Andrew Solomon on depression and hope

By his mid-twenties, Andrew Solomon earned international accolades for his work as a novelist, journalist and historian. At 31 he descended into a major depression. He was helped by a combination of family support, medications and talk therapy. He notes:

Andrew Solomon

“Depression is an illness of loneliness. And the primary experience is the feeling of being isolated, of being alone, of being cut off from everyone and everything.

“I knew that the sun was rising and setting, but little of its light reached me….

“These experiences of darkness make the light more beautiful, that the pain of being acutely depressed allows you to experience an unbelievable happiness in every day when you aren’t depressed and a sense that each of those days is a gift.

“So that’s the real message of hope, is that you can get better.”

From his article The experience of darkness and hope.

[Photo from his Facebook page.]

One of his books: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression.

video: Depression, the Secret We Share | Andrew Solomon | TED Talks

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Letter to the Editor Re: MIT Admissions Policy and Students with Depression
by Andrew Solomon, Newsweek, September 2004:

As the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, I am writing to express my shock and dismay about the comments made by MIT admissions Dean Marilee Jones in your article on depression.

She says that she wants to enroll “emotionally resilient” students at MIT. “So many kids are coming in, feeling the need to be perfect, and so many kids are medicated now,” she says.

“If you need a lot of pharmaceutical support to get through the day, you’re not a good match for a place like MIT.”

Many people require interventions of various kinds to function well in the world, and those who have found those means are to be praised for their courage in seeking and using them, not disparaged for their imperfections.

“Emotional resilience” is a quality that some people have on their own and some people achieve; it is not of lower value because it is the fruit of labor or medication.

[Follow link to read more of his powerful statement.]

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More Depression articles / resources



  1. I can totally relate to the part about each day without depression is a gift. It is just an awful illness that can only be appreciated by people who have been there.

  2. At age 30 I had my major breakdown, although I suspect I had been depressed since early childhood. There was no light, only gut wrentching flashbacks, periods of self-harm, dissociation, severe anxiety, & multiple suicide attempts & hospitalizations. My diagnosis includes bi-polar disorder with major depressive episodes, PTSD, & Dissociative Identity Disorder which have been attempted to treat with just about every medication & med combination doctors can think of, as well as uni-laterl & bi-lateral ECT, in addition to therapy. It’s been 15 years since the breakdown, with only one period of minor remission that lasted about a year. Hope, which waxes & wanes is what keeps me going (along with my dogs). I have to believe there is a purpose to this, that there is something I need to learn, and that although the light of hope is very dim currently, it is still visable. I hear my doctors say I will get better, but after 15 unrelenting years I kind of doubt it. So, I must accept this, continue to take care of myself even during excruciating pain (that, yes, only those who have experienced it can really know), and look for moments of beauty. This disease is not visable to others; it can not be measured and the pain can not be relieved through a morphine drip. Those on the outside have no way of knowing the invisable torture being endured daily. So, I have little hope that I will get better, but I try to hold onto hope for continued strength to live to see the next beautiful sunrise.

  3. It took me months to read Noonday Demon as it was so painfully what is going on in my mind, heart and life. And, still is. This bout with depression is over 3 yrs long and I am worn and weary. I have a good therapist, meds that work but cannot seem to find a sense of meaning in anything. I have lost so much and feel so alone. I see no real reason to stay here, to live… but hold on for my sons only… who don’t live with me and are out on their own at this point. I am alone, so very alone.
    I write to say thank you for the book, the insights and the companionship on this painful road. I work when I can to write my own memoirs… but the energy and often the content scare me off. It is an uphill battle every moment of every day.

  4. This feeling is very tough to manage it. I succeed overthrew a part of it by taking up immersing activities like writing and meditation.

  5. I think we, from time-to-time, must create the reason, the meaning, Sue. The existence is shaped by our intentionality. Thus, developing your inner life, creating a meaning inside us, a reason to our spirit, maybe helpful to overcome a major part of those problems.

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