Depressingly popular

People like you more when you're depressed.

I'll qualify that statement and say people "like you more as an abstraction" - as someone they can talk about at a distance, but they'd rather not hang around with too much.

I don't know if it's because depressed people are less threatening or simply because they provide a minor-key counterpoint to all the zany gregariousness we're forced to endure on TV and radio.

Depressed people don't ask you to buy anything, they don't tell you their TV show is "must see" or invite you to rowdy dinner parties.

They tend to just nod or wince at conversation, then trail off and leave you alone. That's because depressives usually want to be left alone themselves.

Most of the time.

It can be a difficult task working out if someone is depressed or simply moody and pissed off. I know I spent many years telling myself I wasn't a depressive, just cynical, but then some things eventually become self-evident, like when you get so fat your jeans don't fit.

Except when you're depressed, it's situations and people who don't fit any more. You could be uncharitable and say you've outgrown these things, but at times it seems as if you've actually shrunk, that the expanse of other people's joy, and the gaiety of certain social situations, are just too much to metabolise.

So you shrink away.


If you're an obnoxious and garrulous type, like I've been told I am, this can be a good thing. For years I've rubbed people like writer Marieke Hardy up the wrong way, but the "new" me? She's quite comfortable with him.

Said Hardy on Twitter some months ago: "Sam de Brito in M magazine [in The Sunday Age]. Amazing. Amongst theatre reviews and stories about jam donuts he seems to be documenting his nervous breakdown. And I'm not being sarcastic.

"I'm just fascinated by the brutal honesty in such an incongruous setting. One part of the page is 'What's fun for kids in Melbourne this weekend?' and the other is a dissertation on Sam's latest attack of herpes. It is compelling reading," wrote Hardy.

I reckon I'd be damn near lovable if I contracted terminal cancer. I might even get invited to Hardy's rowdy dinner parties. So, you see, depression does have its good points; it's given me material for two novels and the odd blog post which, as noted above, can be compelling in small doses.

Too much depression, however, tends to push people away.

Mel Gibson's surprisingly excellent new movie The Beaver is about a profoundly depressed man, whose wife (Jody Foster) leaves him because she can't take it any more.

I wonder how many Mels are out there and whether they've noticed an upswing in popularity (from afar) as they've sunk lower into their minds? I know I'm not the first person to have experienced a softening of criticism as my serotonin levels dwindled.

Morrissey wouldn't have sold half the albums he did if he wasn't depressed. Van Gogh probably would have been a graphic designer - and died with two ears - if he'd had some Lexapro to draw him above the sludge of his unconscious.

Julia Gillard might even pull off an unlikely election victory if she stops trying to be so damn chirpy about the carbon tax and just says "f--- this, I'm depressed" and goes silent for the next year.

Maybe it's because there are so many of us out there nowadays? Depression is the leg warmers of this decade, the new black (on black), so there's a big market for the maudlin.

A few months ago I asked the barista at my local cafe why people liked me more when I was depressed and he looked up at me from under his hooded eyelids and grunted.

"They can relate," he said.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.