A Protest

protestSo many of us have to deal with things that are not fair – depression, unsupporting spouses, financial reversals, weight gain, etcetera, it can be tempting to launch a protest of some kind against the unfairness.

These protest actions don’t have to be obvious at all, but they can have powerful effects, nonetheless.

A few women recently told me, “I would be less depressed if I was not so fat.”

As a psychiatrist, I sometimes feel defensive when someone tells me  that, not because I disagree with the goal of having a healthy weight, but because it seems to put a barrier in front of the goal of reducing depression.

Even though the sentence seems to be merely reporting a subjective fact (I know this about how I feel) it may be doing more than that, it may be also serving as a protest against being fat – sort of like the protest of a child when there is something unfair going on (“I am going to hold my breath until I am treated fairly”). In other words it might not be saying, “this is how I am, and I know it is a problem to set conditions on improving my mood, but I still haven’t figured a way around how my weight affects my mood…” but rather…. “I am not going to do the things that I know would improve my mood until someone (the universe? God? my psychiatrist?) gets my weight down….”

Sometimes a protest can be effective. We all know about injustices that have been corrected due to the action of a small dedicated group of individuals. But these kind of protests are very unlikely to achieve their goal (losing weight, getting treated better, finally getting paid what I deserve) and can be remarkably effective at preventing someone from getting less depressed.

And it is not infrequently the case that a more creative solution to the basic problem (weight loss, etcetera) can be found and acted upon once the depression lifts.