Re: SSRIs and sudden grief

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Sun May 14 2000 - 03:55:43 MDT

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky ( Fri, 12 May 2000:

>If that doesn't work, you could try happiness. Many people report that
>>happiness is surprisingly effective in combating despair; similar
>results have been reported for joy.

A joke? (yes, OK, it made me smile)

Seriously, though, Eliezer, when a person is in utter despair, their
reality is so completely distorted, that one can't remotely imagine
that happiness will ever again be possible.

One thing that you didn't mention in your message was the value
of vigorous exercise to combat despair. Many people here probably
are aware of this, but I will mention it anyway.

The exercise must be regular, intense, and have a minimum duration to have
a significant impact on anxiety, however. One needs to make an
agreement with oneself to stick with it.

There's a book I like very much that takes a very pro-active and
realistic approach to dealing with panic, anxiety, and despair. Even
if a person doesn't experience these difficulties to a large degree,
and they only become depressed every once in a while, the book
has very good suggestions and coping strategies:

_The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook_ by Edmund Bourne

As I said in an earlier message, an SSRI didn't have an effect
on me for my time of extreme despair, even though I gave a good try
for 3 months. I could have tried harder going that route, but
I already had too many unknowns in my life, was pretty badly
frightened and felt very alone, and I didn't want any more unknowns.

Instead I got out my mountain bike and I rode. And rode and rode.
Maybe I was feeling helpless, and just trying to escape, but the action,
instead, kept me within myself. It didn't matter to where I rode,
but there are 12% grade hills to climb all around that I couldn't
avoid, therefore the bike riding was strenuous.

Not only did it have an effect on the brain chemistry to calm
me down and subdue my anxiety, it also gave me the time I needed
to grieve.

(I still ride, BTW)

The worst thing that one can do when facing a loss is try to
ignore it, or pretend that it doesn't exist. The Zen folks have
an approach that I like very much for handling grief, that is:
"to have a tea with your emotions". One notices the grief.
Where the grief feels in the chest. How it moves around or changes
in intensity. Simply, one sits with it, and acknowledges its
existence ("Having a tea"), for as long as you need. In
the process, you learn acceptance, you learn that you are
not dead by the catastrophic event. Time helps to heal and do
the rest.

I have one other suggestion for coping with extreme despair.
Something that that we can do, to give to ourselves some
self-insurance for those despair times, is to write, when we are
in a non-despairing mode, a list of those people whom we consider
friends (distant or close), those people who we know truly care
about us.

Then when, or if, we are hit with a time of falling into the abyss,
and our reality perceptions become completely skewed and distorted,
we can get out that list and from it, call someone. To have that
necessary reality check to save our lives.


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"Our own life is the instrument with which we experiment with truth.
                             --Thich Nhat Hanh

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