On a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy (from January 29th), there was a patient who drove her car into the water with her kids inside. She was unconscious, but her husband remarks that in the weeks prior to the crash she displayed symptoms of poor concentration, exhaustion, and mood swings. Based on her symptoms and witness reports of the crash, most people assume that she was depressed and trying to commit suicide. No one ever comes right now and says this during the episode, but it is definitely implied.
However, while operating on the woman Meredith is insistent that they look for something to explain her symptoms beyond depression. She says that her symptoms could all be explained by an insulin secreting tumor on her pancreas. Although at first it seems like Meredith is wrong, eventually they do find a miniscule tumor that, as Meredith says, “explains all of her symptoms.”
Honestly, the fact that they found this tumor made me really upset, probably because it hit really close to home. Although no one came right out and said it, the implication is that depression is somehow less of an explanation than a physical tumor. In other words, because her actions were due to a tumor they were justifiable, whereas if they had been the byproduct of depression, she would be at fault. It made me kind of upset that depression, which is also a condition that alters brain chemistry, was somehow seen as less of an explanation.
At the same time, I found myself kind of jealous of this patient and the fact that they found a treatable, physical condition for which they could attribute all of her symptoms. I keep waiting, hoping that there will be something physically wrong that can be corrected by a procedure or medication.
It’s a lot easier to hold out hope when there is a tangible, physical explanation. For example, if I was tired because of low iron levels, I could have hope that iron infusions would give me more energy. However, when it’s due to depression, which is rather ambiguous and for which there is no magic cure, holding onto hope is a lot harder.