Skeptics with a K: Episode #194

Travel sick dogs, inactive pacemakers, Samsung televisions, and depression. Plus ventricular outflow pressure, smart-device privacy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Siri. If you need to skip Alice’s segment, it finishes at 50m 5s.

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  1. #1 by Chikoppi on March 24, 2017 - 01:01

    Brilliantly done, Alice. Absolutely fierce and extremely helpful in helping me understand the plight that we all can face from time to time.

  2. #2 by Cappy Charlie on March 24, 2017 - 11:04

    Very powerful piece from Alice. As someone who lived for many years with undiagnosed depression I understand the way it creeps in to every aspect of your life and can lead to the adoption of hugely destructive coping strategies. I know how difficult it is to talk about, but also how beneficial it is to hear that others have experienced the same thing and that you’re not alone, despite how the depression makes you feel. Excellent podcast.

  3. #3 by Paul on March 24, 2017 - 11:16

    Thank you Alice!

  4. #4 by Greg on March 24, 2017 - 14:59

    Alice! You star! I’m just going through a phased return to work myself, and your piece was both moving (apologies to my fellow commuters who were quite alarmed and my sudden tears) and empowering. Thank you for your strength in being vulnerable with us all, and all the best for your continuing recovery.

  5. #5 by Jason Jones on March 24, 2017 - 18:27

    Alice is the best

  6. #6 by Greg (a different one) on March 25, 2017 - 12:34

    I’m in awe of Alice. She had in me in tears while walking the dog. That was possibly the best description of living with depression that I have ever heard.

    Also, a great discussion of the value of friendship in adulthood.

  7. #7 by Chris on March 25, 2017 - 17:51

    Thank you, Alice.

    So you guys went from placebo treatments for obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to depression.

    Our oldest has HCM, but now it is “formally obstructed” because he had open heart surgery to remove the extra heart muscle that was almost blocking the aortic valve. This was after lots of 911 calls, tests and a referral to the Mayo Clinic over half way across the country (Rochester, MN is a very weird place). Fortunately he did not have to have to get an implanted defibrillator (HCM tends to cause “sudden cardiac death”).

    During this time our oldest who was in her last year of high school was in the throes of depression. She could not tell us because we were to focused on her older brother (her younger brother was also causing distractions, but they were minor). I felt very bad about how she was ignored.

    Wow, this episode really hit close to home.

    Though on a lighter note: Alice is the same age as my middle child. We did not have cable TV, but we had a VHS tape player. We ended up with a collection of vintage cartoon videos from Disney to Bugs Bunny, etc. that were released at that time. The ones that stuck to some of our kids were the WW II ones with racist depictions of Germans and Japanese. Highly amusing (and helpful for high school history class!).

  8. #8 by Chris on March 25, 2017 - 23:23

    “During this time our oldest”

    Correction: our youngest.

    Sorry about that. I blame two cups of coffee and seeing this weird shiny thing in the sky that was actually blue after weeks of drizzle.

  9. #9 by Xeviphract on March 26, 2017 - 09:49

    Thank you, Alice. Mental illness is often overlooked or misunderstood when it comes to public awareness.

    Additional thanks for not making your segment too downbeat. It can be heavy stuff to impart and you did so with delicacy and dignity.

    For myself, I’ve been living with depression and anxiety all my life. I think many people don’t realise how insidious depression can be. Depression never announces itself, you simply realise one day that all motivation has left you and you’re detached from the rest of the universe. Feeling sad would be a step up, because at least then you’d be feeling something.

    I find it’s easy to go through the motions of living normally without anyone else noticing you’re actually dying inside. If the wrong person notices, you’ll hear the dreaded “Cheer up!” or “I was sad when my nan died,” which are signposts to a fundamental misunderstanding of your plight. Even professionals have to “get it” before you decide to confide in them.

    I think the “Hyperbole and a Half” comic blog summed it up best: “depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back.”

    Although, I’d sooner get rid of anxiety. I think that’s more crippling. Your whole body is consumed with absolute dread, your heart alternately races and turns to water and you are physically prevented – by your own physiology – from doing the things that might calm you down and clear your depression at the same time.

    Except, people can often detect anxiety and I find they’re incredibly sympathetic and keen to help when they do. You can have a Vantablack wound right through your very core, but only find help when your hands tremble and you trip over your words. I don’t have a solution for that – Mood-sensitive colour-changing contact lenses, perhaps?

    To anyone in pain, I’d recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Whatever else you try, be it medication, meditation, or electrodes strapped to your skull, I’ve found that being given the skills and tools to intercept my own negative thoughts bestowed a massive tactical advantage. It’s basically a personalised critical thinking course, allowing you to differentiate between reality and the false beliefs generated by your illness.

    If you go the NHS route, be aware that it can take months before a therapist becomes available. If you think you’re in danger of falling into depression, get yourself booked in now. I know from experience you may not feel like you’re “that bad” but the NHS is interested in preventative treatment too. Meanwhile, your GP can provide self-help books on prescription and there are other resources available via the web and your preferred app store.

    You can definitely fight this and you can build yourself a better future.

  10. #10 by Mister Sandwich on March 28, 2017 - 22:07

    Thanks Alice.

    Not for the first time I find myself going from wondering how someone copes so well to realising that all might not be as it appears on the surface. I fear I’m the human equivalent of a gormless swan who wonders how all the other swans glide by so smoothly while he’s paddling away like mad.

    I should also say thanks to all at MSS, because having become increasingly isolated due to declining health (mental and physical) Skeptics in the Pub has been a great help for me. It’s kind of annoying that one thing religion seems to do well is provide a sense of community, so it’s wonderful that the skeptical movement is providing something similar for those of us who don’t believe in genocidal sky wizards.

  11. #11 by A C on March 30, 2017 - 15:31

    Thank you Alice for sharing your story. I have come to the realisation and acceptance that I have depression until recently. It has slowly crept up on me for years and it has affected many things such as relationships, motivation and productivity. I also find that I have to play catchup because of procrastinating.
    After hearing what Alice said in the podcast it hit me how similar it was to what I have been going through and has given me the courage to actually seek help. The only people that I have opened up to are my siblings as I feel safe talking to them about this. I think that my friends and colleagues know about my anxiety as it’s more noticeable but the depression is pretty buried within me.
    As Xeviphract has mentioned anxiety for me can be debilitating and really prevents me from being the best version of myself. I find that once anxiety kicks in I am unable to have meaningful conversations and this further contributes to my depression.
    I turned 29 a few months ago and work as a professional. I fear that if I don’t do anything about my mental health, I may become a recluse which I don’t want at all.
    Time to make a change in my life and make that first step.

  12. #12 by Suze Lewis on March 30, 2017 - 16:07


    Your piece on depression was so brave and moving. I’ve recently come out of hospital after a manic episode preceded by years of depression. We need to talk more about our experiences to help other people who are silently suffering or unknowingly suffering. People need to know it’s ok to talk.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.


    PS – Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been my go to show since I was in school – always inspires me to be better 🙂

  13. #13 by Declan on March 31, 2017 - 16:51

    Bravo, Alice.

    ( from a depression sufferer who has received successful treatment, luckily )

  14. #14 by Barry Miller on April 8, 2017 - 15:15

    Great show
    You guy’s where awesome as usual but lets fact it Alice stole the show,
    Thanks Alice, your talk had me in tears but I think I have a slightly better understanding of a topic I could not comprehend at all..
    Keep up the great work. Your work on the placebo effect is enlightening , but as believer & Practitioner of the mighty placebo I’m skeptical of your debunking. Now if you do debunk Placebo effect you will be like the guy who killed Pluto ” Correct & Disliked for your correctness”

    Great Show

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