What (for) me worry?

Many people go through the pain and devastation of the illness of depression and do not really have a good grasp on why something like this occurs.  It seems so senseless, like such a waste.  The reality is something a little closer to a built-in form of ultimate altruism to ensure the survival of people that we care about.  A genetic memory to do the “right” thing that we do to help our friends and relatives, even at great cost.

In the course of man’s time on earth, we have survived in small interrelated, supportive, nomadic groups, dealing with hunger and things in the dark with large teeth and claws. Catastrophic loss and injury taps into our individual capacity to come down with the illness of depression, causing us to remove ourselves from the safety of the group, sometimes taking our own life, but  just as likely leaving us alone in a hostile world where we become prey.  The individual perishes.  The group of closely related genes existing in aunts, uncles, sibs, cousins, kin, etc, is no longer caring for us or maybe even literally carrying us.  No longer risking all and sharing what may be a meager nutritional supply that already puts the group at risk of crashing.   For much of the time man has been on earth, we have lived much of the year right on the edge of starvation.  We are a species that survives by helping our friends and neighbors, even to the point of putting the survival of the whole group at risk.  Without a built-in mechanism for severing that, there is not a group way to stop the risk, to stop the cost, and to set a limit, even when the whole group becomes at risk of dying.  

Depression does that.  The individual makes the decision.  Removes themself from the community.  The community mourns but has a better chance for survival.  Much better for our group.   Not so good for the individual.  Makes sense when living hand to mouth on the Kalahari.  Not useful in the excesses of western society,  but the biology is still intact.  The susceptibility to internal stresses and the substitution of external stress for what used to be very real physical danger still can trigger the inborn mechanism. Sometimes it is set off by no more than the absence of immediate danger to struggle against.  Once in a while the mechanism goes awry and kicks off for reasons we do not perceive.

Will be critical for species survival again in 1000 years when the oil and coal and gas run out.  Not so much now.  In near future, we may even be able to block it so that we at less risk for it kicking off. Hope we don’t forget how to turn it back on generations from now when it is actually needed again.

We are born to be willing to give our lives for the survival of family and friends.  The ultimate altruism just happens to be built-in to being human.

About drrik

3rd career and 2nd childhood. Spends spare time repairing old things. Aspires to burn more gasoline, gunpowder, and ink in pursuit of slowing down. Child of the 60s and aspiring student of history. No desire to see us repeat the failed social experiments that keep failing for lack of human beings that meet the left wing standards and have to be killed off. Did engineering long enough to realize that very little is new and the wheel does not need to be reinvented.
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8 Responses to What (for) me worry?

  1. Pepperhawk says:

    You wrote this on my blog on my article about my son. As you know I deleted it. I’m not sure how to understand what you say here. I perhaps, mistakenly took it as my family (group) was better off with my son being dead. I have to admit, as I interpreted as that, I felt a dagger go through my heart. Thus the delete of the comment. It was so difficult for me to write that article and I risked having someone come on and rip me a new one. Therefore I set moderation on that particular article. I was not about to have my pain disavowed. Or have anyone judge my son.

    I’m still not sure what you are saying however.

    It may be a waste to have depression but no one “asks” for that. Nobody also asks to have the diseases of schizophrenia, or bi-polar disease. No one wants to have any of these mental illnesses, did not ask for them. The brain has a complex chemistry of chemicals, neurons, synapses, different parts of the brain and we have just begun to understand some parts of the brain. It’s the last frontier for our anatomy of our bodies. Medical researchers are coming up with more answers to some of the brain’s dysfunction. But, not nearly enough to cure these issues.

    We now know some of how PTSD works, but not completely. PTSD being another fracture of the brain when traumatized. If caught early, PTSD, it can be cured to a certain extent. If the PTSD has been going on for years, such as in child sexual abuse, and the person does not recall the abuse for years because a type of amnesia took over in order for that child to survive, it is not curable. One can manage the PTSD, but it never goes away for childhood sexual abuse.

    And it is my firm belief that no child asks to be sexually abused. Thus, how could that child have asked to have PTSD? I can talk of this with great knowledge. I know this one all too well.

    I am interpreting that you believe people do it to themselves. That is far from the truth. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you are saying in your article.

    I do know one thing for sure. It is torment to deal with mental illness. If one has never experienced any type of mental illness by luck of genes, I don’t see how that person could actually ever understand what it’s like to deal with it. Or judge it.

    Perhaps you can enlighten me on exactly what you are saying. If not that’s OK too. I just know this is an extremely sensitive subject to me. I grew up in a family where both my mother and father were mentally ill. Life was hell for me growing up that way. Back then there was not much help for it other than doctors passing out Valium, of which neither of my parents too however.

    Just trying to survive my childhood abuse by both parents was horrendous and I don’t think about it any longer. I spent years in therapy fixing myself. And, of course, life is much better for me for doing that. But, it is a long road of hell. So you can understand my sensitivity.

  2. Davetherave says:

    I must say I’m rather confused about the actual point you were trying to make with this comment and the fact you made it on the article Pepp had the courage to write about her own son’s death to try and help other people leaves me speechless. I’m simply clueless as to what to think, because I have no idea what point you were attempting to make. It came across to me as a rather heartless, cut the sick from the heard and let them die for the better of the heard but maybe I’m missing your point. I know one thing for sure and that is Pepp is not better off that her son is dead.

    I myself fight a mental illness and your comment certainly did not reach out to me in a kind manner. I didn’t ask for this disease and it’s pure hell dealing with it every single day and the only people that can truly understand my suffering are those that also suffer from a mental illness.

    I personally believe you owe Pepp an apology or a much better explanation of what in the world you were trying to get across. I could care less of what you think about me, but you made this comment on Pepp’s blog on the most difficult subject matter she will ever deal with and you’ve just left her hanging. I hope you are the type person with true character and will respond to Pepp letting her know she has your full support and this is just a big misunderstanding.

  3. drrikdrrik says:

    Been a little delay with writing this since I wanted to make sure to have adequate time to adequately convey the idea that I was trying to get across, since I did not do as well as i would have liked withthe first blurb. And then after putting together a several paragraph detail, WordPress ate my first try, so this is a second run at the same idea.
    Dealt with the illness of depression in the past which has visited heavily in my family while I watched as it ate its way pointless through lives and I dealt with the frustration of not knowing what to do. Enough of an impact that I now spend a significant portion of my normal 10 hour day helping people fight it and helping families figure out how to help. Most of those do not get privy to the explanation that I laid out here, although once in a while some do. Most of the time a common theme from folks AND their famlies is an near unanswerable “why?, why me?”, and “why us?”. Most of them are just dealing with trying to come to understanding of what is going on and what to do. Some relief is obtained from even understanding what is going on and what to do. Next. And that things that try to keep control will be lifetime. Grasping the enormity of what they are dealing with and that it not something that will likely be cured or done is itself an overwheming concept.
    What I have been struggling with myself is the “why?”. Why must human being deal with this? I understand ecological niche pressure. Selective breeding. Positive and negative, dominant and non-dominant evolutionary traits.
    The theory here is not ever proveable but that answers the details about what is currently known about the past 100,000 years of primitive cultures, in all the reading that I have been able to find on it. It is not something that anyone chooses. It si thrust upon us as part of the human condition. It is because it helps us make it a species, despite the pain and anguish involved.
    An analogy that goes partly along with the same theme might be sickle cell anemia. We’ve had mousquitoes and malaria for most of the time man has been on earth. No genetic ability to create screens, bug netting, or DDT. We ahd the good fortune to be born here and have a profigacy of DDT wipe out most of the malaria-carrying mousquitoes 50 years ago. Most of the world is not so lucky. Primitive man never had a prayer. Instead we developed over thousands of years sickle cell.
    In sickle cell anemia, each parent, who already likely each have sickle cell trait, have a gene for sickle cell and a gene for normal blood. 50/50 chance which one gets passed on. Out of 4 kids, likely 1 will have sickle cell anemia and die. One will have normal blood and catch malaria and die. 2 will have sickel cell trait and when they get bit, the malaria parasite will try to infect a blood cell which will shatter. So no malaria. Just two kids that make it to the next generation. Misery and death for the other 2. Grief for the parents. Human beings survive, even though the malaria mosquitos persist.
    Depression is a few orders of magnititude more complicated. Multifactorial. Multiple genes involved. Not related to intelligence or willpower. A vulnerability built in to every human animal in every culture that has been studied. Important because in marginal, dangerous, subsistance conditions, which has been the norm for mankind for most of our time on earth, it meant greater chance for survival for our kin. Not comfort. Rather pain for the individual and pain and grief and loss for the family. But survival is not about comfort. We are wired to do what gives us and our families a greater advantage.
    For some, having a structure on which to place the logical presence of depression allows it to make more sense when it otherwise seems almost inexpicable and a punishment by a cavalier God. I choose to think that it is not, that it has had in the past a function and that it made positive difference for humankind, even if not pleasant or enjoyable. And that it was related to us and our hard-scrabble existence for millenias, not God.

    • pepperhawk says:


      I see from your comment that you too have suffered with depression and watched your family members suffer too.

      At least you can actually know what it is like for another person to suffer this devastating disease and know the challenges that are commonplace, but those who never suffer cannot ever know what heartbreak it brings

      I believe it’s just a matter of getting the genes necessary for the disease of depression to exist. The why is something we can never know. I could ask myself why me and my brother remains untouched with it. But i don’t think I’ve ever questioned it and don’t feel any bitterness about it.

      I did have a time where I felt bitter having to deal with a plethora of issues. I worked hard in my therapy to cope and to forgive eventually. As a child sexual abuse survivor there was plenty for me to work through. I’ve spent almost 20 years in therapy trying to undo what was done to me. At first I felt very bitter that I had to fix it while the people who perpetrated the abuse on me, went free. I soon realized that it was my responsibility to fix it and that made me feel proud of my accomplishments in therapy. I remain under a doctor’s care however to stay on the meds I need to maintain to keep by depression manageable one might say. And since this happened in my childhood and went on for years, I suffer from PTSD also, but I have learned how to cope with it as much as possible.

      Entering into therapy to work on things became a heartbreaking and very difficult road to go down. I then realized why there are people who never get helped. It is a horrendous journey. But, once I had my issues worked out I was able to help other survivors of sexual abuse. Also I was on a mission and I don’t back down or give up once I put my mind to it I will never quit until I’ve things fixed.

      This may seem strange, but I have looked at my life long issues and working on them as a blessing God sent to me. I can far better understand others who suffer and God may have had a hand in laying this on me so that I would go on to help others. Who knows?

      So when you say a positive for mankind that is what I think as I described above. It gives me greater knowledge and tolerance for others and their foibles. As humans we can only cope the best way we know how.

      Thank you for your reply to my question. I appreciate your efforts.

  4. drrik says:

    PH, you are quite deserving of praise for the work that you have done. When I get a spate of energy for another run at an energy-intensive, emotionally-wrenching subject, I’ll go over PTSD.

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