISTEN TO A PIECE
OF EPISODE 3.>>DO YOU WATER ABOUT BECOMING
DEPRESSED AGAIN?>>I DO WORRY, BUT IT’S NOT A
WORRY THAT HAUNTS ME VERY MUCH. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I THINK
DIDESTROYS PEOPLE WHEN THEY SUFFER CLINICAL DEPRESSION IS
THE FACT IT’S THE FIRST TIME THEY’VE EVER HAPPENED TO THEM,
IT’S SO GHASTLY THAT THEY’RE TAKEN UNAWARES, IF IT WERE TO
HAPPEN TO ME AGAIN AT LEAST I WOULD KNOW WHAT I WAS FACING. THAT WOULD BE AN ADVANTAGE.>>WAS HE RIGHT?>>WELL, THIS FEAR OF RELAPSE IS
A REALLY STRONG CONCERN FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE
DEPRESSION. AND SADLY, HE WASN’T REALLY
RIGHT ABOUT HAVING A FIRST DEPRESSION BEING SORT OF IN
INNOCULATING HIM AGAINST A SECOND DEPRESSION, THAT’S A LOT
OF WHAT WE TALK ABOUT IN OUR POD CAST. HE BECAME THIS ICON OF RECOVERY
FROM DEPRESSION, HE GAVE PEOPLE SO MUCH HOPE.>>HE TOOK IT OUT OF THE
SHADOWS, HE OUTED HIMSELF AS DEPRESSED.>>HE MADE IT OKAY TO AT LEAST
TALK ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS.>>BACK WHEN YOU DID NOT TALK
ABOUT THIS PUBLICLY.>>HE ADMITTED HOW HARSH I
BELIEVE IT WAS. HE ALSO RECOVERED FROM IT. YOU FOR 15 YEARS HE WAS GREAT
AND HE WAS TALKING ABOUT IT. BUT THEN IT CAME BACK AGAIN, AND
THE GUILT AND THE SHAME THAT HE FELT FOR BEING THIS SORT OF ICON
OF RECOVERY WHO THEN GETS A RELAPSE WAS VERY HEART-BREAKING,
AND THAT’S WHERE A LOT OF OUR STORY INTERSECTS WITH HIS PAST,
WHICH IS WHEN ALICE FLAHERTY, THE DOCTOR WHO HE MEETS AT MASS
GENERAL AND COUNTERS HIM, HE’S IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SECOND
DEPRESSION, THEY HAVE TO BE REALLY CREATIVE. IT’S NOT REALLY FAIR THAT — TO
HIMSELF THAT HE FEELS LIKE HE’S LET DOWN HIS READERS, HE REALLY
DIDN’T. THAT’S A FUNCTION OF THE
DISEASES IN SOME REGARD.>>ALICE FLAHERTY, SHE’S
SUFFERING FROM HER OWN FORM OF ILLNESS, SOMETHING CALLED HYPER
GRAPHIA, YOU’VE WRITTEN AND REPORTED A LOT ABOUT MENTAL
ILLNESS, IS THIS SOMETHING YOU HEARD ABOUT BEFORE THIS SERIES.>>I HAD HEARD ABOUT ALICE’S
STORY FOR A FEW YEARS. BEFORE THAT, THIS COMFOULINGS
WRITE AND NOT STOP WRITING, I HADN’T HEARD ABOUT THAT. IT’S ON THE CONTINUUM OF BIPOLAR
DISORDER, IT’S A TYPE OF MANIC DEPRESSION, IT CAN TAKE OVER
YOUR LIFE FOR SOME PEOPLE, IT CAN BE HORRIBLE.>>SOMETIME 15, 20 HOURS A DAY,
SHE’S WRITING ON ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, SHE’S WRITING ON
SCRAPS OF PAPER, HERSELF, ANYWHERE SHE CAN THINK OF. DO YOU THINK THAT HAD SHE NOT
SUFFERED FROM THAT, THAT SHE AND STYRON WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO
WORK TOGETHER THE WAY THEY HAD.>>CERTAINLY SHE HAD A LOT OF
EMPATHY FOR NOT BEING ABLE TO CONTROL EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS
TO YOUR MIND, SHE HAD AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF CURIOSITY ABOUT HER
OWN MADNESSES, AS SHE WOULD CALL IT. SO DID WILLIAM STYRON. THE TWO OF THEM WERE FASCINATED
ABOUT HOW THE BRAIN WORKS AND OUT TO GET OUT OF MADNESSES.>>ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS
THINKING ABOUT, SHE WAS WORKING AS A NEUROLOGIST THROUGHOUT
SUFFERING WITH THIS HYPER GRAPHIA, AND THIS IDEA THAT SHE
WOULD BE OUTED AS THE CRAZY DOCTOR, AS YOU SAY. HOW DID SHE SORT OF GRAPPLE WITH
WANTING TO MAINTAIN HER PROFESSIONAL CREDENTIALS WHILE
ALSO STRUGGLING WITH THIS PROBLEM?>>WELL, SHE’S JUST A
SUPERINTERESTING PERSON, SHEENEDDED UP WRITING A BOOK
ABOUT HER HYPERGRAPHIA. SHE HAD GRAPPLED WITH ALL OF
THAT WITH HER PUBLISHER WHEN SHE WAS TRYING TO DECIDE IF I SHOULD
ADMITTO THIS CRAZINESS, PART OF HER WAY OF BEING A GREAT DOCTOR
IS ALLOWING HER PERSONAL EXPERIENCE TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE. SHE JUST WENT ON FAITH THAT
PEOPLE WOULD TRUST IF SHE WAS HIRED THERE AS A DOCTOR, SHE
KNEW HER JOB, BUT ALSO ADMITTING THAT HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE
ALSO HAVE MENTAL ILLNESS, AND THEY CAN RECOVER FROM IT, WHICH
SHE EVENTUALLY DID.>>FOR YOU COVERING THIS, WHAT
DID YOU LEARN OR UNCOVER ABOUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN
STRUGGLING WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS AND CREATIVITY, WHICH IS THE
LARGER QUESTION YOU WERE LOOKING AT?>>I WISH I COULD SAY THAT I GOT
THE ANSWER TO THAT ONE. YOU KNOW, MENTAL ILLNESS CAN BE
SUCH A DEVASTATING ILLNESS, THAT I WOULD NEVER SAY THERE’S A
SILVER LINING, NECESSARILY, BUT THERE IS THIS SENSE THAT OFTEN
CREATIVITY AND INTENSE FEELINGS AND SENSATIONS IN YOUR MIND CAN
GO HAND IN HAND, IT’S ALWAYS A REAL BALANCE ON HOW DO YOU LEAD
A BALANCED HAPPY LIFE, BUT ALSO MAKE USE OF SORT OF THIS TENSION
THAT MAYBE IS IN YOUR MIND THAT THEN LEADS TO A CERTAIN AMOUNT
OF CREATIVITY, TRYING TO RESOLVE THAT TENSION.>>WHAT ABOUT THE NATURE OF —
IT’S VERY COMMON WITH MENTAL ILLNESS, SHAME AND HOW MUCH
PEOPLE KEEP IN VERSUS HOW MUCH THEY SHARE WITH THE PUBLIC,
RIGHT. I MEAN, IT’S SUCH A PERSONAL
THING. I TEND TO BE AN OVERSHARER, AND
I SEE A THERAPIST AND TELL EVERYBODY ABOUT THAT. SOME PEOPLE FEEL THAT YOU SHOULD
JUST KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY, KEEP IT UNDER WRAPS, I FEEL THE MORE
PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO TALK ABOUT WHAT’S GOING ON AND THE MORE
THEY’RE WILLING TO TALK ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AS A DES EASE AND
NOT A CHARACTER FLAW, THAT’S GOING TO HELP SO MANY PEOPLE,
IT’S A PERSONAL DECISION, THOUGH, OF COURSE, WHETHER YOU
WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR OWN PROBLEMS OR NOT.>>WE HOPE THAT PEOPLE WILL TAKE
AWAY FROM THE POD CAST?>>I MOSTLY HOPE THEY WILL SEE
IT AS A REALLY COMPELLING STORY ABOUT TWO FASCINATING, BRILLIANT
PEOPLE. BUT OF COURSE, I ALSO HOPE THEY
LEARN A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT HOW THE MIND WORKS, HOW
CREATIVITY WORKS AND A LITTLE BIT OF THE HISTORY OF MADNESSES
IN AMERICA.>>YOU CAN CATCH THE “GREAT GOD
OF DEPRESSION” PODCAST ON RADIOTOPIA. THAT’S
RADIOTOPIA.FM/PODCASTS/SHOWCASE


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